song of the day – “Love Shack” | THE B-52’s | 1989.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

Casey Kasem used to also say, “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger.”  And so does the number of songs that reached these “smaller” positions.  Between 1979 and 1989, more than 110 songs peaked at No. 3, and many artists stayed there more than once, including Bobby Brown, El DeBarge (solo and with DeBarge), Duran Duran, Genesis, The Jets, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Olivia Newton-John, The Pointer Sisters, The Police (Sting also had a No. 3 solo hit), Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Styx, Wham! and Donna Summer.  Chicago reached the No. 3 positions four times between 1979 and 1989.

hungry like the wolf

1988 was a popular year for No. 3 hits, when 17 songs reached that position, including songs by Taylor Dayne, Samantha Fox, Debbie Gibson, the “comeback” hit for Hall & Oates (“Everything Your Heart Desires”), Breathe, Anita Baker, Information Society, INXS, U2 and (real) one-hit wonder Patrick Swayze (from DIRTY DANCING). 

new sensation

No. 3 hits also included the first solo by David Lee Roth (his cover of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”), as well as the first Van Halen hit without him, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  There were also big No. 3 hits for Simple Minds, Belinda Carlisle, The Cars, Neneh Cherry, Charlie Daniels Band, Chris de Burgh, Earth, Wind & Fire, Corey Hart, Don Henley, Chaka Khan, Love & Rockets, Men At Work, Men Without Hats, Nu Shooz, Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The S.O.S. Band, The Stray Cats, Tears For Fears, Thompson Twins, Madonna and the last Top 40 hit for the late, great Marvin Gaye (“Sexual Healing”).

sexual healing

Love was a constant theme among the No. 3 hits, and was featured in the title of 15 songs, and implied in many others.  One of the 15 hits with the “Love” connection (sorry, couldn’t be helped) was one of two No. 3 hits in a row for The B-52’s – “Love Shack.”

One of the 80s’ biggest success stories – some would say one of the biggest comebacks – belonged to Athens, GA’s New Wave / Alt-Rock / Alt-Dance legends, The B-52’s.  By 1989, The B-52’s had already released four albums and two EPs, and had reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 three times – “Rock Lobster” (No. 56, 1980), “Private Idaho” (No. 74, 1980) and “Legal Tender” (No. 81, 1983). 

rock lobster

The B-52’s started recorded their fourth album – BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES – in July 1985.  At that time, the band was comprised of vocalist Fred Schneider, vocalist and keyboardist Kate Pierson, vocalist and percussionist Cindy Wilson, lead guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy’s brother), and drummer / rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Keith Strickland.  This had been the lineup since the band’s formation in 1976.

b-52's with ricky

During the recording of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, it was discovered that Ricky Wilson was suffering from AIDS.  None of the rest of The B-52’s (except for Keith Strickland) had known about it.  In an interview, Kate Pierson had said that Ricky Wilson kept his illness a secret from the rest of the band because he “did not want anyone to worry about him or fuss about him.” 

On October 12, 1985, while still in the recording process of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, Ricky Wilson died of AIDS at the heartbreakingly young age of 32 years old.

Ricky Wilson, Guitarist for the B-52s

After Ricky’s death, drummer Keith Strickland learned how to play guitar in Ricky’s own style and switched from drummer to lead guitarist.  The band hired session musicians to help out as well, including the album’s producer, Tony Mansfield (who had also worked with Naked Eyes, Captain Sensible, a-ha and After The Fire).

bouncing

Devastated beyond belief at the loss of Ricky Wilson, The B-52’s released BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES on September 8, 1986, with no fanfare and no tour, though they did make a music video for my favorite song on the album, “Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland.”

girl from ipanema

Cindy Wilson went into a deep depression following her brother’s death, Keith Strickland spent some time at Woodstock, NY, while Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson remained in New York City.  They all felt at that moment The B-52’s couldn’t continue without Ricky Wilson.

But, in time, Keith Strickland began composing songs again, and after playing some of the new music he had worked on to the rest of the band, they agreed to try and start writing together again.  The result was COSMIC THING, the biggest album the band would ever have.

cosmic thing

COSMIC THING’s production was smartly split up between Don Was (of Was (Not Was) fame) and Nile Rodgers.  It worked and then some, and the album’s first single, “Channel Z,” was not well-received anywhere except College and Modern Rock radio, who embraced it right away.  “Channel Z” would spend three weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart in August 1989.

channel z

“Channel Z” was also the B-side of the album’s second single, “Love Shack,” which was released a week in advance of COSMIC THING in late June 1989.  It took a month and a half to reach BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart and become the band’s fourth single to reach the chart. 

“Love Shack” debuted on the Hot 100 in early September 1989 at No. 84.  Within three weeks, “Love Shack” had already surpassed the peak of every B-52’s single which had reached the chart.  By the end of September 1989, it was the first Top 40 hit the band had in its U.S. homeland.

love shack

In early November 1989, The B-52’s landed their first Top 10 hit, with “Love Shack.”  That was also the week I saw them perform for the first time, when they came to the University of Maine at Orono and almost literally brought the roof of the venue down with their show.  They were amazing.  I would see them again on the COSMIC THING tour in 1990 at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

“Love Shack” would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 3 in November 1989, and just before Xmas 1989, it was certified Gold.  Follow-up single “Roam” debuted on the last Hot 100 of 1989, when “Love Shack” was still in the Top 30.  And, in late January 1990, “Roam” debuted within the Top 40 the last week “Love Shack” spent in the Top 40.  (“Roam” would also reach No. 3 and was certified Gold as well.)

roam

A total of 27 weeks was spent on the Hot 100 for “Love Shack,” one week more than half a year.  It was that lengthy time on the chart which saw it finish on the year-end BILLBOARD charts two years in a row.  Pretty impressive.  It also reached (with “Channel Z”) No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, spent four weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and received two MTV Video Music Awards, for Best Group Video and Best Art Direction.

b's 1989NERDY FUN FACT: “Love Shack” was produced by Don Was, and the inspiration for the song was this cabin around Athens, GA, which had a tin roof, and where the band conceived their first hit, “Rock Lobster.”  Kate Pierson even lived in the cabin back in the 70s (it burned down in 2004).  Prolly the most famous line in the song, where Cindy Wilson exclaims, “Tin roof…rusted,” was actually an outtake that was added to the song later on.

Around the globe, lots of love was felt for “Love Shack,” and it spent eight weeks at No. 1 in Australia, four weeks at No. 1 in New Zealand, a week at No. 1 in Ireland, plus it reached No. 2 in the U.K., and the Top 20 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In a 2002 interview with ROLLING STONE (which named “Love Shack” as the Best Single of 1989), Fred Schneider spoke of the album’s success: “We thought it would be good, but we didn’t know how good.  We don’t really set out saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be commercial,’ or ‘This is going to be this or that.’  We just wanted good songs, and we thought the songs were really good.  We were pretty shocked, because we didn’t expect it to go that big.  The success of it brings problems because it’s really hard to do tours.  I’m not one to want to go tour at all, but to do eighteen months is like torture.  You just get offers that are really good and you’re going to New Zealand and Australia and all over Europe, and it’s pretty exciting.  It all went way beyond what you’d think.”

flintstones

After COSMIC THING, The B-52’s continued to record and chart for a few more years, including a fun cover of the TV theme song, “(Meet) The Flintstones” (from the 1994 FLINTSTONES movie starring John Goodman).  It snuck onto the Top 40 for one week in early June 1994.

Apart from recording (as The BC-52’s) for Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty (and a couple of popular compilations), the band took a lengthy hiatus, and in March 2008, released FUNPLEX, their first album in nearly 16 years.  It was worth the wait. 

funplex

In October 2011, they released a CD and a DVD of a live concert from earlier that year, WITH THE WILD CROWD! LIVE IN ATHENS, GA.  To borrow from a line out of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, “It is so choice.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”  Seriously, it’s that good.  One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen on the small screen, from one of the bands with two of the best live performances I’ve seen in person.

with the wild crowd

Though the band hasn’t released a solo album since 2008’s FUNPLEX, The B-52’s continue to tour and perform 50-60 shows a year (minus Keith Strickland, who is still with the band, but who stopped performing live with them in 2012).  Sadly, I missed them this Summer, when they came to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire (where I saw Billy Idol in 2014), and when they performed with the Boston Pops.  That must have been incredible!  Prolly the only Pops show where you can’t control people from dancing on their seats, in the aisles and everywhere!

b's n pops

I gotta be honest, after years of playing it at wedding receptions, “Love Shack” is not my favorite B-52’s song.  But, if you were in a jam and tried to get people out onto the dance floor, that was THE go-to song, and people loved it, and loved dancing to it.  Though it’s not my favorite from the band, I do love the song to death, and I’m so glad it finally got The B-52’s the recognition they deserved after so many years of struggling despite putting out great music, and with the terrible loss they suffered when they lost Ricky Wilson. 

Both COSMIC THING and “Love Shack” are a testament to Ricky’s memory, and I’m so proud to call The B-52’s one of my all-time favorite bands, even if it took me awhile to get there.  They are a heluva lot of fun to listen to and dance to, play on the radio and see perform live, which I hope to do again sometime soon…

“Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale and it’s about to set sail / I got me a car, like, it seats about 20 / So come on and bring your jukebox money…  The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together / Love Shack, ba-by….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs

b's 1989 v2

song of the day #2 – “What I Am” | EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS | 1989.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

Nearly 80 songs reached No. 7 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, a list comprised of many (then) up-and-coming R&B / Hip Hop and Dance stars, like those awesome Beastie Boys (with “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”), plus Young MC bustin’ a move, Babyface, Bobby Brown, Dino and Karyn White.

fight for your right

No. 7 was a popular number for hits for The Cars, Michael Jackson and Juice Newton, who had two No. 7 hits each.  There were also No. 7 hits from Bruce Springsteen, and Rhode Island’s answer to Bruce Springsteen – John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, plus you had Heart and Corey Hart (“Who Will You Run To” when you have on “Sunglasses At Night?”).  Heart’s Ann Wilson also reached No. 7 with “Almost Paradise,” the love theme from FOOTLOOSE, a duet with (real) one-hit wonder Mike Reno of Loverboy.

smooth criminal

The No. 1 artist of the 80s, with his last hit of the 80s, one of two solo songs that reached No. 7 for Michael Jackson.

In 1989, though they would be their last Top 10 American hits, there were a few 70s superstars who had big comeback hits that reached No. 7 – Bee Gees (“One”; their first Top 10 hit since 1979), Alice Cooper (“Poison”; his first Top 10 hit since 1977), and Donna Summer (“This Time I Know It’s For Real”; her first Top 10 hit since 1983).

donna summer

1989 was a huge year for No. 7 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – 14 of them reached the peak that year.  One of those songs was a song was by a singer, at the time, that I could not stand and a song, at the time, I could stand even less – “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.

Ever have some songs that just eat away at you for whatever reason?  Sure you do.  A handful of songs from the 80s do that to me.  Maybe one day I’ll mention them.  When “What I Am” came out, there was just something about it that was so as repulsive to me.  I don’t know if it was the hippie-ish nature of Edie Brickell, her voice, or the guitar style that sounded like something Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead would do (I was also not a fan of The Dead in 1989).  Whatever it was that bugged the fuck out of me about that song, it’s long gone now.

The New Bohemians formed as a trio in Dallas, Texas in the early 80s.  The drummer for The New Bohemians, Brandon Aly, guitarist Kenny Withrow and percussionist John Bush had all attended the same magnet performing arts school as Dallas native Edie Brickell, though at the time, Edie was there for art, not music.

In 1985, Edie Brickell was asked to join the band onstage and sing with them, and she continued on from there.  After being a local favorite for years, playing in clubs and even backing Bo Diddley one time, the band’s big break came in August 1988, when they released their first album as Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS.

shooting rubberbands

Edie Brickell was just 22 years old at the time (I believe they were all young), and SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS was incredibly well-received for a debut album by a young band.  In a review on the AllMusic site by Kelly McCartney, Edie Brickell’s “simple observations offer deep contemplations for the willing disciples of her musical philosophies.  ‘What I Am’ is the perfect example: ‘I’m not aware of too many too many things / I know what I know, if you know what I mean…’  Zen and the art of songwriting.”

Well, the songwriting, the vocals, the Alt-Folk tunage – it all found a place in homes and radio stations and record stores across the country, and eventually SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS sold than two million copies in the U.S. alone. 

The first single from SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS, “What I Am,” was released in November 1988, a few months after the release of the album.  By month’s end, it debuted on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart at No. 96.  By mid-January 1989, “What I Am” had found its way to the Top 40 of the Hot 100, and for several weeks since debuting on the chart, had been in competition with Information Society’s “Walking Away,” which debuted a couple places below “What I Am” back in late November 1988. 

what i am

By mid-February 1989, “What I Am” surpassed “Walking Away” for the first time since they debuted, and in early March 1989, “What I Am” spent a week at its peak position of No. 7.  And, in good form (though unintentional, I’m sure), both “What I Am” and “Walking Away” walked away the Hot 100 in early April 1989.

walking away

Around the globe, “What I Am” was a No. 6 hit in Canada, and it reached No. 11 in New Zealand, No. 18 in Australia, No. 23 in Ireland and No. 31 in the United Kingdom.  It also reached No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and No. 9 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.  

Edie & The New Bohemians charted on the Hot 100 just one more time, with “Circle,” the follow-up single to “What I Am,” which stopped at No. 48, and was a modest hit around the globe, reaching the Top 40 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

circle

paul n edie march 2016

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, March 2016.

QUIRKY FUN FACT: On November 5, 1988, the same month “What I Am” was released, Edie and the band performed the song on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  Well, Paul Simon was there by a cameraman, and in a January 2011 interview with the TODAY show, she said, “Even though I’d performed the song hundreds of times in clubs, [Paul] made me forget how the song went when I looked at him,” she said smiling. “We can show the kids the tape and say, ‘Look, that’s when we first laid eyes on each other’.”  Paul Simon and Edie Brickell were married in late May 1992, and they have three children – Adrian, Lulu and Gabriel.

After a six-year break in the 90s, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians have been together for the past 20 years, most-recently playing three sold out nights in April 2017 in the Dallas suburb where Edie was born, Oak Cliff. 

edie april 2017

Edie Brickell, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, April 2017.

When she’s not working with New Bohemians (their last album was in 2006), she’s released several of her own albums, including her other band, The Gaddabouts, and has recorded two Bluegrass albums with the brilliant Steve Martin – 2013’s LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU and 2015’s SO FAMILIAR.  Both albums went to No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Bluegrass Albums chart.  LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU was BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Bluegrass album for 2013, and No. 3 for 2014.  SO FAMILIAR was the No. 3 Bluegrass Album for BILLBOARD in 2016, six positions higher than the year-end chart for the year it was released.

so familiar

In the liner notes for SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS, Edie Brickell wrote out some annotations about each song on the album, replete with illustrations. For “What I Am,” she wrote, “‘What I Am’ is a smart-alec’s way out of a deep discussion on the universe as it relates to the self.” 

Well, as for this self, I’m not trying to get out of a deep, universal discussion as to why “What I Am” and Edie & Co. didn’t do anything for me for all those years, though maybe it was more of “Who I Am” than “What I Am.”  And while I’m still not a big fan (although I LOVE their 1989 cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” from BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY), I’m glad the song eventually grew on me, and became part of what – and who – I like…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDl3bdE3YQA

edie n co 1

song of the day – “The One I Love” | R.E.M. | 1987.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

Nearly 80 songs found a home at the No. 9 position of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and many of them seemed to be split up into categories, like the (real) one-hit wonders – Gary Numan, Buckner & Garcia, Ollie & Jerry and Oran “Juice” Jones. 

pac-man fever

Then you had the first big Top 10 hits (or first big Top 10 solo hits) by established artists – “Let My Love Open The Door” by Pete Townshend, “Touch Of Grey” by The Grateful Dead, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar, “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham, “Don’t Shed A Tear” by Paul Carrack, “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It” by Loverboy, “Rush Hour” by Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s, “Be Near Me” by ABC and “Burning Down The House” by Talking Heads.

rush hour

A few second-chance singles reached No. 9 as well – In 1982, Steve Winwood’s original version of “Valerie” stalled at No. 70, while a remix on the CHRONICLE hits compilation in 1987 propelled the song to No. 9.  The Pointer Sisters’ No. 30 hit from 1982, “I’m So Excited,” re-entered the chart in 1984 with a new mix and a new chart peak.  Ben E. King’s iconic No. 4 hit from 1961,“Stand By Me,” re-entered the chart in 1986 thanks to the brilliant film of the same name, and charted in the Top 10 for the second time, 25 years apart.

stand by me

Plus, you also had No. 9 hits from well-known artists that have been mostly forgotten for whatever reason (though not by me), like “Walking Away” by Information Society, “Room To Move” by Animotion, “We’re Ready” by Boston, “Love Will Save The Day” by Whitney Houston, “Love Will Conquer All” by Lionel Richie, “I Know What I Like” by Huey Lewis & The News, “Love You Down” by Ready For The World and “Let’s Go!” by Wang Chung (who could forget that one?!).

let's go

And, there were the big Top 10 comeback hits (“The Doctor” by The Doobie Brothers, “Your Wildest Dreams” by The Moody Blues, “You Got It” by the late, great Roy Orbison), and folks who had more than one No. 9 hit – Sheena Easton, Dan Fogelberg, Barry Manilow, John Mellencamp and The Motels, all with two No. 9 hits, while both Bruce Springsteen and Journey had three each.

you got it

In the Summer of 1987, I was two years removed from high school and DJing wedding receptions, and spinning tunes and showing music videos to crowds of up to 600 teenagers and young adults at a chem-free night club in Waterville, Maine (called Studio 2).  That’s where I met Michael, one of my future best friends, who somehow conned me into giving him my 45 of “Burning Down The House” either the night I met him or the next time I saw him.  Clever bastard.

burning down the house

There’s not a whole lot of nightclubbing to be had by youngsters here in Central Maine, even less so now.  I met Michael on a Wednesday, when Studio 2 was trying out a mid-week night, trying to duplicate their popular Saturday night dance excursions for the area youth.

Though the Wednesday experiment didn’t work, I’m forever grateful to have met Michael that night.  He came down with a crowd from Pittsfield, about 20 miles north of Waterville, and they wanted to hear Alternative music.  Well, by the Summer of 1987, my knowledge of “Alternative music” consisted of select songs by Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Clash, Talking Heads and R.E.M., and maybe The Cult and a couple others, but that was about it. 

people are people

From that moment on, Michael and I became close friends (he was just out of high school), and he started his 30-year (so far) tutelage of music I never even knew about.  And some of those bands and singers (Robyn Hitchcock especially), Michael has influenced and inflicted more music on me than anyone, and while I still love most of the Top 40 music I grew up with, I am a HUGE fan of Alt-Dance and Alt-Rock today, mostly thanks to Michael.

robyn

Thank you, Michael, for introducing me to Robyn Hitchcock and his music all those years ago.  One of the best things anyone ever did for me…

R.E.M. was one of those bands that did have a Top 40 hit in 1987, and I had no idea prior to “The One I Love” and its parent album, DOCUMENT, that they had been together since 1980 and had already released four critically-acclaimed, full-length albums and an EP, but through Michael’s amazing music collection, I was introduced to all of it.  When I went back to college in 1990 (or College 2.0 if you prefer), Michael made me a mix tape (when there was still such a thing) of R.E.M. songs up through 1990.  I still have it!

Formed in Athens, GA in 1980, R.E.M. – consisting of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry – were critical darlings in their first several years, and had some success on BILLBOARD’s album chart – their first four albums were certified Gold – but on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, they couldn’t chart any higher than No. 78. 

But somehow, with DOCUMENT (their last album for I.R.S. Records), they broke out beyond the critical praise of music journalists and college programmers and landed into the realm of commercial radio, and garnered a shit-ton more fans, yours truly included. 

document

Part of the success of DOCUMENT is most likely attributed to Scott Litt, who worked with R.E.M. for the first time, and he produced the album.  He would also go on to produce their next five albums (the first five R.E.M. albums for Warner Bros.), and all five albums did incredibly well.

The album was universally hailed as a great achievement.  ROLLING STONE’s David Fricke called the album R.E.M.’s “finest album to date” and how DOCUMENT is “a vibrant summary of past tangents and current strengths, [it] is the sound of R.E.M. on the move, the roar of a band that prides itself on the measure of achievement and the element of surprise.  The end of rock & roll as R.E.M. knows it is a long way off.”

Pitchfork said of the album on DOCUMENT’s 25th Anniversary in 2012: “If 1985’s FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION was R.E.M.’s most self-consciously Southern record to date and 1986’s LIFES RICH PAGEANT their most overtly political, DOCUMENT maintained both their regional self-definition as well as their indirect social engagement.”

the one i love v1

The first single from DOCUMENT, “The One I Love,” was released in August 1987, a month before the album.  The song was oft-mistaken for a love song (and maybe still is, I’m not sure).  It even might have been featured as one of Casey’s “Long Distance Dedications.”  But, the song is just the opposite.  Michael Stipe has said “The One I Love” is about “using people over and over.  It’s deceptive because it could be a love song until the line, ‘A simple prop to occupy my time’.”

Well, deceptive or not, something worked.  “The One I Love” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-September 1987 at No. 84.  The following week, it had already surpassed the three previous R.E.M. singles to reach the Hot 100.  A month after its debut, it shot into the Top 40.

Two weeks after its Top 40 debut, it won the Sales award for that week.  And in early December 1987, the first Top 40 hit for R.E.M. became their first Top 10 hit, as “The One I Love” spent a week at No. 9.  In an interview that appeared in ROLLING STONE a couple of days before, Michael Stipe half-jokingly spoke of the song’s oft-misinterpretation: “I’ve always left myself pretty open to interpretation.  It’s probably better that they just think it’s a love song at this point.”

the one i love v2

Another version of the cover art for “The One I Love.”

“The One I Love” stayed on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks, spending their last week on the chart in late January 1988, the same week follow-up single, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” made its debut.  Both songs helped propel the DOCUMENT album, and it was the band’s first album to be certified Platinum, and wouldn’t be their last.

Around the globe, “The One I Love” reached No. 5 in Ireland, No. 6 in New Zealand, No. 14 in Canada, No. 16 in the U.K., and No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.  Once BILLBOARD got their Modern Rock chart going September 1988, R.E.M. was the first band to have two No. 1 songs on that chart – “Orange Crush” (eight weeks at No. 1) and “Stand” (two weeks).

After R.E.M. left I.R.S. for Warner Bros., the band’s success exploded from there.  They would go on to have two No. 1 albums – 1991’s OUT OF TIME and 1994’s MONSTER, two No. 2 albums – the brilliant AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE from 1992 and 1996’s NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI, a No. 3 album, 1998’s UP, eight more Top 40 hits (led by 1991’s “Losing My Religion”), and an incredible contract with Warner Bros. that gave them quite a ride for awhile.

R.E.M. broke up in 2011 after more than 30 years of putting out amazing music.  Though I sadly never got to see the band perform, in March 2007, I was 10 feet in front of Peter Buck at a show in Cambridge, MA at T.T. The Bear’s, when he was part of Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 (I was also standing next to Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, though I think Michael – who was a huge fan of her and her band – had to point her out to me). 

robyn + peter SWSW 07

Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck, hamming it up at SXSW, March 2007.

Robyn & Peter & the rest of The Venus 3 played some Venus 3 originals, covers by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and some of Robyn’s songs, both solo and with The Soft Boys.  It was an incredible show.  That’s attributed to Michael, for introducing me to Robyn Hitchcock from the start of our friendship.

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Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

I also got to meet Mike Mills when he came for a signing at Record Store Day at the Bull Moose in Scarborough, Maine in 2014.  Bull Moose’s Chris Brown was the inspiration for Record Store Day (also founded in 2007), and I believe the inspiration for getting Mike Mills to come to the store that day.  In the brief moment I met him, Mike was very cool and really down to earth, and he was kind enough to sign a GREEN 25th Anniversary CD for a WMPG auction, and for me, he signed the 4-album set Mike was promoting, R.E.M.’s UNPLUGGED: THE COMPLETE 1991 AND 2001 SESSIONS.  So, I got to see half of R.E.M., in a sorta roundabout way.

R.E.M.-Record-Store-Day

It’s funny, “The One I Love” is NOT the R.E.M. song I love the most.  I actually can’t choose a favorite.  But, if I could choose more than one, that distinction would go to “Laughing” (from 1983’s MURMUR), the 1981 Hib-Tone version of “Radio Free Europe,” “Cuyahoga” and “I Believe” (from my favorite 80s R.E.M. album, 1986’s LIFES RICH PAGEANT), “Can’t Get There From Here” (from 1985’s FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION, and an old popular saying here in Maine), “Near Wild Heaven” and “Belong” (from 1991’s OUT OF TIME), “At My Most Beautiful” (from 1998’s UP), the original 1992 version and the 1999 orchestral version of “Man On The Moon,” and “Nightswimming” (from my favorite 90s R.E.M. album, 1992’s AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE). 

But, “The One I Love” will always be the R.E.M. song that I loved FIRST, and, with Michael’s help, made me love the band’s music forever…

me + michael 10.31.15

Me and Michael, 10.31.2015, right before the wedding of his daughter, Devon.  Can’t remember if he or one of his sisters was trying to make me laugh. ‘Twas a really great day of many in a wonderful friendship…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7oQEPfe-O8

r.e.m.

song of the day – “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” | a-ha | 1986.

stuck in the 80s 20 800x1000 YELLOWOver the course of the 20 years I’ve been on the air with my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG-FM community radio in Portland, Maine), I’ve advocated for those many recording acts who had the one big hit in America and continue to be labeled as “one-hit wonders,” though they had more than one chart hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. 

There were nearly 500 artists during the Fall of 1979 through the end of 1989 who really did hit the Hot 100 only the one time.  I call them “(real) one-hit wonders of the 80s,” and I like to try and feature one every week on the blog. 

There are several recording artists remembered for the “one BIG hit” here in the U.S. who actually had more than one Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 and are STILL considered one-hit wonders (thanks to folks like VH1), including Eddy Grant, The Outfield, John Waite, Information Society (who had 2 Top 10 hits), General Public, Quarterflash, ’til Tuesday, Neneh Cherry (another artist with 2 Top 10 hits) and the Oslo, Norway band, a-ha. 

A_Ha CoverArt

Vocalist Morten Harket, keyboardist Magne Furuholmen and guitarist Pål Waaktaar-Savoy formed a-ha in 1982, and on their first album, 1985’s HUNTING HIGH AND LOW, and their second attempt at making the song “Take On Me” into a hit, their lives as they knew it would never be the same again.  “Take On Me” was a massive hit in Norway and beyond, reaching No. 1 in 10 countries worldwide (including the U.S.), and the Top 10 in another 8 countries, and parent album, HUNTING HIGH AND LOW, was a global hit as well.

I adore “Take On Me” and its sensational and creative video, and have for many years, but it was the follow-up single, “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.,” that made a-ha a part of my life for all-time.

“The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” was the third single overall released from HUNTING HIGH AND LOW, but the second single from the album released worldwide.  It made its way onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the end of November 1985 and debuted in the Top 40 in January 1986.  It climbed steadily until pausing at No. 20 for a week in late February 1986, and spent 17 weeks on the chart.  The trio would make one more appearance on the Hot 100, with 1986’s “Cry Wolf,” which reached No. 50.

the sun always shines on tv

Though I was disappointed in the Stateside chart performance of “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.,” I took comfort in the fact it was well-received around the world, reaching the Top 10 in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart.  In Ireland and the U.K., where “Take On Me” had stopped at No. 2, “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” reached No. 1 in both of those countries, which was indeed validating, not only for the band, but also for my love of the song.

The video for “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” starts as a epilogue to the “Take On Me” video, where an animated Morten Harket realizes he can’t stay in the world of his young love interest, and heads back to the comic book world where he came from.  The video then turns into an impressive performance piece, set in a former English Gothic church (still owned by the Church of England), loaded with very interesting European mannequins (which are WAY different than your run-of-the-mill American mannequins).tsas_video

The editing of this video is magnificent.  Just setting up the hundreds of mannequins in the church as an orchestra, chorus, and patrons must have taken many hours if not days.  Also validating in my love for this song and its video is that, in a year where “Take On Me” won 6 MTV Video Music Awards, the video for “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” deservedly won the band 2 more: Best Editing and Best Cinematography.  It remains as one of my all-time favorite videos.

a-ha is still around today, and in their native Norway, every studio album they released between 1985 and 2005 reached No. 1 on the Norway album chart.  And, their most recent albums, 2009’s FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN, and 2015’s CAST IN STEEL, reached No. 2. 

I know everyone has their own opinions on what or what not constitutes an artist being a one-hit wonder.  American radio stations, DJs and venues like VH1 have a stranglehold on which songs they think people should remember over others.  Luckily, WMPG is not one of those stations, and I sure as hell am not one of those DJs.  Yes, I realize there is a whole other world going on that has much more important issues than whether or not someone was a one-hit wonder.  But, in the world in which I live and breathe every day of my life – the 80s music world – a-ha is NOT a one-hit wonder.  And “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” is my proof…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3ir9HC9vYg

a-ha