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).
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!”
You know, as unlucky as the stigma for being unlucky the number 13 has had as long as I’ve known it, the No. 13 position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 is something altogether different, or, lucky. No. 13 has been the home (or treasure trove, if you prefer) to many great classics, like “Money” by Pink Floyd, Queen’s “Somebody To Love,” “Because The Night” by the Patti Smith Group, “Different Drum” by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt, “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, “Takin’ It To The Streets” by The Doobie Brothers, Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” “Roundabout” by Yes, “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa, “Walking In Memphis by Marc Cohn, “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton (featured prominently in the John Hughes classic, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF), “Here Comes My Baby” by The Tremeloes (which my pal Dave Wakeling and The English Beat will be covering on their upcoming album!), “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” by The Walker Brothers (which was featured in the brilliant but barely-seen 2012 Steve Carell film, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD), and one of the first singles I ever owned, “Theme From CLOSE ENCOUNTERS” by John Williams.
Between 1979 and 1989, there were nearly 60 singles that reached lucky No. 13, and it was a popular number for Bob Seger, who had two hits stop there, as did Kenny Rogers, Elton John and Natalie Cole. Van Halen had three songs reach No. 13 – “Right Where Ya Started,” and two from the album, 1984: “Panama” and the highly underrated “I’ll Wait.” Speaking of Van Halen, in 1983, future / former Van Halen lead singer, Sammy Hagar, reached No. 13 with his first Top 40 hit (and biggest solo hit), “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy.”
Some of my 80s favorites stopped at No. 13 too, like “Shadows Of The Night” by Pat Benatar, “All Over The World” by Electric Light Orchestra (from XANADU), “Back In The High Life Again” by Steve Winwood,” “One Night Love Affair” by Bryan Adams and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
No. 13 must have been a favorite of mine for blog posts as well, as I’ve featured seven of them – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, “People Are People” by Depeche Mode, “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones, “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2, plus two of the three (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached No. 13 – M|A|R|R|S (“Pump Up The Volume”) and Frida (“I Know There’s Something Going On”), and one song released in 1989, but peaked at No. 13 in March 1990 – “No Myth” by Michael Penn.
Another song that reached No. 13 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the 80s came out of Italy, by way of Northern Ireland. In the late 70s, Jimmy McShane (of Derry, Northern Ireland) was attending a stage school in London, learning how to dance and sing, when he was hired as a stage dancer and backing singer for English singer and musician, Dee D. Jackson. He toured around Europe with Dee D. and her band, and upon a visit to Italy, he fell in love with Italy’s underground dance scene, and the country itself, and ended up moving to Milan in 1984.
In Milan, he learned the Italian language, and in 1984, met up with Maurizio Bassi, who was a music producer and a musician. Together, they decided to form the New Wave / Dance band, Baltimora, with Jimmy McShane as the singer and the face of the band.
In early September 1985, they released their debut album, LIVING IN THE BACKGROUND, along with the first single from the album, “Tarzan Boy.” The catchy song about being free and doing whatever you want in the jungle, without the hustle and bustle of living in the city, took about a month and a half to find its way to the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but did find it in mid-October 1985, when it debuted at No. 80.
“Tarzan Boy” steadily moved up the chart at first, but lost its chart “bullet” (for sales and airplay) in its sixth chart week, and stalled at No. 62 for three weeks. By early December 1985, “Tarzan Boy” had regained its bullet and started moving back up the Hot 100, reaching the Top 40 in mid-January 1986.
By March 1, 1986, “Tarzan Boy” had been on the chart for 20 weeks (longer than some No. 1 songs), and spent a week at No. 13. “Tarzan Boy” spent half a year on the survey and finished the year at No. 73.
Around the globe, “Tarzan Boy” was a massive hit, reaching No. 1 in Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Spain, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart.
Despite the success of “Tarzan Boy,” Baltimora had a hard time duplicating that success for its other singles and second album, 1987’s SURVIVOR IN LOVE. Following “Tarzan Boy,” the title track from their debut album, LIVING IN THE BACKGROUND, peaked at No. 87 on the Hot 100, and a few other singles reached the Top 40 singles chart in Italy, but nothing more. Baltimora broke up after the record label (in this case, Manhattan) dropped them.
Fast forward to 1993, and a new remix of “Tarzan Boy” was used in a Cool Mint Listerine commercial (with animation by future film giant, Pixar). Well, it didn’t stop there. “Tarzan Boy” was also featured that year in the film, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III, and the combination of the two sent “Tarzan Boy” back onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100, re-entering the chart in late March 1993.
“Tarzan Boy” climbed as high as No. 51 and spent 12 additional weeks on the Hot 100, and a total of 38 weeks combined. With new hits by Duran Duran, R.E.M., Madonna, INXS, New Order and Boy George’s Pet Shop Boys-produced theme to THE CRYING GAME, the 80s were still sticking around in 1993. But it was pretty cool to hear “Tarzan Boy” on the radio again.
Sadly, the following year, Jimmy McShane, the face of Baltimora, was diagnosed with AIDS while in Milan in 1994. A few months later, he returned to his hometown of Derry, Northern Ireland, the place where his family had shunned him many years before for being gay. He died in Derry in late March 1995 at the young age of 37. And, despite his family’s earlier stance towards Jimmy’s homosexuality, after his death, a family spokesperson said, “He faced his illness with courage and died with great dignity.”
The legacy of Jimmy and “Tarzan Boy” live on today, and the song continues to be covered by other artists and has appeared in films, like Seth MacFarlane’s 2014 film, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST. And, “Tarzan Boy” is still heard on the radio today, as it should, because, who wouldn’t want to dance around to a fun, catchy song about being free and roaming around the jungle, removed from that city life?
“Jungle life, I’m far away from nowhere / On my own like Tarzan Boy / Hide and seek, I play along while rushing ‘cross the forest / Monkey business on a sunny afternoon…”