song of the day – “One Way Or Another” | BLONDIE | 1979.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014 (three years ago today), 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, 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.  On June 30, 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!”

I remember hearing about Casey’s death during a trial run at a commercial radio station out of my hometown, Bar Harbor, Maine.  I was pre-recording some voice tracks to be played on the air that Sunday afternoon, and saw it pop up on the news feed on a computer in the station’s main on-air studio.  My heart sank.  I knew Casey hadn’t been well, but I had hoped he’d live much longer than he did, though 82 was a long life, and what a life it was.

Due to a communication snafu, it never worked out with that radio station, but at the very least, I got to at pay tribute to him on the air at that station, if only for a moment.  It’s the least I could do for a man who did so much for me – through music – all those years ago.  Like John Hughes, Casey Kasem is one of the most-influential people for me with music that I DIDN’T meet.

A couple of Sundays later, I did get to pay tribute to Casey with the first of three annual 2-hour radio shows in his memory on STUCK IN THE 80s, and that featured nothing but music from 1979 through 1989 and reached the American Top 40.  My theme song for each annual show was M’s No. 1 hit from 1979, “Pop Muzik,” which, to this day, I maintain is a song that epitomized the music of a decade – NOT the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, I couldn’t think of a better name for these tribute shows than LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION.

long distance dedication 6.29.14

One of the artists played on that show (and many other shows over the course of STUCK IN THE 80s’ 20+ years) was Blondie, who just released their eleventh studio album, the excellent and Rockin’ POLLINATOR.

pollinator

By early 1979, Blondie had released three albums, with the latest one, PARALLEL LINES (which was released in September 1978), slowly climbing the BILLBOARD album chart.  Blondie’s self-titled 1976 debut album didn’t even reach the album chart here in the U.S., and their second album, PLASTIC LETTERS (released in February 1978), reached No. 72. 

The first U.S. single released from PARALLEL LINES – “I’m Gonna Love You Too” – ran parallel to the album’s September 1978 release, but the only places it became a hit was in Belgium and in The Netherlands.  Second single “Hanging On The Telephone” is a revered Punk / New Wave classic, but again, it failed to make a dent here in America, though it was a Top 5 U.K. hit.

Though it may sound like a cliché sometimes, like the saying goes, “third time’s a charm,” and in the case of singles released from PARALLEL LINES, the ol’ saying proved to be right for Blondie to finally break through in their homeland of the U.S. of A.

parallel lines

“Heart Of Glass” was released in January 1979, and by mid-February, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 way down at No. 84.  10 weeks later, it spent a lone week at No. 1, helped PARALLEL LINES climb to No. 6 on the BILLBOARD album chart (becoming their first Platinum album), and reached No. 1 in at least seven other countries – and in the process, united both Punk and Disco fans alike – no easy trick.  I can’t think of any other song that truly did that.

heart of glass

After the worldwide success of “Heart Of Glass,” Blondie’s record label, Chrysalis, released “Sunday Girl” in May 1979…but not here in the U.S., despite the fact “Sunday Girl” spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. and four weeks at No. 1 in Ireland.  (Thanks Chrysalis, you crusty jugglers!  Just because the first two singles didn’t work out here didn’t mean “Sunday Girl” wouldn’t have charted!)

sunday girl

For the fourth single released here in the U.S. and in Canada, Chrysalis released “One Way Or Another,” a song inspired by one of Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriends who had stalked her after they broke up.  (Boy, you don’t wanna mess with Debbie, man!  I believe it when she says she’ll “get’cha, get’cha, get’cha, get’cha!”)

“One Way Or Another” (which, oddly enough, was NOT released as a single outside of the U.S. or Canada) was more Punk and Rock-friendly than Disco friendly, although I don’t know anyone in the ‘Verse who wouldn’t want to dance to this gem.  It’s infectious and instantly invites you to move.

blondie-1

Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1979 (with “Heart Of Glass” still in the Top 15), “One Way Or Another” found its way onto the Top 40 four weeks after its debut, entering the Top 40 at the end of June at No. 35.  It inched up another notch the following week, and then for some weird reason, fell out of the Top 40 down to No. 41. 

In an even weirder chart move (and one I’m sure Casey Kasem loved to talk about), the following week, “One Way Or Another” roared back into the Top 40 from No. 41 to No. 29, a feat more commonplace in the Digital Age of the Hot 100 today, but back in 1979, to make such a dramatic turnaround on the chart was quite rare.

And that would be the last of the rare, big moves for “One Way Or Another,” as two weeks later, in early August 1979, it would spend the first of two weeks at No. 24.  Two weeks after departing the Top 40, it was gone from the Hot 100 completely.  In Canada, “One Way Or Another” fared better, reaching No. 14.

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The 1979 poster of Debbie Harry (photo taken by Chris Stein) that has eluded me for almost 40 years now…

The legacy of “One Way Or Another” didn’t stop there, though.  It’s been covered since by the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Alvin And The Chipmunks, the cast of GLEE, and in 2013, the popular British boy band, One Direction, who did a mashup of “One Way Or Another” with “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones – and titled “One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)” – and released a single in support of Comic Relief.  It was, like One Direction and Blondie before them, a global sensation, and reached No. 1 in at least five countries.  In the process, the original “One Way Or Another” squeaked onto the U.K. singles chart (through digital sales) at No. 98, its first appearance on that chart, and not bad for a 34-year-old song.

“One Way Or Another” has recently been in a number of commercials as of late (I think I heard it in two different commercials back-to-back, in fact), and in ROLLING STONE’s 2006 list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “One Way Or Another” was ranked at No. 298.

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

Though I didn’t initially warm up to “One Way Or Another” as I did with “Heart Of Glass” or “Dreaming,” which would chart a couple of months after “One Way Or Another,” the song grew on me (how could it not?), and I really loved seeing Debbie and Blondie belt this out when my dear friend Shawn (formerly of Maine and NYC) and I saw them in New York back in October 2013.

blondie wkrp 1

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention part of the reason PARALLEL LINES did as well as it did.  The album was released the same month as my second all-time favorite TV show, WKRP IN CINCINATTI.  The show was instrumental in not only the success of the album, but its use of “Heart Of Glass” really helped it to become the big hit it was, and the band’s record label, Chrysalis, presented the producers of WKRP with an authentic Gold RIAA record award for PARALLEL LINES, and it hung on the wall of the station’s “bullpen” for the remainder of the series.  (While I don’t entirely forgive Chrysalis for not releasing “Sunday Girl” here, I thought it was a rare and wonderful and unusual gesture presenting a fictional radio station with a real Gold record.)

blondie wkrp 2

You know, some fans of Casey Kasem and AT40 might disagree, but in listening to some of Casey’s older 1970s AMERICAN TOP 40 countdowns on iHeart Radio (he started AT40, appropriately enough, on July 4, 1970, at the age of 38), I think Casey really started hitting his stride with AT40 in 1979 (though I may be biased, considering that’s the year I really started getting into music).  Maybe that’s what compelled me to keep tuning in week after week, year after year, and as often as I can, three years after his death, on the Interweb.

at80s2I’ve been involved with mostly community and college radio for the better part of 30 years, and in my short-lived time on a commercial station here in Central Maine back in 2008, one of my all-time proudest moments in radio is going on at 10:00 on Saturday mornings, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and rebroadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40.

Though I’ve preferred Alternative, New Wave and Alt-Dance to Top 40 for a long time now, I don’t think I would have ever have had the appreciation for music I do today if it hadn’t been for Casey Kasem.

I miss you, Casey, wherever you are, and I promise to keep reaching for those stars…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m74w9x07DhU

one way or another

  

song of the day – “The Bottom Line” | BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE | 1985.

“The horses are on the track…”

In September 1983, with what was prolly the beginning of the end for The Clash, Mick Jones, the legendary band’s lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist and songwriter since their inception in 1976, was fired from the band.  Punctuality (or lack thereof) was a prominent factor in his dismissal from The Clash. 

Not long after getting booted from “the only band that mattered,” Mick Jones did something that prolly felt natural for him – he helped start another band – General Public, which was founded with The English Beat’s Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, from the ashes of that band, which broke up in 1983.

But, the association Mick Jones had with General Public was quite short-lived.  Although his name is featured on the credits of General Public’s debut album, …ALL THE RAGE (he did play guitar on “Tenderness,” “Never You Done That” and at least three other songs), Mick left during the recording of the album.  I think had Mick stayed with Dave and Roger and General Public, it would have been quite interesting and amazing.  But, I can’t be mad at Mick and forgive him for leaving because…

…in 1984, Mick went on to co-found the Post-Punk, Alt-Dance band, Big Audio Dynamite, with film director Don Letts, who had previously directed a number of Clash videos and later the 2000 Clash documentary, WESTWAY TO THE WORLD, which picked up a Grammy Award in 2003 for Best Long Form Video.

this is BAD

The first album for Mick’s third band in two years, the appropriately-titled THIS IS BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE, was released in October 1985, interestingly enough, the month before the release of CUT THE CRAP, the last album by The Clash, which most folks thought was, well, crap (save for tracks like “This Is England”).

cut the crap

When ROLLING STONE’s David Fricke reviewed CUT THE CRAP in January 1986, THIS IS BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE got mentions as well: “If CUT THE CRAP is a cheat, then Mick Jones’ new band Big Audio Dynamite is an unexpected gamble.  ‘That old time groove is really nowhere,’ Jones shrugs in ‘The Bottom Line,’ brusquely dismissing [Joe] Strummer’s retropunk didacticism.  Instead, he continues, ‘I’m gonna take you to part two,’ which on THIS IS BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE is an intoxicating subversion of Eighties dance-floor cool with SANDINISTA!’s dub-funk turmoil…  THIS IS BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE hardly transcends the Clash’s finest hours, but for Jones it is a new beginning.  With CUT THE CRAP, one might well wonder if Joe Strummer’s at the end of the road.”  David was right – The Clash broke up in early 1986.  Many folks, yours truly included, thought they had already broken up long before then.

bad 2

No, that’s not Terence Trent D’Arby standing next to a seated Mick Jones.  That’s film and video director, DJ, musician and B.A.D. co-founder Don Letts.

But, with songs like “E=MC2,” “Medicine Show,” “C’Mon Every Beatbox” and “BAD” (featured in the 1986 John Hughes classic, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF), Big Audio Dynamite and THIS IS BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE were thriving.  The album was certified Gold in their U.K. homeland, and reached the Top 10 in New Zealand.

the bottom line UK

The first single released from the album (and the only song on the album solely written by Mick Jones) was “The Bottom Line.”  It was also the first song by B.A.D. that made me fall in love with the band, though not until 1987, when one of my (future) best friends, Michael, introduced me to them.  “The Bottom Line” did not fare well in the U.K. (where it reached a surprising No. 97 chart peak), but it was a Top 40 hit in Australia, New Zealand and BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

There were at least a couple of different remixes for “The Bottom Line,” and though I enjoy the U.S. 12” mix by Rick Rubin, I have always favored (and will always prefer) the original and glorious 8-minute, 40-second U.K. 12” Remix.  Not only does it mirror the 4:35 album version, but when the album version is ready to cut out, in the U.K. Remix, Mick and Co. actually DO take you to Part Two (“I’m gonna take you to, I’m gonna take you to part two, part two…”)

bottom line US

Nearly 32 years after its release, it’s interesting how the song’s lyrics could still apply today:

Big_Audio_Dynamite-1-200-200-100-crop“A dance to the tune off economic decline / Is when you do the bottom line / Nagging questions always remain / Why did it happen and who was to blame

“When you reach the bottom line / The only thing to do is climb / Pick yourself up off the floor / Don’t know what you’re waiting for

“They’ve been doing it down at the zoo / And I can show ya here’s what to do / All of the States and over UK / Even the Soviets are swinging away…

“So when you reach the bottom line / The only thing to do is climb / Pick yourself up off the floor / Anything you want is yours…”

bottom line BACK

Apart from a 2011 reunion, Big Audio Dynamite (and later, the successful Big Audio Dynamite II) stopped years ago, but Mick (who turns 62 in June 2017) is still keeping busy, performing in recent years with the live band for the popular U.K. Alt-Rock / Electronica band, Gorillaz, and on albums for Alt-Rockers, The Wallflowers, and Algerian singer, Rachid Taha (who released a brilliant Arabic cover of “Rock The Casbah” in 2004).

rock el casbah

All these years later, my bottom line on “The Bottom Line” is that it’s still so infectious (especially the original 12” U.K. Remix) and amazing to dance to or listen to in the car, or anywhere.  And, if for some Godforsaken reason you have never heard this song, click on the link to the original video below, or take the next 10 minutes, find the link to the original 12” U.K. Remix and get ready to move.  It may not be that “new dance that’s going around” anymore, but “when the hits start flying,” you’re GONNA get down.  And then you’re gonna “pick yourself up off the floor” and do it again…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V5Zoe84BjE

bad

song of the day – “Mirror In The Bathroom” | THE ENGLISH BEAT | 1980.

saxaThis is my first blog post after a longer-than-expected 13-day absence, and a belated tribute to the late, great Saxa, the Jamaican saxophonist extraordinaire best known for his work with The English Beat, and who died on May 3, 2017 at the age of 87 (the day after my last blog post).

Born Lionel Augustus Martin, Saxa was part of the first wave of Ska, playing sax with Jamaican artists like Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker.  At almost 50 years old, Saxa joined The English Beat to record their first single, a kick-ass, 1979 Ska / New Wave cover of “Tears Of A Clown,” the 1970 No. 1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic by Smokey Robinson And The Miracles.

Following the breakup of The English Beat in 1983, Saxa remained connected with the band’s offshoots, playing on efforts by General Public (with Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger) and Fine Young Cannibals (with Andy Cox and David Steele), and formed The International Beat with original English Beat drummer, Everett Morton.

intl beat

The International Beat (with Saxa right in the middle)…

In my November 2009 interview with Dave Wakeling, the voice of The English Beat and General Public, I asked him, with Ska originating in Jamaica, did he have a favorite Jamaican musician, and he didn’t hesitate to name Saxa, who, according to Dave, “taught me so much about music; not about how to play music, but about the art of connection, the spiritual quality of transmitting messages.  He helped put it into hard focus for me, so I knew why I was doing this.”

Following Saxa’s passing, there was a great piece online about him written by Bill Pearls on BrooklynVegan.com, who said that Saxa’s “melodic style was a crucial part of The Beat’s sound – maybe the MOST distinctive part.”  I agree with that.  There are so many Beat songs with his signature saxophone sound that you wouldn’t hear on anything else at the time that featured a sax. 

The first English Beat song showcasing Saxa that comes to mind for me is “Mirror In The Bathroom,” the third of five singles released from their brilliant 1980 debut album, I JUST CAN’T STOP IT. 

i just can't stop it

“Mirror In The Bathroom” became the band’s third consecutive Top 10 hit in their U.K. homeland, reaching No. 4 on the U.K. singles chart, and No. 22 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, (a special 12” single with “Hands Off…She’s Mine” and “Twist And Crawl”). 

mirror GER

The cover art for the “Mirror In The Bathroom” European 7″ single.

As I’ve prolly stated here before, I was very late in getting to know The English Beat, and I think (the memory is a bit fuzzy here) my first introduction to “Mirror In The Bathroom” was as part of a pivotal scene in the excellent 1997 John Cusack film, GROSSE POINTE BLANK. 

In that same 2009 interview with Dave Wakeling, I asked him about it, and what it was like to have a filmmaker want to use his music for a film: “It’s thrilling, John Cusack and John Hughes used a lot of [our] tracks over the years.” 

grosse pointe blank

this is uncoolLong before it was used in several films, “Mirror In The Bathroom” helped propel I JUST CAN’T STOP IT to a No. 3 peak on the U.K. album chart (and was certified Gold there).  It was also ranked No. 3 in the NEW MUSIC EXPRESS (NME) “Singles Of The Year” list, and author Gary Muholland featured it in his fantastic 2002 book, THIS IS UNCOOL: THE 500 GREATEST SINGLES SINCE PUNK AND DISCO.

After Saxa’s passing, Dave Wakeling posted on Facebook, “Thank you for your pure melody, your insights on music, love and life, and for your constant kindness to me.  You now deserve to take your place as Top Tenor, First Chair, in St Peters Archestra, just as you had practiced for your whole life.”

I’ve enjoyed the work of so many saxophonists since I started really getting into music in 1979, but Saxa was in a class all by himself.  And, as a new 50-year-old myself, for him to join an upstart Ska / New Wave band at almost 50 years old is mighty impressive, much like Saxa himself. 

R.I.P. Saxa, and many, many thanks… 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHWrmIzgB5A

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song of the day – “Reach” | MARTINI RANCH | 1988.

On Saturday, February 25, 2017, we lost another great actor too soon – the incredibly-talented Bill Paxton, who died from a post-surgical stroke following heart surgery.  The Fort Worth, Texas native was just 61. 

Bill Paxton was a veteran actor, with an incredible resume that spanned four decades.  Though he apparently was in the 1981 Bill Murray gem, STRIPES (as a soldier) I don’t remember Bill in that movie.  I’ll look for him next time though.  His first big movies were prolly THE TERMINATOR and STREETS OF FIRE, both from 1984. 

The first movie I remember Bill in, however, was the 1985 John Hughes film, WEIRD SCIENCE.  It’s my least favorite of John’s 80s teen films, but as the asshole brother, Chet, Bill Paxton played the role so brilliantly.  Seriously, not many people could convincingly pull off playing a giant turd.  And I mean that in the highest regard.  I loved him in that role.

weird-science

From 1985’s WEIRD SCIENCE, Bill with Anthony Michael Hall.

I loved Bill in many other roles, too, including films like TOMBSTONE, TRUE LIES, TWISTER, TITANIC, ALIENS (for which he won a Saturn Award) and APOLLO 13 (for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award).  He also had a TV resume that spanned four decades as well, including roles on MIAMI VICE, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, FRASIER, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and his HBO series, BIG LOVE, for which he was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards.  He was also a main character in the brand-new TV reboot of the 2001 film, TRAINING DAY.  All of the 13 episodes had been completed before his death, and just wrapped shooting in December 2016.

training-day

In 1976, Bill Paxton met Seymour Stein, co-founder of my favorite record label, Sire Records (and future Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer and Vice President of Warner Bros. Records).  They became friends, and Seymour took Bill to see acts on his roster at the time, like The Ramones and Talking Heads.  Can you imagine?  Hot damn.  Seymour was also encouraging with Bill and his acting work.  More on Bill’s connection with Sire Records in a bit.fish-heads

What many folks don’t know about Bill Paxton, is that, when he wasn’t acting, he was involved with music.  Before his big break in film and TV, Bill directed a music video in 1980 for a popular 1978 novelty song that had a lot of love on the Dr. Demento show over the years – “Fish Heads” by Barnes & Barnes.

Bill met up with the fictional twin brothers Art and Artie Barnes (actor Bill Mumy of LOST IN SPACE and singer / songwriter / musician Robert Haimer), and volunteered to direct the $2,000 video.  He also starred in the video, along with Dr. Demento himself, who had a cameo as a bum.  The video for “Fish Heads” aired on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on December 6, 1980 (eight months before MTV), and the following week.

bill-paxton-1980

Bill Paxton in 1980.

Bill Paxton’s video filmography didn’t stop there.  He also appeared as a Nazi officer in Pat Benatar’s “Shadows Of The Night” video in 1982, and New Order’s “Touched By The Hand Of God” video in 1987.  Bill was in a couple more videos in the 80s, but they were a bit more personal.

In 1982, vocalist and guitarist Andrew Todd Rosenthal thought up the idea for a band whose sound (a sorta different twist on New Wave) ended up being a precursor for late-80s Devo.  That band was called Martini Ranch.

martini-ranch-press

The idea behind the name Martini Ranch?  According to the liner notes of 1988’s Sire compilation, JUST SAY YO: VOLUME II OF JUST SAY YES, the answer to the “philosophical query” is that Martini Ranch is “a neither dry nor dusty concoction that cheerfully assimilates all media forms in order to regurgitate a colorful, satirical audio-visual mélange of Life As We Know It.  Got that, Martini fans?  Then drink up.”

Between 1986 and 1988, Andrew, Bill and keyboardist Robert O’Hearn – as Martini Ranch – released, on Sire Records, two 12” singles and a full-length album, HOLY COW.  Speaking of Devo, from that lone Martini Ranch album, the first single – “How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self-Culture?” – was produced and engineered Devo’s Bob 2 – Bob Casale, Jr. (who we sadly lost in February 2014), and featured Devo drummer Alan Myers (who we also sadly lost in June 2013), and Devo vocalist Mark Mothersbaugh on keyboards.

how-can-the-laboring-man

Also making appearances on this interestingly quirky album were Cindy Wilson of The B-52’s, famed New Age artist and film composer Mark Isham, actor Bud Cort (of HAROLD AND MAUDE), and actor Judge Reinhold (of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, the BEVERLY HILLS COP trilogy and more).

holy-cow

Judge Reinhold’s appearance on HOLY COW consisted of a sole credit – as the whistler on the album’s second single (and today’s “song of the day”), “Reach.”  The song had a kind of cowboy-meets-New Wave sound (Boys Don’t Cry’s “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” comes pretty close), with a hint of Dead Or Alive.

For a song that was mostly just a fun College Radio hit, Martini Ranch picked up a pretty impressive director for the video of “Reach” – James Cameron.

reach

Long before James Cameron became an Academy Award winner and “King of the world!” with two of the top three domestic films of all-time (AVATAR, No. 2 and TITANIC, No. 3, behind 2015’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS), he was an up-and-coming Sci-Fi writer-director, having directed and written – by 1988 – THE TERMINATOR and ALIENS. 

Bill Paxton had appeared in both of those films (and would also appear in James Cameron’s TRUE LIES and TITANIC), and I’m betting his friend James directed the seven-and-a-half-minute cowboy-themed video for “Ranch” as a favor for Bill. 

reach-backThe number of cameos in this video is impressive, including James’ future third wife (of five), Kathryn Bigelow, who not only directed the New Order video for “Touched By The Hand Of God,” but would become (to date) the first female director (finally!) to win an Academy Award for Best Director (for 2009’s THE HURT LOCKER).

Cameos in the “Reach” video also included ALIENS and TERMINATOR star Lance Henriksen, actor Paul Reiser, the aforementioned Judge Reinhold and Bud Cort, and actor Adrian Pasdar (who I remember most for the role of Nathan Petrelli of the NBC series, HEROES).

sireboxThe video for “Reach” appears in the brilliant 2005 Rhino / Sire 3-CD/1-DVD box set, JUST SAY SIRE: THE SIRE RECORDS STORY, which features 61 classic Sire gems spanning many genres and decades, and a DVD (which includes “Reach”), featuring 20 videos like M’s “Pop Muzik,” The Ramones’ “Rock ’N’ Roll High School,” “Let’s Go To Bed” by The Cure, “Like A Prayer” by Madonna, “Enjoy The Silence” by Depeche Mode and Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime.”

In the liner notes for that box set, Bill wrote about Seymour in a way anyone who knew Bill or loved his work would prolly write about Bill:

“As anyone who has ever pursued a recording, theatre, or film career knows, it can be a very discouraging road.  I think I speak for all of the artists who have been represented by and associated with Seymour over the years, in so much as when he believes in someone’s talent, he believes all the way.  He will not be swayed by pressure or popular opinion.  I believe that this positive, unflagging support is what has driven many of us to succeed when we might have lost faith.  His great talent comes from a deep, deep love of what he does – finding and nurturing talent.”

Bill Paxton was definitely a great talent, and had a deep, deep love for what he did.  And I’ll miss that.  And I’ll miss Bill.  R.I.P. Bill, and many, many thanks…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkz0Lx6VyxA

Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton from 2015…

don’t you (forget about me).

As I start this blog post, it’s in the 7:00pm hour on Sunday, February 26th, 2017, and during this time for the better part of the past 21 years, for the folks of Portland, Maine and beyond, I’d be playing a lexicon of the great 80s music you remember and much more on my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio).  More on the amazing last STUCK IN THE 80s show in a bit.

Once the show ended, I wanted to take a couple of weeks off from the blog, though truth be told, I’ve been thinking about this post since before the last show even aired.

original STUCK logo

The original STUCK IN THE 80s logo…

After nearly 21 years, over a thousand shows, thousands of requests, tens of thousands of songs played, these two weeks later, it’s still hard to believe that the last STUCK IN THE 80s has aired on WMPG, a radio station that has been like a second home for me for nearly half my life.  Though I’m still considered a volunteer there, I’ll miss being a regular part of it.

Back in August 2015, I first announced that I would be ending the show at the end of August 2016 after 20 years on WMPG, but in April 2016, I decided I wasn’t ready to end the show yet.  The show started part-time in the Spring of 1996 (I was 29 years old), and full-time on Sundays in the Fall of 1996.  When I realized that my 50th birthday in 2017 fell on a Sunday, it just felt right; it felt cathartic to end the show then.  I’m still happy with that decision.  But the last weekend for the show wasn’t without its moments.

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This didn’t exactly happen here in Maine the weekend of the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG, but it wasn’t too far off…

Many months ago, I half-joked about the last show, saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a blizzard and I couldn’t do my last show?”  Well…I’m not sure if it was an official blizzard in Portland, Maine, but the weather was more blizzard-like than blizzard-lite.  I always planned on co-hosting my last show with my dear, dear friends and regular STUCK co-hosts, Hope and Shawn.  Shawn lives in Portland, and Hope (who did a touching radio tribute for me in November 2016 and put together a wonderful tribute video for me recently) traveled all the way from Springfield, MA to be there.   I’m so grateful to both of them.

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Hope, me and Shawn, having a fun time at Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine 2.11.2017.

That Saturday night (2.11.2017) before the last show, I had planned on a “cheers and thanks” get-together at a Portland venue, but with the inclement weather, most folks weren’t able to attend.  The last show’s attendance was another story.

Before the last show could happen, though, I needed to contact WMPG’s fantastic Program Director, Jessica, to see if the station was going to be shut down due to the storm, which was in full force before Sunday night.  Jessica was indeed planning on shutting down the station but knew it was my last show that night, and was kind enough to let Hope, Shawn and I go on with the last STUCK IN THE 80s and then shut the station down, which was actually kinda cool in a way.

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The show’s STUCK IN THE 80s “Parting Shot” playlist featured songs Hope and Shawn wanted to hear, and songs that meant a lot to me over the years (and many of those songs have appeared on this blog so far): 

  • ALPHAVILLE – FOREVER YOUNG (SPECIAL EXTENDED MIX) (1984) – This Cold War Classic was part of the inspiration for my blog.
  • BOOK OF LOVE – MODIGLIANI (LOST IN YOUR EYES) (1986 / 1987) – One of my “Desert Island” songs, or rather, one of the songs I would want to have with me if I was stranded on a desert island.
  • BLONDIE – DREAMING (1979) – Another of my “Desert Island” songs, this is my all-time favorite Blondie song, from the Fall of 1979.  I remember it well.
  • THE ENGLISH BEAT – I CONFESS (DAVE ALLEN REMIX) (1982) – One of my best memories during the show was interviewing and meeting Dave Wakeling in 2009.  I’ve seen him and the band perform in Portland almost every year since.  Hearing this song live gives me such joy!
  • THE CLASH – THIS IS RADIO CLASH (1981) – Released as a stand-alone single between 1980’s SANDINISTA! and 1982’s COMBAT ROCK, this was requested for DJ HopeyT!
  • BAUHAUS – SPIRIT (ALTERNATIVE VERSION) (1982) – The original version from THE SKY’S GONE OUT and requested for DJ Shawn!
  • PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION – TAKE ME WITH U (1984 / 1985) – This gem from PURPLE RAIN is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that doesn’t get nearly enough love as it should, so I wanted to play it.
  • THE THE – THIS IS THE DAY (EXTENDED 12” MIX) (1983) – A true statement that night…  The end of an era and the beginning of a new one…
  • TALKING HEADS FEAT. JOHN GOODMAN – PEOPLE LIKE US (1986) – My favorite version of this spirited T-Heads gem from TRUE STORIES…
  • JOE JACKSON – CANCER – Recorded live during the NIGHT AND DAY tour on 5/8/83 at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia.  One of my all-time favorites (of many) by Joe Jackson.
  • DAVID BOWIE feat. THOMAS DOLBY – HEROES – Like many others, David Bowie’s sad passing in 2016 did a number on me.  But, ever since, I’ve been inspired too.  On July 13th, 1985 (at LIVE AID), he dedicated this song to his son, “to all our children, and the children of the world.”
  • ROBYN HITCHCOCK – CHINESE WATER PYTHON (1990) – One of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, from one of the most brilliant singer / songwriter / storytellers in the world.
  • THE DREAM ACADEMY – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT (instrumental version) (1985 / 1986) – I couldn’t leave STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG without playing this gorgeous Smiths cover by one of my favorite 80s bands, and from a pivotal scene in one of my favorite John Hughes films (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF).
  • INXS – DON’T CHANGE (1982 / 1983) – A favorite gem from my favorite album by my favorite band…
  • PET SHOP BOYS – WEST END GIRLS (1986) – I remember hearing this for the first time like it was yesterday, and it was around this time 31 years ago…
  • YELLO – DOMINGO (1985) – When DJ Hope and her sister, DJ Weez, teamed up for a 4-hour edition of her awesome show, POWERHAUS, in early 2016, they played this song.  I don’t know how it was off my radar for so long, but I’m glad it’s there now!
  • THE KLF feat. TAMMY WYNETTE – JUSTIFIED & ANCIENT (12” MIX) (1991) – The origins of this song date back to 1987, when The KLF were still The Timelords.  One of THE best one-time collaborations of all-time.
  • PETER GABRIEL – IN YOUR EYES (2011 NEW BLOOD ORCHESTRAL VERSION) – Hope and I were so glad to see Peter Gabriel perform in 2016, but I wish I had also seen him on this tour, featuring orchestral versions of his amazing songs.  This is my favorite, originally from 1986’s brilliant SO album.
  • CYNDI LAUPER – TIME AFTER TIME (1983 / 1984) – Meeting and interviewing Cyndi Lauper in 2002 was a moment, much like Cyndi herself, that I’ll treasure forever.
  • SIMPLE MINDS – A BRASS BAND IN AFRICA (1985) – This amazing instrumental was the B-side of “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
  • SIMPLE MINDS – DON’T YOU (FORGET ABOUT ME) – Recorded live from The Ahoy in Rotterdam, 12.3.1985.  My favorite song for all-time.

The response to the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG was incredibly overwhelming and heartfelt.  It was prolly the most-listened-to show I’ve ever had.  Wanted to share just some of the truly amazing and kind comments shared by my WMPG family, friends and fans:

  • “Better safe than sorry, I suppose…  Better to Be Stuck in the 80’s than in the low teens and a blizzard…  Big shout out to Ron for all his years on the air, and his show to end all shows, tonight… at least for a day or two…  cheers!”
  • “Thank you Ron.  Our Sunday nights won’t be the same without you.”
  • “Ron …….Rock it….tear the roof off……and then shut it down buddy!”
  • “What an end to a great run.  SHUT IT DOWN, Ron!”
  • “What a way to go – a birthday, a blizzard, and then shutting down the station.  Tonight will be epic – thank you for the tunes and enjoy the next great adventures in Life!”
  • “Thanks Ron for one last – and hopefully not final – Sunday night kitchen dance party.”
  • “Ron, Sunday nights will not be the same.  Thank you so much.  It has been a pleasure listening to your programs.  It was a thrill to program and co-host a show.  You will be missed.  All the best in what lies ahead.”
  • “Wow your birthday, last show and an epic nor’easter on its way.  You certainly know how to party!!!!”
  • “Congrats on such a great show.  I’ll miss tuning in to you.”
  • “Happy birthday Ron!  Forever grateful for your show!  You truly are the King of the 80’s!”
  • “What the hell am I supposed to do on Sunday evenings; be sociable?”
  • “REALITY sets in as Sunday evening approaches without STUCK IN THE 80s.  It’s kinda going to be like a zombie achieving consciousness and understanding that everyone’s a zombie and there are no fresh brains.”
  • “You’re gonna get me crying again…forget you?  You, Hope and Shawn were our Sunday nights….we’ll never forget.”
  • “This will be a last show you can never forget!”
  • “Happy Birthday, Ron! Congratulations on an incredible radio run!”
  • “This is the end of an era!!  No 80s show on the radio even came close to yours.  The research, the knowledge and the vast music catalog are unparalleled.  Sad to see it go, but glad you gave Portland a proper 80s experience for so many years.  I hope the next phase in your life is great as well.”
  • “What do you do when the radio show you love and have been listening to for the last 15-plus years goes silent (Wow, Ron, you really went out in dramatic fashion, this blizzard and all!)?!  Will and I miss you already!  Thank you so much, Ron – all the best to your next chapter!”
  • “Happy Birthday to you, my brother!  Today is bittersweet for sure.  Can’t wait for your next musical adventure.  Peace & Love (and birthday spankings) to you!”
  • “Mike drop!!! Thanks for 20 years Ron & crew!!!”
  • “Ron does final show.  Shuts down transmitter.  /mic drop/”  (more on that in a bit…)
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DJ Shaxx, Whitney and me, 1.29.2017…

And from my radio neighbor for the past 11 months, host of the wonderful LEFT OF THE DIAL, the incredibly talented DJ Shaxx:

“First, Happy birthday, friend!

“Can’t believe I won’t be there tonight for you to pass the broadcasting baton to me as I begin LEFT OF THE DIAL.  One of the reasons I love doing my show is that it has always followed STUCK IN THE 80s.  I come into the studio on a wave of positivity and grooving to your music; your legendary presence in the big chair as I walk into the on air studio.  Your personality and music has always helped me start my show with a bang.  In fact, my intro, my first song… you’re the audience.  I have so much enjoyed our conversations transitioning between shows.  And then, as you hit the road, I continue to spin music and speak on the mic and imagine you driving up interstate 295.

“With your departure, Ron Raymond Jr., a big part of what I do will change.

“Changes…  The only constant in life, right?  But change is good.  I’m excited for you and the changes coming up in your life.  The opportunities for great things to happen.  Your future is bright, Ronnie.  You gotta wear shades.

“Man, I’m gonna miss you.  I will miss your DJ mentorship, extensive knowledge and impeccable taste in music.  I will miss your humor and your kindness.

“Thank you for all that you’ve given to WMPG.  Thank you for sharing your great, great knowledge of the 80s every week.  You can feel it tonight.  Everyone tuning in.  Theirs are invisible airwaves crackling with life.  Ripe and tender, whistling with energy (as Geddy Lee would sing).  Thanks for carrying on that great Spirit of Radio.  Because of what you’ve done.  It will live on.  For a long, long time.  Someday inhabitants of a distant universe will be hearing these broadcasts and they will say, ‘Geez!  These people are stuck in the 80s.  We must rescue them.’  And then our planet will never be the same.

“Excelsior!”

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When you host a radio show for as long as I did with STUCK IN THE 80s, I had 20 years of thank-you’s and shout-outs to announce.  Of course, I wasn’t able to get to everyone.  That alone would have taken a whole entire show.  The last of my deserved thank-you’s were dedicated to two of my dearest and closest friends in the whole world – DJs extraordinaire Hope and Shawn, who I’d like to truly love to thank again, for their love and knowledge of music and the 80s, their mad DJ skillz, and their passion, dedication and innumerable contributions to STUCK IN THE 80s!  I couldn’t have done it all these years without them!  (BTW, at the end of the show, since we were shutting down the station, Hope came back on the air and said, “STUCK IN THE 80s OUT!”  And then, in sorta dramatic fashion, Shawn and I did drop out mics…  It was great.)

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Shawn, me and Hope, WMPG-FM and WMPG.org, 2.12.2017, hiding from the blizzard outside and truly STUCK IN THE 80s!

For over a year now, people have been asking me why I’m ending the show.  Well, there’s a number of reasons, but mainly, for now, I want to take a break and take some time for me, do some screenwriting, maybe some voiceover work, continue with the little bloggy thing here, and with me turning 50 a couple of weeks ago, to figure out the next step of my path in this next chapter of my life. 

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Thank you, for 20 years and then some…

I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, but STUCK IN THE 80s will be back, I guaRONtee.  I’ll be back too.  And don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.  And please know that STUCK IN THE 80s has been the proudest moment of the first half of my life.  Thank you.  I love you and I’ll miss you all.

So, until the next time you hear me on your radio, take care, be good, talk hard, and don’t you forget about me.  I’ll catch you on the flip side.  And as Mr. David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  So stay tuned…

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Hope and Shawn, I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you!

xmas song of the day – “Winter Wonderland” | EURYTHMICS | 1987.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

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The song for Day 5 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics, from one of my all-time favorite Xmas albums, 1987’s A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, which came about from an idea of super-producer Jimmy Iovine. 

Long before Jimmy Iovine was the co-founder of Interscope Records and Beats Electronic (with Dr. Dre), Jimmy was an engineer on such classic albums like Bruce Springsteen’s BORN TO RUN, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN and THE RIVER, Meat Loaf’s BAT OUT OF HELL and John Lennon’ WALLS AND BRIDGES. 

Before 1987, Jimmy Iovine produced or co-produced such memorable albums  Patti Smith’s EASTER, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ DAMN THE TORPEDOES, Dire Straits’ MAKING MOVIES, BELLA DONNA by Stevie Nicks, ONCE UPON A TIME by Simple Minds and The Pretenders’ GET CLOSE.  He also supervised the music for the 1984 John Hughes classic, SIXTEEN CANDLES, and in 1988, he produced U2’s excellent double-album soundtrack to their rockumentary, RATTLE AND HUM, and supervised the music for the Bill Murray holiday film, SCROOGED.

For the first A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album in 1987, Jimmy Iovine recruited many of the recording artists he worked with, like Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Pretenders and Stevie Nicks, along with Eurythmics, John Mellencamp, Sting, Run-D.M.C., Madonna, Bryan Adams, Alison Moyet and more – 15 songs in all.avsc-poster

In the wake of Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid and “We Are The World,” Jimmy Iovine wanted to put together a Christmas album as a memorial to his dad, who passed away in 1985. 

The idea for A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS to benefit Special Olympics was idea of Jimmy Iovine’s wife, Vicki (herself a volunteer for Special Olympics), and that’s where the “special” in A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS is inspired from.  Mr. and Mrs. Iovine got some help organizing the album from extended Kennedy family member Bobby Shriver, and the founders of A&M Records, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.

Since the original 1987 A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album, there have been nine other albums released in the series, through 2013.  And since 1987, the series has raised over $100 million dollars for Special Olympics.  Since 1991, A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ranks as the 19th best-selling holiday album here in America, and has sold over four million copies since its release.

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A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS Producer Jimmy Iovine (front center), surrounded (in no particular order) by U2, Annie Lennox, Sting, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Run-D.M.C.

The cover art for the albums was designed by pop and graffiti artist, Keith Haring, and the untitled image of a mother and child was chosen by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1987 as the cover of the first A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album.  Keith Haring sadly passed away in early 1990, but that image has become synonymous with the album series, and also with the mission of the Special Olympics.

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This wonderful version of “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics has been a longtime holiday favorite of mine, and it has made it onto most (if not all) of the playlists for my Annual Holiday Show.  Many versions of “Winter Wonderland” have been recorded since it was written in 1934, from Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley to Ozzy Osbourne, but this version truly stands out among the best.

To learn more about Special Olympics and the mission of A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, go to averyspecialchristmas.org.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xVLeW9UmjE

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song of the day – “A Brass Band In Africa” | SIMPLE MINDS | 1985.

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I wanted to write a simple post today, and Scotland’s Simple Minds came to mind.  Their worldwide No. 1 hit from the brilliant John Hughes film, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” is my all-time favorite song, and from 1985, the best year of my youth.  I’m sure I’ll write about that another time, maybe even a two-parter.  Today, though, I wanted to write about the B-side of “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the instrumental “A Brass Band In Africa.”a-brass-band-in-africa

“A Brass Band In Africa” is five core minutes of a longer, 9-minute-plus, three-part piece that’s fully titled “A Brass Band In African Chimes.”  I didn’t make the connection until recently, but if you listen to the instrumental “Shake Off The Ghosts,” which is the last song on the band’s critically-acclaimed 1984 album, SPARKLE IN THE RAIN, right away it sounds like the precursor to “A Brass Band In Africa.”  Several elements of and instrumentation on “Shake Off The Ghosts” are incorporated directly into “A Brass Band In Africa” and its extended counterpart, “A Brass Band In African Chimes.”

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The flip side of a special picture disc 45 of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” that I hope I still have somewhere in my collection…

Granted, with “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” being my favorite song of all-time, naturally the B-side already had an advantage of me liking it, and I hoped it wouldn’t suck.  Gladly, it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, “A Brass Band In Africa” is not only one of THE BEST B-sides of the 80s, it’s one of THE BEST instrumentals to come out of the decade too.  Do yourself a favor – click on the link below, close your eyes and take the five minutes to listen.  Simply brilliant and beautiful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZwCVrb97-c

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