song of the day – “Dancing In The Dark” | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | 1984.

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, since the start of June, I have been highlighting songs that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits have gotten bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  With the next post, 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!”

If you listened to AMERICAN TOP 40 as faithfully as I did back in the 80s, before Nos. 2 and 1 were announced, he’d usually take a commercial break before announcing them, and would usually say, “The two biggies are coming right up!”  “The two biggies.”  Always cracked me up and still does.

But, when it came to AMERICAN TOP 40, “the two biggies” were, in fact, a big deal.  There a few positions on the chart that are the most frustrating, like Nos. 101, 41 and 11, but no other peak position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (or any singles chart, for that matter) was more frustrating to stop at than No. 2.

Foreigner endured the No. 2 position the longest in the 80s, spending 10 weeks in the runner-up spot in 1981 and 1982 with “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” a chart record Foreigner still shares to this day.  And I believe Madonna, who has six No. 2 songs to her credit (four of them in the 80s), still holds the chart record for most No. 2 singles in Hot 100 history.

waiting for a girl like you

All told, nearly 100 songs reached No. 2 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by three Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, whose 1981 No. 2 hit, “All Those Years Ago,” was a tribute to John Lennon), two Jacksons (Michael and Janet), and a couple of (real) one-hit wonders, including the Cold War Classic by Nena, “99 Luftballons.”

99 luftballons

danger zoneSome of the biggest songs in history that maybe you thought were No. 1 hits in America were actually No. 2 hits, such as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones and “Purple Rain” by Prince And The Revolution.

Several artists peaked at No. 2 between 1979 and 1989 with two songs, including The Bangles, Culture Club (with their first two hits), Air Supply, Duran Duran, Glenn Frey, Kool & The Gang, John Mellencamp, Billy Ocean (including the guilty pleasure, “Loverboy,” which a DJ back in the day once referred to as “Heavy Metal Disco”; I would disagree), plus Robert Palmer, Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt (in two big duets with James Ingram and Aaron Neville), Tina Turner and Jody Watley. 

loverboy

Michael Jackson gets an honorable mention, as he peaked at No. 2 with “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney, and he is featured in an uncredited role backing up Rockwell on “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  Likewise with Sheena Easton, who backed up Prince uncredited on “U Got The Look” and had her own No. 2 hit in 1989 with the sexy Dance hit, “The Lover In Me” (a long way from when she took that “Morning Train” to No. 1 in 1981; I’m sure Prince may have had something to do with it).

the lover in me

Speaking of Prince, he had three No. 2 hits between 1979 and 1989, or in this case, 1984 through 1987, with the aforementioned “Purple Rain” and “U Got The Look,” but also with “Raspberry Beret.”  He, too, gets an honorable mention, as he composed the No. 2 hit for The Bangles, “Manic Monday.”

lovesong

And a number longtime recording artists saw their biggest hits stop at No. 2, like The Cure (“Lovesong”), Journey (“Open Arms”), The Greg Kihn Band (“Jeopardy”), and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.”

If there was any one huge artist in the 80s I wanted to see reach No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, it was Bruce Springsteen.  I was first introduced to Bruce’s music with 1980’s “Hungry Heart,” from his first No. 1 album, THE RIVER.  At the time, I had no idea he had already released four critically-acclaimed and successful albums.

hungry heart

After “Hungry Heart,” I was a Bruce fan for life – granted, not the superfan that Hope is, but I don’t think anyone loves Bruce’s work more than Hope, except maybe for Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa.

“Dancing In The Dark” was released in early May 1984, a month before the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album was released.  And, right out of the gate, it was a hit.  “Dancing In The Dark” blasted onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the last week of May 1984 all the way into the Top 40, at No. 36.  By the next week, it was already No. 18, with its eyes set on No. 1.

dancing in the dark

Bruce had hit No. 1 before – as a songwriter.  A song from his 1973 debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. – “Blinded By The Light” – was recorded by the London Rock band, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, in 1977, and spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in February 1977, exactly four years to the month when Bruce’s original was released as a single.

bruce blinded

“Dancing In The Dark” had a lot going for it – a popular video directed by Brian de Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL and the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film) with actress Courtney Cox (FAMILY TIES, FRIENDS) dancing with Bruce on the stage (the video would win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance). 

courtney n bruce

It also had a 12” Dance remix courtesy of Arthur Baker (who’s remixed songs for Daryl Hall & John Oates, Afrika Bambaataa, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys and New Order).  The “Blaster Mix” was miles away from anything on 1982’s NEBRASKA or 1980’s THE RIVER, but people loved it.  Not only did it reach No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it was the biggest-selling 12” single for all of 1984.  Arthur Baker would also go on to remix the follow-up Bruce singles “Cover Me” and “Born In The U.S.A.” as well.

blaster mix

As much as “Dancing In The Dark” had going for it in its second week on the Hot 100, another single debuting on the same chart that early June was “When Doves Cry” by Prince, released in advance of the album and film, PURPLE RAIN.  “When Doves Cry” reached the Top 40 a week later, and just like “Dancing In The Dark,” made a big move into the Top 20 the following week.

By late June 1984, “Dancing In The Dark” had climbed to No. 4, while “When Doves Cry” was closing in at No. 8.  The following week, “When Doves Cry” had jumped to No. 3, and “Dancing In The Dark” was at No. 2, right behind Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.”

“When Doves Cry” proved to be too powerful for “Dancing In The Dark,” which stayed for four weeks in the runner-up position.  “When Doves Cry” was the biggest song of 1984 here in America.

when doves cry back

Though “Dancing In The Dark” didn’t reach No. 1, Bruce Springsteen still had a lot to be proud of.  The song gave Bruce his first Grammy Award, winning for Best Rock Vocal Performance.  In the 1984 ROLLING STONE readers poll, “Dancing In The Dark” was voted “Single Of The Year.”  It’s also listed as one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”  It sold a million copies in the U.S. alone, and the single’s B-side (one of the best ever), “Pink Cadillac,” was a Top 5 hit for Natalie Cole in 1988.

pink cadillac

Around the globe, “Dancing In The Dark” was an international smash (though in some countries it took awhile), reaching No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 4 in South Africa and the U.K., No. 7 in Canada and Norway, No. 11 in Finland and No. 12 in Italy.  In Australia, though it stopped at No. 5, it was the No. 1 song of the year, spending 40 weeks on the singles chart there.

“Dancing In The Dark” was just the first part of an amazing journey for Bruce Springsteen and the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album.  Seven out of the album’s 12 songs were released as singles, and all seven reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100 between 1984 and 1986, tying a record set in 1984 by Michael Jackson’s THRILLER album. 

born in the usa LP

BRUCE_SPRINGSTEEN_BORN+IN+THE+USA+-+LONG+BOX-219449b

The first compact disc manufactured in the U.S.A. was BORN IN THE U.S.A.

BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart twice, in July / August 1984 and January / February 1985.  PURPLE RAIN may have been the album of the year here in the U.S. for 1984 (BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 28), but for 1985, BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the No. 1 album of the year in America (and even No. 16 for 1986).

NERDY FUN FACT: BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the first compact disc manufactured in the U.S. for commercial release.  I remember seeing it at a DeOrsey’s in Waterville, Maine, and think it sold for something like $25.00.  And the record album still sounds better.

NERDY FUN FACT 2: According to a 1984 ROLLING STONE interview, the “Dancing In The Dark” Blaster Mix by Arthur Baker happened because Bruce had heard the remix Arthur did for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” and he thought it was incredible: “It sounded like fun, so I hooked up with Arthur.  He’s a character, a great guy.  He had another fellow with him, and they were really pretty wild.  They’d get on that mixing board and just crank them knobs, you know?  The meters were goin’ wild.”

cyndi girls

Bruce Springsteen is one of those rare artists who have been on the same record label from the start – Columbia.  Two other Columbia artists instantly come to mind – Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan.  There won’t be anyone else like them.  Ever. 

bob n bruce

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (along with many other familiar faces) at the “We Are The World” recording session, 1985.

If you pull away the catchy dance beat, “Dancing In The Dark” is a personal song about the difficulty of writing a hit song and Bruce’s frustration of trying to write songs that will please everyone.  Though I’m thinking Bruce would have liked to have another of his more personal songs become his biggest hit, I would almost bet my record collection he’s alright with that hit being “Dancing In The Dark.”

e st band

Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band, 1984.

“You can’t start a fire / You can’t start a fire without a spark / This gun’s for hire / Even if we’re just dancing in the dark…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=129kuDCQtHs

bruce 84

song of the day – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” | MICHAEL JACKSON | 1983.

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!”

Well, we’re finally into the Top 5!  Normally it would have taken Casey Kasem three-and-a-half hours to reach this point, but he had a script, a chart already set up courtesy of BILLBOARD magazine, and he didn’t have to write everything out.  Not that I mind.  While it’s taken me quite a bit longer than I had hoped, I have really been enjoying this series, and hope you have too.

The songs that peaked at No. 5 between 1979 and 1989 are, so far, in a class all by themselves.  More than 100 songs reached that position, including some memorable cover songs, like “Respect Yourself” by Bruce Willis (originally by The Staple Sisters), “Cum On Feel The Noise” by Quiet Riot (Slade), “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” by Great White (Ian Hunter) and “Pink Cadillac” by Natalie Cole (Bruce Springsteen, who also had three No. 5 hits of his own).

hungry heart

One of three singles to reach No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Bruce Springsteen between 1979 and 1989.

Many artists had more than one No. 5 hit, including Pat Benatar, Gloria Estefan (with and without the Miami Sound Machine), Exposé, Lou Gramm (with and without Foreigner), Daryl Hall (solo and two with John Oates), Janet Jackson (solo and with Herb Alpert), Madonna, Sade, Willie Nelson (solo and a duet with Julio Iglesias), George Michael (solo and as a guest vocalist for (real) one-hit wonder, Deon Estus), Olivia Newton-John, Eddie Rabbitt, Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and Rod Stewart.  Australia’s Air Supply had four No. 5 hits.

angel

One of two singles to reach No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Madonna between 1979 and 1989.

The late, great John Lennon and his son, Julian Lennon, both hit No. 5 within a two-year period of each other, and some of my favorite 80s songs peaked at No. 5, like Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” “When Smokey Sings” by ABC, “In Your Room” by The Bangles, The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip,” “What You Need” by INXS, “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” by The Stray Cats, “On The Radio” by Donna Summer, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” by Stevie Wonder, and “All Through The Night” by Cyndi Lauper, which set a BILLBOARD Hot 100 record for Cyndi as she was the first female recording artist who would reach the Top 5 with four chart hits from a debut album.  And she wouldn’t be the last.

she's so unusual

Another of my favorite No. 5 hits belongs to the man who was not only the biggest recording artist of the 1980s, the entire year of 1983 belonged to him.  Of course, I’m talking about the late, great Michael Jackson.  The THRILLER album spent a massive 37 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.  THRILLER was so big, in fact, that it was the No. 1 album in America for two consecutive years.

By now, everyone and their mother (and grandmother) knows all about the Quincy Jones-produced THRILLER album and the success it has had.  It’s still the biggest-selling, non-compilation album of all time.

thriller

The first song on the THRILLER album was the fourth (of seven) singles released from the album – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”  What a heluva way to start off an album!  From the opening drum beats, you just knew Michael Jackson had something special with this album.

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” (a song about strangers – i.e. the press – spreading rumors to start arguments for no apparent reason), was released in early May 1983 and didn’t waste any time debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  It debuted on the chart at No. 41, three weeks after its release, and with “Billie Jean” still on the chart (at No. 42) and “Beat It” at No. 3. 

The following week, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” roared to No. 22, looking like a third No. 1 hit in a row from THRILLER (the album’s first single, “The Girl Is Mine,” with Paul McCartney, peaked at No. 2).  After a few slow chart weeks, it reached the Top 10 by early July 1983, and a couple weeks later, spent a quick two weeks at No. 5.  THRILLER’s fifth single, “Human Nature,” had already reached the Top 40 while “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” was still in the Top 10.  It was one of five singles from THRILLER to finish the year in the Top 100 here in the U.S. in 1983.

wanna be startin' somethin'

Around the globe, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” spent two weeks at No. 1 in the Netherlands, and reached No. 3 in Belgium, No. 5 in Ireland, No. 8 in the U.K., No. 11 in Canada, No. 14 in Spain and No. 16 in Germany.

“LET’S ALL GO TO COURT, LET’S GO MAKE SOME LAW NOW” FACT:  As talented as Michael Jackson was, he had a bad habit of “borrowing” other people’s music for his own songs – without their consent.  At the “We Are The World” recording in 1985, he confessed to Daryl Hall that he used the beat of “I Can’t Go For That” for the beat in “Billie Jean.”  Daryl Hall didn’t seem to mind, but for “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” that catchy vocal bit near the end, you know the one – “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” – was actually taken directly from a 1972 Disco song by Manu Dibango called “Soul Makossa” (Manu Dibango is a saxophonist from Cameroon, and Makossa is a type of music and dance in that country), and the bit was used without permission. 

soul makossa

For years, there was no lawsuit about this, but when current Pop star, Rihanna, used the bit in one of her songs from 2007, both she and Michael Jackson were sued.  In early 2009, just months before Michael Jackson died, Michael had admitted he “borrowed” the line, and he ended up settling out of court.  Apparently, when Rihanna asked Michael Jackson to see if she could use the line in her song, that’s when the fit hit the shan, and once again, Manu Dibango was not contacted by Michael Jackson prior to the song’s use, hence the lawsuit.MJ 1958-2009

It’s hard to believe Michael’s been gone nine years already.  He was 50 at the time of his death, the age I’m at right now (don’t worry – I’m not leaving anytime soon), and I’m convinced that Michael had a big comeback in the works when his life was cut short on June 25, 2009.  While I have my own theory about what really happened with his death, I would much rather choose to celebrate his music, in this case “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” which is six minutes of pure Post-Disco joy and dance floor gold.  Honestly, who do you know that WOULDN’T get out on the dance floor and dance to this as soon as they heard it?!

“Lift your head up high / And scream out to the world / I know I am someone / And let the truth unfurl / No one can hurt you now / Because you know it’s true / Yes, I believe in me / So you believe in you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KWf_-ofYgI

MJ 83

  

song of the day – “Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove)” | STEVIE NICKS | 1982.

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!”

No. 11 is a chart position that, while certainly respectable, carries an amount of frustration I’m sure for recording artists who peak there.  Nearly 50 songs stopped just short of the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, including such Top 10-worthy hits as “You Spin Me Round” by Dead Or Alive, “Doctor! Doctor!” by Thompson Twins, “Head Over Heels” by The Go-Go’s, “Good Girls Don’t” by The Knack, Prince’s first Top 40 hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Keep On Movin’” by Soul II Soul, the lovely “Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert, “Spirits In The Material World” by The Police, Kiss and their brief flirtation with Disco, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” “Don’t Look Back” by Fine Young Cannibals, “The Promise” by When In Rome, Stevie Wonder’s country-flavored “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” and Michael Jackson’s “Another Part Of Me,” which prevented Michael from having two back-to-back albums with seven Top 10 hits.

another part

But, in the scheme of music history, to some No. 11 is just a number.  Case in point: one of the songs that reached No. 11 in the 80s is prolly the most-played solo hit by Stevie Nicks today – “Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove).”  Whenever I hear a Stevie Nicks solo tune on the radio, usually this is the one I hear more than any other.

“Edge Of Seventeen” was the third consecutive solo hit for Stevie Nicks, and the third hit released from her 1981 monster debut album, the No. 1 album, BELLA DONNA. 

belladonna

Stevie wrote the song as an expression of grief over the the murder of John Lennon, and then the passing of her uncle Jonathan, both within the same week in December 1980.  The producer of BELLA DONNA, Jimmy Iovine, was a close friend of John Lennon’s.  The line in the song that says, “Words from a poet and the voice of a choir” refers to John Lennon.

lennon 1980

John Lennon, 1980.

One-Train-Later1The famous guitar riff that opens the song (and is continued throughout) is what is called a “16th note” guitar riff, which progresses through the C, D and E-minor chords (yes, I had to look it up).  Guitarist and popular session musician Waddy Wachtel played the riff on the song, and has said that “Bring On The Night” by The Police was the inspiration for the guitar riff, which is very interesting, considering I have been a fan of both songs for decades and never made that connection!  Apparently, according to Andy Summers’ autobiography, ONE TRAIN LATER, he confirms this and mentions how Stevie Nicks had asked to meet with him after a 1981 show in Los Angeles about the song. 

As for the song’s subtitle, in a video commentary for the song, Stevie spoke about the “white winged dove” and what it meant to her: “It became a song about violent death, which was very scary to me because at that point no one in my family had died.  To me, the white-winged dove was for John Lennon the dove of peace, and for my uncle it was the white-winged dove who lives in the saguaro cactus – that’s how I found out about the white-winged dove, and it does make a sound like whooo, whooo, whooo.  I read that somewhere in Phoenix and thought I would use that in this song.  The dove became exciting and sad and tragic and incredibly dramatic.  Every time I sing this song I have that ability to go back to that two-month period where it all came down.  I’ve never changed it, and I can’t imagine ending my show with any other song.  It’s such a strong, private moment that I share in this song.”

“Edge Of Seventeen” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late February 1982, and reached the Top 40 in just three weeks.  It made a steady climb up the chart but stalled quickly at No. 11 for two weeks in mid-April 1982.  It was gone from the Hot 100 after just 14 weeks.  It also reached No. 11 in Canada, and No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.

17

QUIRKY FUN FACT: The title of “Edge Of Seventeen,” according to Stevie, came about from a conversation she had with Jane, the first wife of Tom Petty.  Jane had told her she and Tom had met “at the age of seventeen,” but with Jane’s strong Southern accent, Stevie mistook it as “edge of seventeen.”

The guitar riff on “Edge Of Seventeen” was sampled on “Bootylicious,” a Destiny’s Child song that reached No. 1, and in the video, Stevie Nicks makes a cameo appearance, playing the guitar.

145831763101_Stevie_Nicks

Stevie Nicks, from the Destiny’s Child video for “Bootylicious.”

There’s even been a couple of different and critically-acclaimed coming-of-age comedy-drama films named EDGE OF SEVENTEEN: a 1998 LGBT film set in 1984, and a 2016 film with Hallee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick.

EDGE

Some have called “Edge Of Seventeen” enduring and iconic, and they’re right.  “Edge Of Seventeen” is a song that a written out of grief, but for 35 years has also served as a song about strength, endurance, and love…with a kick-ass guitar riff.  And, it proves you don’t have to be a Top 10 hit to be enduring, iconic or loved.

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

stevie

xmas song of the day – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” | JOHN & YOKO / THE PLASTIC ONO BAND | 1971 / 1980.

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.

stuck-holiday-show-promo-art

It’s December 8th, 2016 here in Central Maine, and the 36th anniversary of the tragic death of John Lennon.  So, I couldn’t think of any better choice for the song for Day 14 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS than “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

happy-xmas

With incredible vocal help from the Harlem Community Choir, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was released as a single in December 1971 here in the U.S., and for the following Xmas in the U.K. (for some reason the release was delayed).  It was not just a beautiful holiday song, it was also a song protesting the Vietnam War. 

john-lennon-war-is-over

In the two years before the single was released, John and Yoko launched a “WAR IS OVER” campaign worldwide, and they even rented billboard space in a dozen big cities around the globe with similar posters.

war-is-over-poster

Earlier in 1971, with people reacting more to John’s amazing single, “Imagine,” than his other solo work to that point, he realized, “Now I understand what you have to do:  Put your political message across with a little honey.”  He put together a holiday song without being overly sentimental like more traditional songs about the season, but also with a message of hope for peace.

happy-xmas-2

When it was released here in the U.S. in 1971, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was not the success John and Yoko hoped it would be.  Since it was released late, there wasn’t much airplay for the holiday season, and it wasn’t well promoted by Apple Records.  When it was released in the U.K. the following Xmas, it reached No. 4 on the U.K. singles chart.  Between December 1972 and early 1973, “Happy Xmas” would also reach the Top 10 in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Ireland, Norway and Singapore.

On December 8, 1980, the day John Lennon was murdered outside of his New York City apartment, “(Just Like) Starting Over,” his first single in five years, and his biggest hit in six years, was inching its way up the Top 10 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, ranking at No. 6 that week.  Three weeks later (and two days after Xmas 1980), “Starting Over” spent its first of five weeks at No. 1.  It was an amazing tribute to John.

john-lennon-just-like-starting-over-geffen-12

Over in the U.K., the tribute to John was felt everywhere on the singles chart.  On December 20, 1980, “Starting Over” spent a week at No. 1.  On January 10, 1981, “Imagine” (which had previously charted at No. 6 in a 1975 release), spent four weeks at No. 1.  “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” also returned to the chart, and was positioned behind “Imagine” at No. 2, a new peak position for that song.

Following the 4-week run at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart for “Imagine,” “Starting Over” follow-up single, “Woman,” spent two weeks at No. 1.  In March 1981, Roxy Music’s cover of John’s 1971 song, “Jealous Guy,” spent two weeks at No. 1.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” would re-chart on the U.K. singles chart in 1981, 1982, 1988, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2012.  The appeal of “Happy Xmas” has been everlasting, and it’s been covered dozens of times over the years, including covers by The Alarm, Sarah McLachlan, Cocteau Twins, Cranes, Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, The Moody Blues, Darlene Love, Carly Simon and even English Classical Crossover artist Sarah Brightman.

John would have been 76 this year.  I don’t know how he would have responded to  recent political events here in the U.S., but it’s a strong bet he’d still want you to have a Happy Xmas without any fear, and to give peace a chance.  Sounds like great advice to me.

Miss you, John, wherever you are…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMH_wMvMy_8

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xmas song of the day – “All I Want For Christmas” | TIMBUK 3 | 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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just-in-time-4-xmasThe song for Day 11 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is a brilliant 1987 non-trad Xmas offering from an album of mostly non-trad Xmas offerings, the 1990 I.R.S. Records holiday compilation, JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS – “All I Want For Christmas” by Timbuk 3.

Pat and Barbara McDonald were inbetween their 1986 debut album, GREETINGS FROM TIMBUK 3, and their second album, 1988’s EDEN ALLEY, when they released one of my all-time favorite songs for this time of year.  It’s also doubling as an anti-war song: “It looks to me like World War III / Underneath the Christmas tree / Please dear Santa, Mr. Santa please / Can’t you make the firing cease?”

all-i-want-for-xmas“All I Want For Christmas” has made it onto a number of Xmas compilations over the years, including Rhino’s wonderful JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH: NEW WAVE XMAS.  It may not have been as well-received as their popular Top 20 hit, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” from a year earlier, but I’ve always admired Pat and Barbara McDonald for following in the footsteps of folks like John Lennon, for advocating world peace through a holiday song.

“All I want for Christmas is world peace…”  Truth be told, world peace is a gift I ask for every Xmas, and birthdays, and, well, every day.  That continues to be at the top of my wish list…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcZA80c_c-4

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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 – “Never Tear Us Apart” | INXS | 1988.

This year has hit the music world and music fans like me especially hard.  And not just a hard punch like my 4-year-old niece punching me in the arm kind of hard.  The amount of notable passings of music royalty this year (spanning all genres), unlike any other year to my recollection, has felt more like a repeated punch in the stomach and the head and the heart.

When John Lennon was tragically murdered on December 8, 1980, I was just 13 years old, so my love for John Lennon at nearly 14 was not the same as the love I have for John and his music at nearly 50.  As an adult, for me, the first artist whose death really hurt was the loss of Michael Hutchence, the charismatic and gifted lead singer of INXS, who passed away on this date (November 22) in 1997.  I was 30 and living in Portland, Maine at the time, and it was less than three months after the high-profile death of Princess Diana.  With the Internet still a bit young and not as accessible as it is today, I remember being heavily disappointed that Michael’s death wasn’t being covered as much on television as I thought it should be.  I think I saw something on MTV and maybe on the national news that night, but not much else. 

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Suffering from depression and under the influence of alcohol and drugs, Michael Hutchence sadly took his own life in a hotel room in Sydney at the far-too-young age of 37 (exactly two months shy of his 38th birthday).  Five days after his death, his coffin was carried out of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, carried by the remaining five members of INXS and his younger brother, Rhett.  As his coffin was being carried out of the church, the song which played in the background was “Never Tear Us Apart.” 

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The cover for the excellent 1997 INXS album, ELEGANTLY WASTED.

Earlier that year, INXS released their tenth studio album, ELEGANTLY WASTED.  I thought it was the best thing they had done since 1987’s KICK, and I was so excited for the future direction of the band.  In 1997, way back in the second year of my (now-20-year-old) little radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), ELEGANTLY WASTED was the first album I played on the show that contained new music by an 80s artist, and I’ve featured new music by 80s artists on my show ever since. 

 

Before Michael died, I had a chance to see INXS in Boston on the ELEGANTLY WASTED tour, which would have been the second time I had seen INXS (the first being at Colby College in Waterville in 1987, just as the momentum for “Need You Tonight” was building).  I opted instead to see the band Luna, featuring Galaxie 500 alum (and New Zealand native) Dean Wareham, a decision I don’t regret, because it was a really great show.  But, how was I to know…

KICK full cover

Released in early August 1988, “Never Tear Us Apart” was the fourth single released worldwide from KICK, the sixth studio album for INXS (released in October 1987).  Like the videos for “New Sensation” and “Guns In The Sky,” the video for “Never Tear Us Apart” was filmed throughout the gorgeous city of Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic.  I hope to get there one day.  The video, directed by Richard Lowenstein (who directed many memorable INXS videos) even had a beautiful extended intro that, to my knowledge, has never made it onto any audio recording.

Just five days after its release, “Never Tear Us Apart” (co-written by Michael Hutchence and keyboardist / primary songwriter Andrew Farriss) debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 86, while the band’s No. 3 U.S. hit, “New Sensation,” was still in the Top 40.  “Never Tear Us Apart” found its way to the Top 40 of the Hot 100 by mid-September 1988, and in early November 1988, the lush ballad spent a week at No. 7, becoming the fourth consecutive Top 10 American hit from KICK.  It spent a total of 23 weeks on the Hot 100, and departed from the chart in January 1989.  “Never Tear Us Apart” also reached No. 5 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, and No. 28 on BILLBOARD’s then-new Modern Rock chart.

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Around the globe, “Never Tear Us Apart” may not have been as big a hit as its three KICK predecessors, but it did reach the Top 10 in Belgium and Holland, No. 18 in Canada, No. 21 in New Zealand, No. 24 in the U.K., and a No. 14 peak in Australia, which changed in 2014 after an Australian miniseries called INXS: NEVER TEAR US APART prompted a return for the single, and it reached a new peak of No. 11.paloma-faith-never-tear-us-apart

The song has been covered by the likes of Tom Jones (featuring fellow Sydney recording artist, Natalie Imbruglia), the late, great Joe Cocker, Beck and St. Vincent (which I now have to hear), Carrie Underwood, the Los Angeles Indie Rock singer / songwriter Cary Brothers (you prolly heard several of his songs on my third-favorite TV show, SCRUBS), and a beautiful 2012 cover by English singer / songwriter / actress Paloma Faith, which I was turned on to earlier this year, I think.  It reached No. 16 in the U.K. and was certified Silver there.precious-heart

In 2001, a remixer by the name of Tall Paul (real name Paul Newman; no, not that one) created several remixes using a heavy sample of “Never Tear Us Apart” on a song called “Precious Heart” (named after a line from the song).  It reached No. 14 in the U.K. and No. 27 in Australia.

In the years since Michael Hutchence’s passing, many folks have considered “Never Tear Us Apart” to be an anthem-of-sorts for Michael.  Well, anthem or not, I can safely say it’s my favorite song off of KICK, and one of my all-time favorite songs from my all-time favorite band.  And, 19 years later, what I know is true, is that I still miss you, Michael, wherever you are…

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Michael Hutchence, from the “Never Tear Us Apart” video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIBv2GEnXlc

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