song of the day – “Abracadabra” | STEVE MILLER BAND | 1982.

colin hay strand 081617

Waiting for the real Colin Hay to begin, Rockland, Maine, 8.16.2017. He was, of course, fantastic and soulful.

Hey everyone!  Thanks so much for being patient with me, as I’ve taken an unexpected (but quite enjoyable) absence from the bloggy thing since the end of July.  There’s been work stuff, home stuff, I had a fun time attending concerts featuring Blondie, the 80s Retro Futura Tour (including Howard Jones, Modern English, Men Without Hats, Paul Young, Katrina of Katrina And The Waves, and The English Beat!), and most recently, seeing the wonderful Colin Hay in beautiful Rockland, Maine. 

I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with the incredible and awesome Hope, my superfriend, sassy radio co-host and writing hero, which included a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean here in Maine that changed me forever.  There’s a lot more to say, and I will, in a post coming soon that will be about Hope and that swim in the ocean and much more!  And Hope comes up again later in this post, so stay tuned!!

HopeyT and me

That’s the absolutely lovely HopeyT and me, Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017!

When I started my tribute to my radio hero, Casey Kasem, back on June 1, school was in session and Summer was weeks away.  Well, it’s now September 9, 2017, school is back in session and Fall is less than two weeks away.  I’ve had fun bringing you this tribute to Casey (who passed away in June 2014 at the age of 82), and wanted to make sure (1) you all didn’t think I would hold out on the Number One song of this tribute, and (2) that I get this in ASAFP, because what’s a Top 40 countdown without a Number One song?

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Much like AMERICAN TOP 40, this post will be full of nerdy chart facts and then some, but first, I wanted to recap the songs I’ve posted in this series so far.  These songs (which include five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), are ranked at the positions they peaked at on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (with peak year), and though they do not represent a definitive Top 40 list for me, but I love all of them, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them!

40. CLONES (WE’RE ALL) – ALICE COOPER (1980)

39. SLIPPING AWAY – DAVE EDMUNDS (1983)

38. PROMISES IN THE DARK – PAT BENATAR (1981)

37. WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) – ICICLE WORKS (1984; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

36. SOMETIMES A FANTASY – BILLY JOEL (1980)

35. FAKE FRIENDS – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1983)

34. ME MYSELF AND I – DE LA SOUL (1989)

33. PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) – U2 (1984)

32. VALLEY GIRL – FRANK & MOON ZAPPA (1982)

31. (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY – THE OUTLAWS (1981)

30. LIES – THOMPSON TWINS (1983)

29. TURN UP THE RADIO – AUTOGRAPH (1985; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

28. POINT OF NO RETURN – NU SHOOZ (1986)

27. THE RIGHT THING – SIMPLY RED (1987)

26. NOT JUST ANOTHER GIRL – IVAN NEVILLE (1988)

25. TAKE ME WITH YOU – PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA (1985)

24. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – BLONDIE (1979)

23. YOU CAN CALL ME AL – PAUL SIMON (1986 / 1987)

22. AIN’T NOBODY – RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN (1983)

21. FOOL IN THE RAIN – LED ZEPPELIN (1980)

20. OUR LIPS ARE SEALED – THE GO-GO’S (1982)

19. PUSH IT – SALT-N-PEPA (1988)

18. LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY – JERMAINE JACKSON with DEVO (1982)

17. YOU ARE THE GIRL – THE CARS (1987)

16. HOLIDAY – MADONNA (1984)

15. ONE OF THE LIVING – TINA TURNER (1985)

14. DIGGING YOUR SCENE – THE BLOW MONKEYS (1986; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

13. TARZAN BOY – BALTIMORA (1986)

12. WHAT’S GOING ON – CYNDI LAUPER (1987)

11. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – STEVEIE NICKS (1982)

10. RELAX – FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1985)

09. THE ONE I LOVE – R.E.M. (1987)

08. LET THE MUSIC PLAY – SHANNON (1984)

07. WHAT I AM – EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS (1989)

06. INFATUATION – ROD STEWART (1984)

05. WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’ – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983)

04. HEART AND SOUL – T’PAU (1987; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

03. LOVE SHACK – THE B-52’S (1989)

02. DANCING IN THE DARK – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1984)

Throughout this series, I’ve been mentioned how many songs peaked at each position between 1979 and 1989.  It’s only fitting that songs which reached No. 1 would have the highest number of songs hitting the apex of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  For this post, I am only counting the songs that reached No. 1 between January 1980 and December 1989, and for that 80s time period, 232 songs went all the way to No. 1.  Let’s get nerdy now (if you’re not already there), with some chart feats about No. 1 songs during the 80s and the BILLBOARD Hot 100:

  • FOUR (REAL) ONE-HIT WONDERS reached No. 1 during the 80s – Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the second-chance single, “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme,” and Vangelis (“Chariots Of Fire (Titles)”), though the composer did reach the chart separately twice in the early 80s as part of the duo Jon & Vangelis, with Jon Anderson of Yes.

miami vice theme

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (27); MOST NO. 1 SONGS FROM ONE ALBUM (5); MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (9) – Michael Jackson.  The King Of Pop reached No. 1 in the 80s with “Rock With You” (1980; 4 weeks at No. 1), “Billie Jean” (1983; 7 weeks), “Beat It” (1983; 3 weeks), “Say Say Say,” with Paul McCartney (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Siedah Garrett (1987; 1 week), “Bad” (1987; 2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988; 1 week), “Man In The Mirror” (1988; 2 weeks); “Dirty Diana” (1988; 1 week).beat it
  • MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (if you’re NOT Michael Jackson): Madonna (7), Phil Collins (7 solo hits), Whitney Houston (7), George Michael (6 solo hits, which includes “Careless Whisper”), Daryl Hall & John Oates (5), Lionel Richie (5).

crazy 4 U

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT ON THE HOT 100 – 40 – “Red Red Wine” – UB40. It spent 25 weeks on the Hot 100, including a week at No. 1 in 1988, and had charted for 15 weeks in its first chart run in 1984.

red red wine

  • MOST CONFIGURATIONS AT NO. 1 – PAUL McCARTNEY, with Wings (“Coming Up (Live At Glasgow),” 1980), with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony And Ivory,” 1982), and with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say,” 1983 / 1984).

coming up

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT IN THE TOP 10 OF THE HOT 100 (15) – “Physical – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982), and “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982).  SUPER NERDY FUN FACT: the song which spent the most weeks in the Top 10 in the 80s didn’t even reach No. 1 – “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp spent 16 weeks in the Top 10, with four of those weeks in the runner-up spot.

survivor

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (10) – “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981 / 1982).  While it’s more commonplace on the Hot 100 these days, the biggest song of the 1980s would be the only song to spend at least 10 weeks at No. 1 on the chart for next 10 years.  In 1992, Boyz II Men spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 with “End Of The Road.”  Two No. 1 songs later, Whitney Houston would break that record with “I Will Always Love You,” which spent its 14th and final week on top in late February 1993.  The current record is 16 weeks at No. 1.

physical

In the most recent tabulation of the Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 songs for BILLBOARD’s legendary singles chart, many songs from the 80s were represented, and are currently ranked as follows:

08. “Physical” – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 1)

15. “Bette Davis Eyes” – KIM CARNES (1981; 9 weeks)

16. “Endless Love” – DIANA ROSS & LIONEL RICHIE (1981; 9 weeks)

24. “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982; 6 weeks)

29. “Every Breath You Take” – THE POLICE (1983; 8 weeks)

31. “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – IRENE CARA (1983; 6 weeks)

40. “Another One Bites The Dust” – QUEEN (1980; 3 weeks)

41. “Say Say Say” – PAUL McCARTNEY & MICHAEL JACKSON (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks)

54. “Call Me” – BLONDIE (1980; 6 weeks)

57. “Lady” – KENNY ROGERS (1980; 6 weeks)

63. “Centerfold” – THE J. GEILS BAND (1982; 6 weeks)

64. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – JOHN LENNON (1980 / 1981; 5 weeks)

68. “I Love Rock ’N Roll” – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1982; 7 weeks)

73. “Ebony And Ivory” – PAUL McCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER (1982; 7 weeks)

75. “That’s What Friends Are For” – DIONNE & FRIENDS (1986; 4 weeks)

77. “Upside Down” – DIANA ROSS (1980; 4 weeks)

83. “Billie Jean” – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983; 7 weeks)

86. “Abracadabra” – THE STEVE MILLER BAND (1982; 2 weeks)

89. “Say You, Say Me” – LIONEL RICHIE (1985 / 1986; 4 weeks)

91. “All Night Long (All Night)” – LIONEL RICHIE (1983; 4 weeks)

95. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – FOREIGNER (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 2; still tied for a record for spending the most weeks peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100)

98. “Hurts So Good” – JOHN MELLENCAMP (1982; 4 weeks at No. 2)

So, for now, the 80s represent more than a fifth of the greatest hits to grace the BILLBOARD HOT 100.  Pretty damn cool.  I know it won’t always be like that, and I always wonder why some huge hits like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 1 for 1984) or Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” (No. 2 for 1980) aren’t up there, but songs these days tend to stay atop the Hot 100 (and the chart as a whole) a lot longer than they did back in the day, but honestly, I’m grateful for the songs that are still there. 

When I was preparing for this hefty blog post (prolly my second-longest, save for the Prince tribute post in April 2016), I was going through the list of No. 1 songs, and there are some songs I’ve already featured as a “song of the day” (Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” comes to mind, and has often as of late), and there are many others I love. 

TFF

U2_des_7But, I concede that there are some real stinkers in there, too: Will To Power’s awful covers medley of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” (subtitled “Freebaby,” which is just heinous)?!  How in THE HELL did that get to go to No. 1 and “I Don’t Want Your Love” by Duran Duran stops at No. 4, and U2’s “Desire” stops at No. 3?!  For the love of all things holy!  And though I admit enjoying the movie MANNEQUIN, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship?!  Are you kidding me?!  Even Grace Slick denounced that piece of shit.  While the go-to “worst song of the 80s” award is usually 1985’s “We Built This City,” I can tolerate that way more over “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”  Yes, I’m THAT guy.

If I was going for my absolute favorite No. 1 song of the 80s, there’s no competition.  It’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.  It’s also my all-time favorite song.  But it’s a post I want to save for another time.  So, I thought it would be fun to bring in Hope, my writing hero, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t obsess and write about nerdy chart facts or Top 40 hits, let alone ones that hit No. 1.  I thought it would be cool to have her choose the song for this post.

don't you

On August 11, 2017, Hope was kind enough to send me her list of her picks for No. 1 songs from the 80s, many of which have been already mentioned in this post!  One of those songs, and a song that is almost universally loved (like “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, or the aforementioned Tears For Fears, Prince and Simple Minds gems) is “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band.abracadabra7

Hope had included “Abracadabra” under the category of “Situational” No. 1 songs.  For Hope, “Abracadabra” was popular during the Summer after her high school graduation (“the glamorous Summer in The Hamptons!”), and she loves the line, “black panties with an angel’s face.”  Who wouldn’t love that line?!  It’s awesome (much like Hope herself)!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Steve Miller formed his Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock band in San Francisco back in 1966.  Since his first two albums were released in 1968, through to his 1988 Jazz album, BORN 2 B BLUE, Steve Miller had been on Capitol Records, and he had some huge albums in the 70s. 

heart like a wheel

After 1981’s CIRCLE OF LOVE album (with the sweet Top 40 hit and criminally-forgotten gem, “Heart Like A Wheel”) failed to become his fourth consecutive platinum album here in America (though it was certified Gold), Steve was undeterred, got to work, and released the ABRACADABRA album in mid-June 1982.

abracadabra LP

Of the album, ROLLING STONE said, “The essence of good magic is deception, and with the release of this album, Steve Miller has earned the right to twirl his wand and shout, ‘Abracadabra!’”

Well, Steve thought so too, but Capitol wasn’t so sure.  The song inspired by Diana Ross (whom Steve met on a Pop music TV show in the 60s) told THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in 2016 that Capitol Records didn’t see a hit with the song “Abracadabra”:

“Capitol didn’t believe in [“Abracadabra”] and didn’t want to release it.  I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe.  When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was Number One everywhere in the world, except the States.”  Once again, the record label got it wrong.

Well, after seeing the success of “Abracadabra” overseas, Capitol gave in and released it in the U.S., a month before the ABRACADABRA album was released.  “Abracadabra” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1982 at No. 75, and took just four weeks to debut within the Top 40. 

The next few weeks were a steady climb, and by late July 1982, “Abracadabra” had become Steve Miller’s first Top 10 hit in five years, to the month.  With John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” camped out at No. 2, and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” camped out at No. 1, “Abracadabra” was stuck at No. 3 for four weeks before it could work its magic on reaching No. 1. 

In early September 1982, after 15 weeks on the chart, “Abracadabra” finally hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, giving Steve Miller his third No. 1 U.S. single overall, and his first No. 1 single since 1976’s “Rock’n Me” spent a week on top.  The No. 1 run of “Abracadabra” was just as quick as “Rock’n Me,” and his first No. 1 song, 1974’s “The Joker,” which also spent a lone week at No. 1.

SMB 82

The Steve Miller Band, 1982.

The following week, Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” snuck into the No. 1 position when no one was looking and stayed there for two weeks.  “Abracadabra” dropped to No. 3 (behind previous No. 1, “Eye Of The Tiger”).  But, in a magical chart feat, “Abracadabra” moved back up to No. 2 the next week, and by the end of September, “Abracadabra” reclaimed the No. 1 spot for one more week, before John Mellencamp’s little ditty about “Jack And Diane” started its four-week run at No. 1.  “Abracadabra” stayed on the Hot 100 until mid-Novemer 1982, and left the chart after nearly half a year.  It finished the year at No. 9 here in America. 

Around the globe, “Abracadabra” worked its magic on the singles charts of many countries, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland (six weeks), Sweden (four weeks), Australia and Canada (two weeks), and Austria, No. 2 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 4 in Norway, No. 8 in New Zealand, and No. 26 in the Netherlands.

“Abracadabra” was the last song The Steve Miller Band placed inside of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, though they charted several more times through 1993, including the brilliant but oddly-underrated “I Want To Make The World Turn Around” from 1986.

i want to make the world turn around

Steve Miller continues to tour today, and in 2016, he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where he had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing, calling the Hall a “private boys’ club full of fucking gangsters and crooks,” and vowing to make it better. 

SMB 2015

The Steve Miller Band, 2015.

He suggested taking the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominating committee, replace every one of them and start over.  I hope it works out, because Devo, from Akron, Ohio (less than an hour south of Cleveland, where the Hall is based), should have been inducted years ago, much like the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, who has taken on Blues, Standards, Folk, Dance and Country music in the past 15 years, not to mention writing a book, winning a Tony Award and co-founding the True Colors Fund, which works to end homelessness among LGBT youth, and even testified before Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2015 about this very subject. 

Steve-Miller-Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-Press-Room-Photo

This photo of Steve at the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony speaks volumes, and not favorably for the Hall…

As for me and Hope and many others for “Abracadabra,” it’s one of those infectious songs that deserved to go to No. 1, and 35 years later, it still holds up.  At least the five-minute, eleven-second album version.  When the single was released, I bought it, but was instantly pissed it wasn’t the long version!  Sure, it’s only a minute and change difference, but if you hear the single version vs. the album version, you can tell the single version is a bit sped up, and the kick-ass instrumental that closes out the rest of the song isn’t there.  That’s even why I chose the video link below.  It’s not a link to the actual video, but to the album version.  You know, all these years later, I’m still impressed that sped up, edited single version got the song to No. 1.  Maybe that was magic too.

Speaking of magic, Hope inspired me recently to start training for a 5K using the Couch To 5K app (C25K); we’re both training for it, and finishing Week 5 of 8 this weekend!  Hope and I haven’t run a proper 5K in our adult lives, and the last time I ran the equivalent of a 5K was in high school during Cross Country, where I lettered my senior year.  Holy cats, that was 33 years ago! 

run ron run

Post-run workout, 9.7.2017! (With a kick-ass playlist by DJ HopeyT to keep me going!)

But, you know what?  Maybe it’s not magic after all that’s got us training for our first 5K ever – and in our early 50s!  Maybe you just need to believe.  Just like Steve Miller believed he had a hit with “Abracadabra,” even as his longtime record label disagreed – and he was right!  It’s one of THE BEST songs of the 80s and of all-time.  And I believe getting through this 5K (and other aspects of my life) will happen with belief over magic, though I have to say, when it happens, it will feel pretty damn magical and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCV8gzSlYw

abacadabra poster

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

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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 – “Infatuation” | ROD STEWART | 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, 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!”

About 70 songs peaked at No. 6 between 1979 and 1989, and out of these songs I found many favorites, like “Lay Your Hands On Me” by Thompson Twins, “The Logical Song” by Supertramp, “Don’t Let It End” by Styx (a great song you almost never hear anymore), “Breakout” by Swing Out Sister, “Late In The Evening” by Paul Simon, the gorgeous “Piano In The Dark” by Brenda Russell featuring Joe Esposito, “Your Love” by The Outfield, “Neutron Dance” by The Pointer Sisters (from BEVERLY HILLS COP), “Come Dancing” by The Kinks, “Him” by Rupert Holmes (love those story songs), “Steppin’ Out” by Joe Jackson, “Family Man” by Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, “Funkytown” by Pseudo Echo, “Word Up” by Cameo, “Obsession” by Animotion, “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions (from CADDYSHACK), “Some Like It Hot” and “Election Day” by Duran Duran spinoffs The Power Station and Arcadia, respectively, and “I Drove All Night” by the incomparable Cyndi Lauper.  I’ll come back to Cyndi in a moment.

i drove all night

The No. 6 position was also a favorite for Huey Lewis & The News, who placed four songs at No. 6, and three of those were consecutive No. 6 hits from their monster 1983 album, SPORTS – “I Want A New Drug,” “The Heart Of Rock & Roll” and “If This Is It.” 

i want a new drug

Bryan Adams, Dr. Hook, Little River Band and John Mellencamp each had two No. 6 hits, plus there were two fantastic ballads by Bruce Springsteen from BORN IN THE U.S.A. (“I’m On Fire” and “My Hometown”), and two songs by Rod Stewart – “Love Touch” and one of my all-time favorite songs by the London native, “Infatuation.”

i'm on fire

On Friday, July 14, 2017, my oldest friend, Peter, and I had the absolute privilege of seeing Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart perform in Bangor, Maine.  Cyndi opened up for him, and was, of course, phenomenal, as I knew she would be.  If my math is correct, it was her first time performing in Maine since her 1986-1987 TRUE COLORS tour, and was definitely long overdue and yet so worth the wait. 

Cyndi 7.14.17

Cyndi Lauper on the big hi-def screen, stunning as evah.

I was more than pleased to see the Maine crowd welcome back Cyndi, and the crowd went nuts when Maine Senator Susan Collins came out to the stage.  In 2015, Senator Collins – a longtime Maine Republican Senator – chaired a bipartisan committee to look into the serious issue of homeless youth.  Cyndi testified before Senator Collins and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations subcommittee, to seek legislative funding programs for homeless teens.  (For years, Cyndi’s wonderful True Colors Fund, has existed to help combat homeless LGBT youth, “creating a world in which all young people can be their true selves.”  Please go to TrueColorsFund.org for more info and find out how you can help.)

true-colors-fund

Cyndi was about to go into another song when one of her crew members came out and whispered that Senator Collins was backstage.  I think I heard Cyndi say, “Bring her out!”  And once the Senator came out to greet Cyndi, Cyndi told the audience, “This woman is a hero.  And she’s my hero.  And she’s a Republican.  She’s helped us so much with the LGBT homeless youth and all the homeless kids.”  And then Senator Collins got the hug I wanted, dammit!  It’s all good.  I may not agree with all of the political views of Senator Collins, but it was a really nice moment.  After the show, Cyndi even tweeted a selfie of Senator Collins, Rod Stewart and herself. 

cyndi rod n susan 7.14.17

What a great selfie: Maine Senator Susan Collins, Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper.

Speaking of Sir Rod Stewart, holy cats!  I don’t know why exactly I had never seen Rod perform live before, but I’m so glad I got to see him this time.  The guy is 72, and still had the moves, the looks, an incredible band, lovely ladies who could sing, dance and play instruments, and he sure knew how to work the crowd.  And he could kick the shit out of a soccer ball (er, football for everyone outside of the U.S.) (he gave away signed soccer balls by kicking them out to the crowd; one went over Pete and I, and about five people scrambled to get it, though they forgot a barrier was there.  Oopsie!).

Rod Stewart 7.14.17

What almost looks like a huge painting is actually a very elated Rod Stewart, wowing the crowd in Bangor, Maine.

The first song he sang surprised me, but it was so great to hear – “Infatuation.”  Between 1979 and 1989, Rod Stewart reached the Top 10 seven times, including his No. 1 hit, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, which incidentally was the first 45 I ever bought with my own money back in 1979, and the last song he played in Bangor. 

The upbeat Rock / Dance hit featuring the incredible Jeff Beck on guitar (he also appears in the music video), “Infatuation” was released in advance of Rod Stewart’s 13th studio album, CAMOUFLAGE.  It debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1984 way up at No. 47, and would have been the highest-debuting song of the week, but Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” had other plans, and debuted within the Top 40.

camouflage

The following week, “Infatuation” jumped into the Top 40, and from there made a slow but steady climb up the chart, reaching the Top 10 in late July 1984, and spent the next two weeks at its peak position of No. 6.  “Infatuation” departed from the Hot 100 by late September 1984 and finished the year at No. 58.

There was even a bit of infatuation for “Infatuation” across the globe, and it was a Top 20 hit in Canada, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland, and a Top 30 hit in the U.K. and Germany.  It also reached No. 5 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart and No. 19 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, his last of five songs to date to reach that chart.

infatuation

Rod continued to chart well on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 into the the first half of the 1990s, and his last Top 10 hit was also his last No. 1 single to date – “All For Love” (from the 1993 film, THE THREE MUSKETEERS), with Sting and Bryan Adams.  It was No. 1 for three weeks in early 1994.

bryan rod sting

Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting, teaming up for one of the biggest hits of 1994. And now I’ve seen all three perform live!

Over on the album charts since then, especially with his GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK series since Y2K, Rod Stewart has seen a ton of success all over the world.  In Bangor, he also played a lovely track from his most-recent album, 2015’s ANOTHER COUNTRY, called “Love Is.”  The album went Platinum in his U.K. homeland and reached No. 2 there.

another country

Though I don’t know why it took me decades to finally see Rod Stewart perform, I’m so glad I did.  I was honestly there to see Cyndi perform, but I had always a fan of Rod’s music, so I thought it’d be great to see him too.  Little did I know just how impressed I would be with his performance and then some. 

Rod and Cyndi also did a wonderful duet together – “This Old Heart Of Mine,” a 1966 song originally by The Isley Brothers that he covered in 1975, and which reached No. 83 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  In 1989, he covered the song again with Ronald Isley, and it became a Top 10 hit, surpassing the original.  Rod’s duet with Cyndi was one – of many – highlights of the night.

Rod n Cyndi 7.14.17

Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper, singing “This Old Heart Of Mine.”

“Infatuation” isn’t regarded as one of those Rod Stewart songs most folks immediately associate with him, but I sure do, and I’m so glad he dug it out for what turned out to be an incredibly memorable show…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH_xiZZheg4

rod 84

song of the day – “Let The Music Play” | SHANNON | 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, 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!”

Unlike the songs that peaked at No. 9, for the more than 70 songs that reached No. 8 between 1979 and 1989, there were no specific themes among them, but I found some similarities.  There were a couple of clubs (and (real) one-hit wonders) – Timex Social Club (“Rumors”) and Boys Club (“I Remember Holding You,” though I’m betting you prolly don’t remember the song very well). 

america

Neil Diamond’s patriotic immigration gem, “America,” reached No. 8, and the band America reached the Top 10 one more time, with “You Can Do Magic.”  There was also a surge in new R&B female singers near the end of the decade, and three of them reached No. 8 – Vanessa Williams (“Dreamin’”), Karyn White (“Superwoman”) and the sweet, Soulful sounds of Anita Baker (“Sweet Love”).

sweet love

Multiple artists had multiple No. 8 hits – Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, John Mellencamp and ZZ Top each had two, as did Sting, one with The Police (the gorgeous “Wrapped Around Your Finger”) and solo (the sexy “Fortress Around Your Heart”), and Prince reached that position three times (with “Delirious,” “I Would Die 4 U” and “Alphabet St.”). 

i would die 4 U

One song that reached No. 8 and stood out for me was “Let The Music Play,” by Shannon, born Shannon Brenda Greene in Washington D.C., who was 25 years old in 1983 and enrolled at the University of New York’s York College.  At that time, she also toured with the New York Jazz Ensemble. 

Away from the Ensemble, someone from a production team heard Shannon sing, and she auditioned for them.  They gave her what would become “Let The Music Play,” and ultimately Shannon had her own music style named after her (“the Shannon sound”).  “The Shannon Sound” would eventually be known as Freestyle – an early form of Electronic Dance Music (or Electro-Funk), and some examples of 80s Freestyle artists include Exposé, Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam and Pretty Poison – all of whom had No. 8 hits in the 80s as well.

“Let The Music Play” was released in September 1983, and would become the title track of her debut album, released in early February 1984.  I fell in love with it from the first time I heard it.  “Let The Music Play” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-November 1983 at No. 91.

let the music play LP

Making a slow but steady climb up the chart, “Let The Music Play” found its way to the Top 40 in early January 1984.  It had already spent six weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart back in 1983, and was still No. 1 there when it debuted on the Hot 100.

Once it reached the Top 40, “Let The Music Play” continued a steady climb up the survey, reaching its peak position of No. 8 in late February 1984, after nearly four months on the chart.  “Let The Music Play” would go on to spend 24 weeks on the chart, leaving the Hot 100 in late April 1984.

let the music play 12

Around the globe, “Let The Music Play” reached No. 2 in New Zealand, No. 5 in Germany, No. 13 in Canada and Italy, No. 14 in the U.K., No. 17 in the Netherlands, and the Top 40 in Belgium and Switzerland.  It also reached No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

Both the single and album, LET THE MUSIC PLAY, brought Gold certifications in the U.S., and though she had two more No. 1 hits on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and just missed the Top 40 with follow-up single “Give Me Tonight” (No. 46) and “Do You Wanna Get Away” (No. 49, 1985), Shannon continued to make music through 2006.  Today, Shannon still performs around the globe and is a voting member for the Grammy Awards. 

do u wanna get away

Freelance music journalist, Peter Shapiro, once referred to “Let The Music Play” as a cross between Gary Numan and Tito Puente.  I can’t say I really agree with that, but I can say that I’ve always felt the infectious “Let The Music Play” brought Disco back (like Lisa Stansfield after her in 1989) for four-and-a-half minutes, and I agree with many others that Shannon and this song did start the Dance-Pop movement in the 80s.

So, what are you waiting for?  Let the music play!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-0sUuGufmw

shannon

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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

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

pac-man fever

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

rush hour

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

stand by me

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

let's go

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

you got it

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

burning down the house

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

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

people are people

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

robyn

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

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

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

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

document

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

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

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

the one i love v1

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

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

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

the one i love v2

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

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

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

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

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

robyn + peter SWSW 07

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

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

mike-mills

Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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song of the day – “You Are The Girl” | THE CARS | 1987.

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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!”

More than 40 songs climbed as high as No. 17 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, again male-heavy selections, including two hits from Billy Joel, and two hits from Journey (plus, an additional No. 17 solo hit by Steve Perry, with Kenny Loggins – “Don’t Fight It”). 

I must really like songs that reached No. 17, because I’ve already written blog posts about six of them – “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” by John Mellencamp, “Beat’s So Lonely” by Charlie Sexton, “Days Gone Down” by Gerry Rafferty, “In A Big Country” by Big Country, “Living In A Box” by Living In A Box, and the wonderful Howard Jones with “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?”

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The No. 17 rank is also one of just two from positions 40 through No. 1 that do NOT claim any of the more than 100 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the Top 40 (the other is No. 6).

One of the later No. 17 hits from the 80s was the last Top 40 hit for The Cars – “You Are The Girl,” the first single from their sixth studio album, 1987’s DOOR TO DOOR.

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Between the huge success of 1984’s HEARTBEAT CITY album and the release of DOOR TO DOOR, lead guitarist Elliot Easton and bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr both released debut solo albums, and Ric Ocasek released his second solo album.  Plus, THE CARS’ GREATEST HITS was released, generating the Top 10 hit, “Tonight She Comes.”

Released in late August 1987, DOOR TO DOOR was intended to get the Boston band back into their original Rock roots (think back to their incredible 1978 self-titled debut album), free of drum machines and sampling that helped make the HEARTBEAT CITY album such a huge success. 

But, despite tension mounting within the (then) 11-year-old band, they pressed on and released DOOR TO DOOR.  The first single from the album, “You Are The Girl,” was written by both Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr, who share vocals on the song.  They hadn’t shared vocals on a Cars single since their second album, 1979’s CANDY-O, and the song “Since I Held You.”

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Can’t help it – any excuse to post this album cover works for me.  It – and she – are gorgeous!

NERDY FUN FACT: Acclaimed cult film writer / director and actor, John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS, HAIRSPRAY, CRY-BABY) directed the video for “You Are The Girl.”

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From the John Waters-directed video for “You Are The Girl.”

“You Are The Girl” was the “Hot Shot Debut” on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for the last week of August 1987, coming in at No. 65.  It reached the Top 40 just two weeks later, and looked like it was headed for Top 10 territory.  But, despite appearing on the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, where this song was played, “You Are The Girl” spent a quick week at No. 17 in late October 1987, and was out of the Top 40 and headed down the Hot 100 in November 1987, which is around the time I saw The Cars perform in Portland, Maine, at the former Cumberland County Civic Center.

you are the girl

Icehouse, who opened for The Cars, put on a solid show, and I became a big fan.  The Cars put on an amazing show, but there was no interaction between the band members, and Ric Ocasek threw out the occasional, half-hearted “thank you” to those of us in attendance. 

It was weird to see a band kick ass on stage and yet see them so distant from each other.  Broke my heart.  The band hadn’t broken up at that point (I think they wanted to finish the tour first), but they might have well as been broken up.  And they did, a few months later, around my 21st birthday in February 1988.

just what i needed

Sure, there was talk of a Cars reunion in the 90s, and even Rhino Records helped out with their awesome 2-CD compilation, JUST WHAT I NEEDED: THE CARS ANTHOLOGY, plus other Rhino releases and reissues.  But, a proper reunion was not to be.  Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.

While Ric Ocasek continued with his solo career post-Y2K, in 2005, Cars stalwarts Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes teamed up with Rock legend Todd Rundgren and a couple other folks to form The New Cars, releasing a live album, IT’S ALIVE, containing a mix of Cars hits and Todd Rundgren hits, along with a new song, “Not Tonight,” which really did sound like it could have come from the late 70s or early 80s.  I actually had tickets to The New Cars when they came to Portland, Maine, but for whatever reason, I missed it.  Kinda wish I had been there though…

it's alive

Hard to say, but maybe it was this successful spin-off of The Cars that inspired Ric Ocasek to reunite with the other surviving members of the band for a new album and tour in 2011: MOVE LIKE THIS.  With a long distance dedication in the liner notes to Benjamin Orr (“Ben, your spirit was with us on this one”), the band sounded as great as they had 24 years before, and as if they had been together the whole time.

move like this

Ben Orr and Ric Ocasek usually split up the vocals on albums, but with Ben gone, for MOVE LIKE THIS, Ric sang on all of the songs.  In an interview with ROLLING STONE about the reunion and the album, “I was aware that on half of the new songs, Ben would have done better than I did.  But we never wanted anybody from the outside.”

One cool thing they did for the album was not hire a bassist to replace Ben Orr.  Instead, any bass parts needed for the album were constructed and programmed by Greg Hawkes and MOVE LIKE THIS co-producer, Jacknife Lee, with Greg Hawkes playing a bass that had once belonged to Benjamin Orr.

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A single from MOVE LIKE THIS, “Sad Song,” was well-received, sounded like The Cars of old, and reached No. 33 on BILLBOARD’s Rock Songs chart and No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Triple A chart (it was heavily serviced to college and community radio stations).

The Cars finished up an 11-city mini-tour for MOVE LIKE THIS (appropriately enough) in Boston near the end of May 2011.  The band was nominated for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2015, and I hope they will get in one year.  So deserved. 

And though the band is technically still together, they haven’t recorded anything new or toured since MOVE LIKE THIS in 2011, though Ric Ocasek has overseen the remastering of The Cars’ discography on CD and vinyl.

The Cars have long been and remain as one of my all-time favorite bands, and their last Top 40 hit to date is definitely a keeper, even if the song was actually about an ex…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGf-sszK-qw

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song of the day – “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” | JOHN MELLENCAMP | 1981.

Happy 2017 everyone!  Hope your holiday season treated you well!

For the January 8, 2017 edition of STUCK IN THE 80s, my little retro radio show on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I’ll be hosting my final (?) All-Request Fest.  It’s something I thought of years ago as a way to give back to everyone who tuned in to the show and pledged money on STUCK IN THE 80s during the bi-annual pledge drives.  From Pop to Punk, Rap to Rock, New Wave to New Romantics, it’s about the listeners and their requests, and it’s always spontaneous and fun. 

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For this final (?) edition of the All-Request Fest, I’ll also be channeling my inner chart nerd and will bring folks 17 for ’17, where I’ll be playing just some of the many songs that peaked at No. 17 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989.  So, from now until the All-Request Fest, I’ll be posting all No. 17 hits…just because, well, I AM a chart nerd.  And I’m okay with that.

Today’s installment was the first Top 20 hit (third hit overall) for the artist formerly known as John Cougar – 1981’s “Ain’t Even Done With The Night,” from the 1980 album, NOTHIN’ MATTERS AND WHAT IF IT DID (his fourth album).

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” debuted at No. 81 in late January ’81, and by mid-March, it became the third Top 40 hit for the Seymour, Indiana native, following “I Need A Lover” (December 1979, No. 28) and “This Time” (December 1980, No. 27).  It went on to spend two weeks at No. 17 in May 1981, about a year before his life would change forever with his next Top 40 hit, “Hurts So Good.”

In Canada, “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” was John’s first Top 40 hit, and first Top 10 hit, reaching No. 6.

nothin-matters

In 1983, three years after the release of NOTHIN’ MATTERS AND WHAT IF IT DID (his first Platinum album), and the first year John incorporated his real last name as part of his stage name – John Cougar Mellencamp – he did a memorable interview with RECORD MAGAZINE about his discontent with the album:

“The singles were stupid little pop songs.  I take no credit for that record.  It wasn’t like the title was made up – it wasn’t supposed to be punky or cocky like some people thought.  Toward the end, I didn’t even go to the studio.  Me and the guys in the band thought we were finished, anyway.  It was the most expensive record I ever made.  It cost $280,000, do you believe that?  The worst thing was that I could have gone on making records like that for hundreds of years.  Hell, as long as you sell a few records and the record company isn’t putting a lot of money into promotion, you’re making money for ‘em and that’s all they care about.  PolyGram loved NOTHIN’ MATTERS.  They thought I was going to turn into the next Neil Diamond.”

Well, John didn’t turn into the next Neil Diamond.  What he did turn into was a Rock superstar, one of the founding members of Farm Aid, a 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee in 2008, and the ninth-biggest BILLBOARD singles recording artist of the 1980s, with 16 consecutive Top 40 hits between 1980 and 1988 (including nine Top 10 hits and one No. 1 – 1982’s “Jack And Diane”).

By his eleventh studio album, WHENEVER WE WANTED, in 1991 (featuring the Top 15 hit, “Get A Leg Up”), he was credited (finally) by his given name of John Mellencamp, and stayed with Mercury through 1996.

Even though John may not have thought much of the song (or album) at the time, I’ve always been a fan of “Ain’t Even Done With The Night,” mainly because it’s one of the songs that turned me on to the music of John Mellencamp.  And for that reason, I’ll be forever grateful. 

I think Billy Joel said it best when he inducted John into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008, in a statement that could have been said yesterday: “Don’t let this club membership change you, John.  Stay ornery, stay mean.  We need you to be pissed off, and restless because no matter what they tell us – we know this country is going to hell in a handcart.

“This country’s been hijacked.  You know it, and I know it.  People are worried.  People are scared, and people are angry.   People need to hear a voice like yours that’s out there to echo the discontent that’s out there in the heartland.  They need to hear stories about it.  They need to hear stories about frustration, alienation and desperation. 

“They need to know that somewhere out there somebody feels the way that they do in the small towns and in the big cities.  They need to hear it.  And it doesn’t matter if they hear it on a jukebox, in the local gin mill, or in a goddamn truck commercial because they ain’t gonna hear it on the radio any more.  They don’t care how they hear it as long as they hear it good and loud and clear the way you’ve always been saying it all along.  You’re right, John, this is still our country.”

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John Mellencamp and Billy Joel, at the 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony…

Keep the good thought, John, and keep on rockin’ this U.S. of A.…

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

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