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 – “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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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). 

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

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

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Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

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

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

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

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

me + michael 10.31.15

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

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

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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.

sad song

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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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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