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

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Blue Monday.

For years, during and away from STUCK IN THE 80s, I’ve been raving about and enjoying the music from Manchester and Greater Manchester, England, including but not limited to New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Buzzcocks, Happy Mondays, James, The Chameleons, The Fall, When In Rome, as well as Lisa Stansfield, Swing Out Sister, The Bee Gees, The Hollies and Simply Red.  Even this past weekend, Hope and I were taking about New Order’s incredible 1983 hit, “Blue Monday,” and how amazing it must have been to have heard this in the club at the time of its release! 

blue monday

The cool floppy disk-like cover art for New Order’s “Blue Monday.”

Well, this past Monday, May 22, 2017, was indeed a Blue Monday, but not the cool, danceable New Order-kind of Monday.  By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about the tragic bombing in Manchester immediately following a concert by American Pop star, Ariana Grande.  The bombing happened at Manchester’s largest venue, the Manchester Arena (which has a capacity of 21,000 people). 

dark empire state

The Empire State Building in NYC, paying tribute to the victims of the Manchester attack by going dark.

As people were filing out of the venue, many of whom were stopping at the merch table on their way out, a 22-year-old man and British citizen (and of Libyan descent) took his own life and the lives of 22 others by detonating a bomb inside the venue.  At least 120 others were injured from the blast (with nearly half of those folks having to be hospitalized).

France Britain Concert Blast

The Eiffel Tower in Paris also went dark, paying tribute to the victims of the Manchester attack.

Among those 22 people who died that night were Georgiana Callander, an 18-year-old superfan of Ariana Grande; Kelly Brewster, a 32-year-old fan who covered her niece from the explosion; Alison Howe and Lisa Lees, two friends (and moms) who weren’t even at the concert and were just waiting for their daughters to come out after the show; and Saffie Rose Roussos, an eight-year-old girl who was prolly attending her first concert ever and had her whole life ahead of her and then some.  Students and teachers at the school she attended (about 40 miles north of Manchester), held a moment of silence for Saffie, and then sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” (the popular GLEE version) in her honor.

saffie rose

Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, the youngest victim of the Manchester attack.

burj khalifa manchester

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest structure in the world, showing their support for the U.K. and the victims of the Manchester attack.

Many nations around the globe expressed their sorrow regarding the Manchester attack, and their solidarity and their prayers.  Donald Trump called ISIS (who made an unconfirmed claim of responsibility for the attack) “evil losers.”

While my response might have been a bit more eloquent than Mr. Trump, I will agree that ISIS is evil, and yes, they are losers.  All over the globe, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has caused much havoc and taken far too many lives under a mask of religious violence, but when it’s all said and done, they really just don’t give a shit about anything except maybe their beloved Prophet Muhammad.  As a lifelong Catholic (practicing, non-practicing and recovering), I can’t imagine the Apostle of God would be down with all this.  Just sayin’.

Please know what you just read was not said to demean Muslims or Muhammad; my beef is with ISIS.

Here’s another reason why the collective of ISIS are a bunch of losers, or in my book, rank somewhere next to ticks and cockroaches as having no meaning or need for existence on this Earth: ISIS thinks that, with every venue they blow up, it’s going to stop people from returning to see concerts.  They are so fucking mistaken.  I’m in mourning for the loss of people I didn’t even know from this Manchester attack, and the one in Paris in late 2015.  Many folks around the globe are in mourning too.  But, you can’t let ISIS win. 

It’s alright to fear.  It’s alright to be scared.  I’m scared more often than I’d like to admit for whatever reason, but for the sake of it being alright to be scared, I’m admitting it here.  Of course, I’d never want something to happen to anyone I love (family, friends, radio listeners, kind blog readers) because of ISIS.  Moreover, though, I’d never want anyone I love to give up something they love or love doing because these misguided, coward ISIS motherfuckers have their own agenda and don’t want you to do anything you love.  It’s alright to be scared.  It’s alright to fear.  But, just because they don’t give a shit about their own lives or the lives of others in this world, you can’t let it stop you from doing something you love, with someone you love.  So, don’t let it…

Sending many thoughts and prayers, and peace and love, to everyone in Manchester, England, and beyond, after a very Blue Monday…

#ManchesterUnited #ManchesterAttack #WeStandWithManchester

manchester united

song of the day – “All Around The World” | LISA STANSFIELD | 1989 / 1990.

lovesongIn mid-October 1989, Pop music in America didn’t know which direction it was going in.  Take the Top 10 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart for October 14, 1989 for example.  You had 80s Pop mainstays Janet Jackson and Madonna leading the pack (“Miss You Much” and “Cherish,” respectively), the future great Grammy taker-awayers, Milli Vanilli (“Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”), a rare big American hit for The Cure (“Love Song”), the last big hit for the Rolling Stones (“Mixed Emotions”), Tears For Fears channeling The Beatles (“Sowing The Seeds Of Love”), rapper Young M.C. with the first (and last) big hit of his own (“Bust A Move”), Hollywood, CA Glam Metal band Warrant (“Heaven”), another big Pop hit for Sweden’s Roxette (“Listen To Your Heart”) and the first Pop single for R&B singer, songwriter and future mega-producer, Babyface (“It’s No Crime”).

Meanwhile, over in the U.K., Disco, which saw its peak ten years earlier, was mounting a sort of comeback.  Sure, there were Disco influences in the 80s – you heard it in the music of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Irene Cara, Queen and Pet Shop Boys, to name a few (Pet Shop Boys even named several of their early remixes as the “Disco Mix”).

it's a sin disco

In September 1989, Italian Eurohouse band Black Box started a six-week run at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with “Ride On Time,” and ended up being the biggest U.K. single of 1989.  Black Box would go on to have big global hits in the early 90s, scoring a couple of Top 10 hits in the U.S. with “Everybody Everybody” and “Strike It Up.”

everybody everybody

During the last week of Black Box’s reign on the U.K. singles chart, Manchester, England native Lisa Stansfield released – that same week in mid-October 1989 mentioned at the beginning of the blog post – the second single from her then-forthcoming album, AFFECTION – “All Around The World.”

Lisa Stansfield had tried out a solo career back in the early 80s, and released a number of singles, including a 1983 song called “Listen To Your Heart” (no relation to the Roxette song from 1989). 

listen to your heart

After a brief first try at a solo career, Lisa joined the short-lived trio, Blue Zone, which was a combination of Pop, Dance and Blue-Eyed Soul.  Their only album, 1988’s BIG THING, well, wasn’t.  It did, however, give Blue Zone (known as Blue Zone UK in the U.S.) one hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, with the song “Jackie,” featured in the 1987 film, SUMMER SCHOOL, starring Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley.  “Jackie” reached No. 54 on the Hot 100.

jackie

It was not until Lisa’s first collaboration with producer and remixer Coldcut in the Spring of 1989 that gave her a big U.K. hit.  The song was “People Hold On,” from Coldcut’s debut album, WHAT’S THAT NOISE?.  Lisa sang and co-wrote the song, and it reached No. 11 on the U.K. singles chart and No. 6 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  It also had Top 40 success in some countries around the globe.

people hold on

After “People Hold On” was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Arista Records signed Lisa on as a solo artist.  Her first successful solo single, “This Is The Right Time,” was released in late July 1989 (it was released as her third single in the U.S. a year later).

“This Is The Right Time” (produced by Coldcut) was a success, reaching No. 13 on the U.K. singles chart, and would go on to fare well in Austria, Canada, Germany, the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (where it reached No. 21), and the BILLBOARD Dance chart, where it spent a week on top in mid-October 1990.

A month before the mid-November 1989 release of Lisa’s debut solo album, AFFECTION, her second U.K. solo single was released – “All Around The World.”  And this one WOULD take her all around the world. 

affection

Almost immediately, critics and music fans were hooked.  ROLLING STONE critic Amy Linden gave the AFFECTION album four out of five stars, saying “the way her voice slinks around the line ‘so-oo sad’ in ‘All Around The World’ show[s] that this is someone who knows her roots even if they aren’t really hers.”

The sound of “All Around The World” was inspired by the late, great R&B legend, Barry White (who would sing, with Lisa, on a version of the song in 1992), and it paid off.  Ten years after the peak of Disco, Lisa Stansfield brought the genre back for four-and-a-half minutes and then some all around the world.

barry + lisa

The single “All Around The World” was a massive hit nearly everywhere it landed.  It spent two weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. in November 1989, and from there, it reached No. 1 in Austria (six weeks), Belgium, Canada (five weeks), Holland (four weeks), Norway, Spain, and two weeks at No. 1 on both of BILLBOARD’s R&B and Dance charts, where it finished 1990 at Nos. 6 and 3, respectively, for the year.

Over here in the U.S., “All Around The World” was released in mid-January 1990, three months after its U.K. release, and the news of its success, well, all around the world was good news to American radio stations and record stores.  “All Around The World” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just a couple of weeks later, in early February 1990. 

A couple of months later, it had reached No. 3, and certainly had the momentum to reach No. 1, but it got stuck in a few tight chart weeks, and it stayed at No. 3 for three weeks.  The competition for No. 1 was so tight, in fact, in those three weeks, there were three different No. 1 songs, the last of which was “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the Prince-composed gem of a cover by Sinéad O’Connor. 

all around the world

As it turns out, “All Around The World” really did have the momentum of being a No. 1 song here in America.  When BILLBOARD tallied up the top Hot 100 songs of 1990, “All Around The World” beat out the first two songs that did go to No. 1 (and prevented Lisa from going to there), not to mention it beat out several other No. 1 songs that year too.

Though some would prolly classify it more as an R&B or Dance song than a Disco song, I think “All Around The World” had a real big hand in reinvigorating the Disco genre for awhile in the early 1990s, or at least inspiring other artists and / or songs to include that “Disco” influence. 

One of THE BEST songs to dance to evah, Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” (released during the Summer of 1990), would certainly fit into that category.  Maybe even U2’s “Lemon” (1993), the Pet Shop Boys remix of Blur’s “Girls & Boys” (1994) and the brilliant “Justified & Ancient” by The KLF and Tammy Wynette (1991) would fit into that category as well.

deee-lite

In 1991, Lisa Stansfield was nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, losing out to Mariah Carey in both categories.  For the British equivalent of the Grammy Awards, the BRIT Awards, Lisa won Best British Newcomer in 1990 and Best British Female in 1991.

After “All Around The World” (and not counting her vocal contribution to 1989’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas II”), Lisa Stansfield would go on to have 13 more Top 40 U.K. hits, six of those which reached the Top 10.  And she did okay over here in the U.S. for awhile.  Most recently, she released her seventh solo studio album, appropriately titled, SEVEN, in early 2014.  It was her highest-charting U.K. album in 17 years.  That same year, she also released her fourth compilation, and her second and third remix albums back-to-back.

Between 1999 and 2013, Lisa Stansfield appeared in five films, and in 1998, she married her second husband – her longtime friend, engineer, mixer, co-writer and co-producer, Ian Devaney.  They were married in a small ceremony in New York City.

lisa+ian

Hard to imagine at one time I didn’t even like Lisa Stansfield or “All Around The World.”  It took me about five years, around my second year living in Portland, but I finally saw and heard what folks were raving about back in 1990.  And, once I learned this song was actually a U.K. hit in 1989, you can bet I played this song often on my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s.  And, why wouldn’t I? 

Sure, somewhere in there, “All Around The World” is a melancholy song with some hope (“I can’t find my baby / I don’t know when, I don’t know why / Why he’s gone away / And I don’t know where he can be, my baby / But I’m gonna find him…”).  And it did what it set out to do – go all around the world, but also, it helped incorporate and reintroduce a genre that had pretty much been declared dead a decade before, and at a time where Grunge was about to take off, that’s a pretty impressive feat and then some for a song that almost sounds like it could have come out of 1977…

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

lisa 89 v1

song of the day – “Living In A Box” | LIVING IN A BOX | 1987.

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. 

stuck-all-request-fest

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.

Another one of my favorite No. 17 hits on the Hot 100 is by the short-lived band, Living In A Box, out of Sheffield, England (home of artists like ABC, Human League, Thompson Twins, Heaven 17, Joe Cocker and Def Leppard).

Living In A Box was comprised of drummer Anthony “Tich” Critchlow, keyboardist Marcus Vere and singer / guitarist Richard Darbyshire (who has gone on to work as a musician / songwriter for many folks, most notably Lisa Stansfield).living-in-a-box-album

The band was formed in 1985, and named themselves after the first song they recorded together in the studio.  It was that song that would become a big global hit two years later.

The song “Living In A Box” was released a month in advance of their eponymous debut album, and with elements of Synthpop and “Sophisti-Pop” (a combo platter of Jazz, Soul and Pop; think ABC, Scritti Politti and Simply Red) quickly became a hit around the world.

“Living In A Box” reached the Top 10 in the U.K., Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart.  Over on the Hot 100, it would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 17 in August 1987.  It was also covered by late R&B legend Bobby Womack that year, and reached No. 70 on the U.K. singles chart.

The song is about feeling trapped by someone or something (“I’m living in a box / I’m living in a cardboard box”) and looking for that way out, and finds it (“I found a way to break through this cellophane bag / ‘Cause I know what’s goin’ on / In your mind…”).

living-in-a-box-single

The band Living In A Box would chart one more song on the Hot 100, with their third single overall, “So The Story Goes,” which spent a week at its No. 81 peak on Halloween 1987.

gatecrashingLiving In A Box would go on to release one more studio album, their second album, GATECRASHING, in 1989, which peaked at No. 21 on the U.K. album chart, four spots higher than their eponymous debut album.  The first single from that album, “Blow The House Down,” reached No. 10 in the U.K., the Top 20 in four other countries and the BILLBOARD Dance chart, and featured Queen’s Brian May on guitar.  The band broke up in 1990 before a third album was released.

Though Living In A Box only had a couple of Hot 100 hits here in the U.S., in their U.K. homeland, they released eight singles, six of which reached the Top 40, and three of those reaching the Top 10. 

My interest in Living In A Box began and ended with “Living In A Box,” but the song is still a favorite of mine to this day – the sound, the style, the beat – and if I ever get the chance to dance to it again, do yourself a favor and watch out, because I’ll be hitting that dance floor in a hot second (I have a history of bumping into people on the dance floor with my “mad dance skillz; emphasis on mad”)…

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

living-in-a-box-band

song of the day – “Love It (Coldcut Remix)” | SOCIETY | 1987 / 1988.

the danse society

The Danse Society.

As often happens with bands of all genres, members leave and go on to form other bands.  The English Goth band The Danse Society was one of those bands.  They got their start in 1980 and had been around for six years when all of the members of the band (save for one) left to form another band, Johnny In The Clouds.

The one band member that stayed on was lead singer Steve Rawlings, who continued as Society, releasing two songs in 1987, “Saturn Girl” and “Love It.”  I met Michael – one of my (future) best friends and the person who has been most influential to me in music – in the Summer of 1987, around the time The Danse Society became Society.  It’s no surprise that “Love It” wound up on the first mix tape Michael made for me in May 1988 – the original “Ron’s Honkin’ Stompin’ Stubba Smut Mix” (I can’t remember how the title of the mix tape came about…)

love itOne of mixes on the 12” single was remixed by Coldcut, the London Electronic duo who have produced and remixed music for decades for the likes of Eric B. & Rakim, Eurythmics, INXS, Blondie, Lisa Stansfield, The Fall and more.  This was the mix that caught my ear and was the mix that appeared in the video.  The Coldcut Remix for “Love It” included many samples that rival and even may have been inspired by “Pump Up The Volume” by M|A|R|R|S, out around the same time.

“Love It” wasn’t the type of song I would have been into earlier in the 80s, and it wasn’t a hit anywhere (though it did reach No. 19 on the U.K. Indie Singles chart), but it’s a really cool and fun song, I totally dig the guitar stylings, and even though I don’t know much else about the band, I’m glad “Love It” was introduced to me, because for almost 30 years, I really still do, um, love it…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8XKYLmTZ8Q

love it coldcut mix