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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

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

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

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

long distance dedication 6.29.14

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

pollinator

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

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

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

parallel lines

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

heart of glass

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

sunday girl

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

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

blondie-1

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

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

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

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

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

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

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

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

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

blondie wkrp 1

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

blondie wkrp 2

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

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

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

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

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

one way or another

  

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

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

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

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

weird-science

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

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

training-day

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

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

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

bill-paxton-1980

Bill Paxton in 1980.

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

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

martini-ranch-press

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

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

how-can-the-laboring-man

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

holy-cow

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

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

reach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton from 2015…