song of the day – “Ain’t Nobody” | RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN | 1983.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, 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’ve known one Rufus in my lifetime, and that was a sweet dog (a black Lab?) who was the face at one of my early hangouts when I first moved to Portland, Maine in 1994 – Java Joe’s.  Like myself, Java Joe’s has long been removed from Maine’s largest city, though I do love to visit the Forest City when I can.

When I was first introduced to Rufus & Chaka Khan, it wasn’t because of their first (and biggest) Top 40 hit, 1974’s “Tell Me Something Good” (written by Stevie Wonder), it was because of their last  Top 40 hit – “Ain’t Nobody.”

For the longest time – and this still makes me laugh – I always thought Rufus & Chaka Khan were a married couple.  I didn’t know until much later that Rufus was actually a Funk band out of Chicago, and Chaka Khan was their lead singer. 

The band had formed in 1968, but by 1978, tensions were pretty high between the members of Rufus and their lead singer, who was becoming increasingly popular.  In 1983, they released one final album together – a (mostly) live double-album (and ultimate documentary) called STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were four new studio tracks (led by Chaka Khan) included with the live set, and two of those were released as singles.  The first single released was “Ain’t Nobody.”  At the same time, a producer for a new film, BREAKIN’ (a film based around the popular breakdance craze), had heard the song and eventually put the song in the film and on the soundtrack.

breakin

Well, talk about going out on top.  After years of declining record sales and issues between the band and Chaka Khan, “Ain’t Nobody” turned out to be a great hit, and was released shortly after STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY hit the record stores (as they used to say back in the day). 

“Ain’t Nobody” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on the first day of October 1983, way down at No. 91 (and there were three more debut songs under that!).  For the song’s first six chart weeks, this Funk gem steadily rose up the Hot 100, and in its seventh chart week, blasted onto the Top 40, moving from 43-29.  It was already Rufus & Chaka Khan’s highest-charting single since 1975’s Top 5 hit, “Sweet Thing.”

In a weird chart quirk, “Ain’t Nobody” stayed at No. 29 the following week, but starting moving back up the week after.  In December 1983, it spent three weeks at its peak position of No. 22 and departed the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-February 1984 after 19 weeks.

ain't nobody

Over on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, “Ain’t Nobody” became the band’s fifth and final No. 1 song, and though it only spent a week at No. 1 there, it was that chart’s sixth-biggest song of 1983.  On BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it reached No. 6.

Around the globe, “Ain’t Nobody” was a somebody in the U.K., where it reached No. 8, and a No. 36 chart peak in the Netherlands.  A 1989 remix of “Ain’t Nobody” took the song to new heights around the globe, reaching No. 6 in the U.K., No. 8 in Ireland, No. 9 in Germany, and as part of the entire LIFE IS A DANCE: THE REMIX PROJECT album, it reached No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

life is a dance

NERDY FUN FACT: David “Hawk” Wolinski, who wrote “Ain’t Nobody,” had threatened to give the song to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones (who really wanted the song) if the band’s label, Warner Bros., didn’t release it as the first single. 

I’ll never understand why these recording acts always had to fight with the record labels for what they believed in!  I’d like to think this kind of shite still doesn’t happen, but at the very least, it’s a whole different ball game now, and more people than evah are releasing their own music, and on their own terms, which I think is fan-fucking-tastic!

After winning a Grammy Award for “Ain’t Nobody” in 1984, Chaka Khan and Rufus went their separate ways, but the legacy of “Ain’t Nobody” lives on 33 years later.  It’s been covered an incredible amount of times, including covers by the likes of George Michael (on his 1991 “Cover To Cover” tour), Amii Stewart, Klymaxx, LL Cool J (for the funny 1996 film, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA), Peabo Bryson, KT Tunstall and Mary J. Blige. 

ll cool j

In 2015, a German music producer and DJ by the name of Felix Jaehn released a cover, featuring young British vocalist by the name of Jasmine Thompson, and the song was called “Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better).”  And throughout the globe outside of North America, people did love it better than the original.  It reached No. 1 in at least eight countries, and the Top 10 in at least another 12. 

My favorite cover is actually part of a “pseudo mashup” by U.K. producer and remixer Richard X, with vocals by the English-Irish Pop group, Liberty X.  They used a sample of The Human League’s “Being Boiled” against a cover of “Ain’t Nobody,” and called it, appropriately enough, “Being Nobody.”  It was (and still is) brilliant, and was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. and Ireland in 2003.

being nobody

A couple of years before that, when my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show on WMPG-FM was just five years old, I did a countdown of the BEST 100 SONGS OF THE 80s, getting feedback from listeners, station volunteers and folks in the College Music industry (it was also my first year of 10 as WMPG Music Director).  “Ain’t Nobody” came in at No. 20 and that ranking surprised me the most out of any other on the list. 

Over time, I realized that ranking shouldn’t surprise me.  It’s an incredible song, and though it came at the end of a creative union between a well-respected Funk band and one of the best R&B and Dance singers ever, ain’t nobody gonna tell me that “Ain’t Nobody” doesn’t mean anything in the history of Funk and Dance and R&B and Pop.  Because it does.

“And now we’re flyin’ through the stars / I hope this night will last forever…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M26WD4CidnM

rufus n chaka

song of the day – “Take Me With U” | PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA | 1985.

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 2 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 2 this day.  4 me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks 2 the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, 4 the entire month of June, I will B 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 2 No. 1. 

As Casey used 2 say on AT40, “And on we go!”

When my radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, had its final show on my 50th birthday – and during the Maine Blizzard Of 2017 (Hope, Shawn and I had 2 literally shut WMPG-FM down afterwards; Shawn: “We’re rockin’ so hard, the station cannot handle it anymore!”; Hope: “No one can follow U Ron!”). 

shawn, hope + me

With the 2017 Maine blizzard in the window behind us, from L to R that’s Shawn, Hope and yours truly all sporting STUCK IN THE 80s T-shirts on the final STUCK broadcast on WMPG-FM, 2.12.17.

One of the songs I chose 4 the last show was “Take Me With U” by Prince & The Revolution featuring Apollonia.  As I mentioned on the last show, and will re-mention here (if I haven’t already on the bloggy thing), it’s one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that DOESN’T get nearly enough love as it should.

purple rain

Released as the last of five singles from 1984’s PURPLE RAIN and written by Prince (of course), “Take Me With U” was a duet between Prince and Apollonia Kotero, who played Prince’s girlfriend in PURPLE RAIN.  “Take Me With U” was initially 2 have appeared on the APOLLONIA 6 album (released on October 1, 1984, and featured one song from PURPLE RAIN – “Sex Shooter,” which Apollonia 6 played in the film). 

But, with Prince being rightfully particular about his songs (4 example, all of his videos that went back up after he died have all pretty much been removed from YouTube), he pulled the song off of the APOLLONIA 6 album, and included it on PURPLE RAIN. 

prince + the revolution

All of the singles from (and of course, the entire album) PURPLE RAIN were sensational, but unlike the other singles released from the soundtrack, “Take Me With U” had this really cool vibe 2 it, featuring a drum solo and finger cymbals at the beginning and the end of the song.  This Psychedelic-y style might have actually been the precursor 2 his next album, AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY, especially on the singles “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life.”

“Take Me With U” was released on January 25, 1985, exactly seven months after the release of the soundtrack 2 PURPLE RAIN, and almost exactly six months after the release of the film, and it only took a couple of weeks 4 the single 2 debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (at No. 61).

take me with u

Reaching the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in just its fourth chart week, “Take Me With U” became the fifth Top 40 single from PURPLE RAIN, and, at that point, Prince became just the seventh recording artist in history (if my math is correct) 2 have five or more Top 40 hits released from one album on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, following Michael Jackson’s THRILLER, Lionel Richie’s CAN’T SLOW DOWN, Billy Joel’s AN INNOCENT MAN, SPORTS by Huey Lewis & The News, Tina Turner’s PRIVATE DANCER, and the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, and her wonderful SHE’S SO UNUSUAL.  (The Cars would join that group a week later with “Why Can’t I Have You,” the excellent and highly-underrated fifth single from their fantastic 1984 album, HEARTBEAT CITY.)

“Take Me With U” spent a couple of weeks at No. 25 in late March 1985, and without much fanfare, faded out of the Hot 100 after 12 short weeks.  Over in the U.K., it was a double A-sided single with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and it reached No. 7.  I would like 2 think the folks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t just listen 2 “Let’s Go Crazy” (as awesome as that song is), and flipped the record over and really enjoyed “Take Me With U” too.

let's go crazy take me with u

Everyone in The Revolution was involved with this gem, and the unity involved with this song is amazing.  And, 4 those who didn’t already own PURPLE RAIN by the end of January 1985, when “Take Me With U” was released, and were kind enough 2 buy the single anyway, and 2 those radio stations who were kind enough 2 play it, I thank U.  “Take Me With U” is that sorta-forgotten gem (though not by me) that, when U listen 2 it 4 the first time in awhile, U will remember why U loved it all those years ago, and, like me, U will love it 4evah…

“I don’t care where we go / I don’t care what we do / I don’t care pretty baby / Just take me with u…”

prince + apollonia

song of the day – “Sometimes A Fantasy” | BILLY JOEL | 1980.

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, 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!”

A few posts back, I complained about how certain (or all?) commercial radio programmers, over the course of time, have “determined” what songs are deemed important enough to keep going into radio immortality and how other songs are just left behind, to be merely forgotten. 

Billy Joel’s “Sometimes A Fantasy” is one of those mostly-forgotten gems that got passed over in Radio Immortality Land for overrated songs like “Big Shot” (sorry, Billy, just not a fan of that one).  “Sometimes A Fantasy” was the fourth of four singles released from his No. 1 album, GLASS HOUSES. 

glass houses

With Punk already established and New Wave on the rise, for GLASS HOUSES, Billy Joel took on a more edgier Rock approach than his other albums, and it worked.  The first single, “You May Be Right,” reached No. 7, the second single, “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” was Billy’s first No. 1 single in America, and the laid back “Don’t Ask Me Why” (another mostly-forgotten gem) reached the Top 20. 

I loved “Sometimes A Fantasy” from the first listen.  Sure, the other singles from the album were great, and I owned each one of them, but “Sometimes A Fantasy” struck a chord the other ones didn’t for whatever reason.  And, the single version had something the album version didn’t – a longer version. 

billy-joel-sometimes-a-fantasy-columbia

It was rare for single versions to be extended over their album counterparts, usually it was the other way around.  But, with “Sometimes A Fantasy,” as the album version faded out after 3 minutes and 40 seconds, the 45 version continued on for another 40 seconds with a kick-ass guitar and instrumental solo, until Billy Joel laughs at the end and wails, “I’ve got blisters on my blisters!” (paying homage to Ringo Starr’s outburst of “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” at the end of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”).  I loved it! (and still do…)  (And, to date, for whatever reason, outside of posts on YouTube, this version continues to NOT be available in any other form.)

billy-joel-sometimes-a-fantasy-1980-5

“Sometimes A Fantasy” – a song about a lonely, horny man who calls his significant other on the phone and tries to get her to have phone sex with him – debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-October 1980, just as “Don’t Ask Me Why” was finishing up its run in the Top 40.  It only took four short weeks for “Sometimes A Fantasy” to reach No. 40, and it looked like it was going to be another big hit for the New York City native.

But, somehow, radio programmers across the country collaborated on this one, and decided that “Sometimes A Fantasy” wasn’t the hit they thought it was, and the song spent a quick two weeks at No. 36 on the Hot 100 in mid-November 1980.  It was off the Hot 100 after just nine surprising weeks.  I was so disappointed because it’s such a great song, one of my all-time favorite Billy Joel songs.

If my memory serves correctly, I believe GLASS HOUSES was the third non-soundtrack album (following Fleetwood Mac’s RUMOURS and Michael Jackson’s OFF THE WALL) to generate four Top 40 singles from one album.  It’s been more commonplace and then some since then.  In fact, three albums released in the 80s had seven singles released –  Michael Jackson’s THRILLER, Bruce Springsteen’s BORN IN THE U.S.A., and Janet Jackson’s RHYTHM NATION 1814 – and even more impressive, all seven hits from each of those historic albums reached the Top 10.  And RHYTHM NATION 1814 remains the only album in history to have seven commercially-released singles reach the Top 5.

SCRUBS, my third-favorite show of all-time, was thankfully notorious for keeping the 80s alive with mentions and song selections (and incorporating the amazing Colin Hay into many episodes), and in a Season 6 clip episode, “Sometimes A Fantasy” was used.  And, it was nice that I wasn’t the only one who remembered this awesome song.

scrubs wars

Well, “Sometimes A Fantasy” didn’t reach the Top 5, or even the Top 35, though I wish it had.  I could fantasize that it charted higher than it did, but it’s not the real thing.  Still, though, I’ve always contended that “Sometimes A Fantasy” is one of the coolest things Billy Joel ever did, even if radio programmers of the day didn’t think so…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhJg1finpyU

billy joel 1980

song of the day – “Stand Back” | STEVIE NICKS | 1983.

69 years ago today, on May 26, 1948, Stephanie Lynn Nicks was born in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.  While in high school, Stevie met her future music (and romantic) partner, Lindsey Buckingham, and in mid-1967, she took over as the lead singer for Lindsey’s Psychedelic band, Fritz, a band that would open for huge acts like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin from 1968 through 1971. 

Speaking of 1967, Stevie Nicks was exactly 19 years old when The Beatles released (in the U.K.) the brilliant SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, what many folks still consider as the greatest album of all time.  Happy 50th SGT. PEPPER!

sgt pepper

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham both attended the San Jose State University in Northern California, and Stevie dropped out just a semester before graduating.  She had wanted to become an English teacher, which is indeed a noble profession (my oldest niece, Elizabeth, currently on a two-year journey working with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, will most likely be an English teacher somewhere here in the U.S. when she returns.  You can check out Elizabeth’s amazing blog here: https://elizabethlivinglifetanzania.wordpress.com.)

Elizabeth, Day 2, Tanzania 7.15.16

I love this picture.  That’s my oldest niece, Elizabeth, taken on her Day 2 in Tanzania (in Africa), 7.15.2016.

buckingham nicksWhile I’m sure Stevie Nicks would have made an excellent English teacher, the profession she ended ended up excelling at – being a Rock star – worked out pretty well, but not at first.  For a couple of years, from 1972 through 1974, she and Lindsey Buckingham worked together as Buckingham Nicks, and released an unsuccessful self-titled album in 1973, and whose cover prolly got more press than the album itself. 

In 1975, when Lindsey Buckingham met up with Mick Fleetwood, the namesake of the Rock band, Fleetwood Mac, he said that he and Stevie were “a package deal,” if he was to join the band (following the departure of Mac guitarist Bob Welch).  Well, even if it ended up not working out romantically for Stevie and Lindsey, their contributions to Fleetwood Mac changed the band forever. 

After the huge success of the albums FLEETWOOD MAC and RUMOURS, the latter of which still holds the record for the longest run at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Album chart (31 weeks) by a band, and still remains as one of the Top 10-selling albums of all-time here in America.

rumours

Following RUMOURS, Stevie started contributing to the songs of other recording artists.  In 1978, she sang backup on the Top 10 hits “Magnet And Steel” by her friend, Walter Egan (a song she inspired), and on “Whenever I Call You Friend,” the first big solo hit for Kenny Loggins.  In 1979, both Stevie and Lindsey teamed up with the late, great John Stewart and contributed their talents on three Top 40 singles for The Kingston Trio alum, including the big Top 5 hit, “Gold.” 

kenny_stevie

Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks, singing about calling each other a friend, 1978.

On July 27, 1981, Stevie released (on the Atlantic Records imprint, Modern Records, a label she co-founded) her debut album as a solo artist – BELLA DONNA.  The album was a huge success, reaching No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Album chart (selling over four million copies in the U.S. alone), plus, it charted four Top 40 singles (including her biggest solo hit – with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”), and she was instantly hailed by ROLLING STONE as “the Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”

rs351

In between BELLA DONNA and her second solo album in 1983, THE WILD HEART, Fleetwood Mac released their No. 1 album, Mirage, which generated the big singles, “Hold Me” and “Gypsy,” which I just heard on the radio this past week, and hear often.

the wild heart

THE WILD HEART was released on June 10, 1983, and while it was not as popular as BELLA DONNA, the album still reached No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Album chart, was certified Double-Platinum, and gave Stevie another three Top 40 solo hits, including one of her all-time biggest hits, “Stand Back.”

Released exactly a week before her 35th birthday in May 1983, “Stand Back” has a cool and interesting story behind it, one I didn’t realize until after Prince’s death in April 2016:

On January 29, 1983, Stevie Nicks had just gotten married, and was on her honeymoon, driving North to Santa Barbara, California, when she heard Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the first time.  Inspired, she wrote “Stand Back” that day, while humming along to “Little Red Corvette.” 

little red corvette

When Stevie went to record “Stand Back,” she called Prince and told him the story of how the song came about.  20 minutes later, Prince showed up at her studio.  She once told ROLLING STONE that Prince “walked over to the synthesizers that were set up, was absolutely brilliant for about 25 minutes and then left.  He spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly recreate – not even with two piano players – what Prince did all by his little self.”

Prince’s work on “Stand Back” remains uncredited, but Stevie has always maintained that even though she wrote the song, she says it belongs to Prince (they did end up splitting the publishing royalties 50-50).  She added, “he got up and left as if the whole thing happened in a dream.”

Well, what a dream, and what a story, and what a song.  “Stand Back” remains as one of my all-time favorite songs by Stevie Nicks.  It debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1983 at No. 60, while Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” was still driving itself within the highway of the Top 10. 

stand back US

“Stand Back” took just a couple of weeks to reach the Top 40, giving Stevie her fifth consecutive Top 40 hit on the Hot 100.  In mid-August 1983, “Stand Back” spent a week at No. 5 and stayed on the chart for 19 weeks, finishing its chart run at No. 100 in early October 1983.  According to BILLBOARD, it finished the year at No. 44.

Over on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, it’s no surprise that “Stand Back” was a big hit, reaching No. 2.  Prolly more surprising was that it also reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  (It’s not surprising to me, though, as it features a killer funky guitar riff in the middle of the song that sounds like it could have easily been provided by Nile Rodgers, or for a Michal Jackson song). 

Around the globe, “Stand Back” reached the Top 20 in Canada and Australia, and the Top 40 in Germany and Holland.  A reissue of “Stand Back” in 2007 sent it to No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, thanks to several updated remixes.

stand back 2007

“Stand Back” was so popular in fact, that, on Fleetwood Mac tours since 1987, it has been a staple at their shows, including the band’s 2013 world tour.

24 karat gold tour

Stevie was in Boston in November 2016 for her 24 Karat Gold Tour, which included The Pretenders, and yes, “Stand Back” was thankfully on the playlist.  Would have loved to have seen that show.  In July, she’ll be performing two dates at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles with Fleetwood Mac as part of The Classic West, a two-day concert featuring six classic acts, including The Eagles, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Journey and Earth, Wind & Fire.  All of these bands return a couple weeks later at New York’s Citi Field for The Classic East.  That’d be fun.

stevie_nicks1

For 69 years, time and space have been two incredible factors in the life and continued success of Stevie Nicks.  She even titled her first hits compilation, in 1991, TIMESPACE: THE BEST OF STEVIE NICKS.  I don’t think that was an accident.  And, I think if you do stand back and look at the career of birthday girl Stevie Nicks, I’d bet my record collection that you’d agree and say she’s definitely still Rock royalty, and always will be… 

Happy Birthday, Stevie!

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

stevie 1983 v1

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

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song of the day – “The Host Of Seraphim” | DEAD CAN DANCE | 1988.

“…I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal [sanctuary].  Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”  The seraphim cry continually to each other, “Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:1–3; Hebrew Bible)

In the 80s music bible, “The Host Of Seraphim” is a 1988 treasure that belongs to the brilliant and phenomenal Ethereal / Dark Wave band and then some, Dead Can Dance. 

dcdold

Dead Can Dance was formed in Melbourne, Australia in August 1981, led by the then-couple Lisa Gerrard (vocalist) and Brendan Perry (vocals and guitar).  The following year, they moved to London and signed on with one of my all-time favorite record labels, 4AD.  (Away from DCD, Lisa Gerrard has also scored several films, and picked up an Academy Award Nomination and a Golden Globe Award for co-scoring – with Hans Zimmer – the 2000 Russell Crowe film, GLADIATOR.)

Their first album, a self-titled effort, was released in 1984, and early on were described as “as Goth as it gets,” though they dismissed that label.  I would also dismiss that label, mainly because they are in a class all by themselves. 

DCD LP

By June 1990, Dead Can Dance had already released five albums and an EP, all of which were not readily available in the U.S. until the early 90s, which is when I discovered them for the first time.

It was the Spring of 1994, I was 27 years old and had just moved to Portland, Maine in late January of that year.  I was still making friends and one of my new friends suggested that I see a film unlike any other – it was a concept film called BARAKA.

the movies sign

Back then, there was this small, independent art-house theater simply called The Movies.  It was in the heart of Portland’s famed Old Port section of town, and had been around for many years.  BARAKA was actually released in September 1992, but for some reason, The Movies didn’t get it until early 1994.

For those who have not yet seen BARAKA, some are quick to call it a documentary, but there’s no narration or voice-overs in it, and I’ve always considered it to be more of a concept film for that reason.  BARAKA, kinda like Dead Can Dance, is in a class all by itself.  BARAKA was filmed in 24 countries on six continents around the globe, photographed in then-groundbreaking 70mm film, and the tagline for the film is “A world beyond words.” 

BARAKA is literally breathtaking to watch.  The late, great film critic of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Roger Ebert, put BARAKA in his “Great Movies” list, writing, “If man sends another Voyager to the distant stars and it can carry only one film on board, that film might be BARAKA.”  When the film was reworked for a Blu-Ray release in 2008, Roger Ebert described it as “the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined.”  High praise indeed.

baraka

Where there is music in the film, most of the score is by Michael Sterns, who is best-known for his work with Ambient and Space music.  He released over 20 solo albums between 1979 and 2001.  During a seven-minute span in BARAKA, there was a song that played over multiple scenes of severe poverty, from homelessness to young prostitution to hundreds of women and children sifting through acres of garbage in hopes of finding food.  You can find the link to this video at the end of the blog post.

As much as BARAKA is breathtaking with its global beauty, the scenes like the ones mentioned above are equally heartbreaking.  The filmmakers couldn’t have picked a better song for that sequence of the film.

Not long after I saw BARAKA in the theater, I stopped by a record store in the same building as the movie theater (at the time, I lived in the Old Port section of Portland, so I was in the area constantly).  The name of the record store was Bad Habits.  The owners of the store would later run the amazing Alternative Portland nightclub, Zootz (both of which sadly disappeared from Portland’s cultural landscape many years ago). 

I was in the store perusing one day, and one of the owners, George, let me take a promotional sampler by Dead Can Dance, of which I had heard a couple of their most recent songs (from 1993’s INTO THE LABYRINTH album, most likely).  Even though I wasn’t that familiar with the band, I, of course, didn’t turn down the free sampler. 

sampler

When I got back to my apartment, I played the CD and was excited to learn that the song I heard in BARAKA was by Dead Can Dance, and it was called “The Host Of Seraphim.”  I always thought the name Dead Can Dance was pretty cool, and in the years ahead, especially after I started STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio) in 1996, I learned a lot more about Dead Can Dance, and was quite impressed at their catalog, and with the fact something like that came out of the 80s. 

dcdold2

As much as I love Pop acts like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Huey Lewis and Michael Jackson, the 80s weren’t just about them.  Dead Can Dance is absolute and substantial proof of that.

“The Host Of Seraphim” is the opening song from THE SERPENT’S EGG, the fourth studio album by Dead Can Dance, released a week before Halloween in 1988.  Of the album’s interesting title, Brendan Perry once said, “In a lot of aerial photographs of the Earth, if you look upon it as a giant organism – a macrocosmos – you can see that the nature of the life force, water, travels in a serpentine way.”  It’s very true.

the serpent's egg

In addition to its use in BARAKA, “The Host Of Seraphim” has been used in film and television a number of times, including 2002’s RIPLEY’S GAME, 2006’s HOME OF THE BRAVE, the trailer for 2003’s TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, 2010’s LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE, the third-season finale of this year’s HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, and in the last ten minutes of the 2007 film, THE MIST, based on the 1980 book of the same name by Maine’s own Stephen King.

toward the within

Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, from the 1994 TOWARD THE WITHIN live DVD.

Since they are so different than anything else I have loved in music for the past (nearly) 40 years, I had hoped to see Dead Can Dance perform live.  Their last album was in 2012 (ANASTASIS; Greek for “resurrection”), their first album in 16 years.  At the very least, I do have their TOWARD THE WITHIN live DVD from 1994, and they are sensational and then some. 

Dead Can Dance Anstasis

For the ANASTASIS album, Lisa Gerrard did a 2012 interview with PITCHFORK, and her responses to the questions were as amazing as Dead Can Dance’s music.  One of the questions PITCHFORK asked was, “There seems to have always been as much emphasis on the power of space or ambience in your music, is that something that emerges naturally?” 

Lisa Gerrard replied, “I’d call that blind belief.  It’s almost like you’re standing on something that’s much more powerful than you.  It’s like a frequency that comes up through the ground, like sticking your finger into an electrical socket.  There are so many layers to who we are as human beings outside of this terrible, grey shadow of materiality.  I think the message that’s always been there in Dead Can Dance is, ‘Come on, wake up.  Wake up, visceral.  Wake up, abstract.  Wake up, practical.  Wake up, mind.  Wake up, soul.  This is who you are.  This is where you’re going.  This is the journey.  Here we are.  This is the campfire.  The campfire is music’.”

seraphim

One depiction of what a seraphim looks like.

If you hadn’t already been familiar with meaning of the word “seraphim,” it’s another word for an angelic being, with six wings, and is part of the highest of orders of the celestial hierarchy, and (like other angelic beings, I suppose) it’s associated with light, ardor [enthusiasm or passion], and purity. 

The music that Dead Can Dance has brought to my life for many years is something I would consider of an angelic nature.  And, if not angelic, well, it’s not far off.  Their music is among the best I’ve ever heard.  And “The Host Of Seraphim” is truly one of THE most extraordinary and heartbreaking pieces of music I’ll treasure forever.

In a 2013 retrospective review in AllMusic, “The Host Of Seraphim” was hailed as “so jaw-droppingly good that almost the only reaction is sheer awe.”  I couldn’t agree more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGfl_aYu8Hc

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song of the day – “Flamethrower” | THE J. GEILS BAND | 1982.

Back in the 1980s, long before THE DIGITAL AGE of music (or of everything, I suppose, but music in this case), people had to rely on the radio to hear their favorite songs, or rely on their friends who had the albums or tapes, and you could borrow theirs, OR you purchased either the 45s or the full albums, depending on the artist.  If you purchased the full LP, sometimes, like with albums by ASIA or Bruce Springsteen or Thomas Dolby or Cyndi Lauper or Michael Jackson or INXS, you’d consider yourself lucky that the entire album (or most of the album) was a keeper. 

Not ranking on Millennials here, but youngstahs today have it easy, with iTunes and Spotify and Pandora and YouTube to check out entire new albums first and / or they can pick and choose any tracks off the albums that they want to purchase.  Even now with vinyl making a strong (and deserved) comeback, almost always when you purchase a full-length record album, there is a digital counterpart included for your convenience (kinda like a marriage of the old and the new).

Well, back in 1982, I only had a handful of albums to my name because (1) I was being frugal about purchasing albums for reasons stated above, and (2) I was frugal about buying albums because I just didn’t have the ca$h.  There was one album, though, that proved to be a MUST BUY – the 12th studio album by Worcester, MA Rock legends, The J. Geils Band – FREEZE-FRAME.

freeze-frame LP

Not only did the nine-track FREEZE-FRAME album have the awesome singles “Centerfold,” “Angel In Blue” and the title track, it also had gems that could have been singles themselves – “Rage In The Cage,” “Piss On The Wall” and “Flamethrower.”

Before owning the FREEZE-FRAME album, I had already purchased the “Centerfold” single (at last check, ranked at No. 63 on BILLBOARD’s 2016 list of the Greatest Hot 100 Songs Of All-Time), which had “Rage In The Cage” as the B-side.  My oldest friend, Pete, had the album, and I remember going to his house and listening to it, which inspired me to pick it up as well.  The FREEZE-FRAME album deserves its own blog post, and I’ll prolly write about the entire album on the bloggy thing here at some point.  Today, though, it’s all about that Rockin’ and Soulful “baby who’ll melt you with her touch.”

j geils 2

“Flamethrower” is the sixth song on FREEZE-FRAME (or the first song on Side Two, if you prefer), and right from song’s start (featuring a killer harmonica courtesy of the band’s longtime harmonica and saxophone specialist, Magic Dick), you quickly realize there’s NO WAY you’re gonna be able to sit still through this five-minute jam.

Back in 2015, for the first time, I (along with one of my besties, the super-talented and awesome Hopey T.), saw The J. Geils Band perform in Portland, Maine, and they were phenomenal.  There are many bands who work well together, and then there’s The J. Geils Band, whose musical interaction between band members is amazing to watch.  And on songs like “Flamethrower,” it’s amazing to listen to.

Almost exactly half-way through “Flamethrower,” each of the band’s (then) six members – Peter Wolf on vocals, guitarist and band namesake J. Geils, keyboardist and vocalist Seth Justman, bassist Danny Klein, drummer / percussionist Steven Bladd and the aforementioned Magic Dick – play together on a sensational minute-long-plus instrumental jam, even prompting Peter Wolf to exclaim, “Yeah!”  It actually kinda reminded me of one of THE best instrumental gems, er, jams in Rock history – the last four minutes of their brilliant 1973 hit, “Give It To Me.”

NERDY FUN FACT: “Flamethrower,” “Angel In Blue” and “River Blindness” (all on the FREEZE-FRAME album) featured five backup singers, including Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and the late, great R&B / Pop legend, Luther Vandross.

centerfold UK + flamethrower

Even though “Flamethrower” was never officially released as its own single, it does have an interesting BILLBOARD chart history.  As a 12” B-side to lead single, “Centerfold,” both songs reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart in 1982.  As the 7” B-side of the album’s second single, “Freeze-Frame,” it was actually “Flamethrower” that led both songs to reach No. 25 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart for two weeks in April 1982.  And, over on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, it was the only non-single song from FREEZE-FRAME to chart there, reaching No. 30.

freeze-frame 7

Hearing this song again on my iPod this afternoon makes me want to pull out the 41-minute FREEZE-FRAME album and play it all the way through a couple of times, from the title cut through to “Piss On The Wall.” 

Seth Justman, who wrote or co-wrote every song on FREEZE-FRAME and who was the sole writer on “Flamethrower,” once told NME (New Music Express) that the song was “not just about a woman, it’s about a woman factory worker and how she lets loose at night.  It’s about a certain spirit that’s in everybody. 

“In the middle of that song the spirit in the body has taken over.  It’s not just a hot chick in hot pants.  It’s a woman who punches the clock every day at 8 and 5 and when she leaves she does something with her life, whatever she has to do to punch the clock the next day and not go crazy.  That punch clock is in everyone; there’s something inside everyone that makes you want to go on and get better and stronger.” 

I can’t tell you enough how much I wholeheartedly agree with Seth’s amazing and surprising comment.  Or maybe I just did.  Or maybe when you jam out to “Flamethrower” again, you’ll think about that punch clock or flamethrower inside of you, and figure out ways on how to get better and stronger.  I know I will…

flamethrower

“I forget the darkness / I forget the pain / When she’s movin’ through my heart / And when she’s pumpin’ through my veins / She’s the part inside me / I can never control / And she’s the only reason / I know I’ve got a soul…”

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

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