song of the day – “You Can Call Me Al” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 1987.

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, 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!”

Throughout the years, whether it’s because of an inclusion in a movie or a commercial or a TV show, or a radio station rediscovered it and started playing it again, songs sometimes have more one chart life.  The best example of this is Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which reached No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 twice.  In its initial run, the dance craze favorite spent one week on top in September 1960, and again in January 1962 for two weeks.  No other song has done that here in America.  And, because of its two chart runs that ended at No. 1, “The Twist” is ranked at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 for all time.

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The 1989 cassette single (or “cassingles” – remember those?!) for “In Your Eyes.”

I believe all decades have had songs re-enter the chart with new chart runs, but I think no other decade has as many as the 80s did.  There were “second-chance singles” (as I like to call them) that went to No. 1 on the Hot 100, like “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & The Beaters and “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, “second-chance singles” that were “(real) one-hit wonders,” like Sheriff (again), Benny Mardones (“Into The Night”) and Moving Pictures (“What About Me”),  and songs that benefited from appearing in movies, like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (…SAY ANYTHING) and Billy Idol’s “Hot In The City” (BIG).

Then you have songs that were hits in other decades and, also due to their inclusions in films, were reissued and hit the chart again, like The Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” (featured in both FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and BACK TO SCHOOL), Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (from the incredible film of the same name), and The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” (from DIRTY DANCING).

Prince’s “1999” reached the Hot 100 four time in three decades, and reached the Top 40 three of those times.  In its original 1982 chart run (as the debut single from the album of the same name), it stopped at No. 44.  After “Little Red Corvette” reached No. 6, “1999” was re-released and reached No. 12 in 1983.  When the calendar changed from 1998 to 1999 (even though the song wasn’t about the year 1999), it re-entered the Top 40 for one week at No. 40.  And, as BILLBOARD has been doing for several years now, a number of Prince songs re-entered the Hot 100 following his sad passing in April 2016.  In its fourth Hot 100 appearance, “1999” reached No. 27.

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These “second-chance singles” don’t always chart higher than their original chart runs (like the Moving Pictures, Peter Gabriel and Billy Idol singles mentioned above), but lots of times they do.  UB40’s “Red Red Wine” originally peaked at No. 34 in March 1984, but in a re-release (after being performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Concert in 1988), the album version of their Neil Diamond cover spent a week at No. 1 in October 1988.  And, the original version of The Pointer Sisters’ classic, “I’m So Excited,” stalled at No. 30 in late 1982, but after being remixed for their 1984 album, BREAK OUT, the song was reissued and did break out, reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100 about two years later.

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And, sometimes, “second-chance singles” get another shot at the Hot 100 for multiple reasons.  In the case of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” its success can be attributed to growing praise and sales for its brilliant parent album, GRACELAND (and its big Album Of The Year Grammy Award), and a smart change in music videos.

“You Can Call Me Al” (a song about someone going through a midlife crisis), the first single released from GRACELAND, debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 83 in early August 1986, about a month before the album was released.  The original video for “You Can Call Me Al” was a performance Paul Simon gave (in the perspective of a video monitor) during a monologue when he hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. 

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Well, Paul Simon wasn’t happy with the video, which didn’t seem to attract many fans to buy the record, and GRACELAND had just been released (and wasn’t the brilliant classic most people associate with it now).  “You Can Call Me Al” spent a couple of weeks at No. 44 in September and October, and dropped off the chart in November 1986 after 14 weeks.

A new video was commissioned, and Paul Simon stayed with his friend and SNL creator, Lorne Michaels, to put together another video.  This one (one of my all-time favorite music videos) pairs Paul with another friend (and SNL alum), Chevy Chase, who lip-syncs Paul Simon’s vocals, leaving Paul to twiddle his thumbs, although Paul ends up lip-syncing his backing vocals throughout, and in the last 30 seconds of the video, the focus switches from Chevy to Paul (although Chevy almost takes Paul’s head off with a trumpet).  It’s an incredibly funny and smartly done video, and I think it resonated with fans, MTV watchers, and radio stations alike. 

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Paul Simon and his friend, Chevy Chase, from the hilarious video for “You Can Call Me Al.”

Between a hilarious new music video and a big Grammy win for GRACELAND in late February 1987, “You Can Call Me Al” re-entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late March 1987 at No. 92.  About a month later, it surpassed its original No. 44 peak, and reached the Top 40.  About a month after that, it spent a couple of weeks at its (new) peak position of No. 23, departing the chart in early July 1987, with a total of 27 weeks spent on the Hot 100 (strangely enough, in its highe-charting second run, it spent one less week than the first chart run).  To date, it’s Paul Simon’s last Top 40 hit here in America.

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Around the globe, “You Can Call Me Al” said, “You can call me a big hit in” Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa (where it reached No. 2), plus the U.K. (No. 4), the Netherlands (No. 5), Finland (No. 9), France (No. 16) and Canada (No. 19). hyde park

Paul Simon is 75 now, and still very much active in the music scene.  In 2016, he released his 13th studio album, STRANGER TO STRANGER, which reached No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart, his highest-charting album since GRACELAND went to No. 3 three decades ago.  And, just this month, he released his fourth live solo album, PAUL SIMON – THE CONCERT IN HYDE PARK.

I don’t know what it is, but I love the idea of songs getting a second chance – for whatever reason – to do better on the chart than they did before.  And, though sometimes it doesn’t work out, the times it does happen can be pretty amazing.  And other times you just need a gifted comedic actor and friend to play off against, who’s a full foot taller than you to create a really fucking hilarious music video to help out a really cool song about trying to cope with middle age.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-gYOrU8bA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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xmas song of the day – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” | JOHN & YOKO / THE PLASTIC ONO BAND | 1971 / 1980.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

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It’s December 8th, 2016 here in Central Maine, and the 36th anniversary of the tragic death of John Lennon.  So, I couldn’t think of any better choice for the song for Day 14 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS than “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

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With incredible vocal help from the Harlem Community Choir, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was released as a single in December 1971 here in the U.S., and for the following Xmas in the U.K. (for some reason the release was delayed).  It was not just a beautiful holiday song, it was also a song protesting the Vietnam War. 

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In the two years before the single was released, John and Yoko launched a “WAR IS OVER” campaign worldwide, and they even rented billboard space in a dozen big cities around the globe with similar posters.

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Earlier in 1971, with people reacting more to John’s amazing single, “Imagine,” than his other solo work to that point, he realized, “Now I understand what you have to do:  Put your political message across with a little honey.”  He put together a holiday song without being overly sentimental like more traditional songs about the season, but also with a message of hope for peace.

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When it was released here in the U.S. in 1971, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was not the success John and Yoko hoped it would be.  Since it was released late, there wasn’t much airplay for the holiday season, and it wasn’t well promoted by Apple Records.  When it was released in the U.K. the following Xmas, it reached No. 4 on the U.K. singles chart.  Between December 1972 and early 1973, “Happy Xmas” would also reach the Top 10 in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Ireland, Norway and Singapore.

On December 8, 1980, the day John Lennon was murdered outside of his New York City apartment, “(Just Like) Starting Over,” his first single in five years, and his biggest hit in six years, was inching its way up the Top 10 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, ranking at No. 6 that week.  Three weeks later (and two days after Xmas 1980), “Starting Over” spent its first of five weeks at No. 1.  It was an amazing tribute to John.

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Over in the U.K., the tribute to John was felt everywhere on the singles chart.  On December 20, 1980, “Starting Over” spent a week at No. 1.  On January 10, 1981, “Imagine” (which had previously charted at No. 6 in a 1975 release), spent four weeks at No. 1.  “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” also returned to the chart, and was positioned behind “Imagine” at No. 2, a new peak position for that song.

Following the 4-week run at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart for “Imagine,” “Starting Over” follow-up single, “Woman,” spent two weeks at No. 1.  In March 1981, Roxy Music’s cover of John’s 1971 song, “Jealous Guy,” spent two weeks at No. 1.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” would re-chart on the U.K. singles chart in 1981, 1982, 1988, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2012.  The appeal of “Happy Xmas” has been everlasting, and it’s been covered dozens of times over the years, including covers by The Alarm, Sarah McLachlan, Cocteau Twins, Cranes, Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, The Moody Blues, Darlene Love, Carly Simon and even English Classical Crossover artist Sarah Brightman.

John would have been 76 this year.  I don’t know how he would have responded to  recent political events here in the U.S., but it’s a strong bet he’d still want you to have a Happy Xmas without any fear, and to give peace a chance.  Sounds like great advice to me.

Miss you, John, wherever you are…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMH_wMvMy_8

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