song of the day – “Dancing In The Dark” | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | 1984.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, since the start of June, I have been highlighting songs that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits have gotten bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  With the next post, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

If you listened to AMERICAN TOP 40 as faithfully as I did back in the 80s, before Nos. 2 and 1 were announced, he’d usually take a commercial break before announcing them, and would usually say, “The two biggies are coming right up!”  “The two biggies.”  Always cracked me up and still does.

But, when it came to AMERICAN TOP 40, “the two biggies” were, in fact, a big deal.  There a few positions on the chart that are the most frustrating, like Nos. 101, 41 and 11, but no other peak position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (or any singles chart, for that matter) was more frustrating to stop at than No. 2.

Foreigner endured the No. 2 position the longest in the 80s, spending 10 weeks in the runner-up spot in 1981 and 1982 with “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” a chart record Foreigner still shares to this day.  And I believe Madonna, who has six No. 2 songs to her credit (four of them in the 80s), still holds the chart record for most No. 2 singles in Hot 100 history.

waiting for a girl like you

All told, nearly 100 songs reached No. 2 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by three Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, whose 1981 No. 2 hit, “All Those Years Ago,” was a tribute to John Lennon), two Jacksons (Michael and Janet), and a couple of (real) one-hit wonders, including the Cold War Classic by Nena, “99 Luftballons.”

99 luftballons

danger zoneSome of the biggest songs in history that maybe you thought were No. 1 hits in America were actually No. 2 hits, such as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones and “Purple Rain” by Prince And The Revolution.

Several artists peaked at No. 2 between 1979 and 1989 with two songs, including The Bangles, Culture Club (with their first two hits), Air Supply, Duran Duran, Glenn Frey, Kool & The Gang, John Mellencamp, Billy Ocean (including the guilty pleasure, “Loverboy,” which a DJ back in the day once referred to as “Heavy Metal Disco”; I would disagree), plus Robert Palmer, Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt (in two big duets with James Ingram and Aaron Neville), Tina Turner and Jody Watley. 

loverboy

Michael Jackson gets an honorable mention, as he peaked at No. 2 with “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney, and he is featured in an uncredited role backing up Rockwell on “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  Likewise with Sheena Easton, who backed up Prince uncredited on “U Got The Look” and had her own No. 2 hit in 1989 with the sexy Dance hit, “The Lover In Me” (a long way from when she took that “Morning Train” to No. 1 in 1981; I’m sure Prince may have had something to do with it).

the lover in me

Speaking of Prince, he had three No. 2 hits between 1979 and 1989, or in this case, 1984 through 1987, with the aforementioned “Purple Rain” and “U Got The Look,” but also with “Raspberry Beret.”  He, too, gets an honorable mention, as he composed the No. 2 hit for The Bangles, “Manic Monday.”

lovesong

And a number longtime recording artists saw their biggest hits stop at No. 2, like The Cure (“Lovesong”), Journey (“Open Arms”), The Greg Kihn Band (“Jeopardy”), and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.”

If there was any one huge artist in the 80s I wanted to see reach No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, it was Bruce Springsteen.  I was first introduced to Bruce’s music with 1980’s “Hungry Heart,” from his first No. 1 album, THE RIVER.  At the time, I had no idea he had already released four critically-acclaimed and successful albums.

hungry heart

After “Hungry Heart,” I was a Bruce fan for life – granted, not the superfan that Hope is, but I don’t think anyone loves Bruce’s work more than Hope, except maybe for Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa.

“Dancing In The Dark” was released in early May 1984, a month before the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album was released.  And, right out of the gate, it was a hit.  “Dancing In The Dark” blasted onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the last week of May 1984 all the way into the Top 40, at No. 36.  By the next week, it was already No. 18, with its eyes set on No. 1.

dancing in the dark

Bruce had hit No. 1 before – as a songwriter.  A song from his 1973 debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. – “Blinded By The Light” – was recorded by the London Rock band, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, in 1977, and spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in February 1977, exactly four years to the month when Bruce’s original was released as a single.

bruce blinded

“Dancing In The Dark” had a lot going for it – a popular video directed by Brian de Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL and the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film) with actress Courtney Cox (FAMILY TIES, FRIENDS) dancing with Bruce on the stage (the video would win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance). 

courtney n bruce

It also had a 12” Dance remix courtesy of Arthur Baker (who’s remixed songs for Daryl Hall & John Oates, Afrika Bambaataa, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys and New Order).  The “Blaster Mix” was miles away from anything on 1982’s NEBRASKA or 1980’s THE RIVER, but people loved it.  Not only did it reach No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it was the biggest-selling 12” single for all of 1984.  Arthur Baker would also go on to remix the follow-up Bruce singles “Cover Me” and “Born In The U.S.A.” as well.

blaster mix

As much as “Dancing In The Dark” had going for it in its second week on the Hot 100, another single debuting on the same chart that early June was “When Doves Cry” by Prince, released in advance of the album and film, PURPLE RAIN.  “When Doves Cry” reached the Top 40 a week later, and just like “Dancing In The Dark,” made a big move into the Top 20 the following week.

By late June 1984, “Dancing In The Dark” had climbed to No. 4, while “When Doves Cry” was closing in at No. 8.  The following week, “When Doves Cry” had jumped to No. 3, and “Dancing In The Dark” was at No. 2, right behind Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.”

“When Doves Cry” proved to be too powerful for “Dancing In The Dark,” which stayed for four weeks in the runner-up position.  “When Doves Cry” was the biggest song of 1984 here in America.

when doves cry back

Though “Dancing In The Dark” didn’t reach No. 1, Bruce Springsteen still had a lot to be proud of.  The song gave Bruce his first Grammy Award, winning for Best Rock Vocal Performance.  In the 1984 ROLLING STONE readers poll, “Dancing In The Dark” was voted “Single Of The Year.”  It’s also listed as one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”  It sold a million copies in the U.S. alone, and the single’s B-side (one of the best ever), “Pink Cadillac,” was a Top 5 hit for Natalie Cole in 1988.

pink cadillac

Around the globe, “Dancing In The Dark” was an international smash (though in some countries it took awhile), reaching No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 4 in South Africa and the U.K., No. 7 in Canada and Norway, No. 11 in Finland and No. 12 in Italy.  In Australia, though it stopped at No. 5, it was the No. 1 song of the year, spending 40 weeks on the singles chart there.

“Dancing In The Dark” was just the first part of an amazing journey for Bruce Springsteen and the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album.  Seven out of the album’s 12 songs were released as singles, and all seven reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100 between 1984 and 1986, tying a record set in 1984 by Michael Jackson’s THRILLER album. 

born in the usa LP

BRUCE_SPRINGSTEEN_BORN+IN+THE+USA+-+LONG+BOX-219449b

The first compact disc manufactured in the U.S.A. was BORN IN THE U.S.A.

BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart twice, in July / August 1984 and January / February 1985.  PURPLE RAIN may have been the album of the year here in the U.S. for 1984 (BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 28), but for 1985, BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the No. 1 album of the year in America (and even No. 16 for 1986).

NERDY FUN FACT: BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the first compact disc manufactured in the U.S. for commercial release.  I remember seeing it at a DeOrsey’s in Waterville, Maine, and think it sold for something like $25.00.  And the record album still sounds better.

NERDY FUN FACT 2: According to a 1984 ROLLING STONE interview, the “Dancing In The Dark” Blaster Mix by Arthur Baker happened because Bruce had heard the remix Arthur did for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” and he thought it was incredible: “It sounded like fun, so I hooked up with Arthur.  He’s a character, a great guy.  He had another fellow with him, and they were really pretty wild.  They’d get on that mixing board and just crank them knobs, you know?  The meters were goin’ wild.”

cyndi girls

Bruce Springsteen is one of those rare artists who have been on the same record label from the start – Columbia.  Two other Columbia artists instantly come to mind – Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan.  There won’t be anyone else like them.  Ever. 

bob n bruce

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (along with many other familiar faces) at the “We Are The World” recording session, 1985.

If you pull away the catchy dance beat, “Dancing In The Dark” is a personal song about the difficulty of writing a hit song and Bruce’s frustration of trying to write songs that will please everyone.  Though I’m thinking Bruce would have liked to have another of his more personal songs become his biggest hit, I would almost bet my record collection he’s alright with that hit being “Dancing In The Dark.”

e st band

Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band, 1984.

“You can’t start a fire / You can’t start a fire without a spark / This gun’s for hire / Even if we’re just dancing in the dark…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=129kuDCQtHs

bruce 84

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song of the day – “Tarzan Boy” | BALTIMORA | 1986 / 1993.

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!”

You know, as unlucky as the stigma for being unlucky the number 13 has had as long as I’ve known it, the No. 13 position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 is something altogether different, or, lucky.  No. 13 has been the home (or treasure trove, if you prefer) to many great classics, like “Money” by Pink Floyd, Queen’s “Somebody To Love,” “Because The Night” by the Patti Smith Group, “Different Drum” by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt, “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, “Takin’ It To The Streets” by The Doobie Brothers, Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” “Roundabout” by Yes, “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa, “Walking In Memphis by Marc Cohn, “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton (featured prominently in the John Hughes classic, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF), “Here Comes My Baby” by The Tremeloes (which my pal Dave Wakeling and The English Beat will be covering on their upcoming album!), “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” by The Walker Brothers (which was featured in the brilliant but barely-seen 2012 Steve Carell film, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD), and one of the first singles I ever owned, “Theme From CLOSE ENCOUNTERS” by John Williams. 

close encounters

I still have my 45 of this, and it looks just as beat up.  After holding onto it for 40 years, I’m not parting with it anytime soon though…

Between 1979 and 1989, there were nearly 60 singles that reached lucky No. 13, and it was a popular number for Bob Seger, who had two hits stop there, as did Kenny Rogers, Elton John and Natalie Cole.  Van Halen had three songs reach No. 13 – “Right Where Ya Started,” and two from the album, 1984: “Panama” and the highly underrated “I’ll Wait.”  Speaking of Van Halen, in 1983, future / former Van Halen lead singer, Sammy Hagar, reached No. 13 with his first Top 40 hit (and biggest solo hit), “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy.”

Some of my 80s favorites stopped at No. 13 too, like “Shadows Of The Night” by Pat Benatar, “All Over The World” by Electric Light Orchestra (from XANADU), “Back In The High Life Again” by Steve Winwood,” “One Night Love Affair” by Bryan Adams and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

shadows

No. 13 must have been a favorite of mine for blog posts as well, as I’ve featured seven of them – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, “People Are People” by Depeche Mode, “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones, “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2, plus two of the three (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached No. 13 – M|A|R|R|S (“Pump Up The Volume”) and Frida (“I Know There’s Something Going On”), and one song released in 1989, but peaked at No. 13 in March 1990 – “No Myth” by Michael Penn.

Another song that reached No. 13 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the 80s came out of Italy, by way of Northern Ireland.  In the late 70s, Jimmy McShane (of Derry, Northern Ireland) was attending a stage school in London, learning how to dance and sing, when he was hired as a stage dancer and backing singer for English singer and musician, Dee D. Jackson.  He toured around Europe with Dee D. and her band, and upon a visit to Italy, he fell in love with Italy’s underground dance scene, and the country itself, and ended up moving to Milan in 1984.

In Milan, he learned the Italian language, and in 1984, met up with Maurizio Bassi, who was a music producer and a musician.  Together, they decided to form the New Wave / Dance band, Baltimora, with Jimmy McShane as the singer and the face of the band.

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Baltimora’s Maurizio Bassi, left, and Jimmy McShane.

In early September 1985, they released their debut album, LIVING IN THE BACKGROUND, along with the first single from the album, “Tarzan Boy.”  The catchy song about being free and doing whatever you want in the jungle, without the hustle and bustle of living in the city, took about a month and a half to find its way to the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but did find it in mid-October 1985, when it debuted at No. 80.

living in the background

“Tarzan Boy” steadily moved up the chart at first, but lost its chart “bullet” (for sales and airplay) in its sixth chart week, and stalled at No. 62 for three weeks.  By early December 1985, “Tarzan Boy” had regained its bullet and started moving back up the Hot 100, reaching the Top 40 in mid-January 1986.

By March 1, 1986, “Tarzan Boy” had been on the chart for 20 weeks (longer than some No. 1 songs), and spent a week at No. 13.  “Tarzan Boy” spent half a year on the survey and finished the year at No. 73.

tarzan boy

Around the globe, “Tarzan Boy” was a massive hit, reaching No. 1 in Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Spain, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart.

Despite the success of “Tarzan Boy,” Baltimora had a hard time duplicating that success for its other singles and second album, 1987’s SURVIVOR IN LOVE.  Following “Tarzan Boy,” the title track from their debut album, LIVING IN THE BACKGROUND, peaked at No. 87 on the Hot 100, and a few other singles reached the Top 40 singles chart in Italy, but nothing more.  Baltimora broke up after the record label (in this case, Manhattan) dropped them. 

cool mint

From the 1993 commercial for Cool Mint Listerine, which used “Tarzan Boy.”

Fast forward to 1993, and a new remix of “Tarzan Boy” was used in a Cool Mint Listerine commercial (with animation by future film giant, Pixar).  Well, it didn’t stop there.  “Tarzan Boy” was also featured that year in the film, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III, and the combination of the two sent “Tarzan Boy” back onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100, re-entering the chart in late March 1993. 

“Tarzan Boy” climbed as high as No. 51 and spent 12 additional weeks on the Hot 100, and a total of 38 weeks combined.  With new hits by Duran Duran, R.E.M., Madonna, INXS, New Order and Boy George’s Pet Shop Boys-produced theme to THE CRYING GAME, the 80s were still sticking around in 1993.  But it was pretty cool to hear “Tarzan Boy” on the radio again.

tarzan boy 93

The cover art for the 1993 reissue of “Tarzan Boy.”

Sadly, the following year, Jimmy McShane, the face of Baltimora, was diagnosed with AIDS while in Milan in 1994.  A few months later, he returned to his hometown of Derry, Northern Ireland, the place where his family had shunned him many years before for being gay.  He died in Derry in late March 1995 at the young age of 37.  And, despite his family’s earlier stance towards Jimmy’s homosexuality, after his death, a family spokesperson said, “He faced his illness with courage and died with great dignity.”

The legacy of Jimmy and “Tarzan Boy” live on today, and the song continues to be covered by other artists and has appeared in films, like Seth MacFarlane’s 2014 film, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST.  And, “Tarzan Boy” is still heard on the radio today, as it should, because, who wouldn’t want to dance around to a fun, catchy song about being free and roaming around the jungle, removed from that city life?

“Jungle life, I’m far away from nowhere / On my own like Tarzan Boy / Hide and seek, I play along while rushing ‘cross the forest / Monkey business on a sunny afternoon…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r0n9Dv6XnY

baltimora

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 – “Love Is A Battlefield” | PAT BENATAR | 1983 / 1984.

I have been a fan of Pat Benatar since the first time I heard “Heartbreaker” in late 1979.  I own several of her albums, and yes, 12” singles too (hey – almost everybody did remixes back in the 80s!).  But, oddly enough, as much as I have loved Pat Benatar and her music for almost 40 years, I have never seen her perform live.  I am hoping to rectify that this Summer.

pat benatar ME state pier

This week, I found out that Pat and her long-time husband and guitarist, Neil Giraldo, will be performing at Portland’s Maine State Pier for the second time in three years.  In 2015, I believe they had the distinction of being the first performers at the Maine State Pier, performing in early May 2015.  I wasn’t at that show, but from what I heard, it was incredibly cold (we were barely out of our longer-than-usual Winter that year) and I feared Pat wouldn’t be back to Maine again.

The Winter of 2014-2015 was what I classified as “The Winter That Would Never End,” in that it snowed on November 1, 2014, and snowed in six consecutive months, through April 2015.  Even for Maine, that’s pretty unusual.  I love Maine but not its Winters, and always hope they won’t last more than their calendared three months.  (This year, Mom Nature is playing her own April Fool’s Joke on us, with several inches of snow predicted the first day of April.)  I’m so glad Pat and Neil have picked to return to Portland’s Maine State Pier in late July, when – theoretically – it’ll be an awesome Summer (like 2016!).

neil + pat

Neil and Pat, having fun on the road and hopefully in my view this Summer…

By late 1983, the then-30-year-old from Brooklyn, NYC already had released four hugely successful albums, including a No. 1 album – 1981’s PRECIOUS TIME – and a No. 2 album – her biggest album to date, 1980’s CRIMES OF PASSION, which has been certified (at least) 4x Multi-Platinum.  She had also nine out of 10 singles reach the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, including one Top 10 hit, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” which reached No. 9 in late December 1980.

Pat’s fifth release, a mostly-live album called LIVE FROM EARTH, was released in mid-October 1983, and contained two new studio tracks, “Lipstick Lies” and “Love Is A Battlefield,” the latter of which was written by popular songwriters Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, who have written a combined amount of huge songs that would require their own entire blog post, which I may write one day.  I can say that Holly Knight (a member of the short-lived Dance / Rock band, Device) also wrote and/or co-wrote three other Pat Benatar songs, including 1985’s “Invincible (The Theme From THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN).”

live from earth

pat-benatar-live-from-earth-8-ab

From the back of the LIVE FROM EARTH album.

“Love Is A Battlefield” was released a month in advance of LIVE FROM EARTH, and only took 12 days to reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting at No. 78.  In just four weeks, “Love Is A Battlefield” debuted in the Top 40, giving Pat her tenth Top 40 American hit.  In a chart coincidence that only a singles chart nerd like myself could love, “Love Is A Battlefield” also debuted in the Top 40 the same week as Eurythmics debuted with “Love Is A Stranger.”

Like most Pat Benatar singles, “Love Is A Battlefield” made a steady climb up the chart and spent a week at No. 5 in early December 1983.  It stayed on the Hot 100 until the second half of February 1984 and one of BILLBOARD’s biggest Hot 100 hits of 1984.  With 1985’s “We Belong,” it remains her highest-charting American hit so far, and gave Pat her fourth consecutive Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

love is a battlefield

Around the globe, there was a lot of love for “Love Is A Battlefield.”  It spent five weeks at No. 1 in Australia, four weeks at No. 1 in Holland and BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, two weeks at No. 1 in Belgium, plus Top 10 rankings in Canada, Germany, Ireland and New Zealand, and the Top 20 in the U.K. and Switzerland.

battlefield bus

From the back of the bus in the “Love Is The Battlefield” video.

A special remix was used for the popular music video, which features Pat as a teenager running away from her family, Pat exploring the fast life in the big city, becoming a dancer, her father eventually showing regret for things he said that drove her away, and through all of this, she ends up discovering strength and independence, and the incredible undeniability of girl power.  Pat also showed off some pretty cool dance moves in this partially-choreographed video, which was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video.

I know the dancing and using a drum machine was out of Pat Benatar’s normal Rock ’n’ Roll element, and that remixes prolly weren’t her thing (although she’d end up releasing a few more; I know, because I own them), but in the end, “Love Is A Battlefield” is a song that worked, even when songwriter Mike Chapman didn’t think it would work, and even when Pat’s record company didn’t think it would work.  But all’s fair in love and war and pop hits, right?  What most folks involved with the record thought wouldn’t work is one of THE songs Pat Benatar is remembered most for to this day, and is a song I hope to hear her sing in Portland, Maine in late July.

Writing about “Love Is A Battlefield” here made me think of a time back in the mid-00s, when I was still living in Portland and had a Saturday night retro DJ gig at one of the clubs intown, where, in the small, already crowded Alt-Rock / Dance and New Wave “rec room” full of the music of New Order, Blondie, Duran Duran, Smiths, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Nine Inch Nails and the oft-requested Elvis Costello, there wasn’t much room for Pat’s Benatar’s straight up, kick-ass Rock ’n’ Roll, but I remember a couple of times I got a request for something by Pat.  And I was pleasantly surprised both times. 

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The first time Pat Benatar was requested, for a second, I thought, “what could I possibly play for this amazing crowd of people that would blend in?”  The only song that came to mind – and what proved to be THE best choice – was the 12” dance remix of “Love Is A Battlefield.”  When Pat was requested another time, the choice that time was a no-brainer, because, not only did “Love Is A Battlefield” get a sweet reception the first time, when it comes to dance music from the 80s, whether it’s Pop, Rock, Punk, Funk, Dance, Rap, New Wave, New Romantics – to me, there IS no battlefield. 

“We are strong / No one can tell us we’re wrong / Searching our hearts for so long / Both of us knowing / Love is a battlefield…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGVZOLV9SPo

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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Bill Paxton from 2015…

song of the day – “Over The Hills And Far Away” (12” Mix) | GARY MOORE | 1987.

Well, just two STUCK IN THE 80s shows to go on WMPG community radio (in Portland, Maine, USA)!  Wow.  This past Sunday, 1.29.2017, my awesome and talented WMPG radio neighbor, DJ SHAXX (host of the kick-ass LEFT OF THE DIAL), and I teamed up for a second installment in celebrating the 12-inch single, extended remixes and even mash-ups on a show that we called 12inchTHROWDOWN Redux! 

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The 12” single, to my knowledge, got its start during the disco era of the 70s, but it was during the 80s where the 12” single really flourished.  One of the great things I love about the history of the 12” single during the 80s is that almost everyone in the music industry felt compelled to commission at least one 12” extended mix, whether or not they really needed to (i.e. Billy Joel, Chicago, Toto, Matthew Wilder, Nena, Bruce Springsteen). 

In the 80s, you had 12” extended mixes from all walks of music life – with artists like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, INXS, Michael Jackson, New Order and Pet Shop Boys leading the way.  The most surprising 12” dance mixes came from Rock and Roll artists.  In the 80s, Rock bands like The Cult, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and AC/DC all released 12” extended and/or dance mixes of some of their songs.

One Rock artist who was talked into releasing at least a couple of remixes in the 80s was the late, great Gary Moore, from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  In the 70s, Gary was a member of the Irish Rock bands Skid Row and Thin Lizzy. 

For his sixth studio album, 1985’s RUN FOR COVER, Gary teamed up with his former Thin Lizzy bandmate, Phil Lynott, on the song, “Out In The Fields,” about the religious issues they faced in their native Ireland.  Shortly after the song’s success, Phil Lynott died at the young age of 36 in early January 1986.

out-in-the-fields

Gary was off of my music radar until his next album, WILD FRONTIER (most notably the album’s first single, “Over The Hills And Far Away”) was released in March 1987.  The album features many songs about Ireland and throughout the album, there’s a powerful Celtic presence, especially on “Over The Hills And Far Away.”  I think that (along with the incredible assist of a drum machine, believe it or not) is what attracted me to the song. and ultimately, the album.

wild-frontier

“Over The Hills And Far Away” is a song about a man who was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and longs for the day he gets out to be with the woman he loves (“Over the hills and far away / She prays he will return one day / As sure as the rivers reach the sea / Back in her arms is where he’ll be…”).

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The creative non-trad 12” extended mix of “Over The Hills And Far Away” starts off with Gary walking over to a couple of doors from his music past, or rather Gary revisiting a couple of songs from the previous album, RUN FOR COVER – the aforementioned “Out In The Fields,” and “Empty Rooms.”  He opens the door to each song via the sound of a creaky door (i.e. his guitar), and then promptly closes each door once the quick sampling of each song was done.  From there, he walks over to another creaky door, opens it (again, via his guitar) and then, replete with that powerful drum machine beat, Gary rips into that same guitar and starts wailing with everything he’s got.  At the end of the song, the door to “Over The Hills And Far Away” closes too.  This 12” mix was one of the highlights of the 12inchTHROWDOWN Redux show from the other night.

Following the release of his next Rock album, 1989’s AFTER THE WAR, Gary achieved his biggest success with 1990’s STILL GOT THE BLUES album, which featured the likes of Blues legends Albert King and Albert Collins, and The Beatles’ George Harrison.  It was certified Gold here in the U.S., Finland and Germany.  It was certified Platinum in the U.K., Australia and Switzerland, and Double-Platinum in Sweden. 

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Gary Moore would continue to release (mostly) Blues albums through 2008.  He sadly passed away of a heart attack in early February 2011 at the young age of 58.  He was beloved by many, especially folks in the Rock music field, including Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Geldof, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, Bryan Adams and Henry Rollins.  In Skånevik, Norway, a large statue was erected of Gary Moore, in honor of his many performances at the Skånevik Blues Festival.  

I remember Gary mostly for his massive guitar talents, especially on that amazing 1987 song that always takes me “over the hills and far away…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SgQUi9uJrc

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song of the day – “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (Red Version) | SWANS | 1988.

Okay, I know you’re prolly thinking it’s sacrilege to highlight a cover of one of the most beloved songs of the 80s (and then some) before highlighting the original, but it’s really not meant to be sacrilegious, I swear.  It’s just my history with the song is a bit different than most folks.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I listened to mostly Top 40 music for many years and had a late start getting into Alternative music in the 80s.  Then, in 1988, I was dating someone who had a radio show at her college, and long story longer, upon my first listen to the Red Version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by the New York City Experimental / Avant Rock band, Swans, I fell in love with it immediately.  And, believe it or not, at the time, I honestly didn’t know it was a cover of a song by a Greater Manchester, England band called Joy Division, the precursor to another band I was late to get acquainted with (but had by 1988), New Order.joy-div-love-will

The love for Joy Division’s original “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was massive in New Zealand, where it spent a week at No. 1 in 1981, and it was also a hit in the U.K. and Australia, and a couple years later in Ireland (and again in the U.K. and New Zealand).  Over the years, the international love for the song grew, and has since been covered many, many times.  In 1988, Swans released two different versions on their 4-track LOVE WILL TEAR US APART EP.

The first version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on the EP, and my favorite version, is the Red Version, with vocals by Swans leader, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Michael Gira.  The other version is referred to as the Black Version, sung by keyboardist / vocalist / songwriter (Jane) Jarboe.  This version was a bit more stripped down and intimate than the Red Version. 

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Later on, Michael Gira called their version(s) of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” a mistake, but mistake or not, it was not only popular with yours truly, it was a hit at college stations around the country, (climbing the Independent charts in June 1988 and almost reaching No. 1), and brought the band a record deal (albeit short-lived) with Uni/MCA Records.

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Since “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” there have been nine Swans live albums released, nine studio albums released, including this year’s THE GLOWING MAN, three EPs, and a whopping 12 compilations – all with Michael Gira still at the helm.

In 2006, for the 10-year anniversary of my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I compiled a list of the “80 Best 80s Covers Of The Past 25 Years (1980 – 2005),” and the Swans’ Red Version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was ranked at No. 1.

Nearly 30 years after its release, I don’t know if it’s just because I was introduced to this version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” before the original Joy Division classic, but – and again, I don’t want to sound sacrilegious – I have to say it remains my favorite version of the song.  And I adore the Joy Division original, I really do.  I guess it’s one of those (maybe?) rare cases where you actually like the cover version better than the original song.  Maybe a blog post idea for another time?

It’s more than okay if you don’t agree with me.  And, don’t worry – love will NOT tear us apart over whichever version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart “ (Joy Division or Swans) you prefer.  Either way, “there’s still this appeal, that we’ve kept through our lives…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qS3tHL6AV4

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