song of the day – “Abracadabra” | STEVE MILLER BAND | 1982.

colin hay strand 081617

Waiting for the real Colin Hay to begin, Rockland, Maine, 8.16.2017. He was, of course, fantastic and soulful.

Hey everyone!  Thanks so much for being patient with me, as I’ve taken an unexpected (but quite enjoyable) absence from the bloggy thing since the end of July.  There’s been work stuff, home stuff, I had a fun time attending concerts featuring Blondie, the 80s Retro Futura Tour (including Howard Jones, Modern English, Men Without Hats, Paul Young, Katrina of Katrina And The Waves, and The English Beat!), and most recently, seeing the wonderful Colin Hay in beautiful Rockland, Maine. 

I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with the incredible and awesome Hope, my superfriend, sassy radio co-host and writing hero, which included a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean here in Maine that changed me forever.  There’s a lot more to say, and I will, in a post coming soon that will be about Hope and that swim in the ocean and much more!  And Hope comes up again later in this post, so stay tuned!!

HopeyT and me

That’s the absolutely lovely HopeyT and me, Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017!

When I started my tribute to my radio hero, Casey Kasem, back on June 1, school was in session and Summer was weeks away.  Well, it’s now September 9, 2017, school is back in session and Fall is less than two weeks away.  I’ve had fun bringing you this tribute to Casey (who passed away in June 2014 at the age of 82), and wanted to make sure (1) you all didn’t think I would hold out on the Number One song of this tribute, and (2) that I get this in ASAFP, because what’s a Top 40 countdown without a Number One song?

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Much like AMERICAN TOP 40, this post will be full of nerdy chart facts and then some, but first, I wanted to recap the songs I’ve posted in this series so far.  These songs (which include five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), are ranked at the positions they peaked at on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (with peak year), and though they do not represent a definitive Top 40 list for me, but I love all of them, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them!

40. CLONES (WE’RE ALL) – ALICE COOPER (1980)

39. SLIPPING AWAY – DAVE EDMUNDS (1983)

38. PROMISES IN THE DARK – PAT BENATAR (1981)

37. WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) – ICICLE WORKS (1984; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

36. SOMETIMES A FANTASY – BILLY JOEL (1980)

35. FAKE FRIENDS – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1983)

34. ME MYSELF AND I – DE LA SOUL (1989)

33. PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) – U2 (1984)

32. VALLEY GIRL – FRANK & MOON ZAPPA (1982)

31. (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY – THE OUTLAWS (1981)

30. LIES – THOMPSON TWINS (1983)

29. TURN UP THE RADIO – AUTOGRAPH (1985; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

28. POINT OF NO RETURN – NU SHOOZ (1986)

27. THE RIGHT THING – SIMPLY RED (1987)

26. NOT JUST ANOTHER GIRL – IVAN NEVILLE (1988)

25. TAKE ME WITH YOU – PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA (1985)

24. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – BLONDIE (1979)

23. YOU CAN CALL ME AL – PAUL SIMON (1986 / 1987)

22. AIN’T NOBODY – RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN (1983)

21. FOOL IN THE RAIN – LED ZEPPELIN (1980)

20. OUR LIPS ARE SEALED – THE GO-GO’S (1982)

19. PUSH IT – SALT-N-PEPA (1988)

18. LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY – JERMAINE JACKSON with DEVO (1982)

17. YOU ARE THE GIRL – THE CARS (1987)

16. HOLIDAY – MADONNA (1984)

15. ONE OF THE LIVING – TINA TURNER (1985)

14. DIGGING YOUR SCENE – THE BLOW MONKEYS (1986; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

13. TARZAN BOY – BALTIMORA (1986)

12. WHAT’S GOING ON – CYNDI LAUPER (1987)

11. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – STEVEIE NICKS (1982)

10. RELAX – FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1985)

09. THE ONE I LOVE – R.E.M. (1987)

08. LET THE MUSIC PLAY – SHANNON (1984)

07. WHAT I AM – EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS (1989)

06. INFATUATION – ROD STEWART (1984)

05. WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’ – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983)

04. HEART AND SOUL – T’PAU (1987; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

03. LOVE SHACK – THE B-52’S (1989)

02. DANCING IN THE DARK – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1984)

Throughout this series, I’ve been mentioned how many songs peaked at each position between 1979 and 1989.  It’s only fitting that songs which reached No. 1 would have the highest number of songs hitting the apex of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  For this post, I am only counting the songs that reached No. 1 between January 1980 and December 1989, and for that 80s time period, 232 songs went all the way to No. 1.  Let’s get nerdy now (if you’re not already there), with some chart feats about No. 1 songs during the 80s and the BILLBOARD Hot 100:

  • FOUR (REAL) ONE-HIT WONDERS reached No. 1 during the 80s – Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the second-chance single, “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme,” and Vangelis (“Chariots Of Fire (Titles)”), though the composer did reach the chart separately twice in the early 80s as part of the duo Jon & Vangelis, with Jon Anderson of Yes.

miami vice theme

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (27); MOST NO. 1 SONGS FROM ONE ALBUM (5); MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (9) – Michael Jackson.  The King Of Pop reached No. 1 in the 80s with “Rock With You” (1980; 4 weeks at No. 1), “Billie Jean” (1983; 7 weeks), “Beat It” (1983; 3 weeks), “Say Say Say,” with Paul McCartney (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Siedah Garrett (1987; 1 week), “Bad” (1987; 2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988; 1 week), “Man In The Mirror” (1988; 2 weeks); “Dirty Diana” (1988; 1 week).beat it
  • MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (if you’re NOT Michael Jackson): Madonna (7), Phil Collins (7 solo hits), Whitney Houston (7), George Michael (6 solo hits, which includes “Careless Whisper”), Daryl Hall & John Oates (5), Lionel Richie (5).

crazy 4 U

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT ON THE HOT 100 – 40 – “Red Red Wine” – UB40. It spent 25 weeks on the Hot 100, including a week at No. 1 in 1988, and had charted for 15 weeks in its first chart run in 1984.

red red wine

  • MOST CONFIGURATIONS AT NO. 1 – PAUL McCARTNEY, with Wings (“Coming Up (Live At Glasgow),” 1980), with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony And Ivory,” 1982), and with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say,” 1983 / 1984).

coming up

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT IN THE TOP 10 OF THE HOT 100 (15) – “Physical – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982), and “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982).  SUPER NERDY FUN FACT: the song which spent the most weeks in the Top 10 in the 80s didn’t even reach No. 1 – “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp spent 16 weeks in the Top 10, with four of those weeks in the runner-up spot.

survivor

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (10) – “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981 / 1982).  While it’s more commonplace on the Hot 100 these days, the biggest song of the 1980s would be the only song to spend at least 10 weeks at No. 1 on the chart for next 10 years.  In 1992, Boyz II Men spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 with “End Of The Road.”  Two No. 1 songs later, Whitney Houston would break that record with “I Will Always Love You,” which spent its 14th and final week on top in late February 1993.  The current record is 16 weeks at No. 1.

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In the most recent tabulation of the Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 songs for BILLBOARD’s legendary singles chart, many songs from the 80s were represented, and are currently ranked as follows:

08. “Physical” – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 1)

15. “Bette Davis Eyes” – KIM CARNES (1981; 9 weeks)

16. “Endless Love” – DIANA ROSS & LIONEL RICHIE (1981; 9 weeks)

24. “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982; 6 weeks)

29. “Every Breath You Take” – THE POLICE (1983; 8 weeks)

31. “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – IRENE CARA (1983; 6 weeks)

40. “Another One Bites The Dust” – QUEEN (1980; 3 weeks)

41. “Say Say Say” – PAUL McCARTNEY & MICHAEL JACKSON (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks)

54. “Call Me” – BLONDIE (1980; 6 weeks)

57. “Lady” – KENNY ROGERS (1980; 6 weeks)

63. “Centerfold” – THE J. GEILS BAND (1982; 6 weeks)

64. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – JOHN LENNON (1980 / 1981; 5 weeks)

68. “I Love Rock ’N Roll” – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1982; 7 weeks)

73. “Ebony And Ivory” – PAUL McCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER (1982; 7 weeks)

75. “That’s What Friends Are For” – DIONNE & FRIENDS (1986; 4 weeks)

77. “Upside Down” – DIANA ROSS (1980; 4 weeks)

83. “Billie Jean” – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983; 7 weeks)

86. “Abracadabra” – THE STEVE MILLER BAND (1982; 2 weeks)

89. “Say You, Say Me” – LIONEL RICHIE (1985 / 1986; 4 weeks)

91. “All Night Long (All Night)” – LIONEL RICHIE (1983; 4 weeks)

95. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – FOREIGNER (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 2; still tied for a record for spending the most weeks peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100)

98. “Hurts So Good” – JOHN MELLENCAMP (1982; 4 weeks at No. 2)

So, for now, the 80s represent more than a fifth of the greatest hits to grace the BILLBOARD HOT 100.  Pretty damn cool.  I know it won’t always be like that, and I always wonder why some huge hits like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 1 for 1984) or Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” (No. 2 for 1980) aren’t up there, but songs these days tend to stay atop the Hot 100 (and the chart as a whole) a lot longer than they did back in the day, but honestly, I’m grateful for the songs that are still there. 

When I was preparing for this hefty blog post (prolly my second-longest, save for the Prince tribute post in April 2016), I was going through the list of No. 1 songs, and there are some songs I’ve already featured as a “song of the day” (Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” comes to mind, and has often as of late), and there are many others I love. 

TFF

U2_des_7But, I concede that there are some real stinkers in there, too: Will To Power’s awful covers medley of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” (subtitled “Freebaby,” which is just heinous)?!  How in THE HELL did that get to go to No. 1 and “I Don’t Want Your Love” by Duran Duran stops at No. 4, and U2’s “Desire” stops at No. 3?!  For the love of all things holy!  And though I admit enjoying the movie MANNEQUIN, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship?!  Are you kidding me?!  Even Grace Slick denounced that piece of shit.  While the go-to “worst song of the 80s” award is usually 1985’s “We Built This City,” I can tolerate that way more over “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”  Yes, I’m THAT guy.

If I was going for my absolute favorite No. 1 song of the 80s, there’s no competition.  It’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.  It’s also my all-time favorite song.  But it’s a post I want to save for another time.  So, I thought it would be fun to bring in Hope, my writing hero, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t obsess and write about nerdy chart facts or Top 40 hits, let alone ones that hit No. 1.  I thought it would be cool to have her choose the song for this post.

don't you

On August 11, 2017, Hope was kind enough to send me her list of her picks for No. 1 songs from the 80s, many of which have been already mentioned in this post!  One of those songs, and a song that is almost universally loved (like “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, or the aforementioned Tears For Fears, Prince and Simple Minds gems) is “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band.abracadabra7

Hope had included “Abracadabra” under the category of “Situational” No. 1 songs.  For Hope, “Abracadabra” was popular during the Summer after her high school graduation (“the glamorous Summer in The Hamptons!”), and she loves the line, “black panties with an angel’s face.”  Who wouldn’t love that line?!  It’s awesome (much like Hope herself)!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Steve Miller formed his Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock band in San Francisco back in 1966.  Since his first two albums were released in 1968, through to his 1988 Jazz album, BORN 2 B BLUE, Steve Miller had been on Capitol Records, and he had some huge albums in the 70s. 

heart like a wheel

After 1981’s CIRCLE OF LOVE album (with the sweet Top 40 hit and criminally-forgotten gem, “Heart Like A Wheel”) failed to become his fourth consecutive platinum album here in America (though it was certified Gold), Steve was undeterred, got to work, and released the ABRACADABRA album in mid-June 1982.

abracadabra LP

Of the album, ROLLING STONE said, “The essence of good magic is deception, and with the release of this album, Steve Miller has earned the right to twirl his wand and shout, ‘Abracadabra!’”

Well, Steve thought so too, but Capitol wasn’t so sure.  The song inspired by Diana Ross (whom Steve met on a Pop music TV show in the 60s) told THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in 2016 that Capitol Records didn’t see a hit with the song “Abracadabra”:

“Capitol didn’t believe in [“Abracadabra”] and didn’t want to release it.  I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe.  When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was Number One everywhere in the world, except the States.”  Once again, the record label got it wrong.

Well, after seeing the success of “Abracadabra” overseas, Capitol gave in and released it in the U.S., a month before the ABRACADABRA album was released.  “Abracadabra” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1982 at No. 75, and took just four weeks to debut within the Top 40. 

The next few weeks were a steady climb, and by late July 1982, “Abracadabra” had become Steve Miller’s first Top 10 hit in five years, to the month.  With John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” camped out at No. 2, and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” camped out at No. 1, “Abracadabra” was stuck at No. 3 for four weeks before it could work its magic on reaching No. 1. 

In early September 1982, after 15 weeks on the chart, “Abracadabra” finally hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, giving Steve Miller his third No. 1 U.S. single overall, and his first No. 1 single since 1976’s “Rock’n Me” spent a week on top.  The No. 1 run of “Abracadabra” was just as quick as “Rock’n Me,” and his first No. 1 song, 1974’s “The Joker,” which also spent a lone week at No. 1.

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The Steve Miller Band, 1982.

The following week, Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” snuck into the No. 1 position when no one was looking and stayed there for two weeks.  “Abracadabra” dropped to No. 3 (behind previous No. 1, “Eye Of The Tiger”).  But, in a magical chart feat, “Abracadabra” moved back up to No. 2 the next week, and by the end of September, “Abracadabra” reclaimed the No. 1 spot for one more week, before John Mellencamp’s little ditty about “Jack And Diane” started its four-week run at No. 1.  “Abracadabra” stayed on the Hot 100 until mid-Novemer 1982, and left the chart after nearly half a year.  It finished the year at No. 9 here in America. 

Around the globe, “Abracadabra” worked its magic on the singles charts of many countries, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland (six weeks), Sweden (four weeks), Australia and Canada (two weeks), and Austria, No. 2 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 4 in Norway, No. 8 in New Zealand, and No. 26 in the Netherlands.

“Abracadabra” was the last song The Steve Miller Band placed inside of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, though they charted several more times through 1993, including the brilliant but oddly-underrated “I Want To Make The World Turn Around” from 1986.

i want to make the world turn around

Steve Miller continues to tour today, and in 2016, he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where he had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing, calling the Hall a “private boys’ club full of fucking gangsters and crooks,” and vowing to make it better. 

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The Steve Miller Band, 2015.

He suggested taking the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominating committee, replace every one of them and start over.  I hope it works out, because Devo, from Akron, Ohio (less than an hour south of Cleveland, where the Hall is based), should have been inducted years ago, much like the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, who has taken on Blues, Standards, Folk, Dance and Country music in the past 15 years, not to mention writing a book, winning a Tony Award and co-founding the True Colors Fund, which works to end homelessness among LGBT youth, and even testified before Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2015 about this very subject. 

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This photo of Steve at the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony speaks volumes, and not favorably for the Hall…

As for me and Hope and many others for “Abracadabra,” it’s one of those infectious songs that deserved to go to No. 1, and 35 years later, it still holds up.  At least the five-minute, eleven-second album version.  When the single was released, I bought it, but was instantly pissed it wasn’t the long version!  Sure, it’s only a minute and change difference, but if you hear the single version vs. the album version, you can tell the single version is a bit sped up, and the kick-ass instrumental that closes out the rest of the song isn’t there.  That’s even why I chose the video link below.  It’s not a link to the actual video, but to the album version.  You know, all these years later, I’m still impressed that sped up, edited single version got the song to No. 1.  Maybe that was magic too.

Speaking of magic, Hope inspired me recently to start training for a 5K using the Couch To 5K app (C25K); we’re both training for it, and finishing Week 5 of 8 this weekend!  Hope and I haven’t run a proper 5K in our adult lives, and the last time I ran the equivalent of a 5K was in high school during Cross Country, where I lettered my senior year.  Holy cats, that was 33 years ago! 

run ron run

Post-run workout, 9.7.2017! (With a kick-ass playlist by DJ HopeyT to keep me going!)

But, you know what?  Maybe it’s not magic after all that’s got us training for our first 5K ever – and in our early 50s!  Maybe you just need to believe.  Just like Steve Miller believed he had a hit with “Abracadabra,” even as his longtime record label disagreed – and he was right!  It’s one of THE BEST songs of the 80s and of all-time.  And I believe getting through this 5K (and other aspects of my life) will happen with belief over magic, though I have to say, when it happens, it will feel pretty damn magical and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCV8gzSlYw

abacadabra poster

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song of the day – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” | MICHAEL JACKSON | 1983.

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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 (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!”

Well, we’re finally into the Top 5!  Normally it would have taken Casey Kasem three-and-a-half hours to reach this point, but he had a script, a chart already set up courtesy of BILLBOARD magazine, and he didn’t have to write everything out.  Not that I mind.  While it’s taken me quite a bit longer than I had hoped, I have really been enjoying this series, and hope you have too.

The songs that peaked at No. 5 between 1979 and 1989 are, so far, in a class all by themselves.  More than 100 songs reached that position, including some memorable cover songs, like “Respect Yourself” by Bruce Willis (originally by The Staple Sisters), “Cum On Feel The Noise” by Quiet Riot (Slade), “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” by Great White (Ian Hunter) and “Pink Cadillac” by Natalie Cole (Bruce Springsteen, who also had three No. 5 hits of his own).

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One of three singles to reach No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Bruce Springsteen between 1979 and 1989.

Many artists had more than one No. 5 hit, including Pat Benatar, Gloria Estefan (with and without the Miami Sound Machine), Exposé, Lou Gramm (with and without Foreigner), Daryl Hall (solo and two with John Oates), Janet Jackson (solo and with Herb Alpert), Madonna, Sade, Willie Nelson (solo and a duet with Julio Iglesias), George Michael (solo and as a guest vocalist for (real) one-hit wonder, Deon Estus), Olivia Newton-John, Eddie Rabbitt, Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and Rod Stewart.  Australia’s Air Supply had four No. 5 hits.

angel

One of two singles to reach No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Madonna between 1979 and 1989.

The late, great John Lennon and his son, Julian Lennon, both hit No. 5 within a two-year period of each other, and some of my favorite 80s songs peaked at No. 5, like Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” “When Smokey Sings” by ABC, “In Your Room” by The Bangles, The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip,” “What You Need” by INXS, “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” by The Stray Cats, “On The Radio” by Donna Summer, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” by Stevie Wonder, and “All Through The Night” by Cyndi Lauper, which set a BILLBOARD Hot 100 record for Cyndi as she was the first female recording artist who would reach the Top 5 with four chart hits from a debut album.  And she wouldn’t be the last.

she's so unusual

Another of my favorite No. 5 hits belongs to the man who was not only the biggest recording artist of the 1980s, the entire year of 1983 belonged to him.  Of course, I’m talking about the late, great Michael Jackson.  The THRILLER album spent a massive 37 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.  THRILLER was so big, in fact, that it was the No. 1 album in America for two consecutive years.

By now, everyone and their mother (and grandmother) knows all about the Quincy Jones-produced THRILLER album and the success it has had.  It’s still the biggest-selling, non-compilation album of all time.

thriller

The first song on the THRILLER album was the fourth (of seven) singles released from the album – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”  What a heluva way to start off an album!  From the opening drum beats, you just knew Michael Jackson had something special with this album.

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” (a song about strangers – i.e. the press – spreading rumors to start arguments for no apparent reason), was released in early May 1983 and didn’t waste any time debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  It debuted on the chart at No. 41, three weeks after its release, and with “Billie Jean” still on the chart (at No. 42) and “Beat It” at No. 3. 

The following week, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” roared to No. 22, looking like a third No. 1 hit in a row from THRILLER (the album’s first single, “The Girl Is Mine,” with Paul McCartney, peaked at No. 2).  After a few slow chart weeks, it reached the Top 10 by early July 1983, and a couple weeks later, spent a quick two weeks at No. 5.  THRILLER’s fifth single, “Human Nature,” had already reached the Top 40 while “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” was still in the Top 10.  It was one of five singles from THRILLER to finish the year in the Top 100 here in the U.S. in 1983.

wanna be startin' somethin'

Around the globe, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” spent two weeks at No. 1 in the Netherlands, and reached No. 3 in Belgium, No. 5 in Ireland, No. 8 in the U.K., No. 11 in Canada, No. 14 in Spain and No. 16 in Germany.

“LET’S ALL GO TO COURT, LET’S GO MAKE SOME LAW NOW” FACT:  As talented as Michael Jackson was, he had a bad habit of “borrowing” other people’s music for his own songs – without their consent.  At the “We Are The World” recording in 1985, he confessed to Daryl Hall that he used the beat of “I Can’t Go For That” for the beat in “Billie Jean.”  Daryl Hall didn’t seem to mind, but for “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” that catchy vocal bit near the end, you know the one – “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” – was actually taken directly from a 1972 Disco song by Manu Dibango called “Soul Makossa” (Manu Dibango is a saxophonist from Cameroon, and Makossa is a type of music and dance in that country), and the bit was used without permission. 

soul makossa

For years, there was no lawsuit about this, but when current Pop star, Rihanna, used the bit in one of her songs from 2007, both she and Michael Jackson were sued.  In early 2009, just months before Michael Jackson died, Michael had admitted he “borrowed” the line, and he ended up settling out of court.  Apparently, when Rihanna asked Michael Jackson to see if she could use the line in her song, that’s when the fit hit the shan, and once again, Manu Dibango was not contacted by Michael Jackson prior to the song’s use, hence the lawsuit.MJ 1958-2009

It’s hard to believe Michael’s been gone nine years already.  He was 50 at the time of his death, the age I’m at right now (don’t worry – I’m not leaving anytime soon), and I’m convinced that Michael had a big comeback in the works when his life was cut short on June 25, 2009.  While I have my own theory about what really happened with his death, I would much rather choose to celebrate his music, in this case “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” which is six minutes of pure Post-Disco joy and dance floor gold.  Honestly, who do you know that WOULDN’T get out on the dance floor and dance to this as soon as they heard it?!

“Lift your head up high / And scream out to the world / I know I am someone / And let the truth unfurl / No one can hurt you now / Because you know it’s true / Yes, I believe in me / So you believe in you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KWf_-ofYgI

MJ 83

  

song of the day – “The One I Love” | R.E.M. | 1987.

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!”

Nearly 80 songs found a home at the No. 9 position of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and many of them seemed to be split up into categories, like the (real) one-hit wonders – Gary Numan, Buckner & Garcia, Ollie & Jerry and Oran “Juice” Jones. 

pac-man fever

Then you had the first big Top 10 hits (or first big Top 10 solo hits) by established artists – “Let My Love Open The Door” by Pete Townshend, “Touch Of Grey” by The Grateful Dead, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar, “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham, “Don’t Shed A Tear” by Paul Carrack, “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It” by Loverboy, “Rush Hour” by Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s, “Be Near Me” by ABC and “Burning Down The House” by Talking Heads.

rush hour

A few second-chance singles reached No. 9 as well – In 1982, Steve Winwood’s original version of “Valerie” stalled at No. 70, while a remix on the CHRONICLE hits compilation in 1987 propelled the song to No. 9.  The Pointer Sisters’ No. 30 hit from 1982, “I’m So Excited,” re-entered the chart in 1984 with a new mix and a new chart peak.  Ben E. King’s iconic No. 4 hit from 1961,“Stand By Me,” re-entered the chart in 1986 thanks to the brilliant film of the same name, and charted in the Top 10 for the second time, 25 years apart.

stand by me

Plus, you also had No. 9 hits from well-known artists that have been mostly forgotten for whatever reason (though not by me), like “Walking Away” by Information Society, “Room To Move” by Animotion, “We’re Ready” by Boston, “Love Will Save The Day” by Whitney Houston, “Love Will Conquer All” by Lionel Richie, “I Know What I Like” by Huey Lewis & The News, “Love You Down” by Ready For The World and “Let’s Go!” by Wang Chung (who could forget that one?!).

let's go

And, there were the big Top 10 comeback hits (“The Doctor” by The Doobie Brothers, “Your Wildest Dreams” by The Moody Blues, “You Got It” by the late, great Roy Orbison), and folks who had more than one No. 9 hit – Sheena Easton, Dan Fogelberg, Barry Manilow, John Mellencamp and The Motels, all with two No. 9 hits, while both Bruce Springsteen and Journey had three each.

you got it

In the Summer of 1987, I was two years removed from high school and DJing wedding receptions, and spinning tunes and showing music videos to crowds of up to 600 teenagers and young adults at a chem-free night club in Waterville, Maine (called Studio 2).  That’s where I met Michael, one of my future best friends, who somehow conned me into giving him my 45 of “Burning Down The House” either the night I met him or the next time I saw him.  Clever bastard.

burning down the house

There’s not a whole lot of nightclubbing to be had by youngsters here in Central Maine, even less so now.  I met Michael on a Wednesday, when Studio 2 was trying out a mid-week night, trying to duplicate their popular Saturday night dance excursions for the area youth.

Though the Wednesday experiment didn’t work, I’m forever grateful to have met Michael that night.  He came down with a crowd from Pittsfield, about 20 miles north of Waterville, and they wanted to hear Alternative music.  Well, by the Summer of 1987, my knowledge of “Alternative music” consisted of select songs by Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Clash, Talking Heads and R.E.M., and maybe The Cult and a couple others, but that was about it. 

people are people

From that moment on, Michael and I became close friends (he was just out of high school), and he started his 30-year (so far) tutelage of music I never even knew about.  And some of those bands and singers (Robyn Hitchcock especially), Michael has influenced and inflicted more music on me than anyone, and while I still love most of the Top 40 music I grew up with, I am a HUGE fan of Alt-Dance and Alt-Rock today, mostly thanks to Michael.

robyn

Thank you, Michael, for introducing me to Robyn Hitchcock and his music all those years ago.  One of the best things anyone ever did for me…

R.E.M. was one of those bands that did have a Top 40 hit in 1987, and I had no idea prior to “The One I Love” and its parent album, DOCUMENT, that they had been together since 1980 and had already released four critically-acclaimed, full-length albums and an EP, but through Michael’s amazing music collection, I was introduced to all of it.  When I went back to college in 1990 (or College 2.0 if you prefer), Michael made me a mix tape (when there was still such a thing) of R.E.M. songs up through 1990.  I still have it!

Formed in Athens, GA in 1980, R.E.M. – consisting of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry – were critical darlings in their first several years, and had some success on BILLBOARD’s album chart – their first four albums were certified Gold – but on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, they couldn’t chart any higher than No. 78. 

But somehow, with DOCUMENT (their last album for I.R.S. Records), they broke out beyond the critical praise of music journalists and college programmers and landed into the realm of commercial radio, and garnered a shit-ton more fans, yours truly included. 

document

Part of the success of DOCUMENT is most likely attributed to Scott Litt, who worked with R.E.M. for the first time, and he produced the album.  He would also go on to produce their next five albums (the first five R.E.M. albums for Warner Bros.), and all five albums did incredibly well.

The album was universally hailed as a great achievement.  ROLLING STONE’s David Fricke called the album R.E.M.’s “finest album to date” and how DOCUMENT is “a vibrant summary of past tangents and current strengths, [it] is the sound of R.E.M. on the move, the roar of a band that prides itself on the measure of achievement and the element of surprise.  The end of rock & roll as R.E.M. knows it is a long way off.”

Pitchfork said of the album on DOCUMENT’s 25th Anniversary in 2012: “If 1985’s FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION was R.E.M.’s most self-consciously Southern record to date and 1986’s LIFES RICH PAGEANT their most overtly political, DOCUMENT maintained both their regional self-definition as well as their indirect social engagement.”

the one i love v1

The first single from DOCUMENT, “The One I Love,” was released in August 1987, a month before the album.  The song was oft-mistaken for a love song (and maybe still is, I’m not sure).  It even might have been featured as one of Casey’s “Long Distance Dedications.”  But, the song is just the opposite.  Michael Stipe has said “The One I Love” is about “using people over and over.  It’s deceptive because it could be a love song until the line, ‘A simple prop to occupy my time’.”

Well, deceptive or not, something worked.  “The One I Love” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-September 1987 at No. 84.  The following week, it had already surpassed the three previous R.E.M. singles to reach the Hot 100.  A month after its debut, it shot into the Top 40.

Two weeks after its Top 40 debut, it won the Sales award for that week.  And in early December 1987, the first Top 40 hit for R.E.M. became their first Top 10 hit, as “The One I Love” spent a week at No. 9.  In an interview that appeared in ROLLING STONE a couple of days before, Michael Stipe half-jokingly spoke of the song’s oft-misinterpretation: “I’ve always left myself pretty open to interpretation.  It’s probably better that they just think it’s a love song at this point.”

the one i love v2

Another version of the cover art for “The One I Love.”

“The One I Love” stayed on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks, spending their last week on the chart in late January 1988, the same week follow-up single, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” made its debut.  Both songs helped propel the DOCUMENT album, and it was the band’s first album to be certified Platinum, and wouldn’t be their last.

Around the globe, “The One I Love” reached No. 5 in Ireland, No. 6 in New Zealand, No. 14 in Canada, No. 16 in the U.K., and No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.  Once BILLBOARD got their Modern Rock chart going September 1988, R.E.M. was the first band to have two No. 1 songs on that chart – “Orange Crush” (eight weeks at No. 1) and “Stand” (two weeks).

After R.E.M. left I.R.S. for Warner Bros., the band’s success exploded from there.  They would go on to have two No. 1 albums – 1991’s OUT OF TIME and 1994’s MONSTER, two No. 2 albums – the brilliant AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE from 1992 and 1996’s NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI, a No. 3 album, 1998’s UP, eight more Top 40 hits (led by 1991’s “Losing My Religion”), and an incredible contract with Warner Bros. that gave them quite a ride for awhile.

R.E.M. broke up in 2011 after more than 30 years of putting out amazing music.  Though I sadly never got to see the band perform, in March 2007, I was 10 feet in front of Peter Buck at a show in Cambridge, MA at T.T. The Bear’s, when he was part of Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 (I was also standing next to Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, though I think Michael – who was a huge fan of her and her band – had to point her out to me). 

robyn + peter SWSW 07

Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck, hamming it up at SXSW, March 2007.

Robyn & Peter & the rest of The Venus 3 played some Venus 3 originals, covers by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and some of Robyn’s songs, both solo and with The Soft Boys.  It was an incredible show.  That’s attributed to Michael, for introducing me to Robyn Hitchcock from the start of our friendship.

mike-mills

Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

I also got to meet Mike Mills when he came for a signing at Record Store Day at the Bull Moose in Scarborough, Maine in 2014.  Bull Moose’s Chris Brown was the inspiration for Record Store Day (also founded in 2007), and I believe the inspiration for getting Mike Mills to come to the store that day.  In the brief moment I met him, Mike was very cool and really down to earth, and he was kind enough to sign a GREEN 25th Anniversary CD for a WMPG auction, and for me, he signed the 4-album set Mike was promoting, R.E.M.’s UNPLUGGED: THE COMPLETE 1991 AND 2001 SESSIONS.  So, I got to see half of R.E.M., in a sorta roundabout way.

R.E.M.-Record-Store-Day

It’s funny, “The One I Love” is NOT the R.E.M. song I love the most.  I actually can’t choose a favorite.  But, if I could choose more than one, that distinction would go to “Laughing” (from 1983’s MURMUR), the 1981 Hib-Tone version of “Radio Free Europe,” “Cuyahoga” and “I Believe” (from my favorite 80s R.E.M. album, 1986’s LIFES RICH PAGEANT), “Can’t Get There From Here” (from 1985’s FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION, and an old popular saying here in Maine), “Near Wild Heaven” and “Belong” (from 1991’s OUT OF TIME), “At My Most Beautiful” (from 1998’s UP), the original 1992 version and the 1999 orchestral version of “Man On The Moon,” and “Nightswimming” (from my favorite 90s R.E.M. album, 1992’s AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE). 

But, “The One I Love” will always be the R.E.M. song that I loved FIRST, and, with Michael’s help, made me love the band’s music forever…

me + michael 10.31.15

Me and Michael, 10.31.2015, right before the wedding of his daughter, Devon.  Can’t remember if he or one of his sisters was trying to make me laugh. ‘Twas a really great day of many in a wonderful friendship…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7oQEPfe-O8

r.e.m.

song of the day #2 – “Relax” | FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD | 1984 / 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 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. 

HOORAY!  We’ve finally reached the Top 10!  Woo-hoo!  When Casey Kasem got to this point of an American Top 40 countdown, he would usually say, “We’re headed into the home stretch now!  And on we go!”

Wow, in my research for this series, no chart position so far has had nearly 90 songs reach a certain position between 1979 and 1989…until now.  Nearly 90 songs set up camp at the No. 10 position during that time, some stays as short as one week (like “Borderline” by Madonna, “Hysteria” by Def Leppard and “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper), or as many as six weeks (“Muscles” by Diana Ross). 

borderline

There were only about a baker’s dozen and a half of women who peaked at No. 10 during that time, like Kim Carnes, Pat Benatar, (real) one-hit wonder Regina (with the Madonna-inspired “Baby Love”), Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Cher, Donna Summer, Exposé, and the aforementioned Madonna and Diana Ross (the latter of which reached No. 10 twice).

It was pretty much a boys club for the rest of the songs that reached No. 10 on the Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by David Bowie, Culture Club, Pet Shop Boys, Asia, Wham!, Steely Dan, ELO, Golden Earring, Prince, Phil Collins, Duran Duran and Stevie Wonder, and for some, one No. 10 song wasn’t enough.  The Police had two No. 10 hits, Heart had two, plus the Little River Band had three, as did Michael Jackson and Billy Joel.  And Kool & The Gang had four No. 10 hits – “Get Down On It,” “Misled,” “Stone Love” and “Victory.”

get down on it

For me, though, there was one No. 10 hit that stuck out more than any other.  And, as a singles chart nerd, it’s a big one.  It’s also what I call a “second-chance single,” and that historic single is “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Formed in Liverpool, England in 1980, Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a five-man  New Wave / Dance-Pop band who was a thorn in the BBC’s side (the British Broadcasting Corporation, that is) in 1984, with their debut single, “Relax.”  I’ll come back to that. 

FGTH 2

Producer and ZTT Records co-founder, Trevor Horn, saw Frankie Goes To Hollywood perform on a television show called THE TUBE, when an early version of “Relax” was played.  He thought it was “more a jingle than a song,” and he wanted to “fix it up” in his own way. 

Another co-founder of ZTT, Paul Morley, had a great campaign lined up for Frankie Goes To Hollywood: “a strategic assault on pop.”  This was a brilliant marketing move.  His plan was to also tackle certain a trilogy of themes in the band’s single releases – sex, war, and religion.  “Relax” was first, followed by “Two Tribes” (about the Cold War), and “The Power Of Love” (a video which features the birth of Christ).

Trevor Horn and especially Paul Morley were really going for the shock value when it came to Frankie Goes To Hollywood.  They released a series of provocative advertisements introducing Frankie to the U.K., and one advertisement even said, “Frankie Goes To Hollywood are coming…making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes…”  Wow. 

relax ad

One of several provocative ads ZTT released for Frankie Goes To Hollywood and “Relax.”

When “Relax” finally reached the U.K. singles chart in November 1983, it wasn’t really a big deal.  But, when Frankie performed “Relax” on the BBC flagship television show, TOP OF THE POPS, people went nuts.  The following week, it soared to No. 6 on the U.K. singles chart. 

relax TOTP

Frankie’s performance of “Relax” on Top Of The Pops.

About a week later, BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read expressed his offense towards the cover art for “Relax” and especially these lyrics – “Relax, don’t do it / When you want to suck it, do it / Relax, don’t do it / When you want to come…”, and he announced his refusal to play the record.  Unbeknownst to him at the time, the BBC had already decided it couldn’t be played on the BBC anyway. 

relax UK

A couple of days later, the BBC officially banned the single from its airwaves, though radio heroes – like the brilliant John Peel – continued to play it throughout 1984.  Don’t people know when you ban a record, it only increases its popularity?!  And that’s what happened with “Relax.”  It reached No. 1 by late January 1984 and stayed on top for 5 weeks.  Apart from “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, it was the biggest-selling single of the year in the U.K.

Since the BBC ban also applied to TOP OF THE POPS, which, like SOLID GOLD here in the U.S., did a countdown of the country’s biggest hits during the show.  When “Relax” was No. 1, all they did was put up a picture of the band during its big No. 1 announcement.  For five weeks.  Boo.

31 inches

If “Relax” going to No. 1 didn’t piss off the BBC enough, “Relax” took its time falling down the U.K. singles chart.  And by the time the Cold War Classic “Two Tribes” had started its nine-week run at No. 1 in June 1984, “Relax” was right back behind it at No. 2.  Hot damn.

“Relax” remained on the U.K. Top 75 singles chart for 48 consecutive weeks, and returned in February 1985 for another four, giving “Relax” an entire calendar year on the U.K. singles chart.  Pretty impressive.  The BBC ban on “Relax” proved to be a huge embarrassment, and eventually the ban was lifted sometime during 1984, but the damage was done, and Frankie and ZTT prevailed. 

logo

Speaking of embarrassments, I was sometimes embarrassed about how the U.S. didn’t pick up on some huge U.K. singles, and they didn’t do much here, if they were released at all.  Back in the early 00s, on my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show, I did a show called U.K. 1, U.S. O, highlighting songs that reached No. 1 in the U.K. but did nothing here.  Featured on the show were “Ashes To Ashes” by David Bowie, “Pipes Of Peace” by Paul McCartney (relegated to a B-side here), and songs by The Jam and The Flying Pickets, among others.  I think “Two Tribes” was also on the playlist.

Well, “Relax” eventually made its way to American shores and debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 early April 1984 at No. 84.  And, similar to the initial U.K. release, it received little fanfare here, maybe because radio stations had heard all about the song’s controversy in the U.K. and thought it was too obscene to play.  Irregardless, it spent a week at No. 67 in early May 1984, and fell off the chart after just seven weeks.

relax US

My original copy of the “Relax” 12″ single, purchased in July 1984, many months before it became a big hit here in America.

Somewhere along the line, I caught wind of “Relax,” and in a rare move, bought the 12” single (sans fancy cover art) in July 1984 BEFORE it was a radio hit here in America.  And I loved it from the start, and kept wondering, “Why exactly wasn’t this a huge hit here?”

pleasuredome

In late October 1984, just nine days before the release of the band’s brilliant double-album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME, “Two Tribes” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 79, on its way to a respectable No. 43 peak in mid-December 1984.  I will forever credit “Two Tribes” as the song that re-ignited interest in “Relax” here in America.

two tribes

And “Two Tribes” was still on the chart in mid-January 1985 when “Relax” made its re-entry onto the Hot 100.  In only its third week back, “Relax” debuted in the Top 40, and rose to No. 10 for a quick two weeks in March 1985.  It fell out of the Hot 100 by mid-May 1985 after a combined total of 23 weeks on the chart. 

Outside of North America between 1983 and 1985, “Relax” was one of the biggest hits of the decade.  It reached No. 1 in the aforementioned U.K., plus Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand, and the Top 10 in at least 11 other countries.

“Relax” has been featured in a ton of films and TV shows for more than 30 years, including POLICE ACADEMY, BODY DOUBLE, MIAMI VICE, GOTCHA!, ROCK STAR, ZOOLANDER and ZOOLANDER 2, THE PROPOSAL, CALIFORNICATION, and 2017’s T2 TRAINSPOTTING.

t2header

A number of covers of “Relax” have been released over the years as well, including “Weird Al” Yankovic, Richard Cheese, The Dandy Warhols, Germany’s Tech-Death Metal band Atrocity, and most recently, a brilliant cover by Blondie from their incredible 2014 album, GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD, which includes a clever sample of the original within their cover.  I love it when artists do that.

In 1987, Frankie Goes To Hollywood ended up disbanding after just seven singles and two albums (though, somehow they manage to have 11 compilation albums), but honestly, it sure wouldn’t have been the 80s without them…

frankie says relax

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp2h5jslKY

FGTH

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.

61b-bassi-mcshane

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

song of the day – “Promises In The Dark” | PAT BENATAR | 1981.

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!”

When most folks think of the lovely and totally rockin’ Pat Benatar, the first songs that come to mind are rightfully “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “We Belong,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” “Shadows In The Night,” and her first hit, “Heartbreaker” (from her 1979 debut album, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT), which was a Top 30 hit for her in March 1980. 

But the beauty of the music of Pat Benatar is that she has so many other great songs that were hits, just weren’t big hits.  Between “Heartbreaker” and 1988’s “All Fired Up,” Pat Benatar hit the BILLBOARD Hot 100 17 times, and out of those 17 singles, an impressive 15 of them reached the Top 40.  The only ones that didn’t become Top 40 hits were 1980’s “You Better Run” (the second video to ever air on MTV) and the sadly forgotten “Le Bel Age” from 1986.

Another sadly forgotten gem (though not by me) is from Pat’s third album, PRECIOUS TIME (her only album to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart) – “Promises In The Dark.”

precious time

The second of two singles released from PRECIOUS TIME (the first being the Top 20 hit and Grammy winner, “Fire And Ice”), “Promises In The Dark” looked promising on the Hot 100, debuting at No. 71, and was the second-highest debuting song that week (Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” – the future No. 1 song of the 80s – was the highest).

“Promises In The Dark,” written with her guitarist and future husband, Neil Giraldo, is a song about how the issues of past relationships are affecting the present one.  In one 1984 interview, Pat Benatar said, “Sometimes I really hate singing in the first person – it’s so personal sometimes…  I do mostly observational lyric but if it’s directly from something that happened, I can’t stand to sing it in first person.  I’d rather sing it as we or they or you, or something else.”

japan promises

The cover art for the Japanese version of the “Promises In The Dark” single.

In another interview, Neil Giraldo added, “I thought it was deep in a really good way.  I think that it was a commercial hit, but I love the expression of the melody.  It gave a lot of room for the vocal to be powerful.  And then when we rehearsed the song, that’s where I came up with that little guitar riff, which is the signature to that break between the slow part and the fast part.  When I hit that in rehearsal and I put the song way up tempo – because the song was a ballad – I found I hit that, then I knew, I went, ‘Oh, we got something now.  This is going to work.’  I knew it right then we had it.”

Oh, don’t worry guys – “Promises In The Dark” definitely has it, and always has with me.  I’d say it’s still one of my Top 5 favorite Pat Benatar songs of all-time, and if I get to go see Pat and Neil at Portland’s Maine State Pier in late July (fingers crossed), I hope they play this.

maine state pier show

Back in 1981 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Promises In The Dark” played out a bit differently.  It reached No. 38 in just its fifth week, but stopped there, and sadly fell off the Hot 100 after just 11 weeks.  Over on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, it reached No. 16, the same position it peaked at in France.

PRECIOUS TIME, despite its chart success and sales (selling more than two million copies), was not a well-received album.  But, as artists like Pat Benatar have proven, you can’t let poor reviews deter you from doing what you love.  And it didn’t.  Pat Benatar found her biggest success after this album, not to mention her marriage to Neil Giraldo, which remains very strong and kicking ass to this day.

neil and pat

Still, I wish more folks had latched on to this song when it came out.  It deserved to be a bigger chart hit than it was.  Neil’s guitar work on this song impresses me to this day, and Pat’s Classical vocal training truly radiates on this song, belting out lyrics like:

“But promises you know what they’re for / It sounds so convincing, but you heard it before / ‘Cause talk is cheap and you gotta be sure / And so you put up your guard / And you try to be hard but your heart says try again…”

A warning to everyone who is scheduled to attend the concert featuring Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at the Maine State Pier in late July – if I do get to go, and Pat and Neil do play this song, if you hear a loud scream (which may or may not sound like a lit-tle girl), that will be me.  I promise…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qUFZwJb9GA

promises in the dark

song of the day – “Slipping Away” | DAVE EDMUNDS | 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!”

In researching for this blog post, I found a lot more songs from the 80s that peaked at No. 39 than expected, at least 30.  There were some great ones, like “Atomic” by Blondie, “I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, “In The Mood” by Robert Plant,” “Looking For A Stranger” by Pat Benatar, “My Town” by the Michael Stanley Band, “Skin Trade” by Duran Duran, “Tomorrow People” by Ziggy Marley, “(What) In The Name Of Love” by Naked Eyes, “Second Nature” by Dan Hartman, “Who’s Making Love” by The Blues Brothers, Bon Jovi’s first hit, “Runaway,” ELO’s sadly-forgotten “Last Train To London,” the gorgeous “Wake Up (Next To You)” by Graham Parker And The Shot, and six (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s.

atomic

I also found some songs I had forgotten about, like “Don’t Let Him Know” by Prism and “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)” by Spider, and some stinkers among the bunch, including “Memory” by Barry Manilow, “Sartorial Eloquence” by Elton John (sorry Elton, with a song title like that, it was bound not to work out), and the “WTF was I thinking with this song” song by Mick Jagger, “Let’s Work.”  Downright awful.  Don’t watch the video – that’s four minutes you’re not getting back.

wake up next to you

I nearly chose “Wake Up (Next To You)” as my selection for a song that peaked at No. 39 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but I wanted to choose instead a gem from the sensationally-talented Welsh singer / songwriter / guitarist / über-producer, Dave Edmunds.

i hear you knockingBorn in Cardiff, Wales, Dave Edmunds first got his big break with a band called Love Sculpture, and in 1968, they reached No. 5 on the U.K. singles chart with a song called “Sabre Dance.”  Two years later, he had himself a huge international solo hit called “I Hear You Knocking,” which spent six weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., reached No. 3 in Canada and New Zealand, and No. 4 in the U.S. and Australia.  Dave’s version was actually a cover of a 1955 hit by R&B singer Smiley Lewis, and then covered by the legendary Fats Domino in 1961.  It’s also been covered many times over the decades, including versions by Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams.

repeat when necessaryThrough the end of the 1970s, Dave Edmunds picked up another three Top 10 U.K. hits, including Silver-Certified “Girls Talk,” written by Elvis Costello and appearing on his 1979 album, REPEAT WHEN NECESSARY (on Led Zeppelin’s SWAN SONG label). 

NERDY FUN FACTS: Huey Lewis appears on that same 1979 Dave Edmunds album, playing harmonica on a song he wrote called “Bad Is Bad,” four years before it would appear on Huey’s own monster album with The News, SPORTS.  And a song called “Queen Of Hearts” was also on the album, a No. 11 U.K. hit for Dave Edmunds that would become a big global hit for New Jersey Country singer, Juice Newton, in 1981.

bad is bad

Yepper, that’s Huey Lewis’ name and song on Led Zeppelin’s label, years before Huey became a star in his own right…

In addition to being a successful singer, songwriter and musician, Dave Edmunds was also a popular producer for other artists, including producing several albums by The Stray Cats, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, his side project with Nick Lowe, Rockpile, and k.d. lang’s second album, ANGEL WITH A LARIAT.

In all the years Dave Edmunds produced his own albums and the works of other artists, when it came time to work on his own 1983 album, INFORMATION, Dave did something he had never done before – he collaborated with another producer, in this case, Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra.

information

Jeff Lynne would go on to produce two songs on the album – the title track, and the album’s first single, “Slipping Away,” which Jeff Lynne also wrote.  “Slipping Away” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 93 in mid-May 1983.  I confess I didn’t know much about Dave Edmunds when this song came out, but I loved the updated twangy sound. 

slipping away

With the help of airplay on the relatively new MTV, “Slipping Away” inched its way up the Hot 100, reaching its peak position of No. 39 nearly three months after debuting on the chart.  Four weeks after reaching the Top 40, “Slipping Away” slipped its way out of the Hot 100.  It’s his last Top 40 hit to date. 

on guitar

Dave Edmunds, now 73, released two albums in recent years, one in 2013 called …AGAIN (featuring recordings from the 90s and four new songs), and in 2015 (ON GUITAR…RAGS & CLASSICS).

It’s his twangy, Jeff Lynne-penned and produced No. 39 hit, though, that caught my ear, which introduced me to a music legend, and is a song that has never slipped away from me since, and won’t…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFETrcH1Dks

dave edmunds