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.

physical

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.

SMB 82

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. 

SMB 2015

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. 

Steve-Miller-Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-Press-Room-Photo

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 – “Dancing In The Dark” | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | 1984.

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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, 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

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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

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).

hungry heart

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 #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. 

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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?”

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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

xmas song of the day – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” | BAND AID | 1984 / 1985.

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

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The song for Day 30 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is prolly the biggest holiday song of my generation, written and spearheaded by Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure of Ultravox, in response to the TV reports of famine in Ethiopia – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid.

Bob and Midge first got together about this project in early November 1984, and knew they had a limited time frame to work with, if they wanted to get the song ready for the holiday.  They put the song together, and then started recruiting many of the biggest recording stars in the U.K. and Ireland at the time (save for Chicago’s Jody Watley and Jersey City’s Kool & The Gang, who happened to be on the same record label as The Boomtown Rats and who happened to be in there when Bob Geldof pitched the idea to the label). 

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Bob Geldof (in his “Feed The World” T-shirt) and Midge Ure.

They then asked famed producer Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Art Of Noise) if he would produce, but he told Bob and Midge that he would need at least six weeks to do it, which wouldn’t get the record ready in time for Xmas.  Though Trevor Horn wasn’t able to produce the original single, he did offer a studio for them to use free of charge for 24 hours on Sunday, November 25, 1984, and he later produced and remixed the 12” single for a 1985 re-release.

Nearly 40 recording artists, including members of Duran Duran, U2, Culture Club, The Boomtown Rats, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and Status Quo, as well as folks like Sting, Paul Young, George Michael, Phil Collins (who played drums on the song) and Paul Weller of The Style Council, participated on the benefit record.  Artists who weren’t able to be there but who sent in recorded messages were David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Big Country.  These messages were included on the single’s B-side and as part of the 12” extended mix.

It took only a week after recording ended to release “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  The single had 250,000 advance orders and that number swelled to a million less than a week after its release.  Phonogram (who put out the single in the U.K.) had all five of its European factories working on pressing that one single to help meet demand.

On December 15, 1984, just 12 days after its release, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” spent the first of its five weeks at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart.  It was the fastest-selling single in U.K. chart history and sold three million copies in the U.K. alone by the end of 1984.  Until Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” 13 years later, it was the biggest-selling single of all-time in the U.K.

band-aid

Around the globe, the response to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was phenomenal.  It also reached No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Over here in the U.S., the video for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was played often throughout the holiday season on MTV, and the single was released on December 10, 1984 on Columbia Records.  A few days before Xmas, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 65.  For the first chart in 1985, it shot up to No. 20.  But, despite the fact it was outselling Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” (the No. 1 single then) by a four-to-one margin (selling nearly two million copies in its first eleven days of release), the lack of airplay prevented it from charting any higher than No. 13.  It was gone from the Hot 100 after just nine weeks, departing in mid-February.

Bob Geldof had hoped “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” would raise £70,000 for Ethiopia, but instead, it raised £8 million within a year of its release.  And the support of the Ethiopian famine relief didn’t stop there. 

geldofliveaidIn early March 1985, (mostly) American recording artists teamed up as USA For Africa for the “We Are The World” single and album.  Canadian artists banded together as Northern Lights for “Tears Are Not Enough.”  The LIVE AID concert on July 13, 1985 brought musicians and fans together in London, Philadelphia and around the globe to raise money for famine relief.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was re-recorded three times – in 1989, 2004 and 2014 – all three re-recordings reached No. 1 in the U.K. and all were charity records for Africa (the 1989 and 2004 versions went to famine relief, while the 2014 version raised money for the Ebola crisis in West Africa).bowie-8485

For this Xmas (and always), of course, the best gift I’d love to get is peace, love and understanding, especially for my wealth of family and friends.  I’d also love to see more support for those less fortunate than you or I.  On the 12” single for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” David Bowie puts out a plea for support: “It’s Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on the planet than ever before.  Please give a thought for them this season and do whatever you can, however small, to help them live.  Have a peaceful New Year.” 

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (especially the 12” extended mix) will always have a special place in my heart.  And from that 12” single, David Bowie’s plea, 32 years later, still resonates to this day. 

In Maine, there are so many folks in need – of food, heat, medicine, shelter, and affordable health care, for starters.  I’m sure it’s like that all over the US of A, and all over the world.  2016 has been a particularly rough year for a lot of reasons, and I do hope and pray that 2017 will be a peaceful New Year.  But first, Happy Xmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you choose to celebrate, if anything – be safe, have fun and do what you can to help those who won’t have much of either this holiday season…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc8TYsYb5i0

band-aid

song of the day – “Walk Like An Egyptian” | THE BANGLES | 1986 / 1987.

For 10 of the 20 years on my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s, on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I aired a special series called FAST FORWARD, which featured new music from 80s artists, reissues, new covers of 80s songs, and artists who had nothing to do with the 80s but whose music was inspired by the 80s and sounded like it could have come from there.

This past Sunday (10.9.2016), I aired the first installment in a five-part series, titled THE NEXT GENERATION, highlighting those non-80s artists that kept the 80s revolution going well past Y2K. 

fast-forward-the-best-of-2000-2016

With 17 shows left to go before I retire the show from WMPG on my 50th birthday in February, four of those remaining shows will be dedicated to the FAST FORWARD: THE BEST OF 2000-2016 series.  One of those shows will feature the cream of the crop of amazing 80s covers since 2000.  I’ve been listening to them for a month now.  It’ll be so hard to whittle down hundreds of swell covers to just 20-25 of them.  Today, one of those cover songs was instrumental in creating an “earworm” for me – “Walk Like An Egyptian” by The Bangles.

The cover of “Walk Like An Egyptian” I’m referring to is a 2007 gorgeous 1940s style remake by the London Swing / Vocal trio, The Puppini Sisters, from their second album, THE RISE AND FALL OF RUBY WOO. puppini-sisters

The Puppini Sisters, who, like Sheffield, England’s Thompson Twins, are not related, found a niche of covering 40s and 50s classics like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (Of Company B),” “Mister Sandman” and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” as well as more modern gems like Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass,” Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” and “Panic” by The Smiths.  Their first three albums all reached the Top 10 on BILLBOARD’s Jazz Albums chart.

Rewinding now to the four-woman, Los Angeles-based Pop / Rock band, The Bangles, they had already released an EP and a popular full-length album when they released their second album, DIFFERENT LIGHT, in January 1986.  Their first single from the album, the Prince-penned “Manic Monday,” was a huge international hit, and peaked at No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, behind Prince’s own No. 1 hit, “Kiss.” 

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The second single released from DIFFERENT LIGHT was the Top 30 hit, “If She Knew What She Wants,” a Top 30 cover of a 1985 song by Jules Shear (his “All Through The Night” was famously covered by Cyndi Lauper for her SHE’S SO UNUSUAL album, reaching the Top 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100).walk-like-an-egyptian

The third single from the album, “Walk Like An Egyptian,” almost never happened for The Bangles.  Written by Liam Sternberg (who was part of the late-1970s Akron, Ohio scene with folks like Devo and The Waitresses), the original demo of “Walk Like An Egyptian” was recorded with Alt-Folk singer Marti Jones, and Liam offered the song to Toni Basil, but she turned it down.  New Waver (and Detroit native) Lene Lovich actually recorded the first version of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” but it was never released, as she took some time off from music in order to raise her family.

The producer of DIFFERENT LIGHT, David Kahne, who has produced albums for many artists, including Fishbone, New Order, The Outfield, Romeo Void, Stevie Nicks, Translator and Paul McCartney, and who produced The Bangles’ first album, ALL OVER THE PLACE, got ahold of the song, and The Bangles agreed to record it.

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From the “Walk Like An Egyptian” video.

“Walk Like An Egyptian” was released in September 1986, and found its way onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 late that month.  It was slowly climbing the Hot 100 this week in October 1986, and took awhile to catch on, but by year’s end, it was No. 1, and stayed there through the 1986 / 1987 holiday season, spending four weeks on top.  It stuck around on the Hot 100 through the last day of February 1987, and ended up being the No. 1 song in the U.S. for all of that year.

The song wasn’t just an American phenom, it was a massive international smash, reaching No. 1 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, South Africa and Spain, and the Top 10 in the U.K, Austria, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Switzerland. 

walk-with-an-eIn addition to the version by the aforementioned Puppini Sisters, there have been several covers of “Walk Like An Egyptian” throughout the years, but none quite like the 1986  parody by the Boston band, The Swinging Erudites, titled “Walk With An Erection,” which appeared on their self-titled EP and 1987’s full-length UNCHAINED PARODIES album.  And, with it being the 80s, there was even a 12” extended remix for it (the Big Weenie Mix; I know this because I actually own it).  The memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I am pretty sure I first heard “Walk With An Erection” on the mighty WTOS in Skowhegan, Maine (when it was still mighty, that is; the format was famously – and sadly – changed in October 1987; WTOS DJ – and one of my first radio heroes – Duane Bruce, writes about it in his new book, HANG THE DJ, an amazing and fun read).

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If you don’t already have this book, find it online and pick it up!

Despite the huge success of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” I would bet that each member of The Bangles – past and present – kinda wish they never had recorded the song.  But I can’t say for sure.  The song has shared vocals by lead guitarist Vicki Peterson, bassist Michael Steele (my favorite member of the band), and singer and guitarist Susanna Hoffs, but the producer, David Kahne, didn’t like any of the vocals provided by drummer Debbi Peterson (Vicki’s younger sister).  So, she was relegated to sing backing vocals, playing the tambourine and whistling.  Adding insult to injury, a drum machine was used for the song.  Suffice it to say, there was tension in the band with this song since the recording of it.

Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, whenever a song gets stuck in my head, like today’s “earworm” of “Walk Like An Egyptian” – once I play it, the song is pretty much gone and no longer occupies space in my gigantic head.  And while I still enjoy the song 30 years later, it’s by far NOT my favorite Bangles song. 

followingMy favorite song from them also appears on DIFFERENT LIGHT, which is a great way to describe the song, “Following,” written and sung by the lovely Michael Steele.  It truly is so different from anything on that album, or anything they put out, before or since.  It’s an Alt-Folk-type ballad, sung in the first person, and about Michael’s high school sweetheart.  It even reached No. 22 in Ireland and was a minor U.K. hit. 

Hmmm, now I have that stuck in my head.  And I’m not going to play it just yet; for now, I’m “following” my heart, not my head, and I’m gonna let it stir up there for awhile…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv6tuzHUuuk

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song of the day – “Don’t Ask Me Why” | EURYTHMICS | 1989.

This week on the blog I’ve featured songs that were overshadowed by their bigger, more popular counterparts.  I found another underrated gem from one of my all-time favorite acts for today’s “song of the day.” 

As Eurythmics, Scotland’s Annie Lennox and England’s David A. Stewart have had 24 Top 40 hits in their native U.K. between 1983 and 2005, and over here in the U.S., they’ve scored 10 Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, led by “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” which spent a week at No. 1 in September 1983.  The last of those 10 Top 40 hits here in America debuted on the Hot 100 on this date (9.30) in 1989 – “Don’t Ask Me Why.”

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From their eighth studio album, WE TOO ARE ONE (produced by David Stewart with Jimmy Iovine), “Don’t Ask Me Why” debuted on the Hot 100 on 9.30.1989 at No. 81.  It spent a lone week at No. 40 in early November 1989, and was gone from the chart after just nine weeks.  (It did fare better on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, reaching No. 12.)we-too-are-one

Around the globe, “Don’t Ask Me Why” charted much better than here in America, reaching the Top 20 in Canada, Ireland, Italy and Japan, and the Top 30 in the U.K., Belgium and Switzerland.

WE TOO ARE ONE, an album that debuted at No. 1 and went double-platinum in the U.K.,  would be the last album the Eurythmics would release before splitting up, though not formally.  Annie (one of the greatest voices in music ever) and Dave (an amazing musician, songwriter and producer) released eight albums in as many years, not to mention their extensive touring around the world, and basically needed a break. eurythmics_-_peace

That break lasted 10 years, and in October 1999, the Eurythmics released their comeback album, the brilliant PEACE, which was certified Gold in the U.S. (their first Gold record here since 1986), Canada and throughout Europe. 

They got together briefly again in 2005 and recorded the song “I’ve Got A Life” for their ULTIMATE COLLECTION, and in 2014 for THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED AMERICA: A GRAMMY SALUTE TO THE BEATLES, where, backed with a full orchestra, they performed “The Fool On The Hill,” much to the delight of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.  They got a standing ovation from everyone in attendance, and rightfully so.

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Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart, January 2014, getting a deserved standing ovation.

As for the last hit in America for the Eurythmics, don’t ask me why “Don’t Ask Me Why” didn’t chart better than it did.  To this day, I’m not sure why this gorgeous song wasn’t well-received here.  Yeah, okay, “Don’t Ask Me Why” is about the end of a relationship and the song’s lyrics do have a bitter feel to them (“Don’t ask me why / I don’t love you anymore / I don’t think I ever did / And if you ever had / Any kind of love for me / You kept it all so well hid…”), but honestly, how many songs about the end of relationships have done well?  Maybe a post for another time.  None come to mind that are as lush as “Don’t Ask Me Why,” though.  Honestly, I think it’s one of the strongest songs Annie and Dave ever released. 

Don’t worry guys – I’ll never keep my love for this song ever hid…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqrw3_604_c

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