song of the day – “You Can Call Me Al” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 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, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

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

twist

CassingleFrontCoverSm

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

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

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

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

1999

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

red red wine

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

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

graceland

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

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

al video

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

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

you can call me al

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

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

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

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

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song of the day – “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” | U2 | 1984.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, 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!”

It’s June 6, 2017, and I didn’t have the best day today.  It happens.  In late 1984, Casey Kasem wasn’t having a good day during the recording of a segment of AMERICAN TOP 40.  I’ll come back to that in a bit.  But, Casey’s bad day was a good day for Dublin, Ireland’s U2. 

With their first three albums – 1980’s BOY, 1981’s OCTOBER and 1983’s WAR – U2 was slowly building an audience here in America.  All three albums sold well here in the U.S., especially WAR (now at 4x Platinum), which reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart.

My introduction to U2 happened somewhere between WAR and when I picked up the live “mini-album,” UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, in July 1984.  And, apart from some of their most recent efforts, I’ve been a huge fan since, but I don’t think it really happened for me until I picked up their fourth studio album, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE.

the unforgettable fire

Released on October 1, 1984, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE took the band in a new music direction from the edgier, more raw sound of their first three albums.  U2’s first three albums were produced by the great Steve Lillywhite (who worked with many artists in the 80s like Big Country, Peter Gabriel and XTC, to name a few), but, in order to achieve this newer sound, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was co-produced by legends in their own right, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. 

Bassist Adam Clayton once said about the change in producers, “We were looking for something that was a bit more serious, more arty.”  The powers that be at U2’s record label, Island, tried to encourage them NOT to work with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but U2 was persistent.  And, in the end, it paid off.

The first single released from THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and was released in early September 1984, a month before the release of the album.

PRIDE front

Prior to “Pride,” U2 had reached the Top 5 of Ireland’s singles chart four times, reaching No. 2 twice – with “New Year’s Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One.”  Over on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, U2 had only seen a couple of their singles reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100: “New Year’s Day” (No. 53, 1983) and a live version of “I Will Follow” (No. 81, 1984).  “Two Hearts Beat As One” just missed the survey, stopping at No. 101.

“Pride (In The Name Of Love)” became the band’s third single to reach the Hot 100, debuting in late October 1984 at No. 85.  Within four weeks, it became their biggest U.S. hit to that point, and on December 1, 1984, “Pride” reached the Top 40.  It would spend a week at No. 33 two weeks later, and stayed on the Hot 100 until early February 1985.

Around the globe, folks were proud for “Pride” and it was U2’s first big worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in New Zealand, No. 2 in Ireland, No. 3 in the U.K., No. 4 in Australia, No. 5 in Holland, No. 7 in Norway, No. 12 in Sweden and No. 33 in Canada (must have been a North American thing).

NERDY FUN FACT: The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, married to Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr in 1984, sang backing vocals on “Pride (Is The Name Of Love),” and was credited on the song as “Mrs. Christine Kerr.”

Now back to Casey Kasem’s bad day back in 1984.  Apparently, during the recording of an American Top 40 countdown (I believe the week when U2 debuted on the Top 40 at No. 39 on December 1, 1984), in AT40-ese, Casey dropped a couple of notches.  As he was listing off U2’s members, he got frustrated and said, “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?!”

In 1991, this sample and other vocal and more profane samples by Casey over the years found their way onto the EP of San Francisco Experimental band Negativland.  The U2 EP was notorious for highlighting “U2” in huge letters and “Negativland” in very small letters underneath it, with an image of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane in the foreground of “U2.”

U2 EP

On this U2 EP were a couple different mixes of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” with those Casey Kasem samples (including his famed “Long Distance Dedication,” thrown in there as well).  These covers were more parodies than covers (kazoos were involved, as were bits and pieces and samples of the original U2 song).  Regardless of whether or not they were covers, U2 was not impressed and Island Records sued Negativland for a violation of trademark law, not just for the huge “U2” on the EP, but for the song itself.

Island Records also believed it was a deliberate attempt to confuse U2 fans awaiting the new U2 release, ACHTUNG BABY, making them believe they were purchasing a new U2 album called NEGATIVLAND.  The EP was withdrawn, but the tracks resurfaced on a legally-released album a decade later (with bonus material) as THESE GUYS ARE FROM ENGLAND AND WHO GIVES A SHIT?

these guys are from england

Negativland’s interest is in intellectual property rights.  They argued that their use of U2’s and other artists’ work falls under the “fair use” clause.  They released a CD in 1995, along with an accompanying book about this whole U2 experience, called, FAIR USE: THE STORY OF THE LETTER U AND THE NUMERAL 2 (Of U2’s name, Casey Kasem described it on AMERICAN TOP 40 as “That’s the letter U and the numeral 2.”) 

fair use

“Pride” was originally written about Ronald Reagan’s pride in the USA’s military power, but Bono was influenced by Stephen B. Oates’s 1982 book, LET THE TRUMPET SOUND: A LIFE OF MARTING LUTHER KING, JR., as well as a biography about Malcolm X, examining the violent and non-violent sides of the civil rights campaigns of the 60s.  Lead singer and lyricist Bono rewrote the lyrics to “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and it ended up being about Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRIDE back

Hard to think about now, but oddly enough, at the time of its release, “Pride” got mixed critical reviews.  Kurt Loder, who reviewed THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE in 1984 (and would later join MTV), gave the album three out of five stars, and said of “Pride”: 

“One would like to be able to summon praise for such well-intentioned tracks as ‘Pride (In the Name of Love),’ which was inspired by Martin Luther King, but ‘Pride’ gets over only on the strength of its resounding beat (a U2 trademark) and big, droning bass line, not on the nobility of its lyrics, which are unremarkable.”

Well, reviews for both THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE and for “Pride” only improved with time, and ROLLING STONE ranked it as No. 388 on their 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time list, and it’s also included on the list of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll. 

And prolly the best review of all?  When the song came out, the late, great Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. King, invited the band to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, which they visited during their 1984 tour.

Maybe Casey Kasem didn’t give U2 much thought when “Pride” came out, but he changed his tune (pun intended) the next time U2 made the Top 40 – when THE JOSHUA TREE’s “With Or Without You” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in May 1987.

As for me?  Well, when I bought UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, I was curious about the band so many people were raving about.  And I loved the album.  When I bought THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE, I would never forget U2 again…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHcP4MWABGY

U284

song of the day – “Easy Lover” | PHILIP BAILEY and PHIL COLLINS | 1985.

84 philI know a LOT of friends who are NOT fans of Phil Collins.  I don’t think it’s anything personal against the guy – he took over as lead singer of Genesis in 1975 when Peter Gabriel left, and brought the band its biggest success (during the 1980s); he was the only one who performed in both London and Philadelphia at LIVE AID on July 13, 1985; Phil contributed to several popular 80s singles by artists like Howard Jones, Frida, Adam Ant and Robert Plant; and, between 1981 and 1989, with seven No. 1 songs, four other Top 10 hits and three additional Top 40 hits, he was the eighth-biggest recording act here in America during the 1980s.  He’s starred in his own movie, won an Academy Award for a song from another, is a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and has honorary doctorates at two universities and Boston’s famed Berklee College Of Music. 

Phil’s gotten his share of bad press, sure, and other recording artists through the years have dissed his work.  David Bowie once referred to his TONIGHT and NEVER LET ME DOWN albums as his “Phil Collins years / albums.”  Oasis singer / songwriter / guitarist Noel Gallagher oft-criticized Phil Collins.  After the quick success of their 1997 album, BE HERE NOW (which sold 660,000 copies in seven days in the U.K. alone), Noel Gallagher compared the album’s success to Phil Collins: “Just because you sell lots of records, it doesn’t mean to say you’re any good.  Look at Phil Collins.”

Well, I wouldn’t say I’m Phil’s biggest fan (if I never hear “Sussudio” ever again, that would be pretty effing swell), but I would say I am a big fan of his work, and especially of the work he did with Genesis.  Their brilliant 1981 album, ABACAB, was one of the first four LPs I bought with my own money.  And it remains as one of my favorite albums to this day.

abacab

Over the years, one curious and quite interesting factoid I’ve noticed with folks I know who DON’T LIKE Phil Collins in general but actually LOVE one of his big hit singles – the 1985 hit with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey – “Easy Lover.” 

Between May and December 1984, Phil Collins was not only working on his third solo studio album, NO JACKET REQUIRED…, he also produced and contributed to Eric Clapton’s album, BEHIND THE SUN, played drums on the huge global Band Aid charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, and produced CHINESE WALL, the third solo studio album for Earth, Wind & Fire vocalist, Philip Bailey. 

Phil & Phil were both 33 years old at the time, and CHINESE WALL would become Philip Bailey’s biggest solo album ever, which was certified Gold and nominated for a Grammy Award.

chinese wall

At the end of the sessions for the CHINESE WALL album, Philip Bailey approached Phil Collins about writing a song together.  The song they recorded was a song Phil Collins once referred to as a song that “doesn’t sound like any particular era.  It’s just fantastic.”  That one-time collaboration between Philip Bailey and Phil Collins ended up being the first single released from CHINESE WALL – “Easy Lover.”  I wonder if “Easy Lover” meant “Easy to love?”  Maybe.  It certainly was, and still is.

“Easy Lover” was released in the U.S. in November 1984, and the U.K. in late February 1985.  By the end of November 1984, it had already made its debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and reached the Top 40 in three weeks.  It didn’t really explode on the Hot 100 until mid-January 1985, when it zoomed into the chart’s Top 5, headed straight for No. 1.  Or so it looked…

Another popular hit zoomed into the Top 5 that week as well – “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner, which spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in early February 1985, with “Easy Lover” situated right behind it. 

easy lover 12 back

The back of the 12″ single for “Easy Lover.”

Though “Easy Lover” had enough momentum to be a No. 1 hit in the U.S. (it finished all of 1985 way up at No. 12, ahead of 16 out of 27 total No. 1 songs on the year-end chart), the song did earn a Grammy nomination, was certified Gold, and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Overall Performance In A Video (which was, as Phil Collins mentioned at the beginning of the video, a music video about the making of a music video).

easy lover video

Phil & Phil trying out some dance moves in the video within a video for “Easy Lover.”

Around the globe, it was not hard for folks (Phil Collins fans and non-fans alike) to love “Easy Lover.”  It spent six weeks at No. 1 in Canada, four weeks at No. 1 in Holland, a week at No. 1 in Ireland, and reached No. 1 on Japan’s International Chart.  It also reached the Top 10 in Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, and BILLBOARD’s R&B and Mainstream Rock charts (a rare feat).

easy lover UK

The cover for the U.K. single of “Easy Lover.”

Over in the U.K., it became Phil Collins’ second solo No. 1 single (after 1982’s “You Can’t Hurry Love”), spending four weeks on top.  I remember back in 2006, when STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 80s radio program on WMPG community radio for almost 21 years, was celebrating its tenth year on the air, and I did a STUCK IN THE 80s foreign exchange-of-sorts. 

At the time, there was a show in Brentwood, Essex, England (about 20 miles NE of London) called STUCK IN THE 80s, with a host by the name of Richard Nott (on Phoenix FM; like WMPG, a community station).  I contacted him about switching shows for a week, and he loved the idea.  So, for one week, he hosted my show and I hosted his.  It was pretty cool. 

phoenix fm

In prepping for the one-time STUCK IN THE 80s exchange, I asked Richard what his favorite 80s song was.  I may have also said, “Give me a Top 10!  Give me a Top 20!  What’s your best album?”  And, he brought this up on his version of the show.  It was pretty funny (“blah-blah-blah-blah” he added).  His all-time favorite 80s tune is “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire, but “not far off” for Richard was “Easy Lover.”  He said, “I just enjoy it; it’s a great tune.”

And, whether or not you actually like Phil Collins, you’ve got to admit that “Easy Lover” IS a great tune, and that the teaming of Phil Bailey and Phil Collins was pure genius and truly magical.  “She’ll get a hold on you, believe it.”  Oh, I DO believe it – “Easy Lover” has had a hold on me for 32 years and counting…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkRKT6T0QLg

phil and phil

song of the day – “Iko Iko” | THE BELLE STARS | 1982 / 1989.

The decade of excess gave us an excess of songs that were given a second chance on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, songs like “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” “Twist And Shout” by The Beatles, “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours and “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & The Beaters, to name a handful. 

For whatever reason, 1989 was an especially popular year for singles to have a second go on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, including Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (1986), “What About Me?” by Moving Pictures (1983), “When I’m With You” by Sheriff (1983), “Where Are You Now?” by Jimmy Harnen with Synch (1986) and “Into The Night” by Benny Mardones (1980). 

Another song that achieved success in 1989 but not originally from that year was “Iko Iko” by the seven-member, all-female New Wave band out of London, The Belle Stars, who formed in London in 1980 and broke up in 1986.

belle_stars

The origin of “Iko Iko” dates back to the early 1950s, when it was titled “Jock-A-Mo,” and was a 1953 single written and recorded by New Orleans group Sugar Boy And His Cane Cutters. 

jock-a-moAccording to a 2002 interview with the late James “Sugar Boy” Crawford (who passed away in 2012), he said the story of “Iko Iko” is about a “spy boy” [a lookout for one band of Indians] encountering the “flag boy” [the flag carrier for another “tribe”].  The “spy boy” threatens to “set the flag on fire.” 

“Sugar Boy” Crawford said “Jock-A-Mo” “came from two Indian chants that I put music to.  ‘Iko Iko’ was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle.  I just put them together and made a song out of them.” 

Though it was not a hit, the next incarnation of “Jock-A-Mo” in 1965 – “Iko Iko” – was.  The Dixie Cups, an all-female Pop group out of New Orleans, best known for their hit, “Chapel Of Love,” recorded their version in 1964, and the following year, it was a global smash.

iko iko 82

In 1982, The Belle Stars released their version of “Iko Iko” in their homeland of the U.K. on Stiff Records, and it was a Top 40 U.K. hit, reaching No. 35.  Their cover would appear on the only studio album they released, their self-titled effort released in January 1983, and which featured the U.K. hits, “The Clapping Song” (a version of this was an American Top 40 hit for Pia Zadora in 1983), “Indian Summer” and “Sign Of The Times,” which reached No. 3 in the U.K. and No. 75 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.

The Belle Stars’ version of “Iko Iko” went virtually unnoticed here in America until its opening appearance in the wonderful Academy Award-winning film, RAIN MAN, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, and released at the end of 1988.

rain_man

Their version of “Iko Iko” was included on the soundtrack to RAIN MAN, and it didn’t take long for it to catch the ears of folks like yours truly here in America.  It debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early March 1989, and reached the Top 40 four weeks later. 

The Belle Stars’ version of “Iko Iko” would go on to spend a lone week at No. 14 in mid-May 1989, and remained on the charts for about four months.  It also reached No. 7 in Australia and No. 17 in Canada.  Since then, it has been featured in a number of other films, including THE HANGOVER in 2009.

“Iko Iko” remains as one of the most-covered songs of all-time.  Cyndi Lauper recorded a version for her second album, 1986’s TRUE COLORS.  It’s been also covered by Dr. John, Warren Zevon, Zap Mama (whose version appeared in the 2000 film, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II), and most recently, on THE TONIGHT SHOW featuring Sia, Jimmy Fallon, Natalie Portman and The Roots.

the belle stars LP

It’s the 1982 / 1989 version by The Belle Stars, though, that is the version that stays close to me to this day, and I’m forever grateful that someone involved with the film, RAIN MAN, discovered it and thought it was good enough to include in the movie, and ultimately, release it as a single, so many folks (like yours truly) could, in turn, discover it too. “IKO!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9RxSDgesKk

iko iko 89

song of the day – “Shout” | TEARS FOR FEARS | 1985.

This post is dedicated to my discontent with Ticketmaster, the memories of how easy and fun it used to be to get tickets to shows, and my love for Tears For Fears and this song.  #TearsForFears #HallAndOates #TDGarden #TicketmasterFAIL

Ticketmaster-Fail

Earlier this week, presale tickets went on sale for the highly anticipated Daryl Hall & John Oates / Tears For Fears show at Boston’s famed TD Garden for June 2017.  First, presale tickets went on sale for folks who have some sort of special membership or an American Express card.  Then there’s the general presale the day before the general public can get tickets, so if you have special presale codes from folks like Pandora or Ticketmaster themselves, you have a (small) chance to get good seats before the everyone else does.

I remember years ago, living in Portland, Maine – even just a few years before the Interweb became popular – when you could wait in line hours before the box office opens to be guaranteed a good seat at a show.  There wasn’t all of this presale bullshit or special VIP package nonsense costing one’s paycheck.  You could buy a ticket for $20 or $30 and have a great time.  For the “big” shows, most of the general admission seats are gone.  It’s all reserved seating, which in most cases, is a good thing (I left tenth-row RESERVED seats of a 2004 David Byrne show at Portland’s State Theatre because people started going crazy when he began singing Talking Heads songs, and everyone migrated to the front.  Did you really think I really wanted to leave a David Byrne show early?!  Of course not!  He was amazing to watch.  Well, after some asshat spilled beer on me, I was done.  Reserved seats are reserved for a reason, asshole.

Thank God for acts like The English Beat, who still have accessible prices for their shows, and their shows are always fun and memorable.  Club shows like that remind me of the concerts from the old days.  Mostly general admission, a great time and you’ll even have enough $$ to get a T-shirt or some swag.

I recently reconnected with my old friend Travis after way too long, and he was going to pay for our tickets to see Daryl Hall & John Oates and Tears For Fears.  When the general presale tix went on sale yesterday (3.9.2017), I was ready.  But I couldn’t get tix at the level we wanted.  The special presales before mysteriously snatched all those seats up?!  Not likely. 

Unlike getting tickets to see Cyndi Lauper in Bangor, Maine in July 2017, where I could pick my own seats, the only option I had was “Best Available” for each category.  And the seats offered were terrible.  Nothing close.  And this was the presale!  When my friend Shawn in NYC and I saw Duran Duran and Chic in Brooklyn in April 2016, I was able to get 16th row seats NON-PRESALE!  Granted, I spent a little more $$ for that, but it’s New York, at least twice the size of Boston! 

best-available-ticekts

Fiction can be fun!

When HopeyT and I saw Peter Gabriel and Sting in Worcester, MA in July 2016, I bought those tickets – the most $$ I’ve ever spent on a show – five months in advance!  And they were THE WORST seats I’ve ever had for a show.  I complained to Ticketmaster and the DCU Center in Worcester, but to no avail.  Ticketmaster seemed to care at first (like today), but nothing ever came out of it, not that I expected it to.  WTF is it with Ticketmaster and Massachusetts shows?!

When the presale option for Hall & Oates / Tears For Fears show in Boston didn’t pan out, I was ready at noon today (3.10.2017) for the general public tix.  The option we wanted wasn’t an option, and I ordered tickets for us for a section we didn’t want, but didn’t want to miss out on the show either.  Had all of the information entered in on Ticketmaster’s website, hit “enter” to reserve the seats, and all that popped up was the next screen was not a confirmation of seats, but of gibberish, which looked somewhat like an error message.  The credit card and transaction did not go through.  When I went back to get similar seats, they were gone.  When I kept trying, the Ticketmaster site stopped working altogether.  I later learned that site was down.  When the site was up and running again, all they had left were balcony seats.  We were more than willing to pay extra for good seats, and they were gone. 

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Sometimes I wish I could relay to Ticketmaster and the powers that be who organized these shows that I’m not just a huge fan of Daryl Hall & John Oates and Tears For Fears, that I’m also someone who hosted a little 80s radio show in Portland, Maine for almost 21 years, and 80s music is not only my passion, it’s a way of life for me, and it keeps me young.  The music of Hall & Oates AND Tears For Fears proudly made ALOT of appearances on STUCK IN THE 80s over the years, and will again once the show is back.  I was so looking forward to seeing this concert.  But, I’m not going to get balcony seats when I had reserved better ones just because Ticketmaster wants me to conform to their douchebaggery, elitist ways. 

I’m not a rich man.  I don’t get to see shows all the time.  It’s been great for the last several years, where I have been able to see some folks perform that I didn’t get to for whatever reason back in the 80s.  And I don’t think people should have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars just to see two of their favorite 80s acts from the third row.  It’s not right.

If you’re still reading, thanks very much for letting me vent.  And now on to a much better subject…

Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith formed Tears For Fears in Bath, England in 1981, and released a brilliant debut album in 1983 called THE HURTING.  But, it wasn’t until two years later when they were picked up on my music radar, with “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” from their also-brilliant second album, SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR.

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“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was enjoying its second and final week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-June 1985 when the second single from SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR, “Shout,” debuted on the chart at No. 66. 

In other parts of the globe, “Mothers Talk” was the first single released from the album (in August 1984; a U.S. remix was released in April 1986).  “Shout” was originally released in the U.K. around Thanksgiving 1984, well in advance of its U.S. release.  It was one of the biggest singles of the year, spending the first three weeks of August 1985 at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  It also spent two weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, reached No. 6 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart, and even peaked at No. 56 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

“Shout,” with its strong lead vocals by Roland Orzabal, impressive guitar solo and keyboards, and that infectious pounding drum of producer Chris Hughes, was not only one of the biggest singles in America in 1985, it was one of THE biggest global hits of the year, and of the decade.  “Shout” reached No. 1 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, New Zealand and Switzerland, No. 2 in Italy and South Africa, No. 4 in the U.K., No. 5 in Ireland and Norway, No. 6 in Austria, and high singles chart rankings in France and Sweden too.  It was a massive hit just about everywhere on the planet.

shout single

Roland Orzabal once said of “Shout” years after its release: “A lot of people think that ‘Shout’ is just another song about primal scream theory, continuing the themes of the first album.  It is actually more concerned with political protest.  It came out in 1984 when a lot of people were still worried about the aftermath of The Cold War and it was basically an encouragement to protest.”

Curt Smith added to that sentiment: “It concerns protest inasmuch as it encourages people not to do things without actually questioning them.  People act without thinking because that’s just the way things go in society.  So it’s a general song, about the way the public accepts any old grief which is thrown at them.”

As I lament (and protest, I suppose) tonight about the more-than-disappointing assjackery shenanigans of Ticketmaster, I couldn’t think of a better song to choose to highlight today than this kick-ass gem that will make me shout forever…

“Shout, Shout, Let it all out / These are the things I can do without / Come on, I’m talking to you, Come on…”

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

TFF 1985

don’t you (forget about me).

As I start this blog post, it’s in the 7:00pm hour on Sunday, February 26th, 2017, and during this time for the better part of the past 21 years, for the folks of Portland, Maine and beyond, I’d be playing a lexicon of the great 80s music you remember and much more on my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio).  More on the amazing last STUCK IN THE 80s show in a bit.

Once the show ended, I wanted to take a couple of weeks off from the blog, though truth be told, I’ve been thinking about this post since before the last show even aired.

original STUCK logo

The original STUCK IN THE 80s logo…

After nearly 21 years, over a thousand shows, thousands of requests, tens of thousands of songs played, these two weeks later, it’s still hard to believe that the last STUCK IN THE 80s has aired on WMPG, a radio station that has been like a second home for me for nearly half my life.  Though I’m still considered a volunteer there, I’ll miss being a regular part of it.

Back in August 2015, I first announced that I would be ending the show at the end of August 2016 after 20 years on WMPG, but in April 2016, I decided I wasn’t ready to end the show yet.  The show started part-time in the Spring of 1996 (I was 29 years old), and full-time on Sundays in the Fall of 1996.  When I realized that my 50th birthday in 2017 fell on a Sunday, it just felt right; it felt cathartic to end the show then.  I’m still happy with that decision.  But the last weekend for the show wasn’t without its moments.

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This didn’t exactly happen here in Maine the weekend of the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG, but it wasn’t too far off…

Many months ago, I half-joked about the last show, saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a blizzard and I couldn’t do my last show?”  Well…I’m not sure if it was an official blizzard in Portland, Maine, but the weather was more blizzard-like than blizzard-lite.  I always planned on co-hosting my last show with my dear, dear friends and regular STUCK co-hosts, Hope and Shawn.  Shawn lives in Portland, and Hope (who did a touching radio tribute for me in November 2016 and put together a wonderful tribute video for me recently) traveled all the way from Springfield, MA to be there.   I’m so grateful to both of them.

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Hope, me and Shawn, having a fun time at Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine 2.11.2017.

That Saturday night (2.11.2017) before the last show, I had planned on a “cheers and thanks” get-together at a Portland venue, but with the inclement weather, most folks weren’t able to attend.  The last show’s attendance was another story.

Before the last show could happen, though, I needed to contact WMPG’s fantastic Program Director, Jessica, to see if the station was going to be shut down due to the storm, which was in full force before Sunday night.  Jessica was indeed planning on shutting down the station but knew it was my last show that night, and was kind enough to let Hope, Shawn and I go on with the last STUCK IN THE 80s and then shut the station down, which was actually kinda cool in a way.

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The show’s STUCK IN THE 80s “Parting Shot” playlist featured songs Hope and Shawn wanted to hear, and songs that meant a lot to me over the years (and many of those songs have appeared on this blog so far): 

  • ALPHAVILLE – FOREVER YOUNG (SPECIAL EXTENDED MIX) (1984) – This Cold War Classic was part of the inspiration for my blog.
  • BOOK OF LOVE – MODIGLIANI (LOST IN YOUR EYES) (1986 / 1987) – One of my “Desert Island” songs, or rather, one of the songs I would want to have with me if I was stranded on a desert island.
  • BLONDIE – DREAMING (1979) – Another of my “Desert Island” songs, this is my all-time favorite Blondie song, from the Fall of 1979.  I remember it well.
  • THE ENGLISH BEAT – I CONFESS (DAVE ALLEN REMIX) (1982) – One of my best memories during the show was interviewing and meeting Dave Wakeling in 2009.  I’ve seen him and the band perform in Portland almost every year since.  Hearing this song live gives me such joy!
  • THE CLASH – THIS IS RADIO CLASH (1981) – Released as a stand-alone single between 1980’s SANDINISTA! and 1982’s COMBAT ROCK, this was requested for DJ HopeyT!
  • BAUHAUS – SPIRIT (ALTERNATIVE VERSION) (1982) – The original version from THE SKY’S GONE OUT and requested for DJ Shawn!
  • PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION – TAKE ME WITH U (1984 / 1985) – This gem from PURPLE RAIN is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that doesn’t get nearly enough love as it should, so I wanted to play it.
  • THE THE – THIS IS THE DAY (EXTENDED 12” MIX) (1983) – A true statement that night…  The end of an era and the beginning of a new one…
  • TALKING HEADS FEAT. JOHN GOODMAN – PEOPLE LIKE US (1986) – My favorite version of this spirited T-Heads gem from TRUE STORIES…
  • JOE JACKSON – CANCER – Recorded live during the NIGHT AND DAY tour on 5/8/83 at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia.  One of my all-time favorites (of many) by Joe Jackson.
  • DAVID BOWIE feat. THOMAS DOLBY – HEROES – Like many others, David Bowie’s sad passing in 2016 did a number on me.  But, ever since, I’ve been inspired too.  On July 13th, 1985 (at LIVE AID), he dedicated this song to his son, “to all our children, and the children of the world.”
  • ROBYN HITCHCOCK – CHINESE WATER PYTHON (1990) – One of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, from one of the most brilliant singer / songwriter / storytellers in the world.
  • THE DREAM ACADEMY – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT (instrumental version) (1985 / 1986) – I couldn’t leave STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG without playing this gorgeous Smiths cover by one of my favorite 80s bands, and from a pivotal scene in one of my favorite John Hughes films (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF).
  • INXS – DON’T CHANGE (1982 / 1983) – A favorite gem from my favorite album by my favorite band…
  • PET SHOP BOYS – WEST END GIRLS (1986) – I remember hearing this for the first time like it was yesterday, and it was around this time 31 years ago…
  • YELLO – DOMINGO (1985) – When DJ Hope and her sister, DJ Weez, teamed up for a 4-hour edition of her awesome show, POWERHAUS, in early 2016, they played this song.  I don’t know how it was off my radar for so long, but I’m glad it’s there now!
  • THE KLF feat. TAMMY WYNETTE – JUSTIFIED & ANCIENT (12” MIX) (1991) – The origins of this song date back to 1987, when The KLF were still The Timelords.  One of THE best one-time collaborations of all-time.
  • PETER GABRIEL – IN YOUR EYES (2011 NEW BLOOD ORCHESTRAL VERSION) – Hope and I were so glad to see Peter Gabriel perform in 2016, but I wish I had also seen him on this tour, featuring orchestral versions of his amazing songs.  This is my favorite, originally from 1986’s brilliant SO album.
  • CYNDI LAUPER – TIME AFTER TIME (1983 / 1984) – Meeting and interviewing Cyndi Lauper in 2002 was a moment, much like Cyndi herself, that I’ll treasure forever.
  • SIMPLE MINDS – A BRASS BAND IN AFRICA (1985) – This amazing instrumental was the B-side of “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
  • SIMPLE MINDS – DON’T YOU (FORGET ABOUT ME) – Recorded live from The Ahoy in Rotterdam, 12.3.1985.  My favorite song for all-time.

The response to the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG was incredibly overwhelming and heartfelt.  It was prolly the most-listened-to show I’ve ever had.  Wanted to share just some of the truly amazing and kind comments shared by my WMPG family, friends and fans:

  • “Better safe than sorry, I suppose…  Better to Be Stuck in the 80’s than in the low teens and a blizzard…  Big shout out to Ron for all his years on the air, and his show to end all shows, tonight… at least for a day or two…  cheers!”
  • “Thank you Ron.  Our Sunday nights won’t be the same without you.”
  • “Ron …….Rock it….tear the roof off……and then shut it down buddy!”
  • “What an end to a great run.  SHUT IT DOWN, Ron!”
  • “What a way to go – a birthday, a blizzard, and then shutting down the station.  Tonight will be epic – thank you for the tunes and enjoy the next great adventures in Life!”
  • “Thanks Ron for one last – and hopefully not final – Sunday night kitchen dance party.”
  • “Ron, Sunday nights will not be the same.  Thank you so much.  It has been a pleasure listening to your programs.  It was a thrill to program and co-host a show.  You will be missed.  All the best in what lies ahead.”
  • “Wow your birthday, last show and an epic nor’easter on its way.  You certainly know how to party!!!!”
  • “Congrats on such a great show.  I’ll miss tuning in to you.”
  • “Happy birthday Ron!  Forever grateful for your show!  You truly are the King of the 80’s!”
  • “What the hell am I supposed to do on Sunday evenings; be sociable?”
  • “REALITY sets in as Sunday evening approaches without STUCK IN THE 80s.  It’s kinda going to be like a zombie achieving consciousness and understanding that everyone’s a zombie and there are no fresh brains.”
  • “You’re gonna get me crying again…forget you?  You, Hope and Shawn were our Sunday nights….we’ll never forget.”
  • “This will be a last show you can never forget!”
  • “Happy Birthday, Ron! Congratulations on an incredible radio run!”
  • “This is the end of an era!!  No 80s show on the radio even came close to yours.  The research, the knowledge and the vast music catalog are unparalleled.  Sad to see it go, but glad you gave Portland a proper 80s experience for so many years.  I hope the next phase in your life is great as well.”
  • “What do you do when the radio show you love and have been listening to for the last 15-plus years goes silent (Wow, Ron, you really went out in dramatic fashion, this blizzard and all!)?!  Will and I miss you already!  Thank you so much, Ron – all the best to your next chapter!”
  • “Happy Birthday to you, my brother!  Today is bittersweet for sure.  Can’t wait for your next musical adventure.  Peace & Love (and birthday spankings) to you!”
  • “Mike drop!!! Thanks for 20 years Ron & crew!!!”
  • “Ron does final show.  Shuts down transmitter.  /mic drop/”  (more on that in a bit…)
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DJ Shaxx, Whitney and me, 1.29.2017…

And from my radio neighbor for the past 11 months, host of the wonderful LEFT OF THE DIAL, the incredibly talented DJ Shaxx:

“First, Happy birthday, friend!

“Can’t believe I won’t be there tonight for you to pass the broadcasting baton to me as I begin LEFT OF THE DIAL.  One of the reasons I love doing my show is that it has always followed STUCK IN THE 80s.  I come into the studio on a wave of positivity and grooving to your music; your legendary presence in the big chair as I walk into the on air studio.  Your personality and music has always helped me start my show with a bang.  In fact, my intro, my first song… you’re the audience.  I have so much enjoyed our conversations transitioning between shows.  And then, as you hit the road, I continue to spin music and speak on the mic and imagine you driving up interstate 295.

“With your departure, Ron Raymond Jr., a big part of what I do will change.

“Changes…  The only constant in life, right?  But change is good.  I’m excited for you and the changes coming up in your life.  The opportunities for great things to happen.  Your future is bright, Ronnie.  You gotta wear shades.

“Man, I’m gonna miss you.  I will miss your DJ mentorship, extensive knowledge and impeccable taste in music.  I will miss your humor and your kindness.

“Thank you for all that you’ve given to WMPG.  Thank you for sharing your great, great knowledge of the 80s every week.  You can feel it tonight.  Everyone tuning in.  Theirs are invisible airwaves crackling with life.  Ripe and tender, whistling with energy (as Geddy Lee would sing).  Thanks for carrying on that great Spirit of Radio.  Because of what you’ve done.  It will live on.  For a long, long time.  Someday inhabitants of a distant universe will be hearing these broadcasts and they will say, ‘Geez!  These people are stuck in the 80s.  We must rescue them.’  And then our planet will never be the same.

“Excelsior!”

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When you host a radio show for as long as I did with STUCK IN THE 80s, I had 20 years of thank-you’s and shout-outs to announce.  Of course, I wasn’t able to get to everyone.  That alone would have taken a whole entire show.  The last of my deserved thank-you’s were dedicated to two of my dearest and closest friends in the whole world – DJs extraordinaire Hope and Shawn, who I’d like to truly love to thank again, for their love and knowledge of music and the 80s, their mad DJ skillz, and their passion, dedication and innumerable contributions to STUCK IN THE 80s!  I couldn’t have done it all these years without them!  (BTW, at the end of the show, since we were shutting down the station, Hope came back on the air and said, “STUCK IN THE 80s OUT!”  And then, in sorta dramatic fashion, Shawn and I did drop out mics…  It was great.)

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Shawn, me and Hope, WMPG-FM and WMPG.org, 2.12.2017, hiding from the blizzard outside and truly STUCK IN THE 80s!

For over a year now, people have been asking me why I’m ending the show.  Well, there’s a number of reasons, but mainly, for now, I want to take a break and take some time for me, do some screenwriting, maybe some voiceover work, continue with the little bloggy thing here, and with me turning 50 a couple of weeks ago, to figure out the next step of my path in this next chapter of my life. 

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Thank you, for 20 years and then some…

I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, but STUCK IN THE 80s will be back, I guaRONtee.  I’ll be back too.  And don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.  And please know that STUCK IN THE 80s has been the proudest moment of the first half of my life.  Thank you.  I love you and I’ll miss you all.

So, until the next time you hear me on your radio, take care, be good, talk hard, and don’t you forget about me.  I’ll catch you on the flip side.  And as Mr. David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  So stay tuned…

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Hope and Shawn, I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you!

last christmas and the closing of the year.

On Xmas Day 2016, just minutes before my 21st and final STUCK IN THE 80s Annual Holiday Show was to air on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I found out that George Michael passed away at the age of 53, just three years and eight months older than me.  Shock doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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I started getting Facebook posts and messages and texts about George’s death, because George was definitive 80s and then some, and folks know (and have known for a long time) that I host and produce a show about 80s music and then some.

So, as much as I wanted to have my Last Christmas show be the special 4-hour show I prepared for, I made the last-minute decision to split the show into a part Xmas show and part tribute to George Michael.  It wasn’t the Xmas show I wanted to do, and it wasn’t the proper tribute that George deserved, but with only a handful of STUCK IN THE 80s shows left, it was the best option.  I think it turned out okay.george-michael-1987

I wouldn’t call myself the biggest Wham! or George Michael fan, but I was a fan, and really enjoyed George Michael’s early solo career and his huge FAITH album from 1987.  I admired George for wanting to branch out past the Wham! poppiness (is that a word?  it is today), and do what he wanted to do.  FAITH was an amazing testament to that.  He branched out even further with his follow-up album, 1990’s  LISTEN WITHOUT PREJUDICE VOL. 1. 

When “I Want Your Sex” was first released (originally as part of the BEVERLY HILLS COP 2 soundtrack and later as the first single from FAITH), I relished how people got so bent out of shape about a song about monogamous sex, just because it had the word “Sex” in the title.  Even before the full video began, George stated, “This song is not about casual sex.”

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Still, it prompted my radio hero, Casey Kasem, not to say the title of the song at first (despite climbing to No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100), and prompted many radio stations to change the word “sex” into the song to “love.”  (I DID NOT relish the fact that the local Top 40 station in Central Maine, 92 Moose, changed the word “sex” to “moose,” as in “I Want Your Moose.”  That was just fucking stupid and annoying.  But, as much as I love the 80s, some things that were deemed “too controversial” at the time weren’t even controversial at all.  O well, that was a long time ago.

The last song I remember digging by George Michael was released in April 1996, and became his last American chart hit – “Fastlove,” which reached No. 8 on the Hot 100 in June 1996 and sampled Patrice Rushen’s 1982 hit, “Forget Me Nots.”

For those who know STAR TREK legend George Takei and his amazing Facebook and Twitter posts, I really loved what he wrote after George’s death: “Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael.  You’ve found your Freedom, your Faith.  It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.”  I also liked what actor Rob Lowe said on Twitter: “Had the pleasure of knowing George Michael in the 80s.  Voice of an angel.  Now he can sing for them.”

A few days before George Michael’s death, one of my favorite people of all-time (and not just because of STAR WARS), Carrie Fisher, suffered a heart attack on a plane flying from London to Los Angeles.  The plane was 15 minutes away from landing, and for a little while, it looked like she was going to pull through, and tell 2016 to go fuck itself.  I really loved this drawing I saw online soon after, with what appears to be the Grim Reaper (and 2016 on his cape), kneeling before Princess Leia, as she says, “You are strong, but the Force is stronger.”

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But, as strong as the Force is, Carrie didn’t make it, and died on December 27, two days after George Michael passed away.  She was just 60 years old (barely), and 10 years and four months older than me.  Again, I loved what George Takei said about Carrie in a post: “As a small, wise master once said, ‘Death is a natural part of life.  Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.’  We honor you today, Carrie.  We’ll think of you when we turn our heads to look to the heavens.”

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One of my best friends, Michael, respectfully half-joked in a post on Facebook, “She survived Darth Vader.  She survived the Blues Brothers.  She couldn’t survive the buzz-saw that is 2016.  4 more days to go.  I have a bad feeling about this.”

And then, the very next day after Carrie’s death, the unthinkable happened.  Her mother, legendary actress Debbie Reynolds, died as a result of a stroke.  She had said to her son, Carrie’s brother Todd Fisher, “I want to be with Carrie” shortly before she died.  They will be buried together.  Heartbreaking and touching…

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Another beautiful drawing I found online, of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia from STAR WARS and Debbie Reynolds’ Kathy Selden from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN…

I was speaking with my dear and incredibly talented friend, Hope, on Xmas night during the show, and I think I said to her, “When Robin Williams died (in 2014), I can’t remember anyone else who died that year.”  In any other year, three high-profile celebrity deaths in less than a week might or might not seem that odd.  But this isn’t any other year.  I can’t remember any year with more painful losses – celebrity and personal – than 2016 (my brother-in-law’s dad died earlier this year, and my parents’ dog, Bandit, was gone after 13 years just six days before Xmas; Bandit was my mom’s faithful companion all his life, and gave me a newfound respect for small dogs).

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Here is the last picture I took of Bandit, my parents’ Shih Tzu, taken on December 11, 2016, one week exactly before he was gone (photo enhanced by my Mom).  He was looking up at the angel atop of my parents’ Xmas tree.  I’ll never forget it.

Just hours now before the closing of the year here in Central Maine, I can’t help but think how hard it was to be a music and pop culture fan in 2016.  So many heavy-hitting losses in many genres and acting circles all through the year, not to mention all of the awful terror attacks throughout the globe.  But, I’ll also remember some really great things too. 

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On the day I learned of David Bowie’s January 10th death (on the morning of January 11, 2016), I started my first-ever blog (with special thanks to Hope!).  It’s part autobiographical, part singles chart nerdiness, and explains (at least in part I hope) why the 80s will keep “forever young,” and how I’ll always be “stuck in the 80s.”  It’s been interesting.  I consider myself to be a good writer, but I never did enough of it.  Now I’m writing on a regular basis, and it’s great.  And with some of these blog posts, I’m putting myself out there, which I admit, is often hard for me.  But, I’m proud of the blog and want to do more with it in 2017, so stay tuned!

In March 2016, my dear friend Hope survived a horrific car crash in Massachusetts, one day after finishing her kick-ass radio show on WMPG.  The Force was definitely strong with her that night and then some.  I’m forever grateful she survived that car crash, and I look forward to being the reader of her future best-sellers and her dear, dear friend for many years to come.

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If you thought this was the Eurythmics, you’d be wrong!  That’s me and my dear friend, Hope, during her last POWERHAUS show (on WMPG community radio) Sunday, 3.13.2016.

2016 was also the year I got to see some of my favorite acts for the very first time, like Peter Gabriel, OMD, and a mid-April concert with Duran Duran and Chic featuring the amazing Nile Rodgers in Brooklyn (no concerts I’ve been to have been featured in BILLBOARD magazine, but that one was!).  The day after that concert with my dear friend Shawn, he helped me get my first tattoo (at 49 years old; of David Bowie).  If you had asked me at the beginning of 2016 if I would ever get a tattoo, I would have said, “No way.”  So much for that. 

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My dear friend Shawn behind the camera, documenting the application of my first tattoo (of Mr. Bowie) at Lucky Dog Tattoos, Queens, NYC, 4.13.2016.

I also got my first “new-ish” car in many years this year.  I fucked up my credit in my early 20s during my second bout with college, and, while I’m still rebuilding my credit, the fact I was actually able to score a car that’s less than five years old is a pretty big deal for me.  Of course, I’ll be spending the next five years paying for it, but it’s all good, really.

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My new(ish) baby!  She doesn’t have a name yet though – like my last car, this one’s silver, and I can’t call her Silvie, because that was the name of my last car.  Name suggestions welcomed!

There were a lot of firsts and lasts in my life this year.  There’ll be more in 2017.  Just a handful of shows remain on my long-running little retro program, STUCK IN THE 80s (at least in this incarnation on WMPG).  And, while I’m sad about that, it’s time.  And, it’s not like STUCK IN THE 80s will be away forever – it just won’t be on WMPG, my second home for two decades.  And I’ll always love my experience and the friends and family I’ve made over the years, but it’s time to take the show to another level.  This blog is just the first step.

I half-joke at the end of every year about resolutions and say, “I gave up resolutions this year.”  (It’s actually a joke about Lent resolutions I love from a 1995 movie I love by Edward Burns, THE BROTHERS McMULLEN.)

For 2017, I don’t think I can use that go-to half-joke this time around.  There’s things I really want to do, like find a new home for STUCK IN THE 80s, expand the blog, take better care of myself and finally finish writing a screenplay and film something I’ve written, for starters. 

50-yearsI’m turning 50 years old in a month and a half.  Holy cats!  Half a century old!  How the fuck did that happen?!  Well, it did, and I’m ready for it (although my sore back and arm from shoveling Snowzilla the other day might disagree).  I may not be ready for more personal and celebrity deaths of people I love, but Master Yoda was right – “Death is a natural part of life.  Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.”  And I will.  I can’t guaRONtee it won’t be easy or it’ll involve getting another tattoo, but you never know.

R.I.P. to everyone we lost this year, and especially to David Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Bud Ferry (my brother-in-law’s dad) and Bandit Raymond.  I will miss you all very much, and you’ll always be a part of me.

To my wealth of family and my dear friends like Hope, Michael, Shawn in NYC, Shawn in Portland, Maine, and my oldest friend, Peter, I love you all very much, and thank you not only for being my dearest of friends, but for all of your kind words, cheerleading, believing in me and for being there for yours truly.

To everyone who has been kind enough to read, like, share or comment and leave a kind word about my blog, I thank you so very much.  It’s great to know people from close by to other parts of the world are digging my blog; it’s encouraging and inspiring that the stories I write about my life and the songs that I love are not only being read but appreciated.

And not to sound too personal about the end of 2016 (actually, that’s a complete lie), but seriously – Kick out the jams and stand by the jams!  Yippie ki-yay, motherfuckers, and bring on 2017 and 50!!  I’m so fucking ready for you.

2017

I’ll close my last post of 2016 with a favorite lyric about the new year from John Lennon that you’ll know very well, but I’m going to say here anyway: “Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear…”

Peace, Love, and Happy 2017 everyone!  Until next time, I’ll catch you on the flip side…

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