song of the day – “One Way Or Another” | BLONDIE | 1979.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014 (three years ago today), 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!”

I remember hearing about Casey’s death during a trial run at a commercial radio station out of my hometown, Bar Harbor, Maine.  I was pre-recording some voice tracks to be played on the air that Sunday afternoon, and saw it pop up on the news feed on a computer in the station’s main on-air studio.  My heart sank.  I knew Casey hadn’t been well, but I had hoped he’d live much longer than he did, though 82 was a long life, and what a life it was.

Due to a communication snafu, it never worked out with that radio station, but at the very least, I got to at pay tribute to him on the air at that station, if only for a moment.  It’s the least I could do for a man who did so much for me – through music – all those years ago.  Like John Hughes, Casey Kasem is one of the most-influential people for me with music that I DIDN’T meet.

A couple of Sundays later, I did get to pay tribute to Casey with the first of three annual 2-hour radio shows in his memory on STUCK IN THE 80s, and that featured nothing but music from 1979 through 1989 and reached the American Top 40.  My theme song for each annual show was M’s No. 1 hit from 1979, “Pop Muzik,” which, to this day, I maintain is a song that epitomized the music of a decade – NOT the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, I couldn’t think of a better name for these tribute shows than LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION.

long distance dedication 6.29.14

One of the artists played on that show (and many other shows over the course of STUCK IN THE 80s’ 20+ years) was Blondie, who just released their eleventh studio album, the excellent and Rockin’ POLLINATOR.

pollinator

By early 1979, Blondie had released three albums, with the latest one, PARALLEL LINES (which was released in September 1978), slowly climbing the BILLBOARD album chart.  Blondie’s self-titled 1976 debut album didn’t even reach the album chart here in the U.S., and their second album, PLASTIC LETTERS (released in February 1978), reached No. 72. 

The first U.S. single released from PARALLEL LINES – “I’m Gonna Love You Too” – ran parallel to the album’s September 1978 release, but the only places it became a hit was in Belgium and in The Netherlands.  Second single “Hanging On The Telephone” is a revered Punk / New Wave classic, but again, it failed to make a dent here in America, though it was a Top 5 U.K. hit.

Though it may sound like a cliché sometimes, like the saying goes, “third time’s a charm,” and in the case of singles released from PARALLEL LINES, the ol’ saying proved to be right for Blondie to finally break through in their homeland of the U.S. of A.

parallel lines

“Heart Of Glass” was released in January 1979, and by mid-February, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 way down at No. 84.  10 weeks later, it spent a lone week at No. 1, helped PARALLEL LINES climb to No. 6 on the BILLBOARD album chart (becoming their first Platinum album), and reached No. 1 in at least seven other countries – and in the process, united both Punk and Disco fans alike – no easy trick.  I can’t think of any other song that truly did that.

heart of glass

After the worldwide success of “Heart Of Glass,” Blondie’s record label, Chrysalis, released “Sunday Girl” in May 1979…but not here in the U.S., despite the fact “Sunday Girl” spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. and four weeks at No. 1 in Ireland.  (Thanks Chrysalis, you crusty jugglers!  Just because the first two singles didn’t work out here didn’t mean “Sunday Girl” wouldn’t have charted!)

sunday girl

For the fourth single released here in the U.S. and in Canada, Chrysalis released “One Way Or Another,” a song inspired by one of Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriends who had stalked her after they broke up.  (Boy, you don’t wanna mess with Debbie, man!  I believe it when she says she’ll “get’cha, get’cha, get’cha, get’cha!”)

“One Way Or Another” (which, oddly enough, was NOT released as a single outside of the U.S. or Canada) was more Punk and Rock-friendly than Disco friendly, although I don’t know anyone in the ‘Verse who wouldn’t want to dance to this gem.  It’s infectious and instantly invites you to move.

blondie-1

Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1979 (with “Heart Of Glass” still in the Top 15), “One Way Or Another” found its way onto the Top 40 four weeks after its debut, entering the Top 40 at the end of June at No. 35.  It inched up another notch the following week, and then for some weird reason, fell out of the Top 40 down to No. 41. 

In an even weirder chart move (and one I’m sure Casey Kasem loved to talk about), the following week, “One Way Or Another” roared back into the Top 40 from No. 41 to No. 29, a feat more commonplace in the Digital Age of the Hot 100 today, but back in 1979, to make such a dramatic turnaround on the chart was quite rare.

And that would be the last of the rare, big moves for “One Way Or Another,” as two weeks later, in early August 1979, it would spend the first of two weeks at No. 24.  Two weeks after departing the Top 40, it was gone from the Hot 100 completely.  In Canada, “One Way Or Another” fared better, reaching No. 14.

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The 1979 poster of Debbie Harry (photo taken by Chris Stein) that has eluded me for almost 40 years now…

The legacy of “One Way Or Another” didn’t stop there, though.  It’s been covered since by the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Alvin And The Chipmunks, the cast of GLEE, and in 2013, the popular British boy band, One Direction, who did a mashup of “One Way Or Another” with “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones – and titled “One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)” – and released a single in support of Comic Relief.  It was, like One Direction and Blondie before them, a global sensation, and reached No. 1 in at least five countries.  In the process, the original “One Way Or Another” squeaked onto the U.K. singles chart (through digital sales) at No. 98, its first appearance on that chart, and not bad for a 34-year-old song.

“One Way Or Another” has recently been in a number of commercials as of late (I think I heard it in two different commercials back-to-back, in fact), and in ROLLING STONE’s 2006 list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “One Way Or Another” was ranked at No. 298.

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

Though I didn’t initially warm up to “One Way Or Another” as I did with “Heart Of Glass” or “Dreaming,” which would chart a couple of months after “One Way Or Another,” the song grew on me (how could it not?), and I really loved seeing Debbie and Blondie belt this out when my dear friend Shawn (formerly of Maine and NYC) and I saw them in New York back in October 2013.

blondie wkrp 1

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention part of the reason PARALLEL LINES did as well as it did.  The album was released the same month as my second all-time favorite TV show, WKRP IN CINCINATTI.  The show was instrumental in not only the success of the album, but its use of “Heart Of Glass” really helped it to become the big hit it was, and the band’s record label, Chrysalis, presented the producers of WKRP with an authentic Gold RIAA record award for PARALLEL LINES, and it hung on the wall of the station’s “bullpen” for the remainder of the series.  (While I don’t entirely forgive Chrysalis for not releasing “Sunday Girl” here, I thought it was a rare and wonderful and unusual gesture presenting a fictional radio station with a real Gold record.)

blondie wkrp 2

You know, some fans of Casey Kasem and AT40 might disagree, but in listening to some of Casey’s older 1970s AMERICAN TOP 40 countdowns on iHeart Radio (he started AT40, appropriately enough, on July 4, 1970, at the age of 38), I think Casey really started hitting his stride with AT40 in 1979 (though I may be biased, considering that’s the year I really started getting into music).  Maybe that’s what compelled me to keep tuning in week after week, year after year, and as often as I can, three years after his death, on the Interweb.

at80s2I’ve been involved with mostly community and college radio for the better part of 30 years, and in my short-lived time on a commercial station here in Central Maine back in 2008, one of my all-time proudest moments in radio is going on at 10:00 on Saturday mornings, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and rebroadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40.

Though I’ve preferred Alternative, New Wave and Alt-Dance to Top 40 for a long time now, I don’t think I would have ever have had the appreciation for music I do today if it hadn’t been for Casey Kasem.

I miss you, Casey, wherever you are, and I promise to keep reaching for those stars…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m74w9x07DhU

one way or another

  

song of the day – “Johnny And Mary” | ROBERT PALMER | 1980.

Hard to believe at one time of my life, namely the years between 1979 and 1985, I only knew of two songs from the late, great Robert Palmer – “Every Kinda People” (No. 16, BILLBOARD Hot 100, 1978) and “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” (No. 14, Hot 100, 1979).  Then, in 1985, The Power Station (Duran Duran’s Andy and John Taylor, Chic’s Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer) released their kick-ass self-titled album, which garnered three Top 40 hits on the Hot 100 – “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6), “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9), and the very underrated “Communication” (No. 34).

The success of The Power Station breathed new life into Robert Palmer’s career and then some, and here in the U.S. between 1986 and 1991, he picked up a few platinum albums and seven more Top 40 hits, including two songs that reached No. 2, and one song – the hugely popular “Addicted To Love” – which reached No. 1 in 1986.

Fast forwarding to today, I know many folks around the globe are talking about an audio soundbite from 2005 that may or may not have an effect on the upcoming American presidential election, but it’s another audio soundbite, a 2-CD set, actually, that I want to talk about here. 

new waves

In the Summer of 2005, I picked up an incredible 2-CD set called NEW WAVES: 45 ORIGINAL 45s FROM THE POST-PUNK ERA, featuring gems like M’s “Pop Muzik,” The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” by Joe Jackson, and other gems from The Cure, The B-52’s, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Martha + The Muffins, The Creatures, and a 1980 song from Robert Palmer I had surprisingly never heard before – “Johnny And Mary” (from his album, CLUES).

clues

all-fall-down“Johnny And Mary” is a lovely, simple New Wave gem that Allmusic once suggested was the inspiration to the recently knighted Sir Rod Stewart, and his 1981 Top 5 hit, “Young Turks.”  And, while I can hear a similarity in there, I think it may or may not have inspired a longtime 1984 favorite by the Sacramento Rock / New Wave band, The 77s, on a song titled “Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba” (from their album, ALL FALL DOWN), which is slightly faster, but with that same recognizable beat.  It wasn’t a hit or anything, but I highly recommend you check it out.

Although “Johnny And Mary” was never a hit here in the U.S., it did reach No. 18 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and it was a big hit around the globe, spending five weeks at No. 1 in Spain, and reaching the Top 10 in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa and Switzerland.johnny-n-mary-us

“Johnny And Mary” has been covered a number of times over the years, including versions by Tina Turner, Paris’ own lovely 80s cover masters, Nouvelle Vague, as well as Bryan Ferry, Placebo, and even Melissa Manchester.

Robert Palmer sadly passed away in 2003 at the young age of 54, but his great music lives on for all time.  And though in the song, “Johnny” cheats on “Mary” and “Mary” is bored in the relationship, and “Johnny” tries to prove himself and “Mary” says she “should be used to it,” I’m so glad I was finally introduced to this 1980 treasure, albeit 25 years late…

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

Robert Palmer In New York City

NEW YORK – AUGUST 13: English singer Robert Palmer on the street on August 13, 1980 in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)

long distance dedication.

Today (6.15.2016) marks the second anniversary of the passing of my radio hero, the legendary Casey Kasem.  In my first blog post, pop muzik (https://foreveryoung80s.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/pop-muzik/), I mentioned how important 1979 was to me; still is.  1979 was the year I discovered music (or, maybe, music found ME), and a huge part of that was Casey Kasem and his weekly countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40. Casey Kasem AT40 Ad

Casey Kasem wasn’t just an outlet for me and my new-found love for music from 8:00am to 12:00 noon every Saturday and/or Sunday.  Casey Kasem was the main reason I pursued a career in radio.  In early September 1985, six+ years after listening to Casey Kasem and AT40 every weekend, I started my first semester of two at the (then) New England School of Broadcasting in Bangor (now a 4-year degree program at the juggernaut New England School of Communications; part of Husson University), including my first experience as a radio DJ on the mighty WHSN.

I may have shared this before, but I think one of the reasons radio intrigued me was because I was shy and had a hard time expressing myself in person.  With radio, I didn’t have that problem.  It was the perfect avenue for me to express myself and share my love of music with people.  Apart from writing, I think I’m at my most comfortable on the air. 

Radio (mostly college and community radio) has been a part of my life for the better part of 31 years.  For about half the year in 2008, when I moved from Portland back to Central Maine to help out my folks, I got my first and only job with a commercial radio station.  It was part-time, it was locally run (a family owned it), an Adult Top 40 format, mostly live, and it was housed in the old WTOS building in Skowhegan, Maine (a commercial station in the 80s like no other in the area, which introduced me to some cool Alternative music, aired Dr. Demento, and was even granted a funeral when the format changed to Hard Rock).

While still serving as Music Director at WMPG community radio in Portland (a position I held for more than 10 years), I also worked part-time at the commercial radio station.  I was part of what they then-called the “Way Back Weekend,” primarily highlighting music from the 70s, 80s and 90s.  I was kind of in my element, and my air name there was “Retro Ron Raymond.”  You could find me on the air from 6:00 to 10:00pm on Friday nights, and for five hours on Saturday, from 10:00am to 3:00pm, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and the 80s re-broadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40.  It was a big moment for me.

at40 80s

But, it was not to last.  2008 was the year the economy went into the shitter, gas was $4.00 a gallon (which sucked commuting 300 miles to Portland and back every week), and just days before Xmas, I was let go.  The diminutive general manager (who also was one of the morning hosts) cited the economy, which at the time, was a legitimate reason to reason to let me go (even though it was just nine hours a week at a low wage).  I was disappointed, but I understood.  My six-month experience in commercial radio (to date) was over.

As it turned out, I was not let go because of the economy.  I don’t know if the little bastard was intimidated with my knowledge of music (I was only trying to help), or if he just didn’t like my work, but the next year, they were doing just fine.  O well.  Live and learn I guess.  I can at least say I did it.

original STUCK logo

the original STUCK logo…

I started STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG in the Spring of 1996 at the age of 29, and I’m planning to end the show on my birthday in February 2017 when I turn 50.  It just seems right; cathartic.  It might sound silly to some, but I want to spread the 80s music word beyond the reach and small confines of WMPG.  Maybe it’ll be a podcast, maybe I’ll try STUCK IN THE 80s in syndication, or who knows?  Maybe I’ll land on satellite radio.  I’m still working on that part.  But, I think this blog could very well be the start of my next chapter in radio, whatever that may be. 

stuck in the 80s 20 yellow

the current STUCK logo…

For now, though, I’ve got 35 more radio shows to go, I’m going to give my ever-growing legion of STUCK fans the best shows I can bring to them, and they’re gonna kick ass.  In fact, the first of those 35 shows will be my third annual tribute to Casey Kasem.  A long distance dedication of sorts.  For one week a year, playing only songs that reached the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 is the very least I can do for the man that indirectly inspired me to be there in the first place.  I miss you, Casey, wherever you are.  And, don’t worry, I’ll keep reaching for those stars… 

Casey Kasem AT40 1983

Casey Kasem, 1983.

song of the day – “Right Now” | THE CREATURES | 1983.

I had known about and enjoyed the music of Londoner Siouxsie Sioux, her band, Siouxsie And The Banshees, and her other band, a side project with Banshees drummer Budgie – The Creatures – for many years before learning about “Right Now,” today’s “song of the day.”

new wavesIn 2005, at a time when I was still living in Portland, Maine and Newbury Comics was still interested in being one of the best places to pick up CDs instead of trendy clothes, I found this incredibly cool compilation called NEW WAVES: 45 ORIGINAL 45s FROM THE POST PUNK ERA. 

NEW WAVES had great gems from the likes of M, Squeeze, The Buzzcocks, The Undertones, The B-52’s, Billy Bragg, The Buggles, The Tubes, Trio, Martha & The Muffins, Blondie, Joan Armatrading, Robert Palmer, Elvis Costello and “Right Now” by The Creatures.

I still find it funny how I had no idea this song existed before 2005.  And on top of that, it was actually a cover of a 1962 Jazz/Pop song by Herbie Mann!  (Mel Tormé also recorded a version the same year.)  The Creatures recorded a faithful cover version in the style of the 1960s original, replete with a brass section, and it paid off.  It was a No. 14 hit on the U.K. singles chart, the band’s biggest hit. 

right now

In a great July 1983 review by writer Paul Colbert for the British weekly music newspaper, MELODY MAKER, he wrote:

“The Creatures slipped through an unlocked back window, ransacked the place and left with the best ideas in a fast car.  Like all the greatest criminal minds they strike without a warning and only they know the plan.  We have to piece the clues into a cover story.  From the earliest seconds of ‘Right Now’ you know you’re on shifting ground.  Siouxsie baba da baping away to the noise of her own fingers clicking until Budgie barges in with congas on speed.  Christ which way is this going?  The one direction you don’t expect is a vagrant big band coughing out drunken bursts of brass in a Starlight Room of it’s [sic?] own making.  Budgie and Siouxsie – the Fred and Ginger of the wayward world.”

The Pussycat Dolls, an all-female group from Los Angeles, covered the song for their 2007 debut album, not in the style of the original Herbie Mann version, but in the version by The Creatures.

The Creatures disbanded in 2004, but memorable songs like “Standing There,” “Fury Eyes,” “Miss The Girl” and “Right Now” live on.  I think I’ll listen to them, um, right now…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_9SdrN6D-o

the creatures

wouldn’t it be good.

To borrow from Nik Kershaw’s 1984 gem of a song, wouldn’t it be good to be on your side (or my side) of the subject of one-hit wonders?  What do you think of when you think of a one-hit wonder?  You think of a band or a singer who had one big hit, and that’s it, right?  What 80s one-hit wonders come to mind right away for you?  a-ha?  Falco?  Men Without Hats?  Eddy Grant?  Information Society?  The Outfield?  ’til Tuesday?  Madness?  For the record (no pun intended), NONE of these acts were one-hit wonders here in America.  In fact, every one of the acts listed above had multiple Top 40 hits, and in some cases, multiple Top 20 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. 

Well, if you’re surprised that the artists listed above had more than one hit, don’t blame yourself; most people feel that way.  It’s not at the fault of the people, it’s radio stations and media outlets like VH1 who, over the years, “determine” what songs are the ones worth remembering, and what songs get left behind, despite what imprint they may have left on the singles chart.  And I love radio.  

vh1 80s one-hit wondersIn 2009, VH1 did a show on the “Greatest One-Hit Wonders Of The 80s,” and I responded with a show on STUCK IN THE 80s, titled “Why I Wasn’t A One-Hit Wonder,” featuring hits by artists listed above and other artists who appeared on VH1’s list like Thomas Dolby, John Waite, Devo, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, A Flock Of Seagulls and Dead Or Alive.  I don’t know who put this bullshit list together for VH1, but if I recall, nearly 75% of the list was inaccurate.

Later that year, in advance of their first Portland, Maine show, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Dave Wakeling, the voice and force behind The English Beat and General Public.  Save it for later Ron 11.23.09Knowing General Public had more than one hit (“Tenderness” in 1984 and their brilliant cover of The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” in 1993), I had played “I’ll Take You There” on my “Why I Wasn’t A One-Hit Wonder” show, and asked Dave if it bothered him that General Public, according to VH1, was referred to as a one-hit wonder (“Tenderness” was No. 77 on the list):

“[VH1] asked me to be involved in that, and I sent them a list of [our] hits, and I was like, ‘Sadly, we can’t be involved in a one-hit wonder [show], can we?’  So, I told him that I thought they were barking up the wrong tree, and beating a dead horse, and it seems to be something, I think it stems more from VH1 than anything else, to try and marginalize or even ridicule the 80s somehow, and most of the people working on those damn programs weren’t even there; with their young sarcastic tones.  I put the guy in his place, frankly.  And, I said, ‘Even if I was a one-hit wonder, it’d be one more than you, mate, wouldn’t it?!’  Or, as my dad used to say, ‘Better to have been a has been than a never-bleeding wozzer!’”

i'll take you thereBetween late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s.  Once a week, prolly on Mondays, I’ll feature a (real) one-hit wonder of the week.  For me, being the chart nerd I am (I have warned you of this), a (real) one-hit wonder was a artist that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, whether it was a No. 1 hit, like M’s “Pop Muzik,” a Top 10 hit like Soft Cell’s cover of “Tainted Love,” a Top 40 hit like Laid Back’s “White Horse,” or a song that just squeaked into the Hot 100 at No. 96, like “The Only Way Is Up,” by Yazz & The Plastic Population, a song that actually spent 5 weeks at No. 1 in the United Kingdom.  And with nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s (including the aforementioned Nik Kershaw), I could do this as a weekly feature for many years to come.  Stay tuned…

pop muzik.

1979 – the year of the Iran hostage crisis, the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and Margaret Thatcher becoming Britain’s first female prime minister.  While all of these were tragic events (The English Beat’s Dave Wakeling, for one, would most likely classify the 11-year-reign of the Iron Lady as a tragic event), none of it mattered to me. 

Battlestar-Galactica

The original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – campy as hell, but I still loved it…

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, save for maybe some TV, like the original, campy BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and WKRP IN CINCINNATI, or trying to figure out who I liked more – Laverne OR Shirley (some episodes it was both of them). 

At age 12, I hadn’t really understood the whole “dysfunctional” dynamic of things, people, environments, music.  WKRP was a fictional (and yes, dysfunctional) radio station, and it, too, didn’t matter to me, at first anyway.  But, WKRP was different than the real-world goings on.  WKRP was fun, funny, smart, and was an integral part of the year that would change my life forever. 

WKRP

Somehow, watching these wonderful radio misfits for 4 years helped get me into radio…

With the unintended help of WKRP, I truly discovered music that year – granted, it was mostly pop music, mostly by way of WIGY-FM, a Top 40 station out of Bath, Maine.  My favorite DJ at WIGY (Y106 FM) was Willie Mitchell.  He had been at WIGY for around 8 years at that point, and had this likeable, confident way about him.  I even managed to win a few albums during his afternoon slot, one of them being the 1980 Dire Straits gem, MAKING MOVIES. 

WIGY also aired Casey Kasem’s AMERICAN TOP 40 program on Saturdays and Sundays, from 8:00am to noon.  I can’t remember at what point in early 1979 I started listening, but when I discovered it, I was glued to the program immediately and 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. 

At first, I used to keep a record of the chart each week in a notebook.  If my family was away from Central Maine that weekend, visiting my grandparents in Downeast Maine, for example, I would ask (er, make) my poor parents (and brothers and sisters) to try and find the countdown somewhere on the radio so I wouldn’t miss it.  Keep in mind this was many years before the Interweb, and you couldn’t just look this stuff up.  AMERICAN TOP 40 took the 40 top songs off of BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 singles chart, and I also couldn’t go to the local bookstore and rummage through the pages of BILLBOARD magazine to find out what was No. 1 on the Hot 100, or any songs I may have missed hearing that week.  At least not right away.

Up until WKRP and WIGY and AMERICAN TOP 40, music played almost no role in my life to that point.  My mom liked Country & Western music, especially Jim Reeves and Charley Pride, the latter of which she still owns many of his albums (from the 60s through the early 80s).  My dad liked Rock ’n’ Roll and some Soul.  I remember living in Southwest Harbor, Maine (the self-proclaimed “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island) and my first music memories included listening to a 5th Dimension album with my dad.music powerHe also had this K-Tel record titled MUSIC POWER, featuring some popular hits of the day, including The Chi-Lites’ “Oh Girl,” “Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Junction, Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” “Little Willy” by The Sweet and a minor Top 40 hit by a band called Lighthouse, titled “Pretty Lady,” which I still enjoy to this day.  The late, great Jim Croce was also a fixture in the Raymond household, and still is. 

My first 45’s were the “Theme From S.W.A.T.” by Rhythm Heritage and “Convoy” by C.W. McCall, both No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 in early 1976 and both of which were broken (for whatever reason) by 1979.  The only other 45’s I remember owning prior to 1979 were Billy Joel’s “My Life” and John Williams’ “Theme From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,” which I still own, though quite beat up after almost 40 years. 

45’s were more of a commodity for me in 1979.  Whatever money I received that year, and some years to come, were spent on 45’s.  Of the 25 No. 1 songs on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1979, I think I owned 19 or 20 of them.  And that’s just the No. 1’s.  The first 45 I bought with my own money was Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”  my sharona 45Do I wish it had been Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass,” ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” or The Knack’s “My Sharona?”  Perhaps, but I still enjoy the song (not to mention the fun 1993 cover by Revolting Cocks), and, you know, the collection had to start somewhere.

Speaking of Blondie, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my first heavy duty music crush – Blondie’s Debbie Harry.  I hadn’t even had my first kiss yet (that would come in 1980) and there was Debbie.  Holy shit!  Stunningly beautiful and talented.  Who else could unite disco fans and punk fans with a hit song (“Heart Of Glass”)?  ’Twas no easy feat, but Debbie and Blondie did it. 

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The playfully innocent 1979 poster of Debbie Harry I always wanted but never got to own…

In October 2013, my dear and longtime friend, Shawn Mullin, took me to see Blondie perform in their hometown of New York City for one of the final concerts at the famed Roseland Ballroom.  Debbie was 68 years old then (2 years older than my mother), and when she walked out on that stage, Shawn’s and my grade school and junior high crushes, respectively, came rushing back.  She totally rocked that stage; they all did.  The following year, Blondie celebrate their 40th anniversary and released their 10th studio album, GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD.  It was my favorite album of 2014, and I’m still digging it. 

The pop music from 1979 will forever hold a special place in my heart because it was the year I started getting into music.  When the 2011 J.J. Abrams / Steven Spielberg sci-fi film, SUPER 8, was released, I took my sister and my 10-year-old niece to see it. Michael, one of my best friends, once half-joked that he’d seen that movie before – it was called E.T.  I can see some similarities, but for me, I absolutely loved the film.  Part of the love for this film stemmed from it being set in 1979, and the main characters were 12 years old, same as me that year.  So, I had that connection going.  A couple of hit single staples from that year were also featured in the film – the aforementioned “My Sharona” by The Knack and “Don’t Bring Me Down” by the Electric Light Orchestra, two of my all-time favorite songs to this day.

Even though “My Sharona” was 1979’s “song of summer,” I think it has one of those weird distinctions (at least for me) of being referred equally as a 70s song and an 80s song.  It had that kind of feel.  Another song for me that fits that category is “Pop Muzik” by M (real name Robin Scott).  I’ve always contended that “Pop Muzik” pop muzikepitomized the music of a decade – not the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, not surprisingly, it remains as another of my all-time favorites. 

Pop muzik, er, music would be a constant in my life for years to come.  There were some songs outside of the pop music realm that found their way to me early on, but more on that another time. 

Much of this blog will involve time in one way or another (an unintentional 1979 Blondie reference), through autobiographical references like this debut post, my WMPG-FM radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (now in its 20th year), or the 80s itself, whether it’s newer stories about 80s artists or favorite 80s albums, songs or movies, or just thoughts to share along the way. 

When the 80s ended, I don’t think I felt or had the connection to the 80s I do today.  STUCK IN THE 80s actually started as a one-off radio show in November 1992 when I came back to WUMF (13 watts of alternative power at the University of Maine at Farmington!).  Months later (in early 1993), upon moving to Farmington, Maine (in the Western part of Maine, not far from the Sugarloaf Mountain ski area) months later, I was asked to come back to my radio alma mater and continued STUCK IN THE 80s for a semester or two (on Sunday nights, no less; the WMPG version of the show has always aired on Sunday nights).

When I started STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG in May 1996, it was only on a guest-hosting basis, and, at the time, like many radio shows on WMPG, it existed to fill a music void left by commercial stations in the Portland, Maine area.  In the beginning, I would concentrate only on alternative rock and dance music, and wouldn’t even play Madonna for awhile, because you could hear her almost everywhere else at the time.

The show officially started in September 1996, and still in the same time slot on Sunday nights (7-9pm Eastern).  Over the years, the show has branched out, highlighting new music from 80s artists, cover songs galore, and even features some pre-80s punk. stuck in the 80s 20 800x1000 YELLOW

I started the show at age 29, and will turn 49 in February 2016.  I’ve decided to end STUCK IN THE 80s in late August 2016 after 20 years on the air at WMPG.  More on that later on.  Trust me – lots of time left to delve into that… 

As for the name of the blog, FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s, “Forever Young” is partially derived from the brilliant 1984 Cold War Classic by Alphaville.  It’s also partially due to the fact that the 80s keep me young.  It’s true – some of my friends even say I’m “aging in reverse,” which is nice, considering I’m outside of a year away from turning 50.

My dear and über-talented friend, Hope, who helped me get the blog going and who changed the dynamic of the original title of the blog by dropping one word (thank you Hope!), recently said to me that I am a grownup, moving forward with my life and the 80s by my side, and as a part of me; that I’m a grown man who manages to combine my favorite decade – music and culture – with my life now.  And, she’s right.  Most days, while I may look younger than I am, I am getting older.  No stopping that.  But, there’s something about the 80s (the music in particular) that passionately and without prejudice propels me into the space/time continuum, and I don’t even need a DeLorean to do it.  And, if I ever make it to the 80s and beyond, I know the music and movies of the 80s will keep me “Forever Young”; of that, I’m sure…

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this debut blog post, and I hope you’ll stick around for many more, well before 50 finds me.  It’s my first blog of any kind, so you could say it’s pretty special to me, kinda like the “pop muzik” of 1979.  Music from the Fall of 1979, such as “My Sharona” or “Pop Muzik” or “Dreaming” by Blondie (one of my “desert island discs”), is where the 80s started for me, so what better place for me to start sharing the story of FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s…

forever young blog logo

The original FOREVER YOUNG logo…