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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

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

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

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

waiting for a girl like you

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

99 luftballons

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

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

loverboy

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

the lover in me

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

lovesong

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

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

hungry heart

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

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

dancing in the dark

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

bruce blinded

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

courtney n bruce

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

blaster mix

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

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

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

when doves cry back

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

pink cadillac

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

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

born in the usa LP

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

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

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

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

cyndi girls

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

bob n bruce

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

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

e st band

Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band, 1984.

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

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

bruce 84

song of the day – “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” | UTOPIA | 1983.

To paraphrase from a movie I recently watched (yet again), the incredibly funny 1984 film, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, “I’m a singles chart nerd, and I’m pretty proud of it.” 

at40 80s

In the years leading up to adulthood, and for a few years after, I was a faithful listener of Casey Kasem’s AMERICAN TOP 40 program, and while I am a self-proclaimed singles chart nerd, I concede that, if there’s a song out there you love, and have loved for years, what position they reached on the singles chart (if they even reached it at all) doesn’t matter.  I think if Casey Kasem were here with us today, he might agree.  Still, all these years later, there are some songs out there whose peak chart positions surprise me.  One of those songs is “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” by Utopia.

feet don't fail me now

For years, Pennsylvania native Todd Rundgren had been going back and forth, releasing solo albums and albums with his band, Utopia.  As for his solo career, Todd is best known for his BILLBOARD Hot 100 hits, “I Saw The Light” (No. 16) and “Hello It’s Me” (No. 5, both from 1972), his original 1978 version of “Can We Still Be Friends” (No. 29; covered by Robert Palmer in 1979, and by many others since), and 1983’s fun “Bang The Drum All Day” (No. 63).

Todd Rundgren’s band, Utopia, started out as a Prog-Rock band in 1973, and had several incarnations over the years, releasing nine studio albums between 1974 and 1985.  Their biggest album, late 1979’s ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA, was their biggest, blending Rock, Disco and Prog-Rock, and gave the band their only Top 40 hit on the Hot 100, “Set Me Free,” which spent a week at its peak position of No. 27 in April 1980.

NERDY SIDE NOTE: A song Todd Rundgren wrote for Utopia’s 1977 album, OOPS!  WRONG PLANET – the last song on the album – called “Love Is The Answer,” was a single released from the album, but it was not a hit.  It did, however, end up being a Top 10 hit for Adult Contemporary favorites England Dan & John Ford Coley in May 1979, and it was among the 100 biggest U.S. hits of that year.utopia 1982 LP

From Utopia’s second self-titled album (and their second album released in 1982), there were two singles released from the album: “Hammer In My Heart” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.”  With the album recorded just a year after MTV was born, both songs featured videos on a VHS collection called THE UTOPIA SAMPLER, which received a Grammy nomination in 1983 for Best Short Form Video.  Speaking of MTV, footage for the “Hammer In My Heart” video was recorded live at MTV’s official first birthday party, hosted by MTV VJ (and current Maine resident and weather enthusiast), Nina Blackwood.  That song reached No. 31 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.

feet videoThe cheeky video for the other single released from the UTOPIA album, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” featured the band members dressed up as different types of bugs who can’t move their feet.  The video kinda reminded me of videos The Cars would end up producing in the 80s, like 1984’s MTV Video Of The Year winner, “You Might Think” (which at one point features singer Ric Ocasek as a fly).  In an odd coincidence, Todd Rundgren took Ric Ocasek’s place as lead singer of The New Cars in 2005 (featuring original Cars members Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes) for one album and a tour, which I unfortunately missed.

“Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” has always reminded me of a cross between the U.K. Pop band, Bucks Fizz (who had three No. 1 songs in the U.K. back in the early 80s) and XTC, which, in yet another coincidence, Todd Rundgren produced the brilliant XTC album, SKYLARKING, in 1986, the same year Utopia broke up.

Skylarking

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” debuted at No. 90 in early January 1983, but sadly, it was the legs, not the feet that failed “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” and it peaked at No. 82 a couple weeks later, staying there for three weeks.  It was the last time Utopia would see the Hot 100.

I was a bit late learning about “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” (it wasn’t until after I started STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 21-year 80s radio program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), but every time I’ve heard it since, it’s never failed me.  I suppose maybe 20 years from now, if I hear this song and of course, want to dance to it, I might say, “Feet, don’t fail me now.” 

But, for the moment, I’ll proudly dance to this quirky and fun gem at home, because unlike the meaning of the word “utopia” (which means “no place” or an imagined place), here’s a good as place as any to dance, not to mention it’s a place where I don’t have to worry about taking anyone out on the dance floor on account of my mad dancing skillz (those who have seen me dance are laughing, because they know it’s true)…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytAi9yr7t1E

utopia

song of the day – “Election Day” | ARCADIA | 1985.

Well, it’s finally here.  Today (November 8, 2016), my Country, the United States of America, will elect one of the two most unpopular Presidential candidates in recent memory (or all-time).  I’ll come onto that in a bit.

trump-hillary

On this historic Election Day in the US of A, today’s “song of the day” (a choice that will prolly surprise no one) is actually by a band from the U.K. – “Election Day” by Arcadia. 

31 years after the fact, almost everyone and their mother knows that, in 1985, when Duran Duran went on a hiatus, two side projects were formed: the “supergroup” known as The Power Station – Robert Palmer, Chic’s Tony Thompson on drums, and Duran’s John Taylor and Andy Taylor – and Arcadia, comprised of the other three members of Duran Duran – Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.

Both acts were successful but short-lived, and by the time Arcadia’s first single, “Election Day,” was released, The Power Station had already scored a couple of U.S. Top 10 hits and a third Top 40 hit. 

True to its name, “Election Day” was released in October 1985, just weeks before Election Day, and about a month in advance of its parent album, SO RED THE ROSE.  A couple of Saturdays before a pretty tame Election Day here in America (compared to the Presidential election of 1984, where Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide and almost unanimous victory), the song “Election Day” was the highest-debuting song on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 that week, coming in at No. 46. 

so-red-the-rose

AllMusic reviewer Kelvin Hayes referred to “Election Day” (also the opening song on SO RED THE ROSE) as a “darkly romantic irking toward erotic and has brass stabs not dissimilar from their Bond [No. 1 hit from earlier that year] ‘[A] View to a Kill’.”  There’s another connection between “Election Day” and the A VIEW TO A KILL film – Grace Jones appeared in the film AND sang backing vocals on “Election Day” (and served as the song’s narrator).

There was one verse that was dropped from the version which ended up being released, and more than 30 years later, it’s eerie how this verse could pertain to this year’s U.S. Presidential election:

“Don’t even try to induce, In all my restrain there’s no hesitation / All the signs on the loose ’cause sanity’s rare this end of the hard day / Shadows are crawling out of the subway / Any way that you choose in every direction just to confuse me…”

election-day

By the end of November 1985, “Election Day” garnered enough votes to reach the Top 10 in just six weeks, but with some pretty heavy contenders ahead of it (three of which would rank in the U.S. Top 10 for all of 1986), “Election Day” stopped at No. 6, spending a couple weeks there just before Christmas 1985.

Around the globe, “Election Day” reached the Top 10 in (at least) the U.K., Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway, and No. 12 in Holland.

Arcadia had one more Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 (“Goodbye Is Forever”) and one other MTV hit (“The Flame,” which was a Top 40 hit in Holland and Ireland), and SO RED THE ROSE would be the only album Arcadia would release.  Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor reunited for Duran Duran in 1986 and had a huge hit with the title track of their Nile Rodgers-produced album, NOTORIOUS.

vote-november-8

As of this writing, Election Day 2016 is underway here in Maine and many parts of America.  If you are kind enough to be reading this blog post and you live in America, I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but PLEASE VOTE if you’re able.  I realize the two main candidates for this Presidential election each have their own baggage and wouldn’t have been my first choices, but whoever you choose, please choose with your heart and with your conscience.

At this point, the best we can do is pray that whoever gets elected will move forward from this election BS and be good for the Country I have loved for a half-century.  If you’re voting, be safe out there and may the Force be with us all…

vote-buttons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3Yy6c0Tlvk

Arcadia Band

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)

song of the day – “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” | THE POWER STATION | 1985.

What do you do when one of your favorite bands splits up and goes their separate ways?  Well, in the case of Talking Heads, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and keep wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’ll get back together for a reunion tour (or just watch STOP MAKING SENSE again). 

In the case of The Police, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and see them on their 2007 reunion tour (like I did), because it’ll prolly never happen again.

And, in the case of Duran Duran in 1985 – one of the first bands that meant a lot to me during the early 80s – you keep hoping they’ll get back together in some form and keep listening to the music you fell in love with.  Duran Duran actually made it easy.  After their 1983 album, SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER, the band went on a “planned” hiatus, splitting into two side projects, but not without giving us the live ARENA album and their second No. 1 song, “A View To A Kill,” from the James Bond film of the same name. 

arcadiaband

Arcadia: Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.

Frontman and lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor went on to form Arcadia, which was reminiscent of their work with Duran Duran.  Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor went a different route with their band, what would become the “supergroup” The Power Station.

The Power Station had an edgier Rock / Funk sound that John and Andy Taylor weren’t able to pull off with Duran Duran.  In 1984, Bebe Buell, singer and former model, part-time Portlander and the biological mother to actress Liv Tyler, was dating John Taylor, and she wanted to do a cover of T. Rex’s 1972 classic, “Get It On (Bang A Gong).”  John proceeded to get some of his famous music friends together to help out, and instead, it turned into something more.

bebe buell john taylor

Bebe Buell and John Taylor.

John and Andy reached out to their idols from the 70s Dance/Soul band, Chic.  The amazing Tony Thompson was on board as the drummer, and Bernard Edwards would be the producer.  Now, they needed a singer.  John and Andy approached folks like Billy Idol, Mick Jagger, Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs and Mick Ronson, who had worked with David Bowie and Morrissey. 

Originally the band was to be called Big Brother, and the initial idea was to have a revolving door of lead singers, each one singing on a different track on the album.  English singer / songwriter Robert Palmer – who had released several albums since 1975, but with limited success around the globe – had performed live with Duran Duran once in 1983, and was the invited vocalist for the song, “Communication.”  Robert had heard they were doing a cover of “Get It On” and wanted to try out for it, and instead, the band ended up doing the whole album with Robert Palmer.

the power station 2

The Power Station: Tony Thompson, John Taylor, Robert Palmer and Andy Taylor.

The entire band – Robert Palmer on vocals, John Taylor on bass, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on those amazing drums – appeared on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on February 16, 1985, and were introduced to the world.  And from there, The Power Station was a hit, as was their self-titled album, which was certified Gold in the U.K. and reached the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD album chart. 

the power station LPThe “supergroup” also had three Top 40 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6 for 2 weeks, May 1985), their cover of “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9 for 2 weeks, August 1985, surpassing the No. 10 peak of the T. Rex original) and “Communication” (No. 34 for 2 weeks, October 1985).  (“Get It On” also reached No. 22 in the U.K., and No. 8 in Australia.) 

For those keeping score, The Power Station did fare better overall than the other equally short-lived Duran Duran side project, Arcadia, whose album, SO RED THE ROSE, was certified Platinum here in the U.S., and they had a couple of Top 40 singles – “Election Day” (No. 6, 1985) and “Goodbye Is Forever” (No. 33), as well as a MTV video hit with “The Flame.”

By the end of 1985, The Power Station was no more.  But, the experience breathed new Addicted_to_Lovelife and then some into Robert Palmer’s career.  Before the year was out, his eighth studio album, RIPTIDE, was released (recruiting fellow Power Stationers Bernard Edwards as producer, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on drums).  It was the biggest album of Robert Palmer’s career.  Remember those memorable drums and that guitar solo on his No. 1 hit, “Addicted To Love?” – it was courtesy of Tony and Andy. 

Tony Thompson went on to provide drum support for some acts, and appeared in a few bands, along with the brief return of Chic in 1992.  John Taylor opted to return to Duran Duran, while Andy Taylor did not return in lieu of a solo career.  Both John and Andy had separate Top 30 singles on the Hot 100 in 1986, and both were movie songs.  Andy Taylor could also be found on other hit singles in the second half of the 80s, providing his guitar talents for several artists, notably on Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” (1986) and “Lost In You” and “Forever Young,” from Rod Stewart’s 1989 album, OUT OF ORDER.

They would all get back together in 1996 for their second album, LIVING IN FEAR, though John Taylor had to drop out of the project and wasn’t on the record.  Bernard Edwards was all set to tour with The Power Station, but tragically died during a trip to Japan.  Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson both sadly passed away in 2003, within a couple months of each other.  Robert had just released a Blues album. 

duran 2016

Duran Duran, 2015: Roger Taylor, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes Simon LeBon.

Today, Duran Duran is touring in support of their fourteenth studio album, the wonderful PAPER GODS (Andy Taylor did rejoin the band for their 2004 album, ASTRONAUT, but it was not to be, and the other band members have continued on without him).  With my dear friend Shawn, we saw Duran Duran (with Chic opening) in Brooklyn back in April 2016.  Both bands were brilliant, and both paid tribute to David Bowie.  It is one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.

And “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” is one of THE best covers I’ve ever heard.  You can hear John Taylor’s impressive, funky bass work; Andy Taylor’s killer guitar; the booming drums courtesy of Tony Thompson; and, the memorable, passionate vocals of Robert Palmer.  One of the things I loved most about The Power Station – and you can especially hear it on this song – is that every member of the “supergroup” is represented, and they never let you forget that… 

get it on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2vHbXI2p4k

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song of the day – “Good Times” | CHIC featuring NILE RODGERS | 1979.

As you may have seen from my last post, I’m still on a high from the concert my dear friend Shawn and I saw last week (4.12.2016) at New York’s Barclays Center, Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers.  It was truly one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen.  And while seeing Duran Duran perform was worth the 34-year wait, seeing Chic and Nile perform was more than worth the wait too.

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Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers.

Chic was co-formed 40 years ago by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards right in New York (Nile had mentioned at the show that the first song he wrote, “Everybody Dance,” was written not far from the venue in Brooklyn). 

In the quick 2-year period between 1977 and 1979, at the height of the disco craze, Chic picked up 5 Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – “Everybody Dance” stopped at No. 38, while the remaining 4 Top 40 hits reached the Top 10: “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” (No. 6, 1977), “Le Freak” (No. 1, 6 weeks, 1978 /1979), “I Want Your Love” (No. 7, 1979) and today’s “song of the day,” “Good Times.”

good times 7%22Chic released “Good Times” in June 1979 (from the album, RISQUÉ) and Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards prolly had no idea how important this song would be in the realm of music history.  Or, maybe they did.  The song’s lyrics were largely based on the 1929 song, “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Milton Ager (who had just passed away a month before the song’s release, and who was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame that year).

“Good Times” didn’t take long to debut on the Hot 100, debuting the same month it was released, and just in time for Summer.  It had reached the Top 10 in just 6 weeks, and spent its lone week at No. 1 in August 1979.  “Good Times” might have stayed on top longer had it not been for the huge chart run for The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which replaced “Good Times” at No. 1 and became the biggest song of 1979.  (After spending a week at No. 1, “Good Times” was situated at No. 2 behind “My Sharona” for 3 weeks.)  “Good Times” ended up at No. 20 for all of 1979. good times v2

On other BILLBOARD charts, “Good Times” spent 6 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, and was the No. 1 R&B single for 1979.  Over on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, “Good Times” (along with 2 other songs from RISQUÉ – “My Forbidden Lover” and “My Feet Keep Dancing”) reached No. 3.

The good times for “Good Times” wasn’t limited to the U.S. – it reached No. 5 in the U.K. and Canada, No. 8 in New Zealand, and was a Top 40 hit in at least 4 other countries.

A month after “Good Times” hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100,  a Hip Hop group out of Englewood, New Jersey, The Sugarhill Gang, released “Rapper’s Delight,” a song that sampled “Good Times” and used it as the music backdrop behind their rapping.  “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t the first song to incorporate rapping (that distinction would go to the The Fatback Band’s song released a few months before “Rapper’s Delight,” “King Tim III (Personality Jock)”), but it was the song that brought Rap and Hip Hop into the music mainstream, and in 2011, it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which includes songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  And The Sugarhill Gang have Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to thank for that, and I’m sure they have many times over…  At the Barclays show, Nile Rodgers even did a bit of the opening rap from “Rapper’s Delight” (much to the delight of me, Shawn and everyone in attendance).

Chic would not hit the Top 40 again after “Good Times,” though they still continue to make music, and June 2015, even scored their first No. 1 BILLBOARD Dance hit in more than 20 years with “I’ll Be There,” from the forthcoming album, IT’S ABOUT TIME, their first studio album since 1992.

Bernard Edwards, bassist and vocalist for Chic, sadly died of pneumonia after a performance in Tokyo this week in 1996.  The amazing Tony Thompson, Chic’s drummer and also a well-known session drummer, was one-quarter of the 1985 “supergroup” The Power Station, and he tragically passed away in 2003 from kidney cancer just before turning  49, and two months after the passing of another one-quarter of The Power Station, Robert Palmer.

Nile Rodgers – at 63 years old and a cancer survivor – was so amazing to watch; so much energy and positivity coming out of that talented, brilliant man.  Since Chic had 5 Top 40 hits, all memorable, they filled the rest of the hour they performed with a medley of songs written and / or produced by Nile, including “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, and “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. 

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Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, live at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NYC 4.12.2016.

Then came a sensational surprise, Chic-style.  I had hoped Nile and Chic would play it, but I wasn’t sure.  The song I’m talking about is “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie.  Nile Rodgers had said that, after the disco backlash in the early 80s, no one wanted to work with him.  David Bowie was the first recording artist to reach out to him and asked Nile to work with him.  And the result was the biggest hit of David Bowie’s career. 

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Nile Rodgers and David Bowie, photographed by Peter Gabriel.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Nile Rodgers went on to work with so many artists over the decades, including Duran Duran (truly a concert pairing of epic proportions), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, INXS, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Thompson Twins, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Depeche Mode, The B-52’s, and in 2009, with a couple of guys from Paris called Daft Punk. 

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” single got lucky with Nile Rodgers (and Pharrell Williams too), spent 5 weeks at No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, has become one of the biggest-selling digital singles of all-time (more than 9 million copies downloaded), won 2 Grammy Awards, and reached No. 1 in more than 30 countries.  (Nile and Chic also performed this, Chic-style, at the Barclays show).

Like Daft Punk, over the years, the music of Chic has inspired many recording artists, from Queen (“Another One Bites The Dust”), Debbie Harry (who worked with Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers on 1981’s KOO KOO album), and even The Smiths’ Johnny Marr.

nile rodgers 2016

Nile Rodgers, 2016.

Chic has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 times, more than any other recording act, and most recently, for the 2016 class.  I’m hoping that maybe someone from the Rock Hall saw the performance of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at the Barclays show or on another part of the tour, because not only is Chic about those “Good Times,” they’re a heluva talented band, too.  I know I’ll be thinking about those “Good Times” from the show for a long time to come. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKl6EZShaaw

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