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

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

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

pac-man fever

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

rush hour

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

stand by me

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

let's go

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

you got it

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

burning down the house

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

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

people are people

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

robyn

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

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

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

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

document

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

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

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

the one i love v1

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

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

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

the one i love v2

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

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

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

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

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

robyn + peter SWSW 07

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

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

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Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

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

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

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

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

me + michael 10.31.15

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

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

r.e.m.

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song of the day – “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” (from STOP MAKING SENSE) | TALKING HEADS | 1984.

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, I was very saddened to learn of the passing of one of my all-time favorite film directors (and one of the most-celebrated), Jonathan Demme.  He died of complications from esophageal cancer and heart disease, and just turned 73 in late February.

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When folks think of Jonathan Demme’s filmography, one of the first movies to come to mind, naturally, would be the brilliant 1991 horror-thriller, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which, to this day, is one of only three films ever to win Academy Awards in all five major categories – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (for Ted Tally), Best Actress (for Jodie Foster), and Best Actor (for Anthony Hopkins).

silence-of-the-lamb-poster

Another of the films Jonathan directed that most folks will instantly think of is his heartbreakingly incredible 1993 film, PHILADELPHIA.  That film won Academy Awards for actor Tom Hanks and for Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Streets Of Philadelphia.” 

Bruce-Springsteen

From the “Streets Of Philadelphia” music video.

For that video (co-directed with Jonathan’s nephew, wonderful Ted Demme, who passed away in 2002), and unlike most music videos, they had Bruce sing the lyrics live instead of lip-syncing to the song in the video.  And it paid off.  Not only did “Streets Of Philadelphia” receive the Academy Award for Best Original Song, it also won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, four Grammy Awards (Song Of The Year, Best Rock Song, Best Male Rock Performance and Best Song Written For A Motion Picture), and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video From A Film.  And, it gave Bruce his last big hit, reaching No. 1 in at least eight countries, and the Top 10 in another eight, including here in America.

As great as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and PHILADELPHIA are, those aren’t the movies I instantly think of when I think of Jonathan Demme.  The first movies I think of (which he directed) are the incredibly fun SOMETHING WILD from 1986, 1987’s genius SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA with the late, great Spaulding Gray, the hilarious MARRIED TO THE MOB from 1988, Robyn Hitchcock’s sensational 1998 concert film, STOREFRONT HITCHCOCK, and most of all, the film I have long considered as THE BEST concert film of my generation, 1984’s STOP MAKING SENSE with Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.

In a Facebook post on the day Jonathan passed away, Robyn Hitchcock reminisced:  “I last saw Jonathan Demme four years ago today (April 26).  Had no idea till this morning that it would be for the last time.  Here we are in New York in 1996 where he filmed me in concert in a shop window ‘Storefront Hitchcock’. 

robyn + jonathan NYC 96

“Jonathan was a born movie-maker: he loved people and he loved filming them.  Fictional or actual, he caught so many lives and glimpses of lives and framed them for others to enjoy.  Jonathan was a true keeper of souls, and now we must celebrate his.  He did a lot for me, too – thank you, JD.  ‘Are you ready for your close-up?’”

That Wednesday night, in a journal entry on David Byrne’s website, davidbyrne.com, he shared a letter which he apparently worked on for hours following the news of the passing of Jonathan Demme.  In the letter, David wrote, “One could sense his love of ordinary people.  That love surfaces and is manifest over and over throughout his career.  Jonathan was also a huge music fan – that’s obvious in his films too – many of which are jam-packed with songs by the often obscure artists he loved.  He’d find ways to slip a reggae artist’s song or a Haitian recording into a narrative film in ways that were often joyous and unexpected.

“Jonathan’s skill was to see the show almost as a theatrical ensemble piece, in which the characters and their quirks would be introduced to the audience, and you’d get to know the band as people, each with their distinct personalities.  They became your friends, in a sense.”

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Jonathan Demme and David Byrne.

 

Jonathan’s and David’s creative minds complimented each other.  In David’s letter, he mentions how Jonathan helped him while he was developing the 1986 Talking Heads film, TRUE STORIES, how he wrote a song for SOMETHING WILD (“Loco de Amor,” performed with legendary Cuban-born Salsa vocalist, the late Celia Cruz), and how he scored MARRIED TO THE MOB. 

STOP MAKING SENSE, to me, is Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece in film.  It’s just as much a masterpiece for David Byrne and Talking Heads as well.  In fact, it’s both names that grace the 1984 movie poster for STOP MAKING SENSE, and rightfully so.

movie poster

In researching for this blog post, one of the coolest things I read was that, long before crowd-funding for films and albums became commonplace, Talking Heads (then at the peak of their career) raised the $1.2 million dollars themselves so the film could be made.  Pretty damn cool.

In a 1984 review for the concert film, the late, great film critic, Roger Ebert, hailed the film and then some: “The overwhelming impression throughout STOP MAKING SENSE is of enormous energy, of life being lived at a joyous high…  It’s a live show with elements of METROPOLIS [referring to Fritz Lang’s 1927 Sci-Fi film marvel]

“…But the film’s peak moments come through Byrne’s simple physical presence.  He jogs in place with his sidemen; he runs around the stage; he seems so happy to be alive and making music…  He serves as a reminder of how sour and weary and strung-out many rock bands have become…”

press shot

A publicity shot for STOP MAKING SENSE…

STOP MAKING SENSE has many memorable moments (well, the whole thing is memorable), but one that comes to mind is that “big suit” David Byrne sports in the film.  The suit increases in size throughout the course of the film, and when they perform “Girlfriend Is Better,” the suit is so ridiculously (and brilliantly) large.  On a DVD interview for the film, David Byrne explains what the “big suit” represents:  “I wanted my head to appear smaller and the easiest way to do that was to make my body bigger, because music is very physical and often the body understands it before the head.”  I love that quote; it’s so true.

girlfriend is better suit

David Byrne sporting the “big suit” in “Girlfriend Is Better.”

The film version of STOP MAKING SENSE was released on April 24, 1984, months in advance of the soundtrack album, which, in its original LP form, had just nine songs, and some of them edited or different mixes than what appeared on the cassettes or CDs.  Despite the soundtrack only having nine of the film’s songs, the soundtrack spent more than two years on the BILLBOARD Album chart, and was certified Double-Platinum 10 years after its release, selling more than two million copies in the U.S. alone.

In 1999, when the film celebrated its 15th Anniversary with a theatrical re-release, Sire and Warner Bros. restored the songs in the film to include all 15 songs by Talking Heads, and “Genius Of Love” by Tom Tom Club. 

stop making sense 99 CD

Talking Heads bandmates, Tom Tom Club co-founders and longtime husband and wife team Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz remembered the T-Heads liking Jonathan “from the get go, discovering the contagion of his unique joie de vivre [exuberance] that matched his massive creative talent.  He didn’t so much work for us as completely with us.  Since Talking Heads decided to pay for the film ourselves, we had the creative freedom to do it our way.  Jonathan was the perfect catalyst on our team to make that happen…  We will remain forever grateful for what he achieved with STOP MAKING SENSE.  We love him still and we always will.”

tina stop making sense

From “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody).”

As for my own little tribute to Jonathan Demme, I honestly could have chosen any song from STOP MAKING SENSE, but the only song I would ever choose is the forever beautiful “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” (originally from their 1983 breakthrough album, SPEAKING IN TONGUES).  Or, as THE NEW YORKER once described it, “a love song only in spite of itself (it dispenses about as much hope as Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’).”  Irregardless, “This Must Be The Place” is one of the most amazing songs (the live STOP MAKING SENSE version especially) that I’ve ever heard.  And I’ve heard a few.

this must be the place byrne

From the iconic dance with the lamp in “This Must Be The Place.”

You’re already missed, but I’m so grateful for the films and memories you left us.  R.I.P. Jonathan, and many, many thanks…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9aN93S8nl8

demme 84

Jonathan Demme, 1984.

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.

omg-snow

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!

xmas song of the day – “Chinese Water Python” | ROBYN HITCHCOCK | 1990.

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

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The song for Day 3 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is “Chinese Water Python” by Robyn Hitchcock, although technically, it’s not a Christmas song at all (or even an 80s song; it was released in late March 1990 on the album, EYE). 

pleasures of the aching void FRONT

My dear friend Spindle introduced me to Robyn Hitchcock in the late 80s (THANK YOU!), and sometime in 1990, he put this mixtape together of Robyn Hitchcock songs – solo, with The Soft Boys and with The Egyptians.  The mixtape was called PLEASURES OF THE ACHING VOID, and it looked so much like a bootleg, when we met Robyn Hitchcock at a show in October 1990 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Robyn – and himself – even asked if it was a bootleg.  Quite the compliment if you ask me!

pleasures of the aching void BACK

That was the first of three times I’ve met Robyn Hitchcock, and all three times, he couldn’t have been any nicer.  He is an amazingly gifted singer, songwriter, musician and storyteller.  I’ve seen him perform (at least) solo twice, once with The Soft Boys for a reunion tour in the early 00s, and once with the Alt-“supergroup,” The Venus 3 (with Scott McCaughey of Young Fresh Fellows, Bill Rieflin of Ministry, and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck) in the late 00s.

Also in 1990 (maybe?; the memory is a bit fuzzy on the actual date), Spindle made a holiday-flavored mixtape featuring Alternative hits of the day, with some Xmas tunes new sprinkled throughout the mix for good holiday music cheer.  It was on this mix that he included “Chinese Water Python” from EYE (his fourth solo album away from The Egyptians; also, the tour of which I first saw Robyn Hitchcock perform). 

eye

I don’t know much about the history of the lovely, acoustic 2-minute instrumental.  I read from one person’s review online that the gentle “Chinese Water Python” ‘could have originated from the court of Henry VIII.’  I could see that.  Spindle told me this afternoon that he used to put it on his Winter mixes because “it always sounded like a not quite Christmas song,” which is kinda funny, because in a way, to me, it did (and still does).  Xmas-flavored or not, it’s still one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

Thank you, Robyn Hitchcock, for continuing to make incredible music and on your terms and for the sheer love of making music.  And, thank you, Spindle, for introducing me to such a treasure all those years ago.  Of all the musicians and bands you introduced to me over the years, it’s Robyn Hitchcock who I’ve loved the most.  Tonight’s last Thanksgiving Beggars Banquet (11.27.2016) on the show is programmed by Spindle and features the music of Robyn Hitchcock, and I’m dedicating the show to you both… 

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Me (on the left) and Spindle (on the right), 10.31.15, in Massachusetts on the wedding day for his wonderful daughter…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEh6KPfPVFM

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song of the day – “Vibrating” | ROBYN HITCHCOCK AND THE EGYPTIANS | 1988.

Wasn’t sure what my “song of the day” was going to be today, until I learned it was Robyn Hitchcock’s 63rd birthday today! 

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Robyn Hitchcock, celebrating Birthday No. 63 in Phoenix with some birthday cacti!

Hard to imagine there was once a time in my life when I had never heard of Robyn Hitchcock, or The Egyptians, or his first band, The Soft Boys.  When Michael, one of my best and oldest friends, introduced me to Robyn and his incredible music around 1988, I was hooked for life, and having grown up on Top 40 music for about 10 years prior to my introduction of Robyn Hitchcock, it was pretty impressive feat too.  Good on you, Michael!

globe of frogs1988’s well-received GLOBE OF FROGS album (his first with A&M Records) was the fourth collaboration between Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians, and featured what is most likely his most “commercial” song, “Balloon Man.”  Robyn was once quoted in 2013 as saying that “Balloon Man” is a song he’d “be happy to never hear again, although I do like the money I get from the royalties.”

During the next couple of years, through Michael, I learned a lot about Robyn’s music, mainly from a mix tape he had made for me in 1990 that he titled, PLEASURES OF THE ACHING VOID.  It featured a mix of songs from Robyn’s work with The Soft Boys, The Egyptians and solo work through his then-new album, EYE.  I still have it.  Of course, it’s hard to part with considering what’s written on the bottom.  More on that in a moment. 

pleasures of the aching void FRONT

The front of PLEASURES OF THE ACHING VOID, a 1990 Robyn Hitchcock mix tape (as folks did back then), created by my friend Michael!

In the Fall of 1990, Michael and I had attended a concert at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine featuring Robyn and the opening act, a band I had never heard of called The Jody Grind, based out of Atlanta, GA.  The performance by The Jody Grind, featuring the dynamic vocals of Kelly Hogan, was sensational.  I got to meet the band after, and they autographed their excellent debut CD, ONE MAN’S TRASH (IS ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE). one man's trash

Not long after the 1992 release of their second album, LEFTY’S DECEIVER, a car accident took the lives of two of the band members and poet Deacon Lunchbox.  The Jody Grind sadly (though understandably) ended after that, but I’ll always remember that performance at Bowdoin.  It was truly one of THE best performances by an opening band I’ve ever seen, starting with their kick-ass cover of “Peter Gunn.”  They didn’t perform like they were an opening band.

That night was also notable because it was the first time I had seen Robyn Hitchcock perform, and the first time I got to meet him.  He was this towering figure, although in reality I think he was only a few inches taller than me. 

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I can’t say for sure, but I think this is the exact shirt Robyn was wearing the first time I saw him perform.  Love this shot of him…

I asked Robyn to sign my treasured new mix tape of Robyn Hitchcock gems, and he looked at it and said, “Is this a bootleg?”  My friend Michael didn’t show it, but I’m sure he was pretty jazzed that Robyn Hitchcock (one of his music heroes and a future hero of mine) mistook my mix tape that he made for a bootleg.  Pretty damn cool. 

pleasures of the aching void BACK

The track listing for my Robyn Hitchcock mix tape, PLEASURES OF THE ACHING VOID, with a special signature at the bottom!  Robyn was on a solo tour away from The Egyptians, which is prolly why he signed it the way he did…

Although Michael has seen Robyn perform much more than I have over the years, he and I would venture out to see Robyn three more times together (oddly enough, all were in March, something I’m sure Robyn would appreciate) – March 1997 at the former Raoul’s in Portland, Maine (about 55-60 people showed up; very intimate; got to meet him again); March 2001 at The Soft Boys Underwater Moonlight reunion tour at the Paradise in Cambridge, Mass. (extraordinary show), and March 2007 at TT the Bear’s, also in Cambridge, MA, with The Venus 3 (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was standing next to Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls; I was 10 feet away from the stage and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, which didn’t suck; and, I got to meet Robyn for a third time, too, which also didn’t suck).storefront hitchcock

Of the things I love about Robyn Hitchcock the most – besides his music, like today’s “song of the day” – VIBRATING (from GLOBE OF FROGS) – is that with Robyn, you get the real deal.  He’s a bit quirky, a bit out there, but soulful and genuine and accessible, incredibly gifted and a magnificent storyteller.  And he does what he does for the sheer love of it.  If you’ve never seen Robyn perform, try and find a copy of his 1998 concert film (directed by Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme), STOREFRONT HITCHCOCK, and you’ll see what I mean.

My friend Michael has introduced an enormous amount of music to me in nearly 30 years, but out of all that music, the artist I’m most grateful to have learned about from him is Robyn Hitchcock.  Thank you, Michael, and thank you, Robyn.  Hope to see both of you again sometime soon…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN1KIG1wiy4

RH & the egyptians

song of the day – hyperactive! | THOMAS DOLBY | 1984.

It’s nearing the end of February 19, 2016, and on this date in 1983, Londoner Thomas Dolby debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 77 with his American debut single, “She Blinded Me With Science.”  He had actually graced the Hot 100 before, but in a supporting role. waiting for a girl like you

In 1981, the then-Tom Dolby provided keyboards to one of the biggest songs of all time NOT to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 – Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” (from FOREIGNER 4; it spent 10 weeks at No. 2).  He also contributed keyboards to the 1983 albums by Def Leppard (PYROMANIA) and Malcolm McLaren (DUCK ROCK, featuring the wonderful “Buffalo Gals.”)

“She Blinded Me With Science” was the biggest global pop single success for Thomas Dolby, and here in the U.S., it spent a month at No. 5 in May/June 1983.  “Science” was one of several songs not originally on the album, THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS.  It was added later on.  I actually discovered the extended mix on a fantastic EP that I still own to this day – BLINDED BY SCIENCE, from 1982. blinded by science

BLINDED BY SCIENCE was comprised of 5 extended mixes of songs featured on THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS: “One Of My Submarines” (my second-favorite Thomas Dolby song), “Windpower,” “Airwaves” and “Flying North.”  It is this EP that started my love of Thomas’ music.

That love continued with Thomas Dolby’s 1984 album, THE FLAT EARTH.  The album contained the singles “Dissidents” and the Dan Hicks composition, “I Scare Myself.”  It also featured guest spots from Bruce Woolley of The Buggles, Lionel Richie and Robyn Hitchcock, and contained what would become my favorite Thomas Dolby song – “Hyperactive!”   

If you have listened to the song before (or just listening to it for the first time with the link to the altered video below), you might notice a hint of Michael Jackson in there.  No, Michael’s not involved with the song, although it wasn’t without trying.  Thomas Dolby met Michael Jackson in 1982, and actually wrote the song with Michael in mind and sent him a demo of the song, but Michael never got back to him about it.  So, Thomas eventually recorded it himself. hyperactive

“Hyperactive!” was not a big hit in the U.S., spending a week at No. 62 on the Hot 100 in late March 1984.  And while it wasn’t well-received stateside, it turned out to be his biggest hit in his U.K. homeland, reaching No. 17.  (An interesting note – “She Blinded Me With Science” was a big hit here in America, while it didn’t even crack the U.K. Top 40; funny how it works out like that sometimes…)

Thomas Dolby kept on recording after “Hyperactive!” and THE FLAT EARTH, including the real fun ALIENS ATE MY BUICK from 1987 (featuring one of THE best album covers ever!), plus 2 other studio albums and 2 live albums.  Thomas (and a couple of musicians who worked with him on THE FLAT EARTH) also supported David Bowie’s makeshift band at Live Aid in 1985, with truly amazing keyboard work on “Heroes.”  David Bowie called him “the very brilliant Thomas Dolby.”  How incredibly true.  I’ve known this for a long time. 

Over the years, Thomas has worked with and/or contributed his producing and musical talents to awards shows and albums from the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Thompson Twins, George Clinton, Belinda Carlisle, Jerry Garcia, Andy Partridge, Prefab Sprout, Joan Armatrading, Little Richard, M, Ofra Haza, Howard Jones, Peter Gabriel and he played keyboards at Roger Waters’ all-star 1990 Berlin concert of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL.

What’s the artist formerly known as Tom Dolby up to now?  Well, he is, appropriately enough, the Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  I’m hoping at some point he’ll be “hyperactive!” about going back into the studio to make some new music, but I’m betting he’s quite hyperactive, er, content where he is…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC13Ko2bPqI

thomas dolby