song of the day – “Abracadabra” | STEVE MILLER BAND | 1982.

colin hay strand 081617

Waiting for the real Colin Hay to begin, Rockland, Maine, 8.16.2017. He was, of course, fantastic and soulful.

Hey everyone!  Thanks so much for being patient with me, as I’ve taken an unexpected (but quite enjoyable) absence from the bloggy thing since the end of July.  There’s been work stuff, home stuff, I had a fun time attending concerts featuring Blondie, the 80s Retro Futura Tour (including Howard Jones, Modern English, Men Without Hats, Paul Young, Katrina of Katrina And The Waves, and The English Beat!), and most recently, seeing the wonderful Colin Hay in beautiful Rockland, Maine. 

I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with the incredible and awesome Hope, my superfriend, sassy radio co-host and writing hero, which included a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean here in Maine that changed me forever.  There’s a lot more to say, and I will, in a post coming soon that will be about Hope and that swim in the ocean and much more!  And Hope comes up again later in this post, so stay tuned!!

HopeyT and me

That’s the absolutely lovely HopeyT and me, Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017!

When I started my tribute to my radio hero, Casey Kasem, back on June 1, school was in session and Summer was weeks away.  Well, it’s now September 9, 2017, school is back in session and Fall is less than two weeks away.  I’ve had fun bringing you this tribute to Casey (who passed away in June 2014 at the age of 82), and wanted to make sure (1) you all didn’t think I would hold out on the Number One song of this tribute, and (2) that I get this in ASAFP, because what’s a Top 40 countdown without a Number One song?

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Much like AMERICAN TOP 40, this post will be full of nerdy chart facts and then some, but first, I wanted to recap the songs I’ve posted in this series so far.  These songs (which include five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), are ranked at the positions they peaked at on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (with peak year), and though they do not represent a definitive Top 40 list for me, but I love all of them, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them!

40. CLONES (WE’RE ALL) – ALICE COOPER (1980)

39. SLIPPING AWAY – DAVE EDMUNDS (1983)

38. PROMISES IN THE DARK – PAT BENATAR (1981)

37. WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) – ICICLE WORKS (1984; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

36. SOMETIMES A FANTASY – BILLY JOEL (1980)

35. FAKE FRIENDS – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1983)

34. ME MYSELF AND I – DE LA SOUL (1989)

33. PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) – U2 (1984)

32. VALLEY GIRL – FRANK & MOON ZAPPA (1982)

31. (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY – THE OUTLAWS (1981)

30. LIES – THOMPSON TWINS (1983)

29. TURN UP THE RADIO – AUTOGRAPH (1985; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

28. POINT OF NO RETURN – NU SHOOZ (1986)

27. THE RIGHT THING – SIMPLY RED (1987)

26. NOT JUST ANOTHER GIRL – IVAN NEVILLE (1988)

25. TAKE ME WITH YOU – PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA (1985)

24. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – BLONDIE (1979)

23. YOU CAN CALL ME AL – PAUL SIMON (1986 / 1987)

22. AIN’T NOBODY – RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN (1983)

21. FOOL IN THE RAIN – LED ZEPPELIN (1980)

20. OUR LIPS ARE SEALED – THE GO-GO’S (1982)

19. PUSH IT – SALT-N-PEPA (1988)

18. LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY – JERMAINE JACKSON with DEVO (1982)

17. YOU ARE THE GIRL – THE CARS (1987)

16. HOLIDAY – MADONNA (1984)

15. ONE OF THE LIVING – TINA TURNER (1985)

14. DIGGING YOUR SCENE – THE BLOW MONKEYS (1986; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

13. TARZAN BOY – BALTIMORA (1986)

12. WHAT’S GOING ON – CYNDI LAUPER (1987)

11. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – STEVEIE NICKS (1982)

10. RELAX – FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1985)

09. THE ONE I LOVE – R.E.M. (1987)

08. LET THE MUSIC PLAY – SHANNON (1984)

07. WHAT I AM – EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS (1989)

06. INFATUATION – ROD STEWART (1984)

05. WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’ – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983)

04. HEART AND SOUL – T’PAU (1987; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

03. LOVE SHACK – THE B-52’S (1989)

02. DANCING IN THE DARK – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1984)

Throughout this series, I’ve been mentioned how many songs peaked at each position between 1979 and 1989.  It’s only fitting that songs which reached No. 1 would have the highest number of songs hitting the apex of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  For this post, I am only counting the songs that reached No. 1 between January 1980 and December 1989, and for that 80s time period, 232 songs went all the way to No. 1.  Let’s get nerdy now (if you’re not already there), with some chart feats about No. 1 songs during the 80s and the BILLBOARD Hot 100:

  • FOUR (REAL) ONE-HIT WONDERS reached No. 1 during the 80s – Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the second-chance single, “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme,” and Vangelis (“Chariots Of Fire (Titles)”), though the composer did reach the chart separately twice in the early 80s as part of the duo Jon & Vangelis, with Jon Anderson of Yes.

miami vice theme

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (27); MOST NO. 1 SONGS FROM ONE ALBUM (5); MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (9) – Michael Jackson.  The King Of Pop reached No. 1 in the 80s with “Rock With You” (1980; 4 weeks at No. 1), “Billie Jean” (1983; 7 weeks), “Beat It” (1983; 3 weeks), “Say Say Say,” with Paul McCartney (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Siedah Garrett (1987; 1 week), “Bad” (1987; 2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988; 1 week), “Man In The Mirror” (1988; 2 weeks); “Dirty Diana” (1988; 1 week).beat it
  • MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (if you’re NOT Michael Jackson): Madonna (7), Phil Collins (7 solo hits), Whitney Houston (7), George Michael (6 solo hits, which includes “Careless Whisper”), Daryl Hall & John Oates (5), Lionel Richie (5).

crazy 4 U

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT ON THE HOT 100 – 40 – “Red Red Wine” – UB40. It spent 25 weeks on the Hot 100, including a week at No. 1 in 1988, and had charted for 15 weeks in its first chart run in 1984.

red red wine

  • MOST CONFIGURATIONS AT NO. 1 – PAUL McCARTNEY, with Wings (“Coming Up (Live At Glasgow),” 1980), with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony And Ivory,” 1982), and with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say,” 1983 / 1984).

coming up

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT IN THE TOP 10 OF THE HOT 100 (15) – “Physical – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982), and “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982).  SUPER NERDY FUN FACT: the song which spent the most weeks in the Top 10 in the 80s didn’t even reach No. 1 – “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp spent 16 weeks in the Top 10, with four of those weeks in the runner-up spot.

survivor

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (10) – “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981 / 1982).  While it’s more commonplace on the Hot 100 these days, the biggest song of the 1980s would be the only song to spend at least 10 weeks at No. 1 on the chart for next 10 years.  In 1992, Boyz II Men spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 with “End Of The Road.”  Two No. 1 songs later, Whitney Houston would break that record with “I Will Always Love You,” which spent its 14th and final week on top in late February 1993.  The current record is 16 weeks at No. 1.

physical

In the most recent tabulation of the Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 songs for BILLBOARD’s legendary singles chart, many songs from the 80s were represented, and are currently ranked as follows:

08. “Physical” – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 1)

15. “Bette Davis Eyes” – KIM CARNES (1981; 9 weeks)

16. “Endless Love” – DIANA ROSS & LIONEL RICHIE (1981; 9 weeks)

24. “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982; 6 weeks)

29. “Every Breath You Take” – THE POLICE (1983; 8 weeks)

31. “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – IRENE CARA (1983; 6 weeks)

40. “Another One Bites The Dust” – QUEEN (1980; 3 weeks)

41. “Say Say Say” – PAUL McCARTNEY & MICHAEL JACKSON (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks)

54. “Call Me” – BLONDIE (1980; 6 weeks)

57. “Lady” – KENNY ROGERS (1980; 6 weeks)

63. “Centerfold” – THE J. GEILS BAND (1982; 6 weeks)

64. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – JOHN LENNON (1980 / 1981; 5 weeks)

68. “I Love Rock ’N Roll” – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1982; 7 weeks)

73. “Ebony And Ivory” – PAUL McCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER (1982; 7 weeks)

75. “That’s What Friends Are For” – DIONNE & FRIENDS (1986; 4 weeks)

77. “Upside Down” – DIANA ROSS (1980; 4 weeks)

83. “Billie Jean” – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983; 7 weeks)

86. “Abracadabra” – THE STEVE MILLER BAND (1982; 2 weeks)

89. “Say You, Say Me” – LIONEL RICHIE (1985 / 1986; 4 weeks)

91. “All Night Long (All Night)” – LIONEL RICHIE (1983; 4 weeks)

95. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – FOREIGNER (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 2; still tied for a record for spending the most weeks peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100)

98. “Hurts So Good” – JOHN MELLENCAMP (1982; 4 weeks at No. 2)

So, for now, the 80s represent more than a fifth of the greatest hits to grace the BILLBOARD HOT 100.  Pretty damn cool.  I know it won’t always be like that, and I always wonder why some huge hits like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 1 for 1984) or Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” (No. 2 for 1980) aren’t up there, but songs these days tend to stay atop the Hot 100 (and the chart as a whole) a lot longer than they did back in the day, but honestly, I’m grateful for the songs that are still there. 

When I was preparing for this hefty blog post (prolly my second-longest, save for the Prince tribute post in April 2016), I was going through the list of No. 1 songs, and there are some songs I’ve already featured as a “song of the day” (Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” comes to mind, and has often as of late), and there are many others I love. 

TFF

U2_des_7But, I concede that there are some real stinkers in there, too: Will To Power’s awful covers medley of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” (subtitled “Freebaby,” which is just heinous)?!  How in THE HELL did that get to go to No. 1 and “I Don’t Want Your Love” by Duran Duran stops at No. 4, and U2’s “Desire” stops at No. 3?!  For the love of all things holy!  And though I admit enjoying the movie MANNEQUIN, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship?!  Are you kidding me?!  Even Grace Slick denounced that piece of shit.  While the go-to “worst song of the 80s” award is usually 1985’s “We Built This City,” I can tolerate that way more over “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”  Yes, I’m THAT guy.

If I was going for my absolute favorite No. 1 song of the 80s, there’s no competition.  It’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.  It’s also my all-time favorite song.  But it’s a post I want to save for another time.  So, I thought it would be fun to bring in Hope, my writing hero, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t obsess and write about nerdy chart facts or Top 40 hits, let alone ones that hit No. 1.  I thought it would be cool to have her choose the song for this post.

don't you

On August 11, 2017, Hope was kind enough to send me her list of her picks for No. 1 songs from the 80s, many of which have been already mentioned in this post!  One of those songs, and a song that is almost universally loved (like “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, or the aforementioned Tears For Fears, Prince and Simple Minds gems) is “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band.abracadabra7

Hope had included “Abracadabra” under the category of “Situational” No. 1 songs.  For Hope, “Abracadabra” was popular during the Summer after her high school graduation (“the glamorous Summer in The Hamptons!”), and she loves the line, “black panties with an angel’s face.”  Who wouldn’t love that line?!  It’s awesome (much like Hope herself)!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Steve Miller formed his Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock band in San Francisco back in 1966.  Since his first two albums were released in 1968, through to his 1988 Jazz album, BORN 2 B BLUE, Steve Miller had been on Capitol Records, and he had some huge albums in the 70s. 

heart like a wheel

After 1981’s CIRCLE OF LOVE album (with the sweet Top 40 hit and criminally-forgotten gem, “Heart Like A Wheel”) failed to become his fourth consecutive platinum album here in America (though it was certified Gold), Steve was undeterred, got to work, and released the ABRACADABRA album in mid-June 1982.

abracadabra LP

Of the album, ROLLING STONE said, “The essence of good magic is deception, and with the release of this album, Steve Miller has earned the right to twirl his wand and shout, ‘Abracadabra!’”

Well, Steve thought so too, but Capitol wasn’t so sure.  The song inspired by Diana Ross (whom Steve met on a Pop music TV show in the 60s) told THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in 2016 that Capitol Records didn’t see a hit with the song “Abracadabra”:

“Capitol didn’t believe in [“Abracadabra”] and didn’t want to release it.  I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe.  When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was Number One everywhere in the world, except the States.”  Once again, the record label got it wrong.

Well, after seeing the success of “Abracadabra” overseas, Capitol gave in and released it in the U.S., a month before the ABRACADABRA album was released.  “Abracadabra” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1982 at No. 75, and took just four weeks to debut within the Top 40. 

The next few weeks were a steady climb, and by late July 1982, “Abracadabra” had become Steve Miller’s first Top 10 hit in five years, to the month.  With John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” camped out at No. 2, and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” camped out at No. 1, “Abracadabra” was stuck at No. 3 for four weeks before it could work its magic on reaching No. 1. 

In early September 1982, after 15 weeks on the chart, “Abracadabra” finally hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, giving Steve Miller his third No. 1 U.S. single overall, and his first No. 1 single since 1976’s “Rock’n Me” spent a week on top.  The No. 1 run of “Abracadabra” was just as quick as “Rock’n Me,” and his first No. 1 song, 1974’s “The Joker,” which also spent a lone week at No. 1.

SMB 82

The Steve Miller Band, 1982.

The following week, Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” snuck into the No. 1 position when no one was looking and stayed there for two weeks.  “Abracadabra” dropped to No. 3 (behind previous No. 1, “Eye Of The Tiger”).  But, in a magical chart feat, “Abracadabra” moved back up to No. 2 the next week, and by the end of September, “Abracadabra” reclaimed the No. 1 spot for one more week, before John Mellencamp’s little ditty about “Jack And Diane” started its four-week run at No. 1.  “Abracadabra” stayed on the Hot 100 until mid-Novemer 1982, and left the chart after nearly half a year.  It finished the year at No. 9 here in America. 

Around the globe, “Abracadabra” worked its magic on the singles charts of many countries, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland (six weeks), Sweden (four weeks), Australia and Canada (two weeks), and Austria, No. 2 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 4 in Norway, No. 8 in New Zealand, and No. 26 in the Netherlands.

“Abracadabra” was the last song The Steve Miller Band placed inside of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, though they charted several more times through 1993, including the brilliant but oddly-underrated “I Want To Make The World Turn Around” from 1986.

i want to make the world turn around

Steve Miller continues to tour today, and in 2016, he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where he had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing, calling the Hall a “private boys’ club full of fucking gangsters and crooks,” and vowing to make it better. 

SMB 2015

The Steve Miller Band, 2015.

He suggested taking the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominating committee, replace every one of them and start over.  I hope it works out, because Devo, from Akron, Ohio (less than an hour south of Cleveland, where the Hall is based), should have been inducted years ago, much like the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, who has taken on Blues, Standards, Folk, Dance and Country music in the past 15 years, not to mention writing a book, winning a Tony Award and co-founding the True Colors Fund, which works to end homelessness among LGBT youth, and even testified before Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2015 about this very subject. 

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

This photo of Steve at the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony speaks volumes, and not favorably for the Hall…

As for me and Hope and many others for “Abracadabra,” it’s one of those infectious songs that deserved to go to No. 1, and 35 years later, it still holds up.  At least the five-minute, eleven-second album version.  When the single was released, I bought it, but was instantly pissed it wasn’t the long version!  Sure, it’s only a minute and change difference, but if you hear the single version vs. the album version, you can tell the single version is a bit sped up, and the kick-ass instrumental that closes out the rest of the song isn’t there.  That’s even why I chose the video link below.  It’s not a link to the actual video, but to the album version.  You know, all these years later, I’m still impressed that sped up, edited single version got the song to No. 1.  Maybe that was magic too.

Speaking of magic, Hope inspired me recently to start training for a 5K using the Couch To 5K app (C25K); we’re both training for it, and finishing Week 5 of 8 this weekend!  Hope and I haven’t run a proper 5K in our adult lives, and the last time I ran the equivalent of a 5K was in high school during Cross Country, where I lettered my senior year.  Holy cats, that was 33 years ago! 

run ron run

Post-run workout, 9.7.2017! (With a kick-ass playlist by DJ HopeyT to keep me going!)

But, you know what?  Maybe it’s not magic after all that’s got us training for our first 5K ever – and in our early 50s!  Maybe you just need to believe.  Just like Steve Miller believed he had a hit with “Abracadabra,” even as his longtime record label disagreed – and he was right!  It’s one of THE BEST songs of the 80s and of all-time.  And I believe getting through this 5K (and other aspects of my life) will happen with belief over magic, though I have to say, when it happens, it will feel pretty damn magical and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCV8gzSlYw

abacadabra poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

waiting for a girl like you

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

99 luftballons

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

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

loverboy

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

the lover in me

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

lovesong

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

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

hungry heart

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

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

dancing in the dark

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

bruce blinded

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

courtney n bruce

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

blaster mix

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

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

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

when doves cry back

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

pink cadillac

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

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

born in the usa LP

BRUCE_SPRINGSTEEN_BORN+IN+THE+USA+-+LONG+BOX-219449b

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 – “What’s Going On” | CYNDI LAUPER | 1987.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (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!”

rod n cyndi

On Friday, July 14, 2017, I will be seeing my favorite recording artist, the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, perform here in Maine, and it’ll be my fourth time seeing her perform (for the time I got to interview her and meet her in July 2002,  I didn’t actually get to see her perform due to a transportation snafu, which would have been the first time I would have seen Cyndi perform).  She will be performing on the same bill as Rod Stewart, who, to my knowledge (the brain’s a bit fuzzy on this) is someone I have not seen perform live before.  I can’t wait.

true colors world tourAnd, if my fuzzy brain is again correct, I believe this is the first time Cyndi has performed in the Pine Tree State since her TRUE COLORS world tour brought her to the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine in December 1986 (sadly, I was sick and couldn’t go; I would have been there in a heartbeat).  I tried to get Cyndi to come back earlier than now (I mentioned it to her in my 2002 interview with her), but she’s been busy and then some.  Still, it’ll be wonderful to see her perform again, and it’ll be my third time since 2013.  My goal is to see her every year she’s performing from here on out.

Since Cyndi will be opening for Rod Stewart on this short tour, I’m betting her gorgeous cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (from the TRUE COLORS album) won’t be on the setlist.  But a hopelessly devoted Cyndi Lauper fan can hope, right?

“What’s Going On” was one of nearly 70 songs that reached No. 12 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and covers were a theme, apparently, for the No. 12 position.  There were also No. 12 covers by Daryl Hall & John Oates (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”), The Fat Boys & The Beach Boys (“Wipeout”), Carole King (“One Fine Day,” a song she actually wrote, but was a hit three times before her version charted), Van Halen (“Oh Pretty Woman”), The Nylons (“Kiss Him Goodbye”), David Lee Roth (“Just A Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody”), Anne Murray (“Daydream Believer”), plus one parody (“Eat It” by “Weird Al” Yankovic, parodying Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”), and two medleys (though not covers) by The Beach Boys and The Beatles (I think you can thank Stars On 45’s 1981 No. 1 hit, “Medley” – which WERE covers – for that).

marvin what's going on

Released as the third single from Cyndi’s wonderful 1986 album, TRUE COLORS, “What’s Going On” was a cover of the No. 2 Marvin Gaye hit from 1971, written during the heart of the Vietnam War.  Its personal and poignant lyrics (which could have been written today) resonated with the people of a generation, and it’s been hailed as one of the greatest songs of all-time.  In 1995, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame included it in its list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock, and in 2010, ROLLING STONE ranked it at No. 4 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Cyndi’s spirited version of “What’s Going On” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-March 1987 as the “Hot Shot Debut” of that week, coming in at No. 63.  The second single released from TRUE COLORS, the No. 3 hit “Change Of Heart” (with The Bangles on backing vocals), was just ahead of it at No. 58.

true colors

“What’s Going On” blasted into the Top 40 the following week, winning the airplay award for that week.  It won the sales award on the Hot 100 two weeks later, and looked like another Top 10 hit for Cyndi.  But, for whatever reason, the sales and the airplay slowed, and “What’s Going On” spent a week at its peak position of No. 12 in early May 1987, and was gone from the Hot 100 by mid-June.

what's going on title

video

From the “What’s Going On” video.

Around the globe, “What’s Going On” also reached the Top 40 in Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, and two excellent dance remixes by Shep Pettibone helped land the 12” single of “What’s Going On” at No. 17 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  The energetic and passionate video for “What’s Going On” was also nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography In A Video.

Cyndi’s done a ton of incredible covers during her career, covering many genres, starting with her stint in Blue Angel to covers on SHE’S SO UNUSUAL to last year’s extraordinary Country covers album, DETOUR, and her songs, especially 1984’s “Time After Time,” have been covered many, many times.  But her cover of “What’s Going On” has always stood out to me, despite what it did or did not do on the Pop charts.      

Today, when I listen to Cyndi’s version of “What’s Going On,” I see the same thing Marvin Gaye saw when he co-wrote the song all those years ago – war, police brutality, injustice, and an aching lack of peace.  All of that shit is still happening today, but now includes events such as attacks on night clubs and concerts, attacking and killing people who just want to be free, and free to have a good time and be who they are.  What’s going on?! 

I wouldn’t even want to research how many people have been shot by police in the last several years (that didn’t need to be) and the cops got away with it.  Prince hit upon this in his brilliant 2015 song, “Baltimore,” talking about the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (“If there ain’t no justice, then there ain’t no peace!”).  (All six officers involved in the Freddie Gray death – including one Sergeant and one Lieutenant – were acquitted and all charges dropped.)  What’s going on?!

prince-

The cover art for the 2015 benefit concert Prince put on in Baltimore.

I try to maintain a sense of it all, but most times I can’t.  We have the elected “leader” in Washington, D.C., trying to get answers out of Russia over the 2016 election and trying to have North Korea not launch any nuclear missiles, which is all fine and good (I don’t want a World War III), except for the fact that more than half of the country didn’t vote for this man, and who don’t believe in him.  #MyFakePresident would rather ban beloved Maine author Stephen King from tweeting to him than to be presidential.  What’s going on?!

Well, for now, when I can, I take comfort in things that make me happy and help me forget (albeit temporarily) that there’s all this other unnecessary bullshit going on in the world, like going to the ocean, seeing a movie, spending time with awesome people (you know who you are), and seeing a concert, which I will do when I see the lovely Cyndi Lauper (and Rod Stewart) on Friday, July 14, 2017 here in Maine.  I’d take you all there if I could.

You have to do everything in your power to do the things that make you happy and make you feel at peace – not just with everything in the world, but mostly with yourself – as much as you possibly can, to forget everything else going on, at the very least for a little while. 

And, if for some reason, you don’t think you can get to that point (or at least try to) where you do things – even little things that don’t cost much money or time – that make you happy or make you feel at peace, what’s going on?

peace love understanding 80s

Peace, Love, Understanding, 80s.  Works for me!  How about you?

“You see, war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate / You know we’ve got to find a way / To bring some lovin’ here today…”

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

what's going on

song of the day #2 – “Holiday” | MADONNA | 1984.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

Well, it’s Independence Day here in the U.S. of A. (Happy 241st Birthday America!), and it’s pretty quiet here today in the Central Maine town of Winslow (where I write this).  For the first time in 26 years, there’s no Independence Day parade here (my folks’ house is on the parade route), and no fireworks either (my folks’ house is across the street from where they’d normally be set off, in nearby Fort Halifax Park).  The damn town didn’t even put up the flags on the telephone poles.  I know they have their reasons for not doing the events this year, but I think they could have at least put the flags on the poles for a few weeks leading up to today. 

O well.  My sister and her family are here from Pennsylvania, and there’s still lots of family in the area, so we all got together for lunch earlier, and my brother was headed to the store to buy fireworks.  We’ll see how that goes.  Here’s of the favorite pics I took at 2016’s fireworks display (keep in mind I ordinarily don’t take normal fireworks photos; I tend to go for the alt-shots).  I called this shot “80s album cover fireworks.”

IMG_8034 80s album cover fireworks

It’s also 47 years to the day when the inaugural AMERICAN TOP 40 broadcast was aired.  Happy Anniversary AT40!  That original broadcast (using the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart dated July 4, 1970) included hits from artists who would continue to have hits in the 80s, like Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin, The Moody Blues and Chicago, had Rock And Roll royalty on the chart, like Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Simon & Garfunkel, Sly & The Family Stone, and it had “The Long And Winding Road” by The Beatles.  The No. 1 song that week? “The Love You Save” by The Jackson 5.

casey_at40

Between 1979 and 1989, more than 40 songs reached No. 16 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart (the chart AT40 used in from 1970 through 1988, when Casey left AT40), and featured several songs by women (I told you’d they’d be back!), including songs by Quarterflash, Pointer Sisters, Sade, Katrina & The Waves (yes, they actually did had more than one hit!), Roberta Flack, and two from both Aretha Franklin and Stevie Nicks.

Songs that reached No. 16 also included four awesome (real) one-hit wonders Bob & Doug McKenzie (“Take Off”), Godley & Creme (“Cry”), Double (“The Captain Of Her Heart”) and French singer Patrick Hernandez (“Born To Be Alive,” which spent 15 weeks at No. 1 in his homeland of France).

born to be alive

Other notable No. 16 hits are Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days,” “Dreaming” by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Electric Light Orchestra’s “I’m Alive” (from XANADU), “Renegade” by Styx, “Rock Of Ages” by Def Leppard, “Synchronicity II” by The Police, “Russians” by Sting, “Super Freak” by Rick James, Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer” (a song released a few years too late to be a bigger hit here in America), and Madonna’s first single to reach both the Hot 100 and the Top 40, “Holiday.”

Hard to believe, but in the beginning, Madonna signed on for only two 12” singles with Sire Records.  I think she was just playing it smart.  Her first single, “Everybody,” was released in early October 1982, when she was 24 years old.  Though it was a No. 3 hit on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart (a double-A-sided 12” single with “Burning Up”), “Everybody” just missed the BILLBOARD Hot 100, stopping at No. 107.

everybody

Though “Everybody” failed to reach the Hot 100, both Sire co-founder Seymour Stein and Madonna were convinced something big was going to happen; maybe not right away, but soon.  They were right.

madonna n seymour

A happy day (“holiday?”) for Madonna and Sire Records co-founder, Seymour Stein…

Sire released Madonna’s self-titled debut album in late July 1983, and the first single from the album, “Holiday,” was released in early September 1983.  It was produced by her then-boyfriend and future longtime collaborator and remixer, John “Jellybean” Benitez, which would prove to be an incredibly brilliant move.

“Holiday” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 a couple of days before Halloween 1983 at No. 88.  Songs by Alabama, Linda Ronstadt and The Stray Cats all debuted higher that week, but “Holiday” would outlast them all.

holiday

By early December 1983, Madonna’s first Hot 100 hit became her first Top 40 hit, making a steady climb up the chart until stopping at No. 16 for two weeks in January / February 1984. 

Around the globe, “Holiday” enjoyed a nice chart run, and reached the Top 10 in the U.K., Australia, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and even reached No. 25 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

“Holiday” was still on the chart in March 1984 when her follow-up single, “Borderline,” debuted on the Hot 100.  That would go on to become her first Top 10 hit, reaching No. 10 and spending 30 weeks on the chart.  Then, “Lucky Star” would go on to reach No. 4 in late October 1984, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

bandstand

Dick Clark interviewing Madonna on AMERICAN BANDSTAND, 1.14.1984.

patrick n madonna

Patrick Hernandez and Madonna on the beach in France…

Madonna famously performed “Holiday” on AMERICAN BANDSTAND in mid-January 1984 (video link below; for now anyway), a couple of weeks before “Holiday” peaked at No. 16.  In the post-song interview, she told Dick Clark how she went to Paris because of “Born To Be Alive” by Patrick Hernandez (another aforementioned member of the No. 16 chart club), and Patrick offered Madonna the opportunity to be a backup singer and dancer on his tour.

In that same January 14, 1984 interview, Dick Clark asked, “We are a couple of weeks into the New Year.  What do you hope will happen, not only in 1984 but the rest of your professional life?  What are your dreams?”  Madonna did not hesitate when she replied, “To rule the world.”  And, by the end of 1984, she did just that.  “Like A Virgin” ruled the Hot 100 and BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and would rule the Pop charts in Australia, Canada and Japan, and would reach the Top 10 in at least 12 other countries. 

QUIRKY CHART FACT: In regards to Madonna’s comment about ruling the world, in the Spring of 1985, Tears For Fears nearly ruled Madonna’s chart world with their huge hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” which was No. 1 three songs after her No. 1 hit, “Crazy For You.”  (And, when the year-end chart for 1985 was tabulated, “Crazy For You” was ranked No. 9, and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was ranked No. 8.  But, admittedly, 1985 belonged to Madonna on the Pop charts and then some all over the world.)

TFF everybody

There have been a number of covers of “Holiday” over the years, including one by Sheffield, England Synthpoppers Heaven 17, who covered it in 1999.  A couple of years after the Madonna original, a Dutch Rap duo called MC Miker G & DJ Sven took the backing music of “Holiday” and created a rap over it, calling it (appropriately enough) “Holiday Rap” (which also borrows from Cliff Richard’s 1963 U.K. hit, “Summer Holiday”).

holiday rap

“Holiday Rap” was a huge hit in Europe, topping the charts in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland, and reaching the Top 10 in the U.K., Australia, Norway and Sweden.

Everyone who knows me knows that Cyndi Lauper is my all-time favorite recording artist, and has been for a long time.  Back in the 80s, though, Madonna did rule my Pop music world.  I have pretty much every 80s 12” single, every album, and even a VHS of “The Virgin Tour.”

cyndi n madonna

I don’t know when it was, but there was a time back in the 90s (maybe upon my move to Portland, Maine in 1994) when Cyndi became my favorite female recording artist over Madonna.  I still loved Madonna’s work, but Cyndi impressed me, even more so in the past 15 years (and not just because Cyndi was kind enough to be my first big interview on my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show). 

Since 2002, Cyndi Lauper has released an album of Standards, an Acoustic album, a Dance record, BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Blues album of 2010 (and near-Grammy Winner for Best Traditional Blues album; MEMPHIS BLUES), plus she’s had a reality TV show with her husband and young son, written an autobiography, wrote the score to the musical, KINKY BOOTS (for which she won a Tony Award), and last year, released an album of old Country standards.  Her version of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” still gives me goosebumps, it’s so damn good.  Most importantly, in 2008, Cyndi co-founded the True Colors Fund, a non-profit charity meant to educate folks about LGBT issues and to end LGBT youth homelessness.  How is it Cyndi’s not in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet?!

cyndi n tony

Cyndi Lauper celebrating the meeting of her friend, Tony…

In comparison, the last Madonna album I truly loved is now 12 years old (the amazing CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE FLOOR from 2005, which stayed in my car for an entire year).  But, irregardless, Madonna (who turns 59 in August 2017) continues to do things on her terms, which has been a covenant of sorts for her since her music career began 35 years ago, and you’ve got to respect that.  I certainly do, even if I’m not so much digging the music as of late. 

confessions

I know “Holiday” isn’t about Independence Day, or any particular holiday, but today, it felt right to share, and yes, I am taking some time to celebrate.  You should too.  May the 4th (of July) be with you…

lady-liberty-fireworks-flag

“If we took a holiday yeah / Took some time to celebrate / Just one day out of life / It would be so nice…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbSTzlzoUi4

 

madonna

song of the day – “You Are The Girl” | THE CARS | 1987.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (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!”

More than 40 songs climbed as high as No. 17 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, again male-heavy selections, including two hits from Billy Joel, and two hits from Journey (plus, an additional No. 17 solo hit by Steve Perry, with Kenny Loggins – “Don’t Fight It”). 

I must really like songs that reached No. 17, because I’ve already written blog posts about six of them – “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” by John Mellencamp, “Beat’s So Lonely” by Charlie Sexton, “Days Gone Down” by Gerry Rafferty, “In A Big Country” by Big Country, “Living In A Box” by Living In A Box, and the wonderful Howard Jones with “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?”

hojo

The No. 17 rank is also one of just two from positions 40 through No. 1 that do NOT claim any of the more than 100 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the Top 40 (the other is No. 6).

One of the later No. 17 hits from the 80s was the last Top 40 hit for The Cars – “You Are The Girl,” the first single from their sixth studio album, 1987’s DOOR TO DOOR.

door to door

Between the huge success of 1984’s HEARTBEAT CITY album and the release of DOOR TO DOOR, lead guitarist Elliot Easton and bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr both released debut solo albums, and Ric Ocasek released his second solo album.  Plus, THE CARS’ GREATEST HITS was released, generating the Top 10 hit, “Tonight She Comes.”

Released in late August 1987, DOOR TO DOOR was intended to get the Boston band back into their original Rock roots (think back to their incredible 1978 self-titled debut album), free of drum machines and sampling that helped make the HEARTBEAT CITY album such a huge success. 

But, despite tension mounting within the (then) 11-year-old band, they pressed on and released DOOR TO DOOR.  The first single from the album, “You Are The Girl,” was written by both Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr, who share vocals on the song.  They hadn’t shared vocals on a Cars single since their second album, 1979’s CANDY-O, and the song “Since I Held You.”

candy-o

Can’t help it – any excuse to post this album cover works for me.  It – and she – are gorgeous!

NERDY FUN FACT: Acclaimed cult film writer / director and actor, John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS, HAIRSPRAY, CRY-BABY) directed the video for “You Are The Girl.”

video

From the John Waters-directed video for “You Are The Girl.”

“You Are The Girl” was the “Hot Shot Debut” on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for the last week of August 1987, coming in at No. 65.  It reached the Top 40 just two weeks later, and looked like it was headed for Top 10 territory.  But, despite appearing on the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, where this song was played, “You Are The Girl” spent a quick week at No. 17 in late October 1987, and was out of the Top 40 and headed down the Hot 100 in November 1987, which is around the time I saw The Cars perform in Portland, Maine, at the former Cumberland County Civic Center.

you are the girl

Icehouse, who opened for The Cars, put on a solid show, and I became a big fan.  The Cars put on an amazing show, but there was no interaction between the band members, and Ric Ocasek threw out the occasional, half-hearted “thank you” to those of us in attendance. 

It was weird to see a band kick ass on stage and yet see them so distant from each other.  Broke my heart.  The band hadn’t broken up at that point (I think they wanted to finish the tour first), but they might have well as been broken up.  And they did, a few months later, around my 21st birthday in February 1988.

just what i needed

Sure, there was talk of a Cars reunion in the 90s, and even Rhino Records helped out with their awesome 2-CD compilation, JUST WHAT I NEEDED: THE CARS ANTHOLOGY, plus other Rhino releases and reissues.  But, a proper reunion was not to be.  Benjamin Orr died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.

While Ric Ocasek continued with his solo career post-Y2K, in 2005, Cars stalwarts Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes teamed up with Rock legend Todd Rundgren and a couple other folks to form The New Cars, releasing a live album, IT’S ALIVE, containing a mix of Cars hits and Todd Rundgren hits, along with a new song, “Not Tonight,” which really did sound like it could have come from the late 70s or early 80s.  I actually had tickets to The New Cars when they came to Portland, Maine, but for whatever reason, I missed it.  Kinda wish I had been there though…

it's alive

Hard to say, but maybe it was this successful spin-off of The Cars that inspired Ric Ocasek to reunite with the other surviving members of the band for a new album and tour in 2011: MOVE LIKE THIS.  With a long distance dedication in the liner notes to Benjamin Orr (“Ben, your spirit was with us on this one”), the band sounded as great as they had 24 years before, and as if they had been together the whole time.

move like this

Ben Orr and Ric Ocasek usually split up the vocals on albums, but with Ben gone, for MOVE LIKE THIS, Ric sang on all of the songs.  In an interview with ROLLING STONE about the reunion and the album, “I was aware that on half of the new songs, Ben would have done better than I did.  But we never wanted anybody from the outside.”

One cool thing they did for the album was not hire a bassist to replace Ben Orr.  Instead, any bass parts needed for the album were constructed and programmed by Greg Hawkes and MOVE LIKE THIS co-producer, Jacknife Lee, with Greg Hawkes playing a bass that had once belonged to Benjamin Orr.

sad song

A single from MOVE LIKE THIS, “Sad Song,” was well-received, sounded like The Cars of old, and reached No. 33 on BILLBOARD’s Rock Songs chart and No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Triple A chart (it was heavily serviced to college and community radio stations).

The Cars finished up an 11-city mini-tour for MOVE LIKE THIS (appropriately enough) in Boston near the end of May 2011.  The band was nominated for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2015, and I hope they will get in one year.  So deserved. 

And though the band is technically still together, they haven’t recorded anything new or toured since MOVE LIKE THIS in 2011, though Ric Ocasek has overseen the remastering of The Cars’ discography on CD and vinyl.

The Cars have long been and remain as one of my all-time favorite bands, and their last Top 40 hit to date is definitely a keeper, even if the song was actually about an ex…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGf-sszK-qw

the cars 1987

song of the day – “Fool In The Rain” | LED ZEPPELIN | 1980.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

Folks of a certain age (yours truly included) remember junior high school dances always concluded with the double dose of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.”  Every single dance.  It’s like, in the late 70s and early 80s, there was a DJ requirement to play those two songs back-to-back at the end of every school dance.  Maybe it was also because the combined time of the studio album versions of both songs were 17 minutes long, a good amount of time to get all your albums and shit together, with minimal clean up after the dance was done, so you could zip right out of there.  Unfortunately, for me, it was 17 minutes of much suckage.  I don’t recall this wallflower ever dancing to either of those classics at a junior high dance.

birdvsheaven

“Bird” vs. “Heaven,”or Skynyrd vs. Zep.  For decades, one can’t escape the other. Prolly the way it’ll always be…

It’s funny – I remember my junior high dances way more than my high school dances.  I can’t even remember if “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” were even played.  I also wonder if this DJ requirement to play both of these songs helped propel them to the top of annual radio station holiday countdowns.  To this day, they both usually find themselves in the Top 10 of every countdown, if not the Top 5 or Top 3.  (I just checked out a recent list by one of Portland, Maine’s Classic Rock stations, and they had “Free Bird” at No. 1, and “Stairway To Heaven” at No. 2.  What rebels.)

What can I say about Led Zeppelin that hasn’t been already said before?  I wouldn’t call them the Godfathers of Heavy Metal (most would say that distinction goes to Black Sabbath), but Led Zep sure did have a hand in it.  They were one of THE BIGGEST Rock groups of all time, and were rightfully inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995, where, at the museum, Led Zeppelin is stated as being “as influential” in the 1970s as The Beatles were in the 1960s. 

2000px-Led_Zeppelin_logo.svg

Any non-believers yet?  Led Zeppelin released just nine studio albums between 1969 and 1982, and every single album went platinum, and every single album reached the Top 10.  Actually, no Led Zep album charted lower than No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s album chart, and that was the first album.  The only albums that didn’t hit No. 1 were their self-titled debut, LED ZEPPELIN IV (this surprised me), and 1982’s CODA, which was released two years after the band broke up, due to the death of drummer John Bonham.

Still some non-believers out there?  You fools!  Four (of nine) Led Zeppelin studio albums (and one box set) have been certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as Diamond certifications.  What qualifies as a Diamond certification?  Sales of more than 10 million copies (with multiple sets counting for each disc in the set).  In the U.S. alone.  These albums are 1969’s LED ZEPPELIN II (12x Platinum), 1971’s LED ZEPPELIN IV (the third biggest-selling albums of all-time here in America, 23x Platinum), 1973’s HOUSES OF THE HOLY (11x Platinum), 1975’s double-album PHYSICAL GRAFFITI (16x Platinum), and 1990’s 4-disc LED ZEPPELIN BOX SET (10x Platinum).

zep box set

London’s Led Zeppelin – singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham – had already been around for 11 years when I discovered them in 1979, and it wasn’t “Stairway To Heaven” or “Black Dog” or “Kashmir” or “Whole Lotta Love” that sucked me in – its was all “Fool In The Rain,” from their eighth studio album, IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR.

The album was released in mid-August 1979, and was housed in what looked like a brown paper bag.  I still have mine, though after nearly 40 years, it’s looking a lot like a brown paper bag that’s been around for 40 years.

in thru the paper bag

IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR only took two weeks to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart, and not only spent seven weeks at No. 1, but sold three million copies by the end of September.  Pretty impressive for 1979.  Actually, pretty impressive for 2017 too – a total like that now could land an album at No. 1 for the entire year.

“Fool In The Rain,” the only single released from IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR, was released in early December 1979, more than a month after IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR finished its seven-week run at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.

in thru the out door

It was not your typical Rockin’ Led Zeppelin song.  According to a piece in ROLLING STONE about the band’s 40 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “Fool In The Rain” (ranked at No. 24) came about when Robert Plant and John Paul Jones head a Samba song while watching the 1978 World Cup, and that influenced the Latin-jam middle section.  Jimmy Page called “Fool In The Rain” “a springboard for what could have been” (of course, referring to the sad death of John Bonham, who died 13 months after the release of IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR).

fool in the rain 2

An Italian version of the “Fool In The Rain” single.

“Fool In The Rain” (musically, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard) is a song about a guy who is supposed to meet up a woman on a particular street corner.  When the woman doesn’t show up, he is disappointed about being stood up.  Well, by the final verse of the song, the guy realizes that he didn’t go to the right place, making him “just a fool waiting on the wrong block.”

fool in the rain 1

The Japanese version of “Fool In The Rain.”

The song only took a couple of weeks to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting on the last official chart of 1979 at No. 64, and reached the Top 40 in its fourth chart week.  It went on to spend a couple of weeks at its peak position at No. 21 in late February 1980, was the last Led Zeppelin single released commercially (they didn’t release many), and the last (of six) to reach the Top 40.

They say you never forget your first love, and I suppose that could apply to music as well.  I know I’ll be forever grateful that “Fool In The Rain’ was my introduction to Led Zeppelin, and that unlikely hit that turned me on to them for the rest of my life, even if it didn’t work out too well for the guy in the song…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp-LBD_q0sQ

led zep 79

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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

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

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

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

the unforgettable fire

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

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

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

PRIDE front

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

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

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

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

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

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

U2 EP

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

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

these guys are from england

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

fair use

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

PRIDE back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U284