For whatever reason(s), I’ve been unintentionally lax in my FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s blog post output so far this year. Last year, between January 11, 2016 (my first-ever blog post), until June 1, 2016, I had written 111 blog posts. Not bad for a first-timer. From January 4, 2017 through today, June 1, 2017, I’ve posted less than half of that 2016 amount. Well, that changes right now.
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).
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, and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post. Today’s “song of the day” (June 1, 2017) will feature 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!”
In the 1970s, Alice Cooper was famous for his “snake-eyes” makeup and his being “The Godfather Of Shock Rock,” from Rockin’ songs like “School’s Out,” his first hit, “I’m Eighteen” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and awesome ballads like “Only Women Bleed,” “I Never Cry” and “You And Me.”
Alice Cooper on the WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE tour, 1975.
It was his ballads, actually, that gave Alice Cooper his biggest hits in the 70s, which isn’t really that strange, because if you think about it, just about all of the big Rock bands of the 70s, 80s and even 90s had their biggest success with a ballad (pardon me, that should prolly read “power ballad”) – a list that includes but is not limited to Styx, Journey, Cheap Trick, Foreigner, Scorpions, Night Ranger, The Cars, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Heart, Kiss, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, Queensrÿche, Warrant, Winger, Europe, Cinderella, Skid Row, Bad English (featuring John Waite) and Aerosmith, whose big song from the biggest film of 1998, ARMAGEDDON – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” – gave the Boston band not only their first (and sole) No. 1 song, but their biggest hit in the 25 years they had been together at that point.
Well, by 1980, Alice Cooper wanted to try something new. He ditched the makeup and recorded the 28-minute album, FLUSH THE FASHION, with popular producer, Roy Thomas Baker, who, in the two years previous to FLUSH THE FASHION, had worked with bands like The Cars, Foreigner, Journey and Queen.
FLUSH THE FASHION had a sort of New Wave influence, and since its release, it has been hailed as a “hidden gem” in the 26 studio albums Alice has released since 1969 (his 27th, PARANORMAL, is scheduled to be released in late July 2017). At the time of the release of FLUSH THE FASHION, though, many longtime fans were bewildered at the change in Alice’s sound.
Still, FLUSH THE FASHION became Alice Cooper’s biggest album in three years, and returned him to the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for the first time in two years.
“Clones (We’re All)” was the first single released from the album, making its debut on the Hot 100 in mid-May 1980 at No. 77, just a few weeks after the release of FLUSH THE FASHION. “Clones” had risen to No. 51 by early June, and reached No. 40 on July 5, 1980, but, sadly like Blondie’s brilliant “Atomic” (No. 39 that week), both songs lost steam and plummeted down more than half the chart the following week after just nine weeks on the Hot 100.
NERDY AT40 FACT: To my knowledge, “Clones (We’re All)” was actually never mentioned by Casey Kasem, because on that chart dated July 5, 1980, AMERICAN TOP 40 aired a special broadcast of the “AMERICAN TOP 40 Book Of Records” that week, so “Clones” was never even played on AT40 because it was gone from the Top 40 that following week.
“Clones” did have some chart success elsewhere, reaching No. 15 in Canada, No. 36 in Australia, No. 58 in Germany, and somehow all 2 minutes and 51 seconds of “Clones” was serviced to Dance clubs, and it actually reached No. 69 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.
Alice Cooper, 1980.
I’m not sure exactly how “Clones,” a song about forced conformity (“I’m all alone, so are we all / We’re all clones / All are one and one are are all…”), came onto my music radar, I just really liked it. Strangely enough, today was the first time I ever saw the music video for “Clones,” and if videos were as popular then as they would be a year or so later, and if the 13-year-old version of myself had seen Alice’s frail-looking and somewhat menacing appearance, I am not sure if I would have changed my mind about the song. But, honestly, whatever attracted me to this odd and yet topically-interesting song still attracts me to it 37 years later.
After “Clones” and FLUSH THE FASHION, his next few albums fizzled and most of the 80s were not good to Alice Cooper. But, by 1989, he was on a new record label and returned with a vengeance with the album TRASH, his first Platinum album since 1975, which featured the biggest hit of his career – no, not a power ballad this time – the Hard Rockin’ “Poison.” That song was certified as a Gold single and reached No. 7 on the Hot 100, plus it reached the Top 10 in (at least) the U.K., Australia, Austria, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. Alice Cooper was back.
From the “Poison” music video…
In 1992, Alice appeared as himself in the highly successful and fun film adaptation of the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit, WAYNE’S WORLD, where he performed at a concert and got his intellectual on about Milwaukee, Wisconsin backstage with Wayne (Mike Meyers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). In my humble opinion, they’re all worthy.
On top of a new album release this summer (an album which features contributions from Larry Mullen of U2 and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, among others), Alice will be co-headlining a tour in August with Deep Purple and Edgar Winter.
You know, regardless of chart positions, I’ve always found it interesting how there’s no rhyme or reason to which songs we choose to like and keep liking and loving over the years, but when when do like and love them, those songs really matter, and will forever.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, or the radio dial if you prefer, as much as I love radio, and loved being involved in it for the better part of 32 years (so far), you’ve gotta wonder how a commercial and/or conglomerate station determines what songs are deemed “worthy” of being played forever and what songs are left behind. I suppose that’s been the case all along (I mean, how else can you explain two great songs dropping 53 places out of the Top 40 from one week to the next?).
I know for me, for many great shows on community stations like WMPG, and for shows like Barry Scott’s “The Lost 45s” and the (unrelated) STUCK IN THE 80s podcast based in Florida, I could never forget the amazing songs I loved from my youth and discovered into adulthood and beyond. And I was proud to share them for nearly 21 years on my weekly STUCK IN THE 80s radio show on WMPG in Portland, Maine, and will again, because I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that feels this way.
I love Billy Joel, but every time I hear his overrated “Big Shot,” I can’t help but cringe (The guy’s got a gajillion songs! Play another one!). The song jumped from No. 51 to No. 23 on the Hot 100 and stopped at No. 14 three weeks later, and yet it’s been deemed “worthy” for radio eternity by the powers that be. Play something different, dammit! Give me 1980’s “Sometimes A Fantasy” every day of the week and twice on Sunday (and look for it in an upcoming blog post, dammit!).
I don’t know, after listening to commercial stations for nearly 40 years, from the big conglomerate ones to the locally-owned ones with diminutive, covfefe head GMs who think 80s Hard Rock songs should be played back-to-back with the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, maybe it’s those programmers and radio heads who are the ones that are clones.
As I am, unlike these sad folks, not a drone or a clone, I think the best response I can give to that is this simple but appropriate quote from Alice’s mostly-forgotten kick-ass gem from 1980:
“I just want wanna be myself / I just wanna be myself / I just wanna be myself / Be myself / Be myself…”