song of the day – “Ain’t Nobody” | RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN | 1983.

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!”

I’ve known one Rufus in my lifetime, and that was a sweet dog (a black Lab?) who was the face at one of my early hangouts when I first moved to Portland, Maine in 1994 – Java Joe’s.  Like myself, Java Joe’s has long been removed from Maine’s largest city, though I do love to visit the Forest City when I can.

When I was first introduced to Rufus & Chaka Khan, it wasn’t because of their first (and biggest) Top 40 hit, 1974’s “Tell Me Something Good” (written by Stevie Wonder), it was because of their last  Top 40 hit – “Ain’t Nobody.”

For the longest time – and this still makes me laugh – I always thought Rufus & Chaka Khan were a married couple.  I didn’t know until much later that Rufus was actually a Funk band out of Chicago, and Chaka Khan was their lead singer. 

The band had formed in 1968, but by 1978, tensions were pretty high between the members of Rufus and their lead singer, who was becoming increasingly popular.  In 1983, they released one final album together – a (mostly) live double-album (and ultimate documentary) called STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were four new studio tracks (led by Chaka Khan) included with the live set, and two of those were released as singles.  The first single released was “Ain’t Nobody.”  At the same time, a producer for a new film, BREAKIN’ (a film based around the popular breakdance craze), had heard the song and eventually put the song in the film and on the soundtrack.

breakin

Well, talk about going out on top.  After years of declining record sales and issues between the band and Chaka Khan, “Ain’t Nobody” turned out to be a great hit, and was released shortly after STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY hit the record stores (as they used to say back in the day). 

“Ain’t Nobody” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on the first day of October 1983, way down at No. 91 (and there were three more debut songs under that!).  For the song’s first six chart weeks, this Funk gem steadily rose up the Hot 100, and in its seventh chart week, blasted onto the Top 40, moving from 43-29.  It was already Rufus & Chaka Khan’s highest-charting single since 1975’s Top 5 hit, “Sweet Thing.”

In a weird chart quirk, “Ain’t Nobody” stayed at No. 29 the following week, but starting moving back up the week after.  In December 1983, it spent three weeks at its peak position of No. 22 and departed the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-February 1984 after 19 weeks.

ain't nobody

Over on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, “Ain’t Nobody” became the band’s fifth and final No. 1 song, and though it only spent a week at No. 1 there, it was that chart’s sixth-biggest song of 1983.  On BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it reached No. 6.

Around the globe, “Ain’t Nobody” was a somebody in the U.K., where it reached No. 8, and a No. 36 chart peak in the Netherlands.  A 1989 remix of “Ain’t Nobody” took the song to new heights around the globe, reaching No. 6 in the U.K., No. 8 in Ireland, No. 9 in Germany, and as part of the entire LIFE IS A DANCE: THE REMIX PROJECT album, it reached No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

life is a dance

NERDY FUN FACT: David “Hawk” Wolinski, who wrote “Ain’t Nobody,” had threatened to give the song to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones (who really wanted the song) if the band’s label, Warner Bros., didn’t release it as the first single. 

I’ll never understand why these recording acts always had to fight with the record labels for what they believed in!  I’d like to think this kind of shite still doesn’t happen, but at the very least, it’s a whole different ball game now, and more people than evah are releasing their own music, and on their own terms, which I think is fan-fucking-tastic!

After winning a Grammy Award for “Ain’t Nobody” in 1984, Chaka Khan and Rufus went their separate ways, but the legacy of “Ain’t Nobody” lives on 33 years later.  It’s been covered an incredible amount of times, including covers by the likes of George Michael (on his 1991 “Cover To Cover” tour), Amii Stewart, Klymaxx, LL Cool J (for the funny 1996 film, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA), Peabo Bryson, KT Tunstall and Mary J. Blige. 

ll cool j

In 2015, a German music producer and DJ by the name of Felix Jaehn released a cover, featuring young British vocalist by the name of Jasmine Thompson, and the song was called “Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better).”  And throughout the globe outside of North America, people did love it better than the original.  It reached No. 1 in at least eight countries, and the Top 10 in at least another 12. 

My favorite cover is actually part of a “pseudo mashup” by U.K. producer and remixer Richard X, with vocals by the English-Irish Pop group, Liberty X.  They used a sample of The Human League’s “Being Boiled” against a cover of “Ain’t Nobody,” and called it, appropriately enough, “Being Nobody.”  It was (and still is) brilliant, and was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. and Ireland in 2003.

being nobody

A couple of years before that, when my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show on WMPG-FM was just five years old, I did a countdown of the BEST 100 SONGS OF THE 80s, getting feedback from listeners, station volunteers and folks in the College Music industry (it was also my first year of 10 as WMPG Music Director).  “Ain’t Nobody” came in at No. 20 and that ranking surprised me the most out of any other on the list. 

Over time, I realized that ranking shouldn’t surprise me.  It’s an incredible song, and though it came at the end of a creative union between a well-respected Funk band and one of the best R&B and Dance singers ever, ain’t nobody gonna tell me that “Ain’t Nobody” doesn’t mean anything in the history of Funk and Dance and R&B and Pop.  Because it does.

“And now we’re flyin’ through the stars / I hope this night will last forever…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M26WD4CidnM

rufus n chaka

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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

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

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

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

long distance dedication 6.29.14

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

pollinator

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

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

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

parallel lines

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

heart of glass

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

sunday girl

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

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

blondie-1

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

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

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

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

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

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

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

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

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

blondie wkrp 1

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

blondie wkrp 2

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

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

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

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

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

one way or another

  

song of the day – “Take Me With U” | PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA | 1985.

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 2 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 2 this day.  4 me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks 2 the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, 4 the entire month of June, I will B 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 2 No. 1. 

As Casey used 2 say on AT40, “And on we go!”

When my radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, had its final show on my 50th birthday – and during the Maine Blizzard Of 2017 (Hope, Shawn and I had 2 literally shut WMPG-FM down afterwards; Shawn: “We’re rockin’ so hard, the station cannot handle it anymore!”; Hope: “No one can follow U Ron!”). 

shawn, hope + me

With the 2017 Maine blizzard in the window behind us, from L to R that’s Shawn, Hope and yours truly all sporting STUCK IN THE 80s T-shirts on the final STUCK broadcast on WMPG-FM, 2.12.17.

One of the songs I chose 4 the last show was “Take Me With U” by Prince & The Revolution featuring Apollonia.  As I mentioned on the last show, and will re-mention here (if I haven’t already on the bloggy thing), it’s one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that DOESN’T get nearly enough love as it should.

purple rain

Released as the last of five singles from 1984’s PURPLE RAIN and written by Prince (of course), “Take Me With U” was a duet between Prince and Apollonia Kotero, who played Prince’s girlfriend in PURPLE RAIN.  “Take Me With U” was initially 2 have appeared on the APOLLONIA 6 album (released on October 1, 1984, and featured one song from PURPLE RAIN – “Sex Shooter,” which Apollonia 6 played in the film). 

But, with Prince being rightfully particular about his songs (4 example, all of his videos that went back up after he died have all pretty much been removed from YouTube), he pulled the song off of the APOLLONIA 6 album, and included it on PURPLE RAIN. 

prince + the revolution

All of the singles from (and of course, the entire album) PURPLE RAIN were sensational, but unlike the other singles released from the soundtrack, “Take Me With U” had this really cool vibe 2 it, featuring a drum solo and finger cymbals at the beginning and the end of the song.  This Psychedelic-y style might have actually been the precursor 2 his next album, AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY, especially on the singles “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life.”

“Take Me With U” was released on January 25, 1985, exactly seven months after the release of the soundtrack 2 PURPLE RAIN, and almost exactly six months after the release of the film, and it only took a couple of weeks 4 the single 2 debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (at No. 61).

take me with u

Reaching the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in just its fourth chart week, “Take Me With U” became the fifth Top 40 single from PURPLE RAIN, and, at that point, Prince became just the seventh recording artist in history (if my math is correct) 2 have five or more Top 40 hits released from one album on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, following Michael Jackson’s THRILLER, Lionel Richie’s CAN’T SLOW DOWN, Billy Joel’s AN INNOCENT MAN, SPORTS by Huey Lewis & The News, Tina Turner’s PRIVATE DANCER, and the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, and her wonderful SHE’S SO UNUSUAL.  (The Cars would join that group a week later with “Why Can’t I Have You,” the excellent and highly-underrated fifth single from their fantastic 1984 album, HEARTBEAT CITY.)

“Take Me With U” spent a couple of weeks at No. 25 in late March 1985, and without much fanfare, faded out of the Hot 100 after 12 short weeks.  Over in the U.K., it was a double A-sided single with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and it reached No. 7.  I would like 2 think the folks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t just listen 2 “Let’s Go Crazy” (as awesome as that song is), and flipped the record over and really enjoyed “Take Me With U” too.

let's go crazy take me with u

Everyone in The Revolution was involved with this gem, and the unity involved with this song is amazing.  And, 4 those who didn’t already own PURPLE RAIN by the end of January 1985, when “Take Me With U” was released, and were kind enough 2 buy the single anyway, and 2 those radio stations who were kind enough 2 play it, I thank U.  “Take Me With U” is that sorta-forgotten gem (though not by me) that, when U listen 2 it 4 the first time in awhile, U will remember why U loved it all those years ago, and, like me, U will love it 4evah…

“I don’t care where we go / I don’t care what we do / I don’t care pretty baby / Just take me with u…”

prince + apollonia

song of the day – “Clones (We’re All)” | ALICE COOPER | 1980.

forever young blog logoFor 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).

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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.” 

welcome to my nightmare, 1975

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

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. alice clones

“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 1980 v2

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. 

Alice_Cooper_–_Poison

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.

wayne's world

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.

DeepPurple_AliceCooper_Instagram_1080x1080_Static

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?). 

stuck-in-the-80s-20-yearsI 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…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q3ly1d-WGw

alice cooper 1980

song of the day – “All Around The World” | LISA STANSFIELD | 1989 / 1990.

lovesongIn mid-October 1989, Pop music in America didn’t know which direction it was going in.  Take the Top 10 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart for October 14, 1989 for example.  You had 80s Pop mainstays Janet Jackson and Madonna leading the pack (“Miss You Much” and “Cherish,” respectively), the future great Grammy taker-awayers, Milli Vanilli (“Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”), a rare big American hit for The Cure (“Love Song”), the last big hit for the Rolling Stones (“Mixed Emotions”), Tears For Fears channeling The Beatles (“Sowing The Seeds Of Love”), rapper Young M.C. with the first (and last) big hit of his own (“Bust A Move”), Hollywood, CA Glam Metal band Warrant (“Heaven”), another big Pop hit for Sweden’s Roxette (“Listen To Your Heart”) and the first Pop single for R&B singer, songwriter and future mega-producer, Babyface (“It’s No Crime”).

Meanwhile, over in the U.K., Disco, which saw its peak ten years earlier, was mounting a sort of comeback.  Sure, there were Disco influences in the 80s – you heard it in the music of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Irene Cara, Queen and Pet Shop Boys, to name a few (Pet Shop Boys even named several of their early remixes as the “Disco Mix”).

it's a sin disco

In September 1989, Italian Eurohouse band Black Box started a six-week run at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with “Ride On Time,” and ended up being the biggest U.K. single of 1989.  Black Box would go on to have big global hits in the early 90s, scoring a couple of Top 10 hits in the U.S. with “Everybody Everybody” and “Strike It Up.”

everybody everybody

During the last week of Black Box’s reign on the U.K. singles chart, Manchester, England native Lisa Stansfield released – that same week in mid-October 1989 mentioned at the beginning of the blog post – the second single from her then-forthcoming album, AFFECTION – “All Around The World.”

Lisa Stansfield had tried out a solo career back in the early 80s, and released a number of singles, including a 1983 song called “Listen To Your Heart” (no relation to the Roxette song from 1989). 

listen to your heart

After a brief first try at a solo career, Lisa joined the short-lived trio, Blue Zone, which was a combination of Pop, Dance and Blue-Eyed Soul.  Their only album, 1988’s BIG THING, well, wasn’t.  It did, however, give Blue Zone (known as Blue Zone UK in the U.S.) one hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, with the song “Jackie,” featured in the 1987 film, SUMMER SCHOOL, starring Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley.  “Jackie” reached No. 54 on the Hot 100.

jackie

It was not until Lisa’s first collaboration with producer and remixer Coldcut in the Spring of 1989 that gave her a big U.K. hit.  The song was “People Hold On,” from Coldcut’s debut album, WHAT’S THAT NOISE?.  Lisa sang and co-wrote the song, and it reached No. 11 on the U.K. singles chart and No. 6 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  It also had Top 40 success in some countries around the globe.

people hold on

After “People Hold On” was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Arista Records signed Lisa on as a solo artist.  Her first successful solo single, “This Is The Right Time,” was released in late July 1989 (it was released as her third single in the U.S. a year later).

“This Is The Right Time” (produced by Coldcut) was a success, reaching No. 13 on the U.K. singles chart, and would go on to fare well in Austria, Canada, Germany, the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (where it reached No. 21), and the BILLBOARD Dance chart, where it spent a week on top in mid-October 1990.

A month before the mid-November 1989 release of Lisa’s debut solo album, AFFECTION, her second U.K. solo single was released – “All Around The World.”  And this one WOULD take her all around the world. 

affection

Almost immediately, critics and music fans were hooked.  ROLLING STONE critic Amy Linden gave the AFFECTION album four out of five stars, saying “the way her voice slinks around the line ‘so-oo sad’ in ‘All Around The World’ show[s] that this is someone who knows her roots even if they aren’t really hers.”

The sound of “All Around The World” was inspired by the late, great R&B legend, Barry White (who would sing, with Lisa, on a version of the song in 1992), and it paid off.  Ten years after the peak of Disco, Lisa Stansfield brought the genre back for four-and-a-half minutes and then some all around the world.

barry + lisa

The single “All Around The World” was a massive hit nearly everywhere it landed.  It spent two weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. in November 1989, and from there, it reached No. 1 in Austria (six weeks), Belgium, Canada (five weeks), Holland (four weeks), Norway, Spain, and two weeks at No. 1 on both of BILLBOARD’s R&B and Dance charts, where it finished 1990 at Nos. 6 and 3, respectively, for the year.

Over here in the U.S., “All Around The World” was released in mid-January 1990, three months after its U.K. release, and the news of its success, well, all around the world was good news to American radio stations and record stores.  “All Around The World” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just a couple of weeks later, in early February 1990. 

A couple of months later, it had reached No. 3, and certainly had the momentum to reach No. 1, but it got stuck in a few tight chart weeks, and it stayed at No. 3 for three weeks.  The competition for No. 1 was so tight, in fact, in those three weeks, there were three different No. 1 songs, the last of which was “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the Prince-composed gem of a cover by Sinéad O’Connor. 

all around the world

As it turns out, “All Around The World” really did have the momentum of being a No. 1 song here in America.  When BILLBOARD tallied up the top Hot 100 songs of 1990, “All Around The World” beat out the first two songs that did go to No. 1 (and prevented Lisa from going to there), not to mention it beat out several other No. 1 songs that year too.

Though some would prolly classify it more as an R&B or Dance song than a Disco song, I think “All Around The World” had a real big hand in reinvigorating the Disco genre for awhile in the early 1990s, or at least inspiring other artists and / or songs to include that “Disco” influence. 

One of THE BEST songs to dance to evah, Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” (released during the Summer of 1990), would certainly fit into that category.  Maybe even U2’s “Lemon” (1993), the Pet Shop Boys remix of Blur’s “Girls & Boys” (1994) and the brilliant “Justified & Ancient” by The KLF and Tammy Wynette (1991) would fit into that category as well.

deee-lite

In 1991, Lisa Stansfield was nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, losing out to Mariah Carey in both categories.  For the British equivalent of the Grammy Awards, the BRIT Awards, Lisa won Best British Newcomer in 1990 and Best British Female in 1991.

After “All Around The World” (and not counting her vocal contribution to 1989’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas II”), Lisa Stansfield would go on to have 13 more Top 40 U.K. hits, six of those which reached the Top 10.  And she did okay over here in the U.S. for awhile.  Most recently, she released her seventh solo studio album, appropriately titled, SEVEN, in early 2014.  It was her highest-charting U.K. album in 17 years.  That same year, she also released her fourth compilation, and her second and third remix albums back-to-back.

Between 1999 and 2013, Lisa Stansfield appeared in five films, and in 1998, she married her second husband – her longtime friend, engineer, mixer, co-writer and co-producer, Ian Devaney.  They were married in a small ceremony in New York City.

lisa+ian

Hard to imagine at one time I didn’t even like Lisa Stansfield or “All Around The World.”  It took me about five years, around my second year living in Portland, but I finally saw and heard what folks were raving about back in 1990.  And, once I learned this song was actually a U.K. hit in 1989, you can bet I played this song often on my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s.  And, why wouldn’t I? 

Sure, somewhere in there, “All Around The World” is a melancholy song with some hope (“I can’t find my baby / I don’t know when, I don’t know why / Why he’s gone away / And I don’t know where he can be, my baby / But I’m gonna find him…”).  And it did what it set out to do – go all around the world, but also, it helped incorporate and reintroduce a genre that had pretty much been declared dead a decade before, and at a time where Grunge was about to take off, that’s a pretty impressive feat and then some for a song that almost sounds like it could have come out of 1977…

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

lisa 89 v1

song of the day – “Bloc Bloc Bloc” | ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK | 1985.

Well, two months and 11 days after my last STUCK IN THE 80s, it finally happened – for whatever reason, I really missed doing the little radio show tonight.  I knew, from the moment I dropped the mic on that snowy mid-February night, that I would always miss hosting and producing the show after it was done, and I was okay with that.  I still want to take some time for myself and work on other things, and when the time is right, get to work on the show’s next incarnation.  And I will. 

STUCK pile o' pins BIG

But for tonight, I will merely express how I miss playing great 80s music for Portland, Maine and beyond.  One of the songs I would have played tonight was never released as a single, it’s just one of my favorite album tracks from my favorite album by one of my all-time favorite bands, and it’s three-and-a-half minutes of pure Synthpop perfection.

England’s Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD for short), led by vocalist and bassist, Andy McCluskey, and keyboardist and vocalist Paul Humphreys, have been spreading their wealth of Synthpop / New Wave joy all throughout the world since their self-titled debut album in early 1980. 

From their wonderful 1985 album, CRUSH (their sixth studio album, and produced by Portland, Maine native, Stephen Hague), is the third of ten songs on the album – “Bloc Bloc Bloc.” 

crush

According OMD.UK.com, “‘Bloc Bloc Bloc’ was basically a ‘stream of consciousness’ song, the lyrics of which were just random words and phrases that Andy sung off the top of his head.”  And, while band members Malcolm Cooper, Graham Weir and Neil Weir do provide horns on CRUSH (all of whom appear performing their respective instruments in the video), the website says (and having seen in concert what OMD can do with synthesizers, I believe this), “The brass section is actually another Emulator sampler.”  You be the judge.

bloc bloc bloc video

From the “Bloc Bloc Bloc” video.

Having seen OMD perform live in 2016 (and on Andy McCluskey’s 57th birthday at that), I can safely say they had one of THE best and most fun stage presences I’ve ever seen.  They said they hadn’t performed in Portland, Maine in 28 years, and right away, they apologized for that.  I thought that was not only classy, but pretty damn cool.  And I hope they don’t wait another 28 years to come back, because I’d totally love to see them again.

And, for those folks who haven’t had the opportunity to see Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark perform live, I’d say “Bloc Bloc Bloc” and the attached video link is a testament to Andy and Paul’s camaraderie, both on stage and in the studio.  They truly were fun and quite energetic to watch.  I had been a fan for 31 years before I finally got to see them perform live, and I can safely say, it was worth the wait.

andy + paul

Speaking of which, for those many folks kind enough to support my little radio show for all those years, thank you for letting me take this time to figure some things out for myself while planning the next incarnation of STUCK IN THE 80s.  Whenever that time comes, I hope you’ll think it’ll be worth the wait too… 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBAhan8ZNGI

1985OMD

song of the day – “The Host Of Seraphim” | DEAD CAN DANCE | 1988.

“…I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal [sanctuary].  Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”  The seraphim cry continually to each other, “Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:1–3; Hebrew Bible)

In the 80s music bible, “The Host Of Seraphim” is a 1988 treasure that belongs to the brilliant and phenomenal Ethereal / Dark Wave band and then some, Dead Can Dance. 

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Dead Can Dance was formed in Melbourne, Australia in August 1981, led by the then-couple Lisa Gerrard (vocalist) and Brendan Perry (vocals and guitar).  The following year, they moved to London and signed on with one of my all-time favorite record labels, 4AD.  (Away from DCD, Lisa Gerrard has also scored several films, and picked up an Academy Award Nomination and a Golden Globe Award for co-scoring – with Hans Zimmer – the 2000 Russell Crowe film, GLADIATOR.)

Their first album, a self-titled effort, was released in 1984, and early on were described as “as Goth as it gets,” though they dismissed that label.  I would also dismiss that label, mainly because they are in a class all by themselves. 

DCD LP

By June 1990, Dead Can Dance had already released five albums and an EP, all of which were not readily available in the U.S. until the early 90s, which is when I discovered them for the first time.

It was the Spring of 1994, I was 27 years old and had just moved to Portland, Maine in late January of that year.  I was still making friends and one of my new friends suggested that I see a film unlike any other – it was a concept film called BARAKA.

the movies sign

Back then, there was this small, independent art-house theater simply called The Movies.  It was in the heart of Portland’s famed Old Port section of town, and had been around for many years.  BARAKA was actually released in September 1992, but for some reason, The Movies didn’t get it until early 1994.

For those who have not yet seen BARAKA, some are quick to call it a documentary, but there’s no narration or voice-overs in it, and I’ve always considered it to be more of a concept film for that reason.  BARAKA, kinda like Dead Can Dance, is in a class all by itself.  BARAKA was filmed in 24 countries on six continents around the globe, photographed in then-groundbreaking 70mm film, and the tagline for the film is “A world beyond words.” 

BARAKA is literally breathtaking to watch.  The late, great film critic of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Roger Ebert, put BARAKA in his “Great Movies” list, writing, “If man sends another Voyager to the distant stars and it can carry only one film on board, that film might be BARAKA.”  When the film was reworked for a Blu-Ray release in 2008, Roger Ebert described it as “the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined.”  High praise indeed.

baraka

Where there is music in the film, most of the score is by Michael Sterns, who is best-known for his work with Ambient and Space music.  He released over 20 solo albums between 1979 and 2001.  During a seven-minute span in BARAKA, there was a song that played over multiple scenes of severe poverty, from homelessness to young prostitution to hundreds of women and children sifting through acres of garbage in hopes of finding food.  You can find the link to this video at the end of the blog post.

As much as BARAKA is breathtaking with its global beauty, the scenes like the ones mentioned above are equally heartbreaking.  The filmmakers couldn’t have picked a better song for that sequence of the film.

Not long after I saw BARAKA in the theater, I stopped by a record store in the same building as the movie theater (at the time, I lived in the Old Port section of Portland, so I was in the area constantly).  The name of the record store was Bad Habits.  The owners of the store would later run the amazing Alternative Portland nightclub, Zootz (both of which sadly disappeared from Portland’s cultural landscape many years ago). 

I was in the store perusing one day, and one of the owners, George, let me take a promotional sampler by Dead Can Dance, of which I had heard a couple of their most recent songs (from 1993’s INTO THE LABYRINTH album, most likely).  Even though I wasn’t that familiar with the band, I, of course, didn’t turn down the free sampler. 

sampler

When I got back to my apartment, I played the CD and was excited to learn that the song I heard in BARAKA was by Dead Can Dance, and it was called “The Host Of Seraphim.”  I always thought the name Dead Can Dance was pretty cool, and in the years ahead, especially after I started STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio) in 1996, I learned a lot more about Dead Can Dance, and was quite impressed at their catalog, and with the fact something like that came out of the 80s. 

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As much as I love Pop acts like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Huey Lewis and Michael Jackson, the 80s weren’t just about them.  Dead Can Dance is absolute and substantial proof of that.

“The Host Of Seraphim” is the opening song from THE SERPENT’S EGG, the fourth studio album by Dead Can Dance, released a week before Halloween in 1988.  Of the album’s interesting title, Brendan Perry once said, “In a lot of aerial photographs of the Earth, if you look upon it as a giant organism – a macrocosmos – you can see that the nature of the life force, water, travels in a serpentine way.”  It’s very true.

the serpent's egg

In addition to its use in BARAKA, “The Host Of Seraphim” has been used in film and television a number of times, including 2002’s RIPLEY’S GAME, 2006’s HOME OF THE BRAVE, the trailer for 2003’s TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, 2010’s LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE, the third-season finale of this year’s HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, and in the last ten minutes of the 2007 film, THE MIST, based on the 1980 book of the same name by Maine’s own Stephen King.

toward the within

Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, from the 1994 TOWARD THE WITHIN live DVD.

Since they are so different than anything else I have loved in music for the past (nearly) 40 years, I had hoped to see Dead Can Dance perform live.  Their last album was in 2012 (ANASTASIS; Greek for “resurrection”), their first album in 16 years.  At the very least, I do have their TOWARD THE WITHIN live DVD from 1994, and they are sensational and then some. 

Dead Can Dance Anstasis

For the ANASTASIS album, Lisa Gerrard did a 2012 interview with PITCHFORK, and her responses to the questions were as amazing as Dead Can Dance’s music.  One of the questions PITCHFORK asked was, “There seems to have always been as much emphasis on the power of space or ambience in your music, is that something that emerges naturally?” 

Lisa Gerrard replied, “I’d call that blind belief.  It’s almost like you’re standing on something that’s much more powerful than you.  It’s like a frequency that comes up through the ground, like sticking your finger into an electrical socket.  There are so many layers to who we are as human beings outside of this terrible, grey shadow of materiality.  I think the message that’s always been there in Dead Can Dance is, ‘Come on, wake up.  Wake up, visceral.  Wake up, abstract.  Wake up, practical.  Wake up, mind.  Wake up, soul.  This is who you are.  This is where you’re going.  This is the journey.  Here we are.  This is the campfire.  The campfire is music’.”

seraphim

One depiction of what a seraphim looks like.

If you hadn’t already been familiar with meaning of the word “seraphim,” it’s another word for an angelic being, with six wings, and is part of the highest of orders of the celestial hierarchy, and (like other angelic beings, I suppose) it’s associated with light, ardor [enthusiasm or passion], and purity. 

The music that Dead Can Dance has brought to my life for many years is something I would consider of an angelic nature.  And, if not angelic, well, it’s not far off.  Their music is among the best I’ve ever heard.  And “The Host Of Seraphim” is truly one of THE most extraordinary and heartbreaking pieces of music I’ll treasure forever.

In a 2013 retrospective review in AllMusic, “The Host Of Seraphim” was hailed as “so jaw-droppingly good that almost the only reaction is sheer awe.”  I couldn’t agree more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGfl_aYu8Hc

DCD 89