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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

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

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

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

waiting for a girl like you

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

99 luftballons

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

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

loverboy

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

the lover in me

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

lovesong

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

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

hungry heart

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

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

dancing in the dark

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

bruce blinded

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

courtney n bruce

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

blaster mix

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

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

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

when doves cry back

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

pink cadillac

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

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

born in the usa LP

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

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

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

pac-man fever

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

rush hour

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

stand by me

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

let's go

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

you got it

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

burning down the house

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

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

people are people

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

robyn

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

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

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

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

document

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

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

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

the one i love v1

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

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

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

the one i love v2

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

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

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

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

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

robyn + peter SWSW 07

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

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

mike-mills

Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

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

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

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

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

me + michael 10.31.15

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

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

r.e.m.

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 – “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 – “You Can Call Me Al” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 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, 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!”

Throughout the years, whether it’s because of an inclusion in a movie or a commercial or a TV show, or a radio station rediscovered it and started playing it again, songs sometimes have more one chart life.  The best example of this is Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which reached No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 twice.  In its initial run, the dance craze favorite spent one week on top in September 1960, and again in January 1962 for two weeks.  No other song has done that here in America.  And, because of its two chart runs that ended at No. 1, “The Twist” is ranked at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 for all time.

twist

CassingleFrontCoverSm

The 1989 cassette single (or “cassingles” – remember those?!) for “In Your Eyes.”

I believe all decades have had songs re-enter the chart with new chart runs, but I think no other decade has as many as the 80s did.  There were “second-chance singles” (as I like to call them) that went to No. 1 on the Hot 100, like “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & The Beaters and “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, “second-chance singles” that were “(real) one-hit wonders,” like Sheriff (again), Benny Mardones (“Into The Night”) and Moving Pictures (“What About Me”),  and songs that benefited from appearing in movies, like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (…SAY ANYTHING) and Billy Idol’s “Hot In The City” (BIG).

Then you have songs that were hits in other decades and, also due to their inclusions in films, were reissued and hit the chart again, like The Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” (featured in both FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and BACK TO SCHOOL), Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (from the incredible film of the same name), and The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” (from DIRTY DANCING).

Prince’s “1999” reached the Hot 100 four time in three decades, and reached the Top 40 three of those times.  In its original 1982 chart run (as the debut single from the album of the same name), it stopped at No. 44.  After “Little Red Corvette” reached No. 6, “1999” was re-released and reached No. 12 in 1983.  When the calendar changed from 1998 to 1999 (even though the song wasn’t about the year 1999), it re-entered the Top 40 for one week at No. 40.  And, as BILLBOARD has been doing for several years now, a number of Prince songs re-entered the Hot 100 following his sad passing in April 2016.  In its fourth Hot 100 appearance, “1999” reached No. 27.

1999

These “second-chance singles” don’t always chart higher than their original chart runs (like the Moving Pictures, Peter Gabriel and Billy Idol singles mentioned above), but lots of times they do.  UB40’s “Red Red Wine” originally peaked at No. 34 in March 1984, but in a re-release (after being performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Concert in 1988), the album version of their Neil Diamond cover spent a week at No. 1 in October 1988.  And, the original version of The Pointer Sisters’ classic, “I’m So Excited,” stalled at No. 30 in late 1982, but after being remixed for their 1984 album, BREAK OUT, the song was reissued and did break out, reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100 about two years later.

red red wine

And, sometimes, “second-chance singles” get another shot at the Hot 100 for multiple reasons.  In the case of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” its success can be attributed to growing praise and sales for its brilliant parent album, GRACELAND (and its big Album Of The Year Grammy Award), and a smart change in music videos.

“You Can Call Me Al” (a song about someone going through a midlife crisis), the first single released from GRACELAND, debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 83 in early August 1986, about a month before the album was released.  The original video for “You Can Call Me Al” was a performance Paul Simon gave (in the perspective of a video monitor) during a monologue when he hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. 

graceland

Well, Paul Simon wasn’t happy with the video, which didn’t seem to attract many fans to buy the record, and GRACELAND had just been released (and wasn’t the brilliant classic most people associate with it now).  “You Can Call Me Al” spent a couple of weeks at No. 44 in September and October, and dropped off the chart in November 1986 after 14 weeks.

A new video was commissioned, and Paul Simon stayed with his friend and SNL creator, Lorne Michaels, to put together another video.  This one (one of my all-time favorite music videos) pairs Paul with another friend (and SNL alum), Chevy Chase, who lip-syncs Paul Simon’s vocals, leaving Paul to twiddle his thumbs, although Paul ends up lip-syncing his backing vocals throughout, and in the last 30 seconds of the video, the focus switches from Chevy to Paul (although Chevy almost takes Paul’s head off with a trumpet).  It’s an incredibly funny and smartly done video, and I think it resonated with fans, MTV watchers, and radio stations alike. 

al video

Paul Simon and his friend, Chevy Chase, from the hilarious video for “You Can Call Me Al.”

Between a hilarious new music video and a big Grammy win for GRACELAND in late February 1987, “You Can Call Me Al” re-entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late March 1987 at No. 92.  About a month later, it surpassed its original No. 44 peak, and reached the Top 40.  About a month after that, it spent a couple of weeks at its (new) peak position of No. 23, departing the chart in early July 1987, with a total of 27 weeks spent on the Hot 100 (strangely enough, in its highe-charting second run, it spent one less week than the first chart run).  To date, it’s Paul Simon’s last Top 40 hit here in America.

you can call me al

Around the globe, “You Can Call Me Al” said, “You can call me a big hit in” Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa (where it reached No. 2), plus the U.K. (No. 4), the Netherlands (No. 5), Finland (No. 9), France (No. 16) and Canada (No. 19). hyde park

Paul Simon is 75 now, and still very much active in the music scene.  In 2016, he released his 13th studio album, STRANGER TO STRANGER, which reached No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart, his highest-charting album since GRACELAND went to No. 3 three decades ago.  And, just this month, he released his fourth live solo album, PAUL SIMON – THE CONCERT IN HYDE PARK.

I don’t know what it is, but I love the idea of songs getting a second chance – for whatever reason – to do better on the chart than they did before.  And, though sometimes it doesn’t work out, the times it does happen can be pretty amazing.  And other times you just need a gifted comedic actor and friend to play off against, who’s a full foot taller than you to create a really fucking hilarious music video to help out a really cool song about trying to cope with middle age.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-gYOrU8bA

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song of the day – “Lies” | THOMPSON TWINS | 1983.

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

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, 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 have to say, as a self-proclaimed singles chart nerd, researching for each blog post in this tribute to Casey Kasem has been pretty awesome.  Casey would often say, “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger!”  That may also true with how many songs peak at each position.  For the songs that reached No. 30 between 1979 and 1989, there were over 40. 

What I found interesting (to me, anyway) is that, out of these 40+ songs that peaked at No. 30 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, there were only two (real) one-hit wonders.  Also, I’ve already highlighted five No. 30 hits – (real) one-hit wonder Frankie Smith and “Double Dutch Bus,” “The One Thing” by INXS, “The Prisoner” by Howard Jones, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock Of Seagulls (one of my favorite blog pieces so far; from September 2016).

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Taken at the Seawall Picnic Area (part of Acadia National Park) on 9.12.2016, a photo I took of a lone seagull (no flocks), and included with my blog post that day for “Space Age Love Song,” a No. 30 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for A Flock Of Seagulls.

Another interesting quirk is that there are a lot of big-name artists who had No. 30 hits, but the hits themselves have been largely forgotten, including songs by The Bangles (“Be With You,” 1989), Tina Turner (“Two People,” 1987), Kool & The Gang (“Let’s Go Dancin’,” 1983), and two each by Daryl Hall & John Oates (“How Does It Feel To Be Back,” 1980, and “Possession Obsession,” 1985) and Toto (“Make Believe,” 1982, and “Stranger In Town,” 1984).

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Yet another interesting fact is how there were so many memorable hits from other decades that stopped at No. 30 (like Iron Butterfly’s classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” the brilliant “Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes, “Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffet, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “She Talks To Angels” by The Black Crowes, “Firestarter” by Prodigy, R.E.M.’s wonderful “Man On The Moon,” the amazing “Love Is The Drug” by Roxy Music, and one of THE BEST pieces of music for all time, “Give It To Me” by The J. Geils Band), and yet, with the songs that peaked at No. 30 in the 80s, for whatever reason, most of those songs have been forgotten.

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Thankfully, though, there were a handful of cool ones, too.  There’s the aforementioned ones I’ve already posted on the blog, but then there’s “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’Arby, “Love Will Find A Way” by Yes, The Human League’s “Mirror Man,” and “Lies,” the first big American hit by a New Wave / Synthpop trio who weren’t at all related – Sheffield, England’s Thompson Twins.

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The trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway made up the Thompson Twins in 1982, a time when MTV was so popular, it was affecting what was bought in stores and what was played on the radio, and a time when New Wave was becoming more prominent in mainstream music.  1982 was also the start of the Second British Invasion on the U.S. singles chart, which lasted through 1986.  Thompson Twins were a big part of that. 

By 1982, Tom, Alannah and Joe already had one No. 1 song to their credit here in America – “In The Name Of Love,” which spent five weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart in May and June 1982.

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In October 1982, they released “Lies,” the first single from their upcoming third album, QUICK STEP AND SIDE KICK.  The band was still looking for their audience in their U.K. homeland, and it stopped at No. 67 on the U.K. singles chart there. 

“Lies” would find an audience here in America a few months later, and it debuted at No. 80 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late January 1983, a couple of weeks after it spent two weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart (with its B-side, “Beach Culture”).

As “Lies” made its climb up the Hot 100, the song’s parent album was released in February 1983, and with the Twins being signed to Arista Records, that meant, well, much like fellow Brits (The) Icicle Works in 1984, a name change for the album in the U.S. and Canada.  So, the name of the album was shortened to just SIDE KICKS.

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A month after the album’s release, “Lies” found its way to the Top 40.  By the end of March 1983, it reached No. 30, but got stuck there for three weeks, and was gone from the Top 40 after that.  It stayed on the Hot 100 for a respectable total of about four months.  “Lies” also reached No. 6 in New Zealand and the Top 30 in Australia and Canada.

Though the “Lies” follow-up single, “Love On Your Side” would fail to reach the Top 40 here in the U.S. (it stopped at No. 45 in early June 1983), Thompson Twins would finally find their U.K. audience, and that song was their first of five Top 10 hits, reaching No. 9.  QUICK STEP AND SIDE KICK was also certified Platinum there and reached No. 2 on the U.K. album chart.t twins logo

I loved Thompson Twins from the start.  I reserved any quick-stepping and side-kicking for at-home dancing, but I was a fan as soon as I heard “Lies.”  Not only was I hooked by the music, but I really enjoyed Tom Bailey’s style of singing.  Don’t know if there’s a particular name for it, I just enjoyed it.  All these years later, I would put his vocal style in the same high class as Howard Jones and Cy Curnin of The Fixx.  They also had one of the coolest band logos.

It was pretty cool seeing them on the TV performing with Madonna at Live Aid.  What I didn’t know was that it was the beginning of the end for the trio I knew and loved as Thompson Twins. 

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Madonna and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Live Aid, Philadelphia, July 13, 1985.

After Joe Leeway left the Twins in 1986, Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie kept the band and the name going until 1993, when they changed it to Babble, reflecting a change in musical direction from New Wave to “dub-influenced chill-out” (mixing Electronica, World Beat, Alt-Dance and Club styles).

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Babble’s second and final album, 1996’s ETHER.

As Babble, Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie (who were married at the time and living in New Zealand) released a couple of albums before calling it quits in 1996.  Alannah Currie retired from music, and they were divorced in 2003 (though they remain friends). 

Tom Bailey now lives in London with his second wife, he took part in the 2014 version of the Retro Futura Tour as “Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey” and earlier this year on “The ‘80s Cruise,” an annual event of which I hope to attend at some point.  Under the moniker of “Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey,” he released a single last year called “Come So Far,” and has another one scheduled for release this year.

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Tom Bailey today.

When I think of Thompson Twins, the first songs that come to mind are “Lay Your Hands On Me,” “Hold Me Now,” “If You Were Here” (from SIXTEEN CANDLES), “Sugar Daddy,” “In The Name Of Love” (both the 1982 and 1988 versions), their kick-ass cover of The Beatles’ “Revolution,” “Doctor! Doctor!” and “Love On Your Side,” but it was all “Lies” that made me fall in love with those three non-related kids back in 1982, who were, at one time, Twins…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVHwD58Ne3Y

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