song of the day – “Love Shack” | THE B-52’s | 1989.

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!”

Casey Kasem used to also say, “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger.”  And so does the number of songs that reached these “smaller” positions.  Between 1979 and 1989, more than 110 songs peaked at No. 3, and many artists stayed there more than once, including Bobby Brown, El DeBarge (solo and with DeBarge), Duran Duran, Genesis, The Jets, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Olivia Newton-John, The Pointer Sisters, The Police (Sting also had a No. 3 solo hit), Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Styx, Wham! and Donna Summer.  Chicago reached the No. 3 positions four times between 1979 and 1989.

hungry like the wolf

1988 was a popular year for No. 3 hits, when 17 songs reached that position, including songs by Taylor Dayne, Samantha Fox, Debbie Gibson, the “comeback” hit for Hall & Oates (“Everything Your Heart Desires”), Breathe, Anita Baker, Information Society, INXS, U2 and (real) one-hit wonder Patrick Swayze (from DIRTY DANCING). 

new sensation

No. 3 hits also included the first solo by David Lee Roth (his cover of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”), as well as the first Van Halen hit without him, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  There were also big No. 3 hits for Simple Minds, Belinda Carlisle, The Cars, Neneh Cherry, Charlie Daniels Band, Chris de Burgh, Earth, Wind & Fire, Corey Hart, Don Henley, Chaka Khan, Love & Rockets, Men At Work, Men Without Hats, Nu Shooz, Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The S.O.S. Band, The Stray Cats, Tears For Fears, Thompson Twins, Madonna and the last Top 40 hit for the late, great Marvin Gaye (“Sexual Healing”).

sexual healing

Love was a constant theme among the No. 3 hits, and was featured in the title of 15 songs, and implied in many others.  One of the 15 hits with the “Love” connection (sorry, couldn’t be helped) was one of two No. 3 hits in a row for The B-52’s – “Love Shack.”

One of the 80s’ biggest success stories – some would say one of the biggest comebacks – belonged to Athens, GA’s New Wave / Alt-Rock / Alt-Dance legends, The B-52’s.  By 1989, The B-52’s had already released four albums and two EPs, and had reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 three times – “Rock Lobster” (No. 56, 1980), “Private Idaho” (No. 74, 1980) and “Legal Tender” (No. 81, 1983). 

rock lobster

The B-52’s started recorded their fourth album – BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES – in July 1985.  At that time, the band was comprised of vocalist Fred Schneider, vocalist and keyboardist Kate Pierson, vocalist and percussionist Cindy Wilson, lead guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy’s brother), and drummer / rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Keith Strickland.  This had been the lineup since the band’s formation in 1976.

b-52's with ricky

During the recording of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, it was discovered that Ricky Wilson was suffering from AIDS.  None of the rest of The B-52’s (except for Keith Strickland) had known about it.  In an interview, Kate Pierson had said that Ricky Wilson kept his illness a secret from the rest of the band because he “did not want anyone to worry about him or fuss about him.” 

On October 12, 1985, while still in the recording process of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, Ricky Wilson died of AIDS at the heartbreakingly young age of 32 years old.

Ricky Wilson, Guitarist for the B-52s

After Ricky’s death, drummer Keith Strickland learned how to play guitar in Ricky’s own style and switched from drummer to lead guitarist.  The band hired session musicians to help out as well, including the album’s producer, Tony Mansfield (who had also worked with Naked Eyes, Captain Sensible, a-ha and After The Fire).

bouncing

Devastated beyond belief at the loss of Ricky Wilson, The B-52’s released BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES on September 8, 1986, with no fanfare and no tour, though they did make a music video for my favorite song on the album, “Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland.”

girl from ipanema

Cindy Wilson went into a deep depression following her brother’s death, Keith Strickland spent some time at Woodstock, NY, while Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson remained in New York City.  They all felt at that moment The B-52’s couldn’t continue without Ricky Wilson.

But, in time, Keith Strickland began composing songs again, and after playing some of the new music he had worked on to the rest of the band, they agreed to try and start writing together again.  The result was COSMIC THING, the biggest album the band would ever have.

cosmic thing

COSMIC THING’s production was smartly split up between Don Was (of Was (Not Was) fame) and Nile Rodgers.  It worked and then some, and the album’s first single, “Channel Z,” was not well-received anywhere except College and Modern Rock radio, who embraced it right away.  “Channel Z” would spend three weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart in August 1989.

channel z

“Channel Z” was also the B-side of the album’s second single, “Love Shack,” which was released a week in advance of COSMIC THING in late June 1989.  It took a month and a half to reach BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart and become the band’s fourth single to reach the chart. 

“Love Shack” debuted on the Hot 100 in early September 1989 at No. 84.  Within three weeks, “Love Shack” had already surpassed the peak of every B-52’s single which had reached the chart.  By the end of September 1989, it was the first Top 40 hit the band had in its U.S. homeland.

love shack

In early November 1989, The B-52’s landed their first Top 10 hit, with “Love Shack.”  That was also the week I saw them perform for the first time, when they came to the University of Maine at Orono and almost literally brought the roof of the venue down with their show.  They were amazing.  I would see them again on the COSMIC THING tour in 1990 at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

“Love Shack” would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 3 in November 1989, and just before Xmas 1989, it was certified Gold.  Follow-up single “Roam” debuted on the last Hot 100 of 1989, when “Love Shack” was still in the Top 30.  And, in late January 1990, “Roam” debuted within the Top 40 the last week “Love Shack” spent in the Top 40.  (“Roam” would also reach No. 3 and was certified Gold as well.)

roam

A total of 27 weeks was spent on the Hot 100 for “Love Shack,” one week more than half a year.  It was that lengthy time on the chart which saw it finish on the year-end BILLBOARD charts two years in a row.  Pretty impressive.  It also reached (with “Channel Z”) No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, spent four weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and received two MTV Video Music Awards, for Best Group Video and Best Art Direction.

b's 1989NERDY FUN FACT: “Love Shack” was produced by Don Was, and the inspiration for the song was this cabin around Athens, GA, which had a tin roof, and where the band conceived their first hit, “Rock Lobster.”  Kate Pierson even lived in the cabin back in the 70s (it burned down in 2004).  Prolly the most famous line in the song, where Cindy Wilson exclaims, “Tin roof…rusted,” was actually an outtake that was added to the song later on.

Around the globe, lots of love was felt for “Love Shack,” and it spent eight weeks at No. 1 in Australia, four weeks at No. 1 in New Zealand, a week at No. 1 in Ireland, plus it reached No. 2 in the U.K., and the Top 20 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In a 2002 interview with ROLLING STONE (which named “Love Shack” as the Best Single of 1989), Fred Schneider spoke of the album’s success: “We thought it would be good, but we didn’t know how good.  We don’t really set out saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be commercial,’ or ‘This is going to be this or that.’  We just wanted good songs, and we thought the songs were really good.  We were pretty shocked, because we didn’t expect it to go that big.  The success of it brings problems because it’s really hard to do tours.  I’m not one to want to go tour at all, but to do eighteen months is like torture.  You just get offers that are really good and you’re going to New Zealand and Australia and all over Europe, and it’s pretty exciting.  It all went way beyond what you’d think.”

flintstones

After COSMIC THING, The B-52’s continued to record and chart for a few more years, including a fun cover of the TV theme song, “(Meet) The Flintstones” (from the 1994 FLINTSTONES movie starring John Goodman).  It snuck onto the Top 40 for one week in early June 1994.

Apart from recording (as The BC-52’s) for Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty (and a couple of popular compilations), the band took a lengthy hiatus, and in March 2008, released FUNPLEX, their first album in nearly 16 years.  It was worth the wait. 

funplex

In October 2011, they released a CD and a DVD of a live concert from earlier that year, WITH THE WILD CROWD! LIVE IN ATHENS, GA.  To borrow from a line out of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, “It is so choice.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”  Seriously, it’s that good.  One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen on the small screen, from one of the bands with two of the best live performances I’ve seen in person.

with the wild crowd

Though the band hasn’t released a solo album since 2008’s FUNPLEX, The B-52’s continue to tour and perform 50-60 shows a year (minus Keith Strickland, who is still with the band, but who stopped performing live with them in 2012).  Sadly, I missed them this Summer, when they came to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire (where I saw Billy Idol in 2014), and when they performed with the Boston Pops.  That must have been incredible!  Prolly the only Pops show where you can’t control people from dancing on their seats, in the aisles and everywhere!

b's n pops

I gotta be honest, after years of playing it at wedding receptions, “Love Shack” is not my favorite B-52’s song.  But, if you were in a jam and tried to get people out onto the dance floor, that was THE go-to song, and people loved it, and loved dancing to it.  Though it’s not my favorite from the band, I do love the song to death, and I’m so glad it finally got The B-52’s the recognition they deserved after so many years of struggling despite putting out great music, and with the terrible loss they suffered when they lost Ricky Wilson. 

Both COSMIC THING and “Love Shack” are a testament to Ricky’s memory, and I’m so proud to call The B-52’s one of my all-time favorite bands, even if it took me awhile to get there.  They are a heluva lot of fun to listen to and dance to, play on the radio and see perform live, which I hope to do again sometime soon…

“Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale and it’s about to set sail / I got me a car, like, it seats about 20 / So come on and bring your jukebox money…  The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together / Love Shack, ba-by….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs

b's 1989 v2

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Heart And Soul” | T’PAU | 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!”

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

The nearly 80 songs that reached the No. 4 position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989 had a bit of everything – Top 40 newbies which included Irene Cara (“Fame”), Asia (“Heat Of The Moment”), Samantha Fox (“Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”), the first two hits by Debbie Gibson (“Only In My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love”), Rickie Lee Jones (“Chuck E.’s In Love”), Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman (“Stumblin’ In”), Run-D.M.C. (“Walk This Way”), and Spandau Ballet (“True”).

walk this way

Songs that reached No. 4 also included the biggest U.S. chart hits for Howard Jones (“No One Is To Blame”), Electric Light Orchestra (“Don’t Bring Me Down”), Eddie Money (“Take Me Home Tonight”), OMD (“If You Leave”), Soul II Soul (“Back To Life”), Teena Marie (“Lovergirl”), The Fixx (“One Thing Leads To Another”) and Tommy Tutone (“867-5309/Jenny”).

don't bring me down

Some of my all-time favorite songs reached No. 4 as well, like “Urgent” by Foreigner, “Eyes Without A Face” by Billy Idol, “Mandolin Rain” by Bruce Hornsby & The Range, “Give Me The Night” by George Benson, Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name,” “Sultans Of Swing” by Dire Straits, “Freeze-Frame” by The J. Geils Band and “Cruisin’” by Smokey Robinson.

urgent

Multiple artists hit No. 4 more than once, including Lionel Richie (one solo and two with the Commodores), Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac (who spent an agonizing then-record seven weeks at No. 4 with 1982’s “Hold Me”), the aforementioned Debbie Gibson, Madonna, Phil Collins (one solo and two with Genesis), Ray Parker, Jr. (one solo and one with Raydio), and Stevie Wonder.

Two memorable Elvis covers also reached No. 4 – “Don’t Be Cruel” by Cheap Trick and “Always On My Mind” by Pet Shop Boys (the highest-charting version of that song here in America).

always on my mind

Two (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989.  The first one was Taco, the German musician whose spirited version of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz” reached No. 4 in September 1983, and was a huge international hit. 

taco

tpau2

The original T’Pau (from STAR TREK).

The second (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s to reach No. 4 was a British Pop / Rock band whose lead singer, Carol Decker, hailed from Liverpool, and the band’s name came from a character in the original STAR TREK from the 60s – T’Pau, the name of a Vulcan elder.  Before deciding on a name for the band, their working name was Talking America.

T’Pau formed in 1986 as a six-member band and released their debut single, “Heart And Soul,” in late April 1987, a month in advance of their debut album, BRIDGE OF SPIES.  One of the memorable things about “Heart And Soul” is that Carol Decker is in a duet with herself, courtesy of overlapping vocals.

bridge of spies

A couple of weeks after its release, “Heart And Soul” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early May 1987 at No. 91.  It landed in the Top 40 six weeks into its chart run, steadily climbing on the chart until peaking at No. 4 for a week in early August 1987, the month it was released in in their U.K. homeland.  During this time, it was also featured in a Pepe Jeans ad, though I can’t really say I even remember Pepe Jeans.  But, it seemed to help the song’s chart success.

Despite that chart success here in America, “Heart And Soul” did not fare well in the U.K. upon its release, but eventually the U.K. warmed up to the song, and it, too, reached No. 4.  Outside of the U.S. and the U.K., “Heart And Soul” reached No. 4 in Ireland, No. 5 in Canada, No. 9 in New Zealand and Switzerland, No. 10 in France and Germany, and the Top 20 in Australia, Belgium, South Africa, Sweden and the BILLBOARD Dance chart. 

heart and soul

Thanks to its 27 weeks on the Hot 100, “Heart And Soul” finished 1987 here in the U.S. at No. 33 for the year, above No. 1 hits by Kim Wilde, George Michael and Aretha Franklin, Huey Lewis & The News, Madonna and two No. 1 songs by Michael Jackson.

Though T’Pau never charted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 again, their biggest international success came with another single from BRIDGE OF SPIES – “China In Your Hand,” which was a massive No. 1 hit in several countries, including the U.K. and Switzerland (5 weeks at No. 1), Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands (2 weeks), plus a No. 1 rank in Norway, and Top 10 rankings in (at least) Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and Sweden.

china in your hand

T’Pau is still together today, though from the original six-member band, the only members left are “Heart And Soul” co-writers Carol Decker and rhythm guitarist / songwriter Ronnie Rogers.  In early 2015, they released their fifth studio album, PLEASURE & PAIN, which became their first-charting U.K. album in nearly 25 years.

pleasure and pain

For this album, Carol Decker expressed her frustration through an interview about her new music not being played vs. the radio stations being only interested in playing their 80s classics:  “It’s a little harder to get on the radio because all the ‘80s stations play the ‘80s stuff and they won’t play your new stuff.  They actually say they can’t, and then the younger stations play the younger artists, the hip stations.  That’s the downside, and I miss hearing radio plays for the new stuff… it is a little frustrating that I can’t get it out to the wider audience anymore.” 

This is just one of many reasons why I need to (soon) start the next incarnation of my radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, so I can highlight the new music, like I did on my longtime show with WMPG. 

Though I honestly never kept up with T’Pau (partially because of the one hit here), I always loved “Heart And Soul,” and continue to introduce it to folks when I can (I recently guest-hosted a show on WMPG with my former radio neighbor, DJ Shaxx, and he fell in love with it when we played it on the air).

tpauThank you, Carol and Ronnie, for putting some needed “Heart And Soul” into my music for 1987.  30 years later, it’s not forgotten…

“Give a little bit of heart and soul / Give a little bit of love to grow / Give a little bit of heart and soul / And don’t you make me beg for more / Give a sign, I need to know / A little bit of heart and soul…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwrYMWoqg5w

song of the day #2 – “What I Am” | EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS | 1989.

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 reached No. 7 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, a list comprised of many (then) up-and-coming R&B / Hip Hop and Dance stars, like those awesome Beastie Boys (with “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”), plus Young MC bustin’ a move, Babyface, Bobby Brown, Dino and Karyn White.

fight for your right

No. 7 was a popular number for hits for The Cars, Michael Jackson and Juice Newton, who had two No. 7 hits each.  There were also No. 7 hits from Bruce Springsteen, and Rhode Island’s answer to Bruce Springsteen – John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, plus you had Heart and Corey Hart (“Who Will You Run To” when you have on “Sunglasses At Night?”).  Heart’s Ann Wilson also reached No. 7 with “Almost Paradise,” the love theme from FOOTLOOSE, a duet with (real) one-hit wonder Mike Reno of Loverboy.

smooth criminal

The No. 1 artist of the 80s, with his last hit of the 80s, one of two solo songs that reached No. 7 for Michael Jackson.

In 1989, though they would be their last Top 10 American hits, there were a few 70s superstars who had big comeback hits that reached No. 7 – Bee Gees (“One”; their first Top 10 hit since 1979), Alice Cooper (“Poison”; his first Top 10 hit since 1977), and Donna Summer (“This Time I Know It’s For Real”; her first Top 10 hit since 1983).

donna summer

1989 was a huge year for No. 7 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – 14 of them reached the peak that year.  One of those songs was a song was by a singer, at the time, that I could not stand and a song, at the time, I could stand even less – “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.

Ever have some songs that just eat away at you for whatever reason?  Sure you do.  A handful of songs from the 80s do that to me.  Maybe one day I’ll mention them.  When “What I Am” came out, there was just something about it that was so as repulsive to me.  I don’t know if it was the hippie-ish nature of Edie Brickell, her voice, or the guitar style that sounded like something Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead would do (I was also not a fan of The Dead in 1989).  Whatever it was that bugged the fuck out of me about that song, it’s long gone now.

The New Bohemians formed as a trio in Dallas, Texas in the early 80s.  The drummer for The New Bohemians, Brandon Aly, guitarist Kenny Withrow and percussionist John Bush had all attended the same magnet performing arts school as Dallas native Edie Brickell, though at the time, Edie was there for art, not music.

In 1985, Edie Brickell was asked to join the band onstage and sing with them, and she continued on from there.  After being a local favorite for years, playing in clubs and even backing Bo Diddley one time, the band’s big break came in August 1988, when they released their first album as Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS.

shooting rubberbands

Edie Brickell was just 22 years old at the time (I believe they were all young), and SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS was incredibly well-received for a debut album by a young band.  In a review on the AllMusic site by Kelly McCartney, Edie Brickell’s “simple observations offer deep contemplations for the willing disciples of her musical philosophies.  ‘What I Am’ is the perfect example: ‘I’m not aware of too many too many things / I know what I know, if you know what I mean…’  Zen and the art of songwriting.”

Well, the songwriting, the vocals, the Alt-Folk tunage – it all found a place in homes and radio stations and record stores across the country, and eventually SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS sold than two million copies in the U.S. alone. 

The first single from SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS, “What I Am,” was released in November 1988, a few months after the release of the album.  By month’s end, it debuted on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart at No. 96.  By mid-January 1989, “What I Am” had found its way to the Top 40 of the Hot 100, and for several weeks since debuting on the chart, had been in competition with Information Society’s “Walking Away,” which debuted a couple places below “What I Am” back in late November 1988. 

what i am

By mid-February 1989, “What I Am” surpassed “Walking Away” for the first time since they debuted, and in early March 1989, “What I Am” spent a week at its peak position of No. 7.  And, in good form (though unintentional, I’m sure), both “What I Am” and “Walking Away” walked away the Hot 100 in early April 1989.

walking away

Around the globe, “What I Am” was a No. 6 hit in Canada, and it reached No. 11 in New Zealand, No. 18 in Australia, No. 23 in Ireland and No. 31 in the United Kingdom.  It also reached No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and No. 9 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.  

Edie & The New Bohemians charted on the Hot 100 just one more time, with “Circle,” the follow-up single to “What I Am,” which stopped at No. 48, and was a modest hit around the globe, reaching the Top 40 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

circle

paul n edie march 2016

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, March 2016.

QUIRKY FUN FACT: On November 5, 1988, the same month “What I Am” was released, Edie and the band performed the song on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  Well, Paul Simon was there by a cameraman, and in a January 2011 interview with the TODAY show, she said, “Even though I’d performed the song hundreds of times in clubs, [Paul] made me forget how the song went when I looked at him,” she said smiling. “We can show the kids the tape and say, ‘Look, that’s when we first laid eyes on each other’.”  Paul Simon and Edie Brickell were married in late May 1992, and they have three children – Adrian, Lulu and Gabriel.

After a six-year break in the 90s, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians have been together for the past 20 years, most-recently playing three sold out nights in April 2017 in the Dallas suburb where Edie was born, Oak Cliff. 

edie april 2017

Edie Brickell, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, April 2017.

When she’s not working with New Bohemians (their last album was in 2006), she’s released several of her own albums, including her other band, The Gaddabouts, and has recorded two Bluegrass albums with the brilliant Steve Martin – 2013’s LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU and 2015’s SO FAMILIAR.  Both albums went to No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Bluegrass Albums chart.  LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU was BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Bluegrass album for 2013, and No. 3 for 2014.  SO FAMILIAR was the No. 3 Bluegrass Album for BILLBOARD in 2016, six positions higher than the year-end chart for the year it was released.

so familiar

In the liner notes for SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS, Edie Brickell wrote out some annotations about each song on the album, replete with illustrations. For “What I Am,” she wrote, “‘What I Am’ is a smart-alec’s way out of a deep discussion on the universe as it relates to the self.” 

Well, as for this self, I’m not trying to get out of a deep, universal discussion as to why “What I Am” and Edie & Co. didn’t do anything for me for all those years, though maybe it was more of “Who I Am” than “What I Am.”  And while I’m still not a big fan (although I LOVE their 1989 cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” from BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY), I’m glad the song eventually grew on me, and became part of what – and who – I like…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDl3bdE3YQA

edie n co 1

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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

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

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

hojo

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

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

door to door

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

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

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

candy-o

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

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

video

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

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

you are the girl

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

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

just what i needed

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

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

it's alive

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

move like this

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

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

sad song

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

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

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

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

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

the cars 1987

song of the day – “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 – “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” | UTOPIA | 1983.

To paraphrase from a movie I recently watched (yet again), the incredibly funny 1984 film, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, “I’m a singles chart nerd, and I’m pretty proud of it.” 

at40 80s

In the years leading up to adulthood, and for a few years after, I was a faithful listener of Casey Kasem’s AMERICAN TOP 40 program, and while I am a self-proclaimed singles chart nerd, I concede that, if there’s a song out there you love, and have loved for years, what position they reached on the singles chart (if they even reached it at all) doesn’t matter.  I think if Casey Kasem were here with us today, he might agree.  Still, all these years later, there are some songs out there whose peak chart positions surprise me.  One of those songs is “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” by Utopia.

feet don't fail me now

For years, Pennsylvania native Todd Rundgren had been going back and forth, releasing solo albums and albums with his band, Utopia.  As for his solo career, Todd is best known for his BILLBOARD Hot 100 hits, “I Saw The Light” (No. 16) and “Hello It’s Me” (No. 5, both from 1972), his original 1978 version of “Can We Still Be Friends” (No. 29; covered by Robert Palmer in 1979, and by many others since), and 1983’s fun “Bang The Drum All Day” (No. 63).

Todd Rundgren’s band, Utopia, started out as a Prog-Rock band in 1973, and had several incarnations over the years, releasing nine studio albums between 1974 and 1985.  Their biggest album, late 1979’s ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA, was their biggest, blending Rock, Disco and Prog-Rock, and gave the band their only Top 40 hit on the Hot 100, “Set Me Free,” which spent a week at its peak position of No. 27 in April 1980.

NERDY SIDE NOTE: A song Todd Rundgren wrote for Utopia’s 1977 album, OOPS!  WRONG PLANET – the last song on the album – called “Love Is The Answer,” was a single released from the album, but it was not a hit.  It did, however, end up being a Top 10 hit for Adult Contemporary favorites England Dan & John Ford Coley in May 1979, and it was among the 100 biggest U.S. hits of that year.utopia 1982 LP

From Utopia’s second self-titled album (and their second album released in 1982), there were two singles released from the album: “Hammer In My Heart” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.”  With the album recorded just a year after MTV was born, both songs featured videos on a VHS collection called THE UTOPIA SAMPLER, which received a Grammy nomination in 1983 for Best Short Form Video.  Speaking of MTV, footage for the “Hammer In My Heart” video was recorded live at MTV’s official first birthday party, hosted by MTV VJ (and current Maine resident and weather enthusiast), Nina Blackwood.  That song reached No. 31 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.

feet videoThe cheeky video for the other single released from the UTOPIA album, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” featured the band members dressed up as different types of bugs who can’t move their feet.  The video kinda reminded me of videos The Cars would end up producing in the 80s, like 1984’s MTV Video Of The Year winner, “You Might Think” (which at one point features singer Ric Ocasek as a fly).  In an odd coincidence, Todd Rundgren took Ric Ocasek’s place as lead singer of The New Cars in 2005 (featuring original Cars members Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes) for one album and a tour, which I unfortunately missed.

“Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” has always reminded me of a cross between the U.K. Pop band, Bucks Fizz (who had three No. 1 songs in the U.K. back in the early 80s) and XTC, which, in yet another coincidence, Todd Rundgren produced the brilliant XTC album, SKYLARKING, in 1986, the same year Utopia broke up.

Skylarking

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” debuted at No. 90 in early January 1983, but sadly, it was the legs, not the feet that failed “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” and it peaked at No. 82 a couple weeks later, staying there for three weeks.  It was the last time Utopia would see the Hot 100.

I was a bit late learning about “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” (it wasn’t until after I started STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 21-year 80s radio program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), but every time I’ve heard it since, it’s never failed me.  I suppose maybe 20 years from now, if I hear this song and of course, want to dance to it, I might say, “Feet, don’t fail me now.” 

But, for the moment, I’ll proudly dance to this quirky and fun gem at home, because unlike the meaning of the word “utopia” (which means “no place” or an imagined place), here’s a good as place as any to dance, not to mention it’s a place where I don’t have to worry about taking anyone out on the dance floor on account of my mad dancing skillz (those who have seen me dance are laughing, because they know it’s true)…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytAi9yr7t1E

utopia