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

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.

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Hot Hot Hot” | BUSTER POINDEXTER AND HIS BANSHEES OF BLUE | 1987 / 1988.

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.

rangeley-aerial2

An aerial view of Rangeley, Maine – hope to visit there sometime!

O Lord!  Earlier this week, Rangeley, Maine – located in the mountains of Western Maine (about 2 hours NW of where I’m writing this in Central Maine) – picked up 2 inches of snow.  They didn’t see any snow today; they were expected to have a high temperature of 84 degrees.  In contrast, Miami, Florida was expected to have a high temperature of 85 degrees today.  Back here in Central Maine, the temperature rose up to the low 90s, which is the hottest it’s been here in a long while, and I think the earliest 90-degree reading in history.  There are some summers Maine doesn’t even see 90 degrees!

In 1987, Buster Poindexter, the alter-ego of David Johansen, singer / songwriter for 70s Glam Punk Rockers, New York Dolls, also thought it was hot.  Then ten years removed from the New York Dolls, David recorded the first of four albums under the pseudonym of Buster Poindexter.  For his self-titled debut album, he was joined by his Banshees Of Blue, which was the pseudonym for The Uptown Horns.  Together, they played a mix of Jazz, Calypso and other novelty-related songs. 

arrow

The original “Hot Hot Hot.”

One of the album’s songs, “Hot Hot Hot,” was released as a single.  It was a cover version of a song originally recorded by the late Calypso and Soca musician out of Montserrat, West Indies, with the stage name Arrow, who released the song in 1984. 

Nearly six months after the release of the single, “Hot Hot Hot” finally debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 a couple of weeks before Christmas 1987, at No. 95.  In mid-February 1988, it just missed reaching the Top 40, spending a week at No. 45.  It would be his only time on the Hot 100, either as Buster Poindexter, or with the New York Dolls.

BP LP

NERDY CHART FACT: On the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart dated March 5, 1988, the last week on the chart for Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot,” The Cure debuted with their own (unrelated) “Hot Hot Hot!!!” (from their excellent double album, KISS ME, KISS ME, KISS ME).  Also “hot” on the chart that week, “Hot Thing” by Prince (from the brilliant SIGN “O” THE TIMES).  A remix of Buster’s “Hot Hot Hot” would reach No. 11 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

hot hot hot

NERDY SONG FACT: In that 12” remix of “Hot Hot Hot,” Buster Poindexter says the word “hot” 137 times.  Are YOU feeling hot, hot, hot?  Zoinks yo.

For years, “Hot Hot Hot” was, well, a hot, hot, hot song to play at wedding receptions (I should know, I was DJing wedding receptions on a regular basis during that time), and at karaoke bars.

The song’s popular music video (nominated for an MTV Video Music Award) features Buster talking about his work with the New York Dolls, showing off their albums, and promptly tossing them away while he goes off on the “really outrageous clothes” he wore while with the Dolls, and how he became interested in this “refined and dignified kind of situation. 

“I’m playing music that’s so soft and sweet, I mean, you can sit by the fireplace and listen to it, have a little glass of wine, maybe you could even have dinner to this music.  I’ll show ya.”  And then he goes into the song.  You’ll find Bill Murray in the video, and you’ll find David Johansen returning the favor, by appearing in the fun 1988 Bill Murray film, SCROOGED, in which David plays the Ghost Of Christmas Past.

scrooged

David Johansen and Bill Murray in 1988’s SCROOGED.

The legacy of “Hot Hot Hot” has continued on over the past 30 years, and the song has appeared in several films and TV shows, most recently appearing in the 2015 film, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP.  And both the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs National Hockey League teams have used the song at their games as well.

I bet if he had to do it all over again, David Johansen prolly wouldn’t.  In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), he once called “Hot Hot Hot” “the bane of my existence.”  He seemed to be having fun, fun, fun, though in the video at least.  Well, while the weather here in Maine was cold, cold, cold when “Hot Hot Hot” was popular on the Hot 100, it took a day like today for me to think about it this fun gem again.  I can hear him now… “Olé Olé – Olé Olé…”  Cue the music…and the ice cold beverage…and the fan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhZba-P7R18

buster poindexter

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

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

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

it's a sin disco

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

everybody everybody

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

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

listen to your heart

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

jackie

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

people hold on

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

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

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

affection

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

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

barry + lisa

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

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

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

all around the world

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

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

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

deee-lite

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

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

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

lisa+ian

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

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

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

lisa 89 v1

song of the day – “White-Out Conditions” | BEL CANTO | 1987.

wintry waterville 3.14.17

Wintry Waterville, Maine, 3.14.2017.

With the second blizzard swirling around Central Maine in exactly a month, I was reminded of a song by a Norwegian band whose history with me is kinda like the excellent HBO series, SIX FEET UNDER.  I’ll explain.  I didn’t mean for it to happen the way it did, but I started watching SIX FEET UNDER in 2005, its fifth and final season.  I saw the brilliant finale before watching the first four seasons. 

My association with the band Bel Canto started similarly, finding out about them in 1993, seven years after they formed in Tromsø, Norway (considered the northernmost city in the world with a population of more than 50,000). 

Tromsø.original.2835

In 1993, I was living in the Western Maine college town of Farmington (where I attended my second round of college), and I was working as a rep for this awful company that handled the inventory of music and video for stores like Wal-Mart and other discount department stores of the time, including long-closed stores like Ames (gone in 2002) and Bradlees (2001).  It was the worst job I ever had. 

I thought with the rep job involving music and video, it would be alright.  I could work by myself, and I would get a company car and maybe some free stuff, but it never happened like that, and the car never happened.  My job basically consisted of me dressing up and standing up or kneeling down all day to scan bar codes of what was sold and what was not, to put up cardboard displays which apparently had a thing against me, and to work with bullshit managers of the stores who didn’t want us outsiders there (one day, while dressed up, I wore a button that said, “I wonder what your head would look like on a stick.”  It’s alright – he was an asshole.) 

It was also a salaried job, so with some locations, I was there a good 13 hours a day.  Fuckers.  Well, I was done with the job in maybe four months; my choice, though one retailer was admittedly not impressed with me or my work, which got back to my boss.  How can you do your best at a job that sucks to begin with? 

pontiac-6000-black

Not unlike the car I had in 1993, though instead of no tape player, I do believe I had all four hubcaps…

Anyway, the piece-of-shit used car I had at the time only had a radio, no tape deck (which was still a thing in 1993).  So, I had to rely on the radio for music to and from my daily service routes.  And, Maine radio compounded with the music that was out in 1993 wasn’t pressing my car radio buttons, if you know what I mean.  But, a year before I discovered (and later became involved with) WMPG community radio, I found this radio station out of Portland called WCLZ (their current slogan is, “different is good”).  To me, WCLZ was like an alt-commercial station, or more community than commercial. 

Long story longer, on some of my service route trips, WCLZ played this song, which was infectious and beautiful and ethereal, and it always use to bug the piss out of me when they wouldn’t back-announce it so I could figure out what it was!  Well, one day, the streak was broken, and they DID back-announce the song and the band – “Unicorn” by Bel Canto. unicorn

After that, it didn’t take long for me to pick up the CD with “Unicorn” on it – SHIMMERING, WARM AND BRIGHT, released in 1992.  Bel Canto (which means “beautiful singing” or “beautiful song” in Italian) has been oft-compared to the also-ethereal Cocteau Twins, but I think Bel Canto can be a bit more diverse with their music.  Vocalist Anneli Drecker and multi-instrumentalist Nils Johansen truly compliment each other  with their music, and on this album, they have songs in English, French and German and then some.  It’s still one of my all-time favorite albums. 

shimmering

Over time, I learned more about Bel Canto, and started purchasing more of their music, like 1996’s MAGIC BOX (which was a brave and different move for them musically), and, after my STUCK IN THE 80s show started on WMPG in 1996, I eventually found out Bel Canto released two albums in the 80s – 1989’s BIRDS OF PASSAGE and 1987’s WHITE-OUT CONDITIONS.

On their debut album, WHITE-OUT CONDITIONS, Bel Canto (then a trio, with Geir Jenssen on synthesizer) sounded like a dark, New-Agey, New Wavey,  Dreampop band, not like the World music sound they incorporated on their 90s albums.  But, it was all really great, Anneli Decker’s vocals were (like on all their albums) gorgeous and stunning, and quite different from the music I DID listen to in 1987.

white-out conditions

The dark title track to WHITE-OUT CONDITIONS has a hint of The Cure and maybe Bauhaus, especially at the song’s starting point.  And, tonight, as the winds whip the snow around with great force in the light of the last Tuesday night before Spring, I thought this song was appropriate to share today (er, tonight)…

“In the light of my fire / I see footsteps in snow / In white-out conditions / My eyes have no view / In the light of my fire / I see grey sticks in snow / In white-out conditions / There’s no trace of the track at all… A peak is blazed with the light from the moon / And there is no view in darkness / I search for the moonlight…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXpjHvs7wPU

belcanto1987

song of the day – “Reach” | MARTINI RANCH | 1988.

On Saturday, February 25, 2017, we lost another great actor too soon – the incredibly-talented Bill Paxton, who died from a post-surgical stroke following heart surgery.  The Fort Worth, Texas native was just 61. 

Bill Paxton was a veteran actor, with an incredible resume that spanned four decades.  Though he apparently was in the 1981 Bill Murray gem, STRIPES (as a soldier) I don’t remember Bill in that movie.  I’ll look for him next time though.  His first big movies were prolly THE TERMINATOR and STREETS OF FIRE, both from 1984. 

The first movie I remember Bill in, however, was the 1985 John Hughes film, WEIRD SCIENCE.  It’s my least favorite of John’s 80s teen films, but as the asshole brother, Chet, Bill Paxton played the role so brilliantly.  Seriously, not many people could convincingly pull off playing a giant turd.  And I mean that in the highest regard.  I loved him in that role.

weird-science

From 1985’s WEIRD SCIENCE, Bill with Anthony Michael Hall.

I loved Bill in many other roles, too, including films like TOMBSTONE, TRUE LIES, TWISTER, TITANIC, ALIENS (for which he won a Saturn Award) and APOLLO 13 (for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award).  He also had a TV resume that spanned four decades as well, including roles on MIAMI VICE, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, FRASIER, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and his HBO series, BIG LOVE, for which he was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards.  He was also a main character in the brand-new TV reboot of the 2001 film, TRAINING DAY.  All of the 13 episodes had been completed before his death, and just wrapped shooting in December 2016.

training-day

In 1976, Bill Paxton met Seymour Stein, co-founder of my favorite record label, Sire Records (and future Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer and Vice President of Warner Bros. Records).  They became friends, and Seymour took Bill to see acts on his roster at the time, like The Ramones and Talking Heads.  Can you imagine?  Hot damn.  Seymour was also encouraging with Bill and his acting work.  More on Bill’s connection with Sire Records in a bit.fish-heads

What many folks don’t know about Bill Paxton, is that, when he wasn’t acting, he was involved with music.  Before his big break in film and TV, Bill directed a music video in 1980 for a popular 1978 novelty song that had a lot of love on the Dr. Demento show over the years – “Fish Heads” by Barnes & Barnes.

Bill met up with the fictional twin brothers Art and Artie Barnes (actor Bill Mumy of LOST IN SPACE and singer / songwriter / musician Robert Haimer), and volunteered to direct the $2,000 video.  He also starred in the video, along with Dr. Demento himself, who had a cameo as a bum.  The video for “Fish Heads” aired on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on December 6, 1980 (eight months before MTV), and the following week.

bill-paxton-1980

Bill Paxton in 1980.

Bill Paxton’s video filmography didn’t stop there.  He also appeared as a Nazi officer in Pat Benatar’s “Shadows Of The Night” video in 1982, and New Order’s “Touched By The Hand Of God” video in 1987.  Bill was in a couple more videos in the 80s, but they were a bit more personal.

In 1982, vocalist and guitarist Andrew Todd Rosenthal thought up the idea for a band whose sound (a sorta different twist on New Wave) ended up being a precursor for late-80s Devo.  That band was called Martini Ranch.

martini-ranch-press

The idea behind the name Martini Ranch?  According to the liner notes of 1988’s Sire compilation, JUST SAY YO: VOLUME II OF JUST SAY YES, the answer to the “philosophical query” is that Martini Ranch is “a neither dry nor dusty concoction that cheerfully assimilates all media forms in order to regurgitate a colorful, satirical audio-visual mélange of Life As We Know It.  Got that, Martini fans?  Then drink up.”

Between 1986 and 1988, Andrew, Bill and keyboardist Robert O’Hearn – as Martini Ranch – released, on Sire Records, two 12” singles and a full-length album, HOLY COW.  Speaking of Devo, from that lone Martini Ranch album, the first single – “How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self-Culture?” – was produced and engineered Devo’s Bob 2 – Bob Casale, Jr. (who we sadly lost in February 2014), and featured Devo drummer Alan Myers (who we also sadly lost in June 2013), and Devo vocalist Mark Mothersbaugh on keyboards.

how-can-the-laboring-man

Also making appearances on this interestingly quirky album were Cindy Wilson of The B-52’s, famed New Age artist and film composer Mark Isham, actor Bud Cort (of HAROLD AND MAUDE), and actor Judge Reinhold (of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, the BEVERLY HILLS COP trilogy and more).

holy-cow

Judge Reinhold’s appearance on HOLY COW consisted of a sole credit – as the whistler on the album’s second single (and today’s “song of the day”), “Reach.”  The song had a kind of cowboy-meets-New Wave sound (Boys Don’t Cry’s “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” comes pretty close), with a hint of Dead Or Alive.

For a song that was mostly just a fun College Radio hit, Martini Ranch picked up a pretty impressive director for the video of “Reach” – James Cameron.

reach

Long before James Cameron became an Academy Award winner and “King of the world!” with two of the top three domestic films of all-time (AVATAR, No. 2 and TITANIC, No. 3, behind 2015’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS), he was an up-and-coming Sci-Fi writer-director, having directed and written – by 1988 – THE TERMINATOR and ALIENS. 

Bill Paxton had appeared in both of those films (and would also appear in James Cameron’s TRUE LIES and TITANIC), and I’m betting his friend James directed the seven-and-a-half-minute cowboy-themed video for “Ranch” as a favor for Bill. 

reach-backThe number of cameos in this video is impressive, including James’ future third wife (of five), Kathryn Bigelow, who not only directed the New Order video for “Touched By The Hand Of God,” but would become (to date) the first female director (finally!) to win an Academy Award for Best Director (for 2009’s THE HURT LOCKER).

Cameos in the “Reach” video also included ALIENS and TERMINATOR star Lance Henriksen, actor Paul Reiser, the aforementioned Judge Reinhold and Bud Cort, and actor Adrian Pasdar (who I remember most for the role of Nathan Petrelli of the NBC series, HEROES).

sireboxThe video for “Reach” appears in the brilliant 2005 Rhino / Sire 3-CD/1-DVD box set, JUST SAY SIRE: THE SIRE RECORDS STORY, which features 61 classic Sire gems spanning many genres and decades, and a DVD (which includes “Reach”), featuring 20 videos like M’s “Pop Muzik,” The Ramones’ “Rock ’N’ Roll High School,” “Let’s Go To Bed” by The Cure, “Like A Prayer” by Madonna, “Enjoy The Silence” by Depeche Mode and Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime.”

In the liner notes for that box set, Bill wrote about Seymour in a way anyone who knew Bill or loved his work would prolly write about Bill:

“As anyone who has ever pursued a recording, theatre, or film career knows, it can be a very discouraging road.  I think I speak for all of the artists who have been represented by and associated with Seymour over the years, in so much as when he believes in someone’s talent, he believes all the way.  He will not be swayed by pressure or popular opinion.  I believe that this positive, unflagging support is what has driven many of us to succeed when we might have lost faith.  His great talent comes from a deep, deep love of what he does – finding and nurturing talent.”

Bill Paxton was definitely a great talent, and had a deep, deep love for what he did.  And I’ll miss that.  And I’ll miss Bill.  R.I.P. Bill, and many, many thanks…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkz0Lx6VyxA

Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton from 2015…

song of the day – “Johnny And Mary” | ROBERT PALMER | 1980.

Hard to believe at one time of my life, namely the years between 1979 and 1985, I only knew of two songs from the late, great Robert Palmer – “Every Kinda People” (No. 16, BILLBOARD Hot 100, 1978) and “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” (No. 14, Hot 100, 1979).  Then, in 1985, The Power Station (Duran Duran’s Andy and John Taylor, Chic’s Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer) released their kick-ass self-titled album, which garnered three Top 40 hits on the Hot 100 – “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6), “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9), and the very underrated “Communication” (No. 34).

The success of The Power Station breathed new life into Robert Palmer’s career and then some, and here in the U.S. between 1986 and 1991, he picked up a few platinum albums and seven more Top 40 hits, including two songs that reached No. 2, and one song – the hugely popular “Addicted To Love” – which reached No. 1 in 1986.

Fast forwarding to today, I know many folks around the globe are talking about an audio soundbite from 2005 that may or may not have an effect on the upcoming American presidential election, but it’s another audio soundbite, a 2-CD set, actually, that I want to talk about here. 

new waves

In the Summer of 2005, I picked up an incredible 2-CD set called NEW WAVES: 45 ORIGINAL 45s FROM THE POST-PUNK ERA, featuring gems like M’s “Pop Muzik,” The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” by Joe Jackson, and other gems from The Cure, The B-52’s, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Martha + The Muffins, The Creatures, and a 1980 song from Robert Palmer I had surprisingly never heard before – “Johnny And Mary” (from his album, CLUES).

clues

all-fall-down“Johnny And Mary” is a lovely, simple New Wave gem that Allmusic once suggested was the inspiration to the recently knighted Sir Rod Stewart, and his 1981 Top 5 hit, “Young Turks.”  And, while I can hear a similarity in there, I think it may or may not have inspired a longtime 1984 favorite by the Sacramento Rock / New Wave band, The 77s, on a song titled “Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba” (from their album, ALL FALL DOWN), which is slightly faster, but with that same recognizable beat.  It wasn’t a hit or anything, but I highly recommend you check it out.

Although “Johnny And Mary” was never a hit here in the U.S., it did reach No. 18 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and it was a big hit around the globe, spending five weeks at No. 1 in Spain, and reaching the Top 10 in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa and Switzerland.johnny-n-mary-us

“Johnny And Mary” has been covered a number of times over the years, including versions by Tina Turner, Paris’ own lovely 80s cover masters, Nouvelle Vague, as well as Bryan Ferry, Placebo, and even Melissa Manchester.

Robert Palmer sadly passed away in 2003 at the young age of 54, but his great music lives on for all time.  And though in the song, “Johnny” cheats on “Mary” and “Mary” is bored in the relationship, and “Johnny” tries to prove himself and “Mary” says she “should be used to it,” I’m so glad I was finally introduced to this 1980 treasure, albeit 25 years late…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_SAMrDnXOE

Robert Palmer In New York City

NEW YORK – AUGUST 13: English singer Robert Palmer on the street on August 13, 1980 in New York City. (Photo by Waring Abbott/Getty Images)