On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82. From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend. Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day. For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet. And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).
In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post. On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40. On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1.
As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”
In researching for this blog post, I found a lot more songs from the 80s that peaked at No. 39 than expected, at least 30. There were some great ones, like “Atomic” by Blondie, “I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, “In The Mood” by Robert Plant,” “Looking For A Stranger” by Pat Benatar, “My Town” by the Michael Stanley Band, “Skin Trade” by Duran Duran, “Tomorrow People” by Ziggy Marley, “(What) In The Name Of Love” by Naked Eyes, “Second Nature” by Dan Hartman, “Who’s Making Love” by The Blues Brothers, Bon Jovi’s first hit, “Runaway,” ELO’s sadly-forgotten “Last Train To London,” the gorgeous “Wake Up (Next To You)” by Graham Parker And The Shot, and six (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s.
I also found some songs I had forgotten about, like “Don’t Let Him Know” by Prism and “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)” by Spider, and some stinkers among the bunch, including “Memory” by Barry Manilow, “Sartorial Eloquence” by Elton John (sorry Elton, with a song title like that, it was bound not to work out), and the “WTF was I thinking with this song” song by Mick Jagger, “Let’s Work.” Downright awful. Don’t watch the video – that’s four minutes you’re not getting back.
I nearly chose “Wake Up (Next To You)” as my selection for a song that peaked at No. 39 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but I wanted to choose instead a gem from the sensationally-talented Welsh singer / songwriter / guitarist / über-producer, Dave Edmunds.
Born in Cardiff, Wales, Dave Edmunds first got his big break with a band called Love Sculpture, and in 1968, they reached No. 5 on the U.K. singles chart with a song called “Sabre Dance.” Two years later, he had himself a huge international solo hit called “I Hear You Knocking,” which spent six weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., reached No. 3 in Canada and New Zealand, and No. 4 in the U.S. and Australia. Dave’s version was actually a cover of a 1955 hit by R&B singer Smiley Lewis, and then covered by the legendary Fats Domino in 1961. It’s also been covered many times over the decades, including versions by Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams.
Through the end of the 1970s, Dave Edmunds picked up another three Top 10 U.K. hits, including Silver-Certified “Girls Talk,” written by Elvis Costello and appearing on his 1979 album, REPEAT WHEN NECESSARY (on Led Zeppelin’s SWAN SONG label).
NERDY FUN FACTS: Huey Lewis appears on that same 1979 Dave Edmunds album, playing harmonica on a song he wrote called “Bad Is Bad,” four years before it would appear on Huey’s own monster album with The News, SPORTS. And a song called “Queen Of Hearts” was also on the album, a No. 11 U.K. hit for Dave Edmunds that would become a big global hit for New Jersey Country singer, Juice Newton, in 1981.
In addition to being a successful singer, songwriter and musician, Dave Edmunds was also a popular producer for other artists, including producing several albums by The Stray Cats, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, his side project with Nick Lowe, Rockpile, and k.d. lang’s second album, ANGEL WITH A LARIAT.
In all the years Dave Edmunds produced his own albums and the works of other artists, when it came time to work on his own 1983 album, INFORMATION, Dave did something he had never done before – he collaborated with another producer, in this case, Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra.
Jeff Lynne would go on to produce two songs on the album – the title track, and the album’s first single, “Slipping Away,” which Jeff Lynne also wrote. “Slipping Away” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 93 in mid-May 1983. I confess I didn’t know much about Dave Edmunds when this song came out, but I loved the updated twangy sound.
With the help of airplay on the relatively new MTV, “Slipping Away” inched its way up the Hot 100, reaching its peak position of No. 39 nearly three months after debuting on the chart. Four weeks after reaching the Top 40, “Slipping Away” slipped its way out of the Hot 100. It’s his last Top 40 hit to date.
Dave Edmunds, now 73, released two albums in recent years, one in 2013 called …AGAIN (featuring recordings from the 90s and four new songs), and in 2015 (ON GUITAR…RAGS & CLASSICS).
It’s his twangy, Jeff Lynne-penned and produced No. 39 hit, though, that caught my ear, which introduced me to a music legend, and is a song that has never slipped away from me since, and won’t…