song of the day – “You Can Call Me Al” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 1987.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

you can call me al

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

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

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

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

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song of the day – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” | EURYTHMICS AND ARETHA FRANKLIN | 1985.

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Happy International Women’s Day!  So many great anthems for women released in the 80s to choose from, but I went with a kick-ass 1985 gem that called to me today and which united – for one time – a woman from Aberdeen, Scotland (Annie Lennox), a man from Sunderland, England (David A. Stewart) and another woman from Memphis, Tennessee by way of Detroit, Michigan (Aretha Franklin) – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

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When Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were putting together their fifth studio album as Eurythmics, BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, they wrote what turned out to be an 80s (and beyond) feminist anthem called “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” and had intended on doing a duet with Tina Turner, who in 1984 had the biggest comeback of the year, perhaps of the entire decade.

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However, Tina Turner was not available to record the duet, so Annie and Dave asked Aretha if she’d sing it, and luckily for us, she agreed.  “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” was the third single released from BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, the biggest-selling album to date for Eurythmics.  It was also included on Aretha’s 1985 album, WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?, which oddly enough was Aretha’s first Platinum-selling album here in America.

“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” which additionally features three members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers (including Mike Campbell on guitar), debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the latter half of October 1985, and spent a quick week at their peak position of No. 18 in early December 1985, a week after Aretha Franklin peaked at No. 7 with the title song from her own album, WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?

The feminist anthem was also well-received around the globe, reaching No. 5 in Ireland, No. 6 in New Zealand, No. 9 in the U.K., No. 10 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and the Top 20 in Australia, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.

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I think Dave Stewart is gonna lose this one…

A number of cover versions of “Sisters” have been released over the years, including one from Lisa Simpson (voiced by Yeardley Smith), Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Lisa’s aunts, Patty and Selma Bouvier on The Simpsons’ 1998 album, THE YELLOW ALBUM, a play on The Beatles’ WHITE ALBUM from 1968, with its cover as a parody of 1967’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.  It’s also been covered by The Pointer Sisters, The Spice Girls and even Lucy Lawless covered it on her popular TV show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.

Earlier on this special day, I saw an amazing and beautiful Facebook post from one of my best friends, Shawn in NYC, a post in which he’s kind enough to allow me to share here, and a sentiment I wish to echo:

“Happy Women’s Day to all of you strong, intelligent, and beautiful women.  I have nothing but love, respect, and appreciation for who you are, what you do, and all you have to put up with.” 

That’s damn right.  Thank you Shawn.  And thank you, girls, ladies, women.  With women equalling about half of the population of the world, it still bugs me that folks continue to call the human race “mankind.”  Hell, “mankind” wouldn’t exist without women.  Just sayin’ it like it is…

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“Now there was a time when they used to say / That behind every great man there had to be a great woman / But in these times of change you know it’s no longer true / So we’re comin’ out of the kitchen / ‘Cause there’s something we forgot to say to you / We say: Sisters are doin’ it for themselves…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtUWs6muGzg

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song of the day – “I Feel For You” | CHAKA KHAN | 1984 / 1985.

It’s been nearly a day and a half since learning of the heart-breaking death of Prince (4.21.2016).  I am still numb.  It hits me with little jolts to the body, which would be in line with the electrifying nature of his work, but it hasn’t fully hit me yet, though I know it will.  A proper tribute will appear in my blog over the weekend, but for tonight, I wanted to share this Prince-composed masterpiece as my “song of the day.”

princePrince recorded “I Feel For You” on his self-titled second album, which featured his first Top 40 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, the No. 11 hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (also his first of 8 No. 1 songs on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart).

Hard to imagine now, but “I Feel For You” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” were actually written as demos for R&B singer Patrice Rushen (you’ll remember her from her big Top 40 hit in 1982, “Forget Me Nots”). 

Though “I Feel For You” was never released as a Prince single, it did get covered a couple of times in the first half of the 80s – first, by The Pointer Sisters in 1982, on their album, SO EXCITED!, and by (real) 80s one-hit wonder Rebbie Jackson (of the semi-famous Jackson clan), on her 1984 album, CENTIPEDE (the title track reached No. 24 on the Hot 100).

“I Feel For You” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early September 1984, nearly a month before the I FEEL FOR YOU parent album was released.  It had all the makings of a hit single – rapping by Grandmaster Melle Mel (which actually originated in his 1984 song, “Step Off”), harmonica by Stevie Wonder (even sampling his first hit, 1963’s “Fingertips”), and Chicago native Chaka Khan belting out vocals of a song written by Prince. 

chaka khan i feel for you

After a couple of months on the chart, “I Feel For You” reached the Top 10, and peaked at No. 3 for 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1984 and spent half a year on the Hot 100, extending its stay into early March 1985.  It was also a No. 1 hit on BILLBOARD’s R&B and Dance charts for 3 weeks each.

People really felt (or fell) for “I Feel For You” around the globe, as it was a Top 10 hit in Belgium, Canada, Germany and New Zealand; and, in the U.K. and Ireland, it went all the way to No. 1.

Despite its peak at No. 3 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, its chart longevity made it easy for BILLBOARD magazine to rank “I Feel For You” at No. 5 for all of 1985, beating out at least 21 other American No. 1 songs that year, including hits by Madonna, Dire Straits, a-ha, Simple Minds and “We Are The World.”  It was Chaka Khan’s biggest solo hit (and perhaps biggest overall), selling over a million copies, and won Prince (as the songwriter) a deserved Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1985.

Like yours truly, this gem of a cover will be on the minds of many people this week and then some, along with the unbelievable bastion of work Prince did for himself and for countless other recording artists over a span of nearly 40 years.  I think I also chose this song today because, for those Prince fans kind enough to be reading these words, believe me, I do feel for you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX9E44mClKs

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