song of the day – “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” | U2 | 1984.

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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!”

It’s June 6, 2017, and I didn’t have the best day today.  It happens.  In late 1984, Casey Kasem wasn’t having a good day during the recording of a segment of AMERICAN TOP 40.  I’ll come back to that in a bit.  But, Casey’s bad day was a good day for Dublin, Ireland’s U2. 

With their first three albums – 1980’s BOY, 1981’s OCTOBER and 1983’s WAR – U2 was slowly building an audience here in America.  All three albums sold well here in the U.S., especially WAR (now at 4x Platinum), which reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart.

My introduction to U2 happened somewhere between WAR and when I picked up the live “mini-album,” UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, in July 1984.  And, apart from some of their most recent efforts, I’ve been a huge fan since, but I don’t think it really happened for me until I picked up their fourth studio album, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE.

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Released on October 1, 1984, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE took the band in a new music direction from the edgier, more raw sound of their first three albums.  U2’s first three albums were produced by the great Steve Lillywhite (who worked with many artists in the 80s like Big Country, Peter Gabriel and XTC, to name a few), but, in order to achieve this newer sound, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was co-produced by legends in their own right, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. 

Bassist Adam Clayton once said about the change in producers, “We were looking for something that was a bit more serious, more arty.”  The powers that be at U2’s record label, Island, tried to encourage them NOT to work with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but U2 was persistent.  And, in the end, it paid off.

The first single released from THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and was released in early September 1984, a month before the release of the album.

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Prior to “Pride,” U2 had reached the Top 5 of Ireland’s singles chart four times, reaching No. 2 twice – with “New Year’s Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One.”  Over on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, U2 had only seen a couple of their singles reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100: “New Year’s Day” (No. 53, 1983) and a live version of “I Will Follow” (No. 81, 1984).  “Two Hearts Beat As One” just missed the survey, stopping at No. 101.

“Pride (In The Name Of Love)” became the band’s third single to reach the Hot 100, debuting in late October 1984 at No. 85.  Within four weeks, it became their biggest U.S. hit to that point, and on December 1, 1984, “Pride” reached the Top 40.  It would spend a week at No. 33 two weeks later, and stayed on the Hot 100 until early February 1985.

Around the globe, folks were proud for “Pride” and it was U2’s first big worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in New Zealand, No. 2 in Ireland, No. 3 in the U.K., No. 4 in Australia, No. 5 in Holland, No. 7 in Norway, No. 12 in Sweden and No. 33 in Canada (must have been a North American thing).

NERDY FUN FACT: The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, married to Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr in 1984, sang backing vocals on “Pride (Is The Name Of Love),” and was credited on the song as “Mrs. Christine Kerr.”

Now back to Casey Kasem’s bad day back in 1984.  Apparently, during the recording of an American Top 40 countdown (I believe the week when U2 debuted on the Top 40 at No. 39 on December 1, 1984), in AT40-ese, Casey dropped a couple of notches.  As he was listing off U2’s members, he got frustrated and said, “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?!”

In 1991, this sample and other vocal and more profane samples by Casey over the years found their way onto the EP of San Francisco Experimental band Negativland.  The U2 EP was notorious for highlighting “U2” in huge letters and “Negativland” in very small letters underneath it, with an image of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane in the foreground of “U2.”

U2 EP

On this U2 EP were a couple different mixes of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” with those Casey Kasem samples (including his famed “Long Distance Dedication,” thrown in there as well).  These covers were more parodies than covers (kazoos were involved, as were bits and pieces and samples of the original U2 song).  Regardless of whether or not they were covers, U2 was not impressed and Island Records sued Negativland for a violation of trademark law, not just for the huge “U2” on the EP, but for the song itself.

Island Records also believed it was a deliberate attempt to confuse U2 fans awaiting the new U2 release, ACHTUNG BABY, making them believe they were purchasing a new U2 album called NEGATIVLAND.  The EP was withdrawn, but the tracks resurfaced on a legally-released album a decade later (with bonus material) as THESE GUYS ARE FROM ENGLAND AND WHO GIVES A SHIT?

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Negativland’s interest is in intellectual property rights.  They argued that their use of U2’s and other artists’ work falls under the “fair use” clause.  They released a CD in 1995, along with an accompanying book about this whole U2 experience, called, FAIR USE: THE STORY OF THE LETTER U AND THE NUMERAL 2 (Of U2’s name, Casey Kasem described it on AMERICAN TOP 40 as “That’s the letter U and the numeral 2.”) 

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“Pride” was originally written about Ronald Reagan’s pride in the USA’s military power, but Bono was influenced by Stephen B. Oates’s 1982 book, LET THE TRUMPET SOUND: A LIFE OF MARTING LUTHER KING, JR., as well as a biography about Malcolm X, examining the violent and non-violent sides of the civil rights campaigns of the 60s.  Lead singer and lyricist Bono rewrote the lyrics to “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and it ended up being about Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRIDE back

Hard to think about now, but oddly enough, at the time of its release, “Pride” got mixed critical reviews.  Kurt Loder, who reviewed THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE in 1984 (and would later join MTV), gave the album three out of five stars, and said of “Pride”: 

“One would like to be able to summon praise for such well-intentioned tracks as ‘Pride (In the Name of Love),’ which was inspired by Martin Luther King, but ‘Pride’ gets over only on the strength of its resounding beat (a U2 trademark) and big, droning bass line, not on the nobility of its lyrics, which are unremarkable.”

Well, reviews for both THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE and for “Pride” only improved with time, and ROLLING STONE ranked it as No. 388 on their 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time list, and it’s also included on the list of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll. 

And prolly the best review of all?  When the song came out, the late, great Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. King, invited the band to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, which they visited during their 1984 tour.

Maybe Casey Kasem didn’t give U2 much thought when “Pride” came out, but he changed his tune (pun intended) the next time U2 made the Top 40 – when THE JOSHUA TREE’s “With Or Without You” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in May 1987.

As for me?  Well, when I bought UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, I was curious about the band so many people were raving about.  And I loved the album.  When I bought THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE, I would never forget U2 again…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHcP4MWABGY

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xmas song of the day – “We Three Kings” | BOOK OF LOVE | 1987.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

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Wasn’t sure what I was going to choose for Day 19 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, but then in the car today, I heard this amazing Synthpop take on a Christmas carol that dates back to 1857 – “We Three Kings” by Book Of Love.bookoflove2

“We Three Kings” was written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. 130 years before Book Of Love’s version.  If the name John Henry Hopkins, Jr. doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry – it didn’t for me either.  At the time he wrote “We Three Kings” in 1857, Mr. Hopkins was a rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (about 180 miles NW of Philadelphia, where Book Of Love was formed), and he wrote it for a Christmas pageant in New York City.  It wasn’t first published until 1862 or 1863.  But, since then, it has remained as one of the more popular Xmas carols.

Book Of Love’s version appears on YULESVILLE, the 1987 Warner Bros. precursor to 1988’s WINTER WARNERLAND promotional holiday double album.  YULESVILLE, like its WINTER WARNERLAND counterpart, represented many different genres across a number of different Warner labels, like Sire Records.

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YULESVILLE featured holiday offerings from artists like The Ramones, Los Lobos, Aztec Camera, The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” and Prince’s “Another Lonely Christmas,” as well as a wealth of holiday ID’s from Madonna, Joey Ramone, Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode, 54.40, Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.

You can also find Book Of Love’s cool version of “We Three Kings” on their compilation, MMXVI: THE 30th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION, released on Sire / Rhino in June 2016.

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If you love Book Of Love as much as I do, or if you are just learning about them and you love the popular Xmas carol they covered, do yourself a favor and check this out. It also doesn’t hurt that they are actually sending you Season’s Greetings by way of “We Three Kings”…

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk7KP4MX5aI

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xmas song of the day – “2000 Miles” | THE PRETENDERS | 1983.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

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For Day 17 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, it’s a 1983 gem that wasn’t intended as a Christmas song – it’s just the way it worked out: “2000 Miles” by The Pretenders.

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“2000 Miles” was released in late 1983 in some parts of the world (here in the U.S., it was the B-side of the single, “Middle Of The Road”), in advance of The Pretenders’ amazing third album, LEARNING TO CRAWL. 

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James Honeyman-Scott and Chrissie Hynde.

While some folks misconstrued the lyrics of the song to mean that 2000 miles is the distance between two lovers who miss each other over the holiday season, Chrissie Hynde actually wrote the song for the band’s original guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, who died in 1982. 

The song reached No. 13 in Holland, No. 15 in the U.K., No. 30 in Australia and No. 36 in New Zealand.  It’s been covered by the likes of Coldplay, KT Tunstall, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Kylie Minogue, and even Chrissie Hynde herself did an update of the song in 2014.

Xmas song or not, “2000 Miles” struck a holiday chord and more with listeners, and as for me, “2000 Miles” is never really far away, this time of year and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5G2dyA8JxY

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xmas song of the day – “Winter Wonderland” | EURYTHMICS | 1987.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

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The song for Day 5 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics, from one of my all-time favorite Xmas albums, 1987’s A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, which came about from an idea of super-producer Jimmy Iovine. 

Long before Jimmy Iovine was the co-founder of Interscope Records and Beats Electronic (with Dr. Dre), Jimmy was an engineer on such classic albums like Bruce Springsteen’s BORN TO RUN, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN and THE RIVER, Meat Loaf’s BAT OUT OF HELL and John Lennon’ WALLS AND BRIDGES. 

Before 1987, Jimmy Iovine produced or co-produced such memorable albums  Patti Smith’s EASTER, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ DAMN THE TORPEDOES, Dire Straits’ MAKING MOVIES, BELLA DONNA by Stevie Nicks, ONCE UPON A TIME by Simple Minds and The Pretenders’ GET CLOSE.  He also supervised the music for the 1984 John Hughes classic, SIXTEEN CANDLES, and in 1988, he produced U2’s excellent double-album soundtrack to their rockumentary, RATTLE AND HUM, and supervised the music for the Bill Murray holiday film, SCROOGED.

For the first A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album in 1987, Jimmy Iovine recruited many of the recording artists he worked with, like Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Pretenders and Stevie Nicks, along with Eurythmics, John Mellencamp, Sting, Run-D.M.C., Madonna, Bryan Adams, Alison Moyet and more – 15 songs in all.avsc-poster

In the wake of Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid and “We Are The World,” Jimmy Iovine wanted to put together a Christmas album as a memorial to his dad, who passed away in 1985. 

The idea for A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS to benefit Special Olympics was idea of Jimmy Iovine’s wife, Vicki (herself a volunteer for Special Olympics), and that’s where the “special” in A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS is inspired from.  Mr. and Mrs. Iovine got some help organizing the album from extended Kennedy family member Bobby Shriver, and the founders of A&M Records, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.

Since the original 1987 A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album, there have been nine other albums released in the series, through 2013.  And since 1987, the series has raised over $100 million dollars for Special Olympics.  Since 1991, A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ranks as the 19th best-selling holiday album here in America, and has sold over four million copies since its release.

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A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS Producer Jimmy Iovine (front center), surrounded (in no particular order) by U2, Annie Lennox, Sting, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Run-D.M.C.

The cover art for the albums was designed by pop and graffiti artist, Keith Haring, and the untitled image of a mother and child was chosen by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1987 as the cover of the first A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album.  Keith Haring sadly passed away in early 1990, but that image has become synonymous with the album series, and also with the mission of the Special Olympics.

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This wonderful version of “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics has been a longtime holiday favorite of mine, and it has made it onto most (if not all) of the playlists for my Annual Holiday Show.  Many versions of “Winter Wonderland” have been recorded since it was written in 1934, from Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley to Ozzy Osbourne, but this version truly stands out among the best.

To learn more about Special Olympics and the mission of A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, go to averyspecialchristmas.org.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xVLeW9UmjE

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song of the day – “Rat In Mi Kitchen” | UB40 | 1986.

Birmingham, England’s Reggae / Pop sensation UB40 was formed in 1978 and is best known for their hugely popular cover songs like Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” (with The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde), Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come And Take Me),” The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and the worldwide No. 1 hits “Red Red Wine” (originally by Neil Diamond) and “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (the 1961 Elvis Presley classic).

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But UB40 isn’t just known for its cover songs.  Between 1980 and 2005, the band led by Ali Campbell had 40 Top 40 hits in their U.K. homeland, including original gems like 1980’s “Food For Thought,” 1993’s “Higher Ground” and 1986’s brilliant “Rat In Mi Kitchen.”

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“Rat In Mi Kitchen” is from UB40’s seventh studio album, RAT IN THE KITCHEN.  Though the entire band got the credit for writing “Rat In Mi Kitchen,” it was actually band member, musician and rapper Astro who wrote the song.  According to a 2002 piece in the U.K. publication THE TELEGRAPH, Ali Campbell had moved into a new home in Balsall Heath, the working class area of Birmingham, and he had a serious rodent problem.

Astro stopped by to see Ali and asked if he had any song ideas for the new album, and Ali replied, “Oh God, I don’t care about the album for a minute, I’ve got a rat in the kitchen!”  Well, that was enough for Astro, and “Rat In Mi Kitchen” was born (Astro also sings lead vocals on the track).

I usually bypass the 3-minute single version because the full 7-minute album version on RAT IN THE KITCHEN just kicks so much ass.  And, with the album version, you get a sweet bonus trumpet courtesy of trumpeter extraordinaire and the co-founder of the band’s American label in 1986, A&M Records – Herb Alpert.

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“Rat In Mi Kitchen” reached No. 12 in the U.K., and No. 7 in Holland and Ireland.  It’s always been a favorite of mine and I love playing the full album version on my little 20-year-old 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine) whenever I can.

I tell you, I am not a fan of rats, and if I ever found a rat in MY kitchen, I guaRONtee I might scream like a little girl.  I suppose the same could be said if I heard the album version of “Rat In Mi Kitchen” on the radio that wasn’t my own radio show.  I’ve loved UB40 for a long time, but I have to say my appreciation for this song has increased over the years, and has long been my favorite UB40 song – in and out of mi kitchen…

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

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