song of the day – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” | MICHAEL JACKSON | 1983.

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!”

Well, we’re finally into the Top 5!  Normally it would have taken Casey Kasem three-and-a-half hours to reach this point, but he had a script, a chart already set up courtesy of BILLBOARD magazine, and he didn’t have to write everything out.  Not that I mind.  While it’s taken me quite a bit longer than I had hoped, I have really been enjoying this series, and hope you have too.

The songs that peaked at No. 5 between 1979 and 1989 are, so far, in a class all by themselves.  More than 100 songs reached that position, including some memorable cover songs, like “Respect Yourself” by Bruce Willis (originally by The Staple Sisters), “Cum On Feel The Noise” by Quiet Riot (Slade), “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” by Great White (Ian Hunter) and “Pink Cadillac” by Natalie Cole (Bruce Springsteen, who also had three No. 5 hits of his own).

hungry heart

One of three singles to reach No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Bruce Springsteen between 1979 and 1989.

Many artists had more than one No. 5 hit, including Pat Benatar, Gloria Estefan (with and without the Miami Sound Machine), Exposé, Lou Gramm (with and without Foreigner), Daryl Hall (solo and two with John Oates), Janet Jackson (solo and with Herb Alpert), Madonna, Sade, Willie Nelson (solo and a duet with Julio Iglesias), George Michael (solo and as a guest vocalist for (real) one-hit wonder, Deon Estus), Olivia Newton-John, Eddie Rabbitt, Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and Rod Stewart.  Australia’s Air Supply had four No. 5 hits.

angel

One of two singles to reach No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Madonna between 1979 and 1989.

The late, great John Lennon and his son, Julian Lennon, both hit No. 5 within a two-year period of each other, and some of my favorite 80s songs peaked at No. 5, like Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” “When Smokey Sings” by ABC, “In Your Room” by The Bangles, The Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip,” “What You Need” by INXS, “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” by The Stray Cats, “On The Radio” by Donna Summer, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” by Stevie Wonder, and “All Through The Night” by Cyndi Lauper, which set a BILLBOARD Hot 100 record for Cyndi as she was the first female recording artist who would reach the Top 5 with four chart hits from a debut album.  And she wouldn’t be the last.

she's so unusual

Another of my favorite No. 5 hits belongs to the man who was not only the biggest recording artist of the 1980s, the entire year of 1983 belonged to him.  Of course, I’m talking about the late, great Michael Jackson.  The THRILLER album spent a massive 37 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.  THRILLER was so big, in fact, that it was the No. 1 album in America for two consecutive years.

By now, everyone and their mother (and grandmother) knows all about the Quincy Jones-produced THRILLER album and the success it has had.  It’s still the biggest-selling, non-compilation album of all time.

thriller

The first song on the THRILLER album was the fourth (of seven) singles released from the album – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”  What a heluva way to start off an album!  From the opening drum beats, you just knew Michael Jackson had something special with this album.

“Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” (a song about strangers – i.e. the press – spreading rumors to start arguments for no apparent reason), was released in early May 1983 and didn’t waste any time debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  It debuted on the chart at No. 41, three weeks after its release, and with “Billie Jean” still on the chart (at No. 42) and “Beat It” at No. 3. 

The following week, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” roared to No. 22, looking like a third No. 1 hit in a row from THRILLER (the album’s first single, “The Girl Is Mine,” with Paul McCartney, peaked at No. 2).  After a few slow chart weeks, it reached the Top 10 by early July 1983, and a couple weeks later, spent a quick two weeks at No. 5.  THRILLER’s fifth single, “Human Nature,” had already reached the Top 40 while “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” was still in the Top 10.  It was one of five singles from THRILLER to finish the year in the Top 100 here in the U.S. in 1983.

wanna be startin' somethin'

Around the globe, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” spent two weeks at No. 1 in the Netherlands, and reached No. 3 in Belgium, No. 5 in Ireland, No. 8 in the U.K., No. 11 in Canada, No. 14 in Spain and No. 16 in Germany.

“LET’S ALL GO TO COURT, LET’S GO MAKE SOME LAW NOW” FACT:  As talented as Michael Jackson was, he had a bad habit of “borrowing” other people’s music for his own songs – without their consent.  At the “We Are The World” recording in 1985, he confessed to Daryl Hall that he used the beat of “I Can’t Go For That” for the beat in “Billie Jean.”  Daryl Hall didn’t seem to mind, but for “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” that catchy vocal bit near the end, you know the one – “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” – was actually taken directly from a 1972 Disco song by Manu Dibango called “Soul Makossa” (Manu Dibango is a saxophonist from Cameroon, and Makossa is a type of music and dance in that country), and the bit was used without permission. 

soul makossa

For years, there was no lawsuit about this, but when current Pop star, Rihanna, used the bit in one of her songs from 2007, both she and Michael Jackson were sued.  In early 2009, just months before Michael Jackson died, Michael had admitted he “borrowed” the line, and he ended up settling out of court.  Apparently, when Rihanna asked Michael Jackson to see if she could use the line in her song, that’s when the fit hit the shan, and once again, Manu Dibango was not contacted by Michael Jackson prior to the song’s use, hence the lawsuit.MJ 1958-2009

It’s hard to believe Michael’s been gone nine years already.  He was 50 at the time of his death, the age I’m at right now (don’t worry – I’m not leaving anytime soon), and I’m convinced that Michael had a big comeback in the works when his life was cut short on June 25, 2009.  While I have my own theory about what really happened with his death, I would much rather choose to celebrate his music, in this case “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” which is six minutes of pure Post-Disco joy and dance floor gold.  Honestly, who do you know that WOULDN’T get out on the dance floor and dance to this as soon as they heard it?!

“Lift your head up high / And scream out to the world / I know I am someone / And let the truth unfurl / No one can hurt you now / Because you know it’s true / Yes, I believe in me / So you believe in you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KWf_-ofYgI

MJ 83

  

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song of the day – “Flamethrower” | THE J. GEILS BAND | 1982.

Back in the 1980s, long before THE DIGITAL AGE of music (or of everything, I suppose, but music in this case), people had to rely on the radio to hear their favorite songs, or rely on their friends who had the albums or tapes, and you could borrow theirs, OR you purchased either the 45s or the full albums, depending on the artist.  If you purchased the full LP, sometimes, like with albums by ASIA or Bruce Springsteen or Thomas Dolby or Cyndi Lauper or Michael Jackson or INXS, you’d consider yourself lucky that the entire album (or most of the album) was a keeper. 

Not ranking on Millennials here, but youngstahs today have it easy, with iTunes and Spotify and Pandora and YouTube to check out entire new albums first and / or they can pick and choose any tracks off the albums that they want to purchase.  Even now with vinyl making a strong (and deserved) comeback, almost always when you purchase a full-length record album, there is a digital counterpart included for your convenience (kinda like a marriage of the old and the new).

Well, back in 1982, I only had a handful of albums to my name because (1) I was being frugal about purchasing albums for reasons stated above, and (2) I was frugal about buying albums because I just didn’t have the ca$h.  There was one album, though, that proved to be a MUST BUY – the 12th studio album by Worcester, MA Rock legends, The J. Geils Band – FREEZE-FRAME.

freeze-frame LP

Not only did the nine-track FREEZE-FRAME album have the awesome singles “Centerfold,” “Angel In Blue” and the title track, it also had gems that could have been singles themselves – “Rage In The Cage,” “Piss On The Wall” and “Flamethrower.”

Before owning the FREEZE-FRAME album, I had already purchased the “Centerfold” single (at last check, ranked at No. 63 on BILLBOARD’s 2016 list of the Greatest Hot 100 Songs Of All-Time), which had “Rage In The Cage” as the B-side.  My oldest friend, Pete, had the album, and I remember going to his house and listening to it, which inspired me to pick it up as well.  The FREEZE-FRAME album deserves its own blog post, and I’ll prolly write about the entire album on the bloggy thing here at some point.  Today, though, it’s all about that Rockin’ and Soulful “baby who’ll melt you with her touch.”

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“Flamethrower” is the sixth song on FREEZE-FRAME (or the first song on Side Two, if you prefer), and right from song’s start (featuring a killer harmonica courtesy of the band’s longtime harmonica and saxophone specialist, Magic Dick), you quickly realize there’s NO WAY you’re gonna be able to sit still through this five-minute jam.

Back in 2015, for the first time, I (along with one of my besties, the super-talented and awesome Hopey T.), saw The J. Geils Band perform in Portland, Maine, and they were phenomenal.  There are many bands who work well together, and then there’s The J. Geils Band, whose musical interaction between band members is amazing to watch.  And on songs like “Flamethrower,” it’s amazing to listen to.

Almost exactly half-way through “Flamethrower,” each of the band’s (then) six members – Peter Wolf on vocals, guitarist and band namesake J. Geils, keyboardist and vocalist Seth Justman, bassist Danny Klein, drummer / percussionist Steven Bladd and the aforementioned Magic Dick – play together on a sensational minute-long-plus instrumental jam, even prompting Peter Wolf to exclaim, “Yeah!”  It actually kinda reminded me of one of THE best instrumental gems, er, jams in Rock history – the last four minutes of their brilliant 1973 hit, “Give It To Me.”

NERDY FUN FACT: “Flamethrower,” “Angel In Blue” and “River Blindness” (all on the FREEZE-FRAME album) featured five backup singers, including Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and the late, great R&B / Pop legend, Luther Vandross.

centerfold UK + flamethrower

Even though “Flamethrower” was never officially released as its own single, it does have an interesting BILLBOARD chart history.  As a 12” B-side to lead single, “Centerfold,” both songs reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart in 1982.  As the 7” B-side of the album’s second single, “Freeze-Frame,” it was actually “Flamethrower” that led both songs to reach No. 25 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart for two weeks in April 1982.  And, over on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, it was the only non-single song from FREEZE-FRAME to chart there, reaching No. 30.

freeze-frame 7

Hearing this song again on my iPod this afternoon makes me want to pull out the 41-minute FREEZE-FRAME album and play it all the way through a couple of times, from the title cut through to “Piss On The Wall.” 

Seth Justman, who wrote or co-wrote every song on FREEZE-FRAME and who was the sole writer on “Flamethrower,” once told NME (New Music Express) that the song was “not just about a woman, it’s about a woman factory worker and how she lets loose at night.  It’s about a certain spirit that’s in everybody. 

“In the middle of that song the spirit in the body has taken over.  It’s not just a hot chick in hot pants.  It’s a woman who punches the clock every day at 8 and 5 and when she leaves she does something with her life, whatever she has to do to punch the clock the next day and not go crazy.  That punch clock is in everyone; there’s something inside everyone that makes you want to go on and get better and stronger.” 

I can’t tell you enough how much I wholeheartedly agree with Seth’s amazing and surprising comment.  Or maybe I just did.  Or maybe when you jam out to “Flamethrower” again, you’ll think about that punch clock or flamethrower inside of you, and figure out ways on how to get better and stronger.  I know I will…

flamethrower

“I forget the darkness / I forget the pain / When she’s movin’ through my heart / And when she’s pumpin’ through my veins / She’s the part inside me / I can never control / And she’s the only reason / I know I’ve got a soul…”

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

j geils 1

don’t you (forget about me).

As I start this blog post, it’s in the 7:00pm hour on Sunday, February 26th, 2017, and during this time for the better part of the past 21 years, for the folks of Portland, Maine and beyond, I’d be playing a lexicon of the great 80s music you remember and much more on my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio).  More on the amazing last STUCK IN THE 80s show in a bit.

Once the show ended, I wanted to take a couple of weeks off from the blog, though truth be told, I’ve been thinking about this post since before the last show even aired.

original STUCK logo

The original STUCK IN THE 80s logo…

After nearly 21 years, over a thousand shows, thousands of requests, tens of thousands of songs played, these two weeks later, it’s still hard to believe that the last STUCK IN THE 80s has aired on WMPG, a radio station that has been like a second home for me for nearly half my life.  Though I’m still considered a volunteer there, I’ll miss being a regular part of it.

Back in August 2015, I first announced that I would be ending the show at the end of August 2016 after 20 years on WMPG, but in April 2016, I decided I wasn’t ready to end the show yet.  The show started part-time in the Spring of 1996 (I was 29 years old), and full-time on Sundays in the Fall of 1996.  When I realized that my 50th birthday in 2017 fell on a Sunday, it just felt right; it felt cathartic to end the show then.  I’m still happy with that decision.  But the last weekend for the show wasn’t without its moments.

omg-snow

This didn’t exactly happen here in Maine the weekend of the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG, but it wasn’t too far off…

Many months ago, I half-joked about the last show, saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a blizzard and I couldn’t do my last show?”  Well…I’m not sure if it was an official blizzard in Portland, Maine, but the weather was more blizzard-like than blizzard-lite.  I always planned on co-hosting my last show with my dear, dear friends and regular STUCK co-hosts, Hope and Shawn.  Shawn lives in Portland, and Hope (who did a touching radio tribute for me in November 2016 and put together a wonderful tribute video for me recently) traveled all the way from Springfield, MA to be there.   I’m so grateful to both of them.

bayside-bowl-2-11-17

Hope, me and Shawn, having a fun time at Bayside Bowl, Portland, Maine 2.11.2017.

That Saturday night (2.11.2017) before the last show, I had planned on a “cheers and thanks” get-together at a Portland venue, but with the inclement weather, most folks weren’t able to attend.  The last show’s attendance was another story.

Before the last show could happen, though, I needed to contact WMPG’s fantastic Program Director, Jessica, to see if the station was going to be shut down due to the storm, which was in full force before Sunday night.  Jessica was indeed planning on shutting down the station but knew it was my last show that night, and was kind enough to let Hope, Shawn and I go on with the last STUCK IN THE 80s and then shut the station down, which was actually kinda cool in a way.

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The show’s STUCK IN THE 80s “Parting Shot” playlist featured songs Hope and Shawn wanted to hear, and songs that meant a lot to me over the years (and many of those songs have appeared on this blog so far): 

  • ALPHAVILLE – FOREVER YOUNG (SPECIAL EXTENDED MIX) (1984) – This Cold War Classic was part of the inspiration for my blog.
  • BOOK OF LOVE – MODIGLIANI (LOST IN YOUR EYES) (1986 / 1987) – One of my “Desert Island” songs, or rather, one of the songs I would want to have with me if I was stranded on a desert island.
  • BLONDIE – DREAMING (1979) – Another of my “Desert Island” songs, this is my all-time favorite Blondie song, from the Fall of 1979.  I remember it well.
  • THE ENGLISH BEAT – I CONFESS (DAVE ALLEN REMIX) (1982) – One of my best memories during the show was interviewing and meeting Dave Wakeling in 2009.  I’ve seen him and the band perform in Portland almost every year since.  Hearing this song live gives me such joy!
  • THE CLASH – THIS IS RADIO CLASH (1981) – Released as a stand-alone single between 1980’s SANDINISTA! and 1982’s COMBAT ROCK, this was requested for DJ HopeyT!
  • BAUHAUS – SPIRIT (ALTERNATIVE VERSION) (1982) – The original version from THE SKY’S GONE OUT and requested for DJ Shawn!
  • PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION – TAKE ME WITH U (1984 / 1985) – This gem from PURPLE RAIN is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that doesn’t get nearly enough love as it should, so I wanted to play it.
  • THE THE – THIS IS THE DAY (EXTENDED 12” MIX) (1983) – A true statement that night…  The end of an era and the beginning of a new one…
  • TALKING HEADS FEAT. JOHN GOODMAN – PEOPLE LIKE US (1986) – My favorite version of this spirited T-Heads gem from TRUE STORIES…
  • JOE JACKSON – CANCER – Recorded live during the NIGHT AND DAY tour on 5/8/83 at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia.  One of my all-time favorites (of many) by Joe Jackson.
  • DAVID BOWIE feat. THOMAS DOLBY – HEROES – Like many others, David Bowie’s sad passing in 2016 did a number on me.  But, ever since, I’ve been inspired too.  On July 13th, 1985 (at LIVE AID), he dedicated this song to his son, “to all our children, and the children of the world.”
  • ROBYN HITCHCOCK – CHINESE WATER PYTHON (1990) – One of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, from one of the most brilliant singer / songwriter / storytellers in the world.
  • THE DREAM ACADEMY – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT (instrumental version) (1985 / 1986) – I couldn’t leave STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG without playing this gorgeous Smiths cover by one of my favorite 80s bands, and from a pivotal scene in one of my favorite John Hughes films (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF).
  • INXS – DON’T CHANGE (1982 / 1983) – A favorite gem from my favorite album by my favorite band…
  • PET SHOP BOYS – WEST END GIRLS (1986) – I remember hearing this for the first time like it was yesterday, and it was around this time 31 years ago…
  • YELLO – DOMINGO (1985) – When DJ Hope and her sister, DJ Weez, teamed up for a 4-hour edition of her awesome show, POWERHAUS, in early 2016, they played this song.  I don’t know how it was off my radar for so long, but I’m glad it’s there now!
  • THE KLF feat. TAMMY WYNETTE – JUSTIFIED & ANCIENT (12” MIX) (1991) – The origins of this song date back to 1987, when The KLF were still The Timelords.  One of THE best one-time collaborations of all-time.
  • PETER GABRIEL – IN YOUR EYES (2011 NEW BLOOD ORCHESTRAL VERSION) – Hope and I were so glad to see Peter Gabriel perform in 2016, but I wish I had also seen him on this tour, featuring orchestral versions of his amazing songs.  This is my favorite, originally from 1986’s brilliant SO album.
  • CYNDI LAUPER – TIME AFTER TIME (1983 / 1984) – Meeting and interviewing Cyndi Lauper in 2002 was a moment, much like Cyndi herself, that I’ll treasure forever.
  • SIMPLE MINDS – A BRASS BAND IN AFRICA (1985) – This amazing instrumental was the B-side of “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
  • SIMPLE MINDS – DON’T YOU (FORGET ABOUT ME) – Recorded live from The Ahoy in Rotterdam, 12.3.1985.  My favorite song for all-time.

The response to the last STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG was incredibly overwhelming and heartfelt.  It was prolly the most-listened-to show I’ve ever had.  Wanted to share just some of the truly amazing and kind comments shared by my WMPG family, friends and fans:

  • “Better safe than sorry, I suppose…  Better to Be Stuck in the 80’s than in the low teens and a blizzard…  Big shout out to Ron for all his years on the air, and his show to end all shows, tonight… at least for a day or two…  cheers!”
  • “Thank you Ron.  Our Sunday nights won’t be the same without you.”
  • “Ron …….Rock it….tear the roof off……and then shut it down buddy!”
  • “What an end to a great run.  SHUT IT DOWN, Ron!”
  • “What a way to go – a birthday, a blizzard, and then shutting down the station.  Tonight will be epic – thank you for the tunes and enjoy the next great adventures in Life!”
  • “Thanks Ron for one last – and hopefully not final – Sunday night kitchen dance party.”
  • “Ron, Sunday nights will not be the same.  Thank you so much.  It has been a pleasure listening to your programs.  It was a thrill to program and co-host a show.  You will be missed.  All the best in what lies ahead.”
  • “Wow your birthday, last show and an epic nor’easter on its way.  You certainly know how to party!!!!”
  • “Congrats on such a great show.  I’ll miss tuning in to you.”
  • “Happy birthday Ron!  Forever grateful for your show!  You truly are the King of the 80’s!”
  • “What the hell am I supposed to do on Sunday evenings; be sociable?”
  • “REALITY sets in as Sunday evening approaches without STUCK IN THE 80s.  It’s kinda going to be like a zombie achieving consciousness and understanding that everyone’s a zombie and there are no fresh brains.”
  • “You’re gonna get me crying again…forget you?  You, Hope and Shawn were our Sunday nights….we’ll never forget.”
  • “This will be a last show you can never forget!”
  • “Happy Birthday, Ron! Congratulations on an incredible radio run!”
  • “This is the end of an era!!  No 80s show on the radio even came close to yours.  The research, the knowledge and the vast music catalog are unparalleled.  Sad to see it go, but glad you gave Portland a proper 80s experience for so many years.  I hope the next phase in your life is great as well.”
  • “What do you do when the radio show you love and have been listening to for the last 15-plus years goes silent (Wow, Ron, you really went out in dramatic fashion, this blizzard and all!)?!  Will and I miss you already!  Thank you so much, Ron – all the best to your next chapter!”
  • “Happy Birthday to you, my brother!  Today is bittersweet for sure.  Can’t wait for your next musical adventure.  Peace & Love (and birthday spankings) to you!”
  • “Mike drop!!! Thanks for 20 years Ron & crew!!!”
  • “Ron does final show.  Shuts down transmitter.  /mic drop/”  (more on that in a bit…)
me-shaxx-whitney

DJ Shaxx, Whitney and me, 1.29.2017…

And from my radio neighbor for the past 11 months, host of the wonderful LEFT OF THE DIAL, the incredibly talented DJ Shaxx:

“First, Happy birthday, friend!

“Can’t believe I won’t be there tonight for you to pass the broadcasting baton to me as I begin LEFT OF THE DIAL.  One of the reasons I love doing my show is that it has always followed STUCK IN THE 80s.  I come into the studio on a wave of positivity and grooving to your music; your legendary presence in the big chair as I walk into the on air studio.  Your personality and music has always helped me start my show with a bang.  In fact, my intro, my first song… you’re the audience.  I have so much enjoyed our conversations transitioning between shows.  And then, as you hit the road, I continue to spin music and speak on the mic and imagine you driving up interstate 295.

“With your departure, Ron Raymond Jr., a big part of what I do will change.

“Changes…  The only constant in life, right?  But change is good.  I’m excited for you and the changes coming up in your life.  The opportunities for great things to happen.  Your future is bright, Ronnie.  You gotta wear shades.

“Man, I’m gonna miss you.  I will miss your DJ mentorship, extensive knowledge and impeccable taste in music.  I will miss your humor and your kindness.

“Thank you for all that you’ve given to WMPG.  Thank you for sharing your great, great knowledge of the 80s every week.  You can feel it tonight.  Everyone tuning in.  Theirs are invisible airwaves crackling with life.  Ripe and tender, whistling with energy (as Geddy Lee would sing).  Thanks for carrying on that great Spirit of Radio.  Because of what you’ve done.  It will live on.  For a long, long time.  Someday inhabitants of a distant universe will be hearing these broadcasts and they will say, ‘Geez!  These people are stuck in the 80s.  We must rescue them.’  And then our planet will never be the same.

“Excelsior!”

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When you host a radio show for as long as I did with STUCK IN THE 80s, I had 20 years of thank-you’s and shout-outs to announce.  Of course, I wasn’t able to get to everyone.  That alone would have taken a whole entire show.  The last of my deserved thank-you’s were dedicated to two of my dearest and closest friends in the whole world – DJs extraordinaire Hope and Shawn, who I’d like to truly love to thank again, for their love and knowledge of music and the 80s, their mad DJ skillz, and their passion, dedication and innumerable contributions to STUCK IN THE 80s!  I couldn’t have done it all these years without them!  (BTW, at the end of the show, since we were shutting down the station, Hope came back on the air and said, “STUCK IN THE 80s OUT!”  And then, in sorta dramatic fashion, Shawn and I did drop out mics…  It was great.)

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Shawn, me and Hope, WMPG-FM and WMPG.org, 2.12.2017, hiding from the blizzard outside and truly STUCK IN THE 80s!

For over a year now, people have been asking me why I’m ending the show.  Well, there’s a number of reasons, but mainly, for now, I want to take a break and take some time for me, do some screenwriting, maybe some voiceover work, continue with the little bloggy thing here, and with me turning 50 a couple of weeks ago, to figure out the next step of my path in this next chapter of my life. 

stuck-in-the-80s-20-years

Thank you, for 20 years and then some…

I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, but STUCK IN THE 80s will be back, I guaRONtee.  I’ll be back too.  And don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.  And please know that STUCK IN THE 80s has been the proudest moment of the first half of my life.  Thank you.  I love you and I’ll miss you all.

So, until the next time you hear me on your radio, take care, be good, talk hard, and don’t you forget about me.  I’ll catch you on the flip side.  And as Mr. David Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”  So stay tuned…

shawn-hope-me

Hope and Shawn, I couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you!

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Video Killed The Radio Star” | THE BUGGLES | 1979.

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 Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.mtv

This is prolly the most-predictable blog post I’ve done so far, but I can’t help it.  For those who don’t already know, today (8.1.2016) is the 35th Anniversary of the launch of MTV (short for Music Television, when there was such a beautiful thing).

At midnight on August 1, 1981, MTV was born – a cable network (and there weren’t many of them back then) that specialized in playing short, 3-or-4-minute films set to music, or simply put, music videos.  Singers and bands had been making these short-form music videos for years, but hardly anyone ever got to see them…until MTV made its debut on cable TV boxes (almost) everywhere.

Mtvmoon

MTV moon landing, August 1, 1981, 12:00 midnight.

The powers that be at MTV thought it might be a fun choice to launch the network with a song called “Video Killed The Radio Star” by a band called The Buggles, a song that was a minor hit in America two years earlier by a London band who would no longer exist by the end of 1981.  It was prolly a hard sell at the time (or not), and in retrospect, it was THE only choice to kick off MTV.

The Buggles were a New Wave band (in the early days of New Wave) and formed in London in 1977.  The band consisted of just two members – singer and bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes.  You prolly know those names from other acts, and I’ll come on to that in a bit. 

bruce woolley video killed

The original 1977 version of “Video Killed The Radio Star.”

Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes would release their first single, “Video Killed The Radio Star,” in early September 1979.  The song was co-written by Trevor and Geoff, along with fellow New Waver Bruce Woolley in 1977, who first recorded that year as Bruce Woolley And The Camera Club (featuring the brilliant Thomas Dolby on keyboards). 

At the time, “Video Killed The Radio Star” was a stand-alone single (parent album THE AGE OF PLASTIC wouldn’t be released until January 1980), and its cute, synthpop creaminess helped it become a massive international hit. 

“Video Killed The Radio Star” reached No. 1 in (at least) the U.K., Austria and Sweden (1 week), Ireland and Switzerland (2 weeks), Spain (4 weeks), Australia (7 weeks), France (12 weeks), and in Italy, where it spent 14 weeks at No. 1 (or, literally the entire spring of 1980).  It also reached the Top 10 in Belgium, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa.

video killed the radio star

When MTV debuted with “Video Killed The Radio Star” as the first video to air on the network, I was (and remain) glad that it’s remembered for something more here in America than its disappointing chart performance on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  The song spent a lone week in the Top 40 at No. 40 in mid-December 1979, and was gone from the chart after 10 weeks.  In a list put out by BILLBOARD in 2015, “Video Killed The Radio Star” tied with Marvin Gaye’s 1970 version of Gladys Knight’s “The End Of Our Road” as the “Biggest Hot 100 Hit” that peaked at No. 40.the age of plastic

In 1980, following the release of The Buggles’ debut album, THE AGE OF PLASTIC (with “Video Killed The Radio Star”), Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes joined another London band,Yes, and recorded the album, DRAMA, after Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman had left the group.  Trevor Horn sang lead vocals and it was the only Yes album to feature him as lead vocalist.  But, despite a No. 2 chart peak for DRAMA in the U.K., the new Yes lineup was not well-received, and Yes disbanded by the end of 1980.

In early 1981, on the day The Buggles were supposed to start recording their second album, Geoff Downes quit the band to help form the “supergroup” Asia with guitarist Steve Howe (of Yes), John Wetton (bassist and vocalist bands like King Crimson, Roxy Music and Uriah Heep) and Carl Palmer (drummer for Emerson, Lake & Palmer).adventures in

Undeterred and still carrying on the Buggles name, Trevor Horn secured funds to record and release the second album, ADVENTURES IN MODERN RECORDING.  Despite Trevor’s efforts, the album was a huge disappointment, reaching No. 161 on the BILLBOARD album chart and not even charting in his U.K. homeland.

By the time of the second album’s release, you could find Trevor Horn producing THE LEXICON OF LOVE, the debut album for the Sheffield, England New Wave band, ABC.  What followed is an amazing career that continues today.  Not only did Trevor Horn rejoin Yes for their huge 1983 comeback album, 90125 (which he produced), he also teamed up with The Art Of Noise, writing memorable hits like “Close (To The Edit)” and “Moments In Love.”

close to the edit

From there, Trevor Horn was everywhere.  He produced Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 2-album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME, the 12” mix of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (the biggest-selling U.K. single of the 80s), plus music for Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys, Simple Minds, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and most-recently, Billy Idol’s 2014 album, KINGS & QUEENS OF THE UNDERGROUND and Seal’s 2015 album, 7 (Trevor Horn has actually produced six of Seal’s 9 albums, starting with Seal’s 1991 self-titled debut).

Seal_7

Seal’s 2015 release, 7, produced by Trevor Horn.

Geoff Downes has released 13 albums with Asia since their monster 1982 debut to their 2014 album, GRAVITAS.  He also rejoined Yes (along with Trevor Horn) for the 2011 album, FLY FROM HERE.

There have been impromptu Buggles reunions here and there over the years, and in a statement I thought I would never, ever see, according to the BBC, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes reunited in the studio earlier this year “for more Buggles activity.”  I look forward to that.

In 2013, Heather Phares of allmusic.com said “[Video Killed The Radio Star] can be looked on as a perfectly preserved new wave gem [and] still sounds as immediate as it did when it was released, however, and that may be the song’s greatest irony.”

mtv classicSpeaking of irony, today (8.1.2016) also marks the demise of the wonderful VH1 Classic (famous for playing great 80s videos) and the debut of MTV Classic, highlighting (mostly non-music) programming from the 90s and beyond.  Sure, the new network was scheduled to rebroadcast the first hour of MTV from August 1, 1981, but don’t count on MTV Classic to bring you many more music videos.  While they will have I WANT MY 80s, 120 MINUTES and some old BEHIND THE MUSIC episodes, I’m betting they’ll be concentrating more on re-airing shows like THE REAL WORLD, TOTAL REQUEST LIVE and MTV CRIBS, shows I could really give two shits about.

MTV may be turning 35 today, but it’s hardly cause for celebration, as the once-great network for actual music television has, ironically enough, killed the video star (although to be fair, you can see pretty much every video known to man and woman somewhere on the interwebs).

MTV opinions and peak chart positions aside, I always liked “Video Killed The Radio Star.”  It is a quirky, fun song that, for awhile, I kinda thought was some sort of cool extension of ABBA.  Over the years, it’s been covered by the likes of The Presidents Of The United States Of America (for the 1998 Adam Sandler film, THE WEDDING SINGER), Pomplamoose, Pentatonix, Erasure, Ben Folds Five and even Alvin & The Chipmunks. 

I’m glad the song has endured for nearly 40 years now.  In fact, I’m betting it will outlast MTV.  Maybe Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes are working on a follow-up titled, “Video Killed The Radio Star, and MTV too.”  Guess we’ll have to wait to find out later for sure and just continue loving that original New Wave treasure…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwuy4hHO3YQ

the buggles

song of the day – hyperactive! | THOMAS DOLBY | 1984.

It’s nearing the end of February 19, 2016, and on this date in 1983, Londoner Thomas Dolby debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 77 with his American debut single, “She Blinded Me With Science.”  He had actually graced the Hot 100 before, but in a supporting role. waiting for a girl like you

In 1981, the then-Tom Dolby provided keyboards to one of the biggest songs of all time NOT to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 – Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” (from FOREIGNER 4; it spent 10 weeks at No. 2).  He also contributed keyboards to the 1983 albums by Def Leppard (PYROMANIA) and Malcolm McLaren (DUCK ROCK, featuring the wonderful “Buffalo Gals.”)

“She Blinded Me With Science” was the biggest global pop single success for Thomas Dolby, and here in the U.S., it spent a month at No. 5 in May/June 1983.  “Science” was one of several songs not originally on the album, THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS.  It was added later on.  I actually discovered the extended mix on a fantastic EP that I still own to this day – BLINDED BY SCIENCE, from 1982. blinded by science

BLINDED BY SCIENCE was comprised of 5 extended mixes of songs featured on THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS: “One Of My Submarines” (my second-favorite Thomas Dolby song), “Windpower,” “Airwaves” and “Flying North.”  It is this EP that started my love of Thomas’ music.

That love continued with Thomas Dolby’s 1984 album, THE FLAT EARTH.  The album contained the singles “Dissidents” and the Dan Hicks composition, “I Scare Myself.”  It also featured guest spots from Bruce Woolley of The Buggles, Lionel Richie and Robyn Hitchcock, and contained what would become my favorite Thomas Dolby song – “Hyperactive!”   

If you have listened to the song before (or just listening to it for the first time with the link to the altered video below), you might notice a hint of Michael Jackson in there.  No, Michael’s not involved with the song, although it wasn’t without trying.  Thomas Dolby met Michael Jackson in 1982, and actually wrote the song with Michael in mind and sent him a demo of the song, but Michael never got back to him about it.  So, Thomas eventually recorded it himself. hyperactive

“Hyperactive!” was not a big hit in the U.S., spending a week at No. 62 on the Hot 100 in late March 1984.  And while it wasn’t well-received stateside, it turned out to be his biggest hit in his U.K. homeland, reaching No. 17.  (An interesting note – “She Blinded Me With Science” was a big hit here in America, while it didn’t even crack the U.K. Top 40; funny how it works out like that sometimes…)

Thomas Dolby kept on recording after “Hyperactive!” and THE FLAT EARTH, including the real fun ALIENS ATE MY BUICK from 1987 (featuring one of THE best album covers ever!), plus 2 other studio albums and 2 live albums.  Thomas (and a couple of musicians who worked with him on THE FLAT EARTH) also supported David Bowie’s makeshift band at Live Aid in 1985, with truly amazing keyboard work on “Heroes.”  David Bowie called him “the very brilliant Thomas Dolby.”  How incredibly true.  I’ve known this for a long time. 

Over the years, Thomas has worked with and/or contributed his producing and musical talents to awards shows and albums from the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Thompson Twins, George Clinton, Belinda Carlisle, Jerry Garcia, Andy Partridge, Prefab Sprout, Joan Armatrading, Little Richard, M, Ofra Haza, Howard Jones, Peter Gabriel and he played keyboards at Roger Waters’ all-star 1990 Berlin concert of Pink Floyd’s THE WALL.

What’s the artist formerly known as Tom Dolby up to now?  Well, he is, appropriately enough, the Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  I’m hoping at some point he’ll be “hyperactive!” about going back into the studio to make some new music, but I’m betting he’s quite hyperactive, er, content where he is…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC13Ko2bPqI

thomas dolby