song of the day – “Election Day” | ARCADIA | 1985.

Well, it’s finally here.  Today (November 8, 2016), my Country, the United States of America, will elect one of the two most unpopular Presidential candidates in recent memory (or all-time).  I’ll come onto that in a bit.

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On this historic Election Day in the US of A, today’s “song of the day” (a choice that will prolly surprise no one) is actually by a band from the U.K. – “Election Day” by Arcadia. 

31 years after the fact, almost everyone and their mother knows that, in 1985, when Duran Duran went on a hiatus, two side projects were formed: the “supergroup” known as The Power Station – Robert Palmer, Chic’s Tony Thompson on drums, and Duran’s John Taylor and Andy Taylor – and Arcadia, comprised of the other three members of Duran Duran – Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.

Both acts were successful but short-lived, and by the time Arcadia’s first single, “Election Day,” was released, The Power Station had already scored a couple of U.S. Top 10 hits and a third Top 40 hit. 

True to its name, “Election Day” was released in October 1985, just weeks before Election Day, and about a month in advance of its parent album, SO RED THE ROSE.  A couple of Saturdays before a pretty tame Election Day here in America (compared to the Presidential election of 1984, where Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide and almost unanimous victory), the song “Election Day” was the highest-debuting song on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 that week, coming in at No. 46. 

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AllMusic reviewer Kelvin Hayes referred to “Election Day” (also the opening song on SO RED THE ROSE) as a “darkly romantic irking toward erotic and has brass stabs not dissimilar from their Bond [No. 1 hit from earlier that year] ‘[A] View to a Kill’.”  There’s another connection between “Election Day” and the A VIEW TO A KILL film – Grace Jones appeared in the film AND sang backing vocals on “Election Day” (and served as the song’s narrator).

There was one verse that was dropped from the version which ended up being released, and more than 30 years later, it’s eerie how this verse could pertain to this year’s U.S. Presidential election:

“Don’t even try to induce, In all my restrain there’s no hesitation / All the signs on the loose ’cause sanity’s rare this end of the hard day / Shadows are crawling out of the subway / Any way that you choose in every direction just to confuse me…”

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By the end of November 1985, “Election Day” garnered enough votes to reach the Top 10 in just six weeks, but with some pretty heavy contenders ahead of it (three of which would rank in the U.S. Top 10 for all of 1986), “Election Day” stopped at No. 6, spending a couple weeks there just before Christmas 1985.

Around the globe, “Election Day” reached the Top 10 in (at least) the U.K., Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway, and No. 12 in Holland.

Arcadia had one more Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 (“Goodbye Is Forever”) and one other MTV hit (“The Flame,” which was a Top 40 hit in Holland and Ireland), and SO RED THE ROSE would be the only album Arcadia would release.  Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor reunited for Duran Duran in 1986 and had a huge hit with the title track of their Nile Rodgers-produced album, NOTORIOUS.

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As of this writing, Election Day 2016 is underway here in Maine and many parts of America.  If you are kind enough to be reading this blog post and you live in America, I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but PLEASE VOTE if you’re able.  I realize the two main candidates for this Presidential election each have their own baggage and wouldn’t have been my first choices, but whoever you choose, please choose with your heart and with your conscience.

At this point, the best we can do is pray that whoever gets elected will move forward from this election BS and be good for the Country I have loved for a half-century.  If you’re voting, be safe out there and may the Force be with us all…

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3Yy6c0Tlvk

Arcadia Band

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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. 

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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).

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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)

song of the day – “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” | THE POWER STATION | 1985.

What do you do when one of your favorite bands splits up and goes their separate ways?  Well, in the case of Talking Heads, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and keep wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’ll get back together for a reunion tour (or just watch STOP MAKING SENSE again). 

In the case of The Police, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and see them on their 2007 reunion tour (like I did), because it’ll prolly never happen again.

And, in the case of Duran Duran in 1985 – one of the first bands that meant a lot to me during the early 80s – you keep hoping they’ll get back together in some form and keep listening to the music you fell in love with.  Duran Duran actually made it easy.  After their 1983 album, SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER, the band went on a “planned” hiatus, splitting into two side projects, but not without giving us the live ARENA album and their second No. 1 song, “A View To A Kill,” from the James Bond film of the same name. 

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Arcadia: Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.

Frontman and lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor went on to form Arcadia, which was reminiscent of their work with Duran Duran.  Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor went a different route with their band, what would become the “supergroup” The Power Station.

The Power Station had an edgier Rock / Funk sound that John and Andy Taylor weren’t able to pull off with Duran Duran.  In 1984, Bebe Buell, singer and former model, part-time Portlander and the biological mother to actress Liv Tyler, was dating John Taylor, and she wanted to do a cover of T. Rex’s 1972 classic, “Get It On (Bang A Gong).”  John proceeded to get some of his famous music friends together to help out, and instead, it turned into something more.

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Bebe Buell and John Taylor.

John and Andy reached out to their idols from the 70s Dance/Soul band, Chic.  The amazing Tony Thompson was on board as the drummer, and Bernard Edwards would be the producer.  Now, they needed a singer.  John and Andy approached folks like Billy Idol, Mick Jagger, Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs and Mick Ronson, who had worked with David Bowie and Morrissey. 

Originally the band was to be called Big Brother, and the initial idea was to have a revolving door of lead singers, each one singing on a different track on the album.  English singer / songwriter Robert Palmer – who had released several albums since 1975, but with limited success around the globe – had performed live with Duran Duran once in 1983, and was the invited vocalist for the song, “Communication.”  Robert had heard they were doing a cover of “Get It On” and wanted to try out for it, and instead, the band ended up doing the whole album with Robert Palmer.

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The Power Station: Tony Thompson, John Taylor, Robert Palmer and Andy Taylor.

The entire band – Robert Palmer on vocals, John Taylor on bass, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on those amazing drums – appeared on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on February 16, 1985, and were introduced to the world.  And from there, The Power Station was a hit, as was their self-titled album, which was certified Gold in the U.K. and reached the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD album chart. 

the power station LPThe “supergroup” also had three Top 40 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6 for 2 weeks, May 1985), their cover of “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9 for 2 weeks, August 1985, surpassing the No. 10 peak of the T. Rex original) and “Communication” (No. 34 for 2 weeks, October 1985).  (“Get It On” also reached No. 22 in the U.K., and No. 8 in Australia.) 

For those keeping score, The Power Station did fare better overall than the other equally short-lived Duran Duran side project, Arcadia, whose album, SO RED THE ROSE, was certified Platinum here in the U.S., and they had a couple of Top 40 singles – “Election Day” (No. 6, 1985) and “Goodbye Is Forever” (No. 33), as well as a MTV video hit with “The Flame.”

By the end of 1985, The Power Station was no more.  But, the experience breathed new Addicted_to_Lovelife and then some into Robert Palmer’s career.  Before the year was out, his eighth studio album, RIPTIDE, was released (recruiting fellow Power Stationers Bernard Edwards as producer, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on drums).  It was the biggest album of Robert Palmer’s career.  Remember those memorable drums and that guitar solo on his No. 1 hit, “Addicted To Love?” – it was courtesy of Tony and Andy. 

Tony Thompson went on to provide drum support for some acts, and appeared in a few bands, along with the brief return of Chic in 1992.  John Taylor opted to return to Duran Duran, while Andy Taylor did not return in lieu of a solo career.  Both John and Andy had separate Top 30 singles on the Hot 100 in 1986, and both were movie songs.  Andy Taylor could also be found on other hit singles in the second half of the 80s, providing his guitar talents for several artists, notably on Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” (1986) and “Lost In You” and “Forever Young,” from Rod Stewart’s 1989 album, OUT OF ORDER.

They would all get back together in 1996 for their second album, LIVING IN FEAR, though John Taylor had to drop out of the project and wasn’t on the record.  Bernard Edwards was all set to tour with The Power Station, but tragically died during a trip to Japan.  Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson both sadly passed away in 2003, within a couple months of each other.  Robert had just released a Blues album. 

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Duran Duran, 2015: Roger Taylor, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes Simon LeBon.

Today, Duran Duran is touring in support of their fourteenth studio album, the wonderful PAPER GODS (Andy Taylor did rejoin the band for their 2004 album, ASTRONAUT, but it was not to be, and the other band members have continued on without him).  With my dear friend Shawn, we saw Duran Duran (with Chic opening) in Brooklyn back in April 2016.  Both bands were brilliant, and both paid tribute to David Bowie.  It is one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.

And “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” is one of THE best covers I’ve ever heard.  You can hear John Taylor’s impressive, funky bass work; Andy Taylor’s killer guitar; the booming drums courtesy of Tony Thompson; and, the memorable, passionate vocals of Robert Palmer.  One of the things I loved most about The Power Station – and you can especially hear it on this song – is that every member of the “supergroup” is represented, and they never let you forget that… 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2vHbXI2p4k

the power station

song of the day – “Good Times” | CHIC featuring NILE RODGERS | 1979.

As you may have seen from my last post, I’m still on a high from the concert my dear friend Shawn and I saw last week (4.12.2016) at New York’s Barclays Center, Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers.  It was truly one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen.  And while seeing Duran Duran perform was worth the 34-year wait, seeing Chic and Nile perform was more than worth the wait too.

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Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers.

Chic was co-formed 40 years ago by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards right in New York (Nile had mentioned at the show that the first song he wrote, “Everybody Dance,” was written not far from the venue in Brooklyn). 

In the quick 2-year period between 1977 and 1979, at the height of the disco craze, Chic picked up 5 Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – “Everybody Dance” stopped at No. 38, while the remaining 4 Top 40 hits reached the Top 10: “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” (No. 6, 1977), “Le Freak” (No. 1, 6 weeks, 1978 /1979), “I Want Your Love” (No. 7, 1979) and today’s “song of the day,” “Good Times.”

good times 7%22Chic released “Good Times” in June 1979 (from the album, RISQUÉ) and Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards prolly had no idea how important this song would be in the realm of music history.  Or, maybe they did.  The song’s lyrics were largely based on the 1929 song, “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Milton Ager (who had just passed away a month before the song’s release, and who was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame that year).

“Good Times” didn’t take long to debut on the Hot 100, debuting the same month it was released, and just in time for Summer.  It had reached the Top 10 in just 6 weeks, and spent its lone week at No. 1 in August 1979.  “Good Times” might have stayed on top longer had it not been for the huge chart run for The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which replaced “Good Times” at No. 1 and became the biggest song of 1979.  (After spending a week at No. 1, “Good Times” was situated at No. 2 behind “My Sharona” for 3 weeks.)  “Good Times” ended up at No. 20 for all of 1979. good times v2

On other BILLBOARD charts, “Good Times” spent 6 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, and was the No. 1 R&B single for 1979.  Over on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, “Good Times” (along with 2 other songs from RISQUÉ – “My Forbidden Lover” and “My Feet Keep Dancing”) reached No. 3.

The good times for “Good Times” wasn’t limited to the U.S. – it reached No. 5 in the U.K. and Canada, No. 8 in New Zealand, and was a Top 40 hit in at least 4 other countries.

A month after “Good Times” hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100,  a Hip Hop group out of Englewood, New Jersey, The Sugarhill Gang, released “Rapper’s Delight,” a song that sampled “Good Times” and used it as the music backdrop behind their rapping.  “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t the first song to incorporate rapping (that distinction would go to the The Fatback Band’s song released a few months before “Rapper’s Delight,” “King Tim III (Personality Jock)”), but it was the song that brought Rap and Hip Hop into the music mainstream, and in 2011, it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which includes songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  And The Sugarhill Gang have Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to thank for that, and I’m sure they have many times over…  At the Barclays show, Nile Rodgers even did a bit of the opening rap from “Rapper’s Delight” (much to the delight of me, Shawn and everyone in attendance).

Chic would not hit the Top 40 again after “Good Times,” though they still continue to make music, and June 2015, even scored their first No. 1 BILLBOARD Dance hit in more than 20 years with “I’ll Be There,” from the forthcoming album, IT’S ABOUT TIME, their first studio album since 1992.

Bernard Edwards, bassist and vocalist for Chic, sadly died of pneumonia after a performance in Tokyo this week in 1996.  The amazing Tony Thompson, Chic’s drummer and also a well-known session drummer, was one-quarter of the 1985 “supergroup” The Power Station, and he tragically passed away in 2003 from kidney cancer just before turning  49, and two months after the passing of another one-quarter of The Power Station, Robert Palmer.

Nile Rodgers – at 63 years old and a cancer survivor – was so amazing to watch; so much energy and positivity coming out of that talented, brilliant man.  Since Chic had 5 Top 40 hits, all memorable, they filled the rest of the hour they performed with a medley of songs written and / or produced by Nile, including “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, and “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. 

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Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, live at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NYC 4.12.2016.

Then came a sensational surprise, Chic-style.  I had hoped Nile and Chic would play it, but I wasn’t sure.  The song I’m talking about is “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie.  Nile Rodgers had said that, after the disco backlash in the early 80s, no one wanted to work with him.  David Bowie was the first recording artist to reach out to him and asked Nile to work with him.  And the result was the biggest hit of David Bowie’s career. 

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Nile Rodgers and David Bowie, photographed by Peter Gabriel.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Nile Rodgers went on to work with so many artists over the decades, including Duran Duran (truly a concert pairing of epic proportions), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, INXS, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Thompson Twins, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Depeche Mode, The B-52’s, and in 2009, with a couple of guys from Paris called Daft Punk. 

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” single got lucky with Nile Rodgers (and Pharrell Williams too), spent 5 weeks at No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, has become one of the biggest-selling digital singles of all-time (more than 9 million copies downloaded), won 2 Grammy Awards, and reached No. 1 in more than 30 countries.  (Nile and Chic also performed this, Chic-style, at the Barclays show).

Like Daft Punk, over the years, the music of Chic has inspired many recording artists, from Queen (“Another One Bites The Dust”), Debbie Harry (who worked with Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers on 1981’s KOO KOO album), and even The Smiths’ Johnny Marr.

nile rodgers 2016

Nile Rodgers, 2016.

Chic has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 times, more than any other recording act, and most recently, for the 2016 class.  I’m hoping that maybe someone from the Rock Hall saw the performance of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at the Barclays show or on another part of the tour, because not only is Chic about those “Good Times,” they’re a heluva talented band, too.  I know I’ll be thinking about those “Good Times” from the show for a long time to come. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKl6EZShaaw

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