song of the day – “One Way Or Another” | BLONDIE | 1979.

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On June 15, 2014 (three years ago today), 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!”

I remember hearing about Casey’s death during a trial run at a commercial radio station out of my hometown, Bar Harbor, Maine.  I was pre-recording some voice tracks to be played on the air that Sunday afternoon, and saw it pop up on the news feed on a computer in the station’s main on-air studio.  My heart sank.  I knew Casey hadn’t been well, but I had hoped he’d live much longer than he did, though 82 was a long life, and what a life it was.

Due to a communication snafu, it never worked out with that radio station, but at the very least, I got to at pay tribute to him on the air at that station, if only for a moment.  It’s the least I could do for a man who did so much for me – through music – all those years ago.  Like John Hughes, Casey Kasem is one of the most-influential people for me with music that I DIDN’T meet.

A couple of Sundays later, I did get to pay tribute to Casey with the first of three annual 2-hour radio shows in his memory on STUCK IN THE 80s, and that featured nothing but music from 1979 through 1989 and reached the American Top 40.  My theme song for each annual show was M’s No. 1 hit from 1979, “Pop Muzik,” which, to this day, I maintain is a song that epitomized the music of a decade – NOT the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, I couldn’t think of a better name for these tribute shows than LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION.

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One of the artists played on that show (and many other shows over the course of STUCK IN THE 80s’ 20+ years) was Blondie, who just released their eleventh studio album, the excellent and Rockin’ POLLINATOR.

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By early 1979, Blondie had released three albums, with the latest one, PARALLEL LINES (which was released in September 1978), slowly climbing the BILLBOARD album chart.  Blondie’s self-titled 1976 debut album didn’t even reach the album chart here in the U.S., and their second album, PLASTIC LETTERS (released in February 1978), reached No. 72. 

The first U.S. single released from PARALLEL LINES – “I’m Gonna Love You Too” – ran parallel to the album’s September 1978 release, but the only places it became a hit was in Belgium and in The Netherlands.  Second single “Hanging On The Telephone” is a revered Punk / New Wave classic, but again, it failed to make a dent here in America, though it was a Top 5 U.K. hit.

Though it may sound like a cliché sometimes, like the saying goes, “third time’s a charm,” and in the case of singles released from PARALLEL LINES, the ol’ saying proved to be right for Blondie to finally break through in their homeland of the U.S. of A.

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“Heart Of Glass” was released in January 1979, and by mid-February, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 way down at No. 84.  10 weeks later, it spent a lone week at No. 1, helped PARALLEL LINES climb to No. 6 on the BILLBOARD album chart (becoming their first Platinum album), and reached No. 1 in at least seven other countries – and in the process, united both Punk and Disco fans alike – no easy trick.  I can’t think of any other song that truly did that.

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After the worldwide success of “Heart Of Glass,” Blondie’s record label, Chrysalis, released “Sunday Girl” in May 1979…but not here in the U.S., despite the fact “Sunday Girl” spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. and four weeks at No. 1 in Ireland.  (Thanks Chrysalis, you crusty jugglers!  Just because the first two singles didn’t work out here didn’t mean “Sunday Girl” wouldn’t have charted!)

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For the fourth single released here in the U.S. and in Canada, Chrysalis released “One Way Or Another,” a song inspired by one of Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriends who had stalked her after they broke up.  (Boy, you don’t wanna mess with Debbie, man!  I believe it when she says she’ll “get’cha, get’cha, get’cha, get’cha!”)

“One Way Or Another” (which, oddly enough, was NOT released as a single outside of the U.S. or Canada) was more Punk and Rock-friendly than Disco friendly, although I don’t know anyone in the ‘Verse who wouldn’t want to dance to this gem.  It’s infectious and instantly invites you to move.

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Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1979 (with “Heart Of Glass” still in the Top 15), “One Way Or Another” found its way onto the Top 40 four weeks after its debut, entering the Top 40 at the end of June at No. 35.  It inched up another notch the following week, and then for some weird reason, fell out of the Top 40 down to No. 41. 

In an even weirder chart move (and one I’m sure Casey Kasem loved to talk about), the following week, “One Way Or Another” roared back into the Top 40 from No. 41 to No. 29, a feat more commonplace in the Digital Age of the Hot 100 today, but back in 1979, to make such a dramatic turnaround on the chart was quite rare.

And that would be the last of the rare, big moves for “One Way Or Another,” as two weeks later, in early August 1979, it would spend the first of two weeks at No. 24.  Two weeks after departing the Top 40, it was gone from the Hot 100 completely.  In Canada, “One Way Or Another” fared better, reaching No. 14.

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The 1979 poster of Debbie Harry (photo taken by Chris Stein) that has eluded me for almost 40 years now…

The legacy of “One Way Or Another” didn’t stop there, though.  It’s been covered since by the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Alvin And The Chipmunks, the cast of GLEE, and in 2013, the popular British boy band, One Direction, who did a mashup of “One Way Or Another” with “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones – and titled “One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)” – and released a single in support of Comic Relief.  It was, like One Direction and Blondie before them, a global sensation, and reached No. 1 in at least five countries.  In the process, the original “One Way Or Another” squeaked onto the U.K. singles chart (through digital sales) at No. 98, its first appearance on that chart, and not bad for a 34-year-old song.

“One Way Or Another” has recently been in a number of commercials as of late (I think I heard it in two different commercials back-to-back, in fact), and in ROLLING STONE’s 2006 list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “One Way Or Another” was ranked at No. 298.

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Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

Though I didn’t initially warm up to “One Way Or Another” as I did with “Heart Of Glass” or “Dreaming,” which would chart a couple of months after “One Way Or Another,” the song grew on me (how could it not?), and I really loved seeing Debbie and Blondie belt this out when my dear friend Shawn (formerly of Maine and NYC) and I saw them in New York back in October 2013.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention part of the reason PARALLEL LINES did as well as it did.  The album was released the same month as my second all-time favorite TV show, WKRP IN CINCINATTI.  The show was instrumental in not only the success of the album, but its use of “Heart Of Glass” really helped it to become the big hit it was, and the band’s record label, Chrysalis, presented the producers of WKRP with an authentic Gold RIAA record award for PARALLEL LINES, and it hung on the wall of the station’s “bullpen” for the remainder of the series.  (While I don’t entirely forgive Chrysalis for not releasing “Sunday Girl” here, I thought it was a rare and wonderful and unusual gesture presenting a fictional radio station with a real Gold record.)

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You know, some fans of Casey Kasem and AT40 might disagree, but in listening to some of Casey’s older 1970s AMERICAN TOP 40 countdowns on iHeart Radio (he started AT40, appropriately enough, on July 4, 1970, at the age of 38), I think Casey really started hitting his stride with AT40 in 1979 (though I may be biased, considering that’s the year I really started getting into music).  Maybe that’s what compelled me to keep tuning in week after week, year after year, and as often as I can, three years after his death, on the Interweb.

at80s2I’ve been involved with mostly community and college radio for the better part of 30 years, and in my short-lived time on a commercial station here in Central Maine back in 2008, one of my all-time proudest moments in radio is going on at 10:00 on Saturday mornings, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and rebroadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40.

Though I’ve preferred Alternative, New Wave and Alt-Dance to Top 40 for a long time now, I don’t think I would have ever have had the appreciation for music I do today if it hadn’t been for Casey Kasem.

I miss you, Casey, wherever you are, and I promise to keep reaching for those stars…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m74w9x07DhU

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(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Sausalito Summernight” | DIESEL | 1981.

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

It’s April 30, 2017, and for the first time in awhile, I’ve been under the weather all weekend.  Maybe (or, rather, hopefully), it’s one of those 48-hour bugs.  So, I wanted to find a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s that makes me feel better just by listening to it, both then and now.  One song immediately came to mind – “Sausalito Summernight” by the Dutch Pop / Rock band, Diesel.

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Not many music acts hailing from The Netherlands have reached the shores of the U.S. Pop chart, or in this case, the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but there have been some.  In the 80s alone, that list included Golden Earring and Stars On 45.  Even Van Halen namesake and brothers Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen are from Holland.

Diesel (not to be confused with the Massachusetts-born, Australian-raised musician) formed in late 1978 as a hobby, but within a year, the then-four-man band released a couple of singles, one of which, called “Goin’ Back To China,” nearly reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1982, stopping at No. 105. 

“Goin’ Back To China” reached No. 34 in the band’s Dutch homeland, while their next single, “Down In The Silvermine,” was the band’s biggest hit in Holland, reaching No. 16.  Diesel’s first four singles appeared on their 1980 debut album, WATTS IN A TANK. 

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Diesel’s fourth single from WATTS IN A TANK, “Sausalito Summernight,” was released as the band’s first single here in America.  And it was an instant favorite with yours truly. 

“Sausalito Summernight” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-September 1981, receiving decent airplay on both Rock and Top 40 stations.  It debuted in the Top 40 five weeks after its Hot 100 arrival, spent a week at its No. 25 peak in late November 1981, and finished its 18-week chart run in early January 1982.  Diesel wouldn’t reach the Hot 100 again.  In Holland, “Sausalito Summernight” stopped at No. 33, while in Canada, it fared well, No. 10.

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The cover art for the Dutch 7″ single version of “Sausalito Summernight.”

In 1982, Diesel released their second album, UNLEADED, but it was not well-received.  The band would continue to release singles through 1985, broke up and reformed in 1988 for one year, having minor success in Holland with a single called “Samantha.” 

The band’s original four members reunited in 2004 for a charity event, and there were plans to reform the group in the years that followed, but in mid-November 2009, bassist Frank Papendrecht died of a heart attack.  Strangely enough, less than a week later, drummer and keyboardist (and producer of WATTS IN A TANK and “Sausalito Summernight”) Pim Koopman also died of a heart attack.

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Diesel, from November 4, 2016.

diesel6Today, founding members Rob Vunderink and Mark Boon (both on lead vocals and guitars) carry on as Diesel as a five-man band, performing at festivals, and working on a new album.  In March 2017, they released a fun single called, “Like Hell I Will!”

Though “Sausalito Summernight” (a song about the beleaguered last miles of a road trip in the San Francisco area) could be (and was) mistaken as a song by Steve Miller, it was one of those songs from my early days of getting to know music that was always fun to listen to, replete with a kick-ass guitar solo. 

More than 35 years later, I still love hearing this song, and any time of the year (doesn’t have to be Summer), I will always gladly hop aboard that five-minute road trip known as “Sausalito Summernight.”

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

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song of the day – “My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want)” | ASIA | 1983.

I’m back!  I’ve been away from the bloggy thing here for awhile, and certainly much longer than anticipated, but with just days now before the last STUCK IN THE 80s show airing on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, finishing up a nearly 21-year-old radio show has been crazier than expected!  Lots more still to do, and all apologies for being away from the blog for awhile.  “Life happens!”

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On January 31, 2017, we lost John Wetton, a former member of King Crimson, Uriah Heep and more, and was the voice of the Rock “supergroup,” Asia.  He was a member of Asia until the day he died, at age 67.  I’ve been wanting to do this blog post for over a week, because John’s work with Asia really meant a lot to me back in 1982 and 1983. 

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The band’s self-titled monster debut album, ASIA, was the biggest album in the U.S. for all of 1982.  And I loved it from the start.  Sizzling and extraordinary guitar work from Steve Howe (of Yes), amazing keyboards and piano from Geoff Downes (of Yes and The Buggles), and spectacular drumming by Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) were all great compliments to John Wetton’s bass talents and strong, convincing vocals.

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Asia, 1982 (from left to right): Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, John Wetton and Geoff Downes.

John Wetton was also a principal songwriter for Asia, and with each song, you could hear the passion in his voice.  ASIA was one of my favorite albums of the 80s, and remains an all-time favorite.  Though their sophomore effort, 1983’s ALPHA, wasn’t well-received by critics and didn’t fare as well as its predecessor (though it was certified Platinum), I really enjoyed the album. 

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Frequent writing collaborators John Wetton and Geoffrey Downes co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album, and one of my favorite cuts on ALPHA was the gem, “My Own Time (I’ll Do What I Want).”  Though the song is primarily about surviving romantic relationships that didn’t work out, I see a bit of my own life – my future broadcasting life – in the lyrics of this song (with no disrespect intended to my wonderful second home for more than 20 years, WMPG):

“Walking through the snow kicking my heels / Seems that sunlight never felt so good before / Bet you really don’t know how it feels / I don’t have to answer to anyone no more…Nothing to show, but nothing to lose / I’m on my own…Faith in myself / Gives me the strength to carry on / I’ll do what to anyway / I’ll do what I want and I’ll do it in / My Own Time…”

Original members John Wetton, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer were the beating heart of Asia for many of the past 35 years.  Asia was supposed to perform on a bill with Journey for 12 dates this year, but about three weeks before he sadly died of colon cancer, John announced that due to receiving another round of chemotherapy, he would not be able to perform on those 12 dates. 

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John Wetton, 1983.

Asia released 14 studio albums through 2014, and though I kinda lost touch with their music after their third album, 1985’s ASTRA, I never forgot the joy I had from listening to those first two Asia albums, and still do.  John Wetton was a proud member of Asia right through to the end.  And John certainly did what he wanted and did it in his own time…

R.I.P. John, and many thanks.  You’ll be missed…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6ybnEGVnyM

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xmas song of the day – “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” | DAVID BOWIE & BING CROSBY | 1977 / 1982.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show (TONIGHT!!; 12.25.2016) 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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Thank you so much for reading this first year of my blog, especially the holiday treasures that comprised THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS.  Xmas has long not my favorite time of year, but these songs help get me through and then some every holiday season. 

The song for Day 31 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is my all-time favorite holiday song – “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, included in the 1977 holiday special, BING CROSBY’S MERRIE OLDE CHRISTMAS.

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I was 10 going on 11 for Xmas 1977, and it was a time where I wasn’t really into music (that would happen in 1979), and I don’t remember anything else about that Bing Crosby variety holiday show, but I’ll never forget the one thing I do remember – “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy.” 

It’s hard to believe now, but that famous duet almost never happened.  When the producers of the show asked David Bowie to sing “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby, he said no.  David said, “I hate this song.  Is there something else I could sing?”  Of this news, one of the show’s songwriters, Ian Fraser said, “We didn’t quite know what to do.”

From there, Ian Fraser got together with the show’s other songwriter, Larry Grossman, and the show’s scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, and wrote “Peace On Earth” for David Bowie as a counterpoint piece to Bing’s version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

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With less than an hour of rehearsal, Bowie and Bing performed the song, and it was magical.  It was also my first exposure to David Bowie (and my whole family’s, I believe; in 1977, we just had the one TV set in the house).  After the show’s taping, Bing said David Bowie was a “clean-cut kid and a real fine asset to the show.  He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well.”  David later admitted that he only appeared on the show because “I just knew my mother liked him.”  David also performed his then-new hit, “Heroes,” on the show, but, for some reason, I don’t remember it.

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For five years, “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” was only available as a bootleg single, but in late November 1982, David’s label at the time, RCA Records, released an official single version of the holiday gem, replete with all the dialogue from the show.  By 1982, David Bowie’s relationship with RCA (his label since 1971’s HUNKY DORY album) was already seriously strained and he was not happy with the record label releasing that song.  He left the label soon thereafter. 

Despite David’s unhappiness about the release of “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” as a single, it performed very well, reaching No. 6 in Ireland and Norway, and No. 12 in Sweden.  In the U.K., it reached No. 3 and was certified Silver.

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In 1995, I was elated when retro label Oglio Records released the single version on their holiday compilation, THE EDGE OF CHRISTMAS, but also as a stand-alone CD single, with both the single version and the full-length version from the Bing Crosby special.  And, with it being a few years before the Interweb really took off, there was also a CD-ROM of the video from the 1977 show. 

BING CROSBY’S MERRIE OLDE CHRISTMAS was filmed on September 11, 1977.  Nearly five weeks after filming the special (and a month-and-a-half before the special aired), Bing Crosby sadly died of a heart attack at the age of 73.  And now, David Bowie’s gone too.  But, as I’ve been told before, I was lucky enough to be on the same planet as David Bowie for almost 50 years.  And that’s pretty damn cool.

“Peace on Earth, can it be / Years from now, perhaps we’ll see / See the day of glory / See the day when men of good will / Live in peace, live in peace again / Peace on Earth, can it be / Can it be…”

Peace on Earth – can it be?  I’d truly love to think so…

“It’s a pretty thing, isn’t it…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9kfdEyV3RQ

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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.

stuck-holiday-show-promo-art

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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song of the day – “Walk Like An Egyptian” | THE BANGLES | 1986 / 1987.

For 10 of the 20 years on my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s, on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I aired a special series called FAST FORWARD, which featured new music from 80s artists, reissues, new covers of 80s songs, and artists who had nothing to do with the 80s but whose music was inspired by the 80s and sounded like it could have come from there.

This past Sunday (10.9.2016), I aired the first installment in a five-part series, titled THE NEXT GENERATION, highlighting those non-80s artists that kept the 80s revolution going well past Y2K. 

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With 17 shows left to go before I retire the show from WMPG on my 50th birthday in February, four of those remaining shows will be dedicated to the FAST FORWARD: THE BEST OF 2000-2016 series.  One of those shows will feature the cream of the crop of amazing 80s covers since 2000.  I’ve been listening to them for a month now.  It’ll be so hard to whittle down hundreds of swell covers to just 20-25 of them.  Today, one of those cover songs was instrumental in creating an “earworm” for me – “Walk Like An Egyptian” by The Bangles.

The cover of “Walk Like An Egyptian” I’m referring to is a 2007 gorgeous 1940s style remake by the London Swing / Vocal trio, The Puppini Sisters, from their second album, THE RISE AND FALL OF RUBY WOO. puppini-sisters

The Puppini Sisters, who, like Sheffield, England’s Thompson Twins, are not related, found a niche of covering 40s and 50s classics like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (Of Company B),” “Mister Sandman” and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” as well as more modern gems like Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass,” Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” and “Panic” by The Smiths.  Their first three albums all reached the Top 10 on BILLBOARD’s Jazz Albums chart.

Rewinding now to the four-woman, Los Angeles-based Pop / Rock band, The Bangles, they had already released an EP and a popular full-length album when they released their second album, DIFFERENT LIGHT, in January 1986.  Their first single from the album, the Prince-penned “Manic Monday,” was a huge international hit, and peaked at No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, behind Prince’s own No. 1 hit, “Kiss.” 

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The second single released from DIFFERENT LIGHT was the Top 30 hit, “If She Knew What She Wants,” a Top 30 cover of a 1985 song by Jules Shear (his “All Through The Night” was famously covered by Cyndi Lauper for her SHE’S SO UNUSUAL album, reaching the Top 5 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100).walk-like-an-egyptian

The third single from the album, “Walk Like An Egyptian,” almost never happened for The Bangles.  Written by Liam Sternberg (who was part of the late-1970s Akron, Ohio scene with folks like Devo and The Waitresses), the original demo of “Walk Like An Egyptian” was recorded with Alt-Folk singer Marti Jones, and Liam offered the song to Toni Basil, but she turned it down.  New Waver (and Detroit native) Lene Lovich actually recorded the first version of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” but it was never released, as she took some time off from music in order to raise her family.

The producer of DIFFERENT LIGHT, David Kahne, who has produced albums for many artists, including Fishbone, New Order, The Outfield, Romeo Void, Stevie Nicks, Translator and Paul McCartney, and who produced The Bangles’ first album, ALL OVER THE PLACE, got ahold of the song, and The Bangles agreed to record it.

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From the “Walk Like An Egyptian” video.

“Walk Like An Egyptian” was released in September 1986, and found its way onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 late that month.  It was slowly climbing the Hot 100 this week in October 1986, and took awhile to catch on, but by year’s end, it was No. 1, and stayed there through the 1986 / 1987 holiday season, spending four weeks on top.  It stuck around on the Hot 100 through the last day of February 1987, and ended up being the No. 1 song in the U.S. for all of that year.

The song wasn’t just an American phenom, it was a massive international smash, reaching No. 1 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Holland, South Africa and Spain, and the Top 10 in the U.K, Austria, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Switzerland. 

walk-with-an-eIn addition to the version by the aforementioned Puppini Sisters, there have been several covers of “Walk Like An Egyptian” throughout the years, but none quite like the 1986  parody by the Boston band, The Swinging Erudites, titled “Walk With An Erection,” which appeared on their self-titled EP and 1987’s full-length UNCHAINED PARODIES album.  And, with it being the 80s, there was even a 12” extended remix for it (the Big Weenie Mix; I know this because I actually own it).  The memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I am pretty sure I first heard “Walk With An Erection” on the mighty WTOS in Skowhegan, Maine (when it was still mighty, that is; the format was famously – and sadly – changed in October 1987; WTOS DJ – and one of my first radio heroes – Duane Bruce, writes about it in his new book, HANG THE DJ, an amazing and fun read).

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If you don’t already have this book, find it online and pick it up!

Despite the huge success of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” I would bet that each member of The Bangles – past and present – kinda wish they never had recorded the song.  But I can’t say for sure.  The song has shared vocals by lead guitarist Vicki Peterson, bassist Michael Steele (my favorite member of the band), and singer and guitarist Susanna Hoffs, but the producer, David Kahne, didn’t like any of the vocals provided by drummer Debbi Peterson (Vicki’s younger sister).  So, she was relegated to sing backing vocals, playing the tambourine and whistling.  Adding insult to injury, a drum machine was used for the song.  Suffice it to say, there was tension in the band with this song since the recording of it.

Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, whenever a song gets stuck in my head, like today’s “earworm” of “Walk Like An Egyptian” – once I play it, the song is pretty much gone and no longer occupies space in my gigantic head.  And while I still enjoy the song 30 years later, it’s by far NOT my favorite Bangles song. 

followingMy favorite song from them also appears on DIFFERENT LIGHT, which is a great way to describe the song, “Following,” written and sung by the lovely Michael Steele.  It truly is so different from anything on that album, or anything they put out, before or since.  It’s an Alt-Folk-type ballad, sung in the first person, and about Michael’s high school sweetheart.  It even reached No. 22 in Ireland and was a minor U.K. hit. 

Hmmm, now I have that stuck in my head.  And I’m not going to play it just yet; for now, I’m “following” my heart, not my head, and I’m gonna let it stir up there for awhile…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv6tuzHUuuk

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song of the day – “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards” | BILLY BRAGG | 1988.

billy bragg waitingWith it being Leap Day today (February 29th), I was inspired to share this song, which has no connection to Leap Day or Leap Year whatsoever – the Billy Bragg gem, “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards.”

Englishman Billy Bragg has been releasing music since 1983, and in that time, he’s tackled Punk Rock, protest songs, Alt-Rock, Americana, Folk Punk and even did a couple of well-received albums with Wilco (of Woody Guthrie lyrics set to their music) in 1998 and 2000.

Billy Bragg Live, Somerville Theatre

Billy Bragg, Live @ The Somerville Theatre, Somerville, MA, 3.23.2006

I’ve long been a fan of Billy Bragg, and his passion for what he’s singing about –  whether it’s sexuality, growing up, politics or a broken heart – exudes in every song he does.  When I saw him in perform at the Somerville (Mass.) Theatre in March 2006, he was brilliant.  It was just him and his guitar, and his presence filled the room.  That night, he turned a reworked version of Leadbelly’s “Bourgeois Blues” into his own “Bush War Blues.”  Genius.  He released the song as a free download the following day. 

“Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards” appears on Billy’s 1988 album, WORKER’S PLAYTIME, his fourth full-length record.  While on tour promoting the album, Billy said this about the song:

“I know that today it’s not very cool talk about Maoism.  Everybody says, ‘Maoism!  Oh, no!  How gauche!’  But this next song is called ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards.’  Now, the Great Leap Forwards was a plan by Mao to modernize China.  There was going to be a huge burst of activity and development for 18 months, and then China was going to be fully developed to compete in the modern world.

“Well, it didn’t work, and then things deteriorated into the Cultural Revolution, which was a very bad thing indeed.  But Mao once said a very interesting thing.  Someone said to him, ‘What do you think the effects were of the French Revolution in the late 18th century?’

“And Mao said, ‘It’s too early to tell.’”

workers playtime

Some truly great lines in this song, like “If you’ve got a blacklist, I want to be on it” and “If no one seems to understand / Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman.”  “Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards” comes replete with some reverse psychology, too.  The bottom line is, if you want to take the leap, whatever that may be, just go for it…  and don’t wait…

Hope you check out the video link below.  It’s Billy Bragg singing this song on Late Night With David Letterman in 1988 (with an interview too!).  Miss you Dave.  Miss you, too, Billy – hope you come back and see us again soon.  Cheers…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M9DC2DFtGs

billy bragg