song of the day – “Dancing In The Dark” | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | 1984.

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, since the start of June, I have been highlighting songs that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits have gotten bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  With the next post, 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!”

If you listened to AMERICAN TOP 40 as faithfully as I did back in the 80s, before Nos. 2 and 1 were announced, he’d usually take a commercial break before announcing them, and would usually say, “The two biggies are coming right up!”  “The two biggies.”  Always cracked me up and still does.

But, when it came to AMERICAN TOP 40, “the two biggies” were, in fact, a big deal.  There a few positions on the chart that are the most frustrating, like Nos. 101, 41 and 11, but no other peak position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (or any singles chart, for that matter) was more frustrating to stop at than No. 2.

Foreigner endured the No. 2 position the longest in the 80s, spending 10 weeks in the runner-up spot in 1981 and 1982 with “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” a chart record Foreigner still shares to this day.  And I believe Madonna, who has six No. 2 songs to her credit (four of them in the 80s), still holds the chart record for most No. 2 singles in Hot 100 history.

waiting for a girl like you

All told, nearly 100 songs reached No. 2 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by three Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, whose 1981 No. 2 hit, “All Those Years Ago,” was a tribute to John Lennon), two Jacksons (Michael and Janet), and a couple of (real) one-hit wonders, including the Cold War Classic by Nena, “99 Luftballons.”

99 luftballons

danger zoneSome of the biggest songs in history that maybe you thought were No. 1 hits in America were actually No. 2 hits, such as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones and “Purple Rain” by Prince And The Revolution.

Several artists peaked at No. 2 between 1979 and 1989 with two songs, including The Bangles, Culture Club (with their first two hits), Air Supply, Duran Duran, Glenn Frey, Kool & The Gang, John Mellencamp, Billy Ocean (including the guilty pleasure, “Loverboy,” which a DJ back in the day once referred to as “Heavy Metal Disco”; I would disagree), plus Robert Palmer, Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt (in two big duets with James Ingram and Aaron Neville), Tina Turner and Jody Watley. 

loverboy

Michael Jackson gets an honorable mention, as he peaked at No. 2 with “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney, and he is featured in an uncredited role backing up Rockwell on “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  Likewise with Sheena Easton, who backed up Prince uncredited on “U Got The Look” and had her own No. 2 hit in 1989 with the sexy Dance hit, “The Lover In Me” (a long way from when she took that “Morning Train” to No. 1 in 1981; I’m sure Prince may have had something to do with it).

the lover in me

Speaking of Prince, he had three No. 2 hits between 1979 and 1989, or in this case, 1984 through 1987, with the aforementioned “Purple Rain” and “U Got The Look,” but also with “Raspberry Beret.”  He, too, gets an honorable mention, as he composed the No. 2 hit for The Bangles, “Manic Monday.”

lovesong

And a number longtime recording artists saw their biggest hits stop at No. 2, like The Cure (“Lovesong”), Journey (“Open Arms”), The Greg Kihn Band (“Jeopardy”), and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.”

If there was any one huge artist in the 80s I wanted to see reach No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, it was Bruce Springsteen.  I was first introduced to Bruce’s music with 1980’s “Hungry Heart,” from his first No. 1 album, THE RIVER.  At the time, I had no idea he had already released four critically-acclaimed and successful albums.

hungry heart

After “Hungry Heart,” I was a Bruce fan for life – granted, not the superfan that Hope is, but I don’t think anyone loves Bruce’s work more than Hope, except maybe for Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa.

“Dancing In The Dark” was released in early May 1984, a month before the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album was released.  And, right out of the gate, it was a hit.  “Dancing In The Dark” blasted onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the last week of May 1984 all the way into the Top 40, at No. 36.  By the next week, it was already No. 18, with its eyes set on No. 1.

dancing in the dark

Bruce had hit No. 1 before – as a songwriter.  A song from his 1973 debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. – “Blinded By The Light” – was recorded by the London Rock band, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, in 1977, and spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in February 1977, exactly four years to the month when Bruce’s original was released as a single.

bruce blinded

“Dancing In The Dark” had a lot going for it – a popular video directed by Brian de Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL and the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film) with actress Courtney Cox (FAMILY TIES, FRIENDS) dancing with Bruce on the stage (the video would win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance). 

courtney n bruce

It also had a 12” Dance remix courtesy of Arthur Baker (who’s remixed songs for Daryl Hall & John Oates, Afrika Bambaataa, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys and New Order).  The “Blaster Mix” was miles away from anything on 1982’s NEBRASKA or 1980’s THE RIVER, but people loved it.  Not only did it reach No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it was the biggest-selling 12” single for all of 1984.  Arthur Baker would also go on to remix the follow-up Bruce singles “Cover Me” and “Born In The U.S.A.” as well.

blaster mix

As much as “Dancing In The Dark” had going for it in its second week on the Hot 100, another single debuting on the same chart that early June was “When Doves Cry” by Prince, released in advance of the album and film, PURPLE RAIN.  “When Doves Cry” reached the Top 40 a week later, and just like “Dancing In The Dark,” made a big move into the Top 20 the following week.

By late June 1984, “Dancing In The Dark” had climbed to No. 4, while “When Doves Cry” was closing in at No. 8.  The following week, “When Doves Cry” had jumped to No. 3, and “Dancing In The Dark” was at No. 2, right behind Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.”

“When Doves Cry” proved to be too powerful for “Dancing In The Dark,” which stayed for four weeks in the runner-up position.  “When Doves Cry” was the biggest song of 1984 here in America.

when doves cry back

Though “Dancing In The Dark” didn’t reach No. 1, Bruce Springsteen still had a lot to be proud of.  The song gave Bruce his first Grammy Award, winning for Best Rock Vocal Performance.  In the 1984 ROLLING STONE readers poll, “Dancing In The Dark” was voted “Single Of The Year.”  It’s also listed as one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”  It sold a million copies in the U.S. alone, and the single’s B-side (one of the best ever), “Pink Cadillac,” was a Top 5 hit for Natalie Cole in 1988.

pink cadillac

Around the globe, “Dancing In The Dark” was an international smash (though in some countries it took awhile), reaching No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 4 in South Africa and the U.K., No. 7 in Canada and Norway, No. 11 in Finland and No. 12 in Italy.  In Australia, though it stopped at No. 5, it was the No. 1 song of the year, spending 40 weeks on the singles chart there.

“Dancing In The Dark” was just the first part of an amazing journey for Bruce Springsteen and the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album.  Seven out of the album’s 12 songs were released as singles, and all seven reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100 between 1984 and 1986, tying a record set in 1984 by Michael Jackson’s THRILLER album. 

born in the usa LP

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The first compact disc manufactured in the U.S.A. was BORN IN THE U.S.A.

BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart twice, in July / August 1984 and January / February 1985.  PURPLE RAIN may have been the album of the year here in the U.S. for 1984 (BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 28), but for 1985, BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the No. 1 album of the year in America (and even No. 16 for 1986).

NERDY FUN FACT: BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the first compact disc manufactured in the U.S. for commercial release.  I remember seeing it at a DeOrsey’s in Waterville, Maine, and think it sold for something like $25.00.  And the record album still sounds better.

NERDY FUN FACT 2: According to a 1984 ROLLING STONE interview, the “Dancing In The Dark” Blaster Mix by Arthur Baker happened because Bruce had heard the remix Arthur did for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” and he thought it was incredible: “It sounded like fun, so I hooked up with Arthur.  He’s a character, a great guy.  He had another fellow with him, and they were really pretty wild.  They’d get on that mixing board and just crank them knobs, you know?  The meters were goin’ wild.”

cyndi girls

Bruce Springsteen is one of those rare artists who have been on the same record label from the start – Columbia.  Two other Columbia artists instantly come to mind – Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan.  There won’t be anyone else like them.  Ever. 

bob n bruce

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (along with many other familiar faces) at the “We Are The World” recording session, 1985.

If you pull away the catchy dance beat, “Dancing In The Dark” is a personal song about the difficulty of writing a hit song and Bruce’s frustration of trying to write songs that will please everyone.  Though I’m thinking Bruce would have liked to have another of his more personal songs become his biggest hit, I would almost bet my record collection he’s alright with that hit being “Dancing In The Dark.”

e st band

Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band, 1984.

“You can’t start a fire / You can’t start a fire without a spark / This gun’s for hire / Even if we’re just dancing in the dark…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=129kuDCQtHs

bruce 84

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

  

song of the day – “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” | DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES | 1982.

This week, I heard the big announcement that 70s and 80s hitmakers Daryl Hall & John Oates were teaming up with 80s and 90s hitmakers Tears For Fears on a three-month tour of the U.S. and Canada starting in May!  They’ll be making their way to Boston’s famed TD Garden in late June 2017.  Some have said the tour lineup combining the different acts is a bit odd, and maybe it is, but it’s a show I’d love to see, considering I never saw either one perform in their 80s heyday. 

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This tour announcement got me thinking of one song in particular from Daryl Hall & John Oates (based out of NYC by way of Philadelphia), with a lot of history to it – “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” from their 1981 Platinum-selling album, PRIVATE EYES.

private-eyes-lp

After a recording session for the album, Daryl Hall started playing a bass line on a Korg organ, which was recorded.  Daryl Hall and John Oates worked on the guitar portion of the song, and then Daryl worked with longtime girlfriend, Sara Allen, on the lyrics. 

For many years, the lyrics were oft-misinterpreted as being about a relationship.  In a 2014 interview about the song, John Oates confirmed that the song was not about a relationship, but rather about the music business: “That song is really about not being pushed around by big labels, managers, and agents and being told what to do, and being true to yourself creatively.”

i-cant-go-for-that

“I Can’t Go For That” was the second single released from PRIVATE EYES, following the release of the album’s popular title track, which was in its second and final week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-November 1981 when “I Can’t Go For That” debuted on the chart at No. 59.

The following week, Olivia Newton-John’s monster hit, “Physical,” took over the top spot and did not relinquish it for 10 weeks.  It ended up being the biggest single of the 80s and on BILLBOARD’s most-recent update on their “Greatest Of All Time” Hot 100 singles, “Physical ranked at No. 8.

physical

While ONJ was enjoying life at the top of the Hot 100, the week after “Private Eyes” fell from No. 2, Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” moved in right behind her.  And stayed.  And stayed.  By the last chart of 1981, “I Can’t Go For That” had climbed to No. 4, while Foreigner had already spent five weeks at No. 2, and ONJ had been at No. 1 for six weeks.

Daryl Hall & John Oates were stuck at No. 4 for five weeks with “I Can’t Go For That,” while Foreigner had waited nine weeks at No. 2 for Olivia Newton-John to drop from No. 1.  Well, the next week, January 30, 1982, after 10 weeks on top, Olivia did fall from No. 1 to No. 4.  Good news for Foreigner, right?  Not so much.  After five weeks at No. 4, Hall & Oates leap-frogged over Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” to spend its lone week at No. 1, and in the process, Daryl & John sandwiched No. 1 singles around Olivia’s “Physical.”  Foreigner spent 10 weeks at No. 2, a record that still holds 35 years later.

waiting-for-a-girl

Here’s another rare chart feat for Daryl Hall & John Oates and “I Can’t Go For That” – the week they spent at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, they also spent a week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD R&B chart, almost unheard of for a white act.  Of the event, Daryl Hall said, “I’m the head soul brother in the U.S.  Where to now?”

Well, more hit singles on the Hot 100, for starters.  “I Can’t Go For That” was the duo’s fourth U.S. No. 1 hit, and they would go on to have two more, “Maneater” and “Out Of Touch.”  With 29 Top 40 hits between 1976 and 1989 – 16 of those Top 10 hits, and a total of six No. 1’s – Daryl Hall & John Oates eclipsed The Everly Brothers as the biggest duo in BILLBOARD chart history.  They’ve been inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and just last year (September 2016), they finally got a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Around the globe, fans did go for “I Can’t Go For That,” spending three weeks at No. 2 in Canada, and reaching No. 5 in New Zealand, No. 8 in the U.K., No. 10 in Sweden, and No. 13 in both Australia and Holland.  It also spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, the first of three songs for them to do so.

One more piece of history for “I Can’t Go For That” – during the recording of the “We Are The World” charity single, released this week in 1985 (March 7), and of which Daryl Hall and John Oates were a part of, Michael Jackson (who co-wrote “We Are The World” with Lionel Richie), pulled Daryl Hall aside and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I stole ‘Billie Jean’ from you,” referring to the fact he pilfered the bass line of “I Can’t Go For That” and incorporated it into the bass line for “Billie Jean.”  Of that, Daryl told him, “It’s all right, man, I just ripped the base line off, so can you!”  I’d be curious to find out where Daryl got his bass line from.  If anyone knows, let me know!

we-are-the-world

I’ve loved this song as long as I can remember.  And I’ve been a Daryl Hall & John  Oates fan as long as I can remember.  And, if the chance arises that I can see them  AND Tears For Fears perform in the same show together after all these years of enjoying their music, well, simply put…I CAN go for that (yes can do)!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccenFp_3kq8

hall-oates

xmas song of the day – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” | BAND AID | 1984 / 1985.

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

The song for Day 30 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is prolly the biggest holiday song of my generation, written and spearheaded by Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure of Ultravox, in response to the TV reports of famine in Ethiopia – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid.

Bob and Midge first got together about this project in early November 1984, and knew they had a limited time frame to work with, if they wanted to get the song ready for the holiday.  They put the song together, and then started recruiting many of the biggest recording stars in the U.K. and Ireland at the time (save for Chicago’s Jody Watley and Jersey City’s Kool & The Gang, who happened to be on the same record label as The Boomtown Rats and who happened to be in there when Bob Geldof pitched the idea to the label). 

bob-geldof-midge-ure

Bob Geldof (in his “Feed The World” T-shirt) and Midge Ure.

They then asked famed producer Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Art Of Noise) if he would produce, but he told Bob and Midge that he would need at least six weeks to do it, which wouldn’t get the record ready in time for Xmas.  Though Trevor Horn wasn’t able to produce the original single, he did offer a studio for them to use free of charge for 24 hours on Sunday, November 25, 1984, and he later produced and remixed the 12” single for a 1985 re-release.

Nearly 40 recording artists, including members of Duran Duran, U2, Culture Club, The Boomtown Rats, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and Status Quo, as well as folks like Sting, Paul Young, George Michael, Phil Collins (who played drums on the song) and Paul Weller of The Style Council, participated on the benefit record.  Artists who weren’t able to be there but who sent in recorded messages were David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Big Country.  These messages were included on the single’s B-side and as part of the 12” extended mix.

It took only a week after recording ended to release “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  The single had 250,000 advance orders and that number swelled to a million less than a week after its release.  Phonogram (who put out the single in the U.K.) had all five of its European factories working on pressing that one single to help meet demand.

On December 15, 1984, just 12 days after its release, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” spent the first of its five weeks at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart.  It was the fastest-selling single in U.K. chart history and sold three million copies in the U.K. alone by the end of 1984.  Until Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” 13 years later, it was the biggest-selling single of all-time in the U.K.

band-aid

Around the globe, the response to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was phenomenal.  It also reached No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Over here in the U.S., the video for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was played often throughout the holiday season on MTV, and the single was released on December 10, 1984 on Columbia Records.  A few days before Xmas, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 65.  For the first chart in 1985, it shot up to No. 20.  But, despite the fact it was outselling Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” (the No. 1 single then) by a four-to-one margin (selling nearly two million copies in its first eleven days of release), the lack of airplay prevented it from charting any higher than No. 13.  It was gone from the Hot 100 after just nine weeks, departing in mid-February.

Bob Geldof had hoped “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” would raise £70,000 for Ethiopia, but instead, it raised £8 million within a year of its release.  And the support of the Ethiopian famine relief didn’t stop there. 

geldofliveaidIn early March 1985, (mostly) American recording artists teamed up as USA For Africa for the “We Are The World” single and album.  Canadian artists banded together as Northern Lights for “Tears Are Not Enough.”  The LIVE AID concert on July 13, 1985 brought musicians and fans together in London, Philadelphia and around the globe to raise money for famine relief.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was re-recorded three times – in 1989, 2004 and 2014 – all three re-recordings reached No. 1 in the U.K. and all were charity records for Africa (the 1989 and 2004 versions went to famine relief, while the 2014 version raised money for the Ebola crisis in West Africa).bowie-8485

For this Xmas (and always), of course, the best gift I’d love to get is peace, love and understanding, especially for my wealth of family and friends.  I’d also love to see more support for those less fortunate than you or I.  On the 12” single for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” David Bowie puts out a plea for support: “It’s Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on the planet than ever before.  Please give a thought for them this season and do whatever you can, however small, to help them live.  Have a peaceful New Year.” 

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (especially the 12” extended mix) will always have a special place in my heart.  And from that 12” single, David Bowie’s plea, 32 years later, still resonates to this day. 

In Maine, there are so many folks in need – of food, heat, medicine, shelter, and affordable health care, for starters.  I’m sure it’s like that all over the US of A, and all over the world.  2016 has been a particularly rough year for a lot of reasons, and I do hope and pray that 2017 will be a peaceful New Year.  But first, Happy Xmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you choose to celebrate, if anything – be safe, have fun and do what you can to help those who won’t have much of either this holiday season…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc8TYsYb5i0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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song of the day – “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 1987.

Today (8.25.2016) marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Paul Simon’s seventh solo studio album and masterpiece, GRACELAND.  After Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel parted ways in 1970, Paul embarked on a successful solo career in the 1970s, picking up multiple Gold and Platinum albums, five Top 10 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – including two No. 2 hits (1973’s “Kodachrome” and “Love Me Like A Rock”), and a No. 1 single (1975’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”). 

The first half of the 80s were not as good to Paul Simon – his 1980 film and soundtrack for ONE TRICK PONY did not fare well (though “Late In The Evening” reached the Top 10), nor did his follow-up album, HEARTS AND BONES.  Paul’s marriage to Carrie Fisher (HEARTS AND BONES was about their relationship) lasted less than a year (they had dated for six years before that).

Sometime after the divorce, Paul Simon became interested and intrigued by the music of South Africa.  Before leaving with his co-producer, Roy Halee, for a two-week trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, to work with musicians there, he was talked into contributing to the historic recording of “We Are The World” (Paul was the third person to sing on the song). 

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From the day “We Are The World” was recorded: Clockwise from left: Lionel Richie, Daryl Hall, Quincy Jones, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

At that recording, Paul asked the charity song’s organizers, Quincy Jones (who produced the song) and Harry Belafonte, if he should make the trip (it was right around the time of the Apartheid backlash and “Sun City”), and they both encouraged him to go.  Personally, I don’t think Paul Simon broke any “cultural boycott” in recruiting South African musicians for the recording of GRACELAND.  If anything, I think he just wanted to share what he discovered with the rest of the world.  And share he did.

GRACELAND would win the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year, it would reach No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s album chart and has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide since its release.  In 2007, GRACELAND was added to the National Recording Registry, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”

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The response to GRACELAND was unbelievable – it was universally loved by fans and critics alike.  ROLLING STONE’s Rob Tannebaum called GRACELAND “lovely, daring and accomplished.”  The magazine would later say that GRACELAND is “an album about isolation and redemption that transcended ‘world music’ to become the whole world’s soundtrack.”  High praise indeed.

Musicians were also mesmerized by GRACELAND.  The late, great Joe Strummer of The Clash brilliantly said this about the album in a 1988 interview: “I don’t like the idea that people who aren’t adolescents make records.  Adolescents make the best records.  Except for Paul Simon.  Except for GRACELAND.  He’s hit a new plateau there, but he’s writing to his own age group.  GRACELAND is something new.  That song to his son [“That Was Your Mother”] is just as good as ‘Blue Suede Shoes’: ‘Before you were born dude when life was great.’  That’s just as good as ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ and that is a new dimension.”Diamondssoles

The fourth single released from GRACELAND is the gorgeous “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” with guest vocals by South African choral music legends Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an act that’s been around since 1960 and still going strong today.  GRACELAND introduced the rest of the world (and yours truly) outside of South Africa to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

While in South Africa, Paul Simon wrote this song with Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Paul finished the album in New York City, but not without bringing the South African artists back with him.  And on May 10, 1986, Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed (singing in Zulu) with Paul on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  The Zulu to English translation is, “It’s not usual, but in our days we see those things happen.  They are women, they can take care of themselves.”  Yes they can!

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Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, SNL, 5.10.1986.

Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour (who would also work with Peter Gabriel in 1986, notably on “In Your Eyes”) helped provide percussion on “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” which wasn’t really a hit anywhere, save for a Top 30 ranking in Belgium in 1987, though it’s always been a hit with me. 

It’s hard to believe GRACELAND is now 30, and harder to believe Paul Simon is turning 75 this year, in October 2016.  But, not at all hard to believe is how GRACELAND and songs like “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” have aged well and both will be shining like those diamonds for a long, long time to come…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I_T3XvzPaM

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song of the day – “Into The Groove” | MADONNA | 1985.

My previous post from earlier today (6.2.2016), Frankie Smith’s 1981 hit, “Double Dutch Bus” (my “(real) one-hit wonder of the week”), inspired this post.  There’s a connection between the two songs, and I’ll come on to the connection between “Into The Groove” and “Double Dutch Bus” in a bit.

“Into The Groove” is one of Madonna’s most-recognized songs, it’s one of the most-popular songs to come out of the 80s, and it was a massive global hit – just not here in the U.S., due to a decision by Sire Records that has had me puzzled for over 30 years.

like a virginLet me back up.  1984 was a great year for Madonna – she picked up her first Top 40 hit (“Holiday”), her first 2 Top 10 hits (“Borderline,” “Lucky Star”) and her first No. 1 song (“Like A Virgin”).  1985 was even better.  Her second album, LIKE A VIRGIN, hit No. 1; three more songs from the album reached the Top 10 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100; her song from the film, VISION QUEST, “Crazy For You,” knocked USA For Africa’s “We Are The World” from No. 1; her performance at LIVE AID was well-received; and, she appeared in her first two films – VISION QUEST, and the critically-lauded DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN.

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A song from DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, “Into The Groove,” had all the makings of a hit single.  And, in many places around the globe outside of North America, it was.  It reached No. 1 in Belgium (5 weeks), Holland and Ireland (3 weeks), Italy (11 weeks), New Zealand (6 weeks), Spain (1 week), and the U.K. (4 weeks; it’s her biggest-selling single there).  “Into The Groove” also reached the Top 10 in at least 6 other countries. 

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But, here in the U.S., with “Material Girl” and “Crazy For You” being released at the same time from 2 different albums and 2 different labels, it was decided at Sire Records (my favorite record label) that they didn’t want the third single from LIKE A VIRGIN, “Angel,” to compete with “Into The Groove,” so it wasn’t released and was issued here primarily as a radio-only single.  It was also at a time when BILLBOARD magazine didn’t allow radio-only singles or 12”-only singles to chart on the Hot 100.  The decision to not release “Into The Groove” as its own single most likely cost Madonna a huge No. 1 song.

“Angel” was climbing the Hot 100 this week in 1985, and it did manage to reach No. 5 on the Hot 100, but the big story with “Angel” was when “Into The Groove” was added as the flip side to its 12” single, making “Into The Groove” commercially available for the first time.  Keep in mind this was well before the Internet, well before digital singles.  People wanted this song.  I wanted it.  I admit that “Angel” is not one of my favorite Madonna songs, but when the 12” was paired with “Into The Groove,” picking it up was a no-brainer for me.  It was the same sentiment with a million other North Americans like myself. 

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A couple of weeks after Madonna’s performance at LIVE AID, the 12” single for “Angel” / “Into The Groove” was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which hadn’t happened since Frankie Smith’s “Double Dutch Bus” in 1981, and was a rare feat.  In Australia, they had the smarts to release “Angel” and “Into The Groove” as a double A-sided single, and it paid off, spending 4 weeks at No. 1.  The 12” single also spent 2 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and ended the 80s as BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Dance Single of the Decade.  And rightfully so.the whitey album

In 1989, Sonic Youth, borrowing from Madonna’s real last name under the guise of Ciccone Youth – a side project including Minutemen and fIREHOSE frontman Mike Watt – released THE WHITEY ALBUM, featuring covers of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” Madonna’s “Burning Up” and a kick-ass version of “Into The Groove,” which they re-titled “Into The Groov(y)” and heavily sampled the original.

“Into The Groove” is not only one of my all-time favorite Madonna songs, but it’s also one of the most-requested songs on my little 20-year-old radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s.  People love it.  People continue to love this song and dance to this song.  It’s a defining song for Madonna, and it’s a defining song for the 80s.  In 31 years, I’ve never met anyone who is a Madonna fan and DOESN’T like this song.  If you’re reading this and happen to be one of those folks, what in the name of all things Rosanna Arquette are you waiting for?!  Get into the groove!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52iW3lcpK5M

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