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.

long distance dedication 6.29.14

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.

pollinator

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.

parallel lines

“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.

heart of glass

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!)

sunday girl

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.

blondie-1

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.

chris debbie clem 2013

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.

blondie wkrp 1

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.)

blondie wkrp 2

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

one way or another

  

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Miami Vice Theme” | JAN HAMMER | 1985.

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.

In April 2004, I put together a theme show for my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine).  This wasn’t your ordinary theme show – it was actually about themes, TV themes to be exact.  The show was called DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADJUST YOUR SET.  In the course of 120 minutes, I played a total of 63 80s TV themes, along with some bits from shows like WKRP IN CINCINNATI and CHEERS.  I also played a special remix on TeeVee Toons Records (later TVT Records), named after a line in one of the favorite cartoons of my youth (THE JETSONS), “Jane, Get Me Off This Crazy Thing!”  It was co-produced by Ivan Ivan (who produced Book Of Love’s wonderful debut album), and featured TV themes from the 50s and 60s. 

Fast forward 12-and-a-half years, and on tomorrow night’s show (10.23.2016), I’m going to revisit the show – DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADJUST YOUR SET: THE SERIES FINALE.  In listening to the 2004 show this week, apparently I  concentrated more on quantity than quality, but this time I’ll bring back the coolest and most memorable themes of the 80s, and some I didn’t get to last time, including “Falling” by Julee Cruise (the vocal version of the theme from TWIN PEAKS), and an entire set dedicated to 80s TV theme show legend, Mike Post.

80s-tv-themes-10-23-16

One song I did get to last time and will play again tomorrow night was the biggest TV theme song of the 80s, and the last instrumental to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 singles chart until 2013 – The “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer.miami-vice-logo

MIAMI VICE, starring Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas and Edward James Olmos was prolly the flashiest (and grittiest?) crime drama of the decade, and was one of the biggest TV shows during the second half of the 80s.  The show debuted on NBC in September 1984, and in August 1985, the show’s theme, by the Prague-born American musician, composer and producer, was released.

While Jan Hammer will forever be best known for his Synthpop work on MIAMI VICE, his specialty has been Experimental music and Prog Rock, and over the years, he has contributed to and collaborated on several albums with the NYC Jazz / Rock Fusion group, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, legendary Rocker Jeff Beck, Jazz Fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, plus work with Carlos Santana, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger (on his 1985 solo album, SHE’S THE BOSS), Journey’s Neil Schon, the late, great Clarence Clemons and many more.

In August 1985, the popular theme from MIAMI VICE was released as a single, in advance of the TV soundtrack.  Another song that would appear on the soundtrack, “Smuggler’s Blues” by Glenn Frey, originally appeared on his 1984 album, THE ALLNIGHTER, but due to its inclusion on the TV show, it became a Top 15 hit in late June 1985.

miami-vice-theme

Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme” debuted on the Hot 100 in early September 1985, reaching the Top 40 a couple of weeks later.  It was climbing the Top 10 this week in October, and in November 1985, it spent a week at No. 1 and a total of 22 weeks on the chart.  It was also a big multi-format hit, charting on BILLBOARD’s Adult Contemporary, Dance, Rock and even the R&B chart, where it reached No. 10.

Around the globe, the “Miami Vice Theme” reached the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland.  And though his follow-up from the MIAMI VICE soundtrack, “Crockett’s Theme,” was a big hit in the U.K., Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and Holland (where it spent four weeks at No. 1), the “Miami Vice Theme” was the only hit Jan Hammer had on the Hot 100.

miami-vice-soundtrack

With music from Jan Hammer, Glenn Frey (“Smuggler’s Blues” and the No. 2 hit, “You Belong To The City”), Phil Collins, Tina Turner and more, the first MIAMI VICE soundtrack spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.  It was the biggest TV soundtrack ever until Disney Channel’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL in 2006.

On top of composing the theme for MIAMI VICE and music for 90 of its 112 episodes, Jan Hammer has composed and produced music for at least 14 films, and 20 episodes for a popular early 90s British television show called CHANCER, starring Academy Award nominee Clive Owen.

Jan Hammer turned 68 this year, is still working nearly 50 years after his start in the music business.  In a 2014 interview with ROLLING STONE about MIAMI VICE and the show’s 30th anniversary, Jan was asked about the show’s legacy (and that of his one American hit), and he said, “We definitely shook up the TV world.  You can still feel certain aftershocks, even at this late date.  [Musical] shades of it show up here and there, but it’s more of an intangible thing.  I get [Google News] alerts with reviews, and they’ll say, ‘There’s this synth, and it’s very much Jan Hammer-like…’  It’s really amusing.  And then I’ll go and listen to it and I’m like, ‘Yeah, they have a point’.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQDU-2qMre0

jan-hammer

song of the day – “Pancho And Lefty” | MERLE HAGGARD & WILLIE NELSON | 1983.

Country music legend Merle Haggard passed away today (4.6.2016), from complications of pneumonia.  It was his 79th birthday.

If you ever thought (like I did) that Merle Haggard looked a bit weathered, it’s because Merle led a hard life, at least in the beginning.  When Merle was 8 years old, his father died of a brain hemorrhage, and he never really recovered from it.  Merle’s brother, Lowell, gave Merle his first guitar at age 12, but within a couple of years, music took a back seat to committing crimes, from shoplifting to larceny to assault to attempted robbery.

A couple of bright spots during this early and troubling time for Merle involved music.  First, at an early 50s concert for one of Merle’s music heroes, Lefty Frizzell, Lefty heard Merle singing to his songs backstage and got Merle to come out onstage.  Merle’s performance was well-received, so much so that Merle decided to give music a shot. 

young merleA few years later, after being transferred to San Quentin Prison for another crime, Merle heard Johnny Cash perform at the prison and ultimately joined the prison’s Country music band.  In 1960, Merle Haggard was released from San Quentin (he got a full pardon in 1972 from then-Governor Ronald Reagan).  Within 3 years of being a free man, he scored his first BILLBOARD Top 40 Country hit, “Sing A Bad Song.” 

By the end of the 60s, Merle Haggard had racked up 8 (of 38) No. 1 BILLBOARD Country hits.  That total of 38 ranks him third of all-time on that chart, behind Conway Twitty (40) and George Strait (44). 

Merle’s last No. 1 Country hit of the 60s turned out to be not only his signature song, but a nickname as well – “Okie From Muskokee,” which sparked debates about the Vietnam War, and has since cemented its place in pop culture, from being featured in Oliver Stone’s PLATOON to a 2015 episode of the popular TV show, MAD MEN.  The song spent 4 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s country chart, and just missed the Top 40 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, stopping at No. 41.

In 1983, Merle Haggard recorded a Honky-Tonk album with another fellow Country outlaw – Willie Nelson.  PANCHO & LEFTY was a huge album for Country music that year, spending 8 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Country album chart between April and October 1983.  The title track was written by Folk and Blues legend, Townes Van Zandt, who first recorded it in 1972.

pancho n lefty album

Emmylou Harris covered “Pancho & Lefty” in 1977, as did Hoyt Axton (who appeared on 2 episodes of WKRP IN CINCINNATI in 1979).  But, it was the 1983 version by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard that gave the song its biggest audience (there’s a live, later version of the song for you at the end of the post).  It spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Country singles chart in July 1983, and was one of an impressive 14 No. 1 Country songs Merle had in the 1980s (to compare, Michael Jackson, the biggest Pop star of the 80s, tallied 9 No. 1 songs on the BILLBOARD Hot 100).

django n jimmieMerle and Willie teamed up for a total of 6 albums, the sixth of which was released just last year, DJANGO & JIMMIE.  It was Merle’s last album, and yes, it did find its way to No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Country Albums chart, as it should have.

To be honest, I’m not a big Country music fan, but, I can say I have a lot of respect for Merle Haggard.  And, so did other folks, especially fellow musicians like The Grateful Dead.  The Dead covered “Mama Tried,” Merle’s No. 1 hit from 1968, nearly 300 times. 

R.I.P. Merle, and many thanks…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iloyyrVt7EM

merle 1937-2016

song of the day – “Rachel” | STEVEN WRIGHT | 1985.

Of all the great comedy albums released in the 80s (Robin Williams’ brilliant REALITY…WHAT A CONCEPT was released in 1979), Steven Wright’s 1985 gem, I HAVE A PONY, stands out for me as THE best comedy album of the 80s.

A Cambridge, Mass. native, Steven Wright has had an excellent career in stand-up comedy and has been in many films and TV shows, including DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN and an early episode of WKRP IN CINCINNATI, which I will now have to re-watch to see him in it. 

i have a pony

For those who don’t know about Steven Wright or his one-liners and subdued type of comedic delivery, please, please, please check out I HAVE A PONY.  This album is smart (genius is more appropriate), absolutely hysterical and was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album.  One of the many highlights on this 1985 album is the lone song on the record, “Rachel,” replete with references to The Beatles, poison ivy on the brain, emerald eyes and plaid hair, and Slinkys on escalators.  How can you go wrong with that?…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc2ksvUXwOw

steven wright

song of the day – “After The Love Has Gone” | EARTH, WIND & FIRE | 1979.

I confess that, at the start of the day, I would never have guessed this would be my song of the day.  However, 2016 is only 5 weeks old, and already it’s been an incredibly rough year to be a music fan.  Today (2/4/2016), we lost Maurice White, the legendary voice (and founder) of Earth, Wind & Fire, who died at the age of 74.maurice whiteAs I mentioned in my debut post, 1979 was the year I really started getting into music.  It was mostly Pop music, but there was a lot of great Pop and Rock music that year – and some great Soul and Dance music, too. 

Earth, Wind & Fire gave us 3 amazing singles in 1979 – “September” (which peaked at No. 8 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in February), “Boogie Wonderland,” with The Emotions (No. 6, July) and “After The Love Has Gone” (No. 2, September).

I remember “After The Love Has Gone” was one of many big Top 40 hits used on episodes of WKRP IN CINCINNATI (and prominently featured, I might add), and when the first DVD incarnation of WKRP’s first season was released by Fox back in 2007, it was brutal to watch.  Most of the original music from the episodes hadn’t been properly secured by Fox, and was replaced by, well, generic poopy crap.  No one bought the DVD for that reason (I did, but I ended up selling it right away), and it took 7 years, but in 2014, the kind folks at Shout! Factory got it right. 

Some of the original music from the WKRP episodes featured on the Fox DVD version was intact – not much, but some, and folks like Bob Marley and Earth, Wind & Fire were kind enough to allow the music to stay in those episodes, while most of the other artists bailed for whatever reason.  I always respected Bob and Earth, Wind & Fire for that.  Of course, I still think all of the artists should have allowed their music to appear on the DVD free of charge, or for a minimal fee, considering the last episode of WKRP aired 34 years ago.  Despite the amazing work Shout! Factory did with the DVD reissue in 2014, 20% of the artists STILL didn’t allow their music to be featured in the DVD collection, even though those artists’ songs appeared in the original episodes that aired all those years ago.

Earth, Wind & Fire wasn’t on my radar much after 1979, save for the 1981/1982 monster hit, “Let’s Groove,” and the 12” remix of their 1987 No. 1 Dance and Soul hit, “System Of Survival” (also a No. 9 hit in New Zealand, although a very underrated single whose 12” extended mix kicks some serious ass!!). 

But, I’ve always been a fan of Earth, Wind & Fire, I own their ESSENTIAL collection and, even though Maurice White has gone, my love for Maurice and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band he founded in Chicago way back in 1969 will continue forever…

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

earth wind and fire

pop muzik.

1979 – the year of the Iran hostage crisis, the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and Margaret Thatcher becoming Britain’s first female prime minister.  While all of these were tragic events (The English Beat’s Dave Wakeling, for one, would most likely classify the 11-year-reign of the Iron Lady as a tragic event), none of it mattered to me. 

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The original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – campy as hell, but I still loved it…

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, save for maybe some TV, like the original, campy BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and WKRP IN CINCINNATI, or trying to figure out who I liked more – Laverne OR Shirley (some episodes it was both of them). 

At age 12, I hadn’t really understood the whole “dysfunctional” dynamic of things, people, environments, music.  WKRP was a fictional (and yes, dysfunctional) radio station, and it, too, didn’t matter to me, at first anyway.  But, WKRP was different than the real-world goings on.  WKRP was fun, funny, smart, and was an integral part of the year that would change my life forever. 

WKRP

Somehow, watching these wonderful radio misfits for 4 years helped get me into radio…

With the unintended help of WKRP, I truly discovered music that year – granted, it was mostly pop music, mostly by way of WIGY-FM, a Top 40 station out of Bath, Maine.  My favorite DJ at WIGY (Y106 FM) was Willie Mitchell.  He had been at WIGY for around 8 years at that point, and had this likeable, confident way about him.  I even managed to win a few albums during his afternoon slot, one of them being the 1980 Dire Straits gem, MAKING MOVIES. 

WIGY also aired Casey Kasem’s AMERICAN TOP 40 program on Saturdays and Sundays, from 8:00am to noon.  I can’t remember at what point in early 1979 I started listening, but when I discovered it, I was glued to the program immediately and 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. 

At first, I used to keep a record of the chart each week in a notebook.  If my family was away from Central Maine that weekend, visiting my grandparents in Downeast Maine, for example, I would ask (er, make) my poor parents (and brothers and sisters) to try and find the countdown somewhere on the radio so I wouldn’t miss it.  Keep in mind this was many years before the Interweb, and you couldn’t just look this stuff up.  AMERICAN TOP 40 took the 40 top songs off of BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 singles chart, and I also couldn’t go to the local bookstore and rummage through the pages of BILLBOARD magazine to find out what was No. 1 on the Hot 100, or any songs I may have missed hearing that week.  At least not right away.

Up until WKRP and WIGY and AMERICAN TOP 40, music played almost no role in my life to that point.  My mom liked Country & Western music, especially Jim Reeves and Charley Pride, the latter of which she still owns many of his albums (from the 60s through the early 80s).  My dad liked Rock ’n’ Roll and some Soul.  I remember living in Southwest Harbor, Maine (the self-proclaimed “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island) and my first music memories included listening to a 5th Dimension album with my dad.music powerHe also had this K-Tel record titled MUSIC POWER, featuring some popular hits of the day, including The Chi-Lites’ “Oh Girl,” “Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Junction, Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” “Little Willy” by The Sweet and a minor Top 40 hit by a band called Lighthouse, titled “Pretty Lady,” which I still enjoy to this day.  The late, great Jim Croce was also a fixture in the Raymond household, and still is. 

My first 45’s were the “Theme From S.W.A.T.” by Rhythm Heritage and “Convoy” by C.W. McCall, both No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 in early 1976 and both of which were broken (for whatever reason) by 1979.  The only other 45’s I remember owning prior to 1979 were Billy Joel’s “My Life” and John Williams’ “Theme From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,” which I still own, though quite beat up after almost 40 years. 

45’s were more of a commodity for me in 1979.  Whatever money I received that year, and some years to come, were spent on 45’s.  Of the 25 No. 1 songs on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1979, I think I owned 19 or 20 of them.  And that’s just the No. 1’s.  The first 45 I bought with my own money was Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”  my sharona 45Do I wish it had been Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass,” ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” or The Knack’s “My Sharona?”  Perhaps, but I still enjoy the song (not to mention the fun 1993 cover by Revolting Cocks), and, you know, the collection had to start somewhere.

Speaking of Blondie, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my first heavy duty music crush – Blondie’s Debbie Harry.  I hadn’t even had my first kiss yet (that would come in 1980) and there was Debbie.  Holy shit!  Stunningly beautiful and talented.  Who else could unite disco fans and punk fans with a hit song (“Heart Of Glass”)?  ’Twas no easy feat, but Debbie and Blondie did it. 

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The playfully innocent 1979 poster of Debbie Harry I always wanted but never got to own…

In October 2013, my dear and longtime friend, Shawn Mullin, took me to see Blondie perform in their hometown of New York City for one of the final concerts at the famed Roseland Ballroom.  Debbie was 68 years old then (2 years older than my mother), and when she walked out on that stage, Shawn’s and my grade school and junior high crushes, respectively, came rushing back.  She totally rocked that stage; they all did.  The following year, Blondie celebrate their 40th anniversary and released their 10th studio album, GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD.  It was my favorite album of 2014, and I’m still digging it. 

The pop music from 1979 will forever hold a special place in my heart because it was the year I started getting into music.  When the 2011 J.J. Abrams / Steven Spielberg sci-fi film, SUPER 8, was released, I took my sister and my 10-year-old niece to see it. Michael, one of my best friends, once half-joked that he’d seen that movie before – it was called E.T.  I can see some similarities, but for me, I absolutely loved the film.  Part of the love for this film stemmed from it being set in 1979, and the main characters were 12 years old, same as me that year.  So, I had that connection going.  A couple of hit single staples from that year were also featured in the film – the aforementioned “My Sharona” by The Knack and “Don’t Bring Me Down” by the Electric Light Orchestra, two of my all-time favorite songs to this day.

Even though “My Sharona” was 1979’s “song of summer,” I think it has one of those weird distinctions (at least for me) of being referred equally as a 70s song and an 80s song.  It had that kind of feel.  Another song for me that fits that category is “Pop Muzik” by M (real name Robin Scott).  I’ve always contended that “Pop Muzik” pop muzikepitomized the music of a decade – not the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, not surprisingly, it remains as another of my all-time favorites. 

Pop muzik, er, music would be a constant in my life for years to come.  There were some songs outside of the pop music realm that found their way to me early on, but more on that another time. 

Much of this blog will involve time in one way or another (an unintentional 1979 Blondie reference), through autobiographical references like this debut post, my WMPG-FM radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (now in its 20th year), or the 80s itself, whether it’s newer stories about 80s artists or favorite 80s albums, songs or movies, or just thoughts to share along the way. 

When the 80s ended, I don’t think I felt or had the connection to the 80s I do today.  STUCK IN THE 80s actually started as a one-off radio show in November 1992 when I came back to WUMF (13 watts of alternative power at the University of Maine at Farmington!).  Months later (in early 1993), upon moving to Farmington, Maine (in the Western part of Maine, not far from the Sugarloaf Mountain ski area) months later, I was asked to come back to my radio alma mater and continued STUCK IN THE 80s for a semester or two (on Sunday nights, no less; the WMPG version of the show has always aired on Sunday nights).

When I started STUCK IN THE 80s on WMPG in May 1996, it was only on a guest-hosting basis, and, at the time, like many radio shows on WMPG, it existed to fill a music void left by commercial stations in the Portland, Maine area.  In the beginning, I would concentrate only on alternative rock and dance music, and wouldn’t even play Madonna for awhile, because you could hear her almost everywhere else at the time.

The show officially started in September 1996, and still in the same time slot on Sunday nights (7-9pm Eastern).  Over the years, the show has branched out, highlighting new music from 80s artists, cover songs galore, and even features some pre-80s punk. stuck in the 80s 20 800x1000 YELLOW

I started the show at age 29, and will turn 49 in February 2016.  I’ve decided to end STUCK IN THE 80s in late August 2016 after 20 years on the air at WMPG.  More on that later on.  Trust me – lots of time left to delve into that… 

As for the name of the blog, FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s, “Forever Young” is partially derived from the brilliant 1984 Cold War Classic by Alphaville.  It’s also partially due to the fact that the 80s keep me young.  It’s true – some of my friends even say I’m “aging in reverse,” which is nice, considering I’m outside of a year away from turning 50.

My dear and über-talented friend, Hope, who helped me get the blog going and who changed the dynamic of the original title of the blog by dropping one word (thank you Hope!), recently said to me that I am a grownup, moving forward with my life and the 80s by my side, and as a part of me; that I’m a grown man who manages to combine my favorite decade – music and culture – with my life now.  And, she’s right.  Most days, while I may look younger than I am, I am getting older.  No stopping that.  But, there’s something about the 80s (the music in particular) that passionately and without prejudice propels me into the space/time continuum, and I don’t even need a DeLorean to do it.  And, if I ever make it to the 80s and beyond, I know the music and movies of the 80s will keep me “Forever Young”; of that, I’m sure…

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this debut blog post, and I hope you’ll stick around for many more, well before 50 finds me.  It’s my first blog of any kind, so you could say it’s pretty special to me, kinda like the “pop muzik” of 1979.  Music from the Fall of 1979, such as “My Sharona” or “Pop Muzik” or “Dreaming” by Blondie (one of my “desert island discs”), is where the 80s started for me, so what better place for me to start sharing the story of FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s…

forever young blog logo

The original FOREVER YOUNG logo…