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

  

Advertisements

song of the day – “Infatuation” | ROD STEWART | 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, 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!”

About 70 songs peaked at No. 6 between 1979 and 1989, and out of these songs I found many favorites, like “Lay Your Hands On Me” by Thompson Twins, “The Logical Song” by Supertramp, “Don’t Let It End” by Styx (a great song you almost never hear anymore), “Breakout” by Swing Out Sister, “Late In The Evening” by Paul Simon, the gorgeous “Piano In The Dark” by Brenda Russell featuring Joe Esposito, “Your Love” by The Outfield, “Neutron Dance” by The Pointer Sisters (from BEVERLY HILLS COP), “Come Dancing” by The Kinks, “Him” by Rupert Holmes (love those story songs), “Steppin’ Out” by Joe Jackson, “Family Man” by Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, “Funkytown” by Pseudo Echo, “Word Up” by Cameo, “Obsession” by Animotion, “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions (from CADDYSHACK), “Some Like It Hot” and “Election Day” by Duran Duran spinoffs The Power Station and Arcadia, respectively, and “I Drove All Night” by the incomparable Cyndi Lauper.  I’ll come back to Cyndi in a moment.

i drove all night

The No. 6 position was also a favorite for Huey Lewis & The News, who placed four songs at No. 6, and three of those were consecutive No. 6 hits from their monster 1983 album, SPORTS – “I Want A New Drug,” “The Heart Of Rock & Roll” and “If This Is It.” 

i want a new drug

Bryan Adams, Dr. Hook, Little River Band and John Mellencamp each had two No. 6 hits, plus there were two fantastic ballads by Bruce Springsteen from BORN IN THE U.S.A. (“I’m On Fire” and “My Hometown”), and two songs by Rod Stewart – “Love Touch” and one of my all-time favorite songs by the London native, “Infatuation.”

i'm on fire

On Friday, July 14, 2017, my oldest friend, Peter, and I had the absolute privilege of seeing Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart perform in Bangor, Maine.  Cyndi opened up for him, and was, of course, phenomenal, as I knew she would be.  If my math is correct, it was her first time performing in Maine since her 1986-1987 TRUE COLORS tour, and was definitely long overdue and yet so worth the wait. 

Cyndi 7.14.17

Cyndi Lauper on the big hi-def screen, stunning as evah.

I was more than pleased to see the Maine crowd welcome back Cyndi, and the crowd went nuts when Maine Senator Susan Collins came out to the stage.  In 2015, Senator Collins – a longtime Maine Republican Senator – chaired a bipartisan committee to look into the serious issue of homeless youth.  Cyndi testified before Senator Collins and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations subcommittee, to seek legislative funding programs for homeless teens.  (For years, Cyndi’s wonderful True Colors Fund, has existed to help combat homeless LGBT youth, “creating a world in which all young people can be their true selves.”  Please go to TrueColorsFund.org for more info and find out how you can help.)

true-colors-fund

Cyndi was about to go into another song when one of her crew members came out and whispered that Senator Collins was backstage.  I think I heard Cyndi say, “Bring her out!”  And once the Senator came out to greet Cyndi, Cyndi told the audience, “This woman is a hero.  And she’s my hero.  And she’s a Republican.  She’s helped us so much with the LGBT homeless youth and all the homeless kids.”  And then Senator Collins got the hug I wanted, dammit!  It’s all good.  I may not agree with all of the political views of Senator Collins, but it was a really nice moment.  After the show, Cyndi even tweeted a selfie of Senator Collins, Rod Stewart and herself. 

cyndi rod n susan 7.14.17

What a great selfie: Maine Senator Susan Collins, Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper.

Speaking of Sir Rod Stewart, holy cats!  I don’t know why exactly I had never seen Rod perform live before, but I’m so glad I got to see him this time.  The guy is 72, and still had the moves, the looks, an incredible band, lovely ladies who could sing, dance and play instruments, and he sure knew how to work the crowd.  And he could kick the shit out of a soccer ball (er, football for everyone outside of the U.S.) (he gave away signed soccer balls by kicking them out to the crowd; one went over Pete and I, and about five people scrambled to get it, though they forgot a barrier was there.  Oopsie!).

Rod Stewart 7.14.17

What almost looks like a huge painting is actually a very elated Rod Stewart, wowing the crowd in Bangor, Maine.

The first song he sang surprised me, but it was so great to hear – “Infatuation.”  Between 1979 and 1989, Rod Stewart reached the Top 10 seven times, including his No. 1 hit, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, which incidentally was the first 45 I ever bought with my own money back in 1979, and the last song he played in Bangor. 

The upbeat Rock / Dance hit featuring the incredible Jeff Beck on guitar (he also appears in the music video), “Infatuation” was released in advance of Rod Stewart’s 13th studio album, CAMOUFLAGE.  It debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1984 way up at No. 47, and would have been the highest-debuting song of the week, but Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” had other plans, and debuted within the Top 40.

camouflage

The following week, “Infatuation” jumped into the Top 40, and from there made a slow but steady climb up the chart, reaching the Top 10 in late July 1984, and spent the next two weeks at its peak position of No. 6.  “Infatuation” departed from the Hot 100 by late September 1984 and finished the year at No. 58.

There was even a bit of infatuation for “Infatuation” across the globe, and it was a Top 20 hit in Canada, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland, and a Top 30 hit in the U.K. and Germany.  It also reached No. 5 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart and No. 19 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, his last of five songs to date to reach that chart.

infatuation

Rod continued to chart well on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 into the the first half of the 1990s, and his last Top 10 hit was also his last No. 1 single to date – “All For Love” (from the 1993 film, THE THREE MUSKETEERS), with Sting and Bryan Adams.  It was No. 1 for three weeks in early 1994.

bryan rod sting

Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting, teaming up for one of the biggest hits of 1994. And now I’ve seen all three perform live!

Over on the album charts since then, especially with his GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK series since Y2K, Rod Stewart has seen a ton of success all over the world.  In Bangor, he also played a lovely track from his most-recent album, 2015’s ANOTHER COUNTRY, called “Love Is.”  The album went Platinum in his U.K. homeland and reached No. 2 there.

another country

Though I don’t know why it took me decades to finally see Rod Stewart perform, I’m so glad I did.  I was honestly there to see Cyndi perform, but I had always a fan of Rod’s music, so I thought it’d be great to see him too.  Little did I know just how impressed I would be with his performance and then some. 

Rod and Cyndi also did a wonderful duet together – “This Old Heart Of Mine,” a 1966 song originally by The Isley Brothers that he covered in 1975, and which reached No. 83 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  In 1989, he covered the song again with Ronald Isley, and it became a Top 10 hit, surpassing the original.  Rod’s duet with Cyndi was one – of many – highlights of the night.

Rod n Cyndi 7.14.17

Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper, singing “This Old Heart Of Mine.”

“Infatuation” isn’t regarded as one of those Rod Stewart songs most folks immediately associate with him, but I sure do, and I’m so glad he dug it out for what turned out to be an incredibly memorable show…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH_xiZZheg4

rod 84

song of the day #2 – “What I Am” | EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS | 1989.

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!”

Nearly 80 songs reached No. 7 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, a list comprised of many (then) up-and-coming R&B / Hip Hop and Dance stars, like those awesome Beastie Boys (with “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”), plus Young MC bustin’ a move, Babyface, Bobby Brown, Dino and Karyn White.

fight for your right

No. 7 was a popular number for hits for The Cars, Michael Jackson and Juice Newton, who had two No. 7 hits each.  There were also No. 7 hits from Bruce Springsteen, and Rhode Island’s answer to Bruce Springsteen – John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, plus you had Heart and Corey Hart (“Who Will You Run To” when you have on “Sunglasses At Night?”).  Heart’s Ann Wilson also reached No. 7 with “Almost Paradise,” the love theme from FOOTLOOSE, a duet with (real) one-hit wonder Mike Reno of Loverboy.

smooth criminal

The No. 1 artist of the 80s, with his last hit of the 80s, one of two solo songs that reached No. 7 for Michael Jackson.

In 1989, though they would be their last Top 10 American hits, there were a few 70s superstars who had big comeback hits that reached No. 7 – Bee Gees (“One”; their first Top 10 hit since 1979), Alice Cooper (“Poison”; his first Top 10 hit since 1977), and Donna Summer (“This Time I Know It’s For Real”; her first Top 10 hit since 1983).

donna summer

1989 was a huge year for No. 7 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – 14 of them reached the peak that year.  One of those songs was a song was by a singer, at the time, that I could not stand and a song, at the time, I could stand even less – “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.

Ever have some songs that just eat away at you for whatever reason?  Sure you do.  A handful of songs from the 80s do that to me.  Maybe one day I’ll mention them.  When “What I Am” came out, there was just something about it that was so as repulsive to me.  I don’t know if it was the hippie-ish nature of Edie Brickell, her voice, or the guitar style that sounded like something Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead would do (I was also not a fan of The Dead in 1989).  Whatever it was that bugged the fuck out of me about that song, it’s long gone now.

The New Bohemians formed as a trio in Dallas, Texas in the early 80s.  The drummer for The New Bohemians, Brandon Aly, guitarist Kenny Withrow and percussionist John Bush had all attended the same magnet performing arts school as Dallas native Edie Brickell, though at the time, Edie was there for art, not music.

In 1985, Edie Brickell was asked to join the band onstage and sing with them, and she continued on from there.  After being a local favorite for years, playing in clubs and even backing Bo Diddley one time, the band’s big break came in August 1988, when they released their first album as Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS.

shooting rubberbands

Edie Brickell was just 22 years old at the time (I believe they were all young), and SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS was incredibly well-received for a debut album by a young band.  In a review on the AllMusic site by Kelly McCartney, Edie Brickell’s “simple observations offer deep contemplations for the willing disciples of her musical philosophies.  ‘What I Am’ is the perfect example: ‘I’m not aware of too many too many things / I know what I know, if you know what I mean…’  Zen and the art of songwriting.”

Well, the songwriting, the vocals, the Alt-Folk tunage – it all found a place in homes and radio stations and record stores across the country, and eventually SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS sold than two million copies in the U.S. alone. 

The first single from SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS, “What I Am,” was released in November 1988, a few months after the release of the album.  By month’s end, it debuted on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart at No. 96.  By mid-January 1989, “What I Am” had found its way to the Top 40 of the Hot 100, and for several weeks since debuting on the chart, had been in competition with Information Society’s “Walking Away,” which debuted a couple places below “What I Am” back in late November 1988. 

what i am

By mid-February 1989, “What I Am” surpassed “Walking Away” for the first time since they debuted, and in early March 1989, “What I Am” spent a week at its peak position of No. 7.  And, in good form (though unintentional, I’m sure), both “What I Am” and “Walking Away” walked away the Hot 100 in early April 1989.

walking away

Around the globe, “What I Am” was a No. 6 hit in Canada, and it reached No. 11 in New Zealand, No. 18 in Australia, No. 23 in Ireland and No. 31 in the United Kingdom.  It also reached No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and No. 9 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.  

Edie & The New Bohemians charted on the Hot 100 just one more time, with “Circle,” the follow-up single to “What I Am,” which stopped at No. 48, and was a modest hit around the globe, reaching the Top 40 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

circle

paul n edie march 2016

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, March 2016.

QUIRKY FUN FACT: On November 5, 1988, the same month “What I Am” was released, Edie and the band performed the song on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.  Well, Paul Simon was there by a cameraman, and in a January 2011 interview with the TODAY show, she said, “Even though I’d performed the song hundreds of times in clubs, [Paul] made me forget how the song went when I looked at him,” she said smiling. “We can show the kids the tape and say, ‘Look, that’s when we first laid eyes on each other’.”  Paul Simon and Edie Brickell were married in late May 1992, and they have three children – Adrian, Lulu and Gabriel.

After a six-year break in the 90s, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians have been together for the past 20 years, most-recently playing three sold out nights in April 2017 in the Dallas suburb where Edie was born, Oak Cliff. 

edie april 2017

Edie Brickell, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, April 2017.

When she’s not working with New Bohemians (their last album was in 2006), she’s released several of her own albums, including her other band, The Gaddabouts, and has recorded two Bluegrass albums with the brilliant Steve Martin – 2013’s LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU and 2015’s SO FAMILIAR.  Both albums went to No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Bluegrass Albums chart.  LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU was BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Bluegrass album for 2013, and No. 3 for 2014.  SO FAMILIAR was the No. 3 Bluegrass Album for BILLBOARD in 2016, six positions higher than the year-end chart for the year it was released.

so familiar

In the liner notes for SHOOTING RUBBERBANDS AT THE STARS, Edie Brickell wrote out some annotations about each song on the album, replete with illustrations. For “What I Am,” she wrote, “‘What I Am’ is a smart-alec’s way out of a deep discussion on the universe as it relates to the self.” 

Well, as for this self, I’m not trying to get out of a deep, universal discussion as to why “What I Am” and Edie & Co. didn’t do anything for me for all those years, though maybe it was more of “Who I Am” than “What I Am.”  And while I’m still not a big fan (although I LOVE their 1989 cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” from BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY), I’m glad the song eventually grew on me, and became part of what – and who – I like…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDl3bdE3YQA

edie n co 1

song of the day – “Let The Music Play” | SHANNON | 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, 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!”

Unlike the songs that peaked at No. 9, for the more than 70 songs that reached No. 8 between 1979 and 1989, there were no specific themes among them, but I found some similarities.  There were a couple of clubs (and (real) one-hit wonders) – Timex Social Club (“Rumors”) and Boys Club (“I Remember Holding You,” though I’m betting you prolly don’t remember the song very well). 

america

Neil Diamond’s patriotic immigration gem, “America,” reached No. 8, and the band America reached the Top 10 one more time, with “You Can Do Magic.”  There was also a surge in new R&B female singers near the end of the decade, and three of them reached No. 8 – Vanessa Williams (“Dreamin’”), Karyn White (“Superwoman”) and the sweet, Soulful sounds of Anita Baker (“Sweet Love”).

sweet love

Multiple artists had multiple No. 8 hits – Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, John Mellencamp and ZZ Top each had two, as did Sting, one with The Police (the gorgeous “Wrapped Around Your Finger”) and solo (the sexy “Fortress Around Your Heart”), and Prince reached that position three times (with “Delirious,” “I Would Die 4 U” and “Alphabet St.”). 

i would die 4 U

One song that reached No. 8 and stood out for me was “Let The Music Play,” by Shannon, born Shannon Brenda Greene in Washington D.C., who was 25 years old in 1983 and enrolled at the University of New York’s York College.  At that time, she also toured with the New York Jazz Ensemble. 

Away from the Ensemble, someone from a production team heard Shannon sing, and she auditioned for them.  They gave her what would become “Let The Music Play,” and ultimately Shannon had her own music style named after her (“the Shannon sound”).  “The Shannon Sound” would eventually be known as Freestyle – an early form of Electronic Dance Music (or Electro-Funk), and some examples of 80s Freestyle artists include Exposé, Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam and Pretty Poison – all of whom had No. 8 hits in the 80s as well.

“Let The Music Play” was released in September 1983, and would become the title track of her debut album, released in early February 1984.  I fell in love with it from the first time I heard it.  “Let The Music Play” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-November 1983 at No. 91.

let the music play LP

Making a slow but steady climb up the chart, “Let The Music Play” found its way to the Top 40 in early January 1984.  It had already spent six weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart back in 1983, and was still No. 1 there when it debuted on the Hot 100.

Once it reached the Top 40, “Let The Music Play” continued a steady climb up the survey, reaching its peak position of No. 8 in late February 1984, after nearly four months on the chart.  “Let The Music Play” would go on to spend 24 weeks on the chart, leaving the Hot 100 in late April 1984.

let the music play 12

Around the globe, “Let The Music Play” reached No. 2 in New Zealand, No. 5 in Germany, No. 13 in Canada and Italy, No. 14 in the U.K., No. 17 in the Netherlands, and the Top 40 in Belgium and Switzerland.  It also reached No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

Both the single and album, LET THE MUSIC PLAY, brought Gold certifications in the U.S., and though she had two more No. 1 hits on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and just missed the Top 40 with follow-up single “Give Me Tonight” (No. 46) and “Do You Wanna Get Away” (No. 49, 1985), Shannon continued to make music through 2006.  Today, Shannon still performs around the globe and is a voting member for the Grammy Awards. 

do u wanna get away

Freelance music journalist, Peter Shapiro, once referred to “Let The Music Play” as a cross between Gary Numan and Tito Puente.  I can’t say I really agree with that, but I can say that I’ve always felt the infectious “Let The Music Play” brought Disco back (like Lisa Stansfield after her in 1989) for four-and-a-half minutes, and I agree with many others that Shannon and this song did start the Dance-Pop movement in the 80s.

So, what are you waiting for?  Let the music play!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-0sUuGufmw

shannon

song of the day – “The One I Love” | R.E.M. | 1987.

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!”

Nearly 80 songs found a home at the No. 9 position of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and many of them seemed to be split up into categories, like the (real) one-hit wonders – Gary Numan, Buckner & Garcia, Ollie & Jerry and Oran “Juice” Jones. 

pac-man fever

Then you had the first big Top 10 hits (or first big Top 10 solo hits) by established artists – “Let My Love Open The Door” by Pete Townshend, “Touch Of Grey” by The Grateful Dead, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar, “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckingham, “Don’t Shed A Tear” by Paul Carrack, “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It” by Loverboy, “Rush Hour” by Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s, “Be Near Me” by ABC and “Burning Down The House” by Talking Heads.

rush hour

A few second-chance singles reached No. 9 as well – In 1982, Steve Winwood’s original version of “Valerie” stalled at No. 70, while a remix on the CHRONICLE hits compilation in 1987 propelled the song to No. 9.  The Pointer Sisters’ No. 30 hit from 1982, “I’m So Excited,” re-entered the chart in 1984 with a new mix and a new chart peak.  Ben E. King’s iconic No. 4 hit from 1961,“Stand By Me,” re-entered the chart in 1986 thanks to the brilliant film of the same name, and charted in the Top 10 for the second time, 25 years apart.

stand by me

Plus, you also had No. 9 hits from well-known artists that have been mostly forgotten for whatever reason (though not by me), like “Walking Away” by Information Society, “Room To Move” by Animotion, “We’re Ready” by Boston, “Love Will Save The Day” by Whitney Houston, “Love Will Conquer All” by Lionel Richie, “I Know What I Like” by Huey Lewis & The News, “Love You Down” by Ready For The World and “Let’s Go!” by Wang Chung (who could forget that one?!).

let's go

And, there were the big Top 10 comeback hits (“The Doctor” by The Doobie Brothers, “Your Wildest Dreams” by The Moody Blues, “You Got It” by the late, great Roy Orbison), and folks who had more than one No. 9 hit – Sheena Easton, Dan Fogelberg, Barry Manilow, John Mellencamp and The Motels, all with two No. 9 hits, while both Bruce Springsteen and Journey had three each.

you got it

In the Summer of 1987, I was two years removed from high school and DJing wedding receptions, and spinning tunes and showing music videos to crowds of up to 600 teenagers and young adults at a chem-free night club in Waterville, Maine (called Studio 2).  That’s where I met Michael, one of my future best friends, who somehow conned me into giving him my 45 of “Burning Down The House” either the night I met him or the next time I saw him.  Clever bastard.

burning down the house

There’s not a whole lot of nightclubbing to be had by youngsters here in Central Maine, even less so now.  I met Michael on a Wednesday, when Studio 2 was trying out a mid-week night, trying to duplicate their popular Saturday night dance excursions for the area youth.

Though the Wednesday experiment didn’t work, I’m forever grateful to have met Michael that night.  He came down with a crowd from Pittsfield, about 20 miles north of Waterville, and they wanted to hear Alternative music.  Well, by the Summer of 1987, my knowledge of “Alternative music” consisted of select songs by Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Clash, Talking Heads and R.E.M., and maybe The Cult and a couple others, but that was about it. 

people are people

From that moment on, Michael and I became close friends (he was just out of high school), and he started his 30-year (so far) tutelage of music I never even knew about.  And some of those bands and singers (Robyn Hitchcock especially), Michael has influenced and inflicted more music on me than anyone, and while I still love most of the Top 40 music I grew up with, I am a HUGE fan of Alt-Dance and Alt-Rock today, mostly thanks to Michael.

robyn

Thank you, Michael, for introducing me to Robyn Hitchcock and his music all those years ago.  One of the best things anyone ever did for me…

R.E.M. was one of those bands that did have a Top 40 hit in 1987, and I had no idea prior to “The One I Love” and its parent album, DOCUMENT, that they had been together since 1980 and had already released four critically-acclaimed, full-length albums and an EP, but through Michael’s amazing music collection, I was introduced to all of it.  When I went back to college in 1990 (or College 2.0 if you prefer), Michael made me a mix tape (when there was still such a thing) of R.E.M. songs up through 1990.  I still have it!

Formed in Athens, GA in 1980, R.E.M. – consisting of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry – were critical darlings in their first several years, and had some success on BILLBOARD’s album chart – their first four albums were certified Gold – but on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, they couldn’t chart any higher than No. 78. 

But somehow, with DOCUMENT (their last album for I.R.S. Records), they broke out beyond the critical praise of music journalists and college programmers and landed into the realm of commercial radio, and garnered a shit-ton more fans, yours truly included. 

document

Part of the success of DOCUMENT is most likely attributed to Scott Litt, who worked with R.E.M. for the first time, and he produced the album.  He would also go on to produce their next five albums (the first five R.E.M. albums for Warner Bros.), and all five albums did incredibly well.

The album was universally hailed as a great achievement.  ROLLING STONE’s David Fricke called the album R.E.M.’s “finest album to date” and how DOCUMENT is “a vibrant summary of past tangents and current strengths, [it] is the sound of R.E.M. on the move, the roar of a band that prides itself on the measure of achievement and the element of surprise.  The end of rock & roll as R.E.M. knows it is a long way off.”

Pitchfork said of the album on DOCUMENT’s 25th Anniversary in 2012: “If 1985’s FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION was R.E.M.’s most self-consciously Southern record to date and 1986’s LIFES RICH PAGEANT their most overtly political, DOCUMENT maintained both their regional self-definition as well as their indirect social engagement.”

the one i love v1

The first single from DOCUMENT, “The One I Love,” was released in August 1987, a month before the album.  The song was oft-mistaken for a love song (and maybe still is, I’m not sure).  It even might have been featured as one of Casey’s “Long Distance Dedications.”  But, the song is just the opposite.  Michael Stipe has said “The One I Love” is about “using people over and over.  It’s deceptive because it could be a love song until the line, ‘A simple prop to occupy my time’.”

Well, deceptive or not, something worked.  “The One I Love” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-September 1987 at No. 84.  The following week, it had already surpassed the three previous R.E.M. singles to reach the Hot 100.  A month after its debut, it shot into the Top 40.

Two weeks after its Top 40 debut, it won the Sales award for that week.  And in early December 1987, the first Top 40 hit for R.E.M. became their first Top 10 hit, as “The One I Love” spent a week at No. 9.  In an interview that appeared in ROLLING STONE a couple of days before, Michael Stipe half-jokingly spoke of the song’s oft-misinterpretation: “I’ve always left myself pretty open to interpretation.  It’s probably better that they just think it’s a love song at this point.”

the one i love v2

Another version of the cover art for “The One I Love.”

“The One I Love” stayed on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks, spending their last week on the chart in late January 1988, the same week follow-up single, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” made its debut.  Both songs helped propel the DOCUMENT album, and it was the band’s first album to be certified Platinum, and wouldn’t be their last.

Around the globe, “The One I Love” reached No. 5 in Ireland, No. 6 in New Zealand, No. 14 in Canada, No. 16 in the U.K., and No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.  Once BILLBOARD got their Modern Rock chart going September 1988, R.E.M. was the first band to have two No. 1 songs on that chart – “Orange Crush” (eight weeks at No. 1) and “Stand” (two weeks).

After R.E.M. left I.R.S. for Warner Bros., the band’s success exploded from there.  They would go on to have two No. 1 albums – 1991’s OUT OF TIME and 1994’s MONSTER, two No. 2 albums – the brilliant AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE from 1992 and 1996’s NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI, a No. 3 album, 1998’s UP, eight more Top 40 hits (led by 1991’s “Losing My Religion”), and an incredible contract with Warner Bros. that gave them quite a ride for awhile.

R.E.M. broke up in 2011 after more than 30 years of putting out amazing music.  Though I sadly never got to see the band perform, in March 2007, I was 10 feet in front of Peter Buck at a show in Cambridge, MA at T.T. The Bear’s, when he was part of Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 (I was also standing next to Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, though I think Michael – who was a huge fan of her and her band – had to point her out to me). 

robyn + peter SWSW 07

Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck, hamming it up at SXSW, March 2007.

Robyn & Peter & the rest of The Venus 3 played some Venus 3 originals, covers by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and some of Robyn’s songs, both solo and with The Soft Boys.  It was an incredible show.  That’s attributed to Michael, for introducing me to Robyn Hitchcock from the start of our friendship.

mike-mills

Mike Mills, Record Store Day 2014.

I also got to meet Mike Mills when he came for a signing at Record Store Day at the Bull Moose in Scarborough, Maine in 2014.  Bull Moose’s Chris Brown was the inspiration for Record Store Day (also founded in 2007), and I believe the inspiration for getting Mike Mills to come to the store that day.  In the brief moment I met him, Mike was very cool and really down to earth, and he was kind enough to sign a GREEN 25th Anniversary CD for a WMPG auction, and for me, he signed the 4-album set Mike was promoting, R.E.M.’s UNPLUGGED: THE COMPLETE 1991 AND 2001 SESSIONS.  So, I got to see half of R.E.M., in a sorta roundabout way.

R.E.M.-Record-Store-Day

It’s funny, “The One I Love” is NOT the R.E.M. song I love the most.  I actually can’t choose a favorite.  But, if I could choose more than one, that distinction would go to “Laughing” (from 1983’s MURMUR), the 1981 Hib-Tone version of “Radio Free Europe,” “Cuyahoga” and “I Believe” (from my favorite 80s R.E.M. album, 1986’s LIFES RICH PAGEANT), “Can’t Get There From Here” (from 1985’s FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION, and an old popular saying here in Maine), “Near Wild Heaven” and “Belong” (from 1991’s OUT OF TIME), “At My Most Beautiful” (from 1998’s UP), the original 1992 version and the 1999 orchestral version of “Man On The Moon,” and “Nightswimming” (from my favorite 90s R.E.M. album, 1992’s AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE). 

But, “The One I Love” will always be the R.E.M. song that I loved FIRST, and, with Michael’s help, made me love the band’s music forever…

me + michael 10.31.15

Me and Michael, 10.31.2015, right before the wedding of his daughter, Devon.  Can’t remember if he or one of his sisters was trying to make me laugh. ‘Twas a really great day of many in a wonderful friendship…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7oQEPfe-O8

r.e.m.

song of the day #2 – “Relax” | FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD | 1984 / 1985.

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. 

HOORAY!  We’ve finally reached the Top 10!  Woo-hoo!  When Casey Kasem got to this point of an American Top 40 countdown, he would usually say, “We’re headed into the home stretch now!  And on we go!”

Wow, in my research for this series, no chart position so far has had nearly 90 songs reach a certain position between 1979 and 1989…until now.  Nearly 90 songs set up camp at the No. 10 position during that time, some stays as short as one week (like “Borderline” by Madonna, “Hysteria” by Def Leppard and “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper), or as many as six weeks (“Muscles” by Diana Ross). 

borderline

There were only about a baker’s dozen and a half of women who peaked at No. 10 during that time, like Kim Carnes, Pat Benatar, (real) one-hit wonder Regina (with the Madonna-inspired “Baby Love”), Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Cher, Donna Summer, Exposé, and the aforementioned Madonna and Diana Ross (the latter of which reached No. 10 twice).

It was pretty much a boys club for the rest of the songs that reached No. 10 on the Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by David Bowie, Culture Club, Pet Shop Boys, Asia, Wham!, Steely Dan, ELO, Golden Earring, Prince, Phil Collins, Duran Duran and Stevie Wonder, and for some, one No. 10 song wasn’t enough.  The Police had two No. 10 hits, Heart had two, plus the Little River Band had three, as did Michael Jackson and Billy Joel.  And Kool & The Gang had four No. 10 hits – “Get Down On It,” “Misled,” “Stone Love” and “Victory.”

get down on it

For me, though, there was one No. 10 hit that stuck out more than any other.  And, as a singles chart nerd, it’s a big one.  It’s also what I call a “second-chance single,” and that historic single is “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Formed in Liverpool, England in 1980, Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a five-man  New Wave / Dance-Pop band who was a thorn in the BBC’s side (the British Broadcasting Corporation, that is) in 1984, with their debut single, “Relax.”  I’ll come back to that. 

FGTH 2

Producer and ZTT Records co-founder, Trevor Horn, saw Frankie Goes To Hollywood perform on a television show called THE TUBE, when an early version of “Relax” was played.  He thought it was “more a jingle than a song,” and he wanted to “fix it up” in his own way. 

Another co-founder of ZTT, Paul Morley, had a great campaign lined up for Frankie Goes To Hollywood: “a strategic assault on pop.”  This was a brilliant marketing move.  His plan was to also tackle certain a trilogy of themes in the band’s single releases – sex, war, and religion.  “Relax” was first, followed by “Two Tribes” (about the Cold War), and “The Power Of Love” (a video which features the birth of Christ).

Trevor Horn and especially Paul Morley were really going for the shock value when it came to Frankie Goes To Hollywood.  They released a series of provocative advertisements introducing Frankie to the U.K., and one advertisement even said, “Frankie Goes To Hollywood are coming…making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes…”  Wow. 

relax ad

One of several provocative ads ZTT released for Frankie Goes To Hollywood and “Relax.”

When “Relax” finally reached the U.K. singles chart in November 1983, it wasn’t really a big deal.  But, when Frankie performed “Relax” on the BBC flagship television show, TOP OF THE POPS, people went nuts.  The following week, it soared to No. 6 on the U.K. singles chart. 

relax TOTP

Frankie’s performance of “Relax” on Top Of The Pops.

About a week later, BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read expressed his offense towards the cover art for “Relax” and especially these lyrics – “Relax, don’t do it / When you want to suck it, do it / Relax, don’t do it / When you want to come…”, and he announced his refusal to play the record.  Unbeknownst to him at the time, the BBC had already decided it couldn’t be played on the BBC anyway. 

relax UK

A couple of days later, the BBC officially banned the single from its airwaves, though radio heroes – like the brilliant John Peel – continued to play it throughout 1984.  Don’t people know when you ban a record, it only increases its popularity?!  And that’s what happened with “Relax.”  It reached No. 1 by late January 1984 and stayed on top for 5 weeks.  Apart from “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, it was the biggest-selling single of the year in the U.K.

Since the BBC ban also applied to TOP OF THE POPS, which, like SOLID GOLD here in the U.S., did a countdown of the country’s biggest hits during the show.  When “Relax” was No. 1, all they did was put up a picture of the band during its big No. 1 announcement.  For five weeks.  Boo.

31 inches

If “Relax” going to No. 1 didn’t piss off the BBC enough, “Relax” took its time falling down the U.K. singles chart.  And by the time the Cold War Classic “Two Tribes” had started its nine-week run at No. 1 in June 1984, “Relax” was right back behind it at No. 2.  Hot damn.

“Relax” remained on the U.K. Top 75 singles chart for 48 consecutive weeks, and returned in February 1985 for another four, giving “Relax” an entire calendar year on the U.K. singles chart.  Pretty impressive.  The BBC ban on “Relax” proved to be a huge embarrassment, and eventually the ban was lifted sometime during 1984, but the damage was done, and Frankie and ZTT prevailed. 

logo

Speaking of embarrassments, I was sometimes embarrassed about how the U.S. didn’t pick up on some huge U.K. singles, and they didn’t do much here, if they were released at all.  Back in the early 00s, on my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show, I did a show called U.K. 1, U.S. O, highlighting songs that reached No. 1 in the U.K. but did nothing here.  Featured on the show were “Ashes To Ashes” by David Bowie, “Pipes Of Peace” by Paul McCartney (relegated to a B-side here), and songs by The Jam and The Flying Pickets, among others.  I think “Two Tribes” was also on the playlist.

Well, “Relax” eventually made its way to American shores and debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 early April 1984 at No. 84.  And, similar to the initial U.K. release, it received little fanfare here, maybe because radio stations had heard all about the song’s controversy in the U.K. and thought it was too obscene to play.  Irregardless, it spent a week at No. 67 in early May 1984, and fell off the chart after just seven weeks.

relax US

My original copy of the “Relax” 12″ single, purchased in July 1984, many months before it became a big hit here in America.

Somewhere along the line, I caught wind of “Relax,” and in a rare move, bought the 12” single (sans fancy cover art) in July 1984 BEFORE it was a radio hit here in America.  And I loved it from the start, and kept wondering, “Why exactly wasn’t this a huge hit here?”

pleasuredome

In late October 1984, just nine days before the release of the band’s brilliant double-album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME, “Two Tribes” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 79, on its way to a respectable No. 43 peak in mid-December 1984.  I will forever credit “Two Tribes” as the song that re-ignited interest in “Relax” here in America.

two tribes

And “Two Tribes” was still on the chart in mid-January 1985 when “Relax” made its re-entry onto the Hot 100.  In only its third week back, “Relax” debuted in the Top 40, and rose to No. 10 for a quick two weeks in March 1985.  It fell out of the Hot 100 by mid-May 1985 after a combined total of 23 weeks on the chart. 

Outside of North America between 1983 and 1985, “Relax” was one of the biggest hits of the decade.  It reached No. 1 in the aforementioned U.K., plus Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand, and the Top 10 in at least 11 other countries.

“Relax” has been featured in a ton of films and TV shows for more than 30 years, including POLICE ACADEMY, BODY DOUBLE, MIAMI VICE, GOTCHA!, ROCK STAR, ZOOLANDER and ZOOLANDER 2, THE PROPOSAL, CALIFORNICATION, and 2017’s T2 TRAINSPOTTING.

t2header

A number of covers of “Relax” have been released over the years as well, including “Weird Al” Yankovic, Richard Cheese, The Dandy Warhols, Germany’s Tech-Death Metal band Atrocity, and most recently, a brilliant cover by Blondie from their incredible 2014 album, GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD, which includes a clever sample of the original within their cover.  I love it when artists do that.

In 1987, Frankie Goes To Hollywood ended up disbanding after just seven singles and two albums (though, somehow they manage to have 11 compilation albums), but honestly, it sure wouldn’t have been the 80s without them…

frankie says relax

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp2h5jslKY

FGTH

song of the day – “Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove)” | STEVIE NICKS | 1982.

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!”

No. 11 is a chart position that, while certainly respectable, carries an amount of frustration I’m sure for recording artists who peak there.  Nearly 50 songs stopped just short of the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, including such Top 10-worthy hits as “You Spin Me Round” by Dead Or Alive, “Doctor! Doctor!” by Thompson Twins, “Head Over Heels” by The Go-Go’s, “Good Girls Don’t” by The Knack, Prince’s first Top 40 hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Keep On Movin’” by Soul II Soul, the lovely “Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert, “Spirits In The Material World” by The Police, Kiss and their brief flirtation with Disco, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” “Don’t Look Back” by Fine Young Cannibals, “The Promise” by When In Rome, Stevie Wonder’s country-flavored “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” and Michael Jackson’s “Another Part Of Me,” which prevented Michael from having two back-to-back albums with seven Top 10 hits.

another part

But, in the scheme of music history, to some No. 11 is just a number.  Case in point: one of the songs that reached No. 11 in the 80s is prolly the most-played solo hit by Stevie Nicks today – “Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove).”  Whenever I hear a Stevie Nicks solo tune on the radio, usually this is the one I hear more than any other.

“Edge Of Seventeen” was the third consecutive solo hit for Stevie Nicks, and the third hit released from her 1981 monster debut album, the No. 1 album, BELLA DONNA. 

belladonna

Stevie wrote the song as an expression of grief over the the murder of John Lennon, and then the passing of her uncle Jonathan, both within the same week in December 1980.  The producer of BELLA DONNA, Jimmy Iovine, was a close friend of John Lennon’s.  The line in the song that says, “Words from a poet and the voice of a choir” refers to John Lennon.

lennon 1980

John Lennon, 1980.

One-Train-Later1The famous guitar riff that opens the song (and is continued throughout) is what is called a “16th note” guitar riff, which progresses through the C, D and E-minor chords (yes, I had to look it up).  Guitarist and popular session musician Waddy Wachtel played the riff on the song, and has said that “Bring On The Night” by The Police was the inspiration for the guitar riff, which is very interesting, considering I have been a fan of both songs for decades and never made that connection!  Apparently, according to Andy Summers’ autobiography, ONE TRAIN LATER, he confirms this and mentions how Stevie Nicks had asked to meet with him after a 1981 show in Los Angeles about the song. 

As for the song’s subtitle, in a video commentary for the song, Stevie spoke about the “white winged dove” and what it meant to her: “It became a song about violent death, which was very scary to me because at that point no one in my family had died.  To me, the white-winged dove was for John Lennon the dove of peace, and for my uncle it was the white-winged dove who lives in the saguaro cactus – that’s how I found out about the white-winged dove, and it does make a sound like whooo, whooo, whooo.  I read that somewhere in Phoenix and thought I would use that in this song.  The dove became exciting and sad and tragic and incredibly dramatic.  Every time I sing this song I have that ability to go back to that two-month period where it all came down.  I’ve never changed it, and I can’t imagine ending my show with any other song.  It’s such a strong, private moment that I share in this song.”

“Edge Of Seventeen” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late February 1982, and reached the Top 40 in just three weeks.  It made a steady climb up the chart but stalled quickly at No. 11 for two weeks in mid-April 1982.  It was gone from the Hot 100 after just 14 weeks.  It also reached No. 11 in Canada, and No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.

17

QUIRKY FUN FACT: The title of “Edge Of Seventeen,” according to Stevie, came about from a conversation she had with Jane, the first wife of Tom Petty.  Jane had told her she and Tom had met “at the age of seventeen,” but with Jane’s strong Southern accent, Stevie mistook it as “edge of seventeen.”

The guitar riff on “Edge Of Seventeen” was sampled on “Bootylicious,” a Destiny’s Child song that reached No. 1, and in the video, Stevie Nicks makes a cameo appearance, playing the guitar.

145831763101_Stevie_Nicks

Stevie Nicks, from the Destiny’s Child video for “Bootylicious.”

There’s even been a couple of different and critically-acclaimed coming-of-age comedy-drama films named EDGE OF SEVENTEEN: a 1998 LGBT film set in 1984, and a 2016 film with Hallee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick.

EDGE

Some have called “Edge Of Seventeen” enduring and iconic, and they’re right.  “Edge Of Seventeen” is a song that a written out of grief, but for 35 years has also served as a song about strength, endurance, and love…with a kick-ass guitar riff.  And, it proves you don’t have to be a Top 10 hit to be enduring, iconic or loved.

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

stevie