song of the day – “Point Of No Return” | NU SHOOZ | 1986.

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, 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!”

In 1979, the R&B / Dance band, Nu Shooz, formed in “the other” Portland (Portland, Oregon) by the husband and wife team of John Smith and Valerie Day, originally had 12 members to it.  Three years later, they released their first album, CAN’T TURN IT OFF.  In 1985, their second album, THA’S RIGHT (containing the original version of “I Can’t Wait”), was released on Poolside Records.  (No, I haven’t heard of that label either, but Poolside does come into play in a bigger way a year later.)

By 1986, Nu Shooz was just John Smith and Valerie Day, and though the original version of “I Can’t Wait” was a big hit in their Portland, OR hometown, no major record labels wanted to sign them.  But, a copy of “I Can’t Wait” somehow found its way to The Netherlands, and it was remixed into what became known as the “Dutch Mix.” 

Well, once that version found its way back to America, Atlantic Records was interested in Nu Shooz, and John and Valerie were signed to the label in January 1986.  Their third album, POOLSIDE (see what they did there), went Gold, and “I Can’t Wait” became a huge global hit.

poolside

The follow-up single to “I Can’t Wait” was “Point Of No Return,” which debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 97 in early July 1986, exactly two months to the day that POOLSIDE was released.  “I Can’t Wait” was still in the Top 30.

“Point Of No Return” (which has no relation to the No. 28 Kansas hit from 1978, and spelled “Point of KNOW Return,” and has no relation to the Exposé Top 5 hit from 1987) made a steady climb up the Hot 100, reaching the Top 40 two months after debuting on the chart, and the same week it spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

point of no return 12

I still proudly have one of these in my record library!

The stop motion music video (featuring a closetful of sneakers and dancing shoes, which ended up dancing in the video) was directed by Wayne Isham.  If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he directed many memorable 80s videos, including the 1986 version of “Pretty In Pink” by The Psychedelic Furs, “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?” by Howard Jones, “Heat Of The Night” by Bryan Adams, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard, plus many videos by both Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe, including “Home Sweet Home,” which was No. 1 on DIAL MTV for over 90 days in 1987 (though it seemed like much longer, like two years).

point of no return video

Screenshots from the “Point Of No Return” video.

Spending a lone week at No. 28 in mid-October 1986, “Point Of No Return” tallied up 22 weeks on the Hot 100, which was an impressive number, considering “I Can’t Wait” was on the chart for 23 weeks, and that reached No. 3.

Around the globe, “Point Of No Return” was a moderate hit, reaching No. 18 in New Zealand, No. 22 in Canada, No. 23 in Switzerland, No. 24 in Germany and No. 48 in the U.K.

Nu Shooz released one more album in the 80s (1988’s TOLD U SO), which was not a big success, though it did give the band one more Hot 100 hit – “Should I Say Yes,” which just missed the Top 40, stopping at No. 41. 

After TOLD U SO, a third album scheduled for release on Atlantic in the early 90s was scrapped.  In 2007, Nu Shooz was inducted (with 49 other acts, including Quarterflash, the late, great Elliott Smith, and Paul Revere & The Raiders) into the Oregon Music Hall Of Fame.

NUSHOOZBAND2015

Nu Shooz in 2015.

That same year, John Smith and Valerie Day formed a spin-off band with a sound they defined as “Jazz-Pop-Cinema,” and called themselves, naturally, the Nu Shooz Orchestra.  As Nu Shooz Orchestra, they released one album in 2010 called PANDORA’S BOX. 

NU_SHOOZ_promo_large

John Smith and Valerie Day today.

In 2012, Nu Shooz time-traveled back to their 80s style and released the album, KUNG PAO KITCHEN.  In 2016, Nu Shooz is now back to at least nine members and back to their roots, and released an album called BAGTOWN.  As they say on their website, “Come along with us to a funky soulful place called Bagtown!  Fun is the orbit we’re on, and fun is what’s in the bag!”  It definitely has funky feel to it.  Nice to see them still together and putting out music on their own terms.

bagtown

I’m sure a lot of folks have forgotten this song (don’t know if they were turned off by the video, which in 2017 looks a bit hokey and dated), but I love this song as much as “I Can’t Wait,” if not a little more…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yavaJNXoMe8

nu shooz

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Turn Up The Radio” | AUTOGRAPH | 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, 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!”

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.

More than 100 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s reached the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and in this month-long tribute to Casey Kasem, I’ll feature five of them.  Out of the 100-plus (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the Top 40, just three of them peaked at No. 29.  One of those acts was a Glam Metal band originating from Pasadena, California – the home of fellow Hard Rockers Van Halen – the five-man band, Autograph.

autograph

The band actually started as a solo project in June 1983 for singer / songwriter / guitarist Steve Plunkett, who had worked on the second album for another (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s, Silver Condor (who reached No. 32 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1981 with “You Could Take My Heart Away”).

Steve Plunkett got the idea for the name Autograph from hearing Def Leppard’s first big hit, “Photograph” (from their album, PYROMANIA), when hearing it on the radio.  Steve formed the band with some of his musician friends, one of which – drummer Keni Richards – was good friends with David Lee Roth, and that friendship with Diamond Dave was instrumental in Autograph hitting it big the following year.

Keni Richards gave David Lee Roth a copy of their demo tape, and Dave liked it so much, he invited Autograph to open for them during the tour for Van Halen’s huge 1984 album, 1984.  Autograph opened for Van Halen on 48 dates during that tour, which led to a contract with RCA Records sometime that year.

1984 tour

The huge stage setup for Van Halen’s 1984 tour.

The band’s debut album, SIGN IN PLEASE, was released in October 1984.  A play on the album’s title can be seen in the laser-friendly music video for the album’s first single, “Turn Up The Radio,” the only song on the album to be written by all five band members.

sign in please 2

“Turn On The Radio” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the last active chart of December 1984 at No. 89 (at that time, BILLBOARD froze one chart around the Xmas holiday).  Here in Central Maine, where Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and its subsequent music cousins were highly popular, “Turn Up The Radio” was played A LOT.  And it kicked ass, and I loved it (and still do!).  “Turn Up The Radio” was released during my Senior year of high school, and every time I heard it on the radio, I was always compelled to turn it up (and not just because they told me to).

turn up the radio

It took a couple of months and change, but “Turn Up The Radio” reached the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in its 10th chart week.  Three weeks later, in mid-March 1985, it peaked at No. 29 for one week, and fell from the Top 40 a couple weeks later.  “Turn Up The Radio” was one of the longest-charting one-hit wonders of the 80s, spending 19 weeks on the survey.  Autograph would go on to release a couple of more albums before breaking up in 1989, but they never reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 again.

After a 24-year break, (most of) Autograph reunited in 2013.  Steve Plunkett did not want to reunite with the band he formed 30 years before, but the reunion pressed on.  Autograph played cruises and jams and state fairs and festivals, and earlier this year, Autograph finished recording a new album, which was scheduled for release later this year.  Sadly, drummer Keni Richards died on April 8, 2017, at the age of 60, due to what appeared to be a drug-related homicide.

autograph 2016

Autograph in 2016.

In a 2011 interview, Autograph’s lead guitarist, Steve Lynch, had described “Turn Up The Radio” as “a last-minute song that RCA didn’t even want on the album because they thought it had no commercial value.”  The band fought to have “Turn Up The Radio” on the album, and RCA allowed it.  (Again, silly record labels.  I could prolly do a post just about how many times record labels have been wrong about not wanting to release future hits, or changes that didn’t need to be made at all.  Maybe I will.)

Despite Autograph being a one-hit wonder, the legacy of “Turn Up The Radio” has long outlasted its four-and-a-half minutes.  Not only did “Turn Up The Radio” appear on a 1984 episode of MIAMI VICE, it was featured in the video games GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY and ALPHA PROTOCOL, and an updated version of it appeared on the hilarious 2010 John Cusack film, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, one of my all-time favorite films.

httm_t

The first time you see the HOT TUB TIME MACHINE logo in the film is during “Turn Up The Radio.”

For me, I would like to think that me turning up “Turn Up The Radio” when Autograph told me to on the radio or on the iPod wasn’t subliminal, but for whatever reason, it worked, and still does.  Prolly would for you too…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8CcTYsMHYU

autograph 2

song of the day – “Lies” | THOMPSON TWINS | 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, 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 have to say, as a self-proclaimed singles chart nerd, researching for each blog post in this tribute to Casey Kasem has been pretty awesome.  Casey would often say, “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger!”  That may also true with how many songs peak at each position.  For the songs that reached No. 30 between 1979 and 1989, there were over 40. 

What I found interesting (to me, anyway) is that, out of these 40+ songs that peaked at No. 30 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, there were only two (real) one-hit wonders.  Also, I’ve already highlighted five No. 30 hits – (real) one-hit wonder Frankie Smith and “Double Dutch Bus,” “The One Thing” by INXS, “The Prisoner” by Howard Jones, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock Of Seagulls (one of my favorite blog pieces so far; from September 2016).

img_9736

Taken at the Seawall Picnic Area (part of Acadia National Park) on 9.12.2016, a photo I took of a lone seagull (no flocks), and included with my blog post that day for “Space Age Love Song,” a No. 30 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for A Flock Of Seagulls.

Another interesting quirk is that there are a lot of big-name artists who had No. 30 hits, but the hits themselves have been largely forgotten, including songs by The Bangles (“Be With You,” 1989), Tina Turner (“Two People,” 1987), Kool & The Gang (“Let’s Go Dancin’,” 1983), and two each by Daryl Hall & John Oates (“How Does It Feel To Be Back,” 1980, and “Possession Obsession,” 1985) and Toto (“Make Believe,” 1982, and “Stranger In Town,” 1984).

walk on by

Yet another interesting fact is how there were so many memorable hits from other decades that stopped at No. 30 (like Iron Butterfly’s classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” the brilliant “Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes, “Come Monday” by Jimmy Buffet, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, “She Talks To Angels” by The Black Crowes, “Firestarter” by Prodigy, R.E.M.’s wonderful “Man On The Moon,” the amazing “Love Is The Drug” by Roxy Music, and one of THE BEST pieces of music for all time, “Give It To Me” by The J. Geils Band), and yet, with the songs that peaked at No. 30 in the 80s, for whatever reason, most of those songs have been forgotten.

give it to me

Thankfully, though, there were a handful of cool ones, too.  There’s the aforementioned ones I’ve already posted on the blog, but then there’s “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’Arby, “Love Will Find A Way” by Yes, The Human League’s “Mirror Man,” and “Lies,” the first big American hit by a New Wave / Synthpop trio who weren’t at all related – Sheffield, England’s Thompson Twins.

lies

The trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway made up the Thompson Twins in 1982, a time when MTV was so popular, it was affecting what was bought in stores and what was played on the radio, and a time when New Wave was becoming more prominent in mainstream music.  1982 was also the start of the Second British Invasion on the U.S. singles chart, which lasted through 1986.  Thompson Twins were a big part of that. 

By 1982, Tom, Alannah and Joe already had one No. 1 song to their credit here in America – “In The Name Of Love,” which spent five weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart in May and June 1982.

quick step

In October 1982, they released “Lies,” the first single from their upcoming third album, QUICK STEP AND SIDE KICK.  The band was still looking for their audience in their U.K. homeland, and it stopped at No. 67 on the U.K. singles chart there. 

“Lies” would find an audience here in America a few months later, and it debuted at No. 80 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late January 1983, a couple of weeks after it spent two weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart (with its B-side, “Beach Culture”).

As “Lies” made its climb up the Hot 100, the song’s parent album was released in February 1983, and with the Twins being signed to Arista Records, that meant, well, much like fellow Brits (The) Icicle Works in 1984, a name change for the album in the U.S. and Canada.  So, the name of the album was shortened to just SIDE KICKS.

side kicks

A month after the album’s release, “Lies” found its way to the Top 40.  By the end of March 1983, it reached No. 30, but got stuck there for three weeks, and was gone from the Top 40 after that.  It stayed on the Hot 100 for a respectable total of about four months.  “Lies” also reached No. 6 in New Zealand and the Top 30 in Australia and Canada.

Though the “Lies” follow-up single, “Love On Your Side” would fail to reach the Top 40 here in the U.S. (it stopped at No. 45 in early June 1983), Thompson Twins would finally find their U.K. audience, and that song was their first of five Top 10 hits, reaching No. 9.  QUICK STEP AND SIDE KICK was also certified Platinum there and reached No. 2 on the U.K. album chart.t twins logo

I loved Thompson Twins from the start.  I reserved any quick-stepping and side-kicking for at-home dancing, but I was a fan as soon as I heard “Lies.”  Not only was I hooked by the music, but I really enjoyed Tom Bailey’s style of singing.  Don’t know if there’s a particular name for it, I just enjoyed it.  All these years later, I would put his vocal style in the same high class as Howard Jones and Cy Curnin of The Fixx.  They also had one of the coolest band logos.

It was pretty cool seeing them on the TV performing with Madonna at Live Aid.  What I didn’t know was that it was the beginning of the end for the trio I knew and loved as Thompson Twins. 

madonna n tom live aid

Madonna and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Live Aid, Philadelphia, July 13, 1985.

After Joe Leeway left the Twins in 1986, Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie kept the band and the name going until 1993, when they changed it to Babble, reflecting a change in musical direction from New Wave to “dub-influenced chill-out” (mixing Electronica, World Beat, Alt-Dance and Club styles).

babble ether

Babble’s second and final album, 1996’s ETHER.

As Babble, Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie (who were married at the time and living in New Zealand) released a couple of albums before calling it quits in 1996.  Alannah Currie retired from music, and they were divorced in 2003 (though they remain friends). 

Tom Bailey now lives in London with his second wife, he took part in the 2014 version of the Retro Futura Tour as “Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey” and earlier this year on “The ‘80s Cruise,” an annual event of which I hope to attend at some point.  Under the moniker of “Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey,” he released a single last year called “Come So Far,” and has another one scheduled for release this year.

tom bailey today

Tom Bailey today.

When I think of Thompson Twins, the first songs that come to mind are “Lay Your Hands On Me,” “Hold Me Now,” “If You Were Here” (from SIXTEEN CANDLES), “Sugar Daddy,” “In The Name Of Love” (both the 1982 and 1988 versions), their kick-ass cover of The Beatles’ “Revolution,” “Doctor! Doctor!” and “Love On Your Side,” but it was all “Lies” that made me fall in love with those three non-related kids back in 1982, who were, at one time, Twins…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVHwD58Ne3Y

t twins 2

song of the day – “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” | OUTLAWS | 1981.

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, 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!”

There are some songs in the history of music that just keep coming back and back and back again.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the late songwriter and actor, Stan Jones (who died of cancer in 1963 at the age of 49) would be flattered to the moon and back and then some.

Ranger-Stan

“(Ghost) Riders” writer and originator, Stan Jones.

When Stan Jones wasn’t acting in Westerns directed by the legendary (and Portland, Maine native) John Ford, he was writing songs, and one of those songs, a 1948 composition (written at the time he worked for the National Park Service in Death Valley, California) titled “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky: A Cowboy Legend” became a legend all its own.

Stan Jones recorded his original version of “(Ghost) Riders” in late 1948, and from there, it became one of the most-covered songs in history.  Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Peggy Lee, The Ventures, Bob James and Dick Dale have covered it.  So have Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and Peter, Paul & Mary.  Deborah Harry of Blondie recorded a trance version of it in 1998, and more recently, Judy Collins, Concrete Blonde and various Death Metal bands have covered this classic.

debbie harry riders

Pretty bleepin’ cool.

“(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” has even reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in four different versions.  In 1961, The Ramrods (an Instrumental Rock band out of Connecticut) reached No. 30, and Lawrence Welk reached No. 87 with his version.  In 1966, the Baja Marimba Band took it to No. 52.  And, in 1981, Southern Rockers the Outlaws scored the second-highest charted version in BILLBOARD Hot 100 history with their cool, rockin’ 6-minute cover.

ghost riders LP

The Outlaws, formed in Tampa, Florida in 1967,  released their sixth studio album, GHOST RIDERS, in late November 1980.  The band had some moderate success in the 70s with their 1975 hit, “There Goes Another Love Song,” reaching the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.ghost riders 7

The single released from GHOST RIDERS was “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky.”  It made its Hot 100 debut at No. 83 on the last chart of 1980, a couple of days after Xmas.

Throughout the first weeks of 1981, the Outlaws steadily climbed the Hot 100, entering the Top 40 on Valentine’s Day 1981.  “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” reached No. 31 in early March 1981, but fell out of the Top 40 the following week and left the Hot 100 in early April 1981 after 15 weeks on the chart.  It was the last time the band would reach the Hot 100.

Bruce Willis Performs in Las Vegas

Bruce Willis as John McClane singing “(Ghost) Riders?”  It could happen!

DREAM COVER: Someone should get Bruce Willis to cover this song, but as his famous character from the DIE HARD films, John McClane – “Yippe-ki-yay (motherfucker)!  Yippie-ki-yo (motherfucker)!”  Wouldn’t that be fun?

The Outlaws have been around for the better part of 50 years, with a long list of lineup changes that would take up another post entirely.  None of the original members are still with the band (a couple of them died in 1995, another in 2007).    They released their last studio album, IT’S ABOUT PRIDE, in 2012, and their fifth live album, LEGACY LIVE (a 2-CD set), in 2016.

legacy live

It’s hard to believe that I had nearly forgotten about this amazing cover from the Outlaws when Hope brought it to my attention years ago.  Long story longer, I fell in love with this version all over again and played it on STUCK IN THE 80s often during the show’s last several years.

And if I were a betting man, I think Stan Jones might have have been much more than flattered when he heard The Outlaws version, and I think he would have raised his fist up and started jammin’ to it, or at the very least, tipped his cowboy hat in appreciation.  Yippie-yi-yaaaay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpvpypXKf0

outlaws 1980

song of the day – “Valley Girl” | FRANK & MOON ZAPPA | 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, 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!”

In his far-too-short lifetime of 52 years, Frank Zappa released a whopping 62 live and studio albums, dating back to 1966 and including his work credited as the Mothers Of Invention.  Impressive.  And perhaps even more impressive, since 1994 (Frank sadly died of prostate cancer in early December 1993), the Zappa Family Trust has released 47 posthumous albums, for 109 albums total.  Incredible.

One of those albums is the only album he released in 1982, SHIP ARRIVING TOO LATE TO SAVE A DROWNING WITCH.  And that 34-minute, six-track album contained Frank’s ONLY Top 40 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – “Valley Girl,” with his daughter, Moon Unit Zappa.

You read that right – Out of 62 albums released while Frank was on this Earth, he only had one Top 40 hit in his American homeland, but I’d almost bet my record collection he was quite alright with that.  Before “Valley Girl,” Frank had hit the BILLBOARD Hot 100 twice before (and missed it another two times), reaching No. 86 in 1974 with “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” and No. 45 in 1979 with “Dancin’ Fool.”  (Both 1976’s “Disco Boy” and 1980’s “I Don’t Wanna Get Drafted” just missed reaching the Hot 100.)

yellow snow

Frank Zappa had his biggest international hit with 1979’s “Bobby Brown,” a song about a wealthy and misogynistic student named Bobby Brown (“the cutest boy in town”).  This LGBT-related hit spent six weeks at No. 1 in Sweden and also reached No. 1 in Norway, No. 2 in Austria, No. 4 in Germany and No. 5 in Switzerland.

SHIP ARRIVING TOO LATE TO SAVE A DROWNING WITCH was released in May 1982, and of the six songs on the album, the three songs on Side One (including “Valley Girl”) were studio recordings, while on Side Two, those three songs were all recorded live from his Fall 1981 U.S. tour.

ship arriving too late

The history of how “Valley Girl” (co-written with his daughter, Moon Zappa) came about in two parts – (1) The song started out from a bass riff Frank had written, and (2) Moon Zappa (then 14 years old) had a desire to work with her dad.  And a song was born.

valley-girl-gunny-sax

A scene from 1983’s VALLEY GIRL.

According to Kelly Fisher Lowe, Frank Zappa’s biographer, Frank woke his daughter up in the middle of the night, brought her to the studio (most likely the one in his home) to re-create conversations she would have with her friends.  With Frank Zappa not being a fan AT ALL of the San Fernando Valley (he called it “a most depressing place”), this song was an intentional attack on the behavior of those stereotypical “Valley Girls,” and on the slang (or “Valspeak”), of which Moon pretty much supplied Frank all of the content for the song.  She had picked up this “Valspeak” from hearing it at parties, bar mitzvahs and the Sherman Oaks Galleria (or “The Galleria” for short, er, Valspeak).  Both 1982’s FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and 1983’s VALLEY GIRL (a film inspired by the song of the same name) were shot there.

Moon Unit Zappa was a fan of the legendary KROQ-FM in Pasadena, CA (a station that pre-dates – by over a year – The Beatles’ first No. 1 record in America), and she persuaded the station to play “Valley Girl” during an interview at the station. 

dr demento

Why don’t I own this already?!

Well, it worked.  There was suddenly a buzz about it.  Sure, it was a huge hit with listeners of the (also) legendary Dr. Demento, but the airplay for “Valley Girl” didn’t stop there.  It was heard all over the country.

The 1980s had its share of big “novelty” hits, but 1982 was especially a big year for novelty hit singles, like Buckner & Garcia’s “Pac-Man Fever” (No. 9) and Bob & Doug McKenzie’s “Take Off” (No. 16; featuring Geddy Lee of Rush).

In mid-July 1982, a month or so after its release, “Valley Girl” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 75.  Five weeks later, it seemed to have stalled at No. 46, but regained its chart “bullet” a week later, and entered the Top 40 at No. 34 in early September 1982. 

But, like many “novelty” songs, the “novelty” of it tends to wear off sooner than your traditional hit singles.  “Valley Girl” spent two weeks at No. 32 in mid-September 1982, and, “Like, Omigod!” it was gone from the Hot 100 by mid-October 1982.  It also reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.

PA

There might be a little in this blog post…

I don’t know as much about Frank Zappa as I should, but I do know he was an amazing musician and songwriter, and hero of the First Amendment, when he, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and the late John Denver all took on Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) in 1985, opposing censorship of any kind on their record albums and those generic “Parental Advisory” stickers that would appear on the front of those records.

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Frank Zappa, admirably testifying before the United States Senate.

In his testimony before the U.S. Senate, Frank strongly stated, “the PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal’s design.

“It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative.  In this context, the PMRC’s demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation. … The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like.  What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow “J” on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?”

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Frank Zappa and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider in 1985, fighting the good fight.

Well, despite the spirited testimony of Frank, John and Dee, “Parental Advisory” stickers did eventually get put on record albums, CDs and cassette tapes.  But, when was the last time you honestly saw one those warning stickers on an album?  I can’t even remember.  I would like to think their testimonies from more than 30 years ago had something to do with that.

SORTA FUN FACT: One of the albums to receive the “Parental Advisory” sticker (a year after it was implemented) was Frank’s 1986 Grammy-winning album, JAZZ FROM HELL (though I couldn’t find a shot of the album with the sticker), and may have gotten the sticker because of the use of the word “Hell,” but most likely for the song title, “G-Spot Tornado,” which is funny, because this was an album of all instrumentals and no lyrics (and definitely no talking about G-Spot Tornadoes).  So, riddle me this – how can you have a Parental Advisory sticker for explicit content if there are no lyrics on the entire album?!  Good going Tipper – you lost out on listening to a cool, award-winning album of instrumentals because Frank Zappa pissed you off and you slapped the sticker on there anyway.  Either that, or she was pissed off because Al never ever slipped her the “G-Spot Tornado.”  I’m going with the latter (although I think Al is a lot cooler than he was in 1985).

jazz from hell

A really amazing album.  I advise parents and kids alike to check it out and often…

As much as I love “novelty” songs (including “Valley Girl”), I once read that Frank Zappa, Rock music’s leading satirist for many years, was concerned about the label given to him about being a “novelty artist” or “novelty act.”  I mean, would you consider The Beatles to be a “novelty act?”  Of course not.  But, back in 1966, “Yellow Submarine,” the No. 2 title track of their 1968 animated film, was labeled as a “novelty hit.”

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Frank Zappa in 1982, perhaps with a future “fuck you” to Tipper Gore…

From what I know of Frank Zappa and his work, I would never call him a “novelty act,” though I would call “Valley Girl” a “novelty song,” mainly because – ironic or not – it did hit on a popular time and a popular way of life in the early 80s in that particular part of the country (I’m guessing they still don’t speak “Valspeak” there, do they?).  Another thing with novelties – most of them wear off, whether it’s songs or films or love or cars.  No one still does the “Macarena” anymore, right?  Christ, I hope not.  I know Al Gore did once in public back in the day (although I think Al is a lot cooler than he was in 1996).

23 1/2 years after he passed away, Frank Zappa continues to inspire musicians from all over the globe, not to mention relatively new bloggers like myself.  Frank, wherever you are, thanks for keeping it real, for all the swell tunes, and for fighting the good fight (with cancer and with the PMRC).  You are missed.  Of that I’m sure.  Totally…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfn9n1w3J4o

valley girl

song of the day – “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” | U2 | 1984.

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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, 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!”

It’s June 6, 2017, and I didn’t have the best day today.  It happens.  In late 1984, Casey Kasem wasn’t having a good day during the recording of a segment of AMERICAN TOP 40.  I’ll come back to that in a bit.  But, Casey’s bad day was a good day for Dublin, Ireland’s U2. 

With their first three albums – 1980’s BOY, 1981’s OCTOBER and 1983’s WAR – U2 was slowly building an audience here in America.  All three albums sold well here in the U.S., especially WAR (now at 4x Platinum), which reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart.

My introduction to U2 happened somewhere between WAR and when I picked up the live “mini-album,” UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, in July 1984.  And, apart from some of their most recent efforts, I’ve been a huge fan since, but I don’t think it really happened for me until I picked up their fourth studio album, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE.

the unforgettable fire

Released on October 1, 1984, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE took the band in a new music direction from the edgier, more raw sound of their first three albums.  U2’s first three albums were produced by the great Steve Lillywhite (who worked with many artists in the 80s like Big Country, Peter Gabriel and XTC, to name a few), but, in order to achieve this newer sound, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was co-produced by legends in their own right, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. 

Bassist Adam Clayton once said about the change in producers, “We were looking for something that was a bit more serious, more arty.”  The powers that be at U2’s record label, Island, tried to encourage them NOT to work with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but U2 was persistent.  And, in the end, it paid off.

The first single released from THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and was released in early September 1984, a month before the release of the album.

PRIDE front

Prior to “Pride,” U2 had reached the Top 5 of Ireland’s singles chart four times, reaching No. 2 twice – with “New Year’s Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One.”  Over on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, U2 had only seen a couple of their singles reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100: “New Year’s Day” (No. 53, 1983) and a live version of “I Will Follow” (No. 81, 1984).  “Two Hearts Beat As One” just missed the survey, stopping at No. 101.

“Pride (In The Name Of Love)” became the band’s third single to reach the Hot 100, debuting in late October 1984 at No. 85.  Within four weeks, it became their biggest U.S. hit to that point, and on December 1, 1984, “Pride” reached the Top 40.  It would spend a week at No. 33 two weeks later, and stayed on the Hot 100 until early February 1985.

Around the globe, folks were proud for “Pride” and it was U2’s first big worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in New Zealand, No. 2 in Ireland, No. 3 in the U.K., No. 4 in Australia, No. 5 in Holland, No. 7 in Norway, No. 12 in Sweden and No. 33 in Canada (must have been a North American thing).

NERDY FUN FACT: The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, married to Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr in 1984, sang backing vocals on “Pride (Is The Name Of Love),” and was credited on the song as “Mrs. Christine Kerr.”

Now back to Casey Kasem’s bad day back in 1984.  Apparently, during the recording of an American Top 40 countdown (I believe the week when U2 debuted on the Top 40 at No. 39 on December 1, 1984), in AT40-ese, Casey dropped a couple of notches.  As he was listing off U2’s members, he got frustrated and said, “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?!”

In 1991, this sample and other vocal and more profane samples by Casey over the years found their way onto the EP of San Francisco Experimental band Negativland.  The U2 EP was notorious for highlighting “U2” in huge letters and “Negativland” in very small letters underneath it, with an image of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane in the foreground of “U2.”

U2 EP

On this U2 EP were a couple different mixes of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” with those Casey Kasem samples (including his famed “Long Distance Dedication,” thrown in there as well).  These covers were more parodies than covers (kazoos were involved, as were bits and pieces and samples of the original U2 song).  Regardless of whether or not they were covers, U2 was not impressed and Island Records sued Negativland for a violation of trademark law, not just for the huge “U2” on the EP, but for the song itself.

Island Records also believed it was a deliberate attempt to confuse U2 fans awaiting the new U2 release, ACHTUNG BABY, making them believe they were purchasing a new U2 album called NEGATIVLAND.  The EP was withdrawn, but the tracks resurfaced on a legally-released album a decade later (with bonus material) as THESE GUYS ARE FROM ENGLAND AND WHO GIVES A SHIT?

these guys are from england

Negativland’s interest is in intellectual property rights.  They argued that their use of U2’s and other artists’ work falls under the “fair use” clause.  They released a CD in 1995, along with an accompanying book about this whole U2 experience, called, FAIR USE: THE STORY OF THE LETTER U AND THE NUMERAL 2 (Of U2’s name, Casey Kasem described it on AMERICAN TOP 40 as “That’s the letter U and the numeral 2.”) 

fair use

“Pride” was originally written about Ronald Reagan’s pride in the USA’s military power, but Bono was influenced by Stephen B. Oates’s 1982 book, LET THE TRUMPET SOUND: A LIFE OF MARTING LUTHER KING, JR., as well as a biography about Malcolm X, examining the violent and non-violent sides of the civil rights campaigns of the 60s.  Lead singer and lyricist Bono rewrote the lyrics to “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and it ended up being about Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRIDE back

Hard to think about now, but oddly enough, at the time of its release, “Pride” got mixed critical reviews.  Kurt Loder, who reviewed THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE in 1984 (and would later join MTV), gave the album three out of five stars, and said of “Pride”: 

“One would like to be able to summon praise for such well-intentioned tracks as ‘Pride (In the Name of Love),’ which was inspired by Martin Luther King, but ‘Pride’ gets over only on the strength of its resounding beat (a U2 trademark) and big, droning bass line, not on the nobility of its lyrics, which are unremarkable.”

Well, reviews for both THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE and for “Pride” only improved with time, and ROLLING STONE ranked it as No. 388 on their 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time list, and it’s also included on the list of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll. 

And prolly the best review of all?  When the song came out, the late, great Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. King, invited the band to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, which they visited during their 1984 tour.

Maybe Casey Kasem didn’t give U2 much thought when “Pride” came out, but he changed his tune (pun intended) the next time U2 made the Top 40 – when THE JOSHUA TREE’s “With Or Without You” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in May 1987.

As for me?  Well, when I bought UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, I was curious about the band so many people were raving about.  And I loved the album.  When I bought THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE, I would never forget U2 again…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHcP4MWABGY

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song of the day – “Me Myself And I” | DE LA SOUL | 1989.

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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, 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!”

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An ad for AMERICAN TOP 40 with Shadoe Stevens, 1988.  Nothing against Shadoe, but this made me sad.

By the Fall of 1988, due to contractual issues with ABC Watermark, Casey Kasem sadly left the show he created in 1970 to start another show, Casey’s Top 40.  With no 29-year-old offense intended at AT40’s replacement host, Shadoe Stevens, I listened for one or two weeks after Casey left, and it just wasn’t the same.  But for this tribute to Casey, I’m still sticking with the 80s format, and will feature a number of songs from August 1988 through December 1989, or post-Casey on American Top 40.  Here’s one of those songs. 

De La Soul, the Hip Hop / Rap trio formed Long Island, New York, in 1987 (while still in high school) and are still together 30 years later.  Consisting of members Posdnous (real name Kevin Mercer), Dave (David Jude Jolicoeur) and Maseo (Vincent Mason), De La Soul came onto the music scene a couple of years later with their debut album, 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING, and right out of the gate, they were heralded for their impressive contributions to Jazz Rap and Alt-Hip Hop, their fun wordplay and their revolutionary sampling (on this album alone, they sample anything from Daryl Hall & John Oates to Johnny Cash to Steely Dan to The Turtles to Richard Pryor to Liberace to Wilson Pickett to Billy Joel).

3 feet high

3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of 1989, making it onto many publications’ Top 10 lists that year, including ROLLING STONE (#5), MELODY MAKER (#10), plus other notable accolades from SPIN (#7, 100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005), VILLAGE VOICE (“The Sgt. Pepper of Hip Hop”), NEW MUSIC EXPRESS (NME) (“One of the greatest albums ever made”) and famed music critic Robert Christgau said 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was “unlike any rap album you or anybody else has heard.”

Another thing that 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING had in its favor was its tone.  In 1989, Gangsta Rap was taking off, and De La Soul went in a different direction, a more positive spin on Rap, promoting peace and harmony, as opposed to violence and substance abuse and then some.  And, because of it, both De La Soul and the album were well-received.  3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was certified Platinum and spent five weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B / Hip Hop chart.  In Robert Christgau’s VILLAGE VOICE review of the album, he said that De La Soul is “New Wave to Public Enemy’s Punk.”

3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was released in mid-March 1989, but it took about three months for the album’s first single, “Me Myself And I,” to reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  On June 3, 1989, the week it debuted on the Hot 100, it was No. 1 for a week on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  The following week, it was No. 1 for a week on BILLBOARD’s R&B / Hip Hop chart. 

Prior to its Hot 100 debut, “Me Myself And I” was the second song to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s then-new Rap Singles chart.  It spent eight weeks at No. 1 on that chart.

me myself and i

“Me Myself And I,” with its quirky video set in a high school guidance office and then a classroom, helped propel the song up the Hot 100, though it was an unusual chart run.  Just three weeks on the chart, it jumped from No. 72 to No. 49.  But, for whatever reason, the following week, it quickly held the No. 49 position, only to move back up the week after.

randee of the mtv

QUIRKY FUN FACT: The MTV character, Randee of the Redwoods (played by actor and comedian Jim Turner from 1987 through 1990) appears briefly in the music video for “Me Myself And I.”  Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed of A Tribe Called Quest also make cameo appearances. 

In its sixth week on the Hot 100, “Me Myself And I” was already certified Gold (pretty impressive for a song that hadn’t yet reached the Top 40), but retreated back from No. 43 to No. 45.  And, once again, the following week, it regained its bullet and climbed back up.

Eight weeks into its chart run, in late July 1989, “Me Myself And I” bounded into the Top 40 at No. 34, but that is where it would peak for one week, and it spent three total weeks in the Top 40.  “Me Myself And I” (which incorporates five samples of songs from Funkadelic to Ohio Players) bowed out of the Hot 100 after 17 weeks.

“Me Myself And I” picked up an audience around the globe as well, reaching No. 1 in Holland for two weeks, plus No. 7 in Belgium, No. 16 in Germany, and the Top 30 in the U.K., Austria and Switzerland.  It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.

The legacy of “Me Myself And I” in the history of Rap / Hip Hop and music altogether continues today.  In addition to being featured in commercials and video games, the song is included in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”

de la soul 2017

De La Soul, still together 30 years later…

De La Soul has now released a total of nine studio albums, including 2016’s AND THE ANONYMOUS NOBODY… album, which featured a number of guest performers, including David Byrne.  One reviewer called the album “one of the most thrilling, wide-ranging Rap releases of the year,” and this year, it gave the trio their first Grammy nomination since 2006.

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Those who know me know I’m not really into most Rap music, so I never really kept up on De La Soul, but I’m so glad they are still together and still promoting that more peaceful, traditional Hip Hop alternative to Rap from a lot of the (C)rap that’s out there.  And, though I don’t really know them, from what I’ve read, they seem like the real deal.

As for “Me Myself And I,” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this song.  I know folks were into Goth back then and who loved this song.  There was just something about it, and still is…

“De La Soul is from the soul / And this fact I can’t deny…”

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

de la soul