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

song of the day – “What’s Going On” | CYNDI LAUPER | 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!”

rod n cyndi

On Friday, July 14, 2017, I will be seeing my favorite recording artist, the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, perform here in Maine, and it’ll be my fourth time seeing her perform (for the time I got to interview her and meet her in July 2002,  I didn’t actually get to see her perform due to a transportation snafu, which would have been the first time I would have seen Cyndi perform).  She will be performing on the same bill as Rod Stewart, who, to my knowledge (the brain’s a bit fuzzy on this) is someone I have not seen perform live before.  I can’t wait.

true colors world tourAnd, if my fuzzy brain is again correct, I believe this is the first time Cyndi has performed in the Pine Tree State since her TRUE COLORS world tour brought her to the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine in December 1986 (sadly, I was sick and couldn’t go; I would have been there in a heartbeat).  I tried to get Cyndi to come back earlier than now (I mentioned it to her in my 2002 interview with her), but she’s been busy and then some.  Still, it’ll be wonderful to see her perform again, and it’ll be my third time since 2013.  My goal is to see her every year she’s performing from here on out.

Since Cyndi will be opening for Rod Stewart on this short tour, I’m betting her gorgeous cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (from the TRUE COLORS album) won’t be on the setlist.  But a hopelessly devoted Cyndi Lauper fan can hope, right?

“What’s Going On” was one of nearly 70 songs that reached No. 12 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and covers were a theme, apparently, for the No. 12 position.  There were also No. 12 covers by Daryl Hall & John Oates (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”), The Fat Boys & The Beach Boys (“Wipeout”), Carole King (“One Fine Day,” a song she actually wrote, but was a hit three times before her version charted), Van Halen (“Oh Pretty Woman”), The Nylons (“Kiss Him Goodbye”), David Lee Roth (“Just A Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody”), Anne Murray (“Daydream Believer”), plus one parody (“Eat It” by “Weird Al” Yankovic, parodying Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”), and two medleys (though not covers) by The Beach Boys and The Beatles (I think you can thank Stars On 45’s 1981 No. 1 hit, “Medley” – which WERE covers – for that).

marvin what's going on

Released as the third single from Cyndi’s wonderful 1986 album, TRUE COLORS, “What’s Going On” was a cover of the No. 2 Marvin Gaye hit from 1971, written during the heart of the Vietnam War.  Its personal and poignant lyrics (which could have been written today) resonated with the people of a generation, and it’s been hailed as one of the greatest songs of all-time.  In 1995, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame included it in its list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock, and in 2010, ROLLING STONE ranked it at No. 4 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Cyndi’s spirited version of “What’s Going On” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-March 1987 as the “Hot Shot Debut” of that week, coming in at No. 63.  The second single released from TRUE COLORS, the No. 3 hit “Change Of Heart” (with The Bangles on backing vocals), was just ahead of it at No. 58.

true colors

“What’s Going On” blasted into the Top 40 the following week, winning the airplay award for that week.  It won the sales award on the Hot 100 two weeks later, and looked like another Top 10 hit for Cyndi.  But, for whatever reason, the sales and the airplay slowed, and “What’s Going On” spent a week at its peak position of No. 12 in early May 1987, and was gone from the Hot 100 by mid-June.

what's going on title

video

From the “What’s Going On” video.

Around the globe, “What’s Going On” also reached the Top 40 in Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, and two excellent dance remixes by Shep Pettibone helped land the 12” single of “What’s Going On” at No. 17 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  The energetic and passionate video for “What’s Going On” was also nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography In A Video.

Cyndi’s done a ton of incredible covers during her career, covering many genres, starting with her stint in Blue Angel to covers on SHE’S SO UNUSUAL to last year’s extraordinary Country covers album, DETOUR, and her songs, especially 1984’s “Time After Time,” have been covered many, many times.  But her cover of “What’s Going On” has always stood out to me, despite what it did or did not do on the Pop charts.      

Today, when I listen to Cyndi’s version of “What’s Going On,” I see the same thing Marvin Gaye saw when he co-wrote the song all those years ago – war, police brutality, injustice, and an aching lack of peace.  All of that shit is still happening today, but now includes events such as attacks on night clubs and concerts, attacking and killing people who just want to be free, and free to have a good time and be who they are.  What’s going on?! 

I wouldn’t even want to research how many people have been shot by police in the last several years (that didn’t need to be) and the cops got away with it.  Prince hit upon this in his brilliant 2015 song, “Baltimore,” talking about the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (“If there ain’t no justice, then there ain’t no peace!”).  (All six officers involved in the Freddie Gray death – including one Sergeant and one Lieutenant – were acquitted and all charges dropped.)  What’s going on?!

prince-

The cover art for the 2015 benefit concert Prince put on in Baltimore.

I try to maintain a sense of it all, but most times I can’t.  We have the elected “leader” in Washington, D.C., trying to get answers out of Russia over the 2016 election and trying to have North Korea not launch any nuclear missiles, which is all fine and good (I don’t want a World War III), except for the fact that more than half of the country didn’t vote for this man, and who don’t believe in him.  #MyFakePresident would rather ban beloved Maine author Stephen King from tweeting to him than to be presidential.  What’s going on?!

Well, for now, when I can, I take comfort in things that make me happy and help me forget (albeit temporarily) that there’s all this other unnecessary bullshit going on in the world, like going to the ocean, seeing a movie, spending time with awesome people (you know who you are), and seeing a concert, which I will do when I see the lovely Cyndi Lauper (and Rod Stewart) on Friday, July 14, 2017 here in Maine.  I’d take you all there if I could.

You have to do everything in your power to do the things that make you happy and make you feel at peace – not just with everything in the world, but mostly with yourself – as much as you possibly can, to forget everything else going on, at the very least for a little while. 

And, if for some reason, you don’t think you can get to that point (or at least try to) where you do things – even little things that don’t cost much money or time – that make you happy or make you feel at peace, what’s going on?

peace love understanding 80s

Peace, Love, Understanding, 80s.  Works for me!  How about you?

“You see, war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate / You know we’ve got to find a way / To bring some lovin’ here today…”

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

what's going on

song of the day – “Tarzan Boy” | BALTIMORA | 1986 / 1993.

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!”

You know, as unlucky as the stigma for being unlucky the number 13 has had as long as I’ve known it, the No. 13 position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 is something altogether different, or, lucky.  No. 13 has been the home (or treasure trove, if you prefer) to many great classics, like “Money” by Pink Floyd, Queen’s “Somebody To Love,” “Because The Night” by the Patti Smith Group, “Different Drum” by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt, “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, “Takin’ It To The Streets” by The Doobie Brothers, Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” “Roundabout” by Yes, “Let’s Talk About Sex” by Salt-N-Pepa, “Walking In Memphis by Marc Cohn, “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton (featured prominently in the John Hughes classic, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF), “Here Comes My Baby” by The Tremeloes (which my pal Dave Wakeling and The English Beat will be covering on their upcoming album!), “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” by The Walker Brothers (which was featured in the brilliant but barely-seen 2012 Steve Carell film, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD), and one of the first singles I ever owned, “Theme From CLOSE ENCOUNTERS” by John Williams. 

close encounters

I still have my 45 of this, and it looks just as beat up.  After holding onto it for 40 years, I’m not parting with it anytime soon though…

Between 1979 and 1989, there were nearly 60 singles that reached lucky No. 13, and it was a popular number for Bob Seger, who had two hits stop there, as did Kenny Rogers, Elton John and Natalie Cole.  Van Halen had three songs reach No. 13 – “Right Where Ya Started,” and two from the album, 1984: “Panama” and the highly underrated “I’ll Wait.”  Speaking of Van Halen, in 1983, future / former Van Halen lead singer, Sammy Hagar, reached No. 13 with his first Top 40 hit (and biggest solo hit), “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy.”

Some of my 80s favorites stopped at No. 13 too, like “Shadows Of The Night” by Pat Benatar, “All Over The World” by Electric Light Orchestra (from XANADU), “Back In The High Life Again” by Steve Winwood,” “One Night Love Affair” by Bryan Adams and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

shadows

No. 13 must have been a favorite of mine for blog posts as well, as I’ve featured seven of them – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, “People Are People” by Depeche Mode, “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling Stones, “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2, plus two of the three (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached No. 13 – M|A|R|R|S (“Pump Up The Volume”) and Frida (“I Know There’s Something Going On”), and one song released in 1989, but peaked at No. 13 in March 1990 – “No Myth” by Michael Penn.

Another song that reached No. 13 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the 80s came out of Italy, by way of Northern Ireland.  In the late 70s, Jimmy McShane (of Derry, Northern Ireland) was attending a stage school in London, learning how to dance and sing, when he was hired as a stage dancer and backing singer for English singer and musician, Dee D. Jackson.  He toured around Europe with Dee D. and her band, and upon a visit to Italy, he fell in love with Italy’s underground dance scene, and the country itself, and ended up moving to Milan in 1984.

In Milan, he learned the Italian language, and in 1984, met up with Maurizio Bassi, who was a music producer and a musician.  Together, they decided to form the New Wave / Dance band, Baltimora, with Jimmy McShane as the singer and the face of the band.

61b-bassi-mcshane

Baltimora’s Maurizio Bassi, left, and Jimmy McShane.

In early September 1985, they released their debut album, LIVING IN THE BACKGROUND, along with the first single from the album, “Tarzan Boy.”  The catchy song about being free and doing whatever you want in the jungle, without the hustle and bustle of living in the city, took about a month and a half to find its way to the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but did find it in mid-October 1985, when it debuted at No. 80.

living in the background

“Tarzan Boy” steadily moved up the chart at first, but lost its chart “bullet” (for sales and airplay) in its sixth chart week, and stalled at No. 62 for three weeks.  By early December 1985, “Tarzan Boy” had regained its bullet and started moving back up the Hot 100, reaching the Top 40 in mid-January 1986.

By March 1, 1986, “Tarzan Boy” had been on the chart for 20 weeks (longer than some No. 1 songs), and spent a week at No. 13.  “Tarzan Boy” spent half a year on the survey and finished the year at No. 73.

tarzan boy

Around the globe, “Tarzan Boy” was a massive hit, reaching No. 1 in Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Spain, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart.

Despite the success of “Tarzan Boy,” Baltimora had a hard time duplicating that success for its other singles and second album, 1987’s SURVIVOR IN LOVE.  Following “Tarzan Boy,” the title track from their debut album, LIVING IN THE BACKGROUND, peaked at No. 87 on the Hot 100, and a few other singles reached the Top 40 singles chart in Italy, but nothing more.  Baltimora broke up after the record label (in this case, Manhattan) dropped them. 

cool mint

From the 1993 commercial for Cool Mint Listerine, which used “Tarzan Boy.”

Fast forward to 1993, and a new remix of “Tarzan Boy” was used in a Cool Mint Listerine commercial (with animation by future film giant, Pixar).  Well, it didn’t stop there.  “Tarzan Boy” was also featured that year in the film, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III, and the combination of the two sent “Tarzan Boy” back onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100, re-entering the chart in late March 1993. 

“Tarzan Boy” climbed as high as No. 51 and spent 12 additional weeks on the Hot 100, and a total of 38 weeks combined.  With new hits by Duran Duran, R.E.M., Madonna, INXS, New Order and Boy George’s Pet Shop Boys-produced theme to THE CRYING GAME, the 80s were still sticking around in 1993.  But it was pretty cool to hear “Tarzan Boy” on the radio again.

tarzan boy 93

The cover art for the 1993 reissue of “Tarzan Boy.”

Sadly, the following year, Jimmy McShane, the face of Baltimora, was diagnosed with AIDS while in Milan in 1994.  A few months later, he returned to his hometown of Derry, Northern Ireland, the place where his family had shunned him many years before for being gay.  He died in Derry in late March 1995 at the young age of 37.  And, despite his family’s earlier stance towards Jimmy’s homosexuality, after his death, a family spokesperson said, “He faced his illness with courage and died with great dignity.”

The legacy of Jimmy and “Tarzan Boy” live on today, and the song continues to be covered by other artists and has appeared in films, like Seth MacFarlane’s 2014 film, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST.  And, “Tarzan Boy” is still heard on the radio today, as it should, because, who wouldn’t want to dance around to a fun, catchy song about being free and roaming around the jungle, removed from that city life?

“Jungle life, I’m far away from nowhere / On my own like Tarzan Boy / Hide and seek, I play along while rushing ‘cross the forest / Monkey business on a sunny afternoon…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r0n9Dv6XnY

baltimora

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Digging Your Scene” | THE BLOW MONKEYS | 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 (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!”

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.

The only (real) one-hit wonder to reach No. 14 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989 is a British New Wave / Sophisti-Pop band formed back in 1981 and led by Bruce Robert Howard – the lead singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist and pianist better known as Dr. Robert.  That band is The Blow Monkeys, who scored a No. 14 hit with the truly wonderful “Digging Your Scene.”

blow monkeys 2

Three years after forming, The Blow Monkeys released their first album, LIMPING FOR A GENERATION.  Despite some critical attention, the album did not even get to limping stage.  However, in the liner notes for the 1999 compilation, ATOMIC LULLIBIES – VERY BEST OF THE BLOW MONKEYS, Dr. Robert said that while “Digging Your Scene” was the song “that opened the door, from being a glam jazz obscurity we were on the TV, in the papers, getting thrown out of clubs and playing Wembley with Rod Stewart…  The first album, LIMPING FOR A GENERATION, has some of our best stuff on it.”  And of course, now I HAVE to hear it!

limping

Well, I’ve already given it away, but The Blow Monkeys did find success all over the world a couple of years later with the album, ANIMAL MAGIC, and the second single released from the album, “Digging Your Scene.” 

The first single from ANIMAL MAGIC, “Forbidden Fruit,” was released an entire year before the album, which saw a proper release in early April 1986.  Like “Forbidden Fruit,” “Digging Your Scene” was released in advance of the album, in this case a couple of months before. 

animal magic

I remember hearing “Digging Your Scene” for the first time in early 1986, and instantly fell in love with the marriage of Pop, Soul and Jazz from a band whose roots are New Wave, but is tucked away for “Digging Your Scene.”  I don’t hear the term “Sophisti-Pop” very often, but I’m betting if you mesh Pop, Soul and Jazz into a lovely 4-minute single, that’s what you get.

Critics and fans alike both dug the feel and sound of “Digging Your Scene.”  Honestly, I don’t know how you can’t dig this song.  I think what surprised me (and impressed me) the most in my research about this upbeat gem is that the song tackles being gay and the hateful stigma attached to those with HIV and AIDS by those who didn’t know or didn’t care and would prefer to judge instead of understand.  At a time when HIV and AIDS wasn’t being talked about much at all, especially by those in power who really needed to talk about it, like Ronald Reagan, this song was one of the first commercial singles to bring the HIV and AIDS crisis to the mainstream.

“I just got your message baby / So sad to see you fade away / What in the world is this feeling / To catch a breath and leave me reeling / It’ll get you in the end, it’s god’s revenge

“Oh I know I should come clean / But I prefer to deceive / Everyday I walk alone / And pray that god won’t see me

“I know it’s wrong / I know it’s wrong / Tell me why is it I’m digging your scene / I know I’ll die baby…”

Regarding the story behind “Digging Your Scene,” on the website for The Blow Monkeys and Dr. Robert (theblowmonkeys.com), Robert explains, “That was the last song [on the album] I wrote and I just did a four-track home demo for the band to hear.  It was the first time we started using backing singers.  The soul side of my writing was coming to the fore, listening to lots of Marvin [Gaye].  I’d read an article where Donna Summer said AIDS was God’s revenge on homosexuals and I disagreed!  The song itself was a homage to those gay clubs like Taboo that I used to go to – even though I’m not gay – because the music and the vibe was so good.”

digging your scene US

“Digging Your Scene” took a few months to reach American shores, but in early May 1986, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 89.  In mid-June 1986, it reached the Top 40 of the Hot 100, and had climbed steadily up the chart for three months when it spent a sole week at its peak position of No. 14 in early August 1986.  “Digging Your Scene” departed the Hot 100 a month later after 19 weeks.

QUIRKY FUN FACT: Dr. Robert was a huge fan of Australian aboriginals playing on their didgeridoos, and sometimes, the didgeridoo players were not respected, and were subsequently called Blow Monkeys.  And that’s where The Blow Monkeys got their name.

aboriginal-didgeridoo-player-e1451956216547

Around the globe, “Digging Your Scene” reached No. 10 in New Zealand, No. 12 in the U.K., No. 16 in Australia, No. 18 in Canada, No. 23 in the Netherlands, No. 25 in Germany, and No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart (though I prefer the 4:40 U.S. single mix the best).

Though The Blow Monkeys would not reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100 again, in their U.K. homeland, they reached the Top 40 singles chart four more times, led by a No. 5 U.K. hit from 1987, “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” (from their third album, SHE WAS ONLY A GROCER’S DAUGHTER).

it doesn't have to be this way

After a 17-year absence between 1990 and 2007, The Blow Monkeys have been together since, are currently on tour, and have released four studio albums, one live CD/DVD and a couple of compilations since 2007.  Their most recent album is titled IF NOT NOW, WHEN? from 2015.  Dr. Robert has also released nine solo albums since 1994, including 2016’s OUT THERE.

if not now, when?

Though I’m not entirely surprised The Blow Monkeys only had the one hit here in America, it is disappointing, especially since I have many friends who dig some of their other music outside of “Digging Your Scene,” songs like the aforementioned “Forbidden Fruit” and “It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way,” and songs like 1986’s “Wicked Ways” and their gorgeous cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” (from the 1987 DIRTY DANCING soundtrack).

I am, surprised, however, at how much more I respect this song than ever before.  For 31 years, I just thought the U.S. mix of “Digging Your Scene” was this kick-ass  “Sophisti-Pop” gem (and still do), but now that I know there was a bold message within it (on top of the Soul feel to it), I love it even more.  And I plan on digging this song for many years to come…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byxeva9LDKw

the-blow-monkeys

song of the day – “One Of The Living” | TINA TURNER | 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. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

One of the best comeback stories (if not THE BEST) is the comeback Tina Turner had in 1984 with her big No. 1 hit, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”  Before that, Tina’s sweet 1984 cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” became her first Top 40 hit in more than 10 years, since 1973’s “Nutbush City Limits” (with her ex-husband, Ike Turner) reached No. 22.  Released a couple of months in advance of the excellent PRIVATE DANCER album, “Let’s Stay Together” was Tina’s first solo Top 40 hit, after having released four solo albums since 1974. 

what's love US

Tina reaching No. 1 with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” for three weeks in September 1984 was the conduit she needed to jumpstart an already 10-year solo career.  She followed “Love” with three more Top 40 hits from PRIVATE DANCER, and a string of nine more Top 40 hits between 1985 and 1993.

Betweeen 1979 and 1989, there were nearly 60 songs that reached No. 15 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and Tina Turner has three of them – “The Best” (from November 1989), “It’s Only Love” (with Bryan Adams, from his monster album, RECKLESS), which was climbing the chart when her other No. 15 hit was peaking, and that hit is “One Of The Living.” 

thunderdome

It was the second single released the motion picture, MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, which she starred opposite Mel Gibson and served as a worthy foe for Mel’s title character.  Tina received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress for her role in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. 

The follow-up single to “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” which spent a week at No. 2 in September 1985, “One Of The Living” was hot on the heels of “Hero,” rocketing onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early October at No. 52.  The following week, it switched places with its chart predecessor and reached the Top 40 in its second chart week.

one of the living

“One Of The Living” made a steady climb up the Hot 100, stopping at No. 15 in November 1985 the same week “It’s Only Love” blasted in as the “Hot Shot Debut” that week.  “One Of The Living” spent two weeks at No. 15, and was still on the Hot 100 when the Rockin’ “It’s Only Love” spent a week at No. 15 in mid-January 1986. 

it's only love

Around the globe, “One Of The Living” was a Top 40 hit in several countries, reaching No. 5 in Canada, No. 6 in Germany, No. 7 in Belgium, No. 9 in Finland and Switzerland, No. 10 in the Netherlands, No. 12 in Austria, No. 15 in Ireland, No. 24 in New Zealand, No. 34 in Australia and No. 6 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

Singer / songwriter Holly Knight (of the band Device, and who had written and/or  co-written several hits for Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler, Divinyls, Animotion, Heart and Scandal featuring Patty Smyth) wrote “One Of The Living,” and had also written “Better Be Good To Me” (from PRIVATE DANCER).  “One Of The Living” would go on to win a Grammy award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, from left: Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, 1985, ©Warner Bros./courtesy Everett

A 1985 publicity shot with Mel Gibson and Tina Turner. Sorry, Mel, but my $ is on Tina.

I know a lot of folks have forgotten about this gem, and to this day, that puzzles me.  It’s a kick-ass song and a Top 20 hit which showcases her strong vocals and confident attitude to match, not to mention a sweet sax solo.  In fact, it’s one of my all-time favorite Tina songs, and I just wanted to share it with folks who had either forgotten or didn’t know it existed.

Tina turned 46 when “One Of The Living” spent its two weeks at No. 15, and is now 77, and though she hasn’t released a studio album in nearly 20 years, she was (as of December 2016) working on TINA, a new musical based on her life.  It’s scheduled to begin in London’s West End sometime in 2018.

Back in the 80s (and since), Tina Turner has been triumphed for her comeback and strength, after the abuse she suffered for many years by her late husband Ike, and that strength and courage not only resonated through her many hits in the 80s and early 90s, but she’s been an inspiration and a hero(ine) to women all over the world.  From stories and articles I’ve read, Tina is quite happy and enjoying life in Switzerland (where she as been a citizen – and married (!) – since 2013), and why not?  She’s certainly earned it and then some.

tina and erwin bach

Tina Turner and her husband, Erwin Bach.

“So now you’re gonna shoot bullets of fire / Don’t want to fight but sometimes you’ve got to / You’re some soul survivor / There’s just one thing you’ve got to know / You’ve got ten more thousand miles to go / Because you’re one of the living / And if we can’t stick together / One of the living / Who’s gonna make it tonight…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc3IEdllaxc

mtv-1985