Category: 80’s

On this day in music history: December 9, 1989 – “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Billy Joel, it is the third chart topping single for the singer, songwriter and musician from Hicksville, Long Island, NY. Having just turned forty years old in May 1989, Billy Joel is inspired to write “We Didn’t Start The Fire” after a conversation he has with a young man in his twenties.  When they begin talking about past world events and people, the young man comments to Joel, You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties". To that statement Billy replies, “wait a minute, didn’t you hear of the Korean War or the Suez Canal Crisis?”. Beginning with the year of his birth, 1949, Joel looks up and writes down information on significant historic figures and pop cultural events chronologically leading up to the then present time (1989), then crafting them into structured lyrics. Working with Mick Jones of the band Foreigner as his co-producer, is instrumental in changing the arrangement of the song as how it had been written, to giving it a more driving “rock & roll” attitude. Released as the first single from his eleventh studio album “Storm Front” on September 27, 1989, it is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on October 14, 1989, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single receives a Grammy nomination for Record Of The Year in 1990. “Fire” also is the subject of numerous song parodies by comedians and other musicians. “We Didn’t Start The Fire” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Television, film, stage and voice actor René Auberjonois (born René Murat Auberjonois in New York, NY) – June 1, 1940 – December 8, 2019, RIP

Sesame Street puppeteer Carroll Spinney (born Carroll Edwin Spinney in Waltham, MA) – December 26, 1933 – December 8, 2019, RIP

On this day in music history: December 8, 1980 – “Flash Gordon – Orginal Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released in the UK (US release is in February 1981). Produced by Queen and Reinhold Mack, it is recorded at Advision Studios, The Townhouse, The Music Centre, Utopia Studios and Anvil Studios in London from October – November 1980. The album features a complete song score composed and performed by Queen which is inter cut with dialogue from the live action film adaptation of the science fiction comic strip which stars Sam J. Jones and Max von Sydow and Timothy Dalton. The soundtracks’ US release is delayed by two months so that is not in direct competition with Queen’s then current album “The Game”. The single “Flash (Flash’s Theme)” (#10 UK, #42 US Pop) is widely sampled over the years most notably by Public Enemy on “Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic” in 1988, and also performed live by My Chemical Romance and Tub Ring,with Tenacious D using the song as the intro their live shows. Original vinyl copies of Queen’s soundtrack come in a gatefold sleeve with embossing on the front cover, also coming with a cardboard photo insert and custom inner sleeve and labels. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 1991, with a remix of the “Flash Theme” remixed by Mista Lawnge of Black Sheep. To commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2010, it is released as a combination Blu-ray + CD set (Europe only), featuring a new high definition transfer of the film along with a CD of the soundtrack. In the US, the soundtrack is reissued on CD in 2011 with an additional CD EP containing six additional bonus tracks. “Flash Gordon” peaks at number ten on the UK album chart, peaking at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 7, 1985 – “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Richard Page, Steve George and John Lang, it is the first chart topping single for the pop/rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Having only minimal success with their 1984 debut album “I Wear The Face” produced by Peter McIan (Men At Work), the members of Mr. Mister lobby their label RCA Records to allow them to produce their next album. In the interim, lead singer and bassist Richard Page is offered opportunities to join Toto and Chicago, but declines, opting to stay with his own band. Demoing several new songs, among them is the ballad “Broken Wings. Written by Page, keyboardist and vocalist Steve George and Page’s cousin John Lang, the trio finish the song in only twenty minutes. Taking the demo tape back to RCA agrees to allow the band to produce themselves along with recording engineer and co-producer Paul DeVilliers. Once the finished album is handed in to the label, RCA initially wants an up tempo track to be the lead single. Not wanting to fall prey to what happened with their debut album, Mr. Mister insist that "Broken Wings” be released instead. Reluctantly, the label releases it in June of 1985, to virtually no reaction from radio. The single lies dormant for nearly three months, when it suddenly finds pockets of support in radio markets like Denver, CO and Minneapolis, MN. It’s only then that RCA realize that they have a potential hit on their hands, and put their promotional muscle behind the record. The song is also accompanied by a striking black and video directed by Oley Sassone that quickly becomes an MTV favorite. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on September 21, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. An instant pop and AC classic, “Broken Wings” crosses over into other musical genres after its chart topping success on the pop chart. Miles Davis is so taken with it, that he performs it live at the Berlin Jazz Festival in November of 1985. In 1986, jazz musician Rodney Franklin records an instrumental cover version of the song. It’s also covered by Rick Springfield, Jason Donovan, John Tesh, and The Panic Division. The song is also sampled and interpolated into rap songs by 2Pac, Joe Budden, Foxy Brown, and C-Block. Mr. Mister’s original recording is featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the Emotion 98.3 radio station.

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On this day in music history: December 7, 1984 – “Agent Provocateur”, the fifth album by Foreigner is released. Produced by Mick Jones and Alex Sadkin, it is recorded at The Hit Factory and Right Track Studios in New York City from Summer – Fall 1984. Following the huge success of their fourth release “Foreigner 4”, the band take a nearly two year long hiatus before returning to the studio to begin work on their next album. Bandleader Mick Jones helms the project with producer Alex Sadkin, best known for his work with The Thompson Twins, Robert Palmer, and Grace Jones. The Anglo/American rock bands’ fifth studio release is a concept album in which the songs follow a narrative about a man and his life as a spy. It spins off three singles including the chart topping “I Want To Know What Love Is” (#1 Pop) which features the New Jersey Mass Choir and singer Jennifer Holliday on the the songs’ final choruses. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1996, with another CD reissue by WEA Japan in 2007, packaged in a mini LP sleeve. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, is remastered and reissued as a 180 LP by Music On Vinyl in October of 2016. “Agent Provocateur” hits number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 6, 1986 – “The Next Time I Fall” by Peter Cetera w/ Amy Grant hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on November 8, 1986. Written by Bobby Caldwell and Paul Gordon, it is the second solo chart topper for the former lead singer and bassist of Chicago, and the first chart topper for the vocalist from Augusta, GA. Best known for blue eyed soul classics like “What You Won’t Do For Love”, “My Flame” and “Open Your Eyes”, singer, songwriter and musician Bobby Caldwell continues to enjoy major success internationally, and as a songwriter during the 80’s. Along with co-writer Paul Gordon, the pair write the ballad “The Next Time I Fall”, with Caldwell coming up with the main chord progression while playing a Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer in his apartment. The first chorus they come up with is discarded and re-written, fleshing out the main body of the song, also writing the lyrics together. Bobby records a quick demo, playing keyboards and performing the vocals, then submitting it to his publisher for artist consideration. The demo is heard by producer Michael Omartian (Christopher Cross, Donna Summer), who in turn plays it for Peter Cetera who likes it immediately. Though it was not written that way, Cetera suggests “The Next Time I Fall” be recorded as a duet. He suggests that they reach out to Amy Grant and ask her if she’ll record it with him. Already a major star in the world of Contemporary Christian Pop with the hugely successful “Age To Age” and her first mainstream pop album “Unguarded”, Grant is eager to broaden her audience. A huge fan of Cetera’s from his days in Chicago agrees to the duet. On tour at the time, Amy flies into Los Angeles and records her vocals in a single session. Issued as the follow up to Peter Cetera’s first chart topper “Glory Of Love” in September of 1986, “The Next Time I Fall” is another immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on September 20, 1986, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The single also receives a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1987. The chart topping success of “Next Time I Fall” is major turning point in Amy Grant’s trajectory into pop superstardom, peaking with the multi-Platinum selling album “Heart In Motion” in 1991. Following the success of the song, songwriter Bobby Caldwell cuts a version of “The Next Time I Fall” in 1989. He also co-writes a number of hits for other artists including “Heart Of Mine” (#35 Pop) for Boz Scaggs and “What Kind Of Man Would I Be” (#5 Pop) for Chicago.

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On this day in music history: December 6, 1983 – “Japanese Whispers”, the fifth album by The Cure is released. Produced by Robert Smith, Chris Parry, Steve Nye and Phil Thornalley, it is recorded from November 1982 – April 1983. The set is a compilation put together by the band’s UK label Fiction Records (released in the US initially on Sire Records), and collects their recently released singles “Let’s Go To Bed”, “The Walk” and “The Lovecats” along with their respective B-sides. It remains in print for many years, until it is deleted when compilation albums “Standing On A Beach/Staring At The Sea” and the B-sides box set “Join The Dots”, include all of the material featured on “Whispers”. However, due to its long standing popularity with Cure fans, it is reissued once more on CD in 2006 (Europe only). “Japanese Whispers” peaks at twenty six on the UK album chart, and #181 on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: December 6, 1982 – “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” by Indeep is released. Written by Mike Cleveland, it is the debut single release and biggest hit for the dance music group from New York City. Formed in 1980 by musician Mike Cleveland, Indeep also features lead vocalists Réjane “Reggie” Magloire and Rose Marie Ramsey. In the post-disco era, the group create a unique musical hybrid that include sung vocal hooks, rap lyrics and built on a foundation of minimalist, but highly funky instrumentation. For their first single, Cleveland writes “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”. Its narrative describes a woman who’s home alone, and is upset and frustrated that she can’t reach her man. On the verge of leaving him, she changes her mind when she hears a song on the radio that makes her reconsider, proclaiming in the chorus “Last night a DJ saved my life from a broken heart… Last night a DJ saved my life with a song…”. The track is recorded at Eastern Artists Recording Studio in East Orange, NJ, with Ramsey on lead vocals, Cleveland on guitar, bass, and rap vocals, and drummer Dave Reyes (Young & Company, Aurra). “DJ” is recorded by a young engineer named Andy Wallace, who goes on to greater fame later on working with Run DMC, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow and many others. It is mixed by Club DJ legend, remixer and producer Tony Humphries. Co-produced by Reggie Thompson (Mtume, Philip Bailey, Stanley Clarke), the single is released on the Sound Of New York Records label, founded by executive producer Gene Griffin (Guy, Wrecks-N-Effects). “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” quickly becomes a dance floor smash, entering the Billboard Club Play chart at #60 on December 25, 1982. It enters the Billboard R&B singles chart at #83 on the R&B singles chart on January 8, 1983. It peaks at #2 on the Club Play chart five weeks later on January 29, 1983. The record holds for six weeks in the runner spot, unable to budge Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album from the top spot. “DJ” peaks at #10 on the R&B singles chart nine weeks later on March 12, 1983, holding for three consecutive weeks. Though it doesn’t make the US pop chart, bubbling under at #103, Indeep’s record is a big hit across Europe, in the UK (#13), Spain (#7), The Netherlands (#2). Belgium (#2) and Germany (#10). The group follow up their breakthrough with “When Boys Talk” (#32 R&B, #16 Club Play), “Buffalo Bill” (#81 R&B) and “The Record Keeps Spinning” (#45 R&B). Though regarded as a one hit wonder, Indeep’s “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” has enjoyed enduring popularity, being covered most notably by Mariah Carey on the “Glitter” Soundtrack in 2001. The song has also been sampled numerous times, also being featured on the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and the television mini series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

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On this day in music history: December 5, 1987 – “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” by Belinda Carlisle hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley, it is the biggest hit for the singer from Thousand Oaks, CA. As the lead singer of The Go-Go’s, Belinda Carlisle  achieves major success with the band, releasing three albums including the chart topping “Beauty And The Beat”. However, infighting between the five band members including heavy drug use and squabbles over money and media attention cause The Go-Go’s to implode in 1985. Carlisle continues on as a solo act, scoring a hit right out of the box with “Mad About You” (#3 Pop) and her debut solo album “Belinda” in 1986, she leaves IRS Records shortly after, signing a new deal with MCA Records. Paired with producer Rick Nowels (Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Jewel, Nelly Furtado), they begin work on Carlisle’s second album. Nowels collaborates with songwriter Ellen Shipley on two songs for the album including “Circle In The Sand” (#7 Pop) and titled “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”. When Carlisle hears “Heaven”, she loves it immediately and agrees to record it. After it is recorded, Nowels is unhappy with parts of the song, and it is re-written with the original version being scrapped. Once the re-recorded version is complete, all agree that it is a hit. The song is accompanied by a music video directed by actress Diane Keaton. Released as the first single from “Heaven On Earth” early September of 1987, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on September 26, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. The success of “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” helps to propel the album “Heaven On Earth” to Platinum status in the US.

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