Monthly Archives: April 2016

It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

“If disco had stuck around, we don’t how much less terrorism we might have in the world now.”
– Gloria Gaynor

Recently, Bono, the singer with U2, made headlines when he suggested that to fight ISIS we send comedians to entertain them, which is his stupidest idea since foisting U2’s most recent album on unsuspecting people by automatically including it in their iTunes libraries. Talk about a sneak attack!

To her credit, Gloria Gaynor didn’t go as far as suggesting we deploy KC & the Sunshine Band to the Middle East. She merely wondered aloud if more disco equals less terrorism.

She may be onto something. Case in point – I listen to a lot of disco, and I’ve never killed anyone.

Do you need more evidence? I’ve gone to many a classic disco night, and I’ve yet to witness a single beheading.

People have claimed that playing heavy metal albums backwards reveals satanic messages. You know what happens when you play a Village People album backwards? It sounds exactly the same!

To do my part in fighting terrorism, I present to you some of my favorite disco tunes of all time, with “all time” meaning the years 1975 thru 1979. To show how serious I am in this fight against evil, today’s playlist includes twenty-five songs instead of the usual twenty. You’re welcome.


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Throwback Thursday – 1983

Winston + MJ
MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Back then it was a music video network. It positioned itself as a rock station. Most of the videos shown were of songs made by Caucasian performers, though rock-leaning black acts such as Joan Armatrading and the Bus Boys got some play.

Then came “Billie Jean.” The second single from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, “Billie Jean” was accompanied by a stylish video featuring a mesmerizing performance from Jackson. However, it wasn’t a rock song. It didn’t fit the format of rock radio stations, and it didn’t fit the format of MTV either.

But there is a big difference between radio and music television. There were plenty of radio stations and many different formats. You may not hear “Billie Jean” on the rock stations, but you could hear it on r&b stations and pop stations and dance-leaning stations. However, there was only one music television – MTV.

In his autobiography, Howling at the Moon, Walter Yetnikoff, head of CBS Records, for whom Jackson recorded (and where I worked in my first music business job), wrote “I screamed bloody murder when MTV refused to air [Jackson’s] videos. They argued that their format, white rock, excluded Michael’s music. I argued they were racist assholes – and I’d trumpet it to the world if they didn’t relent. I’ve never been more forceful or obnoxious. I’ve also never been as effective, threatening to pull all our videos. With added pressure from [Thriller producer] Quincy Jones, they caved in, and in doing so the MTV color line came crashing down.”

Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean” aired on MTV, followed just weeks later by his video for “Beat It,” a song whose guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen helped make it a hit on rock radio. These two videos made Jackson, already a superstar, a worldwide phenomenon with a humongous fan base that transcended race, age and location in a way never seen before. These two videos made MTV, a year and a half old and fairly popular in white suburban areas, a cultural institution. These two videos made the music video, then not something done for many singles, particularly those performed by artists of color, an art form and a necessary marketing tool.

Some people tuned in to MTV to see the Michael Jackson videos, and while watching the channel, discovered other acts. Some people tuned in to MTV to watch “white rock” videos, and while watching the channel, discovered Michael Jackson.

MTV went to showcase more “non-rock” videos. In 1988, they launched their hugely popular program Yo! MTV Raps, something that would have been completely unexpected just five years earlier, pre-“Billie Jean.”

While MTV deserves credit for making “Billie Jean” and Thriller successful, the person most responsible is Jackson himself. He wrote the song. He sang the song. He danced the song. Quincy Jones did not want “Billie Jean” to appear on Thriller. He didn’t like the title. He didn’t like the bassline. He felt the song’s introduction was too long. Jackson argued “But that’s the jelly!…That’s what makes me want to dance.” Jones wasn’t ready for this jelly, but Jackson stood his ground.

In May of 1983, NBC aired a tribute to Motown Records. Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever featuring many legends who recorded for the storied label performing their classics. We saw Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Mary Wells, Junior Walker and then some. It was a terrific show, but the talk of the town following its airing was the performance of a song not from the Motown catalogue – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The iconic performance, during which Jackson brought the famous moonwalk to the world at large, pushed him that much more ahead of any other performer working in music back then.

Following “Beat It,” CBS Records released four more singles from Thriller. All seven of the singles released (the album had only nine songs!) went top ten, breaking the record of most top ten hits from a single-artist album that was set a few years earlier by…Michael Jackson, whose Off the Wall gave us four. Before Thriller, four singles for one album was considered a lot. Thriller raised the bar for blockbuster albums, and subsequent releases such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Prince’s Purple Rain, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Janet Jackson’s Control each produced more than four hits.

“Billie Jean” changed everything.

On this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour spotlights 1983, kicking off with Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean.”


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A Rock Lobster In A Love Shack

The debut single by the B-52’s, 1978’s “Rock Lobster,” was conceived of in a Georgia cabin with a tin roof set way back in the middle of a field. It was the home of band member Kate Pierson.

When re-recorded for Warner Bros. Records and released as a single in 1980, “Rock Lobster” reached #56 on the US Hot 100.

Nine years later, the B-52’s had their first top 40 single. “Love Shack” peaked at #3. The song tells of a funky little place in Georgia with a tin roof, rusted, set way back in the middle of a field. Hmmm….

The actual house burned down in 2004.
Winston + B-52s
Today is the 68th birthday of the B-52’s’ Kate Pierson. Here are twenty career highlights, focused mainly on her work in the band but also including solo efforts and extracurricular activities.


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Some TLC For TLC

One of the most cited segments of VH-1’s Behind the Music series is from the episode about the group TLC. In July of 1995, less than a year after the release of their second album, CrazySexyCool, the best-selling album of all-time by a female girl group, with 23 million units sold, the trio, comprised of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, declared bankruptcy. In a clip from the show, the group’s Left Eye explains how a multi-million selling act can be left with little money.

Take note, aspiring recording artists.

Today is T-Boz’s 46th birthday. In her honor, here are twenty highlights from TLC’s career, including a few side projects.


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It’s Earth Day And I Need To Dance!

“I remember writing ‘Earth Song’ when I was in Austria, in a hotel. And I was feeling so much pain and so much suffering of the plight of the Planet Earth. And for me, this is Earth’s Song, because I think nature is trying so hard to compensate for man’s mismanagement of the Earth. And with the ecological unbalance going on, and a lot of the problems in the environment, I think earth feels the pain, and she has wounds, and it’s about some of the joys of the planet as well. But this is my chance to pretty much let people hear the voice of the planet. And this is ‘Earth Song.’ And that’s what inspired it. And it just suddenly dropped into my lap when I was on tour in Austria.”
– Michael Jackson

Ringo + MJ
Today is Earth Day. Our weekly dance party kicks off with Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” which spent six weeks at #1 in the UK beginning in December 1995, but didn’t chart on the US Hot 100.


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Remembering Prince

Usually on Thursdays I post a Throwback Thursday playlist spotlighting a particular year in music. In light of today’s sad news, I’m posting a playlist of songs written or produced by the late great Prince.


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Luther Vandross Was Here

In 1974, David Bowie hired Luther Vandross to sing background vocals and do vocal arrangements for his Young Americans album. Bowie told the then 23-year-old singer “You’re going to make it…next year is your year!”

Bowie’s timing was a little off (depending on how you define “making it”). Luther cracked the top 40 as a solo artist for the first time with “Never Too Much” in 1981. Before then, he was a much in-demand session vocalist and arranger.

Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Luther Vandross with twenty tracks on which the soul great is the lead singer, a backup singer, the arranger, the producer, the songwriter, or some combination thereof.


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A Hint of Mint – Volume 49: The Day Is Beautiful And So Are You

Singer-songwriters. Some mellow, some dancey, some from this millennium, some from the last millennium, some romantic, some a bit nutty. Artists include Antony & the Johnsons, the Magnetic Fields and Scissor Sisters.


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It’s Samantha Fox’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

In 1982, Carole Ann Wilken of London sent photos she took of her 16-year-old daughter wearing lingerie to the newspaper The Sunday People as part of an amateur modeling contest. The girl, Samantha, placed second. Newspaper The Sun took note of the pics and, with her parents’ permission, soon published topless photos of the teenager on page three of the paper. News. England.

Before long Samantha Fox became a household name in the United Kingdom. In 1986 she released the single “Touch Me (I Want Your Body),” which went to #1 in 17 countries. In the U.S. it peaked at #4.

Her music career graced us with four top 40 hits stateside and nine in her home country. England.

For my money, her best single is easily 1989’s “I Wanna Have Some Fun,” which hit #8 in the U.S., but only reached #63 in the U.K. It was her last solo single to chart there.

In 2009, Fox announced her engagement to her longtime girlfriend/manager, Myra Stratton. Stratton lost her battle with cancer last summer.

Ringo + Sam Fox
Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the 50th birthday of Samantha Fox. Our party playlist should kick off with her best track, “I Wanna Have Some Fun.” However, that track is not on Spotify. Spotify. England. Sheesh.


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Throwback Thursday – 1972

Willie Mitchell, the producer of Al Green’s string of hits in the first half of the 1970s, recalled the one time he and the singer had a fight. It was over a song the two men had written with Al Jackson, Jr. While producing that track, Mitchell told Green to sing it much more softly than he had sung his other material. Green thought that direction was wrong and the song would never become a hit.

That recording was “Let’s Stay Together,” and it became Green’s first #1 on the pop chart. It also spent nine weeks at #1 on the r&b chart.

Following the success of “Let’s Stay Together,” Mitchell said Green never again argued with him.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist focuses on the year 1972, kicking off with the song that Rolling Stone magazine named the 60th greatest of all time, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”


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