Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Throwback Thursday – 1987 (Part II)

One of 1987’s most popular and critically-acclaimed hits began its life as a demo recording named after the duo who sang “It’s Raining Men.”

It’s by the band U2, who referred to the track as “The Weather Girls” or “Under the Weather.” Their guitarist, The Edge, told Rolling Stone magazine that the song sounded like a reggae band’s version of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Over time they developed the song. Instruments were added to the initial drum pattern. When it came time to come up with lyrics, The Edge gave singer Bono a piece of paper on which he had written a phrase that came to him earlier that day – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

That became the song’s title, with lyrics inspired by the gospel music Bono was listening to at the time. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was U2’s second consecutive #1 single, following “With or Without You,” which was included on part 1 of Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday – 1987 playlist.

Here are twenty of 1987’s best, kicking off not with The Weather Girls, but with U2.


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Throwback Thursday – 1980

Winston + Blondie
In 1979, Giorgio Moroder, famous mostly for his production work on Donna Summer records, composed the score for the film American Gigolo. He asked Stevie Nicks to sing the movie’s theme song, for which Moroder wrote the music, but she had to decline for contractual reasons. He next turned to Deborah Harry of Blondie.

Harry write the lyrics to the song that became “Call Me,” the second #1 single for her band. Of her experience with Moroder, she told Billboard “He’s very nice to work with, very easy, (but) I don’t think he has a lot of patience with people who fool around or don’t take what they do seriously. I think he’s very serious about what he does and he’s intense and he’s a perfectionist and he’s very talented, so I think that people who are less talented or less concentrated bore him quickly…you really have to pay attention.”

Said Moroder of working with Blondie, “There were always fights. I was supposed to do an album with them after that. We went to the studio, and the guitarist was fighting with the keyboard player. I called their manager and quit.”

Moroder did end up working with Deborah Harry again years later on another soundtrack song, producing “Rush Rush” from Scarface, and in 2004 remixed Blondie’s single “Good Boys.”

Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week spotlights the best of 1980, kicking off with Blondie’s “Call Me.”


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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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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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It’s Irene Cara’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Winston + Irene Cara

Fame! I’m gonna live forever! Baby, remember my name!

Though she hasn’t had a hit song in more than thirty years, people still remember Irene Cara’s name. Between 1980 and 1984, she had more hit songs than the two you can name off the top of your head.

First came the song “Fame,” taken from the movie Fame, in which Cara played Coco Hernandez. “Fame,” written by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore and featuring backing vocals from Luther Vandross and Vicki Sue Robinson, hit #4, and won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. In addition, Cara’s performance in the film earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

Also vying for the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year was “Out Here on My Own,” written by Michael Gore and his sister Lesley. Also performed by Cara in the film, it became her second consecutive top 40 single.

She didn’t appear in the movie Flashdance, but her theme song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling!,” was #1 in the US for six weeks, and won Cara, one of its writers, the Oscar for Best Original Song. “What a Feeling” also won Cara the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female and a nomination for Record of the Year, which she lost to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (fair enough!). The single topped charts around the world.

Given the song’s massive success, Cara found it odd that per her record label, her royalties from sales of the record amounted to $183. In 1985, following a few more hit songs (“The Dream,” from the movie D.C. Cab, in which she played Irene Cara; “Why Me?,” and “”Breakdance”), she sued the head of that label (which had since gone under) for $10 million for breach of contract. Eight years later, a jury awarded her $1.5 million. By then, her time in the spotlight was long over. She never hit the charts again after filing her lawsuit.

Take your passion and make it happen, but make sure you have people you trust looking after your affairs.

Today, Irene Cara turns 57 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with “Flashdance…What a Feeling!”


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When I Met Sir George Martin

Several years I ago I had the honor of attending a presentation in the recording studio in the iconic Capitol Records tower in Hollywood. Sir George Martin was there to speak about a documentary series he was working on. I was asked to help out with the show’s music licensing.

Sir George Martin, who died yesterday at the age of 90, was a record executive, musician, composer and arranger, but he is best-known to most people as a producer, specifically, the producer of every album by The Beatles save Let It Be.

Sometimes it’s intimidating to meet one’s idols. What if they aren’t friendly or approachable? I’m happy to say that most times that isn’t the case for me, and it wasn’t the case with Sir George. He graciously accepted my request that he autograph the cover of The Beatles album I brought with me. He started signing in the upper left corner, but when he realized his misheard my name, he scribbled out what he wrote and started over in the center. He apologized to me for mussing up, to which I replied, “Are you kidding me?? I now have original George Martin artwork! I’m honored!” After signing my album cover we chatted for a few minutes, until he was called away to tend to other business. Friendly, approachable and gracious, the man was a class act and a true gentleman.

George Martin autograph
Here are twenty of Sir George Martin’s finest productions:


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Throwback Thursday – 1991

“It was a 5-minute song with no chorus and a mandolin as the lead instrument. So for us to hold that as the bar we have to jump over every time we write a song would be ridiculous.”

In the summer of 1990, R.E.M. demoed a song in the studio with the working title of “Sugar Cane.” The band’s guitarist, Peter Buck, had recently purchased a mandolin and while learning how to play it, came up with the song’s main riff and chorus.

Lyrics about obsession and unrequited love were added, including an expression from the southern part of the United States that means “being at the end of one’s rope.” That expression became the song’s new title. The band’s singer, Michael Stipe, recorded his vocals in one take.

Though in the liner notes the R.E.M.’s career retrospective, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, Stipe wrote “I don’t think any of us had any idea it would ever be … anything,” the group wanted it to be the first single released from their album Out of Time. Their record label, Warner Bros., didn’t think that was a good idea, as it was, in the words of one of the company’s executives, an “unconventional track.” After much discussion, Warner relented.

That record, with the title “Losing My Religion,” went to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and became a smash worldwide. The album from which it was taken, Out of Time, sold over 18 million copies, far more than any of their previous releases.

Out of Time won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. “Losing My Religion” won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video and was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, which it lost to “Unforgettable,” which was written in 1951.

When asked at the time if he was worried that the song’s success might alienate older fans, Peter Buck told Rolling Stone, “The people that changed their minds because of ‘Losing My Religion’ can just kiss my ass.”

“Losing My Religion” made Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s, Blender’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. On their annual music critics poll, the Village Voice had “Losing My Religion” as the #2 single of 1991, just behind Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

For this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour presents twenty of the best tracks from 1991. (I didn’t include “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because I base this not on year of release, but on the year a song peaked in popularity. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1992.)


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Throwback Thursday – 1979

Blondie + Ringo
Blondie’s hit single “Heart of Glass” was written by band members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein and had the working title of “The Disco Song.” Drummer Clem Burke said his part was inspired by the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”

Said Harry “When we did ‘Heart of Glass’ it wasn’t too cool in our social set to play disco. But we did it because we wanted to be uncool,” with the band’s keyboardist Jimmy Destri adding “We used to do ‘Heart of Glass’ to upset people.”

The song was included on Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP “as a novelty item to put more diversity into the album,” per Stein. The novelty song became the group’s first charted single and first #1, in 1979. Its success prompted John Lennon to send Ringo Starr a postcard advising to write songs like “Heart of Glass.”

Today’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights twenty of the best tracks from 1979, kicking off with Blondie’s upsetting disco novelty.


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It’s Sia’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

The Guardian described Sia’s “Chandelier” as “a warning about the pitfalls of a party lifestyle.” About the song, MTV News wrote “Sia serves party-girl darkness, toeing the line between celebration and self-destruction as it becomes increasingly more blurred.” Now sober, the singer/songwriter struggled with alcoholism in the past. She told NPR “I wrote [“Chandelier”] because there’s so many party-girl anthems in pop, and I thought it’d be interesting to do a different take on that.”

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our weekly party kicks off with “Chandelier,” co-written and performed by Sia, who turns 40 years old today.


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