Today is the birthday of Peter Gabriel. It’s also the birthday of Peter Tork of The Monkees. And Peter Hook of New Order/Joy Division fame. Those three inspired today’s playlist of guys named Peter. Only on Tunes du Jour, folks. And before anyone drags me on social media for not including any women, I couldn’t think of any female Peters. #SorryBernadettePeters
Tag Archives: New Order
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.
Early in the career of the group Dead or Alive, UK music magazine Melody Maker described their lead singer Pete Burns as “a cross between Bette Midler and Jim Morrison.” Sure.
At the time Burns was sharing a home and a bed with his wife Lynne and his lover Steve. His marriage with Lynne dissolved in 2006, the year he announced his engagement to a man named Michael.
Today Burns celebrates his 57th birthday. Tunes du Jour kicks off its weekly dance party with Dead or Alive’s “Brand New Lover,” with lead vocals by the man Melody Maker called a “transvestite sex symbol.” Sure.
Tears for Fears, the duo consisting of Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith, released their debut album, The Hurting, in 1983. In their native England the album spawned three top five singles, “Mad World,” “Change” and “Pale Shelter.” In the US, their most successful single, “Change,” peaked at #73 on the Billboard Hot 100.
When it came time to do their second album, they wanted to break the US market. Needing one more song to round out the record, the duo’s producer, Chris Hughes, suggested Orzabel flesh out a song sketch he brought into the studio. Orzabel did so, and while he didn’t think much of the finished piece, Smith and Hughes thought this is the song that would change their fortunes stateside.
This song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” was the first single released in the US from Songs from the Big Chair. It went to #1. The song that was the album’s first single in much of the world, “Shout,” was the second US single from the album, and the duo’s second #1.
Today, Curt Smith of Tears for Fears turns 55 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with a song on which Smith sings lead, Tears for Fears’ #1 breakthrough hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
By 1986, Aerosmith appeared to have had their best years behind them. Sales of their releases that decade lagged significantly behind their hits in the 1970s, and the group’s members were struggling with drug addictions.
They did have fans, though. One was music producer Rick Rubin. He was working with rap group Run-D.M.C., who were known in hip hop circles and with music critics for incorporating rock guitars and beats in their boastful raps, such as “Rock Box” and “King of Rock.”
Rubin suggested Run-D.M.C. do a remake of Aerosmith’s 1977 hit “Walk This Way,” but the rappers had no interest in doing a cover. However, the group’s DJ, Jam Master Jay, was open to the idea, and Rubin called Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to come into the studio. Perry was familiar with the rappers, as his stepson was a fan. Jam Master Jay convinced Run and D.M.C. to give the remake a shot, seeing as Tyler and Perry were in the studio with Rubin.
The Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith version of “Walk This Way” was not only massively successful, but highly influential as well. It became Run-D.M.C.’s first crossover hit, and the first rap track to make the top ten of Billboard’s Hit 100, peaking at #4, six notches higher than Aerosmith’s original peaked. It opened the door to future song/rap collaborations, something that continues to dominate the charts to this day, not to mention bringing “rock rap” to a wide audience.
Steven Tyler went to rehab in 1986, and the other members of Aerosmith also sought treatment for their drug addictions. On the heels of the success of the “Walk This Way” remake, Aerosmith released the Permanent Vacation album in the late summer of 1987. Its first single, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” became the group’s first hit single outside the Run-D.M.C. collaboration since 1978’s “Come Together.” They followed that single with a string of big hits over the next few years, including “Love in an Elevator,” “Cryin’,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” and “Jaded.”
This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the best of 1986, kicking off with the groundbreaking “Walk This Way,” performed by Run-D.M.C. and featuring Aerosmith’s “Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.
During the 1980s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, led by Susan “Siouxsie” Ballion, had 15 top 40 singles in the UK, where they formed. In the US, they had 15 fewer hits.
That changed in 1991, thanks to a song about a popular Hollywood actress of the 1950s who died in a car accident in 1967.
Vera Palmer, under her screen name Jayne Mansfield, won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year in 1957, beating out Natalie Wood. That was the year she appeared in the film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, based on the Broadway show in which she also starred. She also starred in the hit film The Girl Can’t Help It, which featured appearances from Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.
Her career took a turn after these hits, perhaps due to a public backlash against her over-exposure, perhaps due to a decline in popularity of the “blonde bombshell” look, and/or perhaps due to her frequent pregnancies keeping her from accepting roles she was offered.
She did continue to work, however – in films, on television, on stage, and on records. Following a nightclub performance in Biloxi, Mississippi on June 28, 1967, Mansfield was en route to New Orleans where she was scheduled to be part of a radio show the following day. Her car collided with a tractor-trailer, and Mansfield, as well as her boyfriend and the car’s driver, were killed instantly.
The car accident is referenced in the fourth verse of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Kiss Them for Me,” named after Mansfield’s 1957 film in which she co-starred with Cary Grant.
“Kiss Them for Me” peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100, nine positions higher than its UK peak. It also went to #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and hit #8 on the Billboard Dance chart.
Today the woman born Susan Ballion turns 59 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with her ode to the late Jayne Mansfield.
In 1984, Madonna peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her first charting single, “Holiday.” By the following year, she had established herself as the Queen of the Pop Charts. She followed “Holiday” with three singles that hit the top ten in 1984: “Borderline,” “Lucky Star” and “Like a Virgin,” the latter hitting #1 and remaining there for six weeks. She opened 1985 with the #2 hit “Material Girl,” followed closely by the #1 “Crazy for You.” “Crazy” is from the film Vision Quest, in which Madonna had a small part as a nightclub singer.
Madonna had a much larger role in the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Released in April 1985, the smash film featured a new track from Madonna, “Into the Groove.” As one might expect when a new superstar has a new song, and a great song at that, the track received lots of radio airplay. “Groove” hit #1 on the Dance Club chart, and the only record on which it appeared, a 12-inch single where it was the b-side of “Angel,” went gold, selling over a million units in the US.
Though it was a big seller with a ton of airplay and club play, “Into the Groove” never hit Billboard’s Hot 100. Though that chart is supposed to accurately reflect a song’s popularity in the US, Billboard imposes rules that hang around longer than they should, throwing off historians looking into a song’s popularity. One of the arcane rules in 1985 was that a song had to be available on a commercial 7-inch vinyl single to be eligible to chart. Commercial availability solely on a 12-inch vinyl single, even one that sold over a million copies, is not enough. Widespread radio play on a variety of formats (the song hit the top twenty on the r&b chart, which for reasons that made sense to Billboard’s chart editors, allowed 12-inch singles to chart) is not enough.
Eventually, Billboard got around to revising these rules. The advent of cassingles (cassette tape singles) and CD singles expanded the formats eligible. The music industry’s decision to hold back the release of singles in any format to force consumers to shell out big bucks for a full-length album to get the one song they liked forced Billboard to make radio airplay without a commercial single good enough for a Hot 100 chart placement, but that change didn’t come into being until December of 1998, thirteen years too late for Madonna and historians.
This week’s Throwback Thursday kicks off with one of the best-known songs to have never charted on Billboard’s Hot 100, Madonna’s “Into the Groove.” It is followed by other music highlights of 1985.
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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Nineteen seventy-nine saw the release of The Ethel Merman Disco Album. That same year saw western music banned in Iran. If you heard that album you’d hail that decision. Six-and-a-half minutes of “Everything’s Coming up Roses” set to a dance beat was deemed too decadent and an insult to decent citizens. By order of the Prophet, they banned that boogie sound, as it degenerated the faithful.
While waiting for his bandmates to come to the studio to work on the album with the working title Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, The Clash’s Topper Headon recorded a song he wrote. He played drums, piano and bass on the track. Per the group’s former associate and sometime manager Kosmo Vinyl, Headon accompanied his music with “very, very pornographic lyrics” about his girlfriend. The Prophet would not be happy.
Raga is a style of Indian classical music. Its performed pieces typically last for a half hour or longer. After a few days of hearing each song being worked on for the The Clash’s album lasting a minimum of six minutes, band manager Bernard Rhodes asked “Does everything have to be as long as a raga?” The question inspired the band’s Joe Strummer to write the lyric “The king told the boogie men ‘You have to let that raga drop.’” (NOTE: Joe Strummer did not compose the KC & the Sunshine Band hit “I’m Your Boogie Man.” Or did he???)
With that line as his starting point, Strummer replaced the original “pornographic” lyrics Headon wrote for his tune with ones inspired by Iran’s ban of disco music. In the song, once the Shareef is out of sight, the populace ignore the ban. Even the fighter pilots the Shareef brings in to drop bombs on the partying civilians turn up the music on their radios once he’s been chauffeured away. Western dance music? The Shareef don’t like it!
By the late 1990s the laws against western music had been relaxed in Iran, only to be reinstituted in 2005 by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Though Ahmadinejad thinks it’s not kosher to boogie, we at Tunes du Jour think it’s treif to let Friday pass by without dancing. Our weekly dance playlist kicks off with The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah,” with lyrics by Joe Strummer, who was born on this day in 1952. By the way, the album from which the song is taken, released under the name Combat Rock, contains only one song longer than five minutes, the five-and-a-half minute long “Straight to Hell.” The king won.
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While performing stand-up comedy in the late 1990s/early 2000s I appeared in several contests. More often than not I scored very well. In a contest at the club StandUp NY to find New York’s funniest gay man, I came in second. First place went to Seth Rudetsky. Around that same time both of us were entrants in another stand-up contest. Again, I came in second to Seth’s first.
Our acts were similar. Both of us were (are) thin New York gay Jews who mocked silly pop song lyrics in our sets. Seth talked about Sheena Easton’s “Morning Train” while I discussed Air Supply’s “All Out of Love.” I don’t begrudge him his first place winnings – he was great.
Seth went on to write for The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which garnered him several Emmy nominations. He has written for the Grammy Awards and the Tony Awards. He hosts a radio show on SiriusXM about Broadway musicals.
This past Tuesday my friend Scott and I attended Seth’s one-person show at Largo. His opening act was Judd Apatow. In the audience were Barbra Streisand, Sean Hayes, and the guy who played Valerie Cherish’s PR person on The Comeback. Also in the audience was me, the runner-up. Was I jealous? Was I bitter? You bet I was!
On the positive tip, I was inspired as well. It was a very fun show and gave me some ideas as to how to structure the one-person show I’ve been saying I will write for the past fourteen years. Destiny is calling me – open up my eager eyes, ‘cause I’m Mr. Brightside.
Our weekly dance party kicks off with The Killers.
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