Saturday, July 23, 2016

Song #336: "Something About You"--Level 42 (1986)

Today's song is the first of three songs on the countdown from easily, in my humble opinion, one of the more underrated groups of the 1980's, Level 42.

The band had been around several years before finally making it big both at home in Great Britain and in the United States, thanks to this song, which peaked in the Top 10 here at the end of May, 1986, early in my tenure on WUPE-FM in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

This was a very fun song to play on the radio, and it spent pretty much all of spring of that year in what we call heavy rotation. Interestingly, though, it is not Level 42's best charting song ever when taking worldwide into account. You would think it was, considering this is their only song that has been accepted by today's classic hits radio format some three decades later.

We'll pick up this subject at a later (much later?) date, but for now, enjoy "Something About You"!

P.S.--It's a crazy hot one here in the Mid-Atlantic today. Hydrate!  :) :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Song #337: "Rock n' Roll Music"--The Beatles (1964)

So, we have a song originally recorded and made famous by Chuck Berry re-recorded by two legendary groups, The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

The Beatles sang this song, a lot, early in their career, recording it in 1964 for an album. It later became the "title track" of the 1976 compliation double album "Rock n' Roll Music", which was what really introduced me to the Fab Four.

That same year, the Beach Boys came out with their version, a little slower, with a definite Beach Boys twist, and it was good, too.

But my vote is for the Fab Four's version. Here they are live in concert, just missing the hot piano at the end of the last verse, with #337 in the Rob Witham 500.  :)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Song #338: "Is There Something I Should Know?"--Duran Duran (1983)

We welcome one of the dominant groups of the first half of the 1980's to the countdown, Duran Duran, who might have had more "on the cusp" songs when we put this list together than anyone else, including The Moody Blues, The Beatles, and The Eagles.

One of MTV's early superstars, the members of the group were as wildly popular as Princess Diana for a time in their heyday, when they zoomed to stardom in the UK, then across the pond with their first hit, "Hungry Like The Wolf", which peaked here early in 1983.

About that time, today's featured song hit British radio, and would present its unmistakable drum opening to America in the summer of that year. The Duran Duran craze was unstoppable.

I liked their music, a lot. But it's amazing how many of their songs just missed our countdown. They only appear one more time, so, we'll wait until then to discuss some of the very good music that just missed the cut so as to not give away the other song that did.

Until then, go answer the question!  :) :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Song #339: "One Piece At A Time"--Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Three (1976)

Some, including some hard core Johnny Cash fans, will consider this a "novelty" song. I certainly don't. I just think it's brilliant.

Cash hit the charts (and we bought the single) in 1976 with the story of a man who left Kentucky for Detroit and a career on the automobile assembly line, where he was the "wheel man" for Cadillac. He apparently didn't make enough money to purchase one of his own. So he, as he said, "devised myself a plan that should be the envy of most any man", deciding he'd somehow sneak pieces of the car out of the plant in his lunch box, hoping to complete the car "by the time I retired".

Gears and a fuel pump were first. A buddy of his used his mobile home as an accomplice to get the bigger parts out of dodge (pun intended).

Of course, over time, there were issues, as his developing car wasn't exactly one model year.

As for the rest? Find out below, and enjoy a gem from the Man in Black, who will return again on our countdown.  :)


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Song #340: "Girlfriend"--Avril Lavigne (2007)

For most of you faithful followers of our musical journey, this song will likely feel like it's coming out of left field. But there is a definite back story here.

It's early 2007 and I'm living....err.....working at the then-Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia). 70 hour weeks are the norm, sometimes more, especially Wednesday and Thursday nights, always trying to get the production orders out ahead so my awesome producers upstairs could hit the ground running each morning, get the work done, and get out of dodge on time. That was my mantra.

So, at some point, maybe walking down the hallway on studio row upstairs or some other way, I came across a song that immediately stopped me dead in my tracks. And this was my thought:

"If 'Mickey' by Toni Basil (1982) had a child, it would be this song."

Now, you won't see Toni on the Top 500, in fact, my sophomore year in high school my "group" of lunch friends got so tired of this song on the jukebox (yes, Patrick Henry had a jukebox in the cafeteria), that one day we decided we'd walk out if it came on.

It did.

We did.

But fast forward a quarter-century. I absolutely DUG this song. I'm like, this is "Mickey" but with a super attitude. "Mickey" on steroids. Driving rock, not annoying cheerleader hand claps (until the bridge, of course, but I accepted that....)

So, for many nights in the last nine months I labored on Basie Road, I would fire this tune up on NexGen and play it right before I left. Some nights, it would be played over and over and over again to get me over the hump and out the door.

And thus, the reason why, of all people, Avril Lavigne is in my Top 500 countdown.

Of course, the CLEAN version is posted here. Had there not been a clean version, A) it never would have aired on the radio, and B) I never would have accepted it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Song #341: "Could It Be Magic"--Barry Manilow (1975)

As yesterday's song was saying goodbye to the charts, today's song began its ascension. It is the third song on the Top 500 from an artist who oozed the decade of the Seventies.

Yes, some of his stuff was cheesy, but he also had some epic performances. Today's song, co-written by Manilow in 1971 before he was world famous, was recorded in 1973, but didn't hit the charts until its single release in that unforgettable Summer of 1975 using a re-recorded version.

Chronologically, in 1975, Manilow released the following singles:

--It's A Miracle
--Could It Be Magic
--I Write The Songs

Those came on the heels of his breakthrough #1 song, "Mandy".  I'd say Manilow had a pretty good year.

And, no, this is not Barry's swan song on our countdown. He'll be back once more, somewhere down the road (pun intended....)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Song #342: "Magic"--Pilot (1975)

Just for me personally, I think the best summers for music in the decade of the 1970's were 1975 and 1979. Today, we feature a song from the former, a summer where music helped me and my family escape some upheaval.

Early in the year, my parents separated. In late June, my dad suffered his first, and worst, heart attack at age 43. We almost lost him. I distinctly remember finally getting to visit him at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg for the first time on the Fourth of July that year.

He came home a couple of weeks later, my brother and I spending those weeks he was away with two of the greatest friends my brother could have. And while we spent hours outside playing baseball, football, walking through the woods, we also spent lots of time listening to music. That summer was dominated on our radio by "The Spirit of America--1480, WLEE". Yes, AM radio.  :)

Today's song is one of a large group of tunes from that unforgettable summer that made our countdown, this time from the Scottish group, "Pilot". In America, they were considered a one-hit wonder, as "Magic" reached #5 on the charts that summer.

Time to transport yourself back 41 years to this time in 1975. Gerald Ford is President, the Steel Curtain was celebrating its first Super Bowl title, and my brother's Philadelphia Flyers were still celebrating their second straight Stanley Cup title. Indeed, a little "magic" for his team, consisting of several players who were former Richmond Robins!