Remembering George Duke

During the long, unplanned hiatus this blog took, George Duke passed away.  As I understand it, George Duke was primarily a jazz musician, though he occasionally branched over to pop music and R&B.  Most online bios of him will point to his work with Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Zappa as helping to establish his name in the industry, so that gives you an idea of the diversity of his musical styles.

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Free Your Mind by En Vogue

I know, En Vogue was so popular that it seems strange to think of any of the group’s smash hits being forgotten.  Of course, some of those hits still receive quite a bit of airplay now.  “Hold On”, the first of their three #2 hits, still gets some play, as does “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”, the second.  And I suppose their hit with Salt-N-Pepa, “Whatta Man”, is probably still used for any number of bad morning radio show “Battle of the Sexes” games (and I’ve heard it played in full as well).

But think about this before you answer:  when was the last time you remember hearing “Free Your Mind” on the radio?  If you’re like me, it’s been a very long time.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard this song get any airplay since the 1990s.  It really surprised me to think about that; I would have thought a song with a message like that of “Free Your Mind”, speaking against prejudice, would become a recurrent hit for a while and then end up on your catch-all Jack FM type of station.  However, as far as I can tell, it never did.  Instead, it just faded away.

“Free Your Mind” was the third song from En Vogue’s very successful second album, Funky Divas.  The album had already generated two top ten hits when this song was released (“My Lovin'” being one of them).

(Funky Divas peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200.  Album ℗1992 East West Bros. Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.)

“Free Your Mind” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #89 for the week ending September 12, 1992 (chart) and peaked at #8 seven weeks later (chart).  The song appeared on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks and was #93 for the year 1992.

En Vogue, of course, continued to have success through most of the 90s, but this song fell by the wayside.  It deserved better.

 

 

Just Like Paradise by David Lee Roth

A few years before his former (and future) band released a now-forgotten song, once and present lead singer David Lee Roth had one of his own.  He had had a few well-known hits, including a very successful remake of “California Girls”, in the mid-1980s.  By the late 80s, however, his solo success was starting to dry up, at least as far as Billboard’s Hot 100 was concerned.

In 1988, Mr. Roth hit the Hot 100 one last time as a solo artist with “Just Like Paradise”, his highest-charting non-cover.  It was the lead single from his album Skyscraper, a fairly successful album that went platinum.

(Skyscraper peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200.  Album ℗1988 Warner Bros. Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

“Just Like Paradise” made a strong entrance into Billboard’s Hot 100 at #56 for the week ending January 16, 1988 (chart) and peaking at #6 the week of March 12 (chart); it also peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.  It spent a fairly short 16 weeks in the Hot 100, but it still did well enough to place #97 in the year-end chart.

According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, “Just Like Paradise” had been considered as a potential theme song for a new TV program, “Beverly Hills 90210”.  Mr. Roth’s management very helpfully rejected this idea before even talking to Mr. Roth about it.  And so, instead of a ten-year run, the song fell rather quickly into obscurity, possibly due to lyrics which, honestly, are not the deepest ever heard (but then, we live in an age in which “Boom Boom Pow”, which I am not linking, is considered good music).

 

 

Tarzan Boy by Baltimora

Baltimora, at least in the US, was definitely a one-hit wonder.  Interestingly enough, though, its one hit, “Tarzan Boy”, made it to Billboard’s Hot 100 on two separate occasions.  (Okay, yes, they made the Hot 100 with one other song, the title track to their first album, but they are known almost entirely in this country for “Tarzan Boy”.)

(Living In The Background, Baltimora’s first studio album, peaked at #49 on the Billboard 200.  Album ℗1985 EMI Music.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

Though “Tarzan Boy” was the first single from Living In The Background, which was released in the summer of 1985, the single did not hit the charts in the US until late in the year, entering Billboard’s Hot 100 at #80 for the week ending October 19, 1985 (chart | magazine).  It spent exactly half a year on Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at #13 the week of March 1, 1986 (chart | magazine), and then falling out the week of April 19.

While Baltimora did somewhat well in Italy, further singles, as well as a second album, did not exactly burn up the charts in most other countries.  The band broke up after that, and that would normally be the end of the story.

In this case, however, “Tarzan Boy” found new popularity years later through a combination of circumstances.  First, in 1992, Listerine released a new cool mint variety with a series of commercials made by Pixar (yes, that Pixar) which were set to “Tarzan Boy”, though not the Baltimora version.

(Pretty good for 1992 CGI, huh?  Presented per Fair Use clause.)

Then, in early 1993, the rather forgettable film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was released, and, for some unknown reason, “Tarzan Boy” was featured.  The original version, as well as a remix, appeared on the soundtrack, and the song once again appeared in the Hot 100 (though sources seem to disagree whether song that charted in 1993 was the original or the remix), peaking at #51 the week of April 24 (chart).

From what I have heard, this song still occasionally gets airplay on satellite radio, but I’m pretty sure terrestrial radio has just about forgotten about it.

 

 

Can We Still Be Friends? by Todd Rundgren

Todd Rundgren is probably known for several songs released over the course of his career.  I can think of three very quickly:  “Hello It’s Me”, “I Saw the Light”, and “Bang the Drum All Day” (the last of which can be heard most commonly around 5:00 on Friday afternoon every single week).  All of those, as far as I can tell, still get quite a bit of airplay.  But do you remember 1978’s “Can We Still Be Friends?”

(Hermit of Mink Hollow peaked at #36 on the Billboard 200.  Album ℗1978 Bearsville Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

“Can We Still Be Friends?” was the only song from Hermit of Mink Hollow to hit the Hot 100.  It was apparently written, according to Wikipedia, about the end of Mr. Rundgren’s relationship with Bebe Buell, who is possibly best known for being Liv Tyler’s mother.

This song spent five weeks in the Top 40 (I thought, when I originally wrote this, that it might have debuted in the Top 40 during a week in which American Top 40 did a special countdown, but Billboard shows that it was #44 that week), peaking at #29 the week of August 5, 1978 before falling out of the Top 40 the next week.  Overall, “Can We Still Be Friends?” spent 13 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.  A year later, Robert Palmer took another version of this song to #52 (but, honestly, I think Mr. Rundgren’s version is superior).

So, while “Bang the Drum All Day” didn’t even make it to the Top 40 and still gets airplay, “Can We Still Be Friends?” gets little to no airplay now.  Strange.

The Empire Strikes Back (Medley) by Meco

To most people, Meco is known for one song, and one song only:  the only instrumental single ever certified platinum by the RIAA, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”.  What many probably don’t know is that the single was just 3½ minutes of a 16-minute magnum opus.  I can’t link the MP3 for that because it is an album-only track, so check out The Best of Meco, which contains that track, here.

As you will see if you do check out The Best of Meco, Meco Monardo had an affinity for making discofied versions of many movies, mostly sci-fi ones, with varying degrees of success.  So, when the sequel to Star Wars came out in 1980, Meco was there, and he was ready.

(Meco Plays Music From The Empire Strikes Back apparently never charted.  Album ℗1980 RSO Records, Inc.  Cover courtesy Amazon.com.)

 

“The Empire Strikes Back (Medley)”, like its counterpart from Star Wars, combined multiple themes from John Williams’s score from the movie.  In this case, “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” seamlessly transitions into “Yoda’s Theme” before ending with the slightest hint of Darth Vader’s labored breathing.

Unlike its counterpart, this movie’s medley did not shoot straight to #1, peaking instead at #18 for two straight weeks starting on August 9, 1980 (chart | magazine), possibly due to the disco backlash that had happened in the year before The Empire Strikes Back hit cinemas.  It spent a respectable, but not remarkable, 14 weeks on the Hot 100.

Afterward, Meco would hit the Hot 100 a few more times, but none of his later songs would fare as well as “The Empire Strikes Back (Medley)”.  And since then, only his most famous single would see airplay anywhere, though others, like this one, appear deserving of a few more spins, at least.

 

 

American Music by The Pointer Sisters

When people think of the Pointer Sisters, I would imagine there are a few songs that come quickly to mind:  “I’m So Excited” (not this version, though), “He’s So Shy”, “Fire”, and that pinball song from “Sesame Street” come to mind quickly for me.

But do you think of their 1982 hit “American Music”?

“American Music” was on the same album, So Excited!, as “I’m So Excited” (though that song was added to later releases of their next album, Break Out and re-released as a single in 1984).

(So Excited! peaked at #59 on the Billboard 200.  Album ℗1982 Planet Records.  Photo courtesy Wikipedia under Fair Use clause.)

The song entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at #73 for the week ending June 26, 1982 (chart | magazine).  It peaked at #16 nine weeks later (chart | magazine) and stayed at that position for three straight weeks before dropping out of the top 40 the next week.  Overall, it spent 14 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, its last being the debut week of “I’m So Excited”.

I have heard this song on the radio exactly once since it was on the charts in 1982, and that was sometime around 2002 when my city of residence had an 80s station, and that station was airing what was then called “AT40 Flashback” programs.  I’ve never heard it on the radio since.

Of course, the Pointer Sisters went on to much bigger successes with their aforementioned next album, which spawned several top 10 hits and went 3x platinum.

 

 

Baby Love by Regina

Since the last entry referenced a Madonna song, perhaps it is fitting that the song highlighted in this entry was intended for Madonna.  This was written in 1986 by a lady named Regina Richards, who was convinced by her record company (Atlantic Records) to record it for herself.

(Curiosity peaked at #102 on the Billboard 200.  Album ℗1986 Atlantic Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

And so Ms. Richards went along with Atlantic’s suggestion and recorded “Baby Love”, along with an entire album called Curiosity.  The song was a big success, getting a lot of airplay then (though, per the rather incomplete listings at the now-defunct yes.com, it received no airplay at all on any reporting station in the US in the week prior to my writing this).  It entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at #88 for the week ending June 21, 1986 (chart | magazine) and finally peaked at #10 for the week ending September 13 (chart | magazine).  The song stayed on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks.  It also hit #1 on what was then called the Hot Dance/Disco chart and stayed there for two weeks. Billboard ranked it the 85th biggest hit of 1986.

For some reason, despite the popularity of this hit, Regina never had another hit.  In the meantime, the always-reliable Wikipedia says that she is married with four kids and now lives in my former home of Austin.

For whatever reason, the MP3 of “Baby Love” is not available on Amazon.  You can still buy the entire album here:

Here We Go by Minnie Riperton

Minnie Riperton is pretty much universally known for her #1 hit “Lovin’ You”, but quite honestly, I prefer some of her other, lesser-known songs. Sadly, Ms. Riperton died, way too soon, in 1979. A final album, Love Lives Forever, came out in 1980, featuring some tracks Ms. Riperton had recorded in a 1978 session, combined with vocals contributed by several other artists as a tribute to her.


(Love Lives Forever hit #35 on the Billboard 200 in 1980.)

“Here We Go” was the first single released from Love Lives Forever, and it apparently hit #14 of what was then called the Hot Soul Singles chart. In this song, you can hear that Ms. Riperton is able to enunciate “here we go” quite clearly in the “whistle register”.

And as usual in this feature, no station in town has ever played this as long as I’ve been here, to the best of my knowledge.

Rush Hour by Jane Wiedlin

I still don’t understand why some one-hit wonders get continual airplay
(“Tainted Love”, anyone?), while others are never heard again. Former Go-Go Jane Wiedlin falls into the latter category with her summer 1988 hit, “Rush Hour”.  “Rush Hour” debuted on the top 40 at #33 in the countdown of June 11, 1988, and peaked at #9 seven weeks later.  Three weeks after that, it had already fallen out of the top 40, though some top 40 stations were still playing it at least into September (as evidenced by the September 1988 aircheck I have from “KJ-103″ in Oklahoma City).  All in all,”Rush Hour” spent 19 weeks on the Hot 100, and, as far as I know, it hasn’t been heard since.

(Fur, Jane Wiedlin’s second solo album, spent 20 weeks on Billboard 200, peaking at #105.  It was her last album to chart.)

I wonder if the song’s lack of staying power had anything to do with its strange dolphin-heavy video.  In any case, I’ve certainly never heard the song on any mainstream station since then.