world radio history
Hanspostcard has a song draft challenge. This is my Round Six pick.
Moving into 1986… My first introduction to R.E.M. wasn’t the radio or MTV. It was an odd video channel on Cablevision in the early 80s in my NC hometown (my mom only had basic cable…no MTV). I’ve talked at great length with Max (Powerpop Blogger) about this obscure video channel. I remember two VJs, one named “Dr. John” (not the musician) that wore blue scrubs and one named “Carrot Top” (not the comedian), that, of course, was a red-headed dude. I have no idea where this channel broadcast from but, it was a seriously stripped down operation. It was just rotating VJs, sitting at a desk, talking into a camera…and playing music videos. The first video I recall seeing was Radio Free Europe, the Murmur version, not the Hib-Tone single (I later found out). I was immediately hooked but, totally missed who the band was. (Interestingly, the Hib-Tone version was recorded at Drive-In Studios in Winston-Salem, NC and the Murmur version was recorded at Reflection Studios in Charlotte, NC.) Fast forward to the end of my senior year of high school and I see some of So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) on MTV. I had no idea that this was the same band. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when Driver 8 came out (another one I like), that a buddy of mine told me who R.E.M. was…a college band out of the University of Georgia (Bulldogs). Every piece of music of theirs that I was lucky enough to catch, I loved. Finally, in 1987, The One I Love broke thru to #9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and they seemed to be everywhere. Their highest charting hit was Losing My Religion, getting to #4 in 1991. Out of their entire catalog, which is gi-hugic, Fall On Me wound up being my favorite, with my introductory piece, Radio Free Europe, coming in second. I wish I had seen them live.
Bit of odd trivia…five strange degrees of separation. R.E.M. had a manager by the name of Jefferson Holt. He was with them until 1996 when they got rid of him for sexual harassment. Jefferson Holt is from Chapel Hill and his mother is named Bertha “B” Holt. She was an NC State Rep. from 1975 to 1994, representing my home county (and another one). She was quite the pioneer, advocating for the ERA and married rape victims (which is ironic as hell considering her son’s behavior). My paternal grandmother was in Democratic politics in the 60s, 70s & 80s, running for local office, herself (and on first-names basis with several governors). She campaigned heavily for her favorites and “Bee” Holt was one of them. I met Bee Holt several times as a kid and remember all of her “Bee” 🐝 paraphernalia all over my grandmother’s house.
I guess this makes me closer to R.E.M. than Kevin Bacon! 😉 😊 ~Vic
Released 0n August 11, 1986, it was the third track from the album Lifes Rich Pageant. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #96 the weekend of October 4, peaking at #94 on October 11 before finally disappearing from the chart on October 25. It did better on the Album Rock Tracks, making it to #5 for one week on September 6.
“Of the genuinely new songs, Peter Buck’s basic music track for Fall On Me dated back to July of 1985, when Stipe had written a lyric about acid rain [but], the song had been virtually re-written, melody and lyrics, by the time it came to be recorded. Stipe, who declared in 1991 that “…this may be my favourite song in the R.E.M. catalogue…”, has described the final version as “…pretty much a song about oppression.” Trainspotters might like to know that the counter-melody used in the second verse is actually the song’s original tune.
Johnny Black (2004)
Reveal: The Story of R.E.M.
His Favorite Song
Hanspostcard has a song draft challenge. This is my Round Four pick.
I nearly abandoned the rest of the 1970s for the 1980s until Quinn’s pick. Listening, again, to Tears for Fears reminded me of how much I love a saxophone in rock music. I think I might stay in 1978 for a little while. It was a good year, musically…for me, anyway. I can remember buying this 45 at a Woolworths in my hometown’s only mall. I also remember playing it on my little suitcase record player. I was eleven at the time. There’s not much that Gerry Rafferty put out that I didn’t like. ~Vic
A Scotsman (I am from Clan MacPherson), Rafferty’s first band was The Humblebums (founded in 1965), joining comic Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey in 1969. Harvey departed shortly afterwards and, in 1971, Rafferty recorded his first solo album when he and Connolly parted company. In 1972, he joined with Joe Egan to form Stealers Wheel, their biggest hit being Stuck In The Middle With You from their first, self-titled album. After disbanding in 1975, legal issues over Stealers Wheel prevented him from releasing new material for three years.
Baker Street, the second track from the album City To City, was released February 3, 1978 or, possibly, January 20, 1978, depending and entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of April 22, 1978. It made it to #2 the week of June 24, 1978 and stayed there, stuck behind Andy Gibb‘s Shadow Dancing, for six weeks (as a side note, my paternal aunt gave me the Shadow Dancing 8-track album for my twelfth birthday and it was shoved into a brand new stereo system from my parents):
“…Baker Street was a smash and it allegedly took some serious chart chicanery to keep it out of the #1 spot. [It] stalled out at #2 right as […] Gibb’s Shadow Dancing was in the midst of its seven-week run at #1. According to legend, the chart tabulators at Billboard had actually figured out that Baker Street had finally ascended to the #1 spot in one of those [seven] weeks and they’d called the new chart into the producers at Casey Kasem’s radio show, America’s Top 40 [sic]. But, because of a last-minute correction, Kasem had to re-record the end of that week’s show, putting Shadow Dancing back on top.
According to rumor, Bill Wardlow, Billboard chart director, made the call to keep Shadow Dancing at #1. Wardlow had supposedly gone to dinner with Andy Gibb’s managers and he’d mentioned that Baker Street had knocked Shadow Dancing out of the #1 spot. Gibb had been scheduled to perform at a Billboard-sponsored show in New York and his label threatened to pull him from the bill if Billboard didn’t keep Shadow Dancing on top…so that’s why Baker Street never got to #1. This is all pure speculation and hearsay but, it’s a good story. Record labels have been doing everything in their power to game the Billboard charts ever since those charts began and it certainly seems possible that Baker Street could’ve been a casualty of all that.
“While doing a bit of research the other day, I found myself poking around the edition of Billboard dated February 17, 1973 (PDF), as one does.
Here’s some of what’s inside:
Willis “Bill” Wardlow has been named associate publisher of Billboard. Over the next several years, Wardlow would be responsible for occasionally jiggering the Billboard charts to reward or punish record labels and to do favors for industry friends. As we learned a few years ago, his manipulations led to Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” spending only 12 hours at #1.”
40 Years Later: Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street ~ The Most Controversial No. 2 Song Ever? (DJ Rob Blog/04-17-2018)
Baker Street: The Mystery of Rock’s Greatest Sax Riff (The Atlantic/Adam Chandler/12-17-2015)
Scott Paton: Billboard Insider Comment (The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ Website/AT40 From The Inside/09-16-2013)
Smoking The Bible