Craig Allen’s ‘Biggest Hits Of Summer’ by decade
The summer of 2017...has flown by!
And, once again, New Jersey 101.5 provides your holiday weekend soundtrack, as we play back some of the biggest hits of the best summers of our lives!
Once again, here at nj1015.com, I present the "fun facts" behind a song that you are hearing this weekend, from the 1960's through the 1990's!
Van Morrison "Brown Eyed Girl" (#10/1967)
Sir George Ivan Morrison...as we know him...Van Morrison was born in Ireland on August 31, 1945.
Also known as "Van the Man," Morrison kicked off his music career as a teen in the late 1950's, by playing a variety of instruments including the guitar, harmonica, keyboards and sax, for various local Irish bands, playing cover versions of popular songs.
Morrison gained worldwide attention by the mid 1960's as the lead singer for the Irish R&B band "Them" (best known for the song "Gloria").
Van Morrison's solo career started with the release of our spotlight song, in 1967.
"Brown Eyed Girl" was originally called "Brown Skinned Girl," and was a song about an inter-racial relationship. Morrison changed it, to make it more acceptable to radio stations...but some stations still banned it due to the line "making love in the green grass."
The reaction to the ban: overdubbing "making love in the green grass" with the line from the first verse: "laughin' and a-runnin'" to make it more radio-friendly.
The 1990 "Best Of Van Morrison" compilation CD released the "censored" version of "Brown Eyed Girl."
Apparently, someone didn't know that there are two versions...
In either case, "Brown Eyed Girl" went to #10 on the Hot 100 in the "Summer Of Love," 1967!
Van Morrison's hit provided a fitting soundtrack to the blooming "hippie" culture...but he wanted nothing to do with it...and was horrified when his album "Blowin' Your Mind" was released with a psychedelic-looking cover.
The female backing vocals are provided by the "Sweet Inspirations." This gospel-influenced group lent their talents to many others...including Aretha Franklin and (New Jersey's own) Dionne Warwick. They would go on to be Elvis' backing singers in 1969, and would record and tour with "The King" til his death in 1977.
Bert Berns would produce "Brown Eyed Girl." He would bring a pop appeal to the song...and a latin feel that was one of his go-to "sounds."
Van Morrison wasn't looking for "pop."
"I never wanted to be commercial, and suddenly, 'Brown Eyed Girl' was making me even more commercial."
And, while it is Van Morrison's most enduring song...
...he doesn't hold "Brown Eyed Girl" in the same regard as the general public...telling "Time" magazine in 2009: "I didn't perform it for a long time because for me it was like a throwaway song. I've got about 300 other songs I think are better than that."
Coincidentally, in 2009, our spotlight song was awarded a "Million Air" certificate by the music licensing group BMI (in London). Why is this noteworthy, you ask?
The certificate is awarded to European artists who have achieved multi-million U.S. radio and TV performances..."Brown Eyed Girl" topping the list in 2009, with an astounding 9 million plays since 1967. One can't even estimate the number of plays added in the last 8 years.
And, New Jersey 101.5 is adding a few more spins through this long holiday weekend!
Climax Blues Band "Couldn't Get It Right" (#3/1977)
Originally known as the "Climax Chicago Blues Band," the "Climax Blues Band," formed in Stafford, England in 1967.
Led by vocalist and harmonica player Colin Cooper, this British rock band included Pete Haycock on guitar and vocals, Derek Holt on guitar, Richard Jones on piano and bass, George Newsome on drums, and Arthur Wood on keyboards.
The lineup would change over the years...and they would release a total of 17 albums!
"Couldn't Get It Right" would be biggest of two chart hits for the band...
By 1976, 8 of those albums had been released, with little fanfare. Derek Holt tells the story that Climax Blues Band delivered their completed "Gold Plated" album to RCA Records. The reply from RCA: "You know what, guys, there really isn't a single on it. So, could you go try and write a hit?"
So, the band band went to their London studios (owned by famed Beatles producer George Martin) "and just came up with 'Couldn't Get It Right' from absolutely nowhere." Holt adds that it was just a matter of "sitting around, thinking of a great rhythm and...(a) couple of hooks."
What's it about? Derek Holt says that it's "about being on the road in America. 'Looking for a sign in the middle of the night' being about the old Holiday Inn signs, really, because the moment you saw the Holiday Inn sign, that meant you got a bed for the night."
"Couldn't Get It Right" shot to #3 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1976!
Derek Holt says the last-minute song that put the band on the pop charts was "nothing more than a lucky moment in time."
Plus: "It really annoyed the producer (Mike Vernon), who thought we were holding out on him with an extra song that we never told him about."
Asia "Heat Of The Moment" (#4/1982)
"Asia" featured an all-star lineup: John Wetton from "King Crimson," Steve Howe from "Yes," Carl Palmer from "Emerson, Lake & Palmer," and Geoff Downes from the "Buggles" and "Yes."
John Wetton began writing the song that would become "Heat Of The Moment" in 1980, when he was a part of the band "Wishbone Ash." They were recording an album at Criteria Studios in Miami, and when the recording session would end at around 6pm, Wetton would stay late and work up song ideas...saying: "I couldn't waste a studio like that with the best time in it."
Our spotlight song, and "Asia's" biggest hit deals with a young couple's intense relationship, and questions what will happen to them, as they get older.
Saying "sorry" would become commonplace in rock songs later in the 1980's...but in 1982, it wasn't exactly commonplace. Apologizing in song was considered...wimpy.
Wetton wasn't hung up on being "macho." In fact, this hit starts with: "I never meant to be so bad to you."
In an online interview, John Wetton says: "The whole song is just an apology...I hold my hand out, and I got it wrong.I never meant it to be like that. I didn't want it to be like that. And, so I'm sorry."
In case you are wondering, there is a specific person Wetton is singing to: his girlfriend, Jill, who would become his wife.
They split...after 10 years of marriage.
"Heat Of The Moment" would go to #4 on the Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1982. This hit would spend 12 weeks in the top-40.
The (above) video was directed by the team of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who had their own band in the 1970's...10cc. In 1985, Godley & Creme would score a #16 solo hit with "Cry."
The "grid" format allowed for lots of individual "memories" to be seen...along with footage of the band. The video did very well on MTV.
Along with continued radio airplay on "classic hits" radio...
"Heat Of The Moment" has had an enduring impact on pop culture, as it was featured in the movie "The 40-Year Old Virgin." And, Steve Carrell's character has an "Asia" poster on his wall.
In the "South Park" episode where Cartman addresses Congress about stem cell research...
...he starts singing "Heat Of The Moment," and the entire Congress joins in. WATCH!
One can also play along with the song, as it is featured on "Guitar Hero Rocks The '80s."
Where else in pop culture have you seen or heard this super group's first and biggest hit?
By the way, "Heat Of The Moment" was the last song that the band recorded for their first album...and it ended up being the first single!
"Asia" would score another top-10 hit, with "Don't Cry" in 1983.
They would disband in the late 1980's...and reform several times over the years.
Geoff Downes would be the most consistent original member to join in on subsequent studio album recordings, and tours.
Sadly, John Wetton died this past January, of cancer. He was 67.
To see what "Asia" is up to now, check their official website here!
Go West "King Of Wishful Thinking" (#8/1990)
"Go West" is the English pop band formed in 1982...by lead vocalist Peter Cox and rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Richard Drummie.
From the mid-1980's on, "Go West" would score several hits in their native England. In fact the duo was named "Best British Newcomer" at the 1986 Brit Awards.
But...they had yet to crack the American pop charts.
Fellow Brit Martin Page wanted to change that.
"King Of Wishful Thinking" would be the answer.
The hit song's bouncy rhythm masks the heartbreak in the lyrics...more on that in a moment.
The lyrics were penned by Cox and Drummie.
The singer has lost his girl...and he is in a willful state of denial, telling himself that even though he is torn up inside...it will all be fine.
Thus, he is the king of wishful thinking.
LISTEN to the lyrics...while you are tapping your toes to the cheery beat, supplied by Martin Page!
Previously, Page had written (international) #1 hit songs "We Built This City" (Starship) and "These Dreams" (Heart).
For their American debut, Page wanted "Go West" to have "a little bit of an edge."
In an online interview, Page explains: "America, I thought, would accept a little bit of funky soul from them." Then, add Pete Cox's vocals into the mix, and "you can't go wrong. He's an extraordinary vocalist, and when you've got a singer like that getting on the mic and playing your melodies, you're pretty fortunate."
"Go West" was also fortunate to have "King Of Wishful Thinking" featured in the 1990 blockbuster movie "Pretty Woman," starring Julia Roberts. The song is also included on the movie soundtrack.
As you now know, the song was NOT written for the movie.
However, "Go West's" record label, EMI, was involved with the soundtrack...and when execs heard the demo of this future-hit, they asked to include it on the upcoming soundtrack.
And, while the songs lyrics don't make much sense in context of the movie's storyline, the song's bouncy, "fresh" sound helped to carry its scene...
...and sell copies of the soundtrack.
And, its movie exposure...helped "King Of Wishful Thinking's" rise up the pop charts.
The movie and song were released at about the same time...in March 1990.
In June, Go West's first release in America entered the top-40....slowly rising up the chart through the early summer...peaking at #8 in August 1990.
Here are a few more "Fun Facts:"
In coming up with the general sound of the song, Martin Page consciously blended a "Minnesota Prince sound with a Motown feel." And, there was another influence: "There was a song by the Fine Young Cannibals at that time called "She Drives Me Crazy" (another of Jersey's Favorite Hits). It had a really attractive tempo and feel to it.
Hearing "She Drives Me Crazy" on the radio, Martin Page concluded: "I could hear Go West killing a song like that."
Its interesting to note that, while "King Of Wishful Thinking" was included on the "Pretty Woman" soundtrack in 1990...
..."Go West" did not release the song on their own album til "Indian Summer" in 1992!