memories of the ’70s – Shining Star by Earth, Wind & Fire

For funk band Earth, Wind & Fire, 1975 brought them their first number one single, the memorable Shining Star.

Written by band members Maurice White, Larry Dunn and Philip Bailey, the song was written for the CBS album That’s the Way of the World, which was also a soundtrack of a film that featured several band members in cameos.

Recorded in the Fall of 1974, the song was inspired by a walk by White under the starry sky. Mixing disco, pop, funk, soul and R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire fused the popular sounds of the ’70s into a distinct dance sound with the use of horns and a capella vocals.

This song was also the first by the band to zoom up the charts and become their first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. Listen to the original version here.

Shining Star gained the band two nominations at the American Music Awards and won a Grammy as Best R&B Duo/Group Performance.

A steady seller for Earth, Wind and Fire, the song hit gold status and eventually hit platinum status, selling over three million units in the US. And for the band, it was the beginning of their classic period as a band, gaining widespread popularity in the US and Europe.

memories of the ’80s – I Melt With You by Modern English

Early 80s fans fell for this unconventional love song  by Modern English: I Melt With You.

Written by the band, the song was for their 1982 album After the Snow and was their first single released in May 1982.

The storyline of the song: a couple making love during a nuclear bomb attack. The lyrics are well-known to fans, such as the chorus:

I’ll stop the world and melt with you
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time
There’s nothing you and I won’t do
I’ll stop the world and melt with you

The album was the band’s second effort, and this song was the first time one of their songs hit the Billboard charts. Thanks to the video’s heavy rotation on MTV and airplay on college radio, the song became a popular hit among teens and 20 somethings,

But it was the use of the song in the soundtrack for the film Valley Girl in 1983, and the video with film sequences keeping this song a favourite for radio and MTV and led the album After the Snow to sell 500,000 copies in the US.

Ranked as one of the 100 most important songs of the 1980s by VH1, I Melt With You became a song that although isn’t a traditional love song, is often lumped into the category.

memories of the ’70s – Lady Marmalade by Labelle

The sound of the mid 1970s was found in the soulful sounds of the girl group Labelle and the hit song Lady Marmalade.

Written by songwriting duo Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, the song was inspired by Crewe’s observations of the city of New Orleans and produced by local Nola musician Allan Toussaint.

Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash recorded the song for the album Nightbirds, pushing a change in their image from do wop girl group to funky girls in glamourous metallic space outfits.

The trio didn’t know the song referred to a prostitute, but were happy for the new sound of disco to get them noticed and played on radio.

The infamous line of the song – Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir? (Would you like to sleep with me tonight?) is taken from the famous play/film A Streetcar Named Desire, which is set in New Orleans.

Released in August 1974, the song slowly climbed the charts and led to Labelle appearing on Soul Train in December 1974. In early 1975, the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week. Their album Nightbirds became their first platinum sales success.

Now one of the most popular disco songs of the era, Rolling Stone Magazine chose Lady Marmalade as the one of the The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time.

 

 

memories of the ’80s – Last Christmas by Wham!

Popular Brit pop duo Wham! hit the charts with its own holiday creation – Last Christmas.

Recorded in 1984, the same year as the powerhouse song by Band Aid Don’t They Know It’s Christmas? , the song was written and produced by George Michael.

Released as a single in December 1994, with the B side Everything She Wants, the single fought for the top of the charts against Band Aid and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love.

The sweetness of the song paired with a snowy music video filmed in Switzerland, helped the song hit number two and spend 13 weeks on the chart in 1984.

But the song kept going, hitting the charts in 1985 and 1987 as well as part of the holiday music celebrations in the UK and the rest of Europe for the rest of the decade.

Consequent versions of the song have been recorded by Whigfield, Billie, Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Ashley Tisdale, Crazy Frog, Cascada, Alcazar and Joe McElderry.

And the song exists well into the 21st century, thanks to the pop stylings of Wham! and the latest version by Ariana Grande. But its the original that has been voted one of the 10 best Christmas songs of the past decades in the UK.

 

memories of the ’70s – Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas

Bing Crosby’s last television Christmas special had a unique pop culture inclusion – a duet with David Bowie for Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.

The storyline of the holiday special was a visit to England by the Crosby family to see a distant relative. Co-starring Crosby’s wife Kathryn as well as some of his children: Nathaniel, Harry and Mary.

Bowie comes over to the manor house to introduce himself, saying that Crosby’s relative always let him come use the piano. Bing and David chat, and end up singing together, a pretty rendition of a unique mash up of the Little Drummer Boy and Peace on Earth.

Aired in November 1977, a month after Crosby’s death, the poignant duet has become a radio and television classic of the holiday time period, since at that point, Bowie was not known for doing any traditional music and wanted to become more mainstream.

Peace on Earth was written specifically for Bowie for the special because he didn’t want to sing the Little Drummer Boy, originally written in 1941. And although it aired in North America and the UK, the single by Crosby/Bowie was only released officially in 1982 as a B side to the song Heroes.

But for every holiday season, this Crosby/Bowie duet is a classic of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

memories of the ’80s – Fairytale of New York

Although the lyrics may not be the heartwarming standard of Christmas songs, the emotions and tune of Shane McGowan and Jem Finer’s song Fairytale of New York has become a seasonal classic.

Written as a traditional Irish folk song, McGowan initially started writing the song while in bed with double pneumonia in 1985, but it wasn’t quite the song that he and The Pogues wanted. After a tour to New York City and the US in 1986, McGowan returned to the song, adding in more details after spending time within the Irish community in NYC.

Produced by Steve Lillywhite, McGowan initially recorded both the male and female parts of the duet. But Lillywhite decided to ask his wife, singer  Kristy MacColl to take on the female role and worked with the singers independently to create the duet for The Pogues’ album If I Should Fall From Grace with God.

The bittersweet call and response of the song between a couple reminiscing about the past and dealing with the present day, with the man in the drunk tank and the way they’ve dealt with their alcoholism and drug addictions made for a memorable song. The language of the song is bawdy and judgemental, reflecting the working class speech of McGowan.

Released in November 1987, the song hit the Irish charts and stayed at number one for five weeks. In the UK, the song climbed to number two, with MacColl and The Pogues appearing on the Top of the Pops.

The song’s music video helped propel the song to the top of the charts in the US and Canada, showing the two singers in New York City and with actor Matt Dillon in a cameo as a police officer.

Reissued in 2012, as the song celebrated its 25th anniversary and is still played every holiday season.

 

memories of the ’70s – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

John Lennon combined his anti-war stance and a holiday sentiment in the 1971 song Happy Xmas (War is Over), which has become a holiday classic.

After the success of his album Imagine, Lennon realized a gentle touch would get across his antiwar stance and he wrote this song while living with Yoko Ono at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel.

Recorded a few months later in their Greenwich Village home, Lennon asked Phil Spector to produce the song, and worked with his wife Yoko, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, made up of young singers from ages four to 12.

One of the unique moments of the song is when Lennon whispers Happy Christmas Julian – a small shout out to his son, while Yoko whispers Happy Christmas Kyoko, a small shout out to her daughter.

Released on Apple Records in December 1971 in the United States, the song was the first Christmas-related song released by a former Beatle. Its success was not immediate, due to the late release and lack of promotion.

Fans on the other side of the Atlantic had to wait a year before the song was released in the UK due to a copyright dispute, but when released in November 1972, the song hit number four on the UK charts and was immediately played every holiday season, especially after Lennon’s death in 1980.

Since Lennon’s death, many artists had covered this song including Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffet, Jessica Simpson, Darlene Love and the Moody Blues.