Wednesday, December 31, 1986

Pop Memories 1890-1954 – Top 100 Artists

image from recordresearch.com

This list is taken from page 623 of Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories 1890-1954. That book was designed as a companion to the Billboard books which tracked the songs which charted on the Hot 100 from 1955 to the present. The book lists acts alphabetically and all their hits, including peak position and date first charted. This list was created by totaling each act’s chart points.

1. Bing Crosby
2. Paul Whiteman
3. Guy Lombardo
4. Tommy Dorsey
5. Billy Murray
6. Benny Goodman
7. Glenn Miller
8. Henry Burr
9. Peerless Quartet
10. Harry MacDonough

11. Ben Selvin
12. Ted Lewis
13. Al Jolson
14. Sammy Kaye
15. Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan
16. Perry Como
17. Jimmy Dorsey
18. Frank Sinatra
19. Charles Adams Prince
20. The Andrews Sisters

21. Freddy Martin
22. Kay Kyser
23. John McCormack
24. Leo Reisman
25. Isham Jones
26. Rudy Vallee
27. Eddy Duchin
28. American Quartet
29. Dinah Shore
30. Harry James

31. Jo Stafford
32. Haydn Quartet
33. Ada Jones
34. Duke Ellington
35. Louis Armstrong
36. Vaughn Monroe
37. Fats Waller
38. Glen Gray
39. Jan Garber
40. Hal Kemp

41. The Mills Brothers
42. Ruth Etting
43. Byron Harlan
44. Gene Austin
45. Ray Noble
46. Russ Morgan
47. Nat Shilkret
48. Fred Waring
49. Arthur Collins
50. Nat “King” Cole

51. Albert Campbell
52. Artie Shaw
53. George Olsen
54. Horace Heidt
55. Len Spencer
56. Frankie Laine
57. Ada Jones and Billy Murray
58. Enrico Caruso
59. Woody Herman
60. Frank Stanley

61. Marion Harris
62. Cal Stewart
63. The Ink Spots
64. Eddy Howard
65. Ella Fitzgerald
66. Ben Bernie
67. Dick Haymes
68. Walter Van Brunt
69. Patti Page
70. Nora Bayes

71. Dan Quinn
72. Eddie Fisher
73. Bob Crosby
74. Fred Astaire
75. Larry Clinton
76. Cab Calloway
77. Shep Fields
78. Margaret Whiting
79. George J. Gaskin
80. Charles Harrison

81. Doris Day
82. Bert Williams
83. Billie Holiday
84. Teddy Wilson
85. Ozzie Nelson
86. J.W. Myers
87. Ted Weems
88. Wayne King
89. Tony Martin
90. Vic Damone

91. Lewis James
92. Frank Crumit
93. Peggy Lee
94. Vincent Lopez
95. Cliff Edwrads
96. John Phillip Sousa
97. Vess Ossman
98. Connee Boswell
99. Kay Starr
100. Johnny Mercer


Resources:
  • Joel Whitburn (1991). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Record Research: Menomonee Falls, WI. Page 623.

Saturday, December 20, 1986

The Beastie Boys charted with “Fight for Your Right”: December 20, 1986

Originally posted December 20, 2011.

image from imstars.aufeminin.com

The fourth single from the Beastie Boys’ debut album made them a household name. Their goofy wit and party atmosphere endured them to millions – millions who flocked to buy the parent album, Licensed to Ill and give the Beasties the distinction of being the first rap group in U.S. history to hit #1 on the Billboard album chart.

The song – and the success of the album – owed much to the Beasties’ combination of metal and rap. The Beastie Boys were “just three kids from rich New York families who liked black culture.” CR With the help of producer Rick Rubin, they merged the sounds of Led Zeppelin with the style of old school rap. It wasn’t the first time rock and rap had found chart success – just months earlier, Rubin helped Run-D.M.C. get a top 5 U.S. pop hit with their remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” – aided by Aerosmith’s own Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.

“Fight for Your Right” was intended as a parody of the kind of “beer-soaked, panty-raiding rock jam that ruled fraternity houses and dingy bars alike.” TB The video, which depicted “the party that is every suburban parent’s worst nightmare” TB played up the parody and garnered it plenty of spins on MTV.

Unfortunately, as member Mike D said, “There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight for Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.” WK In fact, the song was reportedly cut just as a joke. Once the group became superstars thanks to their new frat-boy fanbase, they played up the roles until, according to Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch, they had become their own joke. SF

In time, the group would come to be very respected for their experimental music and ability to merge different genres. Rap group Public Enemy was on board early, even sampling the song for their own 1988 “Party for Your Right to Fight”.

You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party


Awards:



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Friday, December 19, 1986

Judge refuses to reinstate a lawsuit against Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution”: December 19, 1986

Originally posted December 19, 2011.



October 26, 1984: 19-year-old John McCullum committed suicide in his home in California. His parents brought a lawsuit against heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne and his CBS record label. The McCullums were convinced that the song “Suicide Solution” from Ozzy’s Blizzard of Oz album, played a part in their son’s death. They claimed the song had hidden lyrics which incited their son to kill himself and that the song urged listeners to “get the gun and try it, shoot, shoot, shoot.” HI Osbourne responded that the song was actually anti-suicide, written in response to a musician who drank himself to death, HI supposedly AC/DC’s Bon Scott. WK

The crux of the lawsuit depended on the idea that while it is legal to express a viewpoint or feeling, it is illegal to directly call for any specific violent responses. Specifically, in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that “expression advocating violent or otherwise illegal behavior only loses First Amendment protection if the expression is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless behavior, and is likely to result in such action.” TJ Because this is hard to prove, similar lawsuits brought against other entertainers have generally failed. On December 19, 1986, a judge in California refused to reinstate the lawsuit.





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Saturday, November 15, 1986

Nov. 15, 1986: Robert Cray's Strong Persuader hit the charts

First posted May 29, 2008. Last updated September 9, 2018.

Strong Persuader

Robert Cray

Charted: Nov. 15, 1986


Sales (in millions):
US: 2.0
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 2.0


Peak:
US: 13
UK: 34
Canada: 34
Australia: --

Quotable: --


Genre: blues


Album Tracks:

  1. Smoking Gun (11/29/86, #22 US, #2 AR)
  2. I Guess I Showed Her (3/28/87, #28 AR)
  3. Right Next Door (Because of Me) (5/9/87, #80 US, #50 UK, #27 AR)
  4. Nothin’ But a Woman
  5. Still Around
  6. More Than I Can Stand
  7. Foul Play
  8. I Wonder
  9. Fantasized
  10. New Blood

Notes: A 1995 reissue added a bonus live disc.


Singles/Hit Songs:

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Review:

Strong Persuader, Cray’s fifth studio album, was his mainstream breakthrough, opening up blues to a wider audience than it had received in decades. The Village Voice, Robert Christgau called it “the first album to break out of the genre’s sales ghetto since B.B. King was a hot item” WK and “the best blues record in many, many years.” WK

It was Cray’s “innovative expansion of the genre itself that makes this album a genuine 1980s classic.” BD In his Rolling Stone review, Jon Pareles called it “a version of blues and soul that doesn't come from any one region, building an idiom for songs that tell with conversational directness the stories of ordinary folks.” WK

The album was heavily praised by Christgau for the “fervently crafted” WK “songwriting of his supporting studio team.” WK Pareles gave it props for “intriguing stories about sex and infidelity with disciplined singing, songwriting.” WK

“Cray’s smoldering stance on Smoking Gun and Right Next Door rendered him the first sex symbol to emerge from the blues field in decades.” BDNothing but a Woman boasts an irresistible groove pushed by the Memphis Horns and some metaphorically inspired lyrics, while I Wonder and Guess I Showed Her sizzle with sensuality.” BD

The Village Voice called it the third best album of the year WK and Rolling Stone named it the 42nd best album of the ‘80s. WK


Review Source(s):

Awards:


Related DMDB Link(s):


Saturday, October 25, 1986

Bon Jovi hit #1 with Slippery When Wet: October 25, 1986

Originally posted October 25, 2011.




Bon Jovi hit the rock scene in 1984. Their debut chart single, “Runaway”, cracked the top 40 on the pop charts and went top 5 at rock radio. However, the handful of singles which followed over the rest of that album and the next came and went with much less fanfare. It looked like Bon Jovi could well become an also-ran that would be lucky to be remembered beyond the ‘80s.

Then came the monster that was Slippery When Wet. The group tweaked its approach, bring professional songwriter Desmond Child on board. WK It worked – the band went “from minor-league poodle rockers to global superstars” RD thanks to two #1 songs (“You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer”) co-written by Child.

As “Name” was still climbing the charts, Wet found itself at #1 on the album chart. It abdicated the throne to Boston’s Third Stage the next week. After that album’s month-long stay on top, Bruce Springsteen grabbed the gold for seven weeks with his Live 1975-1975 box set. However, by the time “Prayer” became the band’s second #1 song in February 1987, the album returned to the top as well – for an additional seven weeks.

Wet went on to sell 12 million copies domestically and 28 million worldwide. While “lead singer Jon Bon Jovi’s mop of curls and winning smile” WR grabbed the girls’ attention, their “rock-as-mythology” WR attitude also meant “they had identified their audience – young white adolescent males – and were targeting it accurately.” WR “The album contained competent contemporary pop/rock from its Eddie Van Halen-inspired guitar solos to the singer’s enthusiastic, husky wail (which owed a lot to Bruce Springsteen).” WR Overall, the “album contains its fair share” RD of “consistently memorable tunes.” RD and while it “won’t change your world…it will, undoubtedly, rock it.” RD




Awards:
Resources and Related Links:



Saturday, September 27, 1986

Sept. 27, 1986: Phantom of the Opera opened in London

First posted January 28, 2012. Last updated September 4, 2018.

Phantom of the Opera (cast/soundtrack)

Andrew Lloyd Webber/Charles Hart/ Richard Stilgoe (composers)

Opened in London: September 27, 1986

Cast Album Released: April 20, 1987

Opened on Broadway: January 26, 1988

Soundtrack Released: Nov. 23, 2004


Sales (in millions):
US: 4.0 c, 4.0 h, 1.0 s
UK: 0.9 c
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 14.1 c+h+s


Peak:
US: 33 c, 46 h, 16 s
UK: 1 3-c, 40 s
Canada: --
Australia: --

C cast album
H cast album – highlights
S soundtrack

Quotable: --


Genre: show tunes


Album Tracks:

  1. Prologue
  2. Overture h, s
  3. Think of Me h, s
  4. Angel of Music h, s
  5. The Mirror (Angel of Music) h, s
  6. The Phantom of the Opera (Sarah Brightman, 1/11/86, #7 UK) h, s
  7. The Music of the Night h, s
  8. I Remember/ Stranger Than You Dream
  9. Magical Lasso
  10. Prima Donna h, s
  11. Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh
  12. Why Have You Brought Me Here/
  13. All I Ask of You (Sarah Brightman & Steve Harley, 10/4/86, #7 UK) s
  14. All I Ask of You (Reprise) h, s
  15. Entr’acte h
  16. Masquerade h, s
  17. Notes/ Twisted Every Way
  18. Wishing You Were Here Somehow Here Again (Sarah Brightman, 1/10/87, #7 UK) h, s
  19. Wandering Child/ Bravo Monsieur
  20. The Point of No Return h, s
  21. Down Once More/ Track Down This Murderer h, s

h songs on one-disc highlight version
s songs on one-disc soundtrack version

The soundtrack also adds the brand new “Learn to Be Lonely,” performed by Minnie Driver. A special edition, double-disc version of the soundtrack includes film dialogue.

Click here for the chart codes for singles/hit songs.

Review:

The Phantom of the Opera was originally a 1911 gothic mystery novel by French novelist Gaston Leroux. Ken Hill did a musical version of the book in 1976; ten years later it was adapted again by Andrew Lloyd Webber. “The musical focuses on a beautiful soprano, Christine DaaĆ©, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius known as ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, who terrorizes the Paris Opera House.” WK

Initially Webber approached Jim Steinman, best known for collaborating with Meat Loaf on Bat Out of Hell, to write the lyrics because of his “dark obsessive side.” WK When Steinman declined because of commitments to working on Bonnie Tyler’s album, he recruited Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady, Camelot ), who unfortunately died soon after starting on the project. WK Next up was Richard Stilgoe, who also wrote lyrics for Webber’s Starlight Express. However, Webber deemed his lyrics “too witty and clever, rather than romantic” WK so Charles Hart was brought in to rewrite the lyrics. Stilgoe and Hart both got credit on the final version. WK

Phantom opened on October 9, 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. It celebrated 9000 performances on May 31, 2008 and became “the second-longest-running West End musical of all time, behind Les Miserables.” WK It had similar success after opening in New York in January 1988, becoming “the longest-running Broadway musical of all time, breaking the record held by Lloyd Webber’s Cats.” WK It “won both the Olivier Award and Tony Award as the best musical in its debut years on the West End and Broadway.” WK

The musical has also been named “the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time.” WK The New York production is the “most financially successful Broadway show in history” WK with $600 million grossed. WK The show has played to over 100 million people in 124 cities in 25 countries. WK

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, who starred in the West End production as the titular character and Christine respectively, also launched the Broadway debut. As such, the London cast album became the official recording and no Broadway version was made. WR Both a two-disc set and a single-disc “highlights” set were made available, each selling 4 million copies in the U.S.

In 2004, Phantom was made into a movie starring Gerard Butler as the Phantom and Emily Rossum as Christine DaaĆ©. It was also released in two editions – the double-disc version was the “the complete, unedited film soundtrack, including dialogue, incidental background music, and sound effects,” WR while the single-disc version was billed as the standard release.

Webber wrote “some extra background music here and there, as well as one new song, and that’s an oddity, too. Minnie Driver, who plays the prima donna Carlotta, had her singing dubbed by Margaret Preece, but she turns up at the end and, over the closing credits, sings Learn to Be Lonely, an irrelevant and musically out-of-place song clearly composed just to have a new tune that would be Academy Award-eligible. The film’s other singers are adequate but no competition to Crawford, Brightman, and their colleagues, and the initial recording remains the one to buy.” WR


Review Sources:

Awards:


Related DMDB Link(s):


Monday, August 25, 1986

Paul Simon released Graceland

First posted 8/12/2012; updated 1/14/2020.

Graceland

Paul Simon


Buy Here:


Released: August 25, 1986


Charted: September 13, 1986


Peak: 3 US, 18 UK, 14 CN, 15 AU


Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 2.2 UK, 15.6 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/world music


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon/Forere Motloheloa) [3:59] (2/21/87, #86 US, #15 AR)
  2. Graceland (Paul Simon) [4:48] (11/15/86, #81 US, #38 AR)
  3. I Know What I Know (Paul Simon/General MD Shrinda) [3:13]
  4. Gumboots (Paul Simon/Lulu Masilela/Jonhjon Mkhalali) [2:44]
  5. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (Paul Simon/Joseph Shabalala) [5:45]
  6. You Can Call Me Al (Paul Simon) [4:39] (8/9/86, #20a US, #42 AR)
  7. Under African Skies (with Linda Ronstadt) (Paul Simon) [3:37]
  8. Homeless (Paul Simon/Joseph Shabalala) [3:48]
  9. Crazy Love, Vol. II (Paul Simon) [4:18]
  10. That Was Your Mother (Paul Simon) [2:52]
  11. All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints (Paul Simon) [3:15]


Total Running Time: 43:18

Rating:

4.684 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


Quotable:Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.” – William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide


Awards:

About the Album:

In 1984, Paul Simon was reeling from his failed marriage to Carrie Fisher, a reunion with Art Garfunkel which soured, and the ho-hum reception of his album Hearts and Bones, which Robert Christgau said “was a finely wrought dead end, caught up in introspection, whimsy, and the kind of formal experimentation only obsessive pop sophisticates even notice.” VV Simon was musically rejuvenated by a bootleg called Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume II. Heidi Berg, a singer-songwriter who had worked with Simon as a producer, loaned him the tape WK and, according to myth, Simon hopped a flight to Soweto immediately after hearing it “to learn more about the township jive called umbaqanga,” TL which Simon has called “the reggae of the ‘80s.” VV In reality it was a few months later before Simon embarked on his African pilgrimage. Nonetheless, it remains “the most spontaneous thing the world’s most rational songwriter is even rumored to have done, and that sense of liberation and adventure is all over Graceland.” TL

Simon requested Warner Bros. contacts to track down the artist responsible for the tape. WK When it was pinpointed as either South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the Boyoyo Boys, WK Simon was dismayed. The United States had imposed economic sanctions on South Africa because of its apartheid government. RV Simon said, “Too bad it’s not from Zimbabe, Zaire, or Nigera. Life would have been more simple.” VV Nonetheless, Simon knew he had to work with these artists. South African record producer Hilton Rosenthal made the arrangements for Simon and Roy Halee, the engineer for Graceland to go to Johnannesburg in February 1985 to spend two weeks recording. WK

The “former folkie” UT threw “his ears open to a host of new players and singers” TL and created “exotically fanciful collaborations” UT with the aforementioned Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Boyoyo Boys as well as Lulu Masilela, Tao Ea Matsekha, General M.D. Shirinda, and the Gaza Sisters. WK Simon also brought a trio of musicians back to the States to help him record – guitarist Ray Phiri, bassist Baghiti Kumalo, and drummer Isaac Mtshali. VV

Back in the States, he also worked with the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, Los Lobos, and Adrian Belew, incorporating “a great number of musical styles, including zydeco, Tex-Mex and African vocal music.” NRR The mix of those styles with Simon’s “always perceptive songwriting” AMG made for “a fascinating hybrid that re-enchanted his old audience and earned him a new one.” AMG His introduction of world music into a pop arena gave listeners “that magical combination: something they’d never heard before that nevertheless sounded familiar.” AMG

“The South African angle…was a powerful marketing tool,” AMG but it wasn’t without controversy. The United Nations initially blacklisted Simon for violating the boycott. TL However, Simon’s relationship with the music was “deep and committed.” VV Not only did he pay the musicians triple-scale and give them composer credits, he brought Ladysith Black Mambazo to New York for a Saturday Night Live spot VV and brought them on tour.

The songs themselves are not political, for the most part. Simon professed, “I’m no good at writing politics.” VV There is “the protesty title Homeless,” VV which is “almost entirely a capella” RV and featured “stirring harmonies” VH1 from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as did the “highly poetic Diamonds on the Soles of Her ShoesAMG Both were “exquisitely melancholic evocation[s] of African beauty and desolation.” VH1

“As eclectic as any record Simon had made,” AMG it also marked “a surprising new lyrical approach (presaged on some songs on Hearts and Bones):” AMGGraceland was the first album Simon ever made in which the rhythm tracks were recorded first, and the exuberant, propulsive tempos make even his gorgeous lament ‘Losing love/ Is like a window in your heart/ Everybody sees you’re blown apart,’ seem buoyant.” TL

Songs like The Boy in the Bubble showed Simon had “evolved as a lyricist on this album with lines that took on an almost Dylan-esque quality.” RV The song’s “pensive refrain…was as hopeful and socially conscious as any song he would ever write: ‘The way we look to a distant constellation / That’s dying in the corner of the sky / These are the days of miracle and wonder.’” RV It is “his most acute and visionary song in many years.” VV

Simon largely eschewed “a linear, narrative approach to his words,” AMG and evoked “striking images and turns of phrase torn from the headlines or overheard in contemporary speech.” AMG He experimented with exotic rhythms and chord structures, RV such as on the “satiric I Know What I Know.” AMG

The title cut details a road trip “‘through the cradle of the Civil War’ to Elvis’ mecca” VV and hints “that somehow the world’s foremost slave state is a haven of grace: ‘Maybe I've reason to believe/We all will be received/In Graceland.’” VV The song won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

An element of humor shows up in the hit single, You Can Call Me Al. VH1 The song, which has been interpreted as being about midlife crisis, references an incident in which Simon and his then-wife Peggy were at a party and mistakenly referred to as “Al” and “Betty.” The video featured Chevy Chase lip-syncing Simon’s vocals while Simon lip-synced the backing vocals and played various instruments. The two men – marked by a foot in height difference – eventually dance to the song together.

Initially the song failed to reach the top 40 in the U.S., but after Graceland won the Grammy for Album of the Year, the song recharted, peaking at #23. Outside the U.S., it made the top 10 in several European countries.

“It is difficult now to recall the enormous impact of this trans-cultural album,” VH1 but Graceland “became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.” AMG With it, Simon created music “heard across the globe” AZ and it still reaches “generations of music enthusiasts…unaware of how pivotal that one album was” AZ in birthing “the idea of World Music.” AZ


Notes:

A 2004 reissue added alternate versions of “Homeless,” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and “All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints.” A 2012 reissue included those as well as demo versions of “You Can Call Me Al” and “Crazy Love” in addition to Paul Simon telling the story of Graceland.

Review Sources:

Saturday, August 16, 1986

David + David charted with “Welcome to the Boomtown”

First posted 11/18/2019.

Welcome to the Boomtown

David + David

Writer(s): David Baerwald, David Ricketts (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 16, 1986


Peak: 37 US, 8 AR (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 1.45


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

Handsome Kevin got a little off track/
Took a year off from college and he never went back

There are some lines in songs that stick with you. For me, this was one of the biggest. This song hit the charts in the fall of 1986 just as I was headed into my sophomore year of college. It was arguably the low point of my life as I was discouraged by a lack of direction. I would eventually drop out of college, albeit after four and a half years and a mere semester away from graduating.

In the song, Kevin ends up dealing drugs. The song also offered a snapshot of Ms. Cristina, a rich but paranoid cocaine junky who the song implies dies of an overdose by the end of the song. I can happily say I never had a drug problem and, unlike Kevin, my respite from college was temporary; I finished my degree a few years later once I had some work experience under my belt and had a better vision of what I wanted out of life.

Nonetheless, those words stuck with me as a reminder of how people can lose focus in their lives and find themselves in despair. Ironically, though, the song also stuck with me because of its irrestible beat. There’s no song better to crank up on the road as one does an air drum solo on the steering wheel.

The song was the debut single for the duo of David Baerwald and David Ricketts, better known as David + David. As a David myself, I jokingly refer to them as the best-named band in the history of music. Rolling Stone called their album, Boomtown, one of the year’s most impressive debuts.” PP They were signed to a record contract in the fall of 1985 after meeting at a club in the in Southern California and hanging out and writing songs. PP It was the only album by the duo, but they continued to work together in different capacities, most notably as part of the Tuesday Night Music Club collective that created Sheryl Crow’s debut album.


Resources and Related Links:

Awards:


XTC released “Dear God”

First posted 11/18/2019.

Dear God

XTC

Writer(s): Andy Partridge (see lyrics here)


Released: August 16, 1986


First Charted: April 4, 1987


Peak: 37 AR, 99 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 2.6


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

XTC’s “Dear God” was originally released as the B-side of “Grass,” the lead single for the new wave band’s ninth album, Skylarking. The album was a loose concept about cycles, such as the cycle of life or of the seasons. “Dear God” was initially left off the album because Virgin Records was concerned about the effect of its agnostic message. Andy Partridge, the songwriter and XTC’s lead singer, was also dissatisfied with the lyrics and didn’t think the song represented his views on religion. WK He eventually became an atheist, but was, as he said, “wrestling with the tail end of my belief” when he wrote this. SF

After college DJs started playing the song, listeners started contacting Geffen Records (the U.S. distributer) to ask how they could get the song. Geffen added it to the Skylarking album, bumping the song “Mermaid Smiles.” SF It was then also released as a single on its own.

The song was inspired by a series of books with the same title which Partridge considered exploitive of children. The song is built on the idea of an agnostic writing letters to God questioning his existence. Partridge saw it as a commentary on “the need for humans to believe the stuff they do…I’d struggled with the concept of God and Man…since I was a kid.” WK Producer Todd Rundgren had the idea to bring in eight-year-old Jasmine Veillette to sing the opening verse and closing line. WK

The anti-religious message provoked hostile reactions, including a bomb threat to a Florida radio station and a student who held a faculty member hostage at knife-point at Binghampton High School in New York and forced the school to play the song over its public address system. Partridge also received lots of hate mail because of the song. He said he felt sorry for the people he upset, but that “if you can’t have a different opinion without them wanting to firebomb your house, then that’s their problem.” WK

Sarah McLachlan covered the song on a 1995 XTC tribute album (A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC) and Rundgren recorded his version for his 2011 (re)Production album.


Resources and Related Links:

Awards: