Saturday, July 11, 1981

The Specials’ “Ghost Town” hit #1 in the UK

Ghost Town

The Specials

Writer(s): Jerry Dammers (see lyrics here)


Released: June 12, 1981


First Charted: June 20, 1981


Peak: 17 CL, 2 CO, 13 UK, 68 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 22.2 video, 38.33 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Specials formed in England in 1977. They presented a unique mix of ska and punk which clicked with British audiences. From 1979 to 1981, The Specials landed seven consecutive top-10 hits, including the #1 hits “Too Much Too Young” in 1980 and “Ghost Town” in 1981. “Ghost Town” came at a time that the ska-punk scene was starting to wane. The song, however, showed a willingness on The Specials’ part to embrace new sounds. It was “a downbeat, doom-laden, politically-fired track” XFM which demonstrated the band’s openness to “exploring genres such as new wave, lounge – even muzak.” XFM

“Jerry Dammers’ keyboards are eerily atmospheric throughout and a chanting vocal provides a damning appraisal of inner-city life.” XFM The song grew out of a difficult time in the UK marked by riots sparked by race relations, a police raid, and unemployment. Dammers told Mojo magazine “In Liverpool, all the shops were shuttered up, everything was closing down. In Glasgow there were little old ladies on the street selling their household goods – it was clear something was wrong.” KL

There was unrest amongst the band as well. This was the last single released by the original seven members. WK Right before “Ghost Town” topped the charts, Neville Staples, Lynval Golding, and Terry Hall resigned from the band. Dammers continued with Horace Panter, John Bradbury, and new lead singer Rhoda Dakur, who’d formerly been with the Bodysnatchers. Under the band’s original name of The Special A.K.A., they continued to chart, but only reached the top 10 once more with “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1984.

In the UK music press, “Ghost Town” was hailed “as a major piece of popular social commentary.” WK It was named “Single of the Year” by Melody Maker, NME, and Sounds – the three top weekly UK magazines at the time. All Music Guide’s Michael Waynick called “Ghost Town” the band’s “crowning achievement.” AMG


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Specials
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Michael Waynick
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 271.
  • WK Wikipedia
  • XFM Mike Walsh (editor) (2010). The XFM Top 1000 Songs of All Time. Elliott & Thompson Limited: London, England. Page 394.


First posted 10/13/2021.

Wednesday, July 8, 1981

R.E.M. released “Radio Free Europe”

Radio Free Europe

R.E.M.

Writer(s): Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe (see lyrics here)


Released: July 8, 1981


First Charted: May 21, 1983


Peak: 78 US, 25 AR, 1 CO (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.55 video, -- streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980. They released their debut single, “Radio Free Europe,” in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. Lead singer Michael Stipe said in 1983 that most of the early songs “didn’t have any words. I just got up and howled and hollered a lot.” SF He said he intentionally wanted the lyrics to be difficult to decipher because he hadn’t written words yet, even telling New Musical Express in 1988 that the lyrics were “complete babbling.” WK The song’s hard-to-understand lyrics became a trademark of early R.E.M. and their “DIY energy came across lound and clear.” RS

The title refers to a radio network operated by the government of the United States and broadcasted in Europe and the Middle East. The intent was to promote democracy and freedom, but R.E.M. thought it coul easily cross the line into propaganda. SF

Rob Sheffield said the song “brought a fresh sense of mischief and excitement to the rock scene.” RS The National Recording Registry noted the song for establishing “the pattern for later indie rock releases by breaking through on college radio in the face of mainstream radio’s general indifference.” WK Drummer Bill Berry said “college radio and major city club scenes embraced the song and expanded our audience…The additional revenue made it possible to logically pursue this wild musical endeavor. I dare not contemplate what our fate would have been had this song not appeared when it did.” SF

The song’s success led to a deal with I.R.S. Records in 1982. The band re-recorded the song for Murmur, their 1983 debut album. The newer version featured a slower tempo and some slightly different lyrics. It gave R.E.M. its first taste of chart success, reaching #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #25 on the album rock chart. The band didn’t like it as well as the original, saying of the Hib-Tone recording that it “crushes the other one like a grape.” WK


Resources and Related Links:


Other Related DMDB Pages:


First posted 10/9/2021.

Monday, July 6, 1981

Pat Benatar's Precious Time released

First posted 9/20/2020.

Precious Time

Pat Benatar


Released: July 6, 1981


Peak: 11 US, 30 UK, 2 CN, 8 AU


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.3 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: classic rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Promises in the Dark (Neil Giraldo, Benatar) [4:48] (9/25/81, 38 US, 16 AR, 6 CL, 31 CN)
  2. Fire and Ice (Tom Kelly, Scott St. Clair Sheets, Benatar) [3:19] (7/6/81, 17 US, 2 AR, 4 CN, 30 AU)
  3. Just Like Me (Rick Dey, Roger Hart, Terry Melcher) [3:30] (7/18/81, 15 AR)
  4. Precious Time (Billy Steinberg) [6:03] (44 CL)
  5. It’s a Tuff Life (Giraldo) [3:17]
  6. Take It Anyway You Want It (Martin Briley, Giraldo) [2:49] (7/25/81, 32 AR)
  7. Evil Genius (Giraldo, Benatar) [4:34]
  8. Hard to Believe (Giraldo, Myron Grombacher) [3:26]
  9. Helter Skelter (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) [3:50] (46 CL)


Total Running Time: 35:30

Rating:

3.490 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)

About the Album:

After the success of her second album, Crimes of Passion, it was hard to imagine her doing better on the next outing. While she didn’t match the 5 million in sales of that album, Precious Time still sold 2 million copies and accomplished one feat its predecessor didn’t – it reached #1.

The album didn’t produce as big a hit as “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” Benatar’s top-10 hit from Passion, but she did notch another top-20 hit with Fire and Ice. The song also landed her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, a prize she took home the year before for the Passion album.

The follow-up single, Promises in the Dark, was a top-40 hit. The song was written by Benatar with Neil Giraldo, her guitarist and future husband. The album also produced a couple of covers which garnered minor airplay on album rock radio. Just Like Me was originally a #11 hit for Paul Revere & the Raiders in 1965 and Helter Skelter was originally a cut from the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 album commonly known as The White Album.

The title cut was written by Billy Steinberg, who formed a songwriting partnership with Tom Kelly (who’d co-written “Fire and Ice”) in the ‘80s and helmed #1 hits for Madonna (“Like a Virgin,” 1984), Cyndi Lauper (“True Colors,” 1986), Whitney Houston (“So Emotional,” 1987), Heart (“Alone,” 1987), and the Bangles (“Eternal Flame,” 1989).

Resources and Related Links: