electric-avenue

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On this day in music history: March 24, 1983 - “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant is released. Written and produced by Eddy Grant, it is the it is the fourth US single for the Guyanese born, British raised singer, songwriter and musician. Immigrating to the UK in mid 60’s while still a teenager, Eddy Grant and his family settle in Kentish Town in Northwest London. In 1965, Grant becomes the lead singer and guitarist for the UK pop/rock band The Equals. The band scores his first major hit in 1968, when Eddy is only twenty years old with the worldwide hit “Baby Come Back” (#1 UK Pop, #14 US Pop). Also penning the classics “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” and “Police On My Back” (the later being covered by The Clash), Eddy leaves the band in 1971 after a health scare brought on by exhaustion. He begins a solo career in 1972, then in 1977 forms his own label Ice Records. The singles “Living On The Front Line” and “Walking On Sunshine”, with the latter being released in the US by Epic Records and topping the Club Play chart in remixed form in 1982. The song “Electric Avenue” is inspired by a street in the Brixton district of South London, where in the 1880’s was the first area in the city to be lit by electric street lights. A century later in 1981, Brixton is the scene of major rioting taking place between April 10 - 12, 1981. With the United Kingdom in the throes of a major recession, the conditions in Brixton are even worse. With a largely African-Caribbean population by affected by high unemployment, poor housing and a high crime rate, tensions boil over after citizens have one too many run ins with the police. With numerous people injured in the melee, in the aftermath, then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher publicly denies that racial bias and unemployment were reasons for the riots. Angered by her statements, Grant writes the song in part as a rebuke of her statements. The song is recorded at Grant’s Blue Wave Studios in St Phillip, Barbados in 1982. Released in the UK first in January of 1983, “Electric Avenue” hits number two on the UK singles chart. The song is released in the US on Epic subsidiary Portrait Records along with the album “Killer On The Rampage”, quickly becoming a smash on club dance floors and crossing over to radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on April 16, 1983, it climbs to number two on July 2, 1983, spending five weeks in the runner up spot when it is unable to dislodge Irene Cara’s “Flashdance… What A Feeling” and The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” from the number one spot. The music video directed by Steve Barron (“Billie Jean”, “Take On Me”, “Don’t You Want Me”), receives heavy play on MTV and other video programs. The singles B-side, the non-LP track “Time Warp” also becomes a sizable club hit at the time “Electric Avenue” is on the charts. “Electric Avenue” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Eddy Grant     Electric Avenue         1982

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On this day in music history: October 19, 1985 - “Take On Me” by a-ha hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Morten Harket, Magne Furuholem and Pål Waaktaar, it is the biggest hit for the Norwegian pop music trio. The version of “Take On Me” that becomes a worldwide hit is actually not the first version of the song recorded. The band first record and release the song as a single in Europe in 1984 which fails to attract any attention or chart. They re-record it with producer Alan Tarney (Cliff Richard, Leo Sayer) and it again fails to make an impact. Only after they make the now iconic video directed by Steve Barron (“Billie Jean”, “Don’t You Want Me”, “Money For Nothing”, “Electric Avenue”, “Africa”) that the record enters the charts and climbs to number one. Taking nearly four months alone to finish the clips distinctive rotoscoped animation, Warner Bros spends over $200,000 on the promotional video. Once MTV puts the clip in heavy rotation, the buzz generated by the innovative visuals of the infectious song spreads to radio. For the promotional release of the single, Warner Bros in the US prints a special gatefold picture sleeve/booklet (using the UK sleeve design for the front and back covers) featuring photos of the band and animated still shots from the music video. In later years, the limited promo “comic book” sleeve becomes a sought after collector’s item. Entering the Hot 100 at #91 on July 13, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart fourteen weeks later. The success of “Take On Me” propels a-ha’s debut album “Hunting High And Low” to Platinum status in the US and several other countries. “Take On Me” spends twenty seven weeks on the Hot 100, tying with Diana Ross’ “Missing You” for the longest run on the chart that year. The video is nominated for eight MTV Video Music Awards (winning six) including Best New Artist and Best Concept Video in 1986.

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Someone needs to make a dS vid of this song. (Lydia agrees with me.)