I’m on nephew duty the next couple days so I’ll go ahead and post this late on a Sunday to kick off the week.
Chart Week: January 28, 1984 Song: “Let the Music Play” – Shannon Chart Position: #18, 12th week on the chart. Peaked at #8 the week of February 25. Reached #1 on the US Dance Club Songs chart.
It’s been over a month without a Reaching for the Stars entry. What better way to end that slump than by beginning 2019 the way we ended 2018: with the greatest pop music year of all time, 1984.
There were two songs that were hits in late 1983 and early 1984 that redefined dance music for the next decade or more. One of them is an classic that everyone remembers: Madonna’s “Holiday,” which was #16 on this week’s countdown. The other, I think, is less well-recalled by the average person. It doesn’t get played very often on 80s weekends or stations. And I’ll bet other than music geeks like me, it would require a lot of prodding and hints to get the average listener to remember it on their own.
That stone cold jam was Shannon’s “Let the Music Play.”
“LTMP” sounded like nothing else that was being made in the early ‘80s. It wasn’t an updated version of the ‘70s disco sound. It wasn’t some European sounding offshoot of New Wave or New Romantic music. No, it was this heavy yet sparkling sound that was utterly undeniable. Seriously, unless your soul is a cold lump of charcoal, you can’t help but shake your ass the moment the beat from this song hits your brain. It was urban and Latin, straight and gay, black and white, pop and soul all at once.
Seriously, this one of the greatest dance songs of all time. Its rhythms and studio techniques launched at least two new genres of music: freestyle and acid house. First and second wave hip hop largely adopted its percussion and production values as well. Yet, again, “Holiday” is the better remembered song. Don’t get me wrong; “Holiday” is a jam, too. But, god damn, “Let the Music Play” is a big, massive motherfucker of a song that has been holding dance, hip hop, and pop music up for 35 years now.
My easiest explanation for why it is forgotten is that is a classic one-hit wonder. Shannon had a long, successful, influential career, with five songs that hit the top three on the dance chart, three of which hit #1. For much of the mid–80s she was dance music in the US. But this was her only single that charted on the Billboard Top 40. Meanwhile Madonna took the momentum from “Holiday” and became one of the biggest artists in the history of music.
That’s ok. I haven’t forgotten Shannon. She will always get love from me and others who keep her biggest song close to our hearts. *** From doing some research on Shannon and this track, I learned that she doesn’t actually sing the words that give the song its title. Session vocalist and guitarist Jimi Tunnell sings that line and Shannon sings the response. That kind of blew my mind. *** A spot ahead of Shannon that week was Jump ’N’ The Saddle’s “The Curly Shuffle.” I’m pretty sure that song made me laugh when I was 12 but my 47-year-old ears find it pretty rough. *** Finally, at #15 that week was Hall & Oates’ “Say It Isn’t So,” arguably the best song of their career. In this week’s countdown Casey shared the story of where the phrase that lent the song its title came from: the apocryphal story of a young boy who asks Shoeless Joe Jackson to “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” after he was indicted in the the Black Sox scandal. I share this because I remember listening to Casey tell this story originally back in January 1984. And you know how I love when I can connect listening to a replay in the 21st Century with listening to the original show. If it was January 1984, I was probably sitting in my bean bag chair in our basement, playing Q*Bert or Pole Position on my Atari 2600 while listening to AT40 on my Panasonic boom box.
No, you’re weird…