Charlie's 80s Blog

This Day In Music, February 4th

On this day in 1984: Culture Club started a three-week run at #1 on the U.S. singles chart with ‘Karma Chameleon’ the group’s 5th U.S. Top 10 hit. It would be the group’s biggest hit and only U.S. #1 single among their many top 10 hits.

In an interview, Culture Club frontman Boy George explained: “The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.” In response to claims from singer-songwriter Jimmy Jones that the song plagiarizes his hit “Handy Man”, George stated, “I might have heard it once, but it certainly wasn’t something I sat down and said, ‘Yeah, I want to copy this.'” In an interview, Boy George said that he wrote the song while he was on vacation in Egypt, and that the other members of Culture Club were initially hesitant to record it as they felt it sounded like a country and western song.

Here’s a look at the complete Top 20 on the U.S. singles chart from this day back in 1984:

1 2 KARMA CHAMELEON –•– Culture Club (Virgin)-10 (1 week at #1) (1)
2 1 OWNER OF A LONELY HEART –•– Yes (Atco)-14 (1)
3 3 TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP –•– The Romantics (Nemperor)-18 (3)
4 6 JOANNA –•– Kool & The Gang (De-Lite)-14 (4)
5 5 BREAK MY STRIDE –•– Matthew Wilder (Private I)-21 (5)
6 4 I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES –•– Elton John (Geffen)-15 (4)
7 8 RUNNING WITH THE NIGHT –•– Lionel Richie (Motown)-11 (7)
8 10 THAT’S ALL –•– Genesis (Atlantic)-11 (8)
9 11 THINK OF LAURA –•– Christopher Cross (Warner Brothers)-9 (9)
10 12 PINK HOUSES –•– John Cougar Mellencamp (Riva)-9 (10)

11 20 JUMP –•– Van Halen (Warner Brothers)-4 (11)
12 14 I STILL CAN’T GET OVER LOVING YOU –Ray Parker, Jr. (Arista)-13 (12)
13 7 SAY SAY SAY –•– Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (Columbia)-17 (1)
14 18 LET THE MUSIC PLAY –•– Shannon (Mirage)-13 (14)
15 19 AN INNOCENT MAN –•– Billy Joel (Columbia)-8 (15)
16 16 HOLIDAY –•– Madonna (Sire)-15 (16)
17 9 TWIST OF FATE –•– Olivia Newton-John (MCA)-14 (5)
18 22 99 LUFTBALLONS –•– Nena (Epic)-9 (18)
19 23 WRAPPED AROUND YOUR FINGER –•– The Police (A&M)-5 (19)
20 21 MIDDLE OF THE ROAD –•– The Pretenders (Sire)-8 (20)

On this day in 1989: Sheriff went to #1 on the U.S. singles chart with “When I’m With You.”

The song was released in January 1983 in Canada as the second single from their self-titled debut album. A top ten hit in Canada in 1983 (and a minor U.S. hit at the same time), the song later hit #1 in the U.S. in 1989, four years after the band separated in 1985.

This song is also notable that it was one of the few #1 hits not to have a promotional video during the MTV era. In addition, the song is known for lead vocalist Freddy Curci holding the final note for 19.3 seconds, making it the longest-held note for a male pop singer.

Sheriff’s keyboardist Arnold Lanni wrote the song after meeting Valeri Brown and falling in love with her. ‘I sat down, put my coffee on the piano, tinkled some ivories, and four minutes later 80 percent of the song was written. On Valentine’s Day I played the song for Valerie and said, “I don’t have anything, this is all I can give you right now. It’s yours.” Valeri loved the song; two years later she married me.’

Lanni also played the song to his bandmates in Sheriff. “The band really liked it, so we started playing it live. That was one of the last songs we recorded when we did the record. The producer said, ‘Is there anything else?’ I said, ‘There’s this song we play, it’s kind of a wimpy song.’ So we played it for him and he said ‘Yeah, that’s kind of nice.”

“When I’m with You” was originally released as the third single off Sheriff’s debut album. The song reached #8 on the RPM chart in the band’s native Canada, where it was their biggest hit. In the US, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 on May 14, 1983, and peaked at #61 four weeks later. Sometime thereafter, disappointed and frustrated by their continued lack of international success, the band broke up.

In November 1988, Brian Philips, Program Director at KDWB in Minneapolis, and WKTI in Milwaukee began playing the song, and eventually other radio stations nationally followed suit. This encouraged Capitol Records to re-release the song as a single. On February 4, 1989, the song hit #1 in the United States.

By that time, former Sheriff members Lanni and bassist Wolf Hassell had formed a duo named Frozen Ghost, and declined to re-form the group. Sheriff’s lead vocalist Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi, who had both been working as couriers in the interim, subsequently formed the band Alias and charted the following year with the #2 hit “More Than Words Can Say.”

Here’s a look at the complete Top 20 on the U.S. singles chart from this day back in 1989:

1 2 WHEN I’M WITH YOU –•– Sheriff – 18 (1)
2 6 STRAIGHT UP –•– Paula Abdul – 10 (2)
3 5 WHEN THE CHILDREN CRY –•– White Lion – 14 (3)
4 7 BORN TO BE MY BABY –•– Bon Jovi – 11 (4)
5 9 WILD THING –•– Tone Loc – 10 (5)
6 3 ARMAGEDDON IT –•– Def Leppard – 12 (3)
7 8 THE WAY YOU LOVE ME –•– Karyn White – 17 (7)
8 4 DON’T RUSH ME –•– Taylor Dayne – 14 (2)
9 10 ALL THIS TIME –•– Tiffany – 14 (9)
10 1 TWO HEARTS –•– Phil Collins – 12 (1)

11 13 I WANNA HAVE SOME FUN –•– Samantha Fox – 13 (11)
12 14 THE LOVER IN ME –•– Sheena Easton – 14 (12)
13 11 HOLDING ON –•– Steve Winwood – 11 (11)
14 18 SHE WANTS TO DANCE WITH ME –•– Rick Astley – 8 (14)
15 19 WALKING AWAY –•– Information Society – 11 (15)
16 20 WHAT I AM –•– Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians – 11 (16)
17 23 ANGEL OF HARLEM –•– U2 – 8 (17)
18 25 YOU GOT IT (THE RIGHT STUFF) –•– New Kids On The Block – 12 (18)
19 24 DIAL MY HEART –•– The Boys – 9 (19)
20 26 SURRENDER TO ME –•– Ann Wilson & Robin Zander – 7 (20)

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