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Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Sunday Jukebox Smorgasbord

I have some wonderful news to share with all of you today!

After nearly a year of writing this blog, I am happy to announce that The Pop Culture Addict’s Guide To Life has won its first blogging award!  YAY!

The award is called “The Liebster Blog Award”, and I guess you could describe it as a People’s Choice Award within the blogging community.  It is given to bloggers by bloggers, and this award came courtesy of my blogging buddy M.E. Franco.  If you click here, you can get linked to her blog.  She is not only a blogger, but a published author as well.  In fact, there’s links to her blog where you can buy some of her books including her novel “Where Will You Run?”

I’m honoured to accept this award.  And, the only condition is that I have to now recognize five other bloggers with this award in order to accept it.  So, I will be sharing blog love with the following bloggers.  Just click on the blogger names to link directly to it.

Heidi Powers’ blog is called “Finishing The Hat”, which could very well be one of the coolest self-improvement blogs I’ve ever read.  It mixes wit with great advice and tips on staying healthy.

Rev.Ron Swanson is a man after my own heart.  His blog deals with various movie reviews, and one thing I’ll say about him is that he is quite accurate with his selection.

I’ve always been a fan of Archie Comics, so I have to link to an Archie themed blog.  This one is for Zack Ziggster (whether it’s his real name or not, only he will decide).

Mark David is probably the man who has helped me improve traffic on my own blog with his advice.  Whenever he has thoughts on his mind, he’ll have the honesty and courage to post them as is.  Whether you agree or disagree, it’s definitely worth the read.

And, last but not least, Frank Balara, a man who balances writing projects with fatherhood, and who seems to be doing a bang-up job on both!

Now, all you have to do to accept this award is the following:

-      Show thanks to the blogger who awarded you by linking back to their blog
-      Pick 5 blogs with less than 200 followers and let them know about your nomination by leaving them a comment on their own blog
-      Post the award on your blog

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Well, it is!

And now, onto today’s entry.

Initially, my plan was to talk about a single artist, but given recent events, I feel it necessary to sneak in another song by a completely different group, because I wanted to have a little memoriam in honour of this person.

I’m sure that many of you who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s knew who the Beastie Boys were.  The three-man group consisted on Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz, and Adam “MCA” Yauch.  Since the Beastie Boys formed in 1979, they released several hit singles over the course of their career including “Hey Ladies”, “So What ‘Cha Want”, “Sabotage”, “Intergalactic”, and this classic smash released on February 22, 1987.

You gotta fight, for your right, to paaaaaaarty!

Although I never got to see them in concert, or even owned many of their albums, it’s hard to deny the vast contribution that the Beastie Boys made in the world of music.  They changed the face of rap music forever, and sold upwards of 40 million albums worldwide.  When you consider that their big break was being the opening act for Madonna in 1985, that’s when you knew that they had made it big.

But on May 4, 2012, Beastie Boys fans all over the world were left saddened and heartbroken, as one of the members passed away.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2009, Adam Yauch fought the disease for three long years.  He passed away just two days ago...a mere three weeks after the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He was just 47 years old.

So, for the first part of this blog entry, I’d like to dedicate this portion of today’s entry to Adam “MCA” Yauch, thanking him for his musical talents over the years.  He will be greatly missed.

Adam Yauch

As of right now, there is no word on whether or not the Beastie Boys will continue making music.  I imagine that for now, both Mike D and Ad-Rock are grieving the loss of their bandmate and friend.  On one hand, I could definitely see the surviving members of the band putting out a tribute album in memory of MCA...but on the other, I don’t know if anything like that would even be on the cards. 

It’s hard to say at this time what the future of the Beastie Boys will be.  However, my prediction is that after a few months, or even longer than that, they’ll be back in the recording studio.  A lot of bands have gone on to huge success after a member of their band passes away.  Chicago singer Terry Kath accidentally took his own life in the late 1970s, and yet the band managed to have hits well into the 1990s.  INXS regrouped after the death of lead singer Michael Hutchence, and found a suitable replacement with J.D. Fortune.

And then there’s the (originally intended) subject of today’s blog.  And this case is unique for a couple of reasons.  One, the group is one that you likely never heard of if you happen to live in Canada or the United States (but if you live overseas, you’ve likely heard all their songs).  And secondly, the group also had to deal with the loss of one of their members to cancer...and in this case, the group was a pair of sisters.  Losing your singing partner is bad enough...but when the singing partner was your sister, you’d find it hard to find the courage to find your way back on stage, wouldn’t you?

Try telling that to Kim Appleby.

Kim Appleby was one-half of the successful Stock, Aitken & Waterman produced duo “Mel and Kim”.  And, Mel and Kim first burst onto the music scene with this song.

ARTIST:  Mel and Kim
SONG:  Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)
ALBUM:  F. L. M.
DATE RELEASED:  September 20, 1986

Yes, I know.  The song didn’t do so well on the American charts (though it did hit #1 on the dance music charts).  However, in the UK, the song peaked at #3 in November 1986, making it the first of several hits for Mel and Kim in the United Kingdom. 

TRIVIA:  Showing Out was originally offered to Bananarama, but they turned it down.

For nearly three years, Mel and Kim were a huge act, and between 1986 and 1989, they managed to sell three million copies worldwide of their debut album, had four UK top ten hits, and one UK #1 smash (with 1987’s Respectable).  And, I’m sure that they would have continued to do well on the charts had Melanie Appleby not gotten sick.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I imagine that you might want to know which sister was which.  If you watch the above music video, Mel’s the one wearing the red hat, while Kim wore the black hat.  And, contrary to what you might think, the Appleby sisters are not twins.  Kim was born in 1961, Mel born in 1966.

They both grew up in London, and in 1985, Mel Appleby had decided that she wanted to embark on a career in music.  At the age of nineteen, she recorded two solo demo tapes under the management of Alan Whitehead.  The producers fell in love with Mel’s voice, but they also felt that her voice would work better if it were paired up with another vocalist.

Mel asked her older sister Kim if she wanted to sing some songs with her, and Kim agreed to it.

Throughout 1985 and 1986, Mel and Kim recorded at least five demos to be shopped around to record producers.  One of the songs the duo reportedly recorded for their demo was the song “Wild And Crazy Love”, originally done by the Mary Jane Girls.

The demos ended up doing the trick.  The girls were immediately signed with Supreme Records, and then president of the record company, Nick East, hooked them up with Stock, Aitken & Waterman, who would also produce songs for Rick Astley, Samantha Fox, Donna Summer, and Kylie Minogue.

Originally, the debut single for Mel and Kim was planned to be “System”, but producers didn’t feel that it was powerful enough for consideration on the charts.  It later became the B-side for what would become their debut “Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend).

Throughout 1986 and 1987, Mel and Kim’s popularity grew in the United Kingdom.  Because Mel had worked as a glamour model prior to starting her singing career, many fashion magazines reported on the group’s sense of style, which was emulated by the British public almost as much as Madonna’s look was.  With their debut album flying off the shelves, it seemed as though Mel and Kim had found their groove.

But in June 1987, things would take a stunning turn.

That month, Mel and Kim were doing a promotional tour in Japan when Mel Appleby started feeling incredible pain in her lower back.  She had been complaining of back problems for a few months prior, but by 1987, it was taking a toll on her.  At first, Mel and Kim had believed that Mel had simply had a spinal disc herniation.  But when the duo flew back home from Japan and Mel went to the hospital to get checked out, she got some horrible news.

She had cancer.  Even worse, this had been the second time she was diagnosed with cancer.

When Mel was eighteen, she was diagnosed with liver cancer, but went into remission shortly before starting up Mel and Kim.  But in 1987, the cancer had returned in the form of malignant paraganglioma, and Mel had to undergo chemotherapy immediately following the diagnosis.

It was a rough time for the duo, and both Mel and Kim went into seclusion shortly after while Kim took care of Mel.  As a result of this, Mel and Kim had an unfinished video for their single “F.M.L.”, which had to add clips of them performing at a festival to complete.  And for their 1988 video for “That’s The Way It Is” (pictured below), they didn’t even appear in the video at all. 

There was a reason for this though.  When the song was recorded, Mel temporarily checked herself out of the hospital to record the vocals with Kim for the song.  She was still too sick to do any of the dance steps or perform the song in front of the camera, so a dance crew was brought in as a replacement.

At first, the duo denied that Mel was terminally ill, issuing statements that Mel had a debilitating back injury, which lead to the group taking a break.  But by early 1988, the sisters decided to come clean with the real reason.  In April of that year, Mel and Kim appeared on the “Wogan” show while Mel was still undergoing treatment, as part of “European Cancer Week”, and if you click below you can watch the interview.

Did you notice how brave a face Mel put on during that interview?  That just went to show everyone just how determined she was to battle the disease, and how she never let anyone see her fear.  Her only intent was to beat cancer once and for all and get back in the recording studio with her sister.  Tragically, she would never get that chance.

On January 18, 1990, Melanie Appleby passed away from pneumonia after her immune system was weakened by chemotherapy.  She was only 23 years old.

The loss shook Kim hard.  Kim had been by Mel’s side throughout her battle, and never gave up hope that Mel would beat the cancer.  I can only imagine how devastated she was to have to say goodbye to her sister.

But if you thought that Kim Appleby’s music career was over, think again.

Kim had long believed that the best way to honour her sister’s memory was to continue doing what she loved to do, which was sing.  And Kim had dozens of songs that were written by Mel (which were assumed to have been recorded by the duo for their follow-up album that never came to be).  Kim, with help from her boyfriend at the time, Craig Logan, recorded a solo album, “Kim Appleby”, and the first single off the album happened to hit #2 in November 1990 on the UK charts.

“Don’t Worry” became the first of many solo efforts by Kim Appleby, and almost all of the songs on Kim’s debut album were written by Mel.  It was an album that was largely filled with energetic, toe-tapping songs, but at the same time, they were some of the last words that Mel ever wrote.  Here’s another song that came from the Kim’s solo album, and if you watched the Wogan interview, you might find it a bit familiar.

And, I think that’s the point that I wanted to make with this blog entry.  Well, actually, there’s a couple.

Number one, it’s never easy to say goodbye to someone that you love.  Especially when they succumb to a disease such as Melanie Appleby or Adam Yauch did.  But, as long as we always remember them as well as the work they did while they were here, their legacy never really fades away.  With regards to Mel and Kim, Kim recorded a whole album filled with songs written by Mel, so in a way, Kim was sharing that success with her sister the whole time.  And, with Adam Yauch, millions of people took to Facebook and Twitter to share their thoughts of his passing, and many celebrity faces issued public statements dedicating their love and prayers for Yauch.

But secondly, the lesson that we can take from this blog entry is that it is okay to live our lives after someone passes on.  In fact, I would reckon that almost every dying person’s final wish is that their loved ones are taken care of after they pass away...and this includes living your life to the fullest.  Certainly Adam Yauch and Melanie Appleby did exactly that right up to their dying breaths.

It’s too soon to tell what the future of the Beastie Boys will hold, but for Kim Appleby, she has released a few more solo albums since the death of her sister (her last single release was in 2007), and has done a few interviews in regards to what her life is like now, as well as reminiscing about her sister Mel.  But Kim also found a way to balance the grief she had over losing her sister and maintaining her own happiness along the way.  It can be a very difficult thing to do after losing someone you love, but eventually we all get to a point where it gets easier.  The pain will never go away completely, but somehow you know that things are going to be all right.

“In no time, you’ll be fine, don’t worry”.

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