Charlene 1982

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Charlene

One hit wonder Charlene had never been to me, but where’s she been to since…?

US singer Charlene (b.Charlene D’Angelo in 1950) was signed to Motown Records in 1973 as their next big thing. Under the name of Charlene Duncan, she released two singles, “Relove/Give It One More Try” and “All That Love Went To Waste”, but neither did anything. Charlene had to wait till 1977 to have a hit, in the shape of “It Ain’t Easy Comin’ Down”, which broke the US singles chart at No.97. She amassed three top 100 hits that year with “Freddie” (No.96) and “I’ve Never Been To Me” (No.97). The follow year, she began recording songs for a planned second album, but when “Are You Free?” and “Hungry/I Won’t Remember Ever Loving You” flopped, the album was dropped and so was Charlene!

Now the story goes, that a US DJ by the name of Scott Shannon loved the song “I’ve Never Been To Me” and played it on his station endlessly and wanted it to be a hit. It eventually attracted the attention of Motown president Jay Lasker, who contacted Charlene, who was now living in the UK, with a view to resigning with the album and re-release the song. She agreed and also made a rather haunting video for the song. Now, without giving my address away, it was filmed just a mile down the road from where I write this, at the National Trust’s Blickling Hall in Norfolk, a magnificent 17th century house set in glorious open parkland. Just to make things even more eerie, Charlene appeared in the video in her wedding dress, from her marriage to Jeff Oliver.

This time “I’ve Never Been To Me” found an audience and became a top ten hit around the world, reaching number one in the UK and making No.3 in America. With this new found success, Motown issued an album of previously recorded tracks and some new ones under the same title, which reached No.36 Stateside and No.48 in the UK. “It Ain’t Easy Comin’ Down” also saw a reissue soon after, although this time it stopped at No.109, despite its inclusion in the 1982 film ‘The Last American Virgin’. Motown now wanted to capitalise on this new success and recording began on a new album of fresh material, that also saw a new contribution by “Never Been To Me” songwriters Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch.

This new song, “Used To Be”, was recorded as a duet with none other than Stevie Wonder, but because of the controversial lyrics written about an uncaring, self-centred society, many US radio stations refused to play it. In addition to that, UK stations followed suit and a song that should have been a massive hit, wasn’t. Sadly that, the follow up single “I Want To Go Back There Again” and the album all flopped. But Motown were not done with her yet. There was one more album in 1984, “Hit & Run Lover”, which featured the singles “We’re Both In Love with You” and the title track, although these failed to find any audience at all and in 1985, after the release of “Fire”, Motown said goodbye to Charlene for a second time.

Charlene, at the age of 35, now generally retired from music and returned to America, where she lives in California. Dance versions of “I’ve Never Been To Me” appeared in 2002 and 2012, while Charlene herself was ‘coaxed’ out of retirement and recorded her version of the Mama and Papa’s classic “California Dreaming” that same year. In 2013 she recorded a new single, “Heard You On The Radio”, while the enduring popularity of “I’ve Never Been To Me” continued into the 90’s and beyond, featuring in film ‘ The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert’, TV shows Will & Grace and Desperate Housewives and ‘Shrek The Third’ in 2017.

But…Charlene is back! she has a brand new single coming out soon, her first for seven years, “Sea Of Tranquility”! We will keep you posted…

Charlene

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Written by Christopher Smith

So perhaps you’ve read an article or two that I’ve written and wondered “just who is this character?”! Well I thought maybe it would be time to introduce myself and what I’m all about. Well it’s all about the music! Having been born in the late 1970’s I was heavily influenced by my parent’s love of ‘popular’ music and rock and roll of the 1950’s and 60’s. My Mother always said she should of married Elvis and my father was, and is still, in love with Sandie Shaw! But while my Dad’s tastes stopped in about 1967, my Mum carried on loving music throughout the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. My first memory was playing on the floor whilst my Mother was ironing one day with the radio on, and hearing ABBA’s “Super Trouper” dancing my nappy off to it! Maybe that’s where it all went wrong…?! Having been subjected to all and sundry in my infant years, I finally found my feet in the mid-1980’s and began ‘partying’ to the likes of Culture Club, Stevie Wonder(!), Elkie Brooks and Bananarama to name but a few! The year 1987 would have a profound effect on my listening tastes and from thereon in my life would be dominated with buying and listening to music. Any number of outstanding songs were released and listened to that year, most notably “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “La Isla Bonita”. That Summer my mind was completely taken over with music and sounds I’d never heard before and I was totally taken in by it all. My father would say “whaaar rubbish you got on naaaaao?” (I’m from Norfolk!) but I was hooked. And it continued so for the rest of the decade and the next. At the beginning of 1988 I ‘met’ my true love and the singer I’ve worshipped more than any other artist or group. You may know of her. She’s from Australia…! Aside from pop music, my tastes are many and varied and continues to grow and expand as I ‘mature’ in age. I’ve always been heavily interested in films and in particular the mechanics of film making and of course film music, so scores and subsequently orchestral music takes up a lot of my tastes and collection. 90’s dance and club tunes also takes up much of the space in my head and I’m surprised my brain has stopped shaking from the years of abuse it took being dragged to nightclubs, often three times a week in my 20’s! I find with each year that passes I regress back to my youth and of course the 1980’s. 80’s music dominates and the lust to see as many 80’s acts and singers play live now is insatiable. I’m still getting into the groove as much as every breath I take, but I’m never gonna give up listening to my heart and pumping up the volume, simply because I LOVE MUSIC…any kind of music!