There is one song that was as epochal a moment for TV viewers as the Bee Gees' "Staying Alive" had been for moviegoers, touching a societal nerve that becomes the basis for a wave of popularity so all-consuming as to wipe out everything in its path, breathing new life into stale TV shows and stalled music careers while, at the same time, becoming a pop culture cornerstone relived at school dances, proms, and wedding receptions to this day..
As a kid who spent an inordinate amount of time in mall record stores during the new wave explosion of the early 80s, my first recollection of Billy Vera was via the appearance of an album by Billy & The Beaters in 1981 that had all the appearances of yet another new wave band vying for my disposable teenage birthday money.
Ah, but some stiff competition from the likes of Pearl Harbour, Joan Jett and Blondie's Debbie Harry led this would-be critic-in-training to forget all about Billy & The Beaters for the time being.
After all, the U.S. office of his Japanese record label, Alfa Records, had already done so as the album peaked at a lowly #118 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and second single "At This Moment" reached #79.
As luck would have it, Michael J. Fox's character Alex P. Keaton was about to get a love interest, and a rocky one at that. A romantic song was needed for a pivotal scene at a school dance in Season 4 of the hit sitcom and Billy Vera's "At This Moment" got the nod.
On October 3, 1985, as just about anyone alive at the time can attest, there was life before hearing "At This Moment" and life after hearing "At This Moment". To say that the song added a certain extra kick to the tense scene between Alex and love interest Ellen would be an understatement, to say the least.
The next day, radio stations across the country were flooded with requests for the song. Repeated use opf the song on the show only furthered its popularity, leading Rhino Records to purchase the song from Alfa in order to make the song available commercially once again.
Released as part of the Rhino compilation By Request: The Best of Billy Vera & The Beaters, "At This Moment" went to #1 while the comp itself rose to #17. The song's popularity, however, was such that it also enjoyed deep runs on the Billboard Adult Contemporary, R&B, and Country Western charts as well. It remains one of the last physical vinyl 45's to sell over 1 million copies.
For Vera, it would be the high point of a career that began in 1962 as a songwriter for the likes of Ricky Nelson, Perry Como, and even garage rockers The Remains (he wrote their iconic hit "Don't Look Back", which was covered by Robert Plant during the Manic Nirvana sessions).
While Vera would never score another pop hit, he would remain active in the TV and movie industries and still gigs regularly with the Beaters.