Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Superhits 1979, Parts 30 and 31

By Curt Alliaume

Another two-week entry, since only three songs peaked during the week of July 28.

Atlanta Rhythm Section, “Do It or Die,” #19, 7/28/79
Even slower than their midtempo hits “So Into You” and “Imaginary Lover,” this song is an end-of-the-night-hold-your-sweetie-tight ballad. Which might have been the reason ARS started its downward slide here (most of the rock & roll had been snuffed out of the band); it also might have been that southern rock was on the way out (Allman Brothers were falling apart, Lynyrd Skynyrd had temporarily ended, Marshall Tucker Band was struggling). This is from their 1979 LP Underdog.

Wings, “Getting Closer,” #20, 7/28/79
First single from their 1979 album Back to the Eggremember, “Goodnight Tonight” wasn’t included on the album, for reasons known primarily known to Paul McCartney (I’ve read where he said it didn’t fit the concept of the album). In any case, this was the first single from the actual album in most territories (the UK got “Old Siam, Sir,” with “Getting Closer” becoming the second release). It’s a pretty good song and a flat-out rocker, but given it was the first single from a McCartney, a #20 peak was a disappointment – and the album’s sales were similarly disappointing (the album’s peak at #6 in the US and #8 in the UK was the lowest for the band since their debut, the tentative Wings Wild Life) – possibly because fans couldn’t get “Goodnight Tonight” on the album (it would eventually be added to CD reissues). Columbia Records, Paul’s new label (he’d been with Capitol until then) took a pretty big loss on his contract at the start, although a 1983 People magazine claim that “According to industry rumors, McCartney’s deal almost ruined Columbia, until the recent successes of such groups as Men at Work got the company back on its financial feet” sets off my BS alarms. Columbia/Epic had Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Pink Floyd, REO Speedwagon, Journey, Aerosmith, Earth Wind and Fire, Eddie Money, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, and many others under contract – they might have been unhappy with McCartney’s sales, but they weren’t going out of business (and giving credit for the label’s revival to Men at Work has not aged well).

Wet Willie, “Weekend,” #29, 7/28/79
Another band goes disco (although for southern rock/funk band Wet Willie, it wasn’t that much of a leap). This song was written by Mick Jackson (who also wrote The (unrelated) Jacksons’ “Blame It on the Boogie”), and it gets a fair amount of airplay from oldies stations today considering it wasn’t much of a hit (I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio during its time on the chart other than on American Top 40). This comes from their LP Which One’s Willie?, which would be their last for Epic Records, as lead singer Jimmie Hall started a solo career the following year. Hall and other members of the band still work together, however; their Facebook page shows a number of appearances in the Southeast scheduled for the next few months.

John Stewart, “Gold,” #5, 8/4/79
Huge hit for Stewart, a music industry veteran who had been a member of The Kingston Trio (he replaced Dave Guard, one of the three original members of the group, in 1961 and stayed until their 1967 breakup). Stewart had found success as a songwriter (“Daydream Believer” for The Monkees being the biggest hit), but not on the charts as a solo performer. This song, and its parent album Bombs Away Dream Babies, would change that. Produced by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac (Buckingham also played guitar, while Stevie Nicks added harmony vocals to several songs, including “Gold”), it’s a song about the music industry that seemed to ring true at the time. Stewart eventually stopped performing the song, calling it “vapid” and “empty” and claiming he only wrote it to please RSO Records in a 2006 interview. (Stewart was diagnosed as being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s the following year, which might have had something to do with that take.) It’s still an oldies mainstay today, in any case.

Kansas, “People of the South Wind,” #23, 8/4/79
First single from the band’s 1979 album Monolith, and probably the only Kansas song that was even slightly danceable. In an interview with Classic Rock Revisited, guitarist Rich Williams said “People of the South Wind’ was more like us doing a disco song by somebody else,” although to call this song disco, to me, was a bit of a reach. It was actually written about the Kaw, a group of Native Americans that gave the state of Kansas (and, indirectly, the band) its name. This song was left off the band’s setlist for a long time (Monolith wasn’t a particularly popular album with fans) until the 1990s, and seems to have been banished again since then.

Blondie, “One Way or Another,” #24, 8/4/79
Second chart hit for the band from Parallel Lines; this one makes it clear Blondie was not a disco band (the song had been getting lots of airplay on album-oriented rock stations before its single release). Debbie Harry told Entertainment Weekly the genesis of the song was about a former boyfriend with stalker tendencies, “but I tried to inject a little bit of levity into it to make it more lighthearted.” It’s been used lots of times in television commercials (for Coca-Cola, Swiffer, and Macy’s, just to name three I’m certain about). What always drove me nuts about this song had nothing to do with the song, it was its progress on Billboard’s Hot 100 – here’s its chart progression between June 23 and August 4: 41-35-34-41-29-26-24. Why did it drop out of the top 40 one week and then come back? Was there that big a turnaround in sales and/or airplay, or did somebody compiling numbers at Billboard screw up? (My bet would be on the latter.)

Pink Lady, “Kiss in the Dark,” #37, 8/4/79
And you thought all the people making Pink Lady and Jeff jokes for years were kidding. Pink Lady was a hugely popular two-woman duo in Japan, Mitsuyo Nemoto (Mie) and Keiko Masuda (Kei). Between November 1976 and December 1978, they had nine consecutive #9 hits in Japan, which between them were #1 for 63 weeks (so basically over half that time there was a Pink Lady song at #1). Elektra Records decided there was a market for them in the United States (hey, Abba started out recording their hits phonetically, right?), so their first English album came out in June – and didn’t make the Billboard charts at all, while this song barely scratched the top 40 and was their first in years to miss the top 10 in Japan (they’d had a few PR problems there over the previous few months). Undaunted, NBC president Fred Silverman had the idea to create a variety series with the duo, so brought in producers Sid and Marty Krofft (who’d done everything from H.R. Pufnstuf to Donny & Marie, and were apparently unaware when they took the job Mie and Kei didn’t speak English). The Kroffts wanted to steer the show toward their Japanese heritage, but Silverman said “No, that's just too different. Let's just do Donny & Marie.” So comedian Jeff Altman was brought in to be their guide, of sorts. Long story short, it was a disaster, lasting five episodes, and that ended Pink Lady’s career in the States (they still make appearances together in Japan).

Tony Orlando, “Sweets for My Sweet,” #54, 8/4/79
Tony Orlando and Dawn have had some nice reunions since the 1970s and Orlando still works today as a solo performer, but he had some tough times in the late 1970s. After the cancellation of their variety show Tony Orlando and Dawn and the suicide of Orlando’s close friend Freddie Prinze (as well as the death of his sister Rhonda, who’d suffered from cerebral palsy, at age 21), Orlando had what can really only be described as a breakdown during a performance in Cohasset, MA. Orlando was in a psychiatric institution for a period thereafter, but gradually made it back and got a new solo contract with Casablanca Records – this would be his one and only solo chart hit; a remake of the old Drifters song. He’s only recorded occasionally since then, but tours frequently (both solo and occasionally with Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson of Dawn), and he and his wife Elaine will celebrate their 55th anniversary this year.

Samantha Sang, “In the Midnight Hour,” #88, 8/4/79
Sang had achieved a huge hit in 1978 with the song “Emotion,” written for her by fellow Australians Barry and Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees, who were red hot at the time with their success on Saturday Night Fever. But she then got hit with a double whammy: her record label in the United States, Private Stock, went out of business, and she decided to work with others on her next album. Unfortunately for her, a disco remake of the old Wilson Pickett song “In the Midnight Hour” (also performed by The Young Rascals) didn’t work out, and United Artists Records dropped her after her first album with them, From Dance to Love. As far as I know, she’s back in Australia.

Other Superhits 1979 entries you may or may not enjoy:

Monday, February 24, 2020

Superhits 1980, Part 3

More hits from the first few weeks of the 1980s.

Michael Jackson, “Rock With You,” #1, 1/19/80
Second hit from Jackson’s breakthrough solo album Off the Wall (he made four solo albums with Motown between 1972 and 1975, but to put it a little unkindly, they weren’t very good). To me, this song was a breakthrough as well (even though it was written by Rod Temperton, rather than Jackson himself). “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” seemed a little gimmicky to me, especially given the falsetto throughout; this served as a great radio hit and could be played in clubs as well. Jackson had definitely arrived as a solo performer, which completely changed the dynamic within the family’s main act, The Jacksons.

Cliff Richard, “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” #7, 1/19/80
On the other hand, Cliff Richard’s first hit in Great Britain, “Move It,” was released on August 29, 1958 – the same day Michael Jackson was born. Sir Cliff has been a huge star in the UK for over a half century, with over 130 top 20 disks between the singles, album, and EP charts – but in America, not so much (up until this point, his only top 20 was the 1976 hit “Devil Woman”). This song changed the game a bit. A bit of synthpop (the synthesizer dominated the song, as opposed to guitars), the cheery melody was a stark contrast to the lyric about the end of a relationship, and the singer’s denial of same (“But I ain’t losing sleep/I ain’t counting sheep”). Added as an afterthought to his UK release Rock ‘n’ Roll Juvenile, the song became the title track for the US version, and heralded a period where Richard put nine songs in the Billboard Hot 100 between 1980 and 1983.

Little River Band, “Cool Change,” #10, 1/19/80
A song about getting away from your troubles by getting in your boat and going out on the water – one of two 1980 songs on the theme (although I’m pretty sure Christopher Cross had already recorded his song “Sailing” by the time this one hit the charts). Second top 10 hit from the band’s album First Under the Wire, and their fourth one overall in the United States to this point. Written by lead singer Glenn Shorrock – or, I should say, former lead singer (as some of you may know, the group traveling under the name Little River Band today features precisely zero people who played on this song).

Dr. Hook, “Better Love Next Time,” #12, 1/19/80
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show arrived with a bang in the early 1970s, mainly riding on the material of songwriter, humorist, and children’s book writer Shel Silverstein (“Sylvia’s Mother,” “The Cover of The Rolling Stone,” etc.). But by the mid-1970s, Silverstein had stopped writing songs – which left Dr. Hook (their new, shortened name) at the mercy of whoever produced the band, since there were no songwriters in the group. As a result, their later output, while hitting higher positions on the singles charts (the two aforementioned songs were their only top 40 hits during the first era) were all by outside anonymous songwriters or remakes – and, to put it less kindly, were the typical soft rock pap you’d think this band would have made fun of early on. “Better Love Next Time” is a good example – nothing special, written by three outside songwriters, missed the top 10 in the U.S. pop chart but made it in the U.K. (and hit #3 on the adult contemporary chart here in the States, their best showing ever).

Jefferson Starship, “Jane,” #14, 1/19/80
On the other hand, “Jane” shows the Jefferson Starship (temporarily) making a move to the other direction. Their big hits over the previous few years – “Miracles,” “With Your Love,” “Count On Me,” and “Runaway” – were all ballads/midtempo songs written for lead singer Marty Balin. (Balin wrote the first two; outside songwriters submitted the others.) But by 1979, Balin was gone (and so was Grace Slick, although she would return in 1981), so with new lead singer Mickey Thomas on board, the band moved back into rock – which is where it had been for a long time under the original name Jefferson Airplane, as well as the early Starship days before Balin came back. “Jane” (cowritten by band members David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, and Craig Chaquico with singer/songwriterJim McPherson) isn’t astonishing, but it showed that the band hadn’t forgotten how to rock – and as a result, it’s still played on classic rock stations (one of the few Jefferson Starship song you’ll hear in that format). Note this video is from 1981, by which time Grace Slick had returned to the group.

Herb Alpert, “Rotation,” #30, 1/19/80
“Rise” was a pleasant surprise for Herb Alpert; it was his first top 40 single in 12 years – in fact, the song hit #1, with a lot of help from its placement in General Hospital, where it was used during a scene showing Luke Spencer raping seducing doing something with Laura Webber. (It seems repugnant that the show would ever have called the scene a seduction, but I really don’t have the time to delve into the program’s history.) In any case, “Rotation” was the follow-up single, and not dissimilar in sound – a light disco beat and Alpert’s lead trumpet lines. It didn’t do anywhere near as well as “Rise,” but a top 30 single is nothing to sneeze at. All of which meant Alpert would have additional duties at his record label beside overseeing the entire operation.

Suzi Quatro, “She’s in Love With You,” #41, 1/19/80
I’ve never quite figured out why Suzi Quatro didn’t make it bigger in the United States – which, of course, is her home country. She was a much bigger star in the United Kingdom (this was her tenth Top 40 hit there), she’d just had a huge duet hit with “Stumblin’ In,” and her recurring role as Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days certainly made her better known to the public. (It might have helped if she’d actually been able to perform her own songs on the show, but they didn’t really fit the format.) However, “She’s in Love With You” was the second of three consecutive singles to just miss being played on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, all peaking between #41 and #45.

The Flying Lizards, “Money,” #50, 1/19/80
Another song that became a top 40 hit in ten countries, but not the United States. This was The Flying Lizards’ one major hit single (they did notch a second chart hit in the UK), and it may be the best known of the various versions of “Money,” with a unique reading from lead singer Deborah Evans (although the group was primarily David Cunningham’s creation). The song’s highest chart performance was the #16 version by The Kingsmen, although Barrett Strong’s original version hit #23, and The Beatles’ version certainly has many fans as well.

The Inmates, “Dirty Water,” #51, 1/19/80
A second revival of a 1960s American hit by a contemporary British band, although The Inmates were more of a pub rock group. The original, by California-based band The Standells (although the song is specifically based in Boston), hit #11 in 1966; this version moved the location to London (and switched the Charles River for the Thames). The Inmates probably helped themselves by distributing promo versions to radio stations across the United States, substituting local markets and rivers near them. This was their one and only American hit, but they’re still extent and playing in the UK (although they might want to update their MySpace and record label pages).

Peter Brown, “Stargazer,” #59, 1/19/80
Fifth and final chart hit for the singer-songwriter, who recorded with TK Records (KC & The Sunshine Band’s label), but came from the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights. Unlike most of his other hits, this one’s a slow song. After his recording career ended, he still kept writing (he’s currently collecting royalties thanks to his cowrite on Madonna’s “Material Girl”), but tinnitus ended work in the music industry altogether. He’s now working full time in design and architecture. 

Earth, Wind & Fire, “Star,” #64, 1/19/80
Two stars in a row. Perfectly good EWF single, the fourth from their album I Am, that probably didn’t chart higher because radio and record buying might have had enough for a while. (From February 1978 to September 1979 Earth, Wind & Fire put six singles in the top 40, four of which made top 10.) There also might have been a little confusion with their earlier hit “Shining Star,” for that matter. Cowritten by Allee Willis, who has written lots of songs you’ve heard over and over again – “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” for EWF, “Neutron Dance” for The Pointer Sisters, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” for the Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, and “I’ll Be There for You,” the theme from Friends.

Jimmy Buffett, “Volcano,” #64, 1/19/80
One of “The Big Eight” – eight songs you will almost always hear at a Jimmy Buffett concert. (The others are “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Come Monday,” “Fins,” “Margaritaville,” and “Why Don’t We Get Drunk [And Screw]” – although the latter has been modified somewhat over the years.) Second single from the album of the same name, this album was his first release for MCA Records; the label had folded up ABC Records, Buffett’s longtime label, in mid-1979 after purchasing it earlier that year. 23rd Street was always on my way.

Jennifer Warnes, “Don’t Make Me Over,” #67, 1/19/80
Remake of the old Dionne Warwick hit (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David), which became Warwick’s first major chart hit. R&B singer Sybil also made it her first chart hit in 1989 (her second was a remake of the Warwick/Bacharach/David song “Walk On By,” which was one time to the well too many). Warnes’ version is nice, but nothing eye-poppingly different from Warwick’s original. In fairness, Jennifer Warnes isn’t a prolific songwriter, and Arista label head Clive Davis was famous for foisting outside songwriters and remakes on his artists, so there shouldn’t have been any surprises here.

Dollar, “Shooting Star,” #74, 1/19/80
Dollar was a pop duo, Canadian Thereza Bazar and Brit David Van Day, who met when performing for the British pop act Guys ‘n Dolls in the 1970s. Ejected from the band in 1978, they struck out on their own, and subsequently put 14 hits on the British charts over the next ten years – but this is the only one that crossed over into America. It’s a pretty catchy song, and I’m a little surprised they didn’t go further – I’m guessing their record label, Carrrere (distributed by Atlantic) wasn’t able to do enough for them. In any case the duo, who had been romantically involved for a while, became not romantically involved at some point, and broke up personally and professionally in 1983. They’ve had a couple of reunions since then, but it appears the break is now permanent (for those that are still interested).

Breathless, “Takin’ It Back,” #92, 1/19/80
One of several acts to emerge from Cleveland in the late 1970s, Breathless was led by singer-songwriter Jonah Koslen, who’d previously played guitar, sang, and wrote for The Michael Stanley Band. Finding that two songwriters was one too many, Koslen left in 1977 and established his own band, with former Wild Cherry member Mark Avsec. Signing with EMI-America records, they released two albums and gained some popularity in Cleveland, but not much elsewhere. The band broke up late in 1980, with Avsec and drummer Kevin Valentine joining Donnie Iris’ band The Cruisers (Avsec becoming their primary songwriter). Koslen has spent time in the computer gaming industry, released a few other albums solo and with other groups, and briefly reunited with Stanley in the 1990s.

Other Superhits 1980 entries you may or may not enjoy:

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Superhits 1979, Part 29

A pile of well-known songs in this entry, up and down the Hot 100. This was a special week for me in 1979 (I spent the week at Presidential Classroom in Washington, DC), so I’m glad so many good songs peaked that week.

David Naughton, “Makin’ It,” #5, 7/21/79
This was the one and only chart hit for Naughton, who had previously been known for television commercials (he was the guy with the bottle of soda in his hand urging everyone to Be a Pepper), and he’d later star in the film An American Werewolf in London. This song was the theme to his TV series Makin’ It, which seemed to have all the pedigrees – Garry Marshall (The Odd Couple, Happy Days) cocreated the concept about working class guys who’d go to the disco every night (sound familiar, Saturday Night Fever fans?). Just to be sure, Ellen Travolta, John’s older sister, was cast as Naughton’s mom. But it wound up being a spectacular flop, getting pulled off the air after nine episodes – right before this single hit the Billboard charts. Did Paramount Pictures (the show’s production company) and RSO Records throw in the towel? Hell no, there’s money to be made! They stuck the song on the soundtrack for an upcoming movie with teen appeal, even though the film had already been shot and it wasn’t necessarily a good fit. Fortunately for everyone involved, that movie was Meatballs, and the song kept climbing the charts. I’ve put in the opening credit sequence from the TV show (which includes most, but not all, of the whole song), because only in the 1970s could the opening credits be nearly two minutes long.

Cheap Trick, “I Want You to Want Me,” #7, 7/21/79
I’d love to assemble the executives who led Epic Records in 1979 to ask, “Okay, how many of you think the live album from a band that’s had three studio LPs that sold poorly, and no top 40 hits will go to number 3 and sell three million copies?” Cheap Trick, a four-man rock band from Rockford, IL, hadn’t sold well in the United States with their first three albums, but fans in Japan loved them – so they recorded two shows there in 1978 with the intent of a Japan-only live release. But copies were imported to the United States, and they went over really well, so an American version came out – and rock fans went nuts. (This may be another example of white male rock fans buying anything that wasn’t disco, given Cheap Trick has never had anything sell this well before or since.) “I Want You to Want Me” originally appeared on their second studio album, In Color, but the live version – with the girls screaming during the choruses – is something else.

Electric Light Orchestra, “Shine a Little Love,” #8, 7/21/79
Insanely catchy first single from ELO’s album Discovery (or, as both rock critics and the band themselves referred to it at times, Disco Very). This is easily the most danceable of the songs on the album, so the derogatory nickname may not be totally earned – but I get where everybody’s coming from. Anyway, Discovery has sold better than any ELO album in the United States and Canada, and became the band’s first #1 album in the UK, so it did okay. Trivia note: the guy pulling out his scimitar on the back of the wraparound LP cover is actually actor/comedian Brad Garrett. His Twitter post on the subject: “Thinner, younger (18 ugh) Got me my first agent. Jews had to play Arabs back then. Ahhhh, simpler times.”

McFadden and Whitehead, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” #13, 7/21/79
Gene McFadden and John Whitehead were songwriters for the Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff stable at Philadelphia International Records (a sublabel of Columbia/Epic), writing a ton of hits for other artists (“Back Stabbers” for The O’Jays, “Bad Luck” and “Wake Up Everybody” for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, and “I’ll Always Love My Mama” for The Intruders). But they wanted to record themselves, and got some pushback from the label heads, who didn’t think they’d be commercial enough. That’s where “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” came from – it’s actually a subtle jab at Gamble & Huff for not letting them record. This became their one and only hit single, but it’s had a long life – plenty of sports teams have used it as a theme song, it’s had several cover versions, and was played at the 2008 Democratic Convention when Barack Obama accepted the presidential nomination. Nice to see the duo in the video, although do note those are absolutely, positively not the backing singers on the record.

Peter Frampton, “I Can’t Stand It No More,” #14, 7/21/79
Another guy whose star went into descent really quick. After the double whammy of his poorly-reviewed album I’m in You and then the disastrous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie, Frampton had to do some work to get back into rock’s good graces. After recovering from an automobile accident in 1978, Frampton reemerged with Where I Should Be, which had both feet set in rock & roll. This single didn’t set the world on fire (and had an odd middle section with the lyrics “My mama told me when she set me free/She said, "Son, you just have got to find/Find a girl who will treat you like I do"), but it was a solid comeback for his, and Where I Should Be (featuring Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass and Steve Cropper on guitar) went gold. Weird video - sorry for the low quality, but it’s the only version available.

Gerry Rafferty, “Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light in Your Eyes),” #17, 7/21/79
Sweet love song from Rafferty, which may not have been the best choice for a first single from his new album, Night Owl (two and a half minutes had to be shaved off the full-length version to make it suitable for single release). I get the sense that this was intended for his wife, Carla Ventilla, whom he married in 1970 and divorced twenty years later (Rafferty had a long, alcoholic downward spiral, dying of liver failure in 2011). Linda Thompson is among the backup vocalists on this song – she and her then-husband Richard would tour with Rafferty in 1980 and worked with him on an album, which eventually was rerecorded and released as the acclaimed Shoot Out the Lights LP in 1982.

Abba, “Does Your Mother Know,” #19, 7/21/79
Absolutely pure pop, and one of my favorite Abba songs. A rare song with lead vocals by one of the men in the group (in this case Bj√∂rn Ulvaeus), this song is a not-atypical piece about an underage woman showing interest in a rock star. However, in this case the rock star pushes her away, saying she’s too young (and “Does your mother know that you’re out?”). Ulvaeus admitted in a 2018 podcast interview with The Economist he’d hesitate to write the same song today, and said the song was based on real-life experiences – but he was smart enough to walk away from temptation.

Poco, “Heart of the Night,” #20, 7/21/79
Four months after Poco notched their first top 40 hit in their ten years as a band, they managed to turn the trick again. (Of course, it would be another ten years before the third one came along.) Written and sung by longtime member Paul Cotton, it’s a salute to New Orleans (and note the correct pronunciation of Lake Pontchartrain). Trivia note: the album cover for Legend, which contained both “Crazy Love” and “Heart of the Night,” was designed by Phil Hartman, whose primary career at that point was graphic artist (I don’t know whether he created the horse artwork or just the cover typography work). Another video with lousy sound quality, but there’s nothing really better, and at least it’s the whole song.

Anne Murray, “Shadows in the Moonlight,” #25, 7/21/79
Second single from her New Kind of Feeling album performed fairly similarly on the charts as the first, “I Just Fall in Love Again” – both hit #1 on the Canadian Country and Adult Contemporary charts, and #1 on the US Country and Adult Contemporary. (Her next single, “Broken Hearted Me,” from her subsequent album I’ll Always Love You, would do the same.) Only the pop charts were different – “I Just Fall in Love Again” hit #1 pop in Canada and #12 in the United States, but “Shadows in the Moonlight” only made #10 pop in Canada. All of which is my way of saying this is a pleasant but samey love song from Murray, who had a major run of them during this time frame.

James Taylor, “Up on the Roof,” #28, 7/21/79
First and only chart single from Taylor’s album Flag, which was undoubtedly a disappointment for him and Columbia Records (his previous album, JT, went triple platinum and yielded two top 20 singles). For some people, this may be the definitive version of this song, rather than The Drifters’ version from 1962 (although The Drifters were topped in the UK on their original release by covers by natives Julie Grant and Kenny Lynch). Written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Taylor has often performed the song with King on tours, and the song remains a centerpiece of his own shows as well. I’ve come to like both the Taylor and Drifters’ versions equally over the years – the arrangement on the Taylor version (by Arif Mardin) is really quite nice.

The Who, “Long Live Rock,” #54, 7/21/79
This started life during the Who’s Next sessions in 1971, although the band didn’t get around to actually recording it the following year. The studio version was finally released on the band’s Odds and Sods album of rarities and outtakes in 1974, and was added to the band’s concert/documentary film The Kids Are Alright (where it’s played over the credits) in 1979, roughly nine months after the death of drummer Keith Moon. At that point, it was finally released as a single in 1979 and charted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Despite Pete Townshend seeming somewhat dismissive of the song in the past (“Well there are dozens of these self-conscious hymns to the last fifteen years appearing now and here's another one”), it’s a pretty important song for the band. Townshend messes up his lyrics on this one.

Dolly Parton, “You’re the Only One,” #59, 7/21/79
This was Dolly’s 11th #1 hit on the Country charts (this includes one duet with Porter Wagoner, 1974’s “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me”). Cowritten by Carole Bayer Sager and Bruce Roberts, it’s an attractive song that probably was given a country feel by Parton (neither Bayer Sager nor Roberts are particularly known for their work in the country field other than this song). The protagonist promises that, while she may have broken her lover’s heart by leaving, she had to – and this time she promises she won’t do that again. I’d buy it.

Amii Stewart, “Light My Fire/137 Disco Heaven,” #69, 7/21/79
Not much disco on this week’s set of songs, but here’s an example of one of the year’s more odious trends: disco remakes of rock classics. Yes, the A-side of this single (eventually both “Light My Fire” and “137 Disco Heaven” were listed in Billboard; the album track is a mashup of the two songs) is a remake of the old Doors song. I’m not sure how happy Jim Morrison would have been about this version of the song (he once threatened to smash a Buick on television after the other three Doors agreed to $75,000 to use the song in a Buick commercial), but he wasn’t around (presumably) to make that decision. This was Stewart’s second hit after the #1 “Knock On Wood.”

Lazy Racer, “Keep On Running Away,” #81, 7/21/79
Six-member British/American studio band (they apparently never toured), produced by Glyn Johns, who’s worked with most of the best British bands (The Who being the biggest of them; he produced Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, The Who by Numbers, and Who Are You). Not surprisingly, they never broke here. Drummer Henry Spinetti has had a lengthy career as a studio musician and has done many albums with Eric Clapton, while keyboardist Tim Gorman played on several Who albums and guitarist Tim Renwick has worked with Clapton, Elton John, and Al Stewart.

Other Superhits 1979 entries you may or may not enjoy:

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Superhits 1979, Part 28

Three huge hits this week, plus a pile of interesting nonhits.

Donna Summer, “Bad Girls,” #1, 7/14/79
Second number one hit for Summer in 1979 after “Hot Stuff,” and this one was the title track from her #1 album.  It’s not particularly pleasant to listen to, given the subject matter is about prostitution (the inspiration was apparently a police officer presuming one of Summer’s assistants was working the streets), but it does carry a message.  The song spent five weeks at #1 in the United States and was the #2 single of the year overall.  It also hit top 10 in eight other countries.  The song was cowritten by Summer, her husband Bruce Sudano, and the other members of Sudano’s group Brooklyn Dreams, Eddie Hokenson and Joe “Bean” Esposito.

Earth, Wind, and Fire With The Emotions, “Boogie Wonderland,” #6, 7/14/79
Maurice White could do no wrong at this point.  EWF performed this song with The Emotions, a female vocal trio that White had been working with (he cowrote and coproduced their #1 hit “Best of My Love” in 1977).  Disco haters probably stayed away from this one given the title, but it’s a get-out-of-your-seats song that still gets plenty of airplay today, and has been used in such movies as Roller Boogie, Madagascar, and Caddyshack.  Cowritten by Allee Willis, who later cowrote “I’ll Be There for You” (better known as the theme song from Friends).

Van Halen, “Dance the Night Away,” #15, 7/14/79
The title sounds like another disco song, but if it’s Van Halen it’s obviously a rocker.  It was also the band’s first top 20 hit, and their first major hit they wrote themselves (they’d made #36 the previous year with a remake of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”). David Lee Roth pushed for the title “Dance, Lolita, Dance,” according to a Van Halen web site, but Eddie Van Halen noted “Dance the Night Away” worked better with the chorus (and probably would get more radio airplay). This was one of my favorite songs that year, and there’s nothing wrong with it now, either.

The Bellamy Brothers, “If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me,” #39, 7/14/79
A silly double entendre (attributed originally to Groucho Marx) became the name of the brothers’ second and final top 40 pop hit, following 1976’s “Let Your Love Flow.” But this song (written by the younger of the two brothers, David), also became the band’s first #1 country hit – and the first of 26 top 10 country hits the band would have between 1979 and 1990. They’re still releasing albums (their latest, Over the Moon, came out earlier this year), and they’re on tour right now. Side note: when the brothers noted some lyrical similarities between this song and Britney Spears’ 2011 song “Hold It Against Me,” the latter song’s writers (including Max Martin and Dr. Luke) sued the brothers for defamation and libel; the suit was withdrawn after the brothers apologized. Nothing like hitting them with your lawyers, I guess.

Carly Simon, “Vengeance,” #48, 7/14/79
Not one of Simon’s biggest hits, but probably the hardest rocker she ever released as a single. Actor Tim Curry sings backing vocals and John Hall (previously of Orleans and later The John Hall Band) handled the electric guitar solo. The song concerns betrayal – both by the woman singing the song and the man she’s singing it to. It’s from the album Spy, which was released around the same time as then-husband James Taylor’s album Flag (Sheila Weller later wrote in her book Girls Like Us Simon noted it should have occurred to her to not have their albums release simultaneously in order to avoid competition). Quite a video, too.

Art Garfunkel, “Since I Don’t Have You,” #53, 7/14/79
Simple remake of the 1958 hit by The Skyliners, and it’s been remade by lots of people – Don McLean and Ronnie Milsap both had top 30 pop hits with it, and Guns ‘n Roses had a minor hit with it from their 1994 covers albums The Spaghetti Incident?  As for Art Garfunkel, well, not so much. Unlike his former partner Paul Simon, Garfunkel isn’t a songwriter, so his music career was at the mercy of whoever was writing material for him (or whatever songs he could remake). Garfunkel’s three previous solo albums went top 20 and achieved at least gold status (1975’s Breakaway went platinum), but Fate for Breakfast, this song’s parent album, is only notable for having been issued with five different sleeves (all with different pictures of Garfunkel on the front).

Waylon Jennings, “Amanda,” #54, 7/14/79
Pretty song written by country songwriter Bob McDill, and yet another song about a good woman suffering because her love was a musician/songwriter (see Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me,” Barry Manilow’s “A Linda Song,” and others). Originally written for Jennings, it wound up going to Don Williams first (who hit #1 Country with it in 1974). Jennings’ version was recorded the same year but remained an album track until 1979, when a few overdubs were added and put on a greatest hits set. Jennings’ version also went #1 Country, one of eight #1s on that chart for Jennings between 1977 and 1980.

Nick Gilder, “Rock Me,” #57, 7/14/79
Man, this guy’s star faded fast – you couldn’t escape “Hot Child in the City” the year before. Fourth and final pop hit in the United States for Gilder (he did a little better in Canada, where he was raised), this is a standard issue rock song without the driving hooks of his one big hit. After the momentum wore down, Gilder moved back to Vancouver, and still continues writing songs. Only one big hit, but that’s more than most people get. The chorus is actually “You really rock me,” but since that title was already taken, Gilder made his song title a little shorter.

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “You Angel You,” #58, 7/14/79
Originally written by Bob Dylan and recorded for his 1974 album Planet Waves; Dylan later dismissed the song as having “dummy lyrics.” (Whether he meant they were stupid or were temp lyrics with the intent of inserting something better wasn’t discussed.) Anyway, Mann – who’d had a major hit years before with Dylan’s “Mighty Quinn,” a version of his “Quinn the Eskimo” that he’d recorded but left unreleased until The Basement Tapes finally came out eight years later – picked it up for his band’s album Angel Station. That album’s liner notes has one of the strangest kiss-offs ever – longtime lead vocalist Chris Thompson had decided to form his own band, Night (we’ll be hearing from them in future entries), so Mann wrote a goodbye thank you that appeared on Angel Station’s cover.  (Thompson sang lead on “You Angel You” and a few other songs, with guitarist Steve Waller singing lead on the rest.) But Night didn’t do the business they expected, so Thompson was back for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band next album, 1980’s Chance.

Philly Cream, “Motown Review,” #67, 7/14/79
I can find so little information on this one-hit wonder that I could assume it’s all studio musicians – especially because 16 people are pictured on the cover on one of their albums (the other shows a nude woman; I’m not sure if she in the group or not). Anyway, this was released on WMOT Records, distributed by Fantasy Records, and has its share of inaccuracies:
- the traveling Motown show was spelled “Motown Revue”
- “JFK has been shot/We miss him a lot/He always knew what to do”: Bay of Pigs, anyone? (Not to mention his personal life.)
- “Television’s no longer live/Now it’s taped/Ahead of time”: That had been the case for years; easier and cheaper.
- “Even Dick Clark/Is starting to look older too”: No wonder the band didn’t go anywhere.

Franne Golde, “Here I Go (Fallin’ in Love Again),” #76, 7/14/79
Singer/songwriter who’s written or cowritten plenty of songs (Diana Ross’ “Gettin’ Ready for Love,” The Commodores’ “Nightshift,” Jody Watley’s “Don’t You Want Me,” The Pussycat Dolls’ “Stickwitu”), Golde also released three of her own albums in the late 1970s. This is a decent pop/rocker without much to make it stand out from the crowd (aside from her looks, which in those pre-MTV days weren’t as easy to promote), so it became her only chart hit. Golde’s still active in the music business, she runs a clothing company, and she’s married to producer/musician Paul Fox (10,000 Maniacs, Phish, Grant Lee Buffalo), who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s a few years back. (I am not sure why the record label added the I to her name; it’s spelled Franne everywhere else.)

The Cooper Brothers, “I’ll Know Her When I See Her,” #79, 7/14/79
Described as a “Canadian southern rock band” in Wikipedia – which I don’t understand at all (were they from Toronto as opposed to Edmonton?). Anyway, this was their second and final chart hit, and it’s not really southern rock (as in, Allman Brothers/Lynyrd Skynyrd/Marshall Tucker) at all – it’s a pop/rocker with strings and horns. Their record label, Capricorn, collapsed in 1980, but they’ve stuck it out on and off over the years, releasing Radio Silence in 2017. And they still tour, albeit apparently only in Canada.

Gibson Brothers, “Cuba,” #81, 7/14/79
Three-man band based in France (although they were born in Martinique in the West Indies). This was their one American hit, although they did place six songs on the British charts between 1979 and 1983, with “Que Sera Mi Vida” going as high as #5, thus earning placement 20 years later on the 54 soundtrack – remember Mike Myers as Steve Rubell?). Pure disco, as you might expect (in fact, I got my copy of this song from a compilation called Pure Disco). I think they’re still together (although their website is on Waybac, which makes me wonder.

Crystal Gayle, “When I Dream,” #84, 7/14/79
Title track from Gayle’s final United Artists album, it’s a weepy ballad about a lost love. This has some strange background – the lead single from the album When I Dream, “Talking in Your Sleep,” had hit the top 20 in November 1978, so that’s a long time between singles from the same album, although she did hit #1 country with “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For?” in the middle. Gayle also released one final United Artists album, We Should Be Together, about the same time “When I Dream” hit the pop charts, and her first album on Columbia Records, Miss the Mississippi, came out in September. I don’t know for sure, but I’m thinking UA was issuing everything in the vaults before they lost her to Columbia.

Other Superhits 1979 entries you may or may not enjoy: