Sunday, January 20, 2019

Superhits 1979, Part 3

Linda Ronstadt, “Ooh Baby Baby,” #7, 1/20/1979

For reasons unknown, Ronstadt’s “Back in the U.S.A.” was her lowest-charting lead single from an album in five years, but this remake of the old Smokey Robinson & The Miracles hit did considerably better. It’s from a different perspective than most of Ronstadt’s songs – “I did you wrong” are the first words she sings – and the song certainly sounded different than most of what was around at that point, although it wasn’t the only Motown/Smokey Robinson remake (see the Eddie Money entry from two weeks ago). For fun, let’s have a look at Smokey and Linda dueting on the song from the Motown 25 special.

Eric Clapton, “Promises,” #9, 1/20/79 
1979 was a pretty good year for Clapton – he’d released two platinum albums in the previous two years (Slowhand and Backless; the latter contained “Promises”), and he married Pattie Boyd (George Harrison’s former wife) in March. “Promises” is typical of Clapton’s late 1970s output – no extended guitar solos and a chugging midtempo groove. Atypically, it was written by outside songwriters (Richard Feldman and Roger Linn), although this would be more common for Clapton as his career continued (the only major hits he wrote for himself after 1979 were “I Can’t Stand It” and “Tears in Heaven”). At least it gave AOR stations something to play.

Meat Loaf, “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” #39, 1/20/79
Or the stations could still be playing Meat Loaf. Bat Out of Hell was originally issued in October 1977 (and had been recorded between 1975 and 1976), with “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” as the first single. But it flopped, only to be resurrected a year later after “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” became a major hit. “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” was then released as a single, with “You Took the Words” as the B-side – but they charted separately (flipping singles was not uncommon in those days). Both songs hit #39 – and would be the last top 40 hits for Mr. Loaf until “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” in 1993. In the video, that’s Karla DeVito and Jim Steinman doing the spoken-word intro, replacing Ellen Foley (who didn’t tour with the band when the record hit) and Meat Loaf himself.

Glenn Sutton, “The Football Card,” #46, 1/20/79
You know, I was just thinking there aren’t enough funny songs about compulsive gambling. This “humor” song, written from the perspective of a guy who starts betting “football cards” and losing big time (by the end he’s being sentenced for robbery and his wife has left him) came from Glenn Sutton, who had written a bunch of country hits for Tammy Wynette and Lynn Anderson (Sutton and Anderson were married from 1968 to 1977). This would be Sutton’s only chart record as a singer (and, really, he talks his way through most of the song); he died in 2003. The song is out of print, and I suspect the NFL will do whatever it can to keep it that way.

Engelbert Humperdinck, “This Moment in Time,” #58, 1/20/79
21st Hot 100 hit for the Welshman originally born Arnold Dorsey in what’s now Chennai, India (his father was stationed there in the British Army). Like many of Humperdinck’s output from around this time, the song is out of print and is only available in rerecorded versions. I’m not a Humperdinck fan, but you’ve got to give him credit – he sticks with what sells. It’s a building ballad, much like “After The Lovin’,” which was a surprise top 10 hit in 1977. Now 82, Humpderdinck had a British chart hit in 2012 and is touring as I write this – he’ll be in New Buffalo, MI this Friday, and St. Charles, IL the following night. Not bad for an 82-year-old guy.

by Curt Alliaume

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