Sunday, March 31, 2019

Superhits 1979, Part 10

By Curt Alliaume

In the week of March 10, 1979, America was still dancing up a storm – but only one song would stand the test of time and become a perennial favorite.

Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive,” #1, 3/10/79
Who expected this? Gloria Gaynor looked for years like she was going to be a (more or less) one-hit wonder; her first major pop single, a disco remake of The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye,” hit #6 in 1975, but subsequent singles over the next few years failed to make it above #60 on the pop charts. And even this song wasn’t given much of an opportunity at first – it was relegated to the B-side of the first single from her album Love Tracks, with “Substitute,” a remake of a 1975 Righteous Brothers release, as the A-side. But “Substitute” never made it past Bubbling Under the Hot 100 (possibly because Clout, an all-female rock band from South Africa, hit #67 in the US and #1 in five other countries with their version of the song around the same time), and club DJs started flipping the record, so Polydor finally gave in and promoted that instead. In 2016, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry, deeming it “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”  It’s a great song about personal strength against all odds, and Gaynor deserves her success.

Gonzalez, “Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet,” #26, 3/10/79
This band, on the other hand, was a one-hit wonder – although the individual members had success with other bands as well. Although the name might lead people to think differently, Gonzalez was a British R&B band, with dozens of members passing through, including Bobby Tench (later with The Jeff Beck Group) and Lenny Zakatek (vocalist with The Alan Parsons Project). “Haven’t Stopping Dancing Yet” was originally released for the band’s 1977 LP Shipwrecked, but when it hit two years later, the album was rereleased as Haven’t Stopped Dancin’. The group would eventually break up in 1986.

Cindy Bullens, “Survivor,” #56, 3/10/79
Cindy Bullens had been working in the music industry for years, singing backup for Gene Clark, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and, uh, Disco Tex and The Sex-o-Lettes. But after singing three songs on the Grease soundtrack in 1978, Bullens got a solo deal with United Artists, and this song came from the first album in that contract, Desire Wire (produced by Tony Bongiovi, Jon Bon Jovi’s older brother). Bullens earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Singer for the track. This video is from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, complete with Kirshner intro.

Zwol, “Call Out My Name,” #75, 3/10/79
Zwol is actually Walter Zwolinski, who had two minor hits from his debut solo LP, released in late 1978. This was the second, following “New York City,” which had peaked at #76 in November 1978. Both also charted in Canada (Zwolinski was born and raised in Toronto), where the band had a few other minor singles. No idea what he’s doing today.

Gino Vannelli, “Wheels of Life,” #78, 3/10/79It took Gino Vannelli nearly five years after his first top 40 hit, “People Gotta Move” (released in 1974) to equal or better that summit, but he managed with 1978’s “I Just Wanna Stop.” Although “Wheels of Life” was in the same vein, it didn’t do as well either in the United States or Vannelli’s native Canada (although it was a top 30 adult contemporary hit in both countries). After a few years of big concept albums (Storm at Sunup, The Gist of the Gemini, A Pauper in Paradise), Vannelli found more success by limiting his vision to songs of the heart.

T.M.G., “Lazy Eyes,” #91, 3/10/79
Man, there were a lot of unknowns on the chart this week. In this case, T.M.G. was short for Ted Mulry Gang, a rock outfit from Australia (although Mulry himself was born in Lancashire, England). Starting out as a singer/songwriter, Mulry eventually formed a band in the early 1970s and was signed by Australia’s Albert Productions (not to be confused with Ron and Howard Albert, an American rock production team), the band had a major Australian hit with “Jump in My Car,” which spent six weeks there at #1. Overall the group had seven top 40 hits in Australia, including “Lazy Eyes,” and stayed together through the 1980s. Mulry would die of brain cancer in 2001.

Other Superhits 1979 entries you may or may not enjoy:

-        by Curt Alliaume

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