Sunday, September 1, 2019

Superhits 1979, Part 27

by Curt Alliaume

Short week, with a few different genres.

Rickie Lee Jones, “Chuck E.’s in Love,” #4, 7/7/79
Hey, remember when Rickie Lee Jones was going to be the next big thing? Good times. Jones brought to mind a number of artists (a female Bob Dylan? Joni Mitchell after a shot of whiskey and a few more cigarettes?), but she was also influenced by Randy Newman and Tom Waits. Signed to Warner Brothers Records, this was the first single from her eponymous debut album and her biggest hit, with the protagonist named after songwriter Chuck E. Weiss (although Jones was never involved with Weiss; in fact, she and Waits were a couple at the time). Jazz influenced, this was a welcome change of pace from most of what was on pop radio in the early part of that summer.

Kenny Rogers, “She Believes in Me,” #5, 7/7/79
This was not. “She Believes in Me” was Rogers’ second top 10 solo hit (he’d also scored two top hits as part of The First Edition), written by Steve Gibb, is about a musician who has not achieved success, but is supported by a good woman – even if she’s obviously frustrated at times by his inattention. (Dude, seriously: it’s time to take a 9 to 5 job.) From the album The Gambler, this song helped make Rogers a steady hitmaker from 1978 to 1984.

Bette Midler, “Married Men,” #40, 7/7/79
This was actually Midler’s highest-charting single in nearly six years (“Friends,” the third single from her debut The Divine Miss M, reached the same peak in November 1973). As you might guess, this is borderline disco, but it has the typical Midler humor (married men may make you promises, but they’re still going to go back to their wives in the end). From the album Thighs and Whispers; I suspect this wasn’t promoted much because Midler was busy filming and preparing her film debut The Rose, which would take her career in a different direction.

The Village People, “Go West,” #45, 7/7/79
Title track from the group’s fourth LP, this varied from their previous hits such as “YMCA” and “In the Navy” in that it was a fairly straightforward song, and not tongue in cheek. Using Horace Greeley’s quote “Go west, young man” as its basis, the song seems to point toward San Francisco as a place where gay men could live without being judged. American Top 40 radio, however, wasn’t ready for that kind of sentiment, so the song stalled out at #45. In 1993, the Pet Shop Boys remade the song, boosting the melody’s resemblance to the Soviet Union national anthem (remember the Soviet Union had split up two years before), and found themselves with a monster hit; hitting the top 10 in 19 different countries (not surprisingly, the United States wasn’t one of them). Sorry the embedded video isn’t very good; there’s a better video that can’t be embedded here.

Cher, “Wasn’t It Good,” #49, 7/7/79
The follow-up hit, both literally and in logical order given the subject matter, to “Take Me Home” – the former referring to, presumably, a sexual encounter, the latter celebrating the aftermath. Produced and cowritten by Bob Esty (as was “Take Me Home”), this may have missed because the disco craze was starting to wind down a little bit. Cher’s interest in the song may have waned as well; I saw Cher at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on July 17, and the song wasn’t in the set list – and hadn’t been since the beginning of the tour the week before.

KC & The Sunshine Band, “Do You Wanna Go Party,” #50, 7/7/79
I’m not exactly sure why, but when disco was at its arguable peak in the summer of 1979, KC and The Sunshine Band hadn’t had a top 30 hit in nearly two years (after having four #1s and a #2 between 1975 and 1977). Maybe there was an issue between stations and TK Records (although they were charting with other acts such as Bobby Caldwell and Anita Ward), maybe people were just bored with the band’s sound, maybe the songs didn’t have that slight double entendre feel the hits did (“Keep It Comin’ Love,” “(That’s The Way) I Like It,” “Get Down Tonight”). In any case, things weren’t happening for the band at that point – but that would change.

The Faith Band, “You’re My Weakness,” #76, 7/7/79
Second and final Hot 100 hit for the band (“Dancin’ Shoes” had peaked at #54 earlier in the year). This was a midtempo song that reflected on their musical abilities a little better but didn’t get traction at radio. For some reason Mercury Records released three albums by the band within a little over a year (Rock ‘n Romance, Vital Signs, and Face to Face, which included “You’re My Weakness”), and perhaps that was too much – the band broke up soon after. Keyboard and sax player John Cascella joined up with fellow Indianan John Cougar Mellencamp’s band and played on most of his 1980s and early 1990s records; he died in 1993. Lead singer Carl Storie still plays gigs with his band in the Indianapolis area.

Other Superhits 1979 entries you may or may not enjoy:

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