From the old blog, January 2010.
Let’s get right into it, with my favourites in bold:
No. 40, debut: Steely Dan, “Peg.”
If you’ve never seen it, there’s a great video on YouTube in which Becker and Fagen talk about the making of this song. They even play some of the rejected guitar solos played by well-known studio guitarists.
I don’t even mind the fact that Michael McDonald is in it.
Check it out.
No. 39: Donny and Marie, covering the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.”
This reminded me of the SNL skit from the early ’80s (I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in it) in which D&M leap upon each other in mid-song and start snogging.
I suppose it’s kind of remarkable that teen idol Donny was still charting in any way, shape or form in 1978; that’s a longer shelf life than most.
Still, I can live without the song.
No. 38: The defunct Lynyrd Skynyrd debuting with “What’s Your Name.”
Still trying to decide whether the namedrop of “Boise, Idaho” represents a true story; Ronnie Van Zant’s commitment to America’s small cities (no way was he gonna set it in Baltimore); or just an easy rhyme.
No. 37: Samantha Sang debuting with “Emotion,” which is essentially a Bee Gees single, produced and written by the brothers (or maybe just Barry and Robin; I don’t remember.)
I didn’t listen to the whole thing but it sounded like the Gibbs pretty much took over on the chorus.
Prefaced with a story about how Barry Gibb, hearing a Samantha Sang record for the first time, called her up at 2 am and offered to cut a record for her.
When I heard her start singing, it was no surprise — she sounds like the missing Gibb sister.
No. 36: For the folks listening to WINE in Danbury, Connecticut, it’s “Swingtown,” by the Steve Miller Band, down 19 slots.
(“He’s nothing without his band,” I once heard a record-store clerk say.)
I like this more than most post-1970 Miller, though it’s still pretty disposable.
Miller would release one further single (“Jungle Love”) before taking four years off.
No. 35: Former Top Ten hit: Rita Coolidge, “We’re All Alone.”
Written by Boz Scaggs, of course, who performed his own, distinctly Muppetish version on “Silk Degrees” (a Number One album in Buffalo!)
I actually kinda like hearing this song, like, once every two or three years.
No. 34: Wings, “Girls’ School.” Status Quo as done by the McCartneys. Not to be confused, of course, with the similarly titled Britny Fox song, which I actually think was better in its unashamedly trashy way.
No. 33: Odyssey, “Native New Yorker.” Nice theme song for a New York rebounding from near-bankruptcy. Not being a New Yorker, it doesn’t really grab me, though.
EXTRA: Casey introduces a band that spends its free time visiting hospitals and orphanages, and that gave Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley a matched pair of white doves as a symbol of peace:
War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
I like a lot of early War just fine, but as I’ve said, I can’t get to the proto-ska goofiness of this one.
No. 32: Babys, “Isn’t It Time?” The adolescent pain in John Waite’s voice, the moody piano chords and the opening swell of strings all made me think of the “Twilight” movies, which are my current standard of sheeplike teenage devotion.
No. 31: Santa Esmerelda, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Schlock.
No. 30: Kansas, fronted by former window washer Steve Walsh, with “Point of Know Return.”
Too much fancy stepping … as if the band’s manager or moms or chaperones or something were drawing in the reins (“OK, we let you rock on “Carry On Wayward Son;” now it’s time for something more refined and musicianly.“)
No. 29: Neil Diamond’s tale of knockin’ boots for the first time, “Desiree.”
Love how he became a man “at the hands of a girl twice his age” … when I hear the phrase “at the hands of,” I usually think of one person killing another.
Doesn’t really connote tenderness, does it?
I also love how “she came to me” … the perennial nerd’s fantasy that the girl/woman initiates contact, just like in “Go All The Way,” where the chick, not the narrator, whispers the title phrase.
No. 28: Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive,” up 11. Yes, there was a time when this song wasn’t a disco cliche, but a hot up-and-coming hit that anyone who heard it just knew was bound for the Top Ten and probably Number One.
Is there anyone in America who remembers where they were when they first heard “Stayin’ Alive”?
No. 27: Diana Ross, “Gettin’ Ready.” The beginning is agreeably jazzy; the rest is forgettable.
Casey mentions that a year ago, the chart was packed with disco records, but now there are “just a handful.”
Keeping the disco flame alive at No. 26: Chic with the gimmicky (if well-produced) “Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah).”
No. 25: Up 15 in only its second week on the Forty, Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch.”
Yuck — speaking of the Twilight movies, here’s a song with enough inarticulate earnestness to choke a Clydesdale.
I, of course, will always think of it as Secraterri and Scott’s theme song, as mentioned in the Jan. 24, 1978, entry. (The comment in blue was added recently.)
Oh, yeah, if I’ve never mentioned it: This woman who grew up in the Seattle area in the 1970s has transcribed and posted her ’70s and ’80s diaries online at secraterri.com. There’s a hefty bit of exhibitionism involved there, of course; but I found it fascinating, not having lived through the Seventies as an adult, to read the daily details of what an average person was doing and thinking about back then. Plus, she sometimes mentions what music she was listening to, which ties in nicely to this whole pop-music thing.
Anyway, back to the countdown:
No. 24: Bay City Rollers with the sappy, forgettable “The Way I Feel Tonight.”
No. 23: Andy Gibb’s followup to the biggest single of 1977 is up nine spots: “Love Is Thicker Than Water.”
That weird, oddly phrased, wanna-be cerebral beginning (“Love is … higherthanamountain … loveis, thickerthanwater.”) always throws me.
No. 22: No one ever went broke playing to the ghoulish sentimentalism of the American public: Elvis Presley singing “My Way.”
This version was apparently recorded in 1977. It doesn’t sound as thoroughly horrible as other Elvis stuff I’ve heard from his last year, but it does have a weird glazed quality to it, especially when he slides from note to note.
I felt like I was watching a corpse, listening to that one; even thinking about it makes me want to go wash off.
(1978, of course, would give birth to an even stranger version of the song. It would go Top Ten in the UK but not chart over here.)
No. 21: Paul Davis, “I Go Crazy,” on its way up. Another of those songs I used to hear incessantly on the radio station from Syracuse that played at my family’s cottage in the Finger Lakes in the summers.
No. 20: ELO, “Turn To Stone.” Even more forced and tinny and canned-sounding than usual; this lacks the sound and openness and charm of, say, “Livin’ Thing.”
No. 19: Earth, Wind and Fire, “Serpentine Fire.” Last time I heard this I slagged it; and that first verse where they hang on the one chord still goes on too long.
But this time around I appreciated the popping bass of the underrated Verdine White; and I like the simple, ecstatic chorus of “Oh yeah”‘s.
Still didn’t bold it, though.
No. 18: Billy Joel, “Just The Way You Are.”
Rather than say anything about this patronizing crap, I’ll mention that the Grateful Dead (who were nowhere near the Forty this week) played a pair of concerts on Jan. 7 and 8, 1978, that included no Jerry Garcia vocals due to severe laryngitis — the only time the Dead ever did that.
You can hear the first show here.
No. 17: Randy Newman, “Short People.” For the first verse I loathed this song; during the bridge I started feeling like I was figuring out what the Joke/Ironic Concept was … then I went back to loathing.
Now that Randy Newman is a megabillionaire from scoring all those Disney/Pixar movies, he probably looks back at this and shudders and says, “Sheesh. The things you had to do to score a buck before Pixar came along.”
No. 16: Crystal Gayle, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
No. 15: Linda Ronstadt, “It’s So Easy.” I almost kinda liked this a little bit — maybe because I remember it being in a commercial for something. (What were those commercials? Anyone remember?)
For some reason, I got more of the sunny SoCal vibe out of this one than I usually get from her songs, which appealed to me, it being 20 friggin’ degrees here in Dutch Country.
No. 14: Another remake: Leif Garrett with “Runaround Sue.”
Hey, tell me something:
When Casey plays a few bars of an original song before playing the remake, is he doing it because he has a soft spot for nostalgia? Or is he doing it to show up the blandness, soullessness and lack of energy in the remake?
No. 13: Queen, “We Are The Champions.” Better than what surrounds it, but it doesn’t usually hit my monkey nerve.
No. 12: High Inergy, “four girls from Pasadena, California,” with “You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle of Turning Me On.)“
Sorry, girls. In a decade that produced more great Top Forty sex songs than any other, this lightweight bit of non-soul just doesn’t cut the mustard.
No. 11: “Come Sail Away,” Styx.
When I was a teenager, I was looking at Styx’s “The Grand Illusion” album in a cutout bin, and the credits for “Come Sail Away” included a credit for James Young for “ARP ODYSSEY.”
At first I thought it was cool that the synth portion of the song had this cool little name – the Odyssey – and that the other guys in the band were giving special credit to their bandmate for taking them on this trip.
And then I found out that the ARP Odyssey was just the name of a keyboard … and somehow the whole thing seemed a lot less cool.
AT40 trivia question: Casey tells a listener that the soundtrack album that spent the most time on the charts — 287 weeks! — was “Oklahoma.”
Then he points out that the young female lead of “Oklahoma,” Shirley Jones, later got married and had a son named …
No. 10: … Shaun Cassidy, “Hey Deanie.”
I’ve never actually known anyone called Deanie. I assume it was a diminutive of Deanna or Deanne, which were enjoying their peak of popularity in the ’60s and ’70s.
(OK, Wiki tells me that Eric Carmen wrote the song — how could I tell, without knowing, that Eric Carmen wrote that song? — after seeing Natalie Wood portraying a character called Deanie in “Splendor in the Grass.” A professor of mine once told me that no actor or actress had been so perfectly named as Natalie Wood. But I digress.)
No. 9: Rod Stewart, “You’re In My Heart.” Didn’t he say he wrote this for “three women and two football teams,” or something like that?
No. 8: Bob Welch, “Sentimental Lady.” I prefer the Fleetwood Mac version from the “Bare Trees” LP; but back then, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t getting no hit singles no way nohow.
(Which reminds me: Casey says that “Rumours” is the Number One album in the US for the thirtieth straight week … even though, not to spoil anything, there aren’t any singles from it on the Top Forty this week. That’s kinda remarkable, or at least noteworthy, I think.)
No. 7: Paul Simon (with a Garfunkel name-drop), “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
I’m not a fan … I think “The nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-slidin’ away” belongs in the same bucket of meaningless non-profundity as Steve Miller’s “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.”
Or maybe Paul just meant to subtly invoke Zeno’s dichotomy paradox in a jealous effort to prove that Art wasn’t the smart one of the duo.
No. 6: “Here’s one of those records they’ll be talking about for years,” Casey says, his voice glowing:
“You Light Up My Life,” by Debby Boone, just starting on its way down after 10 weeks (I think) at Number One and a week at Number Two.
I actually listened to a good chunk of this song; I don’t like it per se, but I don’t find it as offensive as people who had to suffer through it in 1977 seem to find it.
There are worse songs out there.
No. 5: Dolly Parton, “Here You Come Again.” A former Country Number One despite the fact there’s barely an ounce of country in it.
(This week’s Country Number One: “Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck. Wonder whether that one cracked the Forty? Wiki sayeth not.)
No. 4: LTD, “Back in Love Again.” I know there’s not much to set this apart from any number of other semi-funky singles from the Seventies.
I just like the hooks and the vox.
What can I say?
No. 3: Linda Ronstadt, “Blue Bayou.”
No. 2: Player, “Baby Come Back.” Up four notches for a band formed in 1976; their rise this high on the charts so quickly must have had music journalists writing ledes like, “Player is a band we’ll be hearing about for years and years.”
No. 1: The song that knocked Debby Boone out of Number One and continued a record-setting series of Number One hits from movies (six in the prior year alone):
The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love.”
(According to Wiki, “Saturday Night Fever” premiered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 1977; the PG version would be issued in March 1978. Presumably people were still going to theaters to see it in the first week of 1978. I’ve never seen that movie in a theater. Would love to sometime — preferably a grungy suburban multiplex of the type that are being torn down right and left to make room for theaters with stadium seating and overpriced chardonnay. But, eternally, I digress.)