From the old blog, December 2009. People seem to like these.
The Seventies lurched to a close, as all decades do — indeed, as the one we are in is doing as I type.
And this was the stuff on the radio.
(With favourites in bold as always.)
No. 40, debut: “A bit of social commentary,” Casey says, from a wanky group of bespectacled limeys:
“Video Killed The Radio Star,” by the Buggles.
I’ve always hated this song. Too camp, too precious — just listen to the way Trevor Horn pronounces words like “sym-pho-nee.”
These guys ended up merging with that most definitive of ’70s dinosaurs, Yes, less than a year later — proof that they were not the forward-looking savants that their hit record would suggest.
No. 39, debut: “I Still Have Dreams” by Richie Furay.
“Shakey,” Jimmy McDonough’s antic biography of Neil Young, posits Furay (who later became a minister) as one of the few genuinely good guys in rock n’ roll, and apparently one of the very few good guys who ever crossed Neil’s path.
Unfortunately, this is good-guy rock’n’roll, with its polite Fender Rhodes backdrop … and while it didn’t finish last, it doesn’t get many points, either.
No. 38: “Deja Vu,” Dionne Warwick. Definitive quiet-storm fodder, and really, not all bad for what it is. I could listen to this twice.
No. 37: Fleetwood Mac, “Tusk” — “one of the most unusual hits to be created by a major act in quite a while,” Casey declares.
That scrambly drum break in the middle annoys me, and I get a minor whiff of self-conscious hey-aren’t-we-weird? from this song. But by and large, the hooks are just fine.
Essay question: How much differently would the song (or the album) have performed had it been called “Beak”?
No. 36: “Dim All The Lights,” Donna Summer.
Hey, you Seventies veterans can tell me: During Summer-mania, did every magazine in America put Donna Summer on its cover?
When she was clicking with two or three hits in any given Top 40, were there long think pieces about Donna Summer’s tastes, preferences, politics and theories on religion?
Or was she pretty much dismissed as the largest and mightiest of the new universe of disco droids?
No. 35: ABBA, “Chiquitita.” In his intro, Casey fondly recalls ABBA’s “SOS” as the only double-palindrome in chart history.
That was a better song than this one.
No. 34: “Love Pains,” Yvonne Elliman. Nice use of Coral Electric Sitar. And what does the hook in the chorus remind me of?
(You guys could probably tell me better if I could find a YouTube link for the song. But I can’t.)
No. 33: Foghat, “Third Time Lucky.” Hey, I thought these guys were a beery boogie band. What are they doing throwing around sub-Pablo Cruise mellowisms?
Hope the folks on One-Zed-Cee in Rotorua, New Zealand, enjoyed this one.
‘Cause I didn’t.
AT40 Extra: Counting down the Number One hits of the ’70s, we land in September 1976, with Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.”
Their follow-up single, “Baby Don’t You Know” (next line: “the honkies got soul”) shows up on precisely two local records charts in the ARSA archive, which says a lot.
I always dug their album cover, though – I can practically taste the cherry.
No. 32: Isaac Hayes, “Don’t Let Go.” Yeah, OK, sure, fine.
No. 31: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Don’t Do Me Like That.” Prefaced by Casey telling a factually incorrect story about how Petty’s band used to be called “Mudcrutches.”
I love the octave bass lines in the bridge of this song — you can’t convince me these guys weren’t making fun of disco.
No. 30: Hall and Oates, bustin’ out for the listeners of Radio Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay, with “Wait For Me.”
I’d pretty much forgotten about this song, but it ain’t bad — it pretty much sounds like all the other Hall and Oates singles between about 1977 and 1981.
A nice video (linked above) in which H&O and band sing from inside a boom-box couldn’t help this one get any higher than Number 18 … video hadn’t yet killed the radio star in December 1979.
Incidentally, this tune sounds a lot like something Todd Rundgren would have written, and I note the presence of former Rundgren sidemen John Siegler and Ralph Shuckett on the “X-Static” album, which birthed this single.
I don’t meant to imply any kind of correlation — just sayin’, is all.
No. 29: “From Christmas, Arizona, to New Year’s, Nevada,” it’s the Alan Parsons Project with “Damned If I Do.”
OK song, snappy enough.
For some reason, I found it amusing to imagine the song played by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (I think the tune would have held up nicely in their hands.)
Will have to remember the cover-by-other-chart-act device to get me through when other AT40 countdowns start to crawl.
No. 28: John Cougar, “I Need A Lover.” Always liked this song — the unnecessarily complex arrangement, the sound of the instruments, the big guitar flourishes, the wordless vocal chorus, the jackboot outro — though some of that stuff is stripped away in the single edit.
And really, aren’t we all looking for a girl who will thrill us and then go away?
No. 27: Prince, presaging the sound of the ’80s with “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” up all the way from No. 40.
I’m not a massive Prince fan, but I’ll give him this — he’s a better drummer than most one-man bands.
No. 26: “Coward of the County,” Kenny Rogers. Schlock.
No. 25: M, “Pop Muzik.” Less annoying than the Buggles, I’ll give it that; and “Munich” and “music” is an acceptably outside-the-norm rhyme.
The American public must have agreed — this was M’s 17th week on the charts.
I guess they were just paying him back for all those episodes of “Sesame Street” he brought to them.
Wonder how often he got stopped on the street by people wanting to know what James Bond was really like.
“Uh, no. No, that’s Q. I’m M. Now, if you’ll excuse me?”
No. 24: Anne Murray, “Broken Hearted Me.” The title reminds me of the Yardbirds’ “Evil Hearted You,” a wellspring for misogynist garage-punk churners everywhere.
The song reminds me that I’ve still gotta plow through 23 more, and I haven’t bolded any in a while.
No. 23: Kenny Loggins with Michael McDonald … really, do I have to tell you any more, or do you already know we’re knee-deep in krap?
I decided, while listening to Kenny sing, that he really wants to be Daryl Hall, or is in some way a poor man’s version of Daryl Hall, one Oates away from genuine quality.
(For want of an Oates, a career was lost.)
No. 22: Smokey Robinson’s 31st hit, counting the Miracles. “Cruisin’.” Big enough hit but it just didn’t move me.
No. 21: Pablo Cruise their ownselves with “I Want You Tonight.”
The verses on this song brought to mind Huey Lewis and the News, who just a few years later would also march out of the woods of Marin County to produce slick, bloodless pop perfectly suited to their times.
I like Pablo Cruise better.
No. 20: Speaking of Marin, it’s Jefferson Starship with the overblown arena-rock flourishes of “Jane.”
I have always loved Mickey Thomas’ thoroughly cheesy, loungey, unnecessary ad-lib of “hey hey” on the bridge.
(You know, right before the line about “only because you didn’t know better.”)
You can take the man out of the Holiday Inn, but you can’t take the Holiday Inn out of the man.
No. 19: Eagles, “The Long Run.” Up 14, and the title track from the Number One album in the U.S.
This is actually one of the Eagles songs I loathe the least, as enervated as it is.
No. 18: Doctor Hook, “Better Love Next Time.” This is safer than Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home against the Yanks. Man, did these guys sell out.
No. 17: Barry Manilow, “Ships.” Of course I heard it as “Shit” when Casey introduced it. Dr. Freud would have no book with me.
No. 16: “When Yankees meet Redcoats,” Casey says, you get music like “Head Games” by Foreigner.
(He was referring, of course, to the fact that the band included both British and American musicians.)
Dude, farmers bled to death in the fields of Concord and Lexington for this?
No. 15: “Half The Way” by Crystal Gayle.
No. 14: Cliff Richard, “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” Too bad Sir Lord Cliff couldn’t have recorded more songs like this, or the average American might actually know who he was.
No. 13: Casey says, by way of explaining that 11 of this week’s hits are by foreign acts:
“Americans import foreign cars and television sets. We import hit music, too.”
Something about that sentence made me think about hundreds of thousands of Rust Belters being left without work … which didn’t make me very receptive to the next song, “Cool Change” by the Little River Band.
(Every so often I muse about the fact that they used to mass-manufacture television sets in the U.S. It seems so weird to me, like smoking in airports.)
No. 12: “Rock With You,” Michael Jackson. Up 9 for the folks listening to KERN in Bakersfield. Would that everything had stayed as uncomplicated as it seemed in December 1979.
No. 11: Kool and the Gang, “Ladies Night.” This doesn’t offend me as much as some of their later hits would.
(All together now: “Jo-haaaa-naaaaa/ I (pause) love yoooooo….”)
Still not boldworthy, though.
AT40 Extra: Still working our way through the Number Ones of the Seventies, and we get “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees et al.
I’m telling you, everyone who was between the ages of 13 and 30 in America in 1976 deserves a kick up the khyber for making this a Number One.
The line forms on the right.
No. 10, and Lord, does it sting me to use the boldface:
Supertramp, “Take The Long Way Home.”
Normally I loathe all things Supertramp. But this and, OK, “Goodbye Stranger” are pretty good songs; and this is the better of the two because it eliminates the annoying Supertramp Wurlitzer electric piano sound and replaces it with wailing lonesome-train harmonica.
Not to mention they get extra points for the cool album cover of “Breakfast In America.”
No. 9: Eagles, “Heartache Tonight.” Nice fist-into-jaw drum sound on this one.
Lines like “Everybody wants to take a chance, make it come out right” position this song as a shades-wearing, more dangerous!!!!! cousin to Loverboy’s “Working For The Weekend,” which has that same kind of evocatively meaningless drivel about stuff “everybody” is doing.
No. 8: Captain and Tennille, “Do That To Me One More Time.”
No. 7: JD Souther, “You’re Only Lonely.” The thought of a Top Ten tribute to Roy Orbison is kinda sweet, but I can do without the actual song.
No. 6: Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, “No More Tears.” Casey explains that some pressings of the song are credited to Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer, just to keep equilibrium between two big stars used to getting top billing.
No. 5: For the folks listening to KQED in Albuquerque, it’s Stevie Wonder with “Send One Your Love,” very thoughtfully refusing to allow the Seventies to expire without one last taste of jazzy, soulful, idiosyncratic groove.
Stevie deserves a medal for his work to keep schlock from completely taking over America in the ’70s like kudzu — and we’ve got just the President to give him one.
No. 4: Rupert Holmes, “Escape (The Pina Colada Song.)” A good old-fashioned story-song with a great twist at the end and a memorable arrangement. Doesn’t even matter that they use the same chords the whole way through.
I think this tune has a lot to recommend it, in a completely non-campy way.
No. 3: KC and the Sunshine Band, “Please Don’t Go.”
I’m sorry, Mr. Casey and Mr. Finch … but if you look at Covenant 12 of the agreement between America and Messrs. Casey and Finch, you will see clearly indicated the words, “no ballads.”
I’m afraid we’ll have to show you to the doors.
Please don’t complain; it’s been a fine, fine ride.
No. 2: Commodores, “Still.”
Casey mentions that the group has had the same six members for the past 10 years. That lineup wouldn’t last.
No. 1 (and no mention of the Beatles, either singularly or together, as far as I heard):
For the second straight week, “Babe” by Styx.
Yuck — the river of Hell, indeed.
Oh, yeah, not that anyone cares, but on Dec. 15, 1979, I was a first-grader counting the days until Christmas break. (It was still quite publicly “Christmas break” in public schools in those days.)
Don’t remember what I got for Xmas that year … sorry.