From the old blog, March 2011.
So here we are in an America positively saturated with Gibb-love — so much so that Casey would have been justified in calling his countdown “Sunday Morning Fever.”
What’s going on in the week ending March 18, 1978?
* Gifted actor John Cazale dies of cancer at 42.
Seventies film fans, who have already seen him in four Oscar-nominated movies, will get a final chance to see his work when “The Deer Hunter” is released in December.
* Jill Clayburgh hosts “Saturday Night Live.” Eddie Money is the musical guest.
* People meeting with or speaking by phone with President Carter this week include actor Kirk Douglas; Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan; Wayne Corpening, mayor of Winston-Salem, N.C.; former President Ford; and Sen. John Anderson, who will make a quixotic bid to replace Carter in 1980.
* Time magazine’s cover features a special report on a topic still of interest to right-wingers today: Socialism.
Inside the magazine is a feature on Warren Zevon titled “Tales from the Neon Netherworld.”
* Teen Beat magazine features cover teases including “Why The Bay City Rollers Had To Leave Scotland!,” “Leif Garrett’s Deepest Secrets,” “Shaun Confesses: It’s True – I Can’t Be True To One Girl” and “Is Parker Stevenson Too Old To Be A Hardy Boy? Vote!”
* Rock fans in the Los Angeles area who score tickets to the California Jam II concert get all the music they can hold, courtesy of Santana, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Mahogany Rush, Dave Mason, Foreigner, Heart, Bob Welch and Rubicon.
* Meanwhile, an L.A. rock band has a hard time far from home: The Beach Boys perform a series of subpar concerts in Australia, during which Carl and Dennis Wilson are visibly and audibly drunk.
* The San Francisco Giants trade seven players and $300,000 in cash to the Oakland Athletics for Vida Blue, who gives the Giants a couple of pretty good but not great years.
Then again, the A’s don’t get a lot of use out of most of the guys they acquire, either.
I’m not sure how much use I got from extended portions of this AT40 countdown. But here we go again, with favourites in bold:
No. 40, debut: Chuck Mangione, “Feels So Good.”
Casey suggests this is the first AT40 hit to feature the flugelhorn as a lead instrument, which could well be.
This one also features a particularly sweet guitar solo, for lovers of six-string fireworks.
It will be the second-hottest guitar solo of the countdown … we’ll get to Numero Uno in due time.
No. 39, debut: For the folks digging WBBB in Burlington, N.C., it’s Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway with “The Closer I Get To You.”
(Only two debuts this week; the rest of it, you’ve all heard before.)
Soft soul … perhaps a little bit oversoft, like that one strawberry you find at the bottom of the box that’s all mashed down on the bottom side.
No. 38: Up two, Enchantment with “It’s You That I Need.”
Bland gossamer soul, very redolent of its period … there will be much more where this comes from.
No. 37: “The new group Van Halen,” Casey says, in their second week on the charts with “You Really Got Me.”
Never been a VH fan.
I guess that breakdown with Diamond Dave gasping and coughing like someone’s tickling his colon with a feather was their idea of “putting their own stamp on the song.”
No. 36: Down 10, Queen with “We Are The Champions.”
Like that lead vocal and Brian May’s distinctively toned licks, as always.
No. 35: In its twenty-fourth week on the charts, the Bee Gees with “How Deep Is Your Love.”
Casey mentions that in 1959, the band gave $400 to its fans so they would buy up all their records in the shops, to convince Sydney radio stations to play the song on the air.
Now, Casey says, stations fight to be first on the air with Bee Gees tunes.
(Was that really true? I’m imagining a station in some backwater place like Syracuse boasting, “We’ve got the Bee Gees first!”)
No. 34: Up two, Andrew Gold with “Thank You For Being A Friend.”
Ah, you’ve misread my intentions, Andrew.
It will be your final mistake.
No. 33: Rod Stewart with the recycled Stones of “Hot Legs.”
No. 32: Down an astonishing 21 spots, Steely Dan with “Peg.”
(America, how could you forsake the Dan?)
Now this is the best guitar solo of the week, backed up with a bravura bass performance from Chuck Rainey.
No. 31: A guy who recently won an R&B Grammy, Lou Rawls with “Lady Love.”
More gossamer, set apart only by the unique resonance of Rawls’ marvelous pipes.
No. 30: Gene Cotton, “Before My Heart Finds Out.”
Distinctly Van Warmerish … though “You woke me from a dream about you” is a pretty good opening gambit.
No. 29: ELO, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman.” As good as their brand of pop got, which was pretty good indeed.
Not sure why you’d go searching on a one-way street, though.
No. 28: Up two, and Number One on the soul charts, Parliament with “Flash Light.”
A marvelous antidote to all that silky-smooth soul business lower down. This one reels and grooves and chortles and rollicks and sounds like some sort of strobe-lit space par-tay.
Great deep synth-bass from Bernie Worrell, too.
No. 27: Stargard with a former Soul Number One, “Which Way Is Up.”
At the time this countdown aired, the three female members of Stargard were just waiting for their performance as Lucy and the Diamonds in the upcoming “Sgt. Pepper’s” movie to rocket them into cross-platform stardom.
No. 26: Up 13, England Dan and John Ford Coley with “We’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye” (which Casey keeps referring to without the final “Again.”)
I tell ya, “Flash Light” sits among the surrounding songs like a hash brownie on a tray of Girl Scout cookies.
No. 25: For the folks digging out to the sound of WYSL in Buffalo, New York, it’s Jackson Browne up 12 with “Runnin’ On Empty.”
I like Jax just fine when he plays terse, propulsive rock n’ roll … it’s hard to gaze into your navel when you’re doing 70.
Also, few songwriters have found better metaphors for aging than the transition from “runnin’ wild” to “running behind.”
Add some slicing, spot-on steel guitar from David Lindley, and we gots us a winner.
No. 24: Ex-high school cheerleader David Gates with “Goodbye Girl.” Alas, my developing mancrush on D. Gates is not enough to lift this soggy celluloid artifact into bold status.
But there’s still hope … goodbye doesn’t mean forever, after all.
No. 23: Kansas, “Dust In The Wind.”
“Carry On Wayward Son” is what really gets my inner 16-year-old stoked … but this is a lovely song.
Not as profound as it was probably meant to be, but memorable and effectively arranged.
No. 22: Bob Welch, “Ebony Eyes.” Pretty OK; tuneful; I wouldn’t have turned the dial back in ’78.
No. 21: Up two, Heatwave with “Always and Forever.” Sticky and mellow as maple syrup. Not as tasty, though.
No. 20: In its seventh week, Rita Coolidge going over all Ronstadt with “The Way You Do The Things You Do.”
But how’d she look in roller skates?
No. 19: Raydio, “Jack and Jill.”
Oh, that Jill, “never bothering to phone.”
This is embarrassingly lame.
No. 18: Natalie Cole, “Our Love.” Running out of stuff to say about records like this.
By this time in 1978, I would have turned the radio off.
No. 17: The Flying Garfunkel Brothers with their exquisitely emasculated all-star version of “What A Wonderful World.”
Soft and pillowy and too damn mellow.
Not that I would have expected “Carry On Wayward Son” out of this bunch, of course.
No. 16: Little River Band, “Happy Anniversary.”
By this time in 1978, I would have bought a Japanese guitar at a pawnshop and started a punk band.
No. 15: Up two, “Falling” by LeBlanc and Carr.
My spleen is being crushed by thousands of tons of pure smoove.
Kinda sad it took two guys to do what Stephen Bishop did all by himself.
No. 14: Yvonne Elliman, “If I Can’t Have You.”
Energy and drama — two things that have been in short supply lately — suddenly burst forth.
When I was a junior in HS, I was ferrying my girlfriend and a friend of hers someplace, like out to a movie or something.
I put in my tape of the SNF soundtrack and this came on.
“My mom listens to stuff like this,” my girlfriend’s friend said, audibly wrinkling her nose.
(Someday I will write an epic, man-slaying post about the travails and troubles of being a funk and disco fan in 1990 America. But not today. I gotta outlast this countdown before it crushes my spleen.)
No. 13: Lynyrd Skynyrd crunching through “What’s Your Name?”
You know what? Rock guitars, attitude, groove, a couple of good lines, and Ronnie Van Zant’s delivery add up to a bold.
Lynyrd Skynyrd crunching through “What’s Your Name?”
On a more serious note, I wonder whether the surviving members of Skynyrd were out of traction by March of ’78.
It must be a savage form of torture to be recovering from multiple broken limbs, still depressed and mourning the deaths of your professional brothers, and still hear your song on the radio twice an hour.
No. 12: ABBA, “Name of the Game.”
Love the mysterioso swing of that opening section.
No. 11: For the listeners of WMBO in Middleport, Ohio, it’s Jay Ferguson with “Thunder Island.”
(Is that Ferguson’s running buddy Joe Walsh on slide guitar?)
Dave Barry made fun of this one in one of his books, which only goes to show that Dave Barry can be a honkin’ big hack when he wants to.
No. 10: Billy Joel, “Just The Way You Are.”
Come back and save us, Dean Friedman. All is forgiven.
No. 9: “Dance Dance Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)” by Chic. Rumbustious coke-fueled fun, though not as much so as “Good Times.”
BTW, this week’s crave-song is officially “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” which I’ve been listening to continuously for a good 35 minutes now.
No. 8: Dan Hill, “Sometimes When We Touch.”
But other times when they touch, nothing happens.
Or there’s a little spark, like you get from skidding your feet over the shag carpet.
A big blood-rare hunk of emotion, down five.
No. 7: Paul Davis, “I Go Crazy.”
Early on, when Mr. Davis delivers himself of the line “They say old lovers can be good friends,” you just know this song’s gonna slip a thin blade into one of your ventricles and slowly turn it.
No. 6: Barry Manilow up four with the kids’-songy “Can’t Smile Without You.”
Casey predicts that this one could be headed to Number One.
He is mistaken.
Trivia fact I learned from Wiki: Not only did the Carpenters record this one first, it was the B-side of “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.”
Hmmm, wonder if that one’s on YouTube …
No. 5: Andy Gibb, “Love Is Thicker Than Water.”
I actually found myself singing this repeatedly in the kitchen today, which is a sure sign that the bourbon’s soaking directly into my cerebellum.
Nice slide guitar chorale — seems to be a good week for that, if nothing else.
No. 4: Speaking of bourbon-soaked, it’s Eric Clapton, “Lay Down Sally.”
A welcome trip to bumpa-chicka Johnny Cash-land.
Also, the only record in this week’s Top Five that is completely unaffiliated with the Gibb family.
No. 3: Samantha Sang, “Emotion.”
No. 2: Up four after going down six the week before, the Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive.”
Crisp, tight, perfect, era-defining funk.
No. 1: Speaking of defining an era, Casey says no artist has held the top 1 and 2 spots since the Beatles in 1964.
Until this week:
The Bee Gees, “Night Fever.”
The Gibbs also tie Elton John for most Number Ones of the Seventies, with six. Remarkably, they would cop three more Number Ones before the decade was out.
“They have the sound of 1978 going for them, and maybe even the sound of the decade,” Casey says, admiringly.
That latter suggestion is open to argument — Gamble and Huff might have an issue with that, for instance — but no arguing here:
This countdown would have been much better if the Gibbs had produced, written and/or performed about 25 additional songs.
A remarkable chart achievement, and much deserved.