Must Be A Sucker For It

Let’s get back to checking out those songs held under the Hot 100 in the 80s, the ones we affectionately call the Bubblers. We’re up to chart week twenty, and as always, there’s a lot of lost Soul(s).

Kool & The Gang – Hangin’ Out (debuted 5/17/80, peaked at #103)

This New Jersey funk band made two significant changes in 1978. They brought in a producer (Deodato), and they hired a full-time lead singer (J.T. Taylor) Both paid immediate dividends that lasted through most of the 80s. Their 1979 album, Ladies Night, smoothed out some of their rough edges and spawned two Top 10 singles on both the Pop & R&B charts. This was the third single which reached #36 on the R&B Hot 100. Within six months, they’ll have the most successful and most enduring single of their career.

Chaka Khan – Clouds (debuted 5/17/80, peaked at #103)

Chaka reached #21 with I’m Every Woman from her debut in 1978, then proceeded to strike out at Top 40 radio with every solo single she released until 1984’s I Feel For You. She had a wealth of potential hit singles in between those years but was shut out by Pop programmers. This Ashford & Simpon-penned funky disco tune was the lead single from her terrific second album, Naughty, will reach the R&B Top 10.

Fun fact: Sixteen-year-old Whitney Houston, along with her mom Cissy sings back-up on this track. Whitney will return the favor by covering I’m Every Woman for The Bodyguard soundtrack, taking it up to #4, and giving Miss Khan a shout-out at the end.

Joe Perry Project – Let The Music Do The Talking (debuted 5/17/80, peaked at #110)

Aerosmith was in complete disarray by 1978, prompting Joe Perry to leave the band and form a new project. Unfortunately, the leader of this outfit was not charismatic but instead the quiet guy, hence the title. And the music was not worth listening to, in my opinion. We all know how it turns out, so let’s just call this rocks bottom.

Bill Summers And Summers Heat – Call It What You Want (debuted 5/23/81, peaked at #103)

Bill Summers is a percussionist who played in the Herbie Hancock’s band, The Headhunters, including their 1973 jazz fusion breakthrough album, which featured Chameleon & Watermelon Man. Bill formed the funk band Summers Heat in 1977, and this single, the title track from their fourth album, became their most successful, reaching #16 on the R&B charts.

Lakeside – Something About That Woman (debuted 5/22/82, peaked at #110)

Ohio, the land of Funk, was the birthplace of this nonet which tallied thirteen Top 40 R&B hits without ever grabbing one Top 40. This laid-back jam was the second single from the band’s sixth album, Your Wish Is My Command, and reached #25 Soul.

English Beat – Save It For Later (debuted 5/21/83, peaked at #103)

What’s this New Wave classic doing here? Well, the charts were getting clogged with catchy pop from the UK, and someone was going to held down. For every Our House, there was a Save It For Later, the second Bubbler from the group’s final album (in their original configuration), Special Beat Service. They had more success as parts of new outfits, General Public and Fine Young Cannibals.

Smokey Robinson – And I Don’t Love You (debuted 5/19/84, peaked at #106)

Smokey was still playing the boogie game in 1984 with another rare groove track, the lead single from his fourteenth solo album, Essar (get it? his initials…) It’s a sweet groove, but Smokey’s sweet soothing voice sounds odd on top of it. He’s still two albums away from his late 80s comeback.

Skipworth & Turner – Thinking About Your Love (debuted 5/18/85, peaked at #104)

Talk about a lost jam. This is so good. How did this not cross over in the Summer of 1985? They used play this video a lot on VH-1 and that’s where I became familiar with it, rather than in its inclusion in the female bodybuilding documentary, Pumping Iron II. In the 2013 film, Begin Again during a celebratory wrap party scene during a fun ‘don’t dance‘ challenge. Everyone lost. It will reach the R&B Top 10 and UK Top 40.

Peter Brown – Zie Zie Won’t Dance (debuted 5/18/85, peaked at #108)

After after a few classic Disco smashes in the late 70s, Peter couldn’t get any of his 1980 singles to chart at all despite them being catchy, danceable, and radio-ready. Released from his 1984 album, Snap, it will be his last song to post on the Hot Disco/ Dance charts reaching #20

Frederick – Gentle (Calling Your Name) (debuted 5/18/85, peaked at #108)

We’re gonna wrap up the week of Bubblers with a Quiet storm ballad from the Cleveland singer, Frederick Davis. It didn’t get a lot of National play even on Soul radio, as it only reached #48 on the R&B charts. This was partly due to local record label Heat Records’ failure to keep up with the single’s buying demand. But if they played it in your region, there’s a good chance you danced to it at a prom, wedding or the privacy of your own home.

 

These Reckless Thoughts Of Mine

We’re down to the ten most favorite songs according to Billboard magazine for the week of May 12th, 1979.

FYI: I looked up the cue sheets for this week as the good folks at the Charis Music Group have compiled many of them online. There is an interesting warning letter from Tom Rounds to radio stations on the front page which I wish I included for Rod Stewart’s song entry. I’ll put it here anyway. And yes, these are real.

Since Elton John entered the word into the rock and roll lexicon a few years back, we have not been blesses with the word “bitch” again until this week. Rod Stewart’s “Ain’t Love A Bitch” enters the countdown, and will very likely become Top 10. We mention this fact in case there are subscribers who feel the title and record would offend in markets where there are no bitches.

I could dissect this as its own post, but I choose to move it along. There’s also this:

This week, in hour II, between #’s 25 and 24, there is a feature on disco saving New York. If yours is a station violently opposed to the subject (disco, not New York) check it out.

A station violently opposed to disco, airing an American Top 40? “Disco” songs have been charting for over five years. Isn’t this just adding fuel to the fire? No wonder July 12th was so incendiary at Comiskey.

That said, the top ten is filled with dance music this week.  Seven of these tracks are straight-up disco. One is about as disco as that artist will get. One is a ballad by a “disco” artist, and there’s a MOR duet by rock artists.

10. The Jacksons –  Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)

I love Michael Jackson’s contributions to Disco because he frequently elevated the art rather than trying to cash in by using previously successful templates. [#8 is what I mean.] Since their second Epic release, Goin’ Places stunk it up, Michael (and his brothers) produced their next one, Destiny. It’s filled with multiple dancefloor fillers, but this one is the killer, and best enjoyed when you play the album rather than the single. This will make you move whether you want to or can’t.  It’s gonna happen. Be prepared. This was actually the second single from the album, as Blame It On The Boogie only reached #54.

9. Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer

After the success of Chic’s Dance, Dance, Dance, Atlantic Records allowed them to produce any art on their roster. They picked a sister act from Philadelphia that had already released two albums with no success. Nile & Nard wrote and recorded songs without ever meeting the band. But everything clicked, and the We Are Family album is one of the best in the Chic Org.’s catalog. This was the first single released, and it will top the R&B charts while it sits at its peak this week.

Will Smith sampled this song as the base for his hit Getting Jiggy Wit It in 1998.

8. Cher – Take Me Home

Cher was a star on TV and on the radio in the early 70s. After she divorced Sonny, the latter half of the decade was not as kind to her. By 1978, she needed something to hit big. So she signed with Casablanca Records and detoured into disco by releasing this. This is what people mean by “going disco.” It’s her first Top 10 record since Dark Lady hit #1 in 1974 and will reach #2 on the Disco Top 100 as well as #21 on the Soul charts. Cher will form Black Rose with Les Dudek in 1980 as a way to forget that this exists.

7. Chic – I Want Your Love

Hands down, my favorite Chic song. And give me the 6+ minute version, none of that single edit stuff. Bernard Edwards plays one of his most beautifully precise and melodic bass lines on the chorus. I hum along with it every time I hear it. This Disco Top 100 chart-topper is at its zenith this week. It also made the R&B Top 5 and climbed up to #9 on the AC charts. Guess those dentists like to drill to Nile’s chicken-scratch guitar licks.

6. Wings – Goodnight Tonight

Speaking of melodic bass lines, Macca writes a great one for this single. It’s also the first thing I could ever play on bass. I love that he recorded this to promote his new album, Back To The Egg, then decided it didn’t fit the theme and left it off. Was the theme called ‘keep the fans from buying the album’? Nevertheless, this is Paul “going disco,” although this was never aimed for the dance floor unless it was the 1930’s.

Fu Fact: All five band members play on this, so it is an actual Wings effort. But Paul plays the drums and bass, so he’s his own rhythm section.

Casey teases a fairly obvious story about the forming of the Village People, which takes most of the mystery out of the wait.

5. Village People – In The Navy

Here’s the new single from the visual answer from a six-year-old kid to What do you wanna be when you grow up? It’s from their fourth album, Go West, and it became a massive hit around the world or at least the countries that had military at sea. The Navy immediately latched on and used it as a promotional tool, even allowing the group to film a video at a San Diego Naval base. The 45 is two spots away from their peak.

4. Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman – Stumblin’ In

Smokie’s Chris Norman stops pining away for Alice and stumbles into bliss with Leather Tuscadero. Good choice, Chris. Suzi had a bunch of hits in the UK during the 70s, but not this one. She’s always been a badass rocker, but getting soft was the only way for her to succeed in the States. It’s one of two Mike Chapman-produced singles in the Top 5.

Suzi is still active, and her newest album, The Devil In Me, was released in the Spring of 2021. I don’t know what it would take for her to be in the RNRHOF as she has been a highly influential female artist. Maybe a top-notch documentary would help.

3. Donna Summer – Hot Stuff

Donna ruled 1979. Heaven Knows has already hit #4, and she’s gonna rack up four more Top 3 singles before the year is over. This is one of three #1s that she’ll garner, and it leaps seventeen notches this week. My house was filled with Donna’s music as a kid, which is why I’ve been a lifelong fan. The phrase itself had been around for a while, but in the 70s, it was used to describe someone who was a big deal or, in Donna’s case, a dude ready to bring it.

But nowadays, I can’t help but think of this scene in The Full Monty every time I hear it.

2. Blondie – Heart Of Glass

The Top two remain the same as last week. This New York sextet led by Debbie Harry was on album #3, Parallel Lines when they finally had their big breakthrough smash. It was the second single released from the LP, and it shot all the way to the top on April 28th. Supposedly its success can be tied to an episode of WKRP aired during Season 1 called Commerical Break. The single got a big bump in sales and airplay, and the grateful band gave the production crew a Gold single to hang on set.

1. Peaches & Herb –  Reunited (2 wks at #1)

It feels so good for Herb Fame and new Peaches, Linda Greene, as they rest at the top for another week, the second of an eventual four-week stay. Casey tells the story about how Herb quit the music business to become a cop in DC. After five years on the force, he decided to quit and restart his “easier” career in showbiz. Four years later, he’s number one with a bullet (the safe kind).

Fun Fact: Peaches & Herb truly made it when they end up on an episode of the game show Hollywood Squares.

Watch What You Say

We’re back with hour #3 on the American Top 40 countdown from May 12th, 1979.

20. Instant Funk – I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)

And Casey introduces this decagon of funk as coming from Philadelphia, the home of liberty, cream cheese, and the hoagie, named after Hoagy Carmichael. The last one is debatable, and the cream cheese was actually created in update New York. The band is actually from Trenton, NJ but signed with Philadelphia International for the first album back in 1976. Their first big hit on the Salsoul label will top the R&B & Disco Top 100 charts. In the Top 40, it’s resting at its peak. And, oh, what a jam it is.

De La Soul put that intro to good use in this track from 1991.

19. GQ – Disco Nights (Rock Freak)

GQ was the band from the roughest area in the US (South Bronx) that signed with the only record company that showed up (Arista) to their basement audition. The story leaves out that these guys had already cut a few singles for Vigor and charted on the R&B charts with a song called Zone, which peaked at #92. This band was tight and, had companies not dramatically shifted away from Disco within a year, this quartet might have had a longer career. As it stands, this is the first of two Top 20 hits from the group and one of my favorite Disco songs from that era.

Fun Fact: Bass player Keith “Sabu” Crier was the uncle of future New Jack singer Keith Sweat.

18. Supertramp – The Logical Song

There’s an exercise in Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where you’re asked to write your own eulogy. The idea is, to know where you’re going, you need to start at the end and name the things you want to accomplish. I always had trouble with that exercise. Recently I’ve been creating a playlist on Spotify for my loved ones to play at a party when I die. But if all else fails, just play Breakfast In America back to front, and my spirit will be happy.

17. Randy Vanwarmer – Just When I Needed You Most

This song takes the air out of the whole show. I wouldn’t blame anyone if they turned it off or fell asleep. That said, White people needed their sad ballad fix back then, which is why it will hit #4 on the Pop charts and #1 on AC charts. It will even make the UK Top 10.

16. George Harrison – Blow Away

Thankfully George comes in and shows us how it’s done. Casey mentions that he had been retired for a few years, but the near-fatal crash of Formula One drive, Niki Lauda, inspired him to write songs again. I have never heard that story before. And in George’s autobiography, I, Me, Mine, published one year later, he says he wrote this out of frustrations about a leaky roof. Either way, this is easily my favorite solo hit of his, and it always makes me feel good when I hear it. This will be as high as it will go.

Fun Fact; The drummer on this song is Andy Newmark. Next year he will play on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album.

15. Frank Mills – Music Box Dancer

Here’s a tune by a Montreal pianist recorded and released in 1974, but it bombed. See, we already had Marvin Hamlisch that year, and the rule is one pianist per year. So Frank had to wait it out five more years, politely as Canadians do, until a track like this stuck out so much that it could be a hit. It falls from its height of #3 down twelve notches this week. I feel bad for all of the young girls who got a music box with this tune in it that Christmas.

Now it’s the second and final LDD, and it’s an unusual one as the young boy from Ohio wrote it sends the song out to himself. It seems that he got braces and the hell that he gets from friends feels like fire. So he requests that Casey play the song Fire by Pointer Sisters for him. Why does it seem like this kid grew up to be a politician?

14. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood

Here’s another former #1 single and the only Pop hit for this D.C.-born singer. It’s a cover of the Eddie Floyd 1966 classic, and it’s the fourth of five cover songs in the countdown. No diss to Amii, but this is one of my least favorite Disco songs, mostly because of the gregarious production.

13. Orleans- Love Takes Time

Casey introduces Orleans by talking about Woodstock, which happened ten years previous, and Woodstock 79, which was discussed but never happened. [The debacle known as Woodstock 50 is a fascinating story.] The band had actually split after John Hall left in 1977. But slowly, the Hoppen brothers gathered a few new players and released their first Hall-less album, Forever, in 1979 that featured this big hit two spots away from its peak. Unfortunately, their label Infinity went under, and that siphoned most of the gas out of the tank.

Now Casey plays the 90th #1 song of the decade, You’re Sixteen by Ringo Starr, a cover of Johnny Burnette’s 1960 Top 10. But Ringo’s version had an ace in the hole – Paul McCartney doing a kazoo-like solo.

Fun Fact: Billy Ocean’s 1988 #1 smash, Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, gets its title from a line in You’re Sixteen.

12. England Dan & John Ford Coley – Love Is The Answer

You may not know the original version of this song written by Todd Rundgren and released on Utopia’s Oops Wrong Planet in 1977. Seals and Coley rescue it from obscurity with a heartfelt performance and sax licks by Ernie Watts that pushed it all the way up to #10. It will be their last Top 40 hit. Ironically their final album, Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive features two songs that will become hits for other artists – Broken Hearted Me for Anne Murray and What’s Forever For by Michael Martin Murphey. Something about giveth and taketh away…

11. Bee Gees – Love You Inside Out

Do you love Boogie Child? Well, here’s the Gibb brothers’ 79 update and the final of six #1 songs in a row and easily their most forgotten. I love all their stuff, and Spirits Having Flown is one of their best albums. But I feel this hit the top purely on momentum. It will break up Donna Summer’s three-week #1 run with Hot Stuff in just a few weeks. Also, if you do this at karaoke, you’re a superstar!

I thought Feist did a great job covering this one back in 2004.

The numbers get smaller. The hits get bigger—ten more to go in the next post.

 

Let Me State For The Record

We’re back with the next ten songs from the AT40 countdown from the week of May 12th, 1979. But before we hear #30, Casey resolves his teased story of the singer who was plucked from the streets and became a star. It was Gary U.S. Bonds, who had tallied seven Top 40 hits, including Quarter To Three, which hit #1 in 1961. His music inspired legions of fans, including Bruce Springsteen, who would produce and write a #11 comeback hit for Gary in 1981 called This Little Girl.

Now on with the countdown…

30. Rex Smith – You Take My Breath Away

Here’s the seventh debut of the week from the brother of Michael Lee Smith, leader of the band Starz who appeared in the Top 40 in the Spring of 1977 with Cherry Baby. Rex had made his Broadway debut in Grease the year before and was asked to star in a made-for-TV movie. Sooner Or Later, which aired on March 25th, 1979, is a creepy piece of manufactured teen drama, where Rex, a 23-year-old who was married to a Playboy bunny, played a 17-year-old who dates a 13-year-old, who pretends to be a 16-year-old, played by Denise Miller who was really that age. It spawned this dramatic ballad co-written by the guy who wrote the theme to Sesame Street and will reach #10.

29. Tycoon – Such A Woman

To counterbalance the swell of disco in 1978, pop radio started to program some solid upbeat pop-rock records into the mix. Luckily for them, there were many good ones, such as Hot Child In the City, Baker Street, and Love Is Like Oxygen. Some of these tunes are forgotten because they weren’t necessarily a part of any movement, just good music for the times. [I think this is why Baker Street gets lumped into Yacht Rock.] This single from the New York septet’s Mutt Lange-produced debut has definitely been lost in the shuffle. It will climb up three more spots.

Fun Fact: Sax player Mark Rivera will join Billy Joel’s band during the An Innocent Man sessions.

28. George Benson – Love Ballad

Bad Benson scatted his way up to #18 with an L.T.D. cover. This slice of disco jazz is the first single on the countdown on its way down, ten big notches.

Casey then challenges the audience to a mini-quiz: Which member of the Beatles uses a stage name? Then he gives us three choices to choose, of which one is Richard Starkey. I’m sure it’s tough to come up with fun tidbits weekly, but these writers were working on fumes this week. Oddly, two other solo Beatles are on the charts this week.

27. Sister Sledge – We Are Family

This is the week’s highest debut, moving up from #53 in its third week on the Hot 100. It’s the first of two Sledge sister jams on the countdown and the first of three Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards productions. Only Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff kept it out of the top spot. But we know it went #1 in Pittsburgh that year.

26. Foxy – Hot Number

Foxy is not a one-hit-wonder, at least not as much as you’d like them to be. There’s something about this Miami’s band sound that reminds me of the trashier side of Disco. At least the guitar in this song doesn’t sound like it’s throwing up as it does on Get Off. Five more ticks are all this single will rise.

Casey teases another story about how New York was regarded as a shithole in the 70s until Disco saved it. Hahaha, good one.

25. Olivia Newton-John – Deeper Than The Night

Once Livvy showed up in her skin-tight leather and red Candies at the end of Grease, she was never the same. Her new album, Totally Hot, played on her tougher image and nabbed her a #3 hit with the slinky A Little More Love. This follow-up has some disco vibes, but it’s straight-up pop-rock. It moves up ten spots on its way to a #11 zenith. Casey also mentions that she is one of seven female soloists in the countdown. That’s way better than saying, girly singers.

Casey elaborates on how disco saved New York with not much evidence to support it. He mentions that it gave a lot of folks civic pride. Did that come straight from the chamber of Commerce or Ed Koch?

24. Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

One of the most famous B-sides in history slides down eleven spaces after a three-week run at the top in March. It’s the longest active song in the Top 40, standing at seventeen weeks. [It will drop ut next week.] I would frequently hear my Mom singing this song and expected to hear that I’d splitting weekends with my parents. Otherwise, this is a glorious piece of disco perfection.

Also, do not try to resuscitate someone to this song.

23. Bad Company – Rock N Roll Fantasy

In precisely two months from now, Disco demolition night will be held at Comiskey Park in Chicago. I truly believe that had ad agencies not shoved disco everything down our throats in a short window of time, the music would have continued to peacefully co-exist. If you don’t believe me, look at New Wave and then freestyle, hip-hop, house, trance, electropop. Or hell, look at the charts today. It’s what we always come back to.

That’s all to say that there was plenty of rock music still getting Pop airplay, such as Bad Company, one of nineteen groups on the countdown. Even though this track will only reach #13, the 45 will sell a million copies. The band won’t have another hit until 1991’s If You Needed Somebody.

Casey steps away from the charts and digs into the AT40 archives to play the eighty-ninth #1 from the 70s, Show And Tell by Al Wilson.

After a Disco shuckatoom, we’re back.

22. Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes

This is one of five songs in the countdown that has hit #1 already, which it did four weeks ago. It scores a 100 on the Yachstki scale, and it’s where the Doobie bounce originated. It will win a Grammy for Record and Song of the Year. For me, the beauty of this song is all about Michael McDonald’s phrasing and melody. Never has an anxiety-ridden song about a break-up felt so soothing.

21. Styx – Renegade

Here’s the Chicago quintet who’s enjoying their Top 40 hit move up two notches on its way to #16. This was the second single from their eighth album, Pieces Of Eight, and it was written and sung by guitarist Tommy Shaw. He even takes a rare solo.  And if you are a Brewers fan, you know your relief pitcher is coming in if they play this song.

We’re halfway through the countdown, and Casey teases us with a story about a band who auditioned iht debasement in one of the roughest parts of the country. And the only record company that showed up signed them. Can you guess who that was? We’ll have details, next post.

Find Someone To Say They Sympathize

I listened to the American Top 40 countdown last weekend from May 12th, 1979, and although I’ve never written a recap from the 70s, this collection of songs hit my nostalgia bullseye. It was a month before Summer started, which was a rough one for me. So revisiting these tunes as a collective was oddly soothing. I assume that someone might feel that way listening to a countdown from February 2020 in the future, for example. I know others have trod on this ground, so I will strive to make it my own. I going to break this up into fourths cause I may have a lot to say.

A little background: AT40 expanded their show from three to four hours in October 1978, partly because their popularity and more time meant more ad dollars, partly because everything began their supersized transition in the late 70s. Casey spends the beginning of the show recapping last week’s Top 3: Music Box Dancer, of which the first twenty seconds he talks over, Heart Of Glass and Reunited. “Will it stay at #1?” [Yes, for three more weeks.]

Then he teases the first song with this tidbit: a hit single by a man who appeared in his high school yearbook photo dressed as a woman. Stupid and pathetic, but appropriate for its time.

40. Sylvester – I (Who Have Nothing)

And the singer they are referring to is on his third Top 40 hit. So his persona shouldn’t be unknown to the pop audience or worthy of a shock-value teaser. The intro gives a little more context to the life of this San Francisco who was known by the underground as the true Queen of Disco. What’s also missing about this bio was that Sylvester dropped out of high school but reattended and graduated at 21. At the same time, cross-dressing was still considered illegal in California until 1974. To AT40’s credit, they play almost six minutes of this 10-minute Ben E. King cover. It will be his last appearance in the Top 40.

39. Barbara Mandrell – (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right

Here’s the first of eight Top 40 debuts in the countdown. After a decade of trying, Babs crosses over with a Luther Ingram R&B smash, which he took up to #3 in 1972. Even though it counts as Country, it sounds like a record you’d hear on Solid Gold rather than Hee Haw. She’ll cheat her way up to #31 before saying goodbye to Mr. Jones.

38. David Naughton – Makin’ It

This is what Disco sounds like if your only experience with it is a Saturday night hang out at a strip mall bar called Rhapsody’s two doors down from a Radio Shack. Sung by David “I’m A Pepper” Naughton, it’s the first of three songs written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. It’s also a beautiful preview of what the 80’s vibe is going to be. I can just imagine some post-grad Yale kid hearing this song, joining E.F. Hutton, and preparing to sell junk bonds to suckers.

This song will also be used as the theme to the upcoming Bill Murray flick, Meatballs, and the title of the Saturday Night Fever rip-off sitcom bomb, which was already off the air as this debuts. The 45 will still go Gold and reach #5 during the Summer.

37. Billy Joel – Honesty

Billy Joel proved The Stranger was no fluke when he released 52nd Street in late 1978. This is the third Top 40 hit from that album and the third countdown debut. It will reach #24 Pop and #9 on the AC charts. I like to imagine that Jimmy Carter heard this song, and it inspired him to deliver his “crisis of confidence” speech on July 15th.

Also, coming off the frenetic pace of Makin’ it, this ballad seems jarring but ultimately becomes a nice change of pace.

Four songs (technically, seven) into this countdown, and we’re up to a long-distance dedication, the first of two. Typical fare, man meets woman, gets married, but they can’t be together. I know AT 40 was big on Armed Forces radio, and I swear the bulk of the LDDs are from homesick officers. They play The Closer I Get To You, which peaked at #2 in the Spring of 1978, and the dude writing the letter refers to the duo as Roberta Flack with the late Donny Hathaway, who had committed suicide only four months previous.

36. Kenny Rogers – She Believes In Me

Debut #4, Country song #2, and the follow-up to The Gambler. Kenny’s gonna take this ballad up to #5, matching his 1977 peak of the song Lucille. This ballad will also become the first of eight #1s on the AC chart. I hope songwriter Steve Gibb took his wife out for a nice lobster dinner once this became successful, especially after she had to endure many lonely nights listening to her husband writing songs in the kitchen. Also, I hope he invited David Gates to go with them.

35. Rickie Lee JonesChuck E.’s In Love

The fifth Top 40 debut takes a twenty-notch leap on the charts—quite an achievement for a first-timer. But I sense some condescension in Casey’s voice as he refers to her as a “girl singer” and makes reference to two frustrated producers “waiting around” for her to finish her album, which she did “just in time.” Jesus, it was her debut record. Back off. The LP featured some of the top L.A. session musicians of the day, while critics called her the new Joni Mitchell. [She wasn’t. She was the new Rickie Lee.] It will be nominated for five Grammys winning one for Best New Artist. This eventual #4 single cut through Pop radio back then like the coolest kid that needs no cred, and it still sounds great today. And damn, I love when Rickie and the band take it down to silence, and Steve Gadd brings it back with that rollicking drum fill.

Fun Fact: Two of the five Best New “artists” Rickie was up against in that category were Robin Wiliams and The Blues Brothers.

34. Roger Voudouris – Get Used To It

Here’s a nice little slice of keyboard-driven pop with some West Coast flair from Roger’s second LP, Radio Dream, co-written and produced by Michael Omartian. This single is on its way up to a #21 zenith, and it also reached #4 in Australia. It will be his only appearance on the Hot 100.

Now from the AT40 archives! AT40 decided to look back at the former #1s of the 60s to help pad out the show, and when that was up, they’ve moved on to the 70s. They would play three songs per show, and this week they’re up to January 1974 with the Steve Miller Band’s The Joker up first. Can you guess the next two while we shuckatoom?

33. McGuinn, Clark & Hillman – Don’t You Write Her Off

Three Byrds get together and take flight on their new venture as their first single together moves up four notches. I’m convinced that Roger and Chris only formed this to help Gene Clark out. The dude recorded some dynamite Country rock albums but let his alcoholism and drug abuse wreck his career. Clark hadn’t been in the Top 40 since Eight Miles High in 1965, but then again, Roger hadn’t seen this type of success since 1967’s My Back Pages. This breezy pop song is sitting at its zenith this week.

32. Bob Seger – Old Time Rock & Roll

Casey makes a big deal about how this countdown features 15 Disco songs, but it’s no more of an assault than British New Wave was in late 1983. It also implies that rock was dead, and while it may have been threatened ( or so says, rock fans), it is still significantly represented in the countdown and on this song quite literally. It’s the fourth Top 40 hit from Bob’s Stranger In Town (or Seger’s Thriller), but it will only move up four more notches. And if that four-second piano intro, played by Randy McCormick, doesn’t remind you of Tom Cruise, then I’m sure it makes you think of your cousin’s wedding.

Fun Fact: George Jackson, who co-wrote this, also wrote the Osmonds’ One Bad Apple.

Casey teases a story about a producer who fires a singer in the middle of a recording only to grab someone off the street and make him a star. I think he told this tale more than once on AT40. [We’ll find out in the next post who it is.]

31. Rod Stewart – Ain’t Love A Bitch

Here’s the seventh debut record on the countdown jumping up fourteen spots, only to eventually stall out at #22.  Squeamish Casey, who refused to say the title of George Michael’s song I Want Your Sex, sounds incredibly awkward saying this one. He adds that “the title may read like a question, but it’s more of a statement. A strong statement.” I don’t agree with that, and I don’t think Rod would either, but it’s funny to hear Casey try to balance clarity with mumbling as he says the bitch. What a bizarre follow-up to Da Ya Think I’m Sexy. That’s a statement.

Coming up, a listener in Boise, Idaho, wants to know what the highest-debuting song is this week. The answer is in the next post.

What Are Words Worth?

We’re stumbling through the jungle of Hot 100 songs that never were. Let’s review those tunes that were Bubbling Under in the 80s during chart week n-n-n-n-nineteen.

Skyy – High (debuted 5/10/1980, peaked at #102)

Here’s a funk octet from Brooklyn led by three sisters, mentored by Brass Construction leader Randy Muller. He wrote and produced this R&B Top 20 jam from the group’s second album, Skyway.  They would nab their only Top 40 hit, Call Me. from their fourth album, Skyy Line, in 1982.

The Whispers – I Can Make It Better (debuted 5/16/1981, peaked at #105)

After a decade of releases, this L.A. quintet led by twins Walter and Scotty Scott hit the Top 40 with three songs in a row. This funky groove was the follow-up to It’s A Love Thing, a #28 hit, but although it got significant club play, it only reached #40 on the Soul charts, as well as getting stalled here.

Phil Seymour – Let Her Dance (debuted 5/16/1981, peaked at #110)

Former bassist and drummer for the Dwight Twilley Band, Phil Seymour, follow up his only Top 40 hit, Precious To Me, with an obscure Bobby Fuller Four cover. Giving it the Power Pop treatment it deserved was not enough to push it onto the charts.

Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood (debuted 5/15/1982, peaked at #105)

Even though this followed up the Top 40 hit, Genius of Love, It was recorded and released first, selling tens of thousands as a 12″ import. It features an interpolation of the children’s song, A Ram Sam Sam, and a tune that Tina Weymouth and her sisters Laura and Lani made up as kids during their school days in France. That’s why they both received songwriting credit. This massive hit in Europe hit the Top 10 in Spain, Belgium, France, and the UK. It will top the Disco Top 80 charts. And this slaps like a mofo.

Kix – Body Talk (debuted 5/14/1983, peaked at #104)

Heavy metal was barely given any chance at Pop radio until MTV forced the issue.  Mostly that meant, you needed a vibrant, well-remembered video to push your single, and this band didn’t have one yet. This Maryland quintet was on their second album when they recorded a hard rock version of Nick Gilder’s (She Talks) Body Talk. Its failure did not deter the band, and six years later, they would record the power balled, Don’t Close Your Eyes, which they took up to #11.

Smokey Robinson – Touch The Sky (debuted 5/14/1983, peaked at #110)

It doesn’t feel right to say that Smokey was coasting in 1983. But how else would you describe a song where it feels like Smokey is barely there? I mean, here’s the album cover. Feels like he’s given up. This breezy single will only get up to #68 on the Soul charts.

Russ Ballard – Voices (debuted 5/12/1984, peaked at #110)

The man who wrote Three Dog Night’s Liar, America’s You Can Do Magic, and Ace Frehley’s New York Groove could not muster a solo hit of his won. The former Argent guitarist’s best showing has his 1980 single On The Rebound, which peaked at #58. This was the lead single from his sixth album, Russ Ballard, and should have been given a better shot.

Marvin Gaye – Sanctified Lady (debuted 5/11/1985, peaked at #101)

Marvin has his big comeback in 1983 with the smash Sexual Healing from his album, Midnight Love. It was the first of three LPs to be released by Columbia, and he had already recorded tracks for the follow-up, including this one, titled initially Sanctified Pussy. Lyrically Marvin was going into a very sexually suggestive, if not misogynistic direction. But musically, I really dig the electro-funk moves he was making. This easily could have been played next to anything else in the Summer of 85. And with Aretha shining brightly on Pop radio back then, it’s a shame Marvin couldn’t join her.

Fun fact: Barry White has mentioned that he had planned to record a duet with Marvin for this unfinished album. That’s enough to make a million ovaries explode.

B.B. King – Into The Night (debuted 5/11/1985, peaked at #107)

I loved this song back then, and I felt like the newly launched VH-1 played this quite often that Summer. This was used as the title theme to the new John Landis movie starring Michelle Pfieffer and Jeff Goldblum. B.B.’s song, My Lucille, his bluesy ode to his guitar, makes an appearance in the film as well. This will be his last R&B Top 40 when it reaches #15.

Wang Chung – Fire In The Twilight (debuted 5/11/1985, peaked at #110)

Here’s another soundtrack tune, this one from the John Hughes-directed high school flick, The Breakfast Club. Simple Minds was up at #3 with Don’t You (Forget About Me) when they single entered then immediately left the Bubblers. This track is played during the scene when the jock, the princess, the nerd, the burnout, and the basket case run through the hallways with a bag of weed trying to evade the principal.

If We’d Stayed To Play For Fortune

This is an exciting collection of songs for chart week eighteen in the 80s. And if you’re like me, you might listen to these and wonder why a lot of them didn’t succeed. Let’s review those tunes that were Bubbling Under the Hot 100.

Con Funk Shun – Got To Be Enough (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #101)

Let’s get it started with some Oaktown funk from a septet that was on their sixth album. Spirit of Love was the first of two LPs released in 1980, and it spawned this sweet horn-laden jam. What I like about these guys was how they could throw down a stanky groove and add just enough smoothness with a catchy hook on top to keep their R&B audience [this peaked at #8 Soul] but have just enough appeal for Top 40. Pop radio was too narrow-minded, and the Disco backlash lumped most funk-soul-disco acts as the same thing. Otherwise, you might have heard this one before or after Call Me on the radio.

Jerry Knight – Overnight Sensation (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #103)

Before Ray Parker Jr. added his name to the band or even began his solo career, fellow bandmate Jerry Knight tested the waters with a funky self-titled debut and this monster groove. It will make the Top 20 on the Soul and Dance charts. He’ll team up with former Wonderlove member Ollie E. Brown for the theme of the movie Breakin, which will be a Top 10 smash. Jerry will write songs for other artists as well, including The Jets’ Crush On You.

Floyd Cramer – Dallas (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #104)

TV show themes crossing over to the Pop charts is nothing new. Even instrumentals have reached the higher echelons of playlists. What makes this one strange is that Dallas was one of the biggest television shows. Of course, this was about five months before the Who Shot J.R. episode, so maybe the 45 release was a little premature. This single will make the AC (sure) and Country (what?) Top 40.

Fun Fact: You may have heard of The Wrecking Crew, the group of studio musicians who played on almost all Pop hits from the 60s. Piano player Cramer was part of the Nashville A-Team, the Country equivalent that lasted much longer.

Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #107)

Soul music took such a beating on Pop radio in the 80s after truly breaking out the decade before. Record companies had enough budget to create great music like this, but not enough to get it heard by the masses.  Was it too jazzy? This won’t even make the R&B Top 40, despite this smooth groove that Nathan Watts and James Gadson lay down.  This track is from Lewis’ second solo album, 8 for the 80s, produced by Herbie Hancock.

Robert Winters & Fall – Magic Man (debuted 5/9/1981, peaked at #101)

Pianist Robert Winters released the first of his two albums in 1981. This lead single, a ballad sung by Walter Turner, will be his biggest hit, reaching #11 on the R&B charts. You wouldn’t know it from the album covers, but Robert was handicapped, confined to a wheelchair after a childhood bout of polio.

Susan Hart – Is This A Disco Or A Honky Tonk? (debuted 5/9/1981, peaked at #109)

Susan was a film actress in the 60s, appearing in flicks such as The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini and Pajama Party. She retired mainly by 1971 but decided to record this Country single as an attempt at a new career. The song is not as interesting as the title.

The O’Jays – I Just Want To Satisfy (debuted 5/8/1982, peaked at #101)

It’s 1982. The O’Jays are still recording with Philadelphia International. But their Pop crossover days have come to an end two years previous. Justified? Of course not. This lead track from their fifteenth album, My Favorite Person, is another high-quality addition to their vast catalog, written by Kenny Gamble and Cecil & Linda Womack. The problem is that it still has its foot in the classic 70s soul sound, which sounded out of date at the time. Trends have passed, so enjoy this one now.

Alex Call – Just Another Saturday Night (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #101)

Alex was a member of the Marin County sextet, Clover, which recorded four albums in the 70s, but is more remembered for being the backing band on Elvis Costello’s debut, My Aim Is True. They propped that dude up and were promptly forgotten. To make matters worse, the band’s harmonica player started his own band, the News, and they and Huey Lewis became huge in the 80s. Alex would write a tune for Tommy Tutone called Jenny, and that would get him a recording contract which is why he was Bubbling here in 1983. That said, his record company screwed up by not pushing this to Pop radio.

Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #101)

This UK female trio made its first proper attempt to break into the US market in 1983 after having a few hits in England. What better way to do it than with a cover of a 1969-released #1 hit? [No, not Venus. Wait another three years.] The gals update this accidental smash on their debut album, Deep Sea Skiving, with tons of tom fills and tambourines a-plenty, a formula they’d repeat on their first big hit in the States, Cruel Summer.

Marty Balin – Do It For Love (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #102)

The former captain of the Airplane Starship released his second solo album after his debut spawned two Top 40 hits, including Hearts. This one will get stuck in the hangar as the follow-up to What Love Is, which peaked at #63.

Frida – Here We’ll Stay (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #102)

Anni-Frid Lyngstad, or 25% of ABBA, came on strong with her first all- English album (her first two were sung in Swedish), released two months before her former group’s double LP compilation The First Ten Years. Produced by Phil Collins, the first single I Know There’s Something Goin’ On slapped its gated reverb drums up to  #13. This follow-up, a  sprightly duet with Phil the Shill, should have followed it the first one into the Top 40. But in the Bubblers here, it will stay.

Fun fact: Per Gessle will co-write a track on Frida’s album. Within six years, he’ll have the first of four US #1s as part of Roxette.

Menudo – If You’re Not Here (By My Side) (debuted 5/5/1984, peaked at #102)

Menudo was a Latino boy band formed in Puerto Rico in the late 70s. They only had one rule: once you hit puberty, you were out of the band. That kept the group as a teen band in perpetuity. The problem was that they were big in many Hispanic countries but had no support in the US. In fact, many record labels didn’t even have  Latin divisions in their company. They had to manufacture Menudomania for folks here to get interested, and then they bombarded us with a full entertainment assault. To their credit, their inroads were the seeds of the Latin music explosion of the 90s. This ballad from their fourteenth album, Reaching Out, was sung by new member Robbie Rosa.

Nena – Just A Dream (debuted 5/5/1984, peaked at #102)

I was never sure if the band or the singer was Nena. Maybe that’s where Sade got her inspiration. The West German New Wavers almost hit #1 with 99 Luftballons except that Van Halen did not believe in tearing down the wall, just jumping off of it instead. This follow-up from their debut posited more happy times with a loved one. And who wants to hear about that?

KC – Are You Ready (debuted 5/5/1984, peaked at #104)

I’m glad the KC had a comeback hit with Give It Up. But this follow-up track was a great reminder that the gas had entirely run out of the tank. Even if you were standing at an Amoco pump, nothing was going to make this car drive again.

Con Funk Shun – Electric Lady (debuted 5/4/1985, peaked at #101)

We started with Con Funk Shun. We will end with Con Funk Shun. I love that symmetry. But hate it for these guys who saw another R&B smash [#4] remain as a Bubbler. Pick up their Best of collection, and you won’t be disappointed.

Tryin’ To Find That Happy Ending

Not as many songs held back as Bubblers during the seventeenth chart week of the 80s, but many good ones. Let’s review and rediscover.

Crown Heights Affair – You Gave Me Love (debuted 4/26/1980, peaked at #102)

Here’s a Brooklyn R&B octet that formed in the last 60s, moved over to funk by the mid-70s, and settled into a disco groove by the decade’s end. Their biggest crossover hit was Dancin’ which reached #42 in 1977. This was the first single from their seventh album, Sure Shot, and will become their biggest UK hit, peaking at #10. It will also climb to #12 on the Disco Top 100.

Greg Kihn Band – Sheila (debuted 5/2/1981, peaked at #102)

Greg and his buddies follow up their breakthrough hit, The Breakup Song, with a Power pop cover of Tommy Roe’s #1 smash from 1962. They’ll wait for two more albums for more success until 1983 when Jeopardy climbs all the way to #2.

Alabama – Old Flame (debuted 5/2/1981, peaked at #103)

This Country quartet released their fifth album, Feels So Right, but had yet to cross over to Pop radio. The lead single, co-written by Mac McAnally, is a honky-tonk ballad that would have been at home on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. It will be their third straight #1 on Country charts, and their next two follow-up singles, the title track and Love in The First Degree will reach the Top 40

Life – Cool Down (debuted 5/2/1981, peaked at #106)

Here’s a Pop duo formed by Florida guitarist George Terry, who worked with Eric Clapton in the 70s and co-wrote Lay Down Sally. He also played on Andy Gibb’s solo records and the Bee Gees’ Spirits Having Flown. This bluesy number stalled under the Hot 100, but another track of theirs, E.T. Phone Home charted in the UK.

William “Bootsy” Collins – Take A Lickin’ And Keep On Kickin’ (debuted 5/1/1982, peaked at #103)

Bootsy kept a second career going as Booty’s Rubber Band while still a member of Parliament and Funkadelic before recording under his own name. He would rack up 12 Top 40 hits on the Soul charts, including the world’s funkiest sing-a-long, The Pinnochio Theory (don’t fake the funk or your nose will grow), and the #1 smash, Bootzilla. None of them would cross over to the Hot 100. In fact, this was his best solo showing regarding the Pop charts, unless you count Tom Tom Club dropping his name on Genius Of Love, which is up at #31 this week. He would show up in the Top 10 in 1990 as a guest on Dee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart.

Point Blank – Let Her Go (debuted 5/1/1982, peaked at #109)

This Texas sextet finally nabbed a Top 40 in 1981 when Nicole reached #39. Let Her Go was their sixth, which spawned this single. But the lack of continued success plus the relentless touring schedule combined to break up the band. They will get back together in the late 2000s and release and few more albums.

Julio Iglesias – Amor (debuted 4/30/1983, peaked at #105)

Enrique’s dad was a massive star in Spain since the late 60s, but that will only get you so far in the financial department. So he started singing in other languages besides Spanish. His twentieth release, Julio, was a compilation that featured a few tracks in English, including this one which is partly sung in Spanish. The album did quite well in the States and precipitated his move to Florida, setting him up for success with 1984’s 1100 Bel Air Place.

Fun fact: Julio was once a goalie for a Real Madrid soccer team in his youth.

The Manhattan Transfer – Mystery (debuted 4/28/1984, peaked at #102)

After their #7 hit, Boy From New York City in 1981, Pop radio mostly shunned them, even as this vocal quartet recorded and released well-produced and performed singles ready for radio. This Rod Temperton-penned ballad featured a soulful sax solo from Ernie Watts and caught the ear of an up-and-coming Detroit R&B singer who was looking for songs for her new album.

Peter Brown – They Only Come Out At Night (debuted 4/28/1984, peaked at #102)

The man who asked if we wanted to get funky back in 1977 recorded a quick follow-up album to 1983’s Back To The Front called Snap. This was the lead single, a fast-paced dance track, perfect for all the lean and hungry types, and it will reach #1 on the Dance/Disco Top 80 charts. It will also cross over to the R&B charts and get as high as #50.

Break Machine – Street Dance (debuted 4/28/1984, peaked at #105)

Break out your worn piece cardboard and your Adidas tracksuit because it’s the Village People of hip-hop, minus the Halloween costumes. I only say that because Jacques Morali and Henry Belolo put this trio together and produced them. This single was huge across Europe hitting #1 in Spain, Norway, and France and #3 in the UK. In the States where rap and breakdancing were created, no one cared, except for the clubs which pushed this single to #6 on the Dance/Disco Top 80 charts. I first heard this track on an airplane station playlist and really dug it, spending years trying to find it.

Steve Arrington – Feel So Real (debuted 4/27/1985, peaked at #104)

The former drummer and eventual lead vocalist of the funk band Slave left in 1982. He released Steve Arrington’s Hall Of Fame, Vol. 1 one year later, a tremendous album and one of the best R&B albums of the 80s. Naturally, Pop radio dissed it. Two albums later, in 1985, Steve smoothed his sound out a little and was rewarded with a #5 Dance hit, #17 R&B zenith, and a #5 peak in the UK. His follow-up, Dancin’ In the Key Of Life, will climb onto the Hot 100 and reach #68. Steve is still doin’ his thing and put a solid effort in 2020 called Down To The Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions, as well as guesting on Thundercat’s release, It Is What It Is.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started