A Cargo Full of Love: Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 5

 

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to write these posts with William Harris was our similar love for different styles of music. It’s fun to discuss what each one meant to us growing up, no matter what path it took us to get there.

We ended up agreeing on four out of twenty-five, which, in baseball terms, is a .160 average. But before I share the four #1 songs of the 70s we equally loved, I wrote up five honorable mentions. All of them could have shown up on my list, with a slight change of mood or a few drinks. This may be shooting myself in the foot, but here it goes:

Rupert Holmes –  Escape (The Pina Colada Song) [3 weeks, 1979, 1980]

Like Bob Slydell with Michael Bolton, I celebrate the guy’s entire catalog, the guy being Rupert Holmes. This was at #1 in the 80s too, so I disqualified it.

Frankie Valli – Grease [2 weeks, 1978]

I watched this at a drive-in theatre with my folks and definitely should not have at my age. Then again,  we listened to the soundtrack constantly and that had curses in it as well.

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Rich Girl [2 weeks, 1977]

My son asked me why this song was playing on our Tap while the explicit content filter was on. I had to have a thirty-minute discussion with my child about the word ‘bitch’, and I think I made it worse.

Vicki Lawrence – The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia [2 weeks, 1973]

I was a sucker for story songs, and I loved The Carol Burnett Show. So sue me.

Also, I always thought that section between 3:00 and 3:02 would have been a good hip-hop sample.

Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally) [6 weeks, 1972]

Suicide, atheism, and parental loss. To make a sing-songy pop hit out of those subjects, you’re a genius. To have the entire country sing with you for six weeks, you’re a legend.

Continue reading “A Cargo Full of Love: Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 5”

Old Memories Creep More: Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 4

 

Having a number one record is hard. Like most success, you need a lot of good timing and luck. For Billboard’s purposes, you also need to be at or near the top of the Top 40 airplay spins as well as singles sales, with the combination of the two the highest of every other song that week.

It’s an imperfect system that gets worse when you consider payola deals, personal favoritism, and human error. You Light Up My Life is a nice song, but I have a difficult time believing that we, as a national collective, thought that was the best song alive for two and a half straight months. Better than Carly Simon? Barry White? Boogie Nights?

It’s all to say that Number one records shouldn’t always be considered better than the others. Mostly, they were just luckier and had better timing (Foreigner knows what I’m talking about.) Every pop artist aspires you have one though, the cache of saying they had a #1. [Personally, I’ll take a platinum single that peaked at #22.] But I digress.

Here are another six of our favorite singles awarded number one status in the 1970s.

Rhythm Heritage – Theme From S.W.A.T. [1 week, 1976]

EM: 1976 was such a great for hit TV theme songs. I almost had Welcome Back by John Sebastian here instead. But damn, this song is an out-of-control Mack truck barreling down the highway with little chance of stopping. So funky. I was forbidden to watch the Steve Forrest-led crime drama, but I never let an opportunity to let this Barry DeVorzon-penned single pass me by.

Did you know that LL Cool J sampled the intro for I’m Bad in 1987? Fast forward to 2003, and guess who scored a part in the film reboot?

WH: It’s absolutely a fun, great tune, and as Erik implies, its chart success led to the theme songs of four other ABC TV shows being released as singles later in 1976: Welcome Back, Kotter, of course, but also Happy Days, Baretta, and Laverne & Shirley. In fact, all four of those were on the Top 40 simultaneously for two weeks in mid-June.

Don’t think I ever watched an episode of S.W.A.T. My excuse for the first season, when it was on Monday evenings, is that it surely came on at or past bedtime. Maybe I had better things to do on Saturday nights during its 1975-76 second season?

Paul McCartney & Wings – Band On the Run [1 week, 1974]

EM: Paul seamlessly strings together four separate passages into one pop masterpiece. This is why the Beatles had to break up.

My fondest memories as a kid were movies I would play in my head while I listened to the radio. For this tune, I loved the concept of the group breaking out of prison, being on the lam chased by a jailer and a sailor, both of which probably didn’t have a clue where to search if they weren’t in jail or the high seas. Aren’t there jurisdiction rules too?

Also, I always thought he needed a “pie today.” Who doesn’t love pie? We know Paul loves his butter pie. That made a lot more sense to me than a pint.

WH: As I mention over on my side, “Band on the Run” was a legitimate contender for being included in my list. Until Erik brought it up, though, I’d never seen the connection between this piece and Paul’s Beatles work so clearly—it’s kind of a rock parallel to the poppier “You Never Give Me My Money.” (And after listening to the album the other day, isn’t “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)” stylistically a sort-of-descendant of “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”?)

Earth, Wind & Fire – Shining Star [1 week, 1975]

EM: It took six albums, but finally, Maurice White amalgamated his musical and spiritual vision, a perfect union of funk, jazz, and rock, with this monster track. The first 15 seconds are pure bliss as al McKay & Johnny Graham use their guitar licks to fuse this aural bomb, lighting up the band with a Phenix Horns explosion. All you needed to do for the next two-plus minutes was ride out the groove and bask in the after blast.

WH: Not every act explodes on the scene; sometimes, there’s groundwork to be laid, momentum to be built. EW&F had had a couple of minor Top 40 hits in 1974. A few months later, “Shining Star” grabbed everyone’s attention, starting a string of soul and pop hits through the end of the decade. I was a fan then—I appreciate them even more now.

Bill Withers – Lean On Me [3 weeks, 1972]

EM: My parents bought the Fantastic K-tel collection, and I would sit and wait patiently for this song to start. Bill’s voice was a comfort to me, a parent or an older sibling to assuage your fears.

When one realizes their purpose, can put that magic into action and then have the world embrace it, that’s a  joyous pleasure. There might not be many who could create simple songs that can hit someone directly in the heart better than Bill, and he does it with such effortless passion.

WH: “Lean on Me” is such a great song with a great message. I do wish my brain had an easier time keeping track of the first beat of the measure when I hear it, though—fifty years on, and I’m still have processing issues.

Coincidentally, we also had Fantastic at home. While I definitely remember Withers being on it, I appreciate the album more now for serving as my introduction to “Back When My Hair Was Short” from Gunhill Road and “Power to All Our Friends” by Cliff Richard.

LaBelle – Lady Marmalade [1 week, 1975]

EM: I can’t pull up any specific reference in time as a child that corresponds to that song, but it still retains the feeling of being a part of my childhood. Many years later, during a trip to France in the Summer of 1989, I found a disco compilation in the record department of the Gallerie Lafayette. I popped on the headphones, played this track, and felt a part of me open up, one I never knew was closed. I still own that double cassette.

My re-entry into 70’s music.

Also, I love that one measure of ride cymbal on the chorus just before the break; it gets me every time. And Alan Toussaint’s production saves this song from being a campy disaster. Don’t believe me?

WH: How old was I when I learned the translation of the line sung in French? I seriously doubt it happened while “Lady Marmalade” was popular. Something tells me my mother wasn’t too thrilled to have her kids listen to a song about a guy who can’t get over his business trip (or vacation—whatever) assignation with a prostitute.

I was surprised to learn years later that Kenny Nolan co-wrote (with Bob Crewe) both “Lady Marmalade” and “My Eyes Adored You.” It wasn’t the first nor the last time songwriters had two of their creations hit #1 one right after the other, but those might be the two most different-sounding songs involved in such an achievement.

The Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love [3 weeks, 1977]

EM: This is one of the best ballads ever written and proof that timeless songbook  “standards” were still created in the rock era long after the days of Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer. Like sinking into a spongy waterbed, this song envelopes your body as well as your soul. I can still smell my dad’s cherry tobacco puffing from his pipe while he drove us down to Philadelphia in our Tradesman van during the winter of 1977, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack clicking away in the 8-track player.

Side note: Had RSO Records not had Grease waiting in the wings, they would have released the Bee Gees’ More Than A Woman as a single. It probably would have reached the top, and I would have talked about it here.

WH: Sure, the Bee Gees were already enjoying a resurgence, having scored two #1s and four other Top 12 hits over the previous two years. But I wasn’t initially impressed in October 1977 when I first heard this ballad as the opening salvo from some movie soundtrack. Six months later, when it was still on the Top 40, I had to acknowledge the error of my ways.

Forget about “Stayin’ Alive”—looking back, I remain amazed at how even the release of “Night Fever” as a single didn’t initially erode the popularity of “How Deep Is Your Love.” The latter held on at #10 the first four weeks, “Night Fever” was in the Top 40.

Hop over to see the Doc’s list o’ six. Next week, we will share the only four songs we agreed on.

 

Gifts From Far Away: Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 3

Welcome back to the list of our favorite number ones from the Me decade, presented in no particular order. Here’s another five of mine and over at The Music of My Life, Dr. Harris has five more too.

Paul Simon – 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover [3 weeks, 1976]

EM: Nothing like that rolling Steve Gadd drum lick to get your day started. I had no clue what Paul was singing about on this one, but boy, did I love the chorus. While the song reverberated in my head, I would come up with other “ways” to split, rhyming couplets like ‘get on your bike, Mike’ or ‘hop on a train, Wayne.’ I know I’m not alone in doing this because my wife said she did the same thing.

WH: My sister and I also tried to imagine what some of the other 50 ways were.

This came out shortly after we got a portable tape recorder for Christmas in 1975. The only pre-recorded cassette that came along with the player was His 12 Greatest Hits, by Neil Diamond (a gift for my mother, actually). Amy and I were given a few cheapie blank cassettes, though. At the family Christmas gathering at my grandparents’ house later that day, one of my cousins joined the two of us to record some silly play-acting.  Over the next couple of weeks, she and I realized we could also set the recorder next to a radio to capture favorites of the day such as  “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Convoy,” in order to listen to them on demand. What I wouldn’t give to have those tapes still.

Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) [1 week, 1972]

EM: When people complain about ‘there’s no good music anymore”, I think what they’re saying is that everything sounds the same. Singer Eliot Lurie did not sound like anyone else on the radio at the time. He sounded like a crusty old sailor perched at the end of a dive bar with nothing but this story of a lost love to tell. Also, I know it seems obvious, but I always think of eating at an Arthur Treacher’s seafood restaurant when this comes on, a childhood Friday night tradition, like good quasi-Catholics did back then. If Brandy was here she would’ve traded in her locket for some of these hush puppies. Damn, they were good.

WH: Almost six years before “Shadow Dancing” and “Baker Street” went mano-a-mano for six weeks at the top of the Hot 100 in the summer of 1978, there was a lengthy battle for pop chart supremacy between “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” While Andy Gibb never did officially cede #1 to Gerry Rafferty (there are indications that some behind-the-scenes shenanigans kept it from happening), Gilbert O’Sullivan yielded to Looking Glass after holding them off for a month (after which he returned to #1 for two more weeks). 

I love the way the relative calm of the verses in “Brandy” gives way to the energy in the chorus and bridge. It’s almost like a storm popping up while you’re on the seas.

Chic – Le Freak [5 weeks, 1978, 1979]

EM: Whenever we drove into Manhattan via the Long Island Expressway, we would ride by LeFrak City, a large group of apartment complexes built in the late 60s. And as soon as we passed the Grand Central Parkway exit, it would be…”one, two, aaaaah, Frak out! ” I’ve never heard Nile Rodgers mention this housing development as an inspiration to the song. Maybe it was buried in his subconscious for years, and that Studio 54 anger let it out.

An aside: I once heard Nile Rodgers give a talk, and he cracked himself up talking about this song, saying “here we are writing a song about a specific dance and we never tell you how to do it.”

WH: While I listened to AT40 religiously for several years, there are maybe only a couple dozen specific moments/stories that have stuck in the old noggin all this time. One of them is the monster leap “Le Freak” made on the 11/25/78 show, jumping all the way from #37 to #6, the largest in-show move I encountered.

Somewhere I’ve read/heard (and Wikipedia corroborates, whatever that’s worth) that “Freak out!” was derived from an expletive phrase uttered when some of the members of Chic were denied entrance to Studio 54 one evening.

Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds – Fallin’ In Love [1 week, 1975]

EM: One of the biggest screw jobs in music history. Tommy Reynolds left the band in 1974 before the other two dudes signed with Playboy Records. Part of that deal was that they kept their name, even though it wasn’t accurate. How many bar fights do you think that new member Alan Dennison got in trying to prove that he sang on this song?

I remember hearing this on the radio and coming up with alternative lyrics called Betty’s Fallin’ In Love with Fred about some wife-swapping expose in Bedrock. The words fit perfectly, but I was too young to write them down or understand what the hell I was saying. Did I unwillingly witness a key party?

Did you know this peaked at #24 on the R&B charts?

WH: If we were writing up a list of favorite 70s songs that peaked at #4, “Don’t Pull Your Love,” from the original formulation of this group, would have been an easy choice for me. One thing I really like is that its sound doesn’t tie it down to any one year—it could have been recorded anytime between 1969 and 1973.

When “Fallin’ in Love” got released, I had trouble picking up Dan Hamilton’s pronunciation of the double-l in the title phrase. It sounded much more like “Fawin’ in Love” to me, so that’s what I sang when it came on the radio throughout the last half of 1975.

Sly & the Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) [2 weeks, 1970]

EM: More than fifty years after this reached the top, I marvel at Sly’s brilliance in creating one of the funkiest pop songs of all time, and on how he was able to express his politics getting everyone to buy in all while having fun at the same time. By turning his career on its head and creating a verse out of his past hits, he also demonstrated the stress of being a superstar, the pressure he was under to innovate and be all things to everyone constantly. His wit was on display, but so was his growing paranoia.

WH: When AT40 expanded to four hours in October 1978, one of the ways they filled the extra time was by recounting all the #1 songs of the 1970s in order, three each week. Those became must-listen moments in the show for me, an amazing opportunity for education—after all, where else was I going to discover that information? (It would be another five years before the first Top 40 Hits book by Joel Whitburn was published.)

The vast majority of the songs in that retrospective were at least passingly familiar to me (“My Ding-a-Ling” was one exception, I know). But that didn’t mean I’d seen their titles in print. Case in point: on 10/14/78, I perhaps naturally, yet naively, noted the jam that was the fourth #1 of the decade as “Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself Again.”

The Doc’s got another five today, so hop over to his pad and check ’em out.

Feel It All Over: Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 2

 

Hope you enjoyed the first five. I’m already beginning to lament the tunes that aren’t on the list. But I won’t give any more away. Dig into the next five and read what William thought about them as well.

Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom [2 weeks, 1975]

EM: Man, it’s hard to pick a favorite Elton John, and not any easier when it’s whittled down to one of his six #1s during the decade. This one still gives me goosebumps on every listen. Written as a tribute to Bille Jean King’s tennis team, its musical heart sits in Sigma Studios, where Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell created some of the most beautiful soul music of all time. That an artist such as Elton gave it such reverence while it was happening was a testament to the genre’s increasing influence. And it was perfect for the upcoming bicentennial year celebrations that were unfolding.

Let’s also appreciate how Elton created catchy pop melodies out of Taupin’s obtuse and non-rhythmic lyrics. He would contort each word and twist each syllable until you had no idea what he was saying. But it sounded good. And it’s why I heard “fruity olive that hopes that you’re high” when the lyrics were actually “through the eyes of the one left behind.” Still can’t hear it.

WH: In 1993 my father made a couple of mixtapes of his favorite songs of all time—he called it his Rock and Roll Revue. The selections were almost all from the 50s and 60s. Among the thirty-three tracks on Volume 1 there was just one song from the 80s—ELO’s “Hold on Tight”—and only one from the 70s—yes, “Philadelphia Freedom.” I wish now I’d asked what endeared it to him to such a degree.

I did not pick anything from Reg for my list, as my favorites of his only went to #2. If I were to elevate a #1, it’d probably be “Bennie and the Jets.”

Helen Reddy – I Am Woman [1 week, 1972]

EM: My mom bought Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits on LP, specifically for this song. It was like a warning shot to anyone within listening distance when she put it on. I remember coming home from being out with dad, probably to go to Burger King or something. And as we came home and opened the front door, this tune was blaring from the living room speakers. I didn’t know what happened, but I knew my dad screwed up. Shit was about to get real.

WH:  Somehow, I hadn’t realized that Reddy co-wrote “I Am Woman,” channeling her experiences into an anthem that captured the zeitgeist of the moment and hit the top near the culmination of the Women’s Lib movement. The Equal Rights Amendment had passed through the U.S. House and Senate and been sent to the states for ratification the previous March, but the backlash was on the horizon; I certainly remember the ERA failing to meet the thirty-eight state threshold years later.

Billy Paul – Me & Mrs. Jones [3 weeks, 1972]

EM: If someone’s gonna cheat on me, this is the only way I wanna find out, with Billy’s husky baritone give me the deets. Every time the band drops out, and he starts wailing about Mrs. Jones, I stop breathing until the sax kicks back in. He just barely hits those high notes, and that slight strain adds the perfect amount of pain and regret that this tune needs. The groove moves at a steady but languid pace which makes you think this “thing” ain’t really over and that neither believes it’s “wrong” for one minute. And next time you’re at karaoke, summon up some guts and sing this one.

Also, the song it replaced at the top was I Am Woman, and the song that replaced it was You’re So Vain. That’s amazing.

WH: Aside from WLW for Reds games and the morning show hosted by James Francis Patrick O’Neill, I don’t remember the radio being on in our house much during the first half of the 70s. The car was an entirely different matter, though—unless tuned into the Reds, rides were AM Top 40 radio all the way. A sizable portion of my musical knowledge of songs between 1971-75 exists mainly (only?) from hearing them in the car. Despite our tender ages, my sister and I singing along in the back seat with Billy Paul as he cries out, “Me-ee and, and… Mrs., Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones” happened more than once while it was on the charts.

The Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes [1 week, 1979]

EM: Even though this song peaked during the Spring of 1979, it always fills me with winter vibes. It’s a soundtrack to riding the train and staring out at lifeless terrain, passing by naked bunches of train hiding from a damp gray sky, only to end the ride visiting my dad in a factory that wasn’t much warmer and had the same dull feel. Whenever I hear that Oberheim synth riff, I’m back in that cold train staring out oily smudged windows and reminding myself. The rebirth of life is just around the corner.

Also, let’s give props to bassist Tiran Porter, who always knew how to lock his funky lines in with McDonald’s keyboard riffs.

WH: Let me say upfront that I wasn’t a big fan of Michael McDonald’s voice on lead back in the day (I didn’t seem to mind as much on all the late 70s/early 80s smooth grooves when he sang backup). That said, “What a Fool Believes” is well-written, well-sung, and legitimately deserves its spot in the canon of 70s soft rock/yacht rock. 

And I agree with Erik—it’s a cold, gray day tune.

Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke [3 weeks, 1977]

EM: My mom would put this 45 on, and I would get delirious. Our house had a circular path around the door where the basement steps were to walk fully around it. I would tear around that circled area as fast as I could until I passed out, usually sometime before Stevie would summon Wonderlove to get extra funky. And those horn line runs are ridiculous.

WH: Stevie’s another inner-circle Hall of Fame artist from the 70s who won’t be found on my side of this exercise. It’s fair to say I didn’t appreciate his genius at the moment nearly as much as I should have. Maybe my sister was more on the case—she bought the single for “Sir Duke” while it was a big hit.

My family and I saw a TV music awards show in 1977 or 1978—I doubt it was the Grammys but can’t say for sure—where Stevie gave a performance of “Sir Duke” via satellite from somewhere in Africa. It was an elaborately choreographed affair with the dancers decked out in what I think was Ellington-era garb. Technology being what it was at the time, neither the audio nor the video was crystal clear for viewers at home. I do remember that after the song was over, one of the announcers unthinkingly asked Mr. Wonder, “Can you see us?” over the two-way feed. A few minutes later the announcer apologized to the TV audience for his faux pas.

Now go over to William’s page for his five.

 

 

Try Some, Buy Some : Our Favorite #1s of the 70s, Pt. 1

 

Last May, my fellow blog & DJ colleague, Dr. William Harris of The Music Of My Life fame were discussing a list of ranked #1 songs from the 80s from a Cleveland.com columnist. As we discussed which songs should be higher and lower, we realized that our basis was not on any sort of defined criteria, but rather what they meant to us. To tell someone which music is good or bad as a matter of fact is a fruitless endeavor. It’s why the term guilty pleasures exists, as a code for “I like it, even if I’m not supposed to.”

We knew that a similar graded list for the Me Decade would be forthcoming, so we tried to come up with our own personal twenty-five list. I tried to create my list based on how much they meant to me at their time of release, how deeply I felt when I heard them and how their place in my childhood shaped who I am today. These are not “desert island” choices, for if I was ever stranded, I’d rather listen to the ocean waves and slowly go insane.

William and I will share five random 1970s chart-toppers (based on Billboard magazine) at a time simultaneously on our blogs with a quick comment by the other for good measure.

P.S. You may not see Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together or Hall & Oates’ Rich Girl or Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, for example, on these posts. That doesn’t mean I love them any less than the ones I write about, which made this exercise challenging for me. Hell, I’d take all 253 of them home with me, if I had the chance.

Andy Gibb- I Just Want To Be Your Everything [4 weeks, 1977]

EM: When the youngest Gibb made his debut during the summer of ‘77, I first remember hanging out with my step-sister. She was an Andy Gibb fanatic and would constantly sing this song to herself as if no one was listening. But I was, watching and hoping she could be a more significant part of my life. It didn’t happen. And that’s why the line of “finding each for so long” still resonates today.

WH: I picked a different Andy Gibb song, but that’s not meant as a slight—this single had a home in my collection and received frequent spins on my record player that summer.

When this slotted in at the top of the 7/30/77 Billboard chart, it became the twenty-fourth different #1 song over the thirty weeks of the year to date. Right then, it seemed that 1977 had a chance to break the record for most #1s in a calendar year. Instead, only four more songs followed Andy to the top through the end of December. We didn’t know it then, but (Debby Boone aside) the ascension of “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” marked the beginning of a full year of Gibb Brother-mania.

Carole King – It’s Too Late [5 weeks, 1971]

EM: Tapestry is one of those albums I listened to so much growing up that it’s part of my emotional fabric. Carole’s voice is like a dose of Arrestin to the heart. No matter how full of regret and sadness she is or how tormented she feels, she shoulders most of the blame and still wants to be friends. Kinda like “it’s not you, it’s me” but with deep hugs. Ok, maybe “it’s not them, it’s us.”

Also, you got a bonus when you bought the 45 as I Feel The Earth Move was on the B-side. Sounds like someone may have moved on…

WH: I gave “It’s Too Late” consideration for inclusion on my list—it certainly would make my “25 Best #1 Songs of the 70s.” It is an intelligent, mature song about the end of a long relationship, but what makes the song for me now is the extended semi-jazzy instrumental bridge before the third verse.

I can easily imagine Dad buying Tapestry—the album cover has always felt familiar—though its songs aren’t part of any hazy memory I have from the early 70s.

Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough [3 weeks, 1970]

EM: Diana pulled out every stop to let the world know she was much more than a Supreme, creating a twelve-layer cake that never quite topples no matter how much frosting gets added. At the same time, she bulldozes any evocation of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell from your mind. This is where she went from superstar to diva. Of course, Berry Gordy hated it, like everything else that would be good from Motown in the 70s. The genius is in the production by songwriters Ashford & Simpson as they change the hook to a wordless ahhh while burying the chorus to the end of the song just before they take it up twenty more notches and blow the doors off.

Also, do not mess with the single edit. Go for the album version and have your heart ripped out of your chest.

WH: When you limit yourself to twenty-five songs, you’re going to leave out artists more than worthy of inclusion, and I do have some regret over not picking a Ross song (had I done so, it’d likely be “Touch Me in the Morning,” but the #1 song on my first AT40 chart, “Love Hangover,” may have won out instead). I concur—how can I not?—that “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a stunner. One of my favorite bits of 70s pop trivia is that Ross’s four #1 songs were also the only times she made it to the Top 10 over the entire decade. How that could happen is mystifying.

Stories – Brother Louie [2 weeks, 1973]

EM: Hearing this song gave me anxiety as a little kid. The ominous vibe from the sparse arrangement heightened by those cheesy wah-wahs kept my head on a nervous swivel. The string stabs were tiny needles into my skin up until they started sawing away into my brain like one of those messed-up German nursery rhymes, haunting my burnt sienna dreams. Singer Ian Lloyd sounded like he was telling the “story” after someone just tried to strangle him, probably Louie’s racist dad.

WH: I was nine when “Brother Louie” was a hit, so I doubt I understood what it was about at the time. What I don’t doubt is that I enjoyed going around singing “Louie, Louie, Louie, Lou-eye” when it came on the radio.

M – Pop Muzik [1 week, 1979]

EM: The most disposable pop song about disposable pop songs. It sounded like something from outer space and a white-labeled can of food from a no-frills supermarket line all the same time. Its popularity signified the direction pop music would take in the 80s, way more than The Knack, especially during the New Wave era. And it’s boogie in a suitcase.

WH: This is another song I absolutely loved, picking up the 45 early on in its chart run. I agree there was nothing else like it on the radio at the time. I know now how much I would have enjoyed exploring more of what was coming out of the British pop scene in the late 70s; missing out on that in real-time is a source of chagrin.

I’m pretty sure I remember Casey highlighting the line, “Listen to the countdown—they’re playing our song again,” during the outro on a late 1979 AT40.

EM: Now go over to WM’s blog to hear his first five.

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