A Democracy of Sorts

Let’s continue our review of those unlucky tracks held down by Pop radio programmers as they Bubbled Under the Hot 100 during chart week twenty-two from 1983 to 1985.

Mary Jane Girls – Candy Man (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #101)

What started out as an attempt to get Motown to sign singer Jojo McDuffie turned into a contract for a four-woman group of singers who called themselves the Mary Jane Girls. Named after Rick James’ song, Mary Jane, these ladies had been mining backup for the superfreak on tour for a few years. But when Prince created Vanity 6, Rick kicked into gear to show he could do the same but better. Well, Rick was right. Their debut was a funky delight and spawned three R&B Top 40 hits as well as endless grooves to sample.

Roxy Music – More Than This (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #102)

How does an established band that heavily influenced many 80s New Wave bands create a critically revered album at the height of New Wave and fail to have any of their songs played on Pop radio? This classic was a smash worldwide, including reaching #6 in the UK a year previous. Bryan Ferry would split the group up and Avalon remains their last studio album. Fourteen years later, a Merchant-less 10000 Maniacs would grab their only Top 40 hit with a cover of this song. But that pales in comparison to tastemaker Bob Harris.

Spandau Ballet – Lifeline (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #108)

Here’s a band who enjoyed the second British Invasion. Their third album, True gave us the title track and the #29 single, Gold. This was the first single released from the album in the Uk and peaked at #7. In the US, it was the third and it stalled in the Bubbler zone.

Amy Holland – Anytime You Want Me (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #110)

This synthy pop-rock track, written by Paul Bliss, was the first single from the Michael McDonald-produced sophomore effort from Amy called On Your Every Word. It did not plan any Hot 100 entries after Amy’s debut gave us How Do I Survive and garnered her a nomination for Best New Artist. It is still a smooth recording with my favorite track, Rollin’ By, featuring a tasty guitar solo by Steve Lukather. Amy & Michael got married in 1983 and are still together.

Herbie Hancock – Mega-Mix (debuted on 6/2/1984, peaked at #105)

Herbie had his biggest R&B hit with Rockit in 1983 reaching #6. It also hit #1 on the Dance charts. So the thinking was, why not take all of the tracks on Future Shock, throw in 1974’s Chameleon and mash it all together? Well, mash it what it sounded like, and it may have killed the momentum of Hancock’s future electro-funk experiments.

Roger Waters – 5:01 A.M. (The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking) (debuted on 6/2/1984, peaked at #110)

After years of leading Pink Floyd, Roger finally left the quartet and released his first (non-soundtrack) solo album, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. He started working on this idea at the same as The Wall, revolving around a man having a midlife crisis in real-time from 4:30AM to 5:11 AM, hence the title, the tenth cut on the LP. It’s bizarre as shit but somehow makes sense if you enter Roger’s world. Clapton’s guitar meanders throughout.

Jesse Johnson’s Revue – Can You Help Me (debuted on 6/1/1985, peaked at #110)

The guitarist for The Time released his first of three solo 80s albums, Jesse Johnson’s Revue, in 1985. This was the second single released after Be Your Man reached #61 on the Hot 100. I have to believe that had Jesse put this out on any other label than square-ass A&M, which was in the midst of screwing up Janet Jackson’s career,  this might have heard by more folks. As it stood, it will be his second straight R&B Top 10, peaking at #3.

 

Just Follow All The Written Rules

This is a tantalizing mix of country, soul, New Wave, rock, and funk that we have here Bubbling Under the Hot 100 during the 80s. Let’s see what we got on chart week twenty-two from 1980 to 1982.

Tommy James – You Got Me (debuted on 6/1/1980, peaked at #101)

The leader of the Shondells had a surprise comeback hit in 1980 with Three Times In Love which reached #19. This was his follow-up, and it’s not a shock to see it here as it’s too mellow even for 1980 and not as immediate as its predecessor.

Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers – Taking Somebody With Me When I Fall (debuted on 6/1/1980, peaked at #108)

Larry got his start writing songs for Dottie West and singing back-up for Kris Kristofferson. He recorded his first solo album in 1973 and brought his brothers, Steve & Rudy, in with him, officially changing their name in 1979 to the above. They had a #1 hit, All The Gold In California, from their album, Straight Ahead. This was the third single released, a nice little slice of Yacht Country, which could easily sit beside Poco or Firefall.

Fun fact: In Kenny Rogers’ 1979 song, Coward of the County, Tommy’s girlfriend, Becky, is sexually assaulted by the Gatlin Boys. Both Kenny and the songwriters, Billy Ed Wheeler & Roger Bowling, deny they were referring to Larry, Rudy & Steve, even though there was three of them. It’s also interesting they chose the name Becky as Larry’s first hit was called Sweet Becky Walker.

Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper (debuted on 6/6/1981, peaked at #101)

Yes, this is a sweet jam. From Grace’s fifth album, Nightclubbing, this mix of New Wave funk and Caribbean rhythms was the third single released and her first Top 40 hit on the Soul charts, peaking at #5. It will climb to #2 on the Dance Club charts as well. Put this on your car playlist and turn it up while you drive. Also, this song has nothing to do with parking cars, if you know what I mean.

Kraftwerk – Pocket Calculator (debuted on 6/6/1981, peaked at #102)

This German quartet was so far ahead of the game, and they had to stop recording music by the late 80s for everyone to catch up. And remember, they were recording most of their work on brand new technology, working out the kinks for artists in future decades. It still blows my mind that they had a Top 40 hit in 1975 with this. Nothing sounded like the album Computer World in 1981, when it was released on May 10th, 1981. This is what the Top 40 looked like if you need a reference.

The Roulettes – Only Heaven Knows (debuted on 6/6/1981, peaked at #105)

This is an excellent piece of retro-flavored Power Pop, in the vein of Phil Seymour, but confoundingly out of date by the time of its release. Damn, the window was short. Even still, this would have sounded nice on Pop radio and preferable to the other gunk clogging the charts.

Split Enz – Six Months In A Leaky Boat (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #104)

This New Zealand sextet was led by singer/songwriter Tim Finn, whose brother Neil joined the group by album three, Dizrythmia. By 1980, he wrote and sung their best-known song, I Got You, even though it reached #53. This was the lead single from their seventh album, Time And Tide. Tim sings lead on this nautical tale about the New Zealand pioneers sailing to a new land.  It went Top 10 in Australia and New Zealand as well as in Canada, but this catchy ditty didn’t get much of a chance in the States. Maybe a few Columbus day spins.

Lacy J. Dalton – Slow Down (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #106)

Country singer Jill Byrem, otherwise known to her fans as Lacy J. Dalton, released her fourth album, 16th Avenue, in 1982. The lead single was her only crossover mark, bubbling at #106 while climbing to #13 on the Country charts. Many fans have commented that she sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt, which is probably why…

Bonnie Raitt – Me and the Boys (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #109)

…this single gets caught in the fishing net with Lacy. Of course, this bluesy rocker shouldn’t have competed with Lacy’s lazy ballad anyway. From her eighth album, Green Light, this cover was initially released by NRBQ on their 1980 LP, Tiddlywinks, but Bonnie gives it some special sauce.

Randy Crawford – One Hello (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #110)

And here’s another lady who should have had at least one crossover hit. Singing on the Crusaders’ Street Life doesn’t count. She’s had a lot more success in the UK with five Top 20 hits, 3 of them reaching the Top 10. This ballad written by Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch and included on her sixth long-play, Windsong, was not one of them but should have been. This was also the featured song of the Neil Simon film flop, I Ought To Be In Pictures.

 

Put The Right Letters Together

We’re continuing our recap of the Billboard Top 40 from June 4th, 1988, with the Top 20, a group of songs that has mostly disappeared from retro radio rotation. Was it just a pop radio lull? Was 60s nostalgia distracting station programmers? Or do they suck and/or put you to sleep? At least half of these are ballads, and most of these tunes are mellow, so we should have enough supermarkets and elevators to support them on their Muzak playlists. Let’s run through them and see.

20. Lita Ford – Kiss Me Deadly

THW – I prefer just about anything that Lita did as the Runaways guitarist to this song. But that’s not the point. Very few females succeeded in the male-dominated genre of metal. And even if one had a pedigree such as Lita’s, she still needed the support from the new manager, Sharon Osborne, to push her third album out to the public for them to hear it. It’s catchy pop-rock on its way to #12 with production from Mike Chapman and a harder edge provided by Pat Benatar’s back-up band.

19. Cheap Trick – The Flame

After struggling to reach the Pop charts through most of the 80s, this Power pop quartet from Rockford, IL had their biggest hit with this slow song, the first single released from their tenth album, Lap Of Luxury – perfect for proms and just in time for graduating Seniors. So So I’ll skip it, thanks.

18. Brenda K. Starr – I Still Believe

THW – Twenty-five percent of this week’s Top 20 are two-hit-wonders. Brenda, whose dad Harvey Kaplan was an organist in Spiral Starecase, is one of them. This ballad was her first Top 40 hit from her self-titled album, and it’s on its way to a #13 peak. One of the backing singers on this track was future superstar Mariah Carey. She’ll cover this tune in 1999 and take it up to #4.

17. Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind

Even though Willie Nelson sang Always On My Mind like he wrote it, he didn’t. And it didn’t stop this UK duo from doing their own synth-pop version, which was prompted by a TV performance celebrating Elvis’ 10th death anniversary. It also became the most successful rendition of this tune when it peaked at #4 a few weeks ago.

16. Cher – We All Sleep Alone

Yes, everyone but Cher, who was sleeping with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora when she wasn’t chilling with that bagel dude. Good for you, Cher! This power ballad, co-written and produced by Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, and Desmond Child, will doze its way up four more spots. Also, why hire three separate dudes when you can just hire Jim Steinman?

15. Prince – Alphabet St.

It’s a close call whether this song or Thieves In the Temple is the Purple One’s least remembered Top 10 hit. A quick little bluesy funk number, this song was a Top 10 hit in thirteen countries, including #3 on the R&B charts and eventually #8 on the Pop charts. It was written initially as a small piece of music to bridge 👁 No and Glam Slam on his new album, Lovesexy, programmed as one long track on the initial CD release. Arrested Development will sample the title of their first hit, Tennessee, from it.

Bonus points to the Big 80’s countdown, which plays the 12″ version.

14. Bruce Hornsby & The Range – The Valley Road

For a song that reached the Top 5 and #1 on the Rock and AC charts, it’s a wonder that it’s rarely heard on 80s stations today. I bought this 45 back then, and I find it far more interesting and less preachy than The Way It Is. Bruce recorded a new version of the song with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2. It won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording, which pissed a lot of folks off. a la Tull and their heavy metal Grammy.

13. White Lion – Wait

THW – A recessive gene in a white lion gives it a near-translucent color, almost as if it wasn’t there. In late 1991, a group of rare Nirvana neverminds escaped from a soundgarden, and pearl jammed them into near extinction. Efforts by the USNO (U.S. Nostalgia Organization) helped bring them back into temporary existence with the last decade.

12. Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana

Thriller made MJ otherworldly. Bad was the awful side effect of that, where no one ever said no to Michael again. But after a year and four number one, no one was truly complaining. This is a true travesty in his catalog, which started to rapidly fill up with them.  There’s no groove. The music sounds plastic. Steve Stevens doesn’t come close to Eddie Van Halen. And Michael singing about cheating on his girlfriend with a groupie isn’t just unbelievable; it’s laughable. It will reach #1 and knock Debbie Gibson from the top, which seemed like progress, but the bar was so low.

11. Belinda Carlisle – Circle In The Sand

RAR – BC amiably sings through another gauzy pop song, saved by Thomas Dolby’s keyboard work from becoming too precious. But, if you need something to hum while you wait on your Vicadin prescription at CVS, it sure beats most of the ballads in the Top 10.

10. Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine – Anything For You

I feel like Miami Sound Machine albums were like long auditions for the band to play your wedding. This was the group’s first #1 song and future dad/daughter dance number.

9. The Jets – Make It Real

“I need another ballad for the album. One that sounds just like You Got It All but is far less interesting. But not too sleepy that my nine-year-old daughter doesn’t like it.” – The Jets manager, Magic album pitch meeting.

8. Foreigner – I Don’t Want To Live Without You

This is the first of four Top 10 songs in 1988 that begin with I Don’t. [Elton John, Chicago, and Duran Duran will have the other three.] Not sure why there was so much obstinance going on.

7. Debbie Gibson – Foolish Beat

This is what a teen ballad about break-up sounds like when it’s done poorly. I know it seems like I always take any chance I can to dunk on poor ol’ Lil Debbie. But this is truly painful. No one ever needs to hear the thoughts of a teenage white girl with boy trouble unless it comes from Ronnie Spector or Kate Bush. The fourth single from Out Of The Blue will reach #1 in two weeks, which means it was the most popular song in the US. People thought it was better than anything else in the countdown, radio, or stores. It’s a low point in pop music from which we have never recovered. But I digress…

6. Brenda Russell – Piano In The Dark

THW – This is what an adult ballad about break-up sounds like when it’s done correctly. After a five-year hiatus, she returned with Get Here, her fourth album, highlighted by this semi-credited duet with former Brooklyn Dreams member, Joe “You’re The Best” Esposito. It’s a hauntingly beautiful tune and one of my faves from an artist I truly appreciate. And if it comes on the speakers while I’m walking down the cereal aisle towards you, be prepared to sing Joe’s part, cause I’m taking Brenda’s.

Fun fact: Singer Oleta Adams heard the title track, Get Here, in a record store while she was on tour with Tears For Fears. She decided to include it on her 1990 debut, and because we bombed the hell out of Iraq for six weeks in early 1991, it was heavily requested on radio and became a Top 10 hit.

5. Rick Astley – Together Forever

The SAW machine is in full force as Rick rolls his second Whenever You Need Somebody single up the charts on the way to another number one. It will also top the Dance Club chats, reach #2 on the AC chart, but get stuck behind Kylie Minogue for the top spot in the UK. How did we get so lost?

4. Hall & Oates – Everything Your Heart Desires

Save us, Daryl & John! Here’s the first single from the duo’s first studio album in four years, Ooh Yeah, a smoother take on Possession Obsession, if you will. It may not be their best, and it’s undoubtedly lost in a catalog full of hits, but it was a breath of fresh air back then. It will slide up one more spot, becoming their final Top 10 hit to date.

3. Samantha Fox – Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)

PFK – Believe it or not, this Full Force-written and produced freestyle jam was not a big hit worldwide. But we were suckered in over here and acknowledged it as one of the three most popular songs in the country during this week. It also contains this very wise couplet:

Don't let me be misunderstood.
Temporary love's so bad. But it feels so good.

2. Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams

THW – This mid-tempo pop track about a pending divorce spent three weeks as the bridesmaid, but it’s lucky that it even got that far. Originally released in the Spring of 1987, it hit #5 in the UK in May. I heard it during that stretch and bought it as an import 12″. It slowly made its way around Europe, hitting many Top 10 charts before getting a US release in early 1988. Twelve weeks later, here it sits, trying to unseat…

1. George Michael – One More Try (2 wks at #1)

George had no trouble establishing himself as a superstar with his debut solo album, Faith. This is his third straight #1 from that release, from which he’ll have four total. It will reach #1 on the R&B & AC charts as well.

I feel like I need a nap.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • STA – Second Time Around

 

 

 

 

There’s Nothing Better We Can Do Than Live

I can’t help myself. So I’m at it again recapping another American Top 40 countdown, this time from June 4th, 1988 – the beginning of another Summer rife with bittersweet memories, one in which I started with a girlfriend and a band and ended up with neither. The songs are better than I remembered, possibly because a good chunk of them haven’t been overplayed in the decades since.

40. Robert Plant – Tall Cool One

The first single from Plant’s fourth album, Now And Zen, didn’t chart. However, the next one makes the Top 40 complete with guitar provided by former compatriot Jimmy Page and samples from five other Zeppelin tunes. It’s on its way to a #25 high and will be his last solo Top 40 hit.

39. Glass Tiger – I’m Still Searching

The pride of Newmarket, Ontario is back with the third Top 40 single from their debut, The Thin Red Line. Though if I played this song for you, I doubt you’d be able to tell me who this was unless you had an Alan Frew poster from Smash Hits on your wall.

38. Rod Stewart – Lost In You

RAR – Rod tried to soak in some of the Power Station vibes, hiring Andy Taylor to co-write this song, have Tony Thompson play drums while Bernard Edwards produced. He just about pulls it out, although I would love to have heard what Robert Palmer would have done with it. David Lindley adds a little mandolin rain to the mix.

37. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac

Springsteen wrote and recorded this song during the Nebraska sessions and eventually released his version as the B-side to his second Born In The USA single, Dancing In the Dark. But the song gained popularity due to its inclusion on setlists and the fact that anything Boss-related in the mid-80s got exposure. Natalie was in the middle of her late 80s comeback and recorded her version for the 1987 Everlasting LP. It was the third single released and will be her biggest hit since I’ve Got Love On My Mind in 1977. Natalie pretends that the title isn’t about the lady bits. (For reference, Aretha did not.)

36. Bardeux – When We Kiss

OHW – Have you ever watched those adult films on Skin-a-Max and wondered how you could get a copy of the soundtrack?

35. E.U. – Da Butt

OHW – Go-go music is a for-real fun-as-hell subgenre of funk that started in the D.C. area, which needs all the fun it can get. Outside of Chuck Brown in 1979 with Bustin’ Loose, this was pretty much the only go-go Top 40 hit. Recorded for Spike Lee’s film, School Daze, and written and produced by jazz bassist Marcus Miller, this will hit #1 on the Soul charts, shakin’ booties for years to come. Like this one…

34. Aerosmith – Angel

I remember hearing a story about Joe Perry being bummed that Dream On eventually became a big hit for Aerosmith because they didn’t want to be known as a band that plays slow songs. I’m sure a decade of eating dirt sandwiches that you have to make yourself changed his tune. This will become their biggest hit until another ballad usurped it in 1998.

33. Suave – My Girl

OHW – Did we really need a New Jack version of the Temptations classic? The answer is no. Now please turn this example into a Dr. Rick Progressive Insurance commercial.

32. Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well

I remember sitting in the back of a particular class that I can’t remember which subject it was, who taught it, or how I passed. All I remember about the course was the constant laughter between my two other friends and me. And a picture I drew of a restaurant called Terence Trent D’Arby’s. There was a wishing well out front and a speech bubble from the window that said, “Two Beef N Cheddar’s and make it funky now, boys.” I wish I still has that drawing.

31. The Church – Under The Milky Way

OHW – We’re about to start an Australian four-play on the Top 40, beginning with a Sydney quintet, who released an incredible album, Starfish, as their fifth. It contains this, their only US Top 40, and it’s now even the best song on the album. But it is an easy one to learn guitar and sing to.

30. INXS – New Sensation

What Men At Work was to the early 80s, INXS was to the later 80s, and then some. Their sixth album, Kick, was on the verge of making them superstars, and it already spawned a #1 smash, Need You Tonight, and a #2 hit, Devil Inside. This may be the song that most sounds like their previous work, more specifically, like a band rather than an overproduced product with a pretty boy lead singer. I’m bummed that I never saw them live (baby live). It will reach #3 and not feature a trumpet.

29. Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning

OHW – Seriously, who had this group on their 88 bingo card? But good on ya, if you did. This story about the unfair treatment of Aboriginal tribes and the theft of their native lands became a hit all around the world, eventually reaching #17 in the U.S., a land with a similar history

28. Icehouse – Electric Blue

THW – Icehouse cracked the Top 20 in early 88 with the lead single from their sixth album, Man Of Colours, called Crazy. John Oates had been a fan of the group and wrote a song with lead singer Iva Davies, which became single number two. It was their biggest hit in America, climbing to #9 and their biggest Down Under reaching #1.

27. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me

The Def Lep train is riding full steam down the track. Their third single from Hysteria, the title track, became their fifth Top 40 hit and first to reach the Top 10. This one will best it and almost get to the top, held down only by Richard Marx’s Hold On The Nights.

26. Pebbles – Mercedes Boy

Here’s another future bridesmaid, this one getting the stiff arm from Cheap Trick’s The Flame. It’s the second big hit from her debut album and features production from the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson. The single was remixed into a more radio-friendly version than the album cut. It will reach #1 R&B and hit #2 on the Dance Club charts. It’s also one of the few songs that remind me of that summer. [Paradise by Sade is another and is sitting at #48 this week.]

25. OMD – Dreaming

After spending the first half of the 80s releasing synth-pop albums to the indifference of most Americans, OMD collected four Top 40 hits during the second half, including this tune that was featured on The Best Of OMD, which I happily purchased on CD on release.

24. Times Two – Strange But True

OHW – The California duo of Shanti Jones & Johnny Dollar got a big career boost (for them) when they released their debut and were hired to open for Debbie Gibson. I’m sure only the high-dollar babysitters splurged on the 45, which falls from its peak of #21. Steve Barri, who produced Billy Don’t Be A Hero and Undercover Angel, helmed the boards for this one as well.

23. Poison – Nothin’ But A Good Time

There is nothin’ more depressing than the line, and it don’t get better than this. Also, that’s the tagline for Old Milwaukee beer, so…

22. Al B. Sure – Nite And Day

OHW – Al celebrated his 21st birthday with a hit record as this Quiet Storm staple climbs up six more notches on its way to the Top 10. Also, there’s no one better in the biz for my money to break it down like Kyle West. Me’shell Ndegeocello did a fine cover of this in 2019.

21. The Deele – Two Occasions

OHW – Here’s a Cincinnati synth-funk sextet that released their third album in late 1987, Eyes Of A Stranger. This ballad was the second single from the album, and their only crossover hit, traveling up to a zenith of #10. It features lead vocals by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, and its success plus the former Pebbles hit, Girlfriend, which he and bandmate LA Reid wrote and sang on, gave the duo the encouragement to quit the band and establish LaFace Records

Fun Fact: Babyface received his nickname from Bootsy Collins. That’s cred.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
  • STA – Second Time Around

The Time That It Takes To Feel It

We’re up to chart week twenty-one during our review of those tunes that were Bubbling Under the Hot 100 during the 80s. So let’s see who we have this week.

Frank Zappa – I Don’t Wanna Get Drafted (debuted 5/24/80, peaked at #103)

I was surprised to see this here. Zappa’s music is its own universe, and you’re either in that world or not. Sure, you can make a visit, but Frank and his fifty time signatures changes force you to either stay or leave. Zappa’s statement on the upcoming draft reinstatement during the Carter Administration was released as a single before being re-recorded for the 1981 album, You Are What You Is. This single is also the first recorded appearance by his kids, Moon Unit and Ahmet.

Rush – Entre Nous (debuted 5/24/80, peaked at #110)

Here’s the second single from the Canadian prog-rock trio’s seventh album, Permanent Waves, following up the #51 peak of The Spirit of Radio. This one is a straight-ahead rocker that vibes along the lines of fellow Canucks, Max Webster but didn’t click on Pop radio.

Gino Soccio – Try It Out (debuted 5/30/81, peaked at #103)

Check it out – another Gino from Montreal. But rather than wanting to stop or partaking in an internal life, this Gino is making folks move on the dance floor. This boogie jam will spend six weeks at #1 on the Disco Top 100.

Randy Meisner – Gotta Get Away (debuted 5/30/81, peaked at #104)

Randy netted three Top 40 hits after stepping away from the Eagles in 1977, although I’m sure that none of them paid out anything close to his co-write of Take It To The Limit. You’re more likely to hear that song a thousand times before you hear any of his solo hits. This mellow rock single is the follow-up to his biggest hit, Hearts On Fire, which hit #19. It was the third release from his second album, One More Song.

Marshall Tucker Band – This Time I Believe (debuted 5/30/81, peaked at #106)

The pride of Spartanburg, SC is back with their eleventh album, Dedicated, a tribute to band member Tommy Caldwell and his brother Tim, who died in 1980 in separate traffic accidents. Unfortunately, Southern Rock had lost its favor with Pop radio and none of the singles from the album ever charted.

Larry Graham – Don’t Stop When You’re Hot (debuted 5/29/82, peaked at #102)

The master of the bass slap is back with a mid-tempo body shaker from his album, Sooner Or Later, that made no impression with Top 40 audiences at all. Could we have traded this for an Air Supply single? Yes, and we should have. It will reach the R&B Top 20 and become his only charting 45 in the UK.

Buckner & Garcia – Do The Donkey Kong (debuted 5/29/82, peaked at #103)

Pac-Man Fever was a huge novelty hit in 1982 due to the massive success of the aforementioned video arcade game. This catastrophe is an attempt at a follow-up by two guys who clearly ran out of ideas. Radio programmers and Pop music customers promptly threw a flaming barrel their way.

Chubby Checker – Harder Than Diamond (debuted 5/29/82, peaked at #104)

If Gary U.S. Bonds could have an early 80s comeback, why not that man who introduced us to The Twist. Checker released The Change Has Come, but the lead-off single, Running, only reached #91. I prefer the follow-up, which tried to update Chubby’s sound into melancholy New Wave rock. But it did even worse, turning up as a Bubbler.  I have the LP, and as far as I know, this has yet to be issued digitally. Had this been more successful, maybe Chubby wouldn’t have agreed to this.

Gary Moore – Always Gonna Love You (debuted 5/28/83, peaked at #103)

This Irish guitarist has had a long career as a session player, a solo artist, and a member of Colosseum II and Thin Lizzy. From his album, Corridors of Power, this power ballad was the closest that Gary had sniffed the Hot 100 until his #97 peak of Still Got the Blues (For You) in 1990.

Fun Fact: It’s not well-known, but Gary is considered the “sixth” Traveling Wilbury. He appears on the 1990 release Vol. 3 on She’s My Baby and is credited as Ken Wilbury.

Stacy Lattisaw & Johnny Gill – Baby It’s You (debuted 5/26/84, peaked at #102)

Six albums in, Stacy goes the Flack/ Hathaway route with a duet album featuring up-and-coming DC singer Johnny Gill. This a slow dance cover of the 1961 Shirelles classic written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and was the second single released from Perfect Combination. It will reach #37 on the Soul charts.

Santana – I’m The One Who Loves You (debuted 5/25/85, peaked at #102)

Santana has gone through many peaks and valleys in its lifetime. In 1985, the Beyond Appearances album would start a new career slide down and an absence from the Hot 100 until 1999’s mega-smash, Smooth. His cover of an obscure Impressions single from 1963 written by Curtis Mayfield has a dated arrangement and is just plain dull.

Fun Fact: Rob Thomas was only thirteen years old when this single came out.

Bill Withers – Oh Yeah! (debuted 5/25/85, peaked at #106)

We’re ending up on a high note. And if you’ve never heard this song before, blame Columbia. They systemically tried breaking Bill’s spirit for years, rejecting his material until he finally released the album, Watching You, Watching Me, seven years after ‘Bout Love. While the release suffers from tired 80s production, the sweetness still shines through. There’s no reason that this shouldn’t have been playing on Pop radio during the Summer of 1985 other than the fact that the record company didn’t push it. The single was co-written by Larry Carlton and David Foster and peaked at #22 on the Soul charts. Bill promptly retired from the music business and spent the last thirty-five years enjoying the company of family and friends while we continued to enjoy his music.

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.