Seven new singles made their debut on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Three of the songs would go on to reach the Top 40 and one would break the Top 10. Two acts would become huge arena draws into the 1980s. Three singers were making their first appearances on the chart, including a man who would become very influential among R&B and funk acts of the early 1980s. One song would be a country smash, while another had an unnecessary disco beat added to it.
Google Books has a large archive of past Billboard editions available to read online, including the issue from July 1, 1978. The full Hot 100 can be found on page 99. Among the industry news reported in the issue is a recap of the first-ever White House jazz festival, attended by President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter and a whole host of Washington names.
Foreigner - "Hot Blooded"
(Debuted #52, Peaked #3, 17 Weeks on chart)
A great guitar-based hit at a time when others were adding dance beats and strings to their songs, "Hot Blooded" would have stood out in any era. A throwback to early 70s rock songs like "All Right Now," the song was about something the group's younger male demographic fan base understood well: lust. The lyrics come right out and say it: "You don't have to read my mind to know what I have in mind...I want to know what you're doing after the show" No subtle pickup lines here.
The thing that propels the immediate nature of the song is Mick Jones's guitar. Not only goes the basic riff carry the song, the solo cuts to the chase as well. At a time when other artists were asking the ladies to dance...Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm (asking "Do you do more than dance?") was letting the ladies know that it needed to lead to other things; no time for playing around when you can be fooling around.
Rita Coolidge - "You"
(Debuted #83, Peaked #25, 12 Weeks on chart)
At a time when many mainstream acts were either deciding to cash in on the disco craze or were being pushed by management and record labels to make some money from the sound, here is Rita Coolidge's entry into the late 70s Disco Derby. The funny thing about the song is that "You" would possibly have worked well as a midtempo number without the disco-influenced hooks that date the song. That's a shame, as Coolidge was well-known for covering many styles of music and had spent many years as a highly sought-after session vocalist due to that skill.
"You" was a straightforward song about how life has been so much better with somebody to share it with. The song was written by Tom Snow, a solo artist during the 1970s and 80s who didn't get much airplay but certainly wrote a lot of hits. Among his songs: Olivia Newton-John's "Deeper Than the Night" and "Make a Move on Me," Barry Manilow's "Somewhere Down the Road," Melissa Manchester's "You Should Hear How He Talks About You," The Pointer Sisters' "He's So Shy" and Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear it For the Boy." He has also lent his skills to many film soundtracks over the years.
Journey - "Anytime"
(Debuted #85, Peaked #83, 4 Weeks on chart)
After three LPs of jazz fusion experimentation, Journey was at something of a crossroads when they recorded their fourth LP Infinity. Among the moves made to bolster the group's act was the introduction of two new singers named Robert Fleischman and Steve Perry. Fleischman wrote "Anytime" for the album and both singers are heard on the track. However, Fleischman's tenure with the band was short-lived and Perry emerged as the lead singer as the band solidified itself as one of the biggest arena rock acts of the early 1980s.
In a way, "Anytime" sounds like it aspires to be a lighter Boston track, with similarities to "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" before it picks up towards the end to showcase Neal Schon's guitar work. Fleischman's vocal even sounds like Brad Delp's at times. Despite the song's poor showing on the pop charts, it's still played on AOR stations, often right behind "Feeling That Way." On Infinity, the two songs were placed together with very little pause between them.
Rick James - "You And I"
(Debuted #86, Peaked #13, 17 Weeks on chart)
After more than a decade trying to make a living in the music business, Rick James became an "overnight" success with his LP Come Get It! His first chart single was "You and I," an audacious and irresistibly funky groove. Nearly making the pop Top 10, the song also went to #3 on the disco chart and #1 R&B. James's style (which he called "punk-funk") was helpful in reinvigorating Motown after a slow decline since their glory days.
"You and I" was an amalgamation of funk, disco and soul with enough pop influences to guarantee its hit status. Clocking in at more than eight minutes on the album, the song was edited for the single but still retained its energy. Creating a party atmosphere with its effusive backing music and its "not-quite-a church choir" female backup vocals. It was both an homage to funk/soul pioneers like Parliament and Earth Wind & Fire as well as a glimpse into the sound James would ride into the next half decade.
Ronnie Milsap - "Only One Love In My Life"
(Debuted #88, Peaked #63, 6 Weeks on chart)
Like Milsap's 1977 hit "What a Difference You've Made in My Life," the lyrics for "Only One Love in My Life" can be interpreted two different ways: as a song of love for a woman or devotion to God. The imagery is quite familiar to gospel fans: "I'm a ship on the open ocean, you're my guiding light," as well as lines about having to climb a mountain and fight adversity. Only at the end of the last chorus does the word "darling" get added to make the distinction clear.
The song was written specifically for Milsap. Watching a country music awards show, R.C. Bannon watched Milsap accept the trophy for Entertainer of the Year with his wife beside him. Moved by his speech giving her credit for helping him navigate his long hard journey, Bannon began writing a song with John Bettis. The result was a minor pop hit but a smash that spent three weeks at #1 on the country chart. In fact, when "Only One Love in My Life" debuted on Billboard's country survey, it was the highest-charting debut single up to that point.
Linda Clifford - "Runaway Love"
(Debuted #89, Peaked #77, 11 Weeks on chart)
Linda Clifford was a native of Brooklyn, a borough of New York City that is often known for its diverse population even if the various groups don't always seem to be in complete harmony with each other. For her first pop hit, that diversity shows up in musical styles. A disco-tinged tune, the song also has some Latin rhythm, a spoken part reminiscent of Millie Jackson and jazz-influenced horns.
The lyrics are a "kiss off" message to a wandering lover. Explaining that his habit of coming and going has worn thin with her, it's time to call the whole thing off and let her find someone who'll be better to her ("Stop messing with my heart if you don't mean it," "Don't go around making jokes about how you're using me...I've got no heartaches to spare"). A seven-minute LP version that was cut down to 3:15 for the single release, the song would miss the pop Top 40 but hit #3 on the R&B chart. The single could have benefited from a longer running time than it received.
Teri DeSario - "Ain't Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You" (Not available as MP3)
(Debuted #91, Peaked #43, 12 Weeks on chart)
This is one of my picks for 1970s hits that should have been. Though just missing the Top 40, it really deserved the chance to rise higher than it did. Part of its success comes from the fact that it was written by Barry Gibb at a time when everything he and his brothers touched was turning platinum, but a lot of the credit should go to Teri DeSario for her wistful performance. Signed to Casablanca Records, the Miami native was pegged to join Donna Summer as one of the label's disco divas but really wasn't comfortable in that role. After three albums and a #2 duet cover in 1980 of Barbara Mason's "Yes I'm Ready" with her high school acquaintance KC, but she was content to walk away after her contract had ended. She later emerged as a Christian artist, which could have put an entirely different spin on "Ain't Nothing Gonna Keep Me From You."
According to the story behind the song, DeSario had been influenced by jazz and folk and followed those styles as she established herself. One night, a man came into the club where she was singing and introduced himself as The Bee Gees' producer. It seemed while the group was recording in town, Bary Gibb had heard her voice on a demo and wrote a song for her. Whether or not the story is actually true, it makes for good PR.
It's worth pointing out that the song's lyrics can be read two different ways: on one hand, there's the deep love and strong devotion that will help a couple weather any storm that should arise, but another perspective would indicate a frightening stalker situation. Part of the reason the song works is that DeSario gives it her all, and the disco beat behind her makes the song irresistible. Besides, had a man handled the lyrics (like Gibb himself) it would have likely been a little creepy.