Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rewind -- August 25, 1979

On Wednesdays this year, I'm taking a fresh look at the entries from this blog's first year and formatting them to conform better to what I do now. This week, we take the third week...and notice that there isn't even an intro. I must have been working on that right up to the last minute.

At the time this review was published, I wasn't yet running the back issues of Billboard over at Google Books yet. So, here's the August 25, 1979 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 76. A letter to the editor on page 16 is written by a fan who pleads with the former Beatles to get back together. It's nice to read that, since we have the hindsight of knowing that the letter wouldn't have been written by the end of the next year. And...look who the first artist is...

MP3's at CDUniverse.com

Wings - "Arrow Through Me" Paul McCartney & Wings - Back to the Egg - Arrow Through Me

(Debuted #83, Peaked #29, 10 Weeks on the Chart)



For young fans of music in 1979 who weren't old enough to remember the Beatles, it may have been a surprise to some to know that Paul McCartney was a success before he fronted Wings. During the 1970s, McCartney enjoyed 22 Top 40 hits, 13 Top 10 singles and five trips to #1 with the group. Paul McCartney & Wings was so successful, every one of their chart singles hit the Top 40 through the end of the decade. As the saying goes, all things come to an end and "Arrow Through Me" was the last single from Back to the Egg, the final Wings studio album. It wasn't technically the last Wings chart single, however; McCartney's 1980 "solo" single "Coming Up" was flipped over by radio DJs who preferred Wings' live version from a Glasgow concert instead and that version was the one that reached #1.

As a song, "Arrow Through Me" isn't terrible. As a cut from the same LP as McCartney's "disco" hit "Goodnight Tonight" it's a good pop tune, with McCartney doing the bass line on a keyboard instead of his familiar Hofner. However, to fans used to stuff like "Band on the Run," "Live and Let Die" and "Jet" it was a reminder that even ex-Beatles are human. Of course, by the end of 1979, McCartney was the only ex-Beatle still enjoying chart success: George Harrison had a decent LP that year but only one (underappreciated) minor hit, Ringo Starr hadn't had a decent radio hit in years and John Lennon was still semi-retired with his family in New York City.

In short, "Arrow Through Me" was formulaic pop but still a great deal better than much of what McCartney would put on record during the 1980s.



Donna Summer - "Dim All the Lights" Donna Summer - Bad Girls - Dim All the Lights

(Debuted #70, Peaked #2, 20 Weeks on the Chart)



Disco was considered to be in a death spiral in 1979, but disco diva Donna Summer was as hot as ever. Her double album Bad Girls was one of the biggest LPs of the year. It had two monster #1 hits: "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls," and her follow-up "Dim All the Lights" just missed the top, peaking at #2. Among all of Summer's hits, "Dim All the Lights" was the only one she wrote without a collaborator.

Much like Summer's smash from the year before, "Last Dance," "Dim All the Lights" starts off slow and builds up to a danceable pace. It also shows her vocal range, having a single note she held for 18 seconds, a record for Top 10 chart singles at the time. As "Dim All the Lights" was reaching its peak, another Summer tune ("Enough is Enough," a duet with Barbra Streisand) was competing with it. She continued having hits until well after most "disco" performers had disappeared.




Eddie Money - "Get a Move On" Eddie Money - The Essential Eddie Money - Get a Move On

(Debuted #81, Peaked #46, 8 Weeks on the Chart)



A cop named Mahoney? That was Steve Guttenberg from the 1980s Police Academy movies, right? In real life, a Brooklyn kid named Eddie Mahoney tried to follow his father's footsteps by joining the police force but didn't stay in uniform for long. After a move to the San Francisco area and a shot at the music business, Mahoney altered his name to Eddie Money and began hitting the chart by 1978.

"Get a Move On" was the lead single from Eddie Money's third major LP Playing For Keeps, which didn't show up in the stores until 1980. The album was a disappointment, having no Top 40 singles. "Get a Move On" stalled at #46 and Money had to wait for another LP and the dawn of MTV before his next hit record. As an uptempo song and a staple of Money's concerts, it wasn't exactly in the same league as "Two Tickets to Paradise."



Chris Thompson & Night - "If You Remember Me" Chris Thompson - If You Remember Me - the Very Best - If You Remember Me

(Debuted #87, Peaked #17, 19 Weeks on the Chart)



While Chris Thompson was a new name to Top 40 radio, his voice certainly wasn't. He had sung lead with Manfred Mann's Earth Band on their #1 "Blinded By the Light" in 1977. As for the group Night, this was a follow-up to their song "Hot Summer Nights" but that tune featured Stevie Lange on vocals and Thompson sang in the background. Helped by its inclusion in the Jon Voight/Ricky Schroeder film The Champ, "If You Remember Me" edged its way into the Top 20 and peaked at #17.

The song was initially released as a Thompson solo effort, with the "& Night" credit added later. It features an emotional Thompson performance and is well worth a listen. That said, the MP3 links here are for a re-recorded version of the song. It's still a decent recording, but the original is available for collectors willing to look for it.



John Stewart - "Midnight Wind" (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #73, Peaked #28, 12 Weeks on the Chart)



John Stewart had been paying his dues for over 20 years when his LP Bombs Away Dream Babies was a runaway success. He was a member of the legendary folk group The Kingston Trio and wrote a #1 tune for the Monkees in 1967 called "Daydream Believer." With a little help from Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on the tracks, Stewart's LP and the songs "Gold" and "Midnight Wind" were among 1979's success stories.

With "Midnight Wind" the unique voice of Stevie Nicks is very noticeable throughout the length of the song, and Lindsay Buckingham's guitar drones out throughout. A dark song, much in the vein of Buckingham and Nicks' contribution to Fleetwood Mac's huge Rumours LP ("Gold Dust Woman" in particular) and that dynamic was sure to be a help in the song's success, as Fleetwood Mac fans were still eagerly awaiting the forthcoming Tusk LP from that group.

Sadly, Stewart's success didn't sustain itself when he recorded his next LP the following year, and he returned to business as he knew it for most of the 1970s. He kept busy with music until passing away in 2008.


KC & the Sunshine Band - "Please Don't Go" KC & The Sunshine Band - Do You Wanna Go Party - Please Don't Go

(Debuted #86, Peaked #1, 25 Weeks on the Chart)



KC & the Sunshine Band had four #1 singles during the 1970s, and this one should have been the fifth (or the sixth, depending on whether you think he was cheated when "Keep it Comin' Love" stalled at #2 in 1977 because "You Light Up My Life" held a stranglehold on the top spot for 10 weeks) if it had only reached the chart summit a week earlier. However, since "Please Don't Go" reached #1 on January 5, 1980 it went in the record books as the very first #1 single of the 1980s.

Due to its status as a song that peaked in 1980, "Please Don't Go" doesn't appear on the list of KC's hit singles of the 1970s shown on the parent website of this blog. Even despite that technicality, the song isn't out of place among 1970s singles.




The Crusaders - "Street Life" The Crusaders & Randy Crawford - Street Life - Street Life

(Debuted #88, Peaked #36, 16 Weeks on the Chart)



The Crusaders are another act that -- like John Stewart mentioned above -- weren't exactly a new presence even if pop fans didn't recognize the name when "Street Life" hit the Top 40 in 1979. The group had spent the 1960s making waves in the jazz field under the name The Jazz Crusaders and its core had been playing since high school days in the mid 1950s. The word "Jazz" was dropped from the group name in 1971 as the group expanded into other musical genres, and the group enjoyed several hit LPs and a handful of singles that reached the lower reaches of the Hot 100 during the 1970s.

In 1979, The Crusaders released their Street Life LP. The title track was the album's big hit, featuring lead vocals by Randy Crawford. The LP version of the song was an 11-minute opus, while the single version was edited down to a more suitable-for-airplay length. In an era where disco was considered to be on its deathbed, this dance-worthy tune was quite popular with the club types.

(The Amazon MP3 below is the 11-minute version and only available with the entire Street Life album. That explains the higher price shown in the link. If you click through, the CD is available through Amazon for a lot less).





The Barron Knights - "Topical Song" The Barron Knights - The Barron Knights - 40th Anniversary - The Topical Song

(Debuted #, Peaked #70, 3 Weeks on the Chart)



There was an old song called "Everything Old is New Again" and it was one of the many things over the years that tried to explain how things eventually come back around if you wait long enough. This song is further proof of that.

This song showed up on the Billboard chart surveys more than 30 years ago. It only stuck around for three weeks, rising to #70 before it was quickly forgotten. On the surface, it was little more than a parody of Supertramp's "The Logical Song" (a huge worldwide hit that year) but the "topic" of discussion was the rising cost of gasoline. There were other songs of the era putting a humorous spin on the issue -- most notably Dickie Goodman's "Energy Crisis '79" -- but this song applies today as energy consumption once again becomes newsworthy.

Buckeye - "Where Will Your Heart Take You" (Not available as MP3)

(Debuted #85, Peaked #63, 5 Weeks on the Chart)



A group calling itself Buckeye is sure to be from Ohio. They were; calling Akron home, they named themselves after the nickname of their home state. Despite their quick exposure to the Hot 100 with this song, their self-titled LP would be the only one to appear in record stores and they never managed to chart a second time.

"Where Will Your Heart Take You" is a fairly straightforward rock tune. It's not bad, but it sounds enough like a lot of the other bands of their era to keep Buckeye from standing out above their competition. Unfortunately, the music business is fickle and bands that don't have something special (or at least a gimmick) don't stay around long.

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