Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Picks for the Greatest Singles of the 1970s -- Part 4

A few years ago, I was talking with some friends and the subject came up about the best pop songs. Looking past what was popular or famous, what song sounded great even after years of listening?

When my turn came to chime in, I was ready with an answer: "Baby Come Back" by Player. I remember hearing it on the radio back when it was a hit; I liked it then and I love it now. Even if a current commercial series might make me think of a mop when I hear it...

It may have been inevitable for Player to come up with one great hit. As a band of L.A. studio musicians, they were in an ideal place to hone their craft at a time when the music business was reaching a commercial peak. They were signed to RSO records at precisely the same time as the label was mining platinum with The Bee Gees and Andy Gibb, not to mention the phenomenal success of the Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtracks. Not only that, but Player released a single that sounded a lot like a Hall & Oates single just as that duo was getting hot. The stars were perfectly aligned for them in late 1977, and "Baby Come Back was at #1 on Billboard's chart early in 1978.

Speaking of RSO records, they set an amazing record while "Baby Come Back" was charting: Between the week that Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" fell out of the top slot in December '77 and late May '78 when Wings took "With a Little Luck" to #1, an RSO single held down the pole position every week. Six singles -- four from Saturday Night Fever -- over 21 weeks is a legendary achievement. For a list of every #1 single of the 1970s, check out my site.

"Baby Come Back" is a finely crafted pop tune. Opening with a bass and drum intro that sets up a great reverbreated guitar line, the song leads up to a familiar pop topic: boy loses girl (by being "wrong") and misses her greatly. In fact, no matter how much he tries to get over her or puts up a front, she's still emblazoned in his mind. Yes, the same theme has been a thread running through countless pop songs from Elvis to 1990s Boy Bands, but Player did it in a way that made you sing along.

I've mentioned my 10-year old daughter in previous posts. Today, we went out for lunch and as we drove, "Baby Come Back" began to play on the radio. Even though she was born more than 20 years after it was a hit, Melissa knew what song was playing even before the first note from the guitar. She made me proud.

Here's a couple of ways to hear it for yourself:

First, here's a link to an MP3 of the tune on Amazon. This one is the full LP version, as opposed to the 45 that cuts out both the extended intro and the guitar solo that ends it. Even if you don't want to spend 99 cents to get the full song, there's a 30 second snippet that lets you hear the tune from when the singer begins.

If iTunes is more of your thing...Here's a link for you: Player - The Best of Player - Baby Come Back - Baby Come Back

Their fame may have been short-lived, but Player is worth a listen. Even though they channeled Hall & Oates for "Baby Come Back" and Steely Dan on their follow-up "This Time I'm in it For Love" they were a great-sounding group on their own. Here's a link to a 2-for-1 CD that features both of Player's 1970s LPs. There may be a missing picture on the link here, but the pictures are seen if you click it (I have no idea why that happens on so many of Amazon's products). But the group is worth listening to if you like to get past the stuff that Top 40 radio served up:

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