Saturday, April 2, 2011

This Week's Review -- April 1, 1978

About six months ago, I made a promise to one of my regular readers (he and his wife read this blog religiously every weekend) that I would lay off the songs from the year 1978 for a while. Around that time, I began looking at the balance of the posts I'd done for each year and noticed that '78 was far ahead of all the other years I cover here. So, I wrote about every other year -- taking care to hit more neglected years like 1971 -- until the rest caught up. Now, it's time to visit 1978 again after half a year away from it.

Sorry, Anthony and Kris. In this case, it's almost fitting to note that the date of this chart is April Fool's Day. That somehow seems appropriate.

Seven new songs debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Four would reach the Top 40 and two would go straight to #1. Interestingly, both #1 hits were duets by artists who'd already had solo success. Among the other songs are a song from Steely Dan's biggest album, a remake of a 1960s British Invasion-era #1 hit, a guitar exercise by Ted Nugent, a dancefloor exercise written and produced by KC and a remake of a song by The Rascals.

The April  1, 1978 edition of Billboard magazine is missing from the archives at Google Books. In its place, I'll once again mention my other music-related blog, 80s Music Mayhem. The post are still winding their way through the 1980s, with all of last week's songs from 1984. Since I turned 12 that year, the entries from the rest of the decade begin taking on more personal topics since that was the time I came of age. If you like that kind of stuff, check it out. New entries appear every weekday.

Where Rock Art lives

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - "You're the One That I Want"  You're the One That I Want - Grease (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

(Debuted #65, Peaked #1, 24 Weeks on chart)

I was still rather young to pay close attention at the time, but I had a crush on Olivia Newton-John during my adolescent years. I blame it on seeing her in that "bad Sandy" costume toward the end of the film Grease. There's something about seeing the nice girl next door dressed in leather pants to get a young boy's blood flowing.

"You're the One That I Want" was the song that ended Grease (if you don't count the closing credits), as the characters all had their happy endings and graduated from high school. Considering the popularity of the film, it's little surprise the song went to #1. John Travolta was at an early height in his career, RSO Records was servicing the single and it was being played all over the radio and jukeboxes. Even at my very young age, I remember hearing it play while we were waiting to sit at a restaurant. But I'm still guessing the sight of Olivia Newton-John in those leather pants had a little to do with this song hitting #1 while "Summer Nights" stalled at #5.

Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams - "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" Too Much, Too Little, Too Late - The Essential Johnny Mathis

(Debuted #69, Peaked #1, 18 Weeks on chart)

Maturity. It's that time in life where you've realized you wasted too much time before on other pursuits. Occasionally, that also includes realizing you've grown apart from somebody you once took a vow to spend the rest of your natural life with. Sometimes, the solution is to use the approach taken in Meat Loaf's "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" -- just wait for the end of time -- but there's also the "no harm, no foul" breakup tactic mentioned in "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late": the kids are on their own, neither one of us wants to carry on, so let's call the whole thing off.

It sounds like a good idea until the lawyers get involved.

The song marked a comeback of sorts for Johnny Mathis. Written by John Vallins of the early 70s group Tin Tin, it was his first Top 40 hit since 1964 and his first #1 single since "Chances Are" in 1957. Deniece Williams had made herself known the previous year with her single "Free."  It was her first #1 single, and the duet worked well enough that Mathis ended up recording several of them after that, with Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight and others.

A followup duet with Williams, a remake of "You're All I Need to Get By," peaked at #47. The two singers later reunited and sang the theme to the TV show Family Ties in the 1980s.

Ted Nugent - "Yank Me, Crank Me" (Get iTunes link)

(Debuted #81, Peaked #58, 7 Weeks on chart)

Click Here to Listen

Ted Nugent owes much of his success to his live shows. The "Motor City Madman" had spent much of the 1970s on tour, building a loyal and rabid audience. However, his singles failed to reach to Top 40 except for "Cat Scratch Fever" despite his capacity concerts. That said, it should be little surprise that Nugent's 1978 live album containing live versions of both old and new material, Double Live Gonzo, ranks with the Cat Scratch Fever LP as his best-selling album (both have been certified triple platinum). "Yank Me, Crank Me" was one of the new songs that appeared on the live LP.

If you like guitar songs, "Yank Me, Crank me" shouldn't disappoint. It's as close to Nugent's live heyday a listener can get without sitting in the crowd and smelling the pungent odor in the air (an irony, as Nugent is a strong anti-drug advocate, among his other outspoken beliefs).

Steely Dan - "Deacon Blues" Deacon Blues - Aja

(Debuted #86, Peaked #19, 16 Weeks on chart)

Steely Dan made a name for itself with rather opaque and abstract lyrics. Its often stream-of-consciousness flow and often nonsensical nature have led many to spend a great deal of time trying to figure out just what in the hell they mean. And I've been one of those people reading lines of words and trying to make sense of them. When it comes to "Deacon Blues," there are a lot of different theories about what the song means -- a man is contemplating suicide, or trying to kick a drug habit, or reflecting on his own bad luck -- but Donald Fagen and Walter Becker did enough lyrics over the years that included a wink in them, it just may be that they strung together some words and said, "let's see what those self-appointed experts say about this." Despite the obtuse lyrics, the song features a standout saxophone performance and draws more than a little from jazz roots.

"Deacon Blues" was a standout track from the band's Aja LP, which would the highest-charting album they had during the 1972-'82 heyday. In it, the Fagen/Becker core called on the talents of a wide array of studio musicians and painstakingly crafted it before letting it hit the streets. Interestingly, none of its singles made it inside the Top 10.

Santa Esmeralda - "The House Of The Rising Sun" House of the Rising Sun - Santa Esmeralda - Hits Anthology

(Debuted #88, Peaked #78, 3 Weeks on chart)

In November 2009, I reviewed "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" on this blog and mentioned that I was a big fan of the extended version of the song. This time around, we have the same group, covering another classic song from The Animals, and doing it in a disco-styled version. This time around, I'm not as impressed with the result, and feel the long version is incredibly overdone.

Santa Esmeralda didn't make any fans of the song forget about The Animals. The problem was that they also didn't make anybody forget their version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," either. Where "Misunderstood" was originally written for a Latin beat and was well-suited for the arrangement the group's producers gave it, "Rising Sun's" roots were from 1800s American folk music and weren't as easily co-opted. Where The Animals' version was heightened by Eric Burdon's growl and Alan Price's haunting organ, Santa Esmeralda's version retained neither of those elements.

The song appeared as a twelve-minute opus in its album version, which was a very long workout. It barely keeps the listener interested as a three-minute single, twelve minutes is a really long wait for the end.

Angel - "Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" Ain't Gonna Eat out My Heart Anymore - White Hot

(Debuted #89, Peaked #44, 8 Weeks on chart)

Angel was a harder-edged group from the Washington, D.C. area that was discovered by KISS's Gene Simmons. Signed to that band's record label Casablanca, Angel contrasted themselves from KISS by wearing all white and sporting an androgynous look. They managed to get a cult following but not enough to attract wide success; "Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" would be the closest they ever got to the Top 40.

Originally recorded by the Rascals in 1967, the song was made into a power-pop song before the term was invented. Though disliked by critics at the same time they were loved by their fans, the song is a good preview of some of what was to come in the 1980s, when groups like Bon Jovi, Winger and Skid Row came out with similarly not-quite metal, too-hard-for-pop confections.

Jimmy "Bo" Horne - "Dance Across the Floor" Dance Across the Floor (Full Version) - Hot Plate - Volume 1

(Debuted #90, Peaked #38, 18 Weeks on chart)

If you have good eyes and can see it on the YouTube video above, or happen to have the single to see it, you'll immediately see why this sounds like a lost song by KC & the Sunshine Band. The song was not only issued on KC's record label TK, but written and produced by Casey/Finch as well.

Like KC and company, Jimmy "Bo" Horne was a Miami native. Though the infectious (or grating, depending on your view of 1970s dance music) "Dance Across the Floor" was his only song to reach the pop chart, he had a few other dancefloor hits including "Spank" in 1979 and "Get Happy," which later was a theme song from The Chris Rock Show when it aired on HBO.


  1. I'm the same way about 1976. Every time I pledge not to write about it, I find myself getting pulled back in, like Michael Corleone.

  2. For years, I had heard Deniece's first line as "Guess it's over, the KICKS are gone," therefore the couple could be of any age. If the KIDS are indeed gone, they must be in their early-mid 50s? It changes my whole outlook on the song.

    KC also plays organ and sings backup on "Dance Across The Floor." It's one of my favorite of his productions, but I wonder if it was just too soulful in a time of slicker-sounding disco?

    I absolutely love this blog as well as your 80s one. Keep up the great work!

  3. you kept your word for 6 months, fortunately we were on vacation the week you got back to '78. A week year in music, even for the '70's. Let me know when you're going to dredge up another rundown of '78 and I'll schedule another vacation ;)

  4. Becky...I was listening to the song the other day, and you may be right about the lyric. That's the power of music, the way you sometimes hear something to suit your own interpretation.

  5. I don't know how anyone can say there is too much of 1978 here. It's incomplete imho--there's no Gerry Rafferty anywhere on this blog. (No Stealers Wheel either--I already looked.). And I'm sure we can find lots of other omissions as well. Someone seriously needs to start this blog up again and cover all the charts that Chris didn't get to. Heck, I'd do it if I had lots of time... :). Mommy L

  6. P.S. I'm not blaming Chris for anything; I'm just hoping someone can continue this blog. It's fun to read it and to hear the songs. :) Mommy L