Saturday, September 3, 2011

This Week's Review -- September 2, 1978

This week's review is a lot shorter than usual. There are only five new songs this week. However, only one of those songs would make it past a #67 peak position. That one song became a monster hit, but three of the other four are from fairly well-known acts.Rupert Holmes appears for the first time as a solo artist, while Seals & Crofts are on the pop chart for their last run. The group once known as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band appears with a new name, and a female group from South Africa appears for the only time in America. Above all that is a song that has become an easy-listening juggernaut.

There is a large archive of past issues of Billboard magazine to read at Google Books, including the September 2, 1978 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on Page 86. An article on page 60 shows that the language we speak has evolved a little. The headline reads "Retarded Get a Club." while the article is about a special disco club for what are now called "special needs" people, the use of the word "retarded" is now seen as unflattering.

Get Goin South Platinum - As Seen on TV!

Seals & Crofts - "Takin' It Easy" Takin' It Easy - Takin' It Easy

(Debuted #81, Peaked #79, 3 Weeks on chart)

Surprisingly, there is no YouTube video for this song.  Seals & Crofts is popular enough that even their album tracks have been given the YouTube treatment, but it appears their later LPs didn't have the same hold as their earlier recordings did.

Their final hit on the pop chart is called "Takin' it Easy," a song that described the duo's style...except that the song had more of a bite than you might expect. Rather than a soft arrangement and lilting harmonies, the song has a guitar foundation and its production seems to have been influenced by ELO.

Prophetically, the words "soon I'll be saying goodbye" appear at the end of the chorus, since that's exactly what Seals & Crofts did once the song dropped off the chart. It wasn't an intentional swan song; the duo released the LP The Longest Road in 1980 but only managed one entry on the adult contemporary chart. Warner Brothers dropped them from the label and they put their singing career off for a while. There have been occasional reunions, but they essentially ceased being a recording duo after that.

Rupert Holmes - "Let's Get Crazy Tonight" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #72, 6 Weeks on chart)

Although "Let's Get Crazy Tonight" is listed as Rupert Holmes' debut hit, he had been recording the entire decade. He was a part of the group Street People and sang on their hits "Jennifer Thompkins" and "Thank You Girl" (reviewed here last April) as well as The Buoys' 1971 hit "Timothy," an ode to cannibalism. He also wrote songs for and produced Barbra Streisand's Lazy Afternoon LP in 1975. Though the song didn't get far up the charts, he would go on to score the final #1 hit of the decade with "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)."

While not nearly as memorable as that big hit, "Let's Get Crazy Tonight" is a suggestion to take off on a Saturday and mix it up in a different part of town. He could be singing about going to the disco (which would be appropriate, given the era), or he could simply be suggesting painting the town red and tearing something up in an alcoholic rage. That's probably less likely...but you never know what to expect from a songwriter who touches on cannibals or spouses cheating on each other with each other in his songs.

Ambrosia - "How Much I Feel" How Much I Feel - Life Beyond L.A.

(Debuted #90, Peaked #3, 21 Weeks on chart)

Many of us have that road we didn't take at some time in our lives. Whether there was a good reason it went untraveled, or whether fate intervened, or it was all a product of rotten luck or bad planning...there's a natural part of us that wonders what might have happened "if only..." That's the theme of "How Much I Feel," where a man walks away from a relationship and thinks back on it years later, even after he's gotten married.

"How Much I Feel" was the biggest hit of the 1970s for the L.A.-based group Ambrosia and was an example of the California "sound" of the era. Ironically, its pop sound was a change of pace for a band who leaned more toward progressive music on their albums. In fact, the group's biggest hits were all pop confections. That must have irritated them even as it made their record company demand more of the hit material.

The Dirt Band - "In For The Night" In for the Night - Dirt Band

(Debuted #92, Peaked #86, 3 Weeks on chart)

In 1978, the band formerly known as The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band unveiled their newly shortened name, reflecting the fact that they had switched some members and pared down their sound. Though they occasionally pulled out the banjo for some of their songs (like "In For the Night"), they were largely oriented toward pop and soft rock.

"In For the Night" was written by Ed Sanford and Johnny Townsend, who recorded it in 1977 for the same album that contained their hit single "Smoke From a Distant Fire." The Dirt Band's take is a pure pop tune, with an occasional banjo and a "country" (meaning not in the city, rather than a musical style) topic tossed in. The band had definitely gone a long way from recruiting Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter and Earl Scruggs to help record a concept LP.

Clout - "Substitute" Substitute - The Best of Clout

(Debuted #94, Peaked #67, 7 Weeks on chart)

Clout was an all-female band from South Africa. They were moderately successful in Europe as well as their native country, but "Substitute" would be their only hit in the U.S. While the title brings to mind a 1966 song by The Who, this was a different song, where the singer is telling another person (here, it's "Sam") that she'll gladly stand in when the girl he's wanting breaks his heart again.
This version is sung from a female point of view, but it was originally recorded by The Righteous Brothers in 1975. Clout's version rose to #2 in the U.K., but fell far short of the Top 40 in America. A short time later, Gloria Gaynor released a version as a single to capitalize on Clout's lack of success; however, the B-side (called "I Will Survive") attracted more attention. It's a shame Clout's version wasn't given a better chance, as it's a great song.

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