CHART ATTACK!: 10/11/80

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Hi everyone! It’s Friday and it’s time to look back at another Billboard Top 10 from — holy crap, this is from 29 years ago. Anybody else feel really old? Thankfully, I think this is a pretty good week for the charts: good variety, strong songs all around, and some really fantastic videos. Join me, won’t you, as we take a stab at October 11, 1980!

10. Give Me the Night — George Benson null
9. Real Love — The Doobie Brothers null
8. Xanadu — Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra null
7. I’m Alright — Kenny Loggins null
6. Late in the Evening — Paul Simon null
5. Drivin’ My Life Away — Eddie Rabbitt null
4. All Out of Love — Air Supply null
3. Upside Down — Diana Ross null
2. Woman in Love — Barbra Streisand null
1. Another One Bites the Dust — Queen null

10. Give Me the Night — George Benson (download)

George Benson on roller skates, y’all. Does it get any better?

If you feel like this song’s groove sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because it was written by Rod Temperton, former keyboardist for Heatwave, and the man behind much of Off the Wall (and, later, Thriller). Every time I hear a Rod Temperton jam, I’m once again astounded that sounds like this came from a white guy. “Give Me the Night” peaked at #4, making it Benson’s most successful hit, with the awesome, awesome “Turn Your Love Around” right behind it, peaking at #5 in 1981. I’m disappointed that “Lady Love Me (One More Time) only made it to #30. I don’t have much more to say about this song — I’m too busy groovin’.

9. Real Love — The Doobie Brothers

If you buy the Michael McDonald: The Ultimate Collection CD (and you should!) and you import it into iTunes, there’s a good chance that the song titles for the Doobie Brothers tracks will come up like this: “Real Love (ft. The Doobie Brothers).” Now, on one hand, that’s incorrect: these tracks, and others like it, were released under “The Doobie Brothers,” and changing it is akin to changing “Lennon/McCartney” to “McCartney/Lennon.” (Okay, it’s nothing like that, but I just wanted to compare the Doobies to the Beatles for a second.) But in all honesty, these are Michael McDonald tracks featuring the Doobie Brothers. Other than keeping the album as a consistent “Michael McDonald” album, I’m not sure what the reason was for this alteration, other than McD just trying to find one more way to piss off Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. And if that’s the case — bravo, McD! I thought you ran out of ways to irritate Skunk a long time ago. Of course, Baxter was out of the band by the time both this song — and its accompanying album, One Step Closer — were released, and the band was nearing dissolution anyway due to the increased friction that came from essentially being McD’s backing band. Still, “Real Love” is a great song from this era of the Doobies. It’s no “What a Fool Believes” or “Minute By Minute,” but it’s got plenty of soul and a typically great vocal by McD.

8. Xanadu — Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra

You know what happens when you combine Olivia Newton-John with Electric Light Orchestra? If this song is any indication, apparently you get ABBA.

I don’t want to say too much about this song, because the last time I talked about ONJ/ELO during this period, it was when I discussed “Suddenly” as a Mellow Gold song, and everybody raked me over the coals for not knowing enough of ELO’s music. I now know some of ELO’s music, but I can’t say that it makes me appreciate “Xanadu” any more or less than before. It’s a fine little pop song, but the only reason I’m really giving it a pass is because of my huge crush on Olivia Newton-John. I love Olivia Newton-John so much. In fact, her involvement in this movie makes me sad it failed. I want to live in a world where everything Olivia Newton-John does, ever, is a smash hit. Except for Two of a Kind and anything where she has a perm.

Since our last discussion of the cult fave in 2007, the movie became a Broadway hit, and suddenly it’s cool to like Xanadu. I have a problem with this, and it goes back to the ’80s hipster irony discussed by Dave Lifton in Episode 1 of the Popdose Podcast. Bravo for you if you shamelessly loved this movie in the ’80s, but boo on you if you’re doing it now because you’re a hipster. And heaven help us all if Roller Boogie has a comeback.

A few chart facts about this song: it peaked here at #8, although it topped the charts in the UK for two weeks, making it the only ELO song to do so. And it was the only song starting with “X” to reach the Billboard 100 until 2001, when Xzibit unleashed his masterpiece “X.” ELO recorded a new version of “Xanadu” for their box set Flashback, though in reality, Jeff Lynne recorded all instruments and vocals himself.

Behold, the video for “Xanadu,” which prompted one YouTube viewer to comment, “Did someone just pump my eyes full of drugs?” Again, I’m more than happy to watch this video repeatedly, thanks to Olivia. When she blows the kiss to the guy near the end of the video, I’m pretending she’s blowing that kiss to me.

7. I’m Alright — Kenny Loggins

In our last edition of CHART ATTACK!, we discussed Kenny Loggins’ final soundtrack contribution (and his final Top 10 hit), “Nobody’s Fool” from Caddyshack II. So it’s a nifty lil’ coincidence that we get to cover his first soundtrack contribution today, from the original Caddyshack. Both songs feature the hallmark of any good uptemto soundtrack song — the notion of “I’m gonna make it after all!” Of course, the difference between the two is that “I’m Alright” stands on its own as a genuinely good song, and a surprisingly creative one at that — it opens with the chorus, features a pre-chorus that initially seems out of place but actually fits perfectly, and has this odd acapella breakdown in the middle. It all works. I don’t know how, but it does. “Nobody’s Fool,” on the other hand, has a good chorus, but that’s about it, and has that awful “back to the shack” line. 1980 Kenny Loggins didn’t need to pander to movie producers the way 1988 Kenny Loggins did.

“I’m Alright” was Kenny’s second Top 10 hit (the first was “Whenever I Call You Friend” with a goat Stevie Nicks), and if you want to be specific, it wasn’t actually his very first soundtrack contribution; he co-wrote “I Believe In Love” with Alan and Marilyn Bergman, sung by Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born.

Check out this video, filmed in California in 1981. It’s a fantastic performance of the song, and near the 4 minute mark, Kenny kicks an amp over…while playing a 12-string acoustic guitar. I love you, badass 1980 Kenny Loggins, in your “I just got the day off from prison!” orange jumpsuit.

6. Late in the Evening — Paul Simon

Paul Simon falls into that category of artists I’m supposed to like more than I actually do. (He joins Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and U2. I think Popdose’s Ken Shane just started sobbing.) That being said, I think “Late in the Evening” is a really fantastic song. I remember sitting next to a friend on an airplane once; he was listening to this song and playing air guitar, air bass and perhaps an air bongo, all energetic enough to wake me from a nap. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I have one problem with this song, it’s that people go inappropriately apeshit when they hear it. When I saw Paul Simon live in 2001 (part of the summer tour he did with Brian Wilson), this song inspired tons of people to get their groove on in the aisles. It was actually pretty cool, and as far as I remember, Paul didn’t make any of those weird hand-and-arm gestures he’s been prone to over the past few years. I always try to figure out what the hell he’s doing or whether he’s doing them to make some kind of point.

“Late in the Evening” peaked here at #6, marking the last time Paul Simon has reached the Top 10. I’m shocked that this song fared better, chart-wise, than “You Can Call Me Al,” which only reached #23. Here’s Paul and his phenomenal band (including the ridiculous Steve Gadd on drums and Tony Levin on bass) live in 1980; if you’re interested, here’s a more recent acoustic clip, featuring John Mayer and Randy Jackson.

5. Drivin’ My Life Away — Eddie Rabbitt

“Drivin’ My Life Away” is a cute little ditty that kind of sounds like it wants to be “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Unfortunately, Eddie, those smooth, Mellow Gold-ish harmonies in the verses aren’t doing you any favors in that department. It’s a song that’s all about driving, so I’m going to make a statement that’s never been made before: “Drivin’ My Life Away” is the “Life is a Highway” of 1980. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? I don’t think it’s actually true, but I just wanted to be bold for a minute.

Even though I know he wasn’t a one-hit wonder, I always find myself surprised when an Eddie Rabbitt song shows up on the charts that’s not “I Love a Rainy Night.” Clearly it was his biggest hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 as well as on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts — but “Drivin’ My Life Away” was actually a crossover hit five months prior, peaking here at #5 and reaching the top of the Country chart. When all was said and done (Rabbitt died in 1998), he had a total of seven Top 40 hits that also happened to be Country chart-toppers.

“Drivin’ My Life Away” was taken from a movie called Roadie, starring — are you ready for this? — Meat Loaf and Art Carney.

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Roadie also featured Blondie, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, Jr. and Alice Cooper. How the hell have I not heard of this movie before? Has anybody seen it? Is it as awful as I imagine it would be? I did manage to find a story of a man who was an extra on the Roadie set.

I noticed they did update the cover of the DVD. Can’t figure out why.

bazooonga!


4. All Out of Love — Air Supply

I gained new found respect for “All Out of Love” a few months ago when, in my infinite wisdom, I decided that we should cover this song for Acoustic ’80s — and not only should we cover it, but we should include it as the second-to-last song in our final set. So after we’d won over the crowd and they’re all pumped up from singing “867-5309″ and “Take On Me,” I figured we should suddenly bring the room down and play them a ballad that we’ve never played before, hoping they’d all sing along.

Mistake #1 was assuming people knew all the words of the chorus. Everyone knows “I’m all out of love” and “I’m so lost without you,” but then suddenly the room got real quiet. Shit. Mistake #2 was not giving enough respect to Russell Hitchcock. That man not only hits some difficult notes in this song, but he holds them forever. Check out this live version (ripped from vinyl) from 1982, where he belts the final note (on the word “wrong”) for a full 16 seconds. I barely made it to 12 seconds.

Air Supply — All Out of Love (live) (download)

You’re not going to listen to it, are you. Yeah, I figured as much. I know I’m pretty much alone on this. But since I’ve gone this far, what the hell, here’s a video from a concert in Hawaii in ’82. Look at this guy, dammit! He takes this tiny little breath, then rocks that note! RUSSELL HITCHCOCK IS SUPERMAN. Shut up and skip to 4:00.

3. Upside Down — Diana Ross

This song — the whole diana album, actually — has a great back story. Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards had written a number of songs intended for Aretha Franklin, but when she turned them down, they were passed on to Miss Ross. The recording sessions for diana were a mess, resulting in Ross walking out when Rodgers and Edwards told her she was singing flat. (Oh snap!) The album did wind up reaching completion, but when Ross heard the master tapes, she felt she was merely a guest singer on a Chic album. She complained to Rodgers and Edwards, who told her if she didn’t like it, she could mix it herself. So she did. She remixed the entire album herself, with the assistance of Motown engineer Russ Terrana (who must have been shitting a brick). According to Wikipedia, she “[toned] down the funkier elements of Chic’s playing, removing extended instrumental passages and speeding up the tracks’ tempos to give the singer’s voice a brighter, more youthful sound. The new mix also put Ross’ vocals front and center.” She then presented the album to Rodgers and Edwards. Who has bigger balls than Diana Ross? Seriously!

Rodgers and Edwards were pissed. They wanted their names removed from the record. Somehow, it didn’t happen, even though it was the Ross/Terrana version that wound up being released. So, of course, the question is: which version is better? You be the judge.

Diana Ross — Upside Down (download)

Diana Ross — Upside Down (Original Chic Mix) (download)

I hate to say it, but I’m going with Diana’s version. And man, was it a kick in the balls for Rodgers and Edwards: her version spent a month at #1 and became the most successful song of her career. And my favorite part of this whole story? Motown contacted the duo to produce her follow-up record. Ha ha ha ha ha!

2. Woman in Love — Barbra Streisand

In the late ’70s, the wise and falsettoed Barry Gibb had a sense that the Bee Gees’ chart run was coming to an end — a byproduct of the disco backlash — and wisely focused his energy on writing, performing and producing songs for other artists. Around this time, Barbra Streisand approached Gibb about writing an album for her. The result was Guilty, an album that featured two major hits: the title track (a duet between the two) and this song, which features, sadly, no discernible Barry at all. “Woman in Love” held the #1 spot for three weeks, and marks Barbra’s final chart-topper on the Hot 100. (I’d say “never say never” here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and just say “never” instead. Never.) Looks like, in a way, I spoke too soon: this week, Barbra Streisand has the #1 album in the country, beating out both Paramore and Mariah Carey. So no, it’s not a single, but still, that’s damned impressive. Congratulations, Babs! (And thanks, Rob, for enlightening me!)

Although “Guilty” was considered a strong contender for the first single, Barbra’s team deliberately held it back, recognizing that her last two major hits were duets as well (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with Neil Diamond and “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)” with Donna Summer). Barbra had an issue with the line “It’s a right I defend over and over again,” wondering if it might be too “liberationist” for a pop song. It’s a shame they didn’t change the lyric; by the third time I’ve heard it, I’m done. It’s unbelievably grating.

Check out Barry’s demo for “Woman in Love.” He recorded it in a key higher than the one Barbra ultimately chose. And he hits all the high notes. It’s damn near comical.

1. Another One Bites the Dust — Queen

I’m a bit mixed about the success of Queen’s second (and last) #1 hit in America. It really has nothing to do with the song; this is one of Queen’s best, and it deserved to top both Hot 100 and R&B charts, and it’s a damn shame that they never reached the Top 10 again. The only problem I have is that it gave Queen the idea that they could continue in this funk/dance direction — and that led to Hot Space, an album so crappy that it hasn’t even come around as “Queen’s underrated album.”

“Another One Bites the Dust” wasn’t slated to be released as a single from The Game, but upon hearing the album, Michael Jackson implored Freddie Mercury to release it. The song was loved by many, including Sylvester Stallone, who cut a crucial scene of Rocky III to it. When Queen refused to allow Stallone to use the song, he turned to Survivor, and the rest is history. This essentially makes Queen responsible for Survivor.

By the way, little trivia fact: if you like that funky guitar part behind Freddie’s vocals in the verses…it ain’t Brian May. That’s John Deacon, who wrote the song, played the bass, both lead and rhythm guitars, and contributed all the hand claps. The song’s lyrics were influenced by an old Western flick Deacon was watching, but the inspiration for the bass comes directly from Chic; Deacon had spent some time in the studio with the band and was clearly influenced by “Good Times.”

And that brings us to the close of another Top 10! Thanks for reading CHART ATTACK! and we’ll see you back here in a couple of weeks!

Jason Hare
Jason Hare used to love Christmas. He feels differently now.