Welcome back to another edition of CHART ATTACK!, everybody!Â We’re going back a full 32 years this week, and it’s an interesting chart: if you like your rock or your sappy ballads, songs 10 through 5 are for you. But if you came here to shake your groove thang, you’re going to like the second half of this chart much better. Onward we go, to January 29, 1977!
10.Â Walk This Way — Aerosmith Amazon
9. Love Theme From “A Star is Born” (Evergreen) — Barbra Streisand Amazon iTunes
8. Blinded by the Light — Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Amazon iTunes
7. Torn Between Two Lovers — Mary MacGregor Amazon
6. New Kid in Town — Eagles Amazon iTunes
5. Hot Line — The Sylvers Amazon
4. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing — Leo Sayer Amazon iTunes
3. Dazz — Brick Amazon iTunes
2. I Wish — Stevie Wonder Amazon iTunes
1. Car Wash — Rose Royce Amazon iTunes
10. Walk This Way — Aerosmith
“Walk This Way” peaked here at #10 and became the last Aerosmith song to reach the Top 10 until, well, “Walk This Way,” ten years later. Technically, though, that’s a Run-DMC song featuring Tyler and Perry, so really, it was their last Top 10 until 1988’s power ballad “Angel.” “Walk This Way” was released in ’75, but didn’t make a dent in the charts until it was reissued late the next year. What else to say about this song? It’s a great classic rock staple, and without it and its subsequent resurgence, who knows if any of us would have given a shit about Aerosmith from, say, 1988 to 1993. (“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” in ’98 doesn’t count and you know it.)
9. Love Theme From “A Star is Born” (Evergreen) — Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand is best known for singing others’ songs, but “Evergreen” was her own musical composition, and only the second song she had ever written. Stresiand was taking guitar lessons in preparation for her role in A Star is Born, and was jealous of her guitar teacher’s songwriting abilities. She was determined to write her own song, and though she didn’t come up with the lyrics — those came from Paul Williams — the song wound up winning the Academy Award, the Grammy, and the Golden Globe. Which just goes to prove: Do not fuck with Barbra Streisand. She is an unstoppable force. Williams, who might be best known for “The Rainbow Connection,” wrote all the songs for the movie, and also co-wrote the score.
I like this song. I don’t expect anybody to really watch this clip. I’m putting it up anyway, just for me. And James Brolin, who gets a silly face directed at him at near the end of this one.
8. Blinded by the Light — Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Hey, you guys! You’re not going to believe this, but I just listened to “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann again, and…man, this is crazy…it totally sounds like he’s saying “douche” instead of deuce!!!
What? That’s what every single discussion of this song talks about? Whoops. My bad. Let’s talk about something else for a second.
“Blinded by the Light” was, as you most likely know, written by Bruce Springsteen and included on Greetings From Asbury Park NJ. It was a last-minute addition to the record, as label execs heard the first version of the album and asked Springsteen to go back and write some more songs that could be used as singles. Springsteen wrote this one, and recorded most of the instruments himself, as the band had left town. It was released as a single in ’73 and flopped. In ’76, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band covered it, and essentially gave Bruce Springsteen his only #1 hit.Â Manfred Mann, in this band and others prior, had success with other covers, most notably the Raindrops’ “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” in ’64 and Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)” in ’68.Â And shortly after their cover of “Blinded,” they released another Springsteen cover, “Spirit in the Night,” which, interestingly enough, was one of the other songs Springsteen had to record for the execs during the same period of time.
I have the same experience every single time I hear “Blinded by the Light” on the radio: I hear it, I turn to a different station, I come back six minutes later and the song is still playing.Â I think the final running time is just over 7 minutes, but it feels more like fifteen.
Here’s Springsteen performing the song on VH1 Storytellers, where he joked that the only reason Manfred Mann’s version hit #1 was because of the “douche” line.
7. Torn Between Two Lovers — Mary MacGregor
Mary MacGregor, nice to see you again.Â No, I don’t mean “nice to see you on the Top Ten” again, because we both know this was it for you (although who could forget “Good Friend,” your appearance at #39 in 1979, direct from the movie Meatballs?).Â No, I mean it’s nice to see you again after we tore this song apart on Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold.Â If you aren’t familiar with this song and the story behind it (quick summary: it’s a bitch-slap to men everywhere, and it was written by Peter from Peter, Paul & Mary), go check it out.Â I’ve even reinstated the download if you haven’t heard it before (or you have and just enjoy torturing yourself).
6. New Kid in Town — Eagles
I know it makes me the biggest pussy in the world, but this is one of my favorite Eagles songs.Â (I, uh, actually have a lot of favorite Eagles songs.Â I kind of love the Eagles.)Â It’s a dorky reason, too: I love how the song effortlessly changes keys from E to G as they’re exiting the bridge, and then back to E for the very last section.Â It’s barely noticeable (to my ears, anyway); I didn’t figure it out until I was looking at the chords.Â Another collaboration between Frey, Henley and honorary Eagle J.D. Souther, “New Kid in Town” was the first Eagles track to feature Joe Walsh on guitar.Â It topped the chart for a week and won the band a Grammy in the now-defunct category of Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices — an honor they share with luminaries such as Starland Vocal Band, Chaka Khan and the Pointer Sisters, to name a few.
Okay, we’ve gotten the ballads and the classic rock out of the way. It’s time to boogie!
5. Hot Line — The Sylvers
The Sylvers were a … oh, screw it, we’ll talk about it later. Just watch this video.
Isn’t that video awesome? I mean, really awesome? First off, check out who’s introducing the band.Â Second, clearly these guys wanted to be the Jacksons in the worst way. Third , is that Chris Rock singing lead? Fourth , I want to learn the dance in the chorus, like, right now. Clap clap!
The Sylvers were a family soul group from Memphis, consisting of nine siblings. Mom Sylver was not a member of the group, as the stress to her poor vagina rendered her unable to move. Though “Hot Line” reached an impressive peak here at #5, it wasn’t their biggest hit:”Boogie Fever” reached #1 in 1976.
“Hot Line” is pretty typical of the soul sound at the time, but that chorus is pretty damn catchy. Plus, this song has some seriously creepy lyrics:
Operator, excuse me please
But this is more than an emergency
Take those phones off-a your ears
‘Cause this is only for my baby to hear
Stop all the calls in the world
Till I catch you, girl…catch you at home
I asked the CIA, they said it was okay
to use their private phone, oh, baby, baby
Kinda stalker-ish, no?
4. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing — Leo Sayer
I feel like I’m supposed to come out here and bash this song, but I can’t. There are a million things to find annoying about it — all the falsetto, the “whoo!”s in the chorus — but I like it in spite of all these things. It might be because I’ve seen other clips of Sayer singing his ass off, and he seems to have a terrific sense of humor about his own success. Here he is performing this song with the Muppets.
Yeah, he’s kind of a putz, but I’m totally buying it.Â By the time Sayer topped the charts — and won the Grammy for Best R&B Song — with this single, he had already found success as a songwriter for Three Dog Night and Roger Daltrey (“success” being something of an exaggeration with the latter, but I digress).Â In recent years, Sayer has performed the song with The Wiggles (watch at your own risk).
3. Dazz — Brick (download)
Okay, so as we’ve seen above, we’ve been movin’ (yeah!) and groovin’ (yeah!), but it’s been pretty light stuff — the poppy side of R&B, what with the squeaky-clean Sylvers and the white-bread Leo Sayer. Now we get some heavy funk goin’ on, which is interesting since “Dazz” is Brick’s way of combining “disco” and “jazz.” I hear neither of these things. Just putting a saxophone in a song doesn’t make it jazz, guys — and you sound more like Supertramp during that section anyway. Anyhoo, “Dazz” was Brick’s biggest hit. Their follow-up single? “Dusic.” I’m not making this up. It reached #18 in October.
2. I Wish — Stevie Wonder
Nobody does joy like Stevie Wonder, and it’s appropriate that this song appears directly after “Sir Duke” on Songs in the Key of Life — they’re the two most uplifting songs on the album. And it’s a testament to Stevie’s songwriting skills that he can take a song that’s essentially about missing the good old days and give it a feel of happy reminiscence, not wistful longing.
Stevie wrote the music for “I Wish” immediately after attending a Motown picnic during the summer of 1976. Seriously: he went straight from the picnic to the studio. Stevie’s original lyrics were far more spiritual, talking about the “Wheel of 84” and going off to war, but thankfully, he decided to go in a simpler direction. “I Wish” was not only a huge hit, but also won the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.
Do you have ten minutes to spare? If so, there’s no better way to spend it than by watching this clip of Stevie explaining the making of “I Wish,” taken from the Classic Albums: Songs in the Key of Life DVD (sadly, now out of print). Watch the master at work.
1. Car Wash — Rose Royce (download)
Written and produced by the great Norman Whitfield (the mastermind behind “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “War,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone, just to name a few), this song is so awesome that it makes me not only want to see the movie for which it was written, but also kind of makes me want to work at a car wash. This is impressive because I don’t care for cars or cleaning.
Whitfield initially created the group Rose Royce to back up the Temptations both in the studio and on tour. He was approached by Car Wash director Michael Shultz to write the music for the film, and used the job as an opportunity to promote the talented musicians, as well as dynamite lead singer Gwen Dickey (aka Rose Norwalt, and I’m having a hard time figuring out which one is her real name — both last names kind of suck). Whitfield was inspired to write “Car Wash” while eating fried chicken, and wrote the lyrics on the back of the bag. This explains the lines explaining that you might meet an indian chief at said car wash, and the boss don’t mind if sometimes you act the fool. Still, you can’t deny the fantastic funk/disco of this baby. Listen to that bass line, dammit!
“Car Wash” sold over two million copies, and topped the charts this week — but only this week. It was then bested by “Torn Between Two Lovers.” Ouch.
And that’ll do it for yet another week of CHART ATTACK! In a couple of weeks, we’ll be reminiscing about a Valentine’s Day in the early ’80s — see you then!