Howdy, everybody!Â Happy Friday and welcome back to another edition of CHART ATTACK! This week’s mix is relatively eclectic, yet — as was often the case in the early ’80s — completely inoffensive.Â And you’ll find references to John Lennon in four of this week’s singles.Â On with the chart — let’s look at February 14, 1981!
10. Hey Nineteen — Steely Dan Amazon iTunes
9. Givin’ it Up for Your Love — Delbert McClinton Amazon iTunes
8. Keep On Loving You — REO Speedwagon Amazon iTunes
7. (Just Like) Starting Over — John Lennon Amazon iTunes
6. Woman — John Lennon Amazon iTunes
5. Passion — Rod Stewart Amazon iTunes
4. The Tide is High — Blondie Amazon iTunes
3. I Love a Rainy Night — Eddie Rabbitt Amazon iTunes
2. 9 to 5 — Dolly Parton Amazon iTunes
1. Celebration — Kool & the Gang Amazon iTunes
10. Hey Nineteen — Steely Dan (download)
I love Steely Dan.Â And I love “Hey Nineteen.”Â And although I’ve never had any misconception about this song’s subject, it was only when listening to this song the other day that I realized: Donald Fagen both looks and sounds like a skeevy, dirty old man, and “Hey Nineteen” is, in fact, not helping his image.Â And despite the fact that Fagen was only 32 when this song was recorded, it’s not a stretch to hear it and imagine him being, say, 50.Â SKETCHY.Â Here’s a picture of Donald Fagen with Japanese musician Juri Panda Jones.Â Look at this while listening to “Hey Nineteen,” willya?
Something else weird happened to me while I was listening to “Hey Nineteen” recently.Â Whenever I sing along with it, I always avoid the lead line (except for “that’s ‘retha Franklin”).Â I just sing the backing vocals.Â And, when I sing them, I sing them like…you guessed it.
Oh, picture of 3 Time Grammy Award Winner Michael McDonald, how I’ve missed you.
Anyway, so yeah, I always sing those backing vocals like McD.Â But when listening to the song the other day, I realized: I don’t hear McD as a prominent voice.Â I mean, I think I hear him in there, and I know he sang backing vocals on Gaucho, but you know that I have a tendency to hear a little bit of McD in everything, so I could just be crazy.
Steely Dan only had a few Top 10 hits ( “Do It Again” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and what the hell, we’ll give “Peg” credit for reaching #11, only because of McD), but this was their last one, peaking here at #10 for only two weeks.
9. Giving it Up for Your Love — Delbert McClinton (download)
This song gets my vote for the best of this week’s bunch — and I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Delbert McClinton before today.Â This song was McClinton’s only single to even come close to the Top 40, but the man has made quite a mark on blues and rock music.Â Let’s look at some of his accolades: his band was the first white band to play the Skyliner Ballroom’s Blue Monday nights in Texas, where he also played backup for Sonny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf; he’s the man behind the harmonica on Bruce Channel’s famous “Hey Baby,” which influenced John Lennon’s harp playing on “Love Me Do”; he was adored by John Belushi, which explains his repeat appearances on Saturday Night Live and the cover of his “B Movie Boxcar Blues” on the first Blues Brothers album; and he’s won two Grammy awards, one for a duet with Bonnie Raitt in 1991 and one for his 2006 album, The Cost of Living. The man’s phenomenal, and I’m glad he’s on today’s chart, because now that I know about him, I can go check out some of his albums.
Take a listen to “Giving it Up for Your Love,” check out this 2003 New York Times article on McClinton and some of the absolutely shitty luck he’s had, and enjoy this video that talks about “Hey Baby,” its influence on the Beatles, and the trip Delbert and Bruce took to Liverpool.
8. Keep On Loving You — REO Speedwagon
Wow.Â There’s just no easy way to make the segue from traditional rock/blues to…anything featuring Kevin Cronin.Â The Speedwagon used to be a legitimate rock band, you know. Or maybe you don’t know. If you listened to the radio, you wouldn’t know, because none of their “rock” songs made it past something like #58 on the charts. Cronin (who, by the way, gets a vote of “he’s cute!” from Jeff’s wife, which makes me so happy since Jeff hates him) left the band due to “creative differences” (I love that term!) in 1973, but returned in 1976 after his solo career tanked. Cronin supposedly become the man behind the band’s format change: “I realized that you can take a ballad and put the energy there. It doesn’t have to be fast an loud; it can still be powerful.” As much as I want to argue with that statement, the man was right: 1980’s Hi Infodelity spawned four Top 40 singles, including this one, which reached #1.
Are there any real Speedwagon fans out there? If so, can they let us know if Cronin pulled that shit with his r’s before the band went the pop route? And can you defend the video?
7. (Just Like) Starting Over — John Lennon
Obviously, the most poignant detail regarding this single is the fact that it was Lennon’s posthumous #1, reaching the top of the charts on December 27th, 1980. However, the song was significant for many other reasons: it was the first single released by Lennon since 1975’s cover of “Stand By Me,” as Lennon had “retired” for five years to focus on fatherhood; it was released as a single on October 9th, Lennon’s 40th birthday; and, in both lyrical and musical style, the song seemed to display a more relaxed artist, comfortable with his past, present and future.
The song debuted at an impressive #32, making its way to #6 on December 6, 1980. The tragic irony of the song’s title was not lost on listeners, who kept the single at #1 for over a month.
6. Woman — John Lennon
This is the only week in chart history that you’ll see two Lennon solo songs back-to-back on the chart, and though I do think “Woman” is a great song, there’s no doubt in my head that its tenure in the Top 10 — 12 weeks — had much to do with the public response from Lennon’s murder.
Longtime readers of my blathering will know that I consider “Woman” to be right out of the mines of Mellow Gold — we discussed it two years ago. I fully expected to be ripped apart for declaring John Lennon a wuss, but surprisingly, most of you agreed with me.Â Feel free to check out that entry and hear my Budweiser ferret-esque impression of the douchebag who used to sing the song on summer nights in Washington Square Park.
5. Passion — Rod Stewart
I pride myself on knowing a great deal of the 1000 songs that reached the Billboard Top 100 between 1980 and 1989, but I swear to you, I’ve never heard this song before.Â I am no better for hearing it now.Â It’s stupid and pointless.
I just saw the video, and holy crap, do you need to see this.Â This video almost puts the “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” video to shame.Â I swear, they must have been done by the same director, who, in both cases, just started rolling and said, “Okay, everybody make love to the lens!”Â We’ve got Rod in striped pants, someone playing a keytar, and the bassist rocking back and forth like he’s Rain Man.Â And three — count ’em, three — dipshits are wearing “Sex Police” t-shirts.Â Observe how Rod is so concerned with jumping around like an idiot that he actually forgets his own ad-libs.Â Watch in awe as Rod takes off his jacket and rubs his own ass!
I tried to embed the clip here, but when I did so, it re-formatted my entire post making it one very, very long paragraph.Â Rod Stewart fucks up everything.Â So do me a favor and check it out over at Daily Motion.Â Please, please, please.Â You won’t regret it.Â Okay, you’ll regret it, but in a good way.
4. The Tide is High — Blondie
Although at this point in their career they were known for writing their own material, Blondie couldn’t turn down the opportunity to record “The Tide is High,” a song given to them on a compilation tape while they were in London. Debbie Harry particularly praised the song’s “beautify melody [and] beautiful treatment…the harmonies on the original are very exciting.” The original was released in 1967, recorded by Jamaican band the Paragons (and written by lead singer John Holt). The Blondie version isn’t actually terribly different, apart from its key change and harmonies. In fact, Blondie added three percussionists as well as both string and horn sections to better replicate the original. (Chris Stein claims this inlcudes “8 tracks of drum sticks tapping on a piano bench.”)
While researching this song, I came across a great quote from Sean Lennon, taken from a 2006 Rolling Stone interview: “”My father had an old Wurlitzer in the game room of our house on Long Island. It was filled with 45s, mostly Elvis and The Everly Brothers. The one modern song I remember him listening to was ‘The Tide Is High’ by Blondie, which he played constantly. When I hear that song, I see my father, unshaven, his hair pulled back into a ponytail, dancing to and fro in a worn-out pair of denim shorts, with me at his feet, trying my best to coordinate tiny limbs.””
Pretty awesome, huh? Here’s the original version by the Paragons.
The Paragons — The Tide is High (download)
3. I Love a Rainy Night — Eddie Rabbitt
It’s the second of our two Mellow Gold songs this week! What do you expect, guys? It’s 1981. As I mentioned back in Mellow Gold #12, Eddie Rabbitt had a pretty impressive country-centered career, considering he was born in Brooklyn and raised in Jersey.Â Songs of his were recorded by Elvis Presley, Ronnie Milsap and Tom Jones, to mention just a few.Â His crossover to the pop charts happened in 1979 with “Every Which Way But Loose” and “Suspicions,” followed in 1980 by the sort of awesome “Drivin’ My Life Away” and then this track in 1981.Â “I Love a Rainy Night” was born after Rabbitt was digging through some old tapes in his basement.Â He found a tape from 12 years prior — about six seconds of him singing the line “I love a rainy night.”Â After this hit, Rabbitt had four others in the Top 40, including “Step By Step” (#5, also in 1981) and “You and I,” with Crystal Gayle, #7 in 1982.Â And…that was it for him.
Here’s “I Love a Rainy Night,” live in Branson, MO.Â I love this performance.Â It’s cheesy (thunder and lightning!) but lots of fun.Â Ooh!Â Ooh!
2. 9 to 5 — Dolly Parton
Just think: anybody under the age of 25 who hears this song is going to have no idea that the percussive noise in the background of this song is a typewriter. Feel old, don’tcha?
“9 to 5” was quite a success on the Billboard charts: although it was #2 this week, it reached #1 the next week, only to be replaced by “I Love a Rainy Night” — and it then reclaimed the #1 spot for an additional week. It was a deservedly phenomenal hit for Dolly, earning her four Grammy Award nominations (two wins) and an Academy Award nomination. The song topped the country charts as well. It was so popular, in fact, that Sheena Easton had to rename her own hit from “9 to 5” to “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” in America to avoid confusion.
I think “9 to 5” a great song, and serves as further proof of Dolly’s strengths as a songwriter.Â It’s simple, it gets its message across in under three minutes, and is even kind of funky in the chorus.Â And if you listen closely, you’ll hear the guitar riff later made famous by “Edge of Seventeen” and “Eye of the Tiger.” You’ll also hear the triangle, which I presume was used to replace the bell that sounds when a typewriter reaches the end of the page.
9 to 5 hits Broadway as a musical in April. I keep my expectations low. As long as they don’t recreate this choreography, though, I think they’ll be fine:
1. Celebration — Kool & the Gang
If I were a member of Kool & the Gang — and I am not — when saying my prayers every night before bed, I would include a special “and thank you, Lord, for ‘Celebration,’ which has put food on my plate every single day for the last 27 years.” And talk about an awesome group — every single member of the group is listed as a writer, so they’re all sharing the money. I don’t hear “Celebration” on the radio much anymore, but they still play the hell out of it at weddings and crap. They’re supposed to be getting paid for this as well, as far as I can tell, but I doubt they are. I mean, according to these rules, I’m supposed to be paying them if I play it in my cover band, but that’s not happening.
Anyway, “Celebration” was recorded in 1980, shortly after the group made the switch from funk to disco and added James “J.T.” Taylor as the lead singer. “Celebration” was the third Top 10 single from Ladies Night and remains the group’s only #1 single. For some reason, I thought this song was a ’70s release, even though I’m well aware that it permeated pop culture for most of the ’80s. I only have one more thing to say about this song: criiiiiiispy nuggets!
And here we are, at the end of another Top 10!Â I gotta say, I like this week a lot.Â I’m glad we reviewed it.Â Agree? Disagree?Â Let me know — and see you in a couple of weeks!