(Due to an unbelievably busy schedule, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to write entries for Popdose. Instead of abandoning this series altogether, I’ve instead asked some of my favorite writers to step in and attack the charts from their own distinctive point of view. We start today with Neel Mehta, the author of the blogs THE MOVIE OUTSIDER and “Brevity is… wit”. Neel relished this opportunity to ignore that whole “brevity” thing which, in the case of a well-written CHART ATTACK!, is always a good thing. Plus, if you like YouTube (and who the hell doesn’t), guess what? There are twenty-five (count ’em!) video links in this post. You’re in for a great week. Take it away, Neel! – JH)

This week’s CHART ATTACK! countdown dates back to January 1976. This is what I looked like at the time:

As you can tell, I was more of a jock then – no Rolling Stone cover in sight. My parents were not against music; they were just unfamiliar with it. Born in India in the 1940s and emigrating to the United States in the 1960s, they thought radio was for news and weather alerts. Their connection to American pop music was limited to what they heard in Elvis movies or James Bond opening credits.

I’m sure there are many interesting stories about the musical upbringings of the children of immigrants. Mine is not one of them. My earliest musical influence was my older sister; she wasn’t exactly Zooey Deschanel’s character from Almost Famous, but she did know all the words to “You Light Up My Life.”

Since we did not own music, our idea of Music on Demand required two pieces of equipment: a radio and a tape recorder. If we pressed the Record and Play buttons at just the right time, and stayed really quiet during the song, we could own any music we wanted. Eventually we developed a system: one of us would be the lookout, trying to deflect any outside noise of a “Lunch is ready” or “Kids, get over here!” variety, while the other used quick reflexes and the all-important Pause button. The American Top 40 show was ideal, since we knew roughly where in the countdown a desired song would appear. Soon we were able to start and stop a recording with only the occasional vocal invasion by Casey Kasem. (Damn you, Shaggy!)

Today, the equipment has improved, and the industry has gone digital, but my personal investment in music hasn’t really changed. I don’t own an iPod. I’ve never listened to satellite radio. And I have no intention of acquiring either. But music is still somewhat important to me, from the standpoint of a pop culture junkie, and so I bring that perspective to this week’s CHART ATTACK!

Let me take you back to the week of January 24, 1976…

10. Sing A Song – Earth, Wind & Fire Amazon iTunes
9. Walk Away From Love – David Ruffin Amazon iTunes
8. Times Of Your Life – Paul Anka Amazon
7. Convoy – C.W. McCall Amazon iTunes
6. You Sexy Thing – Hot Chocolate Amazon iTunes
5. I Love Music (Part 1) – O’Jays Amazon
4. Love To Love You Baby – Donna Summer Amazon iTunes
3. Love Rollercoaster – Ohio Players Amazon iTunes
2. I Write The Songs – Barry Manilow Amazon iTunes
1. Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) – Diana Ross Amazon iTunes

10. Sing A Song – Earth, Wind & Fire

You can find an audibly impressive camera phone recording here.

As you might expect, 1984’s “Easy Lover” was my first exposure to Philip Bailey. I may have heard that Phil Collins’ singing partner was from another band, but at the time, I could not have told you what an Earth, Wind & Fire was. (Could be worse: I might have believed that Collins “discovered” Bailey as a singing gas station attendant, as Collins once jokingly explained to an ignorant reporter.)

I’m more familiar with Earth, Wind & Fire now, of course. “Let’s Groove”? Too funky! “Boogie Wonderland”? Lay it down! “Shining Star”? Heavens above! “Serpentine Fire”? Hell, yeah! “After the Love Has Gone”? Sing it. “Fantasy”? Sure, why not.

But this song? It’s my least favorite of their hits. It’s not bad, just slight.

9. Walk Away From Love – David Ruffin

Oh dearest chart, lead us not into Temptation… never mind.

David Ruffin was the glasses-wearing member of the Temptations. He joined in 1964 as a backup singer but took a sharp rise toward individual stardom when Smokey Robinson wrote “My Girl” later that year with Ruffin’s voice in mind.

In subsequent years, things took a turn for the worse with that spectacular one-two punch of drugs and ego clashes. Ruffin was fired from the group in 1968, and soon launched a solo career. “Walk Away From Love” (find a Soul Train performance here) was produced by Van McCoy of 1975’s “The Hustle” fame, and it became Ruffin’s last top 10 hit.

Ruffin and former bandmate Eddie Kendricks enjoyed a brief comeback in 1985, delivering some Motown cred to a few Hall & Oates performances, including Live Aid. The working relationship did not last long, as the continued temptation of cocaine fueled his musical and personal decline. Ruffin died of an overdose in 1991.

8. Times Of Your Life – Paul Anka

Time for something more upbeat, and this ain’t it. I don’t know this song, and I don’t really care. So instead, here are some neat facts about Paul Anka:

* He’s of Lebanese descent, like the aforementioned Casey Kasem.
* He’s Jason Bateman’s father-in-law.
* He’s received the Order of Canada. I think that means he’s allowed to share a steam room with Sir Sean Connery.
* Finally, and most importantly, he’s the inspiration and focal point of this instant classic clip from Gilmore Girls:

[youtube]A8e_uxdAxGE[/youtube]

7. Convoy – C.W. McCall (download)

“Convoy” was a Top 10 song? Believe it. In fact, it was #1 just 2 weeks earlier.

I’ve never seen the 1978 movie it inspired, so you can guess how I know this song. Yep, from The Simpsons, when Homer buys a microphone and recording unit in a lame effort to connect with Bart. Like the kid in the commercial, Homer sings the sample song “Convoy.” I can’t believe I vaguely remember this.

You can download the song above, but there’s a remix called “Pump Up the Convoy” that’s a lot more amusing.

Whatever happened to C.W. McCall, you ask? You mean you don’t know? According to this unofficial website, nothing happened to C.W. McCall, because…

C.W. McCall is not a real person. “C.W. McCall” isn’t the name of the group that recorded the music. C.W. McCall is the nom de chanteur of Bill Fries, an advertising man who created the character of C.W. McCall.

See? Explains everything. Well, not quite. C.W. McCall was a country music character created by two people. Bill Fries wrote the lyrics, and Chip Davis provided the music. I mention this because Davis went on to create another, even more famous alias: Mannheim Steamroller.

6. You Sexy Thing – Hot Chocolate

I can’t be the only one who thinks of The Full Monty (brief movie clip) when they hear this song.

[youtube]jHN6YXD6E98[/youtube]

For a one-hit wonder, they … well, Hot Chocolate was not even remotely a one-hot wonder. According to Wikipedia, they managed to have at least one hit on the UK charts every year from 1970 to 1984. Neat fact: their first claim to fame was a reggae version of “Give Peace a Chance,” which John Lennon gave permission for them to release.

Frontman Errol Brown finally went solo in 1986 but never reached the same level of success. He did, however, receive the Order of the British Empire in 2003. These days, you might find him on the tennis courts with Sir Sean Connery, and maybe Paul Anka.

And I guess it wouldn’t be a CHART ATTACK! without at least one cover version by an indie band, so here’s “You Sexy Thing” by Stereophonics.

5. I Love Music (Part 1) – O’Jays

Oh, this is all wrong. Why couldn’t it be another of their songs, like “Love Train” or “Use Ta Be My Girl” or “For the Love of Money”? And there’s certainly no opportunity for a good, tasteless O’Jays “Back Stabbers” joke.

4. Love To Love You Baby – Donna Summer

Here are a pair of performances: one with straight-up vocals, the other with slinky disco dancers. (This includes a guy in a silver and white bodysuit. You’ve been warned.)

Maybe it’s her name, but I always figured that Donna Summer songs peaked around June or July, when a healthy and racially diverse group of teenagers would play basketball and double dutch jump rope until someone would mercifully unleash the water out of a fire hydrant.

So basically, I thought Donna Summer was the Rihanna of her time, but she’s really a woman for all seasons. Or maybe all moods? With the breathy voice and the moaning, you’d think she was partaking in a little role play. She was. Donna Summer imagined herself as a Marilyn Monroe-like sex bomb when first recording the song, and then performed the special extended version while lying down on the floor of a darkened studio. Blender Magazine elaborates on the dirty details here.

While musical moaning really translates to all eras, an update couldn’t hurt. Watch “Naughty Girl”, Beyoncé Knowles’ partially covered partial cover of “Love to Love You Baby.” You might want to pay special attention to her slinking around in the world’s luckiest oversized champagne glass. (Well, it caught my special attention. I’m not made of stone, people. Jay-Z, when you gonna marry this woman?)

3. Love Rollercoaster – Ohio Players (download)

When Jason first sent me the top 10 list, this song got me the most excited. After all, how many CHART ATTACK! songs are the subject of a deadly urban legend?

There are a few variations of the story, but I’ll stick with the most popular one. The Ohio Players (who formed in Dayton back in 1959) were known not only for their music, but also their provocative album covers. (For examples, go to this discography and click each album title, starting with 1971’s Pain.)

Their 1975 album Honey started out no different. The photos featured model Ester Cordet, whose previous claim to fame was being named Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month for October 1974. (You can find her magazine bio and a safe-for-work photo here, but bear in mind your web browser is going to the Playboy site. Use your best judgment.)

As legend has it, the photo that appeared inside the album required Miss Cordet to drape herself on a plexiglass-like surface and coat herself with a clear, honey-like substance. (To see this photo and the full cover photo, navigate here.) Apparently, the warm liquid made her skin adhere to the floor, and she suffered permanently disfigured legs as a result of getting up, effectively ending her model career.

Things, shall we say, got worse when she tried to complain about it. She went to the studio where the Ohio Players were recording their Honey single “Love Rollercoaster,” likely seeking a financial settlement. Instead, the band’s manager stabbed her to death, and her scream can be heard on the recording track (click below):

Morbid, ain’t it? Like many an urban legend, it’s simply not true. Hoax-exposing website Snopes.com determined this audacious claim to be false. They quote band member and background vocalist Jimmy “Diamond” Williams, who finally cleared the air:

There’s a part in the song where there’s a breakdown. It’s guitars and it’s right before the second verse, and Billy Beck does one of those inhaling-type screeches like Minnie Riperton did to reach her high note or Mariah Carey does to go to octaves above. The DJ made this crack and it swept the country. People were asking us, “Did you kill this chick in the studio?” The band took a vow of silence because that makes you sell more records.

And sell records it did. The following week “Love Rollercoaster” went to #1.

You can hear a mysteriously robotic sounding mini-documentary about the incident and the legend here:

[youtube]LwHMfUGEOsg[/youtube]

Incidentally, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ remake of the song for the Beavis and Butt-head Do America soundtrack has a lesser claim to fame: it may have marked a slow death in the MTV cartoon’s popularity.

2. I Write The Songs – Barry Manilow

This is the greatest lie ever perpetuated by the music industry. While quite a prolific songwriter, Barry Manilow did not write this song. Let that sink in for a minute. What kind of sick freak sings a song called “I Write the Songs” that was written by someone else? As it turns out, more than one: Barry Manilow, David Cassidy and Captain & Tennille all recorded the song in 1975, penned by Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but in Barry’s defense (at least according to Songfacts), he was indeed concerned about coming across as an egomaniac, especially for a song he didn’t write, but music exec Clive Davis (as we all know) can be very persuasive. So maybe I’ll forgive him.

Watch him debut the song, and then compare it to a recent glowstick-filled Las Vegas Hilton performance. Barry bookends!

For those of you who are 1975 completists, here is the version by David Cassidy. I couldn’t find a link to the Captain & Tennille interpretation, but Jason was gracious enough to provide a download:

Captain & Tennille – I Write The Songs (download)

(I’ll never forgive you, Neel. – JH)

This song gets around. For good measure, and sheer randomness, hear it performed by Sammy Davis, Jr., Perry Como, and Japanese crooner Yuzo Kayama!

Number 2 on these charts, but still number 1 in our hearts, Mr. Manilow extended his stay at the Las Vegas Hilton at least until December 2008. As a local, I suppose I should see his show, but I just get the feeling that there’s this secret cabal of fans that control the tickets. I forgot what they’re called.

I’ll close off my mini-tribute with this classic Emmy Awards clip from Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart:

[youtube]EQDnXpSJQtA[/youtube]

1. Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) – Diana Ross

Maybe it’s the grammarian in me – someone grab the forceps and yank him out already – but I’m always a little irritated when a clearly stated question lacks the required punctuation. (While I’m sure there were other perfectly good reasons to skip that TV show What About Brian, the missing question mark was enough for me.)

[youtube]1eQKRikN9F8[/youtube]

Where was I? (See how that nicely that works?) Right, the theme from Mahogany. Ugh. I think I had to sing this in sixth-grade chorus, back when I was one of the two highest voices in the co-ed class. Don’t ask. Anyway, before it was the song of choice for sad graduation ceremonies, it was an opportunity for Diana Ross to strut her big screen stuff all Beyoncé-like, long before Beyoncé got a chance to strut her big screen stuff in Dreamgirls, all Diana Ross-like.

Interestingly, Beyoncé hasn’t recorded a cover version of the song, though Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez have.

***

So that’s January 1976, recounted 32 years later, CHART ATTACK! style. I’m sure that future guest contributors will have a more meaningful bond with music, but my steering of the Wayback Machine wasn’t so bad, was it? (Before you comment negatively, be advised: “Don’t mess with a man with a Wayback Machine. I can make it so you were never born.”)

Unbelievable job, Neel – thanks again for stepping in! Everybody, don’t forget to check out THE MOVIE OUTSIDER and “Brevity is… wit”, and see you in two weeks for another CHART ATTACK!

About the Author

Jason Hare

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

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