Happy Friday, everybody! Here’s one thing we can say about this week’s Billboard Top 10: everybody wanted to boogie. That’s right: we’re going back to those somewhat awful days of disco (although, sadly, no Bee Gees) as we attack May 5, 1979!
10. He’s The Greatest Dancer – Sister Sledge Amazon iTunes
9. Take Me Home – Cher Amazon iTunes
8. Goodnight Tonight – Wings Amazon
7. I Want Your Love – Chic Amazon iTunes
6. In The Navy – Village People Amazon
5. Stumblin’ In – Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman Amazon
4. Knock On Wood – Amii Stewart Amazon
3. Music Box Dancer – Frank Mills Amazon iTunes
2. Heart Of Glass – Blondie Amazon iTunes
1. Reunited – Peaches & Herb Amazon iTunes
10. He’s The Greatest Dancer – Sister Sledge
Welcome to Chic Week here on Chart Attack! You’d be forgiven if you mistook "He’s The Greatest Dancer" for a Chic song, because, well, it is a Chic song. You’d also be forgiven for thinking it was a Will Smith song. An entire generation of people – myself included – will always hear this and pretty much only think of "Gettin’ Jiggy With It."
In 1975, Sister Sledge had a moderate hit (#31 on the R&B Chart) with "Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me." However, further successes proved hard to come by, and the band (four sisters, and yes, Sledge is their last name) decided perhaps it was time to break up. Enter the unbelievably funktastic team of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who agreed to produce the album that would become We Are Family. At the time, Chic was preparing to record their own album, C’est Chic, which was to include "He’s The Greatest Dancer." Similarly, Sister Sledge were slated to record "I Want Your Love." Edwards and Rodgers traded the songs, and both wound up with hits. "He’s The Greatest Dancer" hit #1 on the R&B chart, and peaked at #9 on the Hot 100; but more importantly, it paved the way for "We Are Family," easily their biggest and most recognizable hit.
Sisters are dancin’ it for themselves (groan!):[youtube]7LUie81E82k[/youtube]
9. Take Me Home – Cher
In the late ’70s, everybody was hoppin’ aboard the disco train – some more shamelessly than others. This is hardly the most shameless example, but it’s a pretty blatant attempt to just go with what was working at the time. It’s almost as if the song’s writers made a bet to see how many disco clichés they could possibly fit into one song. You’ve got your hyperactive strings arpeggiating (is that a word?), your powerful bassline, and of course, where would we be without the wakka-chikka-wakka guitar?
Speaking of guitar, that’s Steve Lukather playing it. Well, at least I’m assuming it is. But check out the session notes for the album in general: you’ve got Lukather, Jay Graydon (!), Harold Faltermeyer (!!), David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, Paul Shaffer, Luther Vandross and Mr. Ed! Oh, wait, sorry. That last one is actually Cher.
According to the Wiki, this was Cher’s first Top 10 since ’74, and "ironically, it would be her last for almost another decade, until ‘I Found Someone’ in 1987." Um, is it just me, or is there actually no irony there? Replace the word "ironically" with "proving that most of the time, the record-buying public knows better," and I’m down with it.
And on another note, we couldn’t do any better than this cover?
8. Goodnight Tonight – Wings
The boogie of 1979 continues! Here, we have Paul McCartney’s attempt at creating a dance song without selling out completely to disco like stupid Cher. Here’s what "Goodnight Tonight" has going for it: a strong, funky bassline that carries most of the song, and an extremely catchy chorus. However, it falls far short everywhere else. The song just can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. There’s a little Beatles in there, a little Steve Miller, and a terrible (terrible!) "breakdown" at around the 3:00 mark. Why, Macca, why?
7. I Want Your Love – Chic
So, as we mentioned above, Chic wound up using this song for themselves, although it was originally slated for their project with Sister Sledge. Despite Nile Rodgers being a genius musician and producer and Bernard Edwards being one of the greatest bassists ever, this band clearly had a formula and were shameless about their reliance on that formula. I’m not going to do another mashup, but clearly you could mix "I Want Your Love" with "He’s The Greatest Dancer" with "Good Times" and…you get the point. This song loses points for the doorbell that echoes the vocal in the chorus, but I could listen to Edwards play bass all day – even if I’m stuck listening to inane lyrics like "I want your love, I need your love/Just like the birds need sky above/I’ll share my dreams and make you see/How really bad your love I need."
6. In The Navy – Village People
"They want you! They want you! They want you as a new recruit!"
Um, actually, no, Village People. They don’t want you. I mean, they want you, but if you could maybe minus out the homosexual part, that’d be just great. Oh, I love the fact that the Navy was actually supportive of this song. They wanted to use the song as a promotional tool. Henri Belolo, one of the svengalis behind the group, agreed to give the song to the Navy free of charge, provided that the Navy help facilitate a
navel naval-themed music video. The Navy got right behind supported the idea all the way, providing the Village People with various ships and a plethora of hunky Navy men as extras – all on the San Diego Naval Base. Of course, all these free services on government property meant that taxpayers were essentially paying for the Indian to strut around in front of our hard diligent servicemen. Enough complaints were lodged after the video made it to air that the Navy had gay sex canceled their promotion altogether. I believe the official word was that the Navy shouldn’t be associating themselves with music groups, although I’m pretty sure the complaint was actually about another aspect.
Check out the video. Sadly, there’s only one brief moment involving any extras. I can’t stop laughing, thinking about those poor Navy boys having to stand there and watch the Village People prance in front of them.[youtube]2e8oWKMnKU8[/youtube]
Does anybody have the cover of "In The Navy" by Pink Lady, called "Pink Typhoon," where the chorus is changed to "Pink-a-lady?" I’m dying to hear it. (I heart Pink Lady.)
5. Stumblin’ In – Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman
Wow, this song sucks.
(I kind of want to just leave it at that. But I won’t.)
"Stumblin’ In" is one of the most loveless, uninspired duets ever. These two d-bags can’t even bother to harmonize with each other – they just sing the same vocal line, an octave apart. The song starts with the chorus, leading off with the line "our love is alive," sounding like they’re reading off of cue cards. I barely know anything about either of these people and really can’t be bothered to research them. So here’s what I know, very briefly:
Suzi Quatro: Played "Leather Tuscadero" on Happy Days. Was always next to "Queen" in the record bin. That’s the only reason I know her.
Chris Norman: Lead singer of Smokie, a British glam-rock band that I’ve never heard of. Sounds to me like he was called in because Mellencamp wasn’t available.
The video on YouTube is just about as lame as the record itself. Maybe lamer.[youtube]pYgTAyIkpyg[/youtube]
4. Knock On Wood – Amii Stewart
Finally, we get to something good on this Chart Attack! – and how sad is this: out of 10 songs, "Knock On Wood" is the one with the biggest balls. But here’s the thing: I can’t be the only one here who didn’t know this was a cover, right? Right?? This is simply the only version of "Knock On Wood" that I’ve ever known. But to my credit, when I first heard the amazing main riff, I immediately thought that someone should either do a hard rock or soul cover of it. So at least my instincts were on the money, right? Right??
Did everybody leave?
Anyway, so yes, "Knock On Wood" is a disco cover of a song originally released by Eddie Floyd in 1967, co-written by Floyd and Steve Cropper (giving me yet another reason to be in awe of Cropper). And when I found the list of artists who have covered it, I felt even dumber. It’s been covered by tons of artists, including (deep breath) Wilson Pickett, David Bowie, Otis Redding, Ike and Tina, Eric Clapton, Michael Bolton, Justine Bateman, Buddy Guy, and oh, who else might have covered it?
(By the way, Stewart’s version of "Knock On Wood" was #1 for only one week in 1979, but it displaced "What A Fool Believes" from the top. I don’t know what to think.)
So when you look at the artists that have performed this song (and I’ve now listened to about five different ones), Stewart’s comes up way short – and it’s sad that it was the highest-charting (and clearly most recognizable) of all versions.
There are tons of videos of "Knock On Wood" on YouTube. I’m trying not to be a YouTube whore this week (clearly I’m failing), so I’ll just link to ones I like: Buddy Guy’s performance, Amii Stewart’s "live" performance (the girl can dance!), and – my favorite – Stewart’s version set to a Wonder Woman compilation. (I heart Lynda Carter.)
3. Music Box Dancer – Frank Mills (download)
I never had this kind of conversation with my classical piano teacher when I was a kid, but I imagine had I ever asked her if she was familiar with "popular music," this song would have been her only answer.
I’ll give $5 out of Kurt’s wallet to the person who can explain this song’s success to me. Like many of you, I’ve heard "Music Box Dancer" before – from, well, a music box (duh), or an ice cream truck. I’m not saying that the song isn’t pretty. But if you step back and look at the other 9 songs on this list – mostly dance songs – the fact that this not only was a popular song but a #3 hit is just perplexing. I mean, it’s an instrumental, it’s drowning in a tepid drum beat and lame strings, and – perhaps the worst part – it’s just the same 50-second part, three times in a row! What gives, America? I’m not taking the blame here – I was only 2 years old. The rest of you – you have some explaining to do. Come on, one of you must have bought it. ‘Fess up!
Frank Mills is a Canadian
piano pianist and musician who was a member of a group called The Bells in the late ’60s and early ’70s. (Their hit, "Stay Awhile," is about as familiar to me as the original version of "Knock On Wood.") As a solo artist, he found limited success (one single, "Love Me, Love Me Love" hit #46), and was dropped by his record label. Mills decided to record "Music Box Dancer" in ’74 on his own (ooh, indie!). Inexplicably, an exec at Polydor heard the song a full five years later, and decided it could be a hit. He was right. I don’t understand anything anymore. But I have a hankering for some Rocky Road right about now.
2. Heart Of Glass – Blondie (download)
I was never a huge Blondie fan, nor was I ever more than casually interested in the new wave/punk movement; therefore, I can listen to "Heart Of Glass" and simply think that it’s a really enjoyable song, rather than being influenced by the controversy surrounding it at the time. In a nutshell, "Heart Of Glass" was considered to be the moment that Blondie "sold out," catering to pop culture’s disco obsession and leaving behind the sound that defined them in the first place. "Heart Of Glass" began life as "Once I Had A Love," a laid-back reggae tune that the band recorded in 1975.
Blondie – Once I Had A Love (’75) (download)
Good luck getting all the way through this one!
The band performed the song live on a regular basis, and in 1978, sped up the tempo and added a touch of disco, hence the new title:
Blondie – Once I Had A Love (AKA The Disco Song) (download)
As you can hear, the 1978 version is much closer in form and style to the version that was eventually released. The final "Heart Of Glass" was supposedly inspired by both "Stayin’ Alive" and Kraftwerk, and was molded into a full disco number by producer Mike Chapman. (Hey, he produced Suzi Quatro…oh, nevermind, nobody cares.) It was Blondie’s first US hit (and a #1 at that), and earned them a Grammy for Best Disco Recording. Eat it….uh…everybody else in this Top 10!
Apart from being a great disco/rock song (yes, it’s both), I just think Debbie Harry is incredibly sexy when she sings this. You probably know the iconic video, but here’s a lip-synced performance from the same time period that’s a lot of fun. Here’s Blondie performing the song in 2004 for Sessions @ AOL. I don’t care much for Harry’s performance, but I love the arrangement, and I think drummer Clem Burke just gets better with age. (Check out around 4:40 – I like pretending this is what Keith Moon would have sounded like in the 21st century.)
Did you guys know that Debbie Harry was Jefito’s mom’s babysitter? It’s true. Mention Blondie to him anytime and he’ll tell you. Repeatedly. He’s like Rain Man without the toothpicks.
1. Reunited – Peaches & Herb
Okay, let me see if I can get this straight: "Herb" has always been Herb, but "Peaches" has actually been a role filled by five different women over the years. By the time "Reunited" became a hit, Herb Fame (no, that’s not his real last name) was on Peaches #3, Linda Greene. Greene had replaced Marlene Mack, who was really only a touring stand-in for the original Peaches, Francine Barker, who actually grew up with the nickname "Peaches." All "Peaches" were selected with the assistance of Van McCoy, renowned record producer and the man behind the song "The Hustle." Everybody got that? Anybody care?
Peaches & Herb had a number of R&B successes in their career between 1965 and 1970; however, Herb quit the business and joined the police department, holding down a job until 1976 when he decided to get back into the business. I guess Herb really wanted people to know that the band was back together, as their next was "We’re Still Together." It was followed by such hits as "I Used To Work For The Police" and "Please Give A Warm Welcome To Peaches #3."
In 1978, the duo had their biggest hit to date: "Shake Your Groove Thing," a direct result of signing with Polydor (you have to wonder: was it the same exec as the one behind fucking "Music Box Dancer"?) and working with Freddie Perren, who co-produced many early Jackson 5 hits (as part of The Corporation) and also wrote "I Will Survive." Perren penned "Reunited," which was, to say the least, an unlikely follow-up to "Shake Your Groove Thing." Polydor was opposed to releasing a ballad after their dance hit, but "Reunited" surprised them all: it topped both pop and R&B charts for a full month.
Peaches & Herb disbanded once again in 1983, only to resurface in 1990 with Peaches #4. Herb didn’t give up his police job this time, though, which was probably a smart move; their hitmaking days were over. Check out this clip of "Reunited" from American Bandstand, and forget about the Pablo Cruise t-shirt; someone get me Herb’s suit.
And that brings us to the end of another week of Billboard-y goodness! Have a fantastic weekend, and see you next week for another CHART ATTACK!