Hi everyone, and welcome back to another edition of CHART ATTACK! This was a fun week to cover. And although we won’t be doing any of these songs, I still encourage you to be wild and come check out ACOUSTIC ’80s in NYC tonight — it’ll be a fun time, and we encourage you to throw things at us if you don’t have fun.
So as I present this week’s Top 10, here’s something to think about: what do songs 10, 4 and 3 all have in common? You’ll find the answer in this week’s Attack, where we tackle April 5, 1980!
10. How Do I Make You – Linda Ronstadt Amazon iTunes
9. Desire – Andy Gibb Amazon iTunes
8. Special Lady – Ray, Goodman & Brown Amazon iTunes
7. Ride Like The Wind – Christopher Cross Amazon iTunes
6. Him – Rupert Holmes Amazon iTunes
5. Too Hot – Kool & The Gang Amazon iTunes
4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen Amazon iTunes
3. Call Me – Blondie Amazon iTunes
2. Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me, Girl – Spinners Amazon iTunes
1. Another Brick In The Wall Part II – Pink Floyd Amazon iTunes
10. How Do I Make You – Linda Ronstadt
Okay, which one of you pissed off Linda Ronstadt? Because it seems like it was only a few years ago that she was singing “Blue Bayou” and “It’s So Easy,” and now she’s all new wave-y and punky and Pat Benatar-y and … someone’s going to pay.
Actually, I guess we’ll lay the blame on Billy Steinberg. Yes, I know — how many times are we going to talk about this guy and Tom Kelly, the hitmakers behind so many staples of CHART ATTACK!? Steinberg had previously recorded “How Do I Make You” with his own band, Billy Thermal. (I don’t have this album, but I bet one of our readers, Maxus, does.) Ronstadt heard the Billy Thermal album (how??) and asked to record the song. Steinberg was not yet the hit machine he’d be in the later part of the ’80s, so this was certainly his big breakthrough. I suppose we can then thank Ronstadt for “Like a Virgin,” “Eternal Flame,” and “Fuck tha Police.” (That last one is completely false.)
Steinberg’s next success? Writing for Pat Benatar. Makes sense, no?
9. Desire – Andy Gibb (download)
I’ve gotten shit in the past from you guys for picking on Andy Gibb. I’m ready to take it again. I repeat my earlier statement: screw Andy Gibb. I have yet to hear an Andy Gibb song that shouldn’t have been attributed to the Bee Gees. This one may be the guiltiest culprit of the bunch: “Desire” was actually recorded in 1978 for inclusion on the Bee Gees’ Spirits Having Flown album. Barry sang lead. However, the song didn’t make it on the record, and in ’79, Andy recorded a lead vocal over the exact same track. Released on his After Dark album, the track was publicized as the first track featuring all four Gibb brothers. So you see why I say “screw Andy Gibb,” right? I can’t think of a single of his that ever distanced himself from his brothers. It just seems lazy to me: he used their success to ride to the top, then squandered it away. I’m not saying he wasn’t talented. I’m just saying he could have done better. In any case, “Desire” reached #4 on the chart, and was Gibb’s last single to reach the Top 10. Feel free to download if you’re a fan of Gibb backing vocals, specifically their “whimpering phase.”
8. Special Lady – Ray, Goodman & Brown
So here are a bunch of dudes exclaiming that the female in question is not only a “special lady,” but also “a very exciting girl.” I’ve never heard anybody describe someone as “exciting” with, well, less excitement than these putzes.
I apologize for calling them putzes. That’s not fair. The trio of Ray, Goodman & Brown have had their share of success, although most of it happened under their previous name, The Moments (changed for legal reasons). “Special Lady” reached #5, which was their most successful pop hit since 1970’s “Love on a Two Way Street,”which hit #3. In 1992, member Harry Ray died, and was replaced by Luther Vandross backing vocalist Kevin Owens … who was given the nickname “Ray.” (Shakes head.)
Let’s give it up for these guys. Great vocals, great mustaches.
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7. Ride Like the Wind – Christopher Cross
I devoted the entirety of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold #33 to this fantastic song, and between mentions of Cross, McDonald, Kim Carnes, and a special appearance by my patented Budweiser ferret, I just have nothing more to say about the song. Go check out that entry if you haven’t before, and as a reward, all three versions of “Ride Like The Wind” are back up for download. Lucky you!
6. Him – Rupert Holmes
I was all set to talk about “Him,” and not just about how I think “Him” is a really awkward name for a hit single, and then I realized: this one is ripe for Mellow Gold-type snarkiness. So I’m going to hold off for the moment, and instead direct you towards this video, where Rupert plays a piano that’s not present on the recording to which they’re miming, the guitarist is really, really eager to rock the fuck out, and nearly everybody’s wearing glasses too big for their faces.
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5. Too Hot – Kool & The Gang (download)
I love “Too Hot.” Here’s why.
1) It’s smooth. I am a sucker for the velvety voice of James “JT” “Not the white one” Taylor, not to mention his shining Afro and his pencil-thin mustache. And you can’t beat that bassline.
2) It’s deceptive. Well, okay, maybe only to me. I’d never listened to anything but the chorus before this week, and therefore, I was convinced that JT, when mentioning the words “too hot,” was actually talking about his lady. I figured this song was nothing more than the kind of sexin’ up you’d expect from JT. But in listening to the rest of the lyrics, JT is actually describing the state of their relationship, and it’s not a good thing: they’re high-school sweethearts who got married and are now at the end of their relationship. It’s a freakin’ breakup song! I had no idea. You got me, JT. Not just you, but the whole Gang. You all got me.
3) It’s not “Cherish.”
4) It’s Pre-Muzak-ed. Those keyboards. The guitar riffs, spaced an octave apart. The sax solo. All you have to do is strip the vocal from the mix, and you’ve got a song that’s perfectly ready for the shoe store, your local grocery chain, or the elevator. I feel bad for the Muzak session musicians who missed out on a paycheck because of this one.
5) This live video. There are so many reasons why this video is fantastic. First of all, I now realize that Kool & The Gang has at least three Gang members too many, but I don’t care. These guys are dancing, rubbing their hands over their chests, and generally working with only one motivation in mind: get laid. And it’s totally working. Check out the “backstroke” move at 2:00. JT is in prime sexin’ form throughout. Oh, and I love the breakdown at the end. You can see a guy in the back of the audience looking around (in my mind, he’s searching for the exit), and at the very end, the two trumpet players try to kill JT — but he ducks out of the way! It’s brilliant.
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4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
This single comes from Queen’s 1980 album The Game. One of the things I love about this album is that none of the four singles released in the U.S. sound anything like each other: “Need Your Loving Tonight” is a straight-ahead rock song, “Another One Bites the Dust” is funk, “Play The Game” is a ballad, and of course, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is rockabilly. This song was supposedly written by Freddie Mercury on the guitar while in the bathtub, a claim I find dubious. Not because I think it’s unlikely Mercury would bring a guitar into the bathtub — I think it’s been proven that he would have brought anything into a bathtub (zing!) — but because I’m almost positive the man didn’t have the skill to play a Bb chord.
Freddie brought the song into the studio, and together with drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon, recorded the song for inclusion on The Game. Brian May showed up just in time to add a few backing vocals, that Bb chord (presumably), and a solo using a Fender Telecaster — one of the few Queen singles that doesn’t feature his trademark Red Special guitar. “Crazy” was released before The Game was even completed, and became Queen’s first #1 single in the States.
In live performances, May used three guitars. He’d start off with an acoustic (as would Freddie, until he switched to a Telecaster in ’85), move to the Telecaster for the solo, then switch to the Red Special for the outro. Mercury would remove the guitar by the middle of the song, which was a good thing: pity the poor youngster who watched his awful strumming technique and thought this was the correct way to play guitar. I’m pretty sure Mercury just transferred his hand-job technique to the six-string. At least he knew he couldn’t play it.
Here’s a performance from 1986. Nice dedication, Freddie!
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3. Call Me – Blondie
So have you figured out what “How Do I Make You,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Call Me” all have in common? Here’s the answer: they’re all featured songs on this 1980 release:
Alvin, the apathetic one!
Simon, the shifty one!
Theodore, the…what the hell does he represent?
I know that the comments section is now going to be 95% devoted to The Chipmunks, so I guess I’ll ask the experts this question: what the hell was “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” doing on there?
Actually, Chipmunk Punk was the first Chipmunks album in 11 years, and it’s all because of “Call Me.” Los Angeles DJ Chuck Taylor played the 12″ version of “Call Me” at double speed, and told listeners it was a Chipmunks cover. People began calling the radio station and requesting the “Chipmunks” version, and the Chipmunks jumped at the opportunity. Okay, enough about the Chipmunks. (Jason Lee, how could you??)
“Call Me” was a co-write by Debbie Harry and Giorgio Moroder, who was looking for a theme song to American Gigolo and had been turned down by that bitch Stevie Nicks. I find this extremely amusing, as the first few lines of the verse of “Call Me” follow the same melody as “Rhiannon.” Anyway, Moroder composed the music, Harry wrote the lyrics, and the band put it all together. The song was a massive success for Blondie: it was not only their biggest-selling record, but also the Billboard top single of 1980. It even spawned a Spanish-language version, “LlÁƒ¡mame.” Suck it, Nicks!
2. Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me, Girl – Spinners (download)
The Spinners recorded three medleys in the early ’80s, this being the first and the best of the bunch, as evidenced by their climb to #2. A further effort, “Cupid/I’ve Loved You For a Long Time” reached #4, but their third attempt, “I’m Not Even Going To Bother Looking Up The Title/Because They Jumped The Shark,” stalled at #52. Still, the Spinners amassed an impressive 17 Top 40 hits between 1961 and 1984, and although The Four Seasons recorded it first (and reached #9 in 1966), I’ll always consider the 1980 medley as the definitive version. That seems like sacrilege, I know, but I just love the joy that pours out of this one … and it certainly doesn’t sound like 1980.
1. Another Brick In The Wall, Part II – Pink Floyd
The book Hit Men opens with a great story about Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II.” (The book is a compelling read for anybody interested in the underbelly of the music business; highly recommended.) The long and short of it is that the song proved that it was practically impossible to break a song on radio without the aid of independent promoters. At the time of the single’s release, The Wall had reached #1 on the US charts (and would remain there for nearly 4 months). “Another Brick” went to #1 in most areas of the country, and Pink Floyd geared up for a tour that would take the group to only two cities in the country: New York and Los Angeles.
Dick Asher, deputy president at CBS Records, hated that independent promoters were necessary to get a single on the radio, and decided to experiment with Pink Floyd’s latest release. Given that the song was being played on 80% of the country’s stations, and the town was abuzz with anticipation from the band’s upcoming visit, Asher quietly instructed the band’s Columbia label not to employ any indie promoters in L.A. He figured at least one station would give in to public demand and play the song, and the other major stations would follow.
Instead, the four major stations in L.A. absolutely refused to play the song. When Pink Floyd came to town and their manager didn’t hear their song on the radio, he demanded answers. Someone spilled the beans on Asher’s secret plans, and their manager insisted they hire the independent promoters. They were hired the morning after one of the L.A. concert dates, and the song was on three out of four of the stations by that afternoon. The indie promoters had won.
Fascinating, right? I’m telling you — go get Hit Men! There are tons of stories like this one. And maybe it’s just me, but I personally think this story beats out anything else I could have told you about “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II.”
And that brings us to the close of another week of CHART ATTACK! Thanks for reading, and catch you back here again soon!