Howdy folks! Welcome back to another edition of CHART ATTACK! I can’t go any further without letting you know that today is the birthday of our grand poobah, Jeff Giles! Happy birthday, buddy! If you’d like to get Jeff a little something, I have it on good authority that he likes bags of poo; e-mail me privately. In the meantime, though, sit back and enjoy as we attack a pretty strong Top 10, filled with all sorts of delicious Gibbness and a couple of nice duets. It’s all part of May 20, 1978!
10. Night Fever — Bee Gees Amazon iTunes
9. Imaginary Lover — Atlanta Rhythm Section Amazon iTunes
8. Count on Me — Jefferson Starship Amazon iTunes
7. Feels So Good — Chuck Mangione Amazon iTunes
6. Shadow Dancing — Andy Gibb Amazon
5. If I Can’t Have You — Yvonne Elliman Amazon iTunes
4. You’re the One That I Want — John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John Amazon iTunes
3. Too Much, Too Little, Too Late — Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams Amazon iTunes
2. The Closer I Get to You — Roberta Flack with Donny Hathaway Amazon iTunes
1. With a Little Luck — Wings Amazon iTunes
10. Night Fever — Bee Gees
It’s kind of difficult to cover any chart from 1977 or 1978 without running into a Gibb. Here a Gibb, there a Gibb, everywhere a whiny unintelligible falsetto Gibb Gibb. But it’s hard for me to complain about it, because the majority of their songs from this period are awesome — the three Gibb-related (Gibbish?) tracks on this chart being no exception.
Take “Night Fever.” I can’t listen to “Night Fever” while I’m walking, because if I do, I start strutting down the street. I even wind up thinking I look like Tony Manero, which I don’t. I look like Tony Manero’s dwarf-albino hybrid cousin. Although all of the instrumentation is pretty much perfect (I’m betting they busted at least one wah-wah pedal in the studio), I think it’s the drums that get me struttin’ — simple, yet perfect. The drum track is similar to the one in “Stayin’ Alive,” which makes sense: drummer Dennis Byron was unavailable during the “Stayin’ Alive” sessions, so engineer Karl Richardson took a snippet of drums from “Night Fever” and looped them together to create the iconic song.
Here’s another fun little trivia fact: the Gibb influence reached #1 on the Billboard chart in one way or another from December 24, 1977 to May 13, 1978, with one exception — Player took over the charts for three weeks in February with “Baby Come Back.” Which is also awesome.
The video for “Night Fever” remained unreleased until 2004, oddly enough. Not sure why, but I have a feeling it had to do with Barry not wanting to be seen without his beard.
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Here’s a version of “Night Fever” by a group called Blackfoot Brothers, taken from a bluegrass tribute album called Saturday Night Hay Fever. (sigh) I first heard it on Coverville, which features an entire Saturday Night Fever tribute show, well worth the listen.
Blackfoot Brothers — Night Fever (download)
9. Imaginary Lover — Atlanta Rhythm Section
I had so much to say about “Night Fever,” didn’t I? And now I have very little to say about “Imaginary Lover.” It’s been suggested as a track for Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold, but I’m just so incredibly bored by it. I’m even bored by the extensive, extensive, extensive history of Atlanta Rhythm Section on Wikipedia. I can’t get through it, and you can’t make me. I will, however, be happy to lead you to this page, where you can read the lyrics to “Imaginary Lover” and hear a MIDI version of the song. Remember when there were so many webpages that included MIDI versions of songs, because mp3s hadn’t yet made their way to the Internet? I’m so happy that this page is still up. I love you, Angelfire.com.
Now, don’t get me wrong — these lyrics totally fall into Mellow Gold category. The guy’s rhapsodizing about how wonderful it is to have an imaginary lover, because they “never turn you down,” “never disagree,” and “they’re always there when you need satisfaction guaranteed.” I have just taken a Sharpie and written “Imaginary Lover” on my left hand. (Note: this joke was kind of obvious, so just to switch things up, I made the joke about my left hand instead of my right.)
Here’s the video for “Imaginary Lover.” It’s kind of awesome for a few reasons.
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First, it opens with a shot of a bunch of tushies (:15 for you people with imaginary lovers out there). Then the lead singer is wearing a shirt with the number “69” on it, and don’t you dare tell me that was unintentional. Check out the long hair/facial hair/sunglasses on these guys. Perfect. Then there are all these shots of half-naked pinup girls, as if we couldn’t figure out that the dude was talking about masturbating. Jesus Christ. And after that, well…okay, I stopped the video at 2:40. I just can’t get through this goddamn song! BORING.
(Although now that I look back, I guess I could have written a Mellow Gold piece on this song. Oh well.)
8. Count on Me — Jefferson Starship
Okay, but seriously: now I really don’t have anything to say. I don’t know how this happened, but I kind of missed the whole Jefferson Starship thing. I know Jefferson Airplane. You can sure as hell bet I know Starship. But Jefferson Starship? It just kind of flew past my radar. I was reminded of them recently when our good buddy Matt at Addicted to Vinyl set up a Cage Match between them and Joe Walsh. (Did I mention that Matt totally digs “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”?) He posted their song “Jane,” which is actually a pretty awesome song, but it represents the group after Mickey Thomas joined and the band went in a heavier rock direction. “Count on Me” is really kind of wussy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s somewhat pretty, but the choruses are kind of awash in muddy vocals. I never would have guessed that it made the Top 10.
Wanna hear a truly awful version of this song? Check out this live performance from 2007. Marty Balin sounds terrible. And check out Paul Kantner at 2:03 – the look on his face says it all. “What am I doing here? Why can’t I kill Marty? I can’t wait until this new boat is paid off.”
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7. Feels So Good — Chuck Mangione
I have a lot I want to say about “Feels So Good,” but I’m going to be a dick and hold off, because I want to save it for a Mellow Gold entry. In return, I promise I’ll get it done within the next month, and if I don’t, you can send me all the hate mail you like.
6. Shadow Dancing — Andy Gibb
One day, when I really get back into the swing of writing, I will create a new webpage entitled Oh, How I Hate You, Andy Gibb. I’ve talked about this so many times (I even covered “Shadow Dancing” in a July post), so apologies if you’ve read it before, but if you’re new to this series, here’s my beef: I generally dislike him because I can’t differentiate anything successful he did from a Bee Gees song, which makes sense because most of them were produced and/or written by Barry, and I get angry every time I think about how he took the gifts that Barry gave him and essentially chucked ’em out the window.
Which makes today’s entry a problem for me. Because I love “Shadow Dancing,” and — I’m sure you’re not surprised here — I love it without a trace of irony. I think it’s a fantastic song. And Andy actually had a hand in writing it as well. It’s the first song to feature a true collaboration between the four Gibb brothers. As I mentioned before, when the song reached #1, Andy became the first solo artist to have his first three singles hit the top spot — the other two being “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” (which I like) and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” (which can go straight to hell).
I watched a lot of clips of “Shadow Dancing” to prepare for this post, and didn’t want to repeat the clip I posted in July. I’m still conflicted on which ones you should watch, but I like this one, taken from a “Celebrity Fun Cruise” in 1983. In 1983, Andy Gibb could have damn well been stoned to death for performing a disco song like “Shadow Dancing.” Check out the :25 mark. This guy’s trying to sell this song, and though the crowd initially applauds, at this point, not a single person is into it. They’re just dead. You gotta feel for Andy. I think I understand the drug thing now.
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5. If I Can’t Have You — Yvonne Elliman
…and so we continue our week of GIBB DOMINATION! When the Bee Gees began writing the songs for their next album — the album that would become the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack — they began with four dance songs, “If I Can’t Have You” being the first. The group originally intended to give “How Deep is Your Love” to Elliman, who had reached #16 in ’74 (#14 in ’76, thanks JB for the correction!) with her cover of the group’s song “Love Me.” Robert Stigwood (SNF svengali) insisted that the Bee Gees record the ballad themselves (good choice, although I bet Elliman would’ve sung the hell out of it too), so the group gave her “If I Can’t Have You” instead. When it topped the charts, it became the fourth #1 from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the fourth consecutive #1 written by Barry Gibb, and the sixth consecutive #1 for RSO Records. That’s four records shattered, three if you know how to do math correctly. BAM! What did I tell you? Gibb domination, baby! The Bee Gees’ version of this song was initially released as the B-side to “Stayin’ Alive,” and was eventually included on one of their hits compliations. Here ’tis:
Bee Gees — If I Can’t Have You (download)
Although clearly her biggest hit, Elliman was a successful artist in her own right before “If I Can’t Have You.” She was the original Mary Magdalene on the Jesus Christ Superstar record, and went on to perform the role in the film as well as on Broadway. Her version of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” reached #28 on the charts in 1971. Additionally, she covered “Hello Stranger” by Barbara Lewis, which reached #15 and topped the AC charts, and performed as backing vocalist for Eric Clapton on “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Lay Down Sally.” I think she slept with him too.
I love this clip from Top of the Pops. Try not to smile when she does. She’s beautiful and it’s infectious.
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4. You’re the One That I Want — John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
I’ve been wondering what I could possibly say about this song. I can’t really rip on it, because I saw Grease when I was a kid and loved the whole thing, and thought this song was absolutely perfect for the movie. (I despise the fact that they inserted it into the musical when it was revived in 2007.) And John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had great chemistry (evidenced in this live clip from a few years ago). So really no complaints about this song. And I just noticed that the lead instrument on this song is the bass; that’s one of the most active bass lines I’ve ever heard, actually. Man, there has to be something I can share with you guys about this song that you haven’t heard before.
Oh man! I found it! You’re not going to be able to sleep tonight after watching this! Ha ha ha!
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3. Too Much, Too Little, Too Late — Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams
So this is pretty much the way it went down: Johnny Mathis had experienced huge success in the music business. His greatest hits compilation, brilliantly titled Johnny’s Greatest Hits, wasÁ‚ supposedly the first greatest hits compilation to be released, like, ever, and stayed on the Billboard charts for 490 weeks (a record he held until Dark Side of the Moon), but he hadn’t had a Top 10 single since 1963. So Mathis decided he’d try to go the R&B route, and to do so, he enlisted Deniece Williams (who is loved by many but hated by my spell-checker) to record a duet with him. Williams had only had one prior hit, but Mathis’ producer knew of her excellent session work as a backing vocalist, as well as her work in Stevie Wonder’s Wonderland band. After the song hit #1, the duo raced to the studio to record an entire album of duets — which didn’t really do that well. The duo did re-team in the ’80s, however, to cover “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” and to record “Without Us,” aka the theme song from Family Ties.
As for the song itself, it’s well-done and nice enough, and Williams has impressive chops, hitting some ridiculous notes that we’d hear again later on “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” but when placed next to the duet we’re about to cover at #2, it’s a bit less impressive. Sorry, guys.
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2. The Closer I Get to You — Roberta Flack with Donny Hathaway (download)
I mean, really. How can you beat the pure, soulful, beautiful voices of these two? We covered Flack’s brilliant “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” a couple of weeks ago, and just like that song, I could listen to this one over and over again for hours. I’m sort of appalled this song didn’t make it to #1, actually.
Hathaway and Flack had a special relationship: they were classmates at Howard University and labelmates as well. They recorded an album of duets in 1972, which most notably featured the song “Where Is the Love,” a #5 hit. Hathaway’s problem with depression separated the duo for the majority of the ’70s, and they didn’t record together again until this single. After this song’s success, the duo headed into the studio for a second album, but never completed it, due to Hathaway’s suicide in January 1979. Flack finished the album on her own, and included the two songs that she had completed with Hathaway.
If you don’t have this song, download it — it’s wonderful. And although he’s not Hathaway, Peabo Bryson does a great job on this version from the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary celebration in 1988. Also, his name is Peabo, so you really can’t go wrong.
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1. With a Little Luck — Wings
Given all the awesome Gibb-ness on this chart, I have to admit I’m somewhat shocked that “With a Little Luck” made it to #1. I don’t think it’s a bad song, I just don’t consider it to be the best of the Wings material, and it has some pretty stiff competition on this Top 10. Still, the song topped the charts for two weeks, and ended RSO Records’ streak of #1 hits, which they had held since Christmas. (“Baby Come Back” was on RSO Records as well.) It probably also caused John Lennon to wonder, yet again, how Macca was so successful with this cheesy stuff — especially since those backing vocals at the end sound kind of Beatle-y. (I know it’s impossible, but I swear I hear Lennon on there.)
“With a Little Luck” was recorded in a 24-track studio that was installed on a yacht in the Virgin Islands, where McCartney had taken the band to record their next album. The band spent a month there, but completed the album back at Abbey Road in London. By the time of the release of London Town, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English had left the band. Which leads me to wonder: isn’t it a totally douchebag move to quit your job right after your boss gives you a full month of work on a yacht in the Virgin Islands?
If you have the Wingspan greatest hits album, you’ll notice that the version of “With a Little Luck” is the “DJ Edit.” Be thankful. The full version, clocking at 6 minutes, is almost twice as long as the edit, and really doesn’t bring anything to the table, other than an extended instrumental break featuring lots of synthesizer. It’s relatively unnecessary since the majority of the song is dominated by the synth anyway. Still, I think the song is pretty enough and it does include the phrase “inclement weather,” and I’m generally impressed if someone can fit the word “inclement” into their song without it sounding awkward. Nice job, Paul!
The video’s not that exciting, but hey, I’ve been including YouTube links all over the place, so I might as well throw in one more.
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And that brings us to the end of another edition of CHART ATTACK! I had a lot of fun listening to this Top 10 (except for stupid “Imaginary Lover” and maybe “Count on Me”) and hope you enjoyed reading. Don’t forget to wish Jeff a happy birthday, and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks!