‘Sup, everybody? Happy Friday! This week in Billboard history brings us a bunch of Mellow Gold, a bunch of disco, and two oddballs smack in the middle. Let’s take a look at June 30, 1979!
10. You Take My Breath Away — Rex Smith Amazon
9. Just When I Needed You Most — Randy Vanwarmer Amazon
8. Boogie Wonderland — Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions Amazon
7. She Believes In Me — Kenny Rogers Amazon
6. The Logical Song — Supertramp Amazon
5. Chuck E.’s In Love — Rickie Lee Jones Amazon
4. We Are Family — Sister Sledge Amazon
3. Bad Girls — Donna Summer Amazon
2. Hot Stuff — Donna Summer Amazon
1. Ring My Bell — Anita Ward Amazon
10. You Take My Breath Away — Rex Smith (download)
Oh, this is just a fine start to the week, isn’t it? Let’s open with some mellow gold from some guy who desperately wants to be Barry Manilow!Looking over the highlights of Rex Smith’s illustrious career, apparently I may be the only one who has never heard of him. The guy played Danny in the original Broadway production of Grease! He was a regular on As The World Turns and has been featured in many television shows and Broadway productions! He runs the Times-Union in Albany! (Okay, maybe that’s not him. How many Rex Smiths are there, anyway? Why is there more than one?) In 2000, he released his album entitled Simply … Rex, but apparently it didn’t sell, so they re-released it in 2006 under the name — you guessed it — You Take My Breath Away. Well, at least he’s not desperate or anything.
This song irritates the hell out of me: the unnecessary vibrato, his incessant use of diphthongs, and more than anything else, the fact that he utters the phrase “you take my breath away” sixteen times in just over three minutes. That’s unacceptable, Rex.
9. Just When I Needed You Most — Randy Vanwarmer
Mr. Vanwarmer got his due from me back in Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold #11. As I said back then, this is what Timothy B. Schmit would sound like if somebody cut off his other nut. I can’t really improve on what I wrote back then, but what I can do is include a YouTube video that hadn’t seen the light of day at the time of my original post. It’s Napoleon Dynamite in the flesh, everybody!
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I love you, Randy Vanwarmer. I love the fact that we gave you a hit single and television airtime without the slightest hint of irony. We can’t do that anymore. And you can imagine the geeks in high school who saw this video and thought, “it could happen to me!”? It’s a great thing you’ve done, Randy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a suitcase that is just aching for a dance partner.
8. Boogie Wonderland — Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions (download)
Who doesn’t love “Boogie Wonderland”? The joy exuding from this song is contagious, and I always feel sorry for the people around me when it comes on my iPod and I start to shake my butt. This song continued the highly successful collaboration between EWF and The Emotions, as bandleader Maurice White had produced and written, among other songs, the massive hit “Best Of My Love.” The single won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance, which is slightly odd since the song isn’t an instrumental. (That being said, the only words I can remember from this song are “dance,” “boogie,” and “wonderland.”)
Here’s a video of the two groups livin’ it up. I’m just not sure which part is my favorite: the outfits, the ridiculous dance moves, or the fact that Maurice White’s afro starts around the middle of his head.
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And just when you think it can’t get any better, it turns out that “Boogie Wonderland” was covered on the very first episode of Pink Lady and Jeff. I don’t think we’ve ever spoken about Pink Lady and Jeff, but man, do I love that show, and for all the wrong reasons. I think I watched every episode when they re-ran it on Trio a few years ago.
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(I always wonder why I’m up until the middle of the night finishing CHART ATTACK!. I think it’s because I just spent twenty minutes watching Pink Lady videos on YouTube.)
7. She Believes In Me — Kenny Rogers
Here’s another hit from the “We’ll even send his farts to the top of the charts” era of Kenny Rogers’ career. Although only nine of his many singles hit the Top 10, it should be noted that every single he released from 1976 to mid-1983 reached the Top 20 on the Country charts — and all but three reached the Top 10. (That’s something like 27 singles.) But back to the pop charts: “She Believes In Me” actually out-performed “The Gambler,” which never made it past #16. This song peaked at #5 and also marked Rogers’ first #1 on the AC charts. All these boring facts tell you one thing: I have absolutely nothing to say about this song. It’s a relatively innocuous tune that essentially puts for the message “I’m a schmuck, but she stays with me anyway. One day I’ll get it right … but today is not that day.”
6. The Logical Song — Supertramp
Although I grew up listening to classic rock, I somehow missed out completely on Supertramp. I don’t remember ever hearing any of their music on the radio until I moved to Buffalo. For some reason, the Buffalo classic rock station adores Supertramp and I have no idea why, but not a day goes by without at least five Supertramp songs. Go ahead. Check their logs for the past 12 or so hours. At the time of this writing, I see two songs within the past 90 minutes. (This is totally going to backfire on me, isn’t it.) Honestly, though, hearing so much Supertramp never bothered me; I actually love all of their radio hits (and no, I don’t know any of their non-radio hits). Specifically, I think “Goodbye Stranger” is brilliant, and I’ll listen to “The Logical Song” anytime so long as I can scream “Who I AAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMM” at the top of my lungs. The people around me love it. (It’s better than the “Boogie Wonderland” booty shake.)
The recording of this song, as well as the others on Breakfast In America took the better part of a year, as is tremendously detailed in this Sound on Sound article. The album wound up winning a Grammy for its engineering, and “The Logical Song” peaked here at #6 — the highest charting single by the band. (I can’t believe this charted higher than “Goodbye Stranger.”)
Well, nice seeing you, men. The women will take it from here, thank you very much.
5. Chuck E.’s in Love — Rickie Lee Jones (download)
So who the hell is Chuck E? He’s Chuck E. Weiss, a songwriter, vocalist, and in the ’70s, close friend to Tom Waits (and the subject of some of his songs). The two would routinely hang out around The Troubadour in Los Angeles and lived at The Tropicana. Jones met the two and became part of their clan — you can see her and Chuck on the inside cover of Waits’ Blue Valentine album. Waits and Jones were romantically linked at the time of this song, although Jones claims the story behind it is fictional. Whatever the circumstances behind the song, it remains a spectacular debut single for Rickie Lee Jones — but what do you expect from an album that features McD, Randy Newman, Dr. John and Jeff Porcaro, among others? Fantastic instrumentation all around, and a beautiful vocal. She still sounds beautiful singing this song, too.
Here’s a great performance from ’79. I think this was around the time she was on Saturday Night Live. I remember seeing the clip was a kid and thinking, “wow, Carly Simon looks really funny in that hat.”
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4. We Are Family — Sister Sledge
As mentioned in a previous CHART ATTACK!, Sister Sledge were ready to throw in the towel before they met Chic masterminds Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. The duo produced the entire We Are Family album, which also contained the #9 hit “He’s The Greatest Dancer.” Rodgers and Edwards supposedly lifted the guitar riff from “Do What You Wanna Do” by Children of God; the song eventually hit #2, became the theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates during this year (apparently, they had all their sisters with them), and became an unavoidable staple of every wedding you’ve attended over the past 30 years.
There are a number of “We Are Family” videos on YouTube, but I enjoyed this early clip of the song, mainly because they, in fact, do not have all their sisters with them. One is missing. I think the missing one might be Ruth Pointer.
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What? You want to hear the 2001 Nile Rodgers-produced version for the We Are Family Foundation? Here you go! I have to admit, this wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. And it’s got The Hoff! Yeah, it’s kind of a B-list “Voices That Care,” but still.
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3. Bad Girls — Donna Summer
Toot-toot, beep-beep, bitches — we’ve now come to the Donna Summer portion of our Attack! What a hot week for Summer (I swear to you, I didn’t mean to make that pun), with two unstoppable hits dancing cheek-to-cheek. “Bad Girls” was co-written by Summer after she sent her assistant out on an errand and she was mistaken for a ho. She had actually written the song a number of years prior with her husband, Bruce Sudano, along with two other members of Sudano’s band Brooklyn Dreams: Eddie Hokenson and … wait for it … Joe “Bean” Esposito! And suddenly, I don’t feel so bad for the Bean. He’s rich!
“Bad Girls,” and the album of the same name, were produced by Giorgio Moroder, at a time when Summer felt that Casablanca Records were assuming unreasonable amounts of control over her career. In fact, Casablanca founder Neil Bogart, upon hearing the demo, feared the song veered too far away from the disco format that made her a star. Obviously, he was wrong, as the song hit #1 on the Hot 100, as well as the R&B and Dance charts. Good thing he didn’t give the song to LaBelle or Cher as he originally intended.
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I still think Donna Summer was really Rick James in drag.
2. Hot Stuff — Donna Summer (download)
… what the hell is that? Is that rock guitar on a Donna Summer song? It sure is, courtesy of Jeff “Skunk” Baxter! Can’t you just see Bogart crapping his pants? By the way, the Bean didn’t co-write this one — but holy crap, Harold Faltermeyer did! Go ahead, find me another collaboration between Baxter and Faltermeyer. In any case, “Hot Stuff” was the first single to be released from Bad Girls, which remains one of her biggest hits (actually, it may be her biggest hit, but I’m too busy watching Pink Lady videos to verify this) — the song sold over two million copies and won the Grammy for Best Female ROCK Vocal Performance! Suck it, Bogart, you weenie!
1. Ring My Bell — Anita Ward
“Ring My Bell” was the brainchild of singer-songwriter-producer Frederick Knight, who had initially written the song about two teenagers talking on the telephone. He offered the song to 11 year-old singer Stacy Lattislaw, who turned it down when she signed with a different record company. Knight re-wrote the song and offered it to Ward, who wasn’t terribly enthused by the track either. Knight convinced her otherwise and went to work, using something like three different studios and four different engineers to put together the backing track. The persistence paid off, as “Ring My Bell” stayed here at #1 for two weeks. Personally, I find the chorus incredibly annoying, but you can’t deny that the song has some serious legs. Ward never charted with any significance again — her next single, “Don’t Drop My Love,” peaked at #87.
And that brings us to the end of another fun-filled week here at CHART ATTACK! Thanks for reading!