Welcome back to this week’s CHART ATTACK! We had quite the backlash with last week’s entry from 1989, so I went back nearly a decade for this week’s chart: November 8, 1980!
10. Upside Down – Diana Ross Amazon iTunes
9. Real Love – The Doobie Brothers Amazon iTunes
8. Master Blaster (Jammin’) – Steve Wonder Amazon iTunes
7. Never Knew Love Like This Before – Stephanie Mills Amazon iTunes
6. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross Amazon iTunes
5. The Wanderer – Donna Summer Amazon iTunes
4. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen Amazon iTunes
3. He’s So Shy – Pointer Sisters Amazon iTunes
2. Lady – Kenny Rogers Amazon iTunes
1. Woman In Love – Barbara Streisand Amazon iTunes
10. Upside Down – Diana Ross This song was an absolutely ridiculous hit for Diana Ross. While this week was its last on the Top 10, let’s reflect: in August, it became one of Billboard’s "Biggest Movers" of the year – no, the decade – going from #49 to #10 in a one-week period. It then spent a massive fourteen weeks on the Top 10, including four weeks at #1. So it’s no surprise that "Upside Down," written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic, was the biggest hit of her career. At the time, this single made Diana Ross the oldest woman to have a #1 (at 36). She beat the record a year later at 37. (Wanna guess who holds the record now?)
So "Upside Down" did quite well, considering "respectfully, I say to thee/I’m aware that you’re cheatin’" is one of the worst lines ever written. Now you see why I said it was a ridiculous hit.
9. Real Love – The Doobie Brothers Here we have another track that’s essentially Michael McDonald with the Doobies acting as backing band. Member-wise, the Doobies of 1980 were nothing like the Doobies of 1978, let alone the Doobies of the mid-70s. I imagine purists will always hate this part of their career, but if you can get past that, "Real Love" is another great McDonald track produced by Ted Templeman, showcasing McDonald’s flair for funky soul (and yes, you can hear a bit of the "What A Fool Believes" riff in there as well). Here they are performing it in 1981:[youtube]tePpe4qwJkU[/youtube]
8. Master Blaster (Jammin’) – Steve Wonder Penned as a tribute to Bob Marley – both his reggae sound and his political stance against war – "Master Blaster" spent two months on the Top 10, eventually peaking at #5. The two artists were good friends; Marley even jumped on stage during a performance of this song in Washington. The two had planned to tour together, but due to Marley’s illness (which was already apparent, at least to Marley, at this time), it never materialized. The track provides the inspiration for the album’s title, Hotter Than July, which is just about the last quality album Stevie Wonder ever released.
7. Never Knew Love Like This Before – Stephanie Mills Primarily known for her stellar performance in the Broadway hit The Wiz, Mills hopped on the disco bandwagon and peaked at #6 with this track, produced by a gentleman named Reggie Lucas, who went on to produce Madonna’s debut album. The song won the Best R&B Female Vocal Performance at the 1980 Grammy Awards. I wish I had more to say about this track, but all I can tell you is that it consistently reminds me of going to the dentist. Every time I’m in his chair, this song seems to come on the Lite-FM station. So yes, what I’m saying is that every time I hear "Never Knew Love Like This Before," some dude’s hands are in my mouth.
6. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross Also produced by Chic members Edwards and Rodgers, this was the second gigantic hit from her album diana, which eventually was the most successful album of her career – selling over five million copies. If Ross wasn’t a gay icon before, you can bet that a song entitled "I’m Coming Out" did the trick. In fact, Rodgers has said that he wrote the track after going to a disco in California and seeing drag queens dress up like Diana Ross. And, as I’ve been saying every few weeks…if you remember this song more because of the sample in "Mo Money, Mo Problems" or from the commercial where the bellybuttons were singing…then I’m too old.
5. The Wanderer – Donna Summer In 1980, Donna Summer had something to say: FUCK YOU, DISCO! Yeah, that’s right. It’s time to move on! And Summer did a lot of moving on this year. She left her previous record label, Casablanca Records (which was responsible for the release of over ten of her massive hit singles), after a $10 million lawsuit, claiming that they had essentially taken over her personal and professional life. She then became the first artist to sign to the brand-new Geffen label, and ditched her disco/R&B-flavored sound for the up-and-coming New Wave trend. "The Wanderer" was proof positive that Summer could successfully tackle the genre, as the single eventually peaked at #3 and its parent album became one of the more popular albums of the year, reaching #13 and ranking #2 on Rolling Stone’s Albums Of The Year charts by critics. (Behind "Nebraska," by the way.) And all this came from a track that seriously sounds like someone just pushed "DEMO" on a Casio. And the video’s weird, too. I’m not embedding it, I don’t care that much. Watch it here.
4. Another One Bites The Dust – Queen (live download) It’s "Chic Week" here at Chart Attack! Written by bassist John Deacon, this track’s bassline was clearly a thick piece o’funk inspired by their hit "Good Times." The song was originally written after Deacon had watched an old Western movie, but thankfully, he decided not to shape this one as a country song. "Another One Bites The Dust" was the first truly funky Queen song; they had experimented with the style previously, most notably (to my recollection) with a subpar Roger Taylor song from Jazz entitled "Fun It," but clearly this song was their first success in this style. This single, which topped the charts in early October, was such a success that it successfully crossed over to the R&B Charts, hitting #1 there as well. R&B listeners were unfamiliiar with Queen, and thought they were a black group.
I love "Another One Bites The Dust." Queen was always a group that continuously evolved its musical styles, and songs like this one and "Dragon Attack" off of their album The Game helped push them in a new direction. Granted, if the success of this single led them to create their awful disco-influenced album Hot Space, then I guess we have to chalk it up to failed experiment. Still, for my money, the bass line, the funky guitar (surprisngly, not played by Brian May, but by Deacon), and Freddie’s sharp, balls-to-the-wall vocal make this track one of Queen’s strongest.
"Another One Bites The Dust" wasn’t slated to be a single off of The Game; Michael Jackson, of all people, heard it, and convinced the band to record it. And Sylvester Stallone badly wanted the track for Rocky III, but couldn’t get the rights. (Perhaps Queen wanted a break from soundtracks, having just done Flash Gordon.) Instead, he had to settle for a little song, created just for the movie, called "Eye Of The Tiger." Survivor, words can’t express how much you owe to Queen.
Everyone probably owns "Another One Bites The Dust," so the download here is a live version from their album Live Magic, a one-disc chronicle of their final tour in 1986. This disc gets a lot of crap from people, for some reason, but I actually like it better than Live At Wembley Stadium – the performances recorded at Knebworth and in Budapest are stronger, in my opinion, especially this track. Be sure to check out Freddie’s fantastic interactions with the audience, both during and after the song!
3. He’s So Shy – Pointer Sisters (download) These girls have had quite an interesting career, as they’ve frequently shifted between genres such as jazz, R&B, pop, and country. In fact, here’s a nifty piece o’ trivia: in 1974, they became the first black female group to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry, as a result of their successful country song "Fairytale." But let’s talk about "He’s So Shy." It’s a Michael McDonald ripoff, people. We’ve covered this. Even our good friend Bob Shannon covered it in our radio chat. Is it as blatant as Robbie Dupree? No. I’ll admit to that. In fact, to be honest, I think it probably isn’t a McD ripoff, but more of a McD influence. And it’s a good song; it’s about 95% keyboards, but they’re all used quite well (especially in the last quarter of the song), and the vocals are fantastic. I actually wasn’t going to offer this one for download, but after listening and subsequently shaking my booty involuntarily, I knew I had to include it here. Thank me later.
2. Lady – Kenny Rogers Chances are that you missed the Kenny Rogers/Lionel Richie episode of CMT Crossroads. I know you are not going to understand me when I tell you that this episode is one of the only things permanently saved on my TiVo. Nor will you understand me when I tell you that (no, I’m not being racist) Lionel Richie is chocolate and Kenny Rogers is peanut butter, and the two of them together results in a delicious treat. That’s okay. You know by now that I’m a little bit crazy. And I’m fine with that. If it ever comes on TV again, though, humor me and watch it.
Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie joined forces (okay, this is me being overdramatic – they met) in the late ’70s, around the time when Richie’s voice and songwriting was being pushed to the forefront of The Commodores. Richie was starting to write songs for other artists, and wrote "Lady" for Rogers. It hit #1 the week after this one, and became Rogers’ first #1 hit – on both the Pop and R&B charts. It’s remained one of Rogers’ most enduring and popular hits. Yes, I roll my eyes too at "I’m your knight in shining armor, and I love you," mainly because I’ve tried to sing this song, and well…let’s just say that you need to really sell it in order to make it work. I’d like to note, however, that I do actually own this book, and I was seriously struck by the song structure and chord choices. The song has no chorus. And it features a stunning coda that closes the song, briefly touching upon the original opening theme. (I have really thought about this, people.) It’s a lot of fun to play on the piano.
If you get a chance to watch the CMT Crossroads special, you will notice that Richie was not just a writer and producer for Rogers. The two of them are clearly old friends, and their interactions on stage are utterly charming (if not exactly spontaneous). I even forgive Lionel Richie for looking at the teleprompter (and making it very obvious to the audience that he’s doing so), because the two of them have such a great time doing the show together. Trust me, people. WATCH IT. If I ever figure out how to get it off of my TiVo and onto the computer, I’ll offer a torrent.
In the meantime, I’ve always enjoyed the Rogers version, but wanted to hear Richie sing it. He finally released a version of his own on his 1998 album Time, which I don’t believe anybody actually purchased. The song is a little overproduced and we sure as hell didn’t need the drum machine, but the vocal is fantastic. If anybody’s interested, it’s your Chart Attack! bonus download.
Lionel Richie – Lady (bonus download)
1. Woman In Love – Barbra Streisand You may recall a couple of weeks ago when we covered "Islands In The Stream" and discussed the early ’80s being a particularly good time for the Brothers Gibb. Reader Dave astutely corrected me and noted that it wasn’t exactly a good time to be a Bee Gee, but definitely a profitable time to be a Bee Gee. As Dave also mentions, the disco backlash was well on its way in the late 70s, and the Bee Gees were smart enough to know that it was time to go into a hiding of sorts.
After seeing them perform in Los Angeles, Streisand asked Barry to writer her an album. The result was Guilty, recorded in 1979 and 1980. It has been said that the project, while incredibly taxing and time consuming for Barry, taught him the value of using studio musicians for his projects, as they could faithfully record his ideas and concepts. The result was Streisand’s best-selling album at that point in time, and "Woman In Love" went to #1. (Obviously.) You can clearly hear the Gibb "sound" in the chorus, and although it’s a terribly schmaltzy song (and Streisand’s voice grates on me as those choruses repeat themselves), obviously it was well-loved, as it also went to #1 in nine other regions across the world.
And so, once again, we end CHART ATTACK! So much for me posting a short entry this week. Hope you enjoyed anyhow. See you next week – and if you’re in the NYC area, come to our gig tomorrow!