Welcome to another action-packed edition of CHART ATTACK! Overall, I’m pretty psyched about this week. Although a little light on the rock side, I’d say I’m a fan of at least eight of these songs. And here’s something interesting about this week on the Billboard Top 10: Take note of how many performers this week somehow wind up musically involved with each other! It’s all a part of July 22, 1978!
10. Three Times a Lady — Commodores Amazon MP3
9. Take a Chance on Me — ABBA Amazon MP3
8. Use ta Be My Girl — The O’Jays Amazon MP3
7. The Groove Line — Heatwave Amazon MP3
6. Grease — Frankie Valli Amazon MP3
5. Last Dance — Donna Summer Amazon MP3
4. Still the Same — Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Amazon
3. Miss You — The Rolling Stones Amazon MP3
2. Baker Street — Gerry Rafferty Amazon
1. Shadow Dancing — Andy Gibb Amazon MP3
10. Three Times a Lady — Commodores
First things first.
Okay, moving on.
If I were in the Commodores in 1978, and Lionel Richie had brought this song into the studio for me to hear, I would have strapped him to a chair and threatened to kill him if he didn’t immediately sign a ten-year contract with the band. The writing was clearly on the wall for this group; You don’t write a song with the line “You’re once, twice, three times a lady” and not embark on a solo career. Especially if you’re going to sing the word “twice” with that sensitive-yet-pimpish (pimpy?) tone that Richie employs. To Richie’s credit, however, he stayed with the band for another three years before becoming the Jheri-curl juggernaut that we all know and love. Still, I’m guessing the other members of the Commodores perhaps had fewer panties thrown at them between ’78 and ’81.
(I should note that, in fact, I was not in the Commodores in 1978, although how cool would that have been? A 1 year-old in the Commodores? Hot damn! I would have gotten all the ladies.)
On another note, I just bought this shirt to wear at my Acoustic ’80s gigs.
I don’t care if he’s lip-syncing in this video. You will now bow down to his Afro and mustache. Bow!
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9. Take a Chance on Me — ABBA (download)
I have nothing against ABBA. I kind of like ABBA. I admit to seeing Mamma Mia! on Broadway, and while I thought it was one of the dumbest shows I’ve ever seen, I was still singing along to every song. This all being said, other than the a capella opening, this one doesn’t do it for me. And the fact that English was their second language was never more obvious than when they decided to speak their lyrics, like the very American (but still awkward-sounding) “C’mon, give me a break, willya?”
I found tons of videos of this song on YouTube — mostly “live” performances of the four of them that all sound the same, despite the type of keyboard or guitar being used. Why doesn’t anybody care where the drummer is? (I just realized that comment is in somewhat poor taste.)
8. Use ta Be My Girl — The O’Jays
Another smash for not only the O’Jays but for their writing-producing team of Gamble & Huff, who began working with the group in the early ’70s and were responsible for many of their hits, including “Love Train.” This proved to be the last Top 10 appearance for the group.
Here are the O’Jays performing “Use ta Be My Girl” on the television special Grease Day, broadcast in ’78 to hype the premiere of Grease. I don’t have much more to say about this song, other than it’s wonderful.
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7. The Groove Line — Heatwave (download)
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I think Johnnie Wilder, Jr., the lead vocalist, sounds a little like Daryl Hall on this song. “The Groove Line” is a great track and yet another genius offering from keyboardist/songwriter Rod Temperton, the man behind “Thriller,” most of the good songs on Off the Wall, and a million other hits, including “Yah Mo Be There” and “Sweet Freedom.” Have I mentioned I love Rod Temperton?
Heatwave only managed to chart on the Hot 100 three times, but all three reached the Top 10. Their biggest hit was “Boogie Nights” which, like this one, is a song appropriate for shaking one’s booty. Watch the video and tell me you’re not groovin’.
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Notice how Temperton gets, like, zero face time on-screen. I bet it’s because he couldn’t dance. And by the way, this video takes the footage of the dude singing the chorus and loops it a total of five times. I bet I’m the only one who picked up on this. (I’m the only one sad enough to truly study this video.)
6. Grease — Frankie Valli
You learn something new every day. Today, I learned that Barry Gibb wrote “Grease.” I had no idea! And Frampton plays guitar! Seriously! Who knew? (Not me!) I suppose the Gibb connection isn’t far-fetched, as both Grease and Saturday Night Fever were soundtracks on RSO featuring John Travolta, nor is the Frampton connection, as the Gibbs and Frampton had both appeared in the Sgt. Pepper’s film debacle. Still, I don’t detect the Gibb vibe on this record. Supposedly he sings backing vocals, and usually I can pick him out instantly, but I don’t hear him. The Brothers Gibb performed their own version in 1997, but much like the way they took back “Islands in the Stream,” it can’t match the original. Barry’s a little flat. However, you may want to check out the above clip, if only to see Olivia Newton-John’s reactions from the front row. (It’s not that exciting, really, but I think she’s hot.)
I have to admit that I have no idea what this song is about. How, exactly, is “grease” the way we are feeling? Grease is about groove? It’s got meaning? It’s the time, the place, the motion? Is this Frankie Valli’s ode to lube?
I do love this song, despite the fact that it really has no place in the actual era of Grease. It’s funky (I love the drum beat), and Valli sounds fantastic. The song is one of two chart-toppers for Valli as a solo artist, the other one being “My Eyes Adored You.”
Here’s a phenomenal clip of Frankie Valli and the Commodores duetting on “Grease.” This absolutely made my day. It’s been removed from YouTube, so quick, watch it on this site while you can.
5. Last Dance — Donna Summer
Donna Summer can’t be avoided on the late ’70s/early ’80s charts. I’m not sure if “Last Dance” was her most successful hit, but it certainly won its share of awards. By 1979, the song had received an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy. The recipient was the songwriter, Paul Jabara, who wrote the song for the film Thank God It’s Friday. Jabara, in addition to being an actor in this film and others, wrote “The Main Event/Fight” for Barbra Streisand, and “No More Tears/Enough is Enough,” the famed Streisand/Summer duet. Summer was featured in the movie as Nicole Sims, who sings “Last Dance” just before the Commodores show up to sing “Too Hot To Trot.”
You’ll notice that “Last Dance” features the ballad fake-out before becoming an uptempo dance number. Summer repeated this trick on a number of songs, including “On the Radio” and two other tunes by Jabara. Jabara, by the way, also penned “It’s Raining Men” with Paul Shaffer, which conjures up an image I’m desperately trying to push out of my head.
4. Still the Same — Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
Unless you count “Miss You” (and I don’t), “Still the Same” is the only rock track on this chart, and there’s not an electric guitar to be found on it. Seger’s success was undoubtedly deserved, having churned out albums and singles since the mid-’60s. “Still the Same” marked his second entry in the Top 10, two years after “Night Move” also peaked at #4. Seger’s only had one #1 hit, actually: “Shakedown,” from the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack.
I’ve always liked this song. Love Seger’s voice and the way he brings this character to life. Here’s Seger performing the song during the year of its release.
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3. Miss You — The Rolling Stones
I have a love/hate relationship with “Miss You.”
LOVE: The drum beat
HATE: Rolling Stones doing disco
LOVE: The guitar part
HATE: The backing vocals
LOVE: The bass line, which clearly lends itself to rock squats
HATE: Mick Jagger, in general
LOVE: The fact that this song reminds me of both Blondie and Rod Stewart
HATE: Thinking of a Mick-Debbie-Rod hybrid/robot-type thing
LOVE: That Ronnie Wood’s in rehab and Keith just goes truckin’ along
HATE: Thinking about how far Jann Wenner’s head is up Mick’s ass
LOVE: Love/hate lists
HATE: Love/hate lists that slowly deviate from the original subject
“Miss You” came on my iPod the other day while I was scratching a mosquito bite. I thought this was just perfect, because as much as I don’t want to scratch a mosquito bite, it feels so good … and yet I feel somehow awful afterwards. That’s pretty much exactly how I feel after listening to this song. If I ever wanted to really antagonize someone, I think the best way to do it would be to call them in the middle of the night and sing “Miss You.” Anybody want to give me their phone number?
2. Baker Street — Gerry Rafferty (download)
I have only one problem with “Baker Street,” and it’s the fact that it never made it to #1. I can’t think of anything else bad to say about it. It’s just a beautiful, perfect song.
That being said, “Baker Street” is the kind of song where you can listen to it nine times in a row and on the tenth time think, “Holy crap, there are lyrics to this song?” For years — and I’m guessing I’m not the only one in this boat — I not only had no idea what the name of this song was, but I had no way of figuring it out. Kind of like “Feels So Good,” actually. I think I finally figured it out after hearing it at the end of the “Lisa’s Sax” episode of The Simpsons. It was either then or when I heard a bland cover by Livingston Taylor. (Liv? Bland? I know!)
I know nothing about Gerry Rafferty, so I’m going to educate myself and youse guys at the same time. (Briefly.) Rafferty was a member of Stealer’s Wheel, a band intended to be the Scottish version of CSNY. Their biggest hit, of course, was “Stuck in the Middle With You,” a song that 90% of the world attributes to Bob Dylan. Stealer’s Wheel broke up and was ensconced in legal battles for a number of years; when the dust settled, Rafferty released City to City, which included this song — a sad tale of a drunk trying to put his life back together, but can’t escape the bottle. Supposedly the drunk is a busking musician, which is how Rafferty started his career. (Not drunk. Well, maybe. I don’t know.)
Seriously, I could listen to this song for days. I love the production, the instrumentation, and of course, that signature saxophone line, courtesy of Raphael Ravenscroft. Rumor has it that Ravenscroft stole the riff from this song, “Half a Heart” by Steve Marcus. I definitely hear the similarities. The guitar is phenomenal as well. I love the run down the fretboard (“BEEEEWWWWWwwww”) and the solo that kinda sounds like seagulls at the beginning. Played by Hugh Burns (who, by the way, also played on Wham!’s Make it Big!), the solo was one of the pieces of music that inspired Slash’s solo in “Sweet Child of Mine.” (Seriously.) Slash isn’t the only one who loves the song:
Foo Fighters — Baker Street (download)
I wish this CHART ATTACK! was “Baker Street,” 10 times. Who the hell kept “Baker Street” from #1? I’m going to kick his or her ass.
1. Shadow Dancing — Andy Gibb
I hate you, Andy Gibb.
You know how I feel about Andy (hack who couldn’t do anything without Barry wiping his ass first), but I’m going to praise him here. I think I’ve bashed him in at least three or four other posts, which means that he clearly had a stronghold on the charts — to be specific, six consecutive Top 10 hits within the first three years of his career. In fact, “Shadow Dancing” was his third chart-topper, making him the first male solo artist to have three consecutive #1 singles. And Andy did have a hand in co-writing some of them. As he says in the Wikipedia entry for this song, “So we literally sat down and in ten minutes, we had a group going, (singing) the chorus part. As it says underneath the song, we all wrote it, the four of us.” I love the level of defense he uses in that last sentence. He did write it, everybody! It says so underneath the song!
Enjoy this performance from 1978, taken from Olivia Newton-John’s television special. It starts at about the minute mark, but you should just watch this entire clip, as well as the other associated clips — the special features the Newt, Andy, and ABBA, and they’re all quite entertaining in that kitschy ’70s way. There are other “Shadow Dancing” clips from later years on YouTube, but this is probably one of the few where you’ll hear Andy reaching the high notes. Note ABBA singing this week’s #9 hit as the clip begins.
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Remember my comment about chart synergy at the beginning of this post? Let’s recap:
Donna Summer records “Last Dance” for Thank God It’s Friday, a film that features her performance right before the Commodores show up. The Commodores collaborate with Frankie Valli on a live performance of “Grease,” taken from the movie, featuring Olivia Newton-John. Olivia is in the audience when the Bee Gees perform “Grease” live. The Bee Gees co-wrote “Shadow Dancing” with Andy Gibb, who performed the song on the Olivia Newton-John 1978 television special along with ABBA, who performed “Take a Chance On Me”. The O’Jays sing their hit single on the 1978 television special surrounding the premiere of Grease. Mick Jagger ignores all of this and stays home to count his money. Oooh-oooh-OOOH-oooh-ooo-ooo-wooh!
Well, that was a fun week! Hope you enjoyed — see you in a couple for another edition of CHART ATTACK!