HERC's 1978: Soft Rock 45s

These are HERC's soft rock faves from 1978.  He's already featured his country and funk picks for the year is his spotlight on his 100 favorite songs from 1978.  Remember his only caveat: one song per artist.  And a very special thanks to all the wonderfully observant people who have taken the time to point out that the Discogs picture sleeves and/or labels featured in these 1978 posts are not the U.S. ones - they are for illustrative purposes only.

Those harmonic guitar licks lure HERC in and the lyric "Wearin' the mask of false bravado" still gets him every time just like "little old lady got mutilated late last night" from Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London", which will be featured on upcoming segment of HERC's 1978. Player's "Baby Come Back" spent three weeks atop the Hot 100 in January 1978 and has always been a favorite of HERC's - he's had his same 45 since November 1977.  Finding out the album version was a full :40 longer than the single was an epiphany.  Favorite cover version is Lisa Stansfield's funky take.

Samantha Sang's breathless "Emotion" was a favorite of HERC's little sis (she bought the 45 first) before HERC caught onto it.  Sure, it's a Bee Gees song in every way except for the credited lead artist but the Brothers Gibb reclaimed it as their own with an oddly sung, more rhythmic version recorded in 1994.  After all, Sang could only muster a #3 with the song as it was held out of the top two spots in consecutive weeks by the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive".  Don't call the Beygency on him but HERC isn't a fan of the slow (or fast) cover of "Emotion" by Destiny's Child in 2001.

In his comment on Volume 25 of Rhino's Have A Nice Day series, HERC called the Big Star-like chorus in this song "predatory" because it will "stalk you for days".  The song is not available on Spotify in its original #13 Pop/#11 Easy Listening hit glory but you can listen to it here and make up your own mind.  Not to be confused with this equally hooktastic song.

Very few people knew that this was Bruce Springsteen song and even less had ever heard it as he was never satisfied with his version of it and didn't release it until 2010, more than 30 years after it was originally tracked.  The Pointer Sisters, much to their credit, do make the song their own though with a slow burning build-up and a happy ending chorus.  "Fire" stalled at #2 on the Hot 100 behind Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" for two weeks.

Paul Davis crafted a solid run of soft rock songs from the early Seventies through the early Eighties, including a dozen Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary singles and fifteen Hot 100 singles.  "I Go Crazy" was released right in the middle of his streak and held the record for the longest stay (40 weeks) on the Hot 100 until 1982 when Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" logged a chart run 43 weeks.  (FYI: This 2012 song holds the current record with an incredible 87 weeks on the Hot 100.)

One of the earliest rockin' slow jams aka power ballads, Journey's "Lights", an ode to its hometown of San Francisco, failed to chart on the Easy Listening chart in 1978 - an inferior live version of the song made it to #30 on the Adult Contemporary chart fifteen years later.  Other prototypical power ballads include "Love Hurts" (1976) by Nazareth, "Beth" (1976) by Kiss and "Wildflower" (1973) by Skylark.

Walter Egan's "Magnet And Steel" is a wonderfully plodding junior high slow dance grinder. The background "ooohs" and the plinking toy piano only heighten the atmospheric come-on.  "With you I'm not shy" indeed.  Egan gets bonus points for also writing "Hot Summer Nights" which was covered in a Summer sultry style by Night, featuring Stevie Lange on vocals.

Another slow jam with only this time with more adult memories.  HERC remembers holding MRS. HERC in his arms at some function while this song, Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" and Linda Ronstadt's cover of "Ooh Baby Baby" played circa 1989.  The way she always looks, the way she always smells and the way her body melds with HERC's - they're gonna dance to these again REAL soon.  She's HERC's Angel Baby.

This is one of HERC's all-time favorite, most cherished songs and one he rarely shares with anyone.  He still has the 45 for this one as well as the parent album, Thankful.   Shockingly, "Our Love" only made it to #33 on the Easy Listening chart (what sayeth the soft rock kid on this travesty?) while topping the Hot Soul Singles chart and going Top 10 on the Hot 100.  Mary J. Blige does a faithful cover of "Our Love" on her Share My World album.

It's the lush, layered vocals and harmonies that make "Reminiscing" stand out from the dreck. The lyrical and musical references to Glen Miller and Cole Porter are nice touches as well.  It remains the Aussie band's highest charting hit in America, hitting #3 on the Hot 100 and #10 on the Easy Listening chart.   Another outstanding track from the same album is "Lady".

On August 19, 1978, "Three Times A Lady" was simultaneously Number One on three U.S. charts: Hot 100, Hot Soul Singles and Easy Listening.  (It was also #1 that week in the UK.) Somewhat disappointingly, the song was the only Motown record to make the Top 10 in 1978. The single edit is a full 3:00 shorter than the album version.

Like the song above, "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" was inspired by Elvis Presley's "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You".  (Get it? Those are the three times.)  Songwriter Jim Steinman gave the song his own little twist by using the first two declarations and then "but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you."  This un-love song made the Easy Listening Top 40 and just missed the Top 10 on the Hot 100 while the album Bat Out Of Hell stalled at #14 on its way to selling 14,000,000 copies.  The single version of the song features seamlessly edited verses and a prominent string arrangement which differs from the album version.

Speaking of string arrangements, "The Way I Feel Tonight" has a beautiful one behind some of the clunkiest romantic lyrics ever written: "Though it's much too soon to know, If this love I feel will grow. Let's take tonight to start out finding" and "Let your body melt in mine, Let us taste each other's wine. 'Til the cup is overflowing."  But its the soaring chorus that gets HERC singing out loud every time.  This song is the Bay City Rollers' "Beth" - it can be performed by one man on stage with backing tapes, giving the rest of the band a breather.  It proved to be the Rollers' last charting single on the Easy Listening chart where it topped out at #16, eight positions higher than its peak on the Hot 100.

A much different version of "What A Fool Believes" appeared on the Kenny Loggins Nightwatch album half a year prior to the Doobie Brothers Grammy-winning release.  The song was co-written by Loggins and Doobie Brother Michael McDonald so it wasn't quite the mystery it could have been.  Despite topping the Hot 100, the Doobies' single only weighed in at #33 on the Easy Listening chart.  A disco remix by Jim Burgess hit the National Disco Action Top 40 chart in the #40 slot. 

For some people, Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love" is the very definition of soft rock or, the urban alternative, quiet storm.  The song, featuring some of the best horn charts ever, managed to make the Top 10 on the Hot 100, Hot Soul Singles and Easy Listening chart.  For HERC the song is a sunnier, groovier update of the sentiments from the Percy Sledge classic "When A Man Loves A Woman".  (HERC also cops to liking the drum machine driven Go West cover from 1993.)  On the February 3rd, 1979 broadcast of American Top 40, Casey Kasem shared the story of the highest priced 45 then currently available at retail: a limited edition red vinyl, heart-shaped version of "What You Won't Do For Love", which debuted in the countdown at #38 that week.  How much was it selling for?  $7.98 which is more than most albums were selling for.  The ad below is from the following week's Billboard.

"Whenever I Call You "Friend"" is another Loggins co-write, this time out with Melissa Manchester. (Melissa's version appeared after Kenny's.)  Though a uncredited duet on the single, Stevie Nicks receives proper billing on the album.  The song went Top 10 on the Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts and is always a breath of sunshine when it comes on.  John Book recently added this record to his dream jukebox so you know it's good.  

The Bee Gees were seemingly everywhere from 1976-1979 and they recorded "If I Can't Have You" as the first song during sessions for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  Barry Gibb had given the song "Love Me" to Yvonne Elliman for her 1976 album of the same name and planned on having her sing "How Deep Is Your Love" for the Fever soundtrack.  Robert Stigwood, manager of the Brothers Gibb, executive producer of the soundtrack and head honcho of RSO Records, intervened and ordered a switcheroo: Yvonne would record "If I Can't Have You" while Barry, Robin and Maurice would have a go at "How Deep Is Your Love".  The decision paid off as both songs topped the Hot 100 and the soundtrack album ended up selling tens of millions.  Few people are aware that this song exists in a slighlty extended version

The gently shuffling beat and overwhelmingly romantic lyrics of "Love Is In The Air" grabbed HERC by his big ears from the very first time he heard it on American Top 40 in August 1978, where it debuted at #40 in its fourth week on the Hot 100.  That week's countdown also featured "Three Times A Lady" (#2), "Magnet and Steel" (#11) and "My Angel Baby" (#14) with "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" (#44), "Reminiscing" (#56) and "Whenever I Call You "Friend"" (#80) all moving up towards the Top 40.  "Love Is In The Air" enjoyed a second wave of success in 1992 when it was remixed and featured on the soundtrack to Strictly Ballroom, one of HERC's favorite movies.

Wrapping up today's spotlight on HERC's 1978, is one of two songs learned to play while taking piano lessons back in the day.  (The other was Chicago's lethargic "Colour My World".)  "You Light Up My Life" despite years of criticism, remains a favorite to this day though HERC knows he couldn't play a note of it, he is confident in his vocal stylings.   


  1. Simply spectacular, your Herc-ness... More of the same please!

  2. I was unfamiliar with the Natalie Cole song, but I have no idea why it placed higher on the pop chart than the AC chart. Maybe Capitol wasn't bribing the right people over at Billboard.

    This is a stellar list (except for the Meat Loaf tune). It includes my all-time favorite disco tune, If I Can't Have You. Including that gem, my favorites from this list include Reminiscing, What A Fool Believes, Whenever I Call You Friend, and What You Won't Do For Love.

  3. I owned a number of these on 45s myself back in the day. What a flashback!