6/1/16

Hideaway 100 of 1979: 100-81

Welcome to the Hideaway 100 of 1979, the countdown of my favorite songs from 1979. Instead of just looking at my digital library as I have done for the past two countdowns (1973 and 1976), I copied the list of every Billboard Hot 100 single that charted in 1979 - all 481 songs - from this handy dandy site and pasted it into a Google Spreadsheet and then proceeded to winnow it down, removing songs I need never hear again, listening to songs I was unfamiliar with and eventually cutting it down to about 250 songs I really like. Then I went through the WLS Weekly Forty-Fives Charts from November 1978 through end of year 1979 and added any songs I liked that were not already on my list of 250 as WLS, for better or for worse, was still my primary source of music back in 1979. The list was now around 265 songs and required my signature only-one-song-per-artist culling ritual, resulting in nearly 100 songs being relegated to the runners-up list. I then cross-referenced the remaining list of singles for possible existence on the twelve inch single format and narrowed that subset down to a dozen of my favorites. The final cuts were made over a solid week of intense day and night listening, bringing us down to the shiny 1979 Hideaway 100. Let's begin the countdown!
This song slinks in quietly before Mr. Brood comes in sounding all menacing Iggy Pop crossed with a snookered Warren Zevon describing what I imagine is his typical "Saturdaynight" spent with friends and substances and lasting well into Sundaymorning. My friend Mark, in an extremely generous mood, might call this one a Lost AT40 Single cause it snuck up to number 35 while sensei jb called it "the most kick-ass thing on the radio that summer" and has mentioned it five times on The Hits Just Keep On Comin' over the past ten years. jb was johnny on the spot back in 1979 but I didn't come across this song from Herman Brood and His Wild Romance (great name) until the early Eighties, while listening to my town's two FM rock stations neither one of which exists any more. (Nor does Herman, who passed in 2001.) But I'll always have this song. Even though they tried to turn it into a electronic dance anthem a decade ago.
When is a cover version not really a cover version? Is it when some of the original members of Classics IV, who recorded the 1968 number 3 hit "Spooky" later recorded it again, rocking it up to the max with various instrumental solos, with their new group the Atlanta Rhythm Section? Don't know, don't care. Still trot this one out each and every Halloween for a little mood music.
Crystal Gayle sang five songs that I really like. All four were Top 10 Adult Contemporary Hits and three of them were also Top 20 hits on the Hot 100. The first one was the sweet lite jazz lounge of "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" and the fourth was "Half The Way" which probably would've been a hit for any of the female vocalists of that time say Linda Ronstadt or Olivia Newton-John or the Pointer Sisters. Never really considered Ms. Gayle the country chanteuse that she was made out to be despite her more than forty Country Top 40 hits, including this one which was her sixth Number One on the chart. (My other favorite Crystal Gayle songs are "Why Have You Left The One You Left Me For", "Talking In Your Sleep" and "You and I" her great slow jam duet with Eddie Rabbitt.)
A slow burning disco instrumental that sounds equally at home on the dance floor or on the big screen, which is where it originally appeared after director Alan Parker asked red-hot producer Giorgio Moroder for a song that sounded like "I Feel Love" to use in his film Midnight Express. The three minutes and change single edit is a fine introduction though I prefer to stretch out to the eight and half minute full-length soundtrack cut. (For a really, really different take on the song, check out the Shooter Jennings version from his new album Countach (For Giorgio). Over the song's vaguely familiar synth lines, amateur astronaut and gaming guru Garriott de Cayeux talks about scale of perspective, virtual reality and the interdependence of humanity.)
Ain't gonna lie about it, I have always loved "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" which completely overshadowed this follow-up single from the Blondes Have More Fun album. It's a fun little bouncy number complete with silly "doo doo" background vocals and Rod airing his laundry list of alleged abuses at the hands of the fairer sex, even namechecking dear old "Maggie" from his earlier hit "Maggie May". This one made it to number 22 on the Hot 100 but only managed to hit number 27 on the WLS Forty-fives chart.
I guess we can all agree to call it country rock though it registers on the lighter side of the spectrum with a sax solo and all. As co-founders of the country rock sound in 1968, Poco was well into their career when member Timothy B. Schmidt left to join the Eagles in 1978. The group's planned thirteenth album, a live recording from their Indian Summer tour in 1977, was rejected by their label so the band took a break. Two members formed a smaller group, recorded an album and presented it to their label, who surprisingly promptly approved it as the next Poco album, Legend. WLS played the song a bit and Dad liked it though for the longest time, like well into the Nineties, I thought "Heart of The Night" was a Firefall song. Can you blame me?
Another one of the songs I came to after its original release. "Now That We Found Love" is a reggae cover of an O'Jay's song from 1973 with an addictive chorus. As much as I love me some O'Jay's, their version is a little pedestrian for me. As far as I can remember, I first heard Third World's take on the song at high school party in 1982 or 1983. It was a swanky swim team soirée with a reggae inspired soundtrack and my date and I spent about three songs there before bouncing. In 1991, the song was given a hyper new jack swing beat courtesy of Teddy Riley in a rap cover by Heavy D & the Boyz which sampled Third World's chorus. 
The young ladies at eighth grade dances loved to slow dance to this one and they would come and ask you to dance and then nuzzle their little heads and sweet smelling big feathered hair into your chest, wrap their arms around your waist (though you were forbidden to do the same) and you'd get the feeling you could do this for the rest of your life however long that was gonna be cause it was warm and comfortable and just felt good and you sat there in the swirling dim lights swaying to the music high on hormones until the song was over and she'd leave without saying a word not knowing you were hooked but you quickly snapped out of it once you saw the girl you really wanted shaking what she got just across the gym floor and as you make your move towards her she is whisked away by some other guy so you make a sharp ninety degree turn trying to save face and bump into that one girl all your boys are gonna tease you about dancing with come Monday but you're a nice guy and don't want to hurt her feelings so you stand there with her, awkwardly smiling and snapping your fingers as she mirrors your every move so both of you look like rhythmically challenged dorks and you never wanted more for one of your parents to peek their head through the door letting you know they were there to pick you up but the damn dance was gonna last for another hour and a half according to the little red numbers on your Texas Instruments digital watch.
My first memory of hearing "Shake It" was on the K-Tel album Gold Rush '79. What I just learned today was that "Shake It" is a cover version - the original was recorded and released by Terence Boylan, the song's writer, in 1977. Saw the film Little Darlings dozens of times on HBO in 1980 and mention it just because "Shake It" was heard in the film. Also heard in the original film are Rickie Lee Jones, Blondie, Supertramp, The Bellamy Brothers, Stephen Bishop and, somewhat surprisingly, John Lennon.
Am I being too kind by referring to "Hot Number" as "Get Off Pt. 2"? I think it's an apt description. It has all the same ingredients (phat synths, talk box, female vox, etc) but it comes up just a little short though like "Get Off" it was a favorite at the roller rink. Probably the main reason this song even made the cut is because of its connection to Freaks and Geeks as it is featured prominently at beginning of the "Discos and Dragons" episode which, although it wasn't planned that way, turned out to be the show's fitting finale.
Don't recall ever hearing this song until picking up the 25th volume of Rhino's Have A Nice Day series in the late Nineties and it was a nice discovery, a little breath of fresh air. I included it on a few mix discs and turned a bunch of people onto it but then lost track of it among all the other songs new and old I was listening to at the time. In hindsight, I missed the song the first time around because WLS did not play it. Fortunately, "Get Used To It" did reappear in my life just a couple of years ago when I added it to a yacht rock playlist. Whenever it pops up, I remember it as one of the first songs I (re)discovered because I had missed it the first time around.
About five years back, one of my friends asked if I had ever heard of Frankie Miller, who happened to be his latest obsession. I confessed my ignorance and found a package from Amazon at my door a couple of days later - a four disc set spanning the complete 1973-1980 recordings Miller made for Chrysalis entitled Frankie Miller... That's Who! Have been a fan of the man and his incredibly soulful voice ever since listening to those discs. "Darlin'" was the apparent result of a label ultimatum to produce a hit or else and the song made it to number 6 in the UK but merely Bubbled Under in the US at number 103. The first time I heard the song was Bonnie Raitt's version of it on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack.
It's a simple song with a simple message and as with virtually all of his stuff, the music of George Harrison continues to resonate more and more with me as life goes on. In his autobiography, Harrison said he wrote the song on a rainy day as he wrestled with some melancholy feelings and that the song served as a reminder that all he had to do was "be happy." As someone who deals with depression more often than I would like to, "Blow Away" is a helpful mantra, reminding me what my priorities should be but everyone needs to know that depression is not a choice and choosing to be happy is not a magic bullet. My buddy Mark recently featured this George Harrison gem as one of his Lost AT40 Singles, a small but not inconsequential coincidence.
The life and times of Hank Williams Jr. is a fascinating story and though he and I are nearly polar opposites politically and ideologically, I fell in love with his music on the 1979 album Family Tradition and bought each and every successive album up through 1990's Lone Wolf. I saw him twice in concert during that time and he was incredibly entertaining, equally at home performing country, rock or the blues - all three can be heard in his best music. "Family Tradition" is one of the many unofficial theme songs here at The Hideaway and even though your boy HERC is a unrepentant goody two shoes, he soberly shout-sings this song every chance he gets. It's got Southern swagger and pride for days yet is strangely inoffensive. This single will definitely have a home on the vintage, quarter gobbling Hideaway Jukebox.
Keeping the emerging theme of cover versions going, Todd Rundgren originally recorded "Love Is The Answer" with his group Utopia in 1977. The duo England Dan and John Ford Coley recorded it the following year for their final studio album Dr. Heckle & Mr. Jive. It's a great song first and foremost but the duo make it better by surrounding themselves with the finest L.A. studio all-stars of the day, including those ubiquitous members of Toto. Dan and John would record just one more album together, Just Tell Me You Love Me, a soundtrack for the 1978 film Just Tell Me You Love Me (aka Hawaii Heat aka Maui) though the album curiously wasn't released until 1980.
Neither this song or the one above got any airplay on WLS - they were first heard on crystal clear stereo WRLW, my Dad's favorite station of the time, both in regular rotation and those all-important Casey Kasem American Top 40 countdowns on the weekends. "Love Takes Time" is also the third of four songs on just today's part of the Hideaway 100 of 1979 that are featured on that previously mentioned 25th and final numerical volume in the Super Hits Of The 70s: Have A Nice Day series. The soft rock kid said this song puts him in the mind of Pablo Cruise and I concur. Coincidentally, "Love Takes Time" appears right next to Pablo Cruise's "Love Will Find A Way" on the K-tel album High Energy.
I've mentioned before how Hall & Oates hit-packed career seemed to have a few false starts in the Seventies before their phenomenal streak from 1980-1985. "Wait For Me" was the last, most successful single on the charts before the deluge began in 1980. Though WLS ignored it, it was a number 20 hit and got spins on WLRW. A live version of the song was included on the 1983 compilation Rock 'N Soul Part 1 giving it even more exposure among the millions of newly minted Hall & Oates fans who may have been unaware that their new favorite duo had a few hits back in the Seventies as well. 
You want covers? We got covers! "Oh Well" was a Fleetwood Mac single in 1969 and subsequently appended to the They Play On album. It has been covered several times since but only Detroit's The Rockets managed to take it into the Top 40. Theirs is a fairly faithful cover, muscled up in parts and streamlined in others. "Oh Well" was too much rock for WLS though I heard it often on the AOR stations I started listening to when we moved to Tucson though eventually the Fleetwood Mac original replaced it as AOR evolved into Classic Rock. First acquired the song as part of Rhino's extended Frat Rock series then again on that same Have A Nice Day disc - Vol. 25 - I've mentioned three times already.
This one hits just a bit harder than I recall and if I hadn't foolishly cast it aside years ago it would probably rank a bit higher. The piano riff played by one of Elvis's former sidemen is nice and Forbert's pleading vocals are winning me all over again. He's giving me a Springsteen lite or even Cougarcamp vibe which ain't all that bad actually. I know Keith Urban covered it as a bonus track on his Greatest Hits album about ten years back but as much as I love Keith and his prowess on guitar, his vocals came up a little short though he indeed rocked out on that guitar of his. Gonna pull up the Forbert album and see what the rest of it sounds like.
After having crazy back-to-back, snowballing huge years from 1974-1978, Ronstadt took a well-deserved time-out of sorts for the first nine months in 1979, performing just a handful of concerts and making a few promotional appearances before entering the studio in October 1979 to begin work on what would become her Mad Love album. Her 1978 release Living In The USA had debuted on the Albums chart at number 30 and jumped up to number 10 the following week before toppling Grease form the top spot just two weeks later. It spent five more weeks in the Top 10 before serving out the rest of its 32 week sentence before falling off the chart in mid-May 1979. Ronstadt's cover of Doris Troy's "Just One Look", the third single from Living In The USA, debuted on the Hot 100 just before Valentine's Day 1979 and just missed the Top 40 in a two month run on the chart, peaking at number 44. The rollicking piano and those heavenly harmony vocals get me each and every time. Does anyone else think this is one of her more under appreciated songs or am I flying solo?

Next time out, we'll countdown 80-61

2 comments:

  1. A nice mix here. Definitely a couple that I need to check back in on as I don't recall them from name only. Good job.

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  2. From today's portion of the big countdown, I'd almost certainly have these chestnuts scattered about my own "Top 100 Of '79":

    • Half The Way - Crystal Gayle
    • Chase - Giorgio Moroder
    • Heart Of The Night - Poco
    • You Take My Breath Away - Rex Smith
    • Shake It - Ian Matthews

    And this all-time masterpiece, firmly ensconced in my Top 5-10:

    • Love Is The Answer - England Dan & John Ford Coley

    Gotta' tell ya' though, I don't quite understand the logic of limiting your list of favorites to one song per artist. They're either your favorite songs, or they're not, right?? Personally, I could never justify a list of my own '79 faves if I didn't include multiple tunes each from these cats:

    • Donna Summer (Heaven Knows, Hot Stuff, Dim All The Lights)
    • Bee Gees (Too Much Heaven, Tragedy, Love You Inside Out)
    • Supertramp (The Logical Song, Goodbye Stranger, Take The Long Way Home)
    • Chic (I Want Your Love, Good Times)
    • Sister Sledge (He's The Greatest Dancer, We Are Family)
    • Earth, Wind & Fire (September, After The Love Has Gone)
    • Styx (Renegade, Babe)
    • Blondie (Heart Of Glass, Dreaming)
    • Cheap Trick (I Want You To Want Me, Dream Police)
    • And yes, even the Village People (Y.M.C.A., In The Navy)

    But keep doin' what you're doin', my man... It all seems to be workin' for ya'. Look forward to the next installment!

    *My name is Dirk Digglinator, and I approved this message*

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