Welcome to the first half of the Top 40 of the Hideaway 100 of 1979. Before we go any further, please allow me to give credit where credit is due. With only one or two exceptions, the record label images used in this series of countdown posts (and on The Hideaway in general) are from my fellow discogs posters. As a couple of somewhat disgruntled anonymous viewers have pointed out, the images do not always match the original US 45 matrix numbers I've included on the jukebox strips and that is entirely on me - I'm not trying to present an accurate or authoritative discography here; I simply pick the images I like best whether or not they match the matrix. Oh and those nifty jukebox style title strips beneath each label were made online at Mike's Arcade as one entire sheet of 20 strips and then painstakingly edited to give me 20 individual strips. (This is why the borders are not always equal.) Lastly, some of the names of people in my recollections have been changed intentionally to protect their privacy while others are merely misremembered with no offense or slight intended. Now on with the countdown...
Anita Ward sure can coo can't she? And that uniquely disco popping sound is relentless, bordering on annoying but I like it. My "Ring Me Bell" story takes place in a cow pasture in Texas with me and my Texas Grandpa putting up barbed wire fences while the cows stared at us as cows do. He was a pretty easy going guy, great Grandpa material, and he let me pick the radio stations we listened to in the truck with the doors wide open out there in the middle of God's Country. I was somewhat worried that each new song played on this station we tuned in from Houston, about 72 miles away, was gonna be the one where he said "turn that damn thing off" or something like that. He didn't get mad often but when he did - that is what cost him his longtime job and pension at the tractor trailer plant he worked at, a fight at lunchtime. But Grandpa never even seemed to pay attention to the music - how does one do that? Tragically, he dropped dead from a massive heart attack in a different Texas cow pasture a little over a decade later at the way too young age of 55, after unloading several bales of hay from that same ol' pick'em up truck.
Have very vivid memories of listening to this song on WLRW back in 1979 and 1980. The sound was remarkably clean, quiet and even shimmery as Kenny whispers the verses before erupting into full-joy mode on the choruses. Maybe it's because I did not spent a lot of time in churches growing up but this song sounds churchy to me in a very good way. It also checks the yacht rock, the soft rock and the chilling by the pool after dark boxes. Fairly certain "This Is It" appears on at least a dozen or more of my Spotify playlists and at least two K-tel albums from 1980, Wings Of Sound and Hitline.
I like how it says "short stereo" on the label above - brings to mind different images than intended I know. Being a vinyl nerd is so much fun and it goes great with being obsessive compulsive as well as a trivia freak. But back to this record, this song. Another cover version (anyone keeping count how many we've had so far?) given an electrifying disco makeover by Amii Stewart. While I really, really enjoy listening to this song I gotta admit to liking it a little less after seeing Stewart's over-the-top performance on The Midnight Special. (I know, I know, I'm a bad person. I tell my counselor that all the time.) I think it was one of the rare lip-synced performances on the show plus that headgear she was wearing looked like something a comic-book supervillian would wear. But back to the song again, I like the 3:45 Disco Stereo edit because it has those thunderous drums at the beginning. And once the song begins, there is that little guitar (keyboard?) squiggle that gets my attention every time. But basically the rhythm track just makes me want to move around the place. So good. Of course, given the choice, I'm going for the full-blown twelve inch disco version with forty seconds of those drums at the beginning.
Not a lot of kids in my small circle of friends seemed to care for this song in 1979. Too bluesy? Too folksy? Too jazzy? I don't know. It was alright back then, I was 13 and liked what I liked but Rickie Lee has only grown on me as we both got older but this song's place up here in the Top 40 demonstrates something. The flipside of this single, a song which follows "Chuck E.'s In Love" on her self-titled debut album as well, is "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963" was another song heard in the film Little Darlings.
Robert Palmer covering a song and making it his own. Nothing shocking about that at all. This time around, he butches up Moon Martin's track with a more bluesy vocal performance, while his band amps up the four on the floor swagrock with a little synthesizer in the mix, echoing the guitar solo. "Bad Case Of Lovin' You" got lots of play on WLS and though I never picked up this pretty little 45, I had the song on two 1980 K-Tel albums: Hitline and The Rock Album. While I prefer Palmer's original recording of the song (which I eventually picked up on an Island Treasures CD single from 1990) some folks like the this-is-what-was-wrong-with-the-Eighties remix that appeared on the 1991 compilation, Addictions, Vol. 1. No. Just no. As an antidote, try Koko Taylor's straight-up blues cover.
Nicolette sure had a purdy voice. And how in the world did a Neil Young song get the disco lite treatment? Young released his version on his infamous Comes A Time album, which he allegedly was so unhappy with because of a damaged master tape, he bought some 200,000 copies of the album to take it off the market, stating with a straight face that he used the records to roof a barn. Listening to Neil's approved version of the CD, remastered by him from his safety copy of the original master, and I really enjoy his delicate reading of the song but it just doesn't hold a candle to what Nicolette offers up. From the opening sax riff, the song is just about sheer perfection. When I discovered a few years back that there was an actual disco remix of the track by my man Jim Burgess, I gained an all-new appreciation for the song.
Lionel Richie, being born and raised in Alabama, let's his country boy roots show through on this moving song. The opening piano accompaniment is just beautiful and Richie's understated vocal performance (his vocals are either double-tracked or there is a very similar voice shadowing him throughout. Then at the three minute mark, "Sail On" kicks up a notch or two. On the Midnight Magic album, the track hits that mark a minute later but the song lasts a minute and a half longer as well. Dad bought the album home from one of our weekend trips to the BX but I don't recall ever hearing him play it. I have his copy of the album now and the vinyl looks brand new. Dad might have liked Lionel's voice - two of the last records he bought while I still lived at home were Richie's first two solo albums. We never talked about it but I bet Dad would have liked Lionel's 2012 country album, Tuskeegee. Lionel duets with Tim McGraw on "Sail On" and while I really want to like their version, Richie's voice is just too smooth as is McGraw's.
"Take The Long Way Home" sneaks up on you, slowly emerging from the silence before the harmonica begins to dance with the piano. It was the fourth and final single peeled off the great album Breakfast In America, which Dad acquired sometime during the Summer of 1979. I equally enjoy the four singles for the most part but when it came time to pick one Supertramp song from 1979, this one beat the others in head to head (to head) (to head) listening. Ask me again tomorrow and I'm liable to go with "The Logical Song". Or "Goodbye Stranger". Or "Breakfast In America". (Or "Cupid's Chokehold".) Or maybe "Take The Long Way Home" wins the honors again.
Country rock was a thing but I'd argue that country disco was also a thing, a lesser thing but still a thing. Dr. Hook had a few country disco songs and then there was Exile's "Kiss You All Over" and and and some other songs I just can't think of at this moment. (Wait, what about "Stumblin' In", which I featured earlier back at number 55. And Ronnie Milsap had a country disco song, "Get It Up".) While I liked "When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman" when I first heard it on WLS, my feelings for the song were greatly amplified after seeing Dennis, Ray and the boys having a wonderful time hosting and performing on The Midnight Special. Technically, the song is from 1978 - I even included it on my Hideaway 100 of 1978 - but it belatedly charted in 1979, complete with an extended disco mix, so I feel no shame in trotting it out again. Now where are my maracas?
As great as their previous songs were, "Let's Go" came along and made you forget about The Cars past for a while. It was a bold new futuristic sound, marrying rock guitar to new wave synth hooks and wrapping it all up in an infectious pop melody that still sounds pretty fresh nearly forty years down the line. Wait, wasn't that what they did on their polished debut? A special bonus for 45 buyers like us back in 1979 was the non-album b-side "That's It", which I'd like to say is a great song but it really isn't. Still, having a song that wasn't on an album was a very rare occurrence back then before Prince, Springsteen and others conditioned us to expect such treats.
What are my three favorite CHIC Organization productions you ask? Easy! There's the band's own "I Want Your Love" and then Nile's greatest guitar solo in Norma Jean's "I Like Love". And rounding out the Top 3 is Sister Sledge's pulsing "Lost In Music", a dreamy concoction anchored by Nard's bass while Nile's guitar simply soars. The song is track two on Sister Sledge's We Are Family album, behind the equally appealing "He's The Greatest Dancer" but sister Joni takes the lead on "Lost In Music" rather than sister Kathy, who sings lead on most of the album, including the title track and "He's The Greatest Dancer". Normally, I'm a sucker for an extended remix but I care for neither the 1984 or 1993 attempts, even though the 1984 effort was an in-house effort by Rodgers and Edwards themselves. (The 1993 version is merely an attempt at giving the song the trendy house sound of the time.) The 45 trims a little more than a minute from the album version but I like them both. It's really a great song. The Dimitri from Paris remix included on The CHIC Organization Box Set highlights Rodgers riffs quite splendidly and even manages to build a little suspenseful tension at the beginning of the mix. I approve of that remix though I was disappointed in the set's mastering as a whole.
Back in the fall of 1980, my friend Robbie Rottet (ro-tay) showed up at the bus stop on the first day of high school with a guitar case he had decorated himself with hand-drawn band logos. Most of them I recognized - Styx, REO, Foreigner - but two of the biggest logos were new to me: AC/DC (with the slash here representing a lightning bolt in the logo itself) and Def Leppard. I asked Robbie about them and he said his older brother had the albums and that I should come over to listen to them sometime. Does anyone share music like that anymore? Just having a listen at your house? Good times. So that day or a day soon after, I followed him home after school. (It might have been that Friday because I was on the football team and we had after school practice every day but Friday because that was game night. Go Eagles!) We listened to Def Leppard's On Through The Night and then AC/DC's Back In Black. I look back on that day fondly as the beginning of my hard rock/heavy metal obsession. By Christmas, WLS was playing "You Shook Me All Night Long" and legions of junior high and high school aged boys became devoted disciples. As Robbie's brother acquired AC/DC's back-catalog, we had further listening sessions which were often interrupted by Robbie whipping out his guitar in an effort to try an emulate a riff. Turned out AC/DC had a whole other history with a different singer so going through their older albums was a revelation and the album prior to Back In Black was Highway To Hell, which soon became my favorite AC/DC album. I love the three songs that were spun off as singles here in the States but that crunchy title track with Bon Scott in full screechy demonic bloom on vocals and the all-in chorus that continues to inspire both road trips and eternal damnation is my jam. I lost touch with Robbie after I moved away in 1981 but he has a tiny, devoted following on the interwebs and this is what I learned: Robert continued to evolve as a musician and a poet, felt a calling and later enlisted in the Army after earning his degree in English Lit in 1996. Three years later, his lifeless body was discovered just off Fort Bragg, officially ruled a suicide though friends and family suspect foul play.
Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' " ruled the WLS airwaves for a bit in the Fall of 1979 and if I had to guess, I'd say it topped their Forty-fives survey though I just looked it up and I thought wrong; it only peaked at number 2 during a respectable 25 week run, kept out of the top spot for two consecutive weeks by Herb Alpert's "Rise", a song I reluctantly relegated to the Runners-Up list at the last moment. Steve Perry's voice rises up from the rhythm track on this one amid piano flourishes and uncharacteristically restrained guitar work from Neil Schon before leading into a "Hey Jude"-like sing-along that carries the song out. It's majestic, romantic (despite being a tale of heartbreak) and an awful lot of fun.
Laid-back funk of the best kind, Raydio's "You Can't Change That" just seems to float along while an annoying synthesizer whooshes in and out way too forward in the mix, taking my eye off the prize which is a satisfying groove with vocals by Ray Parker, Jr. and Arnell Carmichael, who handles the higher register. It came rockin' on WLS in the middle of Summer of '79, a cool burst of R&B amid the hot disco tracks dominating the airwaves at the time. It can be found, like more than a few other songs here on the Hideaway 100 of 1979, on the K-Tel double-album, Hitline.
Another track that effortlessly floats along is Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin' ", a stone-cold yet smoldering slow jam that was insanely popular at school dances and the roller rink back in the day. In my music family tree, "Cruisin' " is a distant cousin to William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful For What You Got" from five years earlier and both songs burn slow and low for extended periods if you grab the full-length album versions. While I do not have the enviable vocal range of Sir Smokey (we really need an American knighthood), I still enjoy singing along with him atop those pillowy soft beats and if my sweet baby honey pie strays too close by while I am enjoying the song, I wrap her tight in my arms and we gently cruise away from here, letting the music take us away.
John Stewart's "Gold" was another song from the Summer of 1979 but it was more likely heard on the radio (both WLS and WLRW) or the jukebox. The vocal assist from Stevie Nicks is inspired as is Lindsey Buckingham's guitar and Stewart's inscrutable lyrics. (He jumps into the car THEN throws in his guitar? What the heck is Kanan and why does it need to be driven over?) The song shuffles along, speaking of driving so naturally it shows up on several of my road trip mixes and playlists as it just sounds like a song to drive to. It's conjoined musical twin in my head is "Hot Summer Nights" sung by another female named Stevie. That one's coming up a little later in the countdown; if not today then next time out.
What do we have here? Another late Summer hummer from WLS that bears repeated listens. I never really noticed back then, listening to the AM signal booming from the WLS tower high above Chicago but "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" sounds kind of flat and lifeless. Or is it time for your boy to get his precious hearing tested? Maybe it was the way the album Look Sharp! was recorded or was intended to sound and not just the song. I like the song and it was only the beginning of what has proven to be a long, fearless and unpredictable career for Jackson.
"Mama Can't Buy You Love" was my favorite song for few weeks in the Summer of 1979. Other folks seemed to like it as well as it became John's first Top 10 hit in
eons centuries decades nearly three years - not bad for the product of an aborted 1977 album recording session. The single preceded a three song EP titled The Thom Bell Sessions, giving credit where credit is due as producer Bell and artist John clashed almost immediately but still managed to record six songs featuring MFSB in place of Elton's usual band and none other than The Spinners on background vocals. Those three tracks, while they had been arranged, conducted and produced by Bell were mixed by John along with Clive Franks. Ten years later, The Complete Thom Bell Sessions was released, not only featuring all six songs recorded with Bell behind the boards, but all six songs were presented as they had originally been mixed by Bell back in 1977. Can you hear the difference? Fun fact: "Mama Can't Buy You Love" was written by Thom Bell's nephew, LeRoy Bell and his partner Casey James, who had a Top 15 hit themselves earlier in 1979 with the jamtastic "Livin' It Up (Friday Night)".
The Brothers Gibb could have easily coasted on the success of Saturday Night Fever but instead they chose to forge ahead, tweaking their sound slightly on the much anticipated follow-up album, Spirits Having Flown. Brother Barry had stayed busy between sessions for Saturday Night Fever and Spirits Having Flown by participating, with his twin brother Robin and Maurice, in the ill-fated Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band film and soundtrack. Then he produced Baby Brother Andy's second album Shadow Dancing, while also writing or co-writing the album's four eventual singles. And before recording sessions began for Spirits Having Flown began in March 1978, Barry wrote and produced the theme song to film adaption of the play Grease, singing backup while Peter Frampton, his Sgt. Pepper's co-star, played guitar. Once the recording sessions for their new album began in earnest, Barry did the lion's share of the work which was unusual as the brothers were known as a fairly tight and self-contained recording unit throughout their career. The album's advance single was the plush love song "Too Much Heaven" released late in 1978 and they donated all of their future performance royalties from the song to UNICEF, which as of 2003 had amounted to more than seven million dollars. I dig the song and when Dad brought it home as a week-late Valentine's gift for Mom, she promptly let me borrow the album for the weekend and I fell for the album's dynamic opening track, "Tragedy". The song announced itself on a grand scale musically, packing a wallop from the start before settling into that Electric Light Orchestra-like groove. Barry and his brothers give their most powerful falsetto performances ever, with Barry just plain showing off at the end of the verses by holding that note. I love how the different synth sounds come in and out of the mix, sometimes building upon one another and other times dueling one another. It's a great track to listen to on headphones. (I will say that the lightning crack heard a few times throughout the song is a more than a little weak, though.) Unfortunately for the Bee Gees, Chicago radio at the time was Ground Zero for the "disco sucks" backlash and though WLS played the song very frequently, it only peaked at number 4 on their Forty-fives survey in April 1979 after it had been topped the Hot 100 in March. I bought the 45 and remember it well because it has a "lip" on the outer edge of the record, like it wasn't trimmed well after pressing. It doesn't affect the playback but it is unique among all the records I have ever bought with that unfinished edge.
We close out this list of twenty singles with the percussive "Heartache Tonight", the lead single from The Long Run. Written by the group's primary songwriters (Henley and Frey) along with longtime friends Bob Seger and J.D. Souther (both of whom have already appeared on The Hideaway 100 of 1979 with great singles of their own), the song begs to be sung loud with as many people as possible. If you're like me, your favorite part of the song is the little drum roll coda.
Next up we wrap up the countdown with numbers 20-1.