WLS Music Survey - July 14, 1979 (Part One: The Thirty-threes)

WARNING! Viewers sensitive to rampant over-use & blatant misuse of ampersands & dashes should probably find something else to spend their precious time with.
The music of 1979 is getting lots of coverage on the blogs & Tweets of my friends & colleagues and rightly so because 1) it was 40 freakin' years ago when we were young, passionate & impressionable and 2) the music was, is & will always be great. Some albums featured on this week's WLS Survey (dated July 14, 1979) are personal favorites so I wrote a few paragraphs of appreciation. But first, let's look at a few other aspects of that week's survey sheet, beginning with Jock Of The Week and Concerts in the Weeks Ahead.
Fresh off a five-week stint at #1 on the list of Thrity-threes in April and May, the Doobie Brothers brought their Minute By Minute Tour to East Troy, Wisconsin's Alpine Valley for a three-night stand. The second night was recorded for WTTW's (PBS) SoundStage program and broadcast a month or so after with a stereo simulcast on a local Chicago station. The hour-long concert (sans one song) can be enjoyed on YouTube. Openers The Dixie Dregs are not featured but Mikey Mac's Bruce Hornsby Band shirt is. The Minute By Minute album falls 4 spots to #14 this week.
Comedian Steve Martin would bring his rabbit ears, his white suit, his cruel shoes, and his banjo to the same venue a little more than a week later for a two-night stand during his Wild & Crazy Tour, which may or may not be the official title. Fresh off filming his first starring role in a major motion picture two months prior, The Jerk was still five months away from burrowing into my pubescent mind. A Wild And Crazy Guy stopped at #2 in December 1978 and by April 1979, it was off the WLS Albums list though I'm sure more than a few people picked it up immediately before and after Martin's stand at Alpine Valley.
The Brothers Gibb were still riding (cups ear, pulls up skin-tight satin pants to hit note) hi-hi-hiiiiiiigh on the spectacular success of Saturday Night Fever and the increased interest in their previous two albums (1975's solid serving Main Course and 1976's somewhat underrated Children Of The World) when their fifteenth album, Spirits Having Flown, was released early in 1979.
On the other hand, the Gibbs were also trying to move away from the financial and critical debacle that was their own film debut Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the rising disco backlash. Spirits Having Flown was promoted as not having any disco songs per se though a 3-song promo sampler disc sent to flourishing disco stations and spreading clubs ahead of the album's release was titled Select Disco Cuts from "Spirits Having Flown".
As their first tour since recording the five new songs that ended up on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the hit-packed career-spanning show was the hot ticket of the Summer and early Fall with all 41 dates on the tour selling out, including 36,196 tickets for each night at Chicago Stadium, grossing them half a million bucks. The tour's namesake album is down two spots this week to #26 after peaking at #1 for two weeks in March. And now some of my favorite albums from this week's Thirty-threes:
The Knack, an over-hyped band from LA, would drive the proverbial wooden stake through disco's chart domination and signal the so-called return of both rock and roll to Top 40 radio with the relentless onslaught that was "My Sharona", my vote for the Song of the Summer in 1979. Loved the song though I missed the supposed disco slaying significance at the time - maybe that was hype, too: Sharona had to have gotten play in the clubs, right? The album gotta lotta spins in my room and in short time I was all about the second single, the controversial "Good Girls Don't" which is so much better in its original unedited album form. The foursome tried to recapture the misguided misogynistic magic of Good Girl Sharona with "Baby Talks Dirty" off their second album but failed and faded. Get the Knack debuts at #29 this week on the list of Thirty-threes on its way to a six-week reign at Number One in August and September 1979.
I remember my disco music-loving Dad really digging "Shake Your Groove Thing" and Mom totally digging "Reunited" and also the intro to "Shake Your Groove Thing" so at some point, the 8-track tape was purchased and it lived in Dad's Chevelle for more than a year sharing time with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Village People's first two albums, Donna Summer's Bad Girls and Chic's Risqué which remains the only album I recall Dad buying as an 8-track, a cassette, and a vinyl LP. Dad's disco phase is somewhat of an oddity in hindsight given his previous obsession with pre-Beatles music and his later diversion to country music of the 90s exclusively before returning to classic rock but at the time it was no big deal. 2 Hot! did not make my folks Peaches & Herb fans, they enjoyed the album but bought no successive releases and that might be due to the writers and producer than the performers. On the WLS album list, 2 Hot! is down three to #25. The album had peaked at #3 for two non-consecutive weeks that were two weeks apart in April.
Parallel Lines is probably one of the 200 Greatest Albums of All-Time but it's not even my favorite Blondie album. That designation belongs to the Parallel Lines follow-up Eat To The Beat now and forever. Lines starts off strong, gets better and, for me at least, ends on a high note with the bullet-proof "Heart of Glass" instead of the two tracks that follow it. The album lived in Dad's collection until I finally added it to my collection in high school, maybe as a pristine but used score from Al Bum's in 1983. All of the Deluxe Editions, digital remasters and rei$$ue$ since have been underwhelming but this fan picks them up anyway in the hope that someday, maybe, someone somewhere will get it right though my preferred way to listen to the album is via the hi-res files from 2017. Parallel Lines drops two places to #22 this week on the Thirty-threes after peaking at #9 for two weeks.
The initial allure of KISS was one of forbidden danger: my folks bought into the whole Knights in Satan's Service thing the band probably cooked up themselves and forbade me from buying any of their albums early on but by 1981 when I picked up a copy of Dynasty, still the only album I've ever bought while in New Orleans. My favorite song from Gene, Paul, Peter Anton, and Ace remains "I Was Made For Lovin' You" though the album's "Sure Know Something" and "Charisma" aren't too far behind. Fans with more skin in the game than myself complain Dynasty is the least KISS album in their catalog - Peter didn't even play on it for Criss-sakes - but for my money which I believe was $4.99 plus tax back in 1981, it is KISS. Dynasty moves up from #21 to #20 this week and won't stop until it reaches #19 in two weeks.
My good friend the soft rock kid came to the We Are Family album relatively late and I kind of envy him for being able to hear it with more mature, experienced ears for the first time so that he could appreciate it to a much greater extent than I could in 1979. It was my hormones in overdrive that contributed greatly to my appreciation of the sisters Sledge back then. Sure, they were singing peak Nile and 'Nard tunes but they were drop-dead gorgeous while doing it, especially Kathy who shined even in braces. She and her sisters Joni, Kim & Debbie were long and lean and elegant and Chic with their vocals, their tai-chi dance moves, and their aloof Mona Lisa smiles on the album cover. The 1-2 punch of "He's The Greatest Dancer" and "Lost In Music" that opens the album enthralled me to no end and I spent way too much time lifting the needle after the second cut and placing it back near the edge to play them both again. Seeing the sisters perform on various TV shows of the time was simply fuel on the fire. Even now after forty years of sports anthems, family gatherings, and rap samples, the title track along with those opening two salvos still do it for me though "Lost In Music" is on a whole 'nother level for me now. We Are Family falls six to #19 on the WLS list this week. The album had peaked at #11 just a couple of weeks earlier.
In all likelihood, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" was the first Journey song I ever heard and I first heard it on WLS though it would soon become a jukebox fave. That gentle rocking rhythm and the cold-closing "Na-na-na-na-na-na-na" chorus blaring out of speakers in pizza parlors, youth centers, and skating rinks pointed to the direction my musical tastes would take two short years later when we left Illinois and WLS for Arizona and KLPX, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
The five Journey albums from 1978-1981 got massive airplay on KLPX and are forever embedded in my stereo heart. "Too Late", "City Of The Angels", "Just The Same Way" and "Do You Recall" are just the tracks I can rattle off the top of my dome and I've long maintained that the aforementioned "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" would be soooo much better as a "Hey Jude"-style eight-minute sing-out. Evolution would eventually peak at #5 as 1979 became 1980 in a long, dynamic stay on the Thirty-threes but this week it's down six at #17.
Discovery was an album I came to a few months late as Dad bought it at some point over the Summer of 1979 while I was away, listening to only the singles on the radio. WLS was still playing "Shine A Little Love" when I returned from Summer Vacation and then shortly after school started they began spinning "Don't Bring Me Down" which definitely ranks as one of my top 3 ELO songs ever. Then I discovered the album in Dad's stack and began partaking of it on the sly. The gatefold cover and the printed lyrics on the sleeve were cool but with Dad's headphones pumping the tunes directly into my ears was where the magic was.
Jeff Lynne was in the midst of a prolific, creative hot streak that lasted from 1976-1980, from A New World Record to his contributions to Xanadu soundtrack, and with Dad being a fan, I got to enjoy it all with the added adrenaline rush of listening while trying not to get caught using his records on his system which was strictly forbidden. Discovery moves up six spots to the number between twelve and fourteen this week and will eventually spend a handful of weeks up at #6 in September and October 1979.
The Candy-O album cover grabbed my 13-year old brain's attention immediately as it was something straight out of Playboy. It was sex. The music is far from secondary, however, as Ric, Ben and those other Boys from Boston continue what they started on their self-titled first album with the exuberant invitation of "Let's Go" serving as their battle cry this time around. Even the squiggly sound collage that is "Shoo Be Doo" pushes their sonic palette a bit further as it leads into the album's title track. Two of the most underrated songs in the Cars catalog - "It's All I Can Do" and album-closer "Dangerous Type" - are on this album. There are surprising vocal nuances from both Ocasek and Orr as well as unexpected guitar flourishes from Elliot Easton to be found throughout Candy-O which, like all Cars albums, is best enjoyed through a good set of headphones. The album moves up seven places to #8 this week on WLS and it will eventually spend a week up at #2 during a three-month stay in the Top 10.
[I was typing that last sentence when the news that Ric Ocasek was reuniting with Benjamin Orr broke. Normally, I appreciate the little coincidences and serendipities of life but this one T-boned me.]
Supertramp's Breakfast In America was the only album Dad ever owned by the group and I remember him playing it all the time like it was Rumors or Ronstadt's Greatest Hits. I think Side One of the album misses pop/rock perfection by closing with "Oh Darling" rather than "Take The Long Way Home", the Side Two opener which is easily remedied 40 years down the road with just a couple of mouse clicks. There, that's the stuff. The WLS surveys show the station was in a two-month lull between "The Logical Song" and "Goodbye Stranger" from the album this week with "Take The Long Way Home" still to come just before the end of 1979. I enjoyed all three singles on WLRW, the FM Stereo station where we listened to American Top 40 nearly every weekend, more than WLS though I think at the time (July 1979) I was hearing "The Logical Song" while on vacation down in Texas on a rock station (KLOL?) out of Houston with that Mattel Electronics Football game sound effect. Breakfast In America is at #2 again this week on the Thirty-threes chart after spending a month and a half at the top.

1 comment:

  1. So much great memories in this post for me. 1979 - Freshman year of high school. The Bee Gees's "Spirits Having Flown" tour was one of my first, and it was awesome!!!!