Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ten Great Songs From One Great Year

1978 v.2

The year began with filmmaker Roman Polanski skipping bail and flleing to France, following his guilty plea of engaging in sex with a 13-year-old girl. Two weeks later, serial killer Ted Bundy is finally apprehended in Pensacola, Florida. However, the next day, the Hillside Strangler, a serial killer prowling Los Angeles, claims a 10th and final victim. Later in the year, Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was subsequently convicted of the murder of 33 young men, is arrested.

In March, American porn publisher Larry Flynt is shot and paralyzed in Lawrenceville, Georgia and Karl Wallenda of the Flying Wallendas dies after falling off a tightrope between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A bomb explodes in the security section of Northwestern University, wounding a security guard. This is soon discovered to be the first Unabomber attack.

In August, Pope Paul VI dies in Rome and is succeeded by Pope John Paul I. A few weeks later, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat begin the peace process at Camp David, Maryland. Only one month after that, Pope John Paul I passes way. John Paul II replaces him a few weeks later.

The year ends with the Jonestown massacre, where 909 followers of Jim Jones commit mass murder/suicide. Nine days former Supervisor Dan White assassinates later, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. Before the year ends, Cleveland, Ohio becomes the first major American city to go into default since the Great Depression, under Mayor Dennis Kucinich.

Baby Come Back – Player

Peter Beckett and J. C. Crowley, the two founders of Player, wrote this. Beckett was the lead singer and guitarist. He is originally from Liverpool, England (home of The Beatles). After the demise of Player, Beckett joined Australia's Little River Band, who included this on a live album. Beckett also wrote "Twist of Fate" for Olivia Newton-John and "After All This Time" for Kenny Rogers. According to Beckett's webmistress Patricia, he and a girlfriend of 5 years had broken up and he wrote the song from what he was feeling in his heart. Says Patricia: "I had asked him if he ever heard from the girl again and he said 'No! Thank God!'" Bassist Ronn Moss became a very popular Soap Opera star on the ABC soap The Bold And The Beautiful. He played the character Ridge Forrester.

How Much I Feel – Ambrosia

The members of Ambrosia decided on the moniker in 1970 to represent a vision of their music: all shades, textures, colors and styles. While many people are familiar with Ambrosia's radio hits of the 1970s, the songs on their five albums range from progressive to experimental. This is one of their biggest hits. The song is about still being hung up on a woman long after they broke up. Near the end of the song, the singer mentions that he's married and "we're still going strong," but "sometimes when we make love, I can still see your face." This marriage doesn't sound like a healthy one.

Deacon Blues - Steely Dan

There are a number of theories of what the lyrics of “Deacon Blues” mean. My personal take is this song is about a man, who has decided to be not what everyone expects him to be, what want he himself wants. When asked about the line, "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, they call me Deacon Blues, Donald Fagen told Rolling Stone magazine: "Walter and I had been working on that song at a house in Malibu. I played him that line, and he said, 'You mean it's like, 'They call these cracker a--holes this grandiose name like the Crimson Tide, and I'm this loser, so they call me this other grandiose name, Deacon Blues?' and I said 'Yeah!' He said, 'Cool, let's finish it.'"

Three Times A Lady – Commodores

Lionel Richie was inspired by a comment his father made to his mother while giving a speech at their 37th wedding anniversary. The song is a ballad about a man who has met the ideal woman and is singing her praises. Rumor has it that Richie wrote the song as an all-out commercial move after an embarrassing loss to Leo Sayer at the 1977 Grammy Awards; his song "Easy" lost out to Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" as the best Rhythm & Blues Song. Richie did not regard Sayer's song as R&B.

Grease - Frankie Valli

This song was written and produced by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees specifically for the movie. His music helped make Saturday Night Fever a huge hit 2 years earlier. He asked Valli to record it. This particular year was huge for Gibb as he held the number one position on the billboard charts (as a writer and performer) for 23 weeks, including at one point 17 straight. This was Valli's second US #1 hit as a solo artist. Three years earlier, he hit #1 with "My Eyes Adored You." Previously, he had massive success as a member of The Four Seasons. Peter Frampton performed the guitar work on the song.

With A Little Luck – Wings

In Britain this was the much-anticipated follow up single to the UK's then top-selling single of all time, "Mull Of Kintyre." The song was long, 5:45, but radio stations were for the most part content to play the unedited single, even though edited promos were sent out. This was written on McCartney's farm in Scotland. Most of this song was recorded on a motor yacht called the Fair Carol in the Virgin Islands along with several other tracks on London Town. The yacht had a mobile 24-track recording studio installed on it, and when they weren't recording McCartney, his family and the band lived on three other yachts. The song was then finished off back in London.

It's A Heartache - Bonnie Tyler

This was originally a hit for Juice Newton in 1977; her version only reached #86 that year, though it went gold in Mexico. At the same time that Tyler recorded it, Ronnie Spector (of the Ronettes) did so as well but her version went nowhere. Tyler's version proved the most successful. Tyler's version went to #1 in Canada, France, Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. Because of a ripped vocal chord, many people thought Bonnie Tyler sounded like a female Rod Stewart when she first did this song. Ironically when Stewart got around to recording his own version in 2006, he was much older and didn't have the same range as in the past.

An Everlasting Love - Andy Gibb

In 1977, Andy Gibb became the first male solo artist to chart three consecutive Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100. This song, while breaking the string, still reached #5 and continued to cement him as a teen pop idol. However, by 1981, his career had stalled and his drug addiction was killing him. After a well-publicized split from actress Victoria Principal, he fell into a deep depression, which only fueled his drug use. However, by the mid-80’s, with the support of his family, it appeared that he got past his drug problems and began to make a comeback. The news spread that he was to join his brothers’ band, which would have made them a quartet. But just five days after celebrating his 30th birthday, he entered John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, complaining of chest pains and died soon after as a result of myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle.

Imaginary Lover - Atlanta Rhythm Section

Atlanta Rhythm Section unofficially formed in 1970 as former members of the Candymen and the Classics IV (“Stormy” and “Traces”) and became the session band for the newly opened Studio One in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta. This song is about fantasy affairs and how they can often trump reality, as fantasies are flawless, while real people have flaws and impose their own reality. Like their hit "So Into You," it refers to longing for the unattainable. Of course, some people believe the song is simply about personal sexual gratification – aka masturbation.

Count On Me - Jefferson Starship

Following the disbanding of Jefferson Airplane, the remaining members continued on as Jefferson Starship. The band added vocalist Marty Balin as a full time member after his vocals on “Miracles” gave the band a new, fresh sound. Balin's reluctance to tour had kept the band off the road for over a year, and Slick's alcoholism increasingly became a problem, which led to two consecutive nights of disastrous concerts in Germany in June 1978. Soon after, Slick was fired from the band and soon after that, Balin left to go solo (“Hearts” in 1981). But not before he sand lead on this song, which climbed to #8 and was their second biggest hit (until they re-invented themselves yet again in the mid-80’s, calling themselves Starship).

Lights - Journey

This was one of the first Journey songs featuring lead singer Steve Perry. He was accepted into the band after the group's manager listened to his audition tape for only 15 seconds. Even though this is about San Francisco, it was written in Los Angeles, where the band had relocated. Steve Perry explained in an interview with Joe Benson of Arrow 93.1 FM: "I had the song written in Los Angeles almost completely except for the bridge and it was written about Los Angeles. It was 'when the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on LA.' I didn't like the way it sounded at the time. And so I just had it sitting back in the corner. Then life changed my plans once again, and I was now facing joining Journey. I love San Francisco, the bay and the whole thing. 'The bay' fit so nice, 'When the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the bay.' It was one of those early morning going across the bridge things when the sun was coming up and the lights were going down. It was perfect."

Bonus Track

King Tut - Steve Martin

Comedian Steve Martin was a popular guest on Saturday Night Live, where he originally performed this. The song was later released as a single and became a hit, selling over a million copies. The "backup group" Martin used for this song was a collection of studio singers. For the purpose of this song, they were called The Toot Uncommons (Tutankhamen).

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