Saturday, August 15, 2009

Before posting my weekly top 10 list, I wanted to thank everyone who voted for their favorite song of 1980. All told, I received 19 votes this past week, which were considerably more than I have have gotten in the past (even though these lists generate about 100 hits a weekend). It's nice to know some of you do appreciate these lists and I do take great pleasure in creating them for you.

The winning song last week was "Sailing" by Christopher Cross, followed by "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar.

Ten Great Songs From One Great Decade

'70's Summer Songs

Ah, summer – it turns me upside down. Summer, summer, summer – it’s like a merry go round. Ok, even though The Cars hit big in 1984 with that song (“Magic”), it well represents my feelings towards the season of the hot sun, cool waves and my body sticking to the vinyl seats in my old ’77 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Nothing told a better story of my adolescence quite like the summer songs of the 1970’s. At the beginning of this list, I was a mere 7 years old and while that first summer was spent at the Caribbean Hotel in Miami Beach (as was every other summer that decade), it was the first time I had a summer “crush.” I remember it well. She was a friend of my brother and she was a goddess – ok, she was a1 11-year-old goddess.

Throughout the 70’s, we traveled to Miami every year and also to Europe and Israel. My father led tours to the Holy Land and each year one of us got to travel with my folks. My first trip to Israel was the summer of 1973 – which was also the first summer that we fly exclusively for our vacations. As much as I loved going to Israel and seeing Europe, I missed the road trips. Starting again in 1975, we once again took to the highway in my dad’s brand-spankin’-new 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale, with the landau roof and of course, an 8-track player.

By the end of the decade, I was a 17-year-old man with facial hair and a girlfriend – which of course, ended the moment we promised to stay in touch. I guess that’s where I earned by reputation as the king of the 3-week relationships. But they’re longevity (or lack thereof), was rarely my fault. Of course, that speaks volumes as well! Ah, good times!

(They Long To Be) Close To You – The Carpenters (1970)

The songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote this. Richard Chamberlain originally released it as the B-side of “Blue Guitar” in 1963. Dusty Springfield recorded an early version of this in 1964, which was originally scheduled for release as a single, and potential follow-up to her hit "I Just Don't Know What To Do with Myself." However, it wasn't until 3 years later, in 1967, that it finally was released on her album Where Am I Going? The Carpenters signed with A&M Records in 1969, which was co-owned by Herb Alpert. Burt Bacharach asked Alpert to record the song himself, but he didn't feel comfortable with the lyrical content "Moondust in your hair," and instead produced a new arrangement for The Carpenters.

It's Too Late – Carole King (1971)

Carole King wrote this with Toni Stern, a painter who worked on several songs on the Tapestry album. This was released as the B-side to "I Feel the Earth Move." After a few weeks of continuous airplay with "I Feel the Earth Move," many DJs all over the States decided to give "It's Too Late" an equal amount of airplay. Soon, it came to the point where everyone preferred "It's Too Late," which ended up topping the charts by May of 1971. "I Feel the Earth Move" never charted. This song won a Grammy for Record Of The Year in 1972. In addition, her song "You've Got a Friend" won a Grammy for Song Of The Year, and her album Tapestry won Grammys for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

Lean On Me – Bill Withers (1972)

In an interview, Bill Withers said (about this song): "This was my second album, so I could afford to buy myself a little Wurlitzer electric piano. So I bought a little piano and I was sitting there just running my fingers up and down the piano. In the course of doing the music, that phrase crossed my mind, so then you go back and say, 'OK, I like the way that phrase, Lean On Me, sounds with this song.' So you go back and say, 'How do I arrive at this as a conclusion to a statement? What would I say that would cause me to say Lean On Me?' At that point, it's between you and your actual feelings, you and your morals and what you're really like. You probably do more thinking about it after it's done."

Shambala – Three Dog Night (1973)

Tibetan Buddhists believe that Shambala is a mystical land hidden somewhere in the Himalaya Mountains. Although the lyrics of "Shambala" draw on a theme from Eastern mysticism, Allmusic notes the "very strong gospel feeling" of the album Cyan is most evident on this song. This comment was probably based on both the instrumentation (including the characteristic gospel keyboard organ sounds that accompany the chorus) and the bluesy vocals of Cory Wells. Allmusic calls this hit single "one of the group's finest later period records." This was written and originally recorded by Texas songwriter B.W. Stevenson. Stung by not having a hit with the tune himself, Stevenson recorded and released a carbon copy single called "My Maria" a few months after Three Dog Night hit the Top 10 with their cover of "Shambala."

Rock The Boat – Hues Corporation (1974)

The Hues Corporation was a Los Angeles band formed in 1969. They were a black vocal group comprised of Hubert Ann Kelly, St. Clair Lee and Fleming Williams. Their name was a pun on billionaire Howard Hughes' corporation. This was arguably the first Disco song to hit #1 in the US. The instrumental hit "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" also had a Disco sound and was released 3 months earlier. In an interview with, Hues Corporation member St. Clair Lee "It was a song that you could do anything on. You could cuddle or you could get crazy if you wanted to. It was a love song without being a love song. But, it was a Disco hit and it happened because of the discos." After the success of "Rock the Boat" the Hues Corporation's other charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100 included "Rockin' Soul" (1974, #18), "Love Corporation" (1975, #62), and "I Caught Your Act" (1977, #92). Despite their initial success, the group was unable to duplicate the success of their earlier hits and disbanded in 1978. But with renewed interest in disco music throughout the 1990s, the group reunited for tour dates and special events, including the PBS special “ Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion.”

Love Will Keep Us Together – The Captain & Tennille (1975)

Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield wrote this in 1973 - it was the last song the longtime songwriting partners put together. They wrote it about their collaboration since their high school days. Sedaka recorded this for his Sedaka's Back LP before Captain & Tennille did their version. Toni Tennille loved it when she first heard the song. This was almost not the first from their first album because Daryl Dragon (The Captain) wanted "I Write The Songs," written by Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys (and later recorded by Barry Manilow), released instead. Dragon was formerly a keyboard player for The Beach Boys. This song was the first of 8 top 10 singles by the married couple. Four years later, they topped the charts again with “Do That To Me One More Time.” That turned out to be their final top 40 entry.

Afternoon DelightStarland Vocal Band (1976)

This was the only hit for The Starland Vocal Band, who won the Grammy for Best New Artist of 1976, beating out the band Boston. In a VH-1 special on One-Hit-Wonders, Bill Danoff of Starland Vocal Band said: "We got two of the five Grammys - one was Best New Artist. So that was basically the kiss of death and I feel sorry for everyone who's gotten it since." The Starland vocal band was Bill Danoff, his now ex-wife Taffy Nivert Danoff, Jon Carroll and his now-ex wife Margot Chapman. The group split up after their 4th album. This was used in two 2004 movies that were set in the '70s: Anchorman and Starsky and Hutch. The Anchorman DVD contains a video of the cast performing the song, with an intro by Will Ferrell, who in his Ron Burgundy character says: "If you don't think this song is the greatest song ever, I will fight you.

I Just Want To Be Your Everything – Andy Gibb (1977)

Andy Gibb was the brother of Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees, and Barry wrote this song. It's a fairly dramatic love song, with the singer declaring his unending passion and stating that without her, he would die. This was the first of 3 #1 singles for Gibb, which made him the first male solo artist with 3 consecutive #1 singles in the US. The next single was "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water," which was released when The Bee Gees were scoring huge hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. That song replaced "Stayin' Alive" at #1 and was bumped by "Night Fever." Gibb's next single was "Shadow Dancing," which he wrote with his brothers and also went to #1. In March 1988, Andy celebrated his 30th birthday in London while working on a new album. Soon after, he entered John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, complaining of chest pains. He died on March 10, 1988, just five days after his 30th birthday as a result of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle due to a recent viral infection. His brothers acknowledge that Andy's past drug and alcohol use probably made his heart more susceptible to the ailment. Just before Andy's death, it was decided by the group that Andy would join them, which would have made the group a quartet. This did not come to pass, however. The Bee Gees' following album, One (1989), featured a song dedicated to Andy, "Wish You Were Here."

Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty (1978)

This is the most sentimental of all Gerry Rafferty's songs. It is about a man who dreams of owning a house and living away from his neighborhood, but he is a drunk, and cannot achieve that goal. He drinks to forget what he doesn't have, and never realizes he's a rolling stone with no direction. Rafferty was a member of Stealers Wheel, who had a hit in 1973 with "Stuck In The Middle With You." His first band was a Folk duo called "The Humblebums." His singing partner was the famous Scot comedian Billy Connelly. Baker Street is a real street in London. Rafferty often stayed with a friend who lived there. Raphael Ravenscroft played the sax solo. Rafferty wrote the song with an instrumental break, but didn't have a specific instrument in mind. Hugh Murphy, who produced the track, suggested a saxophone, so they brought in Ravenscroft to play it. Ravenscroft has played on records by Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, Abba, Alvin Lee and many others.

Boogie Wonderland – Earth, Wind and Fire with the Emotions (1979)

This is one of the more complex and misinterpreted songs of the Disco era. Written by Jon Lind and Allee Willis, it was inspired by the movie Looking For Mr. Goodbar, which stars Diane Keaton as a very lost woman who goes to clubs every night to dance and forget how miserable she was. Says Willis: "When I saw Mr. Goodbar, I got kind of fascinated with people who did go to clubs every night, whose life was kind of falling apart, but they lived for the night life, though it didn't seem to be advancing them as humans in the end. So if you really look at the lyrics of 'Boogie Wonderland,' unlike 'September,' it's not a happy song at all. It's really about someone on the brink of self destruction who goes to these clubs to try and find more, but is at least aware of the fact that if there's something like true love, that is something that could kind of drag them out of the abyss. So for instance, the first verse is: 'Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get. Daylight deals a bad hand to a woman who's laid too many bets. The mirror looks you in the face and says, 'uh-uh baby, it don't work.' You say your prayers, though you don't care, you dance to shake the hurt.'” The Emotions provided the female vocals on this song, which is credited to Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions. The Emotions were a female vocal trio from Chicago: the sisters Wanda, Sheila and Jeanette Hutchinson. Maurice White had previously worked with them and produced their 1977 #1 single "Best Of My Love."

Bonus Track

Magic – Pilot (1975)

For some reason, no song screams “SUMMER” like this one. As a one-hit wonder, it was not easy to discover who sang it and for many years it remained that song that everyone remembers, but only in passing. When I was introduced to the Alan Parsons Project, around late ’79 or early ’80, I discovered that not only had Parsons been an engineer on the Beatles’ Abbey Road, but he had produced Pilot’s debut LP, as well. So, I decided to look up what song Pilot sand and lo and behold, I found this one. Apparently, others also share my nostalgia, as this song has recently popped up in Herbie Fully Loaded (2005), Doogal (2006) and Magicians (2007), as well as in a commercial for Pillsbury.


MZ said...

Suffice to say, you are the only person in the universe who has mentioned the Hues Corporation in a sentence. Additionally since you failed to mention any music by Bread, it is clear that you only listened to KVIL and not KNUS.

MZ-the good looking brother.

Shayne said...

Suffice it to say, I'm clearly not the only brother with too much time on my hands!

Mindy said...

Muskrat Sally says the choices were great...but there's always, always room for more.

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