Thursday, April 30, 2020

Grading Billboard's Top 100 singles of 1979

1. My Sharona - The Knack: A+
Putting aside the fact that the real Sharona (that's her on the picture sleeve of the 45) was something like 17 or 18 years old, something not frowned upon then, the song itself is a great, aggressive power pop song. The Knack's sudden rise to the top made them targets for critics, and frontman Doug Fieger didn't handle it well, and so despite two other Top 40 hits, most people perceive the band as a one-hit wonder. Oh well. Fieger had a (pardon the pun) knack for catchy, melodic rock tunes, and the band was simply killer. That's Bruce Gary driving the beat on drums, and that fantastic guitar solo is courtesy of Berton Averre. The Knack kicked off the so-called skinny tie revival, with loads of power pop and new wave bands. Many were good, a few were great, almost none of them had a song this good.

2. Bad Girls - Donna Summer: A
The title track of one of the great pop albums of the '70s. This song was co-written by Summer, who was really coming into her own as a tunesmith. There's a bit of theater (which was in her background in this song) and a lot of empathy for what, but for the subject matter, is a pretty upbeat pop song. The production is great - there are disco touches all over the place, but they don't overwhelm the pop-soul core of the song.

3. Le Freak - Chic: A
By the band's third album, Chic had really honed their sound. Nile Rodgers's funky and slick guitar work, Bernard Edward's fluid bass lines, and the great drumming of Tony Thompson worked together to create urbane dance grooves that still sound great today. Much like K.C. & The Sunshine Band, they didn't have much to say but "get up and dance," but with this music, that's really all you need to do.

4. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? - Rod Stewart: B+
This is a pretty divisive song. While other rock acts had done a disco song, Rod Stewart took the brunt of the criticism for doing so. Perhaps it was because the purported vacuousness of the music intersected with his jetsetting lifestyle. Maybe it was because he had lost touch with his earthier roots. I'm mean, the song is alright. Of course, when you lift things from Brazilian musician Jorge Ben Jor and Bobby Womack, you're probably increasing your chances of a good song, but this tale of closing time one night stand fits the hedonistic tuneage. It's interesting that Stewart's two co-writers on the song said, after the fact, that it was a parody. Considering that the lyrics of this song were about as penetrating as any on the Blondes Have More Fun album that it was featured on, I suspect this was revisionism.

5. Reunited - Peaches and Herb: B
The duo got started in the '60s. Herb is the constant. There have been seven different Peaches. This was the third, Linda Greene. This is a pretty standard issue '70s soul ballad, with just a little bit of treacle. Other than some production choices, this could have been a hit seven years earlier.

6. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor: A
I will not penalize a song for being overplayed, otherwise, this would be docked a few notches. But there is a reason this one is overplayed. It's the classic slow start building up to dancing time song, and Gloria Gaynor tears into the classic lyrics that remain resonant for the brokenhearted to this day. What is interesting is that no one realized the potential of this song - it was originally the b-side of a cover of a Righteous Brothers tune. Luckily for Gaynor, some DJs flipped the record over, and people responded pretty quickly to it. It is a lot harder to make a living off of one song, particularly if you didn't write it, but this became Gaynor's meal ticket. This is the only song to win the Grammy for Best Disco Recording, since they only gave out the award in 1980.

7. Hot Stuff - Donna Summer: A
The Bad Girls album was a conscious attempt by Summer and producer Giorgio Moroder to break her out of just being known as disco artist. Although this was a still a number one club hit, the prominent rock guitar gave the song a totally different feel. Co-written by three of Moroder's minions, the song just smokes and Summer smokes too.

8. Y.M.C.A. - Village People: B+
As noted two entries above, I try not to punish a song for being ubiquitous, and may have done so here. The Village People were the brainchild of producer Jacques Morali, who came up with iconic characters for the singers to portray. In some ways, it's pretty remarkable such an overtly gay song took the charts by storm in 1979, but this appealed to a lot of folks who just liked the singalong/spell it out good time fun of the song. This is a catchy tune, very well rendered, and that counts for something.

9. Ring My Bell - Anita Ward: A
This song was written by Frederick Knight, a soul singer who had some minor hits earlier in the decade. He wrote it for pre-teen singer Stacey Lattisaw, but she signed to a different label, and so Ward was tapped to sing the song. The song changed from something innocent about wanting a phone call, to, well, a song about a phone call, but with an extra meaning when sung by a grown up. Knight produced the track too, and the use of drum machines and sound effects was fairly innovative for the time. The song really stands out, even nowadays.

10. Sad Eyes - Robert John: C+
If you were born in 1959 or 1960, you very well may have slow danced to this song at your senior prom. This is a real old school ballad which shows off Robert John's range. It's sweet -- too sweet.

11. Too Much Heaven - The Bee Gees: C
One of the weakest tracks of this era of the Bee Gees, although Robin cited it as one of his favorite tracks. The Bee Gees usually aren't cloying, and their ballads either have a stately Beatle-esque melodicism or an R & B undercurrent, to keep things from getting too saccharine. This song lacks either of those things, making for a slog.

12. MacArthur Park - Donna Summer: A+
I heard this version of the song before the Richard Harris original. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, especially with Jimmy Webb going full out psychedelic in the lyrics, but the melodies in this song are just incredible, with a spectacular chorus. One of the studio tracks from Summer's Live and More double LP set, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte got this just right, balancing out the rhythm with great touches that heighten the inherent drama of the song. They knew they had a singer who could handle it.

13. When You're In Love With a Beautiful Woman - Dr. Hook: C-
This song was purportedly written by a fellow named Even Stevens, who allegedly followed Dr. Hook's producer into the bathroom to pitch the song. The song apparently has a hypnotic quality that made people buy it and request it even though they didn't really want to listen to it. How else could you explain it hitting number 6 here and number 1 for THREE STRAIGHT WEEKS in the UK? This song is just an overly cute pop song, without any redeeming yacht rock qualities.

14. Makin' It - David Naughton: B
Hey! It's the guy in the Dr. Pepper commercial! This is one of the most commercially successful TV themes of the era, but a lot of people maybe never realized that it was a TV theme, as the show it came from lasted only nine weeks before getting canned. Naughton starred in the show, which was an attempt to cash in on the Saturday Night Fever phenomenon, with the producer casting Ellen Travolta -- guess who's sister? -- in the show. This is a nice piece of bubblegum disco from Freddie Perrin and Dino Fekaris, who also co-wrote "I Will Survive".

15. Fire - Pointer Sisters: A+
Bruce Springsteen recorded this song as part of the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions, but thought it didn't fit the album. He was inspired to write after seeing Elvis Presley not long before The King died. He then gave the song to rockabilly singer Robert Gordon (and The Boss played on the track), but nothing happened. Super producer Richard Perry had heard the track (allegedly Springsteen's recording) and he convinced the gals to record it. With Anita Pointer on lead vocals, it revived the Pointer Sisters' on the charts, and they became consistent hitmakers for years. The song is a classic slice of late '50s/early '60s rock and roll. Perry slowed it down just a tad, giving the song an unusual mix of girl group and gospel, which really comes through when the sisters harmonize.

16. Tragedy - The Bee Gees: A-
This was around the end of the peak for the Bee Gees as the dominant commercial force in pop music. There is a tension in this song, as everything from the instrumentation to Barry's falsetto seems a little pinched. The song runs at a fever pitch, and even has an explosion sound effect. This isn't as inviting or R & B oriented as the prior disco hits, but it's a good piece of pop.

17. A Little More Love - Olivia Newton-John: A-
ONJ's producer John Farrar wrote two of the big hits from Grease ("You're the One That I Want" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You"), and the Totally Hot album extended Olivia's broadening of her sound into more pop-rock territory. And Farrar came up with another gem here, playing to his talent's strengths, with a fabulous chorus that allows ONJ to show off her strong mid-range and her nifty falsetto. The track also has some stinging guitar. This was paving the way for Olivia Newton-John becoming a bigger star than ever.

18. Heart of Glass - Blondie: A+
This song predated Blondie's first album -- on the original demo, it was called "The Disco Song", because of the primitive disco beat on the drum track. The song went through other iterations, in other styles. When trying to figure out what songs to record for the Parallel Lines album, producer Mike Chapman asked to hear every song they had, and this was the last one they played for him. Eventually, the song returned to its disco origins. This really shows off everything that's great about Blondie. First off, you have one of the greatest singers in rock history in Debbie Harry, turning angelic for this song. Then the pop sensibility, with some great melodies on this song. Finally, what a great band -- in a sense that hurt them eventually, because they could play any style well, Chris Stein tried to write any style, and he wasn't as good at writing them as they were at playing them. This smash made Blondie the stars they so deserved to be, and bigger hits were on the way.

19. What a Fool Believes - The Doobie Brothers: A
Of course when Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins get together to write a song, it becomes perhaps the ultimate yacht rock song. Whereas McDonald's first album with the Doobies had him blending his style with their rock sound, he clearly dominated from Minute By Minute on out. This song mixes pure '70s style pop-rock with a splash of R & B (Michael Jackson was allegedly an influence and allegedly did backing vocals uncredited), and McDonald really sang the hell out of it.

20. Good Times - Chic: A
Not often can a song spawn two spin off hits, but this disco classic did. This was the backing for the first Top 40 hip hop tune, "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, and John Deacon, who visited Chic in the studio when they were recording this, borrowed the iconic bass line by Bernard Edwards for Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust". This song has such a perfect rhythm and pulse to it. The lyrics are simple, but anything too wordy would break the mood.

21. You Don't Bring Me Flowers - Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond: B
Neil recorded the original version of the song. Babs covered it months later. Some DJ (or DJs -- it's unclear if it was just one) got the idea of splicing the song together. So the two went and did a proper version. The song is a typical Diamond saloon singer number, and Neil and Barbra work very well together as duet partners. A bit cheesy, but very well crafted.

22. Knock On Wood - Amii Stewart: A+
An undeserving one-hit wonder - the "one" part, not the "hit" part. This trebly, discofied version of the Eddie Floyd soul tune is super-energetic, and Amii just powers her way through the song with such enthusiasm. The production may have been cheap, but every choice, especially the synthesized knocking sounds, was a great one. This song is so fun (and go to YouTube to see the cheap video -- why didn't Stewart become a star?). Stewart made quite the living in Europe, and since she speaks Italian, she had a number of hits there with Italian language versions of pop hits.

23. Stumblin' In - Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman: B
This well-constructed M.O.R. pop duet is the only time glam queen Suzi Quatro reached the Top 40 in the U.S., which is a shame. But at least she had a hit. Chris Norman was the lead singer for Smokie, who had one U.S. hit ("Living Next Door to Alice"), so he had that over Suzi. This Mike Chapman-Nicky Chinn number is a solid piece of pop, and this probably is graded as least two notches higher because I really like Suzi Quatro.

24. Lead Me On - Maxine Nightingale: B
Nightengale's second Top 40 appearance was this mellow pop song, which, no surprise, ruled on the adult contemporary charts, which had a slight soul feel and a really nice vocal from Nightengale.

25. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) - The Jacksons: A
This came from The Jacksons' 1978 album Destiny, which was the first album where they wrote a majority of the songs. Michael co-wrote this with Randy, and this foreshadows what was to come with his solo Off The Wall album. It's a great blend of soul, funk, and pop and there's was a whole lot more to these type of songs on the horizon.

26. Don't Cry Out Loud - Melissa Manchester: C-
The great vocal group The Moments had the first crack at this Peter Allen-Carol Bayer Sager number, and it was a flop. A few years later, Manchester recorded it and it got her career going again. Of course, it was at the suggestion of Clive Davis, who launched Barry Manilow's career, and like the lesser stuff by Manilow, it's an overly dramatic slog. Manchester is an impressive singer, but she manages to outsing the overproduction.

27. The Logical Song - Supertramp: B
I don't know if anyone expected Supertramp to blow up in 1979, but Breakfast in America struck a chord that no one realized needed to be struck. No one could accuse Supertramp of selling out. This is an arty, quirky pop song, with some dissonant touches. Normally, I love that stuff, but I am not a fan of Roger Hodgson's whiny voice, hence this grade.

28. My Life - Billy Joel: B+
I like Billy Joel. He's an odd mix of Tin Pan Alley tunesmith and rock artist. He has his pretensions, but he balances that with plain old good pop songs. This was a bit of a curve ball, with the interesting chorus that rides on his piano groove, with his misanthropic observations in the lyrics in the verses. I like the song, but if you listen to it, it doesn't scream Top 10.

29. Just When I Needed You Most - Randy Vanwarmer: C+
This is an A- song, a really sweet love ballad, with a cloying, simp vocal performance by Vanwarmer. A different singer, and I give this a higher grade.

30. You Can't Change That - Raydio: B-
I really liked this light R & B tune back in the day, but wow, nowadays it sounds like Ray Parker, Jr. is extolling the virtues of stalking. This cuts against the bouncy music, but the lyrical association has poisoned the tune for me.

31. Shake Your Groove Thing - Peaches and Herb: B+
This was the song that got Peaches and Herb back on the charts. And this was yet another disco smash for the songwriting team of Freddie Perren and Dean Fekaris. They really knew how to put together a song that had the right blend of pop, soul, and funk qualities, with some solid melodies, and then it was just a matter of getting down the right beat and letting the singers do their thing.

32. I'll Never Love This Way Again - Dionne Warwick: C
This was the second or third comeback for Dionne Warwick. Of course, many producers and songwriters wanted to work with her magical voice. Unfortunately, the producer here was Barry Manilow, and this track falls prey to the worst aspects of his artistry, as it's just overblown treacle. Well sung treacle, but treacle nonetheless.

33. Love You Inside Out - The Bee Gees: A-
This is kind of a lost number one hit, as it never achieved the last popularity of other Bee Gees hits from the era, which, considering how many hits they had, I suppose that is understandable. This is a good pop song with nice R & B-inspired touches and slight disco vibe, with a fantastic chorus. Feist did a really nice cover of this song.

34. I Want You to Want Me - Cheap Trick: A
If I was ranking Cheap Trick songs, this would rank well, but not in my Top 20, but that's just because I love Cheap Trick. This was the song that made them stars, taken off a live album that was only intended for the Japanese market, where they were treated like The Beatles. This is more muscular than the studio version, and better, but I get why producer Tom Werman had them do this song in a relatively twee style, because it's a simple pop song that, at its root, sounds like it could have been written in 1920 or 1930. And, I will add, a really good pop song. But the live version is superior, because Cheap Trick is one of the greatest live band's in rock and roll history, and Rick Nielsen's guitar fills and Bun E. Carlos's big beat pump it full of energy, while Robin Zander is at his sweetest, backed by a frenzied crowd of Japanese teenagers.

35. The Main Event/Fight - Barbra Streisand: B-
This disco medley was from the forgettable romantic comedy The Main Flight, which starred Babs the Diva and Ryan O'Neal. This song was co-written by Paul Jabara, who wrote "The Last Dance" for Donna Summer, and there are some similarities here. But the boxing-oriented lyrics are pretty bad, and no matter how well Streisand sings, no one could salvage this otherwise serviceable song. She had a better disco hit on the horizon anyway.

36. Mama Can't Buy You Love - Elton John: B+
Elton had already recorded some Philly soul inspired songs, so why not team up with one of the masters of the style? Elton ended up releasing an EP of tracks he waxed with the great Thom Bell. This was the hit, written by the guys in the R & B band Bell and James. The song is good, not great, but it certainly suits Mr. John and he performs it enthusiastically. It's a shame Elton and Thom Bell didn't work more together.

37. I Was Made for Dancin' - Leif Garrett: F
Even by the relatively low standards of teen idols, Garrett's singing career was an abomination. Possessed with a thin and unpleasant singing voice, married to a lousy bubblegum disco song, this song made the radio worse every time it was spun.

38. After the Love Has Gone - Earth, Wind & Fire: B
Schlocky producer David Foster co-wrote this song, which was originally supposed to be released by Bill Champlin, who wrote the lyrics. Foster played the song for Maurice White, and White said he wanted Earth, Wind & Fire to record it. So they pulled it from Champlin's album -- I presume the royalties eased the pain. E, W & F always had a bit of a softer pop side, but it was usually leavened by the soul and funk side. But this was pretty much pure M.O.R. pop, redeemed only by Philip Bailey's great singing in the chorus.

39. Heaven Knows - Donna Summer and Brooklyn Dreams: B+
This was a good-but-not great song written by Summer with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Brooklyn Dreams was a vocal group, whose membership included Summer's future husband, Bruce Sodano. But it's not Sudano duetting with Summer but Joe "Bean" Esposito. This is a nice mix of disco and soul pop, and maybe deserves a higher grade, but maybe I'm comparing it to the greatness of other Summer material of the time. Brooklyn Dreams eventually split, but Sudano and Esposito became songwriting collaborators for Summer.

40. The Gambler - Kenny Rogers: A-
This is the song most associated with the late singer. Story songs weren't doing much on the pop charts at this point, but they still did well on the country charts, and this one, written by award-winning songwriter Don Schlitz, was too good to be denied. The chorus is kind of hokey, but damn, it's so memorable. And Rogers was the perfect guy to sing it, with his slightly weathered voice fitting the title character of the tune. Which leads me to a story -- one Christmas, I opened a Christmas present from my Aunt Anne. It was the cassette case for Rogers' The Gambler album, with no cassette inside, but a $20 bill instead. Not long after that, my Aunt Anne told me the story behind the case. She had recently moved into San Francisco's Mission District. One day, her car was broken into. My aunt told the officers what was missing. She hadn't been parked too long, so officers did a quick look around the neighborhood. And one officer heard a noise coming out of an alley. He walked into the alley, and saw a man sitting down, throwing a cassette at a wall repeatedly. The cassette was Kenny Rogers' The Gambler, one of the items stolen from my aunt's car. The guy had the other items and was arrested. Since the cassette was now unplayable, my Aunt Anne re-purposed the case for my Christmas gift.

41. Lotta Love - Nicolette Larson: B+
Larson was a back up singer and friend of Linda Ronstadt's. Linda introduced her to Neil Young, and he had her sing on his American Stars 'n' Bars album. It's fitting that her sole big hit was a cover of Young's "Lotta Love". Producer Ted Templeman applied the tactics he used on The Doobie Brothers records he produced, and this turns the Young tune into yacht rock, or, at the very least, on the verge of yacht rock. Larson really inhabits the lyrics and gives a performance that is raw in contrast with the smooth backing. It's a shame she couldn't sustain her success.

42. Lady - Little River Band: B-
While there was some rock in Little River Band, they definitely were more geared towards adult contemporary, and, for the most part, the arc of their career bent towards A.O.R. This is a sappy love ballad that is certainly well crafted, and Glen Shorrock's lead vocal is measured enough to keep it from being too cheesy. So not too cheesy is the nicest thing I can say about this.

43. Heaven Must Have Sent You - Bonnie Pointer: B
Pointer had bad timing, leaving her sisters to go solo, right when The Pointer Sisters were on the verge of breaking big. At least she has this solid disco version of a Motown song (originally done by The Elgins in 1966) to her credit. I presume Motown thought it was coup to sign her, as Berry Gordy co-produced this disco crossover hit. It has all the hallmarks of disco at that time, to the point of being a cliche. But the tune is solid and Pointer sings it well.

44. Hold the Line - Toto: A-
There was a time where Toto symbolized for rock critics all that was wrong in commercial rock music. A band comprised of some top session players (guy who played on Steely Dan and Randy Newman records, in particular) who critics found were too focused on precision, and somewhat faceless. The latter was certainly true (name the lead singer?), and I suppose the former was, but it wasn't like they were playing punk songs. I'm no Toto lover by any means, but they had some good songs and played the hell out of them. This song, written by band member David Paich, has that awesome guitar riff, and the beat really swings, and the verses are melodic with a bit of a '60s pop feel. The weak link, for me, was singer Bobby Kimball, who was generic and overwrought. But this is a really good recording.

45. He's the Greatest Dancer - Sister Sledge: B+
Not content with their own hits, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic branched out to producing other artists, which salvaged the career of this family act. They made a great choice in Sister Sledge, who had struggled on the charts prior to this single. They had a nice vocal blend, and Kathy Sledge had a really appealing voice as the lead. To the credit of Rodgers and Edwards, they found a way to make a record that had aspect of the Chic song, but was well tailored to the talent. It was the start of a special collaboration.

46. Sharing the Night Together - Dr. Hook: B-
Inoffensive and bland, which represents a bit of an upgrade for Dr. Hook and their quintessentially middle of road music. This stuff is too tame to be yacht rock.

47. She Believes In Me - Kenny Rogers: C+
David Gates of Bread showed some restraint in not suing over this song, which pretty much rewrites the chorus of the Bread hit "Lost Without Your Love". Unfortunately, it lacks the good qualities of the song and sounds like something from a bad off-Broadway production. Kenny gives it his all, but the song can't be salvaged.

48. In the Navy - The Village People: B+
No word on whether this song influenced the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy later adopted by the Navy. Oddly enough, the Navy was taken enough by the song that they asked to use it for advertising. The group's management made a deal -- the Navy was allowed to use the song for free, in exchange for being able to shoot a video on a Navy frigate. The song is the usual bubblegum disco, which I'm certainly isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it's fun. One thing I'd love to know is the range of response to The Village People in the gay community -- I know they were embraced to an extent, but there had to be gay music snobs who couldn't stomach these guys.

49. Music Box Dancer - Frank Mills: C+
Canadian Mills wrote and recorded this instrumental in 1974, and it made no impact. Someone decided to release it as a single in 1978, and it became a big hit in Europe and Asia. Only in 1979 did it get released in Canada and the U.S., and it also hit big. It's a cute piece of music, but it did not need to be on radio playlists for weeks on end.

50. The Devil Went Down to Georgia - Charlie Daniels Band: A
I will not let Charlie Daniel's MAGA politics affect the rating of this song. Daniels adapted this from the instrumental "Lonesome Fiddle Blues", changing the key and adding lyrics. That provides the foundation of the song, but the band and producer John Boylan had lots of clever ideas, and this is an elaborate arrangement, with the bluegrass chorus, funky guitar, and the two big violin solos. This is definitely one of those songs that follows none of the rules for a hit record, but it's so distinctive and addictive, it worked.

51. Gold - John Stewart: A
The veteran tunesmith had an interesting career, with a stint in folksters The Kingston Trio, and writing one of the greatest pop songs of all-time, "Daydream Believer". His solo career was given a boost when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, with Buckingham co-producing. Buckingham's fingerprints are all over the sound of this single, Stewart's cynical take on the music industry. It doesn't sound exactly like Fleetwood Mac, but it's certainly in the ballpark, with that pulsing guitar sound, and Nicks's backing vocals are a bonus. After one other Top 40 hit, Stewart's career nosedived, and he became bitter enough that he quit playing this song live.

52. Goodnight Tonight - Wings: C-
One of my least favorite Paul McCartney hits. There are some interesting ideas here, but no effort to make them cohere into anything that makes for a real song. He must have been smoking a lot of weed when he made this lame tune.

53. We Are Family - Sister Sledge: A
This shows how the year end charts don't give a full snapshot, as the methods of calculating chart points for the year never seemed entirely accurate. This song is a cliche of sorts, but it was the right song at the right time, and it gave Sister Sledge a signature song. Again, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards find a way to tweak the Chic formula, and crafted a disco (and sibling) anthem that became a big part of the culture, which included the Pittsburgh Pirates adopting it as a theme song on their way to winning the World Series. Edwards's bassline is just amazing, but that's what he did as well as anyone, create iconic bassline.

54. Rock 'N Roll Fantasy - Bad Company: C+
I just find Bad Company to be boring. This song is generic, and even Paul Rodgers's vocals aren't enough to get me interested.

55. Every 1's a Winner - Hot Chocolate: A+
A simply thrilling single from the great soul-pop hitmakers out of England. Lead singer Errol Brown was the sole writer on this, and he really had a knack for writing great, happy love songs that were bubbly, rather than treacly. This song had what was a sleek, modern sound for the time, and while it got a lot of play in the discos, it avoided the cliche disco moves. The cherry on top is the copious use of fuzz guitar. This is a song that has gotten a lot more respect over time.

56. Take Me Home - Cher: B-
It was 1979, and it was about time that Cher had a disco hit. This song did the trick, with Cher wearing something she borrowed from Amii Stewart's closet on the album of the same name. These song seems to find a midpoint between Yvonne Elliman and Donna Summer, but is not as good as either.

57. Boogie Wonderland - Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions: A
The recently deceased Ailee Willis co-wrote this song with Jon Lind, and I think the highest compliment that can be paid to the tune is that it sounds like a song Maurice White would have written. This is a stew of soul, funk, and disco, full of hooks, and The Emotions blend so well with the band, it's a shame they didn't do a whole album together.

58. (Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away - Andy Gibb: C+
Writing songs for half the Western world was causing lower quality for the brothers Gibb. This was a weak track that the Bee Gees recorded and tacked onto a greatest hits album, then farmed out to their younger brother to release as a single. Andy sings it in a lower key, and the song is slightly less sappy. But it's lacking in that certain something that made a Bee Gees ballad great.

59. What You Won't Do For Love - Bobby Caldwell: A
This song was originally released on heart-shaped vinyl. I don't know if the gimmick worked, but this is one of those songs that is so good, it seems like it was inevitable it would find an audience. This is blue-eyed soul that might creep over into yacht rock territory. Caldwell go wrote the track, and it has some really nifty melodic wrinkles going on, and the chorus is just fantastic. This has been covered quite a bit, and deservedly so.

60. New York Groove - Ace Frehley: A
This was a UK hit for Hello in 1975, written by Russ Ballard, and produced by Gary Glitter's producer, Mike Leander. The original version is produced in that stylized glam rock manner that was so common in the UK at the time, and while it's a nice single, it doesn't serve the song. I presume Ace or someone connected to him heard it, and he made the song his own. It still has the glam stomp, but the production is miles better, the guitar is tougher, and this song is perfect for Ace's limited vocal range. This was the only Top 40 hit from the four solo albums the members of KISS released simultaneously (Gene Simmons' "Radioactive" was screwed!!!).

61. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits: A
Another of those unlikely hits, a story song which barely had a chorus, with Mark Knopfler singing in a gruff, Dylan-inspired mode, telling a story about a band. The Sultans of Swing were a real band that Knopfler saw at a pub, and he was amused by their scruffy appearance, which didn't fit the name at all. He told a tale he made up, and it's a song that just draws one in. Other cuts on this album got AOR play, but I don't think anyone thought these guys one someday be one of the biggest bands in the world.

62. I Want Your Love - Chic: A-
Bernard Edwards stars again on bass on this track that is all chorus and groove. I can sing you the hook and I can hear the groove in my head, but I can't remember the verses for the life of me. But what I remember is so great. (Just listened to track) So the verses work the same groove, but are really placeholders for the catchy bits. I'm fine with that.

63. Chuck E's In Love - Rickie Lee Jones: A
If Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell had a child...oh wait, Rickie and Tom used to be an item. But Rickie combined Waits' sensibility with the effortless melodicism of Joni, and it spawned this one-shot hit. It's got that funky acoustic guitar, a wonderful chorus, and perhaps the best middle eight of 1979. The song was just so sunny and distinct. It turned out that Jones's muse wasn't very commercial, but this great pop song started off a wonderful career.

64. I Love the Nightlife (Disco 'Round) - Alicia Bridges: A
One of the great one-hit wonders, Bridges wrote a classic, a disco song that had a strong soul base, and some great hooks. The "I want some action" bridge into the chorus is just great pop. Bridges's sultry Southern voice just adds to the allure. This was catching lightning in a bottle, because despite Bridges's talent as a performer, she couldn't conjure up another song nearly as good as this.

65. Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now - McFadden and Whitehead: A
This Philly duo got their start in a group called The Epsilons in the '60s, but eventually ended up in the stable of songwriters for Philadelphia International, where they wrote classics such as "Back Stabbers" for The O'Jays, and "Wake Up Everybody" for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Out on their own, they came up with another Philly classic, an affirmative soul-disco song which was definitely in the vein of The O'Jays. This song would have been a hit earlier in the decade, but it wouldn't have had the prominent disco rhythm that can still fill a dance floor today.

66. Lonesome Loser - Little River Band: B
Before CHIRP Radio got over the air, my radio was usually tuned to ME-TV FM, and this exposed my 7-year-old daughter to a lot of oldies, and you never knew what would really captivate her. This LRB tune became a favorite. It's kind of a mild, vaguely country-rock variation on The Beatles' "Nowhere Man", with strong harmony vocals, and a really good middle eight.

67. Renegade - Styx: A
Styx did rock melodrama than any of their peers, and apparently Tommy Shaw wanted to see if he could outdo Dennis DeYoung. Arguably he did, with a song that starts with Shaw singing over a faint drumbeat and some pure harmonies, as he sets up the premise. Unlike "Come Sail Away", the payoff comes right away, as the song begins rocking as Shaw explains his plight. Styx pulls out all the stops, including a vocal breakdown of the opening lines with heavier percussion, and James Young wails on guitar.

68. Love Is the Answer - England Dan and John Ford Coley: B
The MOR megastars do a tune from Utopia penned by Todd Rundgren. The original version is vaguely hippieish and this version is gentler, of course, but the song is so good that it holds up to this decent treatment.

69. Got to Be Real - Cheryl Lynn: A-
Disco didn't instantly kill off the classic sound of '70s soul, and the occasional hold out track would sneak onto the charts. This song was written by the young Lynn, with help from David Paich of Toto and David Foster, who someone avoided ruining it. This is a bold, brassy tune, and Lynn sings it with the confidence it required. There are some disco touches, but they don't overwhelm the basic nature of the tune. While Lynn had many R & B hits, this was her only pop Top 40 track.

70. Born To Be Alive - Patrick Hernandez: B+
This Frenchman had a worldwide hit with this disco song. Hernandez, who was plucked from a group called Gold, sings with enthusiasm, the song is full of energy, and the hook is pretty good.

71. Shine a Little Love - Electric Light Orchestra: B+
I've never heard it confirmed that ELO's Discovery album was really Disco Very, but there's no doubt that Jeff Lynne kept up with the trends, as some of the songs on the album had some light disco rhythms. This was one of those songs, which finds Lynne's blend of Beatle-y melodies with a dash of R & B adapting quite well to the pulsing rhythm with a pea soup beat. This is a pretty giddy song, and it shares some traits with "Strange Magic", but at many more beats per minute.

72. I Just Fall In Love Again - Anne Murray: B-
Neither the Carpenters nor Dusty Springfield were able to make this song a hit. but Murray, working with top flight producer Jim Ed Norman, finally got it on the charts. This is a pretty standard issue MOR ballad, which, of course, is right in Murray's wheelhouse. For what it is, it's good, but not that interesting to me.

73. Shake It - Iain Matthews: B-
This was the sole top 40 hit for this founding member of the great British folk band Fairport Convention. This is a yacht rock song that sounds like it was taken off a Stephen Bishop album (but it was actually written by Terence Boylan, a college pal of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who went nowhere with his own recording of the song. It's twee and inoffensive, I'll give it that.

74. I Was Made for Lovin' You - KISS: B+
Paul Stanley said he wrote the song (with Desmond Child and Vini Poncia) to show how easy it was to pen a disco hit. While this song strains out most of the R & B from the disco sound (but for some of Stanley's vocals), this ticks all the boxes of the sound. If anything, it's a bit mechanistic. Poncia didn't think Peter Criss was fit to play, so Anton Fig, the future drummer in Paul Shaffer's World's Most Dangerous Band, manned the kit. Stanley proved his point and the chorus is pretty good.

75. I Just Wanna Stop - Gino Vannelli: C-
Overwrought adult contemporary pop from this hirsute Canadian. The only thing that makes this song worth it is the SCTV parody of Vanelli doing this song. Eugene Levy played Vanelli, with a wig and a wide open satin shirt, and he'd keep turning his back to the camera and then every time he faced it, he had more and more chest hair.

76. Disco Nights (Rock Freak) - G.Q.: A-
The song let's you know what you're going to get into -- no false advertising here. The most apt criticism of a lot of these disco songs is that the lyrics are usually in place just because radio stations were less likely to play instrumentals. Although well sung, the words are placeholders. But the song is a nifty slice of airy funk, with the group piling on the instruments - the funk scratch guitar, the fluid bass, an array of keyboards, all sorts of little touches, and I like the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach.

77. Ooh Baby Baby - Linda Ronstadt: A-
A really nice cover of the oldie from The Miracles. The song was just made for high school prom slow dances, and Ronstadt really makes it her own.

78. September - Earth, Wind & Fire: A
Maurice White was one of the writers of this song, along with Ailee Willis, and it's a great team up on a song that has gained stature over the years. It follows the E, W & F formula, with White singing the verses and Philip Bailey killing on the chorus hook. This song is more R & B and pop, with little funk going on, but gets extra credit for not being a disco song.

79. Time Passages - Al Stewart: A-
I really like Al Stewart, and should own more stuff by him that I actually do. Once he had his first hit, Arista must have cranked up the promotion. While he wasn't a rocker, he had a niche on album rock stations, but his polite, unfussy folk pop could also get some adult contemporary stations. Maybe Gerry Rafferty's success made his label feel bold. Whatever, this is a breezy piece of music and I love Stewart's gentle voice and crisp phrasing.

80. Rise - Herb Alpert: B
This song might better known for being sampled by The Notorious B.I.G. on his song "Hypnotize". The song was co-written by Herb's nephew, Randy "Badazz" Alpert, who adopted the nickname apparently to take away attention from his famous last name. This is the great (or at least good) yacht rock instrumental, with it's low key funk backing. Alpert's tasteful playing is true to his muse, without undermining the rhythm.

81. Don't Bring Me Down - Electric Light Orchestra: A+
This song is pure energy, a careening rock song that doesn't rock hard, but sure rocks persistently. It got higher on the charts than any other E.L.O. song, #4, and it has absolutely no strings on it. Another thing about the song is it is so simple, with just a wisp of a melody, pounding the groove, and just a couple of other variations to keep it from being too static. One thing I learned about this song -- during the middle eight, the backing vocals aren't singing "Bruce" but "Groos" (approximately) a Swiss/German word for "greetings" that Jeff Lynne thought sounded good. But since everyone thinks it's Bruce, that's what Lynne sings live.

82. Promises - Eric Clapton: C
A typically sleep Eric Clapton song, sounding like a poor man's J.J. Cale. Clapton got a lot mileage out of his legend and name, which led to boring songs like this wasting airtime.

83. Get Used to It - Roger Voudouris: C+
I like yacht rock, but this song is just a bit much. Voudouris, who used to be in a duo with David Kahne (who produced The Bangles and Fishbone, among others), is overaggressive and overenunciates. This sounds like the type of song you would have heard if they had live singers at The Regal Beagle on Three's Company.

84. How Much I Feel - Ambrosia: A
On the other hand, this is top flight yacht rock. Written by lead singer David Pack, this is a great mix of blue-eyed soul with some rock moves, with the end result being a terrific pop song. The verses are simple and compelling, and build in emotional temperature to the chorus. The middle eight is fantastic and Pack gives a great performance.

85. Suspicions - Eddie Rabbitt: A-
Country singer Eddie Rabbitt became a crossover star by basically finding a blend of C & W and yacht rock. This song, the second of his eight pop Top 40 songs dispenses with the twang entirely, preferring some R & B undertones, and adult-contemporary touches. The chorus is really, really good, and could have come from a Hall & Oates song.

86. You Take My Breath Away - Rex Smith: D
Rex Smith was talented and handsome and his career went in many directions. Unfortunately, those directions were at the expense of a credible music career. While his brother Michael never quite made it as the lead singer for Starz, Smith tossed any hope of rock credibility aside by singing this saccharine ballad for the Tiger Beat set.

87. How You Gonna See Me Now - Alice Cooper: C+
The final Alice Cooper ballad to grace the Top 40, this came from his album about going away to get treatment for alcoholism, From the Inside. Elton John's old partner, Bernie Taupin, helped with the lyrics, but that doesn't make the music any less decent, but unexceptional, MOR. I wonder if I still have the From the Inside comic book that Marvel put out?

88. Double Vision - Foreigner: C
Foreigner was big enough this muddle of a song and it was a decent-sized hit. I find this song to be a bunch of ideas thrown against the wall, and the parts clash and never cohere. The chorus in nagging and they had better songs for sure.

89. Every Time I Think of You - The Babys: B
When The Babys' rocked out, they could really show off the best qualities in singer John Waite's voice. He was in the Paul Rodgers school of British singers. But both of The Babys' Top 40 hits were ballads. This is somewhat treacly, but the build to the chorus works really well, as Waite really starts to belt, accompanied by a fiery vocal from Myrna Matthews that gives this song some teeth.

90. I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl) - Instant Funk: B+
This Philly/Jersey band earned its spurs backing up a whole bunch of vocal groups, including The O'Jays. This disco-funk tune has a bit of that Philly soul lightness, and has a certain mid-fi charm. The song gets right into the chorus right away, with the "say what" response hard to shake out of one's mind. This could have been recorded about five years earlier, and then just had the disco touches laid over it.

91. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson: A
I don't need to talk about the song -- you've all heard it. This is the part of the grading where I have to think about separating the art from the artist. Michael Jackson is pretty firm evidence that people are either: a) able to do so, or, b) don't care. For me, I find that I can compartmentalize this. The Jackson 5, Jacksons and up through Thriller, I'm fine. After that, I find that I'm not as much of a fan of his music anyway, and that's when the creepiness started. That being said, there are plenty of artists I listen to and love that did bad things, and things that others will cancel them for. There are artists who I have on my iPod, and still enjoy, that I won't play on my radio show because I don't want anyone to be uncomfortable. I don't really have a conclusion on this, but I think about it.

92. Bad Case of Lovin' You (Doctor, Doctor) - Robert Palmer: A
This is a smoking hot rendition of the Moon Martin original. Martin had loads of these slightly bluesy, catchy rock and roll numbers, and he performed them well. But he was pretty understated, and Palmer and his great voice, made it the rocker it deserved to be. Palmer was also, some might say, a tad better looking than ol' Moon.

93. Somewhere In the Night - Barry Manilow: C-
Manilow first hit it big with a Richard Kerr song ("Mandy"), and this is yet another hit that Kerr was involved in writing. By this time, Manilow's Broadway-type approach to pop was a formula. And a boring formula it was.

94. We've Got Tonight - Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band: B
I saw Bob Seger a few years ago at the United Center. He's a really genial presence on stage and he appeared to be having a blast. He told a story about how one time his mom, who had told him this was her favorite song of his, took a trip to Vegas (it might have been with Bob's wife, but that's not essential to the story). At some point during the trip, his mom called to tell him how the trip was going. They chit-chatted and then she told him that while she was out, she heard her favorite song. Bob asked where did she hear it. She told him, "In an elevator." This doesn't read as well as he told it, but it was cute, he was poking fun at himself, and it made it easier to hear him do this MOR tune.

95. Dance the Night Away - Van Halen: A-
The worst thing about Van Halen II was that it had to follow such a great debut album. It wasn't as uniformly terrific, but it showed that the band would have legs. One thing that made Van Halen great was that they quickly established they could do molten lava hot rock songs, but they weren't afraid to do a catchy pop song. This song could probably redone in a 1965 British invasion style, which is a compliment.

96. Dancin' Shoes - Nigel Olsson: B-
This made for ladies choice at the high school dance song was produced by Paul Davis. Olsson has been Elton John's drummer, off and on, for decades, and has rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in music, and he got Paul Davis to produce his solo album. Well, it got him a hit.

97. The Boss - Diana Ross: B
The title track from an album written and produced by the great Ashford and Simpson. This is a nice song, and discofied to keep up with the trends, but it's not Ashford and Simpson at their best. And it's probably not the best fit for Ross -- Donna Summer would have done this better.

98. Sail On - The Commodores: A
Lionel Richie's country influence really comes through on this song, which gives it a distinctive Southern soul flavor. This is a really smart composition and shows how confident Richie must have been, as the song captivates and has little hooks and no chorus...until three minutes into the song! (And four minutes on the album version). This hit simply goes against the rules, particularly for a slower song, on how to snag a listener. But it's just too damn good and the payoff at the end is so worth it. Kudos to whoever decided to release this as a single.

99. I Do Love You - G.Q.: A-
This is a cover of a 1965 Billy Stewart R & B hit and sounds like a completely different band than the one that hit big with "Disco Nights". This is a classic old school soul tune and the band performs it straight, without any gimmicks to make it sound more contemporary. Moreover, Emmanuel Leblanc reveals a killer upper range on his voice.

100. Strange Way - Firefall: B-
Firefall teamed up Rick Roberts of Flying Burrito Brothers with Mark Andes of Spirit, who apparently had a mission to make money in any way possible. They fit somewhere in the soft/yacht rock brigade, but they didn't really work any one style, they just tried to figure out what could get played on the radio. This song is a gloomy, bitter cheating song, complete with flute accompaniment. The chorus is really nagging. They sounded better when they were trying to be poppy or ripping off Crosby, Stills and Nash.

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