CHART ATTACK! #20: 2/25/78


Crawling with Gibbs? Damn, that sounds like a tagline for a teen horror movie. "Don’t open the door. Don’t look under the bed. Don’t stare at the mirror, and don’t EVER recognize that tingling, slithering, itching feeling creeping over your skin… for if you do, your very flesh will be CRAWLING WITH GIBBS!!!

That’s a quote from Dw Dunphy in the comments section of last week’s CHART ATTACK!  He’s right, y’know.  It’s a scary thing when one family – one man, specifically – can occupy 50% of the charts on a given week.  Whether you like it or not, this is the week you must get on your knees and worship at the altar of Barry.  YOU HAVE NO CHOICE.

(iTunes is being wonky today, so just Amazon links are included.)

10.  How Deep Is Your Love – Bee Gees  Amazon
9.  Lay Down Sally – Eric Clapton
  Amazon
8.  Night Fever – Bee Gees  Amazon
7.  We Are The Champions – Queen  Amazon
6.  Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) – Chic  Amazon
5.  Emotion – Samantha Sang  Amazon
4.  Sometimes When We Touch – Dan Hill  Amazon
3.  Just The Way You Are – Billy Joel  Amazon
2.  (Love Is) Thicker Than Water – Andy Gibb  Amazon
1.  Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees  Amazon

Before we start, it’s necessary for me to give credit where credit is due – Joseph Brennan’s Gibb Songs project was invaluable in tracking most this information down.  I highly recommend it if you’re interested in following the trajectory of the Bee Gees’ career.  Thanks, Joseph – this Chart Attack! would have been pretty short without you.

10.  How Deep Is Your Love – Bee Gees (download)  The Gibb brothers were a few songs into a new album when Robert Stigwood, producer of Saturday Night Fever, asked them to take charge of the soundtrack to the upcoming film.  He wanted a handful of dance numbers, and a love ballad.  Obviously, this was the love ballad. Originally intended for Yvonne Elliman, Robert Stigwood – producer of Saturday Night Fever – requested that the Bee Gees perform this one themselves.  Elliman was given "If I Can’t Have You," also penned by the Gibbs.

Of the five Gibb songs occupying this week’s Top 10, "How Deep Is Your Love" is my favorite.  I think it might be because it’s the least Bee Gee-ish of them all.  I personally find a lot of the Gibb vocals overpowering at times, and they’re just beautiful and gentle on this track. 

9.  Lay Down Sally – Eric Clapton  Have you ever listened to Grammar Girl’s podcast?  If so, you might have caught her reference to this song on back in January in her episode, "Lay Versus Lie."  She rightfully points out that Clapton really screwed this one up, since he’s using the word "lay" incorrectly: the correct word is actually "lie," unless he’s forcing somebody to lie lay her down in his arms to rest.  But what irritates me more, I think, is the absence of the comma in the title.  "Lie Down, Sally" sounds kinda lame, though, doesn’t it.  Oh well.  This little country/rockabilly tune was co-written by Marcy Levy, who also sings backup.  Levy later became a member of Shakespear’s Sister with Siobhan Fahey from Bananarama. 

8.  Night Fever – Bee Gees  This track was already completed by the time Stigwood came a-callin’.  His movie – at this point, still untitled – was based on an article in The New Yorker entitled "Tribal Rights Of The New Saturday Night."  (It was written by Nic Cohn, who – just as an aside – inspired Pete Townshend to write "Pinball Wizard.")  "Night Fever," naturally, provided the title.  As for the song itself…oh man, dig that Wah-wah!  "Night Fever" is porn-tastic.  And, like the majority of their songs, I can’t make out more than six words.

7.  We Are The Champions – Queen  I might be in the minority here, but "We Are The Champions" is one of those Queen songs I just have very little patience for.  I can only think of a handful of moments where I’ve really dug it (and I’m not saying whether one of them is in Revenge Of The Nerds).  Still, I’ll give credit where credit is due: Mercury and May did wonders for sports anthems, didn’t they?  And not only that, but the song itself, musically, is quite complicated; I’ve never been able to figure out those intricate harmonies in the chorus.

Have you ever heard Liza Minnelli’s version from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert?  I don’t recommend it.

6.  Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) – Chic (download Remember, everybody, when we first heard about Snakes On A Plane?  Remember how excited we were, given the little information we had: namely, the star of the movie and the title?  Remember how let down we were by the movie?

This song is the Snakes On A Plane of 1978.

With a title like "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," I was expecting nothing less than the greatest freaking disco song in the history of disco songs.  What a let-down:  this song is eight minutes and twenty seconds of boring.  It’s as if Chic assembled all the typical clichés of disco and combined them into one interminable song: the strings are ever-present and irritating as hell, the bassline is remarkably static, the vocals are more repetitive than usual, and there’s a keyboard solo that may go down as one of the most annoying in music history.  Are there any redeeming qualities?  Well, maybe the actual line "yowsah, yowsah, yowsah," but in a song that mentions the word "dance" more than 100 times, it’s only spoken in three instances.

Still, I guess I must be in the minority on this one: the song did remarkably well, peaking here at #6 (as well as the R&B chart), and reaching #1 on the Club Play charts.  More importantly, it was Chic’s first single, and so it paved the way for Chic songs that actually had something to them.  This song, however?  Laaaaaaaaame.

Here.  Share in my misery.  Is it just me?

5.  Emotion – Samantha Sang  "Okay, Samantha – the Bee Gees are freakin’ huge right now.  We’re going to need to take advantage of this turn of events.  We’ve already gotten them to write the song, and they’re supplying all the backing vocals, but…could you make your lead vocal…I don’t know, a little…Gibbier?" 

Anybody who can distinguish where Samantha ends and Barry begins gets a cookie.  I didn’t even know that this song wasn’t by the Bee Gees.

Samantha Sang (real name: Cheryl Gray) was a successful Australian singer in the late 1960s when she moved to England to work with Stigwood.  Stigwood hooked her up with Barry, who wrote, produced and performed on her hit "The Love Of A Woman," a minor hit in 1969.  Sang teamed up with the Gibbs once more for "Emotion," which was a #3 smash.  Sang had a feeling, though, that perhaps her successes weren’t necessarily because of her own merits, and opted not to work with the Bee Gees again.  Bad move:  she never charted again.  The end.

4.  Sometimes When We Touch – Dan Hill  See Mellow Gold #9.  Sadly, the video is no longer available, but read it anyway if you haven’t already.

3.  Just The Way You Are – Billy Joel
  Many stories have been told about "Just The Way You Are."  Without looking it up, let me see if I can piece together all the tidbits I’ve heard over the years: so Joel wrote this song as a gift to his first wife, Elizabeth (who was originally married to Joel’s Atilla cohort Jon Small).  He brought it into the studio during the recording sessions for The Stranger, whereupon drummer Liberty DeVitto threw a drumstick at Joel and refused to play it.

Elsewhere in the studio, Phoebe Snow and Linda Rondstadt were having sex.  (I think I’m remembering this correctly.)  They heard the smooth, dulcet tones of Joel’s bossa nova masterpiece, and insisted that it be included on the album.  Joel, never being one to say no to poontang, kept it as a part of The Stranger.

"Just The Way You Are" ended up giving Joel his first top 10, and his first Grammy nominations (and wins) for "Song Of The Year" and "Record Of The Year" in 1979.  I don’t know how DeVitto felt about the wins, but I can’t imagine it’s worse than he probably feels right now, being ousted as Billy’s drummer…but I digress.  The song was obviously hugely popular, and while Joel was appreciative of the success, he was never a huge fan of the tune to begin with.  He’d zone out while singing the song, thinking about what to get on the room service menu, and lose his place in the song.  He’d look to DeVitto, who’d sing the words to every song, and supposedly wound up singing the divorce-tribute lyrics "She got the house, she got the car."  (This is one of those stories that probably never happened, but sounds great.)

It’s true that Joel did get bored with the tune, however, and for that reason, he stopped playing it.  (I’m sure his divorce also had something to do with it.)  In the late ’80s, though, he did realize that Weber’s anonymity had its benefits; Joel couldn’t write another love song without speculation that it was about Christie Brinkley.

The song has been brought out of retirement a number of times in the past 10 years.  Say what you want about it – I’ll take "Just The Way You Are" any day over "All My Life," the pap that Sony’s promoting the hell out of at this very moment.

2.  (Love Is) Thicker Than Water – Andy Gibb  You know what?  Screw Andy Gibb.  Not only because I don’t understand the appeal of this stupid song, but also because Andy was halfway to destroying his own career by the time this song became a hit.  If we’re going to give any credit at all, let’s give it, once more, to Barry:  the week after this one, "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" replaced "Stayin’ Alive at #1…which was replaced by "Night Fever," which was replaced by Yvonne Elliman’s "If I Can’t Have You," also Gibb-penned.  This not only means that Barry Gibb was responsible for the #1 spot from February 4 to May 13, 1978, but remains the only performer to have written four consecutive #1 hits.  In fact, if not for three weeks in January, he would have had #1 hits since December of the previous year, with "How Deep Is Your Love."  (The song that ousted the Gibbs for three weeks?  "Baby Come Back."  Don’t worry, it’s on "the list.")

1.  Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees  Well, here it is, folks:  the most popular Bee Gees song ever recorded or released.  I’m not saying it deserves to be the most popular Bee Gees song, but "Stayin’ Alive" is really a fantastic tune.  It’s hard to look at it objectively, though, due to:

– its mass media saturation
– endless parodies utilizing the song
– the fact that your relatives do the fucking John Travolta dance at every wedding you go to, despite the fact that John Travolta never did the dance to this song in the movie, and you’re stuck being the only one on the dance floor NOT doing the stupid dance, and then you look like a party pooper, and…oh wait, is this just MY life?

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes.  The song is fantastic for a number of reasons – the unbelievable vocals, the bassline (supposedly influenced by Betty Wright’s "Clean Up Woman"), the orchestra – but even more interesting to me is the story behind the song, including the elements that didn’t make it into the final release.

When Stigwood called the Bee Gees and asked them to contribute to Saturday Night Fever, most of the songs were already in various stages of development.  "Stayin’ Alive" was created just for the movie, a request from Stigwood to have a song with an upbeat dance tempo and a romantic interlude in the middle.  A version of the song with a completely different middle section (incorporating the requested interlude) was created, but Barry nixed it almost as soon as it was recorded.

The Bee Gees were already recording at Le Chateau in France, where they had recently completed mixing their live album.  "Stayin’ Alive" was written  while they were sitting on the staircase – a staircase that, according to Robin, had been used in a number of porno flicks.  Drummer Dennis Bryon was unavailable for the recording session, so the group’s engineer simply looped a small snippet of the drum track to "Night Fever."

The song was not slated for single release, but was always intended to accompany the movie’s iconic shot of Travolta walking down the street.  When this opening was released as part of the movie’s trailer, people immediately started requesting a single from RSO Records.  As you can see, the tune was a smash – and when it fell from #1, no problem – it was replaced by "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water."

One final note: this is yet another Gibb songs that is practically indecipherable.  Who knew this song name-checked the New York Times?  I only figured that out recently.  So next time you’re at a wedding, tell your annoying cousin that she can’t do the dance if she doesn’t know the words.

Whew!  I don’t know about you, but I’m all Gibbed out!  Seriously, I couldn’t Gibb any more if I tried.  I mean, here a Gibb, there a Gibb, everywhere a Gibb-Gibb.  Okay, this joke’s dead.  (However, if you need more Gibb in your diet, Jefito can feed you.)  But you know what?  I just realized that this Chart Attack! has been completely devoid of YouTube filler clips.  So I’d like to present you with two on your way out.  The first is the "Barry Gibb Talk Show" parody with Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon from SNL.  This clip cracks me up every time – Fallon does a hysterical impression of Barry freaking out on a talk show.  I don’t think it’s accurate, necessarily, but it still makes me laugh.

[youtube]1RUvW9ZVxKY[/youtube]

The second clip is actually Barry Gibb actually walking out of an interview on Clive Anderson’s talk show.  The interview is full of little barbs back and forth, but in the last 20 seconds, Gibb has enough and just walks off, leaving the others to follow.  The look on Anderson’s face is priceless.

[youtube]PObhS3Z9YAQ[/youtube]

Hey everybody, guess what?  Next week starts the first of four guest posts, written by some absolutely fantastic writers.  Are you excited?  I’m excited…and a little nervous to see how they put me to shame.  So be sure to come back next week for the All-Guest Edition of CHART ATTACK!  Have a great weekend!

  • Holy crap! Half of the Top 10 was dominated by those guys! What, no Olivia Newton-John hits at that time to complete the Australian domination?

  • When I was manning the board at my college radio statiion, I was under strict orders to play "We Are the Champions" at the conclusion of any game our basketball team managed to win.

  • Nice job, Jason — way to “Gibb” us the lowdown on that amazing week in pop music history. Last night, Barry Gibb was mentioned as an upcoming guest “coach” on “American Idol.” (For the record, my wife got me pulled into watching that crap-ass show.) Why do I think the results will be less than Gibb-tacular?

  • Speaking of Liza Minnelli, THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo. We feature amazingly rare audio files, great photo’s, lively discussiions, and the most eclectic group of Judy fans anywhere! The only thing missing is you!Please stop by and check out our little Judyville, you may never want to go home!
    http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/

  • ^^^^
    Comment Of The Year

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  • "Holy crap! Half of the Top 10 was dominated by those guys!" … which Jason pointed out from the get-go, but I like to make obvious comments before reading what I’m commenting on.

    I agree about "Dance, Dance, Dance" and other Chic songs aside from "Good Times," but some critics seem to think they were the best disco band because they made ironic disco songs.  See, they were commenting on the vapidity and throwaway quality of disco.  Ooooooh … aaaaaah … deeep … whatever!  I’m fine with subtext in disco, but make sure the main text is compelling to begin with.  I don’t listen to Jamiroquai because I give a shit about their environmental messages!

    Nashville singer-songwriter Daniel Tashian mentioned meeting Billy Joel last month in his blog (well, technically they met in Miami):

    "I told [Joel] I thought ‘Just the Way You Are’ is a standard. He said thanks, and that they didn’t even want to put it on the album, but Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow told him he had to. He said he thought it was like a ‘cocktail lounge’ kind of song, and it wasn’t cool."

    Jason Hare done got his facts straight!  (By the way, Billy, you’ve written plenty of uncool songs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good.)

    I bet only 2% of the world realizes that Samantha Sang is credited with "Emotion" instead of "the Bee Gees featuring Some Female Singer."  I certainly didn’t know who Samantha Sang was until about four years ago.

    In Dave Marsh’s The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever, he asks if the Bee Gees are really saying "The New York Times don’t make a man" in "Stayin’ Alive."  I guess they are.  (Take it to heart, Jayson Blair!)  A lot of people think the only good moment in Staying Alive, the 1983 follow-up to Saturday Night Fever (thank you, Sylvester Stallone — you never met a sequel you didn’t like), is the last scene, in which Tony Manero walks out of the Broadway theater where his terrible play has just been performed and struts through Times Square.

    The bass line was supposedly influenced by "Clean Up Woman"?  That’s interesting.  Betty Wright made her own disco appearance in ’78, of course, singing back-up on Peter Brown’s "Dance With Me."

  • I didn’t know who Samantha Sang was until about four days ago…!

  • Gibbs!! Gibbs!! EVERYWHERE!! I feel like the doof paranormalist in Poltergeist, scratching his face into tartare!! GHHHAAAAHHGG!! (nuh-bahdee gets too much haven no-moh)  DwD

  • Jane

    Okay, so I am one of the 98% of the world that had no idea that “Emotion” has a non-Gibb vocalist in there. I am stunned.

    Jason, did you go to Samantha’s official site? It’s quite, um, energetic. She must regret her non-Gibb years, too, cuz her site is loaded with “emotion” references.

    My favorite pictures are her “From Dance to Love” album photo, and her picture with Barry Gibb … at least, the caption says it’s Barry. Without the beard, I never would be able to tell.

  • A lot of people think the only good moment in Staying Alive, the 1983 follow-up to Saturday Night Fever … is the last scene, in which Tony Manero … struts through Times Square.<br><br>Did I mention that he’s strutting to "Stayin’ Alive," which is a fitting bookend to the two movies, and the main reason for me to mention that scene in the first place?!  Of course not.  Professional proofreading at your service!<br>

  • Proofread this! See sells she sells down by the shawshank redemption!!

  • "Shawshawk" is a proper noun, so capitalize the first "s."  Done!

  • Damn you, G.I. Robert! Just remember, however… Cobra operatives always parachute out of their exploded planes… I’ll be BACK!!

  • BD

    "Oh we can try to understand The New York Times’ effect on maaaan …"It’s funny — and the Wikipedia entry on the Bee Gees sheds a little bit of light on it — how Clive seems to think it’s a joke at first and THEN has the sudden realization that he has actually pissed them off.

  • BD

    Oh — and Just the Way You Are is one of the great ballads of all time. Somehow, it just figures that Billy doesn’t appreciate it.

  • “Oh we can try to understand The New York Times’ effect on maaaan …”

    Is that the line? I see, said the blind man! Dave Marsh, are you reading this? Thanks, BD!

    That Clive Anderson clip is great, and I guess I can see why Barry got fed up. It’s got to be tiring doing interviews where a talk-show host keeps busting your balls and acts like you’re supposed to go along with it. And it seems like the Bee Gees can take a joke, but some days are better than others, I suppose.

  • David

    What’s amazing to me is that, as the sole girl in the family, Terri had the lowest voice of all of them.

  • jb

    I was going to leave a comment about this (“Stayin’ Alive” is, in my mind, one of the essential records of the 1970s, and I can still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it), but I can’t top David’s previous remark, so the hell with it.

  • 1978: The Year of Gibb.  I was never a fan of their music, but the Clive Anderson interview made me respect them a lot more when they walked out after one-too-many snide comments about their music and contribution to bad fashion.

  • We should all be singing -Talking about chest hair, gold medallians.Poor Maurice. I performed all of SNF for my friends. I was 11 in the great year of 78.

  • The Bee Gees… I guess everyone has some sort of association with them, be it the proto-metalheads and rock ‘n rollers who despised them, the disco kings and queens (sometimes both in one!) who idolized them or the fringe dwellers who caught it from both sides of the pop-culture divide. Y’know… the ones who had Blue Oyster Cult AND Village People in their dinky plastic cassette carry-all. But you know what the Bee Gees remind me most of?  That’s right. A day and age where there were more chicks with big hair than Waffle Houses in Georgia (and that’s a LOT). BIG HAIR IS THE BOMB!!

  • Elaine

    My favorite Gibb thing during the “video” for Stayin Alive (were they called videos back then?). They are standing on the railroad tracks and dilapidated balconies lip-synching the chorus “ah” parts, and they’re sellin’ it, baby. Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive-stayin’ alive. They’re effecting “ah” by jiggling their lower jaws and clenching their butt cheeks. Barry in particular. You can tell by looking at his tight white pants. It’s so 70’s. It’s awesome. He truly had great hair, too.

  • Elaine

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQifYc62LSM

    forgot to include the me-tube

  • With you all the way, Elaine.  I can’t believe that I didn’t include it in my post, actually.  It’s a great video.  I just love it when they play peek-a-boo through the windows of the balcony.

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  • David

    While Googling “youtube Samantha Sang – From Dance To Love” your website came up 5th which is funny cause’ I could swear I just saw you perform at our talent show last week. Nice to know you share some of my disco sensibilities. I currently have 4500 disco/Italio disco/HiNRG (and other) songs on my Ipod.

    Thanks also for the “Johnny Angel” skit :)

    David
    OTS