Hi everybody, and welcome back to CHART ATTACK! It’s true: I turned 30 on Wednesday. (See my Pablo Cruise t-shirt??) I thought it’d be fun to see what songs were on the radio as my parents were frantically racing to the hospital. Enjoy as we attack the charts from May 21, 1977!
10. Lucille – Kenny Rogers Amazon iTunes
9. Southern Nights – Glen Campbell Amazon iTunes
8. Hotel California – Eagles Amazon iTunes
7. Gonna Fly Now – Bill Conti Amazon iTunes
6. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac Amazon iTunes
5. Got To Give It Up (Pt. 1) – Marvin Gaye Amazon iTunes
4. I’m Your Boogie Man – KC & The Sunshine Band Amazon iTunes
3. Couldn’t Get It Right – Climax Blues Band Amazon
2. When I Need You – Leo Sayer Amazon iTunes
1. Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder Amazon iTunes
10. Lucille – Kenny Rogers
Well, this week is off to a bad start.
In 1975, Kenny Rogers left The First Edition – the band that had made him a success with "Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town" but had rapidly declined, leaving Rogers $65,000 in debt – and ventured off to start a solo career. His first attempt, "Love Lifted Me," made a slight impact on Country charts but peaked at a dismal #97 on the Hot 100. It took him two years to reach major success with "Lucille," which reached #5 here and topped the Country charts. And suddenly, Kenny Rogers realized he could climb aboard the scratchy-voiced gravy train from here to kingdom come. Why did the country just fall in love with a singer who sounded like he was falling asleep standing up?
I covered "Coward Of The County" a few months ago, and this song is pretty much the same sound – just slower and with no drums. It even has the key change (although sadly, only one). Here’s what would have made "Lucille" a winner for me: an abrupt switch to
double triple-time, or a loud, electric guitar chord right at the very end. Sadly, the song fades out, so I consider it a failure. I hate you, Kenny. Unless you’re performing with Lionel Richie. I really gotta do that post about Lionel and Kenny on CMT Crossroads.
9. Southern Nights – Glen Campbell (download)
Awww, yeah! I’ll tell the truth – right now is the first time I’m hearing this song, and I love it. Love the beat, the banjo, and that guitar riff that almost sounds (for two notes) like it’s going to be Little River Band’s "Reminiscing." (That riff, by the way, was reportedly influenced by Jerry Reed.) Man, remember when Glen Campbell was just huge? Because I don’t. I’m not even sure how many people my age will know much about him other than his unflattering mugshot a few years ago. But "Southern Nights" was yet another #1 smash for Campbell, following the unstoppable hit "Rhinestone Cowboy" two years prior. Written by Allan Toussaint and introduced to Campbell by his friend Jimmy Webb, "Southern Nights" topped the Country charts as well (right behind stupid Kenny Rogers, I guess), and was the #1 jukebox hit of 1977.
8. Hotel California – Eagles
Oh, man. Why did I pick this chart? I mean, it’s not that I don’t like "Hotel California." I recognize that many people hate it, but I don’t at all (other than the fact that it goes on forever). I just don’t know what to say about "Hotel California." Blah blah blah, colitas, blah blah blah, steely knives, blah blah blah, Satan. What can you say about the song that hasn’t already been said? Plus, if you’re interested in the musical structure of the song, look no further than this page. So, instead, I’ll tell you this: if you’re interested in the complicated history of The Eagles, check out To The Limit: The Untold Story Of The Eagles by Marc Eliot. I don’t own it, but I imagine I read about 45% of it one day while in Barnes & Noble. Couldn’t put it down. Plus, there’s an awesome afterword where the author talks about how Don Henley essentially coerced bookstores not to stock the book, promising them he’d do an in-store performance in return. I don’t know if it’s true, but I like any book that makes Henley look like a little bitch.
7. Gonna Fly Now – Bill Conti (download)
Bonus Rocky Download: Gonna Fly Now – Maynard Ferguson (download)
My wife and I consider "Power Of Two" by Indigo Girls to be "our song," but if you want to get technical, this one could also be considered "ours." On one of our first dates, I took her to see famed trumpet player Maynard Ferguson, who was appearing on campus. Now, I didn’t know a damn thing about Ferguson, but I knew that Jess played the trumpet, and that this move would probably make me look really classy. Go to hell, Mark Morrison – this is the real return of the mack! (Ohmygod!)
So we arrived at the show, and I read that he had a Top 40 hit in ’77 for "Gonna Fly Now" (oddly, his was a hit partially due to the fact that it was released before the official Rocky soundtrack), and all I could think was: when the fuck is he going to play the Rocky song? So finally, the band played it (by 1997, Ferguson was only playing maybe ten notes a concert, and the rest of his time was spent waving his hands in the air like he just didn’t care), and I let out a sigh of relief. Jess didn’t know yet that I was a complete dork, so it took every ounce of will in my body to not start singing along with the lyrics.
And speaking of the lyrics: I can’t believe someone got credit for writing these. Do you know what they’re saying?
Trying hard now
it’s so hard now
trying hard now
Getting strong now
won’t be long now
getting strong now
Gonna fly now
flying high now
gonna fly, fly, fly…
I think I was singing something like "Gonna fly now….Rocky Five now…" But is that so much worse?
As I mentioned, Ferguson’s dance-infused take on the song reached #30, but Conti’s version went all the way #1. (Stealing the top spot away from it? "Undercover Angel.") But here’s the interesting thing about "Gonna Fly Now": it wasn’t originally the theme of the flick. Bill Conti had been hired to score the film, but Sylvester Stallone’s brother, Frank, had written a song that was going to be featured prominently in the movie. The name of the song – and I swear I am not making this up – was "He Had A Sunday Punch That Will Put Him Into Monday."
Suddenly "It’s so hard now/Trying hard now" doesn’t seem so bad, does it?
Lyrics aside, "Gonna Fly Now" freakin’ rocks. The bongos, the strings, and of course, the horns. Oh, the horns! And Ferguson’s version is actually better than Conti’s – but both rock. I was going to say "it doesn’t get more iconic than this," but of course, it does. This one’s up there, though, as one of the most recognizable themes in movie history. And come on – you know you want to pump your fists to this one. You probably even want to run up some stairs. Go ahead, run up some stairs. I’ll wait.
6. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Okay, put your fists down. "Dreams", from the excellent Rumours, of course, was written by Nicks, and is about her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. (I’m shocked.) Nicks wrote it in the studio next door to the band’s, where Sly from Sly and the Family Stone was recording using a basic, keyboard-created drum pattern. I usually take any opportunity to mock Stevie Nicks, but I actually really like this song. I didn’t realize how beautiful it was until I saw it being covered on the Classic Albums series, where they stripped the song down to just the vocals. The harmonies by Buckingham and Christine McVie are beautiful. Apparently it took Buckingham to convince McVie that the song was worth recording – after all, it’s all pretty much one chord – which she claimed he did by fashioning "three sections out of identical chords, making each section sound completely different. He created the impression that there’s a thread running through the whole thing."
Here’s a particularly nice performance from ’77:
All these years, and "Dreams" remains the only #1 single for the group. (I would have bet $5 out of Kurt’s wallet that "Little Lies" topped the charts, but it stalled at #4.)
5. Got To Give It Up (Pt. 1) – Marvin Gaye (download)
Oh man, I’m going to embarass myself right now. I first heard this song when it was used in Charlie’s Angels. The movie. I can’t believe I’m admitting it, but shit, I made it through last week’s Hanson admission relatively unscathed, and perhaps I’m just trying to see how much I can actually say before you all run away for good. So yeah. Heard this during Charlie’s Angels. If I recall correctly, it started playing at the exact moment that Sam Rockwell’s character was revealed to be a villain. Excellent placement, but it still doesn’t excuse the fact that I didn’t hear this song until 2000. Well, whatever, at least I finally heard it.
I dare you to listen to "Got To Give It Up" and not feel an undeniable urge to shake your booty. The bass/percussion groove (a clang against a half-filled glass bottle of grapefruit juice), along with the hollerin’ crowd in the background, is so ridiculously funky that it’s not even funny. (Sentences like this one are why I don’t do this for money.) But here’s the thing: I never feel the need to get past two-and-a-half minutes on the track. It’s like: I’m shakin’ my booty, I’m shakin’ my booty, I’m shakin’ my booty, BAM, I’m done. Booty shaking is over. Booty’s tired. Booty wants to move on to Rick James or something.
I bet you’d like to know something about the song, wouldn’t you. Well, hang on. First I have to decide whether or not I have anything else to say about my booty.
Okay, I’m good. So "Got To Give It Up" was inspired by Johnnie Taylor’s "Disco Lady," a hit in its own right (and the first certified platinum single by the RIAA – two million sold). The track was almost an afterthought; a studio recording tacked on to the very end of Gaye’s "Live At The London Palladium" album. The song clocked in at almost twelve minutes (and I complained before minute three!), and was edited down to a more manageable four-plus and renamed "Got To Give It Up (Pt. 1)." The single was a simultaneous #1 on Pop, R&B and Dance, although only retained the top spot here for a week before being bested by "Gonna Fly Now." That’s gotta hurt.
4. I’m Your Boogie Man – KC & The Sunshine Band
If Kenny Rogers wasn’t enough, here’s another example of how the record-buying public loves a solid formula: "I’m Your Boogie Man" is "Shake, Shake, Shake (Shake Your Booty)" is "Keep It Comin’ Love" is "Get Down Tonight" is…you get the point. In fact, the only popular KC song that sounds different than the others is "Please Don’t Go," and as we pointed out back in December, that song sucks. But you just couldn’t stop KC in the late ’70s: this song was the fourth #1 for the band, making them the second group to achieve four #1 singles in the ’70s. Can you name the other group?
3. Couldn’t Get It Right – Climax Blues Band
You know, after this past week’s Mellow Gold debacle, "Couldn’t Get It Right" never seemed so appropriate. Apparently I was the only one who thought the song had some Mellow Gold in it. Mea culpa. But thanks for cutting me some slack. Good thing I posted it on my birthday – you guys were so forgiving! Anyhow, scroll down to Mellow Gold #32 if you want to read about this one.
2. When I Need You – Leo Sayer
Between 1974 and 1981, Leo Sayer made some impressive appearances on the charts. "When I Need You," a pretty ballad written by Albert Hammond and Carole Bayer Sager, was his second #1 after 1976’s "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing." Not bad for a guy who initially got people’s attention by dressing like a clown.
Think of him as KISS, but with actual talent. Sayer, who had his first taste of success co-writing songs for Roger Daltrey’s first solo album, adopted the Pierrot clown costume and found that people were flocking to his concerts to see what he was about.
Great voice, huh? Sayer was ballsy enough to drop the costume as soon as he became well-known, and audiences stuck around – unlike KISS. They even stuck around to buy an album with this cover.
"When I Need You" came from the above album, Endless Flight, and although it only topped the charts for a week, Sayer gets much respect from me, simply based on the below clip.
I’ve watched this clip multiple times. And this one, too.
1. Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder
Well, whaddya know. Here I was, all set to be depressed about the songs that were topping the charts during the week of my birth, and then we came upon the #1 song of the week – one of the most awesome Stevie Wonder tunes ever – and poof, my sadness is gone!
Many journalists (real ones, I might add) have discussed the majesty of "Sir Duke" in ways I could never hope to match, so I’ll be as simple about this one as I can: Joy. That’s it, really, "Sir Duke" summarized in a single word. I don’t know if it’s possible to really listen to "Sir Duke" without breaking into a smile. And as much as I love the song – I can’t listen to it on its own. I have to hear "I Wish" immediately after, the way it’s tracked on Songs In The Key Of Life. "I Wish" was the first single from the long-awaited album, and, like this track, flew to the top of the charts.
I guess the thing that really makes me dig "Sir Duke" is this: in one song, Stevie takes a look at music, its impact on our lives, and celebrates the people who brought it to us and made us feel the way we do about it. Not to be cheesy, but that’s kind of what I’m trying to do. Except with really crappy music instead of good music.
Have a great weekend, and see you next week for another CHART ATTACK!