Not just the pop top 40 from this week 40 years ago, but the country top 10, too, because just look at it. All but two of these are in the accompanying playlist.
1 1 BAD GIRLS –•– Donna Summer (Casablanca)-9 (2 weeks at #1) (1) #1 pop, new #1 R&B, and #1 album. The entire album had already hit the top of the Dance/Disco chart and was at #2 this week, behind Patrick Hernandez’s “Born to Be Alive.” That’s called domination, folks — not to mention that her former three-week #1 “Hot Stuff” was, as you can see, still ensconced in the top 3! She spent four weeks total with both songs in the top 3, and “Bad Girls” eventually spent five weeks at #1. Chic (#4) had a big year, and there are those who think the Knack (#34) indicated some kind of pop chart sea change (they’re wrong), but Summer unquestionably ruled ’79. It also doesn’t hurt that “Bad Girls” is one of her best singles ever: tight, taut, and perfectly arranged and sung.
2 2 RING MY BELL –•– Anita Ward (Juana)-11 (1) — I’ve never been a fan of this one: too cutesy-kitschy. I do, however, appreciate all of the opportunities for singing “pew! pew!” the song provides.
3 3 HOT STUFF –•– Donna Summer (Casablanca)-14 (1) — If you prefer soul-disco Summer, there’s “Bad Girls.” If you prefer her more rocking, there’s “Hot Stuff.” She could sing anything, and she sang it all so expertly.
4 13 GOOD TIMES –•– Chic (Atlantic)-6 (4) — I love the beginning, as if something’s sliding into phase. And of course that should-be-patented Nile Rodgers chicken-scratch guitar, along with the piano riff, makes this song a monster.
5 7 MAKIN’ IT –•– David Naughton (RSO)-17 (5) — I love this motivational poster of a slab of disco-licious Velveeta, even though I know it’s just empty calories.
6 6 BOOGIE WONDERLAND –•– Earth, Wind and Fire with the Emotions (ARC)-11 (6) — What a smart combination. What joy they managed to capture on record! Underestimate this record at your peril; it crackles with energy, disco and otherwise. EWF were pretty much as perfect as anything, and circa ’79 were peaking hard.
7 8 I WANT YOU TO WANT ME –•– Cheap Trick (Epic)-14 (7) — But Robin, I don’t want you. Or your band, frankly, sterlin practitioners of boring old Yankee rock.
8 9 SHINE A LITTLE LOVE –•– Electric Light Orchestra (Jet)-10 (8) — I will grudgingly admit that as ELO goes, this is pretty solid.
9 10 GOLD –•– John Stewart (RSO)-10 (9) — This ode to “people out there [presumably Los Angeles] turnin’ music into gold” has less personality than a white v-neck undershirt.
10 5 SHE BELIEVES IN ME –•– Kenny Rogers (United Artists)-13 (5) — The verses provide Rogers with an opportunity to show off his softer side; he undersings them beautifully. And then, on the chorus, he opens up — but even there, he’s not belting, but instead using lots of control. The man was a master with his vocals.
11 14 WHEN YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN –•– Dr. Hook (Capitol)-15 (11) — Totally bouncy and totally empty.
12 4 CHUCK E.’S IN LOVE –•– Rickie Lee Jones (Warner Brothers)-13 (4) — This song is the essence of the word “laconic.” I wager it only could’ve been a hit in the hot-weather months. And Jones’ voice — there’s nothing like it.
13 16 AIN’T NO STOPPIN’ US NOW –•– McFadden and Whitehead (Philadelphia International)-13 (13) — THOSE DISCO STRINGS!
14 17 I CAN’T STAND IT NO MORE –•– Peter Frampton (A&M)-9 (14) — And just like that, with this song’s peak at this position, Frampton’s hitmaking run ended after three years. Frampton Comes Alive, I’m in You (ick), and this single, and then: nothing. Which is still more than this AOR journeyman hack deserved. “Can’t Stand” fumbles around amiably enough, but that’s all it does.
15 19 YOU CAN’T CHANGE THAT –•– Raydio (Arista)-13 (15) — Slushy yacht soul that Ray Parker, Jr. could (and did) churn out in his sleep. He’d get sharper in the ’80s.
16 26 THE MAIN EVENT / FIGHT –•– Barbra Streisand (Columbia)-6 (16) — Songwriter Bruce Roberts not only co-wrote this major hit, heading for #3, but also Dolly Parton’s “You’re the Only One,” at #2 on this weeks’ country chart (below). Now, that’s a pro. And Babs sings the fuck out of it, really sinking her teeth into this uptempo disco explosion, making it one of my favorites of her catalog. This positively throbs.
17 18 DAYS GONE DOWN (Still Got the Light In Your Eyes) –•– Gerry Rafferty (United Artists)-8 (17) — Lukewarm soft rock without the sax that at least helped “Baker Street” stand out.
18 22 I WAS MADE FOR LOVIN’ YOU –•– Kiss (Casablanca)-9 (18) — Shameless, in both the best and worst ways.
19 20 DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW –•– Abba (Atlantic)-10 (19) — A surprisingly rock-y entry from Sweden’s finest, featuring vocals from the men! Because they so rarely did this kind of thing, it stands out like a strobe light in the forest, and like insects to that strobe, you can’t help but be drawn to it.
20 21 HEART OF THE NIGHT –•– Poco (MCA)-11 (20) — As yacht-country as something this clearly indebted to the Eagles (yet superior to most of their catalog) can get. I confess this makes me swoon a little.
21 23 MAMA CAN’T BUY YOU LOVE –•– Elton John (MCA)-7 (21) — Elton’s toe-dip into disco soul, courtesy of Thom Bell at Philadelphia International, fit him shockingly well. These strings and horns complement him like a tailored suit.
22 24 DO IT OR DIE –•– The Atlanta Rhythm Section (Polydor)-9 (22) — Was this inspired by est? The sentiment’s fine, but the title is unfortunate. The soft rock chug that served ARS so well on “So Into You” and “Imaginary Lover” lets them down a bit here, as “Die” just sounds sleepy and flat.
23 25 GETTING CLOSER –•– Wings (Columbia)-6 (23) — Did Paul just call Linda a “salamander”?
24 11 THE LOGICAL SONG –•– Supertramp (A&M)-18 (6) — As a pre-teen in junior high, coming across this on AOR radio, I found this quite deep. However, I’m no longer a pre-teen, and I now know better. Not to mention the repetitive keyboard figure in this is insipid.
25 27 SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT –•– Anne Murray (Capitol)-9 (25) — I love the propulsion of this; Murray’s mid- and uptempos were always better than her ballads, which often erred on the side of drowsy. The arrangement is sublime. Also, when she sings “I’m gonna make you glad you came,” I’m not entirely sure she’s not dirty-talkin’.
26 28 PEOPLE OF THE SOUTH WIND –•– Kansas (Kirshner)-8 (26) — The driving rhythm and keyboards on this give it the barest disco touch, which is just weird from Kansas. And also sounds extremely coke-y, which is somewhat less surprising.
27 31 LEAD ME ON –•– Maxine Nightingale (Windsong)-9 (27) — Blousy.
28 30 UP ON THE ROOF –•– James Taylor (Columbia)-8 (28) — NO.
29 41 ONE WAY OR ANOTHER –•– Blondie (Chrysalis)-8 (29) — I don’t love Blondie, sacred cows that they are, but I generally prefer them in rock mode to disco mode. This is rock.
30 33 WEEKEND –•– Wet Willie (Epic)-9 (30) — Kansas (#26) weren’t the only rockers slipping a little disco rhythm into their sound, as evidenced by this surprisingly successful, yet still mostly “meh” fusion of lite southern boogie with a little dancefloor action. The harmonica solo doesn’t help. (And no, I’m not kidding.)
31 35 IS SHE REALLY GOING OUT WITH HIM –•– Joe Jackson (A&M)-7 (31) — I have no idea whatsoever how A&M got this slice of pub rock onto top 40 radio in the summer of ’79; it must’ve sounded radical next to the rest of this chart. I don’t typically have much time for pub rock, but Joe Jackson supercedes the categorization. Such smart songwriting. That bridge!
32 34 SAD EYES –•– Robert John (EMI-America)-10 (32) — A twinkling, soft pop masterpiece that actually invokes sadness as it swells into its chorus.
33 38 SUSPICIONS –•– Eddie Rabbitt (Elektra)-7 (33) — I’ve said it before and will continue to do so: this is one of the all-time great songs about a lover’s paranoia. I’ve also previously called this a “sultry ’79 country-soul nugget,” and while that’s still true, these days I consider this more country-yacht. Rabbitt was a superb singer, a city boy (raised in NYC) singing country, which made him much smoother than your average, and this song was perfectly tailored for him. It’s barely country at all, but it is the essence of smooth. Also: a flute solo! One of my favorites, not just on this chart but all-time.
34 45 MY SHARONA –•– The Knack (Capitol)-5 (34) — Fuck the Knack.
35 12 WE ARE FAMILY –•– Sister Sledge (Cotillion)-13 (2) — Overplayed — and overly simple. To my ears, one of the Chic Organisation’s rare misses.
36 15 DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY –•– Van Halen (Warner Brothers)-13 (15) — Sleazy, dirty, ur-LA metal just the way you like it. This is the sound of a band who knew what they were capable of and precisely how to do it.
37 46 THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA –•– The Charlie Daniels Band (Epic)-5 (37) — This country-rock is successful, but that doesn’t mean I have to care, or like it.
38 32 JUST WHEN I NEEDED YOU MOST –•– Randy Vanwarmer (Bearsville)-18 (4) — There’s soft pop, there’s supersoft pop, and then there’s this. Also featured in the ninth circle of Hades.
39 39 IF I SAID YOU HAD A BEAUTIFUL BODY WOULD YOU HOLD IT AGAINST ME –•– The Bellamy Brothers (Warner Brothers / Curb)-9 (39) — Ah, country novelties. This is more “Margaritavile” than “Ring of Fire,” and that’s really all you need to know about this shit.
40 43 KISS IN THE DARK –•– Pink Lady (Elektra / Curb)-8 (40) — I’d never heard the Japanese duo Pink Lady before this, only knowing that they had a rep for having had a hand in one of the supposed worst TV series in US history, a short-lived variety series. Well, I’ve not seen their show, but “Kiss in the Dark” is a slightly insane disco marvel. It also made them only the second Japanese artists ever to make the US top 40, after Kyu Sakamoto (who took his original version of “Sukiyaki” to #1 in 1963).
1 2 SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT — Anne Murray-10 (1) — See #25, above.
2 3 YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE — Dolly Parton-7 (2) — This ain’t country, it’s adult contemporary, but when but the song and singer are this good, I don’t give a good goddamn.
3 4 (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY — Johnny Cash-10 (3) — Cash’s cover of the 1948 song would make it one notch higher and stop behind Parton, the highest it’s ever made it on any chart. The two songs couldn’t be more different, with Cash doing a perfect, hard country retelling of the classic folk tale.
4 1 AMANDA — Waylon Jennings-10 (1) — Waylon had a way with ballads, and to take a Don Williams record and surpass him on it is saying something.
5 6 SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME — Emmylou Harris-8 (5) — Amusingly, Parton would cover this herself three years later. Her version, however, is soaked in synths, whereas Harris’s is strictly bluegrass. And utterly lovely.
6 9 SUSPICIONS — Eddie Rabbitt-6 (6) — See #33, above.
7 12 COCA COLA COWBOY — Mel Tillis-6 (7) — I’m more a Diet Pepsi guy myself.
8 5 I CAN’T FEEL YOU ANYMORE — Loretta Lynn-12 (3) — She’d only make the country top 10 twice more, with this song’s follow-up and 1982’s “I Lie,” and listening to this, you can kinda hear why: not only was Lynn not writing as much as of her material anymore, she wasn’t picking the strongest songs, either. This string-laden “here’s why I’m leaving” song could’ve been cut by anyone, and you’d get about the same result. It’s just there.
9 16 FAMILY TRADITION — Hank Williams, Jr.-7 (9) — I had a few things to say about this landmark song last year, all of them complimentary.
10 18 NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD — Tammy Wynette-7 (10) — Amazingly, just like her ’60s/’70s sister in country stardom, Lynn (#8 above), Wynette would only grace the country top 10 two more times after this single. And similarly, this is a fairly weak effort, loaded down unnecessarily with strings. The times, they were a-changin’.
Please note that half of the country top 10 is women, and country radio stations did not all suddenly go out of business en masse — or at all. “Women don’t want to hear women” is a bald lie perpetrated by male radio consultants and PDs and MDs, nothing but bullshit.