Thursday, July 12, 2018

Counting down my Top 78 of '78: Singles #10 - 1

A breakdown of my top singles from 1978

WARNING! The following post contains excessive amounts of hair.

Steely Dan
Weeks in Hot 100: 19
Peaked: March 11
Album: Aja (ABC)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 10011
 Adult Contemporary30

The third Steely Dan tune on this list. I distinctly remember this tune blaring on the radio as the car I was riding in neared the intersection of Andrews Hwy and E 42nd St in Odessa. Probably KRIG 1410 AM but who knows. I had never heard anything like it before - and haven't since, though many have tried. So many of my favorite artists play on the track: Tom Scott, Bernard Purdie, Michael McDonald, and of course, Jay Graydon on the iconic guitar solo. I finally got a copy of the Aja album from Columbia House record "club" in 1982 and my eyes were fully opened.

Stayin' Alive
Bee Gees
Weeks in Hot 100: 27
Peaked: February 4
Album: Saturday Night Fever (RSO)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1001
 Adult Contemporary28

In seventh grade ('78-'79), I befriended two brothers that lived down the street: one my age, one a year older. Those boys introduced me to "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," the FM Soundtrack, and the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. (I quickly picked up The Stranger and SNF Soundtrack, but for some unknown reason, didn't get FM until much later). In classic preteen style, the three of us also worked up a choreographed lipsync routine for this tune. However, it kind of all fell apart when we couldn't figure out what the lyrics were. (Thank goodness we didn't have video capabilities on our phones and social media back then so the only thing keeping that routine alive is our memories.) I didn't see the movie until the PG version was released in 1979, but then I was treated to this song's use in the film's memorable opening scene (yeah you've seen it before, but you're gonna click anyway):

Sadly, those two brothers moved to Corpus Christi in the summer of 1979. I visited them once, but those friendships are usually destined to fade away after awhile.

Le Freak
Weeks in Hot 100: 25
Peaked: December 9
Album: C'est Chic (Atlantic)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1001
 Adult Contemporary48

Nothing much to report here other than to say this song makes me happy and makes me dance and who wouldn't want to hear a song like that? I'm usually up and dancing before the count off gets to "2." I sang the first two seconds of this song quite often in 7th grade, much to the chagrin of my teachers and a disgruntled student or two. I didn't know it at the time, but this song would make me a life-long fan of Nile Rodgers and his immediately identifiable guitar style. Chic, of course, would go on to be the backing band for numerous artists, including Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Bowie, etc.

I Just Wanna Stop
Gino Vannelli
Weeks in Hot 100: 21
Peaked: December 9
Album: Brother to Brother (A&M)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1004
 Adult Contemporary4

I have visceral reactions to every song in this top 7. Some punch me in the gut, some immediately relax every muscle in my body, some make me overly nostalgic, some all of the above, but they all have some inexplicable effect on me. I'm quickly relaxed with this sophisticated tune, right from the opening note through the Ernie Watts sax solo. And is that Jimmy Haslip of Yellowjackets on bass? Some might argue that "sophisticated soft rock" is an oxymoron, but they'd be wrong. To that argument, I present Exhibit A.

Mr. Blue Sky
Electric Light Orchestra
Weeks in Hot 100: 12
Peaked: August 12
Album: Out of the Blue (Jet)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 10035

Easily my favorite ELO tune (and I loves me some ELO). A happy shuffle with lyrics to match. Seems to me this is where Jeff Lynne stopped trying to sound like The Beatles and started trying to sound like Jeff Lynne. Granted, that period didn't last long, but no matter - we're treated to this beautiful pop concoction full of strings, vocoder, tight background vocals, and hooks galore. Why this wasn't more popular in '78 is a mystery. Sure made a impression on recent movie soundtracks, though.

With a Little Luck
Weeks in Hot 100: 18
Peaked: May 20
Album: London Town (Capitol)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1001
 Adult Contemporary5

Described in the most basic of terms, Sir Paul's music has gotten me through life. I got it kind of backwards, though, as I first heard his solo & Wings stuff on the radio before delving into The Beatles stuff (the blue and red greatest hits albums sure made high school a lot easier, but that's a story for another time). London Town isn't the best Wings by a long shot, but this tune, with it's opening electric piano, positive lyrics, and easily singable melody, is easily the highlight of the album. There's also a lot of synth pads for 1978. It transports me back to '78, one time so suddenly I actually welled up for no immediately discernible reason. Music, right?

Little River Band
Weeks in Hot 100: 20
Peaked: October 28
Album: Sleeper Catcher (Harvest)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1003
 Adult Contemporary10

Immediately relaxing. Reminds me of 7th grade. And that trumpet solo fits perfectly; can you imagine any other instrument getting a chance at that solo? As I wrote when I proclaimed this to be the best LRB single:
"Reminiscing" is not only my favorite Little River Band tune, it's one of the great soft-rock songs of the late '70s.  Apparently I'm in good company as John Lennon and Frank Sinatra are reported to have declared their love for it as well; the latter calling in "the best 1970's song in the world."  The laid back groove, the smooth just-off-the-beat vocals, the sublime electric piano, the references to Glenn Miller and Cole Porter, the string and background vocal arrangements, the Bob Venier trumpet solo - it all works for this soft rock kid."

Whenever I Call You 'Friend'
Kenny Loggins
Weeks in Hot 100: 20
Peaked: October 28
Album: Nightwatch (Columbia)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1005
 Adult Contemporary9

I moved from the desert of west Texas to the humidity of the gulf coast in August 1978. I quickly found a Top 40 radio station (KILT 610 AM) and listened to it almost constantly when I was home. This song reminds me that time - new school, new house, new church, new climate, integrated schools (you read that right, my previous school district still wasn't yet integrated in the 1970's), the search for new friends, etc. Love the writing, the harmonies, the arrangement. Fast forward a few years: I learned that the Nightwatch album was produced by Bob James and this song was co-written by Melissa Manchester. And it all made sense.

Always and Forever
Weeks in Hot 100: 20
Peaked: April 8
Album: Too Hot to Handle (Epic)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 10018
 Adult Contemporary33

Simply put, this is THE BEST SLOW JAM OF ALL TIME. For further research, click here. Or here. Or here. Or here.

If I Can't Have You
Yvonne Elliman
Weeks in Hot 100: 22
Peaked: May 13
Album: Saturday Night Fever (RSO)

 U.S. charts:
 Hot 1001
 Adult Contemporary9

I wish I knew what it was about this song that appeals to me so dadgum much. As soon as hear the opening strings, I drop everything and simply listen (admittedly, that's a problem when I'm driving). Maybe it's because it's a disco tune that's driven by toms instead of hi-hat? The harmonies? The sweet french horn arrangements? All of the above and more. Elliman makes it sound so easy. The song reminds me of the summer of 1978, a carefree time between elementary school and junior high. In my highly selective memory, I spent everyday that summer at either the movies, the pool, or playing soccer (my dream at the time was to be a member of the US soccer team in the 1984 Olympics).

This is my all-time favorite disco record. Book it.

For the record (pun not intended), I've heard the Bee Gees version a few times and it does nothing for me but make me yearn for the Yvonne Elliman version.

All chart positions are peak positions from Billboard charts. These are my personal top 78 singles of those that peaked on the Billboard charts in 1978. The list is solely my opinion. Using Joel Whitburn's book, Pop Annual 1955-1999, I started with the 451 singles that peaked on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 chart in 1978. An initial pass through that list narrowed it down to 117 tunes, then listening, ranking, and editing began. The top 78 are presented here, in order.


  1. Like you, "If I Can't Have You" has a huge place in my heart when it comes to music from 1978. It does have some amazing properties - lyrics by the Brothers Gibb, production and Yvonne's earnest vocals. It just works so well.

  2. While my top ten looks a little different from yours, your comment, " I actually welled up for no immediately discernible reason. Music, right?" really hit home for me. Music touches my soul like nothing else��