Last week, rapper 50 Cent had three of the top five hits on the Billboard Hot 100, two under his own name and one with fellow rapper The Game (with whom 50 Cent has had a rather large falling-out, if the shooting incident outside a New York radio station recently is any indication.) Such feats of chart dominance have happened before–in fact, greater ones. The king of them all, of course, remains the week of April 4, 1964, when the Beatles had the top five all to themselves: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me.” And during the week of March 18, 1978, the Bee Gees claimed the greatest monopoly of the 1970s, with two records of their own and two more they wrote, produced, or sang on in the top five.
5. “Love Is Thicker Than Water”/Andy Gibb. There’s no explaining the monstrous hits that Gibb’s first two singles, “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and this, became. Particularly when the next two, “Shadow Dancing” and “Everlasting Love,” which were far more distinctive, weren’t nearly so big.
4. “Lay Down Sally”/Eric Clapton. EC is the lone interloper at this Gibb family reunion, and “Sally” is far removed from their slick productions. It even got some country airplay at the time, and the album from which it comes, Slowhand, is essential, with tracks such as “Cocaine” and “The Core.”
3. “Emotion”/Samantha Sang. At this moment in history, I could probably have taken this record to Number 3. Terrific intro, great refrain, and the Bee Gees harmony that Mr. and Mrs. America found irresistable in the spring of ’78.
2. “Stayin’ Alive”/Bee Gees. I was driving my ’74 Hornet in my hometown (somewhere around 15th Avenue and 14th Street–I swear, I remember this) one afternoon late in 1977 when something came on the radio I’d never heard before. And when I say “came on the radio,” I mean “leapt out of the speakers and grabbed me by the throat.” Awestruck, I said aloud to no one, “What the hell is this?” Remove all the baggage “Stayin’ Alive” has accumulated, all the snickering about disco and the Bee Gees, and you’re left with one of the true monuments of the 1970s, a Hall-of-Famer for that devastating intro, if nothing else.
1. “Night Fever”/Bee Gees. Not in the same league as “Stayin’ Alive,” not even close, but it did eight weeks at Number One while “Stayin’ Alive” did only two. Along with Saturday Night Fever itself, “Night Fever” made glittering disco-ball culture safe for middle America.