Shine On

Let’s pick up the trail of One Week in the 40, with more songs that spent a single week in Billboard‘s Top 40. The end is in sight.

Before Jim Stafford went to #3 with “Spiders and Snakes,” he charted with “Swamp Witch,” which has to do with snakes and other stuff you probably don’t want somebody to put down your back. Stafford’s bayou tale hit #39 for the week of July 14, 1973.

After “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” Bette Midler’s “Friends” (which is not the song from the Elton John movie score) reached #40 in a 10-week chart run, peaking during the week of November 10, 1973. The B-side, a version of the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” was listed for two weeks. Both were produced by the not-yet-famous Barry Manilow.

I do not hate “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods like so many people do, and the Heywoods’ “Who Do You Think You Are” is in fact awesome. Their third 1974 hit, “The Heartbreak Kid,” more generic than either of the other two, made #39 for the week of December 14.

Your mileage may vary with some of these songs. What sounds good to me might not move you at all, and vice versa. “Dance Wit’ Me” by Rufus, their followup to the Top-5 hit “Sweet Thing,” doesn’t seem to do anything for four minutes. But it did enough for enough people to reach #39 for the week of June 12, 1976.

After the Top-10 hits “Pick Up the Pieces” and “Cut the Cake,” the Average White Band’s next three singles all barely squeaked into the Top 40 despite being pretty good. “Queen of My Soul,” the last of the three, reached #40 during the week of October 16, 1976. (Soul Train performance and interview here.)

We know from Toni Tennille’s memoir that her relationship with the Captain wasn’t always so great, and it’s my half-assed belief that you can hear it in some of their songs. On “Love Will Keep Us Together,” she tells him that all the other women in the world will eventually lose interest in him. On “Lonely Night,” she calls him “little man.” On “You Never Done It Like That,” she praises his sexual prowess as if it surprises her and calls him “little man” again. On “You Need a Woman Tonight,” she tells him what he needs, with nary a question about what he thinks his needs might be. OK, I may be stretching a bit on the last one. “You Need a Woman Tonight” hit #40 for the week of January 27, 1979.

Any similarity between “A Lover’s Holiday” by Change and the sound of Chic is probably not coincidental. Session musicians recorded the instrumental tracks for Change records in Italy, then shipped them to New York, where the vocals were added by session singers. Luther Vandross sang lead on some and background on others, but he’s not on “A Lover’s Holiday,” which peaked at #40 during the week of July 19, 1980.

R&B groups with large numbers of members, along the lines of Earth Wind and Fire, the Ohio Players, and the Commodores, were a big deal for a while. L.T.D., with lead singer Jeffrey Osborne a couple of years away from a solo career, hit #40 with “Shine On” during the week of January 31, 1981. Con Funk Shun scored the second of two Top 40 hits with “Too Tight,” which sounds like a Commodores outtake and reached #40 for the week of February 28, 1981.

Andy Gibb’s first three singles all hit #1; his next five did no worse than #15. But he fell off a cliff pretty quickly after that. “Me (Without You)” reached #40 for the week of April 11, 1981. It’s a ballad that should have done big business in that bland year—at least until the last minute or so, when Andy kicks it into power-ballad overdrive, which doesn’t suit him at all. He would chart just once more after that—his oddball collaboration with Victoria Principal on “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” in the fall of 1981.

Narada Michael Walden would produce some of the biggest hits of the 80s for Whitney Houston (and others), but one of his first projects was teenage R&B singer Stacy Lattisaw, who was 13 when she charted with “Let Me Be Your Angel” in 1980. “Miracles,” a ballad that easy to imagine Whitney singing, hit #40 for the week of October 22, 1983.

We have but three songs remaining on this list—all of which spent their single week in the 40 during the same week. Watch for them in a future installment.

One thought on “Shine On

  1. I’d like to voice my support for “A Lover’s Holiday” which must have been a local hit in Houston because I heard it often on KILT. As you’ve written, it is obviously a Chic knock-off, but it’s a damn good one (I’d love to hear Nile Rodgers’ signature guitar scratching on top of that groove). While it barely scraped the Top 40 chart, it peaked at #5 on the R&B singles chart and topped the Billboard Disco chart for 9 weeks. Just listened to the glorious 6 minute version. If memory serves, the female lead later ended up with C+C Music Factory.

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