(Pictured: KC and the Sunshine Band on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, December 31, 1977.)
Recently I mentioned that I was not willing to listen to a full American Top 40 show from May 1978 because I was not eager to relive my last month of high school. However, I recently decided to risk the one from June 24, 1978.
40. “If Ever I See You Again”/Roberta Flack. Well shit, maybe this was a bad idea after all.
38. “Dance Across the Floor”/Jimmy “Bo” Horne and 36. “It’s the Same Old Song”/KC and the Sunshine Band. The best KC record on this countdown is credited to some other guy, Jimmy “Bo” Horne, a Florida native who kicked around the Miami music scene in the 70s. “Dance Across the Floor” was, however, produced by Harry Casey and Richard Finch. KC and the Sunshine Band had been an unstoppable force between 1975 and 1977, with four #1 hits, but their momentum cooled in 1978. “Boogie Shoes” deserved better that its #35 peak in the spring, but “It’s the Same Old Song” was lucky to get that far. It just kinda happens for three minutes and then it’s over and you don’t remember it.
35. “Runaway”/Jefferson Starship. On certain days, I like this better than “Miracles.”
32. “Deacon Blues”/Steely Dan. An unlikely Top 40 hit, just off its chart peak of #19. The single edit seems kind of pointless, mostly by shortening the sax solo to cut the total length from 7:37 to 6:40.
28. “Almost Summer”/Celebration Featuring Mike Love. I hadn’t heard “Almost Summer” in a long time before it turned up on this countdown, and I was positively shocked at how flimsy it is. It sounds like it took five minutes to write and one take to record, which may actually have been the way Mike Love preferred to work.
27. “Wonderful Tonight”/Eric Clapton. If I were to make a list of songs I never never ever need to hear again, this might be #1. The single edit of 3:13, which is what I think Casey played, helps it a great deal, though.
24. “Oh What a Night for Dancing”/Barry White. Before playing this song, Casey runs down White’s chart accomplishments, having produced 12 gold records in a single year between his groups Love Unlimited, the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and his own solo work. You’d be better off listening to any one of those than to “Oh What a Night for Dancing.”
22. “I Was Only Joking”/Rod Stewart. I have written before of my fondness for this record, and the way I heard it in the summer of 1978, although it occurs to me now that my interpretation of it doesn’t match the plain words on the page. But the regret in Rod’s voice is real, as was mine in the summer of 1978.
20. “Last Dance”/Donna Summer. The week of May 6, 1978, was the first week without a Donna Summer song on the Hot 100 since “I Feel Love” charted the previous August. “Last Dance” charted the next week, May 13, and there would not be another Summer-less week on the Hot 100 for almost exactly two years, until “On the Radio” fell off in May 1980. That’s 142 out of 143 weeks. It may surprise you to learn that “Last Dance” never made #1 on the Hot 100. It peaked at #3 in August.
11. “The Groove Line”/Heatwave. This band could play. First hit “Boogie Nights” is iconic, or ought to be. Their second hit, “Always and Forever” was the soundtrack to thousands of lost virginities (“the best slow jam of all time,” My Favorite Decade says), and “The Groove Line” is a burner.
9. “Still the Same”/Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. I wrote about this song a few years ago, and when I heard it the other day, it gave me a strong sense of the kid I was that summer, working at the gas station with no customers, absorbing the radio hour after hour, poised on the edge between past and future.
7. “Use Ta Be My Girl”/O’Jays and 6. “You Belong to Me”/Carly Simon. Will say again: maybe relistening to this countdown this wasn’t such a good idea.
2. “Baker Street”/Gerry Rafferty and 1. “Shadow Dancing”/Andy Gibb. A few years ago, we got acquainted with former AT40 staffer Scott Paton. He told us how “Baker Street,” which famously spent six consecutive weeks at #2 on the Hot 100 behind “Shadow Dancing,” was actually #1 for maybe 18 hours, until some shenanigans took place. It’s quite a tale.