I have never felt all that warmly about the music of 1979 in general, and of the summer of ’79 in particular, but the American Top 40 show from June 30, 1979, was a lot better than I expected, and now I’m reconsidering my long-held opinion.
LW1. “Hot Stuff”/Donna Summer
40. “Weekend”/Wet Willie
Earlier this spring, I wrote about my college radio station 40 years ago, and how some of us thought our music mix was a little too black for a campus that was more than 95 percent white and maybe 80 percent small-town white. It’s painful to think we were straight-up racist, though we probably were. A kinder way to put it is that we were obsessed with arbitrary labels. Take “Hot Stuff,” which we considered a disco song, because Donna Summer was A) black and B) a known singer of disco songs. Never mind that “Hot Stuff” features a screaming guitar solo and a bad-ass thump that leaves the rock bands on this show in the dust. Given that we were mostly small-town white guys between the ages of 19 and 22 who hated disco, we hated “Hot Stuff.”
Wet Willie, on the other hand, was not in our minds a disco group. Never mind that “Weekend” humps along on a limp disco beat that generates no fire at all. They were, in our minds, a Southern boogie band, cousins to the Allman Brothers Band and Lynryd Skynyrd and other bands we respected. And because that’s the label Wet Willie bore, we could ignore what was in the grooves of their record, just as we ignored what was in the grooves of Donna Summer’s.
37. “Getting Closer”/Wings
35. “One Way or Another”/Blondie
Styx, Wings, and Blondie have the first hour rockin’. Wings and Blondie were new entries in the Top 40 in this week; three of the songs that fell out were disco records, as the fad seemed to wane momentarily.
33. “People of the South Wind”/Kansas
Even though Kansas had started moving off those overwrought eight-to-12-minute prog-rock epics of mystico-religious mumbo-jumbo by 1979 to focus on shorter, more conventional songs, they never stopped taking themselves so seriously.
32. “Shadows in the Moonlight”/Anne Murray. What’s this doing here? Making bank, that’s what, because Anne Murray was at the peak of her country-to-pop crossover stardom in 1979.
31. “Shakedown Cruise”/Jay Ferguson. “Shakedown Cruise,” which is about sailors under command of a mad captain, starts off great, but I can’t get past one of the worst lyric lines I have ever come across: the captain tells the crew, “You boys want some sex? / You can squeeze the sails / You can lick the decks.”
27. “Rock and Roll Fantasy”/Bad Company
26. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”/KISS
The second hour is rockin’ too, although Donna Summer’s beat makes the one on “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” sound like Wet Willie all over again.
24. “You Can’t Change That”/Raydio. Is this the best record on the show? Possibly.
23. “Heart of the Night”/Poco
22. “Days Gone Down”/Gerry Rafferty
21. “I Can’t Stand It No More”/Peter Frampton
18. “Dance the Night Away”/Van Halen
16. “Gold”/John Stewart
15. “Shine a Little Love”/Electric Light Orchestra
14. “Minute by Minute”/Doobie Brothers
12. “I Want You to Want Me”/Cheap Trick
Although there’s still a number of disco records on the chart, the familiar “disco-drenched summer of ’79” narrative seems pretty shaky, at least until this show reaches the very end.
11. “Love You Inside Out”/Bee Gees
10. “You Take My Breath Away”/Rex Smith
9. “Just When I Needed You Most”/Randy Vanwarmer
8. “Boogie Wonderland”/Earth Wind and Fire with the Emotions
7. “She Believes in Me”/Kenny Rogers
6. “The Logical Song”/Supertramp
This is the grimmest part of the show. “Love You Inside Out” had been the Bee Gees’ eighth #1 single in four years but was the weakest of them all. “Boogie Wonderland” and “The Logical Song” are fine, but Vanwarmer, Rogers, and Smith are bland, blander, and blandest.
5. “Chuck E’s in Love”/Rickie Lee Jones
4. “We Are Family”/Sister Sledge
3. “Bad Girls”/Donna Summer
2. “Hot Stuff”/Donna Summer
1. “Ring My Bell”/Anita Ward
This was the first time in chart history that the top five positions were occupied by women, and only the fourth time to date that one act had two of the top three. (Elvis, the Beatles, and the Bee Gees were the others). And while I did not like any of the top four in 1979, here in my dotage I’ve come around on all of them—and on the summer of ’79 in general.