A Midwestern Boy on His Own

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(Pictured: Cheryl Ladd, front, with her Charlie’s Angels cast mates.)

Not long ago, I wrote about an American Top 40 show from mid-July 1978 and about my summer between high school and college. When the show from September 9, 1978, hit the air, I would have been finishing my second week at college. A lot was different from what it had been in July, in my world and on my radio.

38. “Talking in Your Sleep”/Crystal Gayle. Most days I wake up with a song running through my head. Sometimes I can tell where it came from, but other times I have no idea. One morning not long ago, it was “Talking in Your Sleep.” Later that day I put on this show and was gobsmacked when three songs in, there it was.

37. “I Love the Nightlife”/Alicia Bridges. Eighteen-year-old me did not like disco much; much-older me recognizes that “I Love the Nightlife” is legitimately great.

36. “You Never Done It Like That”/Captain and Tennille. On the verses, when Toni is describing in fairly explicit detail how she and the Captain got it on, she purrs like a soul singer.

34. “Think It Over”/Cheryl Ladd. As Cheryl Stoppelmoor, Cheryl Ladd was one of the voices of the cartoon singing group Josie and the Pussycats, whose 1971 album is a lost bubblegum classic. (Seriously, people, “Every Beat of My Heart” should have been a monster.) But “Think It Over,” propelled into the Top 40 thanks largely to Ladd’s Charlie’s Angels stardom, is not good.

33. “Come Together”/Aerosmith
24. “Oh Darling”/Robin Gibb
10. “Got to Get You Into My Life”/Earth Wind and Fire
Has anybody written the inevitable modern-day reappraisal of the Sgt. Pepper movie that argues it was actually good?

29. “Right Down the Line”/Gerry Rafferty
23. “Whenever I Call You Friend”/Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks
17. “Reminiscing”/Little River Band
13. “Fool If You Think It’s Over”/Chris Rea

If you had asked me in the fall of 1978 how I was adjusting to college, I’d have said, “Fine,” and I’d have been lying. I was in way over my head, not so much academically but personally, and I was lucky to have sorted it out before anything profoundly terrible could happen. As it was, some of the stuff that did happen was terrible enough. I am mostly at peace with it now, and with these songs. But they, and others on this list, soundtracked some pretty dark times.

28. “Just What I Needed”/Cars
22. “Two Tickets to Paradise”/Eddie Money
I wrote a thing about both Ric Ocasek and Eddie Money after they passed earlier this month, but I like it less and less the more I read by other people. I don’t write all that many tributes because others can do them better.

19. “Hollywood Nights”/Bob Seger
12. “Don’t Look Back”/Boston
Casey’s edit of “Hollywood Nights” took out my favorite line, not just of the song but of Bob Seger’s entire body of work: “She has been born with a face that would let her get her way / He saw that face and he lost all control.” Casey also played an edit of “Don’t Look Back,” but whether it was the standard radio edit or AT40‘s own, I can’t recall.

14. “Love Is in the Air”/John Paul Young. “Love Is in the Air” is a master class in building up tension and releasing it in a glorious rush.

8. “Summer Nights”/John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
6. “Grease”/Frankie Valli
4. “Hopelessly Devoted to You”/Olivia Newton-John
This is peak Grease right here. Valli had spent the previous two weeks at #1.

5. “Kiss You All Over”/Exile. In Moline, Illinois, a born-again Christian DJ got performatively angry over this song, refusing to play it because it was “blantantly sexual” and a bad influence on children, and he ended up quitting his job over it. It seems to me, however, that there’s nothing in the song to suggest that the all-over-kissing isn’t taking place between two married adults for purposes leading to procreation. Get your mind out the gutter, son.

2. “Three Times a Lady”/Commodores. After two weeks at #1 in August, “Three Times a Lady” spent the next four weeks at #2. It had done a week at #2 before hitting #1, so that’s seven straight weeks at the very top of the charts. It’s beautiful, but all I can think of when I hear it now is Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat.

1. “Boogie Oogie Oogie”/A Taste of Honey. Like “I Love the Nightlife,” this sounds better to me now than it would have in 1978.

I’m better now myself.

9 responses

  1. 33. “Come Together”/Aerosmith
    24. “Oh Darling”/Robin Gibb
    10. “Got to Get You Into My Life”/Earth Wind and Fire
    Has anybody written the inevitable modern-day reappraisal of the Sgt. Pepper movie that argues it was actually good?

    Not that I’m aware of but the general consensus is Aerosmith’s and EW&F’s covers were actually good and the constituted the movie’s (and soundtrack album’s) only highlights.

    1. I concur with this. I’ve heard the Aerosmith and EW&F covers on oldies radio, but Robin Gibb’s “Oh Darling” basically vanished from airplay after 1978, and not just due to any Bee Gees backlash. And it’s hard to think of any other box office bomb that generated three top 40 entries like Sgt. Pepper did.

      1. Like the movie, the soundtrack was heavily hyped and the prediction was it would be a blockbuster like the soundtracks to Grease and Saturday Night Fever. The hype alone probably got those songs into the Top 40 but it didn’t prevent the sales of the soundtrack from falling far short of expectations. For years afterward, the Sgt. Pepper soundtrack album was a constant presence in record store cut-out bins.

      2. Having been a PD at the time: Yep.

        The album shipped quadruple platinum (never mind that it may have only sold 100,000 at retail). We went for what we knew we could play in that first week where it looked like this might be another Saturday Night Fever.

        The good news is that there really wasn’t much—Aerosmith could go Top 40 and AOR—Earth, Wind & Fire Top 40 & AC. Robin Gibb and Billy Preston sounded like stiffs from the start and there was nothing else on the LP worth considering.

    2. I can’t remember which issue it was, but MOJO magazine had a really long article about how much of a train wreck this movie was to make and how badly it turned out. It’s a fascinating read.

      Disclosure: I saw this movie in the theater when I was nine and enjoyed it. When I watched it again a few years ago, I understood why it wasn’t a critical darling, but as a nine year old, it was a fun ride.

      1. That movie all-but-destroyed Peter Frampton’s career. Much of his album-oriented rock fanbase immediately wrote him off as lightweight teeny-bopper idol similar to Shaun Cassidy and Andy Gibb and the first album he released after the Sgt. Pepper debacle (1979’s “Where I Should Be”) stiffed so badly it was dubbed “Frampton Takes a Nap.” It took more than a decade before Frampton got back any credibility as a musician.

  2. I also hear Buckwheat when I hear “Three Times a Lady”.

  3. Confessing my unpopular opinion: The Aerosmith version of “Come Together” was coked-out shite and I can only sometimes stand to listen to it.
    Steve Martin’s version of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is pound-for-pound much more entertaining (although I can’t stand to hear that either, simply because it’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”)

    1. I actually like Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together” better than it when it first released but you are right about the “coked-out” part. Although their song made the Top 40, the “Sgt. Pepper” movie marked the beginning of a dark period for the band commercially, artistically, and personally, that didn’t really end until Run-DMC unearthed Steve and Joe for their cover of “Walk This Way” in 1986.

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