Miles Away

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(Pictured: Nicolette Larson, 1979.)

Be sure to go back and read the comments on last week’s post about the American Top 40 show from December 16, 1978. Former AT40 staffer Scott Paton has favored us with stories about his contributions to that specific program and some other stuff he saw while working on AT40.

As we do, let’s look at some of what else was on the Hot 100 in that same week.

41. “Lotta Love”/Nicolette Larson. “Lotta Love” is a practically perfect record, and after it made #8 on the Hot 100 and #1 on Billboard‘s adult contemporary chart, a lot of people would have bet on Larson to become a superstar. But it didn’t work out that way despite her California country-rock cred, and she died young, only 45, in 1997. Bonus fact from Wikipedia (so who the hell knows): “In the late 1980s, she briefly dated ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.”

42. “The Gambler”/Kenny Rogers. I did not have much use for “The Gambler” at the time it was a hit, but today I recognize how good it is. The gambler is a vividly drawn character in a vividly told story.

45. “Please Come Home for Christmas”/Eagles. I missed this last month when I wrote about Christmas songs on American Top 40, although I put an addendum in the comments of that post when I realized it. Short version: “Please Come Home for Christmas” appeared on AT40 on three January 1979 shows, undoubtedly wearing out its welcome by the last week.

47. “Hold Me, Touch Me”/Paul Stanley
61. “Radioactive”/Gene Simmons
In September 1978, the four members of KISS released solo albums on the same day, on the heels of two frenzied years of hype. It turned out to be a rather significant overreach. All four albums charted, but only Ace Frehley’s single “New York Groove” had any staying power beyond a couple of months.

53. “Home and Dry”/Gerry Rafferty
54. “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”/Meat Loaf
Each of these was the third single from a highly successful album. “Home and Dry” is good, although there are better songs on City to City. “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” equaled the #39 Hot 100 placing of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” without being remotely as exhausting.

56. “You Needed Me”/Anne Murray. The power of “You Needed Me” is that it’s not explicitly about romantic love, which made it resonate with people in all sorts of personal relationships. It took time to build, making #1 in its 17th week on the Hot 100 and its 12th week in the Top 40 (November 4, 1978), and it spent six weeks among the nation’s Top 5.

65. “Miles Away”/Fotomaker. With Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli of the Rascals and Wally Bryson of the Raspberries, Fotomaker had plenty of ingredients for power-pop success, and the fact that they didn’t make it big wasn’t for lack of trying. They released two albums in 1978 alone. “Miles Away” was the bigger of their two chart singles, but it needed more Raspberry in it.

68. “Soul Man”/Blues Brothers. At first blush, the Blues Brothers seemed like a parody, and some people found it disrespectful. In the grooves, however, Briefcase Full of Blues is a fan’s love letter to classic R&B. If Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi seem like they want to actually be Sam and Dave, they were neither the first nor the last.

76. “Baby I’m Burnin'”/Dolly Parton. In 1978, people called this a disco record, and while it got a disco remix, the OG really isn’t that far out of step with other uptempo pop-country records of the time.

78. “Shattered”/Rolling Stones. In which the Stones summon up that good old-fashioned decadence one last time. They’d never seem quite so sleazy again.

79. “Dancin’ Shoes”/Nigel Olsson
90. “Dancin’ Shoes”/Faith Band
Olsson was Elton John’s longtime drummer. The Faith Band, from Indianapolis, was the group led by “Dancin’ Shoes” songwriter Carl Storie. Both versions debuted in this week. Olsson would get to #18; the Faith Band version, which would reach #54, is here.

83. “Shake Your Groove Thing”/Peaches and Herb
89. “I Will Survive”/Gloria Gaynor
Debuting together during that December week and soon to be inescapable.

86. “Free Me From My Freedom”-“Tie Me to a Tree (Handcuff Me)”/Bonnie Pointer. I am pretty sure I’d never heard “Free Me From My Freedom” before today, but dang, it’s tasty, even if the “handcuff me” bit comes off a little skeevy now. Whoever plays bass on it is doin’ some serious work.

In December 1978 and January 1979, the campus radio station was still running a Top 40 format. It’s where I first heard (and played) Fotomaker, the KISS solo stuff, Nicolette Larson, and the Blues Brothers, among others. Of all the facets of my education, that’s one of the most enduring.

9 thoughts on “Miles Away

  1. Jeff Ash

    The Blues Brothers also turned on a huge white audience to overlooked, underappreciated blues and R&B music by black artists.

    1. mackdaddyg

      Very true. I purchased the Blues Brothers soundtrack in the 80s and really dug it, especially “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”

      Then I heard Wilson Pickett’s version, and got rid of the Blues Brothers album soon afterwards. Why own something I’ll never play again?

      1. JP

        Now backtrack to the original by Solomon Burke!

        Not to discredit the Wicked Pickett, but after I bought a Solomon best-of, THAT’S what I reach for when I want to hear “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.”

  2. Yah Shure

    “Home And Dry” was actually the fourth single from the ‘City To City’ album, since the title track had preceded the release of the LP as a single by a couple of months. United Artists had not yet made the decision to speed up the entire album, so the 45 appeared at its original recording speed, which – after anyone had gotten used to hearing it on the LP – sounded p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow. It didn’t help that the edit in the CTC single was flat-out jarring, but there really wasn’t an easy way to shorten the break while keeping it smooth. I would have re-released the CTC 45 sped up with just an earlier fade, in lieu of “Home And Dry”.

    Agree 100% about Fotomaker. With all of that potent talent on board, the “wow”-er pop element was in too-short supply on the records.

    1. mackdaddyg

      “Agree 100% about Fotomaker. With all of that potent talent on board, the “wow”-er pop element was in too-short supply on the records.”

      Plus, they have some of the creepiest album covers ever.

  3. John Gallagher

    Fotomaker immediately takes me back to my 1st small town, commercial radio gig towards the end of my stay there. The PD, may he rest in peace, would take the Billboard chart each week and if it was on the Hot 100 we’d play it. There was a lot of unfamiliar music on our airwaves at that station!

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