I Don’t Want to Die in Nashville

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(Pictured: Donna Summer takes the wheel in 1978.)

I have written a lot about the summer of 1978 at this website, so in this rundown of the American Top 40 show from June 17, 1978, I promise not to repeat myself.

40. “Warm Ride”/Rare Earth
39. “Grease”/Frankie Valli
Casey opens the show by saying it’s the first edition of AT40 in nine months without a song by the Bee Gees, although they’re on several times as writers and/or producers, including these two debut records.

34. “I Can’t Stand the Rain”/Eruption
28. “I Was Only Joking”/Rod Stewart
23. “Last Dance”/Donna Summer
20. “Bluer Than Blue”/Michael Johnson
14. “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”/Meat Loaf
12. “Use Ta Be My Girl”/O’Jays
6. “You Belong to Me”/Carly Simon

5. “Too Much Too Little Too Late”/Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams
4. “It’s a Heartache”/Bonnie Tyler
It seems like there’s an unusual number of songs of loss and regret on this show, so maybe it wasn’t just me that summer.

(Didn’t take long to break my promise, did it?)

32. “Cheeseburger in Paradise”/Jimmy Buffett. Which Casey introduces with an anecdote about the time Buffett and his drummer got into a fight with Walking Tall sheriff Buford Pusser. It’s too long and not all that interesting, but it does include the line, “I don’t want to die in Nashville in a rented Gremlin.”

26. “Baby Hold On”/Eddie Money. It occurs to me that “Baby Hold On,” now on its way off the chart after a run to #11, is one of the more impressive debuts of the 1970s. Money had his sound and vision down from the jump, and he made a success of it for decades to come.

22. “Even Now”/Barry Manilow. Another song of loss and regret. I once described it (broken promise again) as “eternal romantic damnation.” Although he didn’t write the lyrics, the song becomes even more powerful when you realize that in 1978 Manilow was a closeted gay man—you wonder who he might have been pining for. Casey says “Even Now” makes Manilow the third male solo singer to hit the Top 40 with his first 10 hits, joining Ricky Nelson and Chubby Checker. Elvis Presley doesn’t qualify because he released several EPs during his early chart run that failed to make the Top 40.

19. “Deacon Blues”/Steely Dan
18. “Every Kinda People”/Robert Palmer
17. “With a Little Luck”/Wings
16. “Still the Same”/Bob Seger
This is the best part of the show, with songs I have praised in the past. (Promise now officially shot to hell.) In the context of the other radio hits in this summer, “Deacon Blues” is something from another planet entirely, a one-song genre all its own.

There’s a lot of solid trivia on this show. Casey says that no act made up of a father, mother, and children had ever hit #1, but the Cowsills (mom and six kids), the Staple Singers (dad and three daughters), and the Partridge Family (mom and stepson) did. The artists with the most successful remakes of their own songs are the Ventures, with “Walk Don’t Run” in 1960 and 1964, and Neil Sedaka, who did “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” in 1962 and 1976. The largest number of songs in the Top 10 all at once is five, and it’s been done several times: Glenn Miller in 1940 and 1942, Jimmy Dorsey in 1941, Bing Crosby in 1944, and the Beatles in 1964.

The latter record has since been broken by Drake, who put seven songs into the Top 10 in a single week of 2018 and nine in 2021 (and released a new album overnight, thereby making it likely that he will dominate the list again next week). This, of course, means that he is the greatest, bestest, most awesomely awesome recording artist of all time.

1. “Shadow Dancing”/Andy Gibb. For the second time on this show, Elvis gets knocked out of the record books on a technicality. “Shadow Dancing” makes Andy Gibb the first solo artist to hit #1 with his first three single releases. Elvis did it with his first three chart hits, but they weren’t the first three records he ever made.

There’s an argument that Andy Gibb was the Drake of his day—an artist whose historical stature is obviously nowhere near the legends of popular music, but who took advantage of his historical moment to outperform them.

A Final Word: In 1970, when Casey Kasem and Don Bustany were licensing the Billboard charts for their new radio show, Joel Whitburn was licensing them for a chart book. His death at age 82 is noteworthy, but he had already built his monument long before. His books are quite literally bibles to many of us. I have a whole shelf of them, but they’re never on it. They’re always stacked within arm’s length of my desk. 

14 thoughts on “I Don’t Want to Die in Nashville

    1. Are you the Tim Moore who sang & wrote “Second Avenue,” “Charmer,” & “Rock n Roll Love Letter?” If so, I have your 1st 4 albums & love them. Do you have a website? If so, can you get in touch with me @ charliericci@outlook.com. I’d love to interview you. Thanks.

      1. TimMoore

        Sorry Charlie..lol.. I’m not. I do love to show people the album covers and tell them I was famous.. you can still interview me if you want, but might be quite boring..

  1. Gary Omaha

    “(Joel Whitburn’s) books are quite literally bibles to many of us. I have a whole shelf of them, but they’re never on it. They’re always stacked within arm’s length of my desk.”

    Amen, JB. The most-used reference books I own.

  2. Guy K

    So Barry Manilow reached the top 40 with his first 10 hits. He also made the top 12 with his first five hits. The song that broke that streak was #29 This One’s For You. The opening lyric to that song: “This one’ll never sell …”

    R.I.P. Joel Whitburn. I have destroyed the binding on more than one of his books through overuse.

    1. JP

      Considering how much they cost, Whitburn’s books always had weak binding. I’ve bought several over the years, and even the hardbacks wound up being split in two pieces. But that’s just how great those books are.

  3. Wesley

    I get what you’re saying about the comparison of Andy Gibb to Drake, but of course Drake is able to exploit chart rules much more due to changes in calculating the Hot 100 this century. Hell, if downloads were around then like they are now, the Beatles probably could’ve claimed the top 12 one week at least when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Also, that “Bee Gees free” claim by Casey at the top of this program seems to ring hollow when their brother is at number one.

    As for Joel Whitburn, I can only attest to his importance to me by the fat that I have more than of his books in my collection. A more superb chronicler of the charts would be near impossible to find.

  4. JP

    I probably followed the Top 40 more closely in 1978 than I did at any other time of my life. That said, after I started reading the Whitburn books, I was surprised to see how many songs I didn’t remember from that year. I only heard Patti Smith’s “Because The Night” and Rare Earth’s “Warm Ride” ONCE when they were current, and the only time I heard Talking Heads'”Take Me To The River” was in early ’79, when they appeared on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. I don’t recall Robert Palmer’s “Every Kinda People,” Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” or Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburgers In Paradise” at all.

  5. Ah, I remember thinking there was an unwritten rule that Casey had to namedrop the Beatles at least once during every broadcast. He fulfills the rule here. (Trivia questions involving chart domination were usually a good way to work them in, if no other opportunity presented itself.)

  6. Yah Shure

    Add one more vote to the “bookshelves aren’t close enough” Whitburn club, even though they’re just two feet beyond arm’s reach. I keep the Top Pop Singles and Pop Annual volumes atop an empty box, turned on its side on the floor, which makes it a breeze to reach down and nab them from the makeshift end table.

    Saves wear and tear on the bottom of the covers, too.

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