Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Only Charts That Counted: 1978

We continue our look back at Christmas charts from the days when the very top end wasn't driven by faceless producers and vocals of questionable provenance. Oh, hang on...

40 Rachel Sweet - B.A.B.Y.
Late 70s, ergo Stiff had to have some representation. Sweet's CV isn't exactly wanting - a sixteen year old Akron, Ohio C&W supposed jailbait who'd already auditioned for the lead in the Exorcist and been Bill Cosby's opening act in Vegas, backed here by Graham Parker's band The Rumour. She went on to sing the lead songs on John Waters' Cry Baby and Hairspray, write and produce Dharma & Greg and appear in The Contest episode of Seinfeld. She's the cousin who visits George in hospital when he's more interested in what's happening on the other side of the divide.

39 Patrick Juvet - I Love America
French-based disco sensation for about five minutes, talk of which phenomenon reminds us that we were looking up Disco Demolition Night the other day, the 1979 event where a Chicago radio station sponsored an event where patrons of a MLB baseball game were invited to bring along disco records at the height of Disco Sucks and see them blown up in centre field as mid-match entertainment. Result: centre field burnt, pitch invaded, match abandoned, the last such postponement in the American League. No original footage on YouTube, but at least everyone can smile about it now, even if the DJ really does still believe it killed disco.

38 Barry White - Just The Way You Are
Good memories of Graveyard Shift Radcliffe inventing Fat Harry by making use of mike pitchshifting equipment to attempt to recreate this very song to a bedazzled Katie Puckrick.

37 Sally Oldfield - Mirrors
Mike's sister, proving name alone could shift anything. Not that her or this is actively terrible.

36 Billy Joel - My Life
Well before he was completely disreputable, the occasional Covermount star provided a future theme for Hanks vehicle Bosom Buddies.

35 Paul Evans - Hello This Is Joannie
The Telephone Answering Machine Song! Such was the white hot heat of technology in 1978. And a death disc revival to boot.

Lead track Can't Get It Out Of My Head, a flop in Britain but top ten in America in 1975. Didn't do too much more here. Apparently soon after this Jeff Lynne fired the string section and replaced them with 'Technology'.

33 Sylvester - Dance (Disco Heat)
Falsetto disco follow-up to You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) from a Hi-NRG diva, in the proper sense of the term, who was later subject to a label attempt to 'butch up' his image. Presumably by deaf people.

32 Olivia Newton John - A Little More Love
The year of Grease and - easy to forget, this - the former country singer was busy making it onto teenage walls and shaping a hairspray boom.

31 Dan Hartman - Instant Replay
We've got a YouTube feature connected to this tomorrow, so let's instead mention the cover by Yell!, one hit wonder two-boy PWL hopes of 1989 including 'hunky' Daniel James, who a year earlier had been presenting on Children's BBC under real name Colin Heywood, having dropped nine years off his age in the meantime.

30 Eagles - Please Come Home For Christmas
One of those songs that gets covered every few years but you'd never class as a festive classic, and what the hell would the Eagles make of it anyway?

29 Showaddywaddy - Pretty Little Angel Eyes
Remember our cogitations on doo-wop? The Wads' final top ten single had all sorts of opportunities for multi-layered vocal-led harmony as much as for colour-coded frontmen.

28 Boomtown Rats - Rat Trap
Epochal Travolta poster-ripping days being left behind, but still one of pop's few standable sax breaks.

27 Funkadelic - One Nation Under A Groove
Drugs may have been a factor.

26 Buzzcocks - Promises
Only two top twenty singles, of which this was the second. Not the most obvious one on the face of it, but it was the follow-up to Ever Fallen In Love and beggars can't be choosers.

25 Mankind - Dr. Who
Disco Delia Derbyshire delvings, to little effect.

24 Earth Wind And Fire - September
Remixed for reissue about every other year, the funk soul survivors (just about) were more noted at the time for a live show directed by magician Doug Henning and his protege David Copperfield which involved disappearing acts, levitation and teleportation. Your move, Keane.

23 Hot Chocolate - I'll Put You Together Again
More disco funk soul brothers, who really without You Sexy Thing would have been about as well remembered as The Real Thing.

22 Darts - Don't Let It Fade Away
Supposedly one of the top 250 selling artists in Britain of all time, yet all anyone remembers is Den Hegarty's comedy bass voice. He's now a psychology lecturer, if you can imagine such a thing.

21 Leo Sayer - Raining In My Heart
Not to be confused with the famous Thunder in My Heart, which was a year earlier although we can't rule out it being used as an inspiration.

20 Clash - Tommy Gun
Famously their first top 20 single, Strummer very much in Red Army Faction mode at this time, but only in the cold light of day notable for Topper's intro. Still plays low-key pub gigs, does Topper.

19 Father Abraham & The Smurfs - Christmas In Smurfland
So what church was Father Abraham affiliated to?

18 Dollar - Shooting Star
Therese and David's first single, very much in the light cabaret mode of the day's Seaside Special invitees. Apparently David's jacked in both his Bucks Fizz show and burger van, and thus is of little further interest.

17 Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone
How was the bloke supposed to know the number of the phone booth Debbie was in, then? The third single from Parallel Lines, the next one being Heart Of Glass, and still high quality New Wave before anyone had really thought of the phrase. Jimmy Destri, perhaps overliterally, attempts to strangle himself with a phone cord in the video.

16 Musique - In The Bush
No idea what this was. Apparently Musique did the original of the much covered by disco types Keep On Jumpin'.

15 Elkie Brooks - Don't Cry Out Loud
Formerly Robert Palmer's Vinegar Joe foil, heading MOR-wards after the unrepresentative Pearl's A Singer (apparently unrepresentative, anyway, you can probably tell how much of this we're winging).

14 Chaka Khan - I'm Every Woman
Born Yvette Stevens, y'know. Her first single after breaking off from Rufus and covered or remixed about every thirty seconds since, as befits a proper disco anthem.

13 Ian Dury And The Blockheads - Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

12 Heatwave - Always And Forever/Mind Blowing Decisions
Yet more disco, if the band often now seen as the runt of the litter. More expense on costumes, that's what they needed.

11 John Travolta - Greased Lightning
Is it really a good thing for a souped-up car to be 'systematic'? Just saying. You know what this is from.

10 Elton John - Song For Guy
Not about the gorilla, apparently, but a Rocket Records employee killed in a road accident. In retrospect these Elton stripped down unproduced piano ballads are quite listenable, aren't they?

9 Chic - Le Freak
And so the great funk disco moment arrives. You know the riff and the bassline, so let's settle on the fantastic fact: Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards wrote it in a semi-drunken huff after, according to the former, being refused entry to Studio 54, the original hook lyric being "ahhhh, fuck off!"

8 Rod Stewart - Do You Think I'm Sexy
Less said the better, bar the tremendous Kenny Everett inflatable arse sketch.

7 Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip - I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper
Oh, we've got all the classics in this week. Brightman was technically a member of the Everett-affiliated dancing saucepots, of course, making this post-Star Wars cashin the Diana Ross And The Supremes of diaphonous slip-sporting troupes.

6 Racey - Lay Your Love On Me
Chinn & Chapman ahoy. Of course there's now two versions of Racey touring!

5 Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond - You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Memories of the end of one series of Noel's House Party where a series-long running gag about Noel threatening to sing this very song was resolved by, well, not letting the show finish until he'd sung it in full. Go on, Barbra, do one on your own.

4 Bee Gees - Too Much Heaven
In contrast to pretty much everybody else detailed here this was where the Gibbs dropped the disco motif. Only briefly, as Tragedy was next, and it didn't seem to overtly affect things, as you can see.

3 Barron Knights - A Taste Of Aggro
"Where are you all coming from?/We're from Dartmoor, on the run" And so forth. This sort of thing really was once considered top three at Christmas material, whereas nowadays not even Scott Mills would countenance getting behind it. Reversioned, if you must know, were Rivers Of Babylon, The Smurf Song and Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs.

2 Village People - YMCA
No, of course it's not (apparently) about how great the YMCA is. Well, insomuch as it's understood to refer to the hostel's reputation for underground cruising. Lead vocals and lyrics, as with virtually all of their big hits, by the cop, Victor Willis, who was straight. You might like to work this into one of those arguments about writing for yourself against writing from the perspective of others.

1 Boney M - Mary's Boy Child
The I'll Stand By You to Rasputin's Biology, Frank Farian ensured some royalties by combining the Belafonte bit with his own Oh My Lord. Number of different touring Boney Ms at last count: three.

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