#7 – Player – “Baby Come Back” – (1977)

Oops. I’m already so far into this countdown, that I can’t do anything about it now, but this song is actually from 1977. Color me embarrassed. I guess I should’ve done my homework (I would bet that this isn’t the last time this happens as we have so many more years to cover… I hope it is, but it’s probably not)… on the plus side, this hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1978, so there! The term “Oldies” gets thrown around a lot and that kind of music is missing from modern radio, but I consider this one of the last “oldies” songs. It’s not true 1950s music, but it was the newest song our local oldies station would play. It’s soft rock, really – and good soft rock at that. This was Player’s lone big hit – and it was their first single.

#8 – Joe Walsh – “Life’s Been Good” – (1978)

I saw the Eagles in concert this year, and for most of the show, Joe Walsh looked bored. But when he got to play his biggest solo hit, his demeanor shifted entirely. He was running around all goofy like. This song is an 8 minute classic. The lyrics are all about the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. “My Maserati does 185. I lost my license, now I don’t drive” is, perhaps, the singular lyric that stands out above the rest. It’s his best song – and most successful solo single, charting at #12 on the Hot 100. The weirdest part about it is the ending… after the song ends there’s this gap before someone saying “Uh oh, here comes a flock of wah wahs.” The first time I heard it I thought something was wrong. But no, that’s the actual album version. What’s weirder is that it looks like Dale Earnhardt on the cover of his album.

#9 – Dire Straits – “Sultans of Swing” – (1978)

I like to think that, with this song, Mark Knopfler predicted the coming of swing revival. He just happened to be 20 years early. Dire Straits had two huge hits over the years – this was the first. Actually this was their first single and the song that Knopfler wrote and recorded as a demo to get Dire Straits signed to a record deal. The guitar is fantastic and it climbed all the way to #4 on the Hot 100.

#10 – Pablo Cruise – “Love Will Find a Way” – (1978)

I consider this to be one of the crowning jewels of soft rock. I know it’s from 1978, but it would’ve been a hit in just about any year during the 1980s. There is enough keyboards/synthesizers and guitar here that Michael McDonald probably regrets not writing and singing this song every day. It would’ve been a huge hit for the Doobie Brothers. This song just makes me happy.

#11 – Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River” – (1978)

I love the Talking Heads. And I love Al Green. So what happens when the Talking Heads cover one of Al Green’s biggest hits? Magic, that’s what happens. This version peaked at #26 on the Hot 100. This is my favorite Talking Heads song. Everything about it is good: the music, the lyrically delivery (aka “singing”). It was the right combination of new wave and pop and soul that could’ve only come about in 1978.

#12 – Patti Smith Group – “Because the Night” – (1978)

This song actually might be more famous as the cover version – which was done by 10,000 Maniacs on MTV: Unplugged in 1993. This, the original, was written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen was working on it for himself, but wasn’t happy. Patti Smith was recording next door and ended up doing a version of it that turned out to be the biggest hit of her career. Springsteen didn’t release the song himself until years later.

#13 – Jimmy Buffett – “Cheeseburger in Paradise” – (1978)

Ah, yes. One of Jimmy Buffett’s most iconic songs. If you’ve ever been to Buffett’s personal cash cow, the Margaritaville restaurant chain, the cheeseburger in paradise is a must-order. “I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes…” is the classic breakdown in this song. And yes, don’t worry, when we get to 1977, we will again feature a Jimmy Buffett song during our countdown.

#14 – Johnny Rivers – “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancin’)” – (1978)

Does anyone even know who Johnny Rivers is anymore? I love this song. It’s soft and sweet. Not everything had to be hard rock or disco in the 70s, there was still pop music and some pretty good pop at that. Johnny Rivers had some really good songs over the years and this is, perhaps, the best. This was actually his last hit single in the U.S., peaking at #8 and becoming an adult contemporary airplay standard for the next 25 years.

#15 – The Who – “Who Are You” – (1978)

Known by a generation as the theme song for CSI, “Who Are You” was one of The Who’s biggest hits in the U.S. It came from the album of the same name, which was the final album released prior to Keith Moon’s death. It really is one of the band’s best songs and it’s odd, because it came so late after all of their other great stuff. We’ll call it their last great song. I haven’t really listened to this song in a while, and now that I am, it’s making me nostalgic for when CSI was a really good show.

#16 – The Jacksons – “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” – (1978)

The Jackson 5 were a pretty popular group in the 1960s and 70s. Michael Jackson pretty much ruled the 80s. And in between, for this brief moment in time, The Jacksons existed. It was the Jackson 5 under a different name. And this song came out right before Michael would hit it big huge with Off the Wall. Michael and Randy wrote the song and it has Michael on lead vocals, which is why many people think this was a Michael Jackson single. It’s an awesome disco hit and I promise it’s the last disco song I’ll feature for our Top 21 thing (I think). This song, which is eight minutes long on the album, peaked at #8.

#17 – Barry Manilow – “Copacabana (At the Copa)” – (1978)

I think the parenthetical title on this song is the stupidest thing. Does anyone really think this song is called “At The Copa?” No. This is a straight disco tune that Barry Manilow co-wrote after visiting the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. If you listen to the lyrics, it clearly says that the Copacabana is “the hottest spot north of Havana.” Now, Barry might be really bad at geography, as Rio is far south of Havana, but the song is ostensibly about the Copacabana club in New York City. I will say that the music in this song makes you want to think it’s about somewhere much more tropical than New York, but oh well. Oh, and the lyrics about “have a banana” really make the song seem like it was written by a child. It was a top ten hit in the U.S.

#18 – Blondie – “Heart of Glass” – (1978)

This was one of Blondie’s biggest hits and best songs. It might be #1 of both of those things, but I don’t feel like comparing all of their singles to see which was the biggest commercial success. This was a #1 hit all over the place – from the Hot 100 to New Zealand. It’s a new wave song, but there’s a hint of disco to it as well. Good stuff.

#19 – The Rolling Stones – “Shattered” – (1978)

Album covers used to be really cool. This is a fun Stones song (not all of their stuff is fun… some is nerve-grating). Mick Jagger is half-singing, half-just talking here – quickly in both cases. It’s like he’s trying to rap, except rap hadn’t yet been invented. And the music just hums along as he goes. Lastly, if you don’t currently say “shadoobie” after any utterance of the word “shattered” – now is the perfect time to start!

#20 – Journey – “Lights” – (1978)

This was Journey’s second major hit (after “Wheel in the Sky”) and both came from Infinity, the bands fourth album. But it was the first album with Steve Perry howling behind the microphone. What a difference one guy can make, huh? This song actually got more popular as time has passed, because it wasn’t a huge hit upon its initial release. But today it stands as one of Journey’s best and it might be their most recognizable song after “Don’t Stop Believin.’”

#21 – A Taste of Honey – “Boogie Oogie Oogie” – (1978)

Yep, I linked to the 12″ remix version of this song on YouTube. It’s seven and a half minutes long. Why? Because it’s awesome. I’ve actually heard this version on the radio and I love it. It’s super funky and it is my favorite disco song. It was a #1 hit and it’s the reason that A Taste of Honey won Best New Artist at the Grammys in 1978. Sure they’re a one-hit wonder, but a bass-heavy track like this is enough accomplishment for any band.

Wilco – “Impossible Germany” – (2007)

Here’s a random song by Wilco, a band I kind of don’t really “get” (just like KISS or Frank Zappa). I get the appeal of country/folk/rock bands, but Wilco has never stood out. But I do have this song and I think it has to do with Jeff Tweedy just repeating “impossible Germany, unlikely Japan” and the music is kind of nice. But other than that I can’t explain it.

Richard Marx – “The Way She Loves Me” – (1994)

This was single #3 from Paid Vacation, which also featured “Now and Forever,” which turned out to be one of Richard Marx’s biggest this. This song is definitely in its shadow, but it’s more upbeat and fun. Yes, I just told you that a Richard Marx song is fun. It actually charted into the top 20 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart (which is more apt, as Richard Marx just about defines “Adult Contemporary in 1994″). Marx looks like Rob Lowe in this video.

Aerosmith – “Janie’s Got a Gun” – (1989)

“Janie’s Got a Gun” was the second single from Aerosmith’s 1989 album Pump. It was a top five single on the Hot 100, peaking at #4. Often combined with the preceding track on the album, “Water Song” – which is a 10-second instrumental track, this song is one of Aerosmith’s biggest hits and it still receives a fair amount of airplay on classic rock radio. A good tune from Aerosmith’s big hair days (have those days actually ended?).

#1 – Pink Floyd – “Another Brick in the Wall (full version)” – (1979)

Okay, so technically this is more than one song. It’s actually four tracks from The Wall but this is the version I always heard on the radio. It contains “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1″ followed by “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” then “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2″ and finally “Another Brick in the Wall Part 3.” This is one of the best albums of all time – so well put together – everything is seamless. Part 1 is kind of soft with a bass line that just hums along and some guitar and sounds of children in the background. It’s subdued and runs for just over three minutes. “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” comes in with a helicopter sound effect and a teacher shouting… the lyrics start and things get a bit heavier, then the most famous Pink Floyd lyric of all time sets off Part 2: “We don’t need no education.” Part 2, on is own, was a Hot 100 #1 hit in 1980. Part 2 lasts almost four minutes and gives way to Part 3, which starts with breaking glass and a louder volume and “I don’t need no arms around me…” and gradually fades out and into “Goodbye Cruel World” which sometimes is included here. This is one of the best examples of classic rock. It’s really an amazing arrangement and totally worth listening to in its entirety.

#2 – Supertramp – “The Logical Song” – (1979)

Wow. You can’t find this song on YouTube anywhere. Breakfast in America might be my favorite album of the 1970s – it had so many good songs, this foremost among them. It was a really difficult decision whether to put this at #1 or #2 and it ended up at #2. Not sure why. It’s just awesome. The keyboard and that voice of Roger Hodgson’s – everything is so good here. This song is fantastic.

#3 – The Police – “Message in a Bottle” – (1979)

Reggatta de Blanc was The Police’s second album and this was the best song off of that album – and best song to-date. Everything comes together brilliantly here: guitar, vocals and everything else. It was a #1 in the U.K. but only barely cracked the top 75 in the U.S. It’s great.

#4 – Charlie Daniels Band – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – (1979)

Charlie Daniels will be remembered forever for this song. It’s not that this is the greatest song in the world, but it is so famous that it has to be in the top five for 1979. Daniels is just sort of talking, and not really singing, but the fiddling is world class, making this one of the top country songs of all time. The best part is that it’s a story – there’s something happening in the song: Johnny vs. Satan in a fiddle-off. This is the biggest hit of Charlie Daniels’ career, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. It’s classic, even if you don’t like country.

#5 – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Refugee” – (1979)

Gotta love Tom Petty. He’s been putting out good music for going on 40 years and he seems to still love doing it. This is among my very favorite hits from The Heartbreakers. Listen to his voice at the chorus: “You don’t haaave to live like a refugee” – except that he’s barely forming words and the lyrics sort of drip quickly out of his mouth. It might be the finest example of Tom Petty’s unique voice. It reached #15 on the Hot 100 and is the best song on Damn the Torpedoes.

#6 – Blondie – “Atomic” – (1979)

This is one of Blondie’s best songs. It topped the charts in the U.K. but only barely cracked the top 40 in the U.S. It’s a blend of new wave, disco and rock – in fact, it was released right at the dawn of new wave and acted sort of a prototype for many songs to follow. But I find it much cooler than most of the really 80s new wave that followed.

#7 – Little River Band – “Lonesome Loser” – (1979)

The Little River Band began as an Australian rock band, even though their current lineup is almost all American. Their sound in their most popular days can best be described as pop rock or soft rock. This is my favorite song by them (even though it wasn’t their biggest hit) and it is one of the best soft rock songs ever. It was also a top 10 hit on the Hot 100. The vocals here are really great.


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