September 2014

#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.

#8 – AC/DC – “Highway to Hell” – (1979)

Highway to Hell was AC/DC’s final album with original front man Bon Scott. The song is a classic, one of AC/DC’s most popular hits (even charting into the top 50 on the Hot 100). I rank it as one of their two biggest tracks, with “Back in Black.” To me, this song stands as Bon Scott’s lasting gift to rock ‘n’ roll.

#9 – Eagles – “I Can’t Tell You Why” – (1979)

This is the best song from the Eagles’ The Long Run album. It was the first Eagles track to feature lead vocals from bassist Timothy B. Schmidt. Schmidt has a wonderful, velvety voice and can hit some pretty high notes. The song peaked in the top 10 and fortunately allowed Schmidt to do more singing on future Eagles hits.

#10 – Chic – “Good Times” – (1979)

Disco was a force of nature. It came in, swept everyone up, and left a hated thing. But it gave us some memorable music, this song among them. This was Chic’s second #1 hit and was the #1 R&B hit of 1979. If you read about this song, you’ll learn that it’s lyrics are based on songs by Al Jolson and Milton Ager – songs from the 1920s and 30s and that it’s a statement about the then economic depression. Deep stuff, Chic. Then again, the words “roller skates” are in the song too, so read into those claims as much as you want.

#11 – The Knack – “My Sharona” – (1979)

Here is the song that The Knack is and always will be known for. Impressively, this was their first single and it was a smash – #1 on the Hot 100 for six weeks. The hook of the song is one everyone knows and it can get stuck in your head for days. If you listen, you’ll notice it’s kind of similar to “Gimme Some Lovin'” by the Spencer Davis Group. It you don’t know that song, hang around here long enough (until we get to 1966) and you’ll see it near to the top of that year’s countdown. Supposedly, this song was written in 15 minutes. And that’s about how long The Knack’s fame lasted.

#12 – Jimmy Buffett – “Fins” – (1979)

Depending on where you’re from, Jimmy Buffett is either a singer from the 1970s and 1980s or some kind of mid-life crisis savior figure. Where I’m from (and it’s mentioned in this song, much to this city’s delight), it’s definitely the latter. “Fins” only hit #35 on the Hot 100 but it remains one Buffett’s most popular songs and concert goers expect it played so they can sway when “Fins to the left, fins to the right” is sung. Like him or not (and I do), you have to admit his songs are fun. “Can’t you feel ’em closing in honey…”

#13 – The Clash – “Train in Vain” – (1979)

London Calling just barely squeaks in as an album of the 1970s, being released in mid-December of 1979. This song is far superior than the album’s title track. Honestly, this might be my favorite Clash tune, part of which is due in part to the pop-like delivery of the lyrics. The singing here is well done – not something punk bands are especially known for. It’s fantastic.

#14 – Fleetwood Mac – “Tusk” – (1979)

Famous for its featuring of the USC marching band, “Tusk” is a drum-heavy song from the Fleetwood Mac album of the same name. The drums here outweigh everything. The lyrics seems whispered and the beat just marches on – it’s much more rock than some of their more immediately previous work. It’s a pretty awesome song with a very different feel from most of their stuff.

#15 – Michael Jackson – “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” – (1979)

This song was a turning point in Michael Jackson’s career. It was the transitional hit from little kid from the Jackson 5 to solo superstar and a little insight into what we could expect from his fantastic albums of the 1980s. It was the first song that Michael had complete creative control over and you can see what that allowed him to do. It was his first Hot 100 #1 in seven years and remains one of his best-known songs.

#16 – Kenny Loggins – “This Is It” – (1979)

The 1970s gave us soft rock. And Kenny Loggins was one of the flag-carriers. This top 15 hit (#11) is a fine example of late-70s, early-80s adult contemporary. And one reason is because it featured un-credited backing vocals from the (to me) definitive voice of 70s/80s soft rock: Michael McDonald. It also won Loggins a Grammy. This kind of music always makes me happy and reminds me of being a kid.

#17 – Van Halen – “Dance The Night Away” – (1979)

Yep. This song is ranked too high. Sorry. This was Van Halen’s first entry into the top 20 on the Hot 100 (it reached #15). This is one of my favorite Van Halen songs because as it is hard rock, the “Oooh baby baby” line sounds like straight up pop music. It’s more friendly than some of Van Halen’s later, guitar-heavy stuff – in fact, Eddie Van Halen left a guitar solo out of this song. They knew what they were doing, if it put them on the charts.

#18 – Sister Sledge – “We Are Family” – (1979)

Here’s another great disco tune (a phrase not uttered since a radio DJ said it back in early 1980). Can’t you just picture people on roller skates dancing around a rink with a disco ball above it to this #2 Hot 100 hit? Sister Sledge consisted of three sisters (guess what their last name was) from Philly and this wedding staple was their biggest hit.