October 2014

#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.