November 2014

#4 – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Old Time Rock and Roll” – (1978)

Bob Seger rocks. I’m super excited to hear that he’s back on tour this year, even if he isn’t coming through here. This is his most fun song and it’s a song people can dance to. Everyone remembers Tom Cruise dancing to it in Risky Business but the video I linked to shows ALF dancing to it, which is horrifying. It’s just an awesome rock tune… and it has become the “old time rock and roll” that it’s talking about. People reminisce about rock from this era, while Seger was singing about the 1950s.

#5 – John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – “Summer Nights” – (1978)

This was a #5 hit on the Hot 100. That’s right, John Travolta has a top five hit. Grease is the best movie adaptation of a musical ever (that is both my opinion and fact). It has a lot of popular music in it, but this was the best. I do believe that this is the #1 karaoke song of all time as well – name a more popular duet. It’s hard to do.

#6 – The Doobie Brothers – “What a Fool Believes” – (1978)

Why does this song sound so great? Because it was written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. No wonder this is one of the greatest soft rock songs of all time. It was a #1 on the Hot 100 in April of 1979 (the album came out at the end of 1978). This is among the top two Doobie Brothers songs and anything with Michael McDonald’s voice is okay with me.

#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.