Rod_Stewart_-_Blondes_Have_More_Fun_(album_cover)Rod Stewart – “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” – (1978)

This Billboard #1 hit from Rod Stewart incorporates strong disco themes – that is to say, a synth-heavy dance beat. Of all of Rod’s hits, this is among those that I can tolerate most. Strange fact, he donated the royalties from this song (about him asking someone if they think he is sexy) to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Interesting.

220px-foreigner_-_double_visionForeigner – “Hot Blooded” – (1978)

Here is one of Foreigner’s signature songs, a top five hit from 1978’s Double Vision (it actually peaked at #3). It may be more well-remembered, but this wasn’t even the highest charting single from the album, yet it’s appeared all over the place on TV and in commercials.

journey_infinityJourney – “Wheel in the Sky” – (1978)

From 1978’s Infinity we have “Wheel in the Sky,” the album’s first single. It was the band’s first song to chart on the Hot 100, peaking at #57. The song was co-written by Robert Fleischman, the band’s singer prior to Steve Perry. But it’s Perry’s vocals (he replaced Fleischman prior to recording this album) that really put Journey on the map.

The_Cars_-_The_CarsThe Cars – “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” – (1978)

From the opening chords and lyrics you might think (see what I did there?) that this isn’t anything special – but the chorus is really what sells this song. It wasn’t a major hit (it wasn’t even technically released as a single) but it still receives airplay here and there.

#1 – Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street” – (1978)

Just you listen to that wailing saxophone. Scot Gerry Rafferty was part of Stealers Wheel in the early 1970s before venturing out on his own and recording smash hits like this. Somehow, this song never hit #1 in the U.S., but did stick at #2 for six weeks. I don’t know what else to say about this song… that saxophone (played by Raphael Ravenscroft) – not to mention Rafferty’s guitar solo – just sails this song over everything else from 1978. We’ll be back with 1977 in January.

#2 – Earth, Wind & Fire – “September” – (1978)

Oh yeah. One of the best R&B songs of all time. It’s a straight up party tune with its disco beat and it’s a staple at weddings that take place in… well, September. It reached #8 on the Hot 100 and is easily Earth, Wind & Fire’s best song (among the many great tracks they put out over the years). Whenever September comes around, you really should start singing “Ba de ya, say do you remember…”

#3 – Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London” – (1978)

Here is the song that the brilliant Warren Zevon will be remembered for forever. It only peaked at #21 in the U.S., but it has become a classic rock mainstay. It’s one of those songs that gets a little more airplay around Halloween, but you do get it hear it year round. It’s paino-heavy, and the drummer and bassist on this recording? Mick Fleetwood and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Excitable Boy was Warren’s best album and this is among his very best work.

#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.

#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.

The B-52’s – “Rock Lobster” – (1979)

I will admit that this is one weird tune. Then again, that’s part of the charm of the B-52’s. This was the band’s first single and it was actually released in 1978. Their debut album came out in ’79. The lyrics are weird. The music is a little odd. But it’s catchy and memorable. It hit #1 in Canada and broke on to the Hot 100 in the U.S. Strangely, when John Lennon heard this song in 1980, it made him decided to go record again (he hadn’t released an album since 1975). I think this song would’ve have been just as big a hit in the mid-1980s – and this is what we’ll start talking about next week: songs from the 1990s that would’ve been just as big of hits in the 1980s as they were in the 1990s. Stay tuned.