1. You're The One That I Want - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John (right)
The biggest movie of 1978 was the musical, Grease, so it is not surprising that the biggest single of the year should come from it. This song plays at the finale as John Travolta (Danny) and Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) overcome the social constraints of high school and declare their love for each other. The song was not in the original stage musical of Grease, but was written for the movie by John Farrar, who wrote and produced many of Olivia's hits. This single sold almost two million copies in the UK alone and is the sixth biggest selling record of all time in Britain.
2. Mull of Kintyre - Wings
Paul McCartney wrote this song with Denny Laine, his band mate in Wings, as a tribute to the island in Scotland where Paul and his wife Linda had bought a farm. After a difficult breakup with The Beatles, McCartney went there to avoid a nervous breakdown. Rumour has it that McCartney wrote the song after he was dared to write a song about Scotland that sounded traditionally Scottish. He won the bet! A huge hit everywhere but in the US, it is the 4th top selling UK single of all time. 'Mull of Kintyre' is a song that people either love or hate with a passion.
3. Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl In The Ring - Boney M (right) The Bee Gees and Boney M were the only pop music groups to come any where near ABBA in terms of popularity during the 1970s, perhaps because the music of all three was the driving force behind the Disco phenomenum of the 1970s. Boney M was the brainchild of German record producer Frank Farian, and they became one of Eurodisco's most successful acts. Farian first released the single "Baby Do You Wanna Bump?" in 1975, as Boney M, taking the name from an Australian TV drama, 'Boney'.
He performed the sparse vocals of the song himself. 'Rivers of Babylon', like The Byrds' 'Turn, Turn, Turn', is one of the few popular songs inspired by The Bible. Some of the lyrics came from Psalm 137, which was written as a lament during the Israelite's exile in Babylon in around 600 BC. The song was written by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the Jamaican group The Melodians, who recorded it in 1969. Boney M's double sided single "Rivers Of Babylon/Brown Girl in The Ring" is one of only five singles to have sold over two million copies in the UK and is the biggest selling record by a black act there. The group recorded a number of versions, the more well known reggae version has textured rhythm created by a balalaika, which is a 3-stringed, triangular, Russian instrument.
4. Stayin' Alive - The Bee Gees (right)
While the top selling single of 1978 was played over the closing credits of Grease, which was the biggest box office hit of 1978, this song played over the opening credits of the biggest box office hit of 1977, Saturday Nigh Fever, which also starred John Travolta. The movie has come to represent the Disco era, and made this the song most associated with Disco. The Bee Gees had been singing in a high-falsetto style since their 1975, but it was their musical contribution to Saturday Night Fever that brought them their biggest success, and marked them for life as Disco singers. The Bee Gees recorded this in a French studio called the Chateau D'Herouville. Later, the group was horrified to learn that many porno films were shot in those studios. In 1983, The Bee Gees recorded songs for a sequel to Saturday Night Fever called Staying Alive, starring John Travolta and directed by Sylvester Stallone. It was a huge flop as the Disco era had gone, and the film's failure caused major damage to the careers of both The Bee Gees and Travolta.
5. Black Is Black - La Belle Epoque
The original version of this song was sung by Los Bravos, a Spanish quintet, in 1966. They are one of the few rock groups from Spain to have enjoyed an international hit. Lead singer Mike Kogel's voice sounded so much like Gene Pitney's that many listeners assumed that "Black Is Black" was a Pitney single and bought it on that premise. Pitney once commented that when he first heard the song he racked his brain trying to remember doing the session for the song, that's how much the lead vocal resembles his. The version of the song by the French female disco group called La Belle Epoque became a No.1 hit in Australia and Europe. La Belle Epoque consisted of lead singer Evelyne Lenton, a French singer who began recording and performing in the early 1960s under the name Evy, with two back-up singers.
6. Macho Man - The Village People (right)
The Village People was the brainchild of producer Jacques Morali who, in 1977, formed an entertainment troupe based on a sample of dressed-up characters he had observed around New York's gay area, Greenwich Village - hence the outfit's name - the cowboy, the construction worker, the Indian, the biker, the policeman and the G.I. Their first success came in Australia in 1978 with a top 20 hit, "San Francisco", so it's all our fault! They followed it with "Macho Man" which brought them worldwide fame.
The outfit was so camp and their gay-themed songs were so crass, everyone thought they were a novelty item! They had a couple more hits with "Y.M.C.A." and "In The Navy" before disappearing into oblivion along with disco. Aiding their demise, The Village People appeared in the 1980 feature film, Can't Stop the Music. The movie was awarded the Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay honours at the 1980 Golden Raspberry Awards and was nominated in almost all the other categories.
7. It's A Heartache - Bonnie Tyler (right)
Having adopted a number of stage names until settling on Bonnie Tyler, Gaynor Hopkins and her band performed at pubs and nightclubs all over South Wales for nearly a decade. In 1969 she entered a local talent show and performed Mary Hopkin's 'Those Were The Days' which became her early signature song. Her second solo single, 'Lost in France', recorded with writers/producers Ronnie Scott and Steve Wolfe, was a hit and led Tyler to record her first album in 1977.
Prior to its release, she underwent surgery to remove nodules on her vocal chords. Against doctor's orders, she spoke before she had healed, with the result that her singing voice took on a raspy quality. At first, this made Tyler believe her singing career was over. As it turned out, it helped make her an international star. The song 'It's a Heartache', from her second album, Natural Force, reached the top 5 in Britain, Europe, and in the United States, leading to her first American tour. It remains her biggest selling single.
8. Three Times A Lady - The Commodores (right) Lionel Richie is said to have been inspired to write this song by a comment his father made to his mother while giving a speech at their 37th wedding anniversary. Rumour has it that Richie wrote the song as an all-out commercial move after an embarrassing loss (with the song, "Easy") to Leo Sayer ("You Make Me Feel Like Dancing") at the 1977 Grammy Awards. Richie did not regard Sayer's song as R&B. The Commodores were more of a Funk band before their massive success with sentimental love songs, of which this was their first and biggest. They had more hits in a similar style with "Still" and "Sail On," and Richie followed the same successful formula with solo hits like "Truly," "Hello," "Stuck On You" and "Penny Lover."
9. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth - Meat Loaf (right)
This song was the best selling single from Meat Loaf's incredible 1977 album, Bat Out Of Hell. The album and the songs on it had their origins in Broadway theatre where Marvin Lee Aday (Meat Loaf to us), a Broadway actor, met Jim Steinman, an up-and-coming pianist and playwright. Steinman also sang, but at the time they met he was auditioning for his latest play and he couldn't utter a decent note as his nose had been broken by a female biker! When Meat Loaf appeared for the audition, Steinman was amazed by Meat's voice and his overpowering presence and declared "This guy is my voice! He should be singing Wagnerian rock opera!" Meat and Steinman became friends and colleagues. In 1977, during the Broadway season of Steinman's Neverland, a futuristic rock version of the Peter Pan story, Bat Out of Hell - Steinman's Wagnerian rock opera vision of Meat Loaf himself - was conceived. Rarely has this kind of craziness been pulled off so well, and against such massive odds.
Record company after record company turn the recordings down until Epic saw the light and released the album. What Meat Loaf, Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren had actually done was to take the metal/hard rock excesses of the early-mid 1970s (all of which were getting a bit sluggish) and inject them with the New Wave energy of the late 1970s, resulting in one of the most dynamic rock albums of all time (it stayed on the UK charts for an astonishing 400 weeks and 88 weeks in the US). Sales in the beginning were slow, so Meat Loaf embarked on a massive tour which temporarily ruined his voice. A follow-up single, "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad", was also a top 10 single. A follow-up album, with all tracks except the vocals having been laid down and ready, sat in the studio for over a year until Steinman, tired of waiting for Meat Loaf's voice to recover, sang the vocals himself. Released in 1981 as Steinman's solo album, Bad For Good, it became a big hit in Britain and a modest hit in the States. Bad For Good was part of the very first package of twenty albums ever to be released on compact disc when the format was introduced.
10. Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty (right)
What is pop music's most memorable sax intro of all time? No contest. "Baker Street" wins by a country mile. Ironically though, Gerry Rafferty's finest moment is not Rafferty's at all. The searing, soaring sax solo was originally written as a guitar solo and was even tried as a vocal harmony before eventually falling into the hands of session musician Raf Ravenscroft who literally blew everyone away with the spine-tingling saxophone version that made it onto the final record. Paidley born Rafferty first came to prominence when he became a member of Glasgow folk band, The Humblebums, alongside Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey. As Connolly's humorous dialogues between songs began to take centre-stage in their performances, the more musically ambitious Rafferty became increasingly frustrated and the band split up in 1971, leaving Connolly to pursue his career in comedy. 'Baker Street' received the ultimate "confirmation that you're a legend" accolade when it was featured on The Simpsons in an episode about Lisa having sax lessons and playing that solo.
watch the video online
11. Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush (right)
This love song is based on Emily Bronte's classic novel of the same name; the song pretty much recounts the same story as it is told in the book, about two young people - Catherine and Heathcliff - who are brought together and become lovers. Along the way, they struggle with issues of class and family. Wuthering Heights was Bronte's only novel, although she did publish some poems. It is believed Kate Bush chose this song to launch her recording career in 1978 because she and Emily Bronte share the same birthday, 30th July. Bush claims to have written the song in a single night under a full moon. Released as a single, the music press initially dismissed the song as a novelty, but the record buying public everywhere except in the US loved it and turned it into a No.1 hit.
It was an amazing feat at a time when Punk was all the rage. The story goes that Bush's recording company, EMI, wanted to release "James and the Cold Gun" as her first single, believing that radio stations wouldn't play "Wuthering Heights" because it sounded too odd. Kate disagreed and actually cried in the office of the man responsible for the decision. Unable to cope with the crying teenager, he let her have her way, figuring the song would flop and he would prove to the aspiring singer that he knew more about such matters than she did. A year later, after he was proven horribly wrong, he bought Bush a Steinway piano to make up for making her cry. The song's guitar solo is by Ian Bairnson, formerly of Pilot. In the mid-'70s, Pilot had a No.5 hit in the US with "Magic" and a chart topper in the UK with "January." Kate recorded new vocals for this song for her 1986 greatest hits' compilation, The Whole Story. It reveals much more mature vocals, but still has the full impact of the original.
12. Surfin' USA - Leif Garrett (right)
This song, written and first recorded by The Beach Boys, was based on Chuck Berry's 1958 hit "Sweet Little 16." The lyrics are only slightly different, with "St. Louis" replaced by "Del Mar" and New Orleans replaced with "Santa Cruz." The Beach Boys did it as a tribute to Berry, but naively didn't get his permission first. When Berry threatened to sue, they agreed to give him most of the royalties and list him as the song's composer. Leif Garrett's version was a surprise hit, as it was released at a time when surfing music was long gone from the pop charts. Its success rested solely on the fact that Garrett was a teen heart throb who acted in a number of popular movies of the day, including Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice - he was very much the 'manufactured' pop idol. When his star faded, Garrett became a victim of drug addiction.
13. Emotion - Samantha Sang (right)
In the 1960s, Cheryl Gray became a well known singer in Australia, gaining a lot of exposure on radio and television. By the age of 15 she had her first hit with "You Made Me What I Am", and won a Best Female Vocalist award. She then travelled to the UK where she performed as the support artist for the likes of Herman's Hermits, The Hollies and The Bee Gees. In the mid 70s, she moved to the US and re-invented herself as Samantha Sang. She renewed her aquaintance with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees who wrote her international hit, 'Emotion'. The Bee Gees provided the backing vocals. Further hits failed to materialise.
14. Are You Old Enough? - Dragon
Australian rock band Dragon was formed in 1972, and spent much of the 1970s developing a strong following, first in New Zealand, and then Australia. They arrived in Sydney in 1975 and in August of that year, released a single called "Star Kissed"/"Crystal Dove". Dragon made its first Australian television appearance to promote the single, but the song and the band went nowhere. Of bigger concern to the group was their living standards. They could not afford anything lavish and spent their time in a grotty house in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. But within two years they were on their way and soon became Australia's leading band. A new album, O Zambesi, was released in September 1978. It was their biggest seller, reaching No.3 on the album charts. From it came the single "Are You Old Enough" backed by "Company". It provided the group with their only No.1 single in Australia.
15. I Can't Stand The Rain - Eruption (right)
Jamaican born Precious Wilson was discovered singing gospel at her local church as a teenager in the early 1970s. By 1974, she had been teamed with a group of British musicians who formed the band, Silent Eruption. After a year of performing in clubs, they won the 1975 Soul Search Contest, and as a result, released a single, 'Let Me Take You Back In Time'. Frank Farian, the producer behind Boney M and later, Milli Vanilli, got a hold of the single, signed up the group and changed their name to Eruption.
He compiled the songs for their first album, Eruption Featuring Precious Wilson, which, upon its release gained favourable reviews and sold well. From it, Farian lifted the band's version of the Ann Peebles classic, 'I Can't Stand The Rain', and released it as a 12" single. It became an instant club hit, and then repeated its success on the radio and singles charts when it was released as a 45. The song is now recognised as one of the all-time disco classics. Its release was followed by a number of singles, the biggest of which was 'One Way Ticket'. The group disbanded a year after Precious right to pursue a solo career. Her solo work included the title track for the movie, Jewel Of The Nile.
16. Oh, Carol - Smokie (right)
Formed in Yorkshire, England, in 1966, Smokie hit the British pop charts several times during the late 1970s with updated pop from writers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. Evolving out of the 1960s band The Elizabethans, Smokie received a touch of magic from legendary producer Mickie Most; during 1976, they scored three Top 20 hits, including their most memorable song, 'Living Next Door to Alice'. Their run of hits continuned in 1977 ("It's Your Life") and 1978 ("Oh Carol", not to be confused with Neil Sedaka's song of the same name), but the band's chart run had ended by early 1980. Re-formed in 1988, they released a couple more albums of new material which enjoyed moderate success, but continue to pack in the crowds wherever they perform.
17. How Deep Is Your Love? - The Bee Gees
The Bee Gees wrote this song for American singer Yvonne Elliman. Robert Stigwood, who produced the movie Saturday Night Fever, insisted The Bee Gees perform it themselves for the soundtrack. Elliman did sing "If I Can't Have You," also written by The Bee Gees, that was included on the soundtrack. That song was also a No.1 hit in the US. 'How Deep Is Your Love' won the 1977 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance By a Group. It is one of the most recorded ever; at the end of 2004 there were over 400 cover versions available by different artists. The Bee Gees used to dedicate this song to their late brother Andy when they sang it at concerts.
18. Grease - Frankie Valli (right)
This song is featured in the movie of the same name starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Valli was not in the movie, but another Frankie was; Frankie Avalon played the Teen Angel and sang "Beauty School Dropout." Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees wrote this song specifically for the movie and it was at his suggestion that Valli was chosen to sing it. The Sweet Inspirations (Elvis's backing group) sang backing vocals. The movie had the highest box office gross receipts for any musical ever. This song was not used in the stage production of Grease. With its Disco beat, it is way out place for the 1950s, which is when Grease takes place: audiences didn't seem to mind.
19. Warm Ride - Graham Bonnet (right)
In 1979 Graham Bonnet was making headway as a solo artist, having right behind a successful partnership with his cousin in The Marbles a few years prior. Graham auditioned for Ritchie Blackmore's 'Rainbow' and he was hired on the spot. The band recorded Down To Earth, an album celebrated ever since as one of the greatest hard rock releases ever. Bonnet then moved on to Michael Schenker's group, where he scored another coup with Assault Attack, an LP which many fans rank as Schenker's best. The disco hit "Warm Ride" was Bonnet's only solo hit in Australia.
20. Isn't It Time - The Babys (right)
The Babys formed in 1975 as a result of the accidental meeting of two disillusioned rock musicians on an all-night drinking binge in London's notorious East End. They quickly put a band together but it took 18 months to win a recording contract. Legend has it that the band borrowed some money from Ringo Starr to make a music video (produced by Mike Mansfield), an innovation (the music video, not Mansfield's production) at the time. It did the trick and the band became the first ever to get a recording contract on the strength of a music video. The Babys recorded their self-titled debut album in Toronto, Canada with famous producers Brian Christian and Bob Ezrin. The album and the singles from it barely made a ripple but a second album, Broken Heart, and a single from it, 'Isn't It Time', were both chart toppers.
6. Love Is In The Air - John Paul Young (right)
Between 1975 and 1980 John Paul Young was a genuine teen idol across Australia and one of the most popular male performers in the country. Sherbet's Daryl Braithwaite and Skyhooks' Shirley Strahan were his only serious rivals. But unlike Skyhooks and Sherbet, Young was hugely successful overseas. He became the first local solo performer whose records consistently topped the charts in Europe, the US and most notably in South Africa, where he was as big as he was back in Australia.
This international success is often overlooked, but he unquestionably blazed a trail for Australian music overseas and helped to pave the way for later acts like Little River Band, Men At Work and Air Supply. His signature tune, Harry Vanda & George Young's "Love Is In The Air", is now an international pop standard. One of the best known and best loved of all Australian popular songs, its perennial appeal was boosted by its inclusion on the soundtrack of the hit film, Strictly Ballroom, and by its use in the Sydney 2000 Olympics closing ceremony.
7. You - Marcia Hines (right)
Born in Boston Massachusetts in 1953, Marcia Hines was brought to Australia in 1969 by entrepreneur Harry M. Miller who went to America to recruit African-American cast members for his new Australian production of the rock musical Hair. Marcia's best friend was the younger sister of another Boston singer, Donna Summer, who had just right town to join the cast of the first German production. Marcia joined the cast of Hair in April 1970, and immediately won praise from audiences and critics alike with her powerful and soulful vocal performances. Marcia's success in Hair led to her next major stage role, that of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. She took over from Michelle Fawdon in 1973, becoming the first black singer anywhere in the world to play this role. When the show was over, Marcia decided to call Australia home. She toured through 1976-77, and cementing her recording success with sell-out shows. She was crowned Australia's Queen of Pop for three consecutive years (1976-78), all of her first seven LPs went Top 20, and her total album sales exceed 500,000. "You" was her first No.1 single.
8. April Sun In Cuba - Dragon (right)
After a couple of years of marginal success follwing their move to Australia from New Zealand, Dragon's perseverance paid off; by 1977, they had become Australia's No. 1 band. Running Free was released in November 1977 and went on to exceed double platinum status with sales, reaching No. 6 on the album charts. It contained a mixture of songs from the four songwriters, but the standout release was "April Sun In Cuba". The single reached No.2 on the charts, only to be held out of the No.1 spot by Paul McCartney's "Mull Of Kintyre". Had it been released at any other time, except perhaps concurrently with ABBA's 'Fernando' as was John Paul Young's "I Hate The Music", it would have easily reached the top spot, as would have "I Hate The Music", but didn't for that very reason.
9. Hopelessly Devoted To You - Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John's film breakthrough came when she was offered the female lead in Grease (1978). The film was the biggest box office hit of 1978 and remained popular enough to be re-released in theatres on its 20th anniversary. Two songs from the movie soundtrack, "You're The One That I Want" and "Summer Nights," went to No.1 and stood in that position for nine and seven weeks respectively. Newton-John's solo number, "Hopelessly Devoted To You", was also a hit. The album was also a top seller in Australia, and Olivia attended the film's premieres in both Sydney and Melbourne. She was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Grease.
10. Down Among The Dead Men - Flash & The Pan
The Easybeats was formed in 1964 and dominated the Australian charts throughout most of the 1960s until they went their separate ways. Band members Harry Vanda (Johannes Vandenburg) and George Young (right) had written most of the band's songs and continued in partnership together after the split, writing and producing material for other Australian artists including John Paul Young, Cheetah, Stevie Wright, Ted Mulry, Rose Tattoo, The Angels, William Shakespeare, Mark Williams and, most notably, AC/DC (whose lineup included George Young's younger brothers Malcolm and Angus). Every now and again they recorded singles themselves using session players, often under different names to hide their identity. The name they used most was Flash and the Pan. In the UK they are considered to be one-hit wonders ("Hey! St Peter" was their only hit there), which is coincidental as the expression, 'flash in the pan', denotes something which is only briefly popular. "Down Among The Dead Men", their second single, made the Australian top 10 charts in 1978.
Ebony Eyes - Bob Welch (right)
The son of a movie producer and an actress, Robert Welch was born in 1946 and raised in Hollywood. He was greatly influenced by Little Richard and The Beach Boys as a child, and his father bought him his first guitar when he was seven years old. In 1971 he became the new guitarist by Fleetwood Mac, and the first American member of that band. Welch made five albums with Fleetwood Mac before leaving in 1976. He reappeared as the leader of a new band, Paris. He made two albums with them before recording a solo album, French Kiss, in 1977. The album was "primarily a quality pop-rock radio album bursting with singles potential, and comparable to the very best aspects of Mac's White Album and Rumours," recalls Welch. With some help from Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Lindsey Buckingham, he successfully re-released 'Sentimental Lady' (originally released in 1972 from the Bare Trees album) and had another hit with 'Ebony Eyes' in 1978. View the video online
Sometimes When We Touch - Dan Hill (right)
Born in Toronto, Canada, Dan Hill is an unabashedly sentimental singer/songwriter. As a teenager, he was a major fan of crooners like Frank Sinatra. He became popular in Canada, and his debut album was released in 1975. In 1977, he co-wrote the highly emotional "Sometimes When We Touch" with Barry Mann, and it became a worldwide top 10 hit. After a few lesser hits, he seemingly disappeared, but mounted a comeback in 1987, scoring another hit with "Can't We Try," a duet with Vonda Sheppard. View the video online
Rasputin - Boney M (right)
Boney M was the brainchild of German record producer Frank Farian, and they became one of Eurodisco's most successful acts. The group was composed of four singers all of West Indian origin: Marcia Barrett, Bobby Farrell, Liz Mitchell and Massie Williams. Farian later repeated formula with Milli Vanilli and Far Corporation. Rasputin was a Russian monk who had a vision of the Virgin Mary. As a result he began to wander the country, visiting monasteries and religious sects. He preached the best way to get close to God was to sin and then repent.
The adulterous monk (his surname was a derivation of the adjective "rasputny" meaning "loose living") is said to have had remarkable healing abilities. Rasputin adhered himself to the Russian Czar Nicholas and his wife by his healing of the hemophiliac Alexei. He appeared to have the gift of healing their sick son every time he began to hemorrhage. Upset at his increasing influence over the Russian royal family, several Russian nobles poisoned then beat him in the basement of Yusopov Palace, then shot him several times. The monk refused to die so finally he was drowned by his enemies in the canals of St Petersburg. View the video online
Night Fever - The Bee Gees
Written and performed by The Bee Gees, "Night Fever" is from the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever; it was the album's third hit single (after "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Stayin' Alive"). The movie revolved around the songs on the soundtrack, a rarity in cinema. Producer Robert Stigwood wanted to call the film Saturday Night, but singer Robin Gibb expressed hesitation at the title. Stigwood also liked the title "Night Fever" but was wary of marketing a movie with that name. He eventually combined the two suggestions. "Night Fever" replaced the Bee Gee's younger brother Andy Gibb's "Love Is Thicker Than Water" at No. 1 in the US (which had replaced "Stayin' Alive") and was in turn replaced by Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" - all of which were written and produced by the Gibb brothers.
Resting at No.3 during "Night Fever"'s No.1 run was the Gibb-produced "Emotion" by Samantha Sang, demonstrating the Bee Gees' chart domination during 1978. After the success of "Night Fever," the Governor of Florida, Reubin O'Donovan Askew, made the three men "honorary citizens" of the state, due to the amount of time they spent each year recording singles in Miami. A music video was made for this song, although it was never shown in public at that time. View the video online
If I Can't Have You - Yvonne Elliman (right)
The singing career of Hawaiian born Yvonne Elliman began in the early 1970s in London where she performed as a vocalist at various bars and clubs. This led to a recording contract and her becoming a backing vocalist for Eric Clapton. She performed on many of his 1970s hits including "I Shot the Sheriff". She also sang the role of Mary Magdalene in the original album of Jesus Christ Superstar and in the subsequent Broadway and film versions, and achieved her first hit single with the ballad "I Don't Know How to Love Him".
Her biggest success came in 1977 with her No.1 hit from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, "If I Can't Have You" which was written by The Bee Gees. When that song went to No.1, Elliman became the first Asian/Pacific Islander woman to have a No.1 song on the Billboard charts. The huge success of the latter song has resulted in Elliman being remembered as a disco artist, though this style of music was an exception to the medium-tempo ballads that she specialized in, and which comprised the bulk of her work. A few minor Top 40 hits followed in 1979. View the video online
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late - Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams
During the 1970s, Johnny Mathis made somewhat of a comeback perflorming duets, many of them with Deniece Willams, who had become a backup volcalist for Stevie Wonder. She embarked on a solo career in 1976, with some success in the US in the Adult Contemporary market, but it was a string of duets with Deniece Willams where she right her biggest mark. View the video online
With A Little Luck - Paul McCartney & Wings (rigtht)
Released as a single after first appearing on Wings' 1978 album, London Town, "With a Little Luck" was written by Paul McCartney in Scotland and recorded on board the boat Fair Carol in the Virgin Islands prior to the departure of lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English from Wings. There were two versions of the song: the original 5:45 version on London Town, and a DJ Edit, which only runs 3:13. It should be noted that the backing vocals sound strangely like John Lennon and George Harrison, perhaps showing McCartneys longing for collaboration with his old band mates. View the video online
Shadow Dancing - Andy Gibb
In the US, Andy Gibb was the first male solo artist to chart three consecutive No.1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 - "I Just Want to Be Your Everything", his first major hit, from his Flowing Rivers album; "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water", the album's second single; "Shadow Dancing", the title track from his second album. All were penned by combinations of his brothers, the Bee Ges. Two further Top 10 singles, "An Everlasting Love" and "(Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away", a cover of the earlier version by his brothers, were extracted from the second album, which became another million seller. View the video online
You Needed Me - Anne Murray (right)
Canadian born Anne Murray is best known for her romantic ballads and impeccable phrasing which has made her a staple in both the Easy Listening and Adult Contemporary sectors of popular music. She is known as "The Lady," and is sometimes referred to as the Singing Sweetheart of Canada. Her fame has been a boon to her home province of Nova Scotia, where the "Anne Murray Centre" is located. Her voice is often compared to that of Karen Carpenter, and country singer Kathy Mattea has had trouble getting over the constant comparison of her voice to Anne's. "You Needed Me" is the song for which she is best known.
It was included on her 1978 album Let's Keep It That Way. Murray recalls she was struggling with the pressures of juggling her career and her family life with her husband Bill Langstroth and her toddler son William. One day she was going through a box of tapes when she came across a song that expressed just how she was feeling. Only the writer's name, Randy Goodrum, was on the cassette but her producer looked up his name in the phone book and she finally got to record his song. It became her second American No.1 and to this day it remains the favourite of her own recordings. View the video online
You Don't Bring Me Flowers - Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond
During the 1970s, Barbra Streisand was prominent in the pop charts, with No.1 records like "The Way We Were" and "Evergreen". One of the ploys she used to keep herself in the public's eye - and ears - was to sing duets with other artists who were at the height of their popularity. A number of top 10 hits emerged from these unions, included "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" with Donna Summer; the 1980 album Guilty with Barry Gibb, from which the hit "Woman In Love" was lifted; "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" - with Neil Diamond (right). This duet was not so much a union as a reunion, as Streisand and Diamond had sung together as high school students back in 1959 in the Erasmus Hall High School Choir.
Of this song, Diamond recalls: "I happened to sit near Norman Lear at George Burns' 80th birthday party, and being cheeky, asked Norman what brilliant new show he had planned that would require an equally brilliant theme song. He mentioned a show he was working on called All That Glitters in which the roles of the males and females are reversed. I suggested a torch song sung by a man. He asked if I would mind writing it with Marilyn and Alan Bergman. I was thrilled with the chance to work with these great writers and accepted immediately. The original one minute (exactly) version was not used on the show, but for my next album we made it a complete song and I recorded it. My friend Barbra Streisand heard the song, loved it and recorded it for her next album. Because we both recorded it in the same key, radio stations we able to intercut the two versions and make a pretty good sounding duet, prompting Barbra and me to go into the studio and duet it for real." View the video online
Take A Chance On Me - ABBA (right)
"Take a Chance on Me", from the ABBA's The Album, proved to be one of that band's most successful chart hits, selling more copies than "Dancing Queen" which is generally looked upon as ABBA's top commercial pop song. Written with the working title of "Billy Boy" by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, it was sung by Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, with Fältskog delivering the solo passages. It was one of ABBA's first singles in which their manager Stig Anderson did not lend a hand in writing the lyrics, firmly establishing Andersson and Ulvaeus as a songwriting partnership.
The song's origins sprang from Ulvaeus, whose hobby was running. While running, he would sing a "tck-a-ch"-style rhythm to himself over and over again to keep up the pace, which then evolved into "Take a Chance on Me" and the eventual lyrics. The song's B-side was "I'm a Marionette", which, like "Thank You for the Music" and "I Wonder (Departure)" (the B-side to their previous single, "The Name of the Game"), was intended to be part of a mini-musical that Andersson and Ulvaeus had planned, but ultimately shelved. View the video online
Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord - Boney M
Written as a West Indian Christmas song by Jester Hairston, "Mary's Boy Child" made its first entry into the world's popular music charts in 1957 after Harry Belafonte recorded it for his album, An Evening With Belafonte. The song was released as a Christmas single in English speaking countries worldwide in December 1957. In the UK it reached No.1 and in doing so, established a few milestones - Harry Belafonte became the first black male to have a No.1 in the UK; it was the first ever song to sell 1 million copies in the UK; it was the first ever British No.1 record to have a playing time of more than four minutes (4:12).
It was also the only single ever to drop from straight from No.1 out of top 10 the following week (after Christmas it tumbled to No.12). During the Christmas season of 1978, Boney M returned the song to the top of the charts. According to Boney M member Marcia Barrett, "I always thought of Boney M as being put together by a spiritual force and we liked doing spiritual songs. When we did Mary's Boy Child, we added a bit spontaneously at the end. As it worked, we right it in." Hence the record was listed as a medley of "Mary's Boy Child" and "Oh My Lord." View the video online
Can't Smile Without You - Barry Manilow (right)
David Martin, one of the composers of the song, recalls: "In 1975, my wife Debbie was working at a greeting card store. One evening, she gave me a card ... across the top of the card were simply the word 'Can't Smile Without You'. I was immediately drawn to the slogan and during the drive home from Hampstead to Harrow, a journey of about 30 minutes, the song was written." The song first appeared on the Carpenter's album, A Kind of Hush, in 1976. It was later used over the opening credits of the movie Starsky & Hutch with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Hear the song online
Copacabana (At The Copa) - Barry Manilow
"This song was the opening track to the Barry Manilow album, Even Now. Manilow recalls that the music for "Copacabana" came incredibly fast. "I remember putting the lyric on the piano's music stand, punching the "Record" button on my tape deck, and writing the song in less than 15 minutes." This may well be because the song is very similar to "That's How It Went, All Right", which was a 1960 hit for Bobby Darin from an otherwise forgettable movie called Cantinflas. It's likely that Manilow had completely forgotten hearing the song - which might explain why he found himself writing it so fast.
Co-writer Bruce Sussman recalls, 'Copacabana' put Barry in the unique position of having 3 hit records in the Top 40 at once. It earned for him his first and only Grammy Award, his first gold single for a song he composed, his first international hit record, and the first song to inspire projects in other media (a made-for-TV film, and a stage musical). The Copacabana is a famous nightclub in New York City named after a district in Rio de Janeiro. This is where the song takes place. Many older Baby Boomers who watched TV from the early 1950's might recall the constant references to "the Copa" in the various sitcoms of the day.
That's because many of those shows depicted domestic lives of real-life, retired entertainers at home: Burns and Allen were a retired vaudeville couple, Ricky Ricardo and Ozzie Nelson were bandleaders, Jack Benny and Danny Thomas were retired or semi-retired stage comedians. Someone was always going out to catch an act at the Copa. The line about long-gone days: "but that was 30 years ago/when they used to have a show" is ironic now, as the disco days are just as long gone today as Lola's showgirl days were then. Hear the song online
The Gambler - Kenny Rogers (right)
Of all the easy listening songs Rogers has ever performed, "The Gambler" is the one by which he is most fondly remembered. It was written by Don Schlitz (who had recorded it previously) and was one of five consecutive songs by Rogers to hit No.1 on the US country music charts at the time. The song is often characterized as a metaphor for life in that you need to know when to stand your ground (when to hold 'em) and when to retreat (when to fold 'em). The gambler has learned that the trick to life isn't in the cards you've been dealt, but how to play them (every hand being a "winner" or a "loser" depending on how they are played). The "ace" that Rogers refers to in the end is this advice. View the video online
Here You Come Again - Dolly Parton (right)
Country singer Parton's 1977 album, Here You Come Again, was her first million-seller, and the title track became her first crossover hit to appeal to popular as well as country music fans. "Here You Come Again"' was a rare example of a Parton hit that she did not write herself; it was composed by the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. In addition to four of Parton's own compositions, the album included work by Bobby Goldsboro, John Sebastian, and Kenny Rogers. With less time to spend on her songwriting as she focused on a burgeoning film career, by 1978 Parton had begun to record mostly material from other pop songwriters. View the video online
We've Got Tonight - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Bob Seger strongly followed up his success with the 1976 album and single, 'Night Moves', with the 1978 album, Stranger in Town. The first single "Still the Same" emphasized Seger's talent for mid-tempo numbers that revealed a sense of purpose; it made the top five. "Hollywood Nights" was an up-tempo rocker Top 15 hit, while "We've Got Tonight" was a slow us-against-the-world ballad that not only was a hit, but would become an adult contemporary mainstay in years to come for both Seger and other artists. View the video online
Just The Way You Are - Billy Joel
This song was recorded for Billy Joel's 1977 album The Stranger. The album yielded four Top 40 hits on the Billboard Charts in the US, "Just the Way You Are" (No.3), "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (No.17), "Only the Good Die Young" (No.2), and "She's Always a Woman" (No.17). Album sales exceeded Columbia's previous top album, Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, and was certified multi-platinum. It was Joel's first top ten album; it rose to No.2 on the charts. The Stranger netted Joel Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and Song of the Year, and for "Just the Way You Are", which was written as a gift to his wife, Elizabeth. Hear the song online
Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshees
The band's debut single, it was written by Banshees members Siouxsie Sioux (right), Steven Severin, John McKay and Kenny Morris and produced by Nils Stevesson and Steve Lillywhite. Musically the song is punk rock in style and has Orientalist sounds. At the time, the lyrics fueled speculation that Sioux and members of the band were racist due to lines such as "Slanted eyes meet a new sunrise / A race of bodies small in size / Chicken Chow Mein and Chop Suey / Hong Kong garden takeaway". "Hong Kong Garden" is today interpreted as an ode to Chinese food restaurateurs whose culture was regarded with contempt by some non-Chinese in Britain. Sioux has explained the lyrics were a reference to the racist activities of skinheads visiting the takeaway: "I'll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called 'The Hong Kong Garden'.
Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We'd try and say 'Leave them alone', you know. It was a kind of tribute. I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from The Avengers and kick all the skinheads' heads in, because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill." The song was released as a stand-alone single and reached No.7 in the UK singles chart. In March 2005, Q magazine placed the song at number 90 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. View the video online
Khe Sanh - Cold Chisel (right)
Cold Chisel formed in Adelaide in 1973 as a heavy metal band called Orange formed by keyboard player Don Walker and original bassist Les Kaczmarek. Built around Walker's songwriting, the group also featured the guitar and vocal talents of Ian Moss and the powerful lead vocals of Scottish immigrant Jimmy Barnes. While typically classified as a hard-driving rock'n'roll pub band, the Chisel repertoire included such Australian anthems as the landmark Vietnam War song "Khe Sanh", "Bow River", "Flame Trees" and "Saturday Night", but also included thoughtful ballads like "Choir Girl" (written about the subject of abortion), pop-flavoured love songs like "My Baby" and caustic political statements like "Star Hotel", an attack on the late-70s government of Malcolm Fraser and inspired by a riot at a Newcastle pub.
Named after the Battle of Khe Sanh (1968) during the Vietnam War and written by pianist Don Walker, "Khe Sanh" is about a bitter and disillusioned Australian Vietnam veteran. Most of the Australian veterans were conscripts, who had been sent to fight "someone else's war", and were then expected to re-integrate into society with little assistance. "Khe Sanh" is one of the most popular songs ever recorded by an Australian act and one generally seen as a resonant symbol of Australian culture. Though it never made the Top 10 nationally, it earnerd its notoriety and unique place in Australian music lore in August 1978 when the censors gave it an A Classification, meaning that it was "not suitable for airplay", due to sex and drug references. A single radio station in Adelaide defied this censorship and was the instigator of the song's legendary status. In 2001, members of APRA, the Australasian music industry's peak body, put "Khe Sanh" at number eight in a poll of the all-time best Australian popular songs.
Regarding the lyrics, few if any Australian soldiers were actually involved in the siege of Khe Sanh, which was fought by US Marines on one side and the North Vietnamese Army on the other. The only Australian personnel to be directly involved were the crews of Canberra bombers operated by 2 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, who flew close air support missions in the area. The line "Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone" is often misquoted as "the last train". In a 2006 interview, Jimmy Barnes commented on this, saying: "you can't get a train to Vietnam". That the words "plane" could be confused with "train" is curious, given that the remainder of the verse says: "Only seven flying hours and I'll be landing in Hong Kong ... "Sanh" is often misspelled (even, at times, on official album covers and sleeve notes) as "Sahn". Khe Sanh has also been mentioned in a song lyric by Bruce Springsteen. His 1984 hit "Born in the USA" includes the sentence: "Had a brother at Khe Sanh". Springsteen pronounces it to rhyme with "gone" rather than with "man", as the Cold Chisel version does. During the Australian cricket team's tour of the Caribbean in 1995, the players accorded "Khe Sanh" the status of an unofficial team song and sang it frequently. View the video online
My Life - Billy Joel (right)
This song about asserting one's independence was the theme ng to the Tom Hanks 1980 television sitcom, Bosom Buddies, although it was not sung by Billy Joel on the show but the show's cast with Hanks singing lead. It was first released on Billy Joel's 1978 album, 52nd Street. There is a story that Billy got the idea for the first verse from reading an article about a group of young people who right good paying jobs to make it as comedians in the L.A. clubs. One of those mentioned in the article was David Letterman. View the video online
Runnin' With The Devil - Van Halen
Van Halen's career breakthrough came in 1978 when their self-titled album was released to immediate commercial success. The band toured for nearly a year, opening for Black Sabbath and establishing a reputation as a talented and exciting live band. The outfit's chemistry of this era came out of a contrast between Eddie Van Halen's technical wizardry and David Lee Roth's flamboyant antics, a rivalry that would later erupt into full-blown conflict. While their highly regarded debut album included original songs by the band, such as "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love", "Eruption" and "Runnin' With The Devil," it also featured covers of the Kinks' song "You Really Got Me" and John Brim's "Ice Cream Man." View the video online
Stay - Jackson Browne
Browne began recording his 1977 debut LP, Running on Empty, while on tour, and it became his biggest commercial success. Breaking the usual conventions for a live album, Browne used all new material and combined live concert performances with recordings made on buses, in hotel rooms, and back stage, creating the audio equivalent of a road movie. Running on Empty, an impromptu tribute to life on the road, contains many renowned songs, such as the propulsive title track, "The Road" (written and recorded in '72 by Danny O'Keefe) "Rosie", and "The Load-Out/Stay" (Browne's affectionate and knowing send-off to his concert audiences and roadies). View the video online
Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits (right)
"Sultans of Swing" was the first single release by the British rock band Dire Straits. It was first recorded as a demo, and quickly acquired a following after it was put in the rotation at Radio London. It did not take long for the record executives to hear of its popularity, and Dire Straits were soon offered a contract with Phonogram. The song was then re-recorded and released in both the UK and the US, though the demo version remained av ailable on the original UK Vertigo label. With its Dylanesque lyrics and economic guitar fills, the arrangement of "Sultans of Swing" was straightforward: two guitars, a bass, and a straight 4/4 beat on the drums. Dire Straits' original lineup has Mark Knopfler on vocals and lead guitar, David Knopfler on rhythm guitar, John Illsley on bass, and Pick Withers on drums.
The song's story is that of the diverse members of a working-class jazz group who only want to play their distinctive sound in a small London club, and don't care how popular they are. One player mentioned by name, "Guitar George", may have been a reference to musician George Borowski. Another suggestion is that the Harry and George referred to are none other than Harry Vanda & George Young of Easybeats fame. Although he was not given co-writer's credits on the song, Columbia recording artist Bill Wilson is said to have written many of its lyrics while he and Knopfler were studio musicians working a session together in Nashville. During a live performance of the song in Indianapolis, circa 1991, Wilson had this to say before performing the song: "I do this thing I co-wrote about, I guess, it's been about 12 years ago I wrote the lyrics and a friend of mine used to work a lot of sessions for my old producer, Bob Johnston, and worked a session with this fellow from England by the name of Mark Knopfler. Has his own group over there called Dire Straits.
He had this little melody. It sounded like "Walk, Don't Run". And he had this little story concerning a band that nobody wanted to listen to. Only a few people show up to hear. So we got together one night after the session and tossed these lyrics around on a napkin and I guess I wound up writing most of the lyrics to the tune. made enough money to buy a new Blazer that year I remember, so ... didn't do too bad. It goes like this..." Then he starts playing an acoustic guitar, strumming Spanish style and sings 'Sultans of Swing'. The lyrics are close to those Mark Knopfler recorded. View the video online
Sweet Talkin' Woman - Electric Light Orchestra (right)
"Sweet Talkin' Woman", a 1978 single, from the LP, Out of the Blue, was originally called "Dead End Street," but was changed during recording, perhaps to avoid confusion with a 1966 hit of the same title by The Kinks. The track became the third Top Ten hit from the LP. Initial copies in the 12" and 7" formats were pressed in purple vinyl. The song has been covered by the Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy. The Huey Lewis & The News song, 'Do You Believe In Love', which they recorded in 1982, has been criticized as a blatant rewrite of 'Sweet Talkin Woman', because of its similar lyrics, progression, and vocal stylings. View the video online
Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
Composed by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, and Warren Zevon and performed by Zevon, the song was included on Zevon's album, Excitable Boy, and featured accompaniment by bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. The title reference is to the first Hollywood motion picture about lycanthropy, entitled Werewolf of London. The song is memorable for its humorous and macabre lyrics, and the refrain featuring a howling "a-ooo!!" Though it was not a No.1 single, the song had great cultural impact. The main melody and its rhythm were stolen from a riff at the end of The Beach Boys' song, "Feel Flows", on the studio album, Surf's Up, that was released seven years earlier in 1971. The Grateful Dead covered 'Werewolves In London' multiple times in concert shortly after the original was released. The song was also featured in the 1986 film, The Color of Money.
It was mentioned by David Naughton and Griffin Dunne on the DVD commentary for the movie, An American Werewolf in London, that there is no clear reason why John Landis did not incorporate this song into the soundtrack for the film. It may be due to the fact that the title of the song does not have the word "moon" in it, which all of the songs on the film do. ("Blue Moon", "Bad Moon Rising" and "Moondance"). Warren Zevon, who died in September 2003, age 56, was an American musician and songwriter, noted for his offbeat, sardonic view of life which was reflected in his dark, sometimes humorous songs that often incorporated political or historical themes. Zevon did music collaborations with numerous California based artists in the 1970s including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt (he wrote "Hasten Down the Wind", the junkie's lament "Carmelita", and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" from her album, Simple Dreams) and The Eagles. Hear the song online
Who Are You - The Who (right)
"Who Are You", composed by Pete Townshend, is the title track on The Who's 1978 release, their last album before drummer Keith Moon's death that September. It was released as a double-A sided single with the John Entwistle composition, "Had Enough," which also featured on the album. A popular interpretation is that the song is based on a particular day in the life of Pete Townshend. It began with a very long meeting over royalties for his songs: "Eleven hours in the Tin Pan, God, there's got to be another way." This is a reference to "Tin Pan Alley", the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated popular music in the US. After this excruciating meeting he received a large cheque for royalties, right and went to a bar and got completely drunk. In that bar he encountered Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols, who thought very highly of Townshend for paving the way for punk rock music.
Hearing their coments, Townshend began to feel that The Who had sold out, as described in a "lost verse" that was sung in a version released in 1996: "I used to check my reflection / Jumping with my cheap guitar / I must have lost my direction, cause I ended up a superstar / One night I was in the boardroom, affected by the human race / You can learn from my mistakes, but you're posing in the glass again". Seeing The Sex Pistols, who were icons of rebellion, greatly exasperated him.
Townshend right the bar and passed out in a random doorway in Soho (a part of New York). A policeman recognized him ("A policeman knew my name") and being kind, woke him and and told him, "You can go sleep at home tonight (instead of a jail cell), if you can get up and walk away." Pete's response: "Who the f__ are you?" According to a 1985 radio special on Townshend, the way Roger Daltrey sang it resulted in the song coming out different to ther way Townshend intended. Townshend said the song became a prayer from a destitute man on the street, looking up to the sky and asking God, "Who are you?", which was not his intent. "Who Are You" is unusual in that it contains two clearly audible instances of the "f" word, yet is played frequently in its entirety on rock radio stations. A modified version which substitutes the word "hell" is in circulation. View the video online