Saturday, December 9, 1978

Chic’s “Le Freak” hit #1

First posted 10/31/2019; updated 4/20/2020.

Le Freak

Chic

Writer(s): Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards (see lyrics here)


Released: September 21, 1978


First Charted: October 21, 1978


Peak: 16 US, 17 CB, 17 HR, 12 RR, 48 AC, 15 RB, 7 UK, 12 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.5 UK, 13.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.15 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards formed Chic in 1976 after meeting six years earlier as session musicians in New York City. They brought in drummer Tony Thompson and singer Norma Jean Wright and in 1977 released their debut album, Chic, which was fueled by the top 10 hit “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah).” Wright left the group and was replaced by Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin. The change didn’t hurt as Chic did even better the next time out with “Le Freak,” the first single from sophomore album C’est Chic.

The song came about from an incident at New York City’s famed disco club Studio 54. Rodgers and Edwards were invited to the club by Grace Jones on New Year’s Eve in 1977. However, she forgot to notify the nightclub staff and the pair were refused entry WK despite the fact that their music was often played in the club. SF The doorman told them to “fuck off” as he slammed the door on them. They used it in a song, eventually changing it to “freak out” after realizing radio would never play it otherwise. WK

“Le Freak” had an unusual chart run. It moved to #1 in just its seventh week on the chart, but then was replaced by Barbra Steisand and Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” the song it had knocked from the top. However, “Le Freak” was back the next week – only to be knocked out again by the Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven.” However, after two weeks, “Le Freak” was back again for another three weeks. There’s was the first song in Billboard history to hit #1 three times. WK It went on to become the best-selling single in the history of Atlantic Records. BR1

The record company was not sold on the song when they first heard it. Rodgers said he and Edwards sat with their lawyer in a conference room after playing a seven-and-a-half minute version of the song. The executives had cleared out of the room and were, as Rodgers said, “trying to figure out how to tell us how much the song sucked.” SF


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Saturday, October 21, 1978

Village People hit the chart with “Y.M.C.A.”

First posted 4/21/2020.

Y.M.C.A.

Village People

Writer(s): Jacques Morali/Victor Willis/Henri Belolo (see lyrics here)


First Charted: October 21, 1978


Peak: 2 US, 3 CB, 2 HR, 6 RR, 32 RB, 13 UK, 12 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.51 UK, 12.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 8.2 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Henri Belolo and Jacques Morali were two French songwriters and producers who worked with Casablanca Records, “the home of mainstream disco in the mid-‘70s.” CR They decided to market music to the gay community, initially with Victor Willis singing lead and backup vocals. WK When the formula succeeded, a group of actors and singers were assembled and “dolled up in costumes that camped on masculine archetypes” TO such as a cop, Indian, and construction worker.

After the group hit with “Macho Man,” they turned to the YMCA for inspiration for the second song. The YMCA provided low-income, single-room occupancies as well as workout facilities. In gay culture, it became “a coded celebration of cruising hot guys at a public gym.” TO

There are differing accounts as to how the song came about. Randy Jones, who played the cowboy in the group, said he joined the YMCA on 23rd Street in New York and took Morali there a few times and that planted the idea for the song. SF Another account suggests Belolo was inspired when he and Morali passed that same Y and Morali explained the center’s reputation. CR Willis contends he wrote the song in celebration of where he played basketball with his friends growing up. SF He says Morali asked him about the YMCA and that Belolo had nothing to do with the song. SF

Regardless of the song’s origins, it became a gay anthem which did the seemingly impossible. It became “an all-purpose massive crowd celebratory singalong.” LA “Whether it's a break at a sports event or a peak moment of a wedding reception,” LA you can see “school children and adults in all walks of life” CR “raising their arms to spell out the letters Y-M-C-A as they join the group’s chorus.” LA

The famous movements came out of a performance of the song on TV’s American Bandstand on January 6, 1979. The Village People formed the letter “Y” when they got to the chorus, but it was the audience who added gestures for the remaining letters. Its unknown if the crowd truly made it up on the spot or choreographed it beforehand. Dick Clark, the show’s host, asked Willis if he thought the group could work the gestures into their routine. Willis replied, “I think we’re going to have to.” SF


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Friday, October 13, 1978

Billy Joel’s 52nd Street released

First posted 3/28/2008; updated 10/17/2020.

52nd Street

Billy Joel


Released: October 13, 1978


Peak: 18 US, 10 UK, 15 CN, 15 AU


Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.1 UK, 12.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Big Shot (2/10/79, 14 US, 9 CL, 13 CN, 91 AU)
  2. Honesty (4/21/79, 24 US, 8 CL, 9 AC, 16 CN, 80 AU)
  3. My Life (11/4/78, 3 US, 2 CL, 2 AC, 12 UK, 3 CN, 6 AU, platinum single)
  4. Zanzibar (23 CL)
  5. Stiletto (23 CL)
  6. Rosalinda’s Eyes (25 CL)
  7. Half a Mile Away
  8. Until the Night (3/79, 34 CL, 50 UK)
  9. 52nd Street


Total Running Time: 40:26

Rating:

3.777 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

“Fame can be a bitch, and so were, apparently, many of the people around Joel after The Stranger made him a star. Sounding paranoid and defensive, even on a bouncy trifle like My Life, he slid from tough to boorish as he sang about betrayal, hangovers, name-dropping cokeheads and affairs with waitresses.” DB

“Luckily, he offset those traits with punching-bag rockers and sublime, Broadway-worthy ballads.” DB He may have sounded angry on “the infectious ‘My Life,’” GR but it “still rings out with the bright bounce and touch of edge for which Joel has become known.” GR 52nd Street shows an artist who doesn’t abandon the sound “of his wildly successful previous LP, 1977’s The Stranger,” GR but someone intent on not repeating himself.

Joel returned to the studio with Phil Ramone with the aim of making the follow-up “more sophisticated and somewhat jazzy.” AMGHe expanded his “rock vocabulary and influence” GR by injecting “his sound with a new swing, enlisting jazz musicians.” GR “Often, his moves sounded as if they were responses to Steely Dan – indeed, his phrasing and melody for Zanzibar is a direct homage to Donald Fagen circa The Royal Scam, and it also boasts a solo from jazz great Freddie Hubbard à la Steely Dan.” AMG That song and Rosalinda’s Eyes “offer a glimpse into Joel’s range as artist and Ramone’s willingness to explore.” GR

Joel “never shies away from big gestures and melodies.” AMG “Consequently, 52nd Street unintentionally embellishes the Broadway overtones of its predecessor, not only on a centerpiece like Stiletto, but when he’s rocking out on Big Shot. That isn’t necessarily bad, since Joel’s strong suit turns out to be showmanship – he dazzles with his melodic skills and his enthusiastic performances.” AMG

“He also knows how to make a record. Song for song, 52nd Street might not be as strong as The Stranger, but there are no weak songs…and they all flow together smoothly, thanks to Ramone’s seamless production and Joel's melodic craftsmanship.” AMG

“It’s remarkable to think that in a matter of three records, Joel had hit upon a workable, marketable formula – one that not only made him one of the biggest-selling artists of his era, but one of the most enjoyable mainstream hitmakers. 52nd Street is a testament to that achievement.” AMG It also won him Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male.

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Saturday, September 16, 1978

Blondie charted with Parallel Lines

First posted 2/19/2008; updated 11/24/2020.

Parallel Lines

Blondie


Charted: September 16, 1978


Peak: 6 US, 14 UK, 2 CN, 2 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.69 UK, 20.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: new wave


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Hanging on the Telephone (11/11/78, 5 UK)
  2. One Way or Another (6/2/79, 24 US)
  3. Picture This (8/26/78, 12 UK)
  4. Fade Away and Radiate
  5. Pretty Baby
  6. I Know But I Don’t Know
  7. 11:59
  8. Will Anything Happen?
  9. Sunday Girl (5/19/79, 1 UK)
  10. Heart of Glass (1/27/79, 1 US, 1 UK, 44 AC, gold single)
  11. Gonna Love You Too
  12. Just Go Away


Total Running Time: 39:06


The Players:

  • Deborah Harry (vocals)
  • Chris Stein (guitar)
  • Clem Burke (drums)
  • Jimmy Destri (keyboards)
  • Nigel Harrison (bass)
  • Frank Infante (guitar)

Rating:

4.466 out of 5.00 (average of 28 ratings)


Quotable: “Downtown art-punk goes pop” – Blender Magazine


Awards:

About the Album:

“Blondie were too smart and sexy to be genuine punks” BL and when they “turned to British pop producer Mike Chapman for their third album…they abandoned any pretensions to new wave legitimacy (just in time, given the decline of the new wave) and emerged as a pure pop band.” WR “With pop chops, disco grooves and enough cooing harmonies to pass for low-rent Ronettes, …Parallel Lines transcended new wave, winning over Middle America.” BL

“But it wasn’t just Chapman that made Parallel Lines Blondie’s best album; it was the band’s own songwriting, including Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, and James Destri’s Picture This, and Harry and Stein’s Heart of Glass, and Harry and new bass player Nigel Harrison’s One Way or Another, plus two contributions from nonbandmember Jack Lee, Will Anything Happen? and Hanging on the Telephone.” WR

“That was enough to give Blondie a number one on both sides of the Atlantic with ‘Heart of Glass’ and three more U.K. hits, but what impresses is the album's depth and consistency – album tracks like Fade Away and Radiate and Just Go Away are as impressive as the songs pulled for singles. The result is state-of-the-art pop/rock circa 1978, with Harry’s tough-girl glamour setting the pattern that would be exploited over the next decade by a host of successors led by Madonna.” WR

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