Friday, January 27, 1978

50 years ago: Jimmie Rodgers released his first of twelve blue yodels

Blue Yodel #1 (T for Texas)

Jimmie Rodgers

Writer(s): Jimmie Rodgers (see lyrics here)


Released: January 27, 1928


First Charted: March 31, 1928


Peak: 2 US (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2.51 video, 1.0 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jimmie Rodgers grew up sickly, shuffled amongst family members. By age 14, he struck out on his own to follow his father’s footsteps as a railroad man. His failing health ended that career before he’d turned thirty, and he turned his attention to his other love – music.

In 1927, Rodgers auditioned for Ralph Peer of Victor Records. In August, Rodgers had his first recording session with Peer and then, on the day after Thanksgiving, drove to New York for his second session. When Rodgers had a shortage of material, Peer relented to recording one of Rodgers’ blues songs – “Blue Yodel No. 1.” SS Not sure what to do with the stuff, Victor marketed it as “a popular song for a comedian with a guitar.” LW

Tuberculosis felled the man known as “The Singing Brakeman” in 1933 when he was just 37. However, in his short life, he had such an impact on music that he earned an even bigger nickname: “The Father of Country Music.” He helped make country music as as a viable, commercial genre AC by articulating rural America’s concerns about “love, loss, and hardship in a way…most Tin Pan Alley writers could not…emulate.” LW He was so embedded in rural culture, shoppers requested his latest recordings be added to their grocery lists. LW

However, his music reached beyond white rural America. He “combined black and white musical forms and popularized American rural music traditions.” NRR That “marriage of blues and country is the essence of Rodgers’ contribution to popular music.” LW For a “generation after his death, virtually every country music performer – and not a few blues artists – would owe a deep stylistic debt” SS to Rodgers.


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Jimmie Rodgers
  • AC Ace Collins (1996). The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs. New York, NY; The Berkley Publishing Group.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 65.
  • NRR National Recording Registry
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 21.


First posted 1/27/2014; last updated 11/21/2022.

Kansas “Dust in the Wind” charted

Dust in the Wind

Kansas

Writer(s): Kerry Livgren (see lyrics here)


Released: January 16, 1978


First Charted: January 27, 1978


Peak: 6 US, 3 CB, 3 GR, 5 HR, 2 RR, 6 AC, 1 CL, 3 CN, 52 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.2 UK, 3.28 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 221.3 video, 515.76 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The progressive rock group Kansas formed in Topeka, Kansas in 1973. After three albums, they broke through in 1976 with Leftoverture, a four-time platinum seller which reached #5 on the album chart. The album was fueled by the success of “Carry on Wayward Son.” It was the band’s first chart entry, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually selling four million copies.

They followed up in 1977 with the album Point of Know Return. It proved the group’s success wasn’t a fluke as it also achieved four million in sales and went to #4 on the album chart. That album sent three songs on to the charts – the title cut (#28), “Portrait (He Knew)” (#64), and “Dust in the Wind” (#6). Songfacts.com said the latter is “perhaps the most famous acoustic rock song ever recorded.” SF

Interestingly, “Dust in the Wind” was passed over as the first single, but started getting radio airplay anyway while “Point of Know Return” was being promoted as the lead single. When it fell out of the top-40, Kansas rush-released the single for “Dust in the Wind.” It became the most successful song of the band’s career, at least from a chart perspective. Sales wise, it topped three million in sales; only “Carry On” did better. Both songs were written by Kerry Livgren, a founding member of Kansas who played guitars and keyboards. However, it was Steve Walsh, the band’s lead singer, who sang on the track.

Livgren developed the guitar line for the song through developing an exercise to learn finger picking. His wife, Vicci, liked the melody and encouraged him to write lyrics to accompany it. WK He was inspired to write about “the true value of material things and the meaning of success” SF by the line “For all we are is dust in the wind” from a book of Native American poetry. SF

The band had nearly finished the Point of Know Return album when Jeff Glixman, the producer, asked if anyone had any more songs. SF Livgren reluctantly played “Dust in the Wind.” His bandmates responded with stunned silence and the question “Kerry, where has this been?” WK Livgren actually fought against including it, saying “I tend to like the more bombastic things, like ‘The Wall.’” SF

Billboard praised the song for its “evocative lyrics” and “catchy melody.” WK Cashbox cited its “excellent vocals and harmonies and an impactful lyric.” WK Ultimate Classic Rock’s Eduardo Rivadavia said it was “a stark and gentle lament that bridges the group’s transition from intimidating prog rockers to accessible hitmakers.” WK


Resources:


First posted 12/28/2022.

Saturday, January 21, 1978

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack hit #1 for the first of 24 weeks

First posted 3/23/2008; updated 12/1/2020.

Saturday Night Fever

Various Artists


Released: November 15, 1977


Peak: 124 US, 15 RB, 118 UK, 122 CN, 114 AU


Sales (in millions): 15.0 US, 2.15 UK, 40.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: disco


Tracks:

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

  1. Stayin’ Alive (BEE GEES) (12/10/77, 14 US, 14 CB, 16 HR, 16 RR, 28 AC, 4 RB, 4 UK, 14 CN, 17 AU, worldwide sales: 5.77 million)
  2. How Deep Is Your Love (BEE GEES) (9/24/77, 13 US, 14 CB, 2 HR, 14 RR, 16 AC, 3 UK, 16 CN, 3 AU, worldwide sales: 2.88 million)
  3. Night Fever (BEE GEES) (2/4/78, 18 US, 18 CB, 18HR, 16 RR, 19 AC, 8 RB, 12 UK, 15 CN, 7 AU, worldwide sales: 3.15 million)
  4. More Than a Woman (BEE GEES) (4/8/78, 39 AC)
  5. If I Can’t Have You (YVONNE ELLIMAN) (1/8/78, 1 US, 4 UK, 9 AC, gold single)
  6. A Fifth of Beethoven (WALTER MURPHY) (5/29/76, 1 US, 28 UK, 10 RB, 13 AC, gold single)
  7. More Than a Woman (TAVARES) (11/12/77, 32 US, 7 UK, 36 RB)
  8. Manhattan Skyline (DAVID SHIRE) / Calypso Breakdown (RALPH MacDONALD)
  9. Night on Disco Mountain (DAVID SHIRE)
  10. Open Sesame (KOOL & THE GANG) (10/30/76, 55 US, 6 RB)
  11. Jive Talkin’ (BEE GEES) (5/31/75, 1 US, 5 UK, 9 AC, gold single)
  12. You Should Be Dancing (BEE GEES) (7/5/76, 1 US, 5 UK, 4 RB, 25 AC, gold single)
  13. Boogie Shoes (KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND) (7/10/76, 35 US, 29 RB)
  14. Salsation (DAVID SHIRE)
  15. K-Jee (MFSB)
  16. Disco Inferno (THE TRAMMPS) (3/5/77, 11 US, 16 UK, 9 RB)


Total Running Time: 75:54

Rating:

4.357 out of 5.00 (average of 18 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Grab your white leisure suit, get out that disco ball and boogie down to the disc that launched the craze.” ZS “Every so often, a piece of music comes along that defines a moment in popular culture history;” AMG Saturday Night Fever epitomized the latter half of the 1970s. “Midnight dancers were already tripping the strobe lights fantastic before the Bee Gees’ pulsating soundtrack turned disco into the fad of the moment.” VB The Bee Gees themselves had “been exploring disco and funk rhythms on two albums before this one.” TM However, “the disco boom had seemingly run its course, primarily in Europe, and was confined mostly to Black culture and the gay underground in America.” AMG “The soundtrack “made disco explode into mainstream…with new immediacy and urgency.” AMG

The movie was “a gritty commentary on urban escapism and class struggle” VH1 based on a Variety Fair article entitiled “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.” VH1 Point of interest: it emerged nearly two decades later that the writer, Nik Cohn, invented most of the details in the article. TB

The music had a “devil-may-care bravado and hip-grinding groove” VH1 spurred by the Bee Gees’ “saccharine vocal harmonies and irrestibly catchy melodies.” VH1 The group had already written five songs for the intended follow-up to Children of the World. However, their manager, Robert Stigwood, thought the new material would be perfect AMG for his film.

The soundtrack sported a mix of old and new; six songs had been hits on the Hot 100 over the previous two years, including three #1 gold singles. However, the new material, led by three #1 Bee Gees’ singles (two platinum, one gold), propelled this to be not just “an idealized commercial-free radio set of late-‘70s dance music,” AMG but the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time. VH1

The movie and soundtrack open with the iconic Stayin’ Alive. “The track showcases the falsetto voices that subsequently became the group’s trademark style and which were used on this album for the first time.” TB While disco is more associated with upbeat numbers, “the Bee Gees’ new songs were weighted equally toward ethereal ballads” AMG like the “shining pop ballad How Deep Is Your Love.” TM The “soaring, lyrical romantic numbers” AMG became a big part of the soundtrack’s appeal.

Interestingly, while the Bee Gees comprised only a third of the soundtrack, this “is virtually indispensable as a Bee Gees album” AMG because it presented the Gibb brothers not just as performers but composers with cuts recorded by Yvonne Elliman (If I Can’t Have You), and Tavares (More Than a Woman).

It should be noted that while disco was cast in a negative light in the wake of its Saturday Night Fever-fueled explosion, this album still holds up. The Bee Gees “wrote a set of themes…sturdy enough to endure beyond the moment of hotness.” TM “Heard now, removed from the frenzy, Saturday Night Fever remains striking for the deft shimmer of Arif Mardin's production, and the sharp, hook-atop-hook songwriting of the Bee Gees.” TM

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Bee Gees
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Bruce Eder
  • TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 191.
  • VH1 VH1. (2003). 100 Greatest Albums. Edited by Jacob Hoye. Pocket Books: New York, NY. Page 57.
  • VB Vibe 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century, pp. 154-1964. (Dec. 1999)
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 47.