Sunday, October 29, 1978

Rush “The Trees” released on Hemispheres album

The Trees


Writer(s): Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson (see lyrics here)

Released: January 1979

First Charted: --

Peak: 7 CL, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 11.3 video, -- streaming


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About the Song:

By 1978, Rush put out five studio releases and a live album in less than five years. They’d cracked the top 40 on the album chart with 1977’s A Farewell to Kings and “Closer to the Heart”reached #76 on the Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up album, 1978’s Hemispheres, slipped a bit. It would achieve platinum status like its predecessor, but hit a lower peak at #47 and didn’t chart any singles.

Of course, there wasn’t much to choose from when it came to potential singles from the album. Hemispheres was made up of only four tracks, including the eighteen minute “Cygnus X-1, Book II,” the nine-minute “La Villag Strangiato.” The more reasonably-lenghted “Circumstances” was released as a single with “The Trees” as its B-side. The latter became one of the band’s most notable songs with “The Trees.” It became a staple in the band’s live performances.

The lyrics tell a story of conflict in a forest between maple and oak trees. The maples want more sunlight, but the taller oak trees are hogging all the light. By song’s end, however, it is noted that “the trees are kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw.” WK The song has been interpreted as a commentary on oppression and a fight for rights. It has even been suggested that it is a statement about how Canadians (represented by the maple leaf) feel about Americans. SF The members of Rush were all Canadian.

However, lyricist and drummer Neil Peart said, “It was just a flash…I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I though, ‘What if trees acted like people?’ So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way.” WK


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First posted 7/28/2022.

Saturday, October 21, 1978

Village People hit the chart with “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, 6 GP, 2 HR, 6 RR, 32 RB, 13 UK, 12 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.56 UK, 12.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 8.2 video, 247.83 streaming


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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.” TC 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. TC 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” TC “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


First posted 4/21/2020; last updated 11/27/2022.

Friday, October 20, 1978

50 years ago: Al Jolson goes to #1 with “Sonny Boy”

Sonny Boy

Al Jolson

Writer(s): Ray Henderson, Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown, Al Jolson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 13, 1928

Peak: 112 US, 188 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.0 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.10 video, -- streaming


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About the Song:

Jolson was rehearsing for The Singing Fool, his follow-up to the first sound picture, 1927’s The Jazz Singer, when he needed to replace a song. He phoned the writing team of Henderson, DeSylva, and Brown with his request and they had a song ready the next morning. It has been suggested that the song they wrote, “Sonny Boy,” was intended as a joke, TY1 but their “joke”ended up the biggest hit of 1928 CPM and the biggest hit of Jolson’s career. That was no small feat, considering it was his twenty-first of twenty three #1 songs. PM

In 1928, Ruth Etting (#6) and Jan Garber (#14) also found chart success with the song. In 1929, Gene Austin took it to #12 and in 1941 the Andrews Sisters revived the song with their #22 version. PM Ruth Brown, Petula Clark, John MacCormack, Mandy Patinkin, and Paul Robeson also recorded the song. WK

“Sonny Boy” was an intergral part of P.G. Wodehouse’s short story “Jeeves and the Song of Songs,” which was dramatized on the British TV series Jeeves and Wooster (“Tuppy and the Terrier,” season 1, episode 2).

Singer Eddie Fisher, who was born the year of the song’s release, was called “Sonny Boy” by his family. He shared in his autobiography that even after he’d gained fame in marrying Elizabeth Taylor, making $40,000 a week in Las Vegas, and hanging out with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Rocky Marciano, the nickname stuck. WK


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First posted 10/20/2016; last updated 2/27/2023.

Friday, October 13, 1978

50 years ago: Cliff Edwards hit #1 with “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

Cliff Edwards

Writer(s): Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields (see lyrics here)

First Charted: September 15, 1928

Peak: 1 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.5 (sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.09 video, -- streaming


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About the Song:

The song has been rumored to have originally been called “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Lindy,” in honor of Charles Lindburgh’s historic transatlantic flight. RCG However, lyricist Dorothy Fields’ account suggests otherwise. She said this song was inspired by a conversation she overheard between a black couple gazing at the jewelry in a Tiffany’s display window in which the man said, “Gee, honey, I can’t give you anything but love.” SB

Initially unpublished, the song resurfaced in the flop 1927 revue Delmar’s Revels. JA The scene featured Bert Lahr and Patsy Kelly as a couple of poor kids sitting on the front steps of a tenement building. The song was removed after the first night because Harry Delmar hated it. SB However, Fields and McHugh didn’t give up on it, using it again in Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928, where it was performed by Aida Ward (later replaced by Adelaide Hall), and Willard McLean, and Bill Robinson. TY

The song charted four times in 1928 – Cliff Edwards took it to #1 under the “Ukelele Ike” moniker, but other versions charted as well – Ben Selvin (#2), Johnny Hamp (#4), and Seger Ellis (#19). In 1929, it hit the charts two more times in renditions by Gene Austin and Nat Shilkret, who both took it to #12. Other versions charted in 1936 and 1948 – respectively by Teddy Wilson featuring Billie Holiday (#5) and another version by Rose Murphy (#13).

Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Fats Waller recorded the song as well. JA By the mid-‘60s, more than 450 recordings had been made. TY Katharine Hepburn sang it in the 1938 romantic comedy Bringing Up Baby. JA Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney sang it in the Broadway hit Sugar Babies and it was also featured in the 1978’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, a tribute to Waller. MM There have been claims that Waller actually wrote the music and sold it to Jimmy McHugh, but this is doubtful considering how similar this song is in style to other McHugh works. RCG


Last updated 2/27/2023.