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


Click on award for more details.

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


Click on award for more details.

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 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


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


3.777 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


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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