Saturday, July 29, 1978

The Grease Soundtrack Goes to #1: July 29, 1978

Originally posted July 29, 2011. Updated July 29, 2013.


Release date: 14 April 1978
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Grease (FRANKIE VALLI) (5/27/78, #1 US, #3 UK, #13 AC, #40 RB, sales: 1.0 m) / Summer Nights (OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN / JOHN TRAVOLTA / CAST) (8/5/78, #5 US, #1 UK, #21 AC, sales: 0.5 m) / Hopelessly Devoted to You (OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN) (7/8/78, #3 US, #2 UK, #7 AC, #20 CW, sales: 0.5 m) / You’re the One That I Want (OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN / JOHN TRAVOLTA) (4/1/78, #1 US, #1 UK, #23 AC, sales: 1.0 m) / Sandy (JOHN TRAVOLTA) (10/7/78, #2 UK) / Beauty School Dropout (FRANKIE AVALON) / Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (STOCKARD CHANNING) / Greased Lightnin’ (JOHN TRAVOLTA) (9/30/78, #47 US, #11 UK) / It’s Raining on Prom Night (CINDY BULLENS) / Alone at a Drive-in Movie (BILL OAKES) / Blue Moon (SHA NA NA) / Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay (SHA NA NA) / Those Magic Changes (SHA NA NA) / Hound Dog (SHA NA NA) / Born to Hand Jive (SHA NA NA) / Tears on My Pillow (SHA NA NA) / Mooning (LOUIS SAINT LOUIS / CINDY BULLENS) / Freddy, My Love (CINDY BULLENS) / Rock & Roll Party Queen (LOUIS SAINT LOUIS) / Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN) / We Go Together (OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN / JOHN TRAVOLTA) / Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (BILL OAKES) / Grease (FRANKIE VALLI)

Sales (in millions): 14.0 US, 2.37 UK, 40.4 world

Peak: 112 US, 1 13 UK

Rating:


Review: “Grease will always be the word for hopelessly devoted generations of girls who wore out their record players partying with their own Pink Ladies to this soundtrack.” ZS The “high-camp classic” ZS whisked listeners away “to the ‘50s teeny-bopper days” ZS by boasting “summer-loving hits that will be on karaoke playlists until the end of time.” ZS

“The movie is a 1970s take on 1950s musicals, providing all the kitsch anyone could hope for.” AZGrease was a huge success as a Broadway musical prior to hitting the big screen in 1978. That was the version that transformed Grease into a phenomenon – it was a runaway box office success, and then became a TV, cable, and video favorite.” AMG

The soundtrack, the sixth best-selling of all time, WK “rivaled its film counterpart as a pop culture perennial, and it’s not hard to see why – its good-natured pastiche of doo wop and early rock & roll is infectious and charming, due in no small part to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s charismatic, engaging performances.” AMG

You’re the One That I Want

They actually only appear on 7 of the 24 tracks on the album, but “they sing the majority of the originals… which were the reason why the film and soundtrack became blockbusters.” AMG The pair duet on You’re the One That I Want and sing with the cast on Summer Nights. Both sangs hit #1 in the UK and rank in the 20 best-selling singles of all-time in the UK. WK

Summer Nights

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta took solo turns on Hopelessly Devoted to You and Sandy respectively. They were also hugely successful in the UK, both hitting #2. The former was a #3 hit in the US as well.

Hopelessly Devoted to You

Songs by other cast members include Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, in which “actress Stockard Channing struts her, um, versatility.” AZ The rest of the soundtrack is filled out by “workmanlike performances” AMG of 1950s’ chestnuts from Sha Na Na. While they are “over-represented,” AZ the soundtrack’s original songs, which “hold up better than the ‘50s tunes,” AMG “are so giddily enjoyable…that everything works.” AMG

‘50s heartthrob Frankie Valli sings the title song, written by Bee Gee Barry Gibb, fresh from his success from Saturday Night Fever. In that movie, Travolta became an internationally-known star strutting his disco white-suit-wearing stuff to four chart-topping songs penned by Gibb. In Grease, Travolta strutted his jeans-and-T-shirt-wearing stuff while dancing with Olivia Newton-John – and four more top five US hits.

Grease

This soundtrack bears several interesting connections to that one. Only three weeks after Fever ended its six-month residency at the top of the US charts, the Grease soundtrack moved in for a summer-long stay. Fever was the best-selling album of 1977; Grease held the title for 1978. Both rank in the all-time top 100 worldwide best-selling albums with estimates as high as 40 million. Both soundtracks are also in the DMDB’s list of the top 50 soundtracks and rank amongst the biggest #1 albums in U.S. and U.K. chart history. Both albums are also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/NARM’s Definitive Albums list.

“The sleek pop production the movie’s soundtrack boasts and the cast’s enthusiastic performances go a long way in making this Grease the definitive Grease.” AMG “This has become a touchstone in American culture.” AZ


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Wednesday, April 26, 1978

The Band’s concert film, The Last Waltz, premiered: April 26, 1978

Originally posted April 26, 2012.

image from soundcheckmusicblog.com

Sparked by a boating accident which left Richard Manuel seriously injured and Robbie Robertson’s desires to stop touring, WK The Band decided in 1976 to call it quits with a farewell concert appearance. It was held on Thanksgiving Day on November 25, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. “Everything about the event was over the top” TB for “this marketing-man’s dream” TB with “a 38-piece orchestra, three teams of ballroom dancers” TB and “more than a baker’s dozen guest stars.” AMG

Director Martin Scorsese filmed the concert and made it into a documentary which also featured studio segments and interviews with the band. Released in 1978, it was “one of the first (and still one of the few) rock concert documentaries that was directed by a filmmaker who understood both the look and the sound of rock & roll, and executed with enough technical craft to capture all the nooks and crannies of a great live show.” AMG

The film is “listed among the greatest concert films. Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Wilmington calls it ‘the greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period.’” WKTotal Film concurs, calling it “the greatest concert film ever shot.” WK It received 36 out of 37 positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for a 97% rating. WK

“The Band are in fine if not exceptional form here; on most cuts, they don’t sound quite as fiery as they did on Rock of Ages, though their performances are never less than expert, and the high points are dazzling, especially an impassioned version of It Makes No Difference and blazing readings of Up on Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Levon Helm has made no secret that he felt breaking up the Band was a bad idea, and here it sounds if he was determined to prove how much they still had to offer).” AMG

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

In the original concert, The Band performed a set and then were joined by a series of guest artists, starting with Ronnie Hawkins, whom The Band used to back. “Ultimately, it’s the Band’s ‘special guests’ who really make this set stand out.” AMG After Hawkins, guest stars included Dr. John, Bobby Charles, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni, Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan.

“It could be argued that you’re better off watching The Last Waltz on video than listening to it on CD, but either way it's a show well worth checking out.” AMG It “remains a landmark not just for its consistently superb music but for…brilliantly manipulative marketing. Sold on the back of one event, we got the triple album, the movie, the home video, the double-CD reissue, the DVD, and the boxset-set four-CD reissue.” TB



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Friday, February 10, 1978

Van Halen released their debut album: February 10, 1978


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Runnin’ with the Devil (5/6/78, #84 US, #52 UK) / Eruption / You Really Got Me (1/28/78, #36 US) / Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love / I’m the One / Jamie’s Cryin’ / Atomic Punk / Feel Your Love Tonight / Little Dreamer / Ice Cream Man / On Fire

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, -- UK, 15.9 world

Peak: 19 US, 34 UK

Rating:


Review: “Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 debut is undoubtedly one of the all-time best debuts by a hard rock/heavy metal band. All of the components for a classic are represented – excellent songs and high-octane performances…are used to create an invigorating, original sound. Like other acclaimed debuts (Led Zeppelin, Are You Experienced?), Van Halen has a raw edge since it was recorded quickly, and every single song is a winner.” AMG

Eruption

“While singer David Lee Roth’s bravado and the steady rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony were both key ingredients, the main attraction was Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing” AMG which “sounds like a cross between an electric guitar and a howitzer.” DV “Few other guitarists have had such an instant impact on a generation of up-and-coming players who copied his unorthodox, kamikaze style – especially…on the album’s legendary solo, EruptionAMG in which he “revolutionized the guitar community by introducing a technique called finger-tapping into the heavy metal lexicon.” AZ

Runnin’ with the Devil

“Even if you don’t like…Roth’s sex god schtick or …Eddie’s…hyperactive hammering…it’s impossible not to rock out to the California quartet’s debut.” DBW “Van Halen amply demonstrate their drive, showmanship, and musicianship throughout.” AZ “Almost all of the tracks…have rightfully become radio staples.” AMG “step back in awe at the sheer savagery with which the band attacks the opener Runnin’ with the Devil.” DV “Feast on the chiming chord shifts and monstrously fat chorus riffs of Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” DV “Cackle with glee at the sassy lyric and effortless virtuosity of I’m the One.” DV

Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

The band also offers a “driving, thrashing, ecstatic take on the Kinks’ classic You Really Got Me,” DV “probably best of a long line of Van Halen covers.” DBW In a completely different vein, they deliver “the lounge-y Vegas start and blistering hard rock finish of Ice Cream Man.” DV Both covers “remain awe-inspiring to this day.” AMG

You Really Got Me

Part of the album’s success is due to producer Ted Templeman. “The sound is marvelous,” DBW “the hooks are huge,” DBW and “the excitement of their live show was captured perfectly.” AMG He “balances massive guitars with a thundering rhythm section…, light but effective use of studio tricks…, and performances that are precise without being clinical.” DBW

Van Halen proved to be the ultimate coming-of-age soundtrack to many a teenager since its release.” AMG It is “one of the ultimate party albums over the years, since the overall mood is excited and celebratory.” AMG “Everyone on the planet should own a copy of this landmark release.” AMG “It forever reshaped the landscape of hard rock – not to mention the repertoire of an entire nation of air-guitar players.” DV


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Saturday, February 4, 1978

Bee Gees hit #1 with “Stayin’ Alive”: February 4, 1978

Originally posted 1/6/2015.

image from 45cat.com


Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”


Writer(s): Barry Gibb/ Robin Gibb/ Maurice Gibb (see lyrics here)

First charted: 10 December 1977

Peak: 14 US, 14 CB, #4 RB, #28 AC, #4 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.25 UK, 4.25 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 55.46


Review: The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack sold 25 million copies on the strength of this and three other #1 songs, making it the biggest album of all-time until Michael Jackson’s 1982 Thriller album. B1-478 For better or worse, there are few songs more associated with disco than “Stayin’ Alive.” HT100

It was written after Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees’ manager, asked the group to create music for a film he was producing that was based on an article in a New York magazine about the club scene in Brooklyn. RS500 Upon hearing the demo of the song, Stigwood wondered why the group wasn’t singing “Saturday Night, Saturday Night.” Maurice Gibb explained that “It’s corny; it’s a terrible title.” BR1-478 “There are so many blood records out there called ‘Saturday Night.’” BR1-478

“Confident, cocky, streetwise and upbeat,” LW-147 the song perfectly complements the movie’s lead character as portrayed by star John Travolta. LW-147 The song was not intended as a single, but after fans saw trailers for the movie, they swamped radio stations and RSO Records with calls for the song. WK

The song was released as the second single, following the group’s blockbuster ballad “How Deep Is Your Love.” The soundtrack also generated number one songs with the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You.” The feat gave the brothers Gibb bragging rights to having penned four chart-toppers in six months. However, Barry could boast an even bigger accomplishment. He shared writing credit on all three of younger brother Andy’s #1 songs from July 1977 to July 1978. This gave Barry seven trips to the pinnacle and a total of 29 weeks in the pole position as a writer in a year’s time.


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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Saturday, January 21, 1978

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack hits #1 for the first of 24 weeks: January 21, 1978

Originally posted January 21, 2013.


Release date: 15 November 1977
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Stayin’ Alive (BEE GEES) (12/10/77, #1 US, #4 UK, #4 RB, #28 AC, platinum single) / How Deep Is Your Love (BEE GEES) (9/24/77, #1 US, #3 UK, #1 AC, gold single) / Night Fever (BEE GEES) (2/4/78, #1 US, #1 UK, #8 RB, #19 AC, platinum single) / More Than a Woman (BEE GEES) (4/8/78, #39 AC) / If I Can’t Have You (YVONNE ELLIMAN) (1/8/78, #1 US, #4 UK, #9 AC, gold single) / A Fifth of Beethoven (WALTER MURPHY) (5/29/76, #1 US, #28 UK, #10 RB, #13 AC, gold single) / More Than a Woman (TAVARES) (11/12/77, #32 US, #7 UK, #36 RB) / Manhattan Skyline (DAVID SHIRE) / Calypso Breakdown (RALPH MacDONALD) / Night on Disco Mountain (DAVID SHIRE) / Open Sesame (KOOL & THE GANG) (10/30/76, #55 US, #6 RB) / Jive Talkin’ (BEE GEES) (5/31/75, #1 US, #5 UK, #9 AC, gold single) / You Should Be Dancing (BEE GEES) (7/5/76, #1 US, #5 UK, #4 RB, #25 AC, gold single) / Boogie Shoes (KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND) (7/10/76, #35 US, #29 RB) / Salsation (DAVID SHIRE) / K-Jee (MFSB) / Disco Inferno (THE TRAMMPS) (3/5/77, #11 US, #16 UK, #9 RB)

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

Peak: 124 US, 118 UK

Rating:


Review: “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

Stayin’ Alive

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.

How Deep Is Your Love

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).

If I Can’t Have You

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

Night Fever


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