Forty years ago in Chicago: The WLS Top 45s, April 1, 1978

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(Above: No one has ever doubted this claim.)

April Fool’s Day 1978 would have been at the end of fourth grade for me. By this time I was starting to add my own records into the pile of vinyl that I had inherited from my parents (written about variously here and here, among other places). Some of those records that I bought – or taped off of the radio, in a fit of being underemployed at nine – are on this singles list. There are others here that I simply don’t remember at all, and others that I know I didn’t have any appreciation for at the time but found that they grew on me later.  That’s usually how popular music works for me: there’s a comfort in being slow to react, playing the same songs over and over again, and then a few decades later thinking “Y’know, this wasn’t so bad.”  (I imagine at some point in the future I’ll be in a rest home someplace trying to make the argument in favor of Mumford and Sons.)

In any case, let’s see what’s on the list forty years ago this week:

45. Styx – “Come Sail Away.”  This one holds a special place at Grand Valley State University.  Before I taught here, it was used for a lipdub video.  (Remember those?) Note: Some of these songs were also on the WLS list I did back in January, and therefore some of the same jokes apply.  You can find that post here.

44. Foreigner – “Long Long Way From Home.”  I would have taken to this one much later, and I think I dubbed a copy into the automation system at 95.9 The River many years ago.

43. Peabo Bryson – “Reachin’ For The Sky.”  I remember nothing about this song.

42. Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams – “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.”  This is the fun of Top 40 in 1978.  You could hear this and Foreigner in the same set.  For some reason I remember this being on the jukebox at Figaro’s Pizza in Tinley Park and getting played by old people, now defined as “people about ten years younger than I am now.”

41. War – “Galaxy.” Nothing here, either.  My tastes in April of 1978 were running pretty white.

40. Con Funk Shun – “Ffun.”  See above.

39. Art Garfunkel – “Wonderful World.”  Even at age 9 I knew I preferred Sam Cooke.

38. Rita Coolidge – “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”  More remakes? Between this and all the Shaun Cassidy stuff, this is how I became an Oldies nerd.

37. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – “Bootzilla.”  This one, you could give me thirty chances, and I wouldn’t be able to hum it.

36. Debby Boone – “You Light Up My Life.”  This thing spent far too much time at #1 in 1977, and I know there’s at least three copies in my stash.  You can’t avoid it: buy a cache of 45s from anyone, and a copy of this will be stuck in there somewhere.  People will go out of their way to be rid of it.

35. Shaun Cassidy – “Hey Deanie.”  Guilty.  Bought this and the Born Late LP.

34. Odyssey – “Native New Yorker.” It wasn’t until many years later, working on-air at WYSY, the all 70s station in Chicago, that I was reminded of this one.

33. Brick – “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody.” See, here’s where a well-thinking adult could have pointed me towards this and away from “Hey Deanie.”

32. Yvonne Elliman – “If I Can’t Have You.”  One of many from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  This also sounds fantastic coming out of a jingle, and if you can use the whole intro, you can sound, well, a little like Landecker.

31. Bob Welch – “Ebony Eyes.”  This is another one that sounds great coming out of a jingle.

30. Belle Epoque – “Miss Broadway.”  This one is not ringing a bell at all.

29. Electric Light Orchestra – “Turn To Stone.” The older I get, the more appreciation I have for the production skills of Jeff Lynne.

28. Peter Brown – “Dance With Me.”  Ah, disco.

27. Rod Stewart – “You’re In My Heart (The Final Acclaim).” You cannot help but sing along with the final chorus, and you sound no worse than the record when you do.

26. Enchantment – “It’s You That I Need.”  No one remembers this one.  Wow.

25. Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway – “The Closer I Get To You.”  See above, “jukebox at Figaro’s.”

24. Steely Dan – “Peg.”  I did not appropriately get this band at nine.  By the time I saw them live, at age 24, it made a lot more sense.

23. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “What’s Your Name.” On the heels of the tragic plane crash that ended this band’s string of hits, there they were on the Big 89 in the middle of the disco revolution.

22. John Williams – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” This is a 45 I had and played quite a bit, and one that I can’t imagine sitting all the way through now.  Years ago they hooked up an outdoor warning system on the GVSU campus – the kind for severe weather and such – and someone played these five notes through it.  It was hilarious.

21. Lou Rawls – “Lady Love.” You play Lou, and I will try to sing along.  It’s the law.

20. Heatwave – “Always and Forever.” The memory here is the Tinley Park Roller Rink, summer of 1978, on a trip there with the Tinley Park-District day camp.  Girls were still yucky – at least to me – but for the older kids, this was six minutes of skating and holding hands. It gave me unfettered use of the pinball machine for a while.

19. Kansas – “Dust In the Wind.” Possibly controversial remark: I have yet to meet anyone who truly likes this record.

18. Stargard – “Which Way Is Up.”  This triggers absolutely nothing.

17. Jay Ferguson – “Thunder Island.” For some reason this was in the rotation at WJEQ/Macomb in 1990, and I may have played it more than I should have.  Sorry, guys.

16. Randy Newman – “Short People.”  Yes, I had a copy of this single, and yes, I thought it was hilarious. Today, I don’t think that the record gets made.

15. Parliament – “Flashlight.”  I was not cool enough for P-Funk at nine.

14. Player – “Baby Come Back.” This song has been ruined by the commercial with the abandoned, stalker-y mop. Thanks, commerce.

13. Natalie Cole – “Our Love.”  For as many Natalie Cole records as I can think of, this one doesn’t trip a trigger at all. Clearly, it’s getting a lot of airplay.

12. Bee Gees – “How Deep Is Your Love.” There was no avoiding these guys in the spring of 1978, and the records have – dare I say it – held up better than we thought they would.

11. Queen – “We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You.”  I am typing this the way it appears on the WLS Survey, but I can say that I have never heard the two songs in this order.  I can’t imagine doing so even on April Fool’s Day.

10. Eric Clapton – “Lay Down Sally.” Have I mentioned how great the variety is on this list?

9. Raydio – “Jack and Jill.” This is another great record with a big ol’ intro that a clever jock could put to great use.  I almost want to go and find some headphones and see what I can do with it.

8. Dan Hill – “Sometimes When We Touch.” This one falls into the “yucky” category at age 9. I vaguely remember this being the subject of a bit on SCTV (Canadian Content and all), but I’m fuzzy as to the premise.

7. Chic – “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Yowza, yowza, yowza.  We’re good here.

6. Billy Joel – “Just the Way You Are.” OK – it’s a gross love song, but The Stranger 8-track got so much play in our house that I didn’t notice it being gross.

5. Barry Manilow – “Can’t Smile Without You.” There are a lot of Manilow records that – I have to admit – put a smile on the face. I defy you to play “Copacabana” or – better yet – “It’s a Miracle” and not enjoy yourself.  This one, though?  Not so much.

4. Andy Gibb – “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water.” I missed commemorating the 30th anniversary of Andy’s death, when the wiseacres at WLRA answered the phone all day by saying “WLRA – Andy Gibb is dead,” because we were assholes. The Gibb game is strong on this chart, as it was for most of 1978.

3. Bee Gees – “Night Fever.” I think this was the #1 song on the year-end countdown on New Year’s Eve, but am looking for a copy of it to confirm.

2. Samantha Sang – “Emotion.” This should read “Samantha Sang with the Bee Gees Singing Backup,” since they were, and it’s as much their record as hers, hence the #2 spot.

And, at #1 – it’s … more Bee Gees. “Stayin’ Alive” is at #1 for the eighth consecutive week. I’d try and approximate how many times WLS played it, but we’re out of bandwidth.

2 thoughts on “Forty years ago in Chicago: The WLS Top 45s, April 1, 1978

  1. I happen to have a copy of the Big 89 of 1978 in my collection. Here’s the Top 10.

    1. Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
    2. Boogie Oogie Oogie – A Taste Of Honey
    3. You’re The One That I Want – Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta
    4. Night Fever – Bee Gees
    5. Emotion – Samantha Sang
    6. Kiss You All Over – Exile
    7. Shadow Dancing – Andy Gibb
    8. Miss You – Rolling Stones
    9. Three Times A Lady – Commodores
    10. We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions – Queen

    Notice they have the Queen song listed correctly on the end of the year countdown. I’m thinking the reason it was listed the other way around is because the 45 had Champions as the “A” side and Rock You as the “B” side.


  2. I was ten going on eleven when this chart came out. That year, I was all about the Top 40. There’s only four songs here I don’t remember from back then – Foreigner, Rita Coolidge, Enchantment, and Brick. Then there’s another subset of songs that I certainly remember, but don’t recall hearing them on WLS. That would include War, Bootsy and Belle Epoque (which I remember more from the R&B stations like WJPC, which was the next station on the AM dial at 95), as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “What’s Your Name,” which I remember from The Loop, soon to take over the AOR scene.


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