40 Christmases ago in Chicago: The WLS Top Forty-Fives, December 23, 1978

WLS 12-23-1978

(Above: Clearly, someone was keeping score at home.)

Christmas 1978 would have placed me in the fifth grade at Helen Keller Elementary School in Tinley Park, Illinois. The upcoming year would see me start to pretend that I was on a radio station for a class assignment; this career aptitude (or ineptitude) would not be explored until much further in the future. By age nine I had my own basic stereo system in my room, which was a far cry from the kiddie phonograph and transistor radio that I had been using. I started to spend more time listening to the radio as well, and certainly remember a good number of the songs turning up on the list.

WLS was still doing well in the Top 40 realm at this stage. What was big forty years ago?

45. Alice Cooper – “How You Gonna See Me Now.” I have to admit I didn’t get the whole Alice Cooper thing as a kid. I don’t know that I do as an adult, either.

44. The Rolling Stones – “Miss You.” WLS did not play the 8 minute version that we occasionally threw on at WCFL-FM/Morris.

43. Gene Chandler – “Get Down.” The Duke of Earl goes disco. I have no recollection of this one.

42. Elton John – “Part Time Love.” I recall the big deal about this album, A Single Man, was that Elton’s on the cover wearing contact lenses. This one I still dig out every once in a while and am surprised I don’t hear more often.

41. Walter Egan – “Magnet and Steel.” When I started in radio it seemed like every station I worked for played this record a lot. It’s been a few years since I’ve heard it.

40. Donna Summer – “Last Dance.” How many stations that switched to all-disco in 1978 and 1979 ended with this song when they later changed to something else?

39. Stones – “Beast of Burden.” WLS always maintained a rock edge, no matter what else was going on in pop music. That’s two for the Stones already.

38. Funkadelic – “One Nation Under a Groove.” Damned fine segue.

37. Toto – “Hold the Line.” I think this was on every 38 minutes at WERV/Aurora when I was there, and that was probably my fault.

36. Gil Scott Heron – “Angel Dust.” Whoa (checks list). No, it’s on there. Years before Grandmaster Flash warned about “White Lines,” GSH was on the case. (This was on last week too, lest you think it’s just a quick add.)

35. Captain and Tennille – “You Never Done It Like That.” Another damned fine segue, and the sound of this screams my parents’ hi-fi in the living room, tuned to an AC station. I have to admit, it’s kinda catchy, isn’t it? We’ll label this one “in which Toni gets a little dirty.”

34. Gerry Rafferty – “Right Down the Line.” I’m good on this one thanks to Sirius XM playing it ad nauseum.

33. John Paul Young – “Love Is In the Air.” Another guilty pleasure. A lot of disco hasn’t aged well, but this one – at least in my mind – has. This was still getting play when I got to New Zealand in 1994.

32. Earth, Wind and Fire – “September.” Worth hearing, and not just on 9/21 each year. Besides, the video is a thing of beauty.

31. Queen – “Bicycle Race/Fat Bottomed Girls.” I don’t recall the second one getting much airplay, which I would think I would, since to a nine year old a song about big butts would be hilarious. I more remember the first part, which doesn’t get much play anymore.

30. Firefall – “Strangeway” (sic). Here’s another one that I can’t recall the last time I heard it.

29. The Who – “Who Are You.” Edited, of course.

28. Heart – “Straight On.” I stand by a comment I made here elsewhere: 70s Heart? Yes. 80s Heart? No.

27. Cheryl Lynn – “Got To Be Real.” I think I can only sing about three words of this one, and they’re from the chorus. It still sounds pretty good.

26. Taste of Honey – “Boogie Oogie Oogie.” If I recall correctly, this group won Best New Artist for 1978. Their career was shorter than it took me to type this. That said, you certainly know this record.

25. Chaka Khan – “I’m Every Woman.” This must be the danceable portion of the playlist.

24. Styx – “Blue Collar Man. And, now we stop dancing and get back to work.

23. Foreigner – “Hot Blooded.” This is the part of the list I would have probably liked a little more at the time. We’re still seven months from Disco Demolition in Chicago, but we can see the camps forming on this playlist. Let’s be fair: this song is no less inane than any disco selection on this list, and in some cases more so.

22. Alicia Bridges – “I Love The Night Life.” I remember this one from ads for the film “Love at First Bite” starring George Hamilton as Dracula hanging out in night clubs. I think that film needs a re-release for its 40th. (I completely forgot that Arte Johnson and the Jeffersons were in it.)

21. Little River Band – “Reminiscing.” They name check the Miller Band. Glen or Steve?

20. Barry Manilow – “Ready to Take a Chance Again.” There were several Manilow 8-tracks in my parents’ stash, all of them long gone. I don’t think this was on any of them, but it was from a movie: Foul Play, starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. Laugh it up: that was the #12 movie at the box office that year, just behind Up In Smoke.

19. Dr. Hook – “Sharing the Night Together.” Another good-sized AC hit that you don’t hear much anymore.

18. Kenny Loggins – “Whenever I Call You Friend.” Another one with Stevie Nicks on backup vocals. It also sounds great coming out of a jingle.

17. Chicago – “Alive Again.” This marked Chicago’s regrouping after the death of Terry Kath. The sound wasn’t quite the same again, as the band got softer and softer through the 80s.

16. Al Stewart – “Time Passages.” Except when Stewart sings it, the second word of the title is about four syllables long.

15. Andy Gibb – “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away). This one’s not bad, now that a little time has allowed the rotation to slow down.

14. Foreigner – “Double Vision.” I think everything from this album got played.

13. Foxy – “Get Off.” You don’t know it by the title, necessarily, but you know it from the first whoop.

12. The Village People – “Macho Man.” Ah, yes. It’s time for this phenomenon that was 1979 to begin. It’s on the way down the chart, but – don’t worry – the song where you make letters is looming in the distance.

11. Gino Vannelli – “I Just Wanna Stop.” This is the part of the list where I point out the amazing variety that Top 40 used to be.

10. The Village People – “Y.M.C.A.” You were warned.

9. Exile – “Kiss You All Over.” I’m just noticing now how many “dirty” songs there are on this list (this, “Get Off,” even Captain and Tennille). It wouldn’t be until The Knack released “Good Girls Don’t” that WLS would pass on one (unless there’s a story from behind the scenes that I don’t know, and there probably is).

8. Ambrosia – “How Much I Feel.” This seems like a song for grownups by comparison.

7. Anne Murray – “You Needed Me.” Now THIS looks out of place on this list, but we quickly forget that Anne sold a veritable shitload of records, making this list a roller coaster. When’s the last time you heard this on the radio? This was a national #1 record.

6. The Bee Gees – “Too Much Heaven.” You thought there’d be a WLS list from 1978 without these guys? No chance.

5. Billy Joel – “My Life.” The 52nd Street album got a lot of play in my house. Quick: name the television show that used this as its theme? Hint: the actors went on to do something better. The answer is here.

4. Chic – “Le Freak.” Freak out.

3. Donna Summer – “MacArthur Park.” This song has always fascinated me, in the sense of “How did this happen?” The original Richard Harris version, a #2 hit, was eight minutes long.  Not to be outdone, the full Summer version clocks in at over seventeen minutes. WLS did not feature that one. We also don’t get the striped pair of pants in her version, which is a glaring omission.

2. Nick Gilder – “Hot Child In the City.” Down from #1 last week, this is one that I’ll still play a little more loudly than I should.

And, at the top this week… brace yourselves… it’s Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond together on You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” Blame radio for this one. Each of them did the song separately, and a disc jockey somewhere mashed them up long before mashups were a thing. (I recall hearing the combined version on Wally Phillips’ the Roy Leonard show on WGN on my parents radio, but I can’t imagine that they created it. Edit: see comment below – perhaps they did.  Thanks, Wm.) The popularity sent them back to the studio, and the resulting recording went to #1 across the country. Again – when’s the last time you heard this one on the radio anywhere?



5 thoughts on “40 Christmases ago in Chicago: The WLS Top Forty-Fives, December 23, 1978

  1. Casey gave credit to Gary Guthrie, a program director at WAKY in Louisville, and played the mashup on the 12/16/78 show (think I’ve heard it in the last 2-3 years, but it’s also mentioned in Pete Battistini’s book on the 70s shows). But Wikipedia also gives big props to Roy Leonard and Peter Marino of WGN for creating their own spliced version, helping to popularize it/make Diamond & Streisand come together for an actual duet.


    • Wm. – I appreciate the info and stand corrected. We did listen to a lot of Roy Leonard in my house, and that’s probably where I heard it. It looks like maybe they did make one? (I recall it had both singers doing the full vocals, not necessarily trading lines.) Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was eleven years old in 1978. Around the time this chart came out, I listened to Top 40 radio pretty regularly – both pop and R&B. I remember every song on this list, with the exception of Alice Cooper.

    As God is my witness, I don’t recall ever hearing the Gil Scott-Heron tune on WLS. I heard it all over the soul stations like WVON and WBMX, but not Musicradio 89. I wasn’t shocked that a song about PCP made it to a Top 40 station. I was more taken aback by the fact that at least one white pop station somewhere was playing anything by Gil Scott-Heron!


  3. Pingback: Rest in peace, Darryl Dragon: The Captain and Tennille, “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” (1976) | 45 Ruminations Per Megabyte

  4. Re: lrb. Besides Glenn Miller, Cole Porter gets name checked, too.

    I saw the “Little River Band” earlier this year, or late last year. Well, sometime in recent memory.

    They were darn good, for a tribute band. These guys weren’t even Australian. Evidently, one person controls the name, and he won’t rent it out to the original members.

    The problem is we paid lrb prices for a lrb tribute band.


What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.