Sunday, October 21, 2018

My Heart Stays Cool

Bruce Springsteen may have written "Fire" for Elvis Presley and Robert Gordon may have recorded it first, but it was The Pointer Sisters who scored a US#2 hit with the tune, their first Gold single. It was released in October of 1978. If you're keeping score, Manfred Mann's Earth Band hit US#1 with "Blinded By the Light", a Springsteen song; the Sisters hit US#2, and Patti Smith hit US#13 with Springsteen's "Because the Night".  The Boss has so far only peaked at US#23 with "Born to Run".

Bruce had recorded "Fire" for Darkness on the Edge of Town, one of more than 50 songs for the album but when he trimmed the songs down to those that fit thematically, "Fire" was out. On tour in '78, Springsteen played fiery versions of both "Fire" and "Because the Night". So there. 

The next time he wrote a song for somebody else, it was a little tune called "Hungry Heart" for The Ramones. This time Jon Landau convinced Bruce to keep it for himself. Good call. "Hungry Heart" hit US#5 in 1980.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Wrong Things Right

In October of 1978, Stiff Records released 16 year old Rachel Sweet's debut album, Fool Around. Recorded four weeks after her mother died of cancer, the child prodigy joined the Blockheads in the studio, singing four lead vocals in the first hour. Later Graham Parker's horn section played on some of the tracks. The album sounded good but Stiff didn't hear a single. Producers visited second hand record stores looking for ideas and came up with two possibilities: Dusty Springfield's "Stay Awhile" and Carla Thomas's "B-A-B-Y".  Sweet and the band recorded both  just a few night before the record went to press. "B-A-B-Y" became a UK Top 40 hit.

Sweet would earn a fortune as executive producer of TV shows like Dharma and Greg and Hot in Cleveland. In 2010 she sold a home she bought from Madonna for nearly $5 million.

Friday, October 19, 2018

I Found a Shining Star

Six years after writing and singing lead on The Edgar Winter Group's Top 20 hit "Free Ride", Dan Hartman returned to the charts with "Instant Replay", one of Disco's most infectious pop singles. Is this the biggest hit ever recorded in Connecticut?  In October of 1978 "Instant Replay" entered the UK charts at #72 on its way to becoming a Top 10 hit. 

The somewhat silly music video features Hartman on keyboards,  future Saturday Night Live  music director and Hall and Oates bassist G.E. Smith ( This was his big break), future KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent and Sparks drummer Hilly Michaels ( a few year before he began living with Marianne Faithfull). The song would also reach US#29 in 1979.

In 1984 Hartman would enjoy his biggest single, the US#6 hit "I Can Dream About You". He also wrote "Living in America", a US #4 hit for James Brown. A closeted gay man, Hartman was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980's and died in 1994 at age 43.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Little Driving on a Saturday Night

In 1978 Sniff n The Tears released the single "Driver's Seat". One of the all time perfect pop sings, it would take an entire year, until the Fall of 1979, before it would peak on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at US#15. (In November of 1980, the song would hit the Top 10 in The Netherlands). They may have been one hit wonders, but singer Paul Roberts had a second talent he could rely on,as a visual artist. Roberts painted all the band's album covers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Alter Your Native Ulster

On October 17, 1978 the Belfast punk rockers, Stiff Little Fingers, released "Alternative Ulster", their second single. The song offers Belfast youth a third choice between the republican and loyalist paramilitaries: punk rock. Irish journalist Henry McDonald recalls getting stopped by police with his punk rocker friends. After taking their names and addresses, and learning the friends came from all corners of the sectarian-divided city, they shook their heads in disbelief.

Many of those punks would go on to become politically active, helping to facilitate the reconciliation that would happen with the Good Friday agreement two decades later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Gonna Raise a Holler

In October of 1978 The Flying Lizards released their debut single, a laconic reading of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". 1978 was a great year for eccentric covers. Devo's version of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" first comes to mind. Then there's the Talking Heads cover of "Take Me to the River", Sid Vicious's "My Way", The Jam's "David Watts", Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone". Siouxsie and the Banshees's "Helter Skelter". The Flying Lizards would follow the laconic post rock formula to Hitsville in 1979 with "Money".

Monday, October 15, 2018

So Hard to Beat

On October 15, 1978 The Undertones debut single "Teenage Kicks" entered the U.K. charts at #75. As the story goes, the first time the legendary DJ John Peel heard the song was the time he spun the record on air. He liked it so much he reportedly burst into tears and then played the song again. He would eventually declare "Teenage Kicks" the perfect three minute pop song and have the opening lines chiseled on his gravestone.

The drummer's intro, the raving guitars, Feargal Sharkey's quivering tenor and the very teenage boy attitudes about new girls in the neighborhood. It all adds up to a great song. Sounds declared "Teenage Kicks" the sixth best single of the year, but the song did not make any NME lists.

By this date in 1978 The Northern Irish band had signed with Sire Records who immediately launched the single from an otherwise unremarkable EP. "Teenage Kicks" peaked at UK#31.