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This week in '77: Lots of disco, and Shaun Cassidy

How do 29-year-old hits by Shaun Cassidy, the Commodores, and Carly Simon hold up today? Whitney Pastorek gives ’em another listen

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Shaun Cassidy
Shawn Cassidy: Everett Collection

This week in ’77: Lots of disco, and Shaun Cassidy

I’ll be honest, Flashbackers: I was a little dismayed when so many of you confessed not to recognize last week’s hits. But I’ve chosen to forgive you, and take the advice of a commenter named Carolyn who suggested I find out what happened to the songs in that Top 10 as the days went by. It turns out ”Don’t Worry Be Happy” — which, lest we forget, is off the soundtrack to Tom Cruise’s classic Bollywood love story Cocktail — was in its final week on top, to be replaced in quick succession by ”Love Bites” and then ”Red Red Wine.” Both Taylor Dayne and Peter Cetera took their mediocrities and dove back down the charts, the songs never to be heard from again. The entire group of songs would soon all be wiped away by Phil Collins’ ”Groovy Kind of Love,” as well as another song from Cocktail: ”Kokomo,” by the Beach Boys. And based on those songs and their common theme of syrupy sweetness, I can only presume the answer to my question from last week is that we were all suffering from some sort of national brain hemorrhage in the fall of 1988. I can also assure you that we’ll be revisiting this year sooner rather than later, because in about five weeks, the No. 1 song is Escape Club’s ”Wild Wild West,” and I don’t think I could actually be more excited.

Billboard‘s Top 10 hits for the week ending Oct. 8, 1977:

10. ”I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” Andy Gibb
I gave ”An Everlasting Love” a B- when we looked at 1978, and I think that may have been generous; still, I’m going to try to find something redeeming in young Andy’s personality-free voice this time. I guess the best thing I can say about the chorus of this song is that he at least manages to approximate his older brothers and their infamous squawk. ”Ah!” he says, ”Ah just wanna be your everything!” Well, Andy, Ah just want an unlimited supply of soft-serve ice cream coming out of my refrigerator door, but we can’t always get what we want, can we? B

9. ”Brick House,” Commodores
Many of you are no doubt familiar with this song, as it is a well-known and much-beloved party anthem. But did you know the meaning behind all the ow!ing and trumpet blaring was boobs?? There was a time when I did not — I never stopped dancing long enough to hear the line ”The lady’s stacked, and that’s a fact” — and I have this horrible memory of being at a party when a friend of mine who was DJ’ing dedicated this song to me, and I got all confused. Okay, it wasn’t a party, it was ’70s night at summer camp, and the DJ was a staff member I had a small crush on, but still: I got very, very upset. I thought he was implying that I was somewhat square, and also slightly mannish… and, well, he may have been. But according to at least one of the many definitions of the term ”brick s—house” (yeah, that’s what the song is really about; why do you think there’s that pause in the lyrics?), he may also have been calling me totally hot. I sure do wish I knew which one it was. I think the lesson to be learned here is that we should all educate ourselves before we dance, because unsafe song dedications can really do a number on your mind. Know your lyrics, people. Protect yourself. A-

8. ”Cold as Ice,” Foreigner
Okay, I’ve now listened to this song five times, and it’s not getting any better, or any worse. It just is. It is ”Cold as Ice,” and it doesn’t change. The piano is repetitive, it’s all kind of one big chorus, the lyrics aren’t quite as lame as ”Hot Blooded” but they’re still not anything terrific, and anyway, half of what makes ”Hot Blooded” awesome is its lame lyrics. The only part I really like here is when the background voices do their nifty ”Cold (cold) [cold]… As (as) [as]… [(Ice!)]” thing. Also, can we talk real quick about how I am just now realizing that a month ago I wrote about the chart from Sept. 2, 1978, and who were the artists on that chart? Andy Gibb. Foreigner. The Commodores. That’s a little weird. Dear The Late ’70s: You seem like you’re in a rut. Have you tried changing your hair color? B-

7. ”Boogie Nights,” Heatwave
Lemme see if I’ve got this straight: So there’s a band and a song called ”Heatwave,” and a song and a movie called ”Boogie Nights,” but neither the song nor the band called ”Heatwave” is on the Boogie Nights soundtrack, and neither is the song from which the movie takes its name? Dude, that is deep. But not as deep as this song — I mean, how many layers of crap can you put on one tune before it collapses under its own weight? Just when I thought I’d dealt with the fairy harps and chimes at the top, then made it through the jazz-improv bit that kicks off the main theme, fended off the super-excited background singers, brushed off the giant hippopotamus who implores us to keep on dancin’… they’re gonna throw some theremin or recorder or whatever the hell that is in there, too? Gracious. There’s even a party-time ending, where everyone is so excited to be hitting the roller derby or wherever the boogie nights traditionally happened that they start talking to each other before the music has actually finished. This song is epic. This is the Lord of the Rings of disco songs. B

6. ”Best of My Love,” Emotions
Wait. But this song is on the Boogie Nights soundtrack? Come on, The Late ’70s — get it together! I actually really like this song a lot, especially the high harmonies on ”Love has kissed me in a BEAU-tiful way.” They’re very empowering and really lock in the disco freshness. Now I sort of want to march down the pavement in my high heels and swing my pocketbook in a sassy manner, because I am woman! I am a brick house, dammit! A

5. ”That’s Rock n’ Roll,” Shaun Cassidy
Do you know what was a really good TV show? Invasion. I loved the whole aliens-among-us premise, and I’d pay to watch Bill Fichtner try and untangle Christmas lights. But alas, just as the conspiracy was picking up steam, ABC had to go and cancel it. (To make room for what? Sure, The Nine looks good, but I’d like to throw Six Degrees and Brothers and Sisters back, please. Also, thanks a lot for canceling My So-Called Life.) Now Shaun Cassidy — who created Invasion in what can best be described as his third career chapter, after ”Pop Star” and ”Hardy Boy” — is left with nothing. Well. Not quite nothing. Just the memories of his long-ago fame as the ’70s’ most successful purveyor of updated ’50s rock & roll — a fame that, while it never quite approximated his brother David’s, still managed to be better than, say, Andy Gibb’s. I really like Shaun Cassidy. And he was using a full 52-piece orchestra to record the score for Invasion every week, which, in this era of digital fakery, is a pretty rare occurrence. Bonus points for that, I suppose. B

4. ”Nobody Does It Better,” Carly Simon
Ugh. Carly, I love ya, but this was not your finest hour. (Your finest hour, FYI, was your gut-wrenching version of ”Not a Day Goes By,” off 1981’s Torch.) I find it a little flat. People might wanna argue this, but the way she goes sliding around the chorus just sort of irks me, and doesn’t give me a very Bond-y feeling at all. Oh, that’s right, kids: This was the theme to The Spy Who Loved Me, starring Roger Moore. Can you believe that? I don’t know about you, but I was raised to believe that Bond theme songs should be big pyrotechnic affairs, involving flashpots and scantily clad women. You know, ”View to a Kill”! ”The Living Daylights”! ”Live and Let Die”! By comparison, this sounds like the 10 o’clock number from a dinner theater somewhere in Poughkeepsie.
….
….
Okay, after further review, ”The Living Daylights” is a really horrible song. B-

3. ”You Light Up My Life,” Debby Boone
I’ve been handing out a lot of B’s today. I wonder why? It’s not that I’m feeling particularly charitable, or that my hatred of the ’70s has diminished at all. It’s just that this assortment of songs is fairly unobjectionable. It’s as though, despite being in a rut, The Late ’70s had at least figured a couple things out and was only accepting the very finest in musical cheesery. But then. Oh, then we come to this song. And what can I say about this song? It reeks of ruffled collars and soft focus and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and me trying to use this pen right here to pry out my ear canal. It does not give me hope to carry on. It also gives me a whole new appreciation for the work of Amy Grant, for some reason. C-

2. ”Keep It Comin’ Love ,” K.C. & the Sunshine Band
This song has always worried me a little. It’s like the edgy, cosmopolitan people who implored us to shake shake shake and get down tonight have been replaced by the cast of Up With People. Seriously — it sounds like they just stuck a microphone in the Up With People rehearsal room and asked everyone to gather ’round and sing the same six lines over and over again. At least you can dance to it. In fact, the ”Don’t stop it now / Don’t stop it no” rhythm seems tailor-made for one of those disco moves where you roll your hands and then stick a foot out to the side and snap down towards the floor. You know: ’70s dancing. It just keeps repeating ”Keep it comin’ love” forever and ever because everyone in the ’70s was on drugs and would just keep doing the hand-rolling-step-snap dance forever if you didn’t tell them to stop. And that, children, is why I don’t do drugs: I don’t want to get trapped in a matrix where I think this is a good song. C+

1. ”Star Wars Title Theme,” Meco
Speaking of good songs! Yes, you’re reading your computer screen correctly: The No. 1 song for this week in 1977 was a disco version of the Star Wars title theme, titled, creatively, ”Star Wars Title Theme.” Does it get any better than that? I am listening to it right now and I have a grin on my face that is so big I think my ears are going to fall off. But I’m also trying to think of a modern equivalent to this phenomenon, and the best I can come up with is that unfortunate trend that started in the ’90s (or maybe before?) when radio stations decided to put clips from movies into soundtrack songs and play that version instead of the unadulterated song. So, like ”My Heart Will Go On” featured Kate Winslet telling Jack she’d never let go, ”Secret Garden” had us at hello, etc… is that kind of the same? Or is this just a disco version of the Star Wars theme song and I should stop trying to draw any kind of parallel because it simply cannot be done? A