How do 1978 hits from ''Grease,'' the Rolling Stones, and the Commodores hold up today? Whitney Pastorek gives 'em another listen

By Whitney Pastorek
September 05, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Grease: The Kobal Collection

This week in 1978: Rating the top 10 singles

Whitney here, talking to you from the past. I don’t know how everyone responded to the 1995 chart because I’m out of town and wrote today’s chart before I left. Still, I’m sure you were all blown away.

Billboard‘s top 10 from the week ending Sept. 2, 1978:

10. ”Shame,” Evelyn ”Champagne” King
As previously stated, I hold a deep, deep prejudice against the music of this era… but this kind of ’70s groove is something I can get into. It makes me want to shake my hips, which is not something I do well, or often, and sounds to me a little bit like the predecessor to Jamiroquai’s ”Canned Heat,” with those bursts of ”Shame!” Other things working in its favor: I am in a good mood today; I really like that Jamiroquai song; and I’ll listen to someone trying to start a lawnmower if it’s accompanied by a hot, hot saxophone. Only problem: I went looking for the derivation of Ms. King’s hooker-esque nickname, and came up with what I think might be the most poorly written celebrity bio of all time. B+

9. ”Magnet and Steel,” Walter Egan
We’re all thinking the same thing: Hey! This song is on the Boogie Nights soundtrack! But it occurs to me that I never really listened all that closely to poor Mr. Egan during the, like, month and a half I had that CD in constant rotation, so distracted was I by ”Sister Christian” and the all-time greatest song of the ’70s, ELO’s ”Livin’ Thing.” And that’s probably why I never noticed what sounds like a toy piano dinging away in the background of the chorus. I’m sure it’s not actually a toy piano, but that’d be super cool — especially if, when performing this song on Solid Gold or whatever, they’d gotten some dude to dress up in a bright white polyester suit and sit on the shiny floor beneath a spinning disco ball and, with one bejeweled finger, bang out three-note runs on a red plastic piano’s tiny keys. I might rethink my whole position on the ’70s, if that had happened. Also, now we all know where the Divinyls got their idea for the opening of ”I Touch Myself.” B

8. ”An Everlasting Love,” Andy Gibb
Aw. This song is so pathetic. For those of you not schooled in the lore, Andy Gibb was the youngest Gibb; his older brothers were named Barry, Robin, and Maurice, and together they were called… what, class? That’s right! The Bee Gees! As in Saturday Night Fever and ”Talkin’ it up, on The Barry Gibb Talk Show” (still the funniest thing Jimmy Fallon has ever done). But wait, we’re not talking about the Bee Gees — we’re talking about their kid brother, Andy. Sort of like the Janet of the Jackson family, or, worse, the Jamie Lynn of the Spears clan, if Britney was three people. (Actually, keep snackin’, Brit; you’ll get there.) Young Andy’s first album did pretty well, his second album turned out this schmaltz-fest — it’s classic disco lite, but he can’t even be bothered to sing with conviction — and then the rest of his tragic life can be summed up as: drugs, drugs, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Victoria Principal, drugs. And then in 1988, he died of a viral heart inflammation. It’s a horrible story. Actually, in light of that horrible story, I’m gonna give him some bonus credit. Maybe the lack of conviction I hear was actually a breathy attempt at sex appeal. Aw. B-

7. ”Kiss You All Over,” Exile
Wait, wait, wait! Is this ”Islands in the Stream”?? If this isn’t ”Islands in the Stream,” I’m gonna be pissed. Dang. This isn’t ”Islands in the Stream.” But you know what’s interesting about this song, besides the fact that the Bee Gees actually wrote and produced ”Islands in the Stream”? Everyone writes ’70s music off as tackiness/Satan incarnate, but if you really listen close, you can hear the creative seedlings of decent artists in this stuff. I guess the producers of the ’80s and ’90s had to be influenced by something, and I guess an Exile song was it: There’s a smidge of U2 in the vocals, there’s some INXS in the drama of it all, there’s even a little Prince in the production, if you’d allow me to be so bold. Of course, it goes the other way, too: Exile totally ripped off the guitar part from ”You Sexy Thing.” And I still wish it was ”Islands in the Stream.” B

6. ”Miss You,” Rolling Stones
Nothing wrong with this at all, just your classic post-Exile on Main Street, pre-corporate-sell-out rock & roll with a disco bass line and, yes! Saxophone! And… hang on… harmonica? Saxophone and harmonica in the same song? Oh, Rolling Stones. You are too good to me. A-

5. ”Hopelessly Devoted to You,” Olivia Newton-John
Heads up: I am not going to evaluate the two Grease songs on this countdown objectively, so please don’t write in. I love Grease. I have loved Grease from the moment we first met, at (here comes another one of those stories) summer camp, oh so many years ago. You see, once a session, we would have ’50s Night, and as a kid that meant dressing up in a poodle skirt made of forest green felt (a poodle skirt my mom and I had made with our own little hands), and a white T-shirt whose sleeves I would roll up (one around a pack of bubble-gum cigarettes), and white Keds that I’d colored in with marker to look like saddle shoes, and the silkiest, smoothest ponytail that I’d force my hair into all year long. And I would put on pink lip gloss that I borrowed from one of the girlier girls in my cabin, and stick about six pieces of Super Bubble in my mouth, and I would head out to jitterbug and twist the night away in the gym while the boys mostly sat off to the side playing with pieces of hay left over from Western Night. But the highlight of the night would come during the Fonzie and Peggy Sue look-alike contest, when one girl and one guy from every cabin would stand up in front of the whole camp and they’d vote by applause who best dressed the part. And then the winners — invariably an oldest girl and youngest boy, or vice versa; no one ever wanted to see two people of the same age together — would move out to the center of the gym for their ”Spotlight Dance” to this song. Which now that I think about it was kinda weird, seeing as how neither Fonzie nor Peggy Sue were in Grease. A

4. ”Hot Blooded,” Foreigner
It doesn’t get much more straightforward than this: Lou Gramm is hot-blooded. Like, 100 degrees! And he’d like to have sex with you, provided (1) you don’t mind cheating on your significant other; and (2) you can get out of the house without your significant other noticing. Hey, that’s rock & roll for ya, and I think the moral of the story is that one really shouldn’t listen to the lyrics all that much, because really, they’ll just make you giggle. Anyway. Maybe we can all hang out later on the bus? B

3. ”Boogie Oogie Oogie,” A Taste of Honey
Once again: I hate disco. I really do. I’m trying so hard to get past that, but all the sound effects and that repetitive beat to which there is nothing one can do but point the finger up and then point the finger down… ugh, if I’d been able to walk for more of the ’70s I would have been really annoyed. And this is my least favorite kind of disco song: the nonsense lyric. Unlike our friends in Foreigner, Taste of Honey don’t much want to come right out and talk about the sex. They’re shy. So they’re gonna talk about ”dancing” instead, and oppress their… What? This song is actually just about dancing? For real? Oh. Hold on, lemme listen to it with that in mind.

Hey! This is a really good song! Could my position on disco be softening? How does one do the Electric Slide, again? B+

2. ”Three Times a Lady,” the Commodores
Ow. Ow. Shoot me now. Just kill me, just put me out of my misery, and take Nicole Richie with me. (Shouldn’t be hard; she doesn’t weigh a lot.) The only redeeming thing about this song, in my opinion, is Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat version. It is so slow, and so freakin’ maudlin, that it’s like cough syrup is dripping out of my speakers and coating my desk with its sticky, somnabulent drool. Lionel Richie has always held a special place in my heart — mostly because of ”Dancin’ on the Ceiling” and that amazingly stalkeriffic ”Hello” video — and the non-Lionel Commodores don’t even bother me all that much (can I get a holla for ”Nightshift”?) except for the fact that one of them, William King, is the father of the most obnoxious Real World cast member of all time (egobomb Adam, from the Paris season). But this song. THIS SONG. It makes me want to put an ice pick through my hand. Or Lionel’s hand. Someone’s hand. And it just GOES ON. FOREVER. WHY is it SO. SLOW. And look: I am as much of a feminist as the next gal, but I am only one time a lady, and barely even that, and so the exaggeration is just unnecessary. Just one lady. That’s all you need. Bad song. Bad, bad song. D

1. ”Grease,” Frankie Valli
See above. Grease is the word, people. Sure, it’s disco, and I hate disco, but at the end of the ”Hopelessly Devoted to You” spotlight dance, they’d crank this up, and the whole place would go nuts, and we did this little sort of lasso-lasso-gun-gun-front-front-back-back line dance, and those are happy memories, ya know? I think if you hate this song — regardless of your feelings about this poor, tortured time in music history — you might not have a soul. A