Song of the Day, February 27: You’re No Good by Linda Ronstadt

ronstadtnogoodToday’s song launched Linda Ronstadt’s career as the queen of the chart cover hit. After a solid start with the Stone Poneys, Ronstadt released a string of country-pop albums with moderate success. Her breakthrough album, Heart Like A Wheel, featured a broader mix of sounds tied together by the smart production work of Peter Asher.

As they were wrapping up the disc, Asher suggested that Ronstadt include a song that regularly closed her live shows. You’re No Good was written by Clint Ballard, Jr. in 1963, a soulful takedown of a no-good lover, with the singer recognizing the error of her ways taking up with such a cad. It was originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick; Betty Everett had a Top 5 R&B hit with the song, and the Swinging Blue Jeans went Top 3 in the UK with their interpretation.

Asher and Ronstadt struggled to find the right sound for the song, scrapping the original recording in favor of a dark, haunting rendition. Regular collaborator Andrew Gold layered in moody guitar and keyboard work, and engineer Val Garay made the most of brooding strings arranged by Gregory Rose. Ronstadt turned in a much grittier vocal than usual, nicely suited to the lyrical content. The combined effort resulted in the finest version of the song and Ronstadt’s first Top 10 hit.

It went all the way to #1, setting the stage for a series of well-chosen covers released as Ronstadt singles over the years. In fact, 14 of her 21 Top 40 hits were chart singles for other artists first, although her versions often out-performed the originals.

Enjoy the magnificent moment of classic pop today.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending August 2, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Glory of Love Peter Cetera 1
R & B Closer Than Close Jean Carne 1
Country Nobody In His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her George Strait 1
Adult Contemporary Glory of Love Peter Cetera 3
Rock Higher Love Steve Winwood 3
Album Top Gun Soundtrack 2

doctor_the_medics-spirit_in_the_skyThis week sees an unusual song begin a brief chart return. Norman Greenbaum — a Jewish  psychedelic rocker from Massachusetts — heard Porter Wagoner sing on TV and decided to write a gospel song. While not especially religious, Greenbaum crafted a smart modern spiritual, infusing it with the energy from his rock and jug band roots. The result, Spirit In the Sky, was a smash, peaking at #3 in 1970 and appearing on many best-singles lists over the years. It was also his only Top 40 appearance, followed by two minor hits before his chart career ended.

In 1986, British Glam Rock band Doctor and the Medics recorded a cover of the song. (Curiously, Greenbaum’s first chart appearance was with Doctor West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band…) Their crunchier interpretation entered the Hot 100 at #95 this week. It failed to match the success of the original, peaking at #69 but it topped the UK charts. The Medics never charted in the States again, making this song nearly a double One Hit Wonder.

Song of the Day, July 25: Heart of Glass by Blondie

BlondieHeartofGlassToday’s song took its time taking shape, then paid off big. Blondie founders Debbie Harry and Chris Stein began working on a song called Once I Had A Love in 1974. The band tried a variety of styles, including a reggae feel and a slow ballad, before settling on a more dance-oriented approach. They recorded a couple of demo versions, a slow, funky take in 1975 and a more upbeat approach in 1978. It became known in sessions as “The Disco Song” because of the dance beat that had become a consistent element.

When Blondie entered the studio with new producer Mike Chapman in 1979, he wanted to hear everything they had written. They played him all their new material and he wanted something more. After hearing the Disco Song, he decided it had smash potential. Exactly who decided to amp up the disco energy is a matter of debate, but the result is undeniable. Re-titled Heart of Glass, the surging kiss-off song became a highlight of the band’s finest album, Parallel Lines. It also became Blondie’s first big hit in the U.S., spending a week at #1 in a five-month chart run. The romance that Harry smartly scorns may have been a radio-challenging “pain in the ass” but the single was pure gold.

Enjoy this delightful radio classic today.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending July 26, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Sledgehammer Peter Gabriel 1
R & B Rumors Timex Social Club 2
Country On the Other Hand Randy Travis 1
Adult Contemporary Glory of Love Peter Cetera 2
Rock Higher Love Steve Winwood 2
Album Top Gun Soundtrack 1

RunSmithWalkThis week sees an unsusual collaboration become both a comeback and a breakthrough. Walk This Way has a complicated history. Written by singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry for Aerosmith’s third album, Toys In the Attic the song stiffed as the disc’s second single. A year later, after the Top 10 success of Dream On, the band re-released it and it went to #10. Shortly after that, drug problems and personality clashes sidelined the band for the better part of a decade.

Rap trio Run-D.M.C. picked up the song for their third album, Raising Hell, at the suggestion of producer Rick Rubin. Perry’s instantly recognizable guitar riff made a nice sample, and the speak-sing vocals made a perfect rap. They invited Tyler and Perry to contribute to the track, crafting a smart, delightful blend of rap and rock.

This week, the track debuted on the Hot 100 at #73. It moved into the Top 40 in its fourth week, and a month later peaked at #4. This made it the first Hip-Hop single to crack the Billboard Top 5. It also rejuvenated Aerosmith’s career. Within a year they racked up their third Top 20 single and then launched the most successful run of their chart careers.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending July 19, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Invisible Touch Genesis 1
R & B Rumors Timex Social Club 1
Country Until I Met You Judy Rodman 1
Adult Contemporary Glory of Love Peter Cetera 1
Rock Higher Love Steve Winwood 1
Album The Winner In You Patti LaBelle 1

TimexRumorsThis week sees a One Hit Wonder’s strong chart presence. Timex Social Club began as the Timex Crew, fronted by Marcus Thompson. They were early pioneers of the New Jack Swing sound. After four years and a couple of lineup changes, they recorded their lone album, Vicious Rumors.

This week the lead single, Rumors, topped the R&B and Dance charts. With its distinctive old school hip-hop sound and smart lyrics, it was a big hit, spending two and three weeks at the top respectively. The track moved from #33 to #28 on the Hot 100, on its way to a peak at #8.

Timex Social Club disbanded while their hit was charting; the album spawned two more R&B Top 20s but saw no action on any other charts. Producer Jay King quickly rebounded, forming Club Nouveau. That group capitalized on the New Jack Swing explosion, hitting #1 on the Hot 100 with a cover of Bill Withers’ Lean On Me.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending July 12, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Holding Back the Years Simply Red 1
R & B Who’s Johnny? El DeBarge 1
Country Hearts Aren’t Made to Break
(Theyre Made to Love)
Lee Greenwood 1
Adult Contemporary Your Wildest Dreams The Moody Blues 2
Rock Secret Separation The Fixx 2
Album Control Janet Jackson 2

MoodyWildestThis week sees a veteran band accomplish an unusual chart feat. The Moody Blues formed in 1964 as part of the British blues movement. With lead vocalist Denny Laine (later of Wings), they had a fairly successful start in the UK. Their breakthrough single, Go Now, also hit in the States [#10, 1965]. Laine departed and the band reformed with new members Justin Hayward and John Lodge, who helped move things in a more progressive rock direction.  The lead single from the band’s second album, Days of Future Passed, became their second Top 10, but with a significant delay. Released in 1968, it stiffed in the US, followed by a steady run of six Top 40 singles. Based on that success, Nights In White Satin was released again, going all the way to #2 in 1972. The follow-up, I’m Just A Singer In A Rock and Roll Band just missed the Top 10, landing at #12. After a few more hits, the band went on hiatus. They returned in 1981 with Long Distance Voyager; its first single, Gemini Dream, also hit #12.

This week the Moody Blues finally landed their third Top 10, as Your Wildest Dreams moved from #12 to #9 in its 13th chart week. The band have had exactly three Top 10s, one in each decade of their Hot 100 appearances. Many other long-lasting acts have had hits across the decades, but none with this agonizing precision. Your Wildest Dreams was also their biggest hit on the Adult Contemporary chart, logging its second and final week at #1 as it peaked on the Hot 100.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending July 5, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) Billy Ocean 1
R & B There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) Billy Ocean 2
Country Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold) Dan Seals 1
Adult Contemporary Your Wildest Dreams The Moody Blues 1
Rock Secret Separation The Fixx 1
Album Control Janet Jackson 1

WinwoodHigherThis week sees a chart veteran enter the Top 40 with what would become his first #1. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and keyboard player Steve Winwood first came to prominence with the Spencer Davis Group. He hit the Top 10 twice with that band before he turned 20 — Gimme Some Lovin’ [#7] and I’m A Man [#10], both in 1967. He left the Group and formed Traffic, an impressive band whose successful, jazz-rock albums did not generate hit singles in the US. Brief stints with Blind Faith and Ginger Baker’s Air Force met with similar results. He launched a solo career in 1977, and had his first solo hit in the States with While You See A Chance [#7, 1981]. After a few more years of minor hits, he finally found chart magic.

This week Higher Love, the lead single from Back In the High Life, moved from #47 to #40 in its fourth chart week, becoming his fourth visit to the Top 40. At the end of August, it spent a week at #1, launching the most successful phase of his US Pop career.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending June 28, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 On My Own Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald 3
R & B There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) Billy Ocean 1
Country Living In the Promiseland Willie Nelson 1
Adult Contemporary No One Is to Blame Howard Jones 1
Rock Invisible Touch Genesis 3
Album Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 14

DoubleCaptainThis week sees Switzerland chart one of its few US hits. Double (pronounced with an accent over the “e”) was the duo of Kurt Maloo and Felix Haug. Together with a variety of studio musicians, they recorded light jazz-pop in the vein of Sade. Their second album, Blue, featured their biggest hit.

This week the charming ballad The Captain of Her Heart debuted at #95. It eased up the charts, peaking at #16 in September. Double recorded one more album, but never hit the US charts again, becoming a rare true One Hit Wonder. They were also the first Swiss act to break into the Top 40 and remain the highest charting act from that country on the Hot 100.

 

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending June 21, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 On My Own Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald 2
R & B Nasty Janet Jackson 2
Country Mama’s Never Seen Those Eyes The Forester Sisters 1
Adult Contemporary There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) Billy Ocean 1
Rock Invisible Touch Genesis 2
Album Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 13

BerlinBreathGunThis week sees the 80s soundtrack boom ease an LA band onto the charts with their biggest hit. Berlin had released two albums of edgy synth-guitar pop, charting a handful of minor singles. Disco producer extraordinaire Giorgio Moroder produced their one Top 40 hit, No More Words [#23, 1984]. Longtime Moroder collaborator Harold Faltermeyer was working on the score of the movie Top Gun and enlisted his friend, along with lyricist Tom Whitlock, to write some songs for the soundtrack.

Take My Breath Away, written as the love theme, was intended for the Motels. When that failed to materialize, Moroder offered it to Berlin. They quickly recorded the song, and this week it entered the Hot 100 at #97. After a slow climb, it managed to spend one week at #1 in September, Berlin’s only other Top 40 single. The song also took home an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and Moroder considers it one of his finest works.

Hits from movies were nothing new, but the 80s saw a huge spike in cross-selling soundtracks and films. Footloose and Beverly Hills Cop proved the multi-single viability of the modern popular movie, and things took off from there. This week, fully 10% of the Hot 100 comprised soundtrack hits. All but one went Top 10 and all but two prominently featured the movie title on their sleeves and movie clips in their videos. Besides Berlin, the chart featured

Pos. Song Artist Movie Peak
99 Pretty In Pink Psychedelic Furs Pretty In Pink 41
65 Sweet Freedom Michael McDonald Running Scared 7
40 Glory of Love Peter Cetera Karate Kid II 1
38 Modern Woman Billy Joel Ruthless People 10
32 Love Touch Rod Stewart Legal Eagles 6
24 If You Leave OMD Pretty In Pink 4
22 Danger Zone Kenny Loggins Top Gun 2
9 Who’s Johnny? El DeBarge Short Circuit 3
4 Live to Tell Madonna At Close Range 1

It’s interesting to note that Kenny Loggins’ song from Top Gun, also written by Moroder and Whitlock, got edged out of the top spot (by Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer). Loggins benefited from many movie collaborations, with all four of his solo Top 10s featured on soundtracks, including the #1 title smash from Footloose.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending June 14, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 On My Own Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald 1
R & B Nasty Janet Jackson 1
Country Life’s Highway Steve Wariner 1
Adult Contemporary Live to Tell Madonna 3
Rock Invisible Touch Genesis 1
Album Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 12

BarcharachLaBelleMcDonaldThis week sees a superstar collaboration extend some impressive #1 careers. Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager wrote On My Own for Dionne Warwick’s album Friends. They decided not to use the track and later offered it to Patti LaBelle. The lyrics lent themselves to a duet, so Michael McDonald was brought in. The result was a poignant ballad of separation and resigned determination, making the most of two charmingly distinctive voices.

The song debuted on March 22 and thirteen weeks later eased from #2 to #1. With a three-week run at the top, it became the biggest hit and second Hot 100 chart-topper for both singers. LaBelle spent a week at the top with her eponymous group’s Lady Marmalade in 1975. McDonald hit the peak as lead vocalist of the Doobie Brothers in 1979 with What A Fool Believes.

The success of the single also extended Burt Bacharach’s long run of #1s. It was his sixth, giving him an impressive 22 weeks at the top. When Twista added a sample of A House Is Not A Home to his single Slow Jamz in 2003, Bacharach got one more #1 for one more week.

  • This Guy’s In Love With You, Herb Alpert [4 weeks, 1968]
  • Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, B.J. Thomas [4 weeks, 1970]
  • (They Long to Be) Close to You, The Carpenters [4 weeks, 1970]
  • Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do), Christopher Cross [3 weeks, 1981]
  • That’s What Friends Are For, Dionne Warwick & Friends [4 weeks, 1986]

Carole Bayer Sager co-wrote the last two with Bacharach. She also wrote Leo Sayer’s smash When I Need You with Albert Hammond. When Phil Collins took his cover of the Mindbenders’ #2 hit Groovy Kind of Love (written by Bayer Sager with Toni Wine) to the top of the charts in 1988, it gave her a career total of five #1s for 13 weeks.

On My Own also topped the R&B chart. That gave LaBelle three #1s there for nine weeks and provided McDonald with his lone R&B apex. That’s What Friends Are For spent three weeks at the R&B top earlier in 1986, contributing to both writers’ streaks. Bayer Sager also co-wrote Break It To Me Gently with Marvin Hamlisch, which went to #1 for a week when covered by Aretha Franklin in 1977. Bacharach’s long partnership with Dionne Warwick racked up two R&B #1s in 1964 — Walk On By [3 weeks] and Reach Out For Me [2 weeks] — and Twista gave him two more weeks, bringing his R&B total to five singles for 14 weeks.

Curiously, On My Own failed to top the Adult Contemporary chart, spending two weeks at #2. That’s been both writer’s most fertile ground. Bacharach has logged an astounding 47 weeks at the AC top with 12 different songs; Bayer Sager’s run includes 8 singles for 24 weeks. Their AC streaks include all their Hot 100 #1s except this one, shut out by Whitney Houston’s version of Greatest Love of All. Given the timeless quality of both writers’ work, more chart-toppers could easily extend their streaks.

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