446. ‘When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman’, by Dr. Hook

The pre-penultimate #1 of the decade, then. And what’s this…? More country and western?

When You’re In Love With a Beautiful Woman, by Dr. Hook (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 11th November – 2nd December 1979

At least this isn’t the abrasive, twanging, Lord-have-mercy country style brought to us by Lena Martell. It’s a much softer, disco-edged kind of country. A sort of pop-Eagles. Completely against the grain of what’s topped the charts for much of 1979, but perfectly pleasant.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: When you’re in love with a beautiful woman, It’s hard… (You know it gets so hard…) Well, quite. Stop sniggering at the back, there! Innuendo aside, it’s an interesting concept for a song, and very ‘country’ in the way a good thing – being in love with a beautiful woman – is gleaned for negatives.

You can’t trust your friends around her, you see. You watch her eyes. You wonder who that was hanging up when you answered the phone… Everybody wants her, Everybody loves her, Everybody wants to take your baby home… I like the backing vocalists – You better watch your friends, Watch your friends… – that feel as if they’re whispering devils on the singer’s shoulder.

Actually, though, if you stop and think about it, it’s a little bit sinister. Your lover’s unfaithful, your friends are backstabbers, the world is out to burst your loved-up bubble… Maybe it’s just an ego problem… sing Dr Hook. Sounds like it, yup. It’s a bit of a study in fragile masculinity, really. What’s the solution? Only go for ugly girls…? Be less of a suspicious twat…?

However, it’s easy to ignore the creepy undertones, and to get swept away by this light, fun, fairly inconsequential chart-topper. Dr Hook had been around since the start of the decade, popping up in the charts at regular intervals, before achieving their one and only chart-topper. The band name came from the fact that singer Ray Sawyer wore an eye-patch following a car crash. (Hook – Captain Hook – pirates – eye-patches… get it?)

This was almost their chart swan song – they would have a couple more Top 10s before splitting up in the mid-eighties. And this is almost our seventies swan song: just two more chart-toppers before the decade is out…!

441. ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’, by Cliff Richard

Twenty years to the day from his very first number one hit, ‘Living Doll’, and over eleven years since his last, Sir Clifford of Richard is back, back, back…

We Don’t Talk Anymore, by Cliff Richard (his 10th of fourteen #1s)

4 weeks, from 19th August – 16th September 1979

The first thing that strikes my ears is how modern this sounds – synths are now just an accepted part of the musical landscape – but also how retro. Especially in the verses, it sounds like one of his old rock ‘n’ roll hits dressed up for the late-seventies. Used to think that life was sweet, Used to think we were so complete… he sings over a simple guitar riff, while hand claps enter later on.

It’s a canny move from Cliff and his record label to release a song like this, one that straddles the sort of easy-listening cheese you expect from the man, but that also slots in perfectly with the sound of the time. The chorus is a belter: It’s so funny, How we don’t talk anymore… At certain points in the song I’m getting hints of Billy Joel, then Hall and Oates, but by the chorus Cliff’s giving us pure Elton John: No I ain’t losin’ sleep, And I ain’t countin’ sheep…!

The synths are maybe a bit tinny – though that’s perhaps because I still have the Tubeway Army ringing in my ears – but aside from that I’m not ashamed to admit that this is a tune. I knew it vaguely, because my mum is a big Cliff fan, but had never properly listened to it. Richard sounds like he’s having a lot of fun, and his falsetto after the post-chorus drop is perhaps the best five seconds from any of his fourteen chart-toppers. Damn it… Cliff sounds… Cool! And then the fade-out has actual hard rock guitars. Hard rock. Cliff Richard. What a moment…

I am amazed to discover that he was still only thirty-eight when ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’ made the top. In my mind, Cliff was a teenage idol for a few years, before waking up one day around 1965 as an old man. Anyway, as young as he still was, this record marked a bit of a comeback for him after a decade in which he’d struggled for hits. It was his first Top 10 single since ‘Devil Woman’ in 1976, and is possibly his biggest hit internationally: a #1 across Europe, and a #7 in the US – only his 2nd release to get that high in the States.

Cliff is famous for managing UK number one singles in five consecutive decades – a feat that nobody else has ever managed – but he left it late in the ‘70s. In a nice touch, the record that kept the run going was produced by Bruce Welsh from his long-time backing band The Shadows, with whom he shared so many ‘60s hits. Amazingly, this is the decade in which Cliff has fewest chart-toppers: in both the eighties and nineties he’ll manage two, while his final #1 is another twenty years away. Whatever you think of the man, his beliefs, and his music… There’s no denying his legend.

And there’s no denying that this might be the best of his fourteen chart-toppers. I say that because none of his earlier hits truly grabbed me – though I do like the rockabilly ‘Please Don’t Tease’ and the unashamed cheese of ‘Congratulations’ – and because I know… shudder… what’s to come… Yes, Cliff’s far from done featuring in this countdown; but I will be nowhere near as generous with his final chart-toppers…!

437. ‘Sunday Girl’, by Blondie

Blondie’s second number one sees them sounding much more Blondie. Gone are the synths and disco drums from ‘Heart of Glass’; back come tight, bouncy guitars and a zipalong power pop riff.

Sunday Girl, by Blondie (their 2nd of six #1s)

3 weeks, from 20th May – 10th June 1979

I know a girl from a lonely street, Cold as ice cream but still as sweet… I’d say that this is their forgotten number one, sandwiched as it is between ‘Heart of Glass’ and their three 1980 chart-toppers. It wasn’t even a single in their homeland. Most big bands with a solid run of #1s have one (ABBA recently had ‘The Name of the Game’, there’s Slade ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’, Rod has ‘You Wear It Well’…) But that’s not to say it’s their worst – ‘forgotten #1s’ rarely are.

Debbie Harry’s got some bad news for a girl called Sunday. She’s seen her guy with a different girl. Drama! Maybe he has a girl named after every day of the week… I’m not convinced of her sympathy as she sings Dry your eyes Sunday girl… Beyond that, the story doesn’t really hold together. Lyrically it feels a little throwaway, perhaps down to the fact that Chris Stein chucked it together while on tour, to cheer up Harry after her cat – Sunday Man – had run away.

Her voice isn’t as arresting as it was on ‘Heart of Glass’, but it’s still a wonderful thing. Light and breezy, fun and flirty – I love the Baby I would like to go out tonight… line – and just wait until you hear her sing it in French. ‘Sunday Girl’ works perfectly en Francais; you can just picture Harry flouncing around Montmartre in the video. Plus, this song taught me years ago that ‘depeche-toi’ means ‘hurry up’, so it’s actually quite educational.

Under the bubblegum fluff, it’s worth noting that this is our first guitar led, rock ‘n’ roll chart-topper for quite a while. It’s definitely New Wave – punk distilled into pop – and you could argue that tunes like this are what set a pop-punk template that lasts to this day (see current teenybopper du jour Olivia Rodrigo).

Towards the end things dissolve into handclaps and surf guitars, and it all sounds very early-sixties. Hurry up, hurry up and wait! growls Debbie, sounding like a feistier older sister of the Shangri-Las. This really is a great pop record, and it’s been nice to listen to it for the first time in a while today. Even better is to come for Blondie, though. They’ll be kicking off the 1980s in some style. Till then, then…

424. ‘You’re the One That I Want’, by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

Picture the scene… It’s the last day of high school. A carnival has pitched up on the football pitch, as carnivals do. Rydell High bad-boy Danny Zuko, having ditched his leathers for a Letterman, turns to see his good girl gone bad… “Sandy!?” he exclaims.

For there she stands, head to shoulders in tight, tight black. Hair permed, ciggie dangling from her mouth. Sandra Dee is dead. The Pink Ladies gasp, the T-Birds wolf-whistle… “Tell me about it… Stud!”

You’re the One That I Want, by John Travolta (his 1st of two #1s) & Olivia Newton-John (her 1st of three #1s)

9 weeks, from 11th June – 13th August 1978

This record hit #1 a full seven and a bit years before I was born, but very few of the #1s we have met, or will meet, hit the ‘childhood memories’ button quite like this. ‘Grease’ was my favourite movie as a kid (I would sometimes pull a sickie from school just because I fancied watching it), and I still love it as an adult. I can quote from it like no other movie. “A hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card…”, “They’re amoebas on fleas on rats…” “Maraschino… Like the cherry…”

What’s instantly clear is that this record, unlike some earlier soundtrack chart-toppers, works just fine out of context. The lyrics are stock-standard pop, the music a disco-ish reimagining of fifties rock ‘n’ roll: I got chills, squeals John Travolta in the iconic opening line, They’re multiplyin’!

You better shape up, Cos I need a man, Who can keep me satisfied… I guess you could read this as a feminist statement: little, shy, pushed around Sandy is finally in charge. Except she’s had to change her clothes, her hairdo, and her moral standards to get there. To my heart I must be true… she sings. Really, Sandy? Meanwhile, Danny slings the straight-laced Letterman jumper off before the first chorus hits.

Actually, I love the ending to ‘Grease’. I love that Sandy goes sexy. Good guys (and girls) do finish last! I also love the way John Travolta dances as if he’s been whacked over the head, almost slithering after Olivia Newton-John onto the fairground ride. This is the second #1 of the year to have featured in one of his movies, although he didn’t have any singing duties on ‘Night Fever’. One thing this record is missing, sadly, is his ‘Waaaaah!’ after the Feel your way… line. It’s the little things…

‘You’re the One That I Want’ is not my favourite song from ‘Grease’ – it’s not got the bite of ‘There Are Worse Things I Can Do’, the chorus of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, or the laughs of ‘Beauty School Drop-out’, but I can understand why it was the giant hit, the (almost) closing number released as the movie topped the box-office charts. I can also understand why some people think ‘Grease’ is a terrible film (objectively, it may well be). But to ten-year-old me, fake coughing on the sofa, wishing I were Kenickie (or Rizzo), it will always remain a stone-cold classic.

As with Boney M last time, and Wings not so long before, this is one of the best-selling singles of all time in Britain. The 5th best, to be precise. John Travolta has one of the best singles chart records of all time: he’s featured four times, and two of those songs are million sellers. The second of which, from the very same movie, will be coming along in a tick…

419. ‘Take a Chance on Me’, by ABBA

In which the knock-offs are knocked off by the real thing! Not for the first time, ABBA shunt their own tribute act out of top spot…

Take a Chance on Me, by ABBA (their 7th of nine #1s)

3 weeks, from 12th February – 5th March 1978

And they are back to some pure pop, after a couple of more experimental offerings (‘experimental’ in an ABBA sense: ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’s guitars and ‘The Name of the Game’s funky bass-line) There’s also a hint of the disco-ball about this one, foreshadowing the ‘Voulez Vous’ era that was just around the corner.

If you change your mind, I’m the first in line… The a cappella opening here is one of the band’s most iconic moments… If you’re all alone, When the pretty birds have flown… while Benny and Bjorn accompany with their takeachancetakeachickachanchance backing line.

In comes the beat, and I’ve always loved the parping synths that keep this one rattling along like a locomotive. Agnetha and Frida are leaving their self-respect at the door here, practically begging to be taken back by a man. No fear of sloppy seconds for them! If you put me to the test, If you let me try…

They change tack in the verses, though. Suddenly they’re confident, their voices sultry: You don’t wanna hurt me, Baby don’t worry, I ain’t gonna let ya… I love the breathy asides – Come on, gimme a break honey – and wonder if they hadn’t been taking notes from Baccara (*edit* this was recorded long before ‘Yes Sir…’ became a hit, but let’s not let that spoil a narrative…)

Some more iconic moments from this classic: Agnetha belting out the bridge, the bababababas that see us home, and the split-screen video, which suddenly looks very apt in the COVID-era (that’s one Zoom call I wouldn’t mind being stuck on…) All of which adds up to the band’s 7th and final #1 of the 1970s, taking them just beyond Slade’s six chart-toppers and making them the most successful group of the decade.

Yep, ABBA are about to go on a hiatus from the top of the charts, after having scored six in just over two years. As I mentioned above, in the years following ‘Take a Chance on Me’ ABBA would go full-on disco, and release some of my favourite singles… ‘Voulez Vous’, ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’… They will be back in this countdown though, fear not, having saved the best for last. Until then, then…

418. ‘Figaro’, by Brotherhood of Man

Deep breath… here we go again. For their final chart-topping trick, the Brotherhood do Boney M!

Figaro, by Brotherhood of Man (their 3rd and final #1)

1 week, from 5th – 12th February 1978

Boney M, with a dash of oompah. To tell the tale of a Spanish love-rat. Every morning when the sun is dawning, You’ll see him down on the beach… He’s a lothario, a sleazeball, maybe even a gold-digger… He’s out to make a killing… And baby if you’re willing, He’s gonna ask for more! He sounds a bit like Mozart’s philandering ‘Figaro’, which gives us perhaps the most unlikely musical comparison ever.

This, in case my little taster there didn’t spell it out clearly enough, is tremendous trash. They’ve done it again, Brotherhood of Man: taken the poppiest sounds of the day, and made them even poppier. They did it with bubblegum (‘Save Your Kisses…’), they did it with ABBA (‘Angelo’), and now they’ve done it with disco. To think this knocked off Althea & Donna’s impossibly cool ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ off top spot! Mind you, ‘Angelo’ kicked ‘I Feel Love’ out the way, so they have form in that regard…

Does this mean, though, that I dislike this record? Well, um… no. It’s catchy, dumb, and a whole lot of fun. In fact, I think this is the best of the Brotherhood’s three #1s. And it’s all down to our inveterate shagger. Uh-ho Figaro… He’s got magic-o woah… Playing guitar at the disco bar, he has his pick of the girls. What I don’t understand is why the band are making out that this is a bad thing? Why else do you have a holiday in Majorca, if not for a no-strings roll around with a Figaro?

Before doing this countdown, I of course knew Brotherhood of Man for their Eurovision-winning, million selling ‘Save Your Kisses…’, which still gets a fair bit of play today. I had no knowledge of their two follow-up number ones. I’m amazed they got two more number-ones, to be honest, and suspect that they sneaked these two one-weekers when sales were low. Still, you can only beat what’s in front of you. They remind me of Bucks Fizz, another poptastic Eurovision act who are remembered for their winning single, despite having big follow-up hits. They’ll be along soon enough…

As for Brotherhood of Man, they are still a going concern, despite a brief hiatus in the eighties. All four of the original members are there, in ‘great demand on the nostalgia and the gay circuits’… (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) Add to this the fact that there was a completely different version of the band floating around in the early ‘70s, that had scored a #10 hit in 1970, and there you go. They’re indestructible! Nothing breaks the Brotherhood…’

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/3sSYyPEUCTyMjMlN55z8SX

415. ‘The Name of the Game’, by ABBA

And so we come to what I’m right now christening ‘The Forgotten ABBA #1’. Ask your average Joe on the street to name all of the group’s nine chart-toppers: ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Waterloo’ would all trip off the tongue. But ‘The Name of the Game’? Rather than ‘Voulez Vous’, ‘SOS’ or ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’? Doubt it.

The Name of the Game, by ABBA (their 6th of nine #1s)

4 weeks, from 30th October – 27th November 1977

Still, it got a full month at the top. This was no flash in the pan. ABBA were at the peak of their powers, and this was the lead single off a new album. It slinks in, with a funky bassline and a hint of soul. It doesn’t scream “ABBA!” right away. I’ve seen you twice, In a short time, Only a week since we started…

Agnetha and Frida play the part of two late-bloomers who have finally fallen in love. But they’re not sure… Tell me please, ‘Cause I have to know, I’m a bashful child, Beginning to grow… Does she mean as much to him? Compare and contrast this with Baccara’s brazen come-ons. There was nothing bashful about that pair! So I wanna know, What’s the name of the game…?

Musically, this is complex stuff. We move from that funky opening riff – apparently inspired by Stevie Wonder – to hard rock guitar licks and French horns. Since ‘Dancing Queen’ basically perfected the pop song, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, and now this disc, have been much more experimental. Still, at its heart there lies a classic ABBA chorus. Benny and Bjorn knew that that much was non-negotiable…

Having grown up listening to ‘ABBA Gold’, I was shocked – shocked! – to discover a whole new verse here, plus a lot more guitar. Apparently a minute was trimmed off for US radio, and that version made it onto the compilation. If I remember correctly, ‘The Name of the Game’ came towards the end of Gold, and it never stood out to me as one of their great singles. But I was only thirteen. What do thirteen-year olds know?

Listening to it now, though, I’m appreciating it a lot more. This is Grade-A pop music. Not my favourite ABBA song – they’re still to come, though sadly not all of them will appear at #1 – but a solid eight point five out of ten. Not bad at all, for their ‘forgotten’ number one!

413. ‘Silver Lady’, by David Soul

Barely five seconds into David Soul’s second chart-topper of the year, I decide that I like it more than his first, ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’.

Silver Lady, by David Soul (his 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 2nd – 23rd October 1977

To be honest, that’s more of a comment on the overbearing dullness of the earlier single than the brilliance of this, but still. It intros with a nice, Eagles-esque bassline and riff. It’s funky, and slightly sleazy. It sounds, believe it or not, like the theme-tune to a cop drama… Tired of drifting, Searching, Shifting, From town to town… The lyrics are much more interesting than their predecessor, too.

Then, midway through the first verse, something clicks and the song is suddenly tremendous fun. Suddenly we’re gearing up for an outrageous earworm of a chorus. It’s the horns. It’s always the horns. Come on silver lady, Take my word, I won’t run out on you again, Believe me… It’s schmaltzy, it’s cheesy… It’s stayed with me since I listened to this song for the first time a few days ago…

I love the barroom piano that joins us for verse two, as Soul paints a picture of the sorts of dives he’s been reduced to since getting himself chucked out. Seedy motels, And no-star hotels, Still I had to learn… Most importantly, compared to ‘Don’t Give Up…’, this song doesn’t take itself too seriously. The tongue remains firmly in cheek. It sounds exactly like the sort of song an off duty cop would attempt at a karaoke bar, after a beer or two… (I had to check that the lyrics weren’t: I’ve seen the light, It’s just one more pint without you…)

That was one of my main complaints about his previous #1. For the heartthrob star of an all-action police drama to debut with such an insipid puddle of crap was disappointing. ‘Silver Lady’ is more like it. I’m glad David Soul got this shot at redemption. And he got it just in time, for there were only two further chart hits left in his locker. Since then he’s tended to focus on his acting, though he is semi-retired these days. In 2004, he became a British citizen, perhaps as a way of thanking the nation for making him more than just a one-hit wonder, as he remains in his homeland.

This is one of those songs that, if you listen to it at the right time of day, with the right amount of alcohol in you, you may start to overestimate. I mean, I’m enjoying it; but I’d better move on before I start claiming it as an overlooked classic. Still, the charts need songs like this. Pure, unapologetic pop. More of which is coming up next…

410. ‘Angelo’, by Brotherhood of Man

You’ve got to love how arbitrary the pop charts can be. How utterly unconcerned they are with what came before. From Donna Summer’s thrilling vision of the future; to this. The Brotherhood have returned, whether you wanted them to or not…

Angelo, by Brotherhood of Man (their 2nd of three #1s)

1 week, from 14th August – 21st August 1977

In my post on their 1st number one, ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’, I suggested that Brotherhood of Man had a whiff of ABBA about them. Two boys, two girls, a Eurovision winning song… Well, here they’re not even trying to hide the similarities. It’s ABBA-lite, Bjorn Again with an original song. (And it’s not even that original…)

Can you guess what ABBA song this is heavily influenced by? Long ago, High on a mountain in Mexico… Cue marching drums and folky guitars. We meet a shepherd boy called Angelo, who met a young girl and he loved her so… It’s a Romeo and Juliet story. She’s rich; he’s not. They run away together, forever, avoiding danger, strangers… (the lyrics read like rhyming 101). Until life catches up with them and they kill themselves. Meanwhile the darting pianos from ‘Dancing Queen’ turn up for the chorus.

It is actually quite a brutal topic for a very throwaway song. They saw them lying there, Hand in hand… (They run all the way from the mountains to the sand, just so they have something to rhyme with ‘hand.) I wonder if it was shocking at the time, for a basic little pop group to sing so flippantly about suicide? We had ‘death-discs’ a-plenty in the early sixties, but they all died in car wrecks and plane crashes, not at their own hands…

‘Fernando’ is far from being my favourite ABBA song, so this dodgy knock-off was never likely to grab me. What I will give it is that the female leads – in contrast to the male-led ‘Save Your Kisses…’ – give it their all. A song can be complete crap, but at the same time redeemed by a singer who sounds as if they believe wholeheartedly in said crap.

Amazingly, Brotherhood of Man will be back shortly, for their third and final #1. They really got some mileage out of their Eurovision fame. Equally amazingly, that disc will also be named after another Spanish-sounding hombre, ‘Figaro’. I have never heard it, but will be shivering in anticipation until we arrive.

403. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, by ABBA

Already we reach the mid-point of ABBA’s chart-topping run! Their fifth #1, coming from the same album (‘Arrival’) as both ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Fernando’. Hit packed!

Knowing Me, Knowing You, by ABBA (their 5th of nine #1s)

5 weeks, from 27th March – 1st May 1977

Speaking of ‘Fernando’, the intro to this record sounds like a leftover from that recording session – acoustic guitars and a hint of pan-pipes. Fear not, though, for straight away that funky bass-line comes to our rescue and actually, the nearest comparison from the band’s earlier hits is to ‘SOS’. Power chords and actual hard rock guitars.

No more, Carefree, Laughter, Silence ever after… I’ve mentioned ABBA’s unique brand of English before, and I do love these rhymes that you can see coming from a mile off. Then we get a bit emo: Walkin’ through an empty house, Tears in my eyes… We are a long way from ‘Mamma Mia’s camp exclamations, or ‘Dancing Queen’s affirmation.

Knowing me, Knowing You, There is nothing we can do! It’s a break-up song, but at least it sounds like it’s mutual. A conscious uncoupling, if you will, and the intricate male backing vocals in the chorus do make it sound like a conversation. Breaking up is never easy I know but I have to go… Meanwhile the image of empty rooms in which children used to play is a powerful one.

In fact, it’s an early example of the sorts of songs ABBA would go on to make in the 80s, after their imperious phase and their disco phase. It doesn’t hit as hard as, say, ‘One of Us’, though; because the band had yet to go through their famed break-ups. Agnetha and Bjorn were still together, while Benny and Frida wouldn’t get married until 1978. Perhaps, then, we can say it’s a fictional story about a break up; while those later hits were documentaries.

I have seen ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ on top of several ‘ABBA – Ranked’ articles over the years, which has always surprised me a bit. It’s a cracker of a chorus (I mean, it’s ABBA, duh), but it’s never been my favourite. I have, for example, never really understood the song’s signature hook: the a-haaaaa. What does it mean? What does it signify? Meanwhile, Brits of a certain age will never now be able to listen to this song without picturing Alan Partridge.

Maybe it’s because those writers didn’t want to choose the obvious singles, or maybe the song’s slightly low-key vibe makes it a hipsters’ choice. (Though ‘SOS’ is the true hipster’s favourite ABBA single.) It is not as instant as their earlier #1s, but still a classic. Few bands have runs like ABBA did in the mid-to-late seventies. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ gave them their 4th chart-topper, and their seventeenth week at #1, in little over a year. And they will be back soon enough…