Joel Goldenberg: The 1970s top-10 hits review part 11

Harry Chapin during a 1981 concert.

We now resume with Retro Roundup's evaluation of the top-10 hits of the Billboard U.S. charts from the 1970s, from artists and groups beginning with the letter C:

Harry Chapin: The late Chapin's vocal stylings and long story songs (especially the grating chorus of WOLD) are not my favourites among 1970s artists and songs, but the #1 Cat's in the Cradle has his best vocal and is a fairly compact story song advising parents not to be too busy to spend time with their kids, or it might come back to bite them.

Cheap Trick: This edgy rock group from the late 1970s was highly acclaimed for their amusing image (two typical-looking rock stars, two untypical-looking rock stars) and intelligent songs. Their one top-10, the live I Want You To Want Me, sounded Beatle-esque not only musically but aurally — thanks to the screams from the Japanese audience at the Budokan.

Cheech and Chong: This stoner duo was huge in the 1970s, scoring with comedy, music parodies and a series of movies. Their one top-tenner, Earache My Eye, is an amusing and very entertaining hard-rock number. I prefer their comedy track, Sister Mary Elephant (about a harried substitute teacher), which hit #24, but it's a little hard on the speakers.

Cher: Cher, in her solo career apart from her then-husband Sonny Bono, was a huge success in the 1970s, thanks to songs produced by veteran Snuff Garrett. Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves has a wonderful urgency about it, Half-Breed is an effective anti-racism song and Dark Lady is an interesting revenge story song — all three of these songs hit #1. The Way of Love, which hit #7, is a bit dull in comparison, and the disco song Take Me Home, which hit #8 in 1979, sounds a bit too much like France Joli's Come to Me. I heard the latter song first but it seems Cher's song was recorded earlier.

Chic: Along with Giorgio Moroder with Donna Summer and the king of disco extended mixes Tom Moulton, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic were the royalty of disco, and gave the genre an excellent name. The latter's group, Chic, had four top-10 hits, Dance, Dance, Dance, Le Freak, I Want Your Love and Good Times, and all remain timeless, especially the latter as it was partially appropriated for Queen's Another One Bites the Dust and especially the Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight.

Chicago: This horn-driven rock group was massive in the 1970s, and I divide their top-tenners into three phases. The first phase included Make Me Smile, 25 or 6 to 4, Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is, Beginnings (I prefer the more exciting single edit to the full LP version) and Saturday in the Park, and had more of a rock edge, partially thanks to leader Terry Kath's amazing guitar work. The second phase, including Feelin' Stronger Every Day, Just You 'n Me, (I've Been) Searchin' So Long, Call On Me and Old Days trod the line between rock and pop, and to me is their artistic peak. The third phase, including the ornate ballads If You Leave Me Now and Baby, What A Big Surprise, are pure pop and completed the ascendance of singer Peter Cetera to the hit forefront. The third phase is the one I first heard in the 1970s, and so I have a special affection for those songs. (Note: the first phase of Chicago's hits had a strange chronology — some songs from their first album were released as singles after songs from their second album.)

Next time: The Chi-Lites and others.

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