Joel Goldenberg: The 1970s top-10 hits review part 19

Glenn Frey and Don Henley during a 1977 Eagles concert.

We now resume our survey of the top-10 hits, but this time just two bands.

The Eagles: When it comes to determining which was the most successful group of the 1970s, names like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Three Dog Night come up — but their hits were mainly in the early 1970s. The top-10 hits of the Eagles, on the other hand, spanned the entire decade and, of course, their first greatest hits collection is the best selling album in the United States. The reason, their songs — whether in their initial laid-back country style and even when they rocked out – were melodic and very easy to listen to, although some critics accused them of misogyny in their lyrics. Their first hit, Take It Easy, only hit #12, but it has an instantly appealing sound with Glenn Frey's excellent vocals and a charge-ahead harmonic sound which was a favorite of mine to sing at karaoke. Witchy Woman, the first top-10, likely brought about the firt misogyny accusations, and surprisingly, the next two hits — Tequila Sunrise and Peaceful Easy Feeling, only hit #22 and #64 respectively, although they are also two of the 10 tracks on that initial hits collection. The group got the message to cool it with the laid-back sound and started to rock out with Already Gone, but that only hit #22.

And then, in late 1974, one heck of a hit streak. The Eagles became ultra slick and perfectionist, and Best of My Love, One of These Nights and Lyin' Eyes hit #1, #1 and #2 respectively, and those successes likely propelled the sales numbers of that first hits collection.

Fans consider the band's Hotel California album to be the band's artistic peak in terms of its portrait of California excesses, and that resulted in four hits — the title track and New Kid in Town hit #1, Take It To The Limit hit #4 and Life in the Fast Lane got to #11.

As fans also know, it took a long time (by 1970s standards) for the extremely perfectionist band to come up with a follow-up album, and increasing band tensions and drug habits hardly helped. A stand-alone holiday single, a cover of the rhythm and blues song Please Come Home for Christmas, hit #18. When the LP The Long Run finally came out in 1979, it was a bit of a letdown after Hotel California, but it still produced big hits— Heartache Tonight at #1, and the title track and my favourite Eagles song I Can't Tell You Why both at #8. But still, as with other songs from the end of the decade, the hits did not feel as "warm" as those from earlier in the 1970s, perhaps because of the onset of punk or just fatigue from the band after a tumultuous decade. The band, temporarily, split up not long after the release of The Long Run.

I'm glad I got to see the Eagles a few years ago at the Bell Centre before Glenn Frey's passing, and former member Don Felder at an edition of Maimonides' Battle of the Bands at the venue formerly known as the Metropolis.

Earth Wind and Fire: In terms of artistic proficiency, and top-10 success, EWF could almost be seen as the soul music version of the Eagles, and not because of their proximity in the alphabet and in this week's column.

While my favourite EWF song is I Keep On Lovin' You, it was recorded well before their big hits began, uniquely had a female lead vocal and sounds nothing like their best known songs.

EWF's big hits were also slick in a positive artistic way, especially the #1 Shining Star, which has an amazing a capella ending, kind of like the Doobie Brothers' big hit Black Water. The excellent slickness, thanks much to producer and group creator and member Maurice White, continued with Sing A Song (#5), the Beatles' cover Got To Get You Into My Life (one of the few saving graces of the otherwise disastrous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club movie soundtrack that featured the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton) (#9), September (#8), the "supergroup" hit Boogie Wonderland (sung with the female soul group The Emotions) and the Chicago-sounding After the Love Has Gone. Yet, my favourite song from this period, Fantasy — which has an amazing musical intro and to me is the band's peak artistically— only hit #32.


Next time: Dave Edmunds and others.

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