Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Champions of 1978

It sure was weird to hear "We Are the Champions" by its lonesome, separated from "We Will Rock You," on Casey Kasem's American Top Forty from February 21st, 1978. It's like hearing "Admiral Halsey" isolated from "Uncle Albert." "We Are the Champions" was at Number Four that week, behind three Bee Gee-heavy products: Samantha Sang's "Emotion," which more or less showcases her playing Merry Clayton to the Brothers Gibb's Rolling Stones; Andy Gibb's "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water"; and the Bee Gees' own "Stayin' Alive," at Number One for the third consecutive week.

The Number One spot would be Gibb-ruled from Christmas Eve, 1977, when "How Deep Is Your Love" took over, through May 20, 1978, when Wings' "With a Little Luck" reached the top slot. Except for a three-week interregnum for Player's "Baby Come Back," Barry Gibb would be instrumental in every song at the Number One spot for six straight months, including those mentioned above plus the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" and Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You," which the three older Gibb brothers wrote. (The Bee Gees' version was the B side to "Stayin' Alive.") If you like string-based disco music underneath falsetto singing with clipped phrasing, this was your Camelot.

That's not my cup of tea, so I'd rather talk about "We Are the Champions." Why, when it's so inextricably linked to "We Will Rock You," was it on the charts by itself? "We Will Rock You" preceded "Champions" on Queen's News of the World, with only a split-second gap between the two, signaling that the two songs were to be played together. "We Will Rock You" was the B side to "Champions," and I certainly recall most radio stations playing the two songs as a single offering.

One source lists "We Will Rock You" as reaching Number 52 on the Billboard Hot 100, which I don't quite understand. It's not like it was the double-A-sided single "Hey Jude"/"Revolution," where the sales were obviously intertwined but the airplay could be tracked separately; most stations were playing the two Queen songs together. I imagine it was quite the headache for the boys at Billboard back in 1978.

6 comments:

Gavin said...

That #52 placement for "We Will Rock You" isn't from 1978; it's from a 1992 reissue of the two songs.

The Billboard rules on how to handle B-sides have changed multiple times over the years; this seems to be a clear error in judgment, though.

My Billboard Top 40 Hits (8th edition) attempts to rectify the error by listing "We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions" as a #4 hit, with this Talmudic commentary:

"We Will Rock You" did not chart; however, it received extensive airplay as both sides were segued together on the album News of the World

T. Nawrocki said...

Thanks for the clarification. My Billboard Top 40 Hits (7th edition) doesn't mention "We Will Rock You" at all.

Rob said...

they rectified this in time for "Bicycle Race"/"Fat Bottomed Girls," which reached #24 as a medley in 1978, although the songs didn't really go together well at all.

it's only now, looking this up, I notice that "Don't Stop Me Now" only reached #86. What the heck happened there? I remembered that song as being MASSIVE on WRKO, but I guess all the Lady Godivas and Mister Farenheits out there weren't buying it.

T. Nawrocki said...

That sounds like the very definition of a regional hit, since I don't think I've ever heard "Don't Stop Me Now." On the other hand, who would have thought "Under Pressure" peaked at a mere 29? That song was inescapable in early 1982.

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