Radio Hits of 1979: Believe It or Not

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In 1979, before anyone had come up with the concept of reality TV, home fixer-upper TV show, This Old House, had its debut on PBS.

It was a big year for debuts: Kids everywhere rejoiced as McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal; the portable cassette player, the Sony Walkman was introduced; and ESPN launched to its 1.4 million viewers.

The U.S. Embassy in Iran was invaded beginning a hostage crisis that would last 444 days. Pink Floyd released The Wall.

And on Chicago’s Top 40 powerhouse WLS, classic rock and disco were sharing the airwaves on the year’s biggest hits, as we count down.

Singer Nicolette Larson‘s first single, a cover of Neil Young’s “Lotta Love,” was also her biggest hit. Although it only reached #8 in the U.S., it was WLS’ #40 biggest song of the year.

Van Halen‘s first big pop hit, “Dance the Night Away,” reached #15 and would remain the biggest pop song that they wrote until five years later when they scored with 1984’s #1 smash, “Jump.” “Dance…” was the year’s #35 biggest.

Of all of Bad Company‘s pop radio hits, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” is their third biggest, peaking at #13, and trailing only “Can’t Get Enough” (#5) and “Feel Like Makin’ Love” (#10).

Australia’s Little River Band were a ubiquitous presence on the Hot 100 with 10 U.S. Top 20 singles from 1977 to 1982. “Lady” was WLS’ 26th-biggest hit of the year.

Jeff Lynne churned out hit singles as well as anyone. Did you know 1979’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” was the Electric Light Orchestra‘s highest-charting U.S. single? It reached #4 and was #24 overall for the year.

Toto enjoyed three Top 5 U.S. hits including their first, “Hold the Line,” at #21.

The Bee Gees had two big hits this year: “Tragedy,” at #32 and “Too Much Heaven” (#19). Even more impressive? The two songs were part of a streak of six straight #1 U.S. pop singles for the trio.

Then just 29 years old, Billy Joel released “My Life,” the first single from 52nd Street. The song was just the second of his 13 Top 10 hits.

Earth, Wind & Fire released “September” in November 1978. The smash became one of the group’s eight #1 R&B hits and #18 on WLS for all of 1979.

“Heartache Tonight” became Eagles’ fifth (and final) #1 hit. The song was the first of three singles released from The Long Run.

The Pointer Sisters tied for the biggest hit of their career with their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” The song reached #2 and was the year’s 16th-biggest.

The first of 12 Journey singles to reach the Top 20 was “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” Although it only reached #16 nationally, WLS had it as their #15 song of the year.

Chic scored two of the year’s biggest: “Good Times” and “Le Freak” were both #1 pop and R&B smashes. The former was the year’s 28th-biggest; the latter, with Bernard Edwards’ killer bass line, was #14.

Somehow the Cars‘ “Let’s Go” only reached #14 on the weekly chart. Not so at WLS, which had the first single from the band’s Candy-O album at #13 for the year.

If you knew Blondie earned four #1 pop singles, raise your hand. The memorable “Heart of Glass” was the first.

Supertramp‘s biggest U.S. hit was “The Logical Song,” #9 for the year and the first of three big singles from 1979’s Breakfast in America.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Breakfast in America

Styx were in the midst of a serious roll. Their “Renegade” was #27 for the year. “Babe,” their only chart topper, was the year’s 6th-biggest.

We can’t ignore Donna Summer, who was as big a recording artist as there was in 1979. “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff” were two of here three #1 singles released that year, and WLS’ #25 and #5 for the year.

Cheap Trick enjoyed their biggest hit up until this point with the live (at Budokan) version of “I Want You to Want Me.” Though the song reached “just” #7 nationally in its biggest week, WLS wore the single out by the Illinois natives, as it was the year’s 4th-biggest.

With Michael McDonald taking over for Tom Johnston as the Doobie Brothers‘ primary vocalist, the band enjoyed a resurgence on the charts. “What a Fool Believes” earned them their second #1 single and was #3 overall for the year.

Related: We spoke to McDonald about how he came to write the song with Kenny Loggins

The often mispelled “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” proved that radio listeners couldn’t get enough of Rod Stewart. The dance floor smash was #2 for the year and remains one of the songs most closely associated with the star.

At #1? The Knack had the kind of debut that most bands can only dream about. They had the year’s #33 song with “Good Girls Don’t.” But it was their debut single, “My Sharona,” that put the power pop group at the top. They couldn’t survive the hype, however: their Get the Knack debut album was designed to resemble a certain Capitol Records labelmates’ cover. They even followed in the Beatles’ footsteps by playing New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Sadly, it was the beginning of the end for the Los Angeles band.

Related: The 11 #1 albums of 1979

40. “Lotta Love” – Nicolette Larson (Warner Bros.)

39. “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge

38. “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” – Rupert Holmes (Infinity)

37. “A Little More Love” – Olivia Newton-John (MCA)

36. “Makin’ It” – David Naughton

35. “Dance the Night Away” – Van Halen (Warner Bros.)

34. “Shake Your Body” – The Jacksons (Epic)

33. “Good Girls Don’t” – The Knack (Capitol)

32. “Tragedy” – The Bee Gees (RSO)

31. “Knock on Wood” – Amii Stewart

30. “Shake Your Groove Thing” – Peaches & Herb

29. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” – Bad Company (Swan Song)

28. “Good Times” – Chic (Atlantic)

27. “Renegade” – Styx (A&M)

26. “Lady” – Little River Band (Capitol)

25. “Bad Girls” – Donna Summer (Casablanca)

24. “Don’t Bring Me Down” – Electric Light Orchestra (Jet)

23. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Charlie Daniels Band (Epic)

22. “Y.M.C.A.” – Village People (Casablanca)

21. “Hold the Line” – Toto (Columbia)

20. “Too Much Heaven” – The Bee Gees (RSO)

19. “My Life” – Billy Joel (Columbia)

18. “September” – Earth, Wind & Fire (ARC/Columbia)

17. “Heartache Tonight” – Eagles (Asylum)

16. “Fire” – Pointer Sisters (Planet)

15. “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” – Journey (Columbia)

14. “Le Freak” – Chic (Atlantic)

13. “Let’s Go” – The Cars (Elektra)

12. “Rise” – Herb Alpert (A&M)

11. “Heart of Glass” – Blondie (Chrysalis)

10. “Reunited” – Peaches & Herb

9. “The Logical Song” – Supertramp (A&M)

8. “Sad Eyes” – Robert John

7. “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor

6. “Babe” – Styx (A&M)

5. “Hot Stuff” – Donna Summer (Casablanca)

4. “I Want You to Want Me” – Cheap Trick (Epic)

3. “What a Fool Believes” – Doobie Brothers (Warner Bros.)

2. “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” – Rod Stewart (Warner Bros.)

1. “My Sharona” – The Knack (Capitol)

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