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Pop CultureSeptember 21, 2017

Chartlander: The dynamite singles chart the day Winston Peters first entered parliament

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Every week Chartlander travels back through time, landing in a different year on the official New Zealand singles chart in the hopes of (re)discovering forgotten Top 40 gold. Today we continue our tour of classic general elections at the start of Winston Peters’ career in parliament.

The date is May 24 1979, and today, six months after the 1978 general election, Winston Raymond Peters has finally become a Member of Parliament. The National candidate for Hunua filed an electoral petition which today was upheld by the High Court to overturn the election night victory of his opponent, Labour’s Malcolm Douglas (Roger’s brother). This marks the beginning of one of the longest and most colourful careers in New Zealand politics.

The 34-year-old Peters is entering Parliament to an absolutely dynamite soundtrack. May 1979 sees the disco era at its absolute peak, with massive hits from acts like CHIC, Cheryl Lynn, Pointer Sisters, Earth Wind & Fire and Gloria Gaynor. There are Doobie Brothers, Talking Heads, Jacksons and three tracks from the Bee Gees’ buzzy Spirits Having Flown LP.

‘Baby It’s You’ by Promises, ‘Knock On Wood’ by Amii Stewart, ‘Car 67’ by Driver 67. If it is true that a politician’s favourite music is the official singles chart from the week they entered parliament, then Winston Peters surely has the best record collection in the Beehive.

☝️ Number One

Blondie – ‘Heart Of Glass’

Combining a Moroder-inspired disco sound with Blondie’s new wave pop sensibilities, ‘Heart Of Glass’ is a song for the times, and the perfect soundtrack for the ascension of Winston Peters to a seat in the New Zealand parliament.

Cover alert: In 2014 Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen recorded a cover of ‘Heart Of Glass’ with dance producer Bob Sinclair.

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#5: Doobie Brothers – ‘What A Fool Believes’

Correctly considered by some to be the greatest song in the history of recorded music, ‘What A Fool Believes’ stands as the clear pinnacle of the Doobie Brothers’ outstanding catalogue. Co-written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, it is a perfect showcase for McDonald’s distinctively smooth, soulful vocals as well as featuring the best known example of the elusive ‘Doobie bounce’ courtesy of the band’s extraordinarily slick rhythm section. The only song to have recorded a perfect 100.0 on the Gene Yachtski scale.

#21: Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman – ‘Stumblin’ In’

Winston Peters has described “stand-up rock ‘n’ roller from way back” Suzi Quatro as one of his favourite artists, and it seems no coincidence that she features in this week’s singles chart. Her duet with RAK label-mate Chris Norman from the band Smokie is a catchy mid-tempo song of young love, a kind of spiritual prequel to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Islands In The Stream. The first line, “Our love is alive, and so we begin,” can easily be misheard as “Our love is a lie,” giving the song a beautifully dark twist for those who want it.

#24: Sister Sledge – ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’

This chart is dominated by disco heavy-hitters, and none hit heavier than CHIC’s 1-2 of ‘Le Freak’ and ‘I Want Your Love’. ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ was also written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, and was originally intended as a CHIC single before being given to Sister Sledge, for whom they wrote and produced the We Are Family LP. Like everything the pair did during this period, it is an all-time classic belter of a tune.

Sample alert: ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ has been sampled by a number of artists, most notably Will Smith on his 1997 single ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It’.

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#8: Plastic Bertrand – ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’

Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand had an international hit with this catchy glam-punk pastiche, although it was later revealed that he didn’t sing on the recording and only got 0.5% of the song’s royalties. The real singer was the song’s producer Lou Deprijck, who has claimed it took just two hours to record the song and its flip (originally the A-side) ‘Pogo Pogo’. While the title translates to ‘Everything’s going fine for me’, the lyrics are mostly gibberish; ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’, an English-language version using the same backing track, was recorded by an artist called Elton Motello around the same time.

Cover alert: This song has been covered several times; the best was recorded by Sonic Youth in 1992.

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#17: Elton John – ‘Song For Guy’

The final track from Elton John’s 1978 album A Single Man, ‘Song For Guy’ is notable as one of the few songs written by John without lyricist Bernie Taupin. The mostly instrumental piece only has one line, “Life isn’t everything,” which is repeated towards the end. The song was inspired by Elton John imagining himself dying; spookily, he later found out that his 17-year-old messenger boy Guy Burchett had been killed in a motorcycle accident the same day the song was written.

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#15: Tina Cross – ‘Make Love To Me’

More Mills & Boon than PornHub, Tina Cross’ subtle disco hit ‘Make Love To Me’ is still fairly erotic as far as New Zealand singles go. It will remain New Zealand’s leading song about ‘making love’ until the late 1990s when pop group TrueBliss sing the unforgettable line “tonight’s the night we make love ‘til the end” on their debut single ‘Tonight’.

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Total this week: 1

Tina Cross is the sole Kiwi flagbearer this week.

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Doobie Brothers – ‘What A Fool Believes’

Perfect song, perfect cover art.

Previous episodes of Chartlander:

#6: November 29, 1975

#5: October 12, 1996

#4: October 27, 1990

#3: June 14, 1984

#2: November 27, 1999

#1: August 10, 1991

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