Top 5: Between the Lines
Big records, little holes--here are the top five albums on the Billboard chart, 30 years ago today. All of them held the Number-One spot at some point. This is the order they were in on September 9, 1975.
5. The Heat Is On/Isley Brothers. Despite making the original recordings of the rock classics "Twist and Shout," "Shout," and "This Old Heart of Mine," despite scoring 36 Hot 100 hits in a lengthy career, the Isley Brothers were, by the mid 1970s, selling far more albums than singles. The Heat Is On featured the top-10 hit "Fight the Power," which was one of only three top-10 hits the Isleys ever managed. Pop quiz: Can you name the other two? Answer below. Hint: None of them was "Twist and Shout," "Shout," or "This Old Heart of Mine."
4. One of These Nights/Eagles. Three great singles--"One of These Nights," "Lyin' Eyes," and "Take it to the Limit"--but not much else that's memorable. Not as good as its predecessor, On the Border (which featured such non-45 classics as "James Dean" and "Ol' 55"), and not as monumental as what would follow it, Hotel California.
3. Between the Lines/Janis Ian. In an era when singer-songwriter confessionals were common, "At Seventeen" was one of the most unusual, and its honesty resonated with millions of young women. It singlehandedly propelled Between the Lines to the top, as nothing else from the album made the singles chart.
2. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy/Elton John. I've said it before and now I'm saying it again: This is the best album Elton John ever recorded, a song cycle about the struggles of aspiring musicians. Despite the fact that it didn't include "Philadelphia Freedom," Elton's monster 1975 single, it was the first album ever to debut at Number One, and it did so in an era when this wasn't as common as it is now. For good measure, Elton would do it again less than six months later with Rock of the Westies.
1. Red Octopus/Jefferson Starship. The retooled Jefferson Airplane first appeared with Dragon Fly in 1974, but this album, featuring the sensuous "Miracles" and the equally great but lesser-known "Play on Love," was their breakthrough record. Although they kept moving further and further from their psychedelic San Francisco roots, they'd remain consistent hitmakers for the next decade plus.
Pop quiz answer: In addition to "Fight the Power," which reached Number 4, the Isley Brothers' other top-10 singles were "It's Your Thing" (#2, 1969) and "That Lady" (#6, 1973). Of the Brothers' 36 Hot 100 hits between 1962 and 1981, only seven others made the Top 40. That essentially means they got lots of airplay on black pop stations, and not as much on white pop stations.