AT40’s Top 100 of 1978

The year-ender featured this year by Premiere Networks in their 70s series is that of 1972. This goes back in time a bit farther than some stations would prefer, so there’s also an alternate (“B”) offering from 1978.  I wasn’t able to catch any of that B show this weekend, but I can still share what I wrote down 40 years ago. It was the first time I had made a serious, systematic effort to predict the order of the year’s top hits.

My model was pretty simple. I used only the countdowns between 11/5/77 and 10/28/78, what I understood to be the “chart year” for compiling the list (we’ll see that seems to be an error). I assigned 40 points for each week a song spent at #1, 39 points for #2, etc., on down to 1 point for a week at #40 and then added ’em all up. (I honestly don’t know now whether I included the “frozen” 12/31/77 chart, but I’d guess not.) Let’s take a look, starting with the first half originally broadcast on 12/23/78.


And here’s what was spun on 12/30/78:


I think there are two main sources of discrepancy between predicted and actual positions on this chart.

1) To a reasonable extent, my idea of how to compute “points” was on the mark–the AT40 staff during this period did the same thing, but instead used the data from each song’s entire ride on the Hot 100: 100 points for #1, 99 for #2, etc. (At least, that’s what I’ve learned from someone who seems very credible on a message board I regularly read.) That would explain why Eruption (who spent 22 weeks on the Hot 100), LeBlanc & Carr (28 weeks) and to a lesser extent Robert Palmer (18 weeks) are all here when I didn’t think they would be; it almost certainly accounts for various other songs I projected too low, such as the Meat Loaf (23 weeks), Peter Brown (28 weeks) and Sweet (25 weeks).

2) It feels like 11/5/77 was a week or two to early to start my counting, based on how I was too high on several songs on the charts at the end of 77. This includes tunes from Rita Coolidge, Linda Ronstadt (both of hers), Crystal Gayle, Dolly Parton, and LTD (though issues related to my first point may be involved as well). On the other hand, “You Light Up My Life” wasn’t impacted like the others, so who knows. On the back end of the time period, Alicia Bridges and Foxy appear to have gotten a boost from an extra week or two of chart action (though “I Like the Night Life” and “Get Off” were both slow climbers); this seems to be the case for Exile near the top, too. (Edited to add: the poster at ye olde message board also noted bonus points being awarded for weeks at #1, which would have helped “YLUML” and “Kiss You All Over.”)

On the whole, my method did a decent job approximating songs in the top 20 (“Baker Street” and “Can’t Smile Without You” sure feel too low, however). Unfortunately, I don’t appear to have kept any records of my computations (pretty unusual for me, I know), so I can’t tell you what songs I had predicted to appear that didn’t.

I did work on some refinements to my methodology as time passed (especially in 1981), but the same two problems (not thinking about/having access to Hot 100 data and getting the chart year wrong) would continue to plague me. You’ll see some of that someday, I bet…

Thanks so much for dropping by and reading some of my ramblings this past year; I wish all of you a prosperous 2019!


3 thoughts on “AT40’s Top 100 of 1978”

  1. I’ve heard the 1978 year-end AT40. They’d expanded to four hours by then because songs got longer. Cramming 100 songs into 8 hours means the show is essentially edited highlights of the top songs of 1978. Almost everything is cut.


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