Richard is a freelance writer and blogger who enjoys all forms of entertainment, including movies, music, and television.
The UK's Top 10 Best-Selling Songs of 1978
The top 10 best-selling songs of 1978 in the UK somewhat reflected the music trends of the year, but more so reflected the power of the modern musical movie, as tracks from both Grease and Saturday Night Fever dominated singles sales.
The Bee Gees reigned supreme, and it appeared the Gibb brothers could do no wrong. The enormous success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack produced not only their own hit songs but also high-selling discs by the likes of Tavares, Trammps and Yvonne Elliman – all written by the prolific brothers.
Doing battle with Saturday Night Fever was the soundtrack to the movie Grease. It produced several big hits, but none bigger than the two songs ranking at number two and number three of 1978. Between them, "You're the One That I Want" and "Summer Nights" locked up the number one position for a total of 16 weeks during the year. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John seemed to be constantly in the public conscience.
However, neither could outrank the astounding interest in the latest Boney M track. Such was the demand for "Rivers of Babylon" that British presses could not keep up the pace. Between May and June of 1978, the year's best-selling single had exceeded the million sales mark.
But not everything was about disco, and these two movies, as novelty songs and the rise of new wave had record buyers parting with their money. And the tremendous Kate Bush had also arrived.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 best-selling songs of 1978!
The Best Hits of 1978 in the UK
- "Rivers of Babylon" by Boney M
- "You're the One That I Want" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
- "Summer Nights" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
- "Three Times a Lady" by the Commodores
- "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees
- "The Smurf Song" by Father Abraham and the Smurfs
- "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA
- "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" by Brian and Michael
- "Rat Trap" by the Boomtown Rats
- "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush
1. "Rivers of Babylon" by Boney M
Spending five weeks at the top of the British charts in the spring of 1978, Boney M's "Rivers of Babylon" also became the biggest selling disc of the year.
Originally recorded by Jamaican rocksteady group the Melodians in 1970, the song became the first of two number-one singles for the group in 1978. It eventually sold two million copies in the UK, allowing it to rank in the top 10 on the nation's list of best-selling singles of all time.
It was helped in its sales because the B-Side, "Brown Girl in the Ring", gained almost as much popularity as "Rivers of Babylon", which sent the single back up the charts to extend its stay to an impressive 40 weeks.
2. "You're the One That I Want" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
Another track that would make it onto the list of the biggest selling singles of all time is this one that was featured in one of the biggest movie musicals: Grease.
"You're the One That I Want" locked up the number one position in the UK for a staggering nine weeks, selling two million copies and ranking it at number five on Britain's biggest seller list.
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It not only secured the number one position in the UK but also all across Europe and on the Billboard Hot 100 in the States.
3. "Summer Nights" by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
After only six weeks had passed since they released their grip on the number one spot, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were back again, this time for a seven-week residency with another track from Grease: "Summer Nights".
Yet again, it's a single which has surpassed the one million sales mark in the UK.
4. "Three Times a Lady" by the Commodores
Taken from the group's album Natural High, "Three Times a Lady" became the Commodores' first number one hit in both the UK and the US.
In America, it remained at the top for two weeks, but buoyant sales caused it to remain at number one for five weeks in the UK.
It has since become one of the most recognisable hits by the group, and composer Lionel Richie continues to perform it at live concerts.
5. "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees
Despite its inclusion on one of the world's biggest selling albums of all time, the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" single still managed to hit the top of many global sales charts.
Among them were both those of the United States and the United Kingdom.
In the US alone, it remained at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks, eventually shifting in excess of two and a half million copies.
It managed a two-week run in the UK as the number one song and became the fifth-biggest selling song of 1978.
6. "The Smurf Song" by Father Abraham and the Smurfs
One thing for which we can be grateful to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John is keeping Father Abraham and his cartoon Smurfs off the number one position in the UK.
Despite that, "The Smurf Song" holds the record for the most consecutive weeks at the number two spot (six), only equalled in 1991 by "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred.
Sufficient sales to push it to number six in the year-end chart, though.
7. "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA
"Take a Chance on Me" became ABBA's seventh UK Number song, confirming the band as one of the most popular in the country during the 1970s.
In fact, it was their third consecutive track to top the charts in the UK, following on from both "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "The Name of the Game".
Although they would return to the top spot again later in their career, this was ABBA's final UK number one of the decade.
8. "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" by Brian and Michael
"Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" by Brian and Michael became the tenth one-hit wonder of the 1970s, that is, an artist who has achieved one number one hit on the UK Singles Chart and no other entry whatsoever.
The song itself was a tribute to the artist L.S. Lowry, who had passed away a couple of years earlier.
Brian and Michael were joined on the record by the St. Winifred's School Choir, who themselves would have their own one-hit-wonder at Christmas 1980 with "There Is No One Quite Like Grandma".
9. "Rat Trap" by the Boomtown Rats
The Boomtown Rats' fifth British hit became their first UK number one towards the end of 1978.
Although it was the era of punk and new wave music, many of the tracks in this genre failed to make a great impression on the Singles Chart.
However, "Rat Trap", by Ireland's premier band of the time, broke through big time to become their biggest selling single so far.
The group also relished the fact that it had broken the stranglehold that the Grease singles had enjoyed at the top of the charts over the past few months by ripping up pictures of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
10. "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush
Kate Bush's first single climbed to number one in the UK in the spring of 1978 for a total of four weeks.
With lyrics based on the characters in the book by Emily Brontë, the song became something of a surprise hit, sounding unlike anything in the charts at the time.
Luckily for Bush, the success of the single was not confined to the UK, showing up in the charts across Europe and Oceania, but failing to dent the Billboard Hot 100 in America.
Top Hits of 1978 in the US
1. Andy Gibb
2. The Bee Gees
3. Debby Boone
"You Light Up My Life"
4. The Bee Gees
"Kiss You All Over"
6. The Bee Gees
"How Deep Is Your Love?"
"Baby Come Back"
8. Andy Gibb
"(Love Is) Thicker Than Water"
9. A Taste of Honey
"Boogie Oogie Oogie"
10. The Commodores
"Three Times a Lady"
Major Grammy Winners of 1978
- Record of the Year: "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel
- Album of the Year: Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees
- Song of the Year: "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel
- Best New Artist of the Year: A Taste of Honey
© 2007 Richard
Your Thoughts About the Music of 1978
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on May 23, 2014:
I was born in 1978. Too young to know most of these, but my favorite UK one is "Three Times a Lady" and my favorite US one is "Baby Come Back."
aaxiaa lm on April 19, 2014:
Disco time! haha, great lens.
outsource123 on January 30, 2011:
hayleylou lm on September 26, 2010:
Greece and Abba were great. These were the years when real music was made. Good job :)
Holley Web on September 13, 2009:
I had forgotten that 1978 had so many types of really popular music all going on at one time! What a great year! Great lens!
drifter0658 lm on June 10, 2009:
The Who, Stones and Genesis.......yesssssssssss. The rest....nah. I had an original release of Some Girls. Bought it before they pulled it from the shelf because of racially offensive lyrics. Someone decided that really wanted the album worse than I did.
GypsyGirl68 on October 25, 2008:
amazing! one of my all time fave songs (yes it's true I fear) Matchstalk Men... is here! we had to sing this in chorus in 4th grade and I've never forgotten it...4th grade would have been right around 1978...
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on October 03, 2008:
Very nice lens, 5***** Not all my type of music, but there was so much happening in 1978. Punk was in full swing, the old rock bands were also still doing great, motown and pop and disco too very popular. I lensrolled this into my song lyric lenses.