In The Number Ones, I’m evaluating each and every single # 1 single in the history of the Signboard Hot 100, beginning with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into today.
Christopher Cross– “Cruising”
HIT # 1: August 30, 1980
STAYED AT # 1: 1 week
A couple of months earlier, Billie Eilish swept the Grammys, winning all 4 of the significant cross-category awards: Album, Record, and Tune Of The Year, as well as Finest New Artist. The first was Christopher Cross, and he ‘d done it 39 years earlier.
The Grammys are a famously useless awards reveal, but they’re instructive in a really specific method: They reveal the record organisation the way the record business wants to be seen.
Christopher Cross came from San Antonio, and he spent years toiling on that city’s club circuit, playing in a blues-rock cover band. He was obviously friendly with individuals like ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and he narrates that he when played with Deep Purple, filling in for Ritchie Blackmore at a San Antonio reveal when Blackmore was too ill to play. Cross was currently in his late twenties when he signed to Warner Bros. When he released his self-titled 1979 launching album, he informed Rolling Stone that he wasn’t into rock music any longer, that he was happy with just being a purely business pop act.
Warner signed Cross since an A&R person had liked his voice, and the initial plan was for him to tape tunes from other songwriters. However Warner paired Cross with Michael Omartian, the effective pop-insider producer who had actually helped mastermind the 1976 # 1 “ Style From S.W.A.T.” and who had actually produced # 1 hits for Andy Kim and Alan O’Day Omartian liked the songs that Cross had actually composed, and he assisted convince higher-ups that Cross must tape-record his own things. Omartian came from California’s soft-rock scene, and he ‘d done session-musician work for people like Steely Dan and Loggins & Messina. He brought in some big names to sing backup on Cross’ debut album: Don Henley, JD Souther, Nicolette Larson. Omartian also generated Doobie Brothers leader and future solo star Michael McDonald to sing backup on a couple of tunes, which made a substantial distinction.
McDonald lent his unmistakable yarl to Cross’ debut single “ Ride Like The Wind,” a slick and enjoyably outrageous criminal jam that ended up being an out-of-nowhere smash, peaking at # 2 in the spring of1980 (It’s a 7.) Warner wanted to release “I Do not Truly Know Anymore,” a song with even-more-prominent Michael McDonald backup vocals, as the follow-up single, but McDonald’s management objected. Rather, Warner released “Sailing,” a blissed-out ballad that appeared late on the album. Cross himself thought the tune had no chance at becoming a hit. Today, it’s his signature tune.
Cross has actually stated that he believed “Sailing” was too reflective a song to make an impact. On it, Cross sings about being on a boat and feeling great about it.
Cross spent a couple of years writing “Sailing.” He developed the opening verse one day at his house, however he couldn’t find out the best chord changes for the bridge until some time later on. For those people who are too musically foolish to recognize these things, however, “Cruising” keeps the very same basic vibe throughout its runtime. It’s an extremely chill record, an expensive flutter that works hard to evoke the “all caught up in the reverie” sensation that Cross describes.
” Cruising” generally works versus whatever I tend to worth in music. There’s very little forward motion to the song. It’s not quick or difficult or amazing. It’s not heavy or emotionally intense or revealing, either. There’s no balanced play, no syncopation. “Cruising” is about finding a tranquil frame of mind and after that attempting to extend that feeling for as long as possible. These things have made “Sailing” a favorite of the pseudo-ironists who comprise the yacht-rock crowd, the half-joking scene that finds something reassuring in the no-ripples slickness of a really particular age of music. I have actually got no time for any of that shit. “Cruising” is a lot more genuine song than anything Steely Dan would ever record, however it’s best because very same zone of shit that I dislike.
And yet “Sailing,” by itself terms, is a reliable piece of work. It has a certain glossy power. Cross and Omartian recorded the song digitally, back when many people didn’t do that, and it definitely sounds like the kind of thing that could just come out of a sterilized and airlocked studio. Everything sounds abundant and tidy: The softly burbling guitar, the insistent triangle dings and conga bloops, the restrained hum of the strings. Cross sings in a pinched tenor, and he never ever seems to be pressing himself too hard, even when he hits the chorus. Rather, he sounds like he’s simply murmuring to himself– as if he’s attempting to handle the tension in his life by conjuring the serenity that he experienced that day on that sailboat.
As a piece of music, “Cruising” is so lavish and buttery that it’s almost ambient. It’s a tune so tied to its moment that it’s practically classic for itself, and there’s a hint of sadness in its frustrating chill.
In the instant aftermath of Billie Eilish’s huge Grammy night, Christopher Cross looks something like a cautionary tale: An anointed super star who could not make great on his early push and who rapidly fell away into obscurity. Cross stuck around for at least a little while after “Sailing.” He’ll be in this column again.
REWARDS BEATS: Here’s Kool Keith singing a few bars of “Cruising” on the 1996 Dr. Octagon track “Blue Flowers Revisited”:
REWARD BONUS OFFER BEATS: Here’s the cover of “Sailing” that NSYNC included on their self-titled 1997 debut album:
NSYNC performed “Cruising” with Christopher Cross at something called the Blockbuster Home entertainment Awards in1999 Brian McKnight presented Cross as “Chris Cross,” which is funny, and the members of NSYNC all flew above the audience like Peter Pan while Cross stayed onstage. I like to imagine the discussion where the producers needed to decide whether to make Cross fly, too. Anyway, here’s that efficiency:
NSYNC will eventually appear in this column.)
BONUS OFFER BEATS: Puff Daddy rapped over a “Sailing” sample on “Buddy,” a Mario Winans collab that peaked at #59 in2000 Here’s the video:
( Puffy Daddy will ultimately appear in this column.)
BENEFIT BONUS OFFER PERK BENEFIT BEATS: Here’s Krayzie Bone rapping over a “Sailing” sample on the 2006 track “Paradise”:
( Krayzie Bone will ultimately appear in this column, both as a guest-rapper and as a member of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.)