On 19 January, 1980, “Savannah Nights” by Tom Johnston peaked at #50.
Often an artist will leave a band for a solo career exploring all sorts of music that, as part of a band with a brand, that musician couldn’t really experiment with. That’s not what’s going on with Tom Johnston. No, Tom Johnston wandered off from the Doobie Brothers to make music that sounds a lot like the Doobie Brothers; “Savannah Nights” is no exception. I’m not complaining, though: the Doobie Brothers sound is infectious. It’s smarter and better crafted than most other light rock, and it’s hard to not want to get up and dance when you hear that characteristic smooth brassy funk sound. “Savannah Nights” has a particularly swank breakdown starting around 2:24 that makes my spine want to slip and glide. Lyrically, it’s about a smooth operator picking up a shy chick at a dance club in Georgia (sure, why not?). He’s a much smoother (and faster, and funkier) version of the guy in Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Come to think of it, why were people even listening to “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” when they could have been listening to “Savannah Nights”? Perhaps there’s only so much room in the public consciousness for music that sounds like the Doobie Brothers; they had five top-40 hits in 1979 and 1980, which is rather a lot for such an immediately recognizable band.