July 1979: Donna Summer's 'Bad Girls' Makes Good

Donna Summer in 1979
Photo Credit
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Donna Summer was among the top pop stars on the planet in 1979, even as disco was beginning to wind down its season of influence on the charts and in popular consciousness. Though Summer was best known for her dance hits (“Love to Love You Baby,” “I Feel Love,” “Last Dance,” etc.), her best singles - and she had quite a few - were just great pop music. In 1979, she released a great pop album - arguably her biggest - in the quadruple-platinum smash Bad Girls.

The first single from Bad Girls was the dance-rock hit “Hot Stuff.” The track was built on a disco foundation - listen for the popping bass groove and the steady dance beat  - with layers of rock guitar, not to mention a solo by Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter mixed over it. And because it’s a Giorgio Moroder production, there are some key dramatic elements in the mix, like a moody keyboard hook and an urgent vocal from Summer.

Predictably, the song went to No. 1, as did the Bad Girls album, in just its sixth week on the Billboard 200 album chart. They were not, however, at the top of their respective charts at the same time; Supertramp’s Breakfast in America was at the peak of the album chart during “Hot Stuff”’s three-nonconsecutive-week run at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Summer did achieve the awesome feat of having both the No. 1 single and album simultaneously. She did it the week of July 14, 1979, when Bad Girls’ second single - its title track - streaked to the top of the Hot 100 the same time the album was in the middle of its own six-nonconsecutive-week stretch atop the album chart.

Few who were radio listeners and/or dance floor regulars that summer can forget the song’s "Toot Toot! Ah! Beep Beep!" refrain, the police whistle mixed in behind it, or Summer’s sassy vocal. Unlike “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls” was a straight-up dance track, without quibble or apology, and it was a massive hit, reaching the top of the Hot 100 and staying there for five weeks.

The Bad Girls album had one more hit on it (“Dim All the Lights,” which hit No. 2). From there, Summer said goodbye to her record company (Casablanca), releasing a greatest hits package later in 1979 and moving on to a new label (Geffen) that would afford her the freedom to branch out artistically. She had more hits while following her muse (and at least one more great album – 1980’s The Wanderer), but her status as a legend was sewn up with the music on and the chart performance of Bad Girls.

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Photo By Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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