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The Top 10 Songs of 1978 in the UK

Updated on September 20, 2018

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 2 and Number 3 of 1978. Between them, You're the One That I Want and Summer Nights locked up the Number 1 position for a total of sixteen 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 pace. Between May and June of 1978, the best selling single of the year 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.

1. Rivers of Babylon: 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 1 singles for the group in 1978. It eventually sold two million copies in the UK, allowing it to rank (as of 2012) at Number 6 on the nation's list of biggest selling singles of all time.

It was helped in its sales because of the B-Side, Brown Girl in the Ring, gaining almost as much popularity as Rivers of Babylon, thereby sending the single back up the charts to extend its stay to an impressive forty weeks..

2. You're the One That I Want: John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

Another track that would make it on to 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 1 position in the UK for a staggering nine weeks, selling two million copies and ranking it at Number 5 on Britain's biggest seller list.

It not only secured the Number 1 position in the UK, but also all across Europe and on the Billboard Hot 100 in the States.

3. Summer Nights: John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

After only six weeks having passed since they released their grip on the Number 1 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, with a current sales figure of 1.59m.

4. Three Times A Lady: The Commodores

Taken from the group's album Natural High, Three Times A Lady became the Commodores' first Number 1 hit in both the UK and the US.

In America, it remained at the top for two weeks, but in the UK buoyant sales caused it to remain at Number 1 for five weeks.

It has since become one of the most recognisable hits by the group and composer Lionel Richie continues to perform it at live concert dates.

5. Night Fever: 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.

In the UK, it managed a two-week run as the Number 1 song and became the fifth biggest selling song of 1978.

6. The Smurf Song: Father Abraham & 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 1 position in the UK.

Despite that, The Smurf Song holds the record for the most consecutive weeks at the Number 2 spot (6), only equaled in 1991 by I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred.

Sufficient sales to push it to Number 6 in the year-end chart, though

7. Take A Chance On Me: 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 1 of the decade.

8. Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats & Dogs: Brian & 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 No One Quite Like Grandma.

9. Rat Trap: The Boomtown Rats

The Boomtown Rats' fifth British hit became their first UK Number 1 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: Kate Bush

Kate Bush's first single climbed to Number 1 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.

Which is your favourite from the 1978 Top 10?

See results

Meanwhile, in the United States...

1. Andy Gibb
Shadow Dancing
2. The Bee Gees
Night Fever
3. Debby Boone
You Light Up My Life
4. The Bee Gees
Stayin' Alive
5. Exile
Kiss You All Over
6. The Bee Gees
How Deep is Your Love?
7. Player
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
The Top 10 Best Selling Songs in the USA: 1978

Major Grammy Winners of 1978

Record of the Year:

  • Just the Way You Are - Billy Joel

Album of the Year:

  • Saturday Night Fever - The Bee Gees

Song of the Year:

  • Just the Way You Are

Best New Artist of the Year:

  • A Taste of Honey

About Your Author

With each article, Richard invites you to step into his world of music, television and entertainment. He will introduce you to British Glam Rock, share The 20 Scariest Film Scores Ever? and even give you an up close look at some classic actors such as Christopher Lee as Dracula.

For a complete list of Richard's articles, please visit Richard's profile.

© 2007 Richard

Your Thoughts About the Music of 1978

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    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      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 profile image

      aaxiaa lm 

      6 years ago

      Disco time! haha, great lens.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      amazing lens!!

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 

      9 years ago

      Greece and Abba were great. These were the years when real music was made. Good job :)

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 

      10 years ago

      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 profile image

      drifter0658 lm 

      10 years ago

      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 profile image


      11 years ago

      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...

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      11 years ago from Southampton, UK

      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.


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