Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Ronnie Milsap, “Why Don’t You Spend the Night”

“Why Don’t You Spend the Night”

Ronnie Milsap

Written by Bob McDill

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 14, 1980


#1 (1 week)

March 22, 1980

Ronnie Milsap entered the eighties as one of the genre’s most consistently successful artists.  His 1979 album Images had produced the No. 1 hit “Nobody Likes Sad Songs” and the top ten hit “In No Time at All.”  As with many Milsap singles the B-side of the latter record (“Get it Up”) had also gotten airplay.  Milsap’s first album of the eighties, Milsap Magic, was led off by his first No. 1 single of the decade.

“Why Don’t You Spend the Night” sounds like two records stitched together.  The verses are understated, delivered with subtlety.  The chorus is loud and overproduced.  Each transition from verse to chorus is a jump scare.

I don’t know why they felt the need to make the chorus so big, but the additional instrumentation and his borderline screaming delivery of the lyrics undermine what could’ve been a pretty good record.  He comes off like a guy who is playing nice at first, but when he doesn’t get the results he’s looking for, he refuses to take no for an answer.  The production really gets in the way here.

But here’s something I’m not sure Ronnie MIlsap has ever gotten credit for.  The template he uses here is one he’d used often by this point: a loosely country vocal with a pop instrumentation that’s more aggressive than the watered-down country pop of the seventies, borrowing more from rock and roll beats than from Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound approach.   Pretty much every Alabama ballad from their multiplatinum early days sounds exactly like this. I thought I might’ve cued up “Take Me Down” by mistake.

Ronnie Milsap has better records on the way, and we’ll get to them soon enough.  This is the first of ten consecutive No. 1 singles from Milsap, who won’t miss the top spot again until 1984.

“Why Don’t You Spend the Night” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. This may not be an essential Ronnie Milsap song but we are coming up on some truly all time great pop-country songs from Ronnie and I can’t wait. He can do a variety of styles with ease.

  2. Given his dominant chart and sales success during this decade, it was always surprising how quickly his music – and as has been pointed out here – his significant influence, was dismissed by the mid 90’s. I have never been able to shake Robbie Fulks’ rant in his 1997 song “F*ck This Town” when he sang, “And I thought they’d struck bottom/ Back in the days of Ronnie Milsap.”

    Then again, that song is still shocking for a number of lyrical reasons.

    The big chorus of this single works for me because that’s when the narrator spits out what he really wants to ask. It’s direct and intense. To continue with the same gentle vocals of the verses would create an entirely different mood and expectation. There really is nothing subtle about where he hopes the night will lead.

    Another bedroom ballad!

  3. In all good honesty, a little context is in order. On a lot of the hits he had, both prior to this one and after, Ronnie’s vocals show a noted R&B influence that is arguably of the Southern soul “shouter” variety. And it should be noted that he worked (uncredited) on Elvis’ landmark 1969 album From Elvis In Memphis; so it wouldn’t surprise me if The King’s influence rubbed off on his vocal style.

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