Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Vern Gosdin, “I Can Tell By the Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight)”

“I Can Tell By the Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight)”

Vern Gosdin

Written by Sandy Pinkard and Robb Strandlund


#1 (1 week)

July 21, 1984

 Vern Gosdin earns the first of his three No. 1 hits with an Alabama-flavored record.

Gosdin himself was born and raised in Alabama, and grew up singing in church and idolizing the Louvin Brothers.  But he was a restless spirit, moving first to Chicago and then to the West Coast, where he played in a band with Chris Hillman.  He found some success singing with his brother as the Gosdin Brothers, and they supported Byrds member Gene Clark on his first solo album.

Gosdin took some time off in the early seventies, moving to Georgia and operating a glass company. But by the mid-seventies, he was back in the business, and he scored his first of nineteen top ten hits with “Yesterday’s Gone,” which featured harmony vocals by Emmylou Harris.  He had another top ten with “Never My Love,” a sixties cover that featured harmonies from Janie Fricke.

He did some label hopping in the early eighties, and became embroiled in scandal as he was implicated in the attempted murder of producer Gary Paxton, though he was never arrested or charged for involvement in the crime.  Notoriety aside, he was emerging as one of the most critically acclaimed artists of his time and he had multiple songs hit the top five before the lead single from his 1984 set There is a Season became his first No. 1 hit.

“I Can Tell By the Way You Dance” sounds like peak Alabama, so it’s no surprise that it fit in perfectly on the radio in 1984.   Even the guitar solo sounds like it’s lifted right off an Alabama track.  

Gosdin seems to be having a good time here, and his enthusiasm is infectious.  This one’s more about the groove than the lyric, so don’t go in expecting something with the gravitas of “Today My World Slipped Away.”  There is a Season is one of the best country albums of 1984, and “Dance” was a big enough hit to provide momentum for three more top ten singles from the set, all of which are excellent.

“I Can Tell By the Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight) gets a B+

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. So much of Verne Gosdin’s output is the morbidly sad output that his voice fits so well. While I do enjoy that side of him, this song is a nice changeup that just grooves so well.

  2. Gosdin’s voice rings with such wisdom and sagacity that it seems impossible it was not carved from the heartwood of some ancient tree in a virgin forest untouched by modern influences.

    In the ’80s, I always assumed the classic sounding songs I was hearing was some late career renaissance of a star who had shone brightly in some unspecified past when he must have consistently been at the top of the charts.

    Gosdin not only sounded old, he looked weathered and old as well.

    Turns out, anyone listening to this song in 1984 was hearing him reach the top for the first time.

    And, as Kevin points out, country’s rock of ages was not immune to contemporary influences.

    This is such a clean dirty song, no? The simple lyrics suggest something far more lewd and intense. “Love”, “dance,” and “rhythm” all are loaded terms seemingly ready to explode at any moment.

    If this song had a video, how couldn’t it be vulgar? The immediate intimacy of the moment on the dance floor is palpable. We are seconds away from “tonight” becoming right now, whether in a washroom, a car seat, or a motel room.

    The animalistic song is describing a “get a room” kind of dance floor dirtiness. It would be gross if it weren’t so confident, raw, and freakishly fun.

    Add this song to my list of sex ed singles from the decade.

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