3/23/16

My Favorite Songs from 1976 - Day Four (40-21)

The single edit is a slow jam for the ages but the six minutes and change album version of "Just To Be Close To You" recasts the love song as a gospel-like sermon of devotion with Lionel Richie letting his Alabama roots show by affecting the drawn-out pronunciation of a Southern Bible-belt preacher. It doesn't take much to guess which version WLS played - they were among the Top 3 Top 40 stations in the country at the time - exactly the kind of influential station that the labels were issuing Mono promo single edits for. The song was very popular for Couples Skates and I would imagine slow dances in school gymnasiums across the country, though as a clueless ten year-old I abstained from both Couples Skates and slow dances because girls were walking talking cootie infections. Fast forward forty years and it turns out I am immune to cooties and me and the missus sway to this song every chance we I get. Watch Lionel and the rest of the Commodores perform "Just To Be Close To You" on Soul Train.

Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver" was a monster song on the radio back in 1976 and I still have mad love for it but another song from that album gets my vote for favorite Gary Wright song of 1976 - the album's opening track, the rocking "Love Is Alive." It wasn't this way back in 1976, 1977 or even 1978; my love for "Love Is Alive" has grown organically over the years probably overtaking "Dream Weaver" for good in the early Nineties. There is still a time and place for the mystical, spacey "Dream Weaver" but the urgent pale funk of "Love Is Alive" is my go-to Gary Wright tune. For now. See Gary Wright and his incredible portable keyboard on The Midnight Special.

Back at number 64, Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby" staked a claim for Sexiest Disco Song of 1976 but here at number 38, I'm proud to announce my uncontested winner for Sexiest Disco Song of All-Time. "Love Hangover" is playful, teasing, breathlessly sexy but none of that mattered to me when I was but a lad of 10. I liked the shift in tempo but was curious what a hangover was so I asked Dad. He said it was when someone has too much of something and they feel sick afterward, so soon I was self-diagnosing broccoli hangovers. I asked Mom if it was possible for someone to have too much love and she said she hoped not because otherwise I was gonna be sick for a very long time. Dad gave it to me straight though and said Miss Ross was not talking about that kind of "love" she was talking about the "sex kind of love" and he'd tell me about it later. Sex kind of love? Gross. Watch Diana perform an extended version of "Love Hangover" on The Midnight Special.

We now return to our regularly scheduled rock portion of the countdown with the first of a two song rock block. "Slow Ride" is an awesome radio treat that appears on the soundtracks to both FM and Dazed & Confused. The song reminds me of a Grand Funk tune, all glorious drums, popping bass and fat guitars with good time vocals and was a favorite of Uncle Sam as well as a jukebox favorite at the youth center. Through Uncle Sam, I first heard the amazing eight minute album length full on jam version of "Slow Ride" and it is my preferred version when motoring down the highway which is exactly how the song should be heard. I was jazzed to see my very first RCA Music Service Selection of the Month was gonna be a Foghat two-fer and then when it came being disappointed that the two albums were Energized (1974) and Night Shift (1976) and not Fool For The City (1975) which had both "Slow Ride" and the rockin' title track.  The cruel irony is that while I still have those two albums on the Vinyl Wall, my copy of Fool For The City has come and gone though I believe it now rests in my brother-in-law's collection which is a fine place for it to be.

Heart's "Crazy On You" just exploded from the radio speaker back in 1976. Do not be fooled by the pretty, acoustic guitar intro that opens the album version of "Crazy on You" that gets all the airplay on classic rock stations these days. Back then it was just about that monstrous galloping riff and Ann Wilson's wailing vocals. The song sounds dated but in a good way: it's got real instruments being played by real people with riffs and licks and hooks and enough attitude to hold down two spots on this list yet it sits here at number 36. See Ann, Nancy and the boys of Heart get crazy on The Midnight Special or watch the original band reunite in 2013 for their Hall of Fame induction proving they are still crazy after all of these years.

When I first heard this song in 1976, I loved Rawls voice. My Dad laughed when I told him that Lou Rawls was one of my favorite new artists and told me that Rawls had been around for years. Smoother than just about anything else on the radio at the time, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" said it all in the title with the gravitas of the voice of Rawls laying it all out in no uncertain terms for the lady that just left him. It was a monster on WLS forty years ago and over the past thirty years, some of the most intimate and romantic dances my wife and I have shared have been to this song. Watch Lou in all his Rawlsness on The Midnight Special or listen to the epic Tom Moulton Mix.

Al Stewart's "Year Of The Cat" is a gorgeous song and I always enjoy it when it pops up on shuffle. Clever, literate inscrutable word play; lush, sweeping orchestration; Stewart's unmistakable voice gliding in and out of the mostly instrumental mix and an amazing series of instrumental solos all add up to one phenomenal song. One of the finest productions ever by Alan Parsons and probably the most intimate performance from Stewart and it was all over WLS... in 1977. For whatever reason this song is attached to 1976 in my head and my digital library. But like a wise man once said "My list, my rules." Pretty sure this was on one or more of my K-Tel albums. See Al and his band stretch out in this 1979 performance from Musik Laden or watch them go through the motions on Solid Gold in 1982.

Unless I am mistaken, ABBA's "Dancing Queen" was also a smash hit on WLS in 1977 but it is forever linked to 1976 in my memories for reasons I cannot quite place. I bought the 45 just before Christmas 1976 when it seemed to be every girl's favorite song at the time. It's a great pop song and a reasonable facsimile of disco music which Bj√∂rn & Benny would perfect on Voulez-Vous a few years later with made for the dance-floor ditties like the title track, "Does Your Mother Know" as well as contemporaneous non-album singles "Summer Night City" and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)." Watch ABBA on Disco or in their official music video.

I can groove on this song for days. "More, More, More" is one of my all-time favorite 45s and was one of my most sought after songs when I started buying compact discs ten years later. Unlike Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Marilyn McCoo or Vicki Sue Robinson, the vocals of Andrea True are far from alluring for this guy, allowing the beauty and simplicity of the groove to shine. I'd be perfectly content if "More, More, More" was an instrumental - as it stands, the six minute album version a close cousin to the virtually wordless twin hits of Silver Convention. Not sure if I bought the single first (think it was the single) or K-Tel's Power House but either way the song was a huge hit in my life during the Bicentennial Summer of 1976. DJ Disco Cat stretches the song out in his Disco Purrfection Version.

I know I said that Lou Rawls and his "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" was the smoothest thing on the radio back then but that was before I knew that "Lowdown" from Boz Scaggs was coming up. Smooth, funky, jazzy - the song has it all going on and was a big hit across the charts eventually winning an R&B Grammy and selling a bajillion copies. The 45 pictured above is one of those hits on both sides 45s perfect for jukeboxes with "Lido Shuffle" on the flip. Check out Disco Purrfection Version of "Lowdown."

Captain and Tennille had a way with covering other people's songs and their second Neil Sedaka cover in as many years is a huge favorite of mine, coming in at number 30 on my list of Favorite 100 Songs of 1976. The song reminds me of listening to WLS for two reasons: 1) they played it all the time and it was tailor made for mono AM radio and 2) there was a series of bits on WLS called Animal Stories and the intro to "Lonely Night (Angel Face)" calls to mind the opening of Animal Stories, which was basically the sound of a howling coyote. The brain is a wonderful thing. Love the part of the song about two minutes in when Tennille sings "used to call me Aaaaaaaaangel Faaaace." Watch Captain & Tennille on American Bandstand.

In 1976, my favorite ELO song was "Telephone Line" and I would sing along with Jeff Lynne every time it came on. One weekend I was fortunate enough to find the 45 in a picture sleeve though it wasn't until I got home from the shopping excursion later that night when I realized it was pressed on green vinyl. Turns out the single was mislabeled as well with the side labeled "Telephone Line" playing "Poorboy (The Greenwood)" which initially caused me to panic a bit until I flipped it over and played the side labeled "Poorboy (The Greenwood)" and heard "Telephone Line" and all was okay. Still have that single but in the intervening nearly forty years, I have come to appreciate A New World Record more and more as well as the other singles that had spun off prior to "Telephone Line" which is another 1977 WLS hit. First, I liked "Livin' Thing" then "Rockaria!" Then along came "Do Ya" and its been my favorite ELO song from 1976 for the last ten years or so. Sure, it's a do-over of a b-side Lynne originally wrote and recorded with The Move in 1972 but the guitar is beefier in the 1976 retake. The song must mean a lot to Lynne as he included an unedited alternative mix of "Do Ya" on Flashback, the first career spanning box set he personally compiled and supervised in 2000 and completely recorded the song from the ground up for an entire album of ELO do-overs he released in 2012. Winess the first laser show on a TV show as Jeff and his Orchestra host and open The Midnight Special with "Do Ya" or check out their music video for "Do Ya."

Among the cooler aspects of doing these lists of favorite songs is listening to them again, as they rub up against each other in playlists just like they used to on WLS. I also pulled up more than a few of the classic American Top 40 broadcasts from 1976 (including the Top 100 year end one that was originally broadcast on December 26, 1976 and January 1, 1977) and listen to Casey track their ups and downs on the chart as well as spout off all kinds of trivia. Great stuff. Another cool thing about doing these lists is the wonderful trips down memory lane and the many memories they trigger. But the unexpected bonus of counting down my favorite songs is doing a little research on each one to find out if I really do know what I think I know about each one.  For Cliff Richard's "Devil Woman", that research led to the discovery of another version of the song recorded and released at the same time by an artist known as Kristine.  I love the Cliff Richard take on this spiritual sequel to Cher's "Dark Lady" and have included both songs on Halloween Mixes for years now. The 45 was my third or fourth single on Elton John's Rocket Record Company label. Heed Cliff Richard's warnings of the "Devil Woman" in this official music video or dance with her to the Disco Purrfection Version.

It may or may not be a coincidence that the only two David Bowie songs - "Fame" and "Golden Years" - I ever heard on WLS were arguably his funkiest. Dad ended up buying the "Fame" 45 but I never did pick up "Golden Years" until getting the Station To Station album and the rest of Bowie's back catalog in the Eighties though I had bought Dad Changesonebowie and later got him Changestwobowie when it was released in 1981. Confession: As much as I love the song today, "Golden Years" did not appeal to me when it was released for reasons I can no longer recall.  In hindsight, maybe it was a little too artsy for my simple ten year old tastes. My favorite songs as 1975 became 1976, which was around the time "Golden Years" debuted on WLS, were "Convoy", "Saturday Night", "Nights On Broadway" and "Sky High." Bowie was reportedly intoxicated when he appeared on Soul Train.

My room was on the second story of our house on Base in 1976 and at least twice during winters there, the snow drifts reached all the way up to my window. Aside from that, the coolest thing my window did was allow breezes in during Spring and Summer months. It looked straight out into our big unfenced backyard - you kind of estimated how much of the lawn was yours when you mowed. My sister's window looked out over the shared carport roof and into the room of Samantha, the older girl next door who was an avid 45 fan like me. England Dan and John Ford Coley's "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight" reminds me of my bedroom window, particularly of my football design fabric curtains blowing in the breeze.  (What? You thought it was gonna be about Samantha?) This memory would make a lot more sense if the song was "Summer Breeze" by Seals & Crofts but its not. But Jim Seals is the big brother of England Dan Seals so there is a tenuous connection. (ed. - good save.) See Dan and John sing "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight" on The Midnight Special.

Growing up, our little family loved us some Fleetwood Mac. And though they had been around in one form or another since the Sixties, it all started with the band's self-titled 1975 album for us. The album and all of its radio singles were always more than welcome. "Rhiannon" has always been my favorite of the bunch. Stevie (or Ms. Nicks if you're nasty) is in fine voice as she recites her poem and the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) propels the song along with Lindsey Buckingham's guitar dropping in and out uninvited, adding atmosphere and punctuation as needed. Christine McVie adds background harmonies with Buckingham as well as some crystal-sounding plinking on her keyboard. I cannot speak to why I am attracted to these songs of shady ladies like the ones in "Rhiannon", Cliff Richard's "Devil Woman" or Cher's "Dark Lady" but they certainly hold an irresistible appeal beyond inclusion on Halloween mix discs. "Rhiannon" in particular as Nicks repeatedly chants "Dreams unwind/Love's a state of mind" on the fade-out as if casting a spell. Watch Stevie and her bandmates really stretch out this live version of "Rhiannon" on The Midnight Special.

Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" absolutely devastated my ten year old musical landscape. But in a good way. It was played incessantly on WLS, on all the jukeboxes and everyone tried (and failed) to sing it like Leo so of course it was my favorite song. I bought the 45, played the ever loving crap of it and then traded it away to my neighbor Samantha for a record I do not remember. She waited until it got popular which is strangely when it became hard to find whereas I had snagged it shortly after I first heard it.which I wanna say was on an episode of American Top 40 in early November 1976 but I didn't make a note of it anywhere. The song virtually faded off my radar from the 1990s up til about April 2013 when I rediscovered the Endless Flight album while reorganizing my vinyl collection and made it my very first Album of the Day here on The Hideaway. A few weeks later, I came across DJ Disco Cat's Disco Purrfection Version which has rekindled my passion for the song. Watch Leo dance the night away on The Midnight Special.

Another song I was cuckoo for back in the year of the Bicentennial coins was "Get Closer", passionately sung by Seals & Crofts. And Willis. Loved it from the moment I first heard it and was overjoyed to pick up the 45 shortly thereafter. It sounded great on WLS though it was in mono so the stereo version I played on my Soundesign turntable was divine. Carolyn Willis is most definitely the secret sauce on this one though it is a well written and well performed uplifting ultimatum. Willis's contributions were missed when Jimmy & Dash recut the song with a slightly different arrangement on their 2004 reunion album Traces which featured two new songs as well as eight re-recordings of hits and album cuts.  On that version of "Get Closer" in particular, the duo's daughters team up to sing the Willis part but just don't have the chops to pull it off. Thankfully, I can always revisit the original as needed. The duo plus Willis appear in this unidentified clip.

Dad dug "Moonlight Feels Right" straight out the gate and I didn't bother to sneak and play his 45 once I got my own copy of the song on K-Tel's Hit Machine that Christmas; it remains one of my favorite albums of all-time. How great is Hit Machine? Twelve of the song's twenty tracks are on My Favorite Songs from 1976. [SPOILER ALERT: Three of those are still to come!] "Moonlight Feels Right" begs to be played beneath the moonlit sky, preferably by the water and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It is a great atmospheric song whether you're in the mood to chill alone with your favorite libation or spend some quality time with the one that you love. If you need some extra quality time, check out the Disco Purrfection Version of "Moonlight Feels Right" or hear the lead singer's normal, unaltered voice in this clip from The Midnight Special, complete with smokin' marimba solo.

Speaking of atmospheric tunes, don't you just love the Bee Gees "Nights On Broadway"? Super strong vocal performances from the Brothers Gibb that features the emergence of their famous falsettos and a phat funk groove for days. It's not a disco song but you can dance to it. "Nights On Broadway" is one of my Top 5 Bee Gees songs of all-time and today it winds up at number 21 on My Favorite Songs from 1976 even though it had fallen off the weekly WLS Forty-Fives Survey by New Year's Day 1976, coming in at number 73 on their Big 89 of 1975 Countdown. Watch Barry, Robin and Maurice at the top of their game before they hit the peak of their fame a few months later in this performance from The Midnight Special.

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