When 1976 began I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade. I remember playing four square, kickball and chase on the playground. I remember my fourth grade teacher moved up to sixth grade probably just so I could be her student again. I remember Ms. White, our music teacher who led us through chorus and band as well. She also encouraged the listening of pop music in her classroom by allowing a few minutes at end of each class for a kind of show and tell where we could bring in 45s and play them for the class. I remember meeting a kid named Quinton who was the biggest comic book collector I have ever met and he was kind enough to lend me many comics to read. For a few months, I began obsessively buying Marvel Comics, including getting in on the ground floor of my all-time favorite comic book character, Nova, late in 1976. But from April on, my focus was on 45s and K-Tel albums though I still bought a few packs of football cards, comic books and magazines, Hot Wheels and Micronauts. My favorite candies back then were Cherry ZotZ, Pop Rocks and Marathon Bars. Though I only got $2 a week allowance, I sometimes managed to get a 45, a comic, a pack of cards and candy all in one day. Back to the countdown...
The whole "leave your lover" part of "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" was of little or no consequence or interest to us nine and ten year-olds in 1976. The songs super-catchy chorus however was obsessively memorized and recited wherever two or more us congregated. The songs title was a misnomer as technically there were but five named ways to leave so we made up others. Was foolishly thinking about citing some of our playground poetry until I came across the list below while browsing through Rolling Stone issues from 1976. We also came up with the alternate song title "50 Ways To Leave Your Mother." For the past thirty years though I have had a best friend named Lee. He incidentally ended up marrying that girl Shannon I had mentioned in a previous post.
Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" was my favorite song for weeks in 1976 yet it ends up only at number 59 forty years later. I can't really offer a reason for the decline in popularity nor can I think of why I never bought the 45 though I eventually got the song on 1977's Music Machine, a K-Tel collection. I do know that like a lot of people back then I thought the song was sung by someone other than who it turned out to be when I saw the band on TV. For the longest time, the song wasn't getting any plays from me until I came across DJ Disco Cat's delightful Disco Purrfection Remix a few years back and now it's in my daily shuffle. Get a taste of Wild Cherry on The Midnight Special.
The Beatles have managed to stay relevant throughout the years by dint of their quality material, the continued success of the solo members and a never ending campaign of releases, repackages and remasters of their original recordings. In 1976, Capitol released the double album compilation Rock'n'Roll Music and the accompanying single "Got To Get You Into My Life" which got many many many plays on WLS. Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Martin all publicly complained about the album's artwork, packaging and sound while privately cashing their ginormous royalty checks. The song itself is timeless and sounds fresh even today, nearly fifty years after it was first recorded. We took it at face value back then and now even with the knowledge of McCartney's true intent, I still think it is a joyous, uplifting love song.
Speaking of the Beatles, look who comes in at number 57? George, the Quiet One, with a song he wrote after losing a plagiarism suit. I remember seeing the wacky music video for "This Song" on Saturday Night Live and then hearing the song on WLS the very next week. Never bought the single but the album Thirty Three & 1/ॐ did find its way into my small but growing album collection for my eleventh birthday in 1977. You will see the song "Crackerbox Palace" from the album, on my list of 1977 Songs. Harrison's songwriting gifts only improved after the Beatles demise as he continued to evolve as both a creative and a spiritual being. While I enjoy a lot of Lennon's catalog and even more of McCartney's, most of Starr's solo stuff leaves me wanting but I can spend days deep within Harrison's catalog which seems to appeal to me the older and hopefully wiser I become. Watch George's music video for "This Song" or see him on Disco.
Hideaway hometown girl Linda Ronstadt has always been a family fave, one of a handful of artists that appealed to Ma, Pa, me and baby sis. Ronstadt's cover of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day" was a touchstone single for me, one that signaled that Linda Ronstadt was more than a country artist which is how I had always heard her listening to Dad's albums. Pretty sure this song was on the Cow Talk jukebox and begged more than a few quarters from me. The Hasten Down The Wind album cover, shot by Ethan Russell, has long been a favorite.
Another funk banger from late 1976 though I imagine most folks would have Brick's "Dazz" on their list of 1977 hits and faves because that's when it crossed over from the clubs and urban radio to Top 40 radio, I remember hearing this one at the roller rink and on the jukebox at the youth center probably just after Thanksgiving 1976. The thing I remember most about the youth center was its tiny window mounted air conditioning unit that failed to cool the big place in the Summer and the apparent lack of heat in the Winter as we all stayed bundled up in our coats, gloves, hats and mittens as we played Foosball or tried to smash each other's fingers in air hockey. At some point a pinball table was added but it was soon busted and never fixed and eventually disappeared from the place. Watch Brick bring the disco jazz complete with disco jazz flute solo to The Midnight Special or listen to DJ Disco Cat's Disco Purrfection Remix.
Without peeking, I'd say this song was out about the same time as the one directly above, Winter 1976. And I'd like to go on record saying that although it was probably mentioned at the time, I do not recall ever hearing any DJ on WLS say anything about "Blinded By The Light" being a Bruce Springsteen song, a fact that I was blissfully unaware of until the Eighties. Was Bruce just not that well-known then or am I suffering from selective memory loss? Whatever, I love this song and am frankly embarrassed to see it way down here at number 54. You mean to tell me that I think there are 53 songs I like better than this one? Balderdash and poppycock! Love just about every aspect of this song, especially in its full-length 7:08 album version. The wordplay is fascinating, the music is dynamic and the breakdown about three minutes in is Seventies effects laden, guitar noodling at its finest. "Chopsticks" at around the five minute mark won me a bet one time when I said I could play "Blinded By The Light" on the piano. As it is suitably dark out right now, I'm gonna duck out back for about eight minutes and enjoy me some Manfred Mann's Earth Band. You can enjoy yourself some here on The Midnight Special.
"Don't Leave Me This Way" was originally committed to wax by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes in 1975 but not released as a single here in the States until a few years later. In the interim, Motown pounced on the opportunity to have the song recorded by Diana Ross as her follow-up to "Love Hangover" (which is probably gonna show up soon on this list!) but let Thelma Houston have a crack at it instead, unexpectedly resulting in a huge hit. It's a great song, sung defiantly in the face of a departing lover with a sympathetic plea followed by a desperate "come on do what you gotta do" but all that was over my head back in 1976. Back then it was just a great song to sing along with, as it is now. And when Thelma starts that desperate come on with AHHHH BABY! the song kicks into a higher gear, taking the listener or dancer (as the case may be) along with it. Watch Neil Sedaka introduce Thelma's performance on The Midnight Special.
Off the top of my head, I would say my favorite year for the Steve Miller Band would be 1976. Fly Like An Eagle was a killer album and the singles spun off were top-notch pop/rock confections. On any given day, each of the singles has the possibility of being my favorite Steve Miller song whether it's the album's title track or "Take The Money and Run" or the one that wins my love today "Rock'N Me." I've previously shared my memories of the album and the track HERE. 45 collectors should note that the single pictured above is on the Capitol Starline label, which reissued older singles and albums and often featured a hit on both side of the single making them perfect for jukebox junkies. On this particular 45, "The Joker" was on the flip side.
I know a few folks of a certain age who would rather not hear "Still The One" ever again. These people claim they heard the song too much back in 1977 and 1979 which is odd because the song is from 1976. Ask them to sing the song and they'll sing the melody okay but their lyrics are off. What gives? After Orleans had a Top 10 hit with "Still The One," the television network ABC had the song's lyrics re-written and used it for their Fall 1977 advertising campaign. (Things went so well, they used it again for the 1979 season.) Now I've been an ABC guy for as long as I can remember watching TV and I vaguely remember those commercials but my main memories of the song "Still The One" are of the fellas in Orleans singing it over and over on WLS. It rocked a little harder than their previous hit "Dance With Me" and even had a bit of that Fifties/Sixties nostalgic vibe to it which is why my Dad liked it. I missed the image below when those ABC promos originally aired but I screen-capped it for everyone to enjoy.
It's hard to say why I like "You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)" but I can tell you I liked Marilyn McCoo from the moment that I first saw her on some television show - it might have been her own show with husband Billy Davis Jr. I know I saw them on The Midnight Special and of course she was the hostess with the mostest on Solid Gold for nearly its entire run. She seemed at ease no matter who her co-host was and she sang seemingly every popular song there ever was on the show during its run. Lovely lady, lovely voice. I enjoy the structure of the song, how it is arranged and sung and my wife is kind enough when we duet to let me take McCoo's parts. See the original duo perform their biggest hit on Soul Train.
Love "You Sexy Thing" on so many levels: vocals, music, lyrics, overall vibe. It's got it all and to see it languishing way down here at number 49 makes me sad... and happy. Sad that such a great song ranked so low and happy in the knowledge that there are 48 songs coming that I liked even better than this one. But really there are no bad songs here - "You Sexy Thing" is merely one song in my most 100 favorites of the year, the crème de la crème. Watch Wolfman Jack intro some tasty Hot Chocolate on The Midnight Special.
I did not know anybody who was - nor was I myself - a KISS fan until the Alive! version of "Rock And Roll All Nite" hit the WLS airwaves very late in 1975 and then all of a sudden, every kid was a KISS fan or at the very least had an older brother who had always been a KISS fan. The band were on magazine covers scaring parents but hadn't crossed over to comics (with their blood mixed in the ink!), trading cards, disco (the equally loved and hated "I Was Made To Love You") or MEGO figures yet; all of that would go down in the following 24 months. Of course, the cartoon come to life band was tailor made for us 10 year olds! I would've sworn I sent in my five ducats to be part of the KISS Army but Mom says she refused to let me be inducted. Likewise, any time I asked to attend a KISS concert through the years, the answer was a simple "No." In 2000, the band announced their Farewell Tour with all four original members(!) and the second show on the tour was here in The Hideaway's hometown. With my Mother's ceremonial permission, I took the whole brood. It was the last concert I attended and "Beth" was the first in a two song encore. Watch the boys sing "Beth" in this clip from their made for television movie.
My Wayward Son" rocks HARD and sounded awesome coming over the AM airwaves of WLS in the 3:26 single edit pictured on the Golden Oldies release above. Crunchy, loud guitars? Check. Organ riffs? Checkity-check. Soaring vocals? Checkity-check-check! This one was a jukebox favorite as well though me thinks it rocketh a bit too hard for the Cow Talk so it was probably the pizza places and the Base youth center where it got all the quarters. Most likely known by those born after 1985 as the song from the television show Supernatural where "Carry On Wayward Son" was used as the soundtrack to The Road So Far montage at the beginning of the season finale episode for each of the first nine seasons of the show, from 2006-2014. (The less said about the tenth season's montage song, the better. Trust me.) The song's lyrics seem to fit the show's storyline very well.
The rock block continues with Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time" at number 46. As you can see from the scans above (click on them to embiggen) both songs were released as single edits despite being tracked as one long, almost eight minute song and all we got to hear on WLS was the barely three minute single edit. Until 1978, that was the only version of the song I knew - then I got to hear the whole Boston album at a friend's house. Mind blown, stereo turnt up, life changed. Meanwhile "Foreplay", the majestic organ and guitar dueling instrumental intro, was buried as the b-side of "Peace Of Mind" the follow-up single to "Long Time" that was released three months later. Since then, all you hear on the radio anymore is the full length album track "Foreplay/Long Time" which is unique among Boston tracks as the three guitar solos are not played by the one man guitar army of Tom Scholz, who plays nearly every single other guitar track on the album, but by Barry Goudreau. I do have a story related to the song as well. When our first child was born in 1987, though we were both employed, neither one of us had health insurance though she was eligible to receive it within a few months. To pay off the staggering bill - baby came home for week then got jaundice and had to go back to hospital for a week of treatments under the UV light - I sold off the majority of both my vinyl and then burgeoning CD collections, first making them available to friends and fellow DJs and then trucking the remainder down to Bookman's and PDQ. Raised the money, paid the bill, baby grew up strong and will be thirty years old next year. One of the friends who came over to buy a lot of my CDs had won $3 million in the state lottery the month before and his first big purchase was a brand new Toyota truck (4Runner?) that he spent a few grand on to have lifted and fitted with a state of the art stereo system. He took one of my now his discs - Boston - and inserted it in his disc player right there in the driveway. It was the first disc he had played after picking up the truck from the car stereo place the day before. CDs were still kinda new and I only knew a few people who had been buying them. The Boston album had only been released in 1986 and had been a Christmas gift. He asked what was the best track on the disc and I suggested track three, "Foreplay/Long Time." Two beeps later, we could hear the organ come fading in. He kept his fingers on the volume knob and kept turning it up slowly as the instruments duked it out. Then, when the quiet passage came just before the 2:00 minute mark, he cranked it up quite a bit to hear nothing but the organ and guitar effects and then the guitar came quickly fading in at 2:30 and he hadn't turned the volume down and there was a loud, distorted popping sound. Turns out he blew out both of the speakers that had been mounted in the doors of his truck. He was pissed but the song was forever known afterwards as the song that blew his doors off. Watch Tom and singer Brad Delp play musical chairs at the organ while Barry peels off the solos in this dizzying clip filmed at Giants Stadium in 1979.
A third rocker in a row comes in at number 45, making "Bohemian Rhapsody" the 45 at 45. Get it? You're probably asking yourself, what in tarnation is one of the greatest rock songs in history doing way down at number 45? And I'll tell you. I love the song immensely, always have and always will. So many moving parts at play here and its appeal is only enhanced when played through headphones. But there are two super sad memories attached to the song: one, more than any other Queen song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" somehow reminds me of Freddie Mercury's passing which was quick and unbelievably sudden for those of us who were not in his inner circle. While I do not bawl every time I hear the song, if the conditions are right, I will most certainly cry and sob. The other memory attached the song is it is among the last 45s I remember my father buying as he loved all the different sections of the song and thought it was unlike anything else ever played on the radio. Plus he was a proud Bohemian though he referred to himself as a "Bohunk." I would sneak the 45 out of the wire rack where he kept his collection and play it on his turntable while wearing his headphones, eyes trained out basement window up at carport waiting for him to pull in. As a flight simulator instructor, he did not keep regular hours so I had to be vigilant. One day he came home and in my rush to shut everything down and put it all back like he left it, I accidentally scratched his beloved 45. He discovered the scratch a few days later and I confessed and he beat me, one of the last beatings I ever got. So there you go, two reasons why I cannot rank "Bohemian Rhapsody" any higher than number 45. WLS started playing it just after New Year's 1976 and after buying my Dad a replacement copy with that week's allowance, I bought my own copy about a month later. Watch Queen's official music video for the song or check out The Muppets tribute.
Just the other day someone suggested to me that "Love Hurts" by Nazareth may very well be the first power ballad and I would concede it to be among the first power ballads but probably not the very first. (I lean towards Styx's "Lady" or Aerosmith's "Dream On" for that distinction but still "Love Hurts" is a worthy contender.) Dad was always quick to point out that both the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison had previously sung the song. (Though my favorite version of "Love Hurts" is this one by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.) The Nazareth album that the single came from - Hair Of The Dog - and one day over at a friend's house, we snuck the album out of his big brother's room and played it quietly in my friend's room. The title track from the album was a scorching rocker with forbidden lyrics. It was a rare bonding moment for the two of us, like knowing a secret no one else our age knew. "Love Hurts" sounded just about perfect coming through my tiny transistor radio speaker or through the bass heavy speaker(s) of the youth center jukebox and all these years later I enjoy the effects laden guitar, the wounded vocals and the whole atmosphere of the song. It might have even been a couples skate song at the skating rink though these days the song reminds me of this scene in Dazed & Confused. See Nazareth nurse their pain on Musik Laden.
The frantic, urgent energy of "Turn The Beat Around" is contagious, uplifting and above all, it moves the feets. Maybe it's the Latin percussion or the gliding and soaring orchestral bits or that scratchy guitar. It could be Vicki Sue Robinson's inspired vocal performance (that's her own voice overdubbed as the backing vocals) and you just know I like the sound of flutes in my music. There was a time early on when "Turn The Beat Around" brought to mind Jigsaw's "Sky High," an earlier favorite song of mine but I no longer make that connection and wonder why I ever did. Watch Vicki Sue turn the beat around on The Midnight Special or Soul Train.
Though he tended to like the original versions of hit songs rather than covers, Dad made an exception for Dr. Hook's "Only Sixteen", a cover of a Sam Cooke classic. Singer Dennis Locorriere and the rest of his bandmates steered the song into soft country territory, replacing the original's heavy reverb guitar line with a clean, jazz tone guitar. On face value, the lyrics get uncomfortably close to pervy old man/teenage girl territory until you realize its being sung from a teenage boy's perspective:
So why did I give my heart so fast/It never will happen again
But I was a mere child of sixteen/I've aged a year since then
Dad bought the Dr. Hook album Bankrupt and I bought the "Only Sixteen" 45 which wasn't as popular with my friends as it was with me. What good is a love song to a ten year old boy? Catch Dr. Hook on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert or The Old Grey Whistle Test.
I first heard Billy Ocean's classic Motown revival "Love Really Hurts Without You" on Hit Machine, the K-Tel compilation currently ranked at number 4 on the exclusive K-Tel Scale Top 10. It is infectious tune and should have been a huge hit (and it might have been in Ocean's native UK) and included on a bunch of other Seventies hits compilations but I only ever remember hearing it once on WLS and maybe three or four times on American Top 40. Billy co-wrote the song under his birth name Leslie Charles and would later achieve international stardom with his fifth album, Suddenly, in 1984. While I like to say I was there from the start, I didn't pick-up Ocean's first four albums until 2015 and then they were all available in remastered and expanded versions from Funkytown Grooves and Big Break Records, with scads of bonus tracks between them though the four bonus mixes of "Love Really Hurts Without You" on his self-titled debut album are a misguided effort to update the sound and enhance the song's danceability with dated synths and synth drums were added, robbing the song of its authentic Motown flavor. See Ocean go through the motions to this song on Musik Laden or watch him sing it live in this uncredited clip.
Next time out - the bottom of the Top 40!