As I did with the list of My Favorite Songs from 1973, I selected all the songs from my digital library with 1976 in the YEAR tag and winnowed that list down to my favorite 221 songs of which I culled My 100 Favorite Songs of 1976. No charts were
harmed involved in the process and all opinions are solely my own, based on forty years (or less, in some cases) of listening to each and every one of these songs via radio, vinyl, mixtapes, compact disc, lossless digital files and streaming. On with the list!
My Dad was one of a handful who never bought a copy of the mega-selling Frampton Comes Alive! but I recall my Uncle Sam having a copy on eight track so I heard the whole album a lot that Summer. The album was huge on the radio and everywhere else pretty much for the whole year of 1976 and into 1977 as I recall. There were three singles spun off the album and while I enjoy them all (and the album as a whole), the epic "Do You Feel Like We Do" is my pick of the litter. In a perfectly timed appearance on The Midnight Special a couple weeks prior to the album's release, Frampton and his road-tested band performed all three future singles just as they had hundreds of times before on their 1975 tour. It was a unique preview of the forthcoming album and you can see Frampton and his talk box stretch out in a ten minute performance from The Midnight Special.
John Sebastian's "Welcome Back" was one of three TV theme songs I bought on 45 in 1976. ("Happy Days" has already been featured in a prior post and the third 45 will be featured in an upcoming post.) The song got lots of spins on WLS and every week on the show Welcome Back, Kotter. I was big fan of the show but I've always felt the song stands well on its own and still listen to it often these days. I tried revisiting the show when it began airing on one of the three nostalgia channels we get and it has not withstood the test of time but then again I am not that much of a ten year old any more either. See & hear John welcome you back in this clip.
Maybe it was Peter Cetera's voice, unlike any other on the radio at the time, Or maybe it was the quiet French Horns and lush strings backing. Whatever it was, Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" was a big favorite of mine back in 1976, with ample plays on WLS and I bought the 45 upon first sight. I'd have maybe five songs in my head on my mental list of 45s to buy each week and if I was lucky I would find one and if I was really fortunate, I would find two. I don't remember stores ever stocking more than five copies of any one single and maybe that was loss prevention or maybe it was the fact that I was shopping on the weekend with depleted stock. This is one of those rare songs that brings back a vivid memory of a time (1976) and a place (me on my bed in my bedroom reading a book/comic/magazine without a care in the world). Watch Chicago perform "If You Leave Me Now" on a British television show. (Is it Top of the Pops?)
This one's got groove for days and I can't help but "shake it up/shake it down" a little bit whenever it comes on. Though relatively tame by most standards, "Disco Lady" is one of a few songs that weren't allowed to be played at our little elementary after-school dances. (Wish I could remember the others - hoping they come to me.) What I never knew until a few years ago is that no less than four members of the Parliament/Funkadelic crew, including Bootsy Collins on bass and Bernie Worrell on keyboards, played on this song and one the backing singers was Telma Hopkins from Dawn and Bosom Buddies. Witness Johnnie Taylor on Soul Train just like he said his "Disco Lady" should be.
That early Seventies soul sound I've talked about was alive and well in 1976 with songs like "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" by the brothers Tavares. Part of the song's sound is due to co-writer and producer Freddie Perren whose work has already appeared on this countdown back at number 85 (Yvonne Elliman's "Love Me") and will appear again a couple of times before we're through. But it is the brotherly harmonies of Tavares that truly make "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" shine. Being the bad boyfriend I was and now husband I am, my wife claims that she didn't hear this song until we went and saw the first Charlie's Angels movie in 2000. Consequently, I tried to atone for my egregious oversight by making her a double disc special edition soundtrack CD featuring all but six or seven of the songs heard or alluded to in the film. See the talented Tavares siblings sing and dance their way through this clip.
Rick Springfield was not an overnight success - he had been making music since his teens back in Australia and even performed for the troops during the Vietnam War as a seventeen year old in 1968. Eight years later, one of his tracks - "Take A Hand" appeared on the K-Tel album Hit Machine and soon it was my favorite song. No idea why it never made it onto the WLS playlist. Because I had it on the K-tel album, I never bothered to seek out the 45 but I have always been a fan of Rick's music, ever since hearing the wonderful gospel folk of "Speak To The Sky" on one of Dad's K-Tel albums, Believe In Music from 1972. Sure I hate Springfield because he is talented and good looking but I sure have enjoyed listening to his music all these years. Hear Rick's Aussie accent as Dick Clark interviews him after this performance of "Take A Hand" on American Bandstand.
In hindsight, Sweet's "Fox On The Run" should probably be part of the future 1975 countdown but it would miss the Top 100 because of "Ballroom Blitz" would occupy the Sweet spot of that countdown and technically WLS was more than likely still playing it in early 1976 so it winds up here at number 74. Had you asked me to come up with my Ten Favorite Songs from 1976 when it was 1976, "Fox On The Run" would no doubt have made the list. I had and have the 45 and am a huge fan of Sweet's music but over the years, I've grown more fond of their earlier glam-ish Chinnichap material like "Little Willy" as well their latter more progressive material such as "Love Is Like Oxygen" leaving both "Ballroom Blitz" (a Chinnichap song) and "Fox On The Run" (a Sweet original!) to wither on the vine. It's a great song and now that I've noticed it's dwindling popularity maybe I'll make an effort to hear it more often. Check out the group's official music video for the song or this performance from Top of the Pops or this completely different performance from Top of the Pops.
You'll notice it says Produced by Freddie Perren right there on the 45 label, a fairly decent indicator of quality. The Miracles "Love Machine" was another monster hit back in the day, heard on the radio and especially at the roller rink where they played the full-length album version. I never bought the 45 of "Love Machine" - instead, I surreptitiously borrowed Dad's copy of Right On! for weeks at a time because it had "Love Machine" and a few other songs on it I liked a lot. Anyone else feel like firing up the Jackson 5's "Dancing Machine" after hearing "Love Machine" or is just me? Activate the "Love Machine" on Soul Train.
Mavis Staples and her voice are gosh darn national treasures! And on "Let's Do It Again" she is in top form as she brings Curtis Mayfield's sultry and sensual lyrics to life over a slinky musical backing while still keeping it chruchy. It is a wonderful dichotomy. I don't know what the exact circumstances were that motivated Pops Staples to consent to do this song and a couple of others on the soundtrack to Let's Do It Again but at least for this one song, it was a sweet deal for us listeners. It got many plays on WLS and I'd be remiss if I didn't point how cool and colorful the Curtom label is.
Bringing classical music to the dance floor a few years before "Hooked On Classics" would, Walter Murphy had a super smash hit single with his discofication of part of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony which he simply titled "A Fifth Of Beethoven." All the kids loved this jam in 1976 though I don't recall hearing it that much on WLS (which means nothing, I know) and while I looked for the 45 for a few weeks back then, I eventually gave up and moved on. Was happy to see the song was on one of my favorite Christmas Gifts of 1976, the previously mentioned Hit Machine. The song later made the soundtrack album to Saturday Night Fever. See Walter Murphy and his eight man "orchestra"
plead play the Fifth on The Midnight Special.
Jefferson Starship's "With Your Love" is a sweet, country-tinged unabashed love ballad that has a spacey feel to it that I enjoy most especially out under a blanket of stars. The song was one of a few mellow singles the band had between 1975-1978, including "Miracles" (1975), "Count On Me" and "Runaway" (both from 1978), before Mickey Thomas was asked to join, Grace Slick re-emerged and the band took on more of a harder rock sound, which I also like. I'll even go on record as saying the decade between 1975-1984 was one of the band's underrated best. Were their albums consistent? No. Did each record have at least two good'uns? Yes. WLS played all the best ones and I liked 'em all without exception.
WLS played "Love Is The Drug" maybe once or twice while I was listening, which was usually between the hours of 6:30-7:30am each morning before school and 4-9pm each night before bed. I didn't hear it very much during my limited listening time. In 1975, it was via a handheld transistor radio but after April 1976, it was on my Soundesign stereo. So the song got little traction with me in 1976 or for several years after until I rediscovered it in the early Eighties. It's a disco/new wave hybrid with quasi-Memphis horns. See Roxy Music get their fix in this clip.
Yes, it was a novelty song. Yes, it was a disco song. Yes, 10 year old me loved it, bought it, played it much to my parents annoyance. "Disco Duck" was a big one in 1976 and like I've said before, if you polled me for my favorite songs back then, it would surely be in Top 10 but over the last 40 years it has been steadily declining on my list of favorites though it did enjoy a brief resurgence when I shared it with my kids when they were younger and seeing the joy in their eyes made me appreciate all over again. It appeared on a couple of K-Tel albums and in Saturday Night Fever though it was left off the soundtrack album. Rick Dees and his supporting cast appeared on both American Bandstand and The Midnight Special. In 1984, on an episode of Solid Gold, Paul McCartney introduced "his songwriting hero" Rick Dees, who closed out the episode with his performance of "Disco Duck" with the Solid Gold Dancers.
Just checked my 45 collection and though I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I had "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" it appears I do not. Checking my Music Collectorz app, it appears I have the song on no less than a dozen different compact discs. (Whew! That was a close one.) Big, big fan of KC and his appropriately named Sunshine Band and their feel-good musical output. Pretty sure that when the K-Tel Chick site was still around, she had proclaimed "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" to be the song that appears on the most K-Tel albums. Or was it KC & the Sunshine Band was the artist appeared on the most K-Tel albums? Whatever, either accomplishment is awesome in my book. Watch KC et al. shake, shake, shake it on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
Many people would have rated "Kiss And Say Goodbye" a lot higher or completely left it off their list of favorite songs from 1976 but as good as it is, it is ultimately a sad song and I can't be having sad songs all up in my favorite songs. Gimme happy! The song is almost too pretty for its subject matter. Definitely a slow jam at those after school dances though hardly any kids coupled up to dance the slow ones - it was mostly girls on one side of the gym and boys on the other. The few adventurous souls that did hit the dance floor were kept at least three inches apart by adult chaperones. And when a "fast" song came on, both sides just kind of melded together in one big bunch. Us guys would always try to slide over to dance near or somewhat adjacent to the prettiest girls just so we could say we "danced" with them though that wasn't really the case. That's just the reality of elementary school love. You just gotta see The Manhattans rock their matching powder blue jump suits in this clip.
Didn't discover this song until the Eighties either but Candi's voice is a great one and this song suits it well. Both Jay Graydon and Ray Parker Jr are credited with guitar on "Young Hearts Run Free" while Scotty Edwards handled bass duties on the inspirational yet precautionary anthem. Not sure I ever heard it on WLS but it was on their Forty-fives list for nearly three months! Can you spot it on the list below, the one where it reached it's peak spot? (Click on image to embiggen.) And is it just me or is the lovely Ms. Staton predicting some serious Rosie Perez looks in this video clip?
Sorry, I was still staring at all the great songs on the WLS sheet pictured above. Let's see, where are we? Number 64: Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby" the one that started it all. The single version wasn't that bad but the full-length 16:50 album version which takes up the whole of Side 1 of her debut album on Oasis is positively scary. Or at least I recall finding it a bit off-putting as a ten year old. (Two years later as worldly twelve year old sneaking peeks at his father's Playboys, I knew what it was all about. Or at least I thought I did.) Dad loved the song and bought the album of the same name on eight track. My Texas Grandma got into Donna Summer a couple of years later but soon she had all of Summer's eight tracks right alongside her collection of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass tapes in the console and glove compartment of her big blue Delta 88. Hear Donna moan and watch her gyrate with her dancers in a live version of "Love To Love You Baby" on The Midnight Special or see her lip sync her way through the single edit all by her lonesome on Soul Train. (Like Candi Staton in the video above, Donna is rocking a mean feather collar on Soul Train.)
If I'm not mistaken - and I am wrong often enough that I feel like a fool for even suggesting I'm not - Rod Stewart's controversial "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" was the most popular song of 1976. Not to sound like a broken record but if you asked me in 1976, ten year old me would have said it was a Top 5 Favorite. I was innocent and naive enough that the lyrics just sounded pretty and fit the melody, so I loved to sing along in my high squeaky voice whenever it came on WLS. It was a jukebox favorite, too, though not at Cow Talk. Growing up on Air Force Bases, my parents took full advantage of all the resources and facilities the installations offered for the young, including child care and the youth center, which was basically child care for pre-teens with vending machines, Foosball tables, air hockey and board games. And a jukebox. Other jukeboxes I played back then were located in Garcia's Pizza and Pizza Hut. My main issue with the song is not the lyrics but rather the slowness of the song - all my favorite Rod Stewart songs rock or bounce along.Watch Rod tease his guitar in the official music video or see him sing while striking uncomfortable looking poses on the German television show simply titled Disco. Interested in Rod Stewart and giant headphones? You gotta see this.
In 1977, my family took the two hour drive from Rantoul up to Chicago with one specific goal in mind: to see Tutankhamun, the Boy King's stuff at the Field Museum Of Natural History. I have no recollection of the historical and educational event though my Mom says I loved it which may be true because to this day I still surround myself with old stuff. I don't think we spent the entire day at the museum though it is certainly possible as Mom tirelessly tried to make us smarter. Either on that particular trip or one of the follow-ups, we visited Old Chicago, which was billed as the world's first indoor amusement park when it opened in 1976. It had a Ferris wheel and two rollercoasters among many other attractions and it was in the middle of an old-timey mall with brabershop quartets strolling around. I'm gonna say it was cool but I don't think we rode any rides due to the expense and the fact that I would rather throw a fit than get on a thrill ride. So I guess you could say I didn't love rollercoasters. But I loved the song "Love Rollercoaster", a super funky hit that was popular on WLS and at the skating rink though I don't recall ever seeing it listed on a jukebox. Though I can see the Ohio Players had other singles after 1974's "Fire" the only one I recall hearing was "Love Rollercoaster." Remember the urban myth surrounding the song? How about the group's performance on The Midnight Special?
How many songs just jump right in like "Get Up And Boogie" which always got my attention when it came on the radio. There really wasn't much to it but a six word chorus and throbbing disco beat with soaring string parts which was the exact same formula as their previous song "Fly, Robin, Fly." Simple fun, the hallmark of a great pop song. That simpleness extended to the televised appearances by the three lady vocalists who spend most of their time doing choregraphed dance moves. Witness their moves on Disco or enjoy the return of those large headphones as Silver Convention performs on Top Pop.