When my girlfriend came home from a month in Europe about this time in 1977, she brought back a lot of stuff for me, including a copy of the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” and one of the first chart books I ever owned. Called Star File, it’s a comprehensive breakdown of the British and American singles and album charts for 1976. Since I’ve been writing a lot about 1976 lately, it was probably natural that I’d eventually take it down from the shelf.
According to Star File, 17 singles topped the British charts that year, counting “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which completed a nine-week run that started in late November 1975. Four of the chart-toppers made it to Number One over in the United States: “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” by the Four Seasons, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, and “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago. Also making the Top 40 here while hitting Number One there were ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” and “Fernando,” and two other songs that you might not know.
“Save Your Kisses for Me”/Brotherhood of Man (weeks of March 27, April 3, April 10, April 17, April 24, and May 1). Bubblegum king Tony Burrows was in the original incarnation of this group (which recorded “United We Stand” in 1970), but he was gone by 1976. “Save Your Kisses for Me” was Britain’s entry in the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest, and it ended up winning just after it had topped the British charts. It reached only Number 27 on the Hot 100 in July. Part of the reason might be this: I’ve got a stronger tolerance for sap than most people, but this record takes even me to the edge.
“You to Me Are Everything”/The Real Thing (weeks of June 26, July 3, and July 10). The first record by a Black British act to top the charts in Britain, “You to Me Are Everything” would likely have scored big in the States, too—if three different versions hadn’t released at the same time. The Real Thing got it on the radio first, in early July, and took it to Number 64 by the end of August, but whatever momentum it could have built was dissipated by two competing versions. A version by Broadway peaked at Number 84; another by Revelation peaked at Number 98, both in the same week.
That leaves eight singles reaching Number One in Britain without getting on the American Hot 100. We’ll take on three of them today and the remaining five on Monday.
“Forever and Ever”/Slik (week of February 14). Slik was a Scottish glam-rock band whose most famous member ended up being Midge Ure, who was briefly in Thin Lizzy during 1979, formed the synth-pop band Ultravox in 1980, and co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas” with Bob Geldof in 1984. “Forever and Ever,” written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter (who wrote a number of the Bay City Rollers’ biggest hits) is an odd production, shifting back and forth between organ-driven, Jim Morrison-style poetic recitation and bubblegum balladry.
“I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)”/Tina Charles (weeks of March 6, 13, and 20). Charles was a disco singer who had taken a ride up the American charts late in 1975 as the lead singer of “I’m on Fire” by 5000 Volts. Her collaboration with producer Biddu, who had written and produced “Kung Fu Fighting,” resulted a handful of hits in the UK, but nothing on the American charts.
“No Charge”/J.J. Barrie (week of June 5). A version of this country weeper, sung by Melba Montgomery, had topped the American country charts in April 1974, and it did a week in the pop top 40 that June. It’s a lot more effective when sung by a woman, but that didn’t stop Barrie from cutting his own slightly skeevy version of it.
Coming next, a profoundly annoying novelty song, a Greek castrato, some 50s revivalists, and more.