Everybody’s got one magic season in their lives, and as I’ve noted here a million times before, the summer of 1976 is mine. It’s no surprise, then, that the summer of ’76 is well represented on my Desert Island list, with eight singles that rode the charts between the end of May and the end of August. One of them I mentioned in the previous installment, “Fool to Cry” by the Rolling Stones. Here are the others, in chronological order:
“Strange Magic”/Electric Light Orchestra. More than most of the songs on this list, “Strange Magic” is associated with a single strong image. It’s morning, one of those days that’s going to be hotter than hell, and you know it the moment you wake up in your house without air conditioning. It’s the kind of day on which you can see heat rising from the cornfields, and every time I hear that humid opening guitar lick of “Strange Magic,” I can see it again.
“Misty Blue”/Dorothy Moore. I grew up with a healthy respect for soul music, and although I wouldn’t have fully understood the genre’s historical arc in 1976, I knew enough to understand that this was old-school, and breathtaking besides.
“I’ll Be Good to You”/Brothers Johnson. A different kind of soul, smooth and funky. My local radio stations didn’t play this enough to suit me. No radio station could, so I bought the album, Look Out for #1, but it ain’t going to the island with me, as it was one of the most disappointing albums I ever bought. “I’ll Be Good to You,” however—can’t leave home without it.
“I’ll Get Over You”/Crystal Gayle. I probably heard this on my parents’ country station that summer, but it didn’t register until I got into country radio myself a few years later. It’s for anybody who ever thought, “Think I can’t do it? Just watch me”—and then, with everybody watching, failed to do it.
“Kiss and Say Goodbye”/Manhattans. From the same emotional place “Misty Blue” originated, and “Me and Mrs. Jones,” too. That spoken opening—“this has got to be the saddest day of my life”—still kills me. Dig the Manhattans’ choreography.
“Get Closer”/Seals and Crofts. Another strong image: Sometime in the 80s or early 90s, I am driving on a late-summer day when “Get Closer” comes on, and I’m suddenly struck with the certainty that the portal back to the summer of 1976 is very, very near—only I can’t tell where it is. The song was nothing special to me in 1976, but since that weird moment in the car has it become an essential—in case it opens the portal again.
“Moonlight Feels Right”/Starbuck. No record better sums up the sound of the summer of 1976 as I heard it back then.
I said when I started this series that I might write about some songs that could be added to the list, but I’m reluctant to start adding songs from the summer of 1976, because I might never stop. Although that would be more of a problem for you than it would be for me.