(Pictured: Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers signs an autograph for the distilled essence of Rollergirl fanhood, 1976.)
Here’s the next part of our countdown of the top 56 hits of 1976, as listed by WIND in Chicago, 560 on your AM dial, then and now.
36. “Love Hangover”/Diana Ross. Although Diana was Oscar-nominated for Lady Sings the Blues, her performance on this—woozy, erotic, and on the edge of losing control without ever going over—is her best acting job.
35. “Saturday Night”/Bay City Rollers. Thunderous.
34. “More Than a Feeling”/Boston. For a long time, I could take this or leave it. As the years go by, however, I find myself not only wanting to take it, but to hold onto it.
33. “Love Rollercoaster”/Ohio Players. The single version of this starts with 16 seconds of introductory goodness that practically dares a radio jock to be awesome.
32. “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”/England Dan & John Ford Coley. That line about a warm wind blowing the stars around is a nice bit of writing.
31. “Let ‘Em In”/Wings. Paul McCartney tossed off Wings at the Speed of Sound in a hurry so he’d have something new to play on Wings’ 1976 tour of America. The best song on the album is neither “Let ‘Em In” nor “Silly Love Songs,” however. It’s the flip side of the “Let ‘Em In” single, “Beware My Love.”
30. “You Are the Woman”/Firefall. Another great radio record; it runs 2:35, which is all it needs.
29. “Get Up and Boogie”/Silver Convention. “Get Up and Boogie” was a #2 hit because of the first two seconds, and the way those two seconds sound on the radio next to whatever they’re next do. All the rest of the song is extra.
28. “A Fifth of Beethoven”/Walter Murphy. I’m probably wrong about this, but it strikes me that “A Fifth of Beethoven” marked the end of pop music’s wholesale plundering of classical music for themes and melodies, which had been commonplace since the Jazz Age.
27. “Rock and Roll Music”/Beach Boys. Many retrospectives written this year about the music of 1976 share one thing in common: strong dislike for this record. It was the 70s, it was the summer, it was the Beach Boys. Don’t think too hard about it, kids.
26. “Get Closer”/Seals and Crofts. Another iteration of the age-old axiom: you gotta give a little to get a little. Although in a more sexist age than ours, the singer was actually saying that he hadda get a little to give a little.
25. “Dream On”/Aerosmith. Unlike KISS on “Beth,” Aerosmith doesn’t seem to be faking it here.
24. “Theme From ‘SWAT'”/Rhythm Heritage. And not just SWAT, but the theme from nearly every cop show in the 70s.
23. “Muskrat Love”/Captain and Tennille. I have told this story before, but it’s worth repeating: credit (or blame) for this goes in part to Madison radio legend Jonathan Little, who played the Captain and Tennille’s version on WISM before everybody else and encouraged its release as a single.
22. “Right Back Where We Started From”/Maxine Nightingale. “We’re gonna get right back to where we started from.” Sounds like a blog with which you might be familiar.
21. “Got to Get You Into My Life”/Beatles. A comeback like no other.
20. “Devil Woman”/Cliff Richard. Perfect timing for Richard’s first significant American hit, as Halloween closed in.
19. “Disco Lady”/Johnnie Taylor. Your mileage may vary, but I find this to be one of the few songs with the word disco in the title that doesn’t sound embarrassing now. One thing is certain, though: it’s another intro that makes radio jocks want to show off.
18. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”/Paul Simon. In which the universe makes a subtle joke at humankind’s expense by sending this to #1 on Valentine’s Day.
17. “Shannon”/Henry Gross. It took 40 years, but I finally hear the cheese in this record that some people heard in 1976.
16. “I Only Want to Be With You”/Bay City Rollers. Every teenage rage aspires to be considered respectable. Covering a classic is one way to do it, as long as you do it well, which the Rollers did.
15. “Play That Funky Music”/Wild Cherry. Certain records are woven into the fabric of their times.
14. “Boogie Fever”/Sylvers. And some are not.
13. “I Write the Songs”/Barry Manilow. In which music speaks to us and says “When I look out through your eyes / I’m young again even though I’m very old.” Those of us who listen hope for a similar blessing.
Coming in a future installment: WIND’s top 12 hits of 1976.