The Top 56 of 1976 (Part 3)

We here conclude an annotated list of the Top 56 hits of 1976 from WIND in Chicago.

12. “Shop Around”/Captain and Tennille. When the Miracles recorded “Shop Around” in 1960, Smokey Robinson sang it as a young man getting dating advice from his mother, who tells him to play the field instead of setting down with one girl too soon, which is advice no red-blooded American boy really needs. The Captain and Tennille’s version drops the mama references and switches gender, and that simple flip turns the song into timely advice from an older woman to a younger one that self-worth doesn’t have to be tied to whether you belong to a man.

11. “Welcome Back”/John Sebastian. I have been on a 70s TV kick this year, rewatching several dramas and sitcoms of the time. What I enjoy about them, apart from the durable style of storytelling and their well-drawn characters, is their un-selfconsciousness. Many current network TV shows seem to labor at trying to show how clever and/or edgy they are. TV shows of the 70s were what they purported to be. Welcome Back Kotter promised big broad laffs from goofy characters, with occasional moments of hugging and learning. It’s not a show I feel like I need to rewatch along the others, but I’m glad it existed.

10. “If You Leave Me Now”/Chicago. Chicago had scored big with soft-rock love songs before (“Wishing You Were Here” and “Call on Me” both hit #1 on the Easy Listening chart), but “If You Leave Me Now” seemed a little fluffier than the others. That’s not a bad thing, just an observation.

9. “Lonely Night (Angel Face)”/Captain and Tennille. While Tennille takes care of business out front, the real fun is in the back, with all sorts of interesting musical noises going on behind her. The Captain played everything except drums, which were provided by the towering Hal Blaine.

8. “Convoy”/C. W. McCall. Songwriters don’t really care to tell stories anymore. Not even in country music, where only Carrie Underwood does it regularly, but tells the same story—woman gets revenge on the guy who wronged her—in nearly every song. What made “Convoy” a hit, as much as its timeliness at the height of the CB craze, was the fact that it’s a well-constructed story, with rising action, a stirring climax (“we crashed the gate doing 98”), falling action, and strong characterizations. Just like the ones you studied in English class.

7. “Afternoon Delight”/Starland Vocal Band. If I ever think of anything new to say about this song, you’ll be the first to know.

6. “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”/Four Seasons. The story is told that “December 1963” was written as “December 1933,” and was originally about the repeal of Prohibition. But since love just as well as liquor can give you a rush like a rolling bolt of thunder, spinning your head around and taking your body under, it couldn’t have been that hard to update.

5. “Disco Duck”/Rick Dees. I can tolerate this, should it pop up on shuffle, but only once a year.

4. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”/Elton John and Kiki Dee. Songs from 1976 almost always take me back there in my head. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” however, has never done that for me. Figuring out why would probably require me to undergo deep psychoanalysis—which is not a bad idea, actually.

3.  “Bohemian Rhapsody”/Queen. Only a handful of stations ranked “Bohemian Rhapsody” among their Top 10 hits of the year, as WIND did. WKBW in Buffalo and WDRC in Hartford had it at #1. Billboard ranked it at #18. The verdict of history is that it will be on the list of songs, and Queen will be on the list of bands, that every new generation discovers, and that will always be cool.

2. “Silly Love Songs”/Wings. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the gift of McCartney’s songcraft—to take something as lightweight as this and turn it into such a powerful earworm.

1.  “Tonight’s the Night”/Rod Stewart. Billboard‘s chart year ran from November to November, so the eight weeks “Tonight’s the Night” spent at #1, from November 13, 1976, to January 8, 1977, counts entirely in the 1977 chart year. So Billboard‘s declaration that it’s the #1 single of 1977 is an accounting anomaly. “Tonight’s the Night” clearly belongs precisely where WIND ranked it—as the most successful single of 1976.

Coming tomorrow, in the last post of 2016: a programming announcement.

2 thoughts on “The Top 56 of 1976 (Part 3)

  1. With his big bunch of keys, the Captain looks like the super of Tennille’s apartment building.
    “The bathtub is leaking in apartment 302? Lemme fill out the form, lady.”

  2. Andy

    I was just listening to a podcast called “The Gist” the other day, which usually deals with politics, but occasionally, music. The subject was songs that were #1 in 1976. They didn’t go very deep on anything, but the part that stood out to me was how they discussed “Tonight’s the Night”. It’s not a song I’ve ever liked, but apparently it’s now “creepy” and borderline “rape-y”. It made me think that for every taboo we break as a society, we have to come up with a new one to replace it. Damn you, political correctness, for making me feel like I have to defend a song I never felt the need to defend before.

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