Today’s the Day

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(Pictured: a giant Bicentennial birthday card on the grounds of the White House.)

The other night I found myself browsing the edition of Billboard magazine dated July 4, 1976, as one does.

A front-page story notes that the period around the Sunday the Fourth is going to be the biggest week of the year for concerts. Elton John is doing a string of “Happy Birthday America” shows in Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia, including Schaefer Stadium in suburban Boston on the Fourth. The Eagles will play four shows in four nights—Charlotte, Greensboro, Atlanta, and Tampa—sharing the Tampa Stadium bill on the Fourth with Fleetwood Mac and Loggins and Messina. (As it turned out, the Eagles did a fifth night, in Hollywood, Florida, on July 5.) Also set for July 4th: Peter Frampton and Gary Wright at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta; KISS and Bob Seger in Richmond; the Ohio Players, Labelle, Rufus, and War at the Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit; and ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Outlaws, and Blue Oyster Cult in Memphis.

I wonder how BOC went down with the Southern rock crowd.

Elton’s D.C.-area shows are set for the Capital Center in suburban Landover, Maryland, but two shows scheduled for RFK Stadium in Washington, the Beach Boys and Chicago on the Fourth and Earth Wind and Fire on the 5th, have been canceled by promoters. It’s because the government entity overseeing the facility has issued a new set of rules that include no walkup ticket sales on show days, a 6PM end time for all shows, and increased security requirements.

Washington’s official Fourth of July show will be on the National Mall with Johnny Cash and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Also on the Fourth, a People’s Bicentennial event will be staged at the Capitol. Among the speakers will be boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Jane Fonda; musical performers will include Don McLean, Peter Yarrow, Gil Scott-Heron, and the Star Spangled Washboard Band.

In other industry news:

—Patriotic records are booming in all genres due to the Bicentennial. The most successful one is “Here Comes the Freedom Train” by Merle Haggard, which is at #10 on the current country chart. The 10-car Freedom Train, which began its national tour in April 1975, will visit 150 cities and be seen by 10 million people by the end of 1976; among its historical displays is a car full of recording-industry memorabilia, including Bing Crosby’s gold record for “White Christmas” and Jack Benny’s violin.

—Efforts are continuing to improve the poor sound on television broadcasts. PBS has reportedly developed a system that could broadcast high-fidelity sound on a subcarrier wave alongside the video signal. However, the nation’s two biggest makers of TV sets, Zenith and RCA, claim that consumers wouldn’t want to pay what it would cost for better TV speakers.

—Stax Records has filed for bankruptcy. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has started a fundraising campaign to help the label, and to defray legal expenses run up by Stax president Al Bell, who is currently involved with suits in four different courts.

The bulk of the July 4, 1976, edition of Billboard is a 150-page special section on the history of recorded music and recording technology. Much of the section is taken up with full-page ads, but one article discusses the evolution of Billboard‘s record charts. Lists of popular songs and/or recordings were compiled as early as 1913, although they didn’t become a regular feature until the 1930s. A listing of radio play first appeared in 1937. What we would recognize as a modern chart first appeared in 1940.

On the Hot 100, “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney and Wings is in its fifth and final non-consecutive week at the top. “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band makes a strong move from #7 to #2, staking its claim on the #1 position it will hit next week. There’s not much movement elsewhere in the Top 40; John Travolta’s “Let Her In” makes the biggest move, from #26 to #13. On the album chart, the top four are unchanged from the previous week: Wings at the Speed of Sound, Frampton Comes Alive!, Aerosmith’s Rocks, and Breezin’ by George Benson. The #1 song on the soul chart is “Something He Can Feel” by Aretha Franklin. Joe Stampley’s “All These Things” is #1 country. The #1 song on the Easy Listening chart is “Today’s the Day” by America.

American Top 40 listeners don’t hear about the week’s chart action, though. The holiday weekend broadcast is a summer special featuring the #1 songs on the Fourth of July from 1937 through 1976. I’ll tell you about that later in the week.

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