A Kaleidoscope of Sounds

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You knew we’d be going back to 1976 sometime this month. Here’s what’s inside the issue of Billboard dated October 2, 1976.

Among the front-page headlines: “Disco Music Sounds Undergoing Changes.” Labels and artists have been stung by accusations that “emphasis on basic rhythms and marginal lyric content were mindless and insulting to the intelligence of audiences.” As a result, Billboard contributor Tom Moulton says, “The disco record is no longer all rhythms and a bunch of drums. . . . Consequently there is no longer a single, readily identifiable disco beat but a kaleidoscope of sounds that are melodic and danceable.” Among the artists mentioned as trendsetters of the new sound: Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, the Bee Gees, Lou Rawls, Donna Summer, Double Exposure, and Vicki Sue Robinson.

(Commentary from the present: Moulton’s contention interests me, as I’ve always believed disco, at least the stuff on the radio, was more interesting pre-1977, and that as time went by, the beat got more mindless, not less.)

The magazine’s Disco Forum includes a feature on the growing popularity of mobile discos, which can take the party anywhere. Twenty-one-year-old Bill Alan operates Apollo Disco, a mobile in Minneapolis, and says that when he entertained at a nursing home, he brought his parents’ Longines Symphonette albums, but the residents didn’t want to hear Dorsey, Dean Martin, or Sinatra. “They wanted Earth, Wind and Fire and Van McCoy,” Alan recalls.

Former CBS Records executive Clive Davis has been fined $10,000 for tax evasion but will not receive jail time. Two men and a woman have been arrested in the kidnapping case involving producer Lou Adler, who was held for eight hours early in September. A report by the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy says radio broadcasters could lose up to 15 percent of car listeners to “CB crosstalk” by 1980. The study also predicts chaos if the FCC goes ahead with plans to expand the citizens band without increasing its ability to regulate use of the new channels. A Christian music publisher is suing five Catholic churches in the Chicago archdiocese for using pirated hymnals. In recent years, publishers have stepped up efforts to collect royalties from individual churches, especially since the reforms of Vatican II changed the primary language of the Catholic mass from Latin to English.

A canvas of retail stores in the northeastern United States reveals that despite a standard list price of $6.98, albums are most frequently sold for $3.99. Stores based in malls and discount or department stores tend to sell at higher prices than retail record and tape stores and freestanding stores not connected with a mall. Prices in the New York and Philadelphia metro areas are the highest. The average price across the region is $4.94, although some stores in outlying areas sell $6.98 albums for as little as $2.99. In a related story, retailers would like labels to release more product at a price point of $4.98.

In the Marketplace section, readers can buy spray incense and velvet posters, FCC exam study guides for first- and second-class operator’s licenses, and several different radio comedy services. One guy advertises his service by saying, “Absolutely none can top my original, sophisticated material. Make listeners think you actually finished high school!”

On the record charts, the most-added singles on playlists across the country are “Muskrat Love” by the Captain and Tennille, “A Dose of Rock and Roll” by Ringo Starr, and the Bee Gees’ “Love So Right.” Albums getting the most adds to station playlists are Long May You Run by the Stills-Young Band, Year of the Cat by Al Stewart, Modern Music by Be Bop Deluxe, and Robin Trower’s Long Misty Days. Most-requested albums at radio stations are Linda Ronstadt’s Hasten Down the Wind, One More From the Road by Lynryd Skynyrd, and self-titled albums by Boston and the Funky Kings.

Rack jobbers report that 12 of the nation’s 40 best-selling albums are compilations of hit singles; Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 by the Eagles and Greatest Hits by War rank in the Top 10 of all albums sold. The jobbers’ best-selling albums are Frampton Comes Alive! and Fleetwood Mac. Frampton Comes Alive! is #1 on Top LPs and Tape; Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs is #2. “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry leads the sales chart for singles; it’s also #1 on the Hot 100 for a second week. “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan and John Ford Coley holds at #2, while Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” and “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees make strong moves to #3 and #4. Both will eventually reach #1, Murphy next week and Dees the week after that.

One response

  1. These old issues of Billboard are always packed with interesting tidbits.

    I thought Tom Moulton was the guy who invented the dance-remix drum break, so it’s sort of ironic to hear him talking about “a bunch of drums.”

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