Every year around this time I hear “Still the One” by Orleans and wherever I am, I’m not there anymore. I’m gone to a different autumn, the one in 1976.
“Still the One” first shows up at ARSA on a survey from WAVZ in New Haven, Connecticut, dated July 18, 1976. A day later, KCBQ in San Diego charted it, and stations across the country added it steadily after that. It first cracked a local Top 10 on August 9, hitting #8 at KCPX in Salt Lake City. On the Hot 100, “Still the One” debuted on July 31, all the way up at #69. It went to #51 the next week and into the Top 40 at #38 on August 14. After a nice jump to #27 on August 21, it slow-cooked the rest of the way up: 22-20-18-16-13-10-7-6-5, reaching its peak on October 23. The song recorded its first local #1 at WAVZ on October 3. It also hit #1 in some smaller cities: Waterbury, Connecticut; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and Springfield, Illinois. It made #2 at KHJ in Los Angeles and at WISM in Madison. In Chicago, WLS charted it as high as #6. As October turned to November, “Still the One” started on its way out of the Hot 100, falling from #5 to #26 for the week of October 30. It was gone from the Top 40 the week after that, November 6. The last of its 18 weeks on the Hot 100 was November 27. While “Still the One” ran the charts, Orleans was on the road opening for Jackson Browne, and their album Waking and Dreaming went to #33 in Billboard.
When it came time for stations around the country to chart the top hits of 1976, “Still the One”‘s highest placing was at KCBQ, where it ranked #3 for the year, behind Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. The only other station at ARSA to show it in the year’s Top 10 is WDRC in Hartford, at #8. At WAVZ, where it first hit and spent two weeks at #1, it ranked #15 for the year. WLS had it at #73; On American Top 40‘s year-end countdown, it ranked #82.
In 1977, “Still the One” stayed in the public eye and ear when ABC adopted it as the promotional theme for its new fall season, even giving its Muzak-y, Johnny Mann Singers-style version a full-length video treatment. The song was a fitting choice given that ABC was the top-rated TV network at the time. “Still the One” returned as ABC’s fall theme in 1979, with a series of promos featuring network stars riding in hot-air balloons.
In 2007, I met Larry Hoppen, who was one of three Hoppen brothers to play in Orleans. He was with an outfit called the Rock and Pop Masters, which toured the country presenting a smorgasbord of 60s, 70s, and 80s stars. (On that day, they ranged from Robbie “Steal Away” Dupree to Joe Bouchard from Blue Oyster Cult.) I asked Larry if they thought, when they formed the band in 1972, that they’d still be in it 35 years later. He said they did not, but that when “Still the One” became such a big hit, it gave them enough momentum (and sufficient royalties, no doubt) to stay with it. He said of himself and his brothers, “Our parents played music all their lives, to age 75 and 81, and we’ll probably do the same thing.” Larry Hoppen did indeed play music all his life, but he died in 2012 at the age of 61.
Even after it dropped out of current playlists and was no longer getting a boost from ABC, “Still the One” never went away. That sound—gently rockin’ guitar with just the right amount of riffage, the distinctive harmonies of the Hoppen brothers, and easy to sing along with—was as squarely in the pocket for 70s Top 40 radio as anything ever was. But it has a timeless quality, too. Forty-two years later, you still hear it on the radio now and then.