(Pictured: Thelma Houston at Motown 60. She’s still got it and she knows it.)
I have written about other weeks from the spring of 1977, but I don’t think I’ve written about the AT40 show from April 16, 1977, so here you go.
40. “Spring Rain”/Silvetti
39. “Uptown Festival (Part 1)”/Shalamar
This is not the most scintillating way to start a radio show. “Spring Rain” (which is at #40 for a second straight week) has some nice piano, but that’s it; “Uptown Festival,” a medley of Motown songs set to a disco beat, never catches fire.
34. “Dancin’ Man”/Q. Late in April 1984—I forget the precise date—my best friend died, after the third open-heart surgery of his short life. We never talked about it, but I suspect that he always knew he wasn’t going to live as long as the rest of us, which would explain why he lived the way he did: with no limits and no regrets. “Dancin’ Man” was a song he liked, and every time I hear it, I can see him improvising a dance step to the radio, grinning beneath the white-guy Afro he sometimes wore.
33. “Sometimes”/Facts of Life
30. “At Midnight”/Rufus
28. “New York, You Got Me Dancing”/Andrea True Connection
25. “Free”/Deniece Williams
A lot of the songs on this chart (“Spring Rain” and “Uptown Festival” too) weren’t on the radio stations I was listening to that spring.
32. “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow”/Tom Jones
3. “Southern Nights”/Glen Campbell
Both of these had been to #1 on the Billboard country chart earlier in the spring. Ten of the year’s #1 country hits would cross over. Another of the #1s, Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille,” will debut on the 40 next week.
23. “I Like Dreamin'”/Kenny Nolan. Casey says that Nolan wrote “I Like Dreamin'” out of anger, after his songs were rejected by prominent performers even after he’d written two #1 hits, “My Eyes Adored You” and “Lady Marmalade.” Only in the sensitive 70s would an angry man channel that emotion into an ultra-sappy love song.
22. “Your Love”/Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. A #1 hit like “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” was the kind of record that made careers back in the day, and as the summer of 1977 glimmered in the distance, it must have seemed like Marilyn and Billy would become Captain-and-Tennille-level stars. “Your Love” was climbing the chart, and they’d landed a limited-run summer variety show on CBS. But it didn’t happen: “Your Love” stalled at #15, “Look What You’ve Done to My Heart” got only to #51 in the summer, and they never hit the Hot 100 again. Still, they won at life: this summer, they’ll celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
17. “Lido Shuffle”/Boz Scaggs
16. “Couldn’t Get It Right”/Climax Blues Band
15. “I Wanna Get Next to You”/Rose Royce
14. “Carry On Wayward Son”/Kansas
13. “When I Need You”/Leo Sayer
12. “Tryin’ to Love Two”/William Bell
11. “Right Time of the Night”/Jennifer Warnes
That’s some serious Top 40 pleasure right there. As much as I love #17, #16, #15, and #13, “Tryin’ to Love Two” might be the best song on the show.
8. “Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)”/Barbra Streisand
6. “Dancing Queen”/ABBA
After spending three weeks at #1 in March and starting on its way down, “Evergreen” is actually up one spot this week, its 12th straight week in the Top 10. Lots of people would be surprised to learn “Dancing Queen,” last week’s #1, was #1 for only a week, and that it came and went in a hurry compared to other top hits of 1977.
2. “Don’t Leave Me This Way”/Thelma Houston. If you saw the Motown 60th anniversary special a couple of weekends back, you saw Thelma Houston, age 72, blow singers young enough to be her grandchildren right off the stage. I tweeted something to that effect during the show using the Motown 60 hashtag, and it ended up with 32 retweets and 187 likes from around the world, which would make it the single most popular thing I ever said on that hellsite. Perhaps I should quit now. Perhaps all of us should.
1. “Don’t Give Up on Us”/David Soul. In a three-channel universe with mass-appeal radio stations, we all watched and listened to pretty much the same stuff. “Don’t Give Up on Us” got a weekly boost on TV every time Starsky and Hutch was on, even if the song had nothing to do with the show. If I had a longer attention span, I might research the synergy between TV and the record charts in the last half of the 1970s. A better work ethic wouldn’t hurt, either.