Right Time

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(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.

12 thoughts on “Right Time

  1. mikehagerty

    JB: TV and hits in the latter half of the 70s? That would be a major piece. Off the top of my head, The Rockford Files, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Welcome Back Kotter themes, plus the aforementioned David Soul record, John Travolta’s “Let Her In” and probably half a dozen more—not counting hit songs that started as TV commercials (“Times of Your Life”, etc.).

    Of course, with the exception of the Rockford Files Theme and “Times of Your Life”, everything mentioned above was connected to the Fred Silverman era at ABC, and he was aiming his primetime at the same audience as Top 40 radio.

    1. Wesley

      Other top 40 hits in the area included the themes to SWAT (the first TV theme to go to #1, doing so in early 1976), Baretta, Makin’ It (a rare theme that lasted longer on the charts and scored higher than the series itself, hitting the top 5 months after ABC had canned the sitcom) and arguably I Love Lucy with “Disco Lucy”; both a TV soap opera theme and a song popularized by ABC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics, “Nadia’s Theme (The Young and the Restless)”; one-hit wonder Rex Smith’s “You Take My Breath Away,” a top ten entry first heard on the TV-movie “Sooner or Later”; and the short-lived singing careers of Shaun Cassidy, Cheryl Ladd (“Think It Over”) and the Blues Brothers. As Mike previously noted, almost all of these save “Disco Lucy,” “You Take My Breath Away” and the Blues Brothers are products of ABC under Fred Silverman as president.

      1. “Different Worlds,” the theme to “Angie,” was a Top 20 hit and a #1 AC for Maureen McGovern. That was ABC as well; I think the show aired right after Silverman left but maybe he had something to do with developing it.

      2. Andy

        A few of the less-successful TV-related efforts from the mid-to-late 70’s include:

        “Chico and the Man” – Jose Feliciano (#96, 1975) (Sammy Davis, Jr. charted on AC with a version as well)
        “All Roads (Lead Back to You)” – Donny Most (#97, 1976)
        “The Fonz Song” – The Heyettes (#91, 1976)
        “Sixteen Reasons” – Laverne and Shirley (#65, 1976)
        “Baby Boy” – Loretta Haggers (Mary Kay Place) (#60, 1976) (from “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” – went to #3 on the country chart. The show was also responsible for a #22 hit on the dance chart, an instrumental version of the show’s theme song by Sounds of Inner City featuring Dick Lee)
        “Deeply” – Anson Williams (#93, 1977)
        “He’s So Fine” – Kristy and Jimmy McNichol (#70, 1978) (both were starring in separate shows around this time, “Family” and “The Fitzpatricks”)

        (Unfortunately, I don’t think “Lenny and the Squigtones” managed to chart a single. I would have loved to include them.)

  2. mikehagerty

    There is a marvelous story that, as a junior programming executive at CBS in the late 60s, Silverman took it upon himself to drop in on Lucille Ball at her office at Paramount (she had just sold Desilu) to suggest ways she could improve her less-than-awesome third series, “Here’s Lucy”. They had not met before.

    Silverman was full of ideas to make the show slicker and more “now”. About 60 seconds into his pitch, Lucy says “Don’t go anywhere. Sit there. I just need to make a phone call.”

    She picks up the phone, dials a number and says “It’s Lucy. Let me talk to Bill Paley (head and founder of CBS). Hello, Bill? Lucy. How’s Babe (his wife)? Oh, that’s marvelous. Give her my love. Bill, there’s a young man from your programming department in my office. Fred—-I’m sorry, sweetheart, what’s your last name again—Silverman? Fred Silverman. Now, Bill, I’m going to pass the phone to Mr. Silverman so you can tell him to go f*%# himself.”

    She did, Paley said “What the hell? Get out of there NOW!” and that was the end of the meeting.

    Silverman and Lucy eventually fixed their relationship. It was Silverman who convinced Lucy to sign for a final season of Here’s Lucy five years later (he was head of programming by then) and Silverman who paid big bucks for a one-shot Lucy special on NBC after he’d left ABC.

    1. Wesley

      Lucy also had enough clout with CBS to demand that the network rerun Here’s Lucy in the mornings as it had done with I Love Lucy from 1959-67 and The Lucy Show from 1968-72. But in 1972-73 the network hit a hot streak by adding The Price is Right, The Young and the Restless, Match Game and much more in daytime and didn’t have room for it before it went off in 1974. Lucy reminded them of her contract, and rather than fight its former top star in court, CBS reluctantly added Here’s Lucy to its lineup in 1977. But even as “Disco Lucy” became a top 30 hit, no one cared to see a sitcom that looked remarkably dated even just three years after it ended, and the reruns lasted only six months. This left Lucy with the dubious distinction of having starred in both the longest running CBS daytime series in reruns (I Love Lucy lasted 8 1/2 years) and the shortest one with Here”s Lucy.

      1. This is interesting and I thank you for sharing it. Somebody with a good work ethic ought to look into the history of networks doing prime-time reruns in daytime. I can remember CBS running MASH and the Dick Van Dyke Show in the afternoons, and I believe ABC ran Laverne and Shirley and most likely Happy Days too.

    1. Chris Herman

      Don’t leave out [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Toussaint Allen Toussaint’s] contribution. He wrote the song.

    2. Was there anything Glen Campbell WASN’T good at? The guy had movie-star looks, was a very good singer, and could play killer guitar. Everybody had to be jealous of him.

  3. mackdaddyg

    There are maybe nine songs on this list that I can safely say I’ve heard on the radio over the past couple of years, and maybe a couple more that I recognize. The rest are completely unknown to me, and I was listening to the radio by this point. It’s kind of disorienting.

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