Back in the Saddle Again

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(Pictured: Aerosmith, 1977.)

Because no good idea ever goes unrepeated around here, let’s look at what was below the Top 40 on the chart from April 16, 1977, which I wrote about on Friday.

45. “Feels Like the First Time”/Foreigner
49. “Tie Your Mother Down”/Queen
57. “Do Ya”/Electric Light Orchestra

58. “Sleepwalker”/The Kinks
61. “Margaritaville”/Jimmy Buffett

70. “Back in the Saddle”/Aerosmith
74. “The Whistler”/Jethro Tull
76. “Sound and Vision”/David Bowie
77. “Dreams”/Fleetwood Mac
81. “Night Moves”/Bob Seger
92. “Arrested for Driving While Blind”/ZZ Top
98. “Go Your Own Way”/Fleetwood Mac

The spring and summer of 1977 were seasons in which a lot of the classic-rock radio canon was first laid down. “Hotel California,” “Carry on Wayward Son,” “Lido Shuffle,” and “Fly Like an Eagle” were already in the Top 40 in this week. “Dreams” would make #1 in June; “Feels Like the First Time” and “Margaritaville” would make the Top 10, and both “Night Moves” and “Go Your Own Way” had already been there; “Do Ya” had been up to #24; “Back in the Saddle” would make #38. “Tie Your Mother Down,” “Sleepwalker,” “The Whistler,” “Sound and Vision,” and “Arrested for Driving While Blind” wouldn’t crack the Top 40, but they got Top 40 airplay in a few places in 1977 before getting it on classic-rock radio in far more places for years thereafter. And this was only the beginning: by the middle of May, “Jet Airliner,” “Solsbury Hill,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” and “Peace of Mind” would also debut on the Hot 100, on the way to a highly crankable radio summer.

51. “Old Fashioned Boy (You’re the One)”/Stallion. “Old Fashioned Boy” is a record I liked a lot more in 1977 than I do now, but the refrain remains the distilled essence of 70s radio pop: “You’re the one that I’ve been lookin’ for forever / The one who makes my life seem so much better.” It would spend two weeks in the Top 40, peaking at #37.

55. “Sailing Ships”/Mesa
56. “Torn Between Two Lovers”/Mary Macgregor
90. “Sad Girl”/Carl Graves
91. “Rock and Roll Star”/Champagne
“Torn Between Two Lovers” had been  #1 in February. Mesa was a five-piece band of session players; Graves was a Canadian soul singer who had been in Skylark, famous for the 1973 hit “Wildflower”; Champagne was Holland’s attempt to recreate ABBA (and what a remarkably faithful attempt it was). What they all have in common is the Ariola America label, which was (wait for it) the American subsidiary of the European Ariola label. Its most prolific hitmaker was singer/songwriter Gene Cotton. Other artists with hits on the label in the late 70s included Billy Ocean, the disco group Chanson, and the heartland rock band Prism. This week may have represented peak Ariola America, although the label would get to #1 in 1979 thanks to Amii Stewart’s “Knock on Wood.”

62. “Theme From Charlie’s Angels“/Henry Mancini
83. “Roots Medley”/Quincy Jones
100. “Deeply”/Anson Williams
Even though synergy between television and the pop charts was extremely strong at this moment in time (as mentioned on Friday, and be sure to read the comments on that post, which elaborate on it), not everything from the tube became a big radio hit. The Charlie’s Angels theme would peak at #45; “Roots Medley” had reached #57 the week before this; “Deeply,” sung by the guy who played Potsie on Happy Days, had topped out at #93.

93. “Whatcha Gonna Do”/Pablo Cruise. From this debut position, “Whatcha Gonna Do” would slow-cook its way up the chart, losing its bullet (Billboard‘s signal of strong upward movement) a couple of times along the way. It crept into the Top 40 on June 11 at #39 and peaked at #6 for the weeks of August 20 and 27. It would stay on the Hot 100 until October, 26 weeks in all. Despite all the classic rock on here, if I were to pick one song that sums up the way the summer of 1977 sounds in memory, “Whatcha Gonna Do” might be it.

97. “Phantom Writer”/Gary Wright. Wright’s album The Dream Weaver had been one of the big hits of 1976 with two singles that hit #2. “Phantom Writer,” from the album The Light of Smiles, had peaked at #43 the week before. (They loved it in Bangor, Maine, though, where WGUY took it up to #9.)

104. “Theme From Rocky“/Current. This studio group got to the chart with its Casio keyboard version of “Gonna Fly Now” before versions by Bill Conti and Maynard Ferguson (both of which would leap over it and into the Hot 100 the next week). It was produced by Joe Saraceno, who had produced records by the bushel since the early 60s, including a few surf-rock classics by the Marketts (“Out of Limits”) and the Ventures (“Hawaii Five-O” and their Christmas album).

Please imagine a clever, poignant, or insightful concluding sentence here, because I got nothin’.

2 responses

  1. Another great post about a time in music I remember pretty well, as I listened religiously to American Top 40 and pop radio in general during that time. Fascinating how one #1 song from the era still gets a lot of repeat play (“Dreams”) while another one bigger than that at the time struggles to get any action even on most oldies outlets (“Torn Between Two Lovers”). The story about the latter’s label was also enjoyable. I’m almost as intrigued by the wide variety of independent record companies who had brief success in the 1970s as the music itself. Chelsea, Playboy, Pacific … I could go on, but I won’t.

    Oh, and I definitely agree with your take on the Pablo Cruise hit. Holds up great, goes down smooth and brings back pleasant memories every time.

  2. The Maynard Ferguson version of Gonna Fly Now beats up, strangles and knocks the living stuffing out of Bill Conti’s famous No. 1 soundtrack version of the tune. I haven’t heard the Current version of the song, but Rhythm Heritage (whose Theme from S.W.A.T. had gone to #1 a year earlier) also checked in with their own version.

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