(The choice of photo for this post came down to either the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Stevie Nicks posing on the hood of a car in 1976. Mine eyes have seen the glory all right.)
Me, listening to the AT40 show from May 1, 1976: “I’m not going to write about this show. People are probably tired of hearing me go on about 1976.”
On the AT40 show from May 1, 1976, Casey answers a listener question regarding the largest group ever to have a Top 40 hit. The answer is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with 375 voices, whose “Battle Hymn of the Republic” went to #13 in October 1959. The group on “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is even bigger than Casey indicated, though. The choir is backed, as they frequently were on record, by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy, so there’s probably 500 people on it.
But 500 performers is not the most on any record ever. In 1925, a version of “Adeste Fideles” credited to the Associated Glee Clubs of America was intended to demonstrate the improved fidelity of the electric recording process, a vast improvement over the old acoustic method in which soundwaves were cut directly into some physical medium via a recording horn. The Associated Glee Clubs of America had 850 members. Their performance of “Adeste Fideles” was captured at a concert and the audience was invited to sing along, so the finished recording contains something like 4,800 voices.
“Battle Hymn of the Republic” spent 16 weeks on the Hot 100 in 1959, peaking at #13 during the week of October 26, when it was tucked in between Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” at #12 and “Red River Rock” by Johnny and the Hurricanes at #14. Songs ahead of it on the Hot 100 included “Mack the Knife,” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” Sandy Nelson’s drum instrumental “Teen Beat,” the Coasters’ “Poison Ivy,” and the Everlys’ “Til I Kissed You.” The album from which it came, The Lord’s Prayer, spent a week at #1 on Billboard‘s Top Stereo Albums chart in January 1960. The magazine had instituted separate lists for stereo and mono albums in May 1959, a distinction it maintained until August 1963. The Lord’s Prayer never hit #1 on the mono chart.
Casey also mentioned on the 1976 broadcast that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir stars in the longest-running program on network radio, which had been on since 1929. Here in 2019, both the radio show and a TV version that started in 1949 are still airing. Music and the Spoken Word is broadcast on over 2,000 stations around the world, and is probably on one near you. But don’t look for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: last year the group changed its name to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
Here are some other notes I wasn’t going to make about the 5/1/76 show:
—Somebody needs to show me and tell me how Al Wilson’s fine and summery “I’ve Got a Feeling” missed becoming a big hit. Same thing for “Love Really Hurts Without You,” Billy Ocean’s first hit eight years before the rest of Billy Ocean’s hits.
—Casey tells the historical and mythological story behind Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” thereby giving Welsh history more media play than it has ever received anywhere outside of Wales.
—“December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” by the Four Seasons is still hanging on at #16 on May 1, five weeks after it fell out of the #1 spot. It went from #1 to #8, then 14-14-14 before this week. It would spend one more week on the Top 40 (its 15th) at #25, but then take seven more weeks to exit the Hot 100, three of those weeks spent holding at #95 before a final week at #98 and out. Although I can’t say for sure, I doubt any other record made a weirder, more drawn-out exit from the chart. The song spent 27 weeks on the Hot 100. Only the Miracles’ “Love Machine,” “A Fifth of Beethoven,” and “Sara Smile,” at 28 weeks apiece, had longer runs in 1976.
—Once we get to the Top 15 on this show, a lot of the songs are not just songs to me but icons, icons in the religious sense, objects of veneration that represent entire constellations of meaning beyond the simple appearance of them, as they mark the path through my favorite year. But I’m not going to write about that. People are probably tired of hearing me go on about 1976.