Welcome Back

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(Pictured: the cast of Welcome Back Kotter.)

It won’t be long before I have written about all of the American Top 40 shows from the summer of 1976, but that time is not yet. Here’s what was notable about the show from June 12, 1976.

38. “Making Our Dreams Come True”/Cyndi Grecco
36. “Let Her In”/John Travolta
20. “Baretta’s Theme”/Rhythm Heritage
12. “Welcome Back”/John Sebastian
5. “Happy Days”/Pratt and McClain

That’s four TV themes and one song by a popular TV star. For the entire 1975-76 season, Laverne and Shirley ranked as the #3 show in television, Happy Days was #11, Welcome Back Kotter #18, and Baretta #22, and all would rank higher the next season. (Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley would be 1-2.) It couldn’t have hurt the viewership of any of them to have their theme songs on the radio every couple of hours during the summer rerun season.

32. “You’re My Best Friend”/Queen. The highest of seven debut songs on the show this week. Because my work ethic is pretty shoddy, I can’t tell you if seven is the most ever in the AT40 era—I kinda doubt it—but it seems like a lot.

Extra: “I Shot the Sheriff”/Eric Clapton. This long segment was snipped out of the show’s first hour, where it originally appeared, and it was offered as an extra with the recent nationwide repeat. Casey spends a couple of minutes discussing the history of reggae music, in which he says that “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash was the first major reggae hit in the States, forgetting “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, a Top-10 hit in 1969. He mentions Bob Marley’s then-current American tour and plays a snippet of his version of “I Shot the Sheriff.” America was at peak Bob Marley this summer: the album Rastaman Vibration was #12 on the album chart during the week of June 12, and “Roots Rock Reggae” would make #51 on the Hot 100 in July.

28. “Rock and Roll Love Letter”/Bay City Rollers
27. “Right Back Where We Started From”/Maxine Nightingale
I quite enjoy the degree to which the Rollers commit to their performance of “Rock and Roll Love Letter,” and that shortly after they pledge to “Keep on rock-n-rollin’ til my jeans explode,” their jeans do exactly that. Similarly committed is whoever did the handclaps on “Right Back Where We Started From,” one on every beat from start to finish.

26. “The Boys Are Back in Town”/Thin Lizzy
25. “Afternoon Delight”/Starland Vocal Band
24. “Moonlight Feels Right”/Starbuck
This stretch is 1976 as it gets. With only a couple of exceptions, “The Boys Are Back in Town” was the hardest-rockin’ thing on the Top 40 during the whole summer of ’76. “Afternoon Delight” and “Moonlight Feels Right” are pretty much the opposite.

17. “Movin'”/Brass Construction. “Movin'” is the highest-ranking record on this countdown you probably can’t place. Brass Construction was in the mold of the Ohio Players, Con Funk Shun, KC and the Sunshine Band, and other R&B outfits with a large number of members, many of them horn players. “Movin'” was a couple of weeks away from its chart peak of #14. The band’s self-titled album was huge: it hit #1 on the Soul LPs chart and #10 on the Billboard 200.

13. “I’ll Be Good to You”/Brothers Johnson. This was #1 on the soul chart for the week of June 12, the biggest mover within the Top 40 (up 10 spots), and the favorite song of the moment for 16-year-old me.

10. “Fool to Cry”/Rolling Stones. Casey mentions that with their current #1 album Black and Blue, their sixth to top the chart, the Stones have moved into sole possession of second place on the list of acts with the most #1 albums, behind only the Beatles.

1. “Silly Love Songs”/Paul McCartney and Wings. This record spent the week of May 22 at #1, then gave way to “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross for two weeks before reclaiming the top spot, which it would hold for another four weeks, through the week of July 3. It was in the Top 10 for 11 weeks in all and didn’t depart the Hot 100 until the middle of August. At year’s end, Billboard would rank it the #1 single of 1976.

I gotta say that this show was not the full glorious faceplant into memories of my favorite summer that I hoped it might be. Maybe I’ve been listening to this stuff too hard for too long. Maybe 2019 is sufficiently horrific to color even the memories of 43 years before. I have no idea, and it doesn’t matter. Memory is funny that way. It doesn’t always play back the tapes we order.

7 thoughts on “Welcome Back

  1. mikehagerty

    Not just four themes and a song by a popular TV star—all five of those records were either the theme of a show on or sung by the star of a show on the same network—ABC. That network was white hot at that moment.

    “I’ll Be Good To You” is tremendous.

    And I still cannot for the life of me hear what makes “Fool To Cry” a top 10 record, much less a Top 10 Rolling Stones record.

    1. Chris Herman

      That was during the time in the mid-70s when the first single from a Rolling Stones album (in this case, “Black and Blue”) was almost always guaranteed to make the Top 10 simply because it was by the Rolling Stones. Conventional wisdom regards “Black and Blue” (along with “Goats Head Soup” and “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll”) as among the Stones’ lesser albums from the decade. The losing streak would end with the release of “Some Girls” in 1978 which is arguably their last great album.

  2. HERC

    Dammit, Jim, I was planning on name-checking many of these same tunes in a not-too-distant WLS Forty-fives boogie check thing we do on The Hideaway but now you’ve got me rethinking it.

    I’ll finish the Thirty-threes and then see if I am inspired enough to uncover any differing perspectives on the small records with the big holes.

    1. Go for it. I have faith in you. (To those amongst the readership, if you are not regularly visiting HERC’s Hideaway, google it forthwith, but block out a few hours first.)

  3. porky

    Johnny Nash’s great “Hold Me Tight” from 1968 is an early reggae/rock-steady number, has that great “bubbly” guitar (don’t know how else to describe it, but it is present on many Jamaican tunes).

  4. Wesley

    I’ve never heard “Movin” played on the radio anywhere since 1976 except on American Top 40. It and that limp version of “Baretta’s Theme” by Rhythm Heritage are arguably the two most forgettable 1970s instrumentals to make the top 20. (Joel Whitburn doesn’t count the latter as an instrumental, but I disagree.)

    And I’m not up to researching all the 1970s charts, but I do know that there were several times in 1987 alone where 7 singles debuted on American Top 40.

  5. Pingback: Play That Funky Music | The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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