Play That Funky Music

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(Pictured: Nancy and Ann Wilson, 1976.)

In keeping with newly instituted custom, here’s some of the rest of the Billboard Hot 100 dated June 12, 1976, outside of the American Top 40 show I wrote about recently.

49. “Crazy on You”/Heart
52. “Last Child”/Aerosmith
79. “Still Crazy After All These Years”/Paul Simon

In the earlier installment, I wrote that Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” was the hardest-rockin’ record of the summer of ’76 with a couple of exceptions. Heart and Aerosmith (which was the highest Hot 100 debut of the week) are the exceptions. One week earlier, Heart and Paul Simon had peaked at #35 and #40 respectively. They spent but five weeks in the Top 40 between them—a remarkably short time for two records that are still getting airplay 43 years later.

54. “Got to Get You Into My Life”/Beatles
58. “Rock and Roll Music”/Beach Boys
These two records would ride the Hot 100 together. After debuting a week apart in June, they would stick around through the last week of September.

69. “TVC 15″/David Bowie. I listened to David Bowie’s Station to Station album again recently, and while I don’t think I love it as much as I did when I was 16, it’s still mighty good. Bowie might have kept recycling that soul-man vibe for the rest of his career and collected money in crates, but he and his muse had other fish to fry.

80. “Rain, Oh Rain”/Fools Gold. These guys played behind Dan Fogelberg going back to his days in Illinois, and at live shows, they often got a chance to play a few tunes of their own before Dan came on. The first of their two albums features guest appearances by Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh. Given all that, “Rain, Oh Rain” sounds exactly the way you’d expect it to, which is just fine, actually.

83. “I’ll Get Over You”/Crystal Gayle. “I’ll Get Over You” has been a favorite around here since always. It was #1 on the country chart during the week of June 12, 1976, but would make only #71 on the Hot 100.

91. “The Lonely One”/Special Delivery Featuring Terry Huff. Terry Huff and his brothers came up during the street-corner R&B boom at the turn of the 60s; they tried hard but didn’t make it and got out of the business. After a couple of years as a cop in Washington, DC, Huff took another bash at music and self-produced “The Lonely One,” which his label insisted on releasing under that awkward group name, and which is a lost soul gem in spite of it.

93. “Bohemian Rhapsody”/Queen. Because I am not on top of any trend of any kind, I didn’t see the Bohemian Rhapsody movie until earlier this month. I agree with many of the reviews that its somewhat squeamish attitude toward homosexuality is a distortion of Freddie Mercury’s life. Also, we never really learn how it was that Mercury became the incredible showman the film presents—it’s as if he just sprung up fully formed. But the film’s musical performances are great enough to make you forget all that. On June 12, 1976, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was in its final week on the Hot 100 after debuting on the first chart of the new year and peaking at #9 in April.

94. “Norma Jean Wants to Be a Movie Star”/Sundown Company. Featured in the 1976 theatrical biopic Goodbye, Norma Jean, which stars Misty Rowe (seen on TV in Hee Haw and in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood parody sitcom When Things Were Rotten) as the titular character and future Marilyn Monroe. The film is apparently factually challenged, sexually exploitative, and poorly crafted. So the country-flavored “Norma Jean Wants to Be a Movie Star” almost has to be the best thing about it.

95. “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”/Four Seasons. This debuted on the last chart of 1975, spent three weeks at #1 in March, and in the week of June 12 was at #95 for a third week in a row. The next week it would slip to #98 and then out.

110. “Play That Funky Music”/Wild Cherry. This record makes its chart debut in the last position on the Bubbling Under chart, maybe six weeks before I’ll first hear it and three months before it will climb atop the Hot 100. Goofball as it is, it’s not just a request or a command, it’s a promise, although I didn’t know it then. Songs from the summer and fall of 1976 promised to keep playing in my head for a long time to come.

8 thoughts on “Play That Funky Music

  1. Guy Kipp

    “Heart and Paul Simon had peaked at #35 and #40 respectively. They spent but five weeks in the Top 40 between them—a remarkably short time for two records that are still getting airplay 43 years later.”

    “Crazy on You” is a radio staple 43 years later, and yet, “Tell It Like It Is,” which reached the Top 10 for Heart in 1980, has absolutely vanished like it never existed. That represented the bridge between the bands rocking ’70s output and their glittering, pop-oriented mid ’80s comeback.

    1. Wesley

      Somewhat similarly, “Wonderful World” by Simon with Art Garfunkel and James Taylor hit the top 20 in 1978, but it gets nowhere near the repeat action of Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and “You Can Call Me Al” even though all those singles failed to make the top 20 during their releases.

      1. I know very little about radio music testing, the process by which stations find out from listeners what they like and what they don’t. I do know that you can’t play what you don’t test, and my suspicion is that a lot of high-charting hits never get tested at all. For example, “Tell It Like It Is” has an old-fashioned sound, and some stations probably figure it doesn’t fit sonically with the rest of their stuff, so let’s not even test it.

        FWIW, when I was working at the classic-rock station in the 90s, our highest-scoring record was “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas. Bigger than all the #1 hits of the era, bigger than anything by the Beatles, Stones, or Led Zeppelin.

      2. Guy Kipp

        “Me And Julio” wasn’t a big national hit, but it was a huge regional hit in NYC, where it charted as high as #2 at WABC-AM when that was the biggest Top 40 station in the universe.

      3. mikehagerty

        JB: My understanding of testing is that every big hit and some not-so-big (which is why Van Morrison’s “Moondance” got play within the last decade) gets tested—with this caveat: It needs to reasonably fit within the demographic range they’re looking for, which in most cases is 18-34, 18-49, 25-49 or 25-54 (even CHR stations don’t target teens).

        Even the oldest of those demos has a median age of 40, which is someone born in 1979, so nobody’s testing too far back before a song a 50-year-old would have reasonably heard, either new, or in a popular TV show, movie or commercials (the exception would be Classic Rock and Classic Hits stations, which will test what’s in their library—so if “Satisfaction” has made it this far, it’ll be in the test now).

        So, assuming we’re talking Heart and not Aaron Neville, I’m betting “Tell It Like It Is” was tested (which is done market-by-market, there’s not a monolithic national list) and didn’t do well.

        Friends who are involved in testing tell me that likely candidates (“Tell It Like It Is” was Heart’s fifth-highest charting hit, behind “Alone”, “These Dreams”, “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You”, “Never” and “Who Will You Run To”) get tested and if they don’t do well, they’re brought back a few times and then periodically until they’age out of any likely demo.

        The thing about music testing is that it’s based on consensus. The choices are some variation of “Love it”, “Like it”, “It’s okay”, “Don’t like it” and “Hate it”. The songs that make it are the ones that have the highest number of “Love It” and “Like It” responses, with “It’s okay” songs cautiously used if there simply aren’t enough of the first two.

        So what gets played today has nothing to do with chart success at the time the record was current (apart from that being the reason the record is something someone would have heard in the first place) and is about songs the target audience has in common that they love or like today.

        If a song gets 33% “Don’t Like It” or “Hate it”, the glass half-full type might say that two-thirds of the audience likes or loves it. The research and ratings-conscious PD will say that if he or she plays that record, he or she is risking a third of their cume tuning away to see what the other stations are playing. And in a PPM world, where there are only a handful of meters involved in even a highly-rated station’s audience, a one-third tuneout is disaster.

        The reason Kansas would be bigger than the Beatles, Stones, or Led Zeppelin at a Classic Rock station in the 90s would be that your younger listeners at that time wouldn’t have had the emotional attachment to the 60s and early 70s—but the older demos were still listening to AOR when Kansas came along.

    2. Guy Kipp

      “So what gets played today has nothing to do with chart success at the time the record was current (apart from that being the reason the record is something someone would have heard in the first place) and is about songs the target audience has in common that they love or like today.”

      MH: So this is what leads to such Elton John non-hits as “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” getting regular spins in 2019 while actual EJ hits like “Honky Cat,” “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” and “Blue Eyes” have dropped off a cliff.

  2. mikehagerty

    I may have said this in a previous post, but I think “Still Crazy” was hurt by the album having been out since late October. There weren’t enough people who liked that song who didn’t already have it on the LP.

    Other than perhaps distribution issues (Mushroom was a small label), I can’t explain Heart’s “Crazy On You” not being a Top 10 record.

    And “Bohemian Rhapsody” working its way that slowly down to that level of the chart is an indicator of the incredible legs of that record six months after release.

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