That’s Right

Embed from Getty Images

During several hours on the interstate last week, the second installment of American Top 40‘s Top 100 hits of 1976 made a pretty entertaining travel companion. Here’s some stuff about some of it:

41. “Love to Love You Baby”/Donna Summer
24. “Get Up and Boogie (That’s Right)”/Silver Convention
14. “Fly Robin Fly”/Silver Convention
Casey notes that Donna Summer took a five-word phrase, repeated it 28 times, and ended up with a hit. But Donna also had some verses to sing. Silver Convention’s entire lyric output over two songs is four phrases: “get up and boogie,” “that’s right,” “fly robin fly,” and “up up to the sky.”

For what it’s worth, I will ride to the end of the line with both Silver Convention records. Few records open in a more arresting fashion than “Get Up and Boogie,” and “Fly Robin Fly” is a terrific production. One criticism is that it’s too repetitive. Maybe for some people. In my library, I have a 10-minute remix that’s barely enough for me.

42. “Deep Purple”/Donny and Marie Osmond. This ranks above several songs that hit #1 (albeit #1 hits that skated the line between chart years), and that just seems wrong. It peaked at #14, although it did run 23 weeks on the Hot 100, and as we’ll see below, a long chart run counted for a lot.

38. “Turn the Beat Around”/Vicki Sue Robinson
30. “Love Rollercoaster”/Ohio Players
As he’d done in part 1, Casey used some extra-long versions to help fill time on the show.

34. “Moonlight Feels Right “/Starbuck. Casey tells the story of how band members went from radio station to radio station across the South in 1975 delivering copies of their song and trying to get airplay. One station said they’d play it, but not until summertime, since it sounded like a summer hit. Which it turned out to be.

EXTRA: “Nadia’s Theme (The Young and the Restless)”/Barry DeVorzon and Perry Botkin Jr.
EXTRA: “Happy Days”/Pratt and McClain
The repeat that aired around the country over the 2019 holidays included some extras that didn’t make the original year-end list. Most surprising among them was “Happy Days,” which ran to #5 in the summer. It lasted 14 weeks on the Hot 100, 10 in the Top 40, and five in the Top 10. (Something had to be #101, and I’m betting this was it.) Meanwhile, “Nadia’s Theme” made #8 during a 22-week Hot 100 run, although it peaked after the November 1976 cut-off. (It didn’t make the 1977 chart either.)

11. “Sara Smile”/Hall and Oates
10. “A Fifth of Beethoven”/Walter Murphy
9. “Love Is Alive”/Gary Wright
8. “Love Machine”/Miracles
6. “Kiss and Say Goodbye”/Manhattans
4. “December 1963″/Four Seasons
“Sara Smile,” “A Fifth of Beethoven,” and “Love Machine” tied for the longest chart run of the year: 28 weeks on the Hot 100. Casey notes that “Love Machine” set a chart record for the longest climb to reach #1. It hit #1 in its 13th week in the Top 40 and its 20th week on the Hot 100. “A Fifth of Beethoven” had the longest run in the Top 40: 22 weeks to 19 for “Love Machine.” “Love Is Alive” and “December 1963” did 27 weeks on the big chart; “Kiss and Say Goodbye” 26.

To score big, ride high and last long. And not just on the record charts, I’m told.

5. “Play That Funky Music”/Wild Cherry. Casey says this was the first record by a white group to make #1 on the R&B chart since Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs did it in 1963 with “Sugar Shack,” which is a pretty good piece of trivia.

The first part of this year-end special aired on the weekend of December 25, 1976, and as I noted (and linked to) in my earlier post, it included a montage of every song to hit #1 during the 1976 calendar year. This part of the year-end special aired on the weekend of January 1, 1977, and repeated the montage before the top three hits of the year. Casey teased the latter in spoiler-y fashion, mentioning the titles and then asking, “But in what order?”

3. “Disco Lady”/Johnnie Taylor
2. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”/Elton John and Kiki Dee
1. “Silly Love Songs”/Paul McCartney and Wings
There’s nothing to argue with here. The three songs did 13 weeks at #1 between them. “Silly Love Songs” did five all by itself, non-consecutive.

And as I said before I started the first part of this, the top three, and the other 97, all play in my head, all the time, with no need for a radio.

10 thoughts on “That’s Right

  1. mikehagerty

    I wonder how the chart would have looked if they’d calculated weeks in the top 40 instead of on the Hot 100? I’m not sure weeks at #41-100 are or were that big a deal.

  2. Wesley

    I checked my copy of Rhino’s Super Hits of the 70s Have a Nice Day Vol. 14 to confirm this memory: In the liner notes, Paul Grein opines, “Ask a dozen pop fans to name the worst #1 hits of the 1970s and you can be sure the responses will include ‘Half-Breed,’ ‘The Streak,’ ‘Billy, Don’t Be a Hero,’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting,’ ‘Fly Robin Fly,’ ‘Convoy,’ ‘Disco Duck’ and ‘Undercover Angel.’ It’s hard to argue with most of these choices. They are, almost down the line, excruciatingly bad records. ” Really, Paul? You think that a dozen pop fans would find all of these worse than, say, Donny Osmond’s “Go Away Little Girl” or “You’re Having My Baby”?

    Anyhow, “Fly Robin Fly” at least has held up well to me. Yes, it has only a few lyrics, but the lyrics serve their purpose of enhancing the mood, certainly a lot better than if the original ones of “Run Rabbit Run” appeared instead. It signaled the arrival of the Eurodisco style of music breaking into the pop music scene of the 1970s. And it’s got about a low-key opening for a hit disco song as you can get this side of “Love Hangover” that hooks you for a fun aural ride. Guess Paul will have to ask another pop fan about this one.

    And yes, Billboard did give priority–perhaps too much priority–to the number of weeks a song stayed in the chart for its year end surveys. The most notorious example of that is Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me?” which finished at #6 for the year even though it peaked at #16. But it spent 38 weeks in the Hot 100, largely due to record sales and not airplay which was spotty at best, so it got the nod over dozens of songs that were bigger hits then and better remembered and played more often nowadays too.

    1. Andy

      I recently came across a YouTube channel that consists of a husband and wife in India who react to Western music they’ve never heard before. The viewers make suggestions of songs, and the couple films themselves listening to the song for the first time, and giving their immediate, honest opinion about it. It’s very interesting, because they are judging the songs purely on their merits, without any of the accompanying cultural context that usually affects our opinions of music. For example, they have no idea whether or not, say, “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” is supposed to be considered cool or crap, and so they give it the same consideration as they do to something supposedly much more highbrow, like a Genesis or Crosby, Stills & Nash song.

      I happen to like all those songs Paul Grein’s list of worsts, although some of my affection is probably nostalgia-driven. I do agree with you that “Go Away Little Girl” is an excellent choice for the worst #1 hit of the 70’s. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard it on the radio since 1971, and I hated it back then at 8 or 9 years old. As much as I dislike Barry Manilow’s “I Write the Songs” and “Looks Like We Made It”, I can recognize that there’s some genuine artistry at work there. “Go Away Little Girl” was just a cash grab that happened to work out.

  3. Chris Herman

    I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the rankings on singles charts because aside from rankings, they never provide you with a hard number. Weekly box office charts give you the amount of money a film grossed over a weekend along with its ranking. The Nielsen ratings give you the number of households and the percentage of audience share a TV program has. However, the weekly Hot 100/Top 40/Top 10 charts don’t give you an exact metric for a song. Thus, for example, the difference between the #1 and #2 songs could be a photo finish or Secretariat at Belmont from the perspective of a civilian. The yearly rankings for singles have the same problem but to an even greater degree.

    1. mikehagerty

      Chris: Exactly. And in ANY given week, the difference between #1 and, say, #15 was likely a lot more significant than the difference between #16 and #100.

      It may be that accounting for the numbers of week a record was on the chart was intended to offset that very thing—to make up for a hard sense of sales by how long a song was around, but once I realized that the number 48 song is doing less well than 47 other songs that same week (and that most people—even in high school—can name maybe ten of those songs if you press them), I realized that a Top 20 is way more meaningful than a Top 40, and certainly more meaningful than a Top 100.

      Personally, I draw the line for “hit” at 15, but your mileage may vary.

  4. porky

    Of course the urban legend at the time was that Donna Summer “had 18 orgasms (or whatever number one felt like providing)” during “Love to Love You Baby.” I recall (most likely) John Landecker doing a play-by-play, “counting the orgasms” as the record played on WLS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.