The Fun

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(Pictured: Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.)

After looking at the American Top 40 show from the week of February 21, 1976, here’s our usual dive into what was below the Top 40 in that same week.

42. “Paloma Blanca”/George Baker Selection
58. “Let Your Love Flow”/Bellamy Brothers
59. “Fly Away”/John Denver and Olivia Newton-John
73. “Since I Fell for You”/Charlie Rich
75. “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”/Freddy Fender
94. “Texas”/Charlie Daniels Band
100. “The Call”/Anne Murray
109. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”/Terry Bradshaw
There’s quite the country smorgasbord here. “Paloma Blanca” would peak at #33 on the Billboard country chart during the week of February 28, and its country chart performance kept it bubbling just outside the Top 40 of the Hot 100 for several weeks after it had run to #26 earlier in the winter. Terry Bradshaw, whose day job was quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers, made three albums between 1976 and 1981. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which you could easily mistake for Glen Campbell, is better than it ought to be. It went to #17 on the Billboard country chart and #91 on the Hot 100. And although Denver, ONJ, Rich, and Fender were important country crossover brand names of the moment and “Let Your Love Flow” would get to #1, their popularity and influence paled in comparison to another group of stars.

47. “Good Hearted Woman”/Waylon and Willie
69. “Remember Me”/Willie Nelson
Willie’s 1975 album Red Headed Stranger and its single “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” (which was originally backed with “Remember Me”) made a superstar of him after more than a decade as a well-kept secret. It also made the Nashville machine realize, after several years of looking the other way, that some of the industry’s more independent-minded artists were bankable after all. There followed the compilation album Wanted! The Outlaws, which featured Jessi Colter (who was Mrs. Waylon Jennings at the time) and Tompall Glaser in addition to Waylon and Willie, and it became a genre-defying smash. Wanted! The Outlaws went to #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was the first country album to be certified platinum after the RIAA created that certification. (It was also one of the first albums of any sort to be issued on CD, according to Wikipedia, so who the hell knows.) “Good Hearted Woman,” which is stomp and yee-haw in the best possible way, did three weeks at #1 on the Billboard country chart and rose to #25 on the Hot 100.

(The 2013 book Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Streissguth is strongly recommended if you’re interested in those people or this era.)

64. “Love Me Tonight”/Head East. Former Head East guitarist Mike Somerville, who wrote “Love Me Tonight” and “Never Been Any Reason,” died last week after a long illness. The callous sexism of “Love Me Tonight” is hard to get past—“It really don’t matter what your name is,” the singer says to the groupie he’s about to bed—but its easy-rockin’ vibe is hard to resist.

72. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”/Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is four minutes of the 11-minute original found on Cosmo’s Factory, released as a single to help promote the CCR compilation Chronicle Volume 1. It would peak at #43.

78. “Locomotive Breath”/Jethro Tull. Here’s another reissue of an old song, which contains the line “the all-time winner has got him by the balls.” This wouldn’t fly on some radio stations. I have heard a version that turns it into “got him by the fun,” with a substitution of “fun” from the earlier line, “his woman and his best friend, in bed and having fun.” Points for ingenuity at least.

87. “Scotch on the Rocks”/Band of the Black Watch. In my earlier post about the hits of this week, I mentioned the large amount of novelty cheese in that season, and here’s more of it. We know little about the Band of the Black Watch, except that they were allegedly members of a Scottish military unit. I suspect that what is supposed to sound like bagpipes on “Scotch on the Rocks” isn’t really bagpipes at all, but after all this time I doubt it matters.

Further Recommended Reading: Time Is Tight: My Life, Note by Note by Booker T. Jones. Jones’ memoir jumps from year to year and incident to incident in a way that’s a little off-putting at first, but once you get used to it, the life that emerges is more impressive than the one that is described in the standard histories of Stax and Memphis. It made me feel even more fortunate to have seen Jones play live last summer.

7 thoughts on “The Fun

  1. Mike Hagerty

    It never occurred to me that “Paloma Blanca” could be in any way considered a country record.

    And despite John Denver and Olivia Newton-John’s success on the country charts, I don’t think “Fly Away” is the least bit country, either. It’s a dirge-y John Denver ballad that is rescued and transformed by Olivia’s counterpoint. Maybe the only John Denver song newer than “Sunshine on My Shoulders” that I’ll turn up.

    1. Alvaro Leos

      Well to be honest a lot of late 70s country wasn’t the least bit country either…
      “Paloma Blanca” was part of a weird trend–one-off country crossovers. Songs like “Torn Between Two Lovers”, “It’s a Heartache”, “Right Time of the Night” were big country hits despite the acts having no previous country associations and never hitting the country charts again.

    2. Yah Shure

      Mike, “Paloma Blanca” was a huge hit in the heavily-German St. Cloud, MN area of my first radio gig, because it was a polka record, not a country one. By the time I arrived two years after it had come and gone, it was still getting played on both the AM full service side I worked on, and the country FM across the hall.

      I emceed exactly one dance during my 3+ years in St. Cloud: a Benton County 4-H shindig in adjacent Sauk Rapids. After spinning a few records, one kid came up and asked if I had any polka. Welcome to Central Minnesota.

      1. mikehagerty

        Yah Shure: Polka makes sense to me (in terms of “Paloma Blanca”). Country just doesn’t.

        Polka, by the way, has tentacles out west, where I’m from. KFI in Los Angeles ran, for 14 years (1954-1968), a show by one of their announcers, Dick Sinclair. He called it “Polka Party” and it was so popular that he had a TV version of it, “Polka Parade” the next year (1955) on KTLA-TV. Eventually, it was syndicated to 65 markets across the country.

        And in Reno, at the time I was there, the local owner of the most powerful FM signal in the market, KSRN, ran a format (if you can call it that) that was a blend of elevator music and polkas—back to back—-one elevator, one polka, one elevator, one polka…

      2. mikehagerty

        I left out that “Polka Party” on KFI wasn’t like an hour on Sunday night—it was three hours (4-7) every Saturday when there wasn’t a Dodger game. It also meant that he almost always led into or out of said Dodger game when there was one, so “Polka Party” was inescapable. And EVERYBODY’s grandparents watched the TV show, which, in L.A. aired immediately before Lawrence Welk for that one-two punch of torture to the youngsters.

      3. Yah Shure

        Mike: Where was “Weird Al” when KSRN needed him? I’d love to hear him do “Polka On An Elevator” with Aerosmith.

  2. Wesley

    Does Terry Bradshaw still hold the record for being the only football player to crack the Hot 100? I’m purposely excluding football teams, since I remember the Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew doing “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” though I desperately wish I could forget it. (Or the fact that they got a Grammy nomination for that, a low point even given that organization’s dubious reputation.)

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