Hold On

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(Pictured: San Francisco band the Sons of Champlin, best known back in the day among readers of music magazines and browsers of the cutout bins.)

Mid-August 1976 was a busy time in the life of 16-year-old me. My family took a short trip, an overnight in Chicago and then a day at the Wisconsin State Fair in suburban Milwaukee. We got home and watched Gerald Ford hold off Ronald Reagan to win the Republican presidential nomination (because it was all there was to watch in the days of three-channel universe). And I listened to the radio as much as I could before I wouldn’t be able to listen to it as much—we’d go back to school on August 25, nearly two weeks before Labor Day.

Here are some of the songs outside the Top 40 during the week of August 7, 1976.

41. “Getaway/Earth Wind and Fire
42. “Devil Woman”/Cliff Richard
46. “With Your Love”/Jefferson Starship

51. “Still the One”/Orleans
73. “Magic Man”/Heart
74. “Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether”/Alan Parsons Project

75. “I Never Cry”/Alice Cooper
83. “Don’t Fear the Reaper”/Blue Oyster Cult
Some of the songs that will take us through autumn and into the winter are already in the Top 40 this week. Some of the rest are lining up outside.

48. “Hold On”/Sons of Champlin. Bill Champlin was a member of Chicago from 1981 until 2009, but he also led this band, formed in mid-60s San Francisco. The Sons of Champlin released their first album in 1969. They split up in 1977 before a new millennium reunion starting in 1997. They were planning another reunion show for this past April, which I presume did not actually happen. “Hold On” is one of two Sons singles to make the Hot 100. It peaked at #47.

54. “Ten Percent”/Double Exposure. Double Exposure was a group of Philadelphia journeymen who signed with the Salsoul label in 1975. Although it was not a big radio hit (#54 Hot 100, #63 R&B), “Ten Percent” is nevertheless an important record in the history of disco as one of the first (if not the first) commercially available 12-inch single, and for its groundbreaking nine-minute remix, which helped it reach #2 on Billboard‘s dance chart. It’s a safe bet that some of the musicians on “Ten Percent” are on many other famous Philly soul joints.

70. “Light Up the World With Sunshine”/Hamilton, Joe Frank and Dennison. Poor old Alan Dennison finally got his name on the marquee after replacing Tommy Reynolds and singing without glory on the #1 hit “Falling in Love” and the group’s 1976 hit “Winners and Losers,” which we recommend you listen to whenever possible.

79. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”/The Deadly Nightshade. Early in 1976, the Deadly Nightshade, a three-woman country rock and bluegrass group, was doing a live radio performance and waiting for guitarist Anne Bowen to change a broken string. To fill time, bassist Pamela Brandt started riffing that that their next record would be a disco version of the theme from the soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which was a national rage at the moment. The audience response was so positive that the band joked to their manager that they should actually do it. But he took it to RCA Records and the label bit, so now the Deadly Nightshade had to write it for real (although they were forced to sign away their songwriting credit). Jazz player Mike Mainieri, a friend of the band, offered to produce, and he rounded up some major New York studio cats to play on it. Brandt says, “And there we were with our washboard.” Whole story here, song here.

87. “Popsicle Toes”/Michael Franks. I first learned about Michael Franks and his slyly swinging “Popsicle Toes” from a Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders compilation. These sets contained big stars and hits as well as new music by lesser-known artists, were sold exclusively by mail, and generally cost two bucks apiece. (From this list of 35, I count 10 in my collection.) “Popsicle Toes” is from Franks’ first Warner/Reprise album, The Art of Tea. “Popsicle Toes” is his lone Hot 100 hit, although “Your Secret’s Safe With Me” was #4 on the AC chart in 1985.

102. “Rose of Cimarron”/Poco
105. “I Don’t Want to Go Home”/Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
106. “Cherry Bomb”/Runaways
110. “Did You Boogie”/Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids
Behold the glorious variety of pop music in the summer of 1976. “Rose of Cimarron” is an forgotten gem that would jump into the Hot 1oo the next week and then fall right back out again. “I Don’t Want to Go Home” is the title song from the Jukes’ first album. “Cherry Bomb” looks toward rock’s future; “Did You Boogie,” which features the voice of Wolfman Jack, throws back to its past.

14 thoughts on “Hold On

  1. I like “Devil Woman”/Cliff Richard all out of proportion to it’s actual value.

    I have 20+ of those Loss Leaders. Introduced me to a lot of great music, which I guess was their job.

    That Starship album remains a good listen start to finish still (particularly in comparison to music today – YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!), though it was seen as somewhat of a disappointment in its time.

  2. TN

    Given your thumbnail bio of Bill Champlin, I wasn’t expecting much from “Hold On,” but it turned out to be a little hotter than I gave it credit for. But geez louise, if you want to have a hit song, can’t you come up with a less generic title? I count seven Billboard Top 40 hits called “Hold On,” plus seven more that start with “Hold On” (including “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Hold On Loosely”).

  3. Wesley

    “Did You Boogie” has a certain charm, but none of it comes from hearing Wolfman Jack, in my opinion an overexposed deejay on the charts if there ever was one. His braying delivery got old real quick once you listened to him.

    Oh, and TN and T., how about “Hold On to My Love” and “Holdin’ On to Yesterday” as well? To say nothing of “You Really Got a Hold On Me.”

    1. mikehagerty

      I liked Wolf, but after his bit on The Guess Who’s “Clap For The Wolfman”, having him do a cameo on another record made zero sense to me.

  4. The Sons of Champlin went through a phase where they renamed themselves Yogi Phlegm. Bill Graham was supposedly so repulsed by the new name that he simply ignored it, continuing to advertise them as the Sons of Champlin until they finally took the name back.

    Waaaaaaaaaaaay back in high school, a glowing review in some book or other convinced me to buy a used copy of the Sons’ Loosen Up Naturally elpee, at rather more cost than I usually paid for albums at that time. I still have it and ought to take it out again. They were pretty tight for hippies, as I recall.

      1. mikehagerty

        No, JB, Yogi Phlegm was real for six months (June ’71-January ’72). And when the band changed back, they only did it halfway, becoming just “The Sons”.

      2. I may have misrepresented Bill Graham’s reaction: On the poster for the final run of shows at the Fillmore West in 1971, the band is listed as Yogi Phlegm, which indicates he gave in at least once. I’ve read a couple times that he loathed the name and refused to accept it, though.

  5. Wesley

    Forgot to add this: Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was perhaps the hottest and fastest fad TV series ever. There were articles galore and plenty of references to the series elsewhere in 1976. Heck, even Carol Burnett mocked it on her season opener. But come 1977, Louise Lasser’s demons that drove her off the show plus writing fatigue made the series that everyone was talking about and/or upset with (some stations actually aired it late night, finding it too offensive for the sensibilities of a daytime audience) a disappearing act. Having its theme become a minor disco hit perfectly sums it up as a product of 1976 in my mind.

  6. mackdaddyg

    “I first learned about Michael Franks and his slyly swinging “Popsicle Toes” from a Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders compilation.”

    Over the past few years I’ve been picking up those Loss Leaders comps whenever I see them. Those are some very interesting collections.

  7. mikehagerty

    Just as wonderful as the Loss Leaders LPs are the print ads promoting them—which I remember running in Rolling Stone back in the day. Most were written by Warners’ Stan Cornyn, who was probably the best writer I’ve ever read.

    His book “EXPLODING” is worth seeking out—and the liner notes (yes, the liner notes) for the album FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA AND ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM are probably the first thing that I ever read (at age 11) that made me want to be a writer, that told me that it could be used for more than just conveying information.

    An overview: http://clayrussell.com/people/stan-cornyn-and-the-liner-notes/#:~:text=Stan%20Cornyn%20was%20a%20Warner,late%201950s%20through%20the%2080s.&text=Cornyn%20won%20Grammy%20awards%20for,was%20nominated%20for%20Francis%20A.

    1. TN

      By coincidence, just yesterday I picked up a vinyl copy of Sinatra’s “Softly, As I Leave You,” which has a masterful Cornyn essay on the back.

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