(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.