(Pictured: Olivia Newton-John, in a promotional shot for her November 1976 TV special.)
I have written so much about 1976 over the years that I couldn’t possibly say anything new in the customary Bottom 60 companion piece to my earlier post about the American Top 40 show from March 13, 1976. There’s only one thing to do when you’re in a corner like that: try to write your way out of it.
47. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”/Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is a shortened version of the classic track from Cosmo’s Factory, released as a single to promote the two-disc Chronicle compilation that had come out in January. It would peak at #43 on the Hot 100 and #47 in Cash Box. At the ARSA database, fewer stations charted “Grapevine” as a single in 1976 than had done so as an album cut in 1970. Its highest position was #6 at WDNG in Anniston, Alabama.
57. “Sara Smile”/Hall and Oates
78. “Rhiannon”/Fleetwood Mac
Pick any random week of the 70s or 80s and you’ll find new records that haven’t been off the radio in all the years since.
59. “Without Your Love (Mr. Jordan)”/Charlie Ross. I have previously mentioned “Without Your Love,” a fabulously cheesy cheatin’ song with a twist. What I didn’t mention, I don’t think, is that in the early days of the pandemic last year, I got an e-mail from Charlie Ross himself, who had come across my post about it, and who sent thanks and greetings. He said he’s back in Mississippi, working in radio, and still playing music.
70. “Highfly”/John Miles. On March 15, 1976, WCFL in Chicago made what is probably the best-remembered format change in history, from Top 40 to elevator music. The station published its last survey sometime in February, if I’m recalling correctly, but I remember hearing new songs on the station right up until the end. “Highfly” was one of them.
71. “Strange Magic”/Electric Light Orchestra. Make me choose one favorite ELO song and it will be the woozy, dreamy “Strange Magic.” Jeff Lynne is not the most expressive vocalist, but I’m not sure he ever sang anything better than “Oh I’m never gonna be the same again / I’ve seen the way it’s got to end / Sweet dreams, sweet dreams.”
74. “Mozambique”/Bob Dylan. I have read that “Mozambique” came about after Dylan and a collaborator wondered how many words ended with “ique.” “Mozambique” is a more conventional single than “Hurricane,” its predecessor from the Desire album, but no less a product of Dylan’s unique (yeah, I said it) vision.
76. “Mighty High”/Mighty Clouds of Joy. How the magnificent “Mighty High” stalled out at #69 on the Hot 100 and #77 in Cash Box I do not know. It wasn’t even especially big on the soul charts, #15 in Cash Box and #22 in Billboard. It was probably too pop for their gospel fans, and maybe too gospel for pop fans, but it’s Philly-soul fire, and we play it loud every time.
79. “The Game Is Over (What’s the Matter With You)”/Brown Sugar. “The Game Is Over” is more excellent Philadelphia soul, produced by Vince Montana, former member of MSFB, who was at #26 in this week with the Salsoul Orchestra on “Tangerine.” Brown Sugar was a trio fronted by Clydie King, whose name will be familiar to liner-note readers. She started as one of Ray Charles’ Raelettes, and backed artists ranging from Elton John and Barbra Streisand to the Rolling Stones and Steely Dan. Dylan called her his ultimate singing partner; it was rumored that they were secretly married for a time, although none of the obituaries I read after her death in 2019 had anything to say about that.
83. “Come on Over”/Olivia Newton-John. “Come on Over” was written by Barry and Robin Gibb and was on the Bee Gees’ 1975 album Main Course. It continued ONJ’s dominant run on the adult-contemporary chart as her sixth straight #1 hit. It got to #23 on the Hot 100 and #5 on Billboard‘s country chart.
89. “Eh! Cumpari”/Gaylord and Holiday. “Eh! Cumpari” was most famously recorded by Julius LaRosa in 1953, and was recut by Gaylord and Holiday for an Alitalia Airlines commercial in 1975, and eventually as a novelty song. It contains a long Italian-dialect bit in the middle, to which I stopped paying attention long before the punchline. Gaylord and Holiday (neither of whom was actually named either Gaylord or Holiday) had scored some extremely minor hits in the 50s under the name of the Gaylords.
Someday we might run out of stuff to say about 1976. Not today and maybe not tomorrow, but someday. Maybe.