(Pictured: Magic Dick of the J. Geils Band, on stage in 1977.)
My summer of 1977 was defined by two big things: I had two jobs and eventually lost them both (one I quit, one just sort of fizzled out), and my girlfriend spent a month in Europe while I pined for her at home (a trip I should have been on, and one I passed up for reasons that seem stupid to me now). There were other things, like softball and a family vacation and hanging out with the guys, but the details are all gone in the haze.
I had intended to use what I can still recall to write one of those wistfully philosophical essays of mine, looking back through the lens of Top 40 music to say Something Important about the summer of 1977, or the summer of 2021, or something. But when I tried to write it, there was nothing there. So you get this rundown of what else was on the Hot 100 below the Top 40 during the week of August 20, 1977, instead.
41. “It Was Almost Like a Song”/Ronnie Milsap
57. “Knowing Me, Knowing You”/ABBA
While she and I were very happy in August 1977, it wasn’t long before metaphors started ganging up on us.
42. “A Real Mother for Ya”/Johnny Guitar Watson. Most of the local chart action on “A Real Mother for Ya” came from R&B stations, but Top 40 station WKTQ in Pittsburgh charted it in the same Top 10 with James Taylor and Andy Gibb. Watson, a long-established blues star and the original Gangster of Love, performed quite literally up until his death in 1996, suffering a fatal heart attack on stage in Japan.
43. “Star Wars Theme- Cantina Band”/Meco
110. “Star Wars Theme”/Dave Matthews
Choose your flavor to enjoy alongside the London Symphony Orchestra version at #21 in this week: disco thump or brassy beat with a guitar solo out of nowhere. (Do I really have to say it’s not that Dave Matthews? Work with me, people.)
44. “Nobody Does It Better”/Carly Simon
49. “Jungle Love”/Steve Miller Band
51. “Boogie Nights”/Heatwave
52. “I Feel Love”/Donna Summer
59. “Cat Scratch Fever”/Ted Nugent
68. “Help Is on Its Way”/Little River Band
73. “Just Remember I Love You”/Firefall
80. “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”/Crystal Gayle
Several songs that would dominate the radio until Christmas were lining up outside in the August heat.
46. “The Greatest Love of All”/George Benson. “The Greatest Love of All” was originally heard in the 1977 movie biography of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. In 1986, Whitney Houston would blow America’s doors off with it; bombastic as it is, her version is better.
47. “Way Down”-“Pledging My Love”/Elvis Presley. Elvis died on Tuesday, August 16, and the 8/20/77 American Top 40 show aired with only the briefest mention of him (“Way Down” was the current #1 country hit). The timing of his death didn’t allow enough time for AT40 to send a special segment to affiliates, like the one sent after John Lennon’s Monday night murder in 1980.
48. “Rock and Roll Never Forgets”/Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Failing to make the Top 40 (it peaked at #41 the week before) didn’t keep “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” from becoming one of Seger’s most-frequently-played radio songs over the next couple of decades.
75. “Down the Hall”/Four Seasons. After their successful run of hits in late 1975 and 1976, the Seasons tried to keep their disco/nostalgia hybrid roll going with the album Helicon. If you can find any obvious radio hook in “Down the Hall,” you’re ahead of me.
83. “You’re the Only One”/Geils. From the album Monkey Island, which was credited simply to Geils, and the last J. Geils Band album for Atlantic Records. “You’re the Only One” is an uncharacteristic soft rocker featuring Magic Dick getting his Stevie Wonder on and Seth Justman playing lovely keyboards.
87. “Can’t You See”/Marshall Tucker Band. “Heard It in a Love Song” had been a big hit earlier in 1977, but as time went on, “Can’t You See” became much more famous. When Sirius/XM counted down the top 100 songs of the classic-rock era a few years ago, it was something like #5.
92. “My Cherie Amour”/Soul Train Gang. This was a studio group put together by Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius and partner Dick Griffey. Their album was produced by Simon Soussan, once credited by none other than Casey Kasem as the world’s foremost authority on disco. One member of the Gang, Gerald Brown, would join Shalamar, but leave before their mainstream success around the turn of the 80s. Their version of “My Cherie Amour” is inoffensive, but ultimately unnecessary.
“Inoffensive, but ultimately unnecessary.” That’s not a bad slogan for this website, actually.
7 thoughts on “Rock and Roll Never Forgets, But I Do”
“Inoffensive, but ultimately unnecessary.” That’s not a bad slogan for this website, actually. — Surely you jest, jb. I know, don’t call you Shirley. I’d prefer “Unpredictable, but ultimately necessary” myself.
In my opinion “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is the best ballad by far offered in this summary. And even with classic rock staples like “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” and “Can’t You See” that I could probably sing by heart, I’d argue “Way Down” is the best rocker. It can be said that for all his faults, Elvis did go out with a smash.
Having said that, “Jungle Love” is perhaps the most enjoyable to hear on the radio of all those listed here. Miller’s vocals match the intensity of his guitar licks, while the rest of the production offers clever frills to acknowledge to the listener that the musicians realize they’re having goofy fun with a tune that demands such treatment. Or maybe I’m stuck in the mode of how I heard when I was 12. Eh, either way, I’ll defend it.
Even if it didn’t happen to be the Elvis song that was on the charts the week of his death, I would still count “Way Down” up among my favorite later-era Elvis songs. I always felt that Elvis’ post-1969 catalog isn’t appreciated as much as it should be, and “Way Down”, a legitimately infectious rocker, epitomizes that.
What Wesley said about the site, JB.
As for the music, if I had to pick one of those songs to play right now, it’d be “Can’t You See”. Any of them would be fine, apart from “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”, but yeah…I’d pick Marshall Tucker.
“Can’t You See” would be the template for “AMERICANA” almost 30 years later. All those burly white guys with beards and baseball caps and acoustic guitars. They’re all trying to write
“Can’t You See”.
And how odd “Cat Scratch Fever” seems among the other songs. And I’m glad it does.
And yes “Way Down” and all of Elvis’ 70’s singles deserve more appreciation.
Off the wall thought of the day: I remember “It Was Almost Like a Song” primarily because we were playing it at a station that carted its music and its cart had not been properly erased. So my memory of the somewhat quiet ending will forever be the musical notes backed up by a “WHOOMP WHOOMP, WHOOMP WHOOMP” sound. Ah, the smells of radio, all these years later.
Gary—that’s so funny! I still can’t hear Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” without anticipating the place where the copy we had at KIBS would skip unless you played it on the left turntable instead of the right.
The studio version of “Can’t You See” was released in 1973 but it was a shortened live version that appeared on the 1977 Hot 100 for the Marshall Tucker Band.