Last weekend Radio Rewinder posted the Record World Top 100 for the week of September 25, 1976. (Click to embiggen.) Right on the edge between summer and fall, it’s got most of the essential Top 40 radio music from both of my favorite seasons. The oldest record, “More More More” by the Andrea True Connection, is in its 29th week, which meant it debuted in March; “Silly Love Songs” by Wings is in its 25th week, and several other songs have been around 20 weeks or more. On the other hand, certain recent debuts will remain popular at least until Christmas; “You Don’t Have to Be a Star” by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. won’t hit #1 until January.
That I playlisted the chart immediately should not surprise you at all. I have 82 of the 100 songs in my digital library. But what about the other 18?
Several of the missing can be considered at least halfway-big hits, including “Street Singin'” by Barry Manilow’s backup singers, a group called Lady Flash, and “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Olivia Newton-John, which was another #1 on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart. After two #1 singles in 1976, Diana Ross might have figured on another big hit with “One Love in My Lifetime,” which made the Top 40 despite being not very good.
“Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine, the story of a disabled boy who makes friends with truckers on CB radio, was a #1 country hit and did big business on several Top 40 stations, including #1 at WOKY in Milwaukee and #15 at WLS in Chicago. “Teddy Bear’s Last Ride,” a sequel by Diana Williams, got enough airplay to scrape onto the national pop charts (and was #1 at a country station in Pittsburgh), although it missed the Billboard country Top 40 entirely.
More country: Tanya Tucker’s “Here’s Some Love” would make #1 on Billboard‘s country chart. It’s a great example of the mid-70s pop-country sound, and it’s easy to imagine it on Top 40 radio alongside the other pop hits of the moment. The Bellamy Brothers would eventually become a huge country act in the 80s, but in 1976, they were more successful on the pop charts—although they couldn’t get back the mojo that had made “Let Your Love Flow” a #1 hit in the spring. “Satin Sheets” is not the same hard-country weeper that Jeanne Pruett hit on in 1973; it’s a slightly sleazy pop-country boogie written by Willis Alan Ramsey, writer of “Muskrat Love.”
Several big R&B names are among the 18. “Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown stands as evidence that I simply do not have enough James Brown in my digital library. “Message in Our Music” by the O’Jays would top the R&B singles chart. “Flowers” by the Emotions would have sounded absolutely glorious on the radio, especially on those beautiful afternoons we get this time of year. “After the Dance” by Marvin Gaye has a fine, summery vibe that takes four minutes to do not very much.
The rest of the missing:
“Anything You Want”/John Valenti. The line between a song that becomes an enormous hit and one that does not is a thin one, and weirdly drawn. “Anything You Want” sounds like an Elton John record with more sugar and caffeine (or, since we’re talking mid-70s Elton, perhaps cocaine). If I told you it had been a Top 10 hit in the summer of 1976, you’d say “yeah, sure, I hear it.” But it got only to #37 in Billboard.
“Superstar”/Paul Davis. I want to say something about “Superstar” but I got nothin’.
“Take a Hand”/Rick Springfield
“Love of My Life”/Gino Vannelli
“Take a Hand” and “Love of My Life” both seem to take a long time to get where they’re going. They’re fine, but I wonder if they’d benefit from editing or if they just needed to be written differently.
“You Gotta Make Your Own Sunshine”/Neil Sedaka. All respect to Sedaka for the great songs he’s written and records he’s made, but “You Gotta Make Your Own Sunshine” is not one of them. Listening to it is like being force-fed a bale of cotton candy.
“I Can’t Live in a Dream”/Osmonds. “I Can’t Live in a Dream” is the last Hot 100 hit in the Osmonds’ five-year 70s run—which was a pretty solid body of work, actually.
Every time I worry that I should be spending more time trying to discover new 2021 music, I remember that there’s a lot of old music I still don’t know yet, and I stop worrying.