Anything You Want

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.

“Don’t Think … Feel”/Neil Diamond. “Don’t Think … Feel” sounds so much like “Solfeggio,” the music Ernie Kovacs used for the Nairobi Trio, that I can’t hear anything else.

“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.

5 thoughts on “Anything You Want

  1. Wesley

    The image of Neil Diamond creating a tune that could be used to accompany three adults in simian outfits has definitely got me intrigued, jb. Also surprised that I’ve heard some of the 18 not in your digital library, although not many of them.

    But most surprising of all was More, More, More being on the chart for its 29th week. I know it was a hit and got a lot of airplay, but I didn’t realize it was that big of a blockbuster. Billboard had it ranked 17th with 25 weeks total on the Hot 100 versus the 29 listed here. Either way, it’s a very respectable chart performance by a singer who was known previously for, shall we say, other types of performing.

    Also, a shout out to Wm. for his note in the previous entry to check out what he wrote about Bob Braun. Very informative, and his hit Till Death Do Us Part wasn’t quite as syrupy as I feared, but don’t consider that a ringing endorsement at all.

    1. My guess is that More, More, More’s longevity was at least in part to it breaking out at different times in different regions. It charted at some NYC stations as early as March before reaching critical mass much later in the spring.

  2. mikehagerty

    Like JB, I have a soft spot for 1976-77, but for completely different reasons. In late March of ’76, I took a job over the phone at KUKI in Ukiah. All I knew about Ukiah was that it was somewhere between San Francisco and the Oregon border and the Doobie Brothers had done a song about it (“Ukiah”, from THE CAPTAIN AND ME).

    I was 19 and had to look it up on the road atlas to see where I’d just agreed to move. Very unlike me—I’d have normally asked for a couple of days to think it over,. I said “yes” in an eight-minute phone call from a guy who knew a guy I’d worked with three years before, and the next day was putting my few belongings (the stereo and the records took up the most space) in the trunk and back seat of my Mustang.

    A bunch of things happened to me because of that phone call. This L.A. kid learned instantly how beautiful Northern California is and have gravitated to it ever since, I established a philosophy and a strategy as a jock and a programmer that have served me well throughout my career, and I made friends who are still with me today—one of whom I married five years ago.

    For every “Fifth of Beethoven” or “Disco Duck”: on that chart, there’s a “Lowdown”, a “Still The One”, a “Magic Man” (to say nothing of the single mix of “Say You Love Me” or War’s “Summer”). I may hear the songs through the lens of a wonderful time in my life, but there’s a lot of really great music on that chart.

    Thanks, JB!

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