If You Know

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(Pictured: George and Louis Johnson didn’t make #1 in the summer of 1976, but those ‘fros were winners.) 

Everybody has a favorite summer, and regular readers of this pondwater know that the summer of 1976 is mine. The American Top 40 show from the week of July 10, 1976, which I listened to on that long-ago weekend, has got almost all of the music that matters from that summer.

40. “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”/England Dan and John Ford Coley
39. “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel”/Tavares
37. “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”/Lou Rawls
On the current Billboard Hot 100, only four songs in the Top 30 have titles more than three words long. One of those is “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush, which is 37 years old, and two have unnecessary parentheticals that make them longer. There are probably algorithmic reasons for this, or maybe our attention spans just are shot.

38. “Silver Star”/Four Seasons. I know I listened to this show when it first aired because I remember hearing “Silver Star” and liking it. This was the only week Casey ever played it. It was too ornate to go where “December 1963” and “Who Loves You” had gone, but it’s still a favorite of mine today.

35. “Something He Can Feel”/Aretha Franklin
34. “Good Vibrations”/Todd Rundgren
33. “Somebody’s Gettin’ It”/Johnnie Taylor
32. “Mamma Mia”/ABBA
AT40 listeners back in the day found that there were always songs on the show they didn’t hear on their local stations regularly, and Casey even mentioned the phenomenon from time to time. If I heard “Mamma Mia” anywhere other than on AT40, it wasn’t frequent. Casey introduces it with the story of an Australian man named David Abba, who says he has been the butt of jokes and public harrassment since ABBA became a worldwide success. It’s a weird, context-free bit that sounds like it came from a press release issued by David Abba himself. “Somebody’s Gettin’ It” is fine, but it doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing likely to do big business among the same singles buyers who had made “Disco Lady” #1 earlier in the year. (Soul Train performance here.)

29. “I Need to Be in Love”/Carpenters
26. “I’m Easy”/Keith Carradine
23. “Today’s the Day”/America
Right now, there are a couple of big adult contemporary hits that are straight-up ass. One of them is by an extremely successful band banging out their customary humorless bombast, joined this time by a rapper who, paradoxically, makes their record sound even whiter than the rest of their stuff. (Seriously, there is not one atom of Elvis within a thousand miles of them.) The other is produced and performed in a way that suggests the band doesn’t even like music all that much. What is the precise nature of the pleasure listeners take from this kind of thing I do not know. You can’t fall in love to that shit, surely.

17. “If You Know What I Mean”/Neil Diamond. I was tempted for a few minutes, instead of going through the effort of writing yet another post about the summer of 1976, to just copy out the lyrics to this.

15. “Rock and Roll Music”/Beach Boys
10. “Got to Get You Into My Life”/Beatles
I love that these two bands rode into the Top 10 together during this summer. Casey says the Beatles have now made the Top 10 32 times, but they’re still behind the all-time leader, Elvis, who has 38 Top 10 hits. (As I count them, “Got to Get You Into My Life” was actually their 33rd; “Real Love” got to #6 in 1996 to make #34.) Madonna would eventually enter the chat and has 38 Top 10s; Drake recently surpassed everybody by hitting 40, but you know how I feel about that.

8. “Love Is Alive”/Gary Wright. The sound of humid nights in a house without air conditioning.

3. “I’ll Be Good to You”/Brothers Johnson. This was my favorite song of the moment, in the first of three straight weeks at #3.

1. “Afternoon Delight”/Starland Vocal Band. As Casey introduces this at #1 he says, “I know what you’re saying, ‘I knew it all the time.'” Well, yeah, we did, Case, since you spoiled it earlier in the show by saying that the week’s new #1 song is “delightful.”

It was a different world in the summer of 1976, where you could get to #1 by sweetly harmonizing about a nooner. That world is where I came from. It’s a place I understand, and one that understands me. In this foreign land of 2022, like exiles everywhere, I want to go home. This show didn’t get me there, not really, but it allowed me the sensation of looking at some pictures of the place, which is at least something.

10 thoughts on “If You Know

  1. Ed

    Thanks for this post. It’s great.

    I’m out of the loop on current music. What are the two big adult contemporary songs of which you speak?

  2. PB

    Summer of 1969, what an amazing variety of music played on AM top 40 stations– R&B, Soul, bubblegum, Elvis, Tom Jones, CCR, too many to list here. Of course the top song played at the NJ shore boardwalk was Zager & Evans’ In The Year 2525.

  3. mikehagerty

    The only way “I’ll Be Good To You” could be better was to be run through KFRC, San Francisco’s processing.

    Damn, I was lucky.

  4. Guy K

    A few items to unpack in this, my 12-year-old summer:

    1) In 1976, there were four Top 40 stations in New York City: legendary AM powerhouse WABC, WNBC-AM, WXLO-FM (99X) and WPIX-FM. WPIX-FM–the lowest-rated of the four–had the broadest and most interesting playlist of currents, and their surveys looked conspicuously different than the other three. “Silver Star” actually charted in the top 10 at WPIX, even though it never charted at the other three stations.

    2) “If You Know What I Mean” is the best song Neil Diamond ever did (except for the gut-wrenching “Brooklyn Roads,” which did not make the top 40), and, sadly, a song that’s gone almost completely down the memory hole.

    3) Along with the Neil Diamond song, “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” and “Love is Alive” are the two best songs on this countdown. The Tavares song did much better in NYC than it did nationally, while the Gary Wright song was just the reverse, and got very little airplay in NYC despite reaching the same #2 peak nationally that “Dream Weaver” had reached.

  5. Oh, man . . . That was the summer I moved out of my parents’ house. The first summer I ever had a long-term girlfriend. The summer I got my first cat. Most of those titles pull me back to that sweet time that I likely did not appreciate as much as I should have. (And I agree with Guy K about “If You Know What I Mean.”

  6. Wesley

    The first four played on this show (numbers 40-37) were a strong opening for AT40, something that was often not the case. But Rundgren’s remake of Good Vibrations … I’ll just say that I love Todd and I love the original and the two shouldn’t have met.

    And I’ll Be Good to You is an underplayed delight, as far as I’m concerned. Speaking of remakes, the one producer Quincy Jones did of this one a decade or so later was another misguided notion.

  7. Pingback: Right Back Where We Started From – The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

  8. Gary Omaha

    Sorry I’m late commenting on this — I had to contact a friend to confirm this story. The friend apparently got kicked out of school in 1976 for wearing a t-shirt his mom got him. She thought the “Afternoon Delight” t-shirt was cute so he wore it to school where it became an incident and he had to turn it inside-out. Friend tells me that (a) he had no idea what it meant (AND the school officials did not explain it to him), but better yet (b) his mom also swore she had no idea what it meant. Thinking back, at the time I may not have known, either. Some of us in the Midwest were sometimes a little naive.

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