Saturday, October 8, 2011

This Week's Review -- October 9, 1976

This week's list of first-week hits on the Billboard Hot 100 includes seven singles. There was quite a potent mix of hit material, as four of the songs went into the Top 40 and three of those reached the Top 10. The Top 10 singles were served up by a solo debut by the former lead singer of The Guess Who, a Texas duo who were an "overnight sensation" twelve years in the making and a family act originally from Memphis. One hit started out as a commercial. Even the three songs that missed the Top 40 are worth hearing. One was a big country hit that helped introduce listeners to the original version, one was another family act that was about to get a big hit on their own, and the other was a Gladys Knight performance that really deserves more attention than it received.

Among the archive of Billboard issues over at Google Books is the October 9, 1976 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on Page 68. An article on Page 20 tells of an effort by promoter Sid Bernstein to publicly encourage the four ex-Beatles to reunite for one concert, as a way of raising funds for charity. Bernstein was figuring the event could raise over $100 million. Page 40 has an article about the "controversy" over Bobby Bare's "Dropkick Me Jesus," which was being released as a single. Anybody who's actually listened to the song without being offended about a perceived blasphemy would have known it was a straight song asking for divine guidance, but I digress...

Burton Cummings - "Stand Tall" Stand Tall - Burton Cummings

(Debuted #74, Peaked #10, 21 Weeks on chart)

Burton Cummings left The Guess Who in 1975 to embark on a solo career, and his first solo hit was perhaps his finest moment away from the group. "Stand Tall" was a million-seller that went into the Top 10 in America and Burton's native Canada. While Cummings went on to score more hits in both countries, "Stand Tall" was the one that reached the highest peaks.

By the time he wrote the song, Cummings had moved to California and that seems to have influenced his writing style for the song. It's hard to imagine his former group trying to lay the song down. Yes, there was enough bombast in the music, but this was ultimately Cummings' chance to shine. That's a perfect way to start a solo career.

England Dan & John Ford Coley - "Nights Are Forever Without You" Nights Are Forever Without You - Nights Are Forever

(Debuted #76, Peaked #10, 16 Weeks on chart)

It can be said that England Dan and John Ford Coley were at their peak in 1976. After a decade of trying to make it in the music business and releasing three well-recieved but non-charting LPs for A&M, they switched to Big Tree and hit in big with their Nights Are Forever album.

"Nights Are Forever Without You" was the duo's second Top 10 hit. It was written by Parker McGee, who also wrote the first hit "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight." It has a similar vibe as the earlier hit and set the template for many of their futue hits. That's not to say it's not a good tune, but sticking to a similar style for too many singles might make listeners feel they've already heard that song before.

The Sylvers - "Hot Line" Hot Line - Classic Masters

(Debuted #86, Peaked #5, 24 Weeks on chart)

There are several songs throughout the years that use the telephone as a metaphor, but "Hot Line" is more of a song that uses it as a device. It combined with their next hit "High School Dance" to give the family act a firm entrechment in the teen-oriented "bubblegum" sound, a nice way to sell records at the time but would prove tough to break out of later.

The Sylvers continued their association with producer Freddie Perren, who wrote their 1976 #1 hit "Boogie Fever" (and "Hot Line" as well). As one of the hottest producers of the day, that association proved to be a great boost. Since Perren had already worked with The Jackson 5, he was quite in touch with getting great things out of a family combo. "Hot Line" led off the groups Showcase album and was a Top 5 pop and R&B hit.

One thing in the video above: the "performance" of "Hot Line" is taken from two different shows. In the first, there are seven members, where there are eight siblings in the later frames. That's because oldest sister Olympia left the group around this time to start a family.

Gladys Knight and the Pips - "So Sad the Song" So Sad The Song - So Sad The Song

(Debuted #89, Peaked #47, 8 Weeks on chart)

Gladys Knight has one of the best voices of the 1970s, and "So Sad the Song" helps explain why. It's a "fork in the road" song that says it's time to bid farewell to a romance. In fact, the final line of the song sums it up nicely..."So sad the song that says goodbye." It's not a song that has gotten much attention from other artists, which might be an indication of how well Knight nailed it in her rendition. It's a shame the song was overlooked both in its chart run and in the years since.

In "So Sad the Song," the Pips are mixed so far into the background that they're barely perceptible until the end. It's an unusual move for a backing trio that is so integral for Knight's performance; with this song, however, it's somehow appropriate.

David Dundas - "Jeans On" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #17, 21 Weeks on chart)

If this song sounds like it should be a commercial, there's a good reason. David Dundas originally wrote it as a television jingle for Brutus jeans. When it proved to be catchy, the song was re-recorded as a single-length tune. Due to the BBC's restriction on commercial lyrics, the line "I pull my Brutus jeans on" became "I pull my old blue jeans on." The change helped the song reach #3 on the U.K.'s chart. In the U.S., the commercial wasn't already ingrained in the heads of listeners. As a result, its American success was more limited but still reached a respectable #17. It would also reach #3 in South Africa and top the charts in West Germany.

Dundas had another hit in his homeland, but is a true One-Hit Wonder in the States. He moved on to scoring television and film projects.

The Emotions - "Flowers" Flowers - Love Songs

(Debuted #93, Peaked #87, 4 Weeks on chart)

While "Best of My Love" was a monster hit, it's worth giving a spin to the two songs that preceded it into the Hot 100. In late 1976 and early '77, both sides of a single charted together and separately if three different runs up the chart. One side, "Don't Want to Lose Your Love" would show up a month later, and would pop up again early the next year listed with the original A-Side, "Flowers." The songs deserved their extra chances but none would rise higher than #51.

"Flowers" was the group's first collaboration with Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White. He co-wrote the song with EW&F bandmate Al McKay, and brother Verdine provides the fluid bass line that sets the time as the three Hutchinson sisters sing like angels. Though the song is slower, the harmonies point the way to the style they would use to punctuate "Best of My Love" a year later.

Waylon Jennings - "Can't You See" Can't You See - Are You Ready for the Country

(Debuted #97, Peaked #97, 1 Week on chart)

"Can't You See" was a remake of a song by The Marshall Tucker Band. To some listeners, it appeared that Waylon Jennings' version came first by virtue of being a hit single earlier, but it was on The Marshall Tucker Band's first LP in 1973. Written by that group's singer/guitarist Toy Caldwell, it didn't see a single release by the band until 1977, spurred on by the success of Waylon's take.

A song about the not-so-intoxicating effects of a relationship gone stale and wanting to get away, Waylon's version uses guitars and a piano, leaving out the flute that marked The Marshall Tucker Band's rendition of the song. Despite stalling at #97 in its only week on the pop chart, the song went to #4 on the country chart.

No comments:

Post a Comment