Saturday, April 7, 2012

This Week's Review -- April 3, 1976

There were ten singles taking a bow on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Six of them reached the Top 40 and two made the Top 10. One would ultimately become a #1 smash, and it actually represented two of the singles debuting this week. Two songs would be associated with TV shows; one was a new theme song, while the other was used in a memorable episode. One song was an earlier hit by Frank Sinatra that was getting re-recorded by the man who wrote it. Another song was done by a group who was misnamed on the record label. One song would appear again later, performed by the same group but with a different singer. Finally, a performer who took eight years to shed his "one-hit wonder" status makes his debut.

While a large archive of Billboard issues is available at Google Books, the April 3, 1976 edition is not among them. With that said, let me direct your attention to the tabs above...the ones under this blog's header picture with all the 8-track tapes. Each tab represents a single year of the 1970s, and each one lists the songs from that year that have been featured on this blog along with a link to the post. I update them every week, so it's always up-to-date. If you have time...or a favorite year you'd like to revisit, feel free to check them out.

Paul Anka - "Anytime (I'll Be There)" Anytime (I'll Be There) - Feelings

(Debuted #77, Peaked #33, 9 Weeks on chart)

Paul Anka was still riding on the momentum of his mid-70s comeback in 1976. While he'd already had his #1 single "(You're) Having My Baby" and had enjoyed his series of dueats with Odia Coates, he was still a name and "Anytime (I'll Be There)" ended up being his seventh consecutive Top 40 hit, as well as his seventh straight Top 10 hit on the adult contemporary chart. From that point, however, the hits dropped off; he'd only manage a single Top 40 hit for the rest of the decade.

The song was originally written for Frank Sinatra, who had previously hit with Anka's song "My Way" in 1969. "Ol' Blue Eyes" took the song to #75 in 1975, so Anka's own version appeared as a single a year later. Listening to the two singles show that the two singers have vastly different styles, Anka's voice is more suited to the words but Sinatra actually did a great job over the light disco beat. Anka's version was more targeted toward the AC audience, with a softer instrumentation that sounded "brighter" on the radio.

Diana Ross - "Love Hangover" Love Hangover - The Motown Anthology

(Debuted #78, Peaked #1, 18 Weeks on chart)

This is the first of two separate versions of "Love Hangover" to debut this week. The song had been written by Motown staffers Marilyn McCloud and Pamela Sawyer as a vehicle for either Diana Ross of Marvin Gaye to break into the burgeoning disco genre. Neither star liked the new sound, but producer Hal Davis felt Ross would give a "sexy" quality to the lyrics and encouraged her to give it a try. He even had a disco ball set up inside the recording studio to put her in the right frame of mind as she sang it.

After the album came out, a cover was recorded by The Fifth Dimension and rushed into production. As a result, Motown rushed their own copy of Ross's song as a single and both entered the Hot 100 on the same week. There was little debate about what happened after that. Ross went to #1 and started a new phase of her career as a Disco Diva; the Fifth Dimension's version was quickly forgotten.

Frankie Valli - "Fallen Angel" Fallen Angel - The 20 Greatest Hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Live)

(Debuted #81, Peaked #36, 8 Weeks on chart)

Frankie Valli's name is often used in conjunction with that of his group The Four Seasons. In fact, that group is mentioned during his introduction in the video above. Ironically, at the time "Fallen Angel" was a hit in the U.K., The Four Seasons were charting on their own with the song "Silver Star," a song that had no participation from Valli at all.

That said, many of Valli's solo efforts were essentially cut from the same cloth, where the same studio musicians were used, members of The Four Seasons sang backing vocals and the same producer (Bob Gaudio) was used. And Gaudio helmed the sound board for "Fallen Angel" and likely used the same players signed for Four Seasons sessions, but I can't seem to find any liner notes to indicate who sang backup on the song. But since some are obviously female, there's surely some voices present that aren't from The Four Seasons.

"Fallen Angel" is a ballad, written by Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett. While it's not something that stands out among his legendary work (with the group or solo), it's not a bad piece.

Brass Construction - "Movin'" Movin' - Greatest Hits - Featuring Movin' and Changin' Live

(Debuted #84, Peaked #14, 16 Weeks on chart)

"Movin"" was the only Top 40 hit Brass Construction would enjoy and one of two Hot 100 entries, but the funk/soul band enjoyed a fairly nice run of 17 hits on the R&B chart from 1976-'85. Of those, "Movin'" would be their biggest hit, reaching #1. It also topped the Disco charts with its undeniable groove. Essentially an instrumental with a few added lines of lyrics, the song is a great example of a 1970s beat where the mix is almost perfect.

"Movin'" would also figure in the 1970s TV landscape, as it was played in the background of the party the Evans family threw on the show Good Times to celebrate the fact that they were about to move out of the ghetto...before Florida (Esther Rolle's chartacter) opened the envelope to the telegram that informed her that her husband James (played by John Amos) had been killed in an accident.

Billy Ocean - "Love Really Hurts Without You" Love Really Hurts Without You - The Ultimate Collection: Billy Ocean

(Debuted #85, Peaked #22, 11 Weeks on chart)

Thanks to a long string of hits during the 1980s, people have forgotten that Billy Ocean was considered to be a "One-Hit Wonder" for nearly a decade. He never really went away, but this would be his only Hot 100 listing before he ran a string of 10 Top 40 hits from 1984-'89. In the meantime, he was a hit in the U.K. and in the clubs, but none of his singles reached any higher than "bubbling under" status in the U.S.

If you aren't familiar with "Love Really Hurts Without You," take a few minutes and give it a listen. It has a bouncy beat and is a positive-sounding song until you take a look at the lyric sheet. The words paint a picture of a woman who's stepping out to impress others. It's not expressly stated that she's actually his woman, but she's playing the field while he sits on the bench. As he says, it hurts to watch when he really wants to be beside her...even though her playbook includes cheating and lying. That's beacause he's still a man deep inside, ready to spring into action regardless of the consequences.

Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds - "Everyday Without You" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #88, Peaked #62, 7 Weeks on chart)

By the time "Everyday Without You" came out, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds was something of a misnomer. Tommy Reynolds had left the group in 1972, but their record company insisted on keeping the billing intact since they were already a "known" act. After that, the band was actually Hamilton, Joe Frank & Dennison, but Alan Dennison was obligated to keep his mouth shut about it.

Actually, I have no idea whether that last sentence was true...but the group soldiered on for several years without giving him the proper credit, and they even had a #1 single ("Fallin' in Love") during that period. Of course, by the time the records showed the correct names, the group sold poorly and soon broke up. Which may have led to an executive saying, "See? We told you."

On to the song. "Every Day Without You" is a song that seems to have been influenced by a lot of outside factors. I hear the strings they used on their big single (as well as "Winners & Losers"). I hear a melody that popped up on a Poco tune later in the decade. The piano riff seems to be borrowed from a honky-tonk song. There's also an element of an old-time harmony. While it may not seem like I'm saying so, I do like the song. It just doesn't register as overly original, and the wide range of influences seems a little too wide. 

Pratt & McClain - "Happy Days" Happy Days (Theme from Happy Days) - Pratt & McClain featuring

(Debuted #89, Peaked #5, 14 Weeks on chart)

Just a few weeks ago, I shared the original theme song from the TV series Happy Days on this blog. Now, here's the song that replaced it. I honestly didn't intend to have it work out this way, but sometimes random  order leads to serendipity.

Truett Pratt and Jerry McClain formed a band called Brotherly Love during the early 1970s and did a lot of work on commercial jingles. McClain had once been in a band with Michael Omartian, so when Omartian was asked to produce a new song written specifically for Happy Days, he tapped his old buddy to help out. Once the theme for the show's opening credits proved successful, a full-length version was released as a single and went all the way to #5 on the pop chart. More than that, it remained in the minds of fans as the theme remained through the remainder of the show's run (which was 1984, when most 1970s hits were largely relegated to memory).

As for Pratt & McClain, they only had one more chart entry later in 1976, which peaked at #71. Though their chart fortunes were short, hopefully they made enough from royalties to keep it from hurting much. 

Jim Stafford - "Jasper"  (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #90, Peaked #69, 6 Weeks on chart)

Jim Stafford is best remembered for the sense of humor he provided to many of his songs, but "Jasper" sounds really eerie by comparison. In fact, it sounds like the story to a 1970s B-movie. One that pops up at 3 in the morning on a TV station back in the days before we had infomercials.

Stafford was a Florida native who was a writer on the Smothers Brothers' TV show before becoming an entertainer. He sent six straight singles into the pop Top 40, but "Jasper" would break that streak. In fact, Stafford never reached the Top 40 again. I'm not going to blame the song for that, however...once a performer is established as a novelty act, he's sometimes backed into a corner stylistically that's hard to get out of.

The 5th Dimension - "Love Hangover" Love Hangover - Detroit Soul, the Motown Years Volume 2

(Debuted #95, Peaked #80, 4 Weeks on chart)

The second version of "Love Hangover" on this week's list was a quickly-made cover of the first. When Diana Ross's self-titled LP arrived with the song on it, "Love Hangover" wasn't immediately issued as a single despite the fact that the Motown brass felt it was a strong song that suited her well. When it wasn't serviced to hit radio right away, The Fifth Dimension rushed to get their own version out. Once Motown learned of that, they readied Ross's version, and that proved much more durable.

This version of "Love Hangover" was sung by Florence LaRue, the "other" female singer in the group besides Marilyn McCoo during their hit period. When McCoo and husband Billy Davis, Jr. left in 1975 to begin their own act, LaRue stepped out as the "new" lead singer. While she has a great voice, it isn't fair to have to be compared to Diana Ross. Interestingly, the group signed with Motown shortly after the quick chart disappearance of this tune, showing that there were no hard feelings about what happened.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - "Spirit in the Night" Spirits In the Night - Nightingales & Bombers

(Debuted #100, Peaked #97, 3 Weeks on chart)

There is some confusion regarding this song. Manfred Mann's Earth Band recorded two separate versions, each with a different singer. The first was actually titled "Spirits in the Night" with Mick Rodgers. However, when Chris Thompson took over lead vocals, they did another take and returned its title to the original "Spirit in the Night" that Bruce Springsteen gave it.

Written by Bruce Springsteen, "Spirit in the Night" was one of the two final songs (along with "Blinded By the Light") he added to his Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey LP. It's a neat coincidence that both would later become hits for Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The song was a typical Springsteen topic: restless kids looking to have some fun while they were still young. While it mentions Route 88 (a real road in New Jersey), the story about a place in "Greasy Lake" is an embellishment, since there is no place in the state with that name.

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