‘Kill That Roach . . .’

I’ve dissected at least a couple of times the changes in my life during the summer of 1976 (here and here), a summer that is somehow now forty years in the past. I’ve written about how odd it felt at the start of that July to be living on the North Side of St. Cloud instead of my native East Side and about the questions and concerns that I carried along with my books and clothing as I moved from one side of the Mississippi River to the other.

And I’ve written about the music that brings back memories of that summer, reminders of that move and of my cramped room in my new home.

But one thing I didn’t really think about until very recently was the change in my music listening habits. When I was living at my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard, my music source was – and this is an estimate – half from my LPs in the basement rec room, not very many of them very recent, and half from radios and/or jukeboxes in various other places: my room, friends’ homes, various restaurants and bars and Atwood Center at St. Cloud State.

But when I moved across town, I left my LPs at Kilian Boulevard. Yeah, there was a turntable in the living room in my new place, and the three guys who were living there had some albums on the bricks and boards nearby. But I’d visited the place enough to know that – like many low-rent residences occupied by students in college towns across the country – our place had pretty much an open door policy. Security had never been a major concern.

Now, I don’t know how many LPs had walked out the door of the place on Seventeenth Avenue under the arms of sticky-fingered visitors over the couple of years I’d been visiting off and on. But until I had a better idea of how widely ajar the place’s open door actually was – I didn’t know how diligently the doors were locked or who else out there might have keys – I wasn’t going to bring my albums over and risk having them wander out the door.

(As the guys I knew moved out, the number of albums on the living room shelves diminished, and it wasn’t until quite late in my tenure on Seventeenth Avenue that I brought over from the East Side maybe ten of my favorite LPs, scrawling my name on the top right corner of the front cover of each of them.)

Until then, I listened to the radio, sometimes when hanging out in the living room with the other guys and with whatever company we had, and sometimes when closeted in my room with my two cats (and on frequent occasion, my girlfriend). The radio in the living room was likely tuned to the FM side of a local Top 40 station or maybe to the Twin Cities’ album rocker KQRS. The radio in my room was generally tuned to WCCO’s FM station, which played a quirky mix of music that’s not easy to describe.

(Regular reader Yah Shure explained it this way a few years ago: “WCCO-FM’s hybrid format was an attempt to create a younger, hipper, more music-intensive version of its full-service-giant parent AM, which wasn’t a bad plan for a market that hadn’t yet fully awakened to the existence of the FM band. It was a current-based blend of soft rock, MOR, pop, singer-songwriter . . . even a touch of jazz lite. The non-rock hits were well represented, but FM 103’s overall musical scope was pretty adventurous, with plenty of album cuts and untested singles that fit a particular ‘sound,’ whether they’d charted or not.”)

So all of that was what I heard during those months on the North Side, a mix of mostly current stuff. And of course, a great deal of music I might not have heard then has come to me since, so most of the records listed in the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1976, are familiar. It’s more fun these days, however, to look for the unfamiliar. So, dropping down to the bottom of the chart, the Bubbling Under section, I find at No. 109, the next-to-last spot on the chart, a record that I’m pretty certain I’d never heard until this morning

That’s not unusual; despite my best efforts, there’s a lot of music out there that’s popped into the charts that’s never reached these ears. But a look at Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles told me that there’s something remarkable about “Kill That Roach” by a Miami-based disco band called simply Miami.

What caught my eye about “Kill That Roach” this morning is that the record bubbled under the Hot 100 for thirteen weeks – all of August, September and October 1976 – and never got any higher than No. 103. Maybe I’m utterly sideways here, but I can’t imagine that too many records in the Hot 100 era bubbled under for that many weeks without breaking into the actual Hot 100.

It’s maybe nothing special, a dance record that’s in the same vein as many others of the time, but I wouldn’t have minded hearing it come out of the speaker late some night as my girlfriend and our cats kept me company on the North Side.

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