It’s a little bit disconcerting to realize that it’s almost forty years since I graduated from St. Cloud State. That happened at the end of February 1976, after my one-quarter internship in the sports department of an independent television station based in a Minneapolis suburb.
I know I’ve mentioned the internship frequently over the past nine years, just as I’ve mentioned fairly frequently the stunning redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department and indicated a clear interest in me. There are reasons those things remain large in my rear-view mirror, I think.
First, I was good enough at the internship that after the first couple of months, I was occasionally – five or six times, I would guess – asked to assemble the entire evening sports segment and hand the script to the on-air talent. I was listed those five or six times as a producer in the broadcast’s credits, and that’s pretty heady stuff at the age of 22.
And the redhead? Well, even though I was seeing a young woman in St. Cloud, the other intern’s obvious interest in me was flattering and, frankly, gave me confidence in what we might call today my social game. I didn’t really follow up on her interest beyond a little flirtation, but it boosted my ego a little bit, and at that time, that was a good thing.
Anyway, that’s what comes to mind when I think of that February now forty years gone: Writing a script, choosing visuals for that script and taking a few minutes most days to grab a cup of coffee in the break room with that lovely young lady.
And, of course, music. There was none in the newsroom, of course. There, we had televisions that tracked our own programming and the programming of the three other stations in the market; music would have been a distraction. But I heard tunes driving between the station and my shared apartment in a nearby suburb, and my roommate and I – he was another young St. Cloudian, working his first job out of school – had the radio on a lot during those three months.
So the top ten in the Billboard Hot 100 from this week forty years ago was very familiar:
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summer
“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate
“Theme From S.W.A.T.” by Rhythm Heritage
“Sing A Song” by Earth, Wind & Fire
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players
“Love Machine (Part 1)” by the Miracles
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
That was pretty much what we heard. At the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, there is a KDWB survey from February 10, 1976, and six of those ten show up in the top ten, with “You Sexy Thing” topping the survey. The Earth, Wind & Fire track and the bottom three from the Billboard Top Ten are gone. (Three of those four show up lower among the twenty-five records on the KDWB survey; the only one missing is the Miracles’ record.)
Taking their place were Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” at No. 3, C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” at No. 4, the Who’s “Squeezebox” at No. 9, and Foghat’s “Slow Ride” at No. 10. The Carmen record is especially evocative of those days; there were at least two weekends when my roommate went back to St. Cloud and I was working, and I think I heard the record on the radio late at night both weekends, and yeah, I was a bit lonely.
But we’re going to find today’s nugget further down in the Hot 100 from forty years ago today, at – appropriately – No. 40. It’s “Tangerine” by the Salsoul Orchestra. (I took a look a few years ago at the song’s history in posts found here, here and here.) The record was the first of a couple of Top 40 hits for the Philadelphia-based orchestra (which included for a while, says Wikipedia, musicians who’d previously been part of Philadelphia International’s MFSB). Eight other records reached the Hot 100 or bubbled under it until the string ran out in 1979.
“Tangerine” peaked at No. 18, and went to No. 11 on the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 36 on the R&B chart. And it no doubt got a lot of folks out of their chairs and out onto the dance floor.