Archive for the ‘1976’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (June 1976)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten records for the first week of June 1976. We’re going to talk about them a little bit and then drop to the bottom of the chart and see what was at No. 100 that week.

“Love Hangover” by Diana Ross
“Silly Love Songs” by Wings
“Get Up And Boogie (That’s Right)” by Silver Convention
“Misty Blue” by Dorothy Moore
“Happy Days” by Pratt & McLain
“Shannon” by Henry Gross
“Welcome Back” by John Sebastian
“Sara Smile” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
“Shop Around” by the Captain & Tennille
“Fool To Cry/Hot Stuff” by the Rolling Stones

Boy, forty-five years later, I really like only one of those: Moore’s heart-breaking, lovelorn “Misty Blue.”  As I wrote not quite three years ago:

From the opening piano cascades and Moore’s first “Ooooooooh” through the last “My whole world turns misty blue” three-and-a-half minutes later, this record reminds anyone who hears it exactly how it was, at least once, maybe twice, maybe three times in a lifetime. Anyone who’s truly lived has been in that misty blue world. And it’s a good thing to be reminded of that once in a while.

As for the rest, there are some virtues: “Silly Love Songs” has a world-class bass line, but is really just another McCartney trifle (this time about writing trifles). “Sara Smile” is sweet. “Fool To Cry” has a great Jagger vocal, but I can take or leave the flip side. The Captain & Tennille manage not to offend the Miracles with their cover of “Shop Around.” And silly as it is, “Get Up And Boogie (That’s Right)” was fun as the disco era was dawning.

I didn’t care about “Love Hangover” one way or another (and still don’t), but “Happy Days,” “Shannon,” and “Welcome Back” were all records that make me push the button for another station. (Actually, “Shannon” popped up the other day when I was taking a nap with the cable company’s Seventies channel on in the background. I heard the opening, groaned, rolled over and went back to sleep.)

And these days? I was stunned to find that none of those eleven records was in the iPod, the source of my day-to-day listening. I quickly added “Misty Blue,” and my work there was done. “Silly Love Songs” and “Fool To Cry” might be added later today.

Digging deeper into the Hot 100 from forty-five years ago this week, we’ll stop at No. 100, where we find a record I’ve never heard before: “Touch & Go” by the group Ecstasy, Passion & Pain, featuring Barbara Roy. It’s a dance outing with a decent instrumental backing, but boy, Roy’s vocals are lacking, being by turns strained and uncertain of pitch.

The R&B/dance group came out of New York City, and before adding “featuring Barbara Roy” to the credits, it had one record bubble under and then three entries reach the Hot 100, with “One Beautiful Day” hitting No. 48 in the spring of 1975. “Touch & Go,” the group’s last charting record, moved up to No. 98 the next week and then was gone.

Saturday Single No. 735

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

The Texas Gal and I took an overnight trip last weekend to the harbor city of Duluth, Minnesota, at the western tip of Lake Superior, and seeing the big lake and its freighters reminded me of a piece I posted here years ago pondering, among other things, the definition of folk song. So, I thought I’d share that – edited somewhat – again today.

A number of years ago, during a driving tour around Lake Superior, the Other Half and I stopped at a maritime museum on an old ship in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at the eastern end of the big lake. We wandered through displays about the shipping industry on the Great Lakes, seeing this old logbook and that old uniform, likely learning more than we had expected but being – at least in my case – curiously unmoved by what we were seeing.

There was nothing there that communicated to me the power and romance of the lakes, especially Superior, a body of water so large that it’s really not a lake but an inland sea.

And then we went back on deck and saw a battered lifeboat. Perhaps thirty feet long and made of thick steel, the boat sat malformed on the deck of the museum ship, twisted and bent, mute testimony to the power of the lake where its parent vessel had plied its trade. The name of the parent ship stenciled onto the lifeboat? The Edmund Fitzgerald.

It’s been almost forty-six years since a November storm sent the Edmund Fitzgerald to the bottom of Lake Superior. To those of us in the Northland, certainly in the states that share Superior’s shores, the sinking remains vivid in memory, a marker in time. I have a sense, though, that for those from elsewhere in the U.S. (and certainly elsewhere in the world), the boat’s sinking would be a dim memory today were it not for Gordon Lightfoot. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” a single taken off his Summertime Dream album in 1976, provides an indelible and haunting reminder of the events of November 10, 1975.

All-Music Guide, in its review of Summertime Dream, notes: “As for ‘Edmund Fitzgerald,’ its continued popularity . . . attests to the power of a well-told tale and a tasty guitar lick.” I think the popularity of the song is more complex than that, however. To me, one of the main reasons for the song’s enduring vitality is that, in 1976, it brought to popular culture, for one of the few times in many years, a true example of folk music.

Folk music, as it’s been defined since about 1965, is music with primarily acoustic instrumentation. (When electric instrumentation is added, one finds folk’s cousin, folk rock.) That’s a pretty sparse and broad definition, but it has to be to bring into the fold of folk music all the performers who have been described since the mid-Sixties as folk artists, as the genre evolved into singer/songwriter music.

A more narrow and purist definition would call folk music only that music that has been passed on via an oral tradition. The practicality of requiring an oral tradition, however, long ago went by the wayside, most likely in 1952 with the release of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music on Folkways Records, a collection that brought to multitudes of singers both inspiration and material, according to the testimony of Bob Dylan and many other folkies of the 1960s.

Requiring folk music today to have an oral source rather than a recorded source would mean that any musician who performs, say, “Man of Constant Sorrow” after hearing it on Dylan’s first album or after hearing any of the many other versions of the song released over the past seventy years, is singing a song that is no longer folk music, and that constraint, to me, is silly.

So I think that worrying about the source of the music isn’t the place to look when talking about folk music. I think we’re better off looking at content: What is the song about?

And in much of the music that was considered classic, traditional folk – the music contained in the Smith anthology and more – commemoration of and commentary on the events of the day was central. Cultural memory was preserved in live song in those years before everyone saw the news on CNN and before everyone could listen to the song on a record player or a CD player or an iPod. Answering the question of “What happened when?” is a central part of much classic, traditional folk music.

I think it’s likely that a wide audience truly began to ponder the impact of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald only after hearing Lightfoot’s song. Here in the Northland, the recording was more a reminder than anything. But for both audiences – those who already knew a great deal about the Edmund Fitzgerald and those who learned more about it through the song – Gordon Lightfoot’s song provides a commemoration of the event, and to me, that is the core function of folk music, to provide common memory of the events that form and transform our communities:

What’s at No. 100? (April 1976)

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

We’ve been mired in a wet and cool April here, and even though the trees are budding and the perennials are beginning to poke their heads out of the ground (the bleeding heart in the front is way past that stage), it’s been difficult to enjoy being out at all.

I don’t recall at all what the weather was like in April 1976, but it certainly had to have been better than this year’s version. Let’s hope the music was, too. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the fourth week in April 1976:

“Disco Lady” by Johnnie Taylor
“Let Your Love Flow” by the Bellamy Brothers
“Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale
“Boogie Fever” by the Sylvers
“Sweet Love” by the Commodores
“Only Sixteen” by Dr. Hook
“Welcome Back” by John Sebastian
“Show Me The Way” by Peter Frampton
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
“Fooled Around And Fell In Love” by Elvin Bishop

After a reminder about “Disco Lady” – which seems pretty lethargic – I remember nine of those ten. The Commodores’ single remains a mystery even after listening to it. And it’s an okay thirty minutes of listening, but just okay.

At the time, the only one that would have had me hit the button to change the radio station was the John Sebastian record, which was the theme to television’s Welcome Back, Kotter, which I didn’t like, either.

Did I really like any of those forty-five years ago? Well, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was still new-ish and kind of fun, but not really. Nothing grabbed me by the ears, but as I said above, it was an okay set.

Today, though, only two of those ten show up on my iPod and thus, in my day-to-day listening: the records by Maxine Nightingale and Peter Frampton.

But what of our other business today. What treasure or disaster lay at the lowest level of the Hot 100 forty-five years ago this week?

What we find is the first of two Hot 100 singles by Melba Moore, a decent dance tune titled “This Is It.” It peaked in the Hot 100 at No. 91. On the R&B chart, however, the record went to No. 18 and was the first of twenty-three records Moore placed in the R&B Top 40 through 1990. (Her biggest hits were “A Little Bit More,” with Freddie Jackson and “Falling,” both of which topped the R&B chart in the late 1980s.

The Video Standings

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Over the years, I’ve made more than 370 videos for this blog. My first, slapped together not too carefully ten years ago, back in April 2011, was of Al Hirt’s 1963 track “I Can’t Get Started.” It’s been viewed 154,120 times since then, not bad for a bit of pop jazz.

I don’t often make videos anymore. There are two reasons: First, it’s getting very rare for a record that has even the slightest bit of notoriety to not show up on YouTube. It happens, most often, for records that have a one- or two-week presence in the lower portions of the charts, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to. The main reason I starred putting together videos ten years ago was because I could not find good videos – meaning first, with decent sound, and second, with some pleasing visual aesthetic – of the tunes I was writing about. That’s no longer the major concern it was ten years ago.

The second reason I’ve not messing with videos any more is that the video-making software that came along with my new computer last summer is kind of clunky, not as intuitive as the software I’d used on the previous computer. If making vids were as important to me now as it was, say, five years ago, I’d buy a better program, as I have done for apps to rip and sort CDs and to record musical notation. But it’s not worth it.

Anyway, to get back to what I was doing. I thought, as the ten-year anniversary of my video-making approaches – the actual date will be Monday – that I’d note which of my vids have been the most popular over the years.

The most popular, by far, is the merger of two pieces by Bill Conti from the soundtrack of the original Rocky, from 1976. “Going The Distance” is the music that undergirds most of the championship fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, and “The Final Bell” is the triumphant set of themes that runs under the climactic final scene of the film. Playing them one after another – they’re separated by numerous tracks on the official soundtrack release – only made sense to me. And it seems to make sense to lots of others, too. As of this morning, the video has received 6,445,134 views in not quite three years. Nearly 39,000 folks have liked it, but about 1,500 folks have given it a thumbs-down.

Second place in my video derby goes to “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, the second video I made and uploaded in April 2011. So, longevity no doubt plays a part in the piece having gathered 2,116,503 views as of this morning, with some 602 folks unaccountably not liking the vid. (Maybe my very simple visual style – generally a picture of the album cover, no more – disappoints some folks.) As to the video’s popularity, that, I think, has to be credited to the sweet slow story of the 1993 song. As I wrote almost ten years ago:

Every generation finds its own versions of universal truths and tales, and “Bittersweet” is one generation’s version of the thought that even if you get what you dreamed of, you might find that it wasn’t what you really wanted.

Coming in next in the video derby is Long John Baldy and “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” from 1971’s It Ain’t Easy, with the shaggy dog story of Baldry’s long-ago arrest in London followed by one of my favorite tracks of all time. Altogether, 930,406 folks have viewed it, and somehow, 323 folks didn’t like it. Perhaps those are the same folks who insist in the comments that the rocking piano part on the track is played by Elton John (who produced half of It Ain’t Easy), when the album’s credits make it clear that it was Ian Armitt at the keyboard.

Here’s the rest of the Top Ten:

“Theme From Summer Of ’42” by Michel Legrand (833,375)
“Nantucket Sleighride (Live)” by Mountain (500,398)
“Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne (499,913)
“Tangerine” by Eliane Elias (477,334)
“Misty” by Richard “Groove” Holmes (430,465)
“Wind Up” by Jethro Tull (355,688)
“Ballad Of Easy Rider” by Roger McGuinn (334,010)

On the bottom of the list are two videos that evidently ran into some accessibility issues due to copyright and were unavailable for a while: “The River” by Bruce Springsteen (140 views) and “That’s The Way Of The World” by Earth, Wind & Fire (202 views). Then comes a cover of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” by an obscure band called Home Groan. The cover ended up on an album of tracks played on a Norwegian radio show about American music. As of today, the video had been viewed 298 times.

A Survey From St. Cloud!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I have no idea how many times in the past fourteen years I’ve written about WJON, the AM radio station that brought me a lot of my Top 40 fixes during my teenage years. More than I want to count, I’m sure.

Settled on Lincoln Avenue just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house on Kilian Boulevard, WJON and its disk jockeys eased my way, starting in the summer of 1969, from being a soundtrack and trumpet nerd into knowing a little bit more about the music my peers had been listening to for a long time.

(And that continues today, as I often get a note of enlightenment here from my friend Yah Shure, whose career in radio includes a late 1970s stint at WJON; our paths did not cross, however, as he arrived in St. Cloud about the time I decamped to Monticello, thirty miles away, for a newspapering gig.)

Similarly, I have no idea how many times I’ve stopped by the Airheads Radio Survey Archive for fodder for a post here. But until recently, I’d not found one survey from St. Cloud from the years I lived there and listened to Top 40. There were a few from KFAM, another AM station now called KNSI, from the 1940s and 1950s, and there were some from the early 1980s from KCLD, an FM sister station of KFAM/KNSI.

The other week, though, I found one survey at the site from WJON, a survey issued February 9, 1976, forty-five years ago today. Now, I guess I wasn’t really living in St. Cloud at the time, as I was taking my internship in the Twin Cities, but I was in St. Cloud every other weekend or so, so I would have heard whatever it was WJON was offering at the time. Here’s the top ten:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

That’s a “meh” from here. I liked “Convoy,” but like all novelty records, it’s got a limited shelf life. I liked the Manilow then, but now, not so much. I still like the Simon and the ELO records, and the Carmen is good from time to time.

Lower down, however, there are some records I liked better: “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees at No. 17, “Break Away” by Art Garfunkel at No. 25, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” by the 4 Seasons at No. 27, “Somewhere In The Night,” by Helen Reddy at No. 37, and a few more.

But the record at No. 18 in that forty-five-year-old survey popped up on my iPod the other day, and reminded me of something I wrote here about three years ago:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not-so-subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 691

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

When weeks are as news-filled (and as discouraging) as the last week has been, I try to take a break from the news every now and then, try to get away from the crawl and scroll. And I run head-on into the (long acknowledged) fact that I am a news junkie.

While listening to music or reading a book or magazine, I peek around the corner (as it were) and something in one of the crawls or scrolls or webpages catches my eye. Ninety minutes later, I’m drowning in facts, suppositions and analyses, and I am once again overwhelmed. So I wander around some place like YouTube, looking for diversion. And I found something this week, something not only diverting but pertinent to the supposed purpose of this blog.

Here’s a recent video put up on the channel “Jamel_AKA_Jamal.” Jamel/Jamal is a young African American man who’s found an audience of 400,000-some on the video site by listening to decades-old music he’s not heard before and recording and offering his reactions to that music. Here he is, in a video posted yesterday, listening for the first time to Al Stewart’s 1976 track, “Year Of The Cat.”

(I particularly love the expression on his face at 6:10 when he hears Phil Kenzie’s saxophone solo start.)

There are other similar channels at YouTube, and I’ve dipped into some of them, but I keep coming back to Jamel/Jamal, probably because he so clearly loves learning about music recorded long before he was born (and not coincidentally, music from my formative years). And it’s fun to listen to old favorites through young ears, as it were.

I imagine I’ll spend a few hours with Jamel/Jamal over the weekend, interspersed with housework, table-top baseball, and keeping a wary eye on the news. I think I’ll also suggest to Jamel/Jamal that he take a listen to another Al Stewart track, this one from 1978. “Time Passages” is one of my favorites, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Voices Half Remembered . . .’

Friday, March 20th, 2020

I often write about, or at least refer to, my sweet spot (a term I got from my pal Dan), the span of years from my youth when my taste in music was pretty well set. I generally identify it as the years between 1969 and 1975, but it tends to stretch a little on each end. A lot of stuff from 1967 and 1968 matters to me, being not just familiar but formative, and the same holds true to a lesser extent for 1976 and 1977.

As I’ve noted before, a rough gauge of the impact of those years can be gained by looking at the numbers of posts here featuring music from those years, numbers that – were they entered on a chart – would produce a slightly predictable but still interesting bell graph:

1967: 92
1968: 123
1969: 180
1970: 201
1971: 167
1972: 154
1973: 116
1974: 91
1975: 91
1976: 53
1977: 50

Those numbers come from a little more than 1,500 posts in just more than ten years at this site and do not include the three years of blogging at the two shorter-lived sites. And the years cover my life from the last months of eighth grade to the first month of my years at the Monticello Times. If there’s anything surprising in the numbers from those eleven years, it’s the clear drop off from 1975 to 1976 and 1977.

But those last two were years when my view shifted from college life to what would come after. There was an internship, graduation, moving away from Kilian Boulevard, an abortive attempt or two at permanent employment, additional college work, and finally, a job in reporting. Those years were a lot less carefree than the ones that came before. Maybe that makes a difference in what the music of those years says to me. And maybe the music wasn’t – to me, anyway – all that great. I dunno.

But we’ll end this relatively pointless post by letting iTunes do some work. We’re going to click randomly through the 3,900-or so tracks there and focus on the third track from either 1976 or 1977 and see what life serves us.

Well, it took twenty-eight clicks, and the tracks we hit ranged from 1955 (“Bring It To Jerome” by Bo Diddley) to 1991 (“Mysterious Ways” by U2), but we finally fell onto a track that met our requirements. It comes from a 1976 album that I do like a great deal: Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise, produced by Robbie Robertson. The album went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and “Signs” is a pretty decent album track.

Saturday Single No. 620

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

We’ve been busy on both of the last two weekends. Two weeks ago, we hosted our first Circle Dinner of the church year for our UU Fellowship. (Because of schedules, it took longer than usual to get organized.) It was a pleasant evening with one other couple and a man whose wife was out of town joining us for King Ranch casserole, cornbread and other victuals.

Then last weekend, we hosted a get-together for our UU musicians, which ended – as one might expect – with homemade music in our music and sewing room downstairs. There were four on guitar with me on keys and two listening and frequently joining in on familiar songs. One of my favorite moments came when I wasn’t playing keys but rather when one of the guitarists, Ted, started in on a familiar riff.

It took a moment to place the riff, but I dug quickly into the pile of music books next to me and pulled out a thick book of songs by Bob Dylan and paged more than halfway into it. One of the other guitarists put down her instrument and stood near my bench as I held the book, and the two of us sang along to Ted’s guitar as he ran through “Buckets Of Rain,” one of my favorite Dylan songs.

So that’s where I’m heading this morning. The original version of the tune – from the 1975 album Blood On The Tracks – is (as expected) not available on YouTube. (Mr. Dylan’s gatekeepers are exceedingly vigilant.) But there are always some covers out there. And on another day, I might dig deeper into the ones I do not know, but it’s Saturday, we’re planning a day of very little, and the aroma of frying bacon is wafting to me from the kitchen.

So here is my favorite cover of “Buckets Of Rain,” a duet between Bette Midler and the Bard of Hibbing himself. I’ve posted it before, but it’s been a long while. The track comes from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (11/13/71)

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

I’m in the mood to play a round of What’s At No. 100, so I searched the Billboard Hot 100 files for charts released on November 13 over the years we generally cover here, and I ended up getting my choice of 1961, 1965, 1971, 1976 and 1982.

I know that my pal and blogging brother jb – who spins his tales at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – would jump at the 1976 chart, as that is his year beyond all years. I’m going to pass on it, although I will satisfy some of his itch and tell him that the No. 100 record on this day in 1976 was “Daylight” by Vickie Sue Robinson, which had peaked the week before at No. 63.

But we’re going to head to November 1971, when I was nearing the end of my first quarter at St. Cloud State and struggling with the realities of maybe having a girlfriend (a story – one I do not believe I’ve told entire – for another time). Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen for November 13, 1971:

“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Imagine” by John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“Have You Seen Her” by the Chi-Lites
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler)” by Marvin Gaye
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts And Children” by the Carpenters
“Baby, I’m-a Want You” by Bread
“Never My Love” by the 5th Dimension
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“Desiderata” by Les Crane

I know well all of those except for the 5th Dimension single, which was a live performance. It’s not on the digital shelves here, and a quick check at Oldiesloon tells me that it never made the 6+30 at KDWB in the Twin Cities, which is where I still did most of my Top 40 listening. I still tuned my RCA radio to Chicago’s WLS as I went to sleep, and the 5th Dimension record went to No. 10 there, so I likely heard it, but do not remember it.

And knowing the other fourteen well, hearing them in a cluster like this would be a time trip: Hanging with the guys in Stearns Hall, playing table-top hockey with Rick and Rob, enjoying a surprise evening visit from my maybe girlfriend, listening to the radio in the lounge at Carol Hall with a bunch of guys as we waited to learn our draft lottery numbers, failing basic chemistry and African history because I’d never learned how to study in high school, and a whole lot of other memories.

Do I really like all those records? Most of them. I can do without the Osmonds, and the Michael Jackson record has never meant much to me. Many of the others, as it turns out, are on my iPod: Cher, Isaac Hayes, Bread, Rod Stewart, the Free Movement, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, the Chi-Lites, Lee Michaels, and the Carpenters’ A-side. So it was a good month for me to listen to the radio.

But what lies below? What do we find when we head down the chart to No. 100? Well, we find a record that’s been featured here a number of times, “Hallelujah” by Sweathog, in its first week in the Hot 100. By the end of the year, the group’s cover of the Clique’s 1969 recording would peak at No. 33. Almost ten years ago, when I included Sweathog’s record in my Ultimate Jukebox, I wrote:

From the clanking introduction with its gospel piano and percussion through the workmanlike vocal and jubilant choruses, Sweathog’s single hit is fun. It doesn’t tap any major memories; it’s more of a dimly recalled artifact that it would have been nice to hear more often long ago.

Here it is:

Chart Digging: Four Julys

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It’s time to dig into some Billboard Hot 100s from a few different Julys. We’re going to play some Games With Numbers and turn today’s date – 7/11/18 – into 36, and check out the No. 36 record on four charts, starting in 1976 and heading back four years at a time.

As we customarily do when we play these games, we’ll check out the No. 1 record for those weeks at the same time.

The second week of July 1976 found the country recovering from its Bicentennial celebration, the climax of what seemed at the time to have been about five years of preparation and marketing. If you didn’t have something Bicentennial themed in your house, you were either unpatriotic or worse, a spoilsport. Anyway, just less than a week after the hoopla reached its climax, the No. 36 record in the Hot 100 was a discofied version of one of the greatest and most familiar pieces of classical music: “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band, which was heading up the charts to No. 1. (It would reach No. 10 on the magazine’s R&B chart and No. 13 on what was then called the Easy Listening chart.)

It was the only Top 40 hit for Murphy, who had been an arranger for Doc Severinsen and the orchestra for The Tonight Show. (That means there’s only one degree of separation, as folks say, between me and Murphy, as I’ve met Doc Severinsen twice.). Two other releases, “Flight ’76,” based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and 1982’s “Themes from E.T. (The Extra-terrestrial),” went to Nos. 44 and 47 respectively. And Murphy’s condensed and discofied take on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 102 in early 1977.

The No. 1 record during the second week of July 1976 was “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band.

Heading back four years from that puts us in the summer of 1972, when I was working half-time as a janitor and planning a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, with my pals Rick and Gary. (The ease with which we crossed from the U.S. into Canada that summer now astounds me. We showed the Canadian officials our driver’s licenses and the hand-written letter my dad had supplied that gave us his permission to take my 1961 Falcon – which Dad technically owned – across the border. Returning to Minnesota a few days later was just as easy. Simpler times.) Anyway, the No. 36 record as our plans for our trip were taking shape was a pairing of song and singer that itself echoed a time a decade earlier that in 1972 seemed much simpler: “Sealed With A Kiss” by Bobby Vinton.

Vinton’s version doesn’t stray far from the feel of Brian Hyland’s 1962 version that went to No. 3, and both are appreciably less mournful – to my ears, anyway – than the non-charting 1960 original by the Four Voices. Vinton’s version was on its way to No. 19 (No. 2, Easy Listening) during the second week of July. It was the thirty-eighth record Vinton had in or near the Hot 100 in a ten year period. He’d add eleven more through 1981 before the hits ran out.

Parked at No. 1 that week in 1972 was Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.”

We’ve dallied a lot in recent months in the memorable year of 1968, but a four-year retreat from 1972 finds us there once again. And – as I’ve noted here many times before – it was likely around this time that I spent four days working at the state trap shoot, getting dirty with tar dust and listening to the radio for eight or so hours each day. Nevertheless, I don’t recall KDWB offering me Wilson Pickett’s “I’m A Midnight Mover” during those four days. It was sitting at No. 36 fifty years ago this week, and if I heard it then, if just didn’t make an impression, which – based on a listening this morning – seems unlikely.

The record peaked at No. 24 on the Hot 100 (and at No. 6 on the R&B chart), one of the forty-three records Pickett placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1963 and 1973 (with forty of his records reaching the R&B Top 40).

The No. 1 record during that week in July 1968 was “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert.

Whatever I may have been doing during in early July 1964, it hasn’t stuck in my memory. I was ten, with sixth grade at Lincoln Elementary on the horizon, and I was probably just finishing up summer school. That might have been the year my summer classmates and I were featured in the Shopping News for building a fake igloo for our studies on Alaska. In any case, I’m sure I spent a lot of time with Rick, both of us lazing away summer days in a way that I’m certain kids these days are not allowed to do. We didn’t really listen to pop music then, but we no doubt heard it when we were around older kids. Still, I would guess that Terry Stafford’s “I’ll Touch A Star” – the No. 36 record fifty-four years ago this week – was something we missed.

The record was Stafford’s follow-up to his No. 3 hit, “Suspicion,” and like that record, it was a bit of traditional pop in a time when the charts were mixing traditional pop and R&B and English hits and surf sounds and light jazz in such a way that listening to a Top 40 station would have been an adventure. “I’ll Touch A Star” peaked at No. 25 (No. 4 Easy Listening, where, surprisingly, “Suspicion” had failed to chart). Stafford had only one more record tickle the Hot 100: “Follow The Rainbow” bubbled under at No. 101 later that summer in 1964. He went on to place a few records in the bottom half of the country Top 40 in the 1970s.

The No. 1 record during the second week of July in 1964 was “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys.

(It’s interesting to note that – based on a little bit of digging – this post marks the first time that I’ve ever featured the music of Terry Stafford, Bobby Vinton or Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band. I’ve mentioned Vinton frequently and Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band a few times. Until today, I’ve never mentioned Terry Stafford over the course of some 2,100 posts.)