Saturday, May 14, 2016

This Date in Rock Music History: May 15

1957: Chuck Berry recorded "Rock & Roll Music" at the Chess Studios in Chicago, Illinois. (Note: some websites report that he recorded the song on either May 6 or May 21, but according to the book 'Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings' by Steve Sullivan, Berry recorded the song on May 15.) 

1961:  "Runaway" by Del Shannon charted a fourth week at #1.  Ernie K-Doe was second with "Mother-In-Law" while Gene McDaniels held steady with "A Hundred Pounds Of Clay".  Linda Scott remained in the #4 position with "I've Told Every Little Star".  The rest of the Top 10:  "Daddy's Home" by Shep & the Limelites, Brenda Lee with "You Can Depend On Me", former #1 "Blue Moon" by the Marcels, Ricky Nelson jumped from 18 to 8 with "Travelin' Man", the Shirelles were back with "Mama Said" and Adam Wade with "Take Good Care Of Her".
1963:  Ray Charles won Best R&B Recording at the Grammies with "I Can't Stop Loving You".

The Top 100 Songs of 1976*: #20-11

The United States celebrated the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence while James Callaghan became the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  The Summer Olympics were held in Montreal, where Bruce Jenner won the men's decathlon and Sugar Ray Leonard was one of five Americans to win boxing gold.  In other sports, the National Basketball Association and the American Basketball Association agreed to merge.

In music, Peter Frampton scored the top-selling album of the year with Frampton Comes Alive, the Irish group U2 formed in Dublin and these 10 songs were some of the cream of the crop:


Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)
Fleetwood Mac

The song which peaked at #11 in 1976 has nonetheless proven to be much stronger than that.  Written by Stevie Nicks about a Welsh witch, the song builds into a crescendo in which Nicks' passionate vocals in live performances made people take notice.  Clearly, Fleetwood Mac had made an excellent choice in bringing Stevie into the fold.  "Rhiannon" is one of several songs in this range that are just a heartbeat away from making The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.


Play That Funky Music
Wild Cherry

Rob Parissi founded this group in 1970 but after several misses, the group broke up in 1973 and Parissi became the manager at a local steakhouse.  After a while, Rob decided that his current job wasn't going to work and he decided to give music one more try.  He re-formed Wild Cherry with new musicians.  While the Rock band was playing at a club in Pittsburgh, a table of African Americans kept teasing them:  "Are you white boys gonna' play some funky music?"  In between sets, drummer Ron Beitle said "Play that funky music, white boy."  Parissi was inspired immediately and, on a drink order pad borrowed from the bartender, wrote a song in five minutes.  The #19 Song of 1976* is the result of that experience--it sold over 2.5 million records in the U.S. alone and was a Top 10 hit the world over.  


Dream Weaver
Gary Wright

Gary Wright said that this smash was inspired by Autobiography of a Yogi, given to him by George Harrison.  The title song from Wright's incredible fourth album reached #2 officially but was #1 at many radio stations.


Love Hangover
Diana Ross

Since leaving the Supremes, Diana Ross had scored #1 songs with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Touch Me In The Morning" and "Theme From 'Mahogany'".  In 1976, she hit #1 again with this smash.


Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Elton John

Elton John, meanwhile, was just wrapping up a period from 1972-1976 in which he achieved 20 hits during that time.  Fourteen of those 20 reached the Top 10, as EJ was as dominant as nearly anyone in the history of the Rock Era.


50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Paul Simon

For this song, Paul Simon invited Patti Austin, Valerie Simpson and Phoebe Snow to sing backing vocals.  All three went on to become successful in their own right.  They all contributed to this #1 smash, one of Paul's biggest solo hits.


Say You Love Me
Fleetwood Mac

This song may have peaked at #11 at the time through a strange methodology that failed to consider album sales.  When you factor those in over the last 40 years, it's plain to see that "Say You Love Me" was mightily underrated, as today it is The #14 Song of 1976*.


You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
Lou Rawls

Here's the top song from 1976 that didn't make The Top 500 for the Rock Era*, as several songs in this range are inches away.  He is the famous voice of Budweiser commercials at the time, singing "This Bud's for You".  This was the year that Lou Rawls posted his biggest career hit by far.


Rock'n Me
Steve Miller Band

The Steve Miller Band was on a hot streak that they would continue into 1977.  Here's one of six hits the group achieved during that span.

I Write The Songs
Barry Manilow

There has been some movement among the top songs for the year since The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* book was published last year.  To repeat the methodology, rankings can change as new sales and airplay figures come in, and this song, previously ranked #8, has slipped to #11.

This #1 smash on both the Popular and Adult Contemporary charts was written by Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys.  Barry Manilow is one step away from the Top 10 for the year*.

Friday, May 13, 2016

This Date in Rock Music History: May 14

                                         The top group of the 50's was born...

1956:  The self-titled album by the Platters was released on Mercury Records.
1956:  Buddy Holly's doctor gave him contact lenses for his 20/800 eyesight (didn't know they were around back then!), but Buddy could not get used to them, so his trademark glasses remained.
1959:  Cliff Richard starred in his first movie, Serious Charges.
1963:  The Beatles performed at the Rink Ballroom in Sunderland, England.
1965:  The Rolling Stones, Boise, Idaho's Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Byrds and the Beau Brummels appeared at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

1966:  Apparently lots of people could identify with this song--the Lovin' Spoonful rose from 65 to 25 with "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?"
1966:  Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass owned not only the #1 album (for a fifth week) with Going Places, but the #2 album as well, Whipped Cream & Other Delights.

The Top 100 Songs of 1976*: #30-21

If you're just discovering us, welcome to The Top 100 Songs of 1976*.  We are looking back to commemorate the top songs of the year for the upcoming 40-year class reunions.  If you are celebrating your 40th wedding anniversary or your 40th birthday, the list also has relevance.  Unlike a year-end countdown back in 1976, though, which included flashes in the pan, our list is updated utilizing up-to-the-minute sales and airplay data in the 40 years since from our exclusive Top Songs Database* that now includes over 13,000 songs.

In news highlights of 1976, Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford to win the U.S. presidency, at least 3,840 people were killed in a 7.3 earthquake in Turkey, the Chimpanzee was placed on the list of endangered species, the Seattle Seahawks played their first football game and the first known outbreak of the Ebola virus occurred in Zaire.

Billionaires J. Paul Getty and Howard Hughes, Johnny Mercer (founder of Columbia Records and writer of "Days Of Wine And Roses", "Autumn Leaves", "When October Goes", "That Old Black Magic", "Jeepers, Creepers!" and "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby", among many others, elite guitarist Freddie King, Bob Marley and Percy Faith (who gave us the #1 classic "Theme From 'A Summer Place'" in 1960) were among those who died in 1976.

And in music, these 10 songs continue to be some of the best from 1976:


You Should Be Dancing
Bee Gees

With an infectious beat and superbly-crafted production, the Bee Gees served notice in 1976 that they were back and going to be a strong force in music.


Misty Blue
Dorothy Moore

Bob Montgomery originally wrote this song for Brenda Lee in 1966, but she turned it down.  Wilma Burgess had a Country and Western hit with it that year and Eddy Arnold registered a Popular hit the following year, but it was Mississippi's Dorothy Moore who recorded it in 1976 and made it her own.


Crazy On You

Here we have The #28 Song of 1976*, which reminds us not to go by chart numbers at the time to determine the most popular songs.  Released from the album Dreamboat Annie as the debut single for Heart, it stalled at #35.  Yet big sales and airplay and demand at live concerts has the song ranked among songs that went to #1 back in 1976.  The long version, which is really the only one radio stations should play, features a reprise of the title song "Dreamboat Annie" and one of the amazing acoustical guitar solos of the Rock Era from Nancy Wilson (which she called "Silver Wheels"), which leads into the great guitar riff from Roger Fisher and the powerful vocal performance from Ann Wilson.


I'll Be Good To You
Brothers Johnson

The Brothers Johnson (George and Louis) started out in the band Three Plus One, backing up other artists that included the Supremes.  The brothers formed a duo and released their debut album in 1976 which featured this great song.  Louis, who died last year, is considered one of The Greatest Bassists of the Rock Era*, playing on the Michael Jackson albums Off the WallThriller and Dangerous as well as on George Benson's Give Me the Night and Herb Alpert's 1979 album Rise.  


All By Myself
Eric Carmen

In the early '70s, we became familiar with this artist as the lead singer with the great voice for the Raspberries on songs such as "Go All The Way" and "I Wanna' Be With You".  After that group split, Eric Carmen went solo and recorded a solid solo album.  The lead single was released in late 1975 and became a #2 hit in 1976.


Still The One

Vocalist and songwriter John Hall and his wife Johanna first gained attention when their song "Half Moon" appeared on Janis Joplin's posthumous album Pearl in 1971.  Hall co-founded Orleans and this smash led to a 10-week tour with Jackson Browne.  Hall went on to be elected to the United States Congress for two terms from the state of New York. 


Boz Scaggs

The guitarist who played in Steve Miller's band released the solo album Silk Degrees in 1976, which was not only one of the prime LP's of the year but The #84 Album of the Rock Era*.  Scaggs is still going strong in 2016 and is amazing in concert.  Boz defines the word "cool".


Kiss And Say Goodbye

Although this song was recorded in early 1975, Columbia Records withheld the song for release until 14 months later.  We suppose they wanted to "let it age".  The time was certainly ripe in 1976, when the song went to #1 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K.


Afternoon Delight
Starland Vocal Band

This former backing band of John Denver's originally known as Fat City struck out on their own in 1976 and had a dynamite debut album--there really is more to them than this #1 song.  The lead single from that album places at #22 in our look back at The Top 100 Songs of 1976* here in 2016...


Right Back Where We Started From
Maxine Nightingale

Maxine Nightingale once starred in the London West End production of the musical Hair.  Unlike the rest of the songs from 1976, this song spent most of 1975 as one of the top songs in Europe.  It was #3 in the Netherlands, #6 in New Zealand, #8 in the U.K., #9 in Sweden and #10 in France.  It continued to spread in 1976, when it was released in the United States (#2), Australia (#4) and Canada (#5).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

This Date in Rock Music History: May 13

1958:  Jerry Lee Lewis was granted a divorce from his second wife six months after marrying 14-year-old cousin Myra.

1963:  The Kingsmen released their version of "Louie, Louie".  It didn't become a hit until being re-released in October.

1963:  Bobby Vinton released the single "Blue On Blue".
1965:  Elvis Presley's new movie, Tickle Me, premiered in Hollywood, California.
1966:  The Kinks recorded "Sunny Afternoon" at Pye Studios in London.

1967:  Scott McKenzie released the single "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)".

The Top 100 Songs of 1976*: #40-31

In 1976, we saw the first commercial flight of the Concorde, Patty Hearst was found guilty of robbing a San Francisco bank and the Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  After eight years on NBC, the movie The Wizard of Oz returned to CBS, where it would remain until 1999.  The Boston Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns 128-126 in triple overtime in Game 5 to win the National Basketball Association Finals.  In 1997, the game was selected by one panel of experts as the greatest of the NBA's first 50 years.

And in music, these 10 songs were among those that remained the strongest for the next 40 years:

Sara Smile
Hall & Oates

At #40, the first big hit for Hall & Oates.

Moonlight Feels Right

This newcomer in 1976 landed a huge #3 hit in the summer.  Although they never scored another big hit, they did have some quality songs (See "I Got To Know" in the Prelude*).  And this song enabled Starbuck to tour with groups such as ELO, Hall & Oates, Boston and KC and the Sunshine Band.

Nadia's Theme
Barry DeVorzon & Perry Potkin, Jr.

Next, we have the interesting story of this song.  You'll find it on the soundtrack for the 1971 movie Bless The Beasts and The Children under the title "Cotton's Dream".  In 1973, Perry Botkin, Jr. rearranged the theme for the U.S. television soap opera The Young and the Restless, which debuted on March 26, 1973. 

 In 1976, the Summer Olympics were held in Montreal, Canada, which I attended.  Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci captivated the world with her brilliant routines, becoming the first gymnast to score a perfect "10" in Olympic competition and winning three gold medals.  The ABC-TV program Wide World of Sports produced a montage of  Comăneci's performances, set to the music of "Cotton's Dream".  

Viewers of the program flooded radio stations with requests for the song, which prompted A&M Records to release the original version of "Cotton's Dream", but this time titled as "Nadia's Theme".  It became not only one of The Top Instrumentals of the Rock Era*, but also one of The Top 1000 Songs of the Rock Era*.

Get Up And Boogie
Silver Convention

At #37*, a West German group organized by songwriters and producers Sylvester "Silver" Levay and Michael Kunze.  Levay began loving American music while growing up in Yugoslavia.  Silver Convention, which consisted of a trio of women, had introduced themselves the year before with the #2 hit "Fly, Robin, Fly".  They were back in '76 with another #2 song of three weeks.

A Fifth Of Beethoven
Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band

Another instrumental is next by another one-hit wonder.  Walter Murphy was an arranger for Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show orchestra before coming up with this winner, which is a Disco song based on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.  It was strong enough at the time (#1) to be ranked as one of the top hits of 1976, but got an extra boost the following year when it was included on The Top Soundtrack of the Rock Era*, Saturday Night Fever.

Dream On

Like only a handful of songs in the Rock Era, this song was first released to little fanfare (in 1973) but three years later, Aerosmith tried it again and this time, it became a Top 10 hit for them.  Its peak of #6, however, obviously was too low, for in 2016, the song ranks at #37 for the year.

Rubberband Man

Written by famed producer Thom Bell, Philippé Wynne sang lead on this #2 song of three weeks.

Love Is Alive
Gary Wright

Keyboardist Gary Wright was the leader of the British group Spooky Tooth, which for one year included guitarist Mick Jones, who would later go on to form the supergroup Foreigner.  After Spooky Tooth broke up, Wright released this fantastic debut album in which his keyboards make up the entire backing track except for drums on all of the tracks except one ("Power Of Love" also features a guitar.)


You Are The Woman

This Boulder, Colorado band got their name from a tradition at beautiful Yosemite Park in California, one that no longer takes place.  From 1872 to 1968, the Yosemite Firefall was a summertime tradition of lighting a bonfire on the edge of Glacier Point and then dumping the flaming embers off the cliff.  Mark Andes of the group, an early member of Canned Heat before that group signed a recording contract, later joined Heart from 1983-1993.

December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)
Four Seasons

Although they were always a popular live act, in 1975, this early Rock supergroup achieved their first Top 10 hit in eight years with "Who Loves You".  Known all along as the 4 Seasons, the group's name was now spelled out as the Four Seasons on their record releases.  This song was released late in the year and became the group's first #1 song since "Rag Doll" in 1964.  The group experienced a resurgence beginning in 2005 with the Broadway play The Jersey Boys, which tells the story of the formation, success and breakup of the group.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

This Date in Rock Music History: May 12

1958:  The movie Let's Rock, starring Paul Anka, Danny & the Juniors and the Royal Teens opened to audiences.

1960:  Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley appeared on Sinatra's Welcome Home Elvis television special on ABC.  Elvis sang "Witchcraft" while Sinatra sang Elvis's hit "Love Me Tender".

1962:  Billboard announced that "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean was the top jukebox song of 1961.
1962:  "Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp was the top R&B song for a third week.
1962:  Mr. Acker Bilk continued to hold down the #1 spot on the Easy Listening chart for a fourth week with "Stranger On The Shore".
1963:  Bob Dylan walked out of rehearsals for The Ed Sullivan Show after CBS censors told him he could not perform "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues".

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era: #50-41

We are saluting the year in which Air France and British Airways began the first regularly scheduled commercial supersonic transport (SST) flights, the Cray-1 (pictured above) was the world's first commercially developed supercomputer and Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert won the men's and women's Wimbledon Tennis championships, respectively.

In music, the 10 songs below are part of the 100 songs from 1976 which rank the highest in 2016:

Got To Get You Into My Life
(no original video available)

Although they had broken up six years earlier, the Beatles took a song originally on their 1966 album Revolver and re-released it as a single from their compilation album Rock 'n' Roll Music.  Just like 32 of their other songs had done, "Got To Get You Into My Life" hit the Top 10.

You Sexy Thing
Hot Chocolate

We lost Errol Brown, lead singer of this group, to liver cancer last year.  Brown and Hot Chocolate scored one of their biggest career hits with this one in '76.

Love So Right
Bee Gees

The Bee Gees registered their fourth Top 10 hit in a two-year period with this #1 smash.

Love Rollercoaster
Ohio Players

Here's a song that went to #1 on both the Popular and R&B charts for the 10-member Ohio Players.

Get Closer
Seals & Crofts

This song peaked at #6 at the time, but time has proven it to be underrated, as sales and continued airplay 40 years later place it among songs that were much bigger hits at the time.  

Disco Lady
Johnnie Taylor

Meanwhile, this #1 song of four weeks has dropped like a rock for Johnnie Taylor.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Neil Sedaka

In 1962, Neil Sedaka reached #1 with the song "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do".  Fourteen years later, Neil recorded a different, much-slower version of the song.  He included a snippet of the original at the beginning of the new version to remind listeners of how it originally sounded.

Theme From S.W.A.T.
Rhythm Heritage

In 2016, the instrumental has become a lost art with the current generation of musicians unable to record good ones.  In 1976, Rhythm Heritage came up with The #29 Instrumental of the Rock Era*.

Magic Man

At #42, another song which was highly underrated at the time, as proven by its ability to stand the test of time.

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
Gordon Lightfoot

Of all the works written by Gordon Lightfoot, he considers this to be one of his best.  It is one of the great story songs of the Rock Era and is the true story of the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975.