Starry Nights, Sunny Days
Last year about this time, I wrote that everyone has one season in which they would live forever, if they could, and that mine is the fall of 1976. In that post, I listed one possible soundtrack for that season. Here's another.
"I'd Really Love to See You Tonight"/England Dan and John Ford Coley. This was their first hit, which sounded great on the radio, and still does. "There's a warm wind blowin' the stars around" is a pretty good line, too.
"You Are the Woman"/Firefall. Another radio record from the same light-rock side of the road as "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight." It was also Firefall's only top-10 hit, although a couple of other singles reached Number 11.
"Rubberband Man"/Spinners. This was the last major hit written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed, who wrote several smashes for the Spinners and the Stylistics. It was released at a moment when the sound of Philadelphia was beginning to wane as a hitmaking force. But what a way to go.
"Summer"/War. In which another of the consistent hitmakers of the early 1970s bids farewell to the upper reaches of the record charts, with a sleepy-sounding tune that effectively captures the slow pace of a lazy summer day. Cultural anthropologists should note the authentic period detail: "Rappin' on the CB radio in the van/Give a big 10-4 to the truckin' man."
"The Best Disco in Town"/Ritchie Family. The "Family" was made up of Philadelphia session musicians and singers and produced by Jacques Morali, who would create the Village People in a year or two. This record is a medley of various 1975 dance-floor hits, ranging from "Bad Luck," "That's the Way I Like It" "Lady Marmalade," and "Fly Robin Fly" to the Ritchie Family's own "Brazil." And you thought the medley craze began with Stars on 45.
"Wham Bam (Shang-a-Lang)"/Silver. As an indication of how obscure Silver is, Google their name and this song title and about all you get are sites referring you to the lyrics of the song: "Starry night, sunny days/I always thought that love should be that way." We do know that the group's drummer on this record was Brent Mydland, who, later on, would become a member of the Grateful Dead for a while. As an example of what the Top 40 sounded like in the fall of 1976, "Wham Bam" still works pretty well.
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"/Gordon Lightfoot. From the centuries-long tradition of storytelling in song, this describes the sinking of an oreship in Lake Superior during a storm in November 1975. It has special meaning for me because I actually saw the Edmund Fitzgerald just two or three months before she sank, going through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Plus, Gordon Lightfoot's voice just sounds like autumn to me.
"Getaway"/Earth Wind and Fire. As furiously funky as any record EW&F ever made, "Getaway" is played so fast it seems to be in danger of flying apart at any moment.
"Do You Feel Like We Do"/Peter Frampton. This song represents the apotheosis of the guitar accessory known as the talkbox, although several other performers had used it before Frampton did, including Joe Walsh on "Rocky Mountain Way" and Aerosmith on "Sweet Emotion." (After "Do You Feel," Stillwater used it on "Mindbender," and if you remember that one, we should probably have lunch sometime.) "Do You Feel Like We Do" was edited down from more than 14 minutes to a little over seven for the 45--still outrageous for Top 40 radio at that time. The edit improves on the full-length version, though, by simply tightening things up.
"Beth"/Kiss and "More Than a Feeling"/Boston. Lots of people don't know that the power ballad was born in the fall of 1976. Boston provided what would become the template; Kiss didn't follow it, but they proved nevertheless that even the hardest-rockin' band could score by dialing down the intensity. "Beth" remains the biggest hit single Kiss ever had, reaching Number 7 on November 27, 1976.
Why do we listen to our old records? Because they sound good and we like 'em, mostly. But that doesn't explain the phenomenon thoroughly enough. Another highly significant reason, I'm convinced, is that sometimes, old records help us recapture the people we were when those records were new--young, optimistic, full of potential, living every day in a world of new experiences. Time being what it is, we lose almost all of that as we get older. But not entirely. Not as long as the turntable, CD player, or iPod still works.
(This post has been edited since it first appeared.)