Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday Random 10: Let's Do it Again

Nobody will care about this apart from me--but this is the 200th post in the history of this blog, and although it looks like I'm giving myself an anniversary gift, I swear it was all happenstance. As I sometimes do on Fridays, I've picked a random year and 10 random record chart positions from this week in that year. The year is 1976, which is, as I have chronicled extensively here before, my favorite year. (It really was a random choice, I swear.) So here are 10 notable tunes popular 30--count 'em, 30--years ago this week, with their chart positions from the Billboard Hot 100.

5. "Let's Do it Again"/Staple Singers. (falling) The last big hit for this great gospel-soul group from Chicago, it had spent the previous, interholiday week at Number One. The year 1975 was the last year in which Billboard would publish a Hot 100 during the holidays. Beginning at Christmas 1976 (actually with the chart dated 1/1/77), the magazine would take a week off from publishing, and the Hot 100 would be "frozen" for a week.

6. "Convoy"/C.W. McCall. (rising) The CB-radio craze may have been the definitive pop-culture phenomenon of the 1970s, although it may already have jumped the shark by the time McCall got around to immortalizing the adventures of Pigpen and the Rubber Duck. (My handle was "Captain Fantastic," by the way.)

28. "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"/Neil Sedaka. (rising) In which Sedaka reconfigures his biggest hit, which was brain-dead early 60s cheese, as a romantic ballad, which is what the song should have been in the first place. An innovative decision, and a successful one--but ultimately not as big a hit as the original version.

41."Paloma Blanca"/George Baker Selection. (rising)
Despite being twang-free (and a polka besides), this record would cross over to become an enormous country hit later in the spring of 1976. That was the spring I was learning to drive, and because the guy who handled the behind-the-wheel part of driver education wouldn't let us mess with his radio station, "Paloma Blanca" puts me back behind that particular wheel whenever I hear it. Which, thankfully, isn't often.

51. "Play on Love"/Jefferson Starship. (peak) I don't claim to know everything--and one of the things I don't know is how this record could have failed to become a smash. I'd rank it close to "Miracles" among the best singles the Starship ever made.

53. "Theme from S.W.A.T"/Rhythm Heritage. (rising) Nothing says "1976" like a TV theme song becoming a major top-40 hit. This one would become a Number One record, just in time for my 16th birthday in February. S.W.A.T. ran for only a season-and-a-half and was canceled before this record was out of recurrents (the radio term for records no longer considered current hits but not old enough to be oldies just yet).

61. "Tracks of My Tears"/Linda Ronstadt. (rising) I like this record more than a lot of critics do--but I also like Linda's other famous Motown cover, "Heat Wave." "Tracks of My Tears" is worth a listen if only for the lovely steel-guitar solo that takes it to its conclusion.

77. "The White Knight"/Cledus Maggard. (rising)
Another CB-radio novelty record, which was crammed with CB jargon and country-music references, mostly recited rather than sung, and in a high-pitched rural twang. Thus it makes "Convoy" sound like Hamlet.

85. "Only Sixteen"/Dr. Hook. (debut)
The first big hit for the reconstituted Dr. Hook, after their transformation from longhaired stoners to country-inflected popsters. If you want trivia, we've got it: Of their six Top-10 hits, four would peak at Number Six (like this) and two others at Number Five.

95. "I Believe in Father Christmas"/Greg Lake. (peak) One of my favorite rock Christmas songs. It's one of the few to acknowledge that Christmas can be a disappointment sometimes--but it also reminds us that karma is what decides the matter ("Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell/the Christmas we get we deserve"). This has been anthologized endlessly in recent years, but make sure you get the original. There's a newer version floating around without much of the original's spirit, and on which Lake sounds awful.

In Other News: Lou Rawls died of cancer today. Smooth as Nat King Cole and ballsy as Barry White, he was always cool, as on "A Natural Man," "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," "Lady Love," and/or nearly anything else he wanted to sing during his long career. He was a spokesman for Anheuser Busch for several years, and as one album title recorded during that time had it, When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All. Yup.


At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also thought 1976 was a great year for music. That year also produced some big-time albums; "Hotel California" from the Eagles, "Fool For The City" from Foghat, plus releases from Fleetwod Mac and Boston's first album. ---Shark


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