Rhiannon and Shannon and Elton and Kiki

It should surprise exactly nobody that after last week’s dip into the summer of 1976, I found myself back in the pool this week. I have been looking at the bottom of the Billboard chart dated June 26, and I notice that even though summer has barely begun, several records that will become indelible artifacts of the fall are already in their second week on the chart, including “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry (#92) and “Wham Bam (Shang-a-Lang)” by Silver (#86). “Who’d She Coo?” by the Ohio Players is in its first week on at #81.

There’s some interesting stuff bubbling under the Hot 100. Denise LaSalle’s “Married But Not to Each Other” sat at #102, next to Leon Haywood’s “Strokin’ (Part 2)” at #103, which is an oddly pleasing juxtaposition. The LaSalle record is fine Southern soul; Haywood’s song, which is not the one Clarence Carter made famous, is serious summertime get-down music. A record called “A Butterfly for Bucky” by Bobby Goldsboro was bubbling under at #106. I had never heard this record, but my Spidey sense had me guessing it would be sappy sentimental glop, and Spidey always wins. Also bubbling under: Starcastle’s “Lady of the Lake,” about which we are completely nuts around here, and which is cranking at high volume as I write.

One other thing about that June 26 chart: hanging on at #98, down from #95 the week before, is “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” by the Four Seasons, in its 27th week on the Hot 100. It had debuted on the chart dated December 27, 1975.

The next week’s Hot 100, dated July 3, includes the debuts of some more autumn essentials: “Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs, Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me,” Cliff Richard’s “Devil Woman,” and “I Never Cry” by Alice Cooper. Also debuting on the chart dated July 3, 1976: “Don’t Touch Me There” by the Tubes. The band had first gained notoriety with “White Punks on Dope” from their self-titled 1975 debut album. In addition to “Don’t Touch Me There,” which is scandalous by 1976 radio standards, the album Young and Rich also features a song of ever-increasing topicality as the calendar pages flipped—“Slipped My Disco.”

The most significant debut on the July 3 chart is “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. It would take less than a month to reach Number One and stay there for four weeks, longer than any other Elton John single. It’s a perfect fit with the rest of the radio hits of both the summer and the fall, but it seems tossed off in a way Elton’s preceding singles do not. Similarly, Elton’s work following “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” seems labored in a way the music preceding it does not. I can’t honestly say if I noticed this at the time, although I do remember that I was not blown away by “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,” not like I had been blown away by Elton’s past several singles.

The oldest song on the July 3 chart was “Shannon” by Henry Gross, which fell to #51 from #21 in its 19th week on. (It had spent the previous three weeks peaked at #6.) “Shannon” would hang around one more week after that. Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” was at #98, down from #42, in its 18th week and final week on.

The top of the July 3 chart is notable for how little movement it contains. Five of the Top 10 are in the same positions as the week before, and three more are up just one spot, including the lone newcomer to the Top 10, Gary Wright’s “Love Is Alive.” The biggest mover is “Afternoon Delight,” up from 7 to 2 on its way to #1 the following week. With the holiday coming on, perhaps the nation’s radio stations and record stores simply took a moment to pause, and to breathe in the summer.

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4 responses

  1. Thanks not only for the fine column but for that link to the Silver song on YouTube. (BTW, I’ve always wondered why the title dropped the parenthetical in the latter half of the chart run … did the record company really think the song would sound less deliciously bubble-gummy without (Shang a Lang) in the title? Impossible!)

    We probably disagree on this one, but my favorite earworm from that summer was Seals and Crofts’ “Get Closer.” They may not have ever been known for soul, but that song was as much of a smooth groove as they got. And that chart run, with a peak, a fall out of the top 10 and a dramatic return, was as fun as AT40 got that summer. (Not quite as fun as Elton John and “Philadelphia Freedom” the year before, but still…)

    On Boz Scaggs, though I like “Lowdown” just fine, I was always more partial to “It’s Over,” the lead single, and couldn’t figure out why it did so poorly nationally. Also liked “What Can I Say,” “Georgia” and “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?” Not much of “Silk Degrees” that I didn’t like (“We’re All Alone” was meh, though).

    Heard “More, More, More” on our oldies station yesterday and laughed at how it’s stood the test of time much better than Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” which lifted its riff.

    1. I adore “Get Closer.” And I, too, can’t figure why “It’s Over” didn’t break big. I also agree on “We’re All Alone.” The Rita Coolidge version is far superior.

  2. I think Elton was getting burned out by ’76; that was also the year of the “I’m bisexual” fall-out and I remember that as something that took a few years to recover from.

    I think Elton peaked at “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” He still put out quality stuff but the rocket (pardon the pun) ride, the mania was over.

    Barbara Mandrell covered the Denise LaSalle tune?

    It’s kinda cool to live just a few miles from the unsung studio-in-a-cornfield where Starcastle (as well as Head East, Fogelberg and Styx) recorded their LP. After that it was on to England and Roy Thomas Baker. Ah, the 1970’s. When record companies would throw HUGE amounts at anyone on their roster.

  3. Agree, Porky, on Elton topping out before or with GYBR. His top-40 hits (Daniel, Levon, Tiny Dancer, Your Song, etc.), not to mention the quality album-cuts from Tumbleweed, Madman, Chateau run multiple laps around his mid-70’s-and-after stuff.

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