Whole World Misty Blue

Everybody’s got one magic season in their lives, and as I’ve noted here a million times before, the summer of 1976 is mine. It’s no surprise, then, that the summer of ’76 is well represented on my Desert Island list, with eight singles that rode the charts between the end of May and the end of August. One of them I mentioned in the previous installment, “Fool to Cry” by the Rolling Stones. Here are the others, in chronological order:

“Strange Magic”/Electric Light Orchestra. More than most of the songs on this list, “Strange Magic” is associated with a single strong image. It’s morning, one of those days that’s going to be hotter than hell, and you know it the moment you wake up in your house without air conditioning. It’s the kind of day on which you can see heat rising from the cornfields, and every time I hear that humid opening guitar lick of “Strange Magic,” I can see it again.

“Misty Blue”/Dorothy Moore. I grew up with a healthy respect for soul music, and although I wouldn’t have fully understood the genre’s historical arc in 1976, I knew enough to understand that this was old-school, and breathtaking besides.

“I’ll Be Good to You”/Brothers Johnson. A different kind of soul, smooth and funky. My local radio stations didn’t play this enough to suit me. No radio station could, so I bought the album, Look Out for #1, but it ain’t going to the island with me, as it was one of the most disappointing albums I ever bought. “I’ll Be Good to You,” however—can’t leave home without it.

“I’ll Get Over You”/Crystal Gayle. I probably heard this on my parents’ country station that summer, but it didn’t register until I got into country radio myself a few years later. It’s for anybody who ever thought, “Think I can’t do it? Just watch me”—and then, with everybody watching, failed to do it.

“Kiss and Say Goodbye”/Manhattans. From the same emotional place “Misty Blue” originated, and “Me and Mrs. Jones,” too. That spoken opening—“this has got to be the saddest day of my life”—still kills me. Dig the Manhattans’ choreography.

“Get Closer”/Seals and Crofts. Another strong image: Sometime in the 80s or early 90s, I am driving on a late-summer day when “Get Closer” comes on, and I’m suddenly struck with the certainty that the portal back to the summer of 1976 is very, very near—only I can’t tell where it is. The song was nothing special to me in 1976, but since that weird moment in the car has it become an essential—in case it opens the portal again.

“Moonlight Feels Right”/Starbuck. No record better sums up the sound of the summer of 1976 as I heard it back then.

I said when I started this series that I might write about some songs that could be added to the list, but I’m reluctant to start adding songs from the summer of 1976, because I might never stop. Although that would be more of a problem for you than it would be for me.

5 responses

  1. I hadn’t thought of them that way, but I have a few portal songs myself. I may have to borrow the concept. All good tunes, but I especially love the Dorothy Moore and the Starbuck!

  2. Thomas M Long Jr | Reply

    JB check out my friend Mark Charvat on facebook. He is in radio still at Q98.5 in Rockford IL. On justinTV, he plays the hits usually Top 40 of any given year between 1961 through 1991. The order he plays is unique. He will play the songs in order as they came into the Top 40 of that year. Yesterday was for 1981. Even the stiffs, as he calls them. On Fridays, he plays the songs of a given year in the Top 100. Interesting to hear some music I haven’t heard in years. This blog and Marks radio on Justin TV compliment each other.

  3. Jim…Saturday night’s AT 40 is from July 1976…Pat

  4. jb, interesting that you would call “Misty Blue” soul music; it most definitely is in Ms. Moore’s hands. The tune however was a country charter twice (Eddy Arnold and Wilma Burgess) before getting the soul treatment. I have a mid-60’s CD of Ella Fitzgerald doing the tune also (if memory serves it was titled Misty Blue).

    Dorothy’s follow up was Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” another country tune given the soul treatment (Joe Hinton, Al Green etc). Very interesting subject matter that was turned into a box set “From Where I Stand” of soul artists covering country tunes.

    Personally I could listen to Moore’s “Misty Blue” on a tape loop….

  5. Love that list, Jim. I’d add to it Billy Ocean’s “Love Really Hurts Without You,” also from that time period. I thought he was doomed to be a one-hit wonder, and then the mid-’80s proved me wrong.

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