(Pictured: KC and the Sunshine Band, 1976.)
Traditionally, the last couple of posts of each year at this blog have been reviews of one or more year-end radio surveys. Here we go with this year’s entirely predictable feature.
One of the presets on my car radio in 1976 was WIND from Chicago at 560 on the AM dial. Today, it’s a right-wing talk station. Forty years ago, it was a hybrid that permitted it to survive in a market where a more famous station did not. The great Top 40 war between WLS and WCFL had ended in March with WCFL’s fabled format change, but 5,000-watt WIND soldiered on, playing a lot of the same music as its 50,000-watt competitors. WIND’s wrinkle was heavy doses of talk, especially at night. Clark Weber, who had spent the 60s on the morning show at WLS and did time at other major Chicago stations after that, hosted a talk show called Contact from 10 til midnight; overnights were occupied by talker Eddie Schwartz, who spent nearly a decade at WIND before moving to WGN, where he spent another 10 years. In 1976, former Contact host Dave Baum had moved to mornings on WIND; he was known mainly as a talk host.
But from 10AM through 10PM, WIND played a lot of music. Midday jock Chuck Benson had come to WIND in 1968 to replace veteran Chicago morning star Howard Miller; evening host Connie Szerszen was the first female rock jock on Chicago radio; afternoon guy Stu Collins is still doing radio today, on a station in my hometown, using his real name, which is not Stu Collins.
And at the end of 1976, WIND published its list of the year’s top 56 hits, briefly annotated below.
56.-55. “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” and “All By Myself”/Eric Carmen. Although neither of these has worn very well with me these last 40 years, it was clear from the first note in the winter of ’76 that “All By Myself” was going to be a monster.
54. “Fox on the Run”/The Sweet. Might sound better on the radio than “Ballroom Blitz,” which is really sayin’ something.
53. “Rubberband Man”/Spinners. Joyous.
52. “Nadia’s Theme”/Barry DeVorzon & Perry Botkin Jr. Radio craftsman geek alert: this sounded great coming out of a jingle, with solo piano notes falling like single snowflakes out of a gray sky.
51. “You Should Be Dancing”/Bee Gees. Receives special citation for excellent cowbell deployment.
50. “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”/Leo Sayer. Wouldn’t hit #1 in Billboard until January 1977, but big enough in ’76 to rank here.
49. “Beth”/KISS. I like this much less now than I did then. All I hear today is a band straining to be the opposite of everything they really are.
48. “Let Your Love Flow”/Bellamy Brothers. Never made the good times/great oldies pantheon despite hitting #1 in Billboard.
47. “The Boys Are Back in Town”/Thin Lizzy. A perfect summertime rock ‘n’ roll record, and the best guitar riff of the year, Peter Frampton notwithstanding.
46. “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”/Lou Rawls. Lou Rawls was a damn national treasure, and not enough people believed that.
45. “Let Her In”/John Travolta. No, up your nose with a rubber hose.
44. “Love to Love You Baby”/Donna Summer. Jeez, lady, tone it down a little, can ya?
43. “Rock’n Me”/Steve Miller Band. The best music is often the simplest.
42 “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”/Gordon Lightfoot. The best stories are often the true ones.
41. “Dream Weaver”/Gary Wright. Flying away to the bright side of the moon seems like a pretty good idea most days.
40. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”/Neil Sedaka. I have said before that this song should have been a ballad in the first place, instead of a cheesy dance-rocker.
39. “Shake Your Booty”/KC and the Sunshine Band. Can you remember hearing the word booty as a synonym for backside before this record hit?
38. “More More More”/Andrea True Connection. Whenever I hear this, it’s summer in my head.
37. “Happy Days”/Pratt & McClain. “Rock ‘n’ roll with all my friends / Hopin’ the music never ends.” Thank goodness it hasn’t ended yet.
That seems like a good place to pause in the countdown. Look for more in a future installment.