American Top 40 Flashback: December 11, 1976

The full chart:

How’s the chart as a whole?

1976 was a blockbuster year on the pop charts, with a twist– there’s an almost even split between the sublime and the wretched. For every groundbreaking and influential “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rhiannon,” or “Give Up the Funk,” there’s an “Afternoon Delight,” “Play That Funky Music,” or “I Write the Songs.” I’m sad to say that this chart lands on the trashy end of the spectrum, and has an unforgiveably long boring stretch in the top half. It’s also one of those weeks when you can feel the absence of the songs that dropped off the chart the week before– in this case, “Magic Man,” “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” “Fernando,” and even “Rock’n Me.” There are the seeds (or remnants) of an awesome chart here, but this week gets a C-minus.

Forgotten gems

#40 – Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, “Cherchez La Femme”

At first, this disco-big band hybrid sounded like yet another “discofy everything” novelty song from an era packed with them. It was the oddball lyric about Tommy Mottola sleeping in his Cadillac on the road that tipped me off that this song was more interesting than that. This is a great party song for sad bastards that pulls off the multicultural retro-futurist vibe in a way that feels personal and authentic, aided by a strong vocal performance from Cory Daye. Unfortunately, the song’s second verse is blatantly misogynistic, but at least the single edit of the song omits it. This would be the Savannah Band’s only hit, though bass player and lyricist August Darnell would go on to found Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

#18 – Brick, “Dazz”

I preferred Brick’s other big hit, “Dusic,” but this is very good as well. “Dazz” has more of a smooth disco vibe, in contrast to the stabbing funk of “Dusic.”

#32 – The Bar-Kays, “Shake Your Rump to the Funk”

These funk chameleons sound a lot like P-Funk on this track (with some Earth, Wind and Fire thrown in on the instrumental bridge), and in fact, they had toured with Parliament-Funkadelic earlier in the year.

Worth a listen

#31 – David Dundas, “Jeans On”

As pure an earworm as you can get– just some silly lyrics and a keyboard melody that gets stuck in your head for days. Your tolerance for this sort of thing may vary. Dundas—er, Lord David Dundas, son of the 3rd Marquess of Zetland— would only score this one hit in the US, then go on to film and television work, including the score of cult hit Withnail and I.

Justly forgotten

#23 – Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, “Disco Duck (Part 1)”

Not really forgotten, since it’s the one disco novelty song that everybody knows, but it’s hard to let “Disco Duck” go without slamming it. I didn’t realize that the part I knew was just “Part 1”– the instrumental Part 2 which removes Dees and his Donald Duck soundalike is far more tolerable.

#4 – The Captain and Tennille, “Muskrat Love”

What I found baffling about “Muskrat Love” is that it wasn’t the song’s first run on the charts– originally written and recorded by cult footnote Willis Alan Ramsey, America took it to #67 in 1973. Once is a fluke; that two huge acts thought this was worthy of single release is some kind of shared delusion. One shared with the rest of America, I guess, since this got up to number 4.

#27 – The Ritchie Family, “The Best Disco in Town (Medley)”

That terrible junk-disco medley I mentioned in passing a few weeks ago.

#39 – Kenny Nolan, “I Like Dreamin’”

I probably wouldn’t remark on this snoozer if not for the moment in the video (about 4 minutes in) where Kenny drops the mime act and starts playing his original version of “My Eyes Adored You” for Dick Clark, and feels so much looser and more engaging. Maybe try it more like that? Or stick to writing other people’s songs?

Is the #1 worthy?

I hate everything about “Tonight’s the Night:” the way the guitars ooze out of my speakers, the sax solo, the “virgin child” lyrics, and Rod’s creepy performance in the video. Burn it with fire, and not a tasteful fireplace fire, either.

Song I would banish from the radio forever

“Tonight’s the Night”

Across the pond

#1 in the UK“Under the Moon of Love” by Showaddywaddy.

Top of the Pops: The Story of 1976:

Bubbling under

“Walk This Way,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles (???), “Night Moves,” “Dancing Queen,” “Year of the Cat”

Top five

#2 – The Spinners, “Rubberband Man”

#29 – Stevie Wonder, “I Wish”

#8 – Boston, “More Than a Feeling”

#26 – Queen, “Somebody to Love”

#40 – Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – “Cherchez La Femme”

Honorable mention: “Livin’ Thing,” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Shake Your Rump to the Funk,” “Dazz”

And that covers the 1970s! Stay tuned for, uh, whatever I do next.