Sunday, July 31, 2016

US TOP 10 July 31 1976

Every one of these songs are seared into my brain, bringing up not memories but more of a deep sense of unease that I must have felt as I approached my teen-age years that summer. I had convinced my dad that I needed to live with him and my stepmother back in Connecticut while my sister stayed with my mom in Nevada. I'd soon be starting football practice and prepping myself for exams to get into boarding school.

I was still wetting the bed. It was a cause of a great deal of stress for the entire family and my dad woke me up every night before he went to bed and stood over me as I peed. One night in 1976, we watched a TV movie called "The Loneliest Runner" about a bedwetter whose mother shamed her son by displaying his wet sheet for all the neighbors to see. My step mother turned to me and said " Well, you have to admit I've never done that!". 

1 KISS AND SAY GOODBYE –•– The Manhattans (Columbia) (2 weeks at #1)

2 LOVE IS ALIVE –•– Gary Wright (Warner Brothers)

3 MOONLIGHT FEELS RIGHT –•– Starbuck (Private Stock)

4 AFTERNOON DELIGHT –•– The Starland Vocal Band (Windsong)

5 DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART –•– Elton John and Kiki Dee (Rocket)

6 GET CLOSER –•– Seals and Crofts (Featuring Carolyn Willis) (Warner Brothers)

7 GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE –•– The Beatles (Capitol)

8  ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC –•– The Beach Boys (Brother)

9 I’LL BE GOOD TO YOU –•– The Brothers Johnson (A&M)

10 LET ‘EM IN –•– Wings (Capitol)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

40 Year Itch : De-doily Doidy Doit Doit Doit Doit Diddle

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers : Important in Your Life

"The band has to learn volume and how to play softer. At this stage, infants wouldn't like us because we hurt their little ears and I believe any group that would hurt the ears of little infants--and this is no joke--sucks"
Jonathan Richman, 1973

 The original Modern Lovers masterpiece fore-shadowed punk rock, but by the time it was finally released in the Summer of '76, the band's leader, Jonathan Richman, had been having a hate affair with electricity going on for nearly three years. There was no way to convince Richman to regroup with the Modern Lovers to hit the road and help sell the critically acclaimed album. 

   What was Jonathan up to? The answer was released on July 30, 1976 as Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.

Richman had ditched the old garage rock sound for something quiter , almost childlike and naive. There are songs like "Hey There Little Insect" and "Abominable Snowman in the Market" that just annoy the hell out of me ( and don't get me started on "Springtime" or "Amazing Grace"). 

There are some redeeming factors: the cover of Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A.", "New England" ( after all that is the land where I was raised),  and maybe best of all, "Important In Your Life" which is a blueprint for the best love songs he'd be recording for the next ten years. Jonathan Sings is my favorite of the solo albums.

I'm not sure I have anything to add so I'll just leave you with: 
 de-doily doidy doit doit doit doit diddle

Friday, July 29, 2016

40 Year Itch : Brand New Dandy

Joan Armatrading : Down to Zero

On July 29, 1976 Joan Armatrading gave lucky BBC Radio 1 listeners a preview of her upcoming self-titled album on the John Peel show. It may be surprising that she did not perform "Love and Affection", which would be her breakout hit. As for the album itself, Joan Armatrading would top Sounds Magazine's poll for best album of the year.

It was 1976 and Armatrading often used gender neutral language in her love songs ( though she drops several "he"s in "Water With the Wine"). 

  When I saw her perform at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans around 1984-1985, I stood in a hall full of women swaying with arms outstretched and singing along as Armatrading sang the crowd favorite "Willow".

Armatrading is now 65 and married to her partner and although she has retired from touring, she is still recording.  And still quite private about her own life as she recently told the Independent:

This is how I've always been. It's not something that I learned to do once people started to know my name. To me, it's good to have some privacy. I always ask people, and I will ask you, if you have 10 friends, do you tell each of those 10 friends exactly the same information about yourself? Do you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

40 Year Itch : On The Loose

Hi Rhythm : On the Loose

Al Green's Hi Recording Studio band cut out on their own on this 1976 release which caught the ear of rock critic dean Robert Christgau. He gave On The Loose an A-minus rating:

 In which Al Green's sidemen, perhaps disgruntled at Al's unwillingness to record their material, get together and cut it. Some stickler for detail is sure to point out that the singing on side two is completely out of tune, but that's OK--so is most of the singing on side one, which I prefer to Full of Fire. One of the more carefully thought out tracks features a mildly malicious lyric about Green himself, but it's the eccentricity of the music, which sounds as if it includes a banjo, that does him in. Loose indeed. 

The song that apparently takes a shot at Al Green is called "Superstar". In any case, it doesn't take many listens to realize that while Hi Rhythm provides outstanding grooves, you'll be missing Al Green's smooth and effortless vocals. Still, this is a hell of a lot better than what The Meters released in '76.

40 Year Itch : Lennon Granted a Green Card

On July 27 1976, after three and a half years battling the US government authorities on behalf of Richard Nixon, John Lennon was issued a green card which allowed him to settle in the US for good. As you can see in the news footage below, this was a day that brought great relief to the Lennons, who dressed up for the ceremony and looked remarkably clean cut.

Nixon hated Lennon's anti war activism and tried to persuade the courts that the ex Beatle's 1978 marijuana bust was grounds for deportation. With Nixon gone, the courts ruled for Lennon who had said he preferred to live in New York City because it was the Rome of its time. And goddamn it, he would only be live for another four years before Mark David Chapman came out of the city shadows with a gun.

Monday, July 25, 2016

40 Year Itch : The Year in Southern Rock

In 1976 Southern Rock continued to roll,  despite the break up of the Allman Brothers Band and mostly mediocre offerings by other established bands.

The only "must-have" Southern Rock album  of 1976 is the Lynyrd Skynyrd  double live album, One More From the Road. The band's scorching career is summed up in this 80 minute album recorded at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. The last official live document of the band before the tragic 1977 plane crash. Free Bird! 

Point Blank : Free Man

Harder than most of its Southern Rock contemporaries, Dallas-based Point Blank was promoted by Arista Records as "one of the meanest, baddest, toughest, most ornery bands ever to blow out an amplifier".

The year they released the underrated Tejas, ZZ Top hit the road on its Worldwide Texas Tour which began in May of 1976 and rolled until New Year's Eve 1977. The band then took three years off to grow their famous beards.

The Charlie Daniels Band followed up their breakout hit album, Fire On the Mountain, with two albums in 1976. Saddle Tramp features the epic pot-friendly title track which rivals "Free Bird" in length and vision.

Just a year from their break out album A Rock n Roll Alternative ( featuring the hit "So Into You"), Atlanta Rhythm Section released the easy groovin' Red Tape in 1976.

The Marshall Tucker Band shows some weariness on their fifth album in three years. The title cut,  an instrumental, is the only track that made it on to the Greatest Hits album.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

40 Year Itch : The Punk Wave Rises

July of 1976 witnessed the rise of the punk wave with many legendary bands making their onstage debuts.

JULY 4 : The Clash -then with Keith Levene as second guitarist--make their first appearance supporting The Sex Pistols at the Black Swan in Sheffield. Terry Chimes played drums. This was the same night The Ramones played with Flamin' Groovies and the Stranglers at the London Roundhouse.

JULY 6 : The Damned make their debut at the 100 Club in support of the Sex Pistols. Formerly The Masters of Backside, when they included future Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde,  Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies were joined by guitarist Brian James to form the Damned.

JULY 13 The Stranglers have a five night stand at The Hope and Anchor in Islington.

JULY 18  : Sex Pistols soundman Dave Goodman records the band's demos at their Denmark Street practice area/ Steve Jones's apartment. Songs include "Anarchy in the UK", "Pretty Vacant", "Submission", "Seventeen" and "Problems".

JULY 20 : The Buzzcocks debut on stage in Manchester where they open before a sold out crowd for The Sex Pistols. Band members Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto had booked the Sex Pistols. Inspired by the show, the Buzzcocks record the Spiral Scratch EP for 500 pounds. 

JULY 21 : The Vibrators play at the Windsor Castle in London. They made their debut earlier at the 100 Club, opening for Chris Spedding.

JULY 21 Morrissey pens a letter calling  The Ramones "rubbish".

He would quickly change his mind:

When I bought the Ramones first album on import, I was enraged with jealousy because I felt they had booted the New York Dolls off the map. I was 100% wrong. Three days after writing that Ramones piece, I realized that my love for the Ramones would out-live time itself. And it shall. Well, it virtually has already. If the Ramones were alive today, they'd be the biggest band in the world. It takes the world 30 years to catch on, doesn't it? I mean, look at poor Nico. Every modern teenager now seems to love Nico, yet while she was alive she couldn't afford a decent mattress. 

Rich girl Siouxsie Sioux often seen at punk clubs sporting expensive S and M outfits and little else.

Friday, July 22, 2016

40 Year Itch : Dis Ya a Prophecy

Mighty Diamonds : Right Time

They were called the Temptations of Trenchtown thanks to the smooth and harmonic vocals of Lloyd Ferguson, Donald Shaw and Fitzroy Simpson.  But beyond those mellifluous sounds were militant lyrics reflecting turbulent times in Jamaica.

Check out the lyrics to the bouncy title track from their 1976 collections of singles, Right Time

When the right time come, yeah, some a go charge fe arson
 When the right time come, Lord, some a go charge fe murder 
...Natty Dread will never run away 

Selected by Tom Moon as one of the 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Right Time is another essential 1976 reggae album to add to your collection.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

40 Year Itch : Oh Mister Moon

Sadly, by 1976,  it seemed like the  members of the world's greatest funk band realized they had missed their chance for fame and fortune. So they resorted to recording "Disco is the Thing Today". From any other group this would have merely been innocuous. From the Meters, it's an embarrassment. Earl King's title track and the old school original "Mister Moon" somewhat redeem an album you're most likely to have come across in the cut out bins. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

40 Year Itch : I am an Anti-Christ

On July 20, 1976 the Sex Pistols introduced a new song to the crowd in a Manchester club. It was called "Anarchy in the UK" and it may be the greatest single song of the punk era.  Future Joy Division members Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner were there and the next day Hook bought a bass. Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks was there and he says the gig inspired the band to record their Spiral Scratch EP.

In his memoir, Anger is an Energy, John Lydon explains the lyrics of "Anarchy in the UK" in depth:

With those opening lines, 'I am an antichrist/I am an anarchist", I wasn't trying to set myself up as some kind of bogeyman. I never thought of that at all. No, no, no, somewhere deep inside me, I was thinking I'd be seen as the victim of all of this, and great sympathy and outpourings of love and joy would be bestowed upon me! Honest! I had no concept of being the naughty bugger. It wasn't about that, and to my mind it certainly wasn't just about me. It was about us. We're being given an opportunity here -lets tell it like it really is, shall we?

Of course, everyone around the band at the time was saying, "Why don't you write a love song? Why don't you just write a hit single?" It'll be great then, everyone'll love you!""What, don't they already? Oh." To this day that's all I keep hearing from the business end and its utter nonsense they're talking...

But no, I wasn't an anarchist. I found that he written word could achieve far greater disturbance than planting a bomb in a supermarket. The written word's a powerful thing and I don't think that was too well considered, at least not in pop music, until I started to wrote that way. Theres no personal spite or viciousness in what I'm writing. It's absolutely about demanding a clarity from politicians . As long as I know what's what, and what it is you're expecting of me, and what it is I'm expecting of you, everything's fine. I will not be anyone's cannon fodder. If it's not a worthy cause, I'm with the opposition.

40 Year Itch : A Thrill Upon a Hill

Parliament : Do That Stuff

On June 20, 1976 Parliament's "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker" was still climbing the US charts on its way to #15 when George "Dr. Funkenstein" Clinton and his  band released the follow-up to their epic Mothership Connection.  The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein has more of that funky stuff. This time things get brassy thanks to a dynamic horn section made up of Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, The Brecker Brothers and Rick Gardner. I suppose there is a concept to this album, what with Dr Funkenstein cooking up a batch of clones to spread funk throughout the solar system, but your hips may be moving too much to pay attention.  The late Bernie Worrell also performs on this album. Clones  may not measure up to the Mothership...but is certainly worth the connection.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

40 Year Itch : Who'd She Coo ?

Ohio Players : Who'd She Coo?

Released in July of 1976, the last #1 R and B hit for Ohio Players would eventually knock "Getaway" from the top spot, peak at #18 on the US charts and appear on Hit Explosion,  a Ronco album I got my sister for Christmas specifically for The Spinners's "Rubberband Man".

In the Nevada desert, I'd never caught the tune on the radio. Next to Barry Manilow and England Dan and John Ford Coley, "Who'd She Coo?" came across as a deep cut on Hit Explosion. It was a classic grower for this white kid. "Rubberband Man" is still my favorite cut from the album, but "Who'd She Coo?"is right up there.

Monday, July 18, 2016

40 Year Itch: The Jersey Shore Anthem

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes : I Don't Want to Go Home

"Southside Johnny" Lyon has played with Bruce Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt in late 60's Asbury Park bands like the Sundance Blues Band and Dr Zoom and the Sonic Boom. When Springsteen hit it big in 1975, Van Zandt helped Southside Johnny's band land a recording contract with Epic. The debut, released in July of 1976, has a lot going for it: two Springsteen originals ( "The Fever" and "You Mean So Much To Me") , guest appearances by Ronnie Spector and Lee Dorsey, and Van Zandt's solid title track, which has become the unofficial anthem of the Jersey Shore.

The album was released to critical acclaim with Rolling Stone calling the debut "the most deeply felt music of 1976". The Jukes would get better, peaking in 1978 with Hearts of Stone.

Friday, July 15, 2016

40 Year Itch : Doin' it in the Park

The Blackbyrds :Rock Creek Life

The Blackbyrds, formed by Howard University students under the tutelage of jazz great Donald Byrd, celebrate a Washington D.C, icon not so well known to people outside the nation's capital. "Rock Creek Park" would be sampled by De La Soul (for "Ghetto Thang"), Eric B and Rakim, Ice Cube, Massive Attack, ODB and Coolio, 2Pac, NWA and Ultramagnetic MCs, among others. I may have discovered this funky jazz classic by reading one of George Pelecanos's great noir thrillers. His DC based investigators, Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, are always listening to the best music from the same era I celebrate here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

40 Year Itch : Radioaktiviat

Kraftwerk : Radioaktivitat

A surprise hit in France during the Summer of 1976, where it sold 500,000 copies, the title cut from Kraftwerk's Radioactivity begins with the word "Radioactivity" spelled out in Morse Code.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

40 Year Itch : Gold Mouth Lady

T. Rex : Laser Love

On July 13, 1976 T.Rex performed a live version of the Futuristic Dragon cut "Laser Love" for an ITV broadcast that aired at the end of August. This is the same week his last Top 20 UK hit, "I Love to Boogie", was peaking at UK#13. 
 As Dylan White, the fan who uploaded the video to YouTube, noted:

What is first striking is that Marc, who having achieved so much already was still only 28. He has his hair cut short and is wearing a white short sleeved jacket with a black T-shirt and a tie, in exactly the same style as worn by The New York Dolls, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Tom Robinson etc. in the following year 1977!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

40 Year Itch: Get It From the Candy Man

Graham Parker : White Honey (live)

In July of 1976 Mercury released a promo only album that showed just how amazing it must have been to see and hear Graham Parker and the Rumour live. They were quite likely the tightest and most soulful band playing in the UK. Finding the records stamped "DJ Copy Not For Sale" was nearly impossible --and they'd cost you an arm and a leg. That changed in 1996 when Vertigo released a two cd Best of Graham Parker set featuring the entire show. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

40 Year Itch : Your Love Comes in Showers

Tavares : Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel

On July 11, 1976 Tavares leapt from #39 to #23 on the UK Charts as their disco single "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel" climbed to its eventual UK #4 peak. The single stalled at #15 on the US charts but hit #1 on the US dance floors and in the Netherlands. 

The curiously titled Roussos Phenomenon EP was the #1 single in the UK, thanks to "Forever and Ever", a song that shared its title with another 1976 UK #1 hit by Midge Ure led Slik.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

40 Year Itch : Eight Track Playin' All Your Favorite Songs

War : Summer

On July 10, 1976 War's easy-going single "Summer" made its Hot 100 chart debut at #80. The song would peak at US #7 and #1 on this country's Easy Listening Chart, knocking James Taylor's "Shower the People" from the top spot. This is War's last Top Ten pop hit.

 My short lived band covered this song at a couple of Summerfests. I changed the lyrics to "Ridin' around Seattle you can tell it's a summer day/ Cuz instead of wearing black the girls are all wearing gray".


The Starland Vocal Band, touring with Windstar label mate John Denver, had the Number One song in the land, with "Afternoon Delight". Here's what the US chart looked like.

1. Starland Vocal Band -Afternoon Delight
2. The Manhattans -Kiss and Say Goodbye 
3. The Brothers Johnson -I'll Be Good To You 
4. Captain and Tennille -Shop Around 
5. The Andrea True Connection- More More More 
6. Wings- Silly Love Songs 
7. Dorothy Moore -Misty Blue 
8. Gary Wright -My Love Is Alive 
9. Daryl Hall and John Oates -Sara Smile
10. The Beatles -Got To Get You Into My Life 

11. Eric Carmen -Never Gonna Fall in Love Again 
12. John Travolta -Let Her In 

A bonus track : For some reason I always pictured Farrah's husband Lee Majors, The Six Million Dollar Man, singing this #3 US hit. It wasn't. Playing the marimba solo is Bo Wagner--looking not unlike what I'd imagine Johnny Ramone performing in Deep Purple would look like.

14.The Steve Miller Band - Take the Money and Run 
15. The Beach Boys - Rock and Roll Music 
16 Thin Lizzy -The Boys Are Back in Town 
17. Neil Diamond -If You Know What I Mean 
18. Seals and Crofts (Featuring Carolyn Willis) -Get Closer 
19. Silver Convention -Get Up and Boogie 
20. Queen -You're My Best Friend

Friday, July 8, 2016

40 Year Itch : Going to the Party

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band : Boston Tea Party

In July of 1976, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's Bicentennial-timed "Boston Tea Party" peaked at UK #13.  They performed it twice on Top of the Pops, the second time Harvey looking nearly dead from exhaustion.

The band's 1976 tour programme featured a comic book.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

40 Year Itch : Recreating Woodstock

Jefferson Starship : With Your Love

On July 7, 1976 Jefferson Starship performed a two hour free concert before 50,000 rain-soaked fans in Central Park. "Welcome to our re-creation of Woodstock", cracked Paul Kantner. The band was promoting its third album Spitfire on this tour and introducing fans to its new brilliant guitarist Craig Chaquico. Rolling Stone's Stephen Holden summed up Jefferson Starship's discography up to this point: "Dragon Fly was an exuberant, confident reassertion of vitality. Red Octopus allowed the individual members to shine more brightly. Spitfire is their most cohesive, best-produced album. Together, these works comprise one of the finest contributions to American rock in the Seventies. "

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

40 Year Itch : Sincerely

Dwight Twilley Band : Sincerely

Released a year after their single "I'm On Fire" peaked at #16 on the US charts, the Dwight Twilley Band's power pop classic Sincerely was held up through no fault of their own. Their label, the Leon Russell-owned Shelter Records, was essentially incompetent and lost its distribution deal at the exact moment they needed to release an LP to capitalize on "I'm On Fire"'s success. 

The critics fawned over the Tulsa band's album ( drummer/vocalist/ songwriter Phil Seymour and guitarist Bill Pitcock IV were the other members). Rolling Stone's Bud Scoppa brought up comparisons with Big Star, The Hot Dogs, Blue Ash, Cowboy, The Beatles, Beach Boys and Byrds, summing up his review with the words "If their work here is blatantly derivative, it's also quite personal. The Twilley Band has concocted the best rock debut album of the year."

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

40 Year Itch : California's Not So Far Away

The Beach Boys : Had to Phone Ya

On July 5, 1976 The Beach Boys released 15 Big Ones, their first studio album since the compilations Endless Summer and Spirit of America had brought them back to the top of the album charts. 15 Big Ones is a mixed bag marking the return of Brian Wilson from years of bed-ridden isolation.  Of the 15 "big ones", eight songs are covers ranging from unremarkable to just awful. Only two tracks are really interesting: "It's OK" and "Had To Phone Ya", which both sound like outtakes from 1968's Friends.

Chris White : Don't Look Down

For an even more successful take on the Beach Boys sound, you should seek out Chris White's 1976 album Mouth Music. Not to be confused with The Zombies bassist, this White scored a minor UK hit with the Shel Talmy produced "Spanish Wine". Talmy always expected album opener "Don't Look Down" to be the big hit from the album.

Henry Gross : Shannon

After spending the day with Beach Boy Carl Wilson whose Irish Setter Shannon had recently been hit and killed by a car, Henry Gross was struck by the coincidence that he too had an Irish Setter named Shannon. Back in New York City, Gross picked up his guitar, looked over at his own Shannon and tried to imagine what it would feel like to lose his sweet dog. The Beach Boys feel came naturally and Gross's only regret is that he couldn't get Carl to sing back up. If you listen to this Top 10 hit, you can imagine The Beach Boys singing back up. All that's missing are some nice bass counter-points from Mike Love. 

Chicago : If You Leave Me Now

Two year after their Beach Boys collaboration "Wishing You Were Here" hit the U-S Top 10, Chicago released what may be the most beautiful song of their career. Peter Cetera's "If You Leave Me Now" would top the US,  the UK and the Australian charts and win two Grammys for arrangements and vocal performances.