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CHART ATTACK!: 11/20/76

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So before we get started with today’s chart, I need to call your attention to those purty lil’ Amazon graphics below. They were created by the awesome Brian Ibbott, the man behind my favorite podcast (after the Popdose podcast, of course), Coverville. I figured Brian had taken them from the Amazon website, and since I couldn’t find them over at Amazon, I just took ’em straight from Brian. I didn’t mean to be a thief, but turns out I am. So all credit for that nifty graphic that nobody clicks on goes to Brian — thanks, Brian! And if you’re not listening to Coverville, you’re missing out on one of the best, most compelling podcasts on the web. Check it out!

Okay, so now that I’ve stopped Brian’s team of blood-thirsty lawyers in their tracks (kidding!), we can take a look at this week’s chart. And I don’t mean to cast a cloud over this Top 10, but I’m not thrilled with most of these songs. Although three of them did hit #1 (one of them is actually the #1 hit of 1977), five of them didn’t make the Top 100 of either 1976 or 1977 at all. And as you’ll see, the songs that actually did hit #1 aren’t that great either. Things were better earlier in 1976 and later in 1977, but this specific week is, in my opinion, a low point. Do you agree? Let me know — and let’s attack November 20, 1976!

10. Do You Feel Like We Do — Peter Frampton null
9. Beth — Kiss null
8. Just to Be Close to You — Commodores null
7. Rock’n Me — Steve Miller null
6. The Rubberband Man — Spinners null
5. Disco Duck (Part 1) — Rick Dees null
4. Muskrat Love — Captain & Tennille null
3. Love So Right — Bee Gees null
2. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald — Gordon Lightfoot null
1. Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) — Rod Stewart null

10. Do You Feel Like We Do — Peter Frampton

nullOne day, if I’m lucky enough to have kids as geeky as I am (seems kind of inevitable), I’ll sit them down and tell them about the improbability of this song’s success. Sure, I’ll have to explain terms like “double album,” “record label” and “radio,” but I think it’ll be worth it. I’ll explain to them how Peter Frampton managed to remain on a major record label, A&M, despite the fact that his first three albums (as well as his first eight singles) didn’t even crack the Hot 100 (“what’s the Hot 100, daddy?”) and his fourth album peaked at #32. And that despite these failures, A&M decided that his next release should be a live album — and when he turned in the live album, the head of the record label (Jerry Moss) complained that it was too short (!) and should be a double album (!!). And so Frampton — who had recorded most of the album at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, went to record more tracks live at SUNY Plattsburgh, better known as the least sexy of all the NY State-owned colleges. (I know. My dad went there.) “Do You Feel Like We Do” was one of the tracks recorded on the college campus. Unedited, it clocks in at 14:15. And children, guess what? “Radio stations,” as they were known back then, actually played the full, unedited version of the song! “Disc jockeys,” who were the people who actually had some control over what songs were played on the radio, used the song as an excuse to go to the bathroom or do other things that I’ll tell you about when you’re older. A&M understood that some stations might not want to play a 14-minute song, though, so they reasonably edited the song…to 7:19. 7:19 was considered reasonable, children!

At this point, my kids will probably be asleep from boredom, and that’ll be a shame, because I haven’t even explained to them why the unedited version of this song became so successful. Two words: TALKBOX SOLO. And here’s what I want to know, people: why do I have to wait SEVEN MINUTES AND 25 SECONDS for the talkbox solo? There should have been one in the beginning, in the middle, and then another one at the end. No, wait: the end one should be a false ending, and then there’d be another one after that one. There. That’s your perfect song. And I know the audience would have agreed, because you can hear how loud they cheer when he starts using the damn thing. You can’t deny the power of the talkbox. The talkbox is so powerful that the audience forgets the fact that anybody using one looks like a total douche.

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“durrrrrrrrrrr!”

Frampton does a talkbox solo for four full minutes, making “Do You Feel Like We Do” not only our CHART ATTACK! Song of the Week, but perhaps The Greatest Song of All Time, Excluding “What a Fool Believes.”

9. Beth — Kiss

I was looking through the comment section at Songfacts to see what people thought of this song. Here’s my favorite comment, by Frank from Brampton, Ontario.

This is a really sad song and I cry alot whenever I listen to it. Call me a wuss if you want but it is indeed a sad song despite it being a powerful ballad. Hey it’s ok to cry whenever you hear a sad song like this.

Word, Frank. Word.

And so here we have Kiss’s highest-charting single, peaking at #7. Of course, there was only one way Kiss could reach this peak on the charts, and that was by ensuring that all members of the band kept their damn hands off their instruments. Though written by Kiss drummer (and this song’s lead vocalist) Peter Criss, the piano and string arrangements were performed by other (real) musicians. Criss was the only member of the band in the studio when it was recorded, and in concert, he performed it to a backing track. The rest of the band didn’t learn the song until almost 20 years later, despite it being their biggest hit of their career. I think this proves how much Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley hated the song (they fought to keep it off the album), and not being a Kiss fan, this is the only thing about “Beth” that makes me happy. (Although I should say that I know Paul Stanley’s mother, and she’s a sweetheart.) Actually, “Beth” isn’t really a bad song at all; the piano and strings are quite pretty, and I like the last verse, where he says “Beth, I know you’re lonely / And I hope you’ll be all right / ‘Cause me and the boys will be playing all night.” I love that in this beautiful song, he just kind of gives her the middle finger at the end: I know you’re lonely, Beth…sucks to be you!

8. Just to Be Close to You — Commodores (download)

I find this song unintentionally funny for a number of reasons. If you’re not familiar with it, download and we can discuss it together. For starters, there’s this beautiful, gentle piano opening. The first time I heard it, I was expecting a song that was soft and subtle, like “Fee Tines a Mady” “Three Times a Lady.” The entrance of the vocals are, shall we say, a bit more abrupt — I nearly jumped out of my chair when they came in. Second, the song has some space-agey synths playing random notes for seemingly no reason — like it’s a love song on Jupiter or something. Then, after less than a minute, Lionel starts speaking. Oh, this is the best part. Listen to that first “Ahh!” at about :55. I don’t know who Lionel’s trying to be, but he’s doing a terrible job at it. At 1:23, I think he’s trying to be a preacher. I love the way he pronounces the word “value.” I snicker every time I hear it.

I think what’s most clear about this song is that Lionel Richie had simply not yet mastered his songwriting-fu; the damn thing is all over the place. Sure, the hook of the song is great, and maybe that’s all they needed: something to which people could get their groove on. Who cares about the rest, right? The only thing that really had any staying power was that first line at the beginning: “You know, I’ve been through so many changes in my life, girl.” Lionel recycled it seven years later for his solo hit “My Love,” except he changed “girl” to “woman.” (Y’know, because he was older.)

I looked all over to find you a clip of Lionel singing this song live in the ’70s; I’m disappointed that I came up short, because you know there’d be nothing more wonderful than Lionel in one of those silver glittery Commodore suits, speak-singing this song while his afro collided with the other members of the group. However, I did find this recent version, from a small concert Lionel did for industry people. He performs the song with just the right amount of tongue in cheek, proving once again that Lionel Richie is super, super awesome. Please do a concert in New York again, Lionel. I need to be there.

7. Rock’n Me — Steve Miller

I know I’ve complained about this before, but man, fewer artists get me angry the way Steve Miller gets me angry. (Maybe Andy Gibb.) His success actually gets me furious. Yes, yes, the man writes a killer hook, but his lyrics are some of the most moronic lyrics I’ve ever read. “Rock’n Me” is a great example; strong chorus, but dumb-as-shit lyrics, and actually, some awful singing, too. Arrgh, where do I even start?

Well I’ve been lookin’ real hard
And I’m tryin’ to find a job
But it just keeps gettin’ tougher every day
But I got to do my part cause I know in my heart
I got to please my sweet baby, yeah

Okay. Not an awful start. I mean, you can’t rhyme either “baby” or “yeah” with “day,” but whatever. So this song is about him trying to find work to make his woman happy. I’m with him so far.

Well, I ain’t superstitious
And I don’t get suspicious
But my woman is a friend of mine
And I know that it’s true that all the things that I do
Will come back to me in my sweet time

WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS MEAN.

I went from Phoenix, Arizona
All the way to Tacoma
Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.
Northern California where the girls are warm
So I could be with my sweet baby, yeah

I DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS EITHER. Unless this is just Miller figuring he can guarantee either radio play or a concert audience in any of these locations. God, to think that this song might have inspired “The Heart of Rock & Roll” makes me shudder.

…and that’s pretty much it for lyrics. I am so freakin’ angry right now. This song makes no sense at all. It’s not as dumb as “Take the Money and Run,” but it’s up there. We made Steve Miller a star. Why did we do it? Why? I think I need to lie down. I hate you, Steve Miller. And you too, Andy Gibb.

6. The Rubberband Man — Spinners

Just when I thought this chart was hopeless, the Spinners come to rescue me. “The Rubberband Man” is a great soul song, and it would have won Song of the Week if it had only featured five minutes of talkbox. Instead, it features zero minutes of talkbox, so I award it no points and may God have mercy on its soul. Still, it deserves mention as one of the few good songs to rise out of the crud of this week.

Despite having formed in 1954 with a debut on the Hot 100 in 1961, the Spinners didn’t have their first Top 10 hit until 1970’s wonderful “Ill Be Around,” which hit #3. Another four of their songs reached the Top 10 before “The Rubberband Man” peaked at #2; it would be the group’s last Top 10 until their popular medleys of 1980.

There’s a great clip on YouTube of the Spinners performing “The Rubberband Man” on The Midnight Special, but I had to leave it off this week’s post in favor of Lynda Carter performing it on The Muppet Show. I’m sure you understand.

5. Disco Duck (Part 1) — Rick Dees

You know, given the fact that I’m somewhat known for my fondness of bad music (see Earmageddon or Mellowmas), I’ll admit to you that I’ve been able to fully avoid “Disco Duck” until this week. So while that’s a really awesome thing for me, it means that I can’t really reflect properly on how this song invaded popular culture enough to become a #1 hit. Rather than just blatantly curse out everybody in 1976 who bought this record, I figured I’d ask fellow Popdose staffer (and one of my favorite writers) Jon Cummings to weigh in on “Disco Duck” and its popularity. But be warned, everybody: this writing is not what we’re used to reading on CHART ATTACK!: it’s really, really good. Jon?

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Thanks, Jason. You’re right about one thing: No one can explain, much less justify, the popularity of “Disco Duck.” But let’s give it a shot anyway, shall we?

Like any good sociological phenomenon, disco didn’t emerge full-blown out of nowhere. By the summer of ’76, even as the music had begun to dominate pop radio, the flamboyant dance-club subculture behind disco hadn’t yet expanded beyond its base in the major urban centers and entered the mainstream. The sexuality — and the sometimes covert, sometimes overt homosexuality — intrinsic to the music was unfamiliar to, and no doubt uncomfortable for, many listeners during disco’s early stages. And when the less cutting-edge elements of society encounter a new and discomfiting cultural presence, it’s not unusual for them to dismiss or ridicule that presence — or, if they choose to embrace it, to make it more compatible with their conventional worldview via imitation (see Pat Boone), comment (see “Play That Funky Music,” a #1 hit two months before this chart was released), or parody. This may explain why a radio DJ from a Southern city was able to achieve nationwide success with a single that recontextualized disco’s throbbing rhythms and pulsating sexuality with help from a universally beloved cartoon voice.

Or maybe that’s all a bunch of crap, and what really happened was that a Memphis DJ/stand-up comic encountered a goofball at the gym who could do a good Donald Duck voice, and decided it would be funny to make a novelty record that capitalized on the disco craze. And the American people, whose taste in comedy should never be overestimated, sent “Disco Duck” to #1 in mid-October. My favorite part of the “Disco Duck” story is the fact that radio listeners in Memphis couldn’t hear it: Competing stations wouldn’t play it because they were loath to give Rick Dees any publicity, and his own station’s owners thought it would be a conflict of interest to give it any spins. Dees got fired just for mentioning the song on the air! He quickly got hired somewhere else, of course — and though he lost his most recent daily on-air gig this past spring, his “Weekly Top 40” is still going in syndication. And “Disco Duck,” though we never hear it anymore, lives in infamy — and in the #3 slot on my list of the Worst #1 Songs of the ’70s.

Back to you, Jason.
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Thanks, Jon! You should know that every morning, I wake up and curse your writing skills. Here’s Rick Dees on The Midnight Special performing his beloved hit.

4. Muskrat Love — Captain & Tennille

Wonderful. So right after our song about the disco duck, we have a track that answers the age-old question, “What Casio synth pad accurately replicates the sounds of muskrats fucking?” I wonder how many music fans killed themselves over Thanksgiving in 1976.

Honestly, I thought I knew this song, but when I took a listen this week, I found that I had never actually heard it before (both this and “Disco Duck” — how did I get so lucky?). I keep trying to figure out what this song is really trying to say in its subtext — but no, I’m pretty sure it’s actually about two muskrats courting. I know I said this a few songs ago, but WHY? Why did we need a song about two muskrats on a date? And even more importantly, why were Captain & Tennille the third artists to record the song? Originally titled “Mukstrat Candlelight” — and let’s just pause a second to think about the meeting where the artistic merits of this title were debated — the song was written and recorded by Willis Alan Ramsey in 1972, then covered by America in 1973 and C&T in 1976. The America version peaked at #67, but C&T made it all the way here to #4. Why? It must have been those adorable little synthesizers! Thank you, Daryl Dragon! And I’m sure there are many record buyers who thank you for including those sounds in the run-off groove on the 45, so they’d repeat themselves until someone took the record off the turntable (and subsequently threw it — and themselves — out the window).

But I don’t know. Part of me is also perversely pleased that a song about the copulation of muskrats managed to become a popular hit. Also, I have to give Toni Tennille credit for the huge grin she plasters on her face whenever she sings this song. I imagine, after 33 years, one probably no longer has a burning desire to sing about muskrats doing the nasty.

I found a few video clips of “Muskrat Love,” but this one seems to be the most disturbing. Enjoy. Or don’t.

3. Love So Right — Bee Gees (download)

I’m almost positive a memo was issued in the fall of 1976. It went to all popular artists, and it said, “Just take it easy this season. Don’t work too hard. Only give us mediocre songs. We’ll call on you for the good stuff in 1977.” Because if you look at 1975, you’ll see awesome Bee Gees songs like “Jive Talkin'” and “Nights on Broadway,” and of course, 1977 gave us the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Summer of ’76 even gave us “You Should Be Dancing.” But fall of 1976? This dreck. I am aware some people really like this song. I am not one of them. According to Andy Brennan’s always-phenomenal Gibb Songs website (which I could read all day), it was right around this time that Barry began to really explore this new range of his voice:

Barry had developed his falsetto to an incredible degree. [Previously] it was still breathy and tentative. Now it was loud and clear, a very expressive instrument that he began to prefer to his natural voice…‘[“Love So Right”] is a more traditional kind of Bee Gees song that could easily have been done the old way had Barry been inclined to do so. The falsetto makes it sound more new and different than it is. The question of how much falsetto is enough has caused much friendly argument among fans.

I’m so glad Andy brought this up: IT’S TOO MUCH FALSETTO. And I’m not going to be friendly about it, Andy! Christ! It’s ridiculous how much high-pitched caterwauling ensues during the final minute of the song! Tune in above at around 3:00. There are actually dueling Barry Gibbs, each going falsetto-batshit all over this thing. Look, most of the Bee Gees songs we know and love wouldn’t be as wonderful as they are without Barry’s high notes. But there’s actually a line, and he crosses it here. And sadly, I don’t think I can blame Andy for it.

2. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald — Gordon Lightfoot

It does seem a little odd that a song such as this would reach #2, considering that it’s depressing as all hell, it has no chorus and no bridge, and it’s surrounded by crap like “Disco Duck” and “Muskrat Love.” But clearly it struck a chord with the public, arriving on the charts close to a year after the S.S. Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, killing the 29 crew members aboard. Lightfoot had read about the event in the November 24, 1975 issue of Newsweek, and was inspired to write a song recounting the event. He took some liberties with the subject matter, or at least that’s what I’m told — I know it makes me a horrible person, but I just can’t pay attention to more than two verses of this song. As always, I hear Gordon Lightfoot and all I want to do is nap. Lightfoot considers this song his most significant musical achievement (and credit should indeed be given for including the words “Gitche Gumee” in a pop song), and peaking here at #2, it’s his second-highest charter, behind 1974’s “Sundown.”

Lightfoot gave all rights and royalties of this song to the families of those lost in the wreck, which is a truly wonderful thing. The writers from The Simpsons wanted to use this song in a section of the “Radio Bart” episode where Bart sees an commercial for a microphone that transmits to any AM radio — but because of the complications in getting permission from the families, they went with C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” instead. True story!

1. Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) — Rod Stewart

Here it is, folks: not only the #1 song of the week, but the #1 song of 1977. We gave it to this guy.

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He’s worse than this guy!

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“durrrrrrrrrrr!”

I’m perplexed. First, I’m perplexed that this song became the #1 hit of 1977, considering it didn’t actually chart at #1 during that year (I’m sure this will be explained by Cummings in the comments). But more than that, I’m perplexed that Rod Stewart became a sex symbol while wearing this outfit. He looks like an inbred clown doing dinner theatre. This is the third time I’m asking “why?” today. I’m tired of it. I’m so happy this week is over.

“Tonight’s the Night” is a song not exactly known for its subtlety; it was actually banned in Europe (and initially only played later in the evening in America) for its overt sexuality. This was mainly due to the line “spread your wings and let me come inside.” Is that really offensive? I only think it’s offensive if you think of “me” being “Rod Stewart.” Because I don’t see why anybody would want to sleep with him. Even if the song’s purpose is just to encourage others to get all sexy with each other, that doesn’t work for me either — because when the chorus starts, all I can think about is poor Rod’s vocal chords. Is it sexy to sound like you’re screaming up a lung? Of course, who cares what I think — this song became the biggest hit of Rod Stewart’s career. And if that doesn’t depress you enough, do you want to know what’s #2? “All for Love,” that stupid song he did with Bryan Adams and Sting. I think now is a very good time for me to stop writing.


By the way, I can’t believe this happened, but it did: a duet of “Tonight’s the Night” between Rod and Kim Carnes, presumably with a throat specialist waiting in the wings. I love that if I close my eyes and listen to this duet, I can’t tell them apart.

Whew! We’re done! I’m quite happy this week is over. Maybe it wasn’t as bad for you as it was for me, but personally, I’m giving thanks that we’ll be exploring a different week and year soon. You suck, November 1976. But I thank you for reading anyway! See you soon for another edition of CHART ATTACK!