On October 30, British singer/songwriter Leo Sayer's new single "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" made its UK debut at #30. In the US the song would be inescapable, peaking at #1 in January of 1977 ( and at #2 in the UK). Much of the success, or blame, belongs to producer Richard Perry, who also helped Ringo Starr, Carly Simon and many other stars record their biggest hit singles and albums.
Sayer, who in clown makeup once toured with Roxy Music, told Rolling Stone's Ben Fong-Torres, the smash single came about during a rehearsal session:
I just started singing that line "You got a cute way of talking" and Richard immediately ran to the recorder, pushed the button, and said "Look, let's take it. Two months later I came back to Los Angeles and he played me back some stuff and said "That's number one." I didn't even remember it.
I get more enjoyment out of the third single, written by Sayer with Barry Mann. It's called "how Much Love" and peaked at US#17. The other big single is the #1US/#1UK single "When I Need You".
On October 28 Eddie and the Hot Rods released the "Teenage Depression" single. The raving rocker would peak at #35 in the UK. An album by the same name was released in November of 1976. Selected by Sounds Magazine critics as one of the best singles of the year.
The son of Elvis Presley's bassist Bob Moore, R. Stevie Moore's Phonography is full of lo-fi, whimsical pop songs that reveal a very creative, very weird talent. Originally, only a hundred copies were pressed. Then New York's Trouser Press magazine called Phonography "an outrageous collection of musical brain spewage" and "a true slash of genius" in its December 1977 issue. To date, Moore has released more than 400 self made albums.
Two buddies in Laguna Beach, California, Phil Pearlman and Kurt Baker apparently shared an affection for the Grateful Dead's classic early 70's acoustic albums. There are reports of original copies selling for more than $1000 on Ebay.
Tom Ze : Vai ( menina Amanhã De Manhã
This is the concept album David Byrne purchased, which eventually led to his championing the Brazilian artist and releasing a Brazil Classics compilation devoted entirely to Ze. Half of that album featured songs from Estudando o Samba. Very fun.
In the final week of October, 1976, the Atlanta funk band Brick made its US Hot 100 debut at #90 with "Dazz", a classic 70's jam that would soon top the US R and B charts for four weeks and peak at #3 on the pop charts at the end of January 1977. "Dazz" is short for disco jazz. The album Good High would be the only album to break up Songs in the Key of Life's string of twenty straight weeks at the top of the R and B charts.
this is exactly what's going down, i'm alone. there is no sound.cars hiss by my window...a sonic drone...id like to get up and put LA Woman on but i just can't
-Patti Smith, liner notes
On October 22, 1976 The Patti Smith Group released Radio Ethiopia, a more conventional set of rock songs than Horses. Produced by Jack Douglas (Toys in the Attic, Imagine), the album is more band-oriented than a spotlight for the poet/prophet.
Some critics accused Patti Smith of selling out. Not the best ones. Robert Christgau gave the album an A-minus grade which helped Radio Ethiopia squeeze into the 1976 Pazz and Jop Critics poll at #30:
When it works, which is just about everywhere but the (eleven-minute) title track, this delivers the charge of heavy metal without the depressing predictability; its riff power--and the riffs are even better than the lyrics on this rockpoet experiment--has the human elan of a band that is still learning to play.
Radio Ethiopia is for people who go to sleep and dream of waking somewhere else.
On October 22, 1976 Bob Seger released the nostalgia-fueled Night Moves, his first platinum album. The title track always reminds of how shy I was as a 12 year old boy in 8th Grade, as terrified as I was captivated by the girls in middle school. Some already had points of their own, "well, firm and high." Would I soon be "workin' on mysteries without any clues /workin' on my night moves"?
Well, no. As it turned out. Not for many years.
I recently listened to Night Moves after hearing how Seger had studies Springsteen's Born to Run and that quiet whispered part in "Jungleland" for some song writing inspiration. He told a radio interviewer "(Springsteen) had like a multiple bridge, he had various different things going on, and I thought to myself, 'That's how I'll finish 'Night Moves.'"
Did Seger study anyone else? "Sunburst" sounds like it uses the blue print from "Bargain" off of Who's Next or perhaps "Imagine a Man" from The Who By Numbers. "Ship of Fools" could have been a Rod Stewart song. "Sunspot Baby" might have been a great lost track from The Rolling Stones.
The album got an A- rating from Robert Christgau, one of many rock critics who praised the album:
I've never had much truck with Seger's myth -- he's always struck me as a worn if well-schooled rock and roll journeyman, good for one or two tracks a year. But this album is a journeyman's apotheosis. The riffs that identify each of these nine songs comprise a working lexicon of the Berry-Stones tradition, and you've heard them many times before; in fact, that may be the point, because Seger and his musicians reanimate every one with their persistence and conviction. Both virtues also come across in lyrics as hard-hitting as melodies, every one of which asserts the continuing functionality of rock and roll for "sweet sixteens turned thirty-one." In one of them, the singer even has his American Express card stolen by a descendant of Ronnie Hawkins's Mary Lou, if not Mary Lou herself. Worrying about your credit card rating -- now that's what I call rock and roll realism. A-
Billboard wrote Detroit's favorite native son rocker has another tasty set of rock'n'roll with an extra bonus of two change-of-pace ballads thrown in. Seger is a tasteful and impressive guitar flash whose singing has improved markedly in fluency and expressiveness. His songwriting also provides no shortage of vehicles for effective rocking. Seger is really as good in this genre as anybody else around today. Best cuts: "Night Moves," "Mainstreet," "Rock 'N' Roll Never Forgets," "Sunspot Baby," "Mary Lou."
On October 23, 1976 The Jam, a trio of "angry young men" led by an 18 year old Paul Weller, played a surprise sidewalk gig in London's Soho market. They were hoping for some free press and they got it. A dismissal from Mark Perry's Sniffin Glue fanzine who called the band "Sixties revivalists" but from Sounds writer John Ingham something much more thoughtful:
With bands far exceeding the number of London clubs sometimes you really have to take it to the streets. Last Saturday The Jam did just that. Setting up on the pavement outside Soho market about 12.30, they ripped it up for almost an hour. The firemen at the nearby station watched from the roof. The Clash enjoyed their breakfast to the rocking strains. Natives of deepest Surrey, The Jam looked as though they had just been released from school, though their black suits, white shirt, black tie combination could be to invoke the mid-Sixties. Beat Boom correctness. Guitarist Paul Weller must be the quietest guitarist in rock, quite Wilko Johnson ( Dr Feelgood) influenced, but capable of providing some real excitement. The rhythm section ( Rick Buckler drums and Bruce Foxton bass) was solid, but could use less cabaret. Their songs also invoke mid sixties beat boom and could do with a bit more musical originality. There're some good things in there, especially In The City I've a Thousand Things I Want to Tell You. The sun shone, no police came by and the last three songs were hot stuff. Judge for yourself, November 9, at the 100 Club.
The band would be signed by Polydor Records early in 1977. Their first single "In The City" was released on April 29, 1977. It was the first of 18 straight singles to go Top 40 in the UK, including four #1 hits.
On October 22, 1976 The Damned released what has often been cited as the first punk single ever. That they beat the Sex Pistols to the punch was always galling to Johnny Rotten. The Pistols--still five weeks from releasing "Anarchy in the UK-- were recording demos for EMI. the Dutch country trio Pussycat was on top of the charts with "Mississippi".
Recorded in one day, and produced by Nick Lowe, "New Rose" is a teenage love song, which may not actually be the appropriate subject for a punk song. Let the Sex Pistols and The Clash sing about the issues. The Damned's Dave Vanian is singing about love. About the inner storm that rocks your insides when you've got a "new rose" in town.
The B side was a sped up version of The Beatles' "Help". The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" would be released just weeks later.
In October of 1976, Climax Blues Band raced up the charts with their first song to break into the US Hot 100 in their eight year career. "Couldn't Get It Right" was written after band manager Miles Copeland III ( brother of Police drummer Stewart) demanded Climax Blues Band come up with a single for the new album Gold Plated.
The group gathered together, jammed, and within a few hours described by guitarist Derek Holt as "just a lucky moment in time", came up with this incredibly catchy song based on their late nights touring America. The signs they keep on looking for in the middle of the night are Holiday Inns.
Climax Blues Band has always been known for the dual vocals. One of the special moments in this single is the dual guitar and saxophone solo. One of my favorite singles of the 70's.
In 1976 the Los Angeles based power trio The Nerves released what may simply be the best EP of the year. This chock-full -o'-earworms recording sounds at once 5 years ahead of its time and 10 years behind the times. Here is a band that is not afraid to wear its Beatles influences on its sleeves and three piece suits on the stage. Future Plimsoul Peter Case has that aching voice reminiscent of a young John Lennon on "When You Find Out".
But the stand out must be the song most people associate with Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone". Penned by Jack Lee, this two minute stunner would become a UK Top 5 hit for Blondie. Future Paul Collins Band leader Collins gives us "Working Too Hard". All in all, this is as close to perfection as power pop gets.
In October of 1976, Australia's Radio Birdman released their first EP, Burn My Eye. It is quite simply my favorite discovery of the year. Strange that I knew about The Saints but never gave Radio Birdman a listen. Like the Saints, they're not so much punk as sped up garage rock. You can spot the influences of the New York Dolls, Blue Oyster Cult and the MC5. In fact guitarist and songwriter Deniz Tek was raised in Michigan and owned a guitar that once belonged to the MC5's Fred "Sonic" Smith.
Tek's Michigan youth explains why an Australian band is doing a song about eskimo pies and an American highway that runs through the Great Lakes region. He's homesick or at least nostalgic. And ready to name check Stroh's, Rolling Rock and even Garland Jeffreys.
On the verge of becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, Thin Lizzy had to pull out of a US tour when Phil Lynott fell ill with hepatitis. Stranded in London, the band quickly recorded the loose concept album Johnny the Fox, a solid follow-up to the sensational Jailbreak which was still on the Billboard album charts at #143. Even so, the band lost a lot of momentum on their way to what should have been a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career.
On October 16, 1976 Americans showed the world they were dumb enough to make "Disco Duck" the number one song in the country. Yes this country makes mistakes. Whoppers sometimes! In less than a month the United States of America picks a new president. And that's why everyone in this country who is smart enough to read this blog needs to vote.
With perhaps his most famous song, Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti isn't anticipating the zombie craze we still seemed to be steeped in. He is referring to the unreasoning soldiers who follow orders without thinking. After five minutes of pure rhythm and horn solos, Fela sings "Zombie no go stop unless you tell him to stop/ Zombie no go think unless you tell him to think". The album was a smashing success across much of Africa.
As you might guess the Army didn't care for those words. The Nigerian military's response was vicious. One thousand soldiers raided the star's commune. Fela's elderly mother was tossed out of a window and killed. His recording studio and all the tapes within were burned and destroyed. Soldiers beat Fela who later said he would have been killed had a commanding officer not intervened.
'Herb will become like cigarettes'- Peter Tosh to the NME
He may not have had the strongest voice of the former Wailers, but Peter Tosh made a huge impact on his solo debut Legalize It. Unfortunately part of the impact was to have the title cut banned from Jamaican radio. Perhaps because to not ban the song might be admitting the lyrics "Doctors smoke it /Nurses smoke it/ Judges smoke it " were true?
I have asthma so the line that sticks with me is "It's good for the flu/ Good for asthma /Good for tuberculosis /Even numara thrombosis" . I can't believe smoking in any form is good for asthma. But why go down this rabbit hole?
Legalize It is one of the best reggae albums of the year, but it it is not THE best. Deep into the year I have yet to hear anything better than the Abyssinians' debut Satta Massagana.
On October 13, 1976, two days after he dropped off a cassette of demos, 22 year old "Wreckless" Eric Goulden got called back to Stiff Records to sign a contract reportedly in the two figure range. Among the songs recorded at home is "The Whole Wide World", written with just two chords in 1974, and eventually recorded with Nick Lowe on guitar and bass and Rumour drummer Steve Goulding on the skins. Released as a single in 1977, "The Whole Wide World" would rank number 8 in the Sounds critics' singles of the year and receive an 'honourable mention' in the NME critics' chart.
In October of 1976 Van Der Graaf Generator released World Record. Some critics thought this difficult prog rock band was selling out. This just in : any band that has Peter Hamill screeching and wailing about masks like some Andrew Lloyd Webber character can't possibly sell out. What pop fan, outside Italy, would ever buy something like this? Sadly, this is the last Van Der Graaf Generator album I will have to force myself to listen to. That's because after three albums in 12 months, and months of touring, the band split apart with the remaining members shortening their name to Van Der Graaf. Maybe the way Wire briefly referred to themselves as Wir.
On October 11, 1976 Donna Summer released her fourth studio album, Four Seasons of Love. It's a concept album co-written with Giorgio Moroder. There's an eight minute disco song for each season, highlighted by the opening track "Spring Affair". I like A Love Trilogy better .One of the most enjoyable things about writing this blog is discovering just how innovative the Summer/Moroder/ Paul Bellotte team really were. I was 12 years old and couldn't have cared less about disco at the time. But Brian Eno and David Bowie were certainly paying attention.
For his biggest fans it was enough just to have Al Green overcome the "scalding grits episode"and to sing another set of songs written with Willie Mitchell. But this is formula, pure and simple. A low point from which Green would rebound with 1977's Belle Album.
Wait! Bill Withers recorded an album called Naked and Warm? Yeah and let's all just be thankful nobody got too literal about the album cover. This is what we call a transitional album. Withers is leaving behind the acoustic guitar for the "quiet storm", jazz-inflected sound that would eventually result with such hits as "Lovely Day" and "Just the Two of Us". There's some nice funk in the opening track "Close to Me".
Heat Treatment may have been too good for Graham Parker's career. Released the same year as his debut, Howlin' Wind, the album split the votes by critics in the prestigious Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics poll, paving the way for Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life to finish at the top.
Heat Treatment finished in second with 234 points, 58 points behind Stevie Wonder's album. But note that Howlin' Wind came in fourth with 215 points. Combined, Graham Parker and the Rumour would have won by a large margin.
The fact that Parker wasn't a huge success baffled both critics and record execs. In his memoir, The Soundtrack of My Life, Clive Davis writes " Who can explain why Graham Parker's one-two punch of Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment didn't do for him what My Aim is True and This Year's Model did for Elvis Costello?
Some of the blame may fall on Parker's prickly personality. He told an interviewer Heat Treatment might be overrated:
You know, Heat Treatment is not my favorite album. I think there's some lame material on there. Mona Lisa's Sister is a far more powerful and stronger record I think. But at the time, Heat Treatment was like an amazing thing that in 1976 somebody was making music like that. And Squeezing Out Sparks transcends the medium. I don't think there's anything as good as that by anybody anywhere. And I don't even take credit for it. I don't know what happened. I blacked out.
Perhaps Heat Treatment is made up of Howlin' Wind rejects, and perhaps Parker feels his voice isn't up to the task, but it's an excellent , often rowdy collection of pub rock tunes as well as songs Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart would have been proud to pen. In fact Stewart later covered "Hotel Chambermaid".
My deep cut choice is "Fool's Gold", sung with passion and honesty. Looking back, I wonder if Chairman Parker was actually too smart for his own good.
You call it goose bumps. Hawaiians call it chicken skin. And music that gives you "chicken skin" is what Ry Cooder delivers on his 1976 release. Here, the musicologist takes us into a sunny and casual setting where he introduces us to two artists we may have otherwise never enjoyed, the king of Hawaiian guitarists Gabby Pahinui ( On "Chloe" and "Yellow Roses") , and the legendary accordion player Flaco Jiminez. To say Jiminez steals the show on Cooder's cover of the Jim Reeves classic "He'll Have to Go" is to misunderstand Cooder's intent. Ry Cooder is a modest man who has always given great musicians a chance to shine.
My favorite track is Jesse Stone's "Smack Dab in the Middle", which features lyrics A Rolling Stone reviewer suggested may be Cooder's motto:
On October 8 1976, The Sex Pistols were signed to two year contract by EMI records for £40,000 ($68,000).
EMI's Bob Mercer explained why his label wanted to sign the band to Q Magazine:
Basically, their message was "The Pistols may be a piece of shit, musically, but it's what's happening in the streets. These are the forerunners of the punk movement. It's a feather in our cap to be able to sign them. Besides which, what do you know? You're over 30!" So I said, "Fine. Go ahead". And I gave them a limit on the deal which was £40,000 for about two or three records in as many years, with options, which we would pay to record.
In his memoir Anger is an Energy, John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon writes:
Be very careful what you sign, everybody in the world! Even though you think you know what it is all about, you'll find out you didn't know nothing! The wording in contracts is riddled in tangles and lawyer -ese -- it might as well be Vietnamese.
The EMI contract would end within three months, after the release of the "Anarchy in the UK" single which the company then deleted from their catalogue. Following a now infamous appearance on Bill Grundy's talk show in December and other incidents, EMI later issued a statement saying it felt unable to promote the Sex Pistols' records in view of the adverse publicity generated over the last few months.
I suppose EMI thought it would be a gigglefest and they really, really couldn't cope with what it actually was. The hardcore edge just rocked them to their foundations so it was get our of EMI quick. And in many ways it was great because the recordings that we did for EMI were shit.
One of 1976's most disappointing albums has to be Lou Reed's first recording for Clive Davis's Arista Records. And wouldn't you know the critics pounced. Nick Kent of New Musical Express wrote "Certainly don't bother with this record unless, that is, you're the kind of person that gets off on watching paint dry. Come to think of it, Rock and Roll Heart would make the perfect background music for that."
Reed said he had a great tune making the record, on which he played an electric guitar for the first time since the Velvet Underground broke up: "On other albums I let other people do what they liked; this time I got serious and played what I liked. Every track. There's lots of dumb rock-and-roll songs on it, but then I like dumb rock and roll. It's very hard to find a dumb guitar player and a dumb piano player, everyone's so much into being technically together. But I fit the bill because I play very stupid."
In October of 1976, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel released their final album, Love's a Prima Donna, recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The first single was a humdrum cover of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" which actually hit UK#10.
The title cut is far more interesting, and to these ears, a surefire hit. It has the feel of the band's biggest hit, "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" It even has parentheses--always a good thing when Steve Harley's writing a song. Although it became a fan favorite "( I Believe) Love's a Prima Donna" was no hit, stalling at UK#41. The album gets very good in places ( "Too Much Tenderness") and very weird in places, especially on the 7 minute "Innocence and Guilt".
In October of 1976 Be Bop Deluxe released Modern Music, their second album of the year. Bill Nelson, described by Trouser Press as "the most dignified rock star alive with the most original lead guitar to he heard in years", leads his band through another set which includes an Abbey Road like Side 2 medley of songs apparently related to the American tour where they opened for Slade, Golden Earring, Johnny Winter and Patti Smith.
What many of us didn't know is more than 30 years later, Nelson had yet to receive a royalty payment from EMI. In 2011, he updated fans on www.billnelson.com :
I'm sure I explained how things resolved some years ago but, to recap, EMI eventually offered to account to me for any future royalties, provided I didn't pursue things further. It was proving very expensive to do that anyway, (lawyers fees being what they are,) so I let it go. Better things to do with my time. Since then I have received some royalties and accounting although they're quite modest sums as, obviously, the days of decent sales of the Be Bop recordings are long gone. These days it's a trickle, if that. Of course, EMI has suffered since then due to the demise of the major record companies and internet piracy...and there's no-one working for the company now who was there during the Be Bop years. However, I am helping to assemble the forthcoming Be Bop Deluxe retrospective and have been given the go-ahead to add a fifth cd to the set so that I can select some unreleased material for fans to hear. Basically, there will be a disc exclusively containing previously unheard recordings.
On October 2, 1976 the new Spinners single "The Rubberband Man" cracked the US Top 40 on its way to a three week peak at #2. In the UK it was also burning up the charts.
I was 12 years old when I bought the single. I think I was hooked by the clavinet, the bass and Phillipe Wynne's exuberant performance. Only recently have I heard the more than seven minute version on Happiness is Being with the Spinners, which I present here.
My conclusion: the 45 was one of the best single edits ever made. Every bit of fat from the Thom Bell production was trimmed away. Babies were killed. Sophie's Choice styled decisions were made. Keep most of the intro but take out huge chunks of Wynne's delirious rap.
And the result is one of the funkiest and fastest three and a half minutes you'll ever tap your feet to.
In February of 1977 Tina Turner performed the tune on the Brady Bunch Hour. So there's that.
In 1976, the year Sparks recorded "Throw Her Away ( And Get A New One") for the album Big Beat, former Olympic skier Ivana Marie Zelníčková met a dashing young millionaire who had been recently featured in the New York Times.
"He is tall, lean and blond," lifestyle reporter Judy Klemesrud writes, "with dazzling white teeth, and he looks ever so much like Robert Redford...He dates slinky fashion models, belongs to the most elegant clubs and, at only 30 years of age, estimates that he is worth 'more than $200 million.'"
Trump in 1976
Donald stood up and offered Ivana and her friends his table. "I told my girlfriend I had good news and bad news," Ivana said. "The good news was that we could get a table fast, the bad news was that Donald was going to sit with us."
Ivana and Donald married on April 7, 1977. It wouldn't last. She got $25 million from the Donald. He moved on to Marla and then on to Melania. Now he's the biggest threat facing the world since the Soviet Union moved missiles to a Caribbean country.
Produced by Rupert ( If you like Pina Coladas) Holmes, Big Beat is a hard rocking, slick release that most fans and critics consider a slight mis-step. There's still plenty of classic Sparks sarcasm here to enjoy.