*Indicates highest Billboard chart position
1. Rock'n Me - Steve Miller Band
Music and lyrics by Steve Miller. Sailor Music. ASCAP. Capitol 4323. ® 1976 Capitol Records, Inc. Courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc. No. 1*
2. Takin' It To The Streets - The Doobie Brothers
Music and lyrics by Michael McDonald. Tauripin Tunes. ASCAP. Warner 8196. ® 1976 Warner Bros. Records Inc. Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 13*
3. Fooled Around and Fell In Love - Elvin Bishop
Music and lyrics by Elvin Bishop. Crabshaw Music. ASCAP. Capricorn 0252. ® 1976 Capricorn Records Inc. Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, A Division of PolyGram Records, Inc. No. 3*
4. Sara Smile - Daryl Hall and John Oates
Music and lyrics by Daryl Hall and John Oates. Unichappell Music Inc. BMI. RCA 10530. ® 1975 RCA Records. Courtesy of RCA Records, A label of BMG Music. No. 4*
5. Say You Love Me - Fleetwood Mac
Music and lyrics by Christine McVie. Rockhopper Music Inc. ASCAP. Reprise 1356. ® 1975 Warner Bros. Records Inc. Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 11*
6. Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry
Music and lyrics by Robert Parissi. Berna Music/Blaze Music. ASCAP. Epic 50225. ® 1976 CBS Records Inc. Produced under license from CBS Special Products, A Service of CBS Records, A Division of CBS Records, Inc. No. 1*
7. You Should Be Dancing - The Bee Gees
Music and lyrics by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb. Stigwood Music, Inc .. adm. by Unichappell Music. BMI. RSO 853. ® 1976 RSO Records, Inc. Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, A Division of PolyGram Records, Inc. No. 1*
8. Show Me The Way - Peter Frampton
Music and lyrics by Peter Frampton. Almo Music Corp./ Nuage Artists Music, Ltd. ASCAP. A&M 1795. ® 1975 A&M Records, Inc. Courtesy of A&M Records, Inc. No. 6*
9. Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John and Kiki Dee
Music and lyrics by Ann Orson and Carte Blanche. Intersong U.S.A. Inc. ASCAP. Rocket 40585. ® 1976 The Rocket Music Co., Inc. Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc. No. 1*
10. Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright) - Rod Stewart
Music and lyrics by Rod Stewart. Riva Music, Inc. ASCAP. Warner 8262. ® 1976 Warner Bros, Records Inc. Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 1*
11. Love to Love You Baby - Donna Summer
Music and lyrics by Peter Bellotte, Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer. Rick's Music Inc./Sunday Music. BMI. Oasis 401. ® 1975 Casablanca Records, Inc. Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, A Division of PolyGram Records, Inc. No. 2*
12. Still The One - Orleans
Music and lyrics by John Hall and Johanna Hall. Siren Songs. BMI. Asylum 45336. ® 1976 Elektra/Asylum Records. Produced under license from Elektra Entertainment. No. 5*
13. Hello Old Friend - Eric Clapton
Music and lyrics by Eric Clapton. Stigwood Music adm. by Unichappell Inc. BMI. RSO 867. ® 1976 PolyGram Records, Inc. Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, A Division of PolyGram Records, Inc. No. 24*
14. Get Closer - Seals and Crofts
Music and lyrics by James Seals and Dash Crofts. Dawnbreaker Music Co. BMI. Warner 8190. ® 1976 Warner Bros. Records Inc. Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 6*
15. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon
Music and lyrics by Paul Simon. Paul Simon Music. BMI. Columbia 10270. ® 1975 Paul Simon. Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No.1*
16. That'll Be The Day - Linda Ronstadt
Music and lyrics by Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly and Norman Petty. M.P.L. Communications, Inc. BMI. Asylum 45340. ® 1976 Asylum Records. Produced under license from Elektra Entertainment. No. 11*
17. Welcome Back - John Sebastian
Music and lyrics by John Sebastian. John Sebastian Music. BMI. Reprise 1349. ® 1976 Warner Bros. Records Inc. Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 1*
18. Dream Weaver - Gary Wright
Music and lyrics by Gary Wright. High Wave Music, Inc., adm. by Almo Music Corp. ASCAP. Warner 8167. ® 1975 Warner Bros. Records Inc, Produced under license from Warner Bros. Records Inc. No. 2*
19. All by Myself - Eric Carmen
Music and lyrics by Eric Carmen. C.A.M.-USA. BMI. Arista 0165. ® 1975 Arista Records, Inc. Courtesy of Arista Records, Inc. No. 2*
20. The Rubberband Man - The Spinners
Music and lyrics by Thom Bell and Linda Creed. Mighty Three Music. BMI. Atlantic 3355. ® 1976 Atlantic Recording Corp. Produced under license from Atlantic Recording Corp. No. 2*
President: Paul R. Stewart
Executive Producer: Charles McCardell
Executive Committee: Eric R. Eaton, Terence J. Furlong, Marla Hoskins, Fernando Pargas
Recording Producer: Bill Inglot
Series Consultant: Joe Sasfy
Art Director: Robin Bray
Associate Producer: Robert Hull
Associate Art Director: Nina Bridges
Production Manager: Karen Hill
1976 was produced by Time-Life Music in cooperation with Warner Special Products. Digitally remastered at A & M; Ken Perry, engineer.
The Author: John Morthland has been an associate editor for Rolling Stone and Creem. He has freelanced for virtually every rock magazine published during the last 20 years.
Time-Life wishes to thank William L. Schurk of the Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, for providing valuable reference material.
TIME-LIFE MUSIC is a division of Time-Life Books Inc. © 1989 Time-Life Books Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A. TIME-LIFE is a trademark of Time Incorporated U.S.A.
Cover art by Enzo Messi and Urs Schmidt.
© 1989 Time-Life Books Inc.
Picture credit: Back panel photo of Donna Summers courtesy Michael Ochs Archives, Venice, Calif.
Manufactured for Time-Life Music by Warner Special Products, a Warner Communications Company.
© 1989 Warner Special Products
WARNER SPECIAL PRODUCTS
By 1975 disco was crossing from the R & B to the pop charts, but 1976 was the year it truly arrived, Many white artists began performing this heretofore black music, and a number of novelty hits were spawned by acts that quickly disappeared again, The grand entrance of disco was illustrated by the emergence of Donna Summer, who proved to be one of the genre's enduring stars.
Born LaDonna Gaines in Boston in 1948, she joined the Munich, Germany, cast of Hair in 1968 and went on to perform in the Vienna Volksopera's productions of Porgy and Bess and Showboat, By 1973, she was back in Munich, performing in Godspell and singing backup vocals at Musicland Studio, where she met owner and producer Pete Bellotte and his partner, Giorgio Moroder.
Both men were keeping a keen eye on America's disco movement, which by 1975 was no longer the secret of urban blacks and gays. That year they had Summer record Love to Love You Baby, a heavy-breathing track inspired by the recent European success Je T’ Aime ... Moi Non Plus by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. This record of frenzied whispers and orgasmic pants had been greeted with mirth and scorn when released five years earlier.
Using new techniques spawned by the disco DJs, Moroder mixed a 17-minute version of Summer's sighing, groaning and gasping R & B tune for nonstop dancing. He leased it to Neil Bogart of Casablanca Records in America, where a few similar sexy tracks were underground disco hits. The single wound up hitting No.2 in the States, and it set the image for both disco and Donna Summer, who ultimately proved to be a more complex artist than the recording suggested.
Meanwhile, Wild Cherry typified the white novelty aspects of disco with Play That Funky Music. Leader Bob Parissi, who took the group's name off a box of cough drops while he was in the hospital, had already seen one incarnation of his band dissolve; he was getting frustrated with audiences on the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh disco circuit that the rockers were playing. Discussing the problem backstage one night, drummer Ron Beitle repeated a cry they often heard from the audience: "Play that funky music." Only in jest, he added the phrase "white boy." Parissi dashed off the song on a napkin at the disco where his band was playing, and it was later recorded as the B side to a cover version of the Commodores' I Feel Sanctified. But the white-boy disco track got all the radio action, providing Wild Cherry with the third platinum single (one million units sold) ever as well as their only Top 40 hit.
The Bee Gees were in the midst of a more enduring disco string of singles. In 1975, the Main Course album, produced by Arif Mardin, had yielded the Brothers Gibb their first No.1 single in four years. When they went back into the studio, however, the politics of the record company prevented them from again using Mardin (who was signed exclusively to Atlantic). Unable to recapture the charmed Mardin sound using producer Richard Perry, the group went behind the board themselves, with assistance from engineers Karl Richardson and Albhy Galuten, who handled the all-important orchestrations. This team clicked on Children of the World, with You Should Be Dancing becoming the Bee Gees' third No.1 single and setting the stage for their contributions to Saturday Night Fever a year later.
English guitarist Peter Frampton was the year's biggest one-man phenomenon. A veteran of a teeny-bopper band, the Herd, and the arena-rocking Humble Pie, Frampton toured nonstop as a solo act, and in 1976 his work paid off. The double-album Frampton Comes Alive, recorded live at Winterland in San Francisco, sold an unprecedented ten million copies, six million in America alone. Show Me the Way featured one of Frampton's calling cards, the "voicebox," which channeled guitar sounds through a mouthpiece to form words.
If Frampton was the guitar hero of the new generation of arena-rock fans, Elton John was the pop songsmith. Like Frampton, he was always more popular stateside. Don't Go Breaking My Heart, his duet with Kiki Dee, was his first British No.1, although he'd had five No.1 hits in America. The record also marked his first appearance on his own label, Rocket. He and his regular partner, Bernie Taupin, wrote the song under the names Ann Orson and Carte Blanche. As for Dee, she had previously been signed to Motown. Although she made little noise there, she did become friendly with British Motown executive John Reid, who went on to manage Elton John, which is how the pairing came to be. But when it was time for the real glory – an appearance on The Muppet Show – she had to take a back seat to Miss Piggy, who sang the duet with Elton.
Another great duo of the '70s was Daryl Hall and John Oates. The inspiration for Sara Smile was Hall's girlfriend, Sara Sandy Allen, a former airline stewardess who was also the subject of Oates' Las Vegas Turnaround. Oates first met her, by chance, in Manhattan and took her back to the East 82nd Street apartment he shared with his singing partner. Hall, who was in the process of breaking up with his wife, fell for Sara instantly, and they were soon living together. Hall didn't like the vocals on this track, but when the first two singles from Daryl Hall and John Oates failed to hit, he bowed to the better judgment of a Cleveland DJ who'd been playing Sara Smile as an album cut. Released as a single, the tune became Hall and Oates' first Top 40 record.
Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover was, he insisted, "just a fluke thing I slipped into by accident," but the single and the album it came from, Still Crazy After All These Years, seemed to dwell on the recent break-up of Simon's marriage. Linda Ronstadt scored with her second remake of a Buddy Holly song; this time it was That'll Be The Day, which the '50s rocker had written based on a line spoken by John Wayne in John Ford's classic western film The Searchers.
Among the year's oddities were former Raspberries leader Eric Carmen's solo debut, All by Myself, based on a Rachmaninoff melody; East Coast bar band Orleans' Still The One, which promptly became the ABC-TV network's theme; and good-time journeyman Elvin Bishop's Fooled Around And Fell In Love, with lead vocals by future Jefferson Starship singer Mickey Thomas. Bishop's swaying, soul-style dance ballad made as much sense in the year of the Hustle as a jug of moonshine at a champagne soiree, but as the swan song for Southern rock it couldn't have been more appropriate.
After a period of critical drubbings and vituperative coverage of his jet-set romance with Swedish actress Britt Eklund, Rod Stewart came back strong in 1976 with A Night on the Town, which yielded three popular singles, including Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright). Although banned in Britain because it concerned the seduction of a virgin, it was the biggest American single of the year, topping the charts for eight weeks. Since the Faces, the group Stewart had sung with for six years while pursuing a solo career on the side, also broke up in 1976, the recording proved to be a crucial turning paint. But within two years, even Rod Stewart would be cutting disco singles.
- John Morthland