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1976 – A+ List

a cheap holiday in other people's miseries

a cheap holiday in other people’s miseries

1. “Anarchy in the U.K.,” The Sex Pistols. In November of ’76, a sea change occurred in the U.K. music scene as Johnny Rotten introduced himself as an anti-Christ/anarchist. While Rotten was declaring his goal to destroy passersby, the multi-tracked guitar of Steve Jones roared in violent agreement with the sentiment. Less than two months after their first single release, they were dropped by their label for being too controversial. You couldn’t buy publicity like that these days.

2. “Blitzkrieg Bop,” The Ramones. The punk rock anthem of ’76, although the public didn’t discover it for a few decades. The Ramones first album cost $6,400 to record and was just recently certified gold; the unspoken requirement for every rock critic in America to have two or three copies certainly helped it crawl across the gelt line. More proof that every music trend that seems “dangerous” during its heyday, looks like a basketful of kittens in the rearview mirror.

3. “The Boys Are Back in Town,” Thin Lizzy. Drink will flow. Blood will spill.

4. “Couldn’t Get it Right,” Climax Blues Band. These U.K. blokes were originally called the Climax Chicago Blues Band, which either means that they weren’t enamored with Stafford, England or that they really loved deep dish pizza. Proving that bands are now corporations that cannot be killed, the Climax Blues Band continues to gig, with no original members or musicians that performed on their ‘70s hits.

5. “Dazz,” Brick. Brick was an Atlanta dance/funk band that had some interesting titling practices. The merged “disco” and “jazz” for the title “Dazz” and took this ecstatic rump shaker to #3 on the pop charts. Their next single was titled, this one really hurts, “Dusic.”

6. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” AC/DC. AC/DC separated themselves from the typical ‘70s thud rock, riff bashers, by incorporating a sense of humor into their image and music. Not to say they were Shakespearean in their wit, but Bon Scott always kept the proceedings from getting too sober, in every way possible. “Dirty Deeds” was inspired by the cartoon “Beany and Cecil,” which featured a villainous character that was always ready for a shady deal. Don’t we all need this kind of help in our lives?

7. “Disco Inferno,” The Trammps. The Trammps specialized in delayed gratification. Their song “Hold Back the Night” was released in 1973, was re-released in 1975, and finally hit the Top 40 charts in 1976. Likewise, “Disco Inferno” was released in 1976 and was a dance hit in 1977. The band’s satisfaction then came with a chain reaction. After being included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, “Disco Inferno” became a #11 pop hit and is one of the most recognizable songs of the disco era. Burn, baby. Burn.

8. “Final Solution,” Pere Ubu. The Cleveland avant-garde garage band made their mark quickly with interesting, and sometimes disturbing music, like “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” “Heart of Darkness,” and “Final Solution.” The former Crocus Behemoth sounds like he’s agonizing over something much more significant than ill fitting pants.

9. “Golden Ring,” George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Bobby Braddock regularly penned major hits for George and Tammy (to include “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” and “We’re Not the Jet Set”). On this #1 country hit, a wedding ring is tracked from a pawn shop to a wedding through the breakup and back to the pawn shop. George and Tammy’s own six year marriage had already dissolved by the time they were picking up this song’s royalty checks.

10. “Griselda,” The Unholy Modal Rounders. Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber formed the Holy Modal Rounders in the early ‘60s, but Stampfel (an endlessly endearing eccentric who is still releasing relevant music) lost his religion on the 1976 cult classic Have Moicy! album. On “Griselda,” a jug of wine and a moonlit night provide inspiration for a wilderness tryst. Every lad should find a young woman that inspires the line, “If we’re caught, I’ll marry you tomorrow.”

11. “Long May You Run,” The Stills-Young Band. CSNY were having too many disagreements to work together in ’76, so Stills and Young put out a record and did a short tour, before Neil quickly decided he couldn’t love the one he was with. This folksy ode to Young’s first car, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse, was built for endurance. Nice Beach Boys reference, as well.

12. “Love is the Drug,” Roxy Music. Roxy had a string of hit singles and gold albums in the U.K., but are known primarily for this one minor hit about red light districts and one night stands in America. Stop whatever you are doing at the moment and give John Gustafson a hearty round of applause for his unforgettable bassline.

13. “More, More, More.” Andrea True Connection. Andrea True had a minor role in the 1973 film The Way We Were, but was best known (not by me) as a lapsed Catholic girl turned porn star before the pop success of “More, More, More.” After her recording career ended, she worked as a psychic, perhaps knowing in advance that Len would sample her classic disco hit for their equally radiant “Steal My Sunshine.”

14. ”P Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” Parliament. The mothership connection arrived in 1976 with Parliament, having been joined by Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, dropping atomic bombs like this monster and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).” One can only imagine how much George Clinton’s insane funk posse would have scared/scarred middle America if MTV had existed in the mid-‘70s.

15. “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” Warren Zevon. Zevon was a well connected guy in the ‘70s – Jackson Browne, Lindsey Buckingham, Phil Everly, Don Henley, David Lindley, Stevie Nicks, and Bonnie Raitt all contributed to his ’76 eponymous album. Linda Ronstadt had a Top 40 hit with “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” in 1977, but couldn’t match the droll content of Zevon’s bar fly that asked for a beating.

16. “Saturday Night,” The Bay City Rollers. These Scottish chaps cut through the mid-‘70s disco din to top the U.S. pop charts in January of ’76 with this flawless slice of bubblegum pop. The song had stiffed in Britain in 1973 and was re-released in late ‘75 with the original vocal track by Nobby Clark, who unwisely left the band right before they became a U.K. hit machine.

17. “Shake Some Action,” Flamin’ Groovies. “Shake Some Action” stands alone on top of “POWER POP MOUNTAIN,” eternally sneering at every feeble effort by The Beat and The Plimsouls and the Posies and Teenage Fanclub to dethrone it. This track has been superbly described by Mark Deming of the All Music Guide who noted it was “tough, moody, wounded, and gloriously melodic all at once.”

18. “So It Goes,” Nick Lowe. On Stiff Records’ debut single, Nick pays homage to Kurt Vonnegut and bashes out a tuneful number about amputations, power struggles, and potential war. And, so it goes.

19. “Turn the Beat Around,” Vicki Sue Robinson. With the rat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat on the drums, actress and singer Vickie Sue Robinson scored a #1 dance hit in ’76 with this statement that rhythm is king. Pop fame was fleeting for this disco one hit wonder. Less than ten years after blanketing the airwaves with “Turn the Beat Around,” she recorded “Grab Them Cakes” with WWF wrestler The Junkyard Dog.

20. “Wake Up, Everybody (Part I),” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. McFadden and Whitehead of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” fame were two of the songwriters of this #1 soul hit and Teddy Pendergrass handled the lead vocal duties. The lyrical theme of the urgent need for community activism will never lose its relevance.

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