It’s time for another one of our guest CHART ATTACK! posts – and I’m truly psyched to feature a Top 10 rundown from none other than Beau Dure, the man behind Mostly Modern Media. It was about two years ago when Mike turned me on to Beau’s writing, and I’ve been addicted ever since. I especially love his live-blogging adventures, and he’s convinced me that I must absolutely see Blue Man Group when they tour again. Beau requested I throw him something from ’76, and the man chose wisely. Away we go!
I love the ’70s, and not in the sense that VH1 loves them as fodder for alleged humor by alleged humorists such as The Modern Humorist and Mo Rocca. I love them because I was alive for most of them, and that tended to shape my musical sensibility.
Sure, I went through a grand awakening when my middle-school years coincided with my purchase of a boombox and our cable company giving me my MTV. But like all kids, before I could run on my own, I walked holding my parents’ hands. I heard Beatles and Bob Dylan records. I didn’t buy anything of my own until Blondie’s "Eat to the Beat," but music was a constant presence in our house. In the old station wagon, I stared out the back, looking up at the stars and listening to "Blinded by the Light" and "Moonlight Feels Right," wondering "what the hell does any of this stuff mean?"
So as Marty DiBergi said about music to which you could not actually boogie, let’s boogie. Sept. 4, 1976 …
10. This Masquerade – George Benson Amazon iTunes
9. Lowdown – Boz Scaggs Amazon iTunes
8. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John & Kiki Dee Amazon iTunes
7. A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band Amazon iTunes
6. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry Amazon iTunes
5. (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty – KC & The Sunshine Band Amazon iTunes
4. I’d Really Love To See You Tonight – England Dan & John Ford Coley Amazon iTunes
3. Let ‘Em In – Wings Amazon iTunes
2. You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine – Lou Rawls Amazon iTunes
1. You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees Amazon
10. This Masquerade – George Benson (download)
This was the one song I couldn’t place when Jason sent me the list. It sprang back into my head within a few seconds, though I’d never put "George Benson," "This Masquerade" and the trademark guitar-doubling-vocal treatment together in one thought. Like everyone else, "George Benson" is mapped to two items in my head … "On Broadway" and "smooth jazz."
Yet this, not middle-school "jazz" band favorite "On Broadway," was Benson’s breakthrough, taking the Grammy for Record of the Year. The Wikipedians tell us it was the first song to top the pop, jazz and R&B charts. The rock charts apparently were preoccupied with … well, something.
Benson won a few more Grammys over the next few years, then endured a 23-year drought until taking TWO in 2006. Some sort of collaboration with Al Jarreau and Jill Scott.
Jason thinks this sounds a bit like Stevie Wonder. I think it sounds like Jamiroquai.
9. Lowdown – Boz Scaggs
I think Boz Scaggs and I had the same English teacher. That’s the only reason I know he started playing music with Steve Miller.
But while Miller had decades of hit songs with lyrics fresh from the "I don’t know — I just needed a three-syllable word" school, Scaggs had basically five good years, starting and peaking here. The album "Silk Degrees" hit #2 on the main chart and #6 on "Black Albums," which is a bit of a surprise since neither Scaggs nor the album is black. (Source: AllMusic. The #1 Black Album of all time, of course, is "Smell the Glove.")
"Lowdown" is Scaggs’ only Top 10 hit — "Lido Shuffle," also from "Silk Degrees," stalled at #11 — making it all the way to #3. You may not recognize the name, but you know the groove, supplied by the Toto rhythm section of Jeff Porcaro and David Hungate. This bizarre performance clip will remind you.
The groove is gold, the tune is complex and cool. Check the video and the tab for:
– Vague blues-style cautionary lyrics, which Scaggs scats over the chords
– Intro: Em9, A13 (flute enters third time). The instrumental break has chords that look like a cat walked across the keyboard. Seriously, F#m7-5/C?? WTF#??
This — and Benson’s tune — were smooth jazz before it degenerated into Kenny G, taking the musical complexity of jazz and putting it in a pop format. We should have more music like this.
And yet if you enter "Lowdown" in Wikipedia, you get some old Chicago song.
8. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John & Kiki Dee
Want some painfully awkward video magic? Check out Kiki Dee in this clip …
"Hey! Where’s this guy dragging me? Where am … hey! He’s Elton John! What does he want from me? Oh, should I sing? OK — THINK, Kiki, think! What’s a good reply to ‘don’t go breaking my heart’? Maybe ‘I couldn’t if I tried’? Hey, that’s good! Maybe I’ll dance a little! Oh, he’s pulling me back to the mike — I guess I should sing more. …
"(2:30) What the … did Elton just kiss my overalls? And now what? We’re line-dancing? OK, try to keep up. They’re apparently filming this. But it’ll just be between me and Elton, right?"
So remember this the next time you’re inclined to dis Stevie Wonder or Prince for excessive meddling in his proteges’ careers.
7. A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band (download)
One classic piece of vinyl sitting somewhere at my dad’s house is "Saturday Night Fiedler." No, that’s not a typo. The cover has Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler in a disco pose, though at his age, that one step forward could easily have been planted in a grave.
By the time I declared myself a music major a decade and change after disco, classical musicians were no longer sitting alongside drummers figuring out new syncopation styles on the hi-hat. That’s a pity, though in a music department that had medieval instruments pouring out of a closet while requiring tympani players (including yours truly) to lug "the big one" between the rehearsal hall and auditorium, we wouldn’t have been able to replicate any of that.
We’ll leave that to the pros. Like Sean Hayes, who did an impressive rendition in his "Saturday Night Live" monologue. Couldn’t find video, but I found one guy who thinks Meco did this song. No, no. Meco added disco to Star Wars, Star Trek and The Wizard of Oz.
Walter Murphy was a 23-year-old prodigy already working on The Tonight Show at this time. You know him today as the guy who does the terrific songs for Family Guy. He won an Emmy in 2002 for "You’ve Got a Lot To See," the majestic romp through history Brian sings to the old recluse as he’s talking her out of her house.
6. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
If you’re ever despondent about the relative states of good and evil in today’s world, consider this — when Vanilla Ice ripped off this legitimate classic, Wild Cherry dragged his butt to court and got a nice settlement.
Is it irony that few actual funk songs have funkier hooks than this one?
5. (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty – KC & The Sunshine Band
Three good things came from this song:
– KC milked a little bit more of out the "That’s the Way I Like It" groove. (Seriously — sing both choruses at the same time — "That’s the way, uh huh, uh shake your booty …") That’ll help pay the 472 members of the Sunshine Band.
– The Frank Zappa album title Sheik Yerbouti
– Conversations that started with "Mom? What’s a booty?"
4. I’d Really Love To See You Tonight – England Dan & John Ford Coley
The only thing I can add to the Mellow Gold entry is that I always thought that line was "I’m not talking ’bout Meridian." As in Meridian, Miss. Even at that age, I was a geography nerd. And I always pictured England Dan wearing a big hat like the Cat in the Hat, for reasons I can’t recall.
3. Let ‘Em In – Wings
Sure, everyone agrees music suffered when Lennon’s acerbic wit was no longer a counterbalance to McCartney’s sunny benevolence, and this song proves the point. But isn’t it strange that a band so freaking huge in the ’70s has been completely forgotten? Sure, none of the throngs at Wings concerts circa 1976 were screaming for Denny Laine, but this band has disappeared from the McCartney bio like a key moment in the Nixon White House tapes. (Hey, we’re talking ’70s, aren’t we?)
Wings occasionally rocked. Not here. It’s McCartney’s cabaret/show-tune music with piano and occasional horns, producing interesting but unfortunately bland songs since 1967.
2. You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine – Lou Rawls
And you’ll never find another vocal hook like this, or another baritone like his. And R&B may never find a better decade than this, though Weird Al has had fun plundering the 21st century catalog for priceless parodies.
Fun AllMusic fact on Rawls: He was pronounced dead after an auto accident with Sam Cooke. He lived another 48 years.
1. You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
Scene: A Duke University classroom, 2030, Prof. Dure’s class on philosophy and music (yes, those were my majors. I am all kinds of useless.)
"And so in a belated response to Kant’s categorical imperative, we turn the philosophers Gibb, also known as the Bee Gees. Their response was what kind of imperative?"
(No response, as all the kids are busy on Facebook)
"Again, a what imperative?
(One kid finally looks up.) "A disco imperative?"
"Correct. And the disco imperative was well-received at first, but when the citizenry realized dancing was not a substitute for a moral system derived from social norms, they rushed to embrace Ayn Rand’s philosophy."
"Get it? Rush? Ayn Rand? Never mind … on to our comparison of John Stuart Mill and John Cougar Mellencamp …"
You’ve probably guessed I have nothing to say about this song. It’s a decent disco tune with a good bass line, released at a time when the Bee Gees were pretty much printing money. But I didn’t want to end with a shrug.
Thanks to Jason — everyone stop by to see me at Mostly Modern Media (yeah, I know the URL says "music" instead of "media" — I changed my mind but not my URL) or read my soccer stories in America’s largest color newspaper.
What an unbelievable job – give it up for Beau, everybody, for not only stepping in at the last minute but for attackin’ the charts like a champ! As he mentioned, be sure to add Mostly Modern Media to your must-read list – and we’ll see you all back here next week for another CHART ATTACK!