Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Music Years Of My LIfe: 1976

This was the year.  1976.  Many things happened that birthed my love of music in 1976.  We had two AM Top 40 radio stations on the Monterey Peninsula.  Every week, both published a Top singles weekly chart.  There wasn't much difference between the two, but I picked them up whenever I had a chance.  These charts proved handy, because I still hadn't read a copy of Billboard.  Interesting note:  one of those stations would give away the weekly Top 10 if you were the lucky caller and could name them.  I happened to win twice.

At this stage I knew all about the Billboard charts because I listened to Casey Kasem's American Top 40.  We moved to California in 1975.  Before that AT40 was on the Armed Forces Network in Germany.  I heard it every week.  But when we moved that became more of a chore.  The only station that played the show was in San Francisco, and my radio had problems picking up its signal.  Still, I did the best I could.  I'd often catch the show at different points, but I always listened as long as I could.  And I kept a journal where I wrote down as many of the hits I would hear every week.  But it wouldn't be until the summer of '77 until I got my hands on a copy of Billboard.  I've been an off and now on again subscriber ever since. It was the first magazine I ever subscribed to (until Rolling Stone in 1978).

In 1976 I'm twelve years old and AM radio was the only frequency I visited.  I knew of FM radio.  We had a local Gospel/Soul channel on FM that my sister would check out. It would play R&B hits you never heard on the Pop charts.  It was another ear-opener.  And she also listened to an FM station out of San Jose that would play the latest hits. But on my own, I was still an AM listener.

I should also point out how important American Bandstand and Soul Train were to my musical upbringing.  Both came on back-to-back on Saturday mornings.  I would catch them when possible, when not playing sports or doing something else.  Soul Train was the bigger revelation, since they showed and played records that didn't always cross over to the Pop charts. 

But one night I was flipping through the AM dial and came upon an Album countdown show.  The only way I knew of the best selling albums was through my local paper, which published the weekly Billboard Top 20 albums and singles.  The show was called the National Album Countdown, a weekly Top 30, and it had just launched in '76 (ran until '85).  Because of my paper's Top albums list, I knew of these albums, and most had singles in the Top 40.  But there were others.  Names I didn't know like Bob Marley, Jeff Beck, a Bob Seger live album, Led Zeppelin's Presence.  What was this and why haven't I heard of any of it?  I still hung on to AM radio even after this revelation, but I finally figured out what FM radio was all about.  It would be a few years before I started listening to AOR, but that barely remembered Countdown show would make my Hall of Fame of syndication.
 And little did I know then, but I was hearing the future of Classic Rock radio.  In 1976 radio was filled with Peter Frampton, Boston, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller, Heart, ELO,  Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, Queen, Steely Dan, Eagles, Aerosmith, etc. 

Yet, every thing that happened during this year had a bearing on how I became a music junkie:  winning the Top 10 weekly singles, the AM radio countdown sheets, that lone R&B station in my town,  my continued pursuit of American Top 40, the National Album Countdown.

What all of this did was shape my eclectic listening tastes that I now have.  It was a glorious musical year.  A Bicentennial year also. But my love of AM Top 40 was birthed in 1976.  Which is why I still love most of the chart hits from the last Golden Age of Top 40 radio.  The 1970's.

For those of you on Spotify, I've put together a playlist of my favorite songs of 1976:
1976 Spotify Playlist

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