Posts Tagged ‘Southern Nights’

April 30, 1977: Even at my young age – a mere 11 years and 10 months – I knew enough to note the momentous event of the date in my rarely used desk diary: legendary Bruno Sammartino lost the WWWF championship to the colorful and flamboyant Superstar Billy Graham! 

Over the prior two years – less, actually – I’d become a big fan of the “sport.” When we returned from Saudi Arabia in the summer of ’75, after a near 5-year spell, I was a few months shy of 10. I was totally out of the loop on current American everything. I didn’t know anything about baseball, basketball, football or hockey, color TV, TV shows, popular music, or anything else. Oh, I knew about Mighty Mouse – the only Saudi TV station played those cartoons, along with a variety of other American and British shows, most of which were older than I was. Returning to the States was a bit like getting tossed into the deep end of the culture pool – all I could do was flail around and pray not to drown. One thing that I grabbed hold of: pro wrestling. The colorful characters, the drama and violence grabbed hold of my young imagination. I watched the syndicated shows that aired every weekend, bought and read the wrestling magazines, and slowly, ever-so-slowly, came to realize that “sport” wasn’t totally on the up-and-up.

I thought of that earlier this month when it was announced that Bruno had passed away at the age of 82. He was a good man, a great champion – but not my favorite wrestler. That was…yep, you guessed it: the Superstar! The excitement of learning he had won the coveted championship belt is evident in my scrawl, I think.

Beyond pro ‘rassling, as I now call it, I was often glued to the TV…though pop music was gradually infiltrating my world. The previous week, I picked up the Monkees’ Greatest Hits; and, by year’s end, I’d also own The Osmonds’ Greatest Hits, the soundtrack to The Spy Who Loved Me, and a few Elvis Presley LPs. But, back to TV: I watched almost everything ABC, including the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries on Sunday, The Captain & Tennille Show every Monday night, and the Brady Bunch Variety Hour when it aired in the same slot; Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Eight Is Enough on Tuesdays; Welcome Back, Kotter on Thursdays; and Donny & Marie every Friday.

I’ve written a fair bit about this year before, so won’t dredge up the same stats here. (And now that I’ve looked them over, there is some overlap in the chart hits…but rest assured that the renditions featured here are different than the ones there, wherever there may be.) To revisit those past entries, along with everything else 1977-related I’ve written, go here. 

And, with that out of the way, onward to today’s Top 5: April 30th, 1977 (via Weekly Top 40).

1) Glen Campbell – “Southern Nights.” The No. 1 single in the land this week was this joyous tune from the Rhinestone Cowboy. Written by the legendary Allen Toussaint, it conjures the magic of childhood memories, star-lit nights and family. 

2) Eagles – “Hotel California.” From Glen’s moony optimism to the Eagles’ bitter cynicism in one slot…how’s that for summing up the ‘70s? “You can check out anytime you like/but you can never leave.”

3) Thelma Houston – “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” Say what you will about disco, but know this: There were plenty of great – and I do mean great – singles that came out of the genre. This is one of them. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert, the song was originally recorded by Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes in 1975, and hit No. 3 on the disco charts. This version? It went to No. 1 on the disco and pop charts – though, this week, it dropped from that top spot to No. 3.

4) Leo Sayer – “When I Need You.” Rising to No. 4 from No. 9 is this song from bushy-haired Leo Sayer, of whom I know little. In fact, I’ve never knowingly heard any Sayer recording until this very moment, while writing this sentence. (And now that I have, I don’t feel compelled to seek out his other hits.) Anyway, this song was written by Albert Hammond and Carole Bayer Sager, and was first released by Hammond in 1976; and was later covered by Rod Stewart, Celine Dion and Luther Vandross, among others. 

5) Natalie Cole – “I’ve Got Love on My Mind.” Rising to No. 5 from No. 6 is this treatise on love (or should I say L-O-V-E?), which was written and produced by Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy. True story: in 1990 or early ’91, prior to her Unforgettable comeback, Diane and I, and some friends, bought tickets to see Ray Charles with Natalie Cole at the now-defunct Valley Forge Music Fair. Ray was supposed to be the headliner, but due to a hiccup in her travel plans, he went on first…which meant the friends, who purposely arrived late to miss Ms. Cole’s set, wound up missing Ray! (Worse: She screeched most of the night, and the venue slowly emptied out as she sang. It was sad.)

And two bonuses…

6) Yvonne Elliman – “Hello Stranger.” Rising to No. 24 from 33 is Yvonne’s smoky rendition of the classic Barbara Lewis hit.

7) Henry Mancini & His Orchestra – “(Theme From) Charlie’s Angels.” Jumping from No. 51 to 45 is this, one of the week’s “power plays,” as kitsch a hit as I’ve ever heard – without the opening montage of Angels, it just doesn’t pack much of a punch. (And, no, I didn’t miss Charlie’s Angels on the list of ABC shows I watched above – I didn’t start watching until Season 2.)

Where has the time gone?! It seems just like yesterday that I was a studious sixth-grader (yes, that’s me to the left) successfully navigating the rigors of academia at Loller Middle School, the first of the Hatboro-Horsham school district’s two middle schools (6th-7th grades; 8th-9th grades). I was on my way to achieving the Honor Roll yet again on this day 40 years ago, and would continue to do so until 8th or 9th grade, when I ran into problems with math. X plus Y equals what?!

According to my old report card, my homeroom teacher was Miss Goldeman – but, sad to say, I have no memories of her beyond a vague feeling that she may have been an art teacher. In fact, I have few in-school memories of any kind from that spring. I do remember a fire drill that found us kids lined up outside on a dreary day for what seemed like forever, but it could well have been the previous fall or sometime during the next school year; regardless, it turned out that it wasn’t a fire drill but a locker search. (The only thing they would have found in mine: gum.) I watched far too much TV, and read and collected pro wrestling magazines.

One book that I read around this time: The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins, about a Nazi plot to kidnap Winston Churchill. I remember that because I decided I wanted to read it after seeing the film of the same name, which was released in the States on April 2nd.

In the wider world: Jimmy Carter was president. Unemployment was high at 7.2 percent, but on a downward slope; and inflation was unseemly, too, at 7.0 percent. No president deserves acclaim or blame for the economy three months into their first term, of course; their policies have yet to be implemented, and even if they have, it takes time for those changes to reverberate beyond the bureaucracy. So I’ll save my criticisms of Carter for another day.

As I write, the temperature outside is 69.6 degrees, the sun is out and few clouds dot the blue, blue sky. It’s a beautiful day. This day in 1977, a Saturday, wasn’t quite as nice: though the sun was out, the high peaked at a mere 48 degrees. The low was 25. We likely visited one or both sets of grandparents, or the great-aunts & uncle, as that’s what we did most weekends.

In the sports world, the Flyers, who racked up a 48-16-16 record during the regular season, were two days away from beginning their first-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’d lose the first two games before winning four straight, but were then swept in the next round by the Boston Bruins. The 76ers, in the penultimate game of their season, defeated the Washington Bullets 125-93, improving their record to 50-31; they’d make their way to the NBA Finals—and lose to the Portland Trailblazers. The other team in town, the Phillies, began their season with a 4-3 lose to the Montreal Expos.

Anyway, enough of the preamble. Here’s today’s Top 5: April 9, 1977 (via Weekly Top 40)

1) Abba – “Dancing Queen.” Debuting at No 1 is this dollop of unadulterated pop, which some folks hate with a passion. Not me, though. It never fails to put me in a good mood.

2) David Soul – “Don’t Give Up On Us.” The No. 2 song of the week is this kitschy number from the actor better known as Richard “Hutch” Hutchinson on Starsky & Hutch. Along with Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” it was often a featured song on TV commercials for love-themed compilation LPs during the late ‘70s.

3) Thelma Houston – “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” Clocking in at No. 3: this disco tune from Ms. Houston, which would top out at No. 1 in a few weeks and earn her a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance.

4) Hall & Oates – “Rich Girl.” Falling from No. 1 to No. 4 is this classic from the blue-eyed soul duo, who met while students at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1967.

5) Glen Campbell – “Southern Nights.” Years ago, in my TV GUIDE days, I interviewed Campbell (via phone) for a Nashville Network special that he was in – and he was nothing but nice. Super nice, actually. He even sang snippets of different songs to me, including Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay.” Of this song, this week it jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 and was on its way to No. 1.

And two bonuses:

6) The Steve Miller Band – “Fly Like an Eagle.” I don’t believe I ever bought anything by Steve Miller. I never felt the need. Not because his songs weren’t catchy or good, but because they were played so often on Philly radio stations that I came to know them like the back of my hand. Of this song: Having already hit No. 2 a month a change earlier, this week it held steady at No. 13 for a second week.

7) Rod Stewart – “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” The No. 22 song this week is this classic, which many folks, nowadays, consider a Sheryl Crow song. And while I love her version, I can’t help but to shriek a little inside when she’s credited for the Cat Stevens-penned tune, which was a U.K. hit for P.P. Arnold in 1967 and, a decade later, a sizable hit for Rod Stewart in the U.S.