March 2015

220px-The_Roaring_Silence#6 – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded By The Light” – (1976)

Originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen (it was his first-ever single in ’73), “Blinded by the Light” was turned into a classic rock staple by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The group was formed in 1971 even though Manfred Mann (the person) had been in bands like Manfred Mann (the band) since 1962. The lyrics are a bit different in this version versus the original and it’s one of the most misheard lyrics of all time (the “revved up like a deuce” part). This was also a #1 on the Hot 100.

Al_Stewart-Year_of_the_Cat_(album_cover)#7 – Al Stewart – “Year of the Cat” – (1976)

This quirky song starts of with nice piano before being joined with a kind of funky pop beat. One thing I really like about it is its references to Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre –  it really sets the tone of some faraway place and time. This was Scotland’s Al Stewart’s biggest hit. A great use of this song was in what is probably the best scene in the otherwise “meh” film Running With Scissors (I don’t have a link to it, sorry!).

Englanddan4#8 – England Dan & John Ford Coley – “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” – (1976)

“Hello, yeah it’s been a while…” is the opening lyric and is actually a one-sided phone conversation. This is a soft rock classic and fun fact: England Dan was actually the younger brother of the Seals half of Seals & Crofts. This only made it to #2 on the Hot 100, but it’s easily one of the best songs of 1976.

220px-Songs_in_the_key_of_life#9 – Stevie Wonder – “Isn’t She Lovely” – (1976)

This is one of Stevie Wonder’s best songs. Undoubtedly a love song, this song is actually about his daughter and her birth. At one point, he says “isn”t she lovely, less than one minute old.” I like to think that Stevie wrote this song within the first minute of her birth and there was some chaotic scene playing out in the delivery room. Probably not. But it’s still great.

Maxine_Nightingale_Where_we_started_from#10 – Maxine Nightingale – “Right Back Where We Started From” – (1976)

Maxine Nightingale, who was actually from London, recorded this smash hit in 1976. The pulsating disco beat and superbly-delivered lyrics make this one of the best disco songs ever. It only was able to get to #2 on the Hot 100 – but that’s not too bad for a song that was reportedly written in only seven minutes.

Firefall-album#11 – Firefall– “You Are The Woman” – (1976)

This flute-infused track was the biggest hit for Colorado-based Firefall. It peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 and is a soft rock marvel. The song is quite lighter than the rest of Firefall’s catalog (according to them) but it’s such a fluffy piece that’s just… well, nice.

night moves#12 – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band– “Night Moves” – (1976)

Theory: Bob Seger used to have poor self esteem. Why? Opening lyics here: “was a little too tall coulda used a few pounds.” There are other songs (like “Mainstreet”) where he tears himself down a little too. Anyway, this title track from Seger’s 1976 album – the best album he ever released, as it’s chock full of hits – is the best song on it. It ended up being a top five hit on the Hot 100. The music is perfect for the lyrics describing a high school love affair. It’s a great song.

bellamy#13 – The Bellamy Brothers – “Let Your Love Flow” – (1976)

Whoa, #13 on Friday the 13th. The Bellamy Brothers were a pop/country duo consisting of David and Homer Bellamy of Darby, Florida. This #1 hit was the biggest of their career by a good margin. Initially, Neil Diamond was offered the song (as it was written by one of his roadies) but he declined and the Bellamy Brothers took it all the way to the top. It’s a good song, but very 1976.

220px-Aerosmith_-_Rocks#14 – Aerosmith– “Back in the Saddle” – (1976)

“Back in the Saddle” was, with the exception of their cover of the Beatles “Come Together,” the last major hit for Aerosmith until they revived their career in the late 1980s with songs like “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).” The song cracked the top 40 (just barely) on the Hot 100 and is really the band’s heaviest major single.

flylike#15 – Steve Miller Band – “Rock’n Me” – (1976)

Here is one of Steve Miller’s best tracks. It was a Hot 100 #1 and a good example of that weird type of rock music that blends in some Americana, namely in the form of city mentioning here (sort of like the Eagles’ “Take it Easy”). It was released right in the middle of a stream of awesome hits from Miller.

220px-The_Royal_Scam_album_cover#16 – Steely Dan – “Don’t Take Me Alive” – (1976)

This Steely Dan song wasn’t even an official single. The lyrics have a Butch Cassidy-type story going on, but the way they are sung is what sells this track for me. It’s jazzy, it’s funky and it’s slick. The album this appears on, The Royal Scam, features backing vocals from Michael McDonald and Timothy B. Schmidt. So it’s no wonder the vocals are great.

220px-A_Day_at_the_Races_(Queen)#17 – Queen – “Somebody to Love” – (1976)

A Day at the Races was Queen’s second consecutive album to be named after a Marx Brothers film. This is easily the best song from the album and also it’s first single and biggest hit (reaching #13 on the Hot 100). It has that signature Queen vocal layering that builds momentum as the song progresses. That vocal layering gives it a gospel feeling, which is apt as this was written with strong influences of Aretha Franklin.

The_Doobie_Brothers_-_Takin'_It_to_the_Streets#18 – The Doobie Brothers – “It Keeps You Runnin’” – (1976)

This Doobie Brothers classic was written by lead singer Michael McDonald and features his silky smooth blue-eyed soul voice. The Doobie Brothers spot on this list came down between this and “Takin’ It To The Streets.” I picked this one for the great vocals and funky Steely Dan-esque groove it has.