ALBUM CHART HISTORY
Researched and written by Sharon Mawer
For the past two years, Greatest Hits compilations of a single artist had been the best selling albums of the year, The Carpenters in 1974 and The Stylistics in 1975, but it was in 1976 that the genre really came into its own. With 93 albums hitting the top 10 throughout the year, 26 of these were compilations of previous hit singles, whether they were reasonably recent artists, such as Abba with the best seller of the year or really old product from long forgotten artists like Slim Whitman.
Abba were quite proud of their entry onto the world music scene via The Eurovision Song Contest and they went a step further than most of the European winners of the show, releasing not only one, but two albums in the UK, neither of which reached the top 10. The result of Benny Andersson from the group the Hepstars and Bjorn Ulvaeus from The Hootenanny Singers, two Swedish folk groups coming together with their respective girlfriends AnniFrid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog, Abba were named after their initials and entered the Eurovision song contest in 1973 with the song Ring Ring but they didn't get past the Swedish heats stage. Not winning was the kiss of death for European acts attempting to break the English speaking markets of Britain and America, but the following year, they submitted the song Waterloo which won the contest overall. Like most Eurovision winners before them, the hits dried up after Waterloo topped the chart and they only managed a couple of minor hits, a re-issue of Ring Ring and a track from their follow up album, I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do. Then surprisingly 18 months later, the hits began again with the release of SOS and even a second number one single Mama Mia. It was very early in their career therefore to be releasing a Greatest Hits album but in 1976, they did just that and it worked. Featuring Waterloo, Mama Mia, SOS and the new single Fernando along with 8 tracks from the first two albums which were not released as singles, Abba Greatest Hits hit no.1 on the 8th of May and remained there for nine weeks until July, returning for a further two weeks at the end of October.
Earlier in the year, United Artists records had looked through their roster and considered the possibility of TV advertising a Greatest Hits of Slim Whitman, a yodelling, country singer with a few successful hit singles in the mid 1950s, including the song Rose Marie, still the record holder at that time, on the singles chart with eleven consecutive weeks at no.1. Slim Whitman, born in Tampa in 1924 with the real name Otis Dewey Whitman Jr. he was influenced in his musical style by country singer Jimmie Rodgers but his career in music did not get started until after the war when he was discharged from the US Navy, serving in the Pacific. He had made a brief comeback in 1974 with the song Happy Anniversary and had charted an album for the first time, albeit only reaching no.44, but in February this year, The Very Best Of Slim Whitman, helped by an extensive advertising campaign on TV, climbed to no.1 for six weeks, ending the year as the seventh biggest album.
Other more recent artists to enjoy the success of a hits collection in 1976 included The Eagles, David Bowie and Diana Ross, all peaking in the runner up position and Hot Chocolate and Gladys Knight & Pips both hitting no.6. The Eagles with just one top 10 album previously, hit no.2 for four weeks in March and April with one of the all time best selling albums worldwide. David Bowie with eight previous top 10 albums, hit no.2 in July with Changesonebowie, his third no.2 album. Diana Ross was no.2 in September with Greatest Hits vol.2.
The Eagles greatest hits was a 10 track collection which ran through their career highlights to date starting with Take it Easy and Witchy Woman and going through to last year's Best Of My Love, Lyin Eyes and One Of These Nights and even this year's Take It To The Limit. Changesonebowie was also a round up of his career, but with only eleven tracks, it was more notable for the missing hits. Opening with his 1969 hit and re-issued no.1 from last year, Space Oddity and going through to the 1975 hits Fame and Golden Years, it also included John I'm Only Dancing, on an album for the first time. Diana Ross Greatest Hits vol 2 concentrated on her more recent hits including three from the current studio album Diana Ross, Love Hangover, Do You Know Where You're Going To (The Theme From Mahogany) and I Thought It Took A Little Time But Today I Fell In Love.
Hot Chocolate were a mixed race group led by Errol Brown, from Brixton but actually born in Jamaica. Their first single was a reggae version of Give Peace Of Chance which John Lennon liked so much, he signed them to the Apple label, but with the break up of the Beatles and Apple concentrating more on court cases than recording deals, they moved to Mickey Most's RAK label where they clocked up 14 hits between 1970 and 1976, all of which were included in strict chronological order on their first top 10 album.
Gladys Knight was born in Atlanta in 1944 and formed the group The Pips together with her brother and a couple of cousins. They signed to the Motown label and released a couple of minor hit singles in the UK during the 1960s including a very different, original version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine. It wasn't until the 1970s that the hits became more regular and after a label change to Buddah in 1975, they recorded the sort of songs that appealed to the mainstream British public including The Way We Were Try To Remember and Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, her first top 10 singles. Her first charting album just reached the top 20 and in mid June 1976 the new label put together a Greatest Hits package which included her hits on the label as well as some of her more recent hits from her Motown days, Midnight Train To Georgia and On And On.
Both Diana Ross and David Bowie also charted with regular studio albums in 1976, Diana Ross, no.4 with a self titled album in April, a different album to her previous one called Diana Ross back in 1970 and Bowie hitting no.5 In February with Station To Station. The second Diana Ross album was filled with new product including the contrasting hit singles from this year, the ballad Theme From Mahogany and the disco hit Love Hangover.
At first glance, Bowie fans may have thought they were being short changed by Station To Station containing just six tracks, but the shortest were the two singles Golden Years and TVC15. The title track coming in at over ten minutes long, opened with the sound of a steam train for almost the first of those minutes before the song ponderously moves into a further two minutes of intro and Bowie introduces the character the Thin White Duke and he then croons his way through the songs Word On A Wing, Stay and Wild Is The Wind, all at around six minutes each
With just one hit single each in the UK, Helen Reddy and John Denver hit the top 10 with Best Ofs. In the case of John Denver, he peaked at no.7 the first week of April, more than two years after the album first hit the charts. He also released his most successful album in the UK in 1976, hitting no.2 for five weeks in May and June with Live In London and in September, his third top 10 album of the year, Spirit reached no.9. Helen Reddy was born in Melbourne in 1941 and had been performing on Australian TV as a child star, even having her own series by the time she was a teenager. Moving to the USA in the mid 1960s, she became phenomenally successful in her adopted country with thee number one singles, the feminist anthem I Am Woman, Delta Dawn and Angie Baby as well as several other hits, I Don't Know How To Love Him, Aint No Way To Treat A Lady and Leave Me Alone Ruby Red Dress, but nothing charted in the UK until early in 1975, Angie Baby finally broke through to become her only real hit single of note. The Best Of Helen Reddy was released a year later and included all these tracks, peaking at no.5 the first week of March.
Live In London featured most of John Denver's favourites, Back Home Again, Grandma's Feather Bed, Thank God I'm A Country Boy, Calypso, Take Me Home Country Roads, Leavin On A Jet Plane and of course, Annie's Song. This was a much more up to date collection of John Denver's greatest songs than the by now, two year old Best Of album which only covered the period 1971-1974 and ended with his first US number one single Sunshine On My Shoulders. Nearly half the tracks on Spirit were written by John Denver as formulaic country songs and songs about home like Wrangle Mountain Song, Hitchhiker and The Wings That Fly Us Home, to compliment the traditional oldies San Antonio Rose, Polka Dots And Moonbeams and Whose Garden Was This. The album concludes with two most un-country like versions of Beatles songs Eleanor Rigby and Golden Slumbers.
With the success of the Slim Whitman album, many other record companies delved deep into their catalogues and released albums from artists who had ceased being a presence on the charts years ago, even if they had only recently had hits compilations out. The Everly Brothers had had seven top 10 singles on Warner Brothers between 1960 and 1965 and only in 1974 had they hit the album charts with a retrospective of their career. The timing and campaign were obviously better this year and they hit no.10 in April with Walk Right Back With The Everlys, an album concentrating on the Warner Brother hits and ignoring the London hits during the 1950s. A similar story could be told for Dean Martin and Gene Pitney, both of whom had left the top 10 in the 1960s, both had achieved a top 10 greatest hits in 1969 and both saw another version of basically the same albums hit the top 10 again in 1976.
Roy Orbison had never been higher than no.4 but he topped the chart on the last week of January this year when Arcade records released The Best Of. A 20 track history of his work between 1960, the first hit Only The Lonely and 1966's Lana and including all nine of his top 10 hits between. Having vacated the top spot, he then sat at no.2 for six weeks behind the Slim Whitman album.
The Who had had an almost unbroken string of hit singles since 1965 and in October this year they hit no.2 with The Story Of The Who, a double album with 27 tracks that strangely for such a supposed comprehensive compilation and their first Greatest Hits, began at My Generation, missing the early hits I Can't Explain and Anyway Anyhow Anywhere altogether before covering all the hit singles throughout the rest of the 1960s, a complete side of Tommy material, the early 1970s hits Baba O Reilly and Wont Get Fooled Again, completely ignoring Quadrophenia and ending with the most recent hit Squeeze Box from The Who By Numbers.
Two artists whose careers were mainly concentrated in the 1960s had made successful comebacks recently, Neil Sedaka and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Both had compilation hits albums in 1976, Neil Sedaka peaking at no.2 for three weeks with Laughter And Tears The Best Of Neil Sedaka Today and The Four Seasons hitting no.4 in December.
Neil Sedaka was born in New York in 1939 and began more as a songwriter in collaboration with Howard Greenfield, a poet he had been introduced to while at high school. One of their first successful compositions was Stupid Cupid, recorded by Connie Francis. The following year, he finally charted a couple singles of his own I Go Ape and Oh Carol. He enjoyed a further five top 10 singles up to 1962 and continued to write songs for other artists throughout the decade. Sedaka had not been near the charts between 1963 and 1972 but when RCA re-issued Oh Carol/Breaking Up Is Hard To Do/Little Devil as a maxi single, it gave his chart career a whole new impetus and the hits began flowing again, albeit much bigger in the USA than in Britain where Beautiful You, That's When The Music Takes Me, Standing On The Inside, Our Last Song Together, A Little Lovin, Laughter In The Rain and The Queen of 1964 all charted but outside the top 10. All these tracks appeared on Laughter And Tears The Best Of Neil Sedaka Today along with his other big comeback US hits Bad Blood, The Hungry Years and Betty Grable as well as a new slow version of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.
The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli with the distinctive falsetto voice, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Joe Long were formed in the early 1960s in Newark. Taking their style from black doo-wop style close harmony groups, they began a string of hits in 1962 with Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like A Man, all American number one singles and were one of the few American vocal groups to survive the British invasion of the US charts in 1964. Never managing to place an album inside the UK top 10, they broke with tradition and became the only white group on the Motown label in the early 1970s. By then, Frankie Valli, born Francis Stephen Castelluccio had begun a simultaneous solo career without disbanding the Four Seasons. In the mid 1970s, both he and the group were hitting the charts regularly, Valli with the ballads My Eyes Adored You and Fallen Angel and the band with a re-issue of their Motown hit The Night and disco tracks Who Loves You, December 1963 Oh What A Night, their only number one and Silverstar, all of which were included on their first top 10 album compiled by K Tel.
The Stylistics had had the biggest selling album the previous year and their Greatest Hits vol 2 emulated its predecessor and also hit no.1, albeit for just one week in October. Almost immediately after the first volume of hits, The Stylistics changed their style from a soft soulful sound to songs with a disco beat. Volume two rounds up this era of their hits from Sing Baby Sing and includes their only number one single, Can't Give You Anything But My Love and their three top 10 singles from this year, Funky Weekend, Can't Help Falling In Love and Sixteen Bars.
Bert Weedon was a classically trained guitarist born in East Ham in 1920 and far too traditional and unfortunately, too old to make an impact when Rock n Roll hit the mainstream in the mid 1950s. However, via a book of instructional guitar playing, Play In A Day, he inspired a generation to pick up the instrument and learn to play. He had never been a great success in chart terms with just one top 10 hit single, 17 years ago with Guitar Boogie Shuffle, but Warwick records took 22 Golden Guitar Greats all the way to no.1 towards the end of November and the album remained in the top 10 throughout December, the peak selling period. 22 Golden Guitar Greats was exactly that, a list of guitar hits from the charts of the past 17 years including tracks originally by The Ventures, The Surfaris, Duane Eddy and Fleetwood Mac but mostly The Shadows.
With all the activity by various record companies, advertising their products on TV, EMI set up their own division to specialise in this area. Their first release, bearing the catalogue no. EMTV1 was The Beach Boys 20 Golden Greats which spent ten weeks at no.1 from mid July through until September and they ended 1976 with the 2nd biggest album of the year, despite already having had a different but obviously similar Best Of hit the top 5 in 1970 and three separate volumes of Greatest Hits all reaching the top 10 between 1966 and 1968. This album opened with their first hit Surfin USA and moved chronologically through all of their big hits from the 1960s, ending with Break Away at the end of the decade. This was an ideal release during one of the hottest summers in memory, perfect for Beach Boys music and even the tracks that were not hit singles in the UK, Fun Fun Fun, Don't Worry Baby, Little Deuce Coupe and Wouldn't It Be Nice were so well known, every track sounded like a hit when played on 20 Golden Greats.
The second release with the catalogue number EMTV2 was Glen Campbell, also titled 20 Golden Greats, which hit no.1 the last week of November and remained at the top for the rest of the year, ending 1976 as the fifth best selling album. Not an obvious choice for the second in this series as Campbell had only enjoyed nine hit singles since he first arrived with Wichita Lineman back in 1968 including the duet All I Have To Do Is Dream with Bobbie Gentry. On his own, he had never been higher than no.4 three times on the singles chart, most recently a year ago with Rhinestone Cowboy. Seven of the nine hits were included on the album, the only ones missing being the minor singles Everything A Man Could Ever Need and his cover version of Roy Orbison's Dream Baby. Rather than a country album, it was promoted as a collection of love songs, even down to the cover featuring an LP shaped like a heart with Campbell's photo on the label.
Apart from the compilations of Greatest Hits, two further albums reached no.1 during 1976, both of which owed a great deal to the power of television. With compilations now fully integrated back into the main album charts as opposed to the backwater of a separate mid price chart, K Tel took their latest release, Soul Motion to the top for two weeks in October and November. Hitting the top for three weeks in April and May was the soundtrack to the television program Rock Follies. Soul Motion was the latest in the line of successful albums by the specialist TV companies that concentrated on black music, R&B, Disco and soul following Superbad, Black Explosion and Souled Out. Soul Motion opened with one of the most up to date soul number one singles You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing and also included Barry White's You're The First The Last My Everything, Three Degrees When Will I See You Again and The Tymes' Ms Grace.
In 1976, it was still a novelty to have a female Rock n roll band but for six weeks on Thames TV, there was the fictional drama, telling the story of the group The Little Ladies, Julie Covington (Dee - Devonia Rhodes), Rula Lenska (Q - Nancy Cunard de Longchamps), and Charlotte Cornwell (Anna Ward) and the problems they faced as they began their journey from music business hopefuls into stardom. The music was controlled by Howard Schumann and Andy Mackay of Roxy Music and every song on the show was part of the story. One sour note was when Thames was sued by a real life trio of girls who performed in a band under the name Rock Bottom and sold the original idea to the TV company. When the show went ahead, Thames cast the actresses instead and when the original group sued for copyright damages, they were awarded £250,000.
TV advertised albums this year covered a variety of genres, Warwick's Instrumental Gold, K Tel's Music Express, Juke Box Jive and Disco Rocket all peaking at no.3, and their Hit Machine at no.4 and also in the top 10 were two country albums, Touch Of Country and Country Comfort, Motown Gold, 40 Super Greats compiled by K Tel and Ronco's compilation of current hits, Star Tracking 76.
Instrumental Gold which was at no.3 for five weeks in May and June, again showing that almost any album could be sold with the right campaign supported by advertising on TV featured some of the biggest instrumental hits from the past 25 years but by orchestras and bands that one would not normally associate with the hits, A Walk In The Black Forest by Ronnie Price, Moulin Rouge Theme-Jack Emblow, Stranger On The Shore and Petite Fleure-Keith Bird, Wonderful Land and Apache by Terry Walsh, Telstar-Mellotonics, Side Saddle-Gordon Langford and Popcorn by Steam Heat. The K Tel albums Music Express spent four weeks at no.3 in February and March and Disco Rocket peaked at no.3 in December, both reflecting a fair number of hits from the immediate six months prior to their release, Music Express concentrating on the hits prior to Christmas and Disco Rocket on the summer of 1976. Like last year's Disco Hits 75, there were a number of tracks that could not, even loosely, be described as disco, David Dundas-Jeans On, Manfred Mann's Earthband-Blinded By The Light, Pussycat-Mississippi, Smokie-I'll Meet You At Midnight and Randy Edelman's Uptown Uptempo Woman being obvious examples.
K Tel was undoubtedly the market leader in this form of TV marketing, their Juke Box Jive album included a range of hits between Carl Perkins-Blue Suede in 1956 and Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs-Wooly Bully in 1965, but also found room for Hank Mizell's Jungle Rock from earlier this year. Both the country albums featured a who's who of the country music scene from contemporary artists such as Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, Billy Swan, Dolly Parton and Buffe St Marie to older established stars, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Frankie Laine and Marty Robbins. Ronco were falling behind K Tel, mainly it seemed due to their product licencing. Their only top 10 compilation album was Star Tracking 76 which beat Music Express into the charts by one week, duplicating the tracks That's The Way I Like It and You Sexy Thing but only featured three top 10 singles hits among its 20 tracks, the other one being the Who-Squeeze Box.
Compilations of hits or TV advertised albums were at the top of the album charts for 41 weeks during 1976, not leaving many weeks for standard albums. Only six albums managed to reach the top this year including Queen's Night At The Opera which continued its run throughout January. For three weeks in March and April, Status Quo enjoyed their third no.1 album with Blue For You. Opening as one would expect with some heavy guitar chords moving into Is There A Better Way, a twelve bar blues number, but then Status Quo tracks were usually no more nor less than this. Most of the tracks could have been released as singles, but the two that were, were Rain and Mystery Song.
Rod Stewart was now on his sixth number one as Night On The Town hit the top in July. Led Zeppelin also achieved their sixth no.1 in April with Presence and by mid November they had their seventh as The Song Remains The Same topped the chart for one week.
Rod Stewart continued his policy on albums of recording one slow side and one fast side and like most of his albums, the slow side with its more emotional songs was the side that was more memorable. The highlights on the fast side were the cover of the song Pretty Flamingo and the track that Status Quo had a hit with at Christmas, The Wild Side Of Life, but the singles were all taken from the slow side, Tonight's The Night Gonna Be Alright, The First Cut Is The Deepest and The Killing Of Georgie, a six minute epic on the subject of the violent death of a gay man.
Presence contained just seven tracks opening with the ten minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the slow blues, nearly ten-minute Tea For One. The shortest track, Royal Orleans is one of the most effective as a guitar led heavy rock number. The Song Remains The Same was the group's only official live album and was a double album soundtrack to an accompanying film documentary of their most recent tour, featuring just nine tracks, five on disc one and four on disc two. Most of the tracks however were extended versions, Whole Lotta Love which closes disc two is over 14 minutes and loses its cohesion while the band jam for at least 9 of those minutes. A 12 minute version of No Quarter opens disc two but an even longer extended Dazed And Confused at nearly 27 minutes takes up the whole of the second side of disc one which at the four minute point becomes unrecognisable from the studio track on their first album.
Enjoying their one and only week on top in October was Dr Feelgood with Stupidity, a chart topping album based on a solid fanbase wth no need for a hit single. Lee Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, John Sparks and John Martyn formed Dr Feelgood in Canvey Island in the early 1970s and concentrated on playing solid Rhythm and Blues on the pub rock circuit before moving into a recording studio nearly four years later. Their third album, Stupidity which was a live album recorded during the previous year and was rock for a new generation who were crying out for a real guitar led band that didn't sell out to the commercialism of the singles chart.
Three artists stopping at no.2 during 1976 were Wings, Stevie Wonder and The Rolling Stones, all with US chart topping albums, Wings At The Speed Of Sound, Songs In The Key Of Life and Black And Blue.
After two consecutive number one albums, Paul McCartney & Wings stopped at no.2 with Wings At The Speed Of Sound behind Rock Follies, although they did spend 21 weeks inside the top 10. This was truly a group effort with Paul McCartney attempting to convince the world that Wings was a proper band, rather than just his new group. Denny Laine takes the lead vocal on The Note You Never Wrote and Time To Hide, Joe English on Must Do Something About It, Jimmy McCullough's on Wino Junko and even Linda takes the lead on Cook Of The House. The two major hit singles, Silly Love Songs and Let Em In, both sung by Paul, did however stand head and shoulders above the group efforts.
Stevie Wonder's most ambitious album, the double, Songs In The Key Of Life was also his most successful to date. Containing songs with the themes of love and relationships as well as social issues that Stevie Wonder took to heart. The song styles varied widely from the funky instrumental Confusion, Black Man and I Wish about his childhood and the jazz tribute to Duke Ellington, Sir Duke to the string quartet on Village Ghetto Land, Pastime Paradise also dealing with race relations to a classical background and If It's Magic, just a melodic vocal with a single harp playing along. The first single would have been Isn't She Lovely, Wonder's tribute to his new daughter, but at six and a half minutes long, the record company insisted it would have to be edited and Stevie Wonder would have none of that.
The Rolling Stones Black And Blue opens with the funky Hot Stuff and even has the band attempting reggae, albeit a little clumsily on Hey Negrita and a cover of Cherry Oh Baby, the only track not written by Jagger & Richards. Memory Motel and Fool To Cry are almost interchangeable ballads and either of them could have been the single lifted from this album.
Another artist finally reaching no.2 after more than two years from the album's first appearance on the charts was Demis Roussos with Forever And Ever. The summer of 1976 was good to Demis Roussos as he also hit no.4 with Happy To Be. Demis Roussos was not really Greek at all. He was born Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria Egypt in 1946 to Greek parents who returned home when he was a teenager. The young Demis Roussos who had been trained in a church choir, joined a local Greek band, Aphrodite's Child together with keyboard player Vangelis Papathanassiou. They released several albums in Europe during the late 1960s, none of which charted in the UK. Roussos began a solo career after the break up of the band in the early 1970s. With albums and singles selling well all over Europe, particularly in France where Aphrodite's Child had been based, he finally broke through in the UK with the single Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun. Known as much for his flowing robes and large frame as his quavering singing voice, an album called Happy To Be was quickly put together with the hit single as its centrepiece along with So Dreamy, This Time It Isn't Au Revoir, Mary Was An Only Child and other songs in his warbling style. At the beginning of the long hot summer when Greek holidays and flowing kaftans were on everybody's minds, Philips issued a four track EP of Roussos tracks called The Roussos Phenomenom which featured the tracks Sing An Ode To Love, So Dreamy from the Happy To Be album, My Friend The Wind and its lead track that received all the airplay, Forever And Ever. The single went all the way to no.1, the first four track EP ever to do so. The Forever And Ever album had been put together specifically for the British market in 1974 and had been bumping around the bottom positions on and off for nearly two years, never climbing higher than no.28. On the back of the success of the EP, the album was re-promoted and re-entered the top 10 chart on the 3rd of July, the same week as Happy To Be, becoming his most successful album, peaking as the runner up album for three weeks behind The Beach Boys 20 Golden Greats. Apart from the two tracks featured on the EP, Forever And Ever also included Lovely Sunny Days, Lost In A Dream, Velvet Mornings and Goodbye My Love Goodbye, all with a dreamy summer holiday feeling and a balalaika somewhere in the background.
Also with two albums charting in the top 10 during 1976 were Bob Dylan who hit no.3 in February with Desire and again in October with Hard Rain. The Bay City Rollers also hit no.3 in January with Wouldn't You Like It and peaked at no.4 in October with Dedication, their final appearance in the top 10. Elton John hit no.6 in May with Here And There Live In New York And London and no.3 in November with Blue Moves.
The shine was already beginning to fade from the star that was The Bay City Rollers, and 1975 would prove to be an impossible year to beat for the group. The band credit their influences by now as ELO and Peter Frampton on the album sleeve notes, but Wouldn't You Like It was very lightweight material compared to these two new rising acts. The tracks ranged from disco on Don't Stop The Music and rock, such as a band like The Bay City Rollers could record on I Only Want To Dance With You and the title track, to slushy love songs Love Is, Maybe I'm A Fool To Love You and the only single released Give A Little Love. The Rollers fell apart even more before their fourth album Dedication, replacing Alan Longmuir with teenager Ian Mitchell. The two top 10 singles from this year, Love Me Like I Love You and yet another version of I Only Want To Be With You are included, along with the Christmas hit from 1975, Money Honey.
Bob Dylan had long lost interest in the singles chart, although Desire was a disparate collection of tracks, rather than a cohesive album. The best known song from this album was the eight and a half minute Hurricane which is fast and furious and therefore doesn't seem to hang around. On the other hand, Joey at eleven minutes long is slow and ponderous and does. Just before the release of Desire, Dylan embarked on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour with several musician friends. At the penultimate show of the tour in Colorado, NBC television recorded and filmed the gig for broadcast on TV and the recording was subsequently released as the live album Hard Rain, named after one of Dylan's songs, but not included on the album. It did feature live versions of Maggie's Farm, Lay Lady Lay.
Like Bob Dylan, Elton John also enjoyed the success of one new studio album, Blue Moves and a live album, Here And There Live In New York And London, Here being the Royal Festival Hall in May 1974 and There being Madison Square Gardens six months later. Originally a cut down best of version of both shows on a single album with just nine tracks, five from London and just four from the more exciting New York show, it would eventually be released as a double album with 25 tracks in total. The Royal Festival Hall concert concentrated on Elton's early material going back as far the tracks Skyline Pigeon and Border Song and included the hits Crocodile Rock and Honky Cat. In New York the four tracks chosen were Funeral For A Friend, Rocket Man, Bennie & The Jets and Take Me To The Pilot and missing from the original LP was the highlight of the show when Elton John was joined on stage by John Lennon where he goes through the numbers Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, I Saw Her Standing There and Whatever Gets You Thru The Night as well as Your Song, Rocket Man, The Bitch Is Back and Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me. After Rock Of The Westies, Elton John set the tone for Blue Moves with the almost classical instrumental Your Starter For and Tonight which also begins with a full orchestral introduction for the first three minutes of the song. Its was more of a haunting moody album with the tracks Idol, Someone's Final Song, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and Cage The Songbird about Edith Piaf in the way that Candle In The Wind chronicled the life of Marilyn Monroe.
The albums charts were 20 years old this year and the longest lasting survivor from the early days was Cliff Richard who hit no.5 in June with I'm Nearly Famous, his first top 10 album since Best Of Cliff in 1969 and his first album of new product since the soundtrack to Finders Keepers, ten years ago. Putting Cliff firmly back in the singles chart too with three very different top 20 singles, the disco oriented I Cant Ask For Anything More Than You, the ballad Miss You Nights and Devil Woman which for Cliff Richard could even be described as rock, something he had not done for a long time.
Eric Clapton had first charted in 1966 as a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and this year his second solo top 10 album, No Reason To Cry hit no.8 in September. No Reason To Cry was recorded with the help of some of Clapton's famous friends, Bob Dylan, Ron Wood, Georgie Fame, Yvonne Elliman and Band members Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko & Richard Manuel which was ironic was he had once said if it hadn't been for Robertson, he would have applied to join The Band. Also on his second top 10 album was Neil Diamond who hit no.10 with Beautiful Noise which spent four weeks at no.10 between July and September. Produced by Robbie Robertson, which Neil Diamond proudly announces on the record cover itself, Beautiful Noise was the album that he hoped would show to the world his love of New York City and what a beautiful noise and diverse sounds, the influences from around the world from the Caribbean Don't Think Feel to New Orleans Jazz on Stargazer and the two singles that were released, If You Know What I Mean and the title track.
Manfred Mann had first hit the top 10 in 1964 and now transformed into Manfred Mann's Earthband, they just scraped into the bottom of the top 10 in October with The Roaring Silence their eighth album which opened with the Bruce Springsteen track Blinded By The Light which was by far the highlight on an album that veered off in many directions.
Geoff Love was the orchestra leader who enjoyed recording success both under his own name and as a backing orchestra for many easy listening artists from the 1950s onwards. He released and charted with several budget albums with film themes in the early 1970s including Big Western Movie Themes, Big War Movie Themes and Big Love Movie Themes. He also led an orchestra called Manuel And The Music Of The Mountains which tended to record more traditional classical work than under the Geoff Love name. Under this name they first hit the top 20 back in 1960 and in 1971 they recorded two albums, This Is Manuel which spent 10 weeks at no.1 on the mid price album charts and Carnival which was slightly too expensive to be eligible and therefore did not chart. However, when one of the tracks, a recording of Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto D'Aranjuez, a rare entry to the charts for a classical piece, hit no.3, the Carnival album was re-released as a full price album and also peaked at no.3 in March. The album featured light orchestral versions of The Honeymoon Song, Zambesi, La Mer Beyond The Sea, The White Rose Of Athens and Guantanamera. Also returning to the charts for the first time since 1960 was The London Philharmonic Choir as Arcade records TV advertised their album, Sounds Of Glory and reached no.10, the same position as their recording of The Messiah, 16 years previously.
A couple of novelty albums hit the charts during 1976. Following their no.1 single Whispering Grass the previous year, Windsor Davies and Don Estelle reprised their roles as Sgt Major Williams and Gunner Sugden from the TV sit-com It Aint Half Hot Mum on the album Sing Lofty. Fivepenny Piece hit no.9 with King Cotton. Max Boyce followed his chart topping album from last year with The Incredible Plan, another top 10 hit with more Welsh comedy monologues.
The Wurzels achieved a number one single, but could only reach no.15 on the album charts. On the other hand, Fivepenny Piece, a sort of Lancashire version, did hit the top 10 without a hit single, although they did have a more serious side to their music rather than relying purely on regional folk comedy. Fivepenny Piece first came to national attention when they won the Granada TV talent show New Faces in 1968 under their original name The Wednesday Folk. Television was to prove a major medium for them apart from their live shows with appearances on The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club variety show, a residency on That's Life with Esther Rantzen and even their own TV series with Mike Harding, a fellow Lancashire comedian. King Cotton was their sixth album, none of the previous five enjoying much national success although selling well in Lancashire. Most tracks featured the clear folk voice of Lynda Meeks including Mi Gronny, Watercolour Morning, Old England and King Cotton, the tales of the disappearing mills and the changing face of England. Her brother John takes the lead on Where There's Muck There's Brass and Hear All See All Say Nowt.
Davies and Estelle had had an unlikely no.1 hit single when they covered the oldie Whispering Grass but It Aint Half Hot Mum was incredibly popular in the mid 1970s. A weekly story of the Second World War adventures of the Royal Artillery Concert Party who entertain the troops in India, found Don Estelle as the straight man with a surprisingly clear singing voice and Windsor Davies acting the part of Sgt Major Williams, injecting and interrupting with comedy lines whenever and wherever he could. The album Sing Lofty featured other equally old and standard songs, I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire, As Time Goes By, Someone To Watch Over Me, Three Coins In The Fountain, It's Magic and the follow up single Paper Doll.
Max Bygraves was on his fourth top 10 album as were 10cc with How Dare You, The Carpenters with A Kind Of Hush, Rick Wakeman with No Earthly Connection and Genesis who hit no.3 with their most successful album to date, Trick Of The Tail.
Max Bygraves, not satisfied with 20 or even 40 Golden Greats, hit no.3 with his most successful album yet, 100 Golden Greats, a double album featuring medleys of sing along favourites which included Lullaby Of Broadway, Let's Face The Music And Dance, For Me And My Girl, Don't Dilly Dally, Yes, We Have No Bananas, Show Me The Way To Go Home and 94 other hit songs from history throughout the 20th Century.
How Dare You which peaked at no.5 at the end of January was the final album from 10cc with all four of the original line up before Kevin Godley and Lol Crème departed to explore the Gizmo, an electronic instrument they had invented and used extensively throughout this album. As always, 10cc were witty and cynical and each song was well thought out, from the elaborate storylines of I'm Mandy Fly Me, Iceberg, Art For Art's Sake, Don't Hang Up and the trainee dictators song I Wanna Rule The World.
The Carpenters were no longer a force on the singles chart, the highest position reached by any track from A Kind Of Hush being the title track and not even that could get into the top 20. Mostly a ballads album, with the tracks You, Sandy, Goofus, I Need To Be In Love and One More Time.
No Earthly Connection was a very much subdued Rick Wakeman who was ordered by A&M records to cut back on the extravagant excesses of the previous couple of albums. The concept of this album was music and the way human beings relate to it. Despite the cut backs, he still managed to come up with a six part track Music Incarnate but at a mere seven minutes long, The Prisoner could even have been released as a single.
Peter Gabriel was gone and Genesis needing to find a replacement, turned to the back of the line up and realised they already had a man who could sing with the eccentricity and feeling of Peter Gabriel and that was their drummer Phil Collins, especially as Trick Of The Tail was a return to the style of Selling England and Foxtrot with fairies, pixies, clouds and dreams rather than the dark nightmare that was Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Trick Of The Tail is an example of an album which should only really be listened to as a whole rather than taking any track out of context but the highlights are Dance On A Volcano, Squonk, Robbery Assault And Battery and Los Endos, the instrumental that closes the album apart from the distant line sung right at the end, There's an angel standing in the sun free to get back home.
On their third top 10 albums were Paul Simon with Still Crazy After All These Years, Bad Company with Run With The Pack and Nana Mouskouri with Passport. Roxy Music hit no.6 in August with their sixth top 10 album, Viva Roxy Music a live album recorded at various concerts between 1972 and 1975.
The comeback collaboration with Art Garfunkel, My Little Town had already appeared on Garfunkel's album Breakaway from last year and it also featured on Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years too. This album was filled with more ballads than previous Paul Simon solo efforts including I Do It For Your Love, Night Game, Some Folks Lives Roll Easy, Silent Eyes and the title track. It also had the single 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, massive in the USA but not a big hit in the UK. Bad Company's Run With The Pack fell between several stools and received a mixed reception. Beginning with the harder rock Live For The Music and moving immediately on to the softer acoustic Simple Man, a cover of the Coasters Youngblood, the blues track Do Right By Your Woman and back to rock on Sweet Little Sister before closing with the ballad Fade Away. After a break of six years, following her two 1970 top 10 albums, Passport by Nana Mouskouri hit no.3 in August, giving the Greek nation 2 out of the top 3 albums in mid August 1976, the last time Mouskouri would hit the top 10. Supposedly a trip around the world, recording songs from different countries, but Passport concentrates on France on Plaisir D'Amour, the USA with Try To Remember, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and And I Love You So, Canada's Seasons In The Sun and Greece with a Greek version of Never On Sunday as Ta Pedia Tou Pirea, Enas Mythos and the song most associated with her, The White Rose Of Athens.
Newcomers to the charts included Dr Hook and Thin Lizzy with their albums A Little Bit More and Jailbreak. Dr Hook were a group formed by Dennis Locorriere and Ray Sawyer, a country music lover who wore a distinctive cowboy hat and an eye patch covering the scars from a car accident several years previously. With their backing band that they named The Medicine Show, they had a brief taste of success with the single Sylvia's Mother in 1972, but had to wait until this year and their seventh album, A Little Bit More before they hit the album charts. The title track was released as a single and peaked at no.2 as had Sylvia's Mother but this time they managed to follow it up with If Not You and More Like The Movies. Thin Lizzy were formed in Dublin in the late 1960s by Phil Lynott, Eric Bell and Brian Downey, with The Jimi Hendrix Experience as the blueprint, and Lynott as one of the few black men in the all white world of heavy rock. By the time they enjoyed their first album success, Bell had been replaced by Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham and the band had developed a sound that appealed to both hard rockers and commercial pop radio. Jailbreak was their sixth album and after having finally found their sound on the previous album Fighting, they continued with more hard rock anthems about hard, tough people on the tracks Jailbreak Angel From The Coast, Romeo And The Lonely Girl, Warriors and their most famous track to date, the single The Boys Are Back In Town.
1976 saw the only top 10 entries for Benny Gallagher & Graham Lyle, former members of McGuinness Flint who had charted in 1971. Known only by their surnames and although they were mainly responsible for songwriting rather than performing, Breakaway was their fifth LP recorded together, a no.6 album just like the two hit singles it contained, I Wanna Stay With You and Heart On My Sleeve. Born in Jarrow in 1949, John Miles hit no.9 in April 1976 with Rebel featuring the single Music, but although the third track, High Fly was also a hit single and the album includes the ballads When You Lose Someone So Young and the Stevie Wonderish Lady Of My Life and was produced by Alan Parsons, there were no other tracks quite as epic as Music.
Peter Frampton, born in Beckenham, Kent in 1950 was formally a member of The Herd and Humble Pie, neither of which had reached the top 20, let alone the top 10 album charts. He began a solo career in 1972 with the album Wind Of Change, but it wasn't until his fifth album, Frampton Comes Alive, that he hit the top 10 at no.6 at the end of June, nothing like as successful as in America where it enjoyed a 10 week run at the top. Frampton Comes Alive was a double live album with 14 tracks, 12 of which had previously been heard as rather incipid acoustic studio versions on his first four albums. The power of Frampton's music had always been about his energetic live shows, and newly recorded live versions of Show Me The Way, Baby I Love Your Way and the 14 minute Do You Feel Like We Do were what made this album, at the time, the most successful live album worldwide.
There were also albums by Nils Lofgren-Cry Tough, Jon Anderson-Olias Of Sunhillow, Brass Construction self titled album and Steve Hillage with L, all without the benefit or it seemed a need for a hit single.
Nils Lofgren, originally from Chicago was known for his collaborations and guitar work with Neil Young and his own band Grin and he released his second solo album Cry Tough in 1976 and reached the top 10 for the only time for just one week in April. John Ray Anderson, born in Accrington in 1944, was a member of his brother Tony's group The Warriors in the 1960s before they relocated to Germany. He also had spells with The Party and Gun, none of which enjoyed any album chart success. By then he had changed the spelling of his name to Jon and joined up with Chris Squire and his band Mabel Greer's Toy Shop who eventually transformed into Yes, one of the most successful progressive rock bands of the early 1970s. Yes took a breather in 1976, allowing Jon Anderson to record and release his debut solo album, Olias Of Sunhillow, following on the tradition of Yes' more mystic side and tells the story of space flight away from Sunhillow with the tracks Ocean Song, Meeting Garden Of Geda, Dance Of Ranyart and Qoquaq En Transic-Naon-Taransic Co with Anderson playing most of the instruments and providing both background chanting and foreground singing in his distinctive falsetto voice.
Brass Construction, originally called Dynamic Soul, a New York funk/disco group led by Randy Muller, released six albums in the late 1970s progressive titled Brass Construction 1 through to 6, but only the first LP achieved any notable success, peaking at no.9 at the beginning of April. Brass Construction 1 was a six track LP, all tracks with one word titles including Movin, Peekin, Changin, Love, Talkin and Dance. Steve Hillage went solo after stints in the psychedelic bands Egg and Gong neither of which ever charted anywhere in the UK charts. His first solo album Fish Rising was a trip through the ocean with songs about fish and snakes and a 17 minute trio of songs Solar Musick Suite. 1976's L saw him into the top 10 for the only time, for just one week at the beginning of November at no.10. L featured an updated version of Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man, followed by nine minutes of rock jamming on Hurdy Gurdy Glissando and the mysticism of Eastern religions with the track Om Nama Shivaya. There was also a continuation of the Solar track from Fish Rising, Lunar Musick Suite and the album ended with another cover of The Beatles' It's All Too Much written by George Harrison for the Yellow Submarine album.
The US chart topping albums that did not fare so well in the UK included Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac which hit no.23 and George Benson-Breezin, Earth Wind & Wind-Gratitude, Chicago IX Greatest Hits, all of which did not chart at all in the UK. Other US top three albums included Boz Scaggs-Silk Degrees, peaking at no.37 in the UK, Beatles-Rock n Roll Music at no.11, Linda Ronstadt-Hasten Down The Wind at no.32, America-History America's Greatest Hits at no.60 and three albums that failed to chart in the UK, Earth Wind & Fire again with Spirit, Aerosmith-Rocks and Carole King-Thoroughbred.
Of the artists with a number one single in the UK, Johnny Mathis, The Wurzels and Brotherhood Of Man peaked in the album charts at nos.14, 15 and 20 respectively, The Real Thing hit no.34 and Slik climbed only as high as no.58 but there were no album chart entries at all for Tina Charles, JJ Barrie or Pussycat.
NUMBER OF TOP 10 ALBUMS - 93
NUMBER OF #1 ALBUMS - 16
Top albums of 1976
1 Abba - Greatest Hits
2 Beach Boys - 20 Golden Greats
3 Demise Roussos - Forever And Ever
4 Rod Stewart - A Night On The Town
5 Glen Campbell - 20 Golden Greats
6 Eagles - Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975
7 Slim Whitman - Very Best Of Slim Whitman
8 Queen - Night At The Opera
9 Bob Dylan - Desire
10 Wings - Wings At The Speed Of Sound
(c) 2007 Text: Sharon Mawer / Contact: Sharon Mawer
(c) 2007 All chart information: The Official UK Charts Company