Originally written April 11, 2014.
Well! Hey! Hangin’ out with y’all once again on a Friday night here in the D. It’s not so cold here any more; it got up to 70 yesterday! Yes, Fahrenheit. And, well, we’re getting unwanted national attention once again. If anything positive comes out of the Steve Utash tragedy, it hopefully will mark the point where everyone, black and white, finally stands up and says “Enough of this shit!” In a couple of threads about this crime, I mentioned that I actually lived in that neighborhood 20-25 years ago, and it was clean, decent, and relatively safe. Then they let the cops and firemen move out of the city. Go ahead, rip on Detroit. We can take it. All you have to take in return is a Top 10 flashback!
Let’s go back to somewhat happier times in the Motor City and tune to 93.1 WDRQ, a station I was known to sneak a listen to, 38 years ago this week. WDRQ took the Top 40 crown from CKLW not long after adopting the format in 1972, and was a solid top five station until they suicided it in early 1979 by becoming “Disco 93.” We weren’t as big on pure disco as other markets, and WDRQ dropped out of the top 20 in a couple of ratings books; they eventually became “Lite FM,” featuring soft, easy, mushy favorites of yesterday and today. They went back to CHR in the 90’s and reclaimed the WDRQ call letters, then became “Doug FM” in 2005, an automated, “we play everything” variety hits station similar to Jack or Bob. Now they’re owned by Cumulus and recently flipped to country as 93.1 Nash FM, a name and format that’s appeared in several markets. But in 1976, they were doing live & local high-energy Top 40 with a strong R&B lean, and we’ll hear the ten biggest songs this week.
So Chico, don’t be discouraged – the Man, he ain’t so hard to understand! Survey dated April 12, 1976.
John Sebastian – Welcome Back
Of course, the theme song from “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Watch an episode now and marvel at the fact that we actually used to find it funny. Not everything ages well. Still, not a half bad song on its own merits.
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Dance Wit Me
WDRQ, like CKLW before, did well with the urban audience by programming a lot of soul and R&B music you wouldn’t hear in other markets. I doubt this song would have gone anywhere in, well, a less colorful area, but soul music is in our DNA here, and this song’s strong showing is proof.
Eric Carmen – All By Myself
This was a HUGE hit that spring and summer. I liked this song more at 14 than I do at 52; you don’t hear it much any more, probably for good reason. I’d much rather hear Eric Carmen with the Raspberries singing “Go All The Way.” The album version is over seven minutes long if you really want to torture yourself.
Rhythm Heritage – Theme From “S.W.A.T.”
We’ve had this here before – it was an “oh, wow” song when we looked at December 1975. I’ve since learned that the great Motown bassist James Jamerson played on this, as well as the actual theme from “Starsky & Hutch.” Gotta do what it takes to put food on the table, right?
Sylvers – Boogie Fever
Jamerson played bass on this one as well. He managed to keep busy throughout the 70’s despite alcoholism and mental problems. He never really got his due when he was alive, and he pretty much drank himself to death in 1983. To add insult, the ’62 Fender Precision bass he always used was stolen and has never been recovered.
Oh, the song. Trite, ain’t it?
Paul Simon – 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Homework assignment: Find everyone you know over 50 and ask them to sing the chorus from memory. Betcha nearly all of them can. Report will be due next week.
Nothing further down the list is bad enough to merit the “oh, no” treatment, so instead we’ll just throw out a fun fact with a song behind it. Did you know there are three different songs called “Stairway To Heaven”? First was from Neil Sedaka in the early 60’s, then came the famous 1971 Led Zeppelin song, then there was this by Philly soul legends the O’Jays. It was #12 this week on WDRQ’s soul-heavy playlist.
If you like Philly-style love ballads, enjoy. The O’Jays’ harmonies were tough to beat.
All right, let’s continue.
Commodores – Sweet Love
If it hadn’t been for “Easy,” this would be my favorite Commodores song. Great piece of work that sounded as good on AM as it did on FM. Motown never really recovered from moving to L.A., but they still had some gas left in the tank in 1976.
Blackbyrds – Happy Music
See what I mean? WDRQ was pretty much an R&B station that happened to play Paul Simon and Eric Carmen. That’s cool – we had three rock stations to choose from, too. The song is a nice, smooth piece of funk that deserved to be a hit everywhere.
Johnnie Taylor – Disco Lady
Girl, you ought to be on TV, on Soul Train! Johnnie Taylor was a great R&B artist, and this one made it to #1 nationally. The song was recorded in Detroit at the famous United Sound studio, which is in danger of being knocked down for a planned widening of I-94. Noooooooooo!
The full version of this list has only 23 songs – just about all of them are well-known today, and I doubt many people would remember the others, so we’ll skip the “oh, wow” song and go straight to number one. Wanna know what it is? All you got to do is say so:
One of the all-time great love songs by two of the newest members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Every girl named Sara calls this her song.
So there we are. Are these ten songs classics or are they proof that the 70’s really did suck? Let the discussion begin!