Jim Bartlett's Blog

The Song of the Summer in '76

Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert (later husband and wife) had written John Denver's 1971 hit "Take Me Home Country Roads." After performing as Fat City, the Danoffs teamed with another couple, Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman, as the Starland Vocal Band, and released their first record in 1976, "Afternoon Delight." It was a monster, sufficient to earn them the Best New Artist Grammy for the year—which is not especially weird. Certainly not as weird as the Grammy "Afternoon Delight" got for Best Vocal Arrangement, which was deemed better than Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." On the strength of that Grammy, they landed a limited-run TV variety show on CBS in the summer of 1977. It was aimed at a hip young urban audience, with political commentary and a young comic in the cast named David Letterman.

But the Starland Vocal Band were never built for the long run, not really, not professionally or personally. Bill and Taffy Danoff divorced after the group broke up; so did Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman. And with the rise of disco in the late 70s and danceable new wave acts in the 80s, their gentle acoustic sound was swept away in the same tide that swamped John Denver.

In the summer of 1976, "Afternoon Delight" was pretty hard to escape. It was in the Top 40 from approximately Memorial Day through approximately Labor Day, and spent a couple of weeks at #1 in July. A country version by Johnny Carver made the Top 10 on the country chart. (Listen here. You know you want to.) But the original is still the best, and here's a vintage video from 1976 to prove it.
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What Do You Remember?

On a Friday morning not long ago I was filling in for Pat, and I asked the following question on the air: What's the first big historical event you can remember while it was happening? For the next two hours, I played back phone calls and read Facebook posts and e-mails from listeners, and it was fascinating.

The #1 event, the one people mentioned over and over again, was the Challenger explosion in 1986. Many listeners were kids then, and they remember watching the launch on TV in school because the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, was aboard. (One listener called to say she intended to apply for the program herself but at the last minute didn't submit the forms--and she was glad not to have done so.)

Other memories Magic listeners mentioned as their first big historical memory:

  • The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941)
  • The coronation of Queen Elizabeth (1952)
  • The launch of Sputnik, the Soviet satellite (1957)
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
  • The assassinations of John F. Kennedy (1963) and Robert Kennedy (1968)
  • The Apollo 11 landing on the moon (1969)
  • The murder of John Lennon (1980)
  • The hostages coming home from Iran (1981)
  • The shooting of President Reagan (1981)
I'm sure there are others I have forgotten to mention. Bob and I both think we can remember the assassination of JFK, although I was only three years old, and I'm not sure whether I remember what actually happened that weekend, or whether I remember having seen the hours of film we've all watched since then. I definitely remember RFK's shooting, though.

I'm grateful to everybody who called, Facebooked, or e-mailed with memories. You made the show interesting. I was just the guy who happened to be there.
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