Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1976

Welcome to 1976, year 2 in my 40 years of music retrospective, where I’m sharing my favourite albums from each year.

Feel free to share your own favourites in the comments.

The Modern Lovers 

John Cale produced Jonathan Richman’s band on this album, including the classics Roadrunner, and my favourite, Pablo Picasso, who apparently never got called an asshole.

Bob Dylan – Desire

Bob Dylan’s second great period (the first being Highway 61 Revisited, Bringing it all Back Home and Blonde on Blonde), featuring the blistering tracks Hurricane and Isis, but my favourite, One More Cup of Coffee

Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby

Transformer, Sally Can’t Dance, and Coney Island Baby are Lou Reed at his glammy best. The title track here is a must hear. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

David Bowie – Station to Station

The Thin White Duke album. Dabbling in disco, R&B, etc.. I once thought I’d come up with a fantastic guitar riff. Turned out it was ‘Stay’. It is a great riff, it just isn’t mine, sadly.

Genesis – A Trick of the Tail

After Peter Gabriel left the band, Phil Collins took over, and for the first two albums, did his very best Peter Gabriel impression until he found his own voice. This is one of my favourite early Genesis tunes

Heart – Dreamboat Annie

If you were a woman in the ’70s, you were soft rock or folk. Not Ann and Nancy Wilson.

I saw the Decemberists cover this in an encore of the Hazards of Love tour. Blew my mind. What a great song.

Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak

I bet you think I’m gonna post The Boys are Back in Town.

Nah. That’s classic, but the title track’s simple grungy rhythm guitar always gets me. And Phil Lynott never sounded better.

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

I really felt like posting Pastime Paradise so everyone could see what a thief Coolio is, but instead, I’ll share Stevie’s ode to Duke Ellington.


One of my very favourite Tom Waits albums. Just go listen to the whole thing, darlings, trust me. Here’s a great live version of Tom Traubert’s Blues

Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures

Frank Zappa’s slimiest, sleaziest grooves.

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Rock and Roll Never Forgets. I always think of guys like Bob Seger, or John Fogerty, or George Thoroughgood as the voice of American Blue Collar Rock and Roll. My tastes are broader than that, but are inclusive of it as well.

The Eagles –  Hotel California

Speaking of American Rock and Roll — this classic was played near the end of the dances I used to go to as a teenager, followed up by Stairway to Heaven. Make out rock, I suppose you could call it. This particular track, popular as it was, has some of the darkest lyrics, thanks to Don Henley taking the forefront on this album. The entire album is a sort of dark paean to success and excess, using California as a metaphor for the trappings of fame.



19 responses to “Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1976

  1. Ah, you had me at Bowie and Genesis and then you had to add Stevie. Glad to know you aren’t THAT much younger than me. Everything you’ve picked is so awesome. We really have lived through some great music. Though, at the time, I was only 4 and certainly had no idea who any of these people were. In fact, the Irish Rovers are the only ones I can remember from that age with The Unicorn, Elvis Presley, and The Everly Brothers because those were the lullabies I fell asleep to.

  2. See I thought this series was going to take forty years but now that it looks like forty days I’m in for the duration. More great choices. Since I grew up in Detroit I can’t help but agree on the Bob Segar “blue collar” description. Over time, his stuff becomes a little more meaningful.

    • Would you believe that I actually was at one point writing a very Alice Cooper-esque musical called Son of the Walking Dead, a sort of horror-shtick autobiographical story about being raised by a man who’d died but kept on living? True story. But at a certain point, I realized I’d never be able to actually realize it, and so it was mothballed. I still have a folder somewhere with the lyrics and such… if I find it I’ll post it.

  3. Karen Carpenter is still one of my favorite voices, ever. Tragic.
    Loving the Genesis and Hotel California is still one that makes me exceedingly happy to hear.
    Afternoon Delight was a train wreck of a hit – hard not to love that one.

  4. You know, I’m willing to believe there’s some good stuff on Hotel CA, but you know, it’s worn out. Maybe some day people will forget about it and when it comes back, it can be given a good listen again.
    My husband names 1997-99 as his favorite (and maybe what he’d say is his best) Bob Dylan era. I’m with you with Blood on the Tracks and Blonde and Blonde. I do like a lot of his recent stuff, though, but I think his voice has gone too far.
    Speaking of voices, Tom Waits.

    • Yes, Hotel CA is a bit worn out, I admit — but it’s so iconic. For me, the Dylan albums are always “Bringing it all back home” “Highway 61 Revisited.” and “Blonde on Blonde”. Then Desire and Blood on the Tracks and then after that everything gets a bit shaky until Time Out of Mind. And Tom Waits is just a force of nature.

      • So, yeah, I’m married to one of those rabid Dylan fans. But there are a few good songs from the eighties, there really are. But I can see why no albums would make your list.

      • OH MERCY might be the only album I’d consider, because of Daniel Lanois — I maintain that it’s all the synthesizer’s fault — I mean, When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky is a great tune performed just electrically — but that Dave Stewart produced version on Empire Burlesque is just laughable. The greats from the ’70s should have left the synth pop to the young’uns from the 80s… Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, etc…

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