Top 50 Albums of 1976

Here we are, back in 1976, a year in which I celebrated my 9th Birthday and also the year that Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the CN tower in Toronto, Canada is completed and is the tallest free standing structure in the world. The first commercial Concorde flights take off during January of 1976 as a regular passenger service began. “Rocky”, “Taxi Driver” and “All the Presidents Men” are in the cinema and on TV we have new episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “Kojak” and “M*A*S*H” from the U.S and home grown shows such as “The Old Grey Whistle Test”, “Are You Being Served?”, “Superstars”,“The Tomorrow People”, “Tiswas”, “Jim’ll Fix It”, “Space: 1999” and “The Sweeney”. I never liked Jim’ll Fix It, even from an early age Jimmy Saville creeped me out, but Superstars, won every year by Kevin Keegan, was great.

It was an interesting year in music for me as, being only 9, I would mostly only hear what was on the radio and, for the most part, that would be 45’s, which were somewhat at odds with the albums from this year that I have in my top 50. The top selling 45’s of 1976 were:

1Save Your Kisses for MeBrotherhood of Man
2Don’t Go Breaking My HeartElton John and Kiki Dee
3MississippiPussycat
4Dancing QueenABBA
5A Little Bit MoreDr Hook
6If You Leave Me NowChicago
7FernandoABBA
8I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)Tina Charles
9The Roussos Phenomenon EPDemis Roussos
10December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)The Four Seasons
11Under the Moon of LoveShowaddywaddy
12You to Me Are EverythingThe Real Thing
13Forever and EverSlik
14SailingRod Stewart
15Young Hearts Run FreeCandi Staton
16The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)The Wurzels
17When Forever Has GoneDemis Roussos
18Jungle RockHank Mizell
19Can’t Get By Without YouThe Real Thing
20You Make Me Feel Like DancingLeo Sayer

The number 1 selling 45 by Brotherhood of Man was this years Eurovision Song Contest winner and was truly horrible. As it’s listed I Think it wise to take this opportunity to include a video of The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key) by The Wurzels as it is one of the greatest songs ever put to vinyl:

Now let’s begin the actual top 50 albums of 1976 according to me.

50Terry ReidSeed of Memory
49J.J. CaleTroubadour
48Tom Petty and The HeartbreakersTom Petty and The Heartbreakers
47KissDestroyer
46Lou ReedRock and Roll Heart
45UFONo Heavy Petting
44Ennio MorriconeNovecento
43Max Romeo War In Babylon
42Thin Lizzy  Jailbreak
41Bunny WailerBlackheart Man
40BostonBoston
39Jonathan Richman & The Modern LoversJonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
38King Tubby & Yabby YouKing Tubby’s Prophesy of Dub
37Peter ToshLegalize It
36Patti Smith GroupRadio Ethiopia
35La DüsseldorfLa Düsseldorf
34ParliamentThe Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein
33Fela Kuti & Africa 70Zombie
32Burning Spear  Man In The Hills
31Tangerine DreamStratosfear
30Black SabbathTechnical Ecstasy
29Lynyrd SkynyrdGimme Back My Bullets
28VangelisAlbedo 0.39
27Stanley ClarkeSchool Days
26Fela & Africa 70Kalakuta Show
25Miles DavisWater Babies

24. Abba – Arrival. Now I know there will be people out there amongst my vast readership of up to 3 people who will be suprised by this at number 25, however, despite what one might think of ABBA there is no denying that they were massive and this is the source album for Dancing Queen, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Money, Money, Money, which I can’t deny enjoying as a 9 year old listening to the radio. 

23. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – The Roaring Silence. We had this at home and I was always intrigued by the cover. I didn’t know at the time that there was a Springsteen cover on it, because I had no clue as to who Springsteen was, but Blinded by the Light is the best track on the album by far.

22. Emmylou Harris – Elite Hotel. This would never have been anywhere near a top 10,000 had I not picked it up for £1 or so at a used record store this year. It won a Grammy or something like that I think, but I’d never paid any attention to her really. Here version of The Beatles Here, There and Everywhere is quite lovely. 

21. Blondie – Blondie. It’s not Parallel Lines, but the pre-cursor to it and contains tracks that are much rougher but are a clear indicator, in hindsight, as to what was to come.

20.  Rush – 2112. This album has probably slowly slipped out of favour with me over the years, from top 3 all the way down to where it is now at 20. There are a number of reasons for this, such as familiarity, age, the fact that it’s all bollocks really. I do still love it but just don’t feel about it now the way I did when I was a kid. 

19. The Upsetters – Super Ape. It’s only recently that I’ve really started listening to Dub & Reggae and its an adventure with there being so much to discover. This album is relatively new to me but I absolutely love it, it’s Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry of course so no surprise there, the guy is a genius of the genre.

18/17 AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/ High Voltage. Two classic AC/DC albums from the Bon Scott era. Not much to choose between them really but I did anyway. 

16. Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading. This is a fantastic album and it’s easy to forget the impact and importance she had in British music, in 1976, Robin Denselow wrote in The Guardian that the album “showed that we now have a black artist in Britain with the same sort of vocal range, originality (in fact even greater originality in terms of musical influences) and lyrical sensitivity” as Joni Mitchell.

15. Genesis – Wind and Wuthering. There were 2 albums released in 1976, both post Peter Gabriel and while I like them both this one falls slightly short of the other, although, it is, in many ways much fuller musically. So on another day I may well switch them around depending on my mood.

14. Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record. Jeff Lynne is a great song writer and it is on this album that I think he really found his feet. Songs like Telephone Line and Livin’ Thing still stand up to scrutiny all these years later.

13. Wings – At The Speed Of Sound. My favourite Wings album and one of two that I owned as a kid, the other being the live album ‘Over America’ which we had on two cassettes, one was mine and the other was my brothers. I think this album was a high point in McCartneys post-Beatles career. 

12. Ted Nugent – Free For All. Another album that I had as a kid and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be like Cat Scratch Fever but it isn’t at all, which turned out to be a good thing as it is much, much better.

11. Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail. The second appearance by Genesis and, in my opinion, the better of the two albums released in 1976. 

10. Bob Marley – Rastaman Vibration. The eighth studio album by the Bob Marley and the Wailers, the album was a great success in the US, becoming the first Bob Marley release to reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart (peaking at number 8). Marley is only credited as writer on one of the songs having named family and friends as the writers to avoid contractual disputes with his publishing company.

9. The Eagles – Hotel California. It was, of course, a huge album and that can’t be ignored, but I may be guilty of including it so highly just because it was. Overall, as a complete album, I don’t think it works that well but it does have several really good tracks.

8. Led Zeppelin – Presence. Though not considered to be their greatest work I’ve always been really fond of it and find it quite an achievement considering it was recorded in 18 days and Robert Plant had to sing from a wheelchair as he was recovering from a car accident.

7. Queen – A Day At The Races. This was the period that I thought Queen were at their most relevant, from the self titled debut to 1978’s Jazz, they had a run of 7 albums that showed development and growth and then, well, they became a pop act and I lost almost all interest in them.

6. Joni Mitchell – Hejira. An album of great writing that asks many questions but provides few answers, concentrating instead on the search, the journey for answers rather than any conclusions. Mitchell rarely disappoints and despite much criticism of her move to a more jazzy sound, backed by the fretless bass of Jaco Pastorius, time has taught us that her musical direction decisions are superior to those of reviewers.

5. Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life. At this point in his career Wonder was overflowing with creativity and this can be seen in the e.p that was included with the double LP just to get all his songs in. Considered by many to be the greatest album ever, including Elton John and George Michael, it isn’t perfect, but it’s approaching it.

4. Steely Dan – The Royal Scam. The fifth studio album by Steely Dan, featuring more prominent guitar work than the previous album, Katy Lied, which had been the first without founding guitarist Jeff Baxter. Steely Dan never made a bad album, just different degrees of excellence.

3. The Ramones – The Ramones. Historical significance does play rather a large part in the Ramones being up here at number 3 as it influenced so very much that I like that came after it. Clocking in at less than 30 minutes it isn’t long, but it’s impact is still felt.

2. David Bowie – Station To Station. Blending funk and krautrock, romantic balladry and occultism, this album has been described as “simultaneously one of Bowie’s most accessible albums and his most impenetrable”. It was the pre-cursor to the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ and already pointed towards those three albums.

1 Bob Dylan – Desire. I used to have 2 Bob Dylan albums, the other one was (Live) ‘At Budokan’, so ‘Desire’ was played a lot, well, when you consider I probably had 60 or 70 albums at the time the choices were somewhat limited, certainly compared to today. The repeated listening count is off the scale so the songs on this album are carved into my bones and, even though I know it is not the best Dylan album, it’s the best Dylan album.

Written February 22nd 2015 – Sometime in the 80’s (I think it was 1987) I saw Bob Dylan at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a little odd as the support act, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, did a long set that lasted about an hour and a half and then Dylan came on with the Heartbreakers as his backing band and did about an hour. At the time I was a bit disappointed, but I have subsequently managed to get a bootleg recording of the gig and it is a much better gig than I remember it being. I think that one of the reasons is that I was listening to ‘Desire’ a lot at the time and they didn’t play a single track from it, so it was my own expectations that were at fault more than anything.

And that is my top albums of 1976, feel free to disagree with me, because I disagree with myself most of the time.