I was born 35 years ago this week. Having long been an amateur historian of popular music, I started wondering, “Which albums were tearing up the American charts at this time in 1976?”
Therefore, I consulted one of Joel Whitburn’s invaluable sources for information such as this, namely, Billboard Top 10 Album Charts 1963-1998.
As much as I love the 1970s for much of its popular culture and history, I was not particularly optimistic about which albums I would find in the Top 10 for the week that I entered the world.
Apart from the presence (wink!) of Led Zeppelin (#2), Queen (#4) and Bob Dylan (#9), that pessimism proved to be justified. At #3 and #6, respectively, were two albums that may very well have ended up in some hotel rooms next to Gideon’s Bible: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 by The Eagles and Frampton Comes Alive! by Peter Frampton. The former was long the biggest-selling album in United States, but Michael Jackson’s Thriller tied its 29 million sales shortly after Jackson’s June 2009 death.
And the #1 album in America for the week of April 24, 1976….Wings At the Speed of Sound, by Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles band Wings.
Basically then, not much to be excited about the Top 10 way back when, and nothing terribly obscure, either. Except for, as I look at the chart before me now, the one that is smack dab in the middle of the chart at #5: Eargasm by Johnnie Taylor.
This wonderfully-titled album was Taylor’s first and only Top 10 album entry, but he was certainly no fly-by-night one-hit wonder. In 1957, he had replaced the legendary Sam Cooke in the long-running gospel group The Soul Singers.
For a decade prior to Eargasm, he had recorded several R&B hits for the Stax label, earning the nickname “The Philosopher of Soul” in the process.
His biggest hit for Stax was the #1 R&B smash “Who’s Making Love?” in 1968. Although the song “Good Times” by Chic is generally credited for providing the main hook for “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”, you can—if you listen closely—hear pretty much the same riff--played by the lead guitar, rather than bass--throughout this song.
Taylor’s first crossover success came in 1976 with the single “Disco Lady,” from Eargasm. This song was #1 for four weeks on the pop chart, and became the first single that the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) certified platinum for two million sales. The album spent six weeks in the Top 10, and was certified gold for 500,000 sales in April 1976.
It is probably obvious to most people what an eargasm is supposed to be. Just in case it isn’t, however, the definition is on the cover of the album: “a paroxysm of emotional and auditory excitation or instance or climax of such excitement sufficient to cause release of tension and a state of beatitude.”
Yeah, that sounds about right. There’s plenty of baby-making music here.
So, Eargasm is—to me—the stand-out among the most popular albums from the week of my birth. However, I would be remiss if did not mention the album that was #10 that week, Song of Joy by Captain & Tennille. Most current college kids’ parents or (yikes!) grandparents won’t have to think for a second about who Captain & Tennille were. The kids themselves, however, will probably have to have seen a particular South Park episode to have even heard the name.
The duo’s sappiness could easily get them accused of representing all that was bad about popular music in the 1970s. And yet they delivered their songs so sincerely that they--along with a good chunk of the record-buying public--may have believed that there was more to them than met the ear. This is especially true, I suppose, when they performed in front of various leaders of the free world:
While Song of Joy was their only million-selling album, four other albums went gold (500,000 sales), as did six singles (1,000,000 sales), including three from Song of Joy, which would peak at #9 the following week.