Advertising, Long Hot Summers and The Music of 1976

Apparently a study has been carried out and the findings are that any company wishing to target a particular demographic with their advertising, should use music from the time that group was 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If you were lucky like me, and had a stable family background, your material needs were all catered for; you had a tight regime to your day with school and probably a Saturday job; you saw your best friends every single day because you went to school with them and you had a reasonable level of independence as helicopter parenting wouldn’t start for a few decades yet. Top that off with a few short romances that didn’t cause too much distress when they were over, no social media to mess with your head and life was sweet.

We humans are essentially simple beings but as the years go by we accumulate baggage, make life complicated for ourselves and lose the people we love – These giant corporations know that, and home in on our weakness for a pop song that reminds us of simpler times. A really expensive car and some life assurance anyone? Yes by golly, I’ll have both!

1976 was indeed a memorable year and one which I have really fond memories of. It was of course the year of the “long hot summer” where a new government department had to be created – The Minstry for Drought (which then became the Ministry for Floods when summer turned into autumn).

The UK won the Eurovision Song Contest that year with Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me. Girl/boy bands like BofM were very popular in 1976 and Abba really solidified their postition as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Even home grown acts like Guys and Dolls had a modicum of success.

Despite the fact that punk emerged that year, with Malcolm MacLaren’s Sex Pistols out to shock, they or their movement didn’t really make much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Soft rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival acts (Showaddywaddy).

As for me, I was in my 4th Year of Secondary School which was the last year everyone of my age would have to legally attend. In the May of that year we sat our first important exams, “O” Grades as they were called then (short for Ordinary although didn’t feel very ordinary when you were having to revise for them). When you have big exams coming up you do spend a lot of your time in your room studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a bit more often that should be. I think I am still familiar with just about every song that hit the charts in the spring of 1976 and could still tell you which position they reached in the charts. After the exams were finished, a time of merriement commenced (as per the film Grease) and the two songs I remember clearly from that time are You To Me Are Everything by Liverpool band The Real Thing and Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton – If any company used either of those songs in an advert I would be putty in their hands.

As it turned out the exams of 1976 went very well but later on that year a lot of our classmates left school for good as there were plenty of jobs waiting for 16-year-olds in those days. Those of us who went back to school enjoyed the big hit of the autumn, Chicago’s If You Leave Me Now, and then over Christmas we were treated to Johnny Mathis with his version of When A Child Is Born (one for the mums and dads).

As the academic year went by and we all started to turn 17, the serious business of Higher Grade exams loomed which determined whether or not you would go to University. Like our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more stressful and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers therefore have got it right I reckon – It is not the same for everyone but if you have to pick music from a year that will really boost sales, make it the year your target group turned 16. Works for me and my new really expensive car, and life assurance policy!

I shall leave you with Candi Staton and her June 1976 hit Young Hearts Run Free but it seems bizarre now that this was the track of choice for our end of term merriment. As I’ve said before however I really don’t think we took too much heed of the lyrics at that age – I’d not had any big romances yet and all the Mums and Dads I knew seemed to be quite happy (or perhaps I was too young and naïve to think otherwise). I loved Candi’s voice though and the song had a great sound to it. Perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something that has only come to light in the last few years however – Whenever she was mentioned on the radio or on TOTP, she was always called Candi “Staton” (made to sound like Staten Island) but it turns out it should have been pronounced “State-en”. Poor lady has had her name mispronounced in the UK for the last 40 years but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits but of course he was the DJ who badly mispronounced “Duran Duran” during a chart rundown in the ’80s so not surprising really. As it turns out I only discovered after his death that I had always mispronounced “Bowie” (as in David) so not always easy to get it right. Another tricky one is “Bono” of U2 – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food! Enough now …. time for me and Alfie (Ale-fie) to sign off.

Young Hearts Run Free Lyrics
(Song by David Crawford)

What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life
Ending up just another lost and lonely wife
You count up the years and they will be filled with tears

Love only breaks up to start over again

You’ll get the babies but you won’t have your man
While he is busy loving every woman that he can  

Say I’m gonna leave a hundred times a day

It’s easier said than done
When you just can’t break away

Young hearts, run free
They’ll never be hung up, hung up like my man and me 
Young hearts, to yourself be true
Don’t be no fool when
Love really don’t love you 

It’s high time now just one crack at life
Who wants to live it in trouble and strife
My mind must be free to learn all I can about me

I’m gonna love me for the rest of my days

Encourage the babies every time they say
Self preservation is what’s really going on today

Say I’m gonna turn loose hundred times a day
How can I turn loose
When I just can’t break away

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

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