Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976

The year 1976 is certainly being bandied about a lot at the moment, because until this current heatwave hit us, there had been no year with a long hot summer that could compete with it. For those of us who remember it first hand however, it was a very different time. It was also the year I turned 16, and so much has changed for the average teenager since then….

I didn’t have to worry about applying high factor sunscreen…, because it didn’t exist yet. I didn’t have to worry about global warming…, because the ice caps were still fully intact and hadn’t begun to seep into the oceans yet. I didn’t have to worry about whether my hair extensions and lip fillers would cope with the heat…, because we simply had short blow-dried hair, and if we were really lucky, little pots of lip gloss. I didn’t have to worry about whether my boyfriend was “talking” to other girls via social media…, because the only social medium we had was the local youth club, so it would have been pretty obvious. Yes, simpler times indeed.

A Jackie magazine cover from 1976

Back in my first year of blogging I wrote a post about the music of 1976, and as no-one saw it back then (except me), time for another airing I feel. A bit of lazy blogging I know, but as I’m still a bit preoccupied with home improvements, time ran out for me this week. Such is life but hopefully back to business as usual very soon.

First published April 2016

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 turned 16 – In my case that would be 1976. I can see how this would work. If like me you were lucky, and had a stable family background, your material needs were all catered for. You also 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 Ministry 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 position as an international supergroup with hits like Mama Mia, FernandoDancing Queen and Money Money Money. Other home grown acts like Guys and Dolls even 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 weren’t really making much of an impact on the UK Singles Chart yet – That was pretty much filled with the usual suspects. We had Disco (Tina Charles, Donna Summer), Soft Rock (Chicago, Dr Hook), Country (JJ Barrie, Pussycat and Billie Jo Spears), Novelty songs (The Wurzels), Rock (Queen with their amazing Bohemian Rhapsody), Pop classics (Elton John & Kiki Dee), Soul (The Stylistics, Barry White) 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 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 they 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 time in your bedroom studying, but of course you also need a bit of down time and the radio is probably switched on a fair bit more often than should be. I think I’m 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. After the exams finished, a time of merriment 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 many 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 for our old classmates who had already entered the adult world of work, life had got just that little bit more serious and not as carefree as for our 16-year-old selves. The advertisers have therefore got it right I reckon – It’s 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, the song seemed to be aimed at my generation and it was perfect for the school disco.

Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton:

Something 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 had her name mispronounced in the UK for over 40 years, but hopefully now put right. Tony Blackburn in the clip was obviously one of the main culprits, but of course he was also 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. And as for “Bono” – He always ends up sounding like a well-known dog food!

Until next time…

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. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

8 thoughts on “Long Hot Summers, Advertising and The Music of 1976”

  1. Hi. You mention the Sex Pistols here. I saw Johnny Lydon on a few-years-old episode of Jools Holland’s show. He must be 100 pounds heavier than he was in 1976. But he still can sing. I think I read once that he’s a very disagreeable person these days. Is he in the news in Britain?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, 1976 was the last year the charts were littered with such fodder, as once the Sex Pistols and their contemporaries took hold of youth culture, everything changed for a while. He is a case that John Lydon isn’t he and I just made an interesting discovery – He is to play my home town at the end of the month with his band PiL. As for being in the news, not so much, but he does pop up as a “talking head” sometimes on those nostalgia shows – Always controversial of course but what else should we expect!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great selection! “Young Hearts Run Free” is one of my favorite “advice” songs ever – that’s saying a lot since the Beatles were experts at it (“She Loves You,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” etc.) After all these years I’m still not sure how a real baby could ever say “Self-preservation is really what’s going on today” but I appreciate the sentiment. Good luck with the long hot summer over there, we’re in the middle of one ourselves in New England.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed – not many “babies” would come up with that line, but like you, I appreciate the sentiment. It’s still a great sounding song all these years later and whenever I think of the summer of ’76, Candi’s voice is playing in my head. Bleak lyrics but I am sure neither I nor any of my friends really took much heed of them back then – The exams were over, and the last thing we were thinking of if a boy asked us to dance at the local youth club, was whether in a few years time, “we’d get the babies but they’d be busy loving every woman that they could”. Oh no, we were young, and our hearts were running free!

      The hot summer has kind of subsided here in Scotland for a while but still very hot elsewhere in the country – Same with you then. Here is a worrying statistic – Globally this is one of the 4 hottest years since records began. The other 3 were 2015, 2016 and 2017 – Argh…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of lovely memory-joggers here, Alyson, thanks. Indeed, simpler times, and I know it sounds like a cliché and we have to ensure it’s not just the misty rose-tinted nostalgia talking, but these were good times in which to grow up, I feel. There were stresses and worries and inequality – I’m well aware how much more sexist things were in particular, and of the ignorance and prejudice in other areas too, a lot of which can still make me feel uncomfortable. But if only we could have got closer to where we’re getting now in terms of tolerance and cultural acceptance without the negative side of social media. I guess everything has a trade-off….and always will.
    Anyway yes, 1976 , what a memorable year – I was just on the ‘cusp’ then, having turned 13 exactly half way through it and so all the chart music you mention is very familiar, and very resonant. One band you didn’t mention but whom I immediately think of from around that time (and rather liked!) were Smokie. What did you make of them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh C, didn’t expect any more comments on this one as took it down pretty quickly (a bit embarrassed I had resorted to re-blogging) and just restored it yesterday as thought it would have slipped off everyone’s radar! I am brimming with ideas for blog posts at the moment but don’t have much spare time, so nothing new from me this week either. Problem with many of the ideas is that they are time-sensitive arising from something in the news or with the weather and once the moment has passed too late to write about it. As for the long hot summer reference, it seems to have well and truly passed with us now and I actually had the heating on last night.

      I’ve actually written quite a few “The Music of 19**” posts now and one referred to 1973, when I was 13, so I kind of know the kind of relationship you must have had with chart music at that age. I imagine the relationship you had at 16 was a bit different (I know it was!) as it was for me, and very different again for today’s teenagers. Interesting you mention the rose-tinted nostalgia, as when I tell stories in this blog I always mention that I had a wonderful happy childhood, with no social media to mess with the head – Here’s the thing, I found an old diary this week in the loft and aged 16 I seemed to waver between euphoria and depression over some boy or perceived slight from a friend. Perhaps things haven’t changed as much as we think. Also, looking back I now realise that a fair few girls in my school must have been suffering from anorexia but we didn’t know what that was back then. Maybe it’s just that things are far more out in the open nowadays, as opposed to not talked about, so it feels as if some things have got worse whereas overall we’re living in the best of times in terms of tolerance, equality etc. Sorry went on a bit there, but the words of my teenage self in that diary have thrown me a bit, and I’m starting to doubt some of my memories. Lots of tears before, during and after bedtime it seems!

      As for Smokie of course I remember them and here’s a thing – We were at a barbeque by Loch Ness a few weeks ago and the Smokie keyboard player lives just down the hill from our friends and has done for years. For people of a certain age he will always be known as “The Guy from Smokie” although youngsters will just ask, “Who are Smokie?”. Not the kind of music you would have carried with you until you were 16 but I do have a Smokie song to write about sometime currently residing in my “posts pending” notebook, if I could only find some spare time.


      1. It’s a great post and I just missed my chance to comment when you put it up earlier but it disappeared so was glad to see it restored!
        Just wanted to confirm my agreement about the teenage angst we all suffered, which I’m sure is something universal regardless of the era we grew up in. Worrying about everything from messing up what you said to a boy, perceived slights -absolutely! – and wavering friendships, school bullies, thinking you were “too” short/fat/thin/tall/small-breasted, etc. etc. – yes there were many tears and moments of great despair over all sorts of things which seemed huge at the time but which we didn’t really talk about it, at least not widely, only with the closest friends and through reading the problem pages in Jackie! I’m glad it’s usually the happier memories which rise to the surface when we look back! So I think the openness and help or at least sense of not being alone in one’s worry is much better now and a lot of it enabled by social media. The trade-off being the constant pressure to keep up, the comparisons with perfection and the frequently idiotic levels of self-obsession being normalised. If only we could have something somewhere between the two! Then again, where would be without teenage angst? We’d be bereft of some great music….!

        Hope you get time/chance for more posts soon but there’s no pressure, we totally understand! Will look out for that Smokie post when you do 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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