The first UK Soul Singles chart was published in the launch issue of Black Echoes on January 30th 1976. It was the first of the only weekly soul charts published in the UK at the time. Black Music published a soul singles chart monthly whilst Blues & Soul published a fortnightly chart. Not surprisingly, the Motown label dominated the chart during its first year – notching up 17 hits, including two No.1 smashes. In 1976, 204 titles entered the chart of which 126 reached the Top 10. 146 separate acts made the charts on 62 different record labels – including two US imports. There were 83 groups which made the chart – the most successful of which were War and The Stylistics who both had four hits that year. Of the 44 male acts which made the chart, Barry White was the only one to have four hits, the most of all the male artists. Only 18 female singers reached the chart in 1976 – Diana Ross reigning supreme with four hits for Motown. The following is a breakdown of just 20 records that reached the coveted No.1 slot.
Love Machine | The Miracles | Tamla Motown 1 wk
In 1975, prior to this record’s release in November, the only single released by The Miracles that year was a UK-only issue cover of an old Brotherhood Of Man hit called ‘Where Are You Going To My Love’. It failed to make the pop charts and only die-hard soul fans seemed to like it. The frantic disco outing ‘Love Machine’ corrected all that – becoming the first and only national hit for the group without Smokey Robinson. Written by members Billy Griffin and Warren Moore, the song’s catchy chorus struck a chord with listeners and dancers alike – announcing itself loud and clear as the debut No.1 on the chart. It reached No.3 on the pop charts and was a US No.1 smash. They were never able to replicate that kind of success.
Inside America | Juggy Jones | Contempo 3 wks
Originally appearing on the Jupiter label out of Los Angeles, this funky uptempo disco tune by Juggy ‘Murray’ Jones was rush-released in the UK by soul label Contempo. Its longer version appeared in the US on a same-titled album and a 12” single. This instrumental was one of the biggest successes of the time, filling dancefloors for the remainder of the year. Juggy had been involved in the American R&B scene since the 50s as a producer, label owner and artist. He was already in his fifties when this track was made. This is certainly a track that has stood the test of time.
I Love Music | The O’ Jays | Philadelphia Int. 1 wk
Released in the UK during January in 1976, this Philly classic has never stopped being popular. It has all the crucial ingredients of a typical Gamble & Huff disco masterwork – lush strings, trippin’ hi-hat snares, perky percussion, bubbling bass, soaring horns and rich vocals. The long version appeared on the ’75 album ‘Family Reunion’ – but the longer 12” disco-mix didn’t appear until a couple of years later. A staple of all good parties, dances and club nights for nearly 40 years, this one surely needs no introduction. Even though I have taken the liberty of providing one. The sound of happiness is right here.
(Do The) Spanish Hustle | Fatback Band | Polydor 1 wk
In 1975, the Fatbacks had released their first few records in the UK – a steady stream of disco treats – ‘Keep On Steppin’, ‘Wicki Wacki’, ‘Yum Yum (Gimme Some)’ and ‘(Are Your Ready) Do The Bus Stop’. The latter tune had been their biggest hit so far – also crossing over to make the Top 20 pop charts. ‘(Do The) Spanish Hustle’ was an even greater success – as its prime position here proves. It was the first of more number ones to come from this fine band. The ’45 peaked at No. 10 in the UK pop charts and the album from which this song is extracted – ‘Raising Hell’ – was their biggest crossover album too. The tune reminds me of clubs like Crackers, Club 7, Gulliver’s and Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s. Of course, one of the greatest things about this record is that the B-side is equally brilliant – the stunning and summery ‘Groovy Kind Of Day’. (There’s a B-side special coming soon, so hold tight.)
Let’s Do The Latin Hustle | Eddie Drennon & B.B.S. Unlimited | Pye Int. 2 wks
The hustlin’ continues. The rather lame UK cover version by the M & O Band was the biggest national hit lick of this song – but it seems soul fans preferred to stick with the original, sending it to No.1 for two weeks in March 1976. It had been a popular American import on the Friends & Co. label the previous year. The dance (much like the Spanish hustle) had been around in New York for a few years – but after Van McCoy’s massive hit ‘The Hustle’ in 1975, everybody was hustling in on the act. There had already been ‘Salsoul Hustle’ (Salsoul Orchestra), ‘Hustle Wit Every Muscle’ (Kay-Gees), ‘Change (Makes You Wanna Hustle)’ (Donald Byrd) – and Hidden Strength’s ‘Hustle On Up (Do The Bump)’ was another biggie in ’76, reaching No.2 in the UK Soul Singles chart. Of course, at this time nobody knew that the ‘British Hustle’ was just a few years away…
Disco Connection | Isaac Hayes Movement | ABC 2 wks
Isaac Hayes embraced disco when it was in full swing during this era – not surprisingly, since he had been at the forefront of the culture since the early 70s and had certainly helped shape and define its musical elements. This track is taken from the entirely instrumental album he made with his session musicians – the persistent rhythm was helped along with vibrant musical arrangements and tinged with funk. It was one of the first big hits on his own Hot Buttered Soul imprint.
Movin’ | Brass Construction | United Artists 2 wks
‘Movin’’ had been released in the UK back-to-back the previous year with ‘Changin’’ – but it was this re-release which mashed up the soul charts. The group’s debut album had taken off in a big way in the UK – even reaching the Top 10 in the pop ratings. It was an incredible album and had so many scorchers on it. One of those was ‘Talkin’’ which was issued as the B-side of this release and later found favour on the 80s rare groove/warehouse scene. One of the things that made the group distinctive was the huge injection of funk into their disco music. They did this brilliantly. The leader of the group – Randy Muller – had previously worked with B.T. Express on their phenomenal debut album as string-arranger. I’d say that this tune was the defining disco record of 1976. As a 17-year-old, Saturday lunchtime disco sessions with Ronnie L. at Oxford Street’s 100 Club was certainly one place where this track blazed. Of course, the track was a huge influence on Garnet Mimms & Truckin’ Company’s later hit – ‘What It Is’.
Love Hangover | Diana Ross | Tamla Motown 6 wks
The song was originally included in Diana’s eponymous album in ’76. The 5th Dimension quickly recorded a pretty similar cover version and put it out on a single – however, Motown quickly rushed out an edited version of Diana’s original and it took off. A 12” mix was issued for promotional purposes in the US but had to wait another four years for an official UK release, when it was finally issued on the B-side of a Supremes medley. One of the most seductive things about the record is the slow introduction – which was very much in the style of Donna Summer’s ‘Love To Love You Baby’. Its evolution into a fast disco track really works well. It transformed the career of Ms. Ross who had at first been reluctant to record such a blatant ‘disco’ number. It topped the US pop charts and also provided Diana with her 15th UK solo pop hit. The Players Association did a rather nifty instrumental version the following year.
Young Hearts Run Free | Candi Staton | Warner Bros. 8 wks
Produced and written by Dave Crawford, the vocals for the album of the same name were recorded within just six hours. He had written the song based on things Candi had been telling him about the abusive relationship with her fourth husband. Ms. Staton had been releasing music since the late 60s but it was this track which really ignited her career. In the UK Soul Charts, it was the longest running stint at No.1 in 1976 – remaining at the top for all of June and July. It was also a massive pop success, stalling at No.2 behind The Real Thing’s ‘You To Me Are Everything’ – a situation reversed in our soul charts, when Candi prevented The Real Thing from attaining the No.1 slot.
Kiss And Say Goodbye | The Manhattans | CBS 1 wk
In a year dominated by disco, ballads were in short supply on the chart. By the end of the year the most successful smoocher was Dorothy Moore’s ‘Misty Blue’ which peaked at No.2. The only other slow ballads of the year were Billy Paul’s Phillybuster ‘Let’s Make A Baby’ (the reggae version by Ruddy Thomas topped the UK Reggae 20 the following year); ‘For The Love Of You’ by The Isley Brothers; Dorothy Moore’s rendition of Willie Nelson’s ‘Funny How Time Slips Away – and two hits by The Manhattans. Their second smash (reaching No.3) was a soulful rendering of Timi Yuro’s 1961 classic ‘Hurt’. The first was this lovely song. The group had been delivering fantastic ballads since the 60s – including gems like ‘Follow Your Heart’ (1965), ‘If My Heart Could Speak’ (1970) and the stunning ‘There’s No Me Without You’ (1973). Both their ’76 hits peaked at a very respectable No.4 position on the national charts.
Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel | Tavares | Capitol 3 wks
Tavares had already scored on the UK soul scene with hits like ‘That’s The Sound That Lonely Makes’, ‘Remember What I Told You Forget’ and the infectious ‘It Only Takes A Minute’. This track continued the disco format of their previous hit – and became an even huger record. The album from which it was taken was also massive, staying on the charts for 14 weeks – four of those at No.1. Of course, nowadays, the song is a staple on the more easy-listening daytime radio stations but back in ’76 this was fresh and firin’. They are the only group to have two records in the Top 25 of the year – this No.1 and their second No.1…wait for it.
You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine | Lou Rawls | Philadelphia Int. 2 wks
Lou had been releasing music since the late 50s. By the time he finally achieved huge international success with this song, he’d already released over 24 albums and 40 singles. He was one of the first acts to ‘rap’ (talk) during the opening bars of his tracks – a style later adopted by both Isaac Hayes and Barry White. In the UK, ‘You’ll Never Find…’ was a true ‘ravers’ tune – basically, the kind of soul tune you would hear in a ‘reggae’ dance or party. Needless to say, it prompted a hot reggae version by John Holt which was just as massive. Sometimes they would even be played back-to-back. The lilting Philly lushness of the track really suited Lou’s singing style. He went on to have many more successes with Gamble & Huff and other producers at Philadelphia International – but this was the first and it was an instant classic. It remains his only ever crossover hit in the UK, reaching No.10.
You Don’t Have To Go | The Chi-Lites | Brunswick 1 wk
The Chi-Lites are one of the kingpin groups of 70s soul – releasing consistently brilliant tracks throughout the decade. They were also a key group on the ‘ravers’ scene – with many of their tracks covered by reggae artists. A lot of these soul originals would later become rare groove/2-step classics. These include cuts such as ‘Go Away Dream’, ‘Being In Love’, ‘Happiness Is Your Middle Name’, ‘A Letter To Myself’, ‘Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man’ ‘Stoned Out Of My Mind’ and ‘You Got To Be The One’. ‘You Don’t Have To Go’ was one of the group’s more disco-oriented tracks and equalled the success of their other big smash – the sad ballad ‘Have You Seen Her’ – by peaking at No.3 in the national charts.
Get Up Offa That Thing | James Brown | Polydor 3 wks
Chart-wise, this was the biggest record of the year – remaining in the Top 20 for four and a half months. He’d hit with ‘Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved’) earlier in the year – but this one really set the dancefloors alight. ‘Get Up Offa That Thing’ has remained one of JB’s most popular tracks – though, like all of his records in the 70s, it never made the national Top 20 in the UK.
Can’t Get By Without You | The Real Thing | Pye 1 wk
The Real Thing had been on the periphery of the UK soul scene since the early 70s but cracked the charts wide open with the previously mentioned ‘You To Me Are Everything’. This follow-up was also a massive hit (making No.2 on the pop charts) and a big seller to the soul crowd also. For me, their greatest record is the 1982 interpretation of the Johnny Bristol song ‘Love Takes Tears’. That’s soul perfection right there.
Jaws | Lalo Schifrin | CTI 3 wks
Lalo Schifrin is a musician, producer, composer and arranger famous for his creation of the ‘Mission: Impossible’ theme-tune. His dynamic version of John Williams’ title-theme from Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ film was fun and funky. Regrettably, the 12” version was never released in the UK – but the 7” was still a supersized hit in its own right. A disco adrenaline rollercoaster.
Don’t Take Away The Music | Tavares | Capitol 3 wks
The second No.1 smash from the group’s ‘Sky High’ album. Another disco delight.
Lowdown | Boz Scaggs | CBS 1 wk
Some records are just timeless. This is one of ‘em. With some of the tightest musicianship you will ever hear, this is a heavy duty classic. And Scaggs’ glorious vocal just shines. Boz had previously played with Steve Miller in the 60s but made his name in the 70s playing soul-drenched rock, rhythm and blues. This is another of those ‘ravers’ specials – I remember hearing this dropped in between all the reggae and dub at Four Aces in Dalston and just had to bust some moves. Essential music. It makes me smile from ear to ear – and believe me, they are considerable.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is | Rose Royce | MCA 3 wks
In 1976, imported soul and reggae singles were expensive. They could be as much as £1.25 each! However, I couldn’t resist buying a 7” I’d heard in the Autumn. I purchased it in Contempo (my favourite soul shop) in West End’s Hanway Street which, conveniently, was just a couple of doors away from Daddy Kool (my favourite reggae shop). I took it to a friend’s party and said “You’ve got to play this tune!”. The track was a disco number called ‘Car Wash’ by a group called Rose Royce (who I’d never heard of) and I thought it was one of the greatest records I’d ever heard. Needless to say, my 7-inch vinyl got the crowd very excited and I’m sure we had to ‘lick it back’. However, it was not this track that MCA in the UK chose to release as the group’s first single. They plumped for ‘Put Your Money…’ – a funk cut (from the soundtrack to a film I don’t think anybody ever saw at the time) which was let loose at the tail end of October. By the first week in December it was top of the pile. However, the demand for ‘my tune’ was immense and so it was finally released on December 10th. By the 18th December it was already in the chart at No.18- whilst this baby was still at No.1. Was my treasured import – now released – going to repeat the action?
Keep It Comin’ Love | KC & The Sunshine Band | Jay Boy 1 wk
This was a group whose music I’d enjoyed from the off. They’d made a string of great disco records – ‘Blow Your Whistle’, ‘Sound Your Funky Horn’, ‘Queen Of Clubs’, ‘Get Down Tonight’, ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’, ‘I’m So Crazy (‘Bout You)’, ‘I Like To Do It’ and ‘(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty’. It was what they called the Miami Sound. They were ‘feel good’ party records and this chart-topper was no exception. But this was probably the last of their decent records – they’d become formulaic even by this time.
Looking back on these 20 Number Ones, I think it’s important that it was the advent of disco music and its derivatives which gave so many more soul artists an opportunity to achieve much wider recognition, albeit briefly for some of them. Music like this certainly led youngsters like me to become lifelong fans of dance music generally. It does make me smile when I see some disco purists berating a lot of this kind of crossover disco now and saying they were never into it. I can guarantee you they were dancing to it and loving it same way back in the day.