Ah, yes, 1976. America’s bicentennial year. Unremarkable president Gerald Ford was replaced by unremarkable president Jimmy Carter, Legionnaire’s Disease caused people to ask, “Are Legionnaires like Shriners or Masons or what?”, and Bjorn Borg and Ilie Nastase battled it out at Wimbledon, causing headband sales to soar. I turned 14 years old, and morose for the first time in my life. Other than the sinking realization that the world was not my oyster and that our family’s “temporary” move to an isolated flood-prone rural swamp was going on five years with no escape in sight, I blame my depression on music. 1976 was a horror for me as a pop fan. I had waited all this time to become a teenager so I could take full advantage of the awesomely cool teen world my ‘60s upbringing had promised me. Discotheques playing the Beatles and the Stones and garage rock singles and smokin’ hot soul music! Miniskirts and white boots! What did I get instead? Disco, with mind-numbingly moronic useless songs with the same awful beat and stupid lyrics, “rock” songs that were even more useless and moronic (and that is really saying something), and the unflattering-to-everyone and stodgy midi dress and fake Frye boots. Oh, how it hurt.

I fought back as best I could. I railed against the happy-pap sounds to anyone who would listen, but mainly everyone seemed…happy. I tried to find music I liked, but it was hard. I read about interesting bands in my rock mags, but I had almost no way to hear them in 1976. The record stores I had occasional access to stocked mainly the Top 50 at best, and I had no money at all to buy records on spec. It would take another year or two for the early punk progenitors to get to my house. Most of the FM stations were strongly moving away from the creative DJ model to the AOR robot, and my radio reception for the couple of college/independent stations was sometimes OK-but-crackly, but more often just static. And my beloved AM radio? Done for, and never to return.

Now imagine this. My life, in 1976, is school. I hate school. My school is also seven miles away. This seven-mile schoolbus ride takes almost an hour after I get on the bus, driving from farm to farm. In the morning, it is usually before the sun is up that I board, exhausted and surly with wet long hair in frigid temperatures. In the afternoon, all I want to do is escape and go home, and it takes 30 minutes after the last school bell rings for the bus to even arrive to pick me up for the interminably-long ride back to the stinking swamp. Now add in this: dipshits fighting and yabbering and throwing food, opening and lowering the bus windows in any weather, screeching little voices and spitballs and cootie catchers, puffy parkas and backpacks and slushy boots everywhere. And on top of that, the tight Top 20 bus radio sounds of WOKY-AM in 1976, the same songs played over and over and over and over and over and over and I can’t escape. I think the bus driver, surely a prototype for South Park’s Mrs. Crabtree, cranked it up and left it on just to drown us all out.

Here are all the U.S. #1 pop songs from 1976. You tell me how this wasn’t the bottom of the barrel. I will sort them for you:


"Saturday Night" - Bay City Rollers


"Convoy" - C. W. McCall
"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" - Paul Simon
"Disco Duck" - Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots


"Love Rollercoaster" - Ohio Players
"December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) - The Four Seasons
"Love Hangover" - Diana Ross
"Afternoon Delight" - Starland Vocal Band
"Tonight's The Night" - Rod Stewart


"Love Machine" - The Miracles
"Disco Lady" - Johnnie Taylor
"Boogie Fever" - The Sylvers
"You Should Be Dancing" - Bee Gees
"(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" - KC and the Sunshine Band
"Play That Funky Music" - Wild Cherry
"A Fifth of Beethoven" - Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band


"Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" - Diana Ross
"Theme from S.W.A.T." - Rhythm Heritage
"Welcome Back" - John Sebastian


"I Write the Songs" - Barry Manilow
"Let Your Love Flow" - The Bellamy Brothers
"Silly Love Songs" - Paul McCartney & Wings
"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" - Elton John & Kiki Dee
"If You Leave Me Now" - Chicago
"Rock'n Me" - Steve Miller Band


"Kiss and Say Goodbye" - The Manhattans

It’s possible that some days I may have cried in my pillow about this, or punched it, I don’t remember. I just didn’t understand how anyone could like this stuff, or how everything went so downhill. I took it all very personally, as dramatic self-absorbed 14-year-old girls would. This shit sucked, and I worried that this was how it was going to stay forever. I thought I would have to bury myself in all my old records and buy earplugs for the bus. There was always dumb garbage pop in any year, I knew that, but holy hell. 1976 was BAD.

But here we are. I made it through. 1976 passed away, thankfully, music choices improved over the next few years to once again include fun stuff that wasn’t sleazy and stupid (in the bad sense of sleazy and stupid), and rock music got its balls back, at least to some degree. I got my mom and dad to drive me the seven miles back and forth to school when I announced that the bus was KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH ITS SONG. I got out of the swamp in 1983, the temporary move that lasted 12 years. Now I am not chained to crap-pop; it’s easy to find all kinds of new and cool music from the ease of the interhaps.

For all I know Mrs. Crabtree is still circling the farms in her long yellow bus, blasting Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber and Adam Lambert, stone-deaf.