American Top 40 PastBlast, 7/10/76: Abba, “Mamma Mia”

At the end of April, Martha and I saw the annual musical production at Ben’s high school. Last year, I was greatly moved by their performance of Les Misérables; this time around, the director opted for a much lighter piece, one set in Greece with a mystery concerning the identity of the father of the bride: Mamma Mia! I’m not much of a movie-goer/watcher, so I haven’t seen Meryl, Pierce, and Amanda do their things. However, all I really needed to know as we plopped into our middle-back seats was that I would soon be hearing a cast of dozens serenading me with the sounds of my favorite Swedish musical act (sorry, Ace of Base and First Aid Kit).

It was a very good show. It didn’t (and couldn’t) have the emotional punch of Les Miz (“Slipping Through My Fingers” excepted, at least personally), but I enjoyed seeing the performers having such a great time. Most of the leads were seniors, now scattering across the state to share their talents (the young woman who played Donna will be going to my alma mater).

This was a bittersweet moment for the Cardinal Players in one major respect: since the high school will be split in two come August, Mamma Mia! represented perhaps the last mega-musical show at Scott County schools. The director addressed this head-on in remarks preceding the performance we saw. She was very positive, even inspirational, about it, emphasizing the increased opportunity for students to take on major roles and vowing that the two schools’ drama programs would support each other. Here’s hoping the community follows her lead.

“Mamma Mia” the song was an international smash beginning in the latter half of 75, hitting #1 in Australia, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and the UK, and making the top 10 in five other countries. As I’ve noted before, success elsewhere doesn’t automatically transfer to the U.S.: Abba is stuck at #32 in its fourth and final week on the countdown. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed pretty much every Abba single up through “Take a Chance on Me,” I have a bit of a hard time understanding why they weren’t making the Top 10 here every time.  (Maybe it’s just the song in this case: a cover of “Mamma Mia” at the end of the last century by another Swedish quartet, the A-Teens, also did very well around the world but not in the States.)

“Mamma Mia” is one of six songs spending its final week on AT40, and I noticed something about them after a longer look at this chart: they’re all at their peak position. (For the record, the other five are “Silver Star” by the Four Seasons at #38, “Good Vibrations” from Todd Rundgren at #34, “Somebody’s Gettin’ It” by Johnnie Taylor at #33, “Save Your Kisses for Me” courtesy of the Brotherhood of Man at #27, and Cyndi Grecco’s “Making Our Dreams Come True” at #25.)  Was this unusual when six or more songs dropped off? I decided to check it out, at least for the late 70s. (Apparently I don’t know yet if any chart matter from this era is too trivial to investigate—maybe I’ll fill you in should I find one.)

I’d already compiled a list of the weeks between 6/76 and 8/88 where there were six or more debuts, so it wasn’t too hard to look at the roughly four dozen cases covering the years 76 though 79. Among those, this is indeed the only such chart where (for such a large set of songs) all dropped off the Top 40 from their peak position.  While I didn’t go deeper than looking for a yes or no answer in each case, I did notice a couple of semi-interesting ones: 1) The set of droppers from the 6/4/77 show almost matched the 7/10/76 group, with five falling out from their peak–only “Lido Shuffle” had taken a tumble with the 40; 2) On the other extreme, the 7/24/76 droppers had come wafting gently down from high on the charts: they’d had peaks of #1, #2, #3, #4 (two), and #11.

So yes, this chart feat is at least rare when there are six or more on their way out. Unique for the Classic Casey era? A question for another day.

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