Starland Vocal Band And The Success Of “Afternoon Delight”
“Skyrockets in flight, Afternoon Delight!”
Whether you grew up in the ’70s or you’re a millennial, you probably recognize this quintessential 1970s hit. If you were a kid in the ’70s, you might have sung along to the upbeat, catchy tune on the radio, completely oblivious to the sexually suggestive lyrics that made it so popular.
Despite the huge success of Starland Vocal Band with this hit that spent two weeks at #1 in the US and scored the band two Grammys in ‘77, the group’s subsequent work never achieved the monumental success that “Afternoon Delight” managed to reach.
The Beginnings Of A Hit
“Afternoon Delight” was written by Bill Danoff, one of the band’s founding members. He first got the idea to create the song when dining at Clyde’s Restaurant in Washington D.C . One of the menu offerings was called Afternoon Delight, which amused Bill and inspired him to write a song of the same name. Bill and his then-wife Taffy were already part of a musical group called Fat City at the time. Sensing the success of “Afternoon Delight” lingering on the horizon, the Danoffs decided it was necessary to recruit two more voices to elevate their musical impact. Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman joined the husband and wife duo, and together the four talents formed Starland Vocal Band. The band members and outside producers worked tirelessly for years on the lyrics, production, and unique vocal harmonies featured in this song. It clearly paid off, because the song catapulted the group to worldwide fame.
With the release of the group’s self-titled debut album, Starland Vocal Band, the world got a taste of “Afternoon Delight” for the first time. And it turns out, they loved it. The song became a radio staple for the summer, with stations playing it several times a day. “Afternoon Delight” peaked at #1 in the US and Canada, #6 in Australia, and #18 in the UK. The song’s success led to the band’s own variety show on CBS, The Starland Vocal Band Show, which ran for six weeks in the summer of ‘77. The song was one of the top hits of 1976 and is undoubtedly the highlight of Starland Vocal Band’s career.
In the following years, the band released four more albums, but none of the songs in their repertoire brought them the success that “Afternoon Delight” had achieved. The band members decided to split in 1981 to pursue their own solo careers.
Lasting Influence On Pop Culture
“Afternoon Delight” doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. This 1976 hit has had its fair share of moments in pop culture, with newer generations recognizing the entertainment value of the quirky, giggle-inducing lyrics juxtaposed with a sweet melody. The song has been featured in multiple TV spots and movies for its nostalgic vibes and potential to elicit laughs. It has been covered by the cast of Glee, spoofed in Anchorman, featured in a 2014 Taco Bell commercial, and been the punchline of a joke in the comedy series Arrested Development. With lyrics like “Looking forward to a little afternoon delight” and “Rubbin’ sticks and stones together makes the sparks ignite” It’s easy to see how this song is great fodder for hilarious situations in modern times.
The Impact Of “Afternoon Delight”
Starland Vocal Band is a one-hit-wonder group that will forever be remembered for their 1976 hit, “Afternoon Delight”. The song continues to be a reminder of the ‘70s and explores the expression of sexual love in pop music, along with the signature folksy, soft-rock production of the era. As far as the song’s likeability, people tend to have differing opinions. Former Rock and Roll Hall of fame curator Jim Henke sums it up perfectly:
“On the one hand, “Afternoon Delight” is a punching bag. On the other hand, it’s a song people still go back to. I think it’s a good pop song; it had a very catchy melody and catchy lyrics. Plus, the use of the “afternoon delight” idea — they’re basically singing about sex but covering it up, and that’s very rock-and-roll. But some people hate it.”