This is a double-entendre song named after the late-afternoon appetizer menu at the restaurant Clyde's Of Georgetown in Washington, DC, where they have a gold record from this song hanging in the bar. That's the official explanation at least: the other meaning is daytime sex. The inspirational menu heading read: "Afternoon Delights."
The Starland vocal band delivered four-part harmonies with the married couple Bill and Taffy Danoff (Taffy Nivert after they split up), and another couple: Margot Chapman and Jon Carroll (the baby of the bunch, he was just 19 when the song was released). Taffy spiced up the stage banter when they performed this song, explaining that the title came from the menu, but adding some version of "...then Bill came home and we had our own Afternoon Delight. We wrote the song instead of having a cigarette."
Bill says the songwriting was far from sexy: he wrote it over the course of six months, often on Sundays when he was watching Redskins football. "All that energy coming out of the tube gets my creative juices flowing," he told People magazine.
This was the only hit for the Starland Vocal Band, who won the Grammy for Best New Artist of 1976, beating out the band Boston. In a VH1 special on one-hit wonders, Bill Danoff of Starland Vocal Band said: "We got two of the five Grammys - one was Best New Artist. So that was basically the kiss of death and I feel sorry for everyone who's gotten it since."
Starland Vocal Band was a newcomer, but the Danoffs had already released four albums, two under the name Fat City and two as Billy and Taffy. The Starland Vocal Band split up after their fourth album.
Despite having only this one hit, the Starland Vocal Band were given their own summer replacement TV series on CBS called The Starland Vocal Band in 1977. An unknown comic named David Letterman appeared on the show.
Under the name Fat City, the group sang backup on John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads," which was written by Bill and Taffy. Denver helped get the Starland Vocal Band a record deal with RCA, where he had his own vanity label, Windsong Records.
A key element in this song is the pedal steel guitar lick that comes after the line, "skyrockets in flight." The band knew they needed something there to simulate the fireworks, and considered using a sound effect. Danny Pendleton, who was playing pedal steel at the session, came up with the solution by turning on every pedal and letting it rip. Once the band heard it, they knew it was right for the song.
In Anchorman, they sing, "pe-ewww" in this section, making it hard for anyone to hear the song without making their own skyrocket sounds.
The harmony vocals are the star of this song, but arrangement had to be just right in order to support them. Bill Danoff played 12-string guitar, while Starland member Jon Carroll added acoustic 6-string. They were supported by a selection of session pros: Russell George on bass, Jimmy Young on drums, and Danny Pendleton on pedal steel guitar. Milt Okun was the producer and Phil Ramone was the engineer. In 1977, Billy Joel released The Stranger, which was his first album produced by Ramone, who stayed on as his producer until his 1989 album Storm Front.
In US, this topped the chart the week ending July 10, 1976, making it the #1 song during America's bicentennial: July 4, 1976. Skyrockets (fireworks) were a huge part of that celebration.
The country singer Johnny Carver released his own version of this song in 1976 that rose to #9 on the Country chart.
This was used in two 2004 movies that were set in the '70s: Anchorman and Starsky and Hutch. The Anchorman DVD contains a video of the cast performing the song, with an intro by Will Ferrell, who in his Ron Burgundy character says: "If you don't think this song is the greatest song ever, I will fight you."
Suggestion credit: Billy - Pittsburgh, PA
From 1997-2007, Bill Danoff had his own restaurant in Washington DC called The Starland Cafe.
The follow-up single, "California Day," stalled at #66 and the next single, "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!" stopped at #71. After releasing their second album, they did their TV series instead of going on a promotional tour. That series lasted only six episodes, putting the brakes on any momentum they had left. The group called it quits in 1980 after their fourth album, which contained one last chart entry, "Loving You with My Eyes," at #71.
Starland Vocal Band was the opening act for their labelmate John Denver when this song rose up the charts. Their sets were punctuated by an a capella performance of Paul Simon's "American Tune" where they stood on the round stage with each band member facing a different direction.
John Stamos performed this with the cast of Glee on the 2011 episode of the series, "Sexy." The song becomes a topic of discussion when it is sung by the "celibacy club." When Gwyneth Paltrow's character questions the selection, celibacy club leader Emma (Jayma Mays), says, "It's so wholesome. It was written during the bicentennial to celebrate America and fireworks."
"No, it's about sneaking out for a nooner," Paltow replies.
"Yes, exactly. A nooner is when you have dessert in the middle of the day, right?"
Released as a single, this version went to #108 - the only cover version to chart.
This song has been used in a number of movies and TV series to evoke carefree, campy fun from an era when sex wasn't so scary. A sampling:
PCU (1994) Boogie Nights (1997) Good Will Hunting (1997)
Mindhunter ("Episode #1.4" - 2017) Emily's Reasons Why Not ("Why Not to Hire a Cute Male Assistant" - 2008) My Name Is Earl ("Our 'Cops' Is On!" - 2007) Family Guy ("Stewie Kills Lois" - 2007) 30 Rock ("Fireworks" - 2007) South Park ("Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy" - 2006) Arrested Development ("Afternoon Delight" - 2004) The Simpsons ("The Fat and the Furriest" - 2003) ER ("Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic" - 2001) Malcolm in the Middle ("Home Alone 4" - 2000) Sports Night ("The Apology" - 1998)
Jon Carroll has come to appreciate this song and is quite proud of it, but he wasn't happy about it when it was first released. "'Afternoon Delight' is not the kind of record for someone who wants to be perceived as a bad-ass rock and roller," he said in a Songfacts interview. "It's not cool to like that record, right? I was 18 when we recorded it, and it came out and I couldn't believe that they chose it as a single. Of course, I'm an idiot, because I was 18."
He added: "It's always contextualized in some ridiculous way, which always pisses me off a little bit, but it also makes me aware that there's something endearing about it. Of all the usages of it, my favorite was Malcolm In The Middle when they're finally getting out of the house and the boys are finally sorted out and Mom and Dad are going out on their own. She's got her leg up on the dashboard of the Dodge Caravan, and she's shaving it.. She's all lathered up and the radio is on playing 'Afternoon Delight.'"
Rockpiler from Joe, MtRich in LA: Van Halen and Elvis Costello were not nominated for a Grammy in 1976. Van Halen's first album was released in 1978. Costello's first album was released in the UK in 1977, but he didn't get any U.S. radio airplay until the year after.
Bill from UsYou must admit the line "Thinkin' of you's workin' ......up my appetite" is kind of hard to fit it the melody without a little tongue twisting the first dozen times, how many times did you sing it before you got it right?
Camille from Toronto, OhThis was a big favorite of mine when it was popular in '76. Over the years, I decided it was kind of hokey. It surprised me, then, how I immediately loved it when I listen to it on my ipod with my earbuds! Through the ipod/earbuds I hear all the amazing blending of the voices; it's actually quite an experience. They gave themselves the perfect name: Starland VOCAL Band.
Peterm from Birmingham, United KingdomI never had any hangups about the meanings of songs like slow hand (pointer sisters)or night moves (Bob Seger) This is just another fun song that's well presented and at least they look like they are enjoying singing it. It was also the year we were married at university (still together)so it was a good time too. Why make heavy weather of it all? It's fun to trawl through and listen.
Belinda from Cresskill New Jresey, NjLet's give a big "thank you" to Bill,Taffy,Margot and John for making the summer of 1976 the greatest summer ever.Whenever I fall in love I sing the words to that special lady.Brings me back to summer 1976 when we lived in a dreamlike paradise as compared to today.Taffy is extremely good-looking and look at Margot-she's Hawaiian-american.The Starland Vocal Band is another example of the musical genius dreamlike paradise unbeleivably unreal fantastic talent that ONLY came from the 1970's.We love you Bill,Taffy,Margot and John.
Camille from Toronto, OhI gotta agree with Julie about associating this song with less complicated times; I was also a senior the year this came out. Of course, all the references about rubbing sticks and stones together and making sparks ignite...doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out you can't really see fireworks that good in the afternoon, so the song must be about.......
Reed from New Ulm, MnLove the harmony on this one!!!!
Mixermatt from Bloomington, MnI did a gig a few years ago and somebody got up set when I played this song at a dance. The person went on telling me the song had to do with drugs..and sex.. i told the person that the song was requested.. The person still got up set. I was told drop the song and play another song.. BOOOO to that person Top of that I did the gig for free
Bruce from Boston , MaMy memory of this song and I think about it almost everytime I hear it is, when I was a teenager hearing this song at the beach and actually listening to the lyrics for the first time. I cant believe today how incredibly horny this simple jester in this song made me. I guess when your that age it doesnt take much. Lets just say I had to stay lying face down on my towel for while. I cant imagine being a kid today and hearing the things on the radio that they hear.
Robert from Denver, CoThis song was also used as the "Horrible" song that was used to torture a room full of captive party goers in the movie "PCU". Funny stuff. I still love the song though.
Rich from La, CaGreat Song... But when they won the Grammy Award for best new act in 1976... among the others up for that same award were Elvis Costello & Van Halen!
Michelina from The Mountains, Co[Shana, you must be a mere baby!] Yes, yes, it's a corny song. But sometimes you can't get past your own subjective view of a song connected with an event/time period of note in your life. And like a lot of the 70's AM radio staples, the harmonies are pretty darn good.
Dave from Baltimore, MdI think of this song every summer!
Polly from Anna, IlThis song reminds me of swimming all afternoon at the city pool; feeding my cousin "Hawaiian Delight" baby food and sneaking bites and; of course I thought it was about fireworks. I was a bit young for me to realize the sexual theme. Nevertheless; it was one of the all time great songs of the summer in 1976! WRAJ radio station played it constantly. I can now understand why my parentes HATED this song.
Richard from Talladega, AlJazz drummer Billy Cobham played the drums on this.
Mark from Grafton, United StatesThis song belongs on the jukebox in hell. 'Nuff said.
Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesWhere did this song come from? Is it derived from Song of Solomon? It conveys roughly the same message - at least I think it does. It's not encouraging any sexual immorality that I can tell. If it is, it's obscure. I used to think this was about either fireworks or launching a satellite.
Cyberpope from Richmond, Canada"Asftyernoon Delight" = going home for a "nooner" "star rockets in flight" = traditional Hollywood movie representation of climax Nicely snuck past the censors! *LOL* (Why do we, as adults, NEED censors, anyway?)
Bubba Zanetti from Austin, TxHippies trying to trick us into making sex wholesome with a pretty melody and sneaky lyrics? How shocking!
Joe from Dublin"i dunno Ron. it sounds like you've got mental problems. yeah. you've got mental problems man. yeah" ..... "...Afternoon Delight"
Mike from Hueytown , AlMy Dad hated this song with a passion when it first came out and still does hahahaha
Darrell from EugeneI have this song on every medium save reel-to-reel and MP3. This is one of the songs that got my girlfriend to like "70s afro music".
Paul from Sacramento, CaI saw Bill Danoff perform a solo acoustic version of this in a seedy hole-in-the-wall Durango Colorado bar in the summer of 1986 - it's a shame it wasn't released like this, because stripped of the sickly overproduction, it was actually pretty powerful.
Terry from Northampton, EnglandWhen i saw the version of this song on Anchorman it brought it all back to me just how good this song was in that very hot summer of 1976.It's a pity the song reached only no.18 here in England. While the UK charts had 'The Real Thing' at the top The Starland Vocal Band were singing about 'The Real Thing' at the top of the US charts. Oooooh! very naughty.
Julie from Midland, MiI guess it all depends on your history with the song...Senior in highschool, lunch time with your boyfriend...pretty good memories of fun, uncomplicated times for me.
Jesus from Binghamton, NyThis is a great song, period. It's a rare song that treats sexual pleasure as something natural, healthy, loving and fun. The vocals, which seem to contrast so sharply with the subject matter, only underscore the message that sex is wholesome (or can be). It also has a lovely melody. People who are embarrassed by this song or think it's "hoaky", "corny" and "cheesy" just have a lot of hangups.
Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaCheesy but delightful (pun intended). I remember their short-lived variety show. Taffy Danoff was a looker.
Mel from South Australia, Australiahow funny was it in 'arrested development' when michael and maybe are singing it to each other (relation: uncle and niece) then lindsay and george michael sing it (aunt and nephew)! made me laugh...
A.j. from Chicago, IlPlus Anchorman and Starsky & Hutch are both Frat Pack "productions."
Mike from Tokyo, JapanA search for music shows this song by Captain and Tenille, Starland vocal band, Seals and Crofts and of course, Will Ferrell. Either they are mis-named or I missed some versions of it.
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI liked this song..............for all of about 2 minutes. Yeah, I know that's too long. I apologize and pray to God for forgiveness. (If you get on my case for that because it's not "politically correct" STOP WHINING
The Prynce from Dillon / Hamer, ScIts kind of odd that Suzie is from Myrtle Beach, SC 'cause I've heard this song was about a ride at the Pavillion. Odds are, it has nothing to do with the ride in any way. The person that told me must have been mistaking this song for another one.
But the performance on 'Anchorman' (I haven't seen the video on the DVD. Only the part in the actual movie) was soooo funny!
I absolutely love this song, though!
Jason from Nowhereville, FlThis song was actually listed as an 11 year old little league baseball player's favorite on ESPN in the national semifinals. Poor kid.
Brian from Saco, Mein my all time favorite movie, "good will hunting", this is the song that is played at the end of the movie when the credits roll.
Gregg from Denver, CoI swear I remember John Denver singing this with the Muppets on some kind of Halloween special (I was in Kindergarten--early/mid 70's) -- JD was dressed like Frankenstein---I thought the song was about fireworks when I was 5, go figure...I loved the video for it on the Anchorman DVD--hilarious!!!!
Ben from Philly, PaThe reason everyone in Arrested Development was giving the people singing the strange looks is b/c each duet was between family members who had no idea what the song was about...
Mike from Cloverdale, CaThis song was also used in the movie "Starsky and Hutch."
Luke from Pittsburgh, PaThis song was also used in the TV show Arrested Development. When it is sung at a karaoke twice in the episode, is brings strange looks from the crowd (being a "double-entendre" song).
Shana from Pembroke, CanadaOmg i thought this song was a joke that Will Ferrell did! i didnt think it was an ACTUAL song...that is TOO funny. Will Ferrell has a video for it and everything, its hilarious!
Nick from Arlington Heights, IlHomer Simpson had a "Starland Vocal Band" tatoo in one episode of the Simpsons. The tatoo has since mysteriously disappeared.
Angelica from La Puente, CaThis song was also in Good Will Hunting.
Billy from Pittsburgh, PaThis song was used in the 2004 movie "Anchorman" with Will Ferrell. He's trying to describe being in love to his buddies and they break into this song out of nowhere.
Astrid from Quincy, Ilthis song is blatantly about a noon time quickie. theres no two ways about it.
Charles from Charlotte, NcThis song gets mentioned often on many "Worst song of all time" websites.
Rob from London, EnglandThe title gave its name to a Saturday afternoon radio show on a commercial station in London, UK-probably 1978/9ish?
Rodrigo from Guatemala, OtherThe song comes from a special dish in a menu, at a restaurant called Clyde's in Washington D.C. The Afternoon Delight, which according to the songwriter was a plate of "shrimp with Brie and almonds", is the main inspiration of this song, and that's why in the lyrics you hear "fishing" mentioned along with some sort of raunchy-sex related subject... Must be one hell of a dish then!
Kelly from Orange, CaThis song was also used early in the movie "Boogie Nights" when Mark Wahlburg is hanging out & having sex with his girlfriend.
Chet from Saratoga Springs, NyThis song as used in the movie PCU when Jeremy Pivens character locked the dean of his college in a room with this song repeating over and over again
Suzie from North Myrtle Beach, ScI grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and spent a lot of time in the Georgetown area of DC. The song "Afternoon Delight" was taken from the name of a menu, at a then popular restaurant, in Georgetown. Just can't recall the name of the restaurant now.