My trick bag is still empty so I’ll bring out something that ran in March 2011 on the old blog.
No sooner do I declare 1971 my least favorite year of the Seventies than Casey Kasem (or, rather, Sirius/XM) takes me right back there.
Well, what the hell, it’s always a fun ride.
Here’s what was going on the week ending March 13, 1971:
* The Allman Brothers record shows at the Fillmore East for a live album that will become a foundation document of what a jam-band live album is supposed to sound like.
* Also in New York City, Joe Frazier deals Muhammad Ali his first professional loss in the “Fight of the Century.”
* The cover of Time magazine features a mock-needlepoint illustration of a story titled “Suburbia: A Myth Challenged.“
The magazine, which put James Taylor on its cover just two weeks before, devotes its music coverage this week to the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band and a host of reissues of classical recordings.
* “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which has only a few months to live, hosts an“Armed Forces Music Festival” featuring military fife-and-drum groups; a barbershop quartet from the Air Force; the U.S. Army Drill Team; and a cameo appearance by General William Westmoreland.
* Prominent deaths this week include two names from the sepia-toned past — TV pioneer and all-around inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, and silent film star Harold Lloyd.
* Also dying is former Boston Braves pitcher Bill James, one of the great one-year wonders in baseball history.
In 1914, his second season in the bigs, the 22-year-old James went 26-7 with a 1.90 ERA for the upset World Series champion Braves.
He capped his year by throwing a two-hit shutout at the Philadelphia A’s in Game 2 of the World Series, then pitching two innings of hitless relief to win Game 3.
James would play only 15 games in the big leagues after 1914, recording only five more wins.
* “THX 1138,” director George Lucas’ first feature-length film, is released.
* Suzy Furlong of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes to the Cedar Rapids Gazette to protest the pre-empting of regular TV programming by a broadcast of the state girls’ basketball tournament.
Mrs. Furlong adds that the sport is “totally boring to watch,” and says that she would never allow her daughter to participate in “such a ridiculously un-feminine sport.”
* The twelfth issue of National Lampoon features Michael O’Donoghue’s oft-reproduced essay “How To Write Good,” as well as “The Mantovani Strain,” a hilarious-sounding parody of “The Andromeda Strain” that, regrettably, has not been so often reproduced.
There would be more than a little of the Mantovani Strain infecting this week’s countdown … but here it is, with the occasional favourite in bold ’cause we’re not total cranks:
No. 40, debut: James Brown, “Soul Power.”
Casey executes a little fancy footwork in his talkup, leaving room for the Godfather to interject ”Huh!” in between words.
As for the song, well, it’s got the Collins brothers and Fred Wesley, so it has to be at least moderately killer.
No. 39, debut: “One Toke Over The Line,” Brewer & Shipley. Another classic example of two back-to-back AT40 hits that were almost certainly never played back-to-back by anyone but Casey.
I like the way B&S’s voices work together; too bad they had even less to say than America.
No. 38, debut: Fifth Dimension, “Love’s Lines, Angles and Rhymes.”
I actually kinda warmed to this, particularly the Marilyn McCoo lead vocal.
Can’t get past all that nonsense about “touching the fibers / of feelings inside you,” though.
As Pedro Bell put it: “Too much concept.”
No. 37: For the good folks rockin’ out with WKNX in Saginaw, Michigan, it’s Rufus Thomas with “Do the Push and Pull (Part 1).”
This is really thirty seconds of song stuffed into a three-minute bag, I’m afraid.
No. 36, debut: Paul McCartney, “Another Day.”
I always kinda wrote this off based on its verse, which I find trivial and kind of annoying.
Listened a little harder this time, and I have to admit the bridge section (“so sad”) is spicier and more interesting, lyrically and musically, than the verse.
But of course, two days after hearing the countdown, the verse is the part I remember.
And hey, Macca, how come the main chick’s path to happiness is defined by finding and keeping the right man?
Couldn’t she find fulfillment working as Anna Wintour’s assistant or something?
No. 35: “Burning Bridges,” Mike Curb Congregation.
I know people of otherwise sound taste who enjoyed this one in ’71; I don’t see it myself.
Never been a big fan of choirs, for one thing.
(I am reminded of a great line from Robert Christgau, who wrote that Funkadelic “made the Ohio Players look like the Mike Curb Congregation.”)
No. 34: Johnnie Taylor, “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone.”
A dark, repetitive backstabber that apparently has its roots in a U.S. Army marching chant, which I didn’t know until Chris Stufflestreet at’70s Music Mayhem wrote about it. (RIP, Chris.)
No. 33: Cat Stevens, “Wild World.”
Just about bolded this one; as obnoxious as some of the words are, I like the music.
(“Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear” is not the tenderest farewell I’ve ever heard.)
This was later covered in my teenage years, circa 1990, by some worthless poodlehead band or another.
Mr. Big, maybe?
No. 32, debut: B.J. Thomas, “No Love At All.”
Reminds me of the Velvets’ “Some Kinda Love,” which goes a step beyond Thomas’ assertion that “any kind of love is better than no love at all” and posits that “no kinds of love are better than others.”
As for the claim that even bad love is better than no love, that makes me think of people slapping each other around.
I gotta stop trying to read meaning and significance into these three-minute pop singles.
No. 31: Francis Lai, “Theme From ‘Love Story.’ ” Not even my favourite version of this. But the good news is, I’ve got two more to choose from.
No. 30: Aretha, “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
Starts slow but gets better as both Aretha and the band build steam.
No. 29: A song written 200 years ago by a slave trader, Casey says in a reverent hush:
“Amazing Grace” by Judy Collins.
No. 28: Van Morrison, “Blue Money.”
An agreeable front-room bash-around, featuring a special appearance by the trumpeter from down the pub.
No. 27: Bobby Goldsboro, “Watching Scotty Grow.”
No. 26: Down six, Dave Edmunds with the sparse, distilled boogie of “I Hear You Knockin’.”
That single piano chord is an inspired pop touch — the kind of thing that makes a good record.
No. 25: Santana with the distinctly loungey “Oye Como Va.” Nice enough solo from Carlos, though.
No. 24: Up eight, Chicago with “Free.”
Drummer Danny Seraphine, who studied for a time with bebop drummer Jo Jones, rips himself off a piece here.
Always loved the guitar-and-drum sparring on this one.
Not sure what got into our otherwise laid-back heroes on this one … perhaps, in Jim Bouton-speak, their greenies kicked in.
No. 23: Andy Williams with the theme from “Love Story” again.
My wife and I looked at each other at the start and crooned, “Wheeeeere doooo I begiiiiin?“
Then we fell silent.
And I looked into her eyes and said, “Love means never having to know the words.”
No. 22: Lynn Anderson, “Rose Garden.”
No. 21: “Knock Three Times,” Dawn. Fifteenth week on.
This is almost starting to grow on me, though I still say the lyrical hook is a little bit gimmicky for my taste.
No. 20: Grass Roots, “Temptation Eyes.”
Pretty good chorus; and it does capture at least some of that teenage feeling of being messed-up in love with someone who’s jerking you around.
Not that I’d really know, never having been in such a relationship; but anyhow.
No. 19: “What Is Life?,” George Harrison.
Satisfying pop-rock that the thousand-ton weight of Phil Spector cannot derail.
Also a song that works just as well without the whiff of Krishna floating around it … I actually found it possible to listen to the chorus and think it was about a her, rather than a Him.
No. 18: Up 11 spots, Marvin Gaye with “What’s Going On.” Not quite in the mood for this, I guess.
No. 17: For the kiddies in the pizzerias and roller rinks of Manchester, New Hampshire, listening in on WKBR, it’s Wilson Pickett with “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You.”
Swinging gold from Philly, with subtle Hammond organ and tasty guitar.
I imagine it made even March in New Hampshire seem warmer and brighter for three minutes.
I had no idea there was a hit country version of this a couple years later. Relive the Nashville-tinged glory here.
No. 16: An actor who’s had three TV shows canceled, but gets more and more popular: Bobby Sherman with “Cried Like A Baby.”
I’m now imagining a duet between Bobby Sherman and Wilson Pickett … like “For All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” … or even “Cried Like A Baby.”
Wouldn’t that have been great?
Casey plays an album cut from Janis Joplin’s “Pearl,” the top-selling album in the country.
It’s the instrumental “Buried Alive In The Blues.”
Man, that was a tight band. Why didn’t someone else hire them?
No. 15: Sammi Smith, “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”
No. 14: Wadsworth Mansion, “Sweet Mary.”
OK chorus; a pleasant if apparently misplaced blast of funk; and sufficient cowbell.
Sure, why not.
No. 13: Henry Mancini with the damn theme from “Love Story” again.
Why did America demand this one and Francis Lai’s?
No. 12: “Mr. Bojangles,” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Always seemed kinda maudlin to me.
No. 11: Jerry Reed, “Amos Moses.” Shit’s getting worse and worse.
No. 10: “If You Could Read My Mind,” Gordon Lightfoot. Down five. The voice is always welcome, no matter what metaphors it’s dishing out about ghosts in chains or whatever.
No. 9: Up six, the Partridge Family with “Doesn’t Anybody Want To Be Wanted?”
A spoken voiceover. O boy!
Sounds like he’s reading it off a piece of paper.
And y’know, going downtown looking for someone who wants to be wanted can get you handcuffed to a park bench if you’re not careful.
No. 8: Up three, Creedence with “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”
So simple, so eloquent, so unforced. These guys (to paraphrase George Costanza) made great singles as if it were a bodily function.
And to top it off, Casey gives us both sides of CCR’s double-sided hit. The other side? “Hey Tonight,” which chugs along like a motorcycle.
Is the Jody who’s gonna get religion all night long the same guy who got your girl and gone about 20 records ago?
No. 7: Up five, Ike and Tina with “Proud Mary.”
They can do it any way they want — easy, rough or in between — as long as Tina’s up front.
(But did they really need to have Ike singing on the intro?)
No. 6: Down four, the Jax 5ive with “Mama’s Pearl.”
An exquisite pop production, and Michael rips it up.
No. 5: Tom Jones, “She’s A Lady.” Fourth week on and already up to lofty heights.
Saying your little lady is “never in the way” seems like damning with faint praise, but maybe that’s just me.
No. 4: Tempts, “Just My Imagination.”
I hope Berry Gordy went out and bought Motown’s staff arrangers new Lincolns after some of these hits they worked on.
No. 3: Up four, it’s the Carpenters singing “For All We Know” for the folks digging WJTO in Bath, Maine.
No. 2: Casey near-whispers some critical flackery about Janis Joplin’s “whiskey-soaked voice” before playing “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Two ideas for a follow-up:
– While answer songs are usually Cheese City, some folkish troubadour could probably write a good song telling Bobby’s side of the story.
– Someone could write (and indeed, someone probably has) a 500-word post just on Janis’ vocal treatment of the word “McGee.”
And for the fifth week in a row:
No. 1: The Osmonds, “One Bad Apple.”
Almost bolded it — it’s pretty great as bubblegum goes.
Going to bed now.