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Encore Performances: Sept. 27, 1975: Baby, when I think about you, I think about love.

Don’t worry — I’m not gonna completely give over this space to re-running my song-by-song AT40 liveblogs from my old blog.

But this one is timely, it being the last week of September and all. Plus it has one of the better ledes I ever wrote on one of these posts. So it comes out of the archives too. Enjoy.

In Stephen King’s novel “‘Salem’s Lot” — my favourite of his lengthy list of books — the last full week of September, 1975, is the week the vampires start to take over the backwoods Maine town of Jerusalem’s Lot.

It was also a week when zombies took over the American Top 40 countdown.

OK, so I exaggerate a little bit. But that week’s Casey-fest was singularly bland, boring and unappealing.
Faced with a choice between another hearing of “Run Joey Run” or a set of fangs to the neck, I would be hard-pressed to decide.

Before we get into the Top 40 (with favourites in bold as always), here’s my usual rundown of what was happening that week. I’ll try to keep it shorter than last time:

* President Ford dodges the second assassination attempt against him in three weeks’ time. Former bookkeeper Sara Jane Moore shoots at him outside a San Francisco hotel and misses.

* “Busing Battle” is the cover story of Time magazine.
A story inside the issue quotes promoter Sid Bernstein comparing Scotland’s Bay City Rollers to the Beatles.

* The Eagles are on the cover of Rolling Stone; the Pittsburgh Steelers’ snarling Mean Joe Greene is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

* In Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming College and Wilkes College face off in the sixth annual Fez Bowl, a Shriners-sponsored event.

* Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still alive.

* “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is first screened in the U.S.

* Yankees pitcher Lindy McDaniel and Harmon Killebrew of the Royals (yup) make the last appearances of their lengthy careers.
Killebrew goes 1-for-7 in his final three games that week to drop his 1975 batting average to .199.

* The Philadelphia Spectrum arena hosts Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra on Sept. 22; Isaac Hayes on Sept. 26; and a Flyers-Penguins hockey game on Sept. 27.

* Eddie Kendricks, Tavares and Paul Mooney appear on “Soul Train.”

So yeah, on to the 40.

No. 40, debut: “One of the most popular groups around today,” Casey declares:
Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes.”

No. 39, debut: Average White Band going the ballad route with “If I Ever Lose This Heaven.” This is an OK groove but I like them better when they bring the funk.

No. 38, debut: Following a Beatles namedrop, we get Art Garfunkel with a limp, tremolo-soggy version of “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
No one likes Art like I like Art, but I’m not buying.

No. 37, debut: Jim Stafford, “I Got Stoned and I Missed It.” Couldn’t even bring myself to listen to this one.
Hey, there’s no damn law says I have to sit through these songs.

No. 36: Down 19 spots, the Carpenters, “Solitaire.”

Yes, I bolded the Carpenters.

My folks had a Neil Sedaka album with this song on it when I was a kid, and I’m sort of vestigially fond of it.
The line “Solitaire’s the only game in town” successfully evokes that feeling when it seems like the world is full of faces and you can’t connect to any one of them.

But that’s just me.

No. 35: Esther Phillips, “What A Difference A Day Makes.” The combination of Phillips’ ragged voice and the obligatory disco beat doesn’t work for me.
Hey, how come no one ever thought to have Phillips sing a duet with Roger Chapman of Family?

No. 34: “Tony Orlando and Dawn are really hot!,” Casey enthuses, and then plays “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
As TO&D records go, this one’s OK — none of that rinky-tink novelty edge you get in things like “Knock Three Times” or “Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?”

No. 33: The Number One soul hit this week, “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by the People’s Choice.
This is basically a rhythm track waiting for something to happen … something better than that meager vocal, that is.
There’s a section of this reminds me a little bit of the wordless vocal melody from “Undercover Of The Night,” but that might just be the sound of my mind capsizing under the weight of too many mediocre singles.

No. 32: John Williams, “Jaws.”
This is seriously the best thing so far, and that’s some sad action.

I wondered why all the instrumental movie music I hear seems to sound the same. I think it’s because all the instrumental movie music I know was either written by John Williams, or by someone trying to sound like John Williams.

No. 31: Michael Martin Murphey, “Carolina In The Pines.”
Second-rate John Denver … but Casey does do us the favor of telling us that Murphey is related to one of the 12 founders of Providence, Rhode Island.
So he’s got that going for him.

No. 30: Up 10, the Four Seasons with “Who Loves You (Pretty Baby)” or whatever it’s called.
Nice solid toonful pop. I give it a 95 ’cause I can dance to it.

No. 29: For the listeners of WOKL in Eau Claire, Wis., it’s Leon Russell with “Lady Blue” and another load of tinkly electric piano.
The first few lines of Leon’s vocal were so painful to listen to that I skipped to the next song.

No. 28: “Get Down Tonight,” KC and the Sunshine Band. I probably should have bolded this. Snappy funky pop — or is it poppy funk?

No. 27: Awwwwwww yeah! Finally something I really like: “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship. From the Number One album in the country, “Red Octopus.”
I’ve written before about how I love this song … it’s like bathing in a great warm cologne-scented hot tub overlooking the hills of Marin with a couple of big bombers and a bottle of Courvoisier.
Or something like that.

No. 26: Paul Simon and Phoebe Snow, “Gone At Last.”
Snow smokes him.

As I’ve said before, for all of Paul Simon’s poetic and melodic abilities, it seems like so many of his best records wouldn’t be nearly as good without the contributions of someone else.
Like Phoebe Snow; or the Jamaican musicians who brought “Mother and Child Reunion” to life; or Steve Gadd coming up with the drum pattern for “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover;” or the South African guys (most notably bassist Bagithi Khumalo) on “Graceland.”
Oh, yeah, and Art Freakin’ Garfunkel.

No. 25: Neil Sedaka, “Bad Blood.” Pallid, petulant and bitchy.

No. 24: Austin Roberts, “Rocky.” Featuring the line “Alone until my eighteenth year / We met four springs ago.”
If he was 18, and it was four springs ago, and he left Colorado Springs traveling eastbound at 65 mph and she left Boston heading westbound going 40 mph (damn traffic on the Pike), at what point did they run into each other, and at what force?

No. 23: Casey announces a song that was first a hit for Xavier Cugat in 1943, and he plays a little bit of it, and it’s pretty damn sprightly.
Then he plays the 1975 version of “Brazil” by the Ritchie Family.
Big brassy disco isn’t a bad thing, but now that I’ve heard Xavier Cugat (and I’m listening to it now), I might just like that better.

No. 22: The Osmonds, “The Proud One.” Weak, overproduced Frankie Valli remake. They shoulda covered Xavier Cugat.

No. 21: For the folks digging KFMS in Las Vegas, it’s the Pointer Sisters with “How Long (Betcha Got A Chick On The Side.)”
Funk with rhythm and attitude. Nothing the matter with that, especially this week.

No. 20: America, “Daisy Jane.” Almost bolded this one too. I sort of enjoy how earnest and moody it is.
Nice cello solo.

No. 19: Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds with “Fallin’ in Love.”
This always feels end-of-summery to me. Not sure if that’s an illusion created by the musical arrangement, or whether I think that way b/c I know it was a Number One hit in August of ’75.

No. 18: The Spinners, “Games People Play.” Hooky, soulful, rueful classic from a group with no shortage of classics.
I love the way the Spinners’ bass singer addresses the line “I took my time.”
I also love the way it takes off at the chorus.

No. 17: Yup, three straight bolds — this one for Tavares, with “It Only Takes A Minute.”
The lyrics are painfully inane (like that line about the flu attack putting you on your back for 30 days — what kind of grippe do they get in New Bedford, anyway?)
But the rest of the song eats the lyrics and spits ’em out.

Will we have four bolds in a row?

No. 16: Morris Albert, “Feelings.”
I still don’t think this is anywhere near the worst single of the ’70s, nor deserving of its status of a pop-culture cliche.

Remember the Pepsi commercial where MC Hammer drinks the Coke instead, and breaks into an off-key rendition of “Feelings”?
Nowadays Hammer’s the punch line.
(Oh, and if you don’t remember that Pepsi commercial? Click here to watch it. G’wan.)

No. 15: Paul Anka and Odia Coates, “I Believe There Is Nothing Stronger Than Our Love.” Beats “Having My Baby,” I s’pose.

No. 14: Dickie Goodman, “Mr. Jaws.”
I don’t listen to novelty records. I don’t care how many people in the fall of 1975 did; I don’t.
I’d rather listen to Hammer sing “Feelings.”

According to ARSA, this was a Number One hit on stations in several markets, including New York City, Cincinnati and Buffalo.
That’s so horribly dreadful, I have to invent a new word to connote my disgust:

Wonder how many copies it sold in Jerusalem’s Lot.

No. 13: Earth Wind & Fire, “That’s The Way Of The World.” Now these guys could work a ballad and the funk.
The chorus sticks in my head for hours, or minutes anyway, and that’s what the game’s all about.

No. 12: Orleans, “Dance With Me.” Bland. The Eagles might have written this, if they liked women.

No. 11: Helen Reddy, “Ain’t No Way To Treat a Lady.”
Reddy’s final Top Ten pop single, barring an unexpected collaboration with Lady Gaga.

No. 10: BadCo, “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Nice edgy electric guitar from the delightfully named Mick Ralphs, whose name is a sentence.
Gotta love the sensitive longhairs singing about the “golden dreams of my yesterdays.”

No. 9: Sweet, “Ballroom Blitz.” I love British glam but I’m not gonna bold this ’cause it’s a little too camp for my taste.

No. 8: “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” Freddy Fender.
Mr. Huerta — and most other people who sing this song — do it too damn fast; it should go about half as fast.
Doug Sahm did it right.
You can hear it here.

No. 7: Janis Ian, “At Seventeen.”
Nowadays the ugly outcast kids don’t need to sit around feeling sorry for themselves; they can go start a punk band.
Thank heavens for Johnny Rotten.

No. 6: For the listeners of KOWB in Minneapolis, it’s Barry Manilow and “Could It Be Magic?”
This drips with overwrought drama; they could probably do a good job with it on “Glee.”

No. 5: David Geddes, “Run Joey Run.” Nope.
This was a Number One hit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Shreveport, Louisiana.
The people in Cedar Rapids and Shreveport, united by little else, both wanted to hear this song more than any other in September 1975.
More than “Miracles,” more than “Games People Play,” more than “It Only Takes A Minute.”

That’s some saaaaaaaaad business.

No. 4: Isley Brothers, “Fight The Power.”
Wow — social commentary on the Top Ten!
Who woulda thunk it, in among all those people blitzing ballrooms and makin’ love?

No. 3: Glen Campbell, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” 15 weeks on the countdown.
Pleasant countrypolitan that makes me think of Joe Buck from “Midnight Cowboy” … there was a load of compromisin’ on the road to his horizon, too.

No. 2: David Bowie, “Fame.” The Thin White Duke makes a last-ditch effort to make this countdown seem better than it was.
After teasing his upcoming special on the 40 Biggest Artists of the 1950s, Casey spins a disc by the most intelligent, forward-looking artist of 1975.

And finally, Number One:
“I’m Sorry” by John Denver.

And no, to answer your question, I don’t know who won the 1975 Fez Bowl.


6 responses »

  1. Your point about Paul Simon is very well-taken (and surely Los Lobos would agree with you). At the same time, I feel compelled to point out that “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” is all Paul – the only other musician credited on the track is someone playing percussion, which I can barely hear in there. And it’s a really fantastic record; even though it’s almost all Paul’s vocal and acoustic guitar, it never sounds thin or underproduced.

  2. I think you (Kurt) are missing the point on Paul Simon. He writes great songs and gets great musicians to perform with him. Doesn’t mean he has to also be the best singer or guitar player in the world. If he doesn’t have any idea who is going to be in the studio with him that day, then yeah, he is a lucky guy. But if he screens the musicians and gets exactly who he wants, for what they may come up with on their own (Gadd’s rhythm), then he is even more brilliant.

    • This is true — there is an art to choosing collaborators who will make your records great. (Miles Davis was particularly good at that.)
      And Simon gets some credit for finding collaborators who hadn’t been extensively tapped by other pop musicians (like Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the Dixie Hummingbirds) … even if his treatment of some of them may leave something to be desired.

      • Have you seen the Steely Dan Aja DVD with making of videos on it? We’ve spoken about it under separate cover, I think. There is a segment about all the guitarists they screened to find the right one for ‘Peg’.

  3. Also, were the charts more diverse back then? Back-to-back-to-back, Isley Bros-Glen Campbell-David Bowie. Supports my argument that pop music is progressing rapidly to a homogenized future of algorithm-created ‘hits’.

    • Yes. As I post more of these (if you read ’em) you’ll see that some of these ’70s Top 40 countdowns included a surprisingly wide breadth of music.
      Of course, not every station in America was playing every one of these records — some were going heavier on the Isleys and lighter on the Glen Campbell.
      So the specific juxtapositions you’ll see on the countdown might not have actually happened very often in real life.


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