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Encore Performances: Dec. 14, 1974: Way-Out Willie gave ’em all a treat.

From the old blog, December 2009.

This week we return to an America with a president nobody voted for, and no vice president at all.

Historical highlights for the week ending Dec. 14, 1974:

* The Rolling Stones announce the departure of guitarist Mick Taylor after five years in the band.
The remaining Stones travel to Munich to start work on songs that will eventually be released on 1976’s “Black and Blue” album.

* Time magazine is working on a cover story featuring Joni Mitchell, with the headline “Rock Women: Songs of Pride and Passion” — but that won’t be out until Dec. 16.
The Dec. 9 cover features Santa with an empty bag, under the headline “Recession’s Greetings.”
Inside, the magazine notes that ABC’s “Monday Night Football” telecasts, featuring “the logorrheic Howard Cosell,” have slipped 11 percent in the ratings.

Meanwhile, Cloris Leachman is on the cover of People, and Anthony Davis of the USC Trojans is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

* Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter announces he will seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 1976.
A Gallup poll released this week says President Ford would beat three leading Democrats — Ed Muskie, Scoop Jackson and George Wallace — if the presidential election were held that week.
Carter, apparently, does not figure into the voting.

* Near-riot conditions break out in South Boston after a black student at Southie High stabs a white classmate.

* The least popular shows of the fall television season are starting to feel breath on the backs of their necks.
ABC airs the second-to-last episode of “Paper Moon,” a show based on the successful Ryan O’Neal/Tatum O’Neal movie and starring Jodie Foster in the daughter role.
Meanwhile, NBC cancels “Sierra,” a dramatic series focusing on national park rangers.
(Both shows are up against “The Waltons,” one of TV’s most popular programs.)
NBC also airs the second-to-last episode of another unsuccessful movie spin-off, “Born Free,” starring Gary Collins.

* Charlotte Lange of San Jose, Calif., gives birth three months prematurely to sextuplets whose fight for life becomes front-page news in America’s newspapers.

* It’s a big week for ex-Beatles:
John Lennon makes his famous appearance on “Monday Night Football,” talking pigskin with the logorrheic Cosell during the Redskins-Rams game.
George Harrison, meanwhile, visits President Ford at the White House. (Nearing the end of his U.S. tour, Hari is in the area to do two shows at the Capital Center in suburban Largo, Maryland.)

And here’s what was on the charts, with favourites in bold just like always:

No. 40: Holding on after coming down from Number One, “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” by John Lennon, featuring Elton John, John Whorfin and John Bigboote.

I’m sure some people thought this was a lightweight comedown after the genius of “Imagine” and the raw pain of the “Plastic Ono Band” album.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that this is the best, most infectious groove ever produced by any solo Beatle.
(Stomps “Goodnight Tonight” like a grape, for instance.)

No. 39, debut: Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, “The Heartbreak Kid.”
Certainly, this is the finest Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods song I’ve ever heard.
No, actually, I was impressed with it — it’s damn catchy, clap track and all.
Score one for the Heywoods.

No. 38, debut: Guess Who, “Dancin’ Fool.”
Musically reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s roughly contemporaneous “Mainline Florida.”
“Now I’m a dancin’ fool” is not the most compelling declaration in rock history. But what the hell … for a mostly spent band, this is an OK song, and definitely better than “Clap for the Wolfman.”

No. 37: Andy Kim, once again giving it his best Neil Diamond on “Fire, Baby, I’m On Fire.”
Y’know, at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, they should have an additional wing devoted to minor artists who sound remarkably like inductees.

Points for including a bit of that sassy Hues Corporation beat on the chorus.

No. 36: Carl Carlton, “Everlasting Love.” Good cover; he doesn’t muck things up too badly.
Casey mentions that the guy who sang the original version is now studying to be a chemical engineer.
Wonder what happened to Carl Carlton.
(Wiki says he’s recording gospel material now, which is more spiritually rewarding than chemical engineering, but doesn’t pay nearly as well.)

No. 35: For the folks listening to WSKW in Skowhegan, Maine, it’s the Righteous Brothers with “Dream On.”
(All those lines on their face getting clearer.)
I’m not sure I would have sat through this record too many times in the winter of ’74.
But, like the Guess Who, this is a better record than the (much more successful) hit that preceded it.

No. 34, debut: Donny and Marie, “Morning Side of the Mountain.” Didn’t listen.

No. 33: Shirley Brown, “Woman to Woman.” I’ll ignore my usual rules about opening spoken-word voiceovers to say that I actually kinda liked this.
(Bonus points for the line, “That car he drives? I pay the note on it every month.” All the honeys makin’ money, throw your hands up at me.)

Casey makes a momentous announcement:
This is the first week when all four Beatles have had a solo hit in the countdown, and also the first time four former members of a disbanded group have had solo hits at the same time.
I wonder if he was happy for the lads, or whether he was let down b/c solo success made it less likely that they would reunite?

No. 32: Jerry Ford’s pal George Harrison cantering raspily through “Dark Horse.”
Maybe it’s my ears, or maybe it’s the fault of my aged boom box, but I cannot understand what he’s saying half the time … he’s mixed about one notch lower than he should be, and it drives me nuts.

No. 31: Carpenters, “Please Mr. Postman.”
Ah, the pallid Motown cover — as much a part of the Seventies as inflation and Chuck Barris.

No. 30, up seven: “A 28-year-old Brooklyn singer,” as Casey introduces him — Barry Manilow, “Mandy.”
Good chorus; less offensive or cheesy than a lot of his other stuff.

No. 29: The first white foreign artist signed to Motown Records — Kiki Dee with “I’ve Got The Music In Me.”
Pretty good pop, with a little bit of thunder and lightning (or do I mean “Thunder and Lightning”?) in the arrangement.

So far this seems to be a pretty good countdown … if I were driving somewhere in 1974 and heard this sequence of songs, I wouldn’t have changed the station.

No. 28: Gloria Gaynor, “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Disco on the cusp of full emergence.
After the song is done, Casey says he’s tried to trace where the beat came from, saying Brook Benton’s “Fools Rush In” used a similar “gallop” beat.
He sounds like a doctor trying to diagnose a developing fever.

No. 27: “Ride ‘Em Cowboy,” Paul Davis.
OK, if I’d been driving in December ’74, this song would have forced me to change the station.

No. 26: “Willie and the Hand Jive,” Eric Clapton.
Just as “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” must have seemed like a comedown to Lennon fans, this must have seemed pretty weak to “Layla” lovers.
I imagine the “Clapton is God” crowd saying, “Clappers kicked heroin … for this? So that we might hand jive? Man.”
I might like it a little more myself if it wasn’t pitched a little too high — Clapton’s bourbon-and-cigarettes voice seems to be whining on the high notes.

No. 25: “Bungle In The Jungle,” Jethro Tull.
Nice use of strings, and one of Ian Anderson’s clearest, least self-consciously mannered vocal performances.

No. 24: Paul Anka and Odia Coates, “One Man Woman/One Woman Man.” This seems to ride the hell out of its chorus, which is good, since it’s the best part of the record.

No. 23: Casey says Stevie Wonder is “just phenomenal,” and he is, with “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”
I’ve dissed this song before for being lightweight and relatively disposable; and it is.
But I can’t argue with the groove.

No. 22: Neil Diamond, “Longfellow Serenade.”
There he goes, boasting again.
Not among his best, but always a pleasure to hear Neil emoting about a woman “as deep as the RIVAH.”

No. 21: Gladys Knight y los Pips, “I Feel A Song (In My Heart.)”
(What’s Spanish for “Pips”?)
I liked this one, as I like all Gladys, but I didn’t write down anything incisive or witty about it; I just let it be.

No. 20: J. Geils Band, “Must Of Got Lost.”
Getting lost, indeed — this regret-tingled single would touch off a five-year dry spell between AT40 hits for the band, including a making-time (if hot) live album and a weird, short-lived name change.
Always liked this one.

No. 19: Bobby Vinton bringin’ the polka with “My Melody of Love.”

No. 18: Ringo Starr, “Only You.” In its tossed-off way, this isn’t an entirely bad song, except maybe for the spoken-word business in the middle.
Hey, maybe this week isn’t so bad.

No. 17: And at last, a cover with some guts: The newly four-piece Rolling Stones with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
I’d like to think that limp guitar solo ain’t Mick Taylor … if it is, I think he left the Stones out of pure embarrassment.

Further proof that Elton John touched just about anything of quality in those days: That’s his percussionist, Ray Cooper, playing bongos.

No. 16: Neil Sedaka’s first hit since 1963, “Laughter In The Rain.”
Who signed Sedaka to the deal that brought him back onto the charts?
Oh, yeah, Elton John.
I like this tune a lot, incidentally, cheesy though it is.

No. 15: For the cats and kitties listening to WKAP in Allentown, Pennsylvania — oh, wait, that’s me, sorta! — it’s Chicago with “Wishing You Were Here.”
No Elton on here, but a couple of Beach Boys (and an uncharacteristically sedate lead vocal from Terry Kath) create a nice melancholy atmosphere that overcomes the cheesiness of the suffering-rock-star-on-the-road concept.

No. 14: Elvis with “Promised Land.”
Snappy enough boogie, but I can’t avoid the notion that the King and the TCB Band threw this together in 15 minutes at soundcheck one day.
Seriously: You’re Elvis in 1974. You cover Chuck Berry … why, exactly?

No. 13: Pointer Sisters go country with “Fairy Tale.” Might have been wonderful but I couldn’t listen.

No. 12: BTO, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” Have I mentioned that I follow Randy Bachman on Twitter?
Seems like a nice down-to-earth guy.
(Edit: He’s gone mostly silent, alas.)

No. 11: “You Got The Love,” Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. This week’s Soul Number One.
Really hasn’t been enough flat-out funk this week, but this single clears that up nicely.

No. 10: Paul McCartney and Wings, “Junior’s Farm.” OK driving rockinroll, though why America sent it Top Ten I have no idea.

No. 9: A song that entered the chart at No. 36 last week and jumped 27 positions:
“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” Elton John.
(“Lucy’s back, Elton’s got her, and Sergeant Pepper couldn’t be happier!,” Casey enthuses. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?)

I take back what I said before about Elton John being omnipotent: This song pretty much has no reason to exist, and Elton’s affected Limey accent grates on my ears like Chief Inspector Dreyfus’ iron claw and chalkboard.

But of course it went Number One, so nobody else in America minded.
And Elton’s “Greatest Hits” album, which was already so full of hits it didn’t even have this song on it, was Number One on the LP charts this week, as well.

No. 8: “Memphis Al Green,” Casey calls him, with “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy.)”
The infamous “grits incident” took place roughly two months before this countdown aired.
Sad to think that this was, if not his last hit, pretty much the end of his wonderful three-year peak run.

No. 7: “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything,” Barry White.
Big, hooky, joyous.
And so is the record.

No. 6: For the folks tuned in to WSGA in Savannah, Georgia, it’s the BT Express with “Do It ‘Til You’re Satisfied.”

Y’know, I was thinking the other day of compiling a list of 10 Most Definitive Seventies Lyrics — things like “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s.”
But I think maybe the title phrase of this song is as perfect a summation of the Seventies zeitgeist as anything written by more celebrated lyricists.
On a certain level, were the Seventies not completely about doing it, doing it, doing it ’til you were satisfied?
(Whatever it was.)

No. 5: Helen Reddy, “Angie Baby.”
Prefaced by explanatory comments from songwriter Alan O’Day. (Funny how that always seemed to be the case when an Alan O’Day song was on the countdown.)

Hey, if Angie’s imaginary lovers came from the radio, did that mean she had Barry White in her room doing the Bump?
Or Al Green?
Or Bo Donaldson?
Now that’s a scene that makes a man regret that “Angie Baby” came along before the age of MTV.

No. 4: “Cat’s In The Cradle,” Harry Chapin.
This is bathetic crap … and the fact that it once reduced me to tears when I was doing 80 on the Massachusetts Turnpike has no bearing at all on that assessment.

No. 3: Billy Swan with an ex-Number One, “I Can Help.”
Another perfectly pleasant, well-executed pop record that leaves me baffled as to why it didn’t top out somewhere around No. 29.
Was it used in a cute commercial for vacuum cleaners or something?

No. 2: Three Degrees, “When Will I See You Again?
I was just thinking it had been too long since I mentioned Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and feeling a little chastened about thinking that some English piano player was the king of popular music.

According to Wiki, the Three Degrees performed this at Prince Charles’ 30th birthday party at Buckingham Palace in 1977.
Boy, that musta been a bash to remember.

And at Number One for the second straight week: Carl Douglas, “Kung Fu Fighting.”
It would have been perfect for Douglas to do a lip-synch TV appearance where his dubbing was visibly off.
Unfortunately, I kinda doubt that sort of in-joke would have resonated with TV producers in 1974.


4 responses »

  1. Always appreciate the mix of history, humor, and recovered – maybe even forgotten hits in these posts. They’re my favorites.

  2. Can I find all of the top 40’s you’ve re-posted on here by searching “encore”? I’m thinking of putting together a playlist of the songs in bold during my winter break. And I may throw in some from Five for the records that appeal to me.

    • Thank you. A lot of people seem to like these. Maybe I should start writing them again…

      There are a couple ways to find my AT40 posts:
      – There should be a drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the page called Categories. If you pick Encore Performances, that will bring up all the AT40s (as well as anything else I’ve reposted from my old blog.)
      – I’m pretty sure I mention Casey Kasem at least once in every entry, so searching for “Casey” would probably give you what you’re after, also.


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