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Encore Performances: Jan. 24, 1976: It’s from me, it’s for you.

From the old blog, January 2010.

Casey sounds like he has a cold — his voice is a little deeper, a little less resonant.
And he seems less lively at first, though he perks up in mid-show, as if his decongestant were kicking in.
Or maybe I’m just transferring my own cold to everything around me.

Anyway, the 40 biggest hits of the third full week of 1976, with favourites in bold:

No. 40, debut: Spinners, “Love or Leave.” I still haven’t heard a Seventies Spinners record I didn’t like. I wasn’t that familiar with this one, but it seemed a worthy addition to their oeuvre.
My only fault to find was that it seemed a little laid-back; they might have made it a better (and bigger) record by playing it just a touch faster.

No. 39, debut: Cledus Maggard, “The White Knight.” I’m gonna save my powder on this, for reasons that will become apparent in 30 spots or so.
OK, I will say this: Tape manipulation used to either speed up or slow down a voice is cheesy, corny and bad, bad, bad in my book, and Chipmunk me no Chipmunks.

No. 38, debut: “Let the Music Play,” Barry White.
I didn’t have to bold this humid lost-love jam, but I did, uh-huh, you know how it is, baby.
It’s kinda droll to imagine the sizable Mr. White “dancing the night away,” though; one does not think of him as the sort who would lose himself in three or four unbroken hours of booty-shaking.

No. 37, debut: The “remake queen of the ’70s,” Casey declares: Linda Ronstadt with “Tracks Of My Tears.”
I once read an interview with Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes (whom I do not usually cite as a trustworthy source) in which he put forth the opinion that certain songs were done perfectly the first time, and anyone who tries to tackle them henceforth only succeeds in making themselves look stupid.
Robinson was talking about Aztec Camera covering “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” but he could have been talking about this.

No. 36, debut: Donny and Marie with “Deep Purple.” A slice of freeze-dried 1971 that did not age well. The kids loved it, though.

No. 35, in its 13th week on the chart: KC and the Sunshine Band, “That’s The Way (I Like It.)”
It’s entirely possible that this song is perfect, too.

No. 34: Foghat, “Slow Ride.”
My mental image of Foghat is of a group of tired sloggers, only half original members, showing up on the club scene of western New York every six months or so in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
I find it extremely difficult to imagine that Foghat was once an up-and-coming creative force.
Meanwhile, this tune does everything Billy Squier ever did, five years earlier.

No. 33: David Bowie, “Golden Years.” Love the interlocking guitars. Are the guitars really the best part of Bowie’s music?
I wonder how much the kids who shook their asses to this song contemplated the meaning of lines like, “Run for the shadows in these golden years.”

No. 32: Bee Gees, “Fanny.” Over-lush ballad with a few interesting chord changes. Could be Ambrosia on the best day they ever had.

No. 31: Second week on the charts, up seven: Eric Carmen, “All By Myself.”
It’s so big and gauche and weepy. What’s not to love?

No. 30: Olivia Newton-John, “Let It Shine.” Country cheese.

No. 29: For the good folks listening to WCLG in Morgantown, West Virginia, “Over My Head” by Fleetwood Mac.
Just another in the loooooooooong stream of bloodless mid-tempo love songs Christine McVie shoveled out over the years. It took the arrival of Lindsey Buckingham’s production touch to make them memorable.

No. 28: The band Neil Young declared “the only group to carry on the Buffalo Springfield’s legacy,” and the band Casey declared “the hottest group in the business”:
Eagles with “Take It To The Limit.”
Better than a lot of their shite … but I still don’t like “You can spend all your time making love / You can spend all your love making time,” which has always struck me as a heavy-handed attempt at profundity.

No. 27: “Paloma Blanca,” the George Baker Selection.
From Wikipedia: “In 1978, the group split up because ‘the pressure had become too much.’ ”
Sucks when that happens.

No. 26: The Who, “Squeeze Box.” Alex at Clicks and Pops just wrote an excellent blog post in which this song figures. Dig it.
I can only imagine how disappointing it was, after the rock-hard back-to-back triumphs of “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia,” to encounter the booze-sodden, self-pitying fender-bender that was “The Who By Numbers,” complete with this limp excuse for a single.

(To be fair, “TWBN” was not devoid of pleasures, most notably the swaggering “Slip Kid,” which I put on a bunch of cassette mixes, way back when.)

No. 25: Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night.”
Y’know, this song could be the flipside of “All By Myself.” When Eric Carmen picks up the phone to call his friends, Les McKeown isn’t at home, because he’s out at the good ol’ rock n’roll road show with his date.
It’s kinda like how the Firesign Theatre used to include one side of a phone conversation in an album, and then the other side of the conversation on the next album as part of a completely different thread.

No. 24: Helen Reddy, “Somewhere In The Night.”
“After you hear this girl sing a few songs, you understand why she’s got so many fans,” Casey says.
I bet Helen enjoyed being called a girl.

No. 23: The first song to chart in five decades (did they really have charts in the ’20s, Case?):
“Baby Face,” rendered disco-stylee by the Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps.
I wonder whether some pop-music hustler — some Kim Fowley or Malcolm McLaren, or even a Trevor Horn type — recorded an ’80s version of this in an attempt to keep the streak going?
Not much to say about this, except it’s cheesy, and sounds kinda like the Ritchie Family, and Americans will buy anything.

No. 22: “Wake Up Everybody,” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, featuring (of course) the magnificent pipes of the late Teddy Pendergrass.
There’s still room for some Philly social consciousness amidst all the novelties.
That verse about doctors making the old people happy rings kinda strange, though. How many Top 40 hits take the side of the aged? And just what were the docs supposed to do to make the elderly feel better?

No. 21: MST3K’s favorite quintet, Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds, with “Winners and Losers” — a song I had completely forgotten existed until I heard it.
It’s OK but kinda loungey — those descending piano riffs might have been played by Ferrante or Teicher.

No. 20: For the folks tuned in to WCBT in Roanoke, Virginia, it’s “Theme from SWAT” by Rhythm Heritage.
Ah, the glory days of the tall-walking, hairy-chested cop-show theme.
I liked it fine, especially the breakdown in the middle, though I spent the whole song thinking of which parts I’d cut to edit it down to 30 seconds to fit in the TV show.
Maybe after this I’ll go to YouTube and see if the opening credits are up there, to see how the producers did it.

No. 19: Nazareth, “Love Hurts.” You see, Eric Carmen? You don’t want to be in love. Love hurts, and scars, and bleeds. Maybe being all by yourself isn’t so bad.

No. 18: Sweet, “Fox On The Run.” The English do certain things like no one else — sports cars, secret agents, and stompy glam-rock.
May England never lie at the proud feet of a conqueror.

Somewhere I have a recording of either a high-school choir or a marching band performing this. I’m gonna have to go look for it.

No. 17: Neil Sedaka, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”
OK, this doesn’t really deserve to be bolded.
But y’know, when we get all this reheated, unimaginative Linda Ronstadt cover shit week in and week out, I give Neil Sedaka some credit for semi-intelligently reinventing (or as the kids nowadays say, “re-booting”) his song in a totally different style.
I kinda like it as a torchy ballad.

No. 16: The Miracles, “Love Machine (Part 1).” This might deserve the boldface I just handed Neil Sedaka (shit, did I really just do that?)
This doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s a nice pocket.

No. 15: Electric Light Orchestra, “Evil Woman.”
Yes, I think that nauseous phased string-section break at the very end is comparable to the moment in “Good Vibrations” where the BBs go “aaaaaaaaahhhhh!” and everything STOPS for a moment.
Yes, I would compare the two, with a straight face.

Casey also works his DJ chops:
He plays the vocal beginning (“You made a fool of me!”) without talking, then comes in and introduces the record during the instrumental section that follows it.
I was impressed, anyway.

No. 14: Paul Simon, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” : Steve Gadd :: “Baker Street” : Raphael Ravenscroft.

Apart from the drumming, this song is kinda lame — sort of the AT40 equivalent of a going-nowhere Woody Allen movie in which urbanites with ants in their pants say erudite things to each other.

No. 13: John Denver, “Fly Away.” Just insert your own morbid joke here. Some gimmes are too big to pass up.

No. 12: KISS, “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
It would be interesting to see a survey (and someone’s surely done it) about the number of live recordings that have made the Forty, and when.
(And yes, we’ll put aside for the moment any quibbles about just how live this song — or many other live recordings — actually is.)

They weren’t incredibly rare; I can think of a couple other ’70s examples off the top of my head (Frampton, Chuck Berry, Jax Browne.)
But it seems to me they weren’t that common either.

This song is just fine with me. As previously stated, I like my songs about rock’n’roll to be brief, blunt and locomotive, and this fills all three bills.

No. 11: Glen Campbell, riding the coattails of “Rhinestone Cowboy” with the inferior “Country Boy.”
Features the immortal opening line, “Livin’ in the city ain’t never been my idea of gettin’ it on.”
Is that how country boys really talked?

No. 10: EWF, “Sing a Song.” The only new song on the Top 10 this week, and a nice funk-pop workout in the classic EWF mold.
This one made me a little sad, b/c it made me think of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song,” which in turn made me wonder what kind of coke-fueled limbo Sly was living in in the middle of a decade he should have OWNED.

No. 9: David Ruffin, “Walk Away from Love.” Featuring some sweet falsetto and that saucy ’70s beat again.
Hey, does that beat have a name? Like, if I were gonna ask a drummer to play that groove, what would I tell him?
(Not that I’m gonna or anything. It’s more of a theoretical question.)

No. 8: Paul Anka, “Times Of Your Life.”
I was somewhat surprised to find this on the 40 because I always thought it was a song aimed at people my grandparents’ age.
(They would have been about 60 when this countdown aired.)
I would have no more guessed this was a Top 40 hit than I would have thought that, say, Sinatra doing “New York, New York” was a Top 40 hit — but apparently that one hit too, so I guess I need to recalibrate my vision of the Top 40 to make room for easy-listening middle-age ballads.

We have Kodak to thank for this song, as well as other things, such as disc cameras, industrial contamination, and my college education.

No. 7: C.W. McCall, “Convoy.” Yup, two CB songs in one countdown.
Based on that pattern — emergent technology spawns popular songs — there should have been at least two Top 40 hits in the past year about GPS systems.
And hell, about 10 or 12 years ago, there should have been 30 Top 40 hits about the Internet, since that was an infinitely larger life-changing technology than CB radio ever was.

I had a plastic CB set when I was five or six. I don’t remember using it that frequently, and I’m pretty sure I managed to break the hand-held talk unit off of the box, ending my interest in it.

Several years later, some friends and I would sometimes pick up truck radio conversations on our walkie-talkies. (Dunno if they were CB, or some other kind of radio; I’m not an expert on how truckers talk to each other.)
One summer night we talked at length with a trucker, trying to convince him that we were carrying watermelons to Georgia.
After he’d elicited where we were (he could tell we were kids from the get-go, I’m sure), he politely told us it wasn’t a good idea to tell strangers on the radio where we were, lest the strangers pay us an unwanted visit.
He was pretty nice about the whole thing … I’m assuming he probably had some long-ass haul to make, and derived some entertainment from talking to little kids on his radio for a half-hour or so.
Ten-four, good buddy, wherever you are.

No. 6: Hot Chocolate, “You Sexy Thing.”
I’m not a huge fan of this one after 2,000 plays — among other things, the unhinged edge on Errol Brown’s lead vocal kinda grates on me.
But I’ll concede it’s a pretty good song.
I am tickled to learn that Bruce Springsteen has covered it. God only knows what that sounds like, since Bruce’s bands never, ever, ever, ever groove.

No. 5: O’Jays, “I Love Music.” Another jam that doesn’t go very far musically, but doesn’t have to.
Another Gamble and Huff jawn, and like the old saying goes, the quality goes in before the name goes on.

Speaking of which, here’s a tangent for you nostalgia buffs:
This guy who collects TV sets made a video on the last day of analog TV transmission in his area, featuring a still-working 1969 Zenith 23-inch TV set.
Check it out — the UHF button, the tubes, the big dials.
Doesn’t that take me back?


No. 4: “Love To Love You Baby,” Donna Summer.
How many AT40 songs have there been with men grunting and gasping in ecstasy?
Not Barry White-style pillow talk, but actual orgasmic gasping.
Is there a double standard?

The song itself, meanwhile, is kinda pedestrian. I could get lost OK enough in the long club version, I guess, but the radio-friendly version doesn’t do it for me.

No. 3: “Love Rollercoaster,” Ohio Players. Featuring grunts, synth swizzles, clanging cowbells, and at the heart of it all, one of those genius-level guitar riffs that people tend to think of while they’re warming up their amp.

No. 2: Barry Manilow, “I Write The Songs.”
Speaking of pulling out all the stops, the Players’ orchestration is nothing compared to the tidal wave Barry unleashes at the end of this one.
There is no subtlety in this worldwide symphony — no room for a Dobro player quietly picking on his front porch, or an unaccompanied harpsichordist running down some Bach.
I imagine a 500-person multicultural choir representing all the countries of the world, with their names on their T-shirts (“Burkina Faso,” “Burma,” “Cameroon”), as they sway back and forth bellowing behind Barry.

Oh, and memo to Bruce Johnston: It’s no fair rhyming “song” with “songs,” like you do in the first verse.

Time to run down the Number Ones on the other charts. Soul: “Wake Up Everybody.” Country: “Convoy.” Albums: “Gratitude,” by Earth, Wind and Fire.
And now for the Number One song in the country:

No. 1: “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” by Diana Ross. Yeah, we had a new Number One the whole time, and Casey never let on, the sneaky SOB!

Anyway: Yeah, I like this song fine. Great melody. There are a couple places where the gears nick a little bit — like the transition from the bridge to the second verse, which isn’t really a transition at all; the second verse just kinda shows up.
But who am I to blow against the wind?
At least it wasn’t another CB song.


6 responses »

  1. re: #14 50 Ways. I know you’re no fan of Paul Simon now, but in January 1976 this was your favorite song. You were 2 1/2 and already starting to be interested in using the English language well, and Jack stepping out the back and Roy not being coy and Gus hopping on the bus really appealed to you. 2 1/2 year olds were obviously not what propelled this tune to #14, though.
    I’ve read that the drum part was a march-like little exercise Stevie Gadd used to warm up his chops (probably learned from John Beck, his high school and college drum teacher). Stevie was doing it in the studio, Paul heard it and wrong a song around it.

    • This is priceless.

    • Very nice of Rhymin’ Simon to write a children’s song. My generation was deprived; we didn’t have the Wiggles to feed us piffle.

      I do remember that the song appealed to me — or maybe I remember being told years later that the song appealed to me. Not sure which.
      As a children’s singalong it’s perfectly charming. As an adult statement of purpose … nah.

  2. While reading this, I tried to keep track of all the things I liked about it but I couldn’t keep up with each of them. I know these must take a hell of a lot of work because they are full of not only humor and review of the music, but, clearly, research and personal reflection. I find myself adding songs to my playlists, re-telling parts of it to friends, and researching something you mentioned. I just hope you are aware of how much the quality of what you put on the internet is appreciated by your old classmate.

    • Thank you very much.
      These are probably more tossed-off and less thoughtful than they look … although I guess, as I listen, I always end up drawing random connections between the things I’m hearing and other things I’ve heard.
      I am honored that you find things to enjoy in them.
      (I really should start writing these again …)

  3. When I was up in my room at home in 1976 pretending to be a DJ, I too would talk after the cold vocal open of “Evil Woman.” I expect if I did it on the air tonight I would get a memo.

    I rise to defend Linda’s “Tracks of My Tears” only because the steel guitar that closes it is a lovely thing. I prefer to remain agnostic on the issue of whether she should have covered it in the first place.

    I once got a request call at the radio station for “Country Boy You Got Your Feet in a Lake.”


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