From the old blog, February 2011. For all I know, this could be the AT40 countdown waiting in the memory of my wife’s satellite radio unit as I type this. Let’s hope not.
So here we are in another of those weeks (Jan. 24-30, 1971) that predates my existence on Earth, and about which I know very little.
Except the following events:
* William G. Wilson dies at 75 in Miami.
Following his death, he is publicly identified as “Bill W.,” one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
According to legend, Wilson requested whiskey in the final days of his life, and was refused by those around him.
* “The Ed Sullivan Show” features pop singer B.J. Thomas; jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk; comedian Godfrey Cambridge; and Baltimore Colts placekicker Jim O’Brien, who a week before had kicked the winning field goal in Super Bowl V.
* Despot Idi Amin takes power in a military coup in Uganda.
* The R.A. Moog Co. of Trumansburg, N.Y., ships the 13th through 15th examples of its Model D synthesizer, sometimes called “the first synthesizer for musicians.”
Buyers for the keyboards shipped this week include the Ampeg instrument company and engineer Daniel Flickinger.
Later that spring, Model Ds will be shipped to electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause.
* Minnesota Vikings star Jim Marshall, Minneapolis newspaper columnist Jim Klobuchar and Hugh Galusha, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, are among a group of snowmobilers stranded in the open by a ferocious snow and wind storm in Montana.
Galusha dies of exposure; the other members of the party are rescued. (Marshall later reports that he burned the money from his wallet to keep warm.)
* The cover of Time magazine is a stark yellow-and-black portrait of the Berrigan brothers, “Rebel Priests.”
Inside is an article called “Beatledammerung,” reviewing John Lennon’s recent expansive interviews with Rolling Stone magazine.
* The New York Mets sign a 19-year-old Puerto Rican outfielder named Benny Ayala to a minor-league deal.
Ayala will go on to play parts of 10 years in the bigs.
In 1982, a young baseball card collector in upstate New York will pull Ayala’s card from a pack and be impressed; the card seems to show the compact violence of a baseball swing better than most cards in his collection.
Nice hack, Benny.
And now the Forty already, with favourites in bold:
No. 40, debut: Little Sister, “Somebody’s Watching You.”
A female singing group, indeed featuring Sly Stone’s little sister; produced by him, also; and resuscitating a Family Stone album track.
Love that phlegmy Sly Stone bass.
And that paranoid chorus: “Somebody’s watching you” — who? To what end?
No. 39: Jackie Moore, “Precious, Precious.” OK, unassuming, loping soul.
No. 38: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “Tears of a Clown.”
This is why humans make music.
Times are weird for Motown in ’71 but don’t count ’em out yet.
(How many teens in ’71 understood who Pagliacci was?)
No. 37: Liz Damon’s Orient Express, from Honolulu, with “1900 Yesterday.”
Formerly Number One at Honolulu’s aptly named radio station, KPOI.
Was this the first Hawaiian artist to hit the Forty?
I can think of at least one who’s been more successful — and it’s probably not who you think, unless you’re a pop-music trivia junkie.
(We do get a few of those ’round these parts.)
No. 36: Rufus Thomas, “Push and Pull.” Kind of bland, and not much to it.
But you know what? Pop music — then and now — needs more songs in which the narrator declares, “I got a brand-new dance,” as though that were an important enough proclamation to elbow aside Smokey Robinson for three minutes.
(I am reminded of Wilson Pickett’s “Soul Dance Number Three,” on which the Wicked Pickett announces he has no fewer than three new dances to do for us. Now that’s value for money.)
No. 35: James Brown, “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved.”
Drinking game: Take a shot every time James uses the exclamation “Wait!”
You’ll be doing splits and knee-drops in no time — though you might have a little trouble getting back up.
No. 34: For the folks listening to KIMN in Denver, it’s Redeye with “Games.”
I still insist this sounds like a CSNY cop, though without the self-importance, so they’ve got that going for them.
No. 33, debut: Bread, “Let Your Love Go.”
The usual from Bread — catchy but kinda wimpy.
Hey, anyone out there ever own a Bread LP?
I am starting to think that an entire album of Bread might be packed with enough hooks to redeem all the earnestness.
Am I right?
No. 32: Van Morrison, “Domino.” Ninth week on.
The chorus is essentially nonsense — no declarations of love, or hate, or peace, or war — but it works so well, how often have you ever given it any thought?
No. 31: A guy who commutes from Nashville to El Lay, Jerry Reed with “Amos Moses.”
No. 30: Down two, Three Dog Night with “One Man Band.” These guys never completely disappoint, and they don’t on this one, but it’s not up with their best.
No. 29: Down 15, “River Deep Mountain High,” Supremes and Four Tops. Didn’t listen; maybe should have.
No. 28: Up eight, Gordon Lightfoot, “If You Could Read My Mind.”
Do drugstores still sell paperback novels?
And d’ya think there was an AM radio somewhere on the Edmund Fitzgerald — like in the galley or someplace — that allowed the crew members to hear this as they went about their work?
No. 27: “Pay To The Piper,” Chairmen of the Board.
Hey, is “be nice to me” in this song basically the equivalent of “sleep with me because I spent money on you”?
(I’m full of questions this week. There are no easy answers on this countdown, m’lud.)
No. 26: “Amazing Grace,” Judy Collins. Misspelled on the original cue sheet as “Amazing Grance.”
No Christianity on my countdowns, thanks, unless it’s served up by Scottish bagpipers.
No. 25: Bobby Goldsboro, “Watching Scotty Grow.” As the father of two young boys, I should probably have some shred of appreciation for this song.
No. 24: For the folks listening to KTSA in San Antonio, it’s Chicago with “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
(Hey, now. I ask the questions on this countdown.)
Early Robert Lamm at his finest.
No. 23: Ray Price, “For The Good Times.”
I keep listening to this, and keep trying to like it, but it ain’t happening.
No. 22: Elvis Presley (who uses karate onstage, Casey tells us), with “I Really Don’t Want To Know.”
Waltz-time country soul; I wrote “pretty nice” at the time, but I can’t barely hear the song in my head now.
No. 21: Supremes, “Stoned Love.”
What would Sly have done with this song?
No. 20: Six weeks on, it’s Runt with “We Gotta Get You A Woman.”
Hard to believe Rundgren would be wearing spangly outfits and playing 30-minute prog-rock suites just three years later.
I’ve never known any Leroys, by the way — except for the small town back home that gave the world Jell-O.
But this song and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” suggests there were a lot more Leroys kicking around in the ’70s.
For the record, the online Baby Name Wizard reports that the name Leroy went from the 53rd most popular American male name in the 1920s, to 133rd in the 1950s, to 251st in the 1970s.
(I’m not linking to it b.c it crashed my browser once, and almost did twice. Sod that.)
No. 19: Diana Ross, “Remember Me.” If it ain’t “Upside Down” or the theme from “Mahogany,” I don’t really wanna hear it that much.
No. 18: Up 13 slots, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with “Mr. Bojangles.”
This has always seemed mawkish to me; maybe I should give it another listen and try to be fairer.
No. 17: Up 5, Rare Earth with “Born To Wander.”
“Ramblin’ Man” did it better.
No. 16: Led Zep, “Immigrant Song.”
Since I always think of Top 40 songs as the soundtracks to people’s lives, I enjoy imagining the berserker howl of “Ah-ah-ahhhhhhhh, ah!” ringing out over dances at a Catholic high school in Paramus, New Jersey.
No. 15: Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You.”
Shirley Jones defines her role as the Linda McCartney of the Partridge Family, chiming in with barely audible “I think I love you”‘s.
Her involvement is so minimal, I wonder why they bothered?
Casey plays an extra: Percy Faith’s “Theme from ‘A Summer Place.'” Hey, this song actually has a bridge and stuff. I had no idea! You go, Percy.
No. 14: Up one, Steve Stills with “Love The One You’re With.” Shallow hippie krap.
No. 13: Nine weeks on, it’s Perry Como with “It’s Impossible.”
It is distinctly possible that I would rather hear this tune than “Love The One You’re With,” though in a perfect world I would hear neither.
No. 12: Santana, “Black Magic Woman.” They never play “Gypsy Queen,” but I’ve ranted about that before.
In the pre-Nicksingham days, this is the closest that either Fleetwood Mac or Peter Green would get to the Forty.
(Shame about Peter Green, by the way. That guy could stone play.)
No. 11: Up two, Gladys Knight and the Pips, “If I Were Your Woman.”
Soulful and yearning.
And the line “You beg her to love you / But me you don’t ask,” in Gladys’ hands, always hits like Benny Ayala’s baseball bat.
No. 10: Down four, the very first Barbra Streisand song I have ever liked, “Stoney End.”
Officially this week’s crave-song — I’ve been listening to it continuously as I type this in.
A worthy entry in the full-lunged, piano-driven period genre — descended from Sixties Brill Building pop, but more adult — that I sometimes think of as New York Jewish soul (in deference to practitioners like Laura Nyro, Carole King and, in this case, Barbra.)
Speaking of songwriters descended from the Twelve Tribes, 1971 was also the year that Barbra covered a tune by two unknown New York youngsters named Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
It was merely an album track, alas.
No. 9: Up TWENTY-FIVE places, the Osmonds with “One Bad Apple.”
I probably shouldn’t have bolded this … but I guess it does deserve to walk the same hallowed ground as the first few Jax 5ive singles.
No. 8: Elton John, “Your Song.”
A British news source (I think it was The Scotsman) ran a great headline the day after Elton and his partner announced the birth of their first baby boy:
“And You Can Tell Everybody This Is Your Son.”
Is that an upright bass I hear? Five points for those.
No. 7: Two weeks ago No. 31, last week No. 16: Dave Edmunds, “I Hear You Knockin’.”
Spare and somewhat dour, but I love the twangy, minimalist boogie.
A U.K. Christmas Number One in the days (I think) before that became a massively fought-over honour.
I have a CD of Smiley Lewis stuff, BTW; I like Edmunds’ version better than Smiley’s original, which is pretty firmly in a Fats Domino bag.
No. 6: Number One soul, King Floyd with — UHHHHHH! — “Groove Me.”
Eight years later, almost exactly to the week, the Blues Brothers’ “Briefcase Full of Blues” album — featuring a version of “Groove Me” — hit Number One on the U.S. album charts.
I like the BBs’ version, but I like this one better.
Produced by one of the great names in pop music, Wardell Quezergue, also known as the “Creole Beethoven.”
G’wan: Argue with that.
No. 5: Up four, Lynn Anderson with “Rose Garden.” I wrote something about this but can’t read it. No great loss.
No. 4: For everybody rockin’ the Capital District at WABY in Albany, New York, it’s “One Less Bell to Answer” by the Fifth Dimension.
I somewhat sortakinda slightly like this one, plush and middle-of-the-road as it is.
No. 3: A band that sounds like the Beatles, Casey says: The Bee Gees with “Lonely Days.”
I bet Maurice, Robin and Barry raised champagne glasses and said, “We better celebrate; things might never get this good again.”
No. 2: George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord.” (Casey only plays the A-side this time ’round.)
No. 1: Dawn, “Knock Three Times.”