Haven’t brought myself to listen to any more countdowns lately so here’s one from the old blog, March 2011.
So here we are, visiting ’75 again. What’s going on this week?
* Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam and a mentor to African-American leaders like Malcolm X, dies.
* The San Francisco Giants sell head-case slugger Dave Kingman to the New York Mets.
It says something about Kingman’s personality that — following a 1976 season in which he hits 37 homers in only 123 games — he will play for four different teams in 1977.
* Also in spring training action, Boog Powell, a Baltimore Oriole since 1961, is dealt to the Cleveland Indians.
The hulking Powell will have one last decent season in 1975, earning AL Comeback Player of the Year honors, before fading in 1976 and ’77.
* Time magazine’s cover honors neither Powell nor Kingman, instead using Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent as the (masked) face of a story titled “Hockey: War on Ice.”
Inside is an article about new guitar synthesizer technology that quotes Yes guitarist Steve Howe and jazz-fusion guitarist John McLaughlin.
* Loggins and Messina are on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Other stories teased on the cover focus on Bryan Ferry (“Cabaret for Psychotics”), Joe Walsh, Billy Preston and “Kissinger’s Indochina Obsession.”
* The Grammy Awards are presented in New York City.
Big winners include Stevie Wonder (album of the year, “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”); Marvin Hamlisch (Best New Artist, beating Bad Company and Graham Central Station); Richard Pryor (Best Comedy Album, “That Nigger’s Crazy”); Elvis Presley (Best Inspirational Performance (Non-Classical), “How Great Thou Art”); and MFSB (Best R&B Instrumental Performance, “The Sound of Philadelphia.”)
* Science News reports on “Climate Change: Chilling Possibilities.”
The buzz in those days is about a new Ice Age; about two months later, Newsweek magazine’s cover will trumpet “The Cooling World.”
* Coricidin cold and hay fever tablets for children cost 88 cents per package at Larry’s Pharmacy in Smethport, Pennsylvania, as advertised in the McKean County Miner newspaper.
Empty Coricidin glass bottles were the preferred tool of rock’n’roll slide guitarists like Duane Allman and the aforementioned Joe Walsh … though it’s doubtful that either of them ever bought any in McKean County, Pennsylvania.
* A young woman in Scranton, Pennsylvania, enters the last week of her first pregnancy.
A few days after this countdown airs, she gives birth to a daughter.
Said daughter will later date a high-school-age me for more than two years, tolerating my eccentricities, enduring my failings, and giving me an education in the day-to-day maintenance of a romantic relationship.
Awfully thoughtful of her.
“To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” is not on this week’s countdown … but here’s what is, with favourites in bold, the way we like it:
No. 40, debut: In his first-ever visit to AT40, Dan Fogelberg with “Part of the Plan.”
Word-packed … some weird accentuations (“un-DER-stand”) … and somebody on the harmonies giving it his best David Crosby … but still, not entirely bad.
Not self-conscious or pretentious, for one thing.
No. 39, debut: Helen Reddy, “Emotions.”
(Why does Casey keep referring to her as a “girl”? Is he tone-deaf or is he baiting her?)
This is professionally done and overall not that bad … I like the lines about running out of ways to care and only getting old.
No. 38, debut: Sammy Johns, “Chevy Van.”
Ah, the sin wagons of the Seventies. They might build SUVs big enough to crush an elephant nowadays, but they don’t have the style of a Chevy van with gladiators airbrushed on the side and shag carpet all up on the inside.
I gotta say, though, the way the choruses end — “and that’s all right with me” — is pretty anticlimactic.
This foxy chick comes into your van and services you, and the best you can offer is “that’s all right”?
Let’s have a little appreciation for the effort that goes into casual four-wheeled sex, shall we?
No. 37, debut: George McCrae, “I Get Lifted.”
A simple, sassy, Southern shuffle that goes down easy … though that breath sound effect overstays its welcome just a little bit.
No. 36, debut (yeah, there’s a lot of first-timers this week):
BJ Thomas with “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.”
A future Number One on the AT40, country and Easy Listening charts.
Another of those songs that basically lives for its chorus — unless I’m wrong, it only has one verse, and repeats that twice.
Before we hear the song, Casey treats us to another retelling of how BJ didn’t want to record “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”
No. 35: For the folks listening to WRAI in San Juan, Puerto Rico (did any of them go to New York without a dime?), it’s “The Wonder – Stevie” with “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”
Is this the only AT40 hit that includes the quaint phrase “in the raw”?
And if Stevie can enunciate all his other fleshly desires, why does he steer away from the word “naked” so queerly?
No. 34, debut: Neil Diamond, “I’ve Been This Way Before.”
This one is pretty good until the drums come in and Neil begins to deliver himself of such deathless observations as, “Some people got to laugh, some people got to cry.”
Yeah … and some people like to go out dancin’, and other peoples, they have to WORK.
No. 33: Carol Douglas, “Doctor’s Orders.”
Would have sounded good on the dance floor, I suppose.
No. 32: Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Look In My Eyes, Pretty Woman.”
Just FYI, I am listening again and again — almost obsessively — to “Then Came You” as I type this.
That’s a freakin’ awesome song — one that deserved at least five more weeks at Number One than it got.
(Editor’s note: As I repost this, I am listening again and again to “The Royal Scam.”)
Oh, yeah. Was I supposed to say something about Tony Orlando and Dawn?
No. 31: Up nine spots, Ringo Starr … Casey plays the flip side, “Snookeroo,” instead of the A-side, “No No Song.”
Hey, who doesn’t need someone to look after them and turn them loose at night?
And it would be a great drinking game to do a shot every time Ringo says “Snookeroo” … you’ll be two rooms up and two rooms down in no time at all.
I think pop bloggers everywhere should celebrate Oct. 30 as “Snookeroo’s Birthday,” complete with lengthy essays.
What say you, readers?
No. 30: David Gates, “Never Let Her Go.” Sounds just like Bread, which ain’t an entirely bad thang.
The best slice of Bread since Bread got sliced, you might say.
In his intro, Casey notes that, “Compared to the record business, picking horses is a piece of cake.”
No. 29: John Denver, “Sweet Surrender.” Sorry, I kinda don’t do John Denver.
(My condolences go out to everyone who was older than 10 in 1975 … you didn’t have that luxury.)
No. 28: “Fire,” the Ohio Players.
I seriously think sometimes that these guys might have been one of the best bands of the 1970s.
This is a huge single, and one that rips the roof off of most everything that came before it.
No. 27: Up eight, Shirley and Company with “Shame, Shame, Shame.”
The production on this is totally low-rent — like that weird ringing echo effect (if you know the song, you know the one) — and that’s part of why I like it.
This wasn’t done at Caribou Studios with James William Guercio at the board; this sounds like it was done at some two-bit studio in Florida in between high-school marching bands.
In this house, we’ll sure ’nuff fly the flag for the occasional inspired semi-amateur.
Especially if they bring the funk.
No. 26: Up eight, the Jax Five with “I Am Love (Part 2.)”
Frenzied and overloaded, like they were trying to outdo the Isley Brothers at their ray-gun-guitar craziest.
It’s instructive to compare the sonic overload of this single with the cool, clipped simplicity of Michael’s solo singles like “Billie Jean.”
Less is more.
No. 25: Up six, Sweet Sensation with “Sad Sweet Dreamer.”
Does anyone but Brits say “put down to experience”?
With its silky sax and its genteel Mike Curbish chorus riffs, this sounds like a prefab pastiche of everything that went into ballad hits between 1971 and 1975.
Was this anyone’s song?
(You know I like to imagine AT40 songs playing a role in the lives of real people. Was there actually anyone anywhere who thought of a friend, girl/boyfriend, classmate, etc., and heard “Sad Sweet Dreamer” in their head?)
No. 24: Up four, Joe Cocker with “You Are So Beautiful.”
Nice to hear him without his usual complement of three percussionists and four gospel-chick backing singers.
Not sure whose idea it was to have him reach for those final notes, though.
No. 23: Elvis with “My Boy.”
Sad to hear him croaking out such maudlin shite.
No. 22: Up eight, Minnie Riperton with “Lovin’ You.”
Five points to Minnie (or her producer) for rescuing birdsong from the “Close To The Edge” album and redeeming it.
(Paraphrasing Bono: “This is a song that Yes stole from the pileated warbler, and we’re gonna steal it back!”)
That first high note must have made people driving across town in their AMC Gremlins sit bolt upright and take notice, I bet.
No. 21: Al Martino (singing in Italian?) with “To The Door Of The Sun.”
All right, America: Whiskey tango foxtrot?
No. 20: Polly Brown with “Up In A Puff Of Smoke.”
Stompy pop … everything about it is familiar in a second-hand way, but still enjoyable for what it is.
No. 19: Up six, BadCo (still nursing its wounds over losing to Marvin Hamlisch, for cripes’ sake) with “Movin’ On.”
Ah, can we call a halt to road songs, please?
No. 18: Casey plays a blast of the original “You’re No Good” (by Betty Everett, I believe) before launching into Linda Ronstadt’s cover.
The original — which I’d never heard, as far as I can remember — is really pretty good, except for a few points where the horns and the rhythm section can’t decide if they’re in minor or major key.
If you don’t know it, check it out here.
No. 17: Phoebe Snow, “Poetry Man.”
No. 16: For the folks listening to KOIL in Omaha, Nebraska*, it’s the BT Express with “Express.”
Another song where the horns and the rhythm section don’t entirely seem to agree on that minor-vs.-major thing.
Not really all that memorable, except for the train whistle, and I can watch “Soul Train” if I want that.
* KOIL was one of the stations tuned into by a young Pete Battistini in 1973 as he tried to find some station — any station — that carried Casey. See? I did read his whole book on AT40.
No. 15: Up four, Sugarloaf and Jerry Corbetta with “Don’t Call Us (We’ll Call You.)”
Casey tells an interesting story about how Corbetta took up the organ after a childhood baseball accident dislodged his cornea.
No. 14: BTO, fifth week on, “Roll On Down The Highway.”
Not sure if this is Bachman or Turner on the vox … but he, uh, can’t really sing.
No. 13: John Lennon with “Number Nine Dream.”
Down four from its peak chart position at — whaddya know — Number Nine.
I love this for a number of reasons.
One is its fairly sparse instrumentation … it seems to cast a spell using just drums, bass, acoustic guitar and loads of string synthesizer.
Another is its pure weirdness: This wasn’t a hit because it was funky, or because the words meant a lot to anybody.
It was a hit because it created this weird, surreal, dreamlike aural space.
Not a bad feat for a guy I always think of as a simple Chuck Berry-style rhythm guitar player.
No. 12: Maria Muldaur, “I’m A Woman.” This makes Helen Reddy seem positively enlightened.
No. 11: Up four, ELO with “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.” Fuzzy, muddy and kind of unfocused compared with their truly best singles.
Still OK for all that, I guess.
No. 10: Up four, Styx with “Lady.” Originally released to overwhelming disinterest in 1973.
Alas, America changed its mind.
“Here’s the resurrected ‘Lady,'” Casey says, making us think of some sort of grotesque Stephen King scenario.
Time to start a fire at the edge of town and make for the highway.
No. 9: “Nightingale,” Carole King.
I suppose I should celebrate every Carole King hit as a triumph for a pioneering woman of pop.
Instead, I see this as acceptable jazzy pop that holds my attention for about 70 seconds before I move on to …
No. 8: … Labelle, “Lady Marmalade.”
The only black rock act to perform at the Met, Casey tells us.
Since this was a hit at more-or-less Mardi Gras time, I wonder how eagerly it was received in New Orleans.
Did they get sick of it in the French Quarter, the way they’re presumably sick of “When The Saints Go Marching In”?
I think it would be a groove to be downing a Hurricane on Bourbon Street and hear this coming out of the speakers.
No. 7: Average White Band, “Pick Up The Pieces.”
From an American black female vocal trio to a band of Scottish white guys — two different and equally valid takes on the funk.
Down six spots from Number One.
No. 6: For the Massholes listening to WESO in Southbridge, Mass., it’s America with “Lonely People.”
Feels like repeating myself but I’ll say it again: I like these guys better when they’re being oblique and unknowable.
Wonder if there were 16-year-olds in America hearing this song and going, “So when am I gonna drink from the damn silver cup already?”
No. 5: It’s “the hard rock group the critics tried to bury,” Casey says: Grand Funk and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
This isn’t half as good as “Bad Time;” I’m just bolding it, as my longtime readers know, because I had a thing for GFR when I was 15 and I’ve never quite entirely left it behind.
No. 4: Frankie Valli, “My Eyes Adored You.”
Maybe it’s because I know Frankie was 40 years old when he recorded this, but I’ve always sensed some disassociation between the singer and the song.
In other words, I always imagine Valli as a leathery smoothie singing whatever was put in front of him; I don’t imagine him actually investing anything of himself in these recollections of sixth-grade crushes.
Why I hold Frankie Valli to this standard, and not other artists, I have no idea.
(I don’t listen to Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk and wonder whether their women were actually any kind of wonderful, for instance.)
No. 3: Doobie Brothers, “Black Water.”
To continue the above discussion, I don’t wonder whether Patrick Simmons ever actually launched a flatboat on the Mississippi.
I just listen to this surprisingly creative confection and enjoy all that it offers me.
No. 2: Olivia Newton-John with the freaking dreadful “Have You Never Been Mellow.”
This being early ’75, it goes without saying that the Number One spot has turned over from the prior week; and what we get is …
No. 1: … Eagles, “Best Of My Love.”
I did my best to form an informed opinion on this; but in the end, the song just slipped past me, leaving no more positive or negative impact than an orange Fla-Vor-Ice.
Number One on the other charts this week:
SOUL: “Shame, Shame, Shame”
COUNTRY: “It’s Time To Pay The Fiddler,” Cal Smith
ALBUM: “Blood On The Tracks,” Bob Dylan
And on that note, we turn off the idiot wind, until next time.