From the old blog, February 2010.
Somebody — it was either Travelin’ Jim Bartlett or Tom Nawrocki — recently blogged about a friend of theirs who heard a February 1973 AT40 and was surprised at the number of songs that slipped completely off the airwaves and out of memory after they fell off the 40.
Well, I heard that countdown.
This one was sufficiently mediocre that I don’t have a lot to say about most of the songs. They’re just sort of … there.
But I’ll bold my favourites just for continuity’s sake.
(Oh, yeah, as for the week that was: This was the week when Wally Cox died, Steve McNair was born, and Ohio became the first state to post a highway sign in metric. Yeah, that went pretty well.)
No. 40, debut: Gladys Knight et al, “Neither One Of Us Wants To Be The First to Say Goodbye.”
“It’s sad to think / We’re not gonna make it” is a pretty great opening line, as they go.
Check out this vid for Gladys in her prime — and don’t forget to turn on your radio for stereo television!
No. 39: For the folks listening to WYNG in Goldsboro, N.C., it’s a finely sketched portrait of a conflicted badass:
Curtis Mayfield with “Superfly.”
(What, you were expecting “Coward of the County”?)
If you’re noticing a pattern, you’re right: Soul and funk will be the saving graces of this week’s countdown.
No. 38: Seals and Crofts, “Hummingbird.” Just too laid back.
My wife, about a minute in: “How much longer do we have to listen to this?”
No. 37, debut: Doobie Brothers, “Jesus Is Just Alright.” Not bad, not great. Just enough riffy rock mojo to carry a slim excuse for a song.
No. 36: Bread, “Aubrey.” Casey introduces this by listing the members of the band and describing them as “the ingredients of Bread.”
Some pretty poor lyrics here: “We tripped the light and danced together to the moon / But where was June?”
Isn’t “moon/June,” like, the definitive example of a lyrical cliche?
No. 35: Anne Murray, “Danny’s Song.”
No. 34: Gallery, “Big City Miss Ruth Ann.”
No. 33: Bobby Womack, “Harry Hippie.”
I don’t have much use for the song, but if you don’t know the bittersweet story behind it, click here.
No. 32: Fifth Dimension, “Living Together, Growing Together.” This sounds like it could have been written for a “Sesame Street”-style kids’ show … or, with a few lyrical alterations, for a bad comedy movie about a husband-and-wife team of pot growers.
No. 31: Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones.”
“A great song,” Casey enthuses, and ain’t it so.
No. 30: James Brown, “I Got Ants In My Pants.” I love the fact that James’ unique, and sometimes flat-out bizarre, style could creep onto the Forty every once in a while.
“He’s one of a kind, he’s King Soul,” Casey says, and again, ain’t it so.
No. 29: Eagles, “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” For some reason I like this a lot better than any of the other country tunes in the band’s repertoire.
That doesn’t mean I like it, though.
No. 28, debut: Moody Blues, “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock’n’Roll Band.”
Hey, wouldn’t the whole “I’m just a singer” lyrical conceit work a lot better if it didn’t sound like there were three singers, all of them drenched in Mike Curb-style echo?
No. 27: Chuck Berry, “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” I had forgotten that Chuck had another hit after “My Ding-A-Ling.”
According to Wiki, this was Chuck’s last Top 40 hit.
Unfortunately, Chuck was/is the kind of guy who would cheerfully flog the life out of a formula; and as a result, we get not nearly enough clangorous chugging guitar, and way too many “cleverly rewritten” verses.
I lasted until a quarter to five and then took my leave.
No. 26: Joni Mitchell, “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio.” I seem to remember Joni wrote this with the express intention of getting onto Top 40 radio under her own name.
She wrote a lot better than this.
No. 25, debut: “Also Sprach Zarathusra,” Deodato.
Do I like this or “Joy” better? It’s a tough call.
The humid Fender Rhodes piano and the Steve Cropper-ish guit make this a winner, above and beyond most of the funk-classical remakes that would emerge in the years to come.
(Scoff that, Walter Murphy.)
No. 24: Wings, “Hi Hi Hi.” Proof that sex, drugs and rock’n’roll can actually be horribly boring in the wrong hands.
No. 23: Don McLean, “Dreidel.”
“The spinnin’ don’t stop when you leave the cradle”?
No. 22: Bette Midler, “Do You Want To Dance?”
As I’ve said before, I actually quite enjoy the sound and feel of this, at least for the first minute or so.
But, although The Divine Miss M has a formidable set of pipes, I don’t think she navigates the key change all that well; she sounds flat, and it’s not a sexy or appealing flat.
No. 21: Loggins and Messina, “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
No, and this ain’t gonna change her mind.
No. 20: For the listeners of KXOL in Fort Worth, Texas, it’s Brighter Side of Darkness with “Love Jones.”
I’m willing to forgive my usual rule against opening voice-overs for this one, just because it includes the line, “I don’t wanna bore you with a long, irrelevant conversation;” and because the entire damn thing is a voice-over.
“My test paper? I put nothin’ but my name on it … I guess anybody can have a love jones.”
If I don’t stop listening to this on YouTube, I might end up bolding it.
No. 19: Dr. Hook, “Cover of the Rolling Stone.”
No. 18: Blue Ridge Rangers, “Jambalaya.”
Casey notes that CCR never got a record to Number One, then delivers a rare smackdown, noting that Fogerty won’t get there with this record either:
“It’s at Number Eighteen, and (voice softens) it’s not climbing.”
No. 17: “Trouble Man,” Marvin Gaye.
No. 16: Jermaine Jax, “Daddy’s Home.”
See what I mean about having a hard time coming up with stuff to say?
No. 15: O’Jays, “Love Train.” Gamble and Huff set off THE BOMB. So much energy and ecstasy coursing through this.
Up seven spots and moving.
No. 14: King Harvest, “Dancing In The Moonlight.”
Random trivia fact: King Harvest keyboardist Ron Altbach later floated into the Beach Boys’ orbit, co-writing several late-’70s tracks and co-producing 1979’s truly dreadful “M.I.U. Album.”
No. 13: Edward Bear, “Last Song.”
No. 12: “Superstition,” Stevie Wonder. This scorches everything preceding it, leaving only “Love Train” standing, the way a forest fire will spare the occasional oak.
No. 11: For the ghetto-fabulous folks listening to WMOU in Berlin, New Hampshire, it’s War with “The World Is A Ghetto.”
Great, evocative, gloomy ambient funk. And really, are things any better now?
No. 10: John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High.”
No. 9: Casey talks about how the data from the now-legendary 100 retail stores is run through “a data processing computer.”
Can you feel the snazzy?
Anyway, the punch card spit out for No. 9 says it’s Timmy Thomas, “Why Can’t We Live Together?”
Semi-OK, not particularly evocative, bland funk.
No. 8: Lobo, “Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend.”
People blame bands like Yes for laying the groundwork for punk rock; but I think bland Top 40 pablum like this had something to do with it as well.
No. 7: “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” Spinners. Thom Bell represents.
I told ya soul and funk would provide the only highlights this week.
The quality gap between the worlds of black soul and white pop was never wider than in February 1973 … I imagine all the pop producers holding a summit meeting to address their lack of competitiveness.
No. 6: Steely Dan, “Do It Again.”
OK, I take that back — there were a few honkies doing worthwhile work here and there.
(Incidentally, someone has finally gotten around to posting Looking Glass’ “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne,” a hit from later in ’73, onto YouTube. Go listen to that while you’re here. The vocal sounds like Donald Fagen with a dash of Terry Kath, which ain’t a bad mixture.)
No. 5: Roberta Flack, “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”
Of course, this was inspired by Don McLean, which inspires a trivia question I would send Casey if he were still in position to answer:
How many times has a song written about a specific artist been on the chart in the same week as a hit by that artist?
No. 4: “Dueling Banjos,” Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell. Hey, how come it’s called “Dueling Banjos” when one of the instruments is clearly a guitar?
I used to be baffled about the success of this song.
I still am, kind of.
But I’ve decided that the banjo is a quintessential American roots instrument; and it’s only fair that such an instrument should get to kick up its heels on a Top Ten hit every so often.
Now, when do the hammer dulcimer and the diddley bow get their time in the spotlight?
No. 3: Hurricane Smith, “Oh Babe What Would You Say?”
No. 2: Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain.”
Let’s start an Internet rumour: This song is really about Telly Savalas.
Go post that on a couple dozen chat boards.
And remember, you heard it here first.
No. 1: “Crocodile Rock,” Elton John.
I’ve done a lot of bashing of Seventies rock stars for borrowing licks’n’tricks from the Fifties, but I think Elton pulls it off here.
He’s not just pulling on the leather jacket so he can bust poses; there’s a real energy and drive here that does the pomaded pioneers proud.
That said, I still ain’t gonna bold it.
Oh, and here are the other Number Ones for the week:
Soul: “Love Train”
Country (not much of that on this week’s chart): “I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me,” Merle Haggard
LP chart: “The World Is A Ghetto,” War