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From the Valley: Flashback, Part 2.

A couple days ago, I wrote about the playlist for WAEB-AM, formerly the Lehigh Valley’s favorite Top 40 station, this week in 1968.

The ARSA database also happens to have WAEB’s playlist of top records for this week in 1970. It seemed like an interesting comparison to see how a region’s tastes, and the offerings of its hit-radio stations, could change in two short years.

Let’s have a look, then:

– Bubblegum and light pop still makes up the bulk of WAEB’s playlist, but it’s a heavier station that it had been in 1968. Note Free, the Who, Joe Cocker and Canned Heat on the Top 20, with Chicago, Eric Clapton and Steppenwolf bubbling under.

– As in 1968, there’s a clutch of soul records on the bottom half of the surveywhich represents an improvement, I suppose, since there are only 20 songs on the list this time around instead of 40. I would have liked to hear “I Think I Love You” and “Super Bad (Parts 1 & 2)” back to back.

– The album chart also shows a move toward heaviness, or at least seriousness: The Band, Led Zeppelin, Santana and Joe Cocker are all scoring big in the Valley.

– But the No. 1 album (assuming that the first album listed is also the most popular) is a weird one: The Artie Kornfeld Tree‘s A Time To Remember!

Kornfeld is probably best remembered as one of the guiding lights behind the Woodstock festival. He was also a musician, though the interwebs suggest that this was his only album.

A Time To Remember! shows up on only two local airplay charts in the ARSA database, with the other mention coming roughly a month earlier at a station in Denver.

I can only wonder what accounted for his brief burst of local popularity. Perhaps he played a concert here?

– Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdowns had been airing for four months in November 1970. Thanks to this excellent site, we can compare the hottest records in the Lehigh Valley to the hottest records nationwide.

I notice that several of the songs just arriving as “New Power Sounds” on WAEB’s airwaves (Clapton, Chicago, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder) are already on the national 40. That suggests that WAEB took a little longer to get on them than other stations.

On the other hand, the Carpenters’ saccharine “We’ve Only Just Begun” was No. 2 nationwide but only No. 9 in the Lehigh Valley. (It was down from No. 8 the week before, suggesting it might already have peaked as a hit in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.)

For the most part, the charts are pretty similar once you get up into the Top 10.

Both charts share the same Number One, the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You,” and the same Number Three, the Jax 5ive’s “I’ll Be There.” And most of the other records don’t differ all that much in chart positions.

In this particular week, anyway, the tastes of the Lehigh Valley were pretty similar to those of the nation as a whole.

– For what it’s worth, I have at least a passing familiarity with every performer on the 1970 WAEB countdown … whereas the 1968 countdown boasts a number of acts I couldn’t tell you Fact One about. (To name a few: Unifics, Singing Ork. Circus, Pop Corn Generation, Rene & Rene, Autry Inman, Magic Lantern, Billy Harner and the Ethics.)

At first I thought that might be a sign of the growing heterogeneousness of Top 40 radio — i.e., that it was harder for a local or regional band to get airplay in 1970 than it had been two years before.

But I think the relative unfamiliarity of the acts of 1968 can be explained by two other reasons:

1) There were something like 50 acts on the ’68 survey, and only 30 two years later, so there was more room in 1968 for regional heroes and one-shot wonders.

2) I’m simply less familiar with ’60s pop than I am with ’70s and ’80s. Maybe there’s no trend at all between the acts on the two surveys; it’s just my ignorance that accounts for the difference.

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2 responses »

  1. I gooogled and googled for a band called “Singing Ork” until it became obvious that that was just a shortened Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus. I’m disappointed.

    Reply

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