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Encore Performances: Nov. 8, 1975: That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh.

My stats page tells me that someone came here earlier today by running a search for “november 1 1975 at40 neck pickup.” Unfortunately, I’ve never blogged about that week’s American Top 40 countdown. But I did blog about the following week on my old blog, in November 2009. So here’s a repeat of that post, in hopes it satisfies my anonymous visitor.

I was gonna do a day-in-the-life thing for my next Casey Kasem AT40 roundup.
But a review of the week of Nov. 8, 1975, just doesn’t show that much in the way of big news going on.
Francisco Franco was still alive; David Ortiz was not quite born; the World Series had ended a week or two before; and the 29-man crew of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was just a bunch of guys preparing to go out on a boat that, as the big freighters go, was bigger than most.

In western New York, meanwhile, a two-year-old boy was filling in another week in that weird pre-school cocoon-state where you don’t make memory tracks of anything, and there’s not much besides weather to distinguish one day, week or month from the next.
Certainly, no one in the lad’s family was born, died, got laid off, graduated or even came to visit in that gray first week of November 1975.
Beyond that, time sayeth not.

Now, if they had switched on the radio, this is what they would have heard, with my favourites in bold as always.
(Warning: No fewer than six remakes this week. That’s usually not a good thing. But, plow on with me, won’t you?)

No. 40, debut: “Diamonds and Rust,” Joan Baez’ first hit since 1971’s execrable cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” — “and it sounds autobiographical!” Casey notes with the air of a man who’s just decoded a hieroglyph.
Darned if I didn’t listen to most of this song (which I was not tremendously familiar with, not being a Joan Baez fan.)
I couldn’t quite bring myself to bold it, but I think it’s a nice piece of writing, and not badly sung.
Wonder what the Judas Priest version sounds like?

No. 39: A former No. 6 hit, “Dance With Me” by Orleans.
This takes me back to another period when I had all the time in the world — summers in the early 1980s when my parents would drag me down to their new cottage.
The radio was always on, and it was always tuned to an AM station out of Syracuse that could be counted on to play toothless, melodic music of the prior decade.
Things like “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” and “Bette Davis Eyes,” and Paul Davis’ “’65 Love Affair” … and this.
Drove me nuts at the time.
To this day, hearing any one of about 15 songs brings back the picture of that radio, and the musty smell of the little cottage, and the wish to be somewhere else.
It would be years yet before I discovered the fine art of savoring the slow quiet slipping of time away from me.

No. 38: Down an astonishing 20 notches, Tavares with the genuinely hot It Only Takes A Minute.
Great dance-floor jam.

No. 37, debut: Frankie Valli, “Our Day Will Come.”
Try as I might, I can’t get my head around the idea of a 40-year-old man singing lines like, “No one can tell me I’m too young to know.”
No, Frankie, but they can tell you you’re old enough to know better.

No. 36: Casey makes the obligatory Beatles namedrop in his introduction to a truly historic moment … the first week on the charts for the debut hit by a Scottish band drawing comparisons to the Beatles …
… ladies and gentlemen …

The Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night.”
Perfectly good, snappy, well-produced pop number. I don’t find the chanting as annoying as some people do, though I do get a little tired of Les McKeown’s screechy “I-yi-yi-yi just can’t wait.”

Casey also makes a great topical reference, mentioning the band’s prominent appearance a few weeks ago on “Howard Cosell’s show.”
(Although my readers are all hip enough to remember this, I’ll mention it anyway: Howard Cosell had a Saturday-night TV show that hit the airwaves in fall 1975, at the same time as “Saturday Night Live.” In fact, Howard’s show was called “Saturday Night Live;” the NBC sketch comedy show we’re all familiar with was forced to go by the name “Saturday Night” for about a season-and-a-half, until Howard’s show bit the dust and the SNL name became available. Perhaps what Howard needed was better musical guests.)

No. 35: Another cover. Freddy Fender with “Secret Love,” which had been a Number One hit in 1954 (!) for Doris Day (!!)
Someday I will ask my parents how they survived the pre-rock era.
I will say this, though: I find Fender’s vocals on this song much more pleasant than on some of his other hits from this period.

No. 34: John Fogerty, “Rockin’ All Over The World.” A stiff, tinny mix, but oh, what a voice.
Enjoy this hit, John. Disco, punk and new wave will not be kind to you.

No. 33: For the listeners of WFMO in Fairmont, N.C.: “I Wanta Do Something Freaky To You” by Leon Haywood.
Wiki tells me Haywood had played keyboards in Sam Cooke’s band. Well, whaddya know.
As for this song, the title is the best part … the music is a total cop from “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” while the lyrics suffer from lines like “I’d love to slide down into your canyons / In the valley of love.”
I guess disco and AC/DC have more in common than you’d think.

No. 32: “Just Too Many People,” Melissa Manchester. Nice flash of Fender Rhodes piano at the beginning, anyway.

No. 31: “Peace Pipe,” BT Express. Brain-dead pre-disco, not funky enough to be memorable.

No. 30: Ritchie Family, “Brazil.” Almost bolded this one. Nothing wrong with big, brassy, showy, flamboyant disco.

No. 29: Some Manhattan Transfer tune about an operator. I can’t be bothered to look up the title. Foppish and gimmicky.
Am I inconsistent? Very well, then, I am inconsistent.

No. 28: Staple Singers, “Let’s Do It Again.” Great languid summery sex jam.

No. 27: Willie Nelson, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.”

No. 26: “Eighteen With A Bullet,” Pete Wingfield. The entry of the string section just kills this one dead.
Also, we’re establishing a new house rule for Things That Are Automatically Bad:
In addition to opening spoken-word monologues by anyone other than Barry White, children’s choirs and circus music, Fifties-style bass singers (you know the kind — the ones that go “dit-di-di-di-DIT”) are Automatically Bad.
The management thanks you for your consideration.

No. 25: Art Garfunkel, “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
He couldn’t save the Phillies in the Series; and he should have told his keyboardist to turn down the vibrato on his electric piano (which throbs and pounds like a hangover) … but he’s still got the freakin’ pipes.

No. 24: Simon and Garfunkel, “My Little Town.”
One of my favorite Simon compositions, and especially remarkable given that it’s complete fiction. (Simon, after all, is from Queens.)
A few years later, I would be pledging allegiance to the wall in my own little town.

No. 23: Bruce Springsteen, “Born To Run,” in its fifth week. This was maybe two weeks after Bruce made the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously.
Although I’m tired of this song, and I have (almost) never been seduced by the siren song of the American road, I still have to admit it’s a titanic production job.

No. 22: “Fly Robin Fly,” Silver Convention. Silver Convention a step ahead of Bruce Springsteen kinda sums up the ’70s, I think.
What was so great about this song?

No. 21: “What A Difference A Day Makes,” Esther Phillips. She has one of those loose, ragged, goaty voices that sell to jazz audiences. I can’t get to it.

No. 20: “You,” George Harrison. Ouch: Speaking of singing voices, it hurts a little to hear George flailing for the right notes here.
I have a hard time imagining this being anybody’s song … is there a couple out there that nuzzled to this?

No. 19: “That’s The Way (I Like It),” KC and the Sunshine Band. Crisp, sassy, rocket-fueled funk.
Now this is what funk-pop crossover singles are supposed to sound like.

No. 18: Bee Gees, “Nights on Broadway.” Just when things were looking grim, we get two straight cracklin’ jams for our delectation.
I have no idea what this is really about, just as I really don’t know what a bunch of other Bee Gees songs are about.
I just know it’s right in the pocket and the chorus is 50 feet tall, plus it starts with a taut moody riff that makes good, restrained use of synthesizer.

When I was a kid, I thought the Bee Gees were kind of a one-year wonder, riding the massive success of “Saturday Night Fever.”
Not until I grew up did I give them their due: They actually went five solid years (1975-80) turning out memorable, crisp, locked-in dance-pop singles and appealing ballads.
Much respect.

No. 17: The first U.S. hit for Jigsaw: “Sky High.”
This is not anywhere near in the same class as the previous two songs. I just like it because years ago, as a sophomore in college, my roomie and I stayed up late watching a dreadful action-adventure movie whose climactic scene featured this song.
Had something to do with a big shiny skyscraper blowing up, as I recall.
(This was in 1992 or ’93, when skyscrapers bursting into flame didn’t make me feel vaguely punched in the gut.)

Wiki tells me the film was “The Man From Hong Kong,” starring the post-Bond George Lazenby.
I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it.

No. 16: Neil Sedaka, “Bad Blood.” Shame to see our run of bold-face favourites come to an end. This song flat-out sucks; it sounds like something Doug Fieger would have written during his senior year in high school.
And a former Number One – gack!

No. 15: “SOS,” ABBA. Must … not …. think …. of Pierce Brosnan.
I’m telling ya, it takes an 18-wheeler full of dung to dim the shining wonderful poppiness of ABBA … and the movie “Mamma Mia” is alllllllllllmost equal to the job.
If you need a movie this weekend, find “The Man From Hong Kong.”

No. 14: Leon Russell, “Lady Blue.” The double-tracked vox on this have a slightly unpleasant quality to my ears, and I can’t decide if the minimal instrumentation is laid-back or boring.
I guess I give Leon the benefit of the doubt, but it ain’t getting any bold-face, you knows that.

No. 13: Olivia Newton-John, “Something Better To Do.”
We have a new entry for Things That Are Automatically Bad:
In addition to bass singers, opening monologues by anyone other than Barry White, circus music and children’s choruses, clarinets are bad.
Just bad.
As in, the kiss of death.

(And yes, Robert Lamm and Walt Parazaider, that means “Harry Truman” is a single without honor in this land. We love you, guys. But there’s only so much we’ll tolerate. You understand. Right?)

No. 12: War, “Low Rider.” A greasier take on pop-funk crossover.
Not quite as good as War’s all-time heavyweight champeen, “The Cisco Kid,” but a welcome streak of Saturday-night pachuco groove.

No. 11: People’s Choice, “Do It Anyway You Wanna.” Yeah, well, McDonald’s and Coors Light are the people’s choice too.
Grade-B BT Express.

No. 10: Captain and Tennille, “The Way I Wanna Touch You.” Nice dynamics, the way they drop down for the second verse. I don’t give ’em much credit for the lyrics, and the hooks are nothing special, but we still give points for professionally executed arrangements.

No. 9: Morris Albert, “Feelings.”
OK, I’m just screwing with ya. I wouldn’t really bold this.
But really — considering all the insipid sap that has gone Top 40 (and even Top Ten) over the years, how did this song become so firmly selected as the cultural archetype of lounge-crooner schlock?
There’s worse, ya know.

No. 8: Natalie Cole, “This Will Be.” Nice gutsy piano. Was Rickie Lee Jones taking mental notes for what would become “Chuck E.’s In Love”?

No. 7: For the listeners of WSKW in Skowhegan, Maine, here’s the Spinners with “Games People Play.”
The kings of the smooth soul bump-jam deliver again with a tasty, tasty piece of work.

No. 6: Linda Ronstadt, “Heat Wave.”
Somehow this tune seems better-suited for La Ronstadt’s blowtorch-in-blue-jeans approach than some of her other covers.
Woulda been a much better single release in June, though.

No. 5: Jefferson Starship, “Miracles.”
I wish I could explain why I like this song so much. Maybe it’s because I remember hearing it on the AM radio in my parents’ old Plymouth Satellite during long interstate car trips.
Maybe it’s just because it epitomizes ’70s deeply soulful, hot-tub, I’m-in-you-you’re-in-me-in-a-soulful-kinda-way lovin’.
Or maybe it’s because Red Octopus is a back-door contender for one of my 10 favorite albums of the 1970s.

Whatever the reason, I can get lost in this song any time I hear it.

No. 4: “Who Loves You?,” the Four Seasons.
Trying to remember whether this one was inspired by Theo Kojak’s legendary catchphrase or not. I guess only Bob Gaudio knows for sure.
This one doesn’t really deserve bold face, but the Bushmills is kicking in, and I really did enjoy this countdown, so what the hell.

No. 3: John Denver, “Calypso.” The life aquatic with John Deutschendorf.

No. 2: Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes.” Misogynistic country trash.
Hey, how did these guys do on the country charts? I’m sort of dimly curious, but not so much as to go look it up. (Edit: Someone else did in 2009, and told me this song hit No. 8 on the country charts, the band’s highest placing.)

And finally:
No. 1: “Island Girl,” Elton John.
Casey shares a neat bit of trivia: Elton’s album “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” debuted on the charts at Number One in June 1975, the first album ever to do so.
And this week, Elton made it two in a row, with the “Rock of the Westies” album also debuting at Number One.
This is another in a long string of Elton singles in which the music, and Elton’s delivery of the lyrics, completely obliterate whatever the song’s supposed to be about.
There’s something to do with a hooker from the Caribbean, but really, how many listeners could describe a coherent plot arc?

Incidentally, I’ve been listening to “Nights On Broadway” since I first typed it in. Just thought I’d mention it.

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