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Encore Performances: Dec. 26, 1970: A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.

A friend of mine linked to this December 2010 post on his own blog. Then I shut down my blog and left him with a dead link. So I’m reposting here, so visitors to his site aren’t left wondering what he was linking to.

This is the last regular countdown of Casey Kasem’s first year of AT40.
And it features a number of idiosyncracies, including a Merry Christmas wish at the end; one song on the Forty that intentionally goes unplayed; and one of the uglier factual errors of Casey’s AT40 tenure.

But before we chronicle all that, a few historic highlights from the week ending Dec. 26, 1970:

* Admiral Elmo Zumwalt is on the cover of Time magazine, under the unusual headline “The Military Goes Mod.”
Stories inside the magazine cover a major strike by railroad workers; Pepper & Tanner, a company producing radio station jingles and commercials; and the recent passing of cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

* The Boston Bruins’ Bobby Orr occupies the cover of Sports Illustrated as the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year.

* National Lampoon magazine, like AT40, is new this year. Its December issue is Christmas-themed, and features a cover cartoon of a Chinese military jet shooting down Santa Claus.

* Don Cardwell, a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets pitching staff, is released by the Atlanta Braves after a mediocre season. His big-league career is over after 14 years.

* The last episode of the second season of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” airs on the BBC. It is perhaps best remembered for its controversial closing sketch, in which an undertaker tries to convince a man to eat his recently deceased mother.

* Tiger Beat magazine runs a cover contest in which readers can win one of David Cassidy’s puppies. Other stars teased on the front cover include Bobby Sherman, the Osmonds and the Bugaloos.

* Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley hold their celebrated meeting at the White House.

* Lillian Board, a fast-rising star in the world of track and field, dies at 22, three months after being diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer. She held several world records and won a silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

* Guests on “Sesame Street” this week include members of the New York Mets and Knicks, as well as members of the cast of “Bonanza” and Bill Cosby.

* A young family in Rochester, N.Y., breathes a post-Christmas sigh of relief.
The past month-and-a-half has been especially crazy: In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas, their first child has been born.
As it happens, the artist at Number One the week of Dec. 26, 1970, will again be in the Top Five when the family’s second child is born in July 1973.
But nobody’s thinking about any of that yet.

And now, the countdown, with favourites in bold as always.

No. 40, debut: Runt, “We Gotta Get You A Woman.”
Rundgren’s first-ever Top 40 appearance? I think so.
It has that great early-’70s Rundgren production quality. (As much as I like A Wizard/A True Star and subsequent meanderings, it’s a shame Todd flaked out before giving us one or two more straight pop albums with tunes like this.)
I happen to think the line “They may be stupid but they sure are fun” is playful, and a good example of writing in character, though I imagine not everyone in 1970 saw it the same way.

No. 39, debut: Redeye, “Games.”
This seems like an amalgam of pop influences.
The busy bass line reminds me of Motown’s James Jamerson; the vocal harmonies remind me of two of the guys from Crosby, Stills and Nash (not sure which two); and the howling lead guitar tone is taken directly from “American Woman.”
It’s not a half-bad song for all that, though.

No. 38: Down “20 points,” it’s Eric Clapton with the honky funk of “After Midnight.”

No. 37: Casey tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who spent all her money on roller skates in Detroit in 1955. And now she makes up to $25,000 a concert!
It’s Aretha Franklin with “Border Song (Holy Moses.)”
Aretha brings so much more church to the AT40 than all those explicitly religious hippie singles combined.

No. 36: Neil Diamond, “Do It.” His eighth hit this calendar year, Casey says.
With a bass-drum sound that smacks like a big wet heartbeat.

This reminds me of the auto reviewer Tom McCahill, who once described a car as being “as exciting as a pocketful of wet pancakes.”

No. 35: For the good folks listening to KAFY in Bakersfield, California, it’s James Taylor with “Fire and Rain.”
The best single thing JT ever wrote or recorded, and 14 weeks on the chart.

No. 34: Flaming Ember, “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper.”
Snappy Detroit soul, like the kind of thing the Jax 5ive would have recorded had they wanted to be more grown-up and topical.
(Well, OK, I guess a brother band recording a song about turning their back on their brother would have been kind of unlikely.)

Wiki sez these guys are in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Wha’?

No. 33: “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden,” Lynn Anderson.
This is about as country as … oh, Taylor Swift.

No. 32: Casey plays “Patch It Up,” the B-side of Elvis’ “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.”
“Patch It Up” is a little too manic, like it’s turned up a notch too high.
In terms of pacing, it’s kinda like the Elvis equivalent of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?”
Only not as good.

No. 31: Stephen Stills, “Love The One You’re With.” Annoying hippie krap.
Is it true that Stills had Jimi Hendrix record a guitar solo for this, then wiped it and replaced it with himself playing steel drums?

No. 30: Casey says this is “where No. 30 ought to be.”
He explains that he has to not play one of the songs on the Forty because he has to make time to play a double-sided Number One.
The song that drew the short straw: “Share The Land” by the Guess Who.
According to Pete Battistini’s AT40 book, Casey found time on the program to play two oldies, but couldn’t find time for “Share The Land.” (The oldies were apparently edited out of the XM radio rebroadcast.)

No. 29: In his second week on the chart, Elton John with “Your Song.”
Alas, Elton had not quite hit on his hitmaking formula, which was to write and arrange music so catchy, forceful, gentle or otherwise memorable that it rendered Bernie Taupin’s lyrics incidental.

No. 28: Led Zep with the overblown silliness of “Immigrant Song.”
Page’s production skills make the record sound like Vikings on the march.
But really, how did people see this skinny long-haired Limey croon “Valhalla, I am coming,” and not break into laughter?

Also, I always — for decades — interpreted the line “Our only goal will be the western shore” as “I wanna go where people twist and shout.”
Never quite understood what that had to do with conquering hordes.

No. 27: “Montego Bay,” Bobby Bloom, with 11 weeks on the 40.
Didn’t quite bold this, but I enjoy it more than I like most tropical-paradise songs (see Buffett, Jimmy.)
The percussion is catchy without being gimmicky.

No. 26, debut: Bee Gees, “Lonely Days.” Wet pancakes.

No. 25: Tom Jones, “Can’t Stop Loving You.” Would have been better if this had been the old Ray Charles tune — I bet Jonesy would have rocked that.

No. 24: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “If I Were Your Woman.”
Superb.

Sometimes I wonder what the fictional characters in songs ended up doing.
Like the girl in Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” — you think he charmed her into coming out for a ride with him, or do you think she stayed in the kitchen and made blueberry muffins?
Same deal in this song. Do you think the guy Gladys was singing to saw the light?
He would have been hard put not to.

No. 23: Chairmen of the Board with “Pay to the Piper.”
Seemed like minor Motown-style stuff to me.
I had no idea until I hit Wiki that the Chairmen’s recently deceased frontman, General Norman Johnson, wrote Honey Cone’s “Want Ads” and “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.”

No. 22: Three Dog Night, “One Man Band.” Not among their absolute finest, but enjoyable enough.
The touches of Hammond organ give this a respectable score on the SEHOQ (Smith-Earland Hammond Organ Quotient).
Plus, they stick the dismount, giving us a nice a cappella ending.
It would be a solid 9.7 if not for the Russian judge.

No. 21: Andy Kim, “Be My Baby.”
He doesn’t sound so much like Neil Diamond here … that’s about the most I can say for this unnecessary cover.

No. 20: And here’s the man himself — Neil Diamond with “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”
The plunky flamenco guitar kind of distracts me; I would have liked to hear him take the first verse with piano alone.

Did any DJ, either intentionally or unintentionally, play this back to back with “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper”?

No. 19: Perry Como’s first hit since 1958, “It’s Impossible.”
Adult contemporary in excelsis.

No. 18: Up 10 points, it’s King Floyd with — UHHHHHHHHH! — “Groove Me.”
It pains me to think that commenters on YouTube know this only as “the Homer ass groove music.”
(Don’t ask me to explain.)

No. 17: Up 13 points, it’s the Supremes and the Tempts with “River Deep, Mountain High.”
Featuring the immortal lyric, “When you were a young girl, did you have a puppy?”
I found that unaccountably funny.

No. 16: The Jax 5ive, “I’ll Be There.”
Magical, especially the beginning.
Casey says this one has moved three million copies.

No. 15: In its 14th week in the Top 20, the Carpenters with “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
I am loath to admit that, if I ever actually listened to it all the way through, I might find myself kinda connecting a little bit with this newlyweds’ tale.

No. 14: Ray Price, “For The Good Times.” On the other hand, I’ve tried to connect with this one, and never quite made it.

No. 13: Barbra Streisand, “Stoney End.”
Best thing Barbra ever did? Maybe.
It has that sort of New York City Laura Nyro-ish soul sound to it.

No. 12: Van Morrison, “Domino.”
I’ve been getting more and more into Van’s ethereal, free-form adventures lately — albums like Veedon Fleece and Common One.
But then, along comes a perfect slice of three-minute soul like this one, and I start suspecting that Van mumbling about Coleridge and Wordsworth for 10 minutes at a time might just be so much codswallop.

Plus, “Hey, Mister DJ / I just wanna hear / Some rhythm n’ blues music / On my radio / On my radio / On my radio” is one of the best lyrical ad-libs of all time.

No. 11: The Presidents (my brain always makes me want to add “of the United States of America”) with “5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love.)”
I liked this one just fine.

No. 10: Badfinger, “No Matter What.”
Out of nowhere, my wife starts singing along!
I married well.

No. 9: Brian Hyland, “Gypsy Woman.” Casey mentions that this was a hit (for someone else) in 1961, which automatically makes it suspect.
I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
Were there still gypsies in America in 1970?
Are there still now?

No. 8: Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
For the people listening to KMEN in San Bernardino, Calif.
I like the lyrical touch about the diamond watch that “stops cold dead,” which makes up a little bit for the way the next verse runs out of steam in a hail of “I don’t know”s.

But of course, Robert Lamm could sing the menu at Lums and I’d still tune in.

No. 7: Supremes, “Stoned Love.” Who needs Diana Ross, anyhow?

No. 6: An ex-Number One from the Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You.”
I can only imagine the frustration of program directors in 1970 who wanted nothing more than to never hear this again, but who were forced to keep it on the playlist week after week by the doe-eyed adoration of their teenage listeners.

No. 5: “Black Magic Woman,” Santana. I didn’t listen, but I bet Casey didn’t play “Gypsy Queen” too — and I don’t bold “Black Magic Woman” unless it comes with “Gypsy Queen.”
I’ve always loved the way they explode from one into the other.

No. 4: Dawn, “Knock Three Times.” I dislike this …

No. 3: … so, to tweak my nose, Casey plays it twice instead of playing the No. 3 song.
(This error is not noted in Pete Battistini’s book, so I think the mistake was made in the XM rebroadcast, not the original airing. The real No. 3, which I would have liked to have heard, was “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.)

No. 2: The Fifth Dimension, “One Less Bell to Answer.” Originally written for Louis Prima’s partner Keely Smith, according to Wiki.
Hmmmm.

And now, the two-sided Number One, with an unfortunate introduction:
After explaining that George Harrison was the only Beatle to grow up in a stable family setting — which is relevant to pretty much nothing — Casey mentions that George’s mom and dad are alive and well and living in the English countryside in a home their son bought them.
Unfortunately, Louise Harrison died in July 1970.
Casey would correct the error on his first regular countdown of the following year.

On the original broadcast, Casey played both “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It A Pity.”
In the rebroadcast, we only hear the latter, which is a nice song, even though I’ve never been a big fan of the overloaded Spectorian sonics of All Things Must Pass.

And on that note, thus endeth the countdown, and 1970.
And this post.

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One response »

  1. Thanks so much for reposting this – last weekend’s AT40 – the 70s rerun in terrestrial radio syndication was February 20, 1971, and a lot of these songs were still hanging in there on that particular chart! Great post.

    Reply

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