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It’ll end in yawns.

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Sometimes the only way to kill a creative idea is to complete it.

The idea of writing a declarative ’70s Top Forty — like, the best 40 songs Casey Kasem played that decade, with a separate blog post for each song — has been knocking around my head long enough that I’ve realized I can’t wish it away. So, despite my general nagging nostalgia fatigue, I’ve been taking steps to make it real.

In the past week or so, I’ve re-read the song lists from every AT40 countdown of the ’70s (except the countdown of June 29, 1974, which any fan knows is b0rked) and compiled a list of every song that pressed my mental “like” button when I read its title. Songs that pressed the happy button two times or more were listed in bold. I started in December 1979 and worked my way backward to the launch of AT40 in July 1970.

(Yes, I could have just confined myself to compiling a list of bold favorites — the real golden gassers — since I have many more than 40 of them. I guess I wanted the full list. Its purpose will reveal itself to me with time, no doubt. When the listener is ready, the radio shall appear.)

For the weeks between January and mid-July 1970, when there was no AT40 yet, I looked up the countdowns in Billboard magazine. For the weeks when Casey was playing a special instead of the regular countdown — like “Biggest Female Stars of the Rock Era” — I did absolutely nothing, because my commitment to this entire stupid construct only goes so far.

An interesting thing happened:

In 1979 I wrote down 40 song titles, including eight bolds. I thought there would be fewer as the years went on, if for no other reason than I would get tired of staring at charts and typing. Instead, the opposite happened: The 1979 and 1978 lists were the shortest, and the ones between 1971 and 1974 the longest. The 1972 list is almost three times as long as 1979’s.

By the end, I was wondering whether I hadn’t applied a different set of criteria to the 1979 and 1978 charts. But I’m not going back to review them. My prior comment about this entire stupid construct remains operative.

(And anyway, the exact number for any specific year is a little wiggly. Remember, I worked backward. So a song whose chart run spanned, say, 1974 and ’75 will be listed in ’75 — because that’s where I first encountered it, fading off the chart in February ’75 — rather than 1974, when it might have reached its chart peak.)

The total playlist for my mythical ’70s jukebox: 715 songs, 291 bolds. Clearly, if I’m gonna do this thang, some threshing is in order. The questions that face me include:

Should I try to model my dream countdown after the mix of a real AT40 — i.e., moderately eclectic, with a little country here and a little R&B there, and a novelty record here and something catchy from Australia there, and a credible representation of ballads?

Or should I simply make it the 40 songs I feel I like best — in which case it will probably be 25 funk/Philly Soul jams, 10 hard rock/prog rock songs, and five Chicago songs?

Should I make any mock-mathematical attempt to quantify or calculate the respective glories of each song? Should I try to award points and demerits? Or should each judgment be purely subjective, the product of extended meditation on the universe?

How much does camp count for? This decision will determine whether “Heartbeat, It’s A Lovebeat” comes in at No. 38 or No. 289.

How much does backstory count for? “Love Is The Drug” would have been bolded anyway; but the fact that I’m on a long-running Roxy jag, and this was Roxy’s only venture into the Forty, adds something to my appreciation of the song.

Given that I’ve probably written about my 40 favorites before, what new can I possibly say about them when their turn comes up? This will not be the first bridge we come to.

We’ll see. Maybe the process of exposing this idea to light and thought will wash it away like Lysol. I need to reach a sorting method I like and agree with if I am to proceed.

More to come, maybe.

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