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You had to be there, Part Deux.

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Maybe a week or so ago, I wrote about the central role a Beach Boys-Chicago concert played in the life of a high school graduating class in Massachusetts.

While I wait for dinner to digest so I can go running, I’m gonna toss out a couple other tidbits related to that particular concert.

– The set lists for the show are posted online. It looks like the crowd got 12 songs by the Beach Boys; seven songs by Chicago; and six songs with the groups performing together.

The absolute final song of the night? “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I wonder who sang lead on that one; Terry Kath was about the only guy in either band I could imagine doing it justice.

I’ve always been surprised at the number of artists who covered “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” within a decade of its release — Johnny Winter, Peter Frampton, Leon Russell and a young Billy Joel, to name a couple more.

It’s not one of those Joe South or Jimmy Webb songwriter-for-hire songs that people can easily put their own stamp on. It’s pretty heavily freighted with the tone and attitude of the guys who wrote it, not to mention the increasing social and political tensions of its time.

In short, I have trouble imagining it sounded convincing being played by two soft-pop bands on a school’s-out night in Foxboro in ’75.

But, the kids of Norwood High would probably disagree with me.

– The Beach Boys-Chicago collaborations of the ’70s were made possible, in part, through donations from viewers like you. (I’m sorry; once I started to write that sentence I couldn’t steer it away from the obvious ending.)

They were made possible, in part, because both groups were briefly under the wing of manager-producer James William Guercio.

Guercio was a former professional musician himself, with a stint in Frank Zappa’s early Mothers of Invention on his resume.

And on the big summer tour of ’75, he got into the act, serving as the Beach Boys’ onstage bass player. (The Boys’ nominal bass player was hors de combat that summer, and his once and future replacement, Bruce Johnston, was on several years’ leave.)

I don’t know what that experience was really like; it could be Guercio had two separate headaches every day.

From afar, it seems like a rare simultaneous triumph on the business and artistic sides of music. By day, Guercio was a doer of million-dollar deals; by night, he was sweating under the footlights in front of tens of thousands of fans.

I can’t imagine too many people doing that. Jay-Z, maybe, but not most of your well-known ’70s and ’80s rock types.

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You had to be there.

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Another tease for the previous post before we begin this one. You like anal-retentive quizzes about the kinds of details you can only learn by staring for hours at album covers? Well, we have just the thing for you, Bunky. Go check it out.

I get hung up on music trivia sometimes — like a certain lick on a record, or a cryptic liner note. The post mentioned above will attest to my flights into detail.

But what really gets me going about pop music is the role it plays in people’s lives … the way it sets a backdrop for personal events, and sometimes even seems to comment on them.

By and large, it’s more interesting to imagine the real-life interactions that took place to the tune of “#9 Dream” than it is to imagine Klaus Voorman in the studio laying down the bass track.

(I spent some time on that very exploration once; the results can be found here.)

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I spent some time surfing a scanned-in high school yearbook from the 1970s — specifically, the Norwood (Mass.) High School Tiot, 1976 edition (incorrectly labeled as 1978 online.)

To answer two questions that will inevitably arise: I lived in Norwood about 20 years ago, and a random Google search for my old address led me to the yearbook. And no, I don’t know what a Tiot is.

Anyway, the members of the Class of ’76 were allotted a few lines of commentary along with their senior portraits.

And damned if it didn’t seem like one out of every six seniors had been to the Beach Boys-Chicago concert at the old Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro on June 29, 1975.

References to the show came up time and time again, even from people who left only one or two other notes behind.

It must have been the social event, not just of that year, but of the full four-year enlistment of the Class of ’76. I read the entire senior section of that yearbook, and no other inside joke, reference or event had the shared staying power of the Beach Boys-Chicago concert.

A concert at the end of June would have been a marvelous beginning, not just to the summer, but also to the senior year of the Class of ’76. It must have seemed like a party set up just for them.

Chicago and the Beach Boys were both very successful and in good fighting trim in the summer of ’75, too. So the actual performance was probably pretty solid as well.

As I read the yearbook, my imagination was populated by the kids of Norwood High meeting, greeting, getting together, hanging out, breaking up, hooking up, snogging, arguing, pondering philosophy, scoring mood-enhancers and drinking beers — all set against the backdrop of a summer night’s musical party with 55,000 other people.

And of course, my mind also ran to the unfortunates — those seniors who couldn’t get tickets, or who were otherwise occupied that night.

In particular, I’m imagining some sad-sack senior committed to work that night at a pizza place, putting in time to pay for his gas and grass … and at 11:30, about a dozen of his classmates come waltzing in, ripped to the gunwales, telling him about everything he missed.

I might be over-romanticizing things, but this concert reminds me of one I went to myself, 13 years later.

It was June 10, 1989, and the Steve Miller Band was playing the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, N.Y.

The venue’s management had apparently expected a middling crowd of aged hippies, since Miller hadn’t had a chart hit in six or seven years. But Miller’s ’70s greatest hits album was hugely popular among teens in those days, and the hill of the amphitheater was crawling with kids, like a pre-graduation party for dozens of high schools.

You could probably open a 1990 yearbook from any high school in a five-county range and find at least one or two senior wills with references to the Steve Miller Band at Canandaigua.

The Beach Boys-Chicago show sounds like it was one of Those Shows, only even bigger and more epic.

I wonder if there are members of the Norwood High Class of ’76 who can still close their eyes and go back there … smell the smoke, see their friends and hear the horn section.

I imagine so.

Encore Performances: July 19, 1975: I’m on fire.

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From the old blog, August 2009.

I barely remember listening to this one, but I wrote some stuff down so I’ll blog it anyway.
The 40 hottest hits in America for the week ending July 19, 1975, with my favourites in bold:

No. 40: Barry Manilow, “Could It Be Magic.” Not a great way to start, my friend. Not a great way a-tall.

No. 39: Joe Simon, “Get Down, Get Down.” Not three years after recording the stone classic “Drowning In The Sea of Love,” Senor Simon is reduced to copying Carl Douglas (yes, Carl Douglas) with a mention of “kung fu funk.”
Apparently this hit big; I hope Simon at least got a new set of whitewalls for his Lincoln Continental out of it.

No. 38, debut: Freddy Fender, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.” I know Fender’s backstory, and it’s great that he had a couple of hits, but I just can’t get to his voice.
There’s a great Doug Sahm version of this song (recorded before Fender’s big comeback) that kinda stomps this; too bad Sahm couldn’t score big with it.

No. 37, debut: Ambrosia, “Holdin’ On To Yesterday.” Casey said the band chose their name because the gods ate ambrosia, and the band wanted to create “a sound that is immortal.”
Yeah, that worked out.

No. 36: Aerosmith, “Sweet Emotion.” Poor rabbit. Apparently this was as high as the song ever got.

No. 35, debut: “Saturday Night Special,” Lynyrd Skynyrd. OK, I know Skynyrd could be all ham-handed with the Stars’n’Bars and the long twin-guitar solos and all that “Free Bird” cliche nonsense.
But this is a good, biting, angry rock’n’roll song with a big chorus.

No. 34: “The latest hit for young Michael Jackson” — “Just A Little Bit of You.”
Is this kind of a forgotten song? I couldn’t remember having heard it, or even heard of it, even during the recent MJ frenzy.
It’s a perfectly solid, if not remarkable, piece of mid-’70s pop-soul, upholstered like a Cordoba with a thick carpet of strings.

No. 33: “Fallin’ in Love,” Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds. I was just raving a week or two ago about these guys’ remarkable track record — two hits, two quintessentially ’70s blockbusters.
This one would hit Number One the week of Aug. 23.

No. 32: “At Seventeen,” Janis Ian. This one’s kinda funny because a few weeks before, Casey had done a show about “disappearing acts” — performers who had one big hit and then disappeared from the charts.
Apparently Janis Ian had been part of that countdown.
And just a couple weeks later, she popped up again.
Pop music is a funny business.

No. 31: Ringo Starr, “Goodnight Vienna.” I enjoyed the sort of halfhearted croak with which Ringo ends the nonsensical line, “It’s all down to Goodnight Vienna.”
(Is that supposed to mean something? Anybody? Bueller?)

Casey makes an interesting admission that the record just hadn’t taken off like he thought it had — apparently it had been mired in the 30s for a week or two.
I’ve heard Casey handicap records’ chances before, but I’d never heard him admit he was wrong.

No. 30: “Fight the Power,” Isley Brothers. The week’s No. 1 soul song.
Sorry — as I’ve said, those of us who came of age circa 1988-89 associate this with Public Enemy.
And there’s no shame in that.
Y’know, I haven’t heard any PE in too long. I oughta look those guys up on YouTube and see what I find.
But not before I finish this countdown…

No. 29: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “Hey You.”
Casey reads an interview snippet in which the band admits that this song is a composite of their prior hits.
Nice of them to come out and say it.

No. 28: “Disco Queen,” Hot Chocolate. I don’t remember anything about this one except that I wondered whether it was the first Top 40 hit with the word “Disco” in the title.
Probably not.

No. 27: Jessi Colter, “I’m Not Lisa.” Me either.

No. 26: Major Harris, “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.”

No. 25: Commodores, “Slippery When Wet.” Casey muses on the phenomenon of funk acts hitting first with an instrumental, then coming back with a vocal number.
This one’s kind of a blueprint for “Play That Funky Music (White Boy),” as I recall.

No. 24: “Morning Beautiful,” Tony Orlando and Dawn, whom — Casey tells us — were breaking all kinds of attendance records in Vegas.
Wonder how many they’d draw if you booked them into the same room next week.
(They’d probably do better than I’d like to think.)

No. 23: A former No. 2 hit, Linda Ronstadt with “When Will I Be Loved?”
I used to like this song, back when I’d only heard it a few times … now I find it kinda wooden and square, like most everything La Ronstadt ever did.
Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Everlys’ original. I oughta go get all rootsy on YouTube and look that up.
But not before I finish this countdown.

No. 22: Charlie Rich, “Every Time You Touch Me I Get High.” Not the Silver Fox’s crowning moment, I don’t think.

Casey makes the week’s obligatory Beatles reference, teasing an upcoming record by an artist who didn’t succeed until after he left the Beatles’ camp.

No. 21: Michael Murphey, “Wildfire.” Someday I could do a blog entry about songs whose choruses consisted entirely of their titles.
I’m sure this isn’t the best one.
I hope so, anyway.

No. 20, the highest-charting debut of the week: James Taylor, “How Sweet It Is.” Somehow managed to stall at No. 5 despite one heck of a debut.

No. 19: Glen Campbell, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” a future No. 1 on both pop and country charts. I used to sing this around the house as a little boy. I don’t much like it now, but not b/c of that.

No. 18: Dwight Twilley Band, “I’m On Fire.” One-hit boogie-rock that reminded me, unaccountably, of what the Georgia Satellites did about a decade later.

No. 17: Mike Post, “Rockford Files Theme.” Been way too long since I bolded anything. This is up there with “Welcome Back” among my favorite TV themes.
In a breach of his usual DJ etiquette, Casey talks over the beginning of this one — the whining synthesizer is well into its routine by the time he shuts up.
C’mon, Case. Get it together out there.

No. 16: War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” I love a bunch of other War songs, but I don’t much care for this one, I think because of its goofiness. It sounds like it could be a ska song, which is the kiss of pure death in my book.

No. 15: Elton John, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” You know, I like a lot of Elton John singles but I’ve never bought an Elton John album, not even his greatest hits.
Wonder why that is.

No. 14: Ray Stevens, “Misty.”

No. 13: Bazuka, “Dynomite.” I had forgotten how annoying the J.J. Evans character was on “Good Times.”
Interesting to read the Wiki page for “Good Times” and read about the disgust the older actors had for the character, whom they saw as a caricature and a cliche who could be trotted out in lieu of actual thoughtful writing.

No. 12: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “The Way We Were.” Usually I encounter the Pips down at No. 32 someplace. Nice to see them getting a little better action.

No. 11: Melissa Manchester, “Midnight Blue.” Not the same dreadful song later trotted out by my upstate homeslice Lou Gramm.

No. 10: Gwen McCrae, “Rockin’ Chair.” Stylish, sexy and soulful. I’ve been listening to this, again and again, since about No. 32.

No. 9: Bee Gees, “Jive Talkin’.” You know it. You know how good it is.

No. 8: “Love Will Keep Us Together,” Captain and Tennille. Their first and only Top 40 hit as of this countdown, and a former No. 1. Also an OK song, by and large.

No. 7: Frankie Valli with the passably funky “Swearin’ to God,” which is presumably a big deal when you’re a Cat’lic kid from New Jersey. Makes me think of crosses on necklaces and Saint Christopher medals and sweat and earnestness.

No. 6: Pilot, “Magic.” I’ve expressed my love for this one before.
I’m imagining these Scots riding in a limo through L.A., marveling at the eternal sunshine and their sudden success.

No. 5: Olivia Newton-John, “Please Mister Please.” Yuck.

No. 4: Eagles, “One Of These Nights.” I will admit that the very beginning of this is all atmospheric and eerie. Goes downhill fast, though.
I assume they liked this one at WPCR in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

No. 3: 10cc, “I’m Not In Love.” Whaddya know — I’ve finally learned the proper pronunciation of Lol Creme’s first name.
(It sounds like “Lowell.”)

No. 2: “The Hustle,” Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony. There should actually be an orchestra called the Soul City Symphony. Just think of all the session calls they’d get.

No. 1: From the Number One album in the country (“Venus and Mars”), “Listen to What The Man Said” by Wings.

Boy, that one didn’t seem like it was worth the effort, did it?

How do you say “Bay City Rollers” in Spanish?

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The next installment in my potentially endless Edinburgh Exorcism series of posts, devoted to the Bay City Rollers.

Tartan terror!I’ve been to Las Cruces, New Mexico. As best I can recall, there is no tartan to be seen there, nor is it a hotbed of Anglophilia.

It surprised me, then, to learn that Las Cruces may have been the Cradle of American Rollermania.

The online ARSA database contains hundreds of local radio airplay charts featuring the singles and albums of the Bay City Rollers.

I decided it would be fun to search the database and find the very earliest local radio chart to mention the band, just to acknowledge the station and city whose fans were first onto the Rollers bandwagon.

(The standard disclaimer applies: The ARSA database doesn’t include every local hit-radio chart ever, just the ones people have scanned in and submitted. Still, it gives the best and broadest view we have of local radio play patterns, especially for the ’60s and first half of the ’70s.)

The Rollers first start showing up on local chart radar in mid-September 1975, with Boston’s WBZ listing “Saturday Night” as hitbound during the week of Sept. 19.

An impressive bit of hitbreaking by WBZ? Certainly, when you consider that the song wouldn’t reach the national Top 40 until early November.

But the real pacesetters of Bay City Rollers fandom didn’t live in Boston: They lived in south-central New Mexico.

That’s where Top 40 station KNMS 660-AM reported the Bay City Rollers album at No. 25 in its list of top local albums for the week of Sept. 15 — beating WBZ by a few days, and representing the band’s earliest showing on any local chart in the ARSA archives.

The burghers of Las Cruces had pretty wide-ranging tastes. The local top albums list that week ranged from the Grateful Dead’s spacey Blues for Allah to the silky Philly soul of the Spinners’ Pick of the Litter to folk-blues cult hero Taj Mahal’s Music Keeps Me Together. (The Rollers were the only bubblegum group on the list.)

A Google search also tells me that the station was operated from New Mexico State University, as its call letters would suggest, and that its on-air staff in the mid-’70s styled themselves the “Ozone Rangers.”

(I can’t imagine they were too thrilled to program the teen-oriented sounds of the Bay City Rollers. But, you gotta give the people what they want.)

Seems like a weird place for a national trend to take root.

I’d theorize that maybe the Rollers moved units in Las Cruces simply because they were an exotic quantity. Adorable teenybop bands wearing plaid-trimmed flood-pants were probably pretty thin on the ground in 1975 New Mexico.

Or maybe there’s a case study here about thought leaders and the ways they spread their influence. Could be there was one alpha-female eighth-grader who glommed onto the Rollers somehow, and everyone else in her orbit followed her. Big fish, small pond, you know how it goes.

Whatever the reason, the teenagers of Las Cruces were in the vanguard of American popular culture in September 1975, perhaps for the first, last and only time.

Hope they savored it.

Encore Performances: March 1, 1975: The band performs in the nude.

Haven’t brought myself to listen to any more countdowns lately so here’s one from the old blog, March 2011.

So here we are, visiting ’75 again. What’s going on this week?

* Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam and a mentor to African-American leaders like Malcolm X, dies.

* The San Francisco Giants sell head-case slugger Dave Kingman to the New York Mets.
It says something about Kingman’s personality that — following a 1976 season in which he hits 37 homers in only 123 games — he will play for four different teams in 1977.

* Also in spring training action, Boog Powell, a Baltimore Oriole since 1961, is dealt to the Cleveland Indians.
The hulking Powell will have one last decent season in 1975, earning AL Comeback Player of the Year honors, before fading in 1976 and ’77.

* Time magazine’s cover honors neither Powell nor Kingman, instead using Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent as the (masked) face of a story titled “Hockey: War on Ice.”
Inside is an article about new guitar synthesizer technology that quotes Yes guitarist Steve Howe and jazz-fusion guitarist John McLaughlin.

* Loggins and Messina are on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Other stories teased on the cover focus on Bryan Ferry (“Cabaret for Psychotics”), Joe Walsh, Billy Preston and “Kissinger’s Indochina Obsession.”

* The Grammy Awards are presented in New York City.
Big winners include Stevie Wonder (album of the year, “Fulfillingness’ First Finale”); Marvin Hamlisch (Best New Artist, beating Bad Company and Graham Central Station); Richard Pryor (Best Comedy Album, “That Nigger’s Crazy”); Elvis Presley (Best Inspirational Performance (Non-Classical), “How Great Thou Art”); and MFSB (Best R&B Instrumental Performance, “The Sound of Philadelphia.”)

* Science News reports on “Climate Change: Chilling Possibilities.”
The buzz in those days is about a new Ice Age; about two months later, Newsweek magazine’s cover will trumpet “The Cooling World.”

* Coricidin cold and hay fever tablets for children cost 88 cents per package at Larry’s Pharmacy in Smethport, Pennsylvania, as advertised in the McKean County Miner newspaper.
Empty Coricidin glass bottles were the preferred tool of rock’n’roll slide guitarists like Duane Allman and the aforementioned Joe Walsh … though it’s doubtful that either of them ever bought any in McKean County, Pennsylvania.

* A young woman in Scranton, Pennsylvania, enters the last week of her first pregnancy.
A few days after this countdown airs, she gives birth to a daughter.
Said daughter will later date a high-school-age me for more than two years, tolerating my eccentricities, enduring my failings, and giving me an education in the day-to-day maintenance of a romantic relationship.
Awfully thoughtful of her.

“To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” is not on this week’s countdown … but here’s what is, with favourites in bold, the way we like it:

No. 40, debut: In his first-ever visit to AT40, Dan Fogelberg with “Part of the Plan.”
Word-packed … some weird accentuations (“un-DER-stand”) … and somebody on the harmonies giving it his best David Crosby … but still, not entirely bad.
Not self-conscious or pretentious, for one thing.

No. 39, debut: Helen Reddy, “Emotions.”
(Why does Casey keep referring to her as a “girl”? Is he tone-deaf or is he baiting her?)
This is professionally done and overall not that bad … I like the lines about running out of ways to care and only getting old.

No. 38, debut: Sammy Johns, “Chevy Van.”
Ah, the sin wagons of the Seventies. They might build SUVs big enough to crush an elephant nowadays, but they don’t have the style of a Chevy van with gladiators airbrushed on the side and shag carpet all up on the inside.

I gotta say, though, the way the choruses end — “and that’s all right with me” — is pretty anticlimactic.
This foxy chick comes into your van and services you, and the best you can offer is “that’s all right”?
Let’s have a little appreciation for the effort that goes into casual four-wheeled sex, shall we?

No. 37, debut: George McCrae, “I Get Lifted.”
A simple, sassy, Southern shuffle that goes down easy … though that breath sound effect overstays its welcome just a little bit.

No. 36, debut (yeah, there’s a lot of first-timers this week):
BJ Thomas with “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.”
A future Number One on the AT40, country and Easy Listening charts.
Another of those songs that basically lives for its chorus — unless I’m wrong, it only has one verse, and repeats that twice.

Before we hear the song, Casey treats us to another retelling of how BJ didn’t want to record “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”

No. 35: For the folks listening to WRAI in San Juan, Puerto Rico (did any of them go to New York without a dime?), it’s “The Wonder – Stevie” with “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”

Is this the only AT40 hit that includes the quaint phrase “in the raw”?
And if Stevie can enunciate all his other fleshly desires, why does he steer away from the word “naked” so queerly?

No. 34, debut: Neil Diamond, “I’ve Been This Way Before.”
This one is pretty good until the drums come in and Neil begins to deliver himself of such deathless observations as, “Some people got to laugh, some people got to cry.”
Yeah … and some people like to go out dancin’, and other peoples, they have to WORK.

No. 33: Carol Douglas, “Doctor’s Orders.”
Would have sounded good on the dance floor, I suppose.

No. 32: Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Look In My Eyes, Pretty Woman.”
Just FYI, I am listening again and again — almost obsessively — to “Then Came You” as I type this.
That’s a freakin’ awesome song — one that deserved at least five more weeks at Number One than it got.

(Editor’s note: As I repost this, I am listening again and again to “The Royal Scam.”)

Oh, yeah. Was I supposed to say something about Tony Orlando and Dawn?

No. 31: Up nine spots, Ringo Starr … Casey plays the flip side, “Snookeroo,” instead of the A-side, “No No Song.”
Hey, who doesn’t need someone to look after them and turn them loose at night?
And it would be a great drinking game to do a shot every time Ringo says “Snookeroo” … you’ll be two rooms up and two rooms down in no time at all.

I think pop bloggers everywhere should celebrate Oct. 30 as “Snookeroo’s Birthday,” complete with lengthy essays.
What say you, readers?

No. 30: David Gates, “Never Let Her Go.” Sounds just like Bread, which ain’t an entirely bad thang.
The best slice of Bread since Bread got sliced, you might say.

In his intro, Casey notes that, “Compared to the record business, picking horses is a piece of cake.”

No. 29: John Denver, “Sweet Surrender.” Sorry, I kinda don’t do John Denver.
(My condolences go out to everyone who was older than 10 in 1975 … you didn’t have that luxury.)

No. 28: “Fire,” the Ohio Players.
I seriously think sometimes that these guys might have been one of the best bands of the 1970s.
This is a huge single, and one that rips the roof off of most everything that came before it.

No. 27: Up eight, Shirley and Company with “Shame, Shame, Shame.”
The production on this is totally low-rent — like that weird ringing echo effect (if you know the song, you know the one) — and that’s part of why I like it.
This wasn’t done at Caribou Studios with James William Guercio at the board; this sounds like it was done at some two-bit studio in Florida in between high-school marching bands.
In this house, we’ll sure ’nuff fly the flag for the occasional inspired semi-amateur.
Especially if they bring the funk.

No. 26: Up eight, the Jax Five with “I Am Love (Part 2.)”
Frenzied and overloaded, like they were trying to outdo the Isley Brothers at their ray-gun-guitar craziest.
It’s instructive to compare the sonic overload of this single with the cool, clipped simplicity of Michael’s solo singles like “Billie Jean.”
Less is more.

No. 25: Up six, Sweet Sensation with “Sad Sweet Dreamer.”
Does anyone but Brits say “put down to experience”?

With its silky sax and its genteel Mike Curbish chorus riffs, this sounds like a prefab pastiche of everything that went into ballad hits between 1971 and 1975.
Was this anyone’s song?
(You know I like to imagine AT40 songs playing a role in the lives of real people. Was there actually anyone anywhere who thought of a friend, girl/boyfriend, classmate, etc., and heard “Sad Sweet Dreamer” in their head?)

No. 24: Up four, Joe Cocker with “You Are So Beautiful.”
Nice to hear him without his usual complement of three percussionists and four gospel-chick backing singers.
Not sure whose idea it was to have him reach for those final notes, though.

No. 23: Elvis with “My Boy.”
Sad to hear him croaking out such maudlin shite.

No. 22: Up eight, Minnie Riperton with “Lovin’ You.”
Five points to Minnie (or her producer) for rescuing birdsong from the “Close To The Edge” album and redeeming it.
(Paraphrasing Bono: “This is a song that Yes stole from the pileated warbler, and we’re gonna steal it back!”)

That first high note must have made people driving across town in their AMC Gremlins sit bolt upright and take notice, I bet.

No. 21: Al Martino (singing in Italian?) with “To The Door Of The Sun.”

All right, America: Whiskey tango foxtrot?

No. 20: Polly Brown with “Up In A Puff Of Smoke.”
Stompy pop … everything about it is familiar in a second-hand way, but still enjoyable for what it is.

No. 19: Up six, BadCo (still nursing its wounds over losing to Marvin Hamlisch, for cripes’ sake) with “Movin’ On.”
Ah, can we call a halt to road songs, please?

No. 18: Casey plays a blast of the original “You’re No Good” (by Betty Everett, I believe) before launching into Linda Ronstadt’s cover.
The original — which I’d never heard, as far as I can remember — is really pretty good, except for a few points where the horns and the rhythm section can’t decide if they’re in minor or major key.
If you don’t know it, check it out here.

No. 17: Phoebe Snow, “Poetry Man.”

No. 16: For the folks listening to KOIL in Omaha, Nebraska*, it’s the BT Express with “Express.”
Another song where the horns and the rhythm section don’t entirely seem to agree on that minor-vs.-major thing.
Not really all that memorable, except for the train whistle, and I can watch “Soul Train” if I want that.

* KOIL was one of the stations tuned into by a young Pete Battistini in 1973 as he tried to find some station — any station — that carried Casey. See? I did read his whole book on AT40.

No. 15: Up four, Sugarloaf and Jerry Corbetta with “Don’t Call Us (We’ll Call You.)”
Casey tells an interesting story about how Corbetta took up the organ after a childhood baseball accident dislodged his cornea.

No. 14: BTO, fifth week on, “Roll On Down The Highway.”
Not sure if this is Bachman or Turner on the vox … but he, uh, can’t really sing.

No. 13: John Lennon with “Number Nine Dream.”
Down four from its peak chart position at — whaddya know — Number Nine.

I love this for a number of reasons.
One is its fairly sparse instrumentation … it seems to cast a spell using just drums, bass, acoustic guitar and loads of string synthesizer.

Another is its pure weirdness: This wasn’t a hit because it was funky, or because the words meant a lot to anybody.
It was a hit because it created this weird, surreal, dreamlike aural space.
Not a bad feat for a guy I always think of as a simple Chuck Berry-style rhythm guitar player.

No. 12: Maria Muldaur, “I’m A Woman.” This makes Helen Reddy seem positively enlightened.

No. 11: Up four, ELO with “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.” Fuzzy, muddy and kind of unfocused compared with their truly best singles.
Still OK for all that, I guess.

No. 10: Up four, Styx with “Lady.” Originally released to overwhelming disinterest in 1973.
Alas, America changed its mind.

“Here’s the resurrected ‘Lady,'” Casey says, making us think of some sort of grotesque Stephen King scenario.
Time to start a fire at the edge of town and make for the highway.

No. 9: “Nightingale,” Carole King.
I suppose I should celebrate every Carole King hit as a triumph for a pioneering woman of pop.
Instead, I see this as acceptable jazzy pop that holds my attention for about 70 seconds before I move on to …

No. 8: … Labelle, “Lady Marmalade.”
The only black rock act to perform at the Met, Casey tells us.

Since this was a hit at more-or-less Mardi Gras time, I wonder how eagerly it was received in New Orleans.
Did they get sick of it in the French Quarter, the way they’re presumably sick of “When The Saints Go Marching In”?
I think it would be a groove to be downing a Hurricane on Bourbon Street and hear this coming out of the speakers.

No. 7: Average White Band, “Pick Up The Pieces.”
From an American black female vocal trio to a band of Scottish white guys — two different and equally valid takes on the funk.
Down six spots from Number One.

No. 6: For the Massholes listening to WESO in Southbridge, Mass., it’s America with “Lonely People.”
Feels like repeating myself but I’ll say it again: I like these guys better when they’re being oblique and unknowable.

Wonder if there were 16-year-olds in America hearing this song and going, “So when am I gonna drink from the damn silver cup already?”

No. 5: It’s “the hard rock group the critics tried to bury,” Casey says: Grand Funk and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
This isn’t half as good as “Bad Time;” I’m just bolding it, as my longtime readers know, because I had a thing for GFR when I was 15 and I’ve never quite entirely left it behind.

No. 4: Frankie Valli, “My Eyes Adored You.”
Unctuous.
Maybe it’s because I know Frankie was 40 years old when he recorded this, but I’ve always sensed some disassociation between the singer and the song.
In other words, I always imagine Valli as a leathery smoothie singing whatever was put in front of him; I don’t imagine him actually investing anything of himself in these recollections of sixth-grade crushes.

Why I hold Frankie Valli to this standard, and not other artists, I have no idea.
(I don’t listen to Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk and wonder whether their women were actually any kind of wonderful, for instance.)

No. 3: Doobie Brothers, “Black Water.”
To continue the above discussion, I don’t wonder whether Patrick Simmons ever actually launched a flatboat on the Mississippi.
I just listen to this surprisingly creative confection and enjoy all that it offers me.

No. 2: Olivia Newton-John with the freaking dreadful “Have You Never Been Mellow.”

This being early ’75, it goes without saying that the Number One spot has turned over from the prior week; and what we get is …

No. 1: … Eagles, “Best Of My Love.”
I did my best to form an informed opinion on this; but in the end, the song just slipped past me, leaving no more positive or negative impact than an orange Fla-Vor-Ice.

Number One on the other charts this week:
SOUL: “Shame, Shame, Shame”
COUNTRY: “It’s Time To Pay The Fiddler,” Cal Smith
ALBUM: “Blood On The Tracks,” Bob Dylan

And on that note, we turn off the idiot wind, until next time.

Gulp.

I’ve enjoyed any number of Robert Christgau’s music commentaries over the years, even if I don’t always agree with him.

I was delighted, then, to find out that he and spouse Carola Dibbell once tackled my other favorite subject — beer.

In the May 1975 issue of Oui magazine, Christgau and Dibbell wrote a piece called “The Great Gulp,” including shorthand reviews of a whole bunch of American and imported beers.

I’ve long been interested in the American beer market before the craft-brew revolution. Those days are  frequently — though not entirely accurately — depicted as a bland sea of Old Milwaukee.

Christgau and Dibbell’s reviews probably aren’t representative of what the average American beer drinker could get in 1975.

It sounds like they combed New York City for everything they could find, then invited a couple out-of-town friends to fly in with their regional favorites as well. A more provincial city might not have had quite this much choice on hand.

Still, it’s an interesting firsthand look at what an earlier generation drank, and what they thought of it.

And you can read it here.

A few of my own thoughts:

Interesting to see a couple brews from Allentown’s late, generally unlamented Horlacher Brewery included in the roundup. Horlacher was already in its death throes in 1975, and would go under three years later.

Also cool to see Natick, Mass.-brewed Carling in the survey, even if it was lousy beer. I was in that brewery 25 years after the story ran; it had been converted to the headquarters of a high-tech company.

The mention of the old Coors cult makes me notice the absence of Yuengling on the list. Yuengling wasn’t a regional favorite in 1975; it was just an obscure family-run company hanging on in the middle of nowhere.

I love the line about first trying Pearl Beer in Big Bend National Park. Makes me want to stow a six-pack of something in a cooler and set out for the Great Outdoors.

Also love the reference to Stegmaier, the pride of Wilkes-Barre, as “a Pennsylvania cheapo.” It’s too bad Christgau and Dibbell didn’t try Stegmaier Porter, which for a number of years was the best beer you could find at less than $20 a case. (In their infinite wisdom, Steg’s corporate owners have since turned the porter into a seasonal release. I’ve not seen it in years.)

By my count, I have had 18 of the domestic beers mentioned in the article. Not too shabby. (Anyone got a can of Ortlieb I can try?)

Five For The Record: Jefferson Starship, “Red Octopus.”

A recurring feature in which I look at something I enjoy but have never thought deeply about, and force myself to clearly state five reasons why I like it.

Today’s subject: Either the second or third album, depending how you count ’em, by second-generation Bay Area post-psych-arena-love rockers. Released June 1975. Only album by any incarnation of the Starplane faction to hit Number One. Spawned the Top Five single “Miracles.”

And here’s why I like it:

1. The big hit. I’ve said in the past that I don’t want to take too close a look at “Miracles,” because I don’t want to analyze the pleasure out of it. I just want to enjoy it for the hedonistic hot-tub ride it is.

Seductive, earnest, sexy, overdone, self-indulgent, gauche, catchy and smooth going down, “Miracles” might possibly be the ultimate Seventies song.

(Plus it has that nice lyrical contrast between the lovestruck tone of the verses – “I can hear windmills and rainbows whenever you’re talkin’ to me” — and the moodier, more doubtful chorus — “If only you’d believe in miracles, baby, we’d get by.”)

Take a bow, Marty Balin.

2. The chick singer. Grace Slick’s contributions to Seventies albums tended to be up-and-down, perhaps due to her ongoing struggles with the alcohol abuse that eventually led to her departure from the band.

On Red Octopus, she sounds upbeat, focused and engaged. Both sides of the album open with songs co-written by Slick — “Fast Buck Freddie” on Side One, “Play On Love” on Side Two — both catchy mid-tempo rockers with focused, energetic vocals and a respectable amount of punch. (Red Octopus will never be mistaken for Raw Power, but there are moments of energy amid all the radio-friendliness.)

Slick also contributes “Ai Garimasu (There Is Love),” a gentle ballad that sometimes works for me and other times seems to force its peaks a little too much.

3. The manifesto. A Starplane album from the Seventies would scarcely seem complete without some sort of revolutionary, apocalyptic or antiauthoritarian rant from Paul Kantner. (Remember “Ride The Tiger” from 1974’s Dragon Fly? “Look to the summer of ’75 / The whole world’s gonna come alive.”)

Cut to the summer of ’75. Not much is coming alive except the early stirrings of disco. But there’s Kantner, flinty as always, issuing yet another demand for change in the form of “I Want To See Another World,” and invoking one of his favorite subjects — interstellar travel — into the bargain. (“You might see a great ship up in the sky / Like an eagle, like a stallion.”)

It’s not really the best song on the album (though, thanks to the two instrumentals, it’s not the worst either.) There’s just something heartening about hearing Kantner, creaky-voiced as ever, continuing to fire off his personal manifestos as the rest of his bandmates repair to the hot tub. Such men don’t grow on every bush.

4. The wide-screen ending. Kantner’s other co-write on the album (with Balin and guitarist Craig Chaquico) is the last song, “There Will Be Love,” a ballad with a charged-up double-time jam stuck in the middle.

Balin, not content with delivering the band’s biggest ever-hit back on Side One, swoops and emotes with characteristic lovestruck melancholy until Chaquico takes over, shifting gears into an instrumental midsection that sounds like the theme music to the film of the ’75 Monaco Grand Prix — thickly carpeted and yet energetic.

Then the wave breaks, and Balin and Kantner come back, harmonizing so enthusiastically on the line “Ohhhhh, baby, the way we move in love” that I sometimes have to remind myself they’re not singing to each other.

Finally, we get a reprise of the opening pledge — “Whatever I do, there will be love in it” — with some elaboration from Grace, before the album fades out on a waft of strings, some piano tinkles, and a joyous whoop from Balin.

Not to abuse the cinematic comparison, but when it’s done, I feel like I’ve just watched a 90-minute movie boiled down to five minutes … car chases and romantic longing and sex scenes and setting changes and a great big sunset at the end.

5. The bigness in Boston. Red Octopus had a remarkable run on the Billboard charts in the fall of 1975. It spent four separate weeks at Number One, spanning parts of four months between September and December.

That’s not quite as epic a performance as the decade’s top albums, like Rumours or the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. But it’s still pretty impressive to think that the album was Number One the week after Labor Day, and again the week after Thanksgiving.

In some parts of the country, like Boston, the album’s run was even longer-lasting and more impressive.

By the week of July 25, Red Octopus was already a Top Ten album at Boston’s WRKO and WBZ. It stayed Number One or Two on both stations through all of August and September. Not until Dec. 5 did it slip out of the Top Five on either station.

And in Christmas Week 1975, the album was still at Number Seven on WBZ, in its 24th week on the station’s chart.

What does all this chart geekness signify? Well, I like to think about music as the soundtrack to everyday lives, and as as an experience shared by people in different settings and situations.

And I like to think about college dorms in the Back Bay, three-deckers in Chelsea and ranch houses in Framingham — all with their windows open and Red Octopus wafting out into the summer and early-fall buzz.

When I write my Great American Novel set in 1975 Boston, I will be sure to equip my characters with copies of Red Octopus.

Maybe more than one apiece.