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Tag Archives: 1976

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.

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Sur glace.

I am on something of a hockey bender.

The Olympics is part of that, sure; but it’s that time of year anyway. Before the Olympics, I went to see college hockey. After the Olympics, there will be the NHL. And all winter there’s been snow and ice and snapping cold here in eastern Pennsylvania — very much hockey weather.

Somebody was kind enough to scan in the 1976 O-Pee-Chee set of hockey trading cards and post them all on Flickr. As part of my hockey jag, I’ve been enjoying them tonight. You don’t have to be a hockey fan to appreciate some of the faces and poses — some timeless, some firmly of the Seventies.

Here are some of my favorites. To respect the owner’s rights, I won’t copy them here. But each link should open in a new window, so you can check out the pix without having to leave my gripping commentary.

Allons-y:

This pose is so metal.

– Know what today’s sports cards need? More flesh wounds.

– Something tells me Ernie Hicke‘s sartorial style was wasted on St. Paul. (Gary Smith’s, too; there’s more than a little Glenn Frey in that photo.)

Ed Van Impe looks as though he’s been playing since 1938 and has seen literally everything that can possibly happen on a hockey rink.  (“Did I tell you about the time the linesman’s dog came running onto the ice and blocked a shot?”)

Simon Nolet, meanwhile, looks like a former hockey star turned junior high school science teacher who terrorizes the kids every year in the students-vs.-faculty hockey game.

– With his unfortunate hair, his lopsided grin and the glint in his eye, Tim Jacobs could have played a member of a homicidal motorcycle gang in a slasher B-movie set in Quebec.

– Similarly, I’m glad that’s not a chainsaw in Larry Goodenough‘s hands.

These three guys, in contrast, look like some sort of Canadian hoser-humor vaudeville act.  (“Tonight at the Sherbrooke Theatre: Les Trois Canadiens, performing their nationally famous routine, ‘It’s A Beauty Night for Hockey, Eh?’ “)

Rod Seiling seems quite pleased with the airbrush job on his jersey; Michel Plasse, less so. (It is possible, I suppose, that those are practice jerseys.)

– I imagine slapshots clanking harmlessly off the frosted hair-helmet of Garry Unger. It’s easy to set a record for consecutive games played when your hair is impermeable to assault or injury.

– John Bednarski did radio and TV for my hometown Rochester Amerks for many years. In this pic, he looks like an 11-year-old youth hockey hotshot whose dad, the coach, has just pulled him off the ice for hotdogging.

Dallas Smith saw something in the basement of Boston Garden that he doesn’t tell anybody about.

– Playing a sold-out Madison Square Garden was the highlight of Ralph Klassen‘s career as Peter Frampton’s keyboard player, as well as Bert Wilson’s tenure as ABBA’s touring bass player.

Dave Hrechkosy, meanwhile, looks like the frontman of a power-pop band from Long Island that’s trying to decide whether to take that major-label offer.

– With his mustache, long hair and somewhat beefy look, Jocelyn Guevremont bears — at least to my eyes — a passing resemblance to Chicago’s Terry Kath. (Kath was fond of wearing hockey jerseys onstage, which probably contributes to the resemblance.)

– I could also see a touch of the young, deer-in-the-headlights Brian Wilson in Richard Nantais, and the tiniest hint of Neil Diamond in Doug Favell.

– If Rod Gilbert never did ads for men’s underwear, it wasn’t any fault of his own.

Encore Performances: June 19, 1976: The small screen.

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A little under the weather. Will churn out some fresh copy soon, but in the meantime, there’s this. From the old blog, June 2009.

Yup. Casey spins ’em, I blog ’em, with favorites in bold.
And now, the usual snide, shallow commentary on the Top 40 hits in the land for the week ending June 19, 1976.
That’s right, folks, don’t touch that dial:

No. 40, debut: “Rock n’ Roll Music,” The Beach Boys.
Normally I would be inclined to automatically bold-face anything by the Beach Boys — especially their first hit in several years.
But really, this cover just kinda farts along, with precious little rock’n’roll energy.
The stompy, primitive drums (which are “primitive” in a poorly played way, not “primitive” in a raw, primal, exciting way) just have to be Dennis Wilson.

No. 39: “Mamma Mia,” ABBA. Before THAT MOVIE came out, I would have accepted this as a pleasant if overly mannered slice of semi-novelty Swede-pop.
But now … nnnnnhhhhhh.
(Do Swedes really say “mamma mia?” Does anybody nowadays? Has the expression “mamma mia” gone the way of the nickname “Dutch”?)

No. 38, fifteenth week on the chart: “Get Right Back,” Maxine Nightingale.
I love this song — not quite enough to bold it, but I love it.
It is to clap tracks what the mythical Gene Frenkle and Bruce Dickinson are to cowbell.

No. 37: “I’m Easy,” Keith Carradine.
Casey points out that this song from the movie “Nashville” bombed upon its release in ’75, but caught on after Carradine performed it on the Oscars telecast.
(This is just the first of many ways in which TV will figure into today’s countdown.)

Laid-back and open-shirted as it is, this is a damned good song by the standards of actor-singers. I much prefer this to the efforts of actors from my hit-radio generation, like Bruce Willis, Don Johnson or Patrick Swayze.

No. 36, debut: “Turn The Beat Around,” Vickie Sue Robinson. As one disco one-hit wonder (Maxine Nightingale) was about to slide off the charts, another one was on the rise.
OK, they both probably managed to slide another tune in at No. 38 or something, but to me, they’re one-hit wonders.
I like Maxine better.

No. 35: “Save Your Kisses For Me,” the Brotherhood of Man. A weird, out-of-place slice of 1971-style bubblegum, complete with jaunty rhythm and rinky-dink horns.
Not for me.

No. 34: Believe it or not, I flat-out missed whatever was at Number 34. Sorry, folks. I’ve let you down. I’ll try not to do it again.

No. 33: “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker,” Parliament. The “Mothership Connection” album, from which this comes, was one of my first connections to funk music, back around freshman year of high school. I’ll always have a fondness for it.

Casey answers a listener’s question about whether songs have ever fallen out of the Top 10 and then gone back in. The most extreme example: BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” went from No. 1 to No. 12 to No. 34 and back to No. 8 in consecutive weeks.

No. 32: Cyndi Grecco, “Makin’ Our Dreams Come True,” otherwise known as the theme to “Laverne and Shirley.”
This one still sounds great, even with a sax solo and a key change stuck in to embiggen it to single-length.
The rhythmic switch behind the words “There ain’t nothin’ we won’t try / Never heard the word ‘impossible’ ” is the single best (and subtlest) use of the baion since Phil Spector.

Casey makes a tease he must have been dreaming of since 1970: Coming up, the return of the Beatles!

No. 31: “Let Her In,” John Travolta. See comment on No. 37.

No. 30: “Today’s the Day,” America. With a bit of gravel in the grammar: “You’re the most brightest star that lights my way.”

No. 29, debut: The Beatles, “Got To Get You Into My Life.” I forget why they saw fit to release McCartney’s ode to marijuana as a single 10 years after the fact.
But they did, and the people of this great country still had enough taste left to make it a substantial hit.

After the song, Casey says with an almost visible gleam in his eye: “Can you believe it? The Beatles and the Beach Boys back on the chart in the same week?”
Bless ya, Case — this is your reward for all those weeks you had to put up with “Seasons in the Sun” and “The Lord’s Prayer” and “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.”

No. 28: “That’s Where the Happy People Go,” the Trammps.
What makes the Trammps not one-hit wonders? Well, this.
Kind of the same chugging drum rhythm as “Disco Inferno,” and of course the lead singer has the same readily identifiable timbre.
This is not as good as “Inferno,” but it does have a marvelous refrain: “The disco / That’s where the happy people go.”
(What did you expect? Burger King?)

No. 27: “You’re My Best Friend,” Queen.

No. 26: “Get Closer,” Seals and Crofts. Casey announces this is one of five duos on the charts this week … so when the female voice comes in, my wife asks hesitantly: “So Seals was the woman, and Crofts was the man?”
No, dear … Casey is misleading you; this is really more like a trio, albeit uncredited.

I somewhat enjoy this song, though it has its shortcomings — for instance, the second verse just sort of arrives.

No. 25: “Boogie Fever,” the Sylvers.

No. 24: “Welcome Back,” John Sebastian. Two former No. Ones, back to back at 24 and 25.
I like this one better.
In fact, I would probably vote for this as the best TV-theme-turned-hit-single of all time, even if its cheerful, ambling folkie groove in no way conjures up the gritty Brooklyn milieu of Gabe Kotter and the Sweathogs.

Unlike other TV themes, this one doesn’t sound like it was artificially lengthened — there’s no forced key change that reminds you that you usually hear a compressed 30-second version.

No. 23: “Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac.
Yeah. I bolded a Fleetwood Mac song. Bite me.
I happen to like the groove on this song — the electric piano and the Mac rhythm section (who have always tended toward the subtle) create a good atmosphere for Stevie Nicks’ tales of bedknobs and broomsticks.

No. 22: “The Boys are Back In Town,” Thin Lizzy. I never cared much for this; they can sell it to as many lad-movies and beer commercials as they want.

No. 21: “Fool to Cry,” Rolling Stones.
I said to my wife, “There’s a reason the classic-rock stations play ‘Miss You’ twice an hour but will never play this.”
Maybe it’s the way Bill Wyman’s bass burps unbecomingly up in the mix, or maybe it’s the limp, watery guitar playing.
I still insist that “Moonlight Mile” and “Beast of Burden” are the only two ballads that this bunch have ever really nailed.

No. 20: “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow,” Rhythm Heritage. Otherwise known as the theme from “Baretta,” a show I don’t think I’ve ever seen all the way through.
The third TV theme in this week’s countdown.

No. 19: “Take the Money and Run,” Steve Miller Band.

No. 18: “Moonlight Feels Right,” Starbuck. Yacht-rock (literally) at its finest.
Scoff that, Jimmy Buffett.

No. 17: “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again,” Eric Carmen.
I have all sorts of love for Eric, but really, this is way too Manilowish.

No. 16: “I Want You,” Marvin Gaye. Maybe the first Marvin Gaye song I genuinely like, even if it is a little unbalanced: It kinda stays in one place for a minute, and then the chord changes start going by at, like, two per measure.

No. 15: “Movin’,” the Brass Construction. Nice Bernie Worrell-ish synth playing. I kinda gently lukewarmly like it.

No. 14: “Takin’ It To The Streets,” the Doobie Brothers. I hate corporate rock’n’roll bands that sing about “the streets.”

No. 13: Gary Wright, “Love Is Alive.” Was this guy the Howard Jones of the ’70s — kind of a one-man show surrounded by keyboards?
This one’s better than “Dream Weaver.” In fact I almost bolded it. But not quite.

No. 12: “Kiss and Say Goodbye,” the Manhattans. Starts with a spoken-word voice-over, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know what the house rule on those is.

No. 11: Pratt and McClain, “Happy Days.” Yup, the fourth TV theme on this week’s countdown.
I haven’t seen an episode of “Happy Days” in donkey’s years, though I sure used to see a lot of it growing up.
Wonder what Tom Bosley’s up to now? And Erin Moran?
Oh, yeah, the song … the song is forgettable.

Casey plays a damn fine AT40 Extra: BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” from 1969. This blows that Pratt and McClain stuff right out the door.

No. 10: “I’ll Be Good To You,” the Brothers Johnson. Mellow ballad, and absolutely nothing like you’d imagine the record sounded like if you only saw the single sleeve.

No. 9, up from 33 two weeks ago and No. 25 last week, and on its way to Number One: “Afternoon Delight,” Starland Vocal Band.
Wonder if the guy and his Mississippi-born chick on the boat in “Moonlight Feels Right” had this playing on their AM transistor radio while they, uh, hiked the Appalachian Trail?

No. 8: “More, More, More,” the Andrea True Connection. We don’t get enough porn stars scoring Top 40 hits any more.
This is pretty sloppy if you listen — there’s a trumpet player who can’t quite get to what’s written, and an unfunky drum drop that happens at the absolutely most noticeable and distracting spot.
(Did they hire Dennis Wilson?)

No. 7: “Shop Around,” Captain and Tennille. Gotta have a cheesy cover every week and this one’s it; worse even than the one at No. 40.

No. 6: “Shannon,” Henry Gross. Didn’t listen. Isn’t this the one about a dog that drowns or something?
Hey, I didn’t watch “Marley and Me” either.

No. 5: “Sara Smile,” Hall and Oates. Not their best tune but Daryl Hall’s voice is always a pleasure.

No. 4: “Love Hangover,” Diana Ross.
Yet another song with a flaw I find endlessly annoying:
When Miss Ross yells “Hang-o-ver!” at that point when the tempo speeds up, is it just me, or is she at least half a tone flat?
I bet the lust-crazed, sunscreen-streaked couple on the yacht liked it when this one came on too.

No. 3: “Misty Blue,” Dorothy Moore. I didn’t listen to it, and in fact, I can’t find the melody in my head — I keep trying to think of it but I keep coming up with “Moody Blue” instead.
No matter; we’re almost done.

No. 2: “Get Up and Boogie,” Silver Convention. No idea why this one got any higher than, say, No. 22.

No. 1 for, I think, the fourth non-consecutive week: “Silly Love Songs,” Wings.
This song is an absolute triumph for McCartney — the moment where he packaged his entire philosophy into one perfect, catchy, not-a-note-or-instrument-out-of-place arrangement.
(Also, rather than combining song fragments into one tune, he actually bothered to sit down and write himself a whole song. It paid off.)
I can still hear it coming over the radio (AM-only, natch) in my parents’ big Plymouth Satellite on long car trips.
I wonder what John Lennon thought when this came over his radio in the Dakota.

Any way you spell it.

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Another installment in the never-ending Edinburgh Exorcism series.

Tartan terror!When you’re the top-ranked DJ in the top-ranked radio market in the top-ranked music-buying country in the world, you can get away with shenanigans every now and again.

Legendary DJ Dan Ingram of New York’s WABC was well aware of that. So were his millions of listeners. And after Jan. 21, 1976, so were the Bay City Rollers.

Ingram had his engineer take razor blade to tape and reconfigure the famous opening chant of the Rollers’ “Saturday Night,” which Ingram and all of his listeners had been hearing nearly nonstop for at least the previous month.

The hilarious results can be heard here, though I’ll add a transcription for anyone who has trouble picking up the exact sounds:

Ingram: “…and when they had trouble spelling it, it came out like this:”

The Rollers (bursting in without a moment’s pause after Ingram’s last word, the way good DJs cue it up):

S, A, T-U-R, D-A-Y, night!

S, A, D-A-Y, T-U-R, night!

S, S, D-A-Y, T-U-R, night!

D-A-Y, T-U-R, S, S, S, night!

D-A-Y, D-A-Y, S, T-U-R, night!

S, D-A-Y, S, T-U-R, night!

S, D-A-Y, S, T-U-R, S, S, S, D-A-Y, T-U-R, night! night! night! night! night! night!

S, S, S, S, S, S, S, S, A, D-A-Y, T-U-R, night!

(band kicks in)

I’ve loved this from the moment I first heard it, probably close to 10 years ago, courtesy of the excellent MusicRadio77.com website.

For one thing, it sounds great. Each splice is done perfectly in rhythm. Each twist on the phrase is funnier and more bizarre than the last.

And when the choir of heavily echoed Les McKeowns starts yelling, “Night! Night! Night! Night!,” the whole thing takes on a sort of Dada momentum somewhere between the stomp of jackboots and the bark of a chained schnauzer.

But I love it even more because of the irreverence … the notion that one of America’s most popular songs is still fair game for a prankish DJ to have a little fun with.

(At first listen, I thought Ingram had it in for the Rollers — that he’d chosen to poke fun at them because he didn’t like the band, the record or both. I’m no longer sure that was the case. I think now that the song simply presented him with an opportunity to have fun, and he took it.)

I don’t listen to much Top 40 radio these days, even though I’ve got the local station programmed into my car radio for my kids’ sake. When I do listen, I don’t get the sense that any of the DJs I hear would cheerfully take the piss out of a top-selling record.

They might play part of a parody of a popular song, if they hosted the morning show, and if it were audibly different from the original. But I don’t imagine they’d actively make fun of a current hit.

Maybe you have to be New York’s bossest jock to get away with that.

Encore Performances: Jan. 24, 1976: It’s from me, it’s for you.

From the old blog, January 2010.

Casey sounds like he has a cold — his voice is a little deeper, a little less resonant.
And he seems less lively at first, though he perks up in mid-show, as if his decongestant were kicking in.
Or maybe I’m just transferring my own cold to everything around me.

Anyway, the 40 biggest hits of the third full week of 1976, with favourites in bold:

No. 40, debut: Spinners, “Love or Leave.” I still haven’t heard a Seventies Spinners record I didn’t like. I wasn’t that familiar with this one, but it seemed a worthy addition to their oeuvre.
My only fault to find was that it seemed a little laid-back; they might have made it a better (and bigger) record by playing it just a touch faster.

No. 39, debut: Cledus Maggard, “The White Knight.” I’m gonna save my powder on this, for reasons that will become apparent in 30 spots or so.
OK, I will say this: Tape manipulation used to either speed up or slow down a voice is cheesy, corny and bad, bad, bad in my book, and Chipmunk me no Chipmunks.

No. 38, debut: “Let the Music Play,” Barry White.
I didn’t have to bold this humid lost-love jam, but I did, uh-huh, you know how it is, baby.
It’s kinda droll to imagine the sizable Mr. White “dancing the night away,” though; one does not think of him as the sort who would lose himself in three or four unbroken hours of booty-shaking.

No. 37, debut: The “remake queen of the ’70s,” Casey declares: Linda Ronstadt with “Tracks Of My Tears.”
I once read an interview with Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes (whom I do not usually cite as a trustworthy source) in which he put forth the opinion that certain songs were done perfectly the first time, and anyone who tries to tackle them henceforth only succeeds in making themselves look stupid.
Robinson was talking about Aztec Camera covering “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” but he could have been talking about this.

No. 36, debut: Donny and Marie with “Deep Purple.” A slice of freeze-dried 1971 that did not age well. The kids loved it, though.

No. 35, in its 13th week on the chart: KC and the Sunshine Band, “That’s The Way (I Like It.)”
It’s entirely possible that this song is perfect, too.

No. 34: Foghat, “Slow Ride.”
My mental image of Foghat is of a group of tired sloggers, only half original members, showing up on the club scene of western New York every six months or so in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
I find it extremely difficult to imagine that Foghat was once an up-and-coming creative force.
Meanwhile, this tune does everything Billy Squier ever did, five years earlier.

No. 33: David Bowie, “Golden Years.” Love the interlocking guitars. Are the guitars really the best part of Bowie’s music?
I wonder how much the kids who shook their asses to this song contemplated the meaning of lines like, “Run for the shadows in these golden years.”

No. 32: Bee Gees, “Fanny.” Over-lush ballad with a few interesting chord changes. Could be Ambrosia on the best day they ever had.

No. 31: Second week on the charts, up seven: Eric Carmen, “All By Myself.”
It’s so big and gauche and weepy. What’s not to love?

No. 30: Olivia Newton-John, “Let It Shine.” Country cheese.

No. 29: For the good folks listening to WCLG in Morgantown, West Virginia, “Over My Head” by Fleetwood Mac.
Just another in the loooooooooong stream of bloodless mid-tempo love songs Christine McVie shoveled out over the years. It took the arrival of Lindsey Buckingham’s production touch to make them memorable.

No. 28: The band Neil Young declared “the only group to carry on the Buffalo Springfield’s legacy,” and the band Casey declared “the hottest group in the business”:
Eagles with “Take It To The Limit.”
Better than a lot of their shite … but I still don’t like “You can spend all your time making love / You can spend all your love making time,” which has always struck me as a heavy-handed attempt at profundity.

No. 27: “Paloma Blanca,” the George Baker Selection.
From Wikipedia: “In 1978, the group split up because ‘the pressure had become too much.’ ”
Sucks when that happens.

No. 26: The Who, “Squeeze Box.” Alex at Clicks and Pops just wrote an excellent blog post in which this song figures. Dig it.
I can only imagine how disappointing it was, after the rock-hard back-to-back triumphs of “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia,” to encounter the booze-sodden, self-pitying fender-bender that was “The Who By Numbers,” complete with this limp excuse for a single.

(To be fair, “TWBN” was not devoid of pleasures, most notably the swaggering “Slip Kid,” which I put on a bunch of cassette mixes, way back when.)

No. 25: Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night.”
Y’know, this song could be the flipside of “All By Myself.” When Eric Carmen picks up the phone to call his friends, Les McKeown isn’t at home, because he’s out at the good ol’ rock n’roll road show with his date.
It’s kinda like how the Firesign Theatre used to include one side of a phone conversation in an album, and then the other side of the conversation on the next album as part of a completely different thread.

No. 24: Helen Reddy, “Somewhere In The Night.”
“After you hear this girl sing a few songs, you understand why she’s got so many fans,” Casey says.
I bet Helen enjoyed being called a girl.

No. 23: The first song to chart in five decades (did they really have charts in the ’20s, Case?):
“Baby Face,” rendered disco-stylee by the Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps.
I wonder whether some pop-music hustler — some Kim Fowley or Malcolm McLaren, or even a Trevor Horn type — recorded an ’80s version of this in an attempt to keep the streak going?
Not much to say about this, except it’s cheesy, and sounds kinda like the Ritchie Family, and Americans will buy anything.

No. 22: “Wake Up Everybody,” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, featuring (of course) the magnificent pipes of the late Teddy Pendergrass.
There’s still room for some Philly social consciousness amidst all the novelties.
That verse about doctors making the old people happy rings kinda strange, though. How many Top 40 hits take the side of the aged? And just what were the docs supposed to do to make the elderly feel better?

No. 21: MST3K’s favorite quintet, Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds, with “Winners and Losers” — a song I had completely forgotten existed until I heard it.
It’s OK but kinda loungey — those descending piano riffs might have been played by Ferrante or Teicher.

No. 20: For the folks tuned in to WCBT in Roanoke, Virginia, it’s “Theme from SWAT” by Rhythm Heritage.
Ah, the glory days of the tall-walking, hairy-chested cop-show theme.
I liked it fine, especially the breakdown in the middle, though I spent the whole song thinking of which parts I’d cut to edit it down to 30 seconds to fit in the TV show.
Maybe after this I’ll go to YouTube and see if the opening credits are up there, to see how the producers did it.

No. 19: Nazareth, “Love Hurts.” You see, Eric Carmen? You don’t want to be in love. Love hurts, and scars, and bleeds. Maybe being all by yourself isn’t so bad.

No. 18: Sweet, “Fox On The Run.” The English do certain things like no one else — sports cars, secret agents, and stompy glam-rock.
May England never lie at the proud feet of a conqueror.

Somewhere I have a recording of either a high-school choir or a marching band performing this. I’m gonna have to go look for it.

No. 17: Neil Sedaka, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”
OK, this doesn’t really deserve to be bolded.
But y’know, when we get all this reheated, unimaginative Linda Ronstadt cover shit week in and week out, I give Neil Sedaka some credit for semi-intelligently reinventing (or as the kids nowadays say, “re-booting”) his song in a totally different style.
I kinda like it as a torchy ballad.

No. 16: The Miracles, “Love Machine (Part 1).” This might deserve the boldface I just handed Neil Sedaka (shit, did I really just do that?)
This doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s a nice pocket.

No. 15: Electric Light Orchestra, “Evil Woman.”
Yes, I think that nauseous phased string-section break at the very end is comparable to the moment in “Good Vibrations” where the BBs go “aaaaaaaaahhhhh!” and everything STOPS for a moment.
Yes, I would compare the two, with a straight face.

Casey also works his DJ chops:
He plays the vocal beginning (“You made a fool of me!”) without talking, then comes in and introduces the record during the instrumental section that follows it.
I was impressed, anyway.

No. 14: Paul Simon, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” : Steve Gadd :: “Baker Street” : Raphael Ravenscroft.

Apart from the drumming, this song is kinda lame — sort of the AT40 equivalent of a going-nowhere Woody Allen movie in which urbanites with ants in their pants say erudite things to each other.

No. 13: John Denver, “Fly Away.” Just insert your own morbid joke here. Some gimmes are too big to pass up.

No. 12: KISS, “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
It would be interesting to see a survey (and someone’s surely done it) about the number of live recordings that have made the Forty, and when.
(And yes, we’ll put aside for the moment any quibbles about just how live this song — or many other live recordings — actually is.)

They weren’t incredibly rare; I can think of a couple other ’70s examples off the top of my head (Frampton, Chuck Berry, Jax Browne.)
But it seems to me they weren’t that common either.

This song is just fine with me. As previously stated, I like my songs about rock’n’roll to be brief, blunt and locomotive, and this fills all three bills.

No. 11: Glen Campbell, riding the coattails of “Rhinestone Cowboy” with the inferior “Country Boy.”
Features the immortal opening line, “Livin’ in the city ain’t never been my idea of gettin’ it on.”
Is that how country boys really talked?

No. 10: EWF, “Sing a Song.” The only new song on the Top 10 this week, and a nice funk-pop workout in the classic EWF mold.
This one made me a little sad, b/c it made me think of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song,” which in turn made me wonder what kind of coke-fueled limbo Sly was living in in the middle of a decade he should have OWNED.

No. 9: David Ruffin, “Walk Away from Love.” Featuring some sweet falsetto and that saucy ’70s beat again.
Hey, does that beat have a name? Like, if I were gonna ask a drummer to play that groove, what would I tell him?
(Not that I’m gonna or anything. It’s more of a theoretical question.)

No. 8: Paul Anka, “Times Of Your Life.”
I was somewhat surprised to find this on the 40 because I always thought it was a song aimed at people my grandparents’ age.
(They would have been about 60 when this countdown aired.)
I would have no more guessed this was a Top 40 hit than I would have thought that, say, Sinatra doing “New York, New York” was a Top 40 hit — but apparently that one hit too, so I guess I need to recalibrate my vision of the Top 40 to make room for easy-listening middle-age ballads.

We have Kodak to thank for this song, as well as other things, such as disc cameras, industrial contamination, and my college education.

No. 7: C.W. McCall, “Convoy.” Yup, two CB songs in one countdown.
Based on that pattern — emergent technology spawns popular songs — there should have been at least two Top 40 hits in the past year about GPS systems.
And hell, about 10 or 12 years ago, there should have been 30 Top 40 hits about the Internet, since that was an infinitely larger life-changing technology than CB radio ever was.

I had a plastic CB set when I was five or six. I don’t remember using it that frequently, and I’m pretty sure I managed to break the hand-held talk unit off of the box, ending my interest in it.

Several years later, some friends and I would sometimes pick up truck radio conversations on our walkie-talkies. (Dunno if they were CB, or some other kind of radio; I’m not an expert on how truckers talk to each other.)
One summer night we talked at length with a trucker, trying to convince him that we were carrying watermelons to Georgia.
After he’d elicited where we were (he could tell we were kids from the get-go, I’m sure), he politely told us it wasn’t a good idea to tell strangers on the radio where we were, lest the strangers pay us an unwanted visit.
He was pretty nice about the whole thing … I’m assuming he probably had some long-ass haul to make, and derived some entertainment from talking to little kids on his radio for a half-hour or so.
Ten-four, good buddy, wherever you are.

No. 6: Hot Chocolate, “You Sexy Thing.”
I’m not a huge fan of this one after 2,000 plays — among other things, the unhinged edge on Errol Brown’s lead vocal kinda grates on me.
But I’ll concede it’s a pretty good song.
I am tickled to learn that Bruce Springsteen has covered it. God only knows what that sounds like, since Bruce’s bands never, ever, ever, ever groove.

No. 5: O’Jays, “I Love Music.” Another jam that doesn’t go very far musically, but doesn’t have to.
Another Gamble and Huff jawn, and like the old saying goes, the quality goes in before the name goes on.

Speaking of which, here’s a tangent for you nostalgia buffs:
This guy who collects TV sets made a video on the last day of analog TV transmission in his area, featuring a still-working 1969 Zenith 23-inch TV set.
Check it out — the UHF button, the tubes, the big dials.
Doesn’t that take me back?

Anyway:

No. 4: “Love To Love You Baby,” Donna Summer.
How many AT40 songs have there been with men grunting and gasping in ecstasy?
Not Barry White-style pillow talk, but actual orgasmic gasping.
Is there a double standard?

The song itself, meanwhile, is kinda pedestrian. I could get lost OK enough in the long club version, I guess, but the radio-friendly version doesn’t do it for me.

No. 3: “Love Rollercoaster,” Ohio Players. Featuring grunts, synth swizzles, clanging cowbells, and at the heart of it all, one of those genius-level guitar riffs that people tend to think of while they’re warming up their amp.

No. 2: Barry Manilow, “I Write The Songs.”
Speaking of pulling out all the stops, the Players’ orchestration is nothing compared to the tidal wave Barry unleashes at the end of this one.
There is no subtlety in this worldwide symphony — no room for a Dobro player quietly picking on his front porch, or an unaccompanied harpsichordist running down some Bach.
I imagine a 500-person multicultural choir representing all the countries of the world, with their names on their T-shirts (“Burkina Faso,” “Burma,” “Cameroon”), as they sway back and forth bellowing behind Barry.

Oh, and memo to Bruce Johnston: It’s no fair rhyming “song” with “songs,” like you do in the first verse.

Time to run down the Number Ones on the other charts. Soul: “Wake Up Everybody.” Country: “Convoy.” Albums: “Gratitude,” by Earth, Wind and Fire.
And now for the Number One song in the country:

No. 1: “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” by Diana Ross. Yeah, we had a new Number One the whole time, and Casey never let on, the sneaky SOB!

Anyway: Yeah, I like this song fine. Great melody. There are a couple places where the gears nick a little bit — like the transition from the bridge to the second verse, which isn’t really a transition at all; the second verse just kinda shows up.
But who am I to blow against the wind?
At least it wasn’t another CB song.

Encore performances: Say goodbye to Hollywood.

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In the comments to my previous post, my dad said he’d never expect to see a Billy Joel album review on this blog. (I have a long history of being the only person in my family who hates Billy Joel.)

Well, it’s the old man’s birthday. And I just happen to have a Billy Joel album review sitting in my back pocket. I wrote it for my old blog, for a feature called Off The Shelf, in which I would take down records I hadn’t listen to in years and give them a fresh listen.

This review isn’t very good … but neither is the record. Happy birthday, anyway.

When I was a kid, everyone else in my family loved Billy Joel; so I felt it my duty to loathe his music with a passion.
I wasn’t sure which made me squirm harder — the mushy ballads, or the self-conscious “rocker” moments when Billy would put on his hard face and say something tough.

Amidst the fear and loathing, though, there was always one album I had a soft spot for:
“Turnstiles,” Billy’s fourth album, released in 1976.

I guess the album’s major lyrical theme — changes; arrivals and departures; hello and goodbye — resonated with me when I was a pre-teen and teenager, and prone to thinking about such things.
I liked the album cover, too. BJ’s other covers ranged from pretentious to flat-out scary, but the subterranean shot on the cover of “Turnstiles” had a certain mundane grit that spoke to me.

Ironically, the album I liked most was Joel’s least commercially successful effort (excluding his misbegotten solo debut “Cold Spring Harbor.”)
Joel’s two prior albums had each reached the Top 50 on the album chart and produced a Top 40 single. But “Turnstiles” failed to crack the Top 100 albums or produce a hit single.
Neither the LP nor any of its eight songs shows up on a single survey in the online ARSA database of local radio surveys.

(Edit: “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” appears to have been re-released in 1981 and shows up on a couple of surveys.)

But it was always my “favorite” Billy Joel album.
For that reason, and really for no other, it’s the first album I took out for the Off The Shelf feature.
What’s it sound like to me now?

Side One kicks off with a winner: “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” which sets out the album’s Big Statement over a baion beat respectfully lifted from Phil Spector:
“Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes / I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.”
Beej sings with all the full-lunged Ronnie Spector mojo he can muster. His handpicked band (making its first appearance on record) can’t quite conjure up the Wall of Sound, but they do OK for long-haired bunch from Long Guy Land.
I’m not thrilled with the ending — fading out on the baion so suddenly is kind of a weak choice — but really, I can’t find much fault with this one.

Oh, and before we move on, let’s not overlook the opening line, which sets the scene nicely: “Bobby’s driving through the city tonight / Through the lights / In a hot new rent-a-car.”
I like the rent-a-car touch; makes it clear that this song will not be populated with young Springsteen-style outcasts clutching their hard-won pink slips, but with characters who are older, more jaded, financially richer but perhaps poorer in spirit.

Anyway, the parade continues with “Summer, Highland Falls,” a song known to casual BJ fans everywhere as “Sadness or Euphoria” because of the payoff line at the end of each verse.
Joel’s rolling piano sets up a song of adolescent romantic angst (waitaminnit, I thought we were getting twentysomethings in hot rental cars!) that would go marvelously in one of those drama shows aimed at teenagers, like “Dawson’s Creek” or “One Tree Hill” or something.
(“So we’ll argue and we’ll compromise / And realize that nothing’s ever changed / For all our mutual experience, our separate conclusions are the same.”)
If the first song was a hat tip to Spector (Phil and Ronnie), this tune is predigested Paul Simon at his most sensitive, set over piano arpeggios instead of acoustic guitar.

Of course, it’s still better than …

… track three, “All You Wanna Do Is Dance.”
In which BJ castigates a young woman whose sole crime seems to be retrograde musical taste.
(“Oh baby, I think you are lost in the ’70s / Oh baby, the music she ain’t what she used to be.”)
All of which is set over a hinky quasi-reggae groove that doesn’t, featuring a vaguely calliope-ish organ solo that I bet even BJ has trouble listening to now.

Suffice it to say that the accusation “Oh baby, you want to crawl back into yesterday” is rather an odd thrust for a man who only two songs ago was positively busting out the ouija board to get closer to Phil Spector.

Leaving that misfire behind, Side One closes with the album’s sole single, “New York State of Mind,” in which the callow young piano-pounder from Hicksville decides he’s going to meet Hoagy Carmichael and Ray Charles on their own turf — and damn near succeeds.
For my money, this is as heartfelt, memorable and well-observed (love the detail in “the New York Times / the Daily News”) a love letter to New York as any rock songwriter has ever come up with.
It’s also a nice antidote when you’ve had a bit too much of Bono singing about New York as if he owned the place, or Lou Reed muttering things like, “I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag with Latin written on it that says, ‘It’s hard to give a shit these days.’ ”
(Those NYC songwriters, as we’ll see in a minute, tend to lean a little too heavy on the cynicism.)

Four on one side, four on the other, and so we flip to hear “James,” a song addressed to a dutiful son (“so relied upon / Everybody knows how hard you try”) overloaded with family demands and expectations.
It’s cut from the same musical cloth as the later “Just The Way You Are,” with a gentle melody and chiming electric piano.
Joel could have turned this into another acrid character assassination in the manner of “Captain Jack;” but to his credit, he sounds sympathetic to his friend, as though they were meeting to vent over coffee.

Or perhaps I am biased because I root for James … but that’s another story.
Good song, anyway.

From the easy listening, we burst into the most electrifying two minutes on the record: “Prelude/Angry Young Man.”
(Love the echt-’70s title. The instrumental prelude of a ’70s rock song always gets its own title, like Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” or Steve Miller’s “Space Intro/Fly Like An Eagle.” I wonder if Beej ever mixed it up onstage and played “Prelude” leading into “New York State of Mind”? Or “Fly Like An Eagle,” for that matter?)

Anyway, the Long Island Wrecking Crew gets two minutes to show off its rock’n’roll chops, complete with pick slides and just the right amount of Hammond organ; and if you close your eyes, it’s not hard to imagine them in the summer of 1976, blowing the roof off a theater near you.

“Angry Young Man,” meanwhile, features BJ spouting rapid-fire lyrics about what sounds like an aspiring Symbionese Liberation Army member perpetually stuck in his folks’ basement — the anti-James, more or less.
It’s all a bit broad-side-of-a-barn-door, of course.
But unlike some other characters in BJ’s world, the Angry Young Man richly deserves a cynical kick in the ass.
Especially given that by 1976, anyone still clinging to Sixties-style Angry Young Mandom was (as the hip kids nowadays like to say) DOING IT WRONG.

Nice plangent bridge, too: “I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage / I found that just surviving was a noble fight.”
Unfortunately, this would not prove to be autobiographical: The real-life BJ would continue to do snotty, juvenile things, like calling out critics from the stage, for some years to come.

On the seventh song, “I’ve Loved These Days,” we revisit the rich but spiritually bankrupt characters who showed up at the beginning of the album. The narrator of this song probably attended the party to which Bobby was driving his rent-a-car.

There’s more than a whiff of F. Scott Fitzgerald to this one.
(Yeah, I said that. Meant it, too.)
Strings of pearls, caviar, foreign cars and fine cocaine add up to a morning-after dead end, as real in 1976 Hollywood as it was fifty years before.

Suddenly, the reference in 1973’s “Captain Jack” to “they just found your father in the swimming pool” reminds me of George Wilson lumbering out of the bushes toward Gatsby.
I’d better stop now.
(Hey, East Egg was on Long Island, wasn’t it?)

On the heels of that lament, the album closes on a singularly weird note with “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out on Broadway.)”
We are left to wonder what the point is, as Joel closes Side One by exalting New York and closes Side Two by destroying it.
It’s somewhat reminiscent of “King of the World,” the vision of nuclear apocalypse that ends Steely Dan’s “Countdown to Ecstasy” album, except without even the minimal edge or chill Becker or Fagen were able to conjure.
Joel’s vision, by comparison, plays like a bad, mega-million-dollar summer blockbuster movie; I cast Megan Fox as the female lead.

(BJ has apparently explained the concept vaguely as “a science fiction song.” Of course, the song gained renewed notice following the Sept. 11 attacks, when everyone was too numb to remember that it’s just fundamentally … inexplicable. What if Van Morrison had ended “Astral Weeks” by having Godjira rise from the ocean and devour Belfast?)

We never find out what happens to Staten Island — does it annex itself to Jersey and slip under the radar?
But we do get the obligatory Big Apple cynicism in Joel’s observations of New Yorkers too callous to notice the destruction of their own city because it always burned and crumbled before.
Uh, yeah. Kinda like what happened on 9/11, BJ?
Cynicism is cheap; and in this case, it’s counterfeit coin.

The album also ends on the line “… to keep the memory alive.”
Having spent so much time listening to songs about changes, goodbyes and relocations, we are left grasping at the past as the lights come up.
Something of a thematic misfire, if you ask me.

Given that lineup of tracks, it’s probably no great surprise that 1977’s much stronger “The Stranger,” not this, was the album that made Billy Joel a megastar.
This one still has a little bit of nostalgic appeal, though.
Change for the Rockaway Line, anyone?