The heart of summer.

Still not back to live-blogging American Top 40 countdowns. But, I’ll write about a local chart when I can find one.

And — courtesy the ARSA database of local radio airplay charts — here’s one carved from the heart of the summer of ’78. The week ending July 31, 1978, to be specific, for Allentown’s old hit-radio station, WKAP-AM 1320.

It’s a pretty epic week, as it turns out — some of the defining hits of the year, and some good stories to tell for them what are interested in such things.

Here goes, then:

– At Nos. 1 and 2, the pure products of 1978 go crazy. The theme song from the Movie of the Summer goes head-to-head with the Musical Style of the Year, represented by its principal diva singing one of her most irresistible songs. Truly, this battle must have made Mothra vs. Godzilla look like two Pop Warner teams on a muddy field.

In the end, wily old Frankie Valli would emerge successful, defending the craggy mountaintop that is Number One in Allentown with a terrible swift sword. I do not know who won the battle the following week; it might well have been his temporarily vanquished super-rival.

As you can see, the last week in July was a pretty damn good one for “Grease.” The movie placed three songs in the WKAP Top 10 and a fourth at No. 16. Three of those songs were moving up on the charts that week, and the theme tune would probably have moved up too if there were anywhere to go from Number One.

(Ironically, the week ending July 30 was the only week between mid-June and mid-October when John and Livvie’s high school musical wasn’t Number One at the U.S. box office. “National Lampoon’s Animal House” took the honors that week.)

– At No. 3, we get a whole lot less epic in a hurry.

The Jefferson Starship had struck mellow gold with Marty Balin’s “Miracles” in ’75, then struck silver with Balin’s similarly lovey-dovey “With Your Love” in ’76.

Like Bill Buckner trying to take third on Reggie Jax in Game Five of the ’74 Series, the Starship thought they could go for three with the Balin-sung “Runaway.

Unlike Buckner, the Starship got a hit out of their gamble, landing at No. 12 nationally. “Runaway” is the sort of flaccid, repetitive, hollow song that gives mellow gold a bad name, though.

They would have better off taking a gutsy chance and getting shot down for it, the way Buckner did.

(Both Buckner and the Starship would go on to much greater indignities in the mid-’80s.)

No. 4, meanwhile, is laid-back California the way laid-back California was meant to be done, and good summer-twilight highway music.

– No. 5 brings us an oddity, and a bit of a high-water mark.

Vocal group Boney M, the product of future Milli Vanilli producer Frank Farian, was phenomenally popular in Europe in the late ’70s. On the list of top-selling singles of all time in the U.K., Boney M is the only performer with two songs in the Top 10.

They never approached those heights in the U.S. “Rivers of Babylon,” with a No. 30 peak, was the group’s highest-placing (maybe even only) U.S. Top Forty single. The people of the Lehigh Valley loved it, though, sending it to No. 5 on the WKAP chart against some stiff competition.

This chart is Boney M’s highest placing on any American chart in the ARSA database.

So, whatever magic the people in England and Germany perceived was apparently audible only in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton on this side of the pond … and never more so than it was in the last week of July, 1978.

– No. 10, with its nostalgic, even elegiac quality (“Now that we’ve come to the end of our rainbow”), would have made an interesting back-to-back play with No. 6 or No. 16,¬†with their headlong teenagers-madly-in-love vibe.

– At Nos. 12 through 14, we get a solid three-fer blast of meat-and-potatoes Rock from Springsteen, Seger and the Stones.

By comparison, the Stones were No. 3 on the national Top 40 that same week; Seger was No. 7; and Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night” was completely absent.

– You can’t exactly compare Casey Kasem’s national countdown with WKAP’s chart because the Allentown chart has only 25 records, not 40.

Still, a bunch of the songs on the national Top 40 this week were totally absent from WKAP’s chart.

Nationwide hits not making the grade in the Lehigh Valley included Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” (No. 2 nationally); Heatwave’s “The Groove Line” (No. 9); Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” (No. 14); ABBA’s “Take A Chance On Me” (No. 17); Steely Dan’s “FM” (No. 22); Jackson Browne’s “The Load-Out/Stay” (No. 23); Steve Martin’s “King Tut” (No. 24); Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends” (No. 30) and “Macho Man” by the Village People (No. 40).

Some pretty good records in that pile; I hope at least some of them were on the air here.

– Besides “Prove It All Night,” tunes on the WKAP chart that were not on the national Forty included Dave Mason’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow;” Earth Wind & Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” and Exile’s “Kiss You All Over.”

– Down on the nether end of the WKAP chart, we have what I consider to be two of the late ’70s’ classier one-hit wonders at No. 22 and No. 25.

No. 22 starts with a dreadful cardboardy-sounding drum machine and unexpectedly blossoms into a lovely, melodic mellow-gold excursion with a ten-foot-tall chorus.

No. 25 has rather stronger raw materials to work with — think Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham — but doesn’t waste them.

– The deejays bringing us all these tunes on WKAP included the immortal Smokin’ Doug on the 6 p.m.-to-midnight shift.

For some reason that strikes me as just about the goofiest name I’ve ever heard a DJ adopt. To me, it just doesn’t ring.

The Interwebs tell me that Smokin’ Doug (Hanley was his last name, at least on-air) later ended up at WEEX across the Valley in Easton. No idea where he went after that.

Perhaps he is selling ads or siding or something, and still remembering how nice “Fool If You Think It’s Over” sounded coming out of the studio monitors.

Speaking secret alphabets.

In the language of the interwebs, this is The. Best. Picture. Taken. Of. Me. Evar.

Welp.
Welp.

My lopsided head is pulling in alien transmissions that are explaining everything in the developing world to my five-year-old brain.

I have the expression of one to whom a lot of things are suddenly becoming verrrrrrrrrry clear.

I am the membrane through which all knowledge must pass.

This. This is a thing.

But the best thing about these transmissions from the cosmos? They don’t require me to put down my sammich.

All visionaries should be so lucky.

long35

 

Somewhere between Rochester, N.Y., and Alderson, W. Va., summer 1978.

Encore Performances: March 18, 1978: All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see.

From the old blog, March 2011.

So here we are in an America positively saturated with Gibb-love — so much so that Casey would have been justified in calling his countdown “Sunday Morning Fever.”

What’s going on in the week ending March 18, 1978?

* Gifted actor John Cazale dies of cancer at 42.
Seventies film fans, who have already seen him in four Oscar-nominated movies, will get a final chance to see his work when “The Deer Hunter” is released in December.

* Jill Clayburgh hosts “Saturday Night Live.” Eddie Money is the musical guest.

* People meeting with or speaking by phone with President Carter this week include actor Kirk Douglas; Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan; Wayne Corpening, mayor of Winston-Salem, N.C.; former President Ford; and Sen. John Anderson, who will make a quixotic bid to replace Carter in 1980.

* Time magazine’s cover features a special report on a topic still of interest to right-wingers today: Socialism.
Inside the magazine is a feature on Warren Zevon titled “Tales from the Neon Netherworld.”

* Teen Beat magazine features cover teases including “Why The Bay City Rollers Had To Leave Scotland!,” “Leif Garrett’s Deepest Secrets,” “Shaun Confesses: It’s True – I Can’t Be True To One Girl” and “Is Parker Stevenson Too Old To Be A Hardy Boy? Vote!”

* Rock fans in the Los Angeles area who score tickets to the California Jam II concert get all the music they can hold, courtesy of Santana, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Mahogany Rush, Dave Mason, Foreigner, Heart, Bob Welch and Rubicon.

* Meanwhile, an L.A. rock band has a hard time far from home: The Beach Boys perform a series of subpar concerts in Australia, during which Carl and Dennis Wilson are visibly and audibly drunk.

* The San Francisco Giants trade seven players and $300,000 in cash to the Oakland Athletics for Vida Blue, who gives the Giants a couple of pretty good but not great years.
Then again, the A’s don’t get a lot of use out of most of the guys they acquire, either.

I’m not sure how much use I got from extended portions of this AT40 countdown. But here we go again, with favourites in bold:

No. 40, debut: Chuck Mangione, “Feels So Good.”
Casey suggests this is the first AT40 hit to feature the flugelhorn as a lead instrument, which could well be.
This one also features a particularly sweet guitar solo, for lovers of six-string fireworks.
It will be the second-hottest guitar solo of the countdown … we’ll get to Numero Uno in due time.

No. 39, debut: For the folks digging WBBB in Burlington, N.C., it’s Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway with “The Closer I Get To You.”
(Only two debuts this week; the rest of it, you’ve all heard before.)
Soft soul … perhaps a little bit oversoft, like that one strawberry you find at the bottom of the box that’s all mashed down on the bottom side.

No. 38: Up two, Enchantment with “It’s You That I Need.”
Bland gossamer soul, very redolent of its period … there will be much more where this comes from.

No. 37: “The new group Van Halen,” Casey says, in their second week on the charts with “You Really Got Me.”
Never been a VH fan.
I guess that breakdown with Diamond Dave gasping and coughing like someone’s tickling his colon with a feather was their idea of “putting their own stamp on the song.”

No. 36: Down 10, Queen with “We Are The Champions.”
Like that lead vocal and Brian May’s distinctively toned licks, as always.

No. 35: In its twenty-fourth week on the charts, the Bee Gees with “How Deep Is Your Love.”
Casey mentions that in 1959, the band gave $400 to its fans so they would buy up all their records in the shops, to convince Sydney radio stations to play the song on the air.
Now, Casey says, stations fight to be first on the air with Bee Gees tunes.
(Was that really true? I’m imagining a station in some backwater place like Syracuse boasting, “We’ve got the Bee Gees first!”)

No. 34: Up two, Andrew Gold with “Thank You For Being A Friend.”
Ah, you’ve misread my intentions, Andrew.
It will be your final mistake.

No. 33: Rod Stewart with the recycled Stones of “Hot Legs.”

No. 32: Down an astonishing 21 spots, Steely Dan with “Peg.”
(America, how could you forsake the Dan?)
Now this is the best guitar solo of the week, backed up with a bravura bass performance from Chuck Rainey.

No. 31: A guy who recently won an R&B Grammy, Lou Rawls with “Lady Love.”
More gossamer, set apart only by the unique resonance of Rawls’ marvelous pipes.

No. 30: Gene Cotton, “Before My Heart Finds Out.”
Distinctly Van Warmerish … though “You woke me from a dream about you” is a pretty good opening gambit.

No. 29: ELO, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman.” As good as their brand of pop got, which was pretty good indeed.
Not sure why you’d go searching on a one-way street, though.
Up three.

No. 28: Up two, and Number One on the soul charts, Parliament with “Flash Light.”
A marvelous antidote to all that silky-smooth soul business lower down. This one reels and grooves and chortles and rollicks and sounds like some sort of strobe-lit space par-tay.
Great deep synth-bass from Bernie Worrell, too.

No. 27: Stargard with a former Soul Number One, “Which Way Is Up.”
At the time this countdown aired, the three female members of Stargard were just waiting for their performance as Lucy and the Diamonds in the upcoming “Sgt. Pepper’s” movie to rocket them into cross-platform stardom.

No. 26: Up 13, England Dan and John Ford Coley with “We’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye” (which Casey keeps referring to without the final “Again.”)
Anodyne.
I tell ya, “Flash Light” sits among the surrounding songs like a hash brownie on a tray of Girl Scout cookies.

No. 25: For the folks digging out to the sound of WYSL in Buffalo, New York, it’s Jackson Browne up 12 with “Runnin’ On Empty.”
I like Jax just fine when he plays terse, propulsive rock n’ roll … it’s hard to gaze into your navel when you’re doing 70.
Also, few songwriters have found better metaphors for aging than the transition from “runnin’ wild” to “running behind.”
Add some slicing, spot-on steel guitar from David Lindley, and we gots us a winner.

No. 24: Ex-high school cheerleader David Gates with “Goodbye Girl.” Alas, my developing mancrush on D. Gates is not enough to lift this soggy celluloid artifact into bold status.
But there’s still hope … goodbye doesn’t mean forever, after all.

No. 23: Kansas, “Dust In The Wind.”
“Carry On Wayward Son” is what really gets my inner 16-year-old stoked … but this is a lovely song.
Not as profound as it was probably meant to be, but memorable and effectively arranged.

No. 22: Bob Welch, “Ebony Eyes.” Pretty OK; tuneful; I wouldn’t have turned the dial back in ’78.
Next?

No. 21: Up two, Heatwave with “Always and Forever.” Sticky and mellow as maple syrup. Not as tasty, though.

No. 20: In its seventh week, Rita Coolidge going over all Ronstadt with “The Way You Do The Things You Do.”
Totally unnecessary.
But how’d she look in roller skates?

No. 19: Raydio, “Jack and Jill.”
Oh, that Jill, “never bothering to phone.”
This is embarrassingly lame.

No. 18: Natalie Cole, “Our Love.” Running out of stuff to say about records like this.
By this time in 1978, I would have turned the radio off.

No. 17: The Flying Garfunkel Brothers with their exquisitely emasculated all-star version of “What A Wonderful World.”
Soft and pillowy and too damn mellow.
Not that I would have expected “Carry On Wayward Son” out of this bunch, of course.

No. 16: Little River Band, “Happy Anniversary.”
By this time in 1978, I would have bought a Japanese guitar at a pawnshop and started a punk band.

No. 15: Up two, “Falling” by LeBlanc and Carr.
My spleen is being crushed by thousands of tons of pure smoove.
Kinda sad it took two guys to do what Stephen Bishop did all by himself.

No. 14: Yvonne Elliman, “If I Can’t Have You.”
Energy and drama — two things that have been in short supply lately — suddenly burst forth.
Welcome arrivals.

When I was a junior in HS, I was ferrying my girlfriend and a friend of hers someplace, like out to a movie or something.
I put in my tape of the SNF soundtrack and this came on.
“My mom listens to stuff like this,” my girlfriend’s friend said, audibly wrinkling her nose.
(Someday I will write an epic, man-slaying post about the travails and troubles of being a funk and disco fan in 1990 America. But not today. I gotta outlast this countdown before it crushes my spleen.)

No. 13: Lynyrd Skynyrd crunching through “What’s Your Name?”

You know what? Rock guitars, attitude, groove, a couple of good lines, and Ronnie Van Zant’s delivery add up to a bold.
Lynyrd Skynyrd crunching through “What’s Your Name?”

On a more serious note, I wonder whether the surviving members of Skynyrd were out of traction by March of ’78.
It must be a savage form of torture to be recovering from multiple broken limbs, still depressed and mourning the deaths of your professional brothers, and still hear your song on the radio twice an hour.

No. 12: ABBA, “Name of the Game.”
Love the mysterioso swing of that opening section.

No. 11: For the listeners of WMBO in Middleport, Ohio, it’s Jay Ferguson with “Thunder Island.”
(Is that Ferguson’s running buddy Joe Walsh on slide guitar?)
Dave Barry made fun of this one in one of his books, which only goes to show that Dave Barry can be a honkin’ big hack when he wants to.

No. 10: Billy Joel, “Just The Way You Are.”
Come back and save us, Dean Friedman. All is forgiven.

No. 9: “Dance Dance Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)” by Chic. Rumbustious coke-fueled fun, though not as much so as “Good Times.”

BTW, this week’s crave-song is officially “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” which I’ve been listening to continuously for a good 35 minutes now.

No. 8: Dan Hill, “Sometimes When We Touch.”
But other times when they touch, nothing happens.
Or there’s a little spark, like you get from skidding your feet over the shag carpet.
Strange.

A big blood-rare hunk of emotion, down five.

No. 7: Paul Davis, “I Go Crazy.”
Early on, when Mr. Davis delivers himself of the line “They say old lovers can be good friends,” you just know this song’s gonna slip a thin blade into one of your ventricles and slowly turn it.

No. 6: Barry Manilow up four with the kids’-songy “Can’t Smile Without You.”
Casey predicts that this one could be headed to Number One.
He is mistaken.

Trivia fact I learned from Wiki: Not only did the Carpenters record this one first, it was the B-side of “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.”
Hmmm, wonder if that one’s on YouTube …

No. 5: Andy Gibb, “Love Is Thicker Than Water.”
I actually found myself singing this repeatedly in the kitchen today, which is a sure sign that the bourbon’s soaking directly into my cerebellum.
Nice slide guitar chorale — seems to be a good week for that, if nothing else.

No. 4: Speaking of bourbon-soaked, it’s Eric Clapton, “Lay Down Sally.”
A welcome trip to bumpa-chicka Johnny Cash-land.
Also, the only record in this week’s Top Five that is completely unaffiliated with the Gibb family.

No. 3: Samantha Sang, “Emotion.”

No. 2: Up four after going down six the week before, the Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive.”
Crisp, tight, perfect, era-defining funk.

No. 1: Speaking of defining an era, Casey says no artist has held the top 1 and 2 spots since the Beatles in 1964.
Until this week:
The Bee Gees, “Night Fever.”

The Gibbs also tie Elton John for most Number Ones of the Seventies, with six. Remarkably, they would cop three more Number Ones before the decade was out.

“They have the sound of 1978 going for them, and maybe even the sound of the decade,” Casey says, admiringly.
That latter suggestion is open to argument — Gamble and Huff might have an issue with that, for instance — but no arguing here:
This countdown would have been much better if the Gibbs had produced, written and/or performed about 25 additional songs.

A remarkable chart achievement, and much deserved.

Encore Performances: Jan. 7, 1978: Don’t go changin’ to try to please me.

From the old blog, January 2010.

Let’s get right into it, with my favourites in bold:

No. 40, debut: Steely Dan, “Peg.”
If you’ve never seen it, there’s a great video on YouTube in which Becker and Fagen talk about the making of this song. They even play some of the rejected guitar solos played by well-known studio guitarists.
I don’t even mind the fact that Michael McDonald is in it.
Check it out.

No. 39: Donny and Marie, covering the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.”
This reminded me of the SNL skit from the early ’80s (I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in it) in which D&M leap upon each other in mid-song and start snogging.

I suppose it’s kind of remarkable that teen idol Donny was still charting in any way, shape or form in 1978; that’s a longer shelf life than most.
Still, I can live without the song.

No. 38: The defunct Lynyrd Skynyrd debuting with “What’s Your Name.”
Still trying to decide whether the namedrop of “Boise, Idaho” represents a true story; Ronnie Van Zant’s commitment to America’s small cities (no way was he gonna set it in Baltimore); or just an easy rhyme.

No. 37: Samantha Sang debuting with “Emotion,” which is essentially a Bee Gees single, produced and written by the brothers (or maybe just Barry and Robin; I don’t remember.)
I didn’t listen to the whole thing but it sounded like the Gibbs pretty much took over on the chorus.

Prefaced with a story about how Barry Gibb, hearing a Samantha Sang record for the first time, called her up at 2 am and offered to cut a record for her.
When I heard her start singing, it was no surprise — she sounds like the missing Gibb sister.

No. 36: For the folks listening to WINE in Danbury, Connecticut, it’s “Swingtown,” by the Steve Miller Band, down 19 slots.
(“He’s nothing without his band,” I once heard a record-store clerk say.)
I like this more than most post-1970 Miller, though it’s still pretty disposable.

Miller would release one further single (“Jungle Love”) before taking four years off.

No. 35: Former Top Ten hit: Rita Coolidge, “We’re All Alone.”
Written by Boz Scaggs, of course, who performed his own, distinctly Muppetish version on “Silk Degrees” (a Number One album in Buffalo!)
I actually kinda like hearing this song, like, once every two or three years.

No. 34: Wings, “Girls’ School.” Status Quo as done by the McCartneys. Not to be confused, of course, with the similarly titled Britny Fox song, which I actually think was better in its unashamedly trashy way.

No. 33: Odyssey, “Native New Yorker.” Nice theme song for a New York rebounding from near-bankruptcy. Not being a New Yorker, it doesn’t really grab me, though.

EXTRA: Casey introduces a band that spends its free time visiting hospitals and orphanages, and that gave Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley a matched pair of white doves as a symbol of peace:
War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
I like a lot of early War just fine, but as I’ve said, I can’t get to the proto-ska goofiness of this one.

No. 32: Babys, “Isn’t It Time?” The adolescent pain in John Waite’s voice, the moody piano chords and the opening swell of strings all made me think of the “Twilight” movies, which are my current standard of sheeplike teenage devotion.

No. 31: Santa Esmerelda, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Schlock.

No. 30: Kansas, fronted by former window washer Steve Walsh, with “Point of Know Return.”
Too much fancy stepping … as if the band’s manager or moms or chaperones or something were drawing in the reins (“OK, we let you rock on “Carry On Wayward Son;” now it’s time for something more refined and musicianly.“)

No. 29: Neil Diamond’s tale of knockin’ boots for the first time, “Desiree.”
Love how he became a man “at the hands of a girl twice his age” … when I hear the phrase “at the hands of,” I usually think of one person killing another.
Doesn’t really connote tenderness, does it?
I also love how “she came to me” … the perennial nerd’s fantasy that the girl/woman initiates contact, just like in “Go All The Way,” where the chick, not the narrator, whispers the title phrase.

No. 28: Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive,” up 11. Yes, there was a time when this song wasn’t a disco cliche, but a hot up-and-coming hit that anyone who heard it just knew was bound for the Top Ten and probably Number One.
Is there anyone in America who remembers where they were when they first heard “Stayin’ Alive”?

No. 27: Diana Ross, “Gettin’ Ready.” The beginning is agreeably jazzy; the rest is forgettable.

Casey mentions that a year ago, the chart was packed with disco records, but now there are “just a handful.”
Keeping the disco flame alive at No. 26: Chic with the gimmicky (if well-produced) “Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah).”

No. 25: Up 15 in only its second week on the Forty, Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch.”
Yuck — speaking of the Twilight movies, here’s a song with enough inarticulate earnestness to choke a Clydesdale.
I, of course, will always think of it as Secraterri and Scott’s theme song, as mentioned in the Jan. 24, 1978, entry. (The comment in blue was added recently.)

Oh, yeah, if I’ve never mentioned it: This woman who grew up in the Seattle area in the 1970s has transcribed and posted her ’70s and ’80s diaries online at secraterri.com. There’s a hefty bit of exhibitionism involved there, of course; but I found it fascinating, not having lived through the Seventies as an adult, to read the daily details of what an average person was doing and thinking about back then. Plus, she sometimes mentions what music she was listening to, which ties in nicely to this whole pop-music thing.
Anyway, back to the countdown:

No. 24: Bay City Rollers with the sappy, forgettable “The Way I Feel Tonight.”

No. 23: Andy Gibb’s followup to the biggest single of 1977 is up nine spots: “Love Is Thicker Than Water.”
That weird, oddly phrased, wanna-be cerebral beginning (“Love is … higherthanamountain … loveis, thickerthanwater.”) always throws me.

No. 22: No one ever went broke playing to the ghoulish sentimentalism of the American public: Elvis Presley singing “My Way.”
This version was apparently recorded in 1977. It doesn’t sound as thoroughly horrible as other Elvis stuff I’ve heard from his last year, but it does have a weird glazed quality to it, especially when he slides from note to note.
I felt like I was watching a corpse, listening to that one; even thinking about it makes me want to go wash off.

(1978, of course, would give birth to an even stranger version of the song. It would go Top Ten in the UK but not chart over here.)

No. 21: Paul Davis, “I Go Crazy,” on its way up. Another of those songs I used to hear incessantly on the radio station from Syracuse that played at my family’s cottage in the Finger Lakes in the summers.

No. 20: ELO, “Turn To Stone.” Even more forced and tinny and canned-sounding than usual; this lacks the sound and openness and charm of, say, “Livin’ Thing.”

No. 19: Earth, Wind and Fire, “Serpentine Fire.” Last time I heard this I slagged it; and that first verse where they hang on the one chord still goes on too long.
But this time around I appreciated the popping bass of the underrated Verdine White; and I like the simple, ecstatic chorus of “Oh yeah”‘s.
Still didn’t bold it, though.

No. 18: Billy Joel, “Just The Way You Are.”
Rather than say anything about this patronizing crap, I’ll mention that the Grateful Dead (who were nowhere near the Forty this week) played a pair of concerts on Jan. 7 and 8, 1978, that included no Jerry Garcia vocals due to severe laryngitis — the only time the Dead ever did that.
You can hear the first show here.

No. 17: Randy Newman, “Short People.” For the first verse I loathed this song; during the bridge I started feeling like I was figuring out what the Joke/Ironic Concept was … then I went back to loathing.
Now that Randy Newman is a megabillionaire from scoring all those Disney/Pixar movies, he probably looks back at this and shudders and says, “Sheesh. The things you had to do to score a buck before Pixar came along.”

No. 16: Crystal Gayle, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”

No. 15: Linda Ronstadt, “It’s So Easy.” I almost kinda liked this a little bit — maybe because I remember it being in a commercial for something. (What were those commercials? Anyone remember?)
For some reason, I got more of the sunny SoCal vibe out of this one than I usually get from her songs, which appealed to me, it being 20 friggin’ degrees here in Dutch Country.
Anyway.

No. 14: Another remake: Leif Garrett with “Runaround Sue.”
Hey, tell me something:
When Casey plays a few bars of an original song before playing the remake, is he doing it because he has a soft spot for nostalgia? Or is he doing it to show up the blandness, soullessness and lack of energy in the remake?

No. 13: Queen, “We Are The Champions.” Better than what surrounds it, but it doesn’t usually hit my monkey nerve.

No. 12: High Inergy, “four girls from Pasadena, California,” with “You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle of Turning Me On.)
Sorry, girls. In a decade that produced more great Top Forty sex songs than any other, this lightweight bit of non-soul just doesn’t cut the mustard.

No. 11: “Come Sail Away,” Styx.
When I was a teenager, I was looking at Styx’s “The Grand Illusion” album in a cutout bin, and the credits for “Come Sail Away” included a credit for James Young for “ARP ODYSSEY.”
At first I thought it was cool that the synth portion of the song had this cool little name – the Odyssey – and that the other guys in the band were giving special credit to their bandmate for taking them on this trip.
And then I found out that the ARP Odyssey was just the name of a keyboard … and somehow the whole thing seemed a lot less cool.

AT40 trivia question: Casey tells a listener that the soundtrack album that spent the most time on the charts — 287 weeks! — was “Oklahoma.”
Then he points out that the young female lead of “Oklahoma,” Shirley Jones, later got married and had a son named …

No. 10: … Shaun Cassidy, “Hey Deanie.”
I’ve never actually known anyone called Deanie. I assume it was a diminutive of Deanna or Deanne, which were enjoying their peak of popularity in the ’60s and ’70s.

(OK, Wiki tells me that Eric Carmen wrote the song — how could I tell, without knowing, that Eric Carmen wrote that song? — after seeing Natalie Wood portraying a character called Deanie in “Splendor in the Grass.” A professor of mine once told me that no actor or actress had been so perfectly named as Natalie Wood. But I digress.)

No. 9: Rod Stewart, “You’re In My Heart.” Didn’t he say he wrote this for “three women and two football teams,” or something like that?

No. 8: Bob Welch, “Sentimental Lady.” I prefer the Fleetwood Mac version from the “Bare Trees” LP; but back then, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t getting no hit singles no way nohow.

(Which reminds me: Casey says that “Rumours” is the Number One album in the US for the thirtieth straight week … even though, not to spoil anything, there aren’t any singles from it on the Top Forty this week. That’s kinda remarkable, or at least noteworthy, I think.)

No. 7: Paul Simon (with a Garfunkel name-drop), “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
I’m not a fan … I think “The nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-slidin’ away” belongs in the same bucket of meaningless non-profundity as Steve Miller’s “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.”

Or maybe Paul just meant to subtly invoke Zeno’s dichotomy paradox in a jealous effort to prove that Art wasn’t the smart one of the duo.
I dunno.

No. 6: “Here’s one of those records they’ll be talking about for years,” Casey says, his voice glowing:
“You Light Up My Life,” by Debby Boone, just starting on its way down after 10 weeks (I think) at Number One and a week at Number Two.

I actually listened to a good chunk of this song; I don’t like it per se, but I don’t find it as offensive as people who had to suffer through it in 1977 seem to find it.
There are worse songs out there.

No. 5: Dolly Parton, “Here You Come Again.” A former Country Number One despite the fact there’s barely an ounce of country in it.
(This week’s Country Number One: “Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck. Wonder whether that one cracked the Forty? Wiki sayeth not.)

No. 4: LTD, “Back in Love Again.” I know there’s not much to set this apart from any number of other semi-funky singles from the Seventies.
I just like the hooks and the vox.
What can I say?

No. 3: Linda Ronstadt, “Blue Bayou.”

No. 2: Player, “Baby Come Back.” Up four notches for a band formed in 1976; their rise this high on the charts so quickly must have had music journalists writing ledes like, “Player is a band we’ll be hearing about for years and years.”

No. 1: The song that knocked Debby Boone out of Number One and continued a record-setting series of Number One hits from movies (six in the prior year alone):
The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love.”

(According to Wiki, “Saturday Night Fever” premiered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 1977; the PG version would be issued in March 1978. Presumably people were still going to theaters to see it in the first week of 1978. I’ve never seen that movie in a theater. Would love to sometime — preferably a grungy suburban multiplex of the type that are being torn down right and left to make room for theaters with stadium seating and overpriced chardonnay. But, eternally, I digress.)

Goin’ through a four-year spin.

It was warm enough to grill in Pennsyltucky this afternoon, and it’s going to get into the 70s this coming week.

I think we’re at that point in the year when a late-season snowstorm is finally out of the question, and it’s just about time to start putting the long-sleeved T-shirts at the back of the shelf.

Almost summer, in other words.

Which brings to mind a song that — by cosmic coincidence — was just starting to hit radio stations across America around this time in 1978.

(Its first appearance in the ever-faithful ARSA database is in the countdown for the week ending May 8, 1978, at WYSL-AM 1400 in Buffalo. They get excited about the coming of summer in Buffalo.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bea — er, Celebration featuring Mike Love:

“Almost Summer,” the title track to a California teen movie I’ve never seen that sounds like a hoot if you don’t think too hard about anything in it, has to have one of the worst opening couplets of the Seventies:

“Susie wants to be a lady director
and Eddie wants to drive a hearse
Johnny wants to be a doctor or lawyer
and Linda wants to be a nurse.”

Who in the world has ever wanted to drive a hearse?

The second verse doesn’t get much better — there’s a self-referential mention of a “little deuce coupe,” as well as another of the BBs’ near-obsessive references to hair.

(I wrote about this once on my now-departed other blog — there are a surprising number of BBs songs with references to hair. I may dig out that one and repost it here. Since “Almost Summer” was co-written by Love, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, I say it belongs in the same discussion.)

I revere Brian, adore Carl and sort of quietly respect the other Beach Boys. But I think Tony Asher and Van Dyke Parks might have been the most valuable people in that entire enterprise over the years, simply because of their abilities to write lyrics that didn’t embarrass anybody.

Meanwhile, I have no idea who else was in Celebration. The Interwebs describe them as a “studio band.” Not sure whether Brian played on the record, or simply appeared in the videos for promotional purposes.

Whoever they were, their song broke into the American Top 40 the week of June 3, 1978, and peaked a few weeks later at Number 29.

It was gone from the Top 40 a month after it arrived — perhaps because a song called “Almost Summer” lost all its appeal once it actually¬†was summer. Who wants to be reminded of going back to class and cracking books when it’s the Fourth of July?

As minor as it was, “Almost Summer” may represent the last gasp of America’s rediscovered Seventies love affair with the Beach Boys.

The band proper would have only one more Top 40 hit in the ’70s — “Good Timin’,” which slipped in at No. 40 in the spring of 1979. And from there on out, the band would pretty much build its entire brand on nostalgia.

The remaining Beach Boys have a new album of original material — something a lot of people never thought they would see — coming out in a little over a month.

Perhaps that album will be the talk of the summer of 2012. Anything seems possible when it’s almost summer.