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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 22, 1979: C’est chic.

I don’t live-blog American Top 40 countdowns any more, but I’m still interested in record charts.

And whaddya know but the marvelous ARSA database has a hit-record chart for Allentown’s old WKAP-AM for this very week in 1979 (the week ending Jan. 22, to be specific.)

That looks like a marvelous target to waste a few hundred words on. So let’s turn on WKAP and see what we think of it, shall we? I guess I’ll put my favourites in bold, like old times:

1: The Village People, “Y.M.C.A.” This has become such a cultural touchstone that I can scarcely imagine hearing it for the first time, or the tenth time.

(I have even more trouble imagining hearing it without knowing about the homosexual subtext, though I’m led to believe quite a few Americans didn’t really know what was going on at the time.)

My dad told me once that he spent a few days at a YMCA when he first moved to Rochester in 1966. I imagine he got himself clean and had a good meal; I do not think he went so far as to do whatever he felt.

2. “Le Freak,” Chic. Cool and crisp as gin; maybe half a notch below “Good Times” but still one of those records disco doesn’t have to apologize for. This was Number One in the country that week, and had topped WKAP’s list the week before.

3. Nicolette Larson, “Lotta Love.” I much prefer this in the hands of its creator (and his ragged-but-right BFFs). Strings, horns, and a precious flute solo don’t compare to the joys of hearing Billy, Ralph and Poncho oooooooh-ing like choirboys.

4. “September,” Earth Wind & Fire. The first of several hits on this chart from performers who appeared in the “Sgt. Pepper’s” movie the previous year. The movie, however dreadful, was maybe not the career-killer some have made it out to be; it certainly didn’t stop EW&F from dropping tight funk here.

5. “A Little More Love,” Olivia Newton-John. I remember rather more of this song than I would have thought, which means I must have some fondness for it. Listening back on YouTube, though, it feels a little too turgid and bloodless to get a bold. (It gets me nowhere to tell it no.)

6. Bee Gees, “Too Much Heaven.” I can’t help it; I like them more when they strut than when they croon.

7. “My Life,” Billy Joel. I think this is the turning point when things start going to crap on the countdown. Few artists asking to be left alone have made more convincing cases.

8. “Fire,” Pointer Sisters. Another song that is probably better in the hands of its creator (and his BFFs.)

9. “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” Rod Stewart. I find this to be one big parodic goof, and pleasant enough, though I would have burned out on it double-quick if I’d heard it every hour on WKAP in 1979.

10. “We’ve Got Tonight,” Bob Seger. I like Seger well enough, and I wouldn’t turn the radio away from this, I suppose.

11. “New York Groove,” Ace Frehley. Awwwwwww yeah! Big dumb glam-style stomp, and probably my favorite song on the countdown. It’s a tradition in my family to play this in the car on road trips, any time we cross a state line (or, on one occasion, an international border) into New York state.

12. “Hold The Line,” Toto. Well-turned propulsive arena-rock, and probably the Toto song I’d want to hear if I had to hear one. That’s slim gruel as far as endorsements go, though.

13. “Fat Bottomed Girls/Bicycle Race,” Queen. OK, this might rival the Space Ace for my affections. One side of filthy, sweaty hard-rock stomp; the other of loopy, only vaguely less filthy glam-pop eccentricity.

I’m not sure how I never got more into these guys: Any band with the charisma and imagination (and pipes) of Freddie Mercury and the guitar inventiveness of Brian May seems worth checking out at length.

Most of the players on the local minor-league baseball team choose country or crunch-metal for their at-bat music. But last season, infielder Tyler Henson used “Fat Bottomed Girls.” He was a naughty, naughty boy, and I wished he’d come to bat every inning so I could hear it again.

One more note: Unless I’m missing it, this song was not even on the American Top 40 that week. On the other hand, two songs from the National Top Ten — Eric Clapton’s “Promises” and Linda Ronstadt’s “Ooh Baby Baby” — are missing from WKAP’s Top 25. One of those is a shame.

14. “How You Gonna See Me Now,” by Alice Cooper. The last of a handful of ballad hits Coop had in the latter half of the Seventies. I don’t have great use for any of ’em, I don’t think, and the others at least are catchier than this.

15. “Somewhere In The Night,” Barry Manilow. Not for me, thanks.

16. “Shake It,” Ian Matthews. Watching this on YouTube brings back absolutely no memory of it. It sounds like a hundred other records from 1978-80, and while I have a mild fondness for those production values, they’re still pretty bland.

17. “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” Foreigner. Never liked these guys either.

18. “I Will Be In Love With You,” Livingston Taylor. This is totally an impulse bold, and one I’ll regret tomorrow. This one’s also kissed with that same choking 1979 lushness, which, in this case, works in its favor. I also give it credit because I cannot read the title without phrasing it into music, which is one sign of a catchy chorus.

(One negative: Livingston, through no fault of his own, sounds like his brother slowed down a quarter-step, and I can’t help wondering why the record’s playing slow.)

19. “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away),” Andy Gibb. My previously stated equation regarding the Brothers Gibb (funky>>>slow) holds true for their little brother too. (Was Andy ever really funky? Maybe he should have tried it.)

20. “Don’t Hold Back,” Chanson. I should actually tear myself away from Livingston Taylor and go listen to this, because I don’t remember it. It sounds like it might be brainless disco, and sometimes that’s fun. Let’s see …

… oh, damn, this is pretty good. That opening sounds like the Brothers Johnson. I’m gonna bold this. “Don’t Hold Back,” Chanson. No parking on the dancefloor!

21. “Crazy Love,” Poco. How many damn songs have there been called “Crazy Love”? I was kinda hoping this was an earlier, rowdier version of the Allman Bros’ hit of the same name. But once I played it, I recognized it for one of those moody finger-picking country-pop hits I’ve heard a million times but didn’t know the name of. Nice acoustic-guitar sound, anyway.

22. “No Tell Lover,” Chicago. My dad had a bunch of Chicago records when I was a kid, and I could always tell Hot Streets was different from the rest. It wasn’t just the absence of Terry Kath, or the absence of a Roman numeral on the (flamingly dopey) front cover. The sound of the record was different than it had been under James William Guercio; wetter and more echoey and wet-noodley. This undistinguished Cetera ballad is pretty much the musical exemplar of that sound; listening to it is like unfolding a rain-soaked newspaper.

23. “Soul Man,” Blues Brothers. I heard a fair amount of BBs as a kid, too — enough for me to grudgingly grant them status as a legit musical band, and not a coke-fueled ego trip. This cover version doesn’t go anywhere the original didn’t, though.

24. “Lady,” Little River Band. As ballads go, I find this more memorable than many of the others on this countdowns. Still doesn’t mean I wouldn’t switch channels on it.

25. “Goodbye, I Love You,” Firefall. Not gonna go listen but I bet my comments would be substantially the same as No. 22.

So, yeah — 1979 countdowns are hard roads to travel, more often than not, and Allentown was no better or worse than the country as a whole in that regard.

It’s all da-da-da-down.

I’ve ranted before about the profusion of blogs and music sites that analyze and re-analyze the recordings of the past, generally in much more intelligent fashion than I can muster.

(One such site — and they’re usually very good — is The Quietus. They’ve done a whole raft of 40th-anniversary retrospective essays this year, including especially good ones about John Cale’s Fear and Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. It’s possible that 1974 looks infinitely more interesting in their hands than it ever did when it was happening.)

It occurs to me that we are currently passing a 40th musical anniversary that — as far as I’ve seen — no one has written much about.

I don’t know much about it, certainly not enough to be an authority. But, since unexplored musical blog-space seems rarer than rocking-horse shit nowadays, I’m gonna jump in and claim it for my own anyway:

This late autumn and early winter marks 40 years since the peak of Ringo Starr’s solo career.

Our lad’s Goodnight Vienna LP, released in mid-November 1974, would mark the end of his brief run as a superstar-level solo performer.

The LP reached Number 8 on the U.S. charts and spawned three Top 40 singles (“Only You (And You Alone),” “Goodnight Vienna” and the double-sided “No No Song”/”Snookeroo.”)

Local airplay charts from around this time 40 years ago show Goodnight Vienna holding comfortable Top 10 positions at stations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Hartford, while the record’s lead single was at mid-chart levels and on the way up at stations across the country.

In the U.K., Goodnight Vienna would be Ringo’s last Top 40 album for almost a quarter-century — by which time he was no longer an active hitmaker, but more of a nostalgia artist, really.

After Goodnight Vienna, Ringo released the greatest-hits comp Blast From Your Past in time for the Christmas market in ’75.

His next new studio album, September 1976’s Ringo’s Rotogravure, peaked at No. 28 and fell off the U.S. charts quickly. And 1977’s disastrous Ringo the 4th pretty much sounded the death knell for Ringo Starr as a solo headliner, at least on record.

As I’ve said before, the brief flowering of Ringo’s solo career has always been something of a mystery to me.

The guy genuinely could not sing … and, while he was/is an underrated drummer, underrated drumming doesn’t sell singles and albums to the general populace. (Worth mentioning: Studio ace Jim Keltner plays at least some of the drums on the Goodnight Vienna album.)

For that matter, the songs he was singing weren’t always that great either.

His oldies covers are pleasant enough, but they’re not so tremendous as to make us forget the originals. “You’re Sixteen,” with its Paul McCartney kazoo solo, still seems to me like it was crafted as part of some race-to-the-bottom competition to produce the worst possible Number One single.

(1974 was just the year for such a competition, too. Compared to fellow Number One hits “Seasons In The Sun,” “The Streak,” “Billy Don’t Be A Hero,” “I Can Help” and “Havin’ My Baby,” Ringo’s nostalgia trip seems downright attractive.)

And songs like “Goodnight Vienna” — which sounds exactly like the sort of thing a dissolute rocker would write for his buddy after too many brandy Alexanders — lack the spark or imagination that makes classic pop:

And yet, in his few years as a true solo star, Ringo racked up enough hits to legitimately fill a best-of album, with two Number One hits and multiple other visits to the Top Ten.

Ninety-nine percent of the people who have ever picked up a guitar (or a set of drumsticks) wish they had a career even half as successful as Ringo Starr’s solo career.

Did Ringo owe his success to pure nostalgic sentiment? Was the pop world so thoroughly out of gas in ’73-’75 that anything Beatles-related was greeted with rapturous cheers?

(Having heard the Number Ones mentioned above, and having listened to a whole bunch of Casey Kasem American Top 40 countdowns from that period, I find this explanation entirely plausible.)

Or, did he owe his success to the Seventies buying public’s fascination with celebrity collaborations?

Ringo’s mid-’70s solo albums featured guest shots by all three of his former Beatles colleagues, as well as the likes of Robbie Robertson, Elton John, Billy Preston, Marc Bolan and Harry Nilsson. That’s as close as the world ever got to a Beatles reunion, plus lots of other celebrity firepower besides.

Were people buying just to see what all those star(r)s would stir up? (Surely millions of people weren’t plunking down their hard-earned dollars to spend 40 minutes in the company of just Ringo.)

Also, now that time has shown that lots of celebs together don’t necessarily make good music, is anyone buying these albums nowadays?

Sure, I know nobody’s buying music any more. But I wonder if there are 60-year-olds replacing their worn-out vinyl copies of Goodnight Vienna with digital versions; whether there are 15-year-olds or 20-year-olds discovering these albums for the first time; or whether they are largely forgotten 40 years later. Do they stand anything resembling a test of time?

Having extensively picked apart his shortcomings, I have to say I kinda like the idea of Ringo as a solo star. He has always seemed like the most grounded and approachable of the Beatles, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome to every gold and platinum record on his den wall.

I don’t really understand the whole phenomenon; but time has proven repeatedly that my comprehension is not necessary for pop success.

It’s all da-da-da-down to … well, I don’t know what, exactly. But it happened, and proof exists.

Encore Performances: Dec. 29, 1973: Now the whole damn bus is cheering.

Tony Orlando recently completed a run of eight Christmas shows here in Bethlehem. He’s announced plans to come back for 12 more next year, apparently enthused about the reception he received here in the Christmas City.

I’m not entirely sure what he finds so exciting about Bethlehem. But he seems like a charming old trooper, and as long as he doesn’t punch any police horses, he’s welcome to hang around all he wants.

From the old blog, here’s a flashback to one of Tony’s crowning moments, as originally posted in January 2011:

I don’t usually like end-of-year countdowns very much.

Since all the songs are big hits, you don’t get any surprises — no song down at No. 38 that you’d forgotten was either really awesome or really crappy.

For some reason, the good songs always end up being lower than expected, and the less compelling songs always end up ranking higher than expected.
The moments where I say, “Yeah! America had some taste in music that year,” are far outnumbered by the moments where I say, “That was the 10th most popular song of the year?”

And of course, I always wonder what the actual Top 40 for the last week of the year is — the real live 40 that’s being pre-empted by the year-end roundup.
(If I collected old Billboard magazines, I suppose I’d know that. But I don’t.)

That all being said, I sat through Casey Kasem running down the top 40 hits of 1973 the other day.
(Or, more accurately, the 40 biggest hits for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 8, 1973.)
And since I’ve never met a countdown I couldn’t say something about, I give you the Top 40 hits of 1973, with favourites in bold.

At least, I will after a couple of scene-setting historical items from the week ending Dec. 29, 1973:

* Stephenie Meyer, who is to vampires what Grace Metalious was to small towns, is born in Hartford, Connecticut.

* Also in the Nutmeg State, electricity crews finish restoring power to the last long-suffering customers, following a nasty ice storm on Dec. 17.
(You might have read about it here.)

* The movie “The Exorcist” opens in the U.S.

* R’n’B guitarist Lowman Pauling of the “5” Royales dies. He is best remembered as the author of “Think,” a hit both for his own group and for James Brown and the Famous Flames.

* Skylab 3 astronauts Gerald Carr and William Pogue photograph the comet Kohoutek during a skywalk.
They get a better view of the comet than those stuck on Earth.

* The first round of the NFL playoffs takes place, winnowing the field from eight teams to four.
Still standing are the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins.

* A painting by Edgar Degas, “Blanchisseuses Souffrent Des Dents,” is stolen from a museum in Normandy, France.
(Thirty-seven years later to the month, the painting was returned to France.)

* A fifth of J.W. Dant Charcoal-Perfected Whiskey runs $3.99 at the Don Market in Casa Grande, Arizona.

* Michigan State University hockey player John Sturges scores three goals in the second period of a game against Boston College. Sturges’ teammate Steve Colp then nets three of his own in the third period.
MSU wins 12-5.
(As they sing in Kenmore Square: “For Boston, for Boston, the outhouse on the hill / For Boston, for Boston, it stinks and always will.”)

Here’s what else was scoring that week:

No. 40: “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” by Barry White.
The absolute baddest opening 15 seconds in popular music.

I’d like to see an “Iron Chef”-style show, starring aspiring hip-hop producers instead of celebrity chefs.
Give ’em all the first 15 seconds of “I’m Gonna Love You…”; let ’em remix, chop and channel; and have the judges decide who does the most with it.

No. 39: “Love Train,” O’Jays.
The Phillies, Sixers and Eagles all sucked in ’73, but Gamble, Huff and their artists gave Philadelphia plenty of reasons to hold its collective head high.

No. 38: One of several records that were still on the charts as of Dec. 8, and that would have ranked higher if the succeeding weeks had been included:
“Angie” by the Stones.

No. 37: “Shambala” by Three Dog Night, still making wonderful pop singles in ’73. It wouldn’t last much longer.

No. 36: Stealers Wheel, “Stuck In The Middle With You.” This purported Bob Dylan piss-take is better and more memorable than anything Dylan put out in ’73.
(At the time this countdown originally aired, Dylan and the Band were preparing to rebound with the upcoming release of Planet Waves and the kickoff of Tour ’74.)

No. 35: Gilbert O’Sullivan, “Clair.” This is sweet and McCartneyish; I don’t find it cloying, though some might disagree.
The mischievous giggle at the end scores points.

No. 34: John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High.”
I was gonna ask how realistic it was that somebody might be born again just by picking up and moving.
Then I thought about how much I miss Massachusetts sometimes.

No. 33: Maureen McGovern, “The Morning After.”

No. 32: Paul Simon, “Loves Me Like A Rock.”
Hey, why didn’t this touch off a nationwide craze for gospel music, including the Dixie Hummingbirds on the cover of Time magazine?
Which reminds me: The cover of Time this week is “The Child’s World: Christmas 1973.

No. 31: “A rather phenomenal group,” Casey says: King Harvest with “Dancing in the Moonlight.”
(They were phenomenal in the sense that they broke up years before and got back together again; not in the sense that they had remarkable lasting talent.)

No. 30: For the listeners of KFIZ in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, it’s Skylark from Canada with “Wildflower.”
Okay slice of proto-Hall and Oates … but the 30th-biggest hit of the year? Truly?

No. 29: Stevie Wonder, “Superstition.”
This is one of those records that makes you remember the first time you ever heard it — or would if you were alive in the spring of ’73, anyway.

No. 28: Donna Fargo, “Funny Face.” Yup, this beat “Superstition.”

No. 27: Johnny Rivers, “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” Nice New Orleans party funk. A little repetitious but they don’t need no fancy chords down there.
(I didn’t know Rivers grew up in Baton Rouge; I associated him with El Lay smoothness.)

No. 26: Back-to-back blasts of New Orleans as Dr. John checks in with “Right Place Wrong Time,” the song that gave the world the phrase “brain salad surgery.”
A little Dr. John goes a long way, but this is as good as he gets.

No. 25: Grand Funk, “We’re An American Band.”
Casey says, “the critics say they’re trying to sound British,” and this song is a response to that.
Uh, no, Case … the origin of the song has nothing to do with either critics or Anglophilia.

No. 24: A song Al Green turned down: Sylvia, “Pillow Talk.”
OK sexy groove, but Al’s better.

No. 23: Stevie Wonder, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.”
You don’t listen to this song so much as you bask in its glow.

No. 22: “Here comes the British bubblegum!” Casey declares, and sure ’nuff, it’s Sweet with “Little Willy.”
Much as I like glam, I’ve never been entirely sold on the sillier side of the Chinnichap oeuvre — like this, or “Can the Can,” or “Tom Tom Turnaround,” or “Wig Wam Bam.”

No. 21: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
A graceful, nicely detailed ode to commitment, featuring a wonderful preach at the end.
You know the drill.

No. 20: “Drift Away,” Dobie Gray. There’s a semi-legendary Rolling Stones cover of this floating around in bootleg-land, but I’ve never sought it out.
I had labeled this “pretty good honky soul,” until I checked Wiki and learned that Dobie Gray — whom I knew nothing about — was African-American.
Could I be more daft?

No. 19: “Frankenstein,” Edgar Winter Group, prefaced by Casey telling the story of the titular doctor.
(“The doctor’s name was Frankenstein,” Casey said, and instantly my wife and I looked at each other and said, “FRANCK-en-shteen!”)

Contains one of the finest horn lines in the history of Top 40 music — though accuracy compels me to admit that it’s actually a horn and a guitar, not two horns together.
(The guitar is either Ronnie Montrose or Rick Derringer.)

No. 18: Isley Brothers, “That Lady.”
Always loved this song, and was gladdened when I finally bought the 3+3 album to find it surrounded by a bunch of other solid material.
Maybe I’ll take that one out tomorrow.

No. 17: Eddie Kendricks, “Keep On Truckin’.”

No. 16: “Delta Dawn,” Helen Reddy. Love the opening; can give or take the rest of the song.

No. 15: Only the second song about interracial love to score big on the Forty, Casey declares:
Stories with “Brother Louie,” featuring a rheumy lead vocal that reminds me of Peter Criss.
Which ain’t necessarily a ticket to the top.
(I dunno — sometimes I like this song fine, and sometimes I think it’s weak.)

No. 14: Clint Holmes, “Playground In My Mind.” Next.

No. 13: “Half-Breed,” Cher. I just weighed in on this one a post or two ago, didn’t I?

No. 12: Vicki Lawrence, “The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Not for me, thanks.

No. 11: Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones.” Philly to the rescue with a sultry, longing ballad about people doin’ other people wrong.
(No. 12 could learn something from it.)

No. 10: Diana Ross, “Touch Me In The Morning.” Not bad, not great. I wouldn’t turn the dial, I suppose.

No. 9: Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain.”
Casey puts forth the sensible proposition that “maybe Carly is putting us on, trying to make us think it’s a real person.”
No flies on you, Case.

While I was taking a leak, I came up with the truth:
The song’s about Randy Mantooth.
Spread the word.

No. 8: Billy Preston, “Will It Go Round In Circles?”

No. 7: For the folks listening to WSGN in Birmingham, Alabama, it’s Elton John skimmin’ stones with “Crocodile Rock.”
It has the rock’n’roll spark.

No. 6: Paul McCartney, “My Love.”
It has about as much of the rock’n’roll spark as Lawrence Welk.

No. 5: Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On.”
Like “Crocodile Rock,” I’ve warmed up to this song over the years.

No. 4: “Killing Me Softly,” Roberta Flack.
Written by the same guys who wrote “I Got A Name,” if I’m not mistaken.
I was going to suggest this was the highest-charting record inspired by a currently charting performer; and then I remembered all the name-drops in “American Pie” and thought better of it.

No. 3: Speaking of “I Got A Name,” next up is Jim Croce with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
Rollicking unpretentious barroom story-song. Sure, why not?

Alternate first verse:
“Leroy was a fop / on the South Side of Chicago
Back in the USA / back in the bad old days…”

I dunno if this is the hip critical consensus, but I would have liked to see where Croce’s career took him, more so than most artists who died young.
He seemed to possess both a gift for romantic melody and a work-shirted everyman persona, which is a nice pair of counterbalancing assets.
Who knows: Maybe the arrival of disco would have led him to chuck it all in and go drive a bulldozer, which would only have increased his workingman cred.

No. 2: A song that only got as high as No. 16, but hung around on the charts long enough to place at No. 2 for the year:
Kris Kristofferson, “Why Me?”

(The original post drew a spirited conversation from several readers who couldn’t believe this song — which they didn’t remember hearing on the radio in ’73 — placed this high on the year-end charts. I can’t explain it, but my man Jim Bartlett took a shot at doing so here.)

No. 1: Featuring “a surprise ending that gives you a kick right in the emotions,” Casey says:
Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon.”

Tony (minus Dawn) will be at the Sands Bethlehem Casino from Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2015. Mark your calendars now.

Encore Performances: Nov. 8, 1975: That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh.

My stats page tells me that someone came here earlier today by running a search for “november 1 1975 at40 neck pickup.” Unfortunately, I’ve never blogged about that week’s American Top 40 countdown. But I did blog about the following week on my old blog, in November 2009. So here’s a repeat of that post, in hopes it satisfies my anonymous visitor.

I was gonna do a day-in-the-life thing for my next Casey Kasem AT40 roundup.
But a review of the week of Nov. 8, 1975, just doesn’t show that much in the way of big news going on.
Francisco Franco was still alive; David Ortiz was not quite born; the World Series had ended a week or two before; and the 29-man crew of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was just a bunch of guys preparing to go out on a boat that, as the big freighters go, was bigger than most.

In western New York, meanwhile, a two-year-old boy was filling in another week in that weird pre-school cocoon-state where you don’t make memory tracks of anything, and there’s not much besides weather to distinguish one day, week or month from the next.
Certainly, no one in the lad’s family was born, died, got laid off, graduated or even came to visit in that gray first week of November 1975.
Beyond that, time sayeth not.

Now, if they had switched on the radio, this is what they would have heard, with my favourites in bold as always.
(Warning: No fewer than six remakes this week. That’s usually not a good thing. But, plow on with me, won’t you?)

No. 40, debut: “Diamonds and Rust,” Joan Baez’ first hit since 1971’s execrable cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” — “and it sounds autobiographical!” Casey notes with the air of a man who’s just decoded a hieroglyph.
Darned if I didn’t listen to most of this song (which I was not tremendously familiar with, not being a Joan Baez fan.)
I couldn’t quite bring myself to bold it, but I think it’s a nice piece of writing, and not badly sung.
Wonder what the Judas Priest version sounds like?

No. 39: A former No. 6 hit, “Dance With Me” by Orleans.
This takes me back to another period when I had all the time in the world — summers in the early 1980s when my parents would drag me down to their new cottage.
The radio was always on, and it was always tuned to an AM station out of Syracuse that could be counted on to play toothless, melodic music of the prior decade.
Things like “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” and “Bette Davis Eyes,” and Paul Davis’ “’65 Love Affair” … and this.
Drove me nuts at the time.
To this day, hearing any one of about 15 songs brings back the picture of that radio, and the musty smell of the little cottage, and the wish to be somewhere else.
It would be years yet before I discovered the fine art of savoring the slow quiet slipping of time away from me.

No. 38: Down an astonishing 20 notches, Tavares with the genuinely hot It Only Takes A Minute.
Great dance-floor jam.

No. 37, debut: Frankie Valli, “Our Day Will Come.”
Try as I might, I can’t get my head around the idea of a 40-year-old man singing lines like, “No one can tell me I’m too young to know.”
No, Frankie, but they can tell you you’re old enough to know better.

No. 36: Casey makes the obligatory Beatles namedrop in his introduction to a truly historic moment … the first week on the charts for the debut hit by a Scottish band drawing comparisons to the Beatles …
… ladies and gentlemen …

The Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night.”
Perfectly good, snappy, well-produced pop number. I don’t find the chanting as annoying as some people do, though I do get a little tired of Les McKeown’s screechy “I-yi-yi-yi just can’t wait.”

Casey also makes a great topical reference, mentioning the band’s prominent appearance a few weeks ago on “Howard Cosell’s show.”
(Although my readers are all hip enough to remember this, I’ll mention it anyway: Howard Cosell had a Saturday-night TV show that hit the airwaves in fall 1975, at the same time as “Saturday Night Live.” In fact, Howard’s show was called “Saturday Night Live;” the NBC sketch comedy show we’re all familiar with was forced to go by the name “Saturday Night” for about a season-and-a-half, until Howard’s show bit the dust and the SNL name became available. Perhaps what Howard needed was better musical guests.)

No. 35: Another cover. Freddy Fender with “Secret Love,” which had been a Number One hit in 1954 (!) for Doris Day (!!)
Someday I will ask my parents how they survived the pre-rock era.
I will say this, though: I find Fender’s vocals on this song much more pleasant than on some of his other hits from this period.

No. 34: John Fogerty, “Rockin’ All Over The World.” A stiff, tinny mix, but oh, what a voice.
Enjoy this hit, John. Disco, punk and new wave will not be kind to you.

No. 33: For the listeners of WFMO in Fairmont, N.C.: “I Wanta Do Something Freaky To You” by Leon Haywood.
Wiki tells me Haywood had played keyboards in Sam Cooke’s band. Well, whaddya know.
As for this song, the title is the best part … the music is a total cop from “Smiling Faces Sometimes,” while the lyrics suffer from lines like “I’d love to slide down into your canyons / In the valley of love.”
I guess disco and AC/DC have more in common than you’d think.

No. 32: “Just Too Many People,” Melissa Manchester. Nice flash of Fender Rhodes piano at the beginning, anyway.

No. 31: “Peace Pipe,” BT Express. Brain-dead pre-disco, not funky enough to be memorable.

No. 30: Ritchie Family, “Brazil.” Almost bolded this one. Nothing wrong with big, brassy, showy, flamboyant disco.

No. 29: Some Manhattan Transfer tune about an operator. I can’t be bothered to look up the title. Foppish and gimmicky.
Am I inconsistent? Very well, then, I am inconsistent.

No. 28: Staple Singers, “Let’s Do It Again.” Great languid summery sex jam.

No. 27: Willie Nelson, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.”

No. 26: “Eighteen With A Bullet,” Pete Wingfield. The entry of the string section just kills this one dead.
Also, we’re establishing a new house rule for Things That Are Automatically Bad:
In addition to opening spoken-word monologues by anyone other than Barry White, children’s choirs and circus music, Fifties-style bass singers (you know the kind — the ones that go “dit-di-di-di-DIT”) are Automatically Bad.
The management thanks you for your consideration.

No. 25: Art Garfunkel, “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
He couldn’t save the Phillies in the Series; and he should have told his keyboardist to turn down the vibrato on his electric piano (which throbs and pounds like a hangover) … but he’s still got the freakin’ pipes.

No. 24: Simon and Garfunkel, “My Little Town.”
One of my favorite Simon compositions, and especially remarkable given that it’s complete fiction. (Simon, after all, is from Queens.)
A few years later, I would be pledging allegiance to the wall in my own little town.

No. 23: Bruce Springsteen, “Born To Run,” in its fifth week. This was maybe two weeks after Bruce made the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously.
Although I’m tired of this song, and I have (almost) never been seduced by the siren song of the American road, I still have to admit it’s a titanic production job.

No. 22: “Fly Robin Fly,” Silver Convention. Silver Convention a step ahead of Bruce Springsteen kinda sums up the ’70s, I think.
What was so great about this song?

No. 21: “What A Difference A Day Makes,” Esther Phillips. She has one of those loose, ragged, goaty voices that sell to jazz audiences. I can’t get to it.

No. 20: “You,” George Harrison. Ouch: Speaking of singing voices, it hurts a little to hear George flailing for the right notes here.
I have a hard time imagining this being anybody’s song … is there a couple out there that nuzzled to this?

No. 19: “That’s The Way (I Like It),” KC and the Sunshine Band. Crisp, sassy, rocket-fueled funk.
Now this is what funk-pop crossover singles are supposed to sound like.

No. 18: Bee Gees, “Nights on Broadway.” Just when things were looking grim, we get two straight cracklin’ jams for our delectation.
I have no idea what this is really about, just as I really don’t know what a bunch of other Bee Gees songs are about.
I just know it’s right in the pocket and the chorus is 50 feet tall, plus it starts with a taut moody riff that makes good, restrained use of synthesizer.

When I was a kid, I thought the Bee Gees were kind of a one-year wonder, riding the massive success of “Saturday Night Fever.”
Not until I grew up did I give them their due: They actually went five solid years (1975-80) turning out memorable, crisp, locked-in dance-pop singles and appealing ballads.
Much respect.

No. 17: The first U.S. hit for Jigsaw: “Sky High.”
This is not anywhere near in the same class as the previous two songs. I just like it because years ago, as a sophomore in college, my roomie and I stayed up late watching a dreadful action-adventure movie whose climactic scene featured this song.
Had something to do with a big shiny skyscraper blowing up, as I recall.
(This was in 1992 or ’93, when skyscrapers bursting into flame didn’t make me feel vaguely punched in the gut.)

Wiki tells me the film was “The Man From Hong Kong,” starring the post-Bond George Lazenby.
I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it.

No. 16: Neil Sedaka, “Bad Blood.” Shame to see our run of bold-face favourites come to an end. This song flat-out sucks; it sounds like something Doug Fieger would have written during his senior year in high school.
And a former Number One – gack!

No. 15: “SOS,” ABBA. Must … not …. think …. of Pierce Brosnan.
I’m telling ya, it takes an 18-wheeler full of dung to dim the shining wonderful poppiness of ABBA … and the movie “Mamma Mia” is alllllllllllmost equal to the job.
If you need a movie this weekend, find “The Man From Hong Kong.”

No. 14: Leon Russell, “Lady Blue.” The double-tracked vox on this have a slightly unpleasant quality to my ears, and I can’t decide if the minimal instrumentation is laid-back or boring.
I guess I give Leon the benefit of the doubt, but it ain’t getting any bold-face, you knows that.

No. 13: Olivia Newton-John, “Something Better To Do.”
We have a new entry for Things That Are Automatically Bad:
In addition to bass singers, opening monologues by anyone other than Barry White, circus music and children’s choruses, clarinets are bad.
Just bad.
As in, the kiss of death.

(And yes, Robert Lamm and Walt Parazaider, that means “Harry Truman” is a single without honor in this land. We love you, guys. But there’s only so much we’ll tolerate. You understand. Right?)

No. 12: War, “Low Rider.” A greasier take on pop-funk crossover.
Not quite as good as War’s all-time heavyweight champeen, “The Cisco Kid,” but a welcome streak of Saturday-night pachuco groove.

No. 11: People’s Choice, “Do It Anyway You Wanna.” Yeah, well, McDonald’s and Coors Light are the people’s choice too.
Grade-B BT Express.

No. 10: Captain and Tennille, “The Way I Wanna Touch You.” Nice dynamics, the way they drop down for the second verse. I don’t give ’em much credit for the lyrics, and the hooks are nothing special, but we still give points for professionally executed arrangements.

No. 9: Morris Albert, “Feelings.”
OK, I’m just screwing with ya. I wouldn’t really bold this.
But really — considering all the insipid sap that has gone Top 40 (and even Top Ten) over the years, how did this song become so firmly selected as the cultural archetype of lounge-crooner schlock?
There’s worse, ya know.

No. 8: Natalie Cole, “This Will Be.” Nice gutsy piano. Was Rickie Lee Jones taking mental notes for what would become “Chuck E.’s In Love”?

No. 7: For the listeners of WSKW in Skowhegan, Maine, here’s the Spinners with “Games People Play.”
The kings of the smooth soul bump-jam deliver again with a tasty, tasty piece of work.

No. 6: Linda Ronstadt, “Heat Wave.”
Somehow this tune seems better-suited for La Ronstadt’s blowtorch-in-blue-jeans approach than some of her other covers.
Woulda been a much better single release in June, though.

No. 5: Jefferson Starship, “Miracles.”
I wish I could explain why I like this song so much. Maybe it’s because I remember hearing it on the AM radio in my parents’ old Plymouth Satellite during long interstate car trips.
Maybe it’s just because it epitomizes ’70s deeply soulful, hot-tub, I’m-in-you-you’re-in-me-in-a-soulful-kinda-way lovin’.
Or maybe it’s because Red Octopus is a back-door contender for one of my 10 favorite albums of the 1970s.

Whatever the reason, I can get lost in this song any time I hear it.

No. 4: “Who Loves You?,” the Four Seasons.
Trying to remember whether this one was inspired by Theo Kojak’s legendary catchphrase or not. I guess only Bob Gaudio knows for sure.
This one doesn’t really deserve bold face, but the Bushmills is kicking in, and I really did enjoy this countdown, so what the hell.

No. 3: John Denver, “Calypso.” The life aquatic with John Deutschendorf.

No. 2: Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes.” Misogynistic country trash.
Hey, how did these guys do on the country charts? I’m sort of dimly curious, but not so much as to go look it up. (Edit: Someone else did in 2009, and told me this song hit No. 8 on the country charts, the band’s highest placing.)

And finally:
No. 1: “Island Girl,” Elton John.
Casey shares a neat bit of trivia: Elton’s album “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” debuted on the charts at Number One in June 1975, the first album ever to do so.
And this week, Elton made it two in a row, with the “Rock of the Westies” album also debuting at Number One.
This is another in a long string of Elton singles in which the music, and Elton’s delivery of the lyrics, completely obliterate whatever the song’s supposed to be about.
There’s something to do with a hooker from the Caribbean, but really, how many listeners could describe a coherent plot arc?

Incidentally, I’ve been listening to “Nights On Broadway” since I first typed it in. Just thought I’d mention it.

Long-distance operator.

If I’ve learned anything in 40-plus years on earth, it’s that one of the worst things you can possibly be is a Clod In The Way Of The Music.

Here are a few examples to show you what I mean:

– I’ve got a couple of Beatles live recordings from 1964-65. Just about every one of them starts with a local DJ who admonishes the crowd at length to stay polite, stay quiet, and show everybody how much better an (Atlanta/Philadelphia/Sydney) audience behaves.

And then the lads come out, and it’s inevitable wall-to-wall jet-engine eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Those DJs might have ruled their time slots. They might have had the best ratings in town and all the local fame they could handle.

But for a few minutes in a packed stadium, wagging their fingers and lecturing on maturity, they were Clods In The Way Of The Music.

– From a once-local library, I long ago took out a jazz concert recording in which promoter-snob John Hammond made a series of obnoxious, intrusive between-song announcements.

The Interwebs tell me it was probably the 1938 “From Spirituals to Swing” concert. That legendary concert was released as an LP 20 years later — punctuated by newly recorded “stage announcements” taped specially for the album by Hammond. Now that’s going above and beyond to be a Clod In The Way Of The Music.

– On the Wattstax live album, the Bar-Kays’ histrionic but entertaining version of “Can’t Turn You Loose” gets cut off early by an emcee who ushers the band offstage because the show’s going overtime.

And to make it worse, he spends what seems like a solid minute calling for applause for the band he’s kicking off the stage: “Give it up for the Bar-Kays! The Bar-Kays! The Bar-Kays!”

That would be humiliating at an eighth-grade talent show, never mind a major concert with a big-name band.

Sure, it’s bad mojo to let the show run ’til 3 in the morning. But, better that than to be a Clod In The Way Of The Music.

– When I was growing up, I hated morning DJs. I was all about the tuneage, and I never heard a skit, a stunt or a line of patter that was a better use of airtime than Aerosmith.

As I’ve grown and been exposed to some of the great jocks, I’ve learned to appreciate how much fun a good morning DJ can be.

But when they’re bad, morning DJs are definitive examples of Clods In The Way Of The Music.

You get the picture, I think. It is better to be a squirrel in the way of a Greyhound bus than a Clod In The Way Of The Music.

# # # # #

It would have been easy for Casey Kasem to be a Clod In The Way Of The Music.

How? Well, let’s look at it through the eyes of an average radio listener in, say, 1975.

Your local station brings you the most popular tunes in your region, and you know the local personalities, and you like them OK.

But then, three hours a week, it hands over the reins to some guy from Hollywood. He plays some sort of national countdown whose songs don’t necessarily align with what you hear locally.

And in between, he tells all these stories about James Taylor’s pet pig, and the rise of the Moog synthesizer, and how the Raspberries’ scented album gave people seizures, and the Beatles … always the Beatles.

Who is this guy, you might have asked, and what makes him so special? What claim does he have to share the stage with the nation’s most popular songs?

It is a testament to Casey Kasem’s style and personality that he was rarely, if ever, a Clod In The Way Of The Music.

The expansion of “American Top 40” from three to four hours, in 1978, put him at risk from time to time. That extra hour was a lot of time to fill with flashbacks, stories, long-distance dedications and other sideshows.

Still, Casey didn’t make the show seem like it was about him.

For instance, his showbiz anecdotes — at least in the earlier years — were sourced from, and credited to, music publications like Billboard and Rolling Stone.

None of that “I stopped by Mark Farner’s farm in Michigan, and over a couple cold cans of Goebel’s, he told me …” routine for Casey.

The effect was to make Casey look like a big fan with access to lots of magazines, rather than a Hollywood personality in his own right.

It sounded like he cared so much about pop music that he’d set out to learn as much as he could about it, and share that with others who were just as fascinated as he was.

Ultimately, “American Top 40” was about the music, the people who made it, and the listeners who dug it, not the guy who happened to be spinning it.

Sure, Casey didn’t flee from fame. He did guest shots on TV shows, and acted in movies for a while. But in his AT40 guise, he served the music, and the fame he gained came from the welcoming warmth of his on-air persona, not self-promotion.

That charming quality, and not the tabloid drama of his last days, should be what people remember about Casey Kasem.

Encore Performances: March 13, 1971: I’ll try my best to make everything succeed.

My trick bag is still empty so I’ll bring out something that ran in March 2011 on the old blog.

No sooner do I declare 1971 my least favorite year of the Seventies than Casey Kasem (or, rather, Sirius/XM) takes me right back there.
Well, what the hell, it’s always a fun ride.

Here’s what was going on the week ending March 13, 1971:

* The Allman Brothers record shows at the Fillmore East for a live album that will become a foundation document of what a jam-band live album is supposed to sound like.

* Also in New York City, Joe Frazier deals Muhammad Ali his first professional loss in the “Fight of the Century.”

* The cover of Time magazine features a mock-needlepoint illustration of a story titled “Suburbia: A Myth Challenged.
The magazine, which put James Taylor on its cover just two weeks before, devotes its music coverage this week to the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band and a host of reissues of classical recordings.

* “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which has only a few months to live, hosts an“Armed Forces Music Festival” featuring military fife-and-drum groups; a barbershop quartet from the Air Force; the U.S. Army Drill Team; and a cameo appearance by General William Westmoreland.

* Prominent deaths this week include two names from the sepia-toned past — TV pioneer and all-around inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, and silent film star Harold Lloyd.

* Also dying is former Boston Braves pitcher Bill James, one of the great one-year wonders in baseball history.
In 1914, his second season in the bigs, the 22-year-old James went 26-7 with a 1.90 ERA for the upset World Series champion Braves.
He capped his year by throwing a two-hit shutout at the Philadelphia A’s in Game 2 of the World Series, then pitching two innings of hitless relief to win Game 3.
James would play only 15 games in the big leagues after 1914, recording only five more wins.

* “THX 1138,” director George Lucas’ first feature-length film, is released.

* Suzy Furlong of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes to the Cedar Rapids Gazette to protest the pre-empting of regular TV programming by a broadcast of the state girls’ basketball tournament.
Mrs. Furlong adds that the sport is “totally boring to watch,” and says that she would never allow her daughter to participate in “such a ridiculously un-feminine sport.”

* The twelfth issue of National Lampoon features Michael O’Donoghue’s oft-reproduced essay “How To Write Good,” as well as “The Mantovani Strain,” a hilarious-sounding parody of “The Andromeda Strain” that, regrettably, has not been so often reproduced.

There would be more than a little of the Mantovani Strain infecting this week’s countdown … but here it is, with the occasional favourite in bold ’cause we’re not total cranks:

No. 40, debut: James Brown, “Soul Power.”
Casey executes a little fancy footwork in his talkup, leaving room for the Godfather to interject “Huh!” in between words.
Nicely done.

As for the song, well, it’s got the Collins brothers and Fred Wesley, so it has to be at least moderately killer.

No. 39, debut: “One Toke Over The Line,” Brewer & Shipley. Another classic example of two back-to-back AT40 hits that were almost certainly never played back-to-back by anyone but Casey.
I like the way B&S’s voices work together; too bad they had even less to say than America.

No. 38, debut: Fifth Dimension, “Love’s Lines, Angles and Rhymes.”
I actually kinda warmed to this, particularly the Marilyn McCoo lead vocal.
Can’t get past all that nonsense about “touching the fibers / of feelings inside you,” though.
As Pedro Bell put it: “Too much concept.”

No. 37: For the good folks rockin’ out with WKNX in Saginaw, Michigan, it’s Rufus Thomas with “Do the Push and Pull (Part 1).”
This is really thirty seconds of song stuffed into a three-minute bag, I’m afraid.

No. 36, debut: Paul McCartney, “Another Day.”
I always kinda wrote this off based on its verse, which I find trivial and kind of annoying.
Listened a little harder this time, and I have to admit the bridge section (“so sad”) is spicier and more interesting, lyrically and musically, than the verse.
But of course, two days after hearing the countdown, the verse is the part I remember.
Go know.

And hey, Macca, how come the main chick’s path to happiness is defined by finding and keeping the right man?
Couldn’t she find fulfillment working as Anna Wintour’s assistant or something?

No. 35: “Burning Bridges,” Mike Curb Congregation.
I know people of otherwise sound taste who enjoyed this one in ’71; I don’t see it myself.
Never been a big fan of choirs, for one thing.

(I am reminded of a great line from Robert Christgau, who wrote that Funkadelic “made the Ohio Players look like the Mike Curb Congregation.”)

No. 34: Johnnie Taylor, “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone.”
A dark, repetitive backstabber that apparently has its roots in a U.S. Army marching chant, which I didn’t know until Chris Stufflestreet at’70s Music Mayhem wrote about it. (RIP, Chris.)

No. 33: Cat Stevens, “Wild World.”
Just about bolded this one; as obnoxious as some of the words are, I like the music.
(“Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear” is not the tenderest farewell I’ve ever heard.)

This was later covered in my teenage years, circa 1990, by some worthless poodlehead band or another.
Mr. Big, maybe?

No. 32, debut: B.J. Thomas, “No Love At All.”
Reminds me of the Velvets’ “Some Kinda Love,” which goes a step beyond Thomas’ assertion that “any kind of love is better than no love at all” and posits that “no kinds of love are better than others.”

As for the claim that even bad love is better than no love, that makes me think of people slapping each other around.
I gotta stop trying to read meaning and significance into these three-minute pop singles.

No. 31: Francis Lai, “Theme From ‘Love Story.’ ” Not even my favourite version of this. But the good news is, I’ve got two more to choose from.

No. 30: Aretha, “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
Starts slow but gets better as both Aretha and the band build steam.

No. 29: A song written 200 years ago by a slave trader, Casey says in a reverent hush:
“Amazing Grace” by Judy Collins.

No. 28: Van Morrison, “Blue Money.”
An agreeable front-room bash-around, featuring a special appearance by the trumpeter from down the pub.

No. 27: Bobby Goldsboro, “Watching Scotty Grow.”

No. 26: Down six, Dave Edmunds with the sparse, distilled boogie of “I Hear You Knockin’.”
That single piano chord is an inspired pop touch — the kind of thing that makes a good record.

No. 25: Santana with the distinctly loungey “Oye Como Va.” Nice enough solo from Carlos, though.

No. 24: Up eight, Chicago with “Free.”
Drummer Danny Seraphine, who studied for a time with bebop drummer Jo Jones, rips himself off a piece here.
Always loved the guitar-and-drum sparring on this one.
Not sure what got into our otherwise laid-back heroes on this one … perhaps, in Jim Bouton-speak, their greenies kicked in.

No. 23: Andy Williams with the theme from “Love Story” again.
My wife and I looked at each other at the start and crooned, “Wheeeeere doooo I begiiiiin?
Then we fell silent.
And I looked into her eyes and said, “Love means never having to know the words.”

No. 22: Lynn Anderson, “Rose Garden.”

No. 21: “Knock Three Times,” Dawn. Fifteenth week on.
This is almost starting to grow on me, though I still say the lyrical hook is a little bit gimmicky for my taste.

No. 20: Grass Roots, “Temptation Eyes.”
Pretty good chorus; and it does capture at least some of that teenage feeling of being messed-up in love with someone who’s jerking you around.
Not that I’d really know, never having been in such a relationship; but anyhow.

No. 19: “What Is Life?,” George Harrison.
Satisfying pop-rock that the thousand-ton weight of Phil Spector cannot derail.
Also a song that works just as well without the whiff of Krishna floating around it … I actually found it possible to listen to the chorus and think it was about a her, rather than a Him.

No. 18: Up 11 spots, Marvin Gaye with “What’s Going On.” Not quite in the mood for this, I guess.

No. 17: For the kiddies in the pizzerias and roller rinks of Manchester, New Hampshire, listening in on WKBR, it’s Wilson Pickett with “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You.”
Swinging gold from Philly, with subtle Hammond organ and tasty guitar.
I imagine it made even March in New Hampshire seem warmer and brighter for three minutes.

I had no idea there was a hit country version of this a couple years later. Relive the Nashville-tinged glory here.

No. 16: An actor who’s had three TV shows canceled, but gets more and more popular: Bobby Sherman with “Cried Like A Baby.”
I’m now imagining a duet between Bobby Sherman and Wilson Pickett … like “For All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” … or even “Cried Like A Baby.”
Wouldn’t that have been great?

Casey plays an album cut from Janis Joplin’s “Pearl,” the top-selling album in the country.
It’s the instrumental “Buried Alive In The Blues.”
Man, that was a tight band. Why didn’t someone else hire them?

No. 15: Sammi Smith, “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”

No. 14: Wadsworth Mansion, “Sweet Mary.”
OK chorus; a pleasant if apparently misplaced blast of funk; and sufficient cowbell.
Sure, why not.

No. 13: Henry Mancini with the damn theme from “Love Story” again.
Why did America demand this one and Francis Lai’s?

No. 12: “Mr. Bojangles,” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Always seemed kinda maudlin to me.

No. 11: Jerry Reed, “Amos Moses.” Shit’s getting worse and worse.

No. 10: “If You Could Read My Mind,” Gordon Lightfoot. Down five. The voice is always welcome, no matter what metaphors it’s dishing out about ghosts in chains or whatever.

No. 9: Up six, the Partridge Family with “Doesn’t Anybody Want To Be Wanted?”
A spoken voiceover. O boy!
Sounds like he’s reading it off a piece of paper.
And y’know, going downtown looking for someone who wants to be wanted can get you handcuffed to a park bench if you’re not careful.

No. 8: Up three, Creedence with “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”
So simple, so eloquent, so unforced. These guys (to paraphrase George Costanza) made great singles as if it were a bodily function.

And to top it off, Casey gives us both sides of CCR’s double-sided hit. The other side? “Hey Tonight,” which chugs along like a motorcycle.
Is the Jody who’s gonna get religion all night long the same guy who got your girl and gone about 20 records ago?

No. 7: Up five, Ike and Tina with “Proud Mary.”
They can do it any way they want — easy, rough or in between — as long as Tina’s up front.
(But did they really need to have Ike singing on the intro?)

No. 6: Down four, the Jax 5ive with “Mama’s Pearl.”
An exquisite pop production, and Michael rips it up.
Pretty close.

No. 5: Tom Jones, “She’s A Lady.” Fourth week on and already up to lofty heights.
Saying your little lady is “never in the way” seems like damning with faint praise, but maybe that’s just me.

No. 4: Tempts, “Just My Imagination.”
I hope Berry Gordy went out and bought Motown’s staff arrangers new Lincolns after some of these hits they worked on.

No. 3: Up four, it’s the Carpenters singing “For All We Know” for the folks digging WJTO in Bath, Maine.

No. 2: Casey near-whispers some critical flackery about Janis Joplin’s “whiskey-soaked voice” before playing “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Two ideas for a follow-up:
— While answer songs are usually Cheese City, some folkish troubadour could probably write a good song telling Bobby’s side of the story.

— Someone could write (and indeed, someone probably has) a 500-word post just on Janis’ vocal treatment of the word “McGee.”

And for the fifth week in a row:
No. 1: The Osmonds, “One Bad Apple.”
Almost bolded it — it’s pretty great as bubblegum goes.

Going to bed now.

A lotta nice girls.

My man Jim Bartlett recently wrote a post about an American Top 40 countdown in which Casey Kasem played fast, loose and/or inaccurate with some of the stories he was so fond of telling.

I’ve learned that these sorts of flubs were not uncommon on ’70s AT40s … like the time Casey brought George Harrison’s mother back from the dead, or the time he shorted Grand Funk three Top 40 singles (out of five) in a recap of their career, or the time(s) he teased a story and then forgot to tell it after the commercial.

It’s kinda droll to think about all the kids (and maybe a few adults) hanging on Casey’s word every week, thinking he was the One True Source for pop music information … only to find out years later that he’d booted an anecdote, a link or a chart placement they’d taken as gospel.

Of course, a few inaccuracies in a radio show are no big deal in the long run. It ain’t brain surgery or world peace. It’s only jukebox music.

And, it’s been rumored that Billboard magazine cooked the charts from time to time anyway — like the week in December 1974 that all four ex-Beatles just happened to have Top 40 hits, thanks to one of them showing remarkable staying power around No. 39.  So it’s not like the Top 40 was a golden and infallible entity to begin with.

Still, Casey was the face of the charts, and it’s his mistakes that got noticed — and still do.

I was listening the other day to the June 29, 1974, AT40, another countdown with a memorable flub.

AT40 historian Pete Battistini says Casey recorded the program early — perhaps as early as June 13 — so he could go to Hawaii and appear in an episode of Hawaii Five-0. The chart placements given for the week ending June 29 were based on estimates made well ahead of time by the program’s staff.

And that was how Casey ended up playing a “debut record” at No. 33 that actually topped out at No. 41 — never quite cracking the real Top 40 as compiled by Billboard.

It’s a shame this particular record never actually made it onto the 40.

Because, while it seems like an overplayed classic-rock warhorse to 2013 ears, it’s actually a cool, distinctive, even kinda weird little tune when you stop to think about it.

For starters, how often do you hear a John Lee Hooker-style boogie on commercial radio? We all know the rhythm, sure, but how often does someone mine it for popular music? That’s cool and unique in and of itself.

Billy Gibbons’ lecherous, mesquite-smoked croak is no one’s idea of a perfect pop-radio vocal, either. It may have been “La Grange” that inspired some long-ago critic to compare Gibbons’ singing to the sound of a zipper being forced open.

But he owns it, and it’s authentic, and it works. Indeed, try to imagine the song without it.

Imagine some hambone like David Coverdale singing it. Imagine Paul McCartney singing it, or Peter Frampton, or Mark Farner, or … you get the idea. No go.

And then there’s the song’s dirt-simple structure.

There’s the loose, conversational sung intro … the one and only verse (no chorus, thanks) … some solos by Gibbons … then a quick boogie breakdown, and then some more solos by Gibbons.

And that’s it. Like the ’55 Fender Strat Gibbons used to record it, “La Grange” doesn’t have any parts it doesn’t need.

The economical, bare-bones streak running through rock n’ roll might be the music’s saving grace — think Creedence, or the Basement Tapes, or Sun Records Elvis. ZZ Top knew how to tap that streak, and on “La Grange” they did it for neither the first nor last time.

(Speaking of Fender Strats, Gibbons’ tone is a wonder. Check out that second solo, chock full of pinch harmonics that sizzle like drops of water on a cast-iron skillet.)

ZZ Top would go on to make considerably more successful music than “La Grange” — much of it in the mid-’80s, when I was old enough to listen to American Top 40.

Some of that music still stands up. I’d argue that none of it, though, has quite the same spark that made the uncommercial, no-frills “La Grange” a long-running radio staple.

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

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?

Encore Performances: July 27, 1974: Havin’ my baby.

If the sodding Internet won’t work, I can always trot out one from the archives. From the old blog, August 2009:

For some reason, XM has been hitting the middle of the decade heavily in their recent AT40 rebroadcasts.
I haven’t heard a 1979 since I don’t know when.
(That’s not an entirely negative thing, I suppose, given the kinds of records that were hitting then.)

Anyway, here we have the second-to-last countdown of the Nixon Administration.
Of course my favourites will be in bold — though I gotta warn you, there won’t be that many.

No. 40: The oldest song on the countdown and a former Number One: McCartney and Wings with “Band On The Run.”
Wonder if this was the last hit single on the Apple label?
(No, actually. The invaluable ARSA site reminds me that Apple artists continued to make the charts throughout 1975.)

No. 39: Another ex-Number One playing out the string: “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.
I still don’t get this one.

No. 38, debut: “Rub It In” by Billy “Crash” Craddock.
Somewhere, a hitless Jimmy Buffett was wishing he wrote this OK honky-tonk tune about the lubricious possibilities of suntan lotion; and any number of future good-time country stars were picking up a few tips.

No. 37: Casey comments on the “weird” and “bizarre” phenomenon of artists continuing to score hits after their deaths.
(Apparently Jim Reeves, dead a full decade, was still scoring on the country charts in 1974.)

Anyway, the song at 37 – “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” — gave Jim Croce more posthumous hits (five) than he had while he was alive (four.)
It’s a pretty minor song, really; there must have been a healthy dose of sentiment involved in this one scraping the Forty.
Great line about telling the boss you’re a genius, and the boss saying, “We’ve got all that we can use.”
Did Jim Croce ever work in corporate America?

No. 36: “Hang On In There,” Johnny Bristol. Narrowly avoids the curse of the spoken-word intro — it’s more like sprechgesang.

No. 35: “Come Monday,” Jimmy Buffett.
Whoops. I take back what I said up there about “hitless” — not being a Parrothead, I’d forgotten about this one.
Maudlin, lugubrious country with whining steel guitar and lonesome lyrics about spending “four days in a brown LA haze.”
He’s more likeable when he puts on the Hawaiian shirt.

No. 34: Paul Anka and Odia Coates, “Havin’ My Baby.”
You’re a woman in love and I’m glad it ain’t me carrying the load. Hey, wanna get me a beer on your way through the kitchen?

No. 33: “Hollywood Swinging,” Kool and the Gang. OK funk, and a nice change after three ballads in a row.

No. 32: The first hit by Donny and Marie, ‘I’m Leavin’ It All Up To You.”
Fresh-faced schlock that could have been played on Lawrence Welk.
Casey notes that this is the fifth different act from the Osmond family to chart — the others were Donny, Marie, Jimmy and the Osmonds.

No. 31: Helen Reddy, “You and Me Against The World.”
Were I a single parent, or the child of one, this might resonate with me.
I’m not, and it doesn’t.
I don’t care for the spoken-word intro and ending, either, just as a general rule.
Nice reference to how clowns creep out little kids, though — someone gets it.

No. 30: Andy Kim, “Rock Me Gently.” Soon to be a Number One near you.
I love the way this totally cops Neil Diamond, even down to the phrasings and enunciations like “sweet suh-ren-dah.”
Even better than the real thing.

No. 29: “You Won’t See Me,” Anne Murray. This has a nicer bass line than I have previously admitted. I can still do without it.

No. 28: Grand Funk, “Shinin’ On.” Casey notes that this was produced by Todd Rundgren, who added entirely too much echo to the vox.
I wonder if the relatively low placement of this single was what led GFR to break ranks with Rundgren.

Incidentally, the very first CD I ever bought was Grand Funk’s 1975 live album “Caught In The Act,” and the version of “Shinin’ On” on that record really pops … much more energy than the studio version.
“We are space-age sailors / We all have our failures.”

No. 27: Olivia Newton-John, “If You Love Me Let Me Know.”
For the record, I’m listening to Foster Sylvers’ “Misdemeanor” on YouTube as I type this. That really is a knockout, that one.

Casey welcomes one new station this week — the colorfully named WIOU in Kokomo, Indiana. No riffing off the call-sign from Casey.

No. 26, as lightning flashes outside my window: Lamont Dozier, “Fish Ain’t Bitin’.” OK funk with which I was unfamiliar.
Nice “Tricky Dick” lyrical reference in the second verse.
Unfortunately, in the songs-featuring-Richard-Nixon sweepstakes, this one places out of the money (trailing Bowie’s “Young Americans,” Funkadelic’s “Let’s Take It To The Stage” and Chicago’s “Song for Richard And His Friends.”)

No. 25: Three Dog Night, “Sure As I’m Sitting Here.”
Feels like a forced attempt at folksiness: “You get up, you get down / You get lost and then you get found.”

No. 24: Gene Redding, “Disheartened.”
It’s really funny when Casey starts reading the lyrics to a song, and for a moment, you think he’s just talking and doing regular DJ patter.
It’s even funnier when he says things like, “I’m revealing things I never show / There’s just no way my eager arms can say no.”
For a second I wondered what the hell he was talking about and where he was going with it … then I realized he was just reading the lyrics.

No. 23: Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good.” OK, I’m kinda tired of it, but it’s such a great groove.

No. 22: Commodores, “Machine Gun.”
For what it’s worth, keyboardist Milan Williams — who dominates this instrumental with his clavinet and synth — was not part of the Commodores lineup that performed about 15 miles from my house the other night.

No. 21: Elvis Presley, “If You Talk In Your Sleep (Don’t Mention My Name.)”
I didn’t think Elvis was still scoring many hits during this period, but he was … he just wasn’t taking them as high as he used to.
(His last Top Ten hit came two years before this countdown.)
This is an OK song; if it came on the AM radio in my Rambler Rebel I wouldn’t have turned the dial.
“Love is so much sweeter when it’s borrowed.”

During this time period, Casey would sometimes introduce the AT40 member stations by playing their on-air IDs.
We got two good ones in this countdown.
In the days of energy crises: “There’s no fuel like an old fuel. From the coal fields of southern West Virginia, this is WWNR, Beckley.”
“This is WNFL in Green Bay, Wisconsin, serving Packerland on fourteen-four-oh.”

No. 20: Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Takin’ Care of Business.”

No. 19: Wet Willie, “Keep On Smilin’.”

No. 18: Jumping up from No. 35, Jim Stafford with “Wildwood Weed.”
I am loath to admit it … but as country-fried novelty drug songs go, this one ain’t half bad.

No. 17: The Impressions, “Finally Got Myself Together.” Staples Singers-ish loose-limbed funk. Also not half bad.

No. 16: Mac Davis, “One Hell of a Woman.” Last time this showed up on a chart I blogged about its resemblance to Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” so I won’t go over it again.

No. 15: ABBA, “Waterloo.” Up three notches.
Too bad Casey talked over the first “My my.”

Ya know, I wonder what Casey’s fellow DJs thought of his jocking skills — his flow, his anecdotes, etc.
I wonder if they disdained him for working on tape.
“Aw, hell, taping a show is like playing ping-pong with the net down. You haven’t been a DJ until you’ve entertained the Tri-State Region at drive-time with both turntables broken.”

No. 14: Jumping from No. 32, Paper Lace with a future Number One, “The Night Chicago Died.”
According to legend, Richard Daley (the elder) didn’t think much of this song, and I kinda don’t either.

I do find it interesting that the lyrical perspective is explicitly from outside the U.S. (“Back in the USA / Back in the bad old days.”)
Kinda suggests a family that moved to America — say, from Ireland — and then decided to go back to the Auld Sod.
Just as I automatically assume every pop song is being sung to and from someone between the ages of 18 and 28, I just assume as a matter of course they’re being sung by Americans.
Chauvinism, I suppose.

I wonder how many of the teenies who bought this record thought all along it was based on actual events?
(If any of them are reading: It isn’t.)

No. 13: Golden Earring, “Radar Love.” A strong chart success for the Dutch group, in contrast to the shocking loss of Johan Cruyff & Co. in that month’s World Cup final.
I’d rather watch Cruyff than listen to this.

No. 12: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “On and On.”
This one grows on me the more I hear it. A nice funky change of pace from GKatP’s usual slow jams.

No. 11: Blue Magic, “Sideshow.” A spoken-word intro AND a circus theme. No, and no.

No. 10: Chicago, “Call on Me.”
Wait a minute!
I thought they died.

(OK, I know that joke was cliched back in July 1974, and it’s no fresher today. No matter — I had to make it anyway.)

With this song, trumpet player Lee Loughnane became the fifth member of Chicago to write or co-write a Top Forty hit — the others being Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera, Danny Seraphine and James Pankow.
(Terry Kath never wrote a Top 40 hit, though he sang a couple.)
That’s pretty good bench strength.
The song, meanwhile, goes from No. 27 to No. 23 to No. 10 in its first three weeks.

No. 9: Dave Loggins, “Please Come to Boston.”
I tell ya, the guy keeps asking the chick to move with him and she keeps saying no.
Self-centered biatch.

And y’know, I’ve lived in Boston (albeit not in 1974) and I wanna know: Where in Bosstown can you sell your paintings on the sidewalk?
Sounds just as fictionalized as Paper Lace’s made-up-from-thin-air “east side of Chicago.”

Wiki tells me that Dave Loggins has become a successful songwriter for other artists, including writing theme music that is played during TV broadcasts of the Masters golf tournament.
Whaddya know.

No. 8: “Rock The Boat,” Hues Corporation. One of the best rhythm tracks of all time. On its way down from Number One.
I’d like to think it relinquished the Number One spot out of politeness and a desire to let others share the glory … b/c this one could have stayed Number One until about July 1977 and it would have deserved it.

No. 7: The Hollies, “The Air That I Breathe.”
All I need is Jennifer Eccles and the air that I breathe.

No. 6: Roberta Flack, “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Languid, mellow, summery sex-funk. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

No. 5: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” Steely Dan.
Becker and Fagen were probably laughing up their sleeves, thinking of their song getting spun at community-center dances.

No. 4: George McCrae, “Rock Your Baby.” Last week’s Number One.
A noble and funky effort, with gurgling drum machine in full effect … but not as completely boss as the record his wife cut the next year.
(Allow me to repeat: Ain’t nothing wrong with languid sex-funk.)

No. 3: Righteous Brothers, “Rock n’ Roll Heaven.”
Knowing that this was a stone’s throw from Number One is kinda like knowing that Spiro Agnew was a stone’s throw from leading our nation.
Of course, he wasn’t in July 1974, but you get my point.

No. 2: Elton John, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.”
I think the title is the best part of this song.
And yet, it topped out at No. 2 in 1974, then came back to hit No. 1 in 1992 (in the duet version with George Michael.)
So I might be in the minority in.re. this song.

Number One on the soul chart this week: “My Thang” by James Brown, who rules OK.
And Number One on the album chart: Elton John’s “Caribou.” Imagine millions of Americans savouring such Elton classics as “Stinker,” “You’re So Static” and the immortal “Solar Prestige a Gammon.”

And Number One on the pop charts for the week ending July 27, 1974:
“Annie’s Song” by John Denver.

I was just thinking about this song last week, when its melody took up residence in my head for three or four days and would not leave.
Much as I hate John Denver, I have to admit he put together a damned good pop ballad.

Incidentally, this song has been variously and hilariously co-opted by English soccer fans. Check it out.
Maybe I can banish it from my head if I think of the lyrics: “Like a night out in Sheffield / Like a greasy chip butty …”