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Encore Performances: June 8, 1974: We could stay inside and play games, I don’t know.

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June 2009, old blog.

This week’s AT40 countdown started on a really low note (we’ll explain in a minute) but got better. It has more bold-faced favourites than most countdowns I blog about, even if some of ’em are kinda sentimental picks.

So here we go — the top 40 songs in the land for the week ending June 8, 1974.

No. 40, debut: “Sideshow,” Blue Magic. This circus-themed song begins with the traditional circus fanfare and a voice chanting “STEP RIGHT UP!,” which is a pretty damn weak way to start an AT40 countdown.
As for the rest of the song, can’t listen — clown will eat me.

This was Blue Magic’s first hit.
Just a few months later, the soul vocal group from Philadelphia would be called on by the Rolling Stones to provide vocal backups for a song on the “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll” album.
Dunno what brought Blue Magic to Mick and Keef’s attention … but I sure hope it wasn’t this.

No. 39, debut: “No Charge,” Melba Montgomery. A former country No. 1, which is also a bad, bad sign.
I’m coining a new rule: Any song that begins with a spoken-word voiceover, and is not performed by Barry White, is sucksville.

Wiki says this cornball semi-recitation about all the things mothers do for us peaked at No. 39 on the pop charts, so this might have been its first and only week.
Oh, sure — this song pops up once, and I get to hear it.

No, 38, debut: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” Steely Dan. Donald Fagen has an awesome voice, and if you disagree, go read somebody cooler’s blog.
Casey introduces the record as “Steely Dan, from Los Angeles” — which was true at the time but somewhat laughable, since Becker and Fagen were quintessential New Yorkers who were only press-ganged into living in LA by the need to make it big in the record business.

According to Wiki, this peaked at #4 and was the Dan’s highest-charting record.

It must be said: The first three songs on this AT40 represent the surprising openness of top 40 radio in those days. We have a slow vocal-group soul song, a C&W weeper and the odd jazzy inflections of the Dan, all within 10 minutes of each other.
That ain’t bad for eclecticism. D’ya think today’s hit radio stations play that kind of variety?

Before No. 37, Casey answered a reader’s question that involved the week’s obligatory Beatles name-drop.

No. 37, debut: “If You Wanna Get To Heaven,” Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Stiff boogie. This is a minor-league party song; a grade-B party song; the Hydrox of party songs.
(Something like “We’re An American Band” would be the Oreo of party songs.)

No. 36: “The Payback,” James Brown. He’s got soul; he’s super bad.

No. 35: “The Air That I Breathe,” The Hollies. I blogged a few months ago about really liking some of the Hollies’ Sixties Britpop songs, and I think if I looked deeper into the Hollies I could get to like them.

Casey introduces the record as being by a band that’s been together 10 years and came over in the first wave of the British invasion.
I hoped against hope that the Kinks had scraped out some forgotten hit — though I knew well that in ’74, the Kinks were probably playing the “Preservation” song cycle to half-full college gyms.

No. 34: In its 18th week on the charts, “Come and Get Your Love,” Redbone.
I like the way this song struts — it sounds like it could have been the product of the same New Orleans funkmeisters who waxed “Lady Marmalade,” even though it wasn’t.
I could live without the lalalalalaalalalalala’s at the end.
But you can’t really hold what a band does on the fade against it. Otherwise the Beatles would get serious demerits for all those how-the-hell-do-we-finish-this? songs they did, like “Magical Mystery Tour.”

No. 33: This countdown has a weird addition I’ve not heard in other AT40s: Gently funky background music playing under Casey’s voice as he introduces each record.
Not sure I like it — it makes you think you’re hearing the song you’re about to hear, and of course, you aren’t.
Anyway: “Mighty Mighty,” Earth Wind & Fire. Acceptably funky but stays way too long on one chord.

No. 32: “Another Park, Another Sunday,” the Doobie Brothers. Never been a huge fan of Tom Johnston’s voice.
According to Wiki, it was the song on the B side of this single — “Black Water” — that would go on to become the Doobies’ first No. 1 hit.
Why anyone would put “Black Water” on the B-side and this on the A is beyond me.

No. 31: Something by Eddie Kendricks. Missed the title. More acceptable funk.
I think it might have been “Son of Sagittarius,” which I regret not hearing, b/c it sounds like a real time capsule.
Ah well.

No. 30, debut: “I’m Coming Home,” the Spinners. The Spinners were kings of the silky groove-ride.
Philippe Wynne’s voice is da bomb. He shoulda done a debut with Fagen.
(Actually, I’d love to hear Donald Fagen record an entire album of duets, Sinatra-style. Seriously.)
Produced by Thom Bell. Where? Philadelphia.

No. 29: “On and On,” Gladys Knight and the Pips. Pretty much every early-’70s AT40 I’ve heard seems to feature Gladys and the Pips somewhere around No. 29, singing the absolute hell out of some fairly bland slow jam.

My wife: “I can skip ahead if you want.”
Me: “Naw, I’m waiting to see when they’re going to change to another chord.”
My wife: “They go on and on.”

No. 28: “One Hell of a Woman,” Mac Davis. Mac slips into his best Tom Jones voice and elucidates a thorough list of female archetypes — she’s a lady, she’s a kitten, she’s a witch, she’s a baby, she’s warm and tender.
(Presumably Meredith Brooks, or the people who wrote “Bitch” for her, were listening closely.)

No. 27: “T.S.O.P.,” MFSB. Philly International serves up the theme to “Soul Train.”
Any song that makes me think of groovily dressed people dancing in the “Soul Train” line is fine with me.

No. 26: “Bennie and the Jets,” Elton John. I love the pure weirdness of this record, starting with the deliberately fake, tinny-sounding “live” ambience.
(Was any listener ever fooled into thinking this was actually recorded before a live audience?)

This is one of several records on the chart (“Rikki” is another) that make you wonder what the hell they’re about — not in a deliberately provocative way, but just in the matter-of-fact way they go about their business.
I know this song is about some sort of mythical glam-rock band. But whaddya think motivated Elton and Bernie Taupin to produce a weird, tinny record about a mythical glam-rock band?

No. 25: “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely,” the Main Ingredient. Starts with a spoken-word voiceover. See Nos. 40 and 39.

No. 24: “Save the Last Dance for Me,” the DeFranco Family.
When I was a boy and visiting the science museum in Toronto, I found a hockey card on the floor.
It was partially in French, and it was cool and exotic, and I’ve still got it.
Just like Canadian sports cards, Canadian bubblegum pop has its own flavour — it’s familiar but just a little bit different.
This is not a bad bubblegum single at all.

No. 23: “I’ve Been Searchin’ So Long,” Chicago. This bold-face is based entirely on my fondness for ’70s Chicago; this is not one of their best songs.

No. 22: “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” Stevie Wonder.
The beginning of this sounds like some guy in East L.A. hassling a meter maid over a parking ticket.
Only Stevie could start from there and create an irresistible, soulful pop single.

No. 21: “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain,” Carly Simon.

Casey loves to introduce Carly Simon records by pointing out how tough it can be for performers who come from affluent backgrounds — that it’s not just the po’ folks who feel the pain.
I am not sure whether:
* Casey told and re-told the same anecdotes week after week.
* These rebroadcast AT40s are cut-and-pasted together, with Casey chatter from other weeks inserted to replace anecdotes deemed unworthy of repeating.
(Theoretically something like, “Clearasil doesn’t have time for acne, and Carly Simon doesn’t have time for the pain! Here she is at No. 21.”)
* I’m actually hearing the same two countdowns over and over and over again.

No. 20: “You Won’t See Me,” Anne Murray. Nice of her to rescue a charming Beatles album track from comparative obscurity.
That being said, I won’t listen to it.

No. 19: Two chicks, two covers. “I’m In Love,” Aretha Franklin, covering an old Wilson Pickett semi-hit.
Mmmmmmm, Aretha.

No. 18: “I Won’t Last A Day Without You,” the Carpenters.
Since we were just talking about Beatles covers, you might enjoy the Carps kickin’ flavor on “Ticket to Ride.”

No. 17: “Hollywood Swinging,” Kool and the Gang. Wonder who had more Top 40 hits in the ’70s — Kool or EW&F?
They both show up a lot in these countdowns.
I’m guessing EW&F was bigger in the ’70s, but Kool and the Gang soared ahead with all those bland songs in the early ’80s (like “Fresh” and “Johanna.”)

No. 16: “The Show Must Go On,” Three Dog Night. Again with the circus sound effects!
I’ve ranted before about the annoyance of having two religious-themed songs in one countdown, but two circus-themed songs in one countdown is a fate worse than being cut in two by a homicidal magician.
I’m just thankful that “Send In The Clowns” wasn’t a hit this week too.

No. 15: “If You Love Me,” Olivia Newton-John.
Somewhere in Graceland, Elvis was stirring himself, turning on the radio and mumbling, “Gotta cover that song.”
The TCB Band played it with so much more of a laid-back snap than the guys on Olivia’s record did.

No. 14: “The Loco-Motion,” Grand Funk.
There’s no mystery as to what this song is about; but it makes up for its lack of lyrical ambiguity with some sonic weirdness.
Seriously — listen to that backing track.
It’s weird and metallic and rubbery all at once, and it doesn’t really sound like the bass, guitar and keyboards you hear on other songs on the 40.
And Mark Farner’s guitar solo is a classic, woefully underrecognized piece of weird sound processing.
What is that effect (or effects — there’s surely more than one being applied)?

All told, a victory not just for Grand Funk, but also for their producer — longtime favourite Todd Rundgren.

No. 13: “Oh Very Young,” Cat Stevens. Oh very shite.

No. 12: “My Girl Bill,” Jim Stafford.
There will be two novelty/joke records in the Top 12. Neither will be very good. This is the first.

No. 11: “Be Thankful for What You Got,” William DeVaughn.
I wondered why I liked this song so much, and then I found out from Wiki:
It was recorded at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia, using several of the same musicians who made other Philly records so irresistible during the ’70s.
Also learned that DeVaughn later moved in a gospel/religious direction, which explains why I’ve never heard anything else he ever sang.

No. 10: “For the Love of Money,” the O’Jays. Did I mention that Philafreakingdelphia is all up in this countdown?
This is a tight, nasty, funky, knife-edged soul song, and the fact that they later used it to sell Corollas or whatever does not detract from its brilliance.

Wikipedia sez: “Another successful cover of the song was done by Todd Rundgren with his rock band Utopia on their 1982 album ‘Swing To the Right.’ ”
Much as I love Rundgren, I’m gonna have to wait to hear that one for myself before I pronounce it “successful.”

No. 9: “Midnight at the Oasis,” Maria Muldaur. Yeah, I like this song.
I like Muldaur’s playful warble, and I especially like the snaky, deceptively difficult guitar solo that made guitarist Amos Garrett a cult hero among studio players.

No. 8: “The Entertainer,” Marvin Hamlisch. Do you think the kids today would tolerate a ragtime instrumental in their Top 10?
Just another indication that Top 40 radio was more eclectic than one might think, back in the day.

No. 7: “Help Me,” Joni Mitchell. I’ve mentioned before that I listened to “Court and Spark” almost literally every night while doing homework my senior year of high school.
I prefer “Free Man in Paris” to this one, but this one ain’t bad.

No. 6: “Billy Don’t Be A Hero,” Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. No idea why people liked this.
I wonder what the band members are doing now:
D’ya think they go around bragging about having played bass in Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods?
I can’t imagine that boast carries much street cred … indeed, I’m not even sure it did in June of 1974.

Incidentally, I just thought I’d mention that the Grateful Dead played a fabulous concert at Oakland Coliseum on June 8, 1974, including a weird, primal, dissonant jam that has become the stuff of Dead legend. Of course, there was no Dead on this week’s AT40.

No. 5: “Sundown,” Gordon Lightfoot. This bold-face rating is based entirely on the deep, sonorous, tobacco-cured depths of Lightfoot’s voice.

Also of note: If I understood Casey correctly (and a quick recount seems to confirm this), there are as many Canadian acts on this week’s countdown as there are British performers.
How often has that happened?

No. 4: “Dancing Machine,” Jax 5. Has more flash than their early singles but very little of the charm. Guess that comes with growing up.

No. 3: Following another Beatles namedrop, “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” the Stylistics.
Oh, you’ll never guess which American city the Stylistics happened to hail from?
(Hint: Start in Bala Cynwyd and head east.)

No. 2: “The Streak,” Ray Stevens.

And, brand-new at No. 1: “Band on the Run,” Paul McCartney and Wings.
McCartney in those days loved to stick two or three song-fragments together and try to stitch up a linkage between them.
On “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” it really didn’t work.
On this one, it does.

Here’s another song that makes you wonder what it’s about.
Of course, knowing McCartney, it doesn’t have to be about anything — he has the gift of taking an evocative phrase and building something on it that works well enough to pass by the listener without conscious questioning.
(What was “Uncle Albert” about, for that matter? Or “Coming Up”?)

Incidentally, at the same time the song was ascending to No. 1, the “Band on the Run” album rose to No. 1 on the album charts. Nice sweep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 25: “Boogie Fever,” the Sylvers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From the old blog, March 2011.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 3: Samantha Sang, “Emotion.”

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

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

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

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

A remarkable chart achievement, and much deserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All right, America: Whiskey tango foxtrot?

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

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

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

No. 17: Phoebe Snow, “Poetry Man.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore Performances: Feb. 17, 1973: We gotta be extra careful that we don’t build our hopes up too high.

From the old blog, February 2010.

Somebody — it was either Travelin’ Jim Bartlett or Tom Nawrocki — recently blogged about a friend of theirs who heard a February 1973 AT40 and was surprised at the number of songs that slipped completely off the airwaves and out of memory after they fell off the 40.

Well, I heard that countdown.

This one was sufficiently mediocre that I don’t have a lot to say about most of the songs. They’re just sort of … there.
But I’ll bold my favourites just for continuity’s sake.

(Oh, yeah, as for the week that was: This was the week when Wally Cox died, Steve McNair was born, and Ohio became the first state to post a highway sign in metric. Yeah, that went pretty well.)

Anyway:

No. 40, debut: Gladys Knight et al, “Neither One Of Us Wants To Be The First to Say Goodbye.”
“It’s sad to think / We’re not gonna make it” is a pretty great opening line, as they go.
Check out this vid for Gladys in her prime — and don’t forget to turn on your radio for stereo television!

No. 39: For the folks listening to WYNG in Goldsboro, N.C., it’s a finely sketched portrait of a conflicted badass:
Curtis Mayfield with “Superfly.”
(What, you were expecting “Coward of the County”?)

If you’re noticing a pattern, you’re right: Soul and funk will be the saving graces of this week’s countdown.

No. 38: Seals and Crofts, “Hummingbird.” Just too laid back.
My wife, about a minute in: “How much longer do we have to listen to this?”

No. 37, debut: Doobie Brothers, “Jesus Is Just Alright.” Not bad, not great. Just enough riffy rock mojo to carry a slim excuse for a song.

No. 36: Bread, “Aubrey.” Casey introduces this by listing the members of the band and describing them as “the ingredients of Bread.”
Hyuk hyuk.
Some pretty poor lyrics here: “We tripped the light and danced together to the moon / But where was June?
Isn’t “moon/June,” like, the definitive example of a lyrical cliche?

No. 35: Anne Murray, “Danny’s Song.”

No. 34: Gallery, “Big City Miss Ruth Ann.”

No. 33: Bobby Womack, “Harry Hippie.”
I don’t have much use for the song, but if you don’t know the bittersweet story behind it, click here.

No. 32: Fifth Dimension, “Living Together, Growing Together.” This sounds like it could have been written for a “Sesame Street”-style kids’ show … or, with a few lyrical alterations, for a bad comedy movie about a husband-and-wife team of pot growers.

No. 31: Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones.”
“A great song,” Casey enthuses, and ain’t it so.

No. 30: James Brown, “I Got Ants In My Pants.” I love the fact that James’ unique, and sometimes flat-out bizarre, style could creep onto the Forty every once in a while.
“He’s one of a kind, he’s King Soul,” Casey says, and again, ain’t it so.

No. 29: Eagles, “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” For some reason I like this a lot better than any of the other country tunes in the band’s repertoire.
That doesn’t mean I like it, though.

No. 28, debut: Moody Blues, “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock’n’Roll Band.”
Hey, wouldn’t the whole “I’m just a singer” lyrical conceit work a lot better if it didn’t sound like there were three singers, all of them drenched in Mike Curb-style echo?

No. 27: Chuck Berry, “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” I had forgotten that Chuck had another hit after “My Ding-A-Ling.”
According to Wiki, this was Chuck’s last Top 40 hit.
Unfortunately, Chuck was/is the kind of guy who would cheerfully flog the life out of a formula; and as a result, we get not nearly enough clangorous chugging guitar, and way too many “cleverly rewritten” verses.
I lasted until a quarter to five and then took my leave.

No. 26: Joni Mitchell, “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio.” I seem to remember Joni wrote this with the express intention of getting onto Top 40 radio under her own name.
She wrote a lot better than this.

No. 25, debut: “Also Sprach Zarathusra,” Deodato.
Do I like this or “Joy” better? It’s a tough call.
The humid Fender Rhodes piano and the Steve Cropper-ish guit make this a winner, above and beyond most of the funk-classical remakes that would emerge in the years to come.
(Scoff that, Walter Murphy.)

No. 24: Wings, “Hi Hi Hi.” Proof that sex, drugs and rock’n’roll can actually be horribly boring in the wrong hands.

No. 23: Don McLean, “Dreidel.”
“The spinnin’ don’t stop when you leave the cradle”?
Wha’?

No. 22: Bette Midler, “Do You Want To Dance?”
As I’ve said before, I actually quite enjoy the sound and feel of this, at least for the first minute or so.
But, although The Divine Miss M has a formidable set of pipes, I don’t think she navigates the key change all that well; she sounds flat, and it’s not a sexy or appealing flat.

No. 21: Loggins and Messina, “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
No, and this ain’t gonna change her mind.

No. 20: For the listeners of KXOL in Fort Worth, Texas, it’s Brighter Side of Darkness with “Love Jones.”
I’m willing to forgive my usual rule against opening voice-overs for this one, just because it includes the line, “I don’t wanna bore you with a long, irrelevant conversation;” and because the entire damn thing is a voice-over.
“My test paper? I put nothin’ but my name on it … I guess anybody can have a love jones.”

If I don’t stop listening to this on YouTube, I might end up bolding it.

No. 19: Dr. Hook, “Cover of the Rolling Stone.”

No. 18: Blue Ridge Rangers, “Jambalaya.”
Casey notes that CCR never got a record to Number One, then delivers a rare smackdown, noting that Fogerty won’t get there with this record either:
“It’s at Number Eighteen, and (voice softens) it’s not climbing.”
Ouch.

No. 17: “Trouble Man,” Marvin Gaye.

No. 16: Jermaine Jax, “Daddy’s Home.”
See what I mean about having a hard time coming up with stuff to say?

No. 15: O’Jays, “Love Train.” Gamble and Huff set off THE BOMB. So much energy and ecstasy coursing through this.
Up seven spots and moving.

No. 14: King Harvest, “Dancing In The Moonlight.”
Random trivia fact: King Harvest keyboardist Ron Altbach later floated into the Beach Boys’ orbit, co-writing several late-’70s tracks and co-producing 1979’s truly dreadful “M.I.U. Album.”

No. 13: Edward Bear, “Last Song.”

No. 12: “Superstition,” Stevie Wonder. This scorches everything preceding it, leaving only “Love Train” standing, the way a forest fire will spare the occasional oak.

No. 11: For the ghetto-fabulous folks listening to WMOU in Berlin, New Hampshire, it’s War with “The World Is A Ghetto.”
Great, evocative, gloomy ambient funk. And really, are things any better now?

No. 10: John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High.”

No. 9: Casey talks about how the data from the now-legendary 100 retail stores is run through “a data processing computer.”
Can you feel the snazzy?

Anyway, the punch card spit out for No. 9 says it’s Timmy Thomas, “Why Can’t We Live Together?”
Semi-OK, not particularly evocative, bland funk.

No. 8: Lobo, “Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend.”
People blame bands like Yes for laying the groundwork for punk rock; but I think bland Top 40 pablum like this had something to do with it as well.

No. 7: “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” Spinners. Thom Bell represents.
I told ya soul and funk would provide the only highlights this week.
The quality gap between the worlds of black soul and white pop was never wider than in February 1973 … I imagine all the pop producers holding a summit meeting to address their lack of competitiveness.

No. 6: Steely Dan, “Do It Again.”
OK, I take that back — there were a few honkies doing worthwhile work here and there.

(Incidentally, someone has finally gotten around to posting Looking Glass’ “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne,” a hit from later in ’73, onto YouTube. Go listen to that while you’re here. The vocal sounds like Donald Fagen with a dash of Terry Kath, which ain’t a bad mixture.)

No. 5: Roberta Flack, “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”
Of course, this was inspired by Don McLean, which inspires a trivia question I would send Casey if he were still in position to answer:
How many times has a song written about a specific artist been on the chart in the same week as a hit by that artist?

No. 4: “Dueling Banjos,” Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell. Hey, how come it’s called “Dueling Banjos” when one of the instruments is clearly a guitar?

I used to be baffled about the success of this song.
I still am, kind of.
But I’ve decided that the banjo is a quintessential American roots instrument; and it’s only fair that such an instrument should get to kick up its heels on a Top Ten hit every so often.
Now, when do the hammer dulcimer and the diddley bow get their time in the spotlight?

No. 3: Hurricane Smith, “Oh Babe What Would You Say?”

No. 2: Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain.”
Let’s start an Internet rumour: This song is really about Telly Savalas.
Go post that on a couple dozen chat boards.
And remember, you heard it here first.

No. 1: “Crocodile Rock,” Elton John.
I’ve done a lot of bashing of Seventies rock stars for borrowing licks’n’tricks from the Fifties, but I think Elton pulls it off here.
He’s not just pulling on the leather jacket so he can bust poses; there’s a real energy and drive here that does the pomaded pioneers proud.
That said, I still ain’t gonna bold it.

Oh, and here are the other Number Ones for the week:
Soul: “Love Train”
Country (not much of that on this week’s chart): “I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me,” Merle Haggard
LP chart: “The World Is A Ghetto,” War

Jan. 22, 1972: Let’s go upstairs and read my tarot cards.

1972 countdowns are some of my favorites; a metric arseload of great music came out that year.

What of it was playing on the radio during the week ending January 22?

I’ll get to that (with favourites in bold) after dispensing with the usual historic scene-setting:

* Another Super Bowl is on the cover of Time magazine, with art that’s either by LeRoy Neiman, or by a Time staff artist giving it his best LeRoy Neiman.

* Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, skips the Super Bowl to give its cover to another annual tradition: It’s the swimsuit issue, this year featuring model Sheila Roscoe.

* A former paratrooper named Richard LaPoint takes a page from the D.B. Cooper book — hijacking an airliner, then jumping from it over Colorado with $50,000. Unlike Cooper, LaPoint is captured.

* Dr. Baruch Blumberg receives a U.S. patent for a hepatitis-B vaccine.

* The Cleveland Indians release outfielder Chuck Hinton, ending his 11-year major league career. In retirement, Hinton goes on to found the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Hinton died earlier this week (Jan. 27, 2013) at age 78.

* Alvin and the Chipmunks producer Ross Bagdasarian dies in Beverly Hills, California, while Greg Page — a.k.a. the Wiggle in the yellow shirt– is born in Sydney, Australia.

So, yeah, the AT40 chart already:

No. 40: Bullet, from New York City, with “White Lies Blue Eyes.” Can’t say as I remembered ever hearing this before.
It’s always cool to come across a new-to-me song on these countdowns … even when it’s a relatively undistinguished bit of Grass Rootsy pop-rock like this one.

No. 39: A Boston band that rivals the Rolling Stones for “pure grubbiness,” Casey says: The J. Geils Band, “Lookin’ For A Love.”
An energetic distillation of Geils’ particular brand of mania, featuring nice contributions from the perennially underrated John Geils on guitar and the eternally legendary Magic Dick on harp.

(For years I thought Geils’ first name was Jerome, because that’s what Peter Wolf used to call him. An old friend set me straight on Geils’ real first name a few years ago. I replied: “I suppose next you’re gonna tell me Magic Dick isn’t his real name, either.”)

No. 38, debut: The Carpenters, “Hurting Each Other.” Some nice production touches in the second verse … yeah, that’s about as much as I have to say about this one.

No. 37, debut: Beverly Bremers, “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember.” (Casey says she sounds just like Karen Carpenter, and indeed she does, kinda.)
This is pure reheated Fifties — Connie Francis would have done this nicely, which is not high praise in this house.

No. 36, down 17: Three Dog Night, “Old Fashioned Love Song.” A staple of the Saturday-night-at-the-oldies radio shows that used to play at my folks’ cottage in the Finger Lakes in the ’80s.
Pretty good piece of work (especially the ragtimey electric-piano-and-voices breakdown) and probably deserving of bold. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of that.

No. 35, debut: Apollo 100, “Joy.” This song tickles both my prog-rock and pop funny bones at the same time, which is a pretty rare trick.
Plus it scores decently on the Smith-Earland Hammond Organ Quotient (SEHOQ — pronounced “seahawk”), my homegrown measure of how much life-nurturing Hammond organ is present on any given pop single.

I continue to insist that, if I ever own a sports team, this is the song I’ll play after home wins, when the players are massing on the field (or rink, or pitch.)

No. 34, debut: Climax, “Precious and Few.” (“Are the hairs on Telly’s head,” I always think, but I’ve told that story before.)
This is overdone but moderately, acceptably catchy. If this came on while I was driving over a bridge in a pissing rainstorm, with a cop car on my right side and J. Geils’ tour bus on the left, I wouldn’t change the channel.

No. 33: Sonny and Cher, “All I Ever Need Is You.” Sonny couldn’t sing. Like, sub-Ringo Starr bad. Couldn’t take more than a minute of this one.

No. 32: Wilson Pickett up five with “Fire and Water.”
Normally I love me some Wilson Pickett. But this time he chose to cover the opening track from Free’s album of the same name, a masterpiece of stripped-down, moody hard rock. The pop trappings of Pickett’s version don’t compare to the grinding rawness of the original. (Don’t believe me? Feel free to compare them.)

No. 31: For the folks digging WICB in Ithaca, New York (it’s gorges), it’s the Chi-Lites in their 13th week on the chart with “Have You Seen Her?”
I’m still not the world’s biggest fan of spoken-word intros. But I like the way they sing when they finally get around to singing, especially the wordless verses.

No. 30, up two: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Make Me The Woman You Come Home To.”The weird echoed guitar and the random key-change can’t derail the greatness of this one.
Gladys is magnificently lathered up by the end — “Oh, good God almighty, boy!” — and the Pips are in fine form, not that that’s any surprise.

No. 29: Bobby Womack, up two with “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha.” Hey, this is four solid shots of soul in a row. Nice little streak.
I find the verses of this one to be the best part — the choruses get a little wandering and cluttered.
You don’t know but God might have sent me here” is a great, cocksure loverman’s line … I’m gonna have to put that one in my back pocket.
Uh, yeah.

No. 28, up two: Elton John, “Levon.”
This one is a little off-the-wall for me — what’s all that business about Jesus, and balloons, and Venus, and a garridge by the motorway?
That the Top 40 chart had room for this sweeping singer-songwriter weirdness says good things about the tastes of America’s program directors (and teenagers), though.

No. 27: My leastest favourite Led Zeppelin song ever, “Black Dog.” Worse even than “Carouselambra” (a song an old high school friend of mine used to pronounce “Carousel Romba,” as if it were some sort of circus-themed Latin dance number.)

No. 26, up nine: Faces, “Stay With Me.” Sometimes this song wears thin; sometimes it works just fine. This time it worked just fine.
Best musical detail: Right near the start, when Ronnie Wood’s guitar cuts across Ian McLagan’s double-time electric piano to set the tempo for the song.

No. 25: Redbone, “Witch Queen of New Orleans.” Hokum.

No. 24: David Cassidy, “Cherish.” The ’70s were golden days for teen idols and I suppose we were overdue for one.
The words on this are daft — “mold you into someone who could cherish me;” “not going to be the one to share your schemes” — but of course young David didn’t write ’em.

No. 23: Think, “Once You Understand.”
Casey says the producers of this manipulative spoken-word trash described it as “a sociodramatic commentary.”
I describe it as “shit.”

No. 22: Charley Pride, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning.” This is the Hallelujah Chorus compared to “Once You Understand.”
Country Charley does his thing and gets out, allowing a nation of suburban teenagers to say they’ve listened to country music.

No. 21, up 15: Nilsson, “Without You.” Cut from the same irresistibly overwrought cloth as Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.”
Nilsson gets good and cranked on the “without yoooooooooouuuuuuu”‘s … might have been fun to hear him duet with Gladys Knight.

No. 20: Partridge Family, “It’s One Of Those Nights (Yes Love.)”
It’s OK, not dreadful, but also not the cheesy pleasure that “I Think I Love You” is.

No. 19: Rare Earth, “Hey Big Brother.” Heavy-handed topical semi-funk, with a lead vocal that sounds like Grand Funk’s Don Brewer but isn’t. Scores pretty well on the SEHOQ, if nothing else.

No. 18: Carly Simon, “Anticipation.” Up four. Ms. Simon harmonizing with herself on the choruses pretty much makes the record.
I imagine James Taylor sitting on Martha’s Vineyard, listening to the radio, thinking, “I gotta get that chick’s digits.”

No. 17: Honey Cone, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.” This was charming in a repetitious sort of way, but after a while it wore thin on me.
Somewhere, a pop impresario (perhaps in the employ of Disney) is developing a girl-power-themed prefab singing group that will cover this.

No. 16: Donny Osmond, “Hey Girl.” Couldn’t take the voice. Not the worst record on this week’s countdown, anyway, thanks to No. 23.
I think the bolds start coming thick and heavy real soon now.

No. 15, down seven: Michael Jackson with “Got To Be There.” I like this, though not quite enough to bold it. It definitely stomps David Cassidy and Donny Osmond like grapes in the race for pre-teen America’s hearts, minds and dollars.

Casey lists the top-selling albums in the U.S., including the Zep album with the unpronounceable title “in the band’s own hieroglyphics.” Unfortunately, the Number One album is Don McLean’s “American Pie,” so we get treated to a bonus cut from the album. I gave it about thirty seconds.

No. 14: Sly and the Family Stone with “Family Affair,” with its gurgling bass and drums, and a fuzzy lead vocal phoned in direct from Opioidville.
(Thank you for talkin’ to me, Opioidville.)
I’m glad Sly managed to lay this song down before he passed out.

No. 13: The Hillside Singers, “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.”
Somewhere, the ad exec with the Pepsi account was frantically scheming to get his client a similar pop-culture placement.

No. 12: For the folks listening to KAST in Astoria, Oregon, it’s Joe Simon with “Drowning in the Sea of Love.” Up four, and one of the many jewels of Philly soul.

No. 11: Three Dog Night, “Never Been To Spain.” Sinuous country-funk that gathers momentum with each verse. (Which is not an automatic thing; I’ve heard versions of this song that just kinda lay back and sit there.)
Up seven.

No. 10: Jax 5ive, “Sugar Daddy.” The kiddie-soul train was starting to lose steam for the 5ive by 1972, but they still had a little bit left to wring from their classic formula.
This one’s kinda old wine in new bottles — it ain’t quite to the same standard as “I Want You Back” or “Mama’s Pearl” — but it’s still a pleasure to listen to.

No. 9, up two: Stylistics, “You Are Everything.” Silky, maybe a touch too slow, but a good, simple evocation of romantic obsession (“You are everything / And everything is you.”)

No. 8, up two (seems like I’ve been writing that a lot): Betty Wright, “Clean Up Woman.” Another simple but effective song, though I find this a little too repetitious to bold.

No. 7: New Seekers, “I’d Like To Teach The World to Sing.”
Somewhere, the ad exec with the Pepsi account was feeling a migraine creep slowly into his temples.

No. 6: Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band, “Scorpio.” As I’ve pointed out before, for a guitar band, this record sure gives the drummer a lot of space.

Also, a “Detroit guitar band” is automatically 1,000 times more badass than any other guitar band.
(I wonder if Fred “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer heard this and thought, “Uh, no. We are the Detroit guitar band“?)

No. 5, up nine: Badfinger, “Day After Day,” featuring a guest appearance by Liverpool’s most noted slide-guitar player. Can I claim this as a reference in my ongoing Year of Power Pop?

No. 4: Jonathan Edwards, “Sunshine.” No idea why this was so popular.

No. 3: Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together.” Is this among the most perfect singles ever released? Yes, it is.

No. 2: Speaking of stuff whose popularity I find inexplicable, here’s Melanie with a cover of that Wurzels tune, “Brand New Key.”
(yeah, I know Melanie came first. As far as I’m concerned, the farming lads from the West Country own this song.)
Stiff, gimmicky skiffle, topped with grating vocals.
Good work, America.

No. 1 for the second straight week: Don McLean, “American Pie.” Back-to-back metaphorical folkie strumming at the top of the Forty.
I’m OK with this song’s socio-musico-historical aspirations, but when it’s actually on the radio, I don’t listen to it much.

Funny, looking back on that countdown, it didn’t seem like I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Encore Performances: Jan. 30, 1971: The higher the price, the nicer the nice.

From the old blog, February 2011. For all I know, this could be the AT40 countdown waiting in the memory of my wife’s satellite radio unit as I type this. Let’s hope not.

So here we are in another of those weeks (Jan. 24-30, 1971) that predates my existence on Earth, and about which I know very little.

Except the following events:

* William G. Wilson dies at 75 in Miami.
Following his death, he is publicly identified as “Bill W.,” one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
According to legend, Wilson requested whiskey in the final days of his life, and was refused by those around him.

* “The Ed Sullivan Show” features pop singer B.J. Thomas; jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk; comedian Godfrey Cambridge; and Baltimore Colts placekicker Jim O’Brien, who a week before had kicked the winning field goal in Super Bowl V.

* Despot Idi Amin takes power in a military coup in Uganda.

* The R.A. Moog Co. of Trumansburg, N.Y., ships the 13th through 15th examples of its Model D synthesizer, sometimes called “the first synthesizer for musicians.
Buyers for the keyboards shipped this week include the Ampeg instrument company and engineer Daniel Flickinger.
Later that spring, Model Ds will be shipped to electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause.

* Minnesota Vikings star Jim Marshall, Minneapolis newspaper columnist Jim Klobuchar and Hugh Galusha, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, are among a group of snowmobilers stranded in the open by a ferocious snow and wind storm in Montana.
Galusha dies of exposure; the other members of the party are rescued. (Marshall later reports that he burned the money from his wallet to keep warm.)

* The cover of Time magazine is a stark yellow-and-black portrait of the Berrigan brothers, “Rebel Priests.”
Inside is an article called “Beatledammerung,” reviewing John Lennon’s recent expansive interviews with Rolling Stone magazine.

* The New York Mets sign a 19-year-old Puerto Rican outfielder named Benny Ayala to a minor-league deal.
Ayala will go on to play parts of 10 years in the bigs.
In 1982, a young baseball card collector in upstate New York will pull Ayala’s card from a pack and be impressed; the card seems to show the compact violence of a baseball swing better than most cards in his collection.

Nice hack, Benny.

And now the Forty already, with favourites in bold:

No. 40, debut: Little Sister, “Somebody’s Watching You.”
A female singing group, indeed featuring Sly Stone’s little sister; produced by him, also; and resuscitating a Family Stone album track.
Love that phlegmy Sly Stone bass.
And that paranoid chorus: “Somebody’s watching you” — who? To what end?

No. 39: Jackie Moore, “Precious, Precious.” OK, unassuming, loping soul.

No. 38: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “Tears of a Clown.”
This is why humans make music.
Times are weird for Motown in ’71 but don’t count ’em out yet.

(How many teens in ’71 understood who Pagliacci was?)

No. 37: Liz Damon’s Orient Express, from Honolulu, with “1900 Yesterday.”
Formerly Number One at Honolulu’s aptly named radio station, KPOI.

Was this the first Hawaiian artist to hit the Forty?
I can think of at least one who’s been more successful — and it’s probably not who you think, unless you’re a pop-music trivia junkie.
(We do get a few of those ’round these parts.)

No. 36: Rufus Thomas, “Push and Pull.” Kind of bland, and not much to it.
But you know what? Pop music — then and now — needs more songs in which the narrator declares, “I got a brand-new dance,” as though that were an important enough proclamation to elbow aside Smokey Robinson for three minutes.

(I am reminded of Wilson Pickett’s “Soul Dance Number Three,” on which the Wicked Pickett announces he has no fewer than three new dances to do for us. Now that’s value for money.)

No. 35: James Brown, “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved.”
Drinking game: Take a shot every time James uses the exclamation “Wait!”
You’ll be doing splits and knee-drops in no time — though you might have a little trouble getting back up.

No. 34: For the folks listening to KIMN in Denver, it’s Redeye with “Games.”
I still insist this sounds like a CSNY cop, though without the self-importance, so they’ve got that going for them.

No. 33, debut: Bread, “Let Your Love Go.”
The usual from Bread — catchy but kinda wimpy.
Hey, anyone out there ever own a Bread LP?
I am starting to think that an entire album of Bread might be packed with enough hooks to redeem all the earnestness.
Am I right?

No. 32: Van Morrison, “Domino.” Ninth week on.
The chorus is essentially nonsense — no declarations of love, or hate, or peace, or war — but it works so well, how often have you ever given it any thought?

No. 31: A guy who commutes from Nashville to El Lay, Jerry Reed with “Amos Moses.”
Country shtick.

No. 30: Down two, Three Dog Night with “One Man Band.” These guys never completely disappoint, and they don’t on this one, but it’s not up with their best.

No. 29: Down 15, “River Deep Mountain High,” Supremes and Four Tops. Didn’t listen; maybe should have.

No. 28: Up eight, Gordon Lightfoot, “If You Could Read My Mind.”
Do drugstores still sell paperback novels?
And d’ya think there was an AM radio somewhere on the Edmund Fitzgerald — like in the galley or someplace — that allowed the crew members to hear this as they went about their work?

No. 27: “Pay To The Piper,” Chairmen of the Board.
Hey, is “be nice to me” in this song basically the equivalent of “sleep with me because I spent money on you”?
(I’m full of questions this week. There are no easy answers on this countdown, m’lud.)

No. 26: “Amazing Grace,” Judy Collins. Misspelled on the original cue sheet as “Amazing Grance.”
No Christianity on my countdowns, thanks, unless it’s served up by Scottish bagpipers.

No. 25: Bobby Goldsboro, “Watching Scotty Grow.” As the father of two young boys, I should probably have some shred of appreciation for this song.
But, no.

No. 24: For the folks listening to KTSA in San Antonio, it’s Chicago with “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
(Hey, now. I ask the questions on this countdown.)
Early Robert Lamm at his finest.

No. 23: Ray Price, “For The Good Times.”
I keep listening to this, and keep trying to like it, but it ain’t happening.

No. 22: Elvis Presley (who uses karate onstage, Casey tells us), with “I Really Don’t Want To Know.”
Waltz-time country soul; I wrote “pretty nice” at the time, but I can’t barely hear the song in my head now.

No. 21: Supremes, “Stoned Love.”
What would Sly have done with this song?
Down nine.

No. 20: Six weeks on, it’s Runt with “We Gotta Get You A Woman.”
Hard to believe Rundgren would be wearing spangly outfits and playing 30-minute prog-rock suites just three years later.

I’ve never known any Leroys, by the way — except for the small town back home that gave the world Jell-O.
But this song and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” suggests there were a lot more Leroys kicking around in the ’70s.

For the record, the online Baby Name Wizard reports that the name Leroy went from the 53rd most popular American male name in the 1920s, to 133rd in the 1950s, to 251st in the 1970s.
(I’m not linking to it b.c it crashed my browser once, and almost did twice. Sod that.)

No. 19: Diana Ross, “Remember Me.” If it ain’t “Upside Down” or the theme from “Mahogany,” I don’t really wanna hear it that much.

No. 18: Up 13 slots, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with “Mr. Bojangles.”
This has always seemed mawkish to me; maybe I should give it another listen and try to be fairer.

No. 17: Up 5, Rare Earth with “Born To Wander.”
“Ramblin’ Man” did it better.

No. 16: Led Zep, “Immigrant Song.”
Since I always think of Top 40 songs as the soundtracks to people’s lives, I enjoy imagining the berserker howl of “Ah-ah-ahhhhhhhh, ah!” ringing out over dances at a Catholic high school in Paramus, New Jersey.

No. 15: Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You.”
Shirley Jones defines her role as the Linda McCartney of the Partridge Family, chiming in with barely audible “I think I love you”‘s.
Her involvement is so minimal, I wonder why they bothered?

Casey plays an extra: Percy Faith’s “Theme from ‘A Summer Place.'” Hey, this song actually has a bridge and stuff. I had no idea! You go, Percy.

No. 14: Up one, Steve Stills with “Love The One You’re With.” Shallow hippie krap.

No. 13: Nine weeks on, it’s Perry Como with “It’s Impossible.”
It is distinctly possible that I would rather hear this tune than “Love The One You’re With,” though in a perfect world I would hear neither.

No. 12: Santana, “Black Magic Woman.” They never play “Gypsy Queen,” but I’ve ranted about that before.
In the pre-Nicksingham days, this is the closest that either Fleetwood Mac or Peter Green would get to the Forty.
(Shame about Peter Green, by the way. That guy could stone play.)

No. 11: Up two, Gladys Knight and the Pips, “If I Were Your Woman.”
Soulful and yearning.
And the line “You beg her to love you / But me you don’t ask,” in Gladys’ hands, always hits like Benny Ayala’s baseball bat.

No. 10: Down four, the very first Barbra Streisand song I have ever liked, “Stoney End.”
Officially this week’s crave-song — I’ve been listening to it continuously as I type this in.

A worthy entry in the full-lunged, piano-driven period genre — descended from Sixties Brill Building pop, but more adult — that I sometimes think of as New York Jewish soul (in deference to practitioners like Laura Nyro, Carole King and, in this case, Barbra.)

Speaking of songwriters descended from the Twelve Tribes, 1971 was also the year that Barbra covered a tune by two unknown New York youngsters named Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
It was merely an album track, alas.

No. 9: Up TWENTY-FIVE places, the Osmonds with “One Bad Apple.”
I probably shouldn’t have bolded this … but I guess it does deserve to walk the same hallowed ground as the first few Jax 5ive singles.

No. 8: Elton John, “Your Song.”
A British news source (I think it was The Scotsman) ran a great headline the day after Elton and his partner announced the birth of their first baby boy:
“And You Can Tell Everybody This Is Your Son.”

Is that an upright bass I hear? Five points for those.

No. 7: Two weeks ago No. 31, last week No. 16: Dave Edmunds, “I Hear You Knockin’.”
Spare and somewhat dour, but I love the twangy, minimalist boogie.
A U.K. Christmas Number One in the days (I think) before that became a massively fought-over honour.

I have a CD of Smiley Lewis stuff, BTW; I like Edmunds’ version better than Smiley’s original, which is pretty firmly in a Fats Domino bag.

No. 6: Number One soul, King Floyd with — UHHHHHH! — “Groove Me.”
Eight years later, almost exactly to the week, the Blues Brothers’ “Briefcase Full of Blues” album — featuring a version of “Groove Me” — hit Number One on the U.S. album charts.
I like the BBs’ version, but I like this one better.

Produced by one of the great names in pop music, Wardell Quezergue, also known as the “Creole Beethoven.”
G’wan: Argue with that.

No. 5: Up four, Lynn Anderson with “Rose Garden.” I wrote something about this but can’t read it. No great loss.

No. 4: For everybody rockin’ the Capital District at WABY in Albany, New York, it’s “One Less Bell to Answer” by the Fifth Dimension.
I somewhat sortakinda slightly like this one, plush and middle-of-the-road as it is.

No. 3: A band that sounds like the Beatles, Casey says: The Bee Gees with “Lonely Days.”
I bet Maurice, Robin and Barry raised champagne glasses and said, “We better celebrate; things might never get this good again.”

No. 2: George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord.” (Casey only plays the A-side this time ’round.)

No. 1: Dawn, “Knock Three Times.”
Clang clang.

Jan. 15, 1977: The sound of your voice can get me high.

Yes, it’s not an Encore Performance. I listened to an American Top 40 countdown today that I hadn’t heard before. And here’s what I thought.

So here we are in the week ending Jan. 15, 1977. What’s shakin’?

  • The Gerald Ford administration is entering its final days. Despite its brevity, it will be remembered as the time when some American performers shone at their brightest. (viz. Louise Lasser; the Starland Vocal Band; Bruce Jenner; Gabe Kaplan; and Aerosmith.)
  • Baseball’s amateur free-agent draft takes place. Among those selected are future no-hit pitcher Dave Righetti (by Texas); Jesse Orosco, future holder of the MLB record for most games pitched (by St. Louis); and future Rochester Red Wings fan favorite John “T-Bone” Shelby (by Baltimore.)
  • Actor Peter Finch, best known as the crazed TV anchor Howard Beale in “Network,” dies. Two months later, Finch becomes the first actor to posthumously win an Oscar.
  • It’s a big week for football. The University of Pittsburgh team, featuring Tony Dorsett, claims the cover of Sports Illustrated, while the upcoming Super Bowl claims the cover of Time.
  • Rolling Stone, meanwhile, puts a tarted-up Rod Stewart on its cover, while also prominently featuring an article called “New South Burn” credited to John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. I’ve not heard of the article before, so I’m going to assume it was not a high point of their creative partnership.

And here’s what was on the charts already, with favourites in bold so you can see ’em across a crowded room:

No. 40: A former Top 10 hit for the Bee Gees, “Love So Right” (and yes, the inevitable question about how it could go so wrong follows.)
This one just doesn’t have the spark to me … maybe it’s too slow.

No. 39, also a former Top 10 hit: England Dan and John Ford Coley, continuing the theme of heartbroken longing with “Nights Are Forever Without You.”
Down five.

No. 38: Casey notes “an interesting chart occurrence” — only the third time an artist has hit the Forty with both studio and live versions of the same song. (Sorry, didn’t write down the first two, though I think one of ’em was Barbra Streisand.)
Anywah, it’s Skynyrd with the live version of “Free Bird.”
The song kinda loses something in its single edit — it jumps straight from the slow verses into the three-guitar jam, which sounds even more like a hot mess as a result.
(What did Ronnie Van Zant do during the long instrumental jam section? Play tambourine? Go get some Gatorade? Fan Gary Rossington with his hat? Presumably there is footage somewhere that will tell me.)

No. 37: Barry Dvorzon and Perry Botkin Jr. with “Nadia’s Theme.” Did anyone besides Casey play this back-to-back with “Free Bird”?
And I wonder what Nadia Comaneci, heroine of the ’76 Montreal Summer Games, was doing in January 1977. Perhaps she was back in Romania, listening to a party official explain that surely she hadn’t expected to keep her preferential parking space forever.

No. 36: A debut appearance by a record whose creator hadn’t been on the Forty since 1969: Bob Seger, “Night Moves.”
The Carter administration would be significantly kinder to Detroit Bob than any previous time period.
For those keeping track, this marks three blasts of nostalgic romantic longing in the first five tunes. This is the best and most affecting of the three, even in its single edit.

No. 35: Casey lists all the awards Barbra Streisand has received — four Grammys, a Tony, an Oscar, a Georgie and an Emmy — and then plays her current hit, “Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born.’)”
I might have that title backward but I don’t really give a damn.

No. 34: “Originally from England, now making their home in upstate New York,” Casey says, it’s Foghat with the incessant boogie of “Driving Wheel.”
Hey, Case: D’you mean upstate like Mount Kisco, or upstate like Tonawanda?
I had no idea Foghat had any connection to New York state, but maybe that explains why they seemed to play clubs in Rochester every time the seasons changed back in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
As for the song, I haven’t the first idea how it gathered enough commercial momentum to trouble Casey.

No. 33, debut: KISS with “Hard Luck Woman,” featuring the rheumy vox of George P.J. Criscuola of Canarsie, N.Y., which qualifies as upstate New York if you live in Rockaway Beach.
(“Sounds like Chris Norman,” my wife says of the song. “He’s stumblin’ in, you know.” She’s heard her fair share of these countdowns by now.)

No. 32, down 11: Another former Top 10 hit, “Muskrat Love” by Captain and Tennille.
I made it to the first chorus before skipping ahead to …

… No. 31: “19-year-old Donny and 17-year-old Marie,” Casey says, duetting on “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” and actually maybe not doing it entirely horribly at that.
Andy Williams used to call the family “the one-take Osmonds” for their polish and professionalism … and as I listened, I imagined Donny and Marie rattling off a thousand other popular cover songs, all as reliable and professional and eager as a new McDonald’s franchisee building Big Macs.
(“I Second That Emotion”? I bet they coulda done that one pretty well.)

No. 30: For the folks listening to KJAS in Jackson, Missouri, it’s Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band with a tune Casey introduces as “Whispering,” but is better known as “Cherchez La Femme.”
Yeah, I went for the bold on this one; I’ll buy into the sassy, campy fun. I dunno how this song was received in Jackson, Missouri, but I imagine it went down a treat at New York City’s dance clubs.

No. 29: Another former Top 10 hit, Boston (go, Pats) with “More Than A Feeling.” What were we saying about nostalgic romantic longing a couple of records ago?
I still love the fact that most of the first Boston record was recorded in a basement in the Boston suburbs, and that this home-recording genius conjured up a sound that sounded like no one else.

No. 28, up seven in its second week on the chart: Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like An Eagle.” Icy cool, and by far the best of Miller’s big Seventies hits.
Though I wonder who else in 1977 was still going on about “the revolution” … ah, Steve, you lovable mush-head, you.

No. 27, down 15: Alice Cooper with “I Never Cry,” with its close-to-the-bone admission of alcoholism. (The Carter and Reagan administrations would not be kind to Alice on that account; within five years he would be recording albums he claims not to remember.)
For the record, this is a better ballad than “Love So Right.”

No. 26: Barry Manilow, “Weekend in New England” (go, Pats.) America’s top male singles artist of 1976, as per Casey, starts the new year on a high note.
Once again we do the nostalgic romantic longing thing, albeit reasonably successfully.
(“When will our eyes meet?” is a particularly great line … sometimes it’s the subtle moments that last forever.)

No. 25: “This Song,” George Harrison. Gotta love how Harrison could toss off a song about his plagiarism court case and still hit the Forty. Musta been nice to be ex-lead guitarist for the Beatles.
Is Eric Idle the only member of Monty Python to appear on a U.S. Top Forty record?

No. 24: For the cats and kitties digging WATT in Cadillac, Michigan, it’s Earth, Wind & Fire with “Saturday Night.”
Finally, some funk!
There’s something joyful about EWF’s best — maybe it’s the vocals — and while this isn’t their best tune, I still thought about bolding it for a good few minutes.

No. 23: The Bar-Kays, “Shake Your Rump To The Funk.” We went 25 songs without really grooving, and all of a sudden, our cup runneth over.
I found this kinda paint-by-numbers, for reasons I cannot explain … it is an exceedingly thin line between great Seventies funk and mass-produced, average, uninteresting Seventies funk.

No. 22: A song that originated in a U.K. advertising campaign, “Jeans On” by David Dundas.
Fey.
Remarkably, in the promo video for this song, it is impossible to tell whether Mr. Dundas is wearing jeans … or any pants at all, for that matter.

No. 21, up five: Kenny Nolan, “I Like Dreamin’.” Gee, I wish I had that funk back, even the paint-by-numbers stuff.

No. 20: Mary McGregor, “Torn Between Two Lovers.” I could not help but imagine KISS performing this, with Mr. Criscuola keeping the four-to-the-bar beat on his bass drum.
I also could not help but imagine America’s less trustworthy young women using this song in 1977 to justify their slutty behavior.
(“Uh, yeah … just ’cause I slept with him doesn’t mean I don’t care about you … it’s just like in that song, and if it’s on the radio, it must be real.”)

No. 19, up nine: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Blinded By The Light.” It’s OK; you know how it goes.
I think its author was still in court in January 1977, trying to break loose from his manager.

No. 18, down four: Yvonne Elliman, in the 40 for the first time since 1971, with “Love Me.”
OK, kinda watery. And apparently I’ve become a student of song construction, because when a bridge just sort of appears — as this one does, at about 1:45 — it always hits my ear funny.

No. 17, up two: The Jacksons with “Enjoy Yourself.” Nice buoyant swinging groove.

No. 16: Bread, “Lost Without Your Love.” As bland as, well, bread, and not their best.

No. 15: Casey tells the story of Queen’s Brian May building his guitar out of salvaged trash bits, then plays “Somebody To Love.” It’s OK but not my favorite of theirs.
(Casey also mentions that “a high-quality electric guitar runs about $500” — that’s almost $1,900 today. I should like to think a decent axe could be had for less than that in 1977.)

No. 14, up six: The bad boys from Boston (go, Pats), Aerosmith with “Walk This Way.”
Wonder if Casey ever understood the reference to “you ain’t seen nothin’ ’til you’re down on the muffin” or whether it slipped past him.
This is the first thing resembling hard rock in a good 20 spots.

No. 13: One of 11 British acts on the countdown, ELO with “Livin’ Thing.”
Effortless, unforced verses and a big catchy chorus make a pop pleasure, even if the gypsy violin is a little goofy.

No. 12: Eagles, “New Kid In Town,” a shrink-wrapped slice of processed “country” from the nation’s new Number One album, Hotel California. You might have heard of it.

No. 11: Spinners with “Rubberband Man.” Absurd, funky and wonderful.
(I wonder what Bootsy Collins, then fronting the Rubber Band, thought of this song. Did he think they were biting on his style?)

No. 10: Burton Cummings, “Stand Tall.” Muy blando.

No. 9: Casey tells a story about how Engelbert Humperdinck’s management commissioned the breeding of a special Engelbert Humperdinck red rose, which cost $200,000 ($757,700 in today’s money.)
Then he plays Humperdinck’s big hit “After The Lovin’,” in which the Hump details what happens after he’s down on the muffin.
(Go, Pats.)

No. 8: Sylvers, “Hot Line.” One of those songs that exists solely for its chorus, and that does quite well based on that.
Casey says this is one of 10 disco records on the countdown, which surprises me … maybe we haven’t heard some of them yet.

No. 7: The last blast of Elton John’s great period, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word,” blue-moving down from No. 6.
It might be maudlin but I find it convincing.

No. 6: A former Number One hit, Rod Stewart with “Tonight’s The Night.”
How did Rod — formerly an amiable, ambling drunk — succeed in making himself over as a disco-era loverboy?

No. 5, up two: Brick, “Dazz.” It’s no “Dusic.”

No. 4: Last week’s Number One, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. with “You Don’t Have To Be a Star To Be In My Show.”
I didn’t like it a lot but I liked it enough, I guess.Is that noncommittal enough?

(Which reminds me: There hasn’t been any Gladys Knight in this countdown; and with three records left, there probably won’t be. Shame, that.)

No. 3: For the folks digging KTOE in Mankato, Minnesota, it’s Rose Royce up two with “Car Wash.”
We’ve now had songs about muskrats, blue jeans and car washes on this countdown — Top 40 makes strange bedfellows.
Dumb funky fun with stupid lyrics.

No. 2, up two: Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish,” blowing everything else on the Top 10 (and, for that matter, the Top 40) out of the water.
You grow up and learn that kinda thing ain’t right / But when you were doing it, it sure felt outta sight” pretty much sums it up in two lines.
(Did Casey count this as one of his 10 disco records? I sure hope not.)

And now, the nation’s new Number One single: Leo Sayer, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”No, that’s not a typo; I like this song juuuuuuuuuust enough to bold it, even if it has no business being ahead of “I Wish.”
(“I Wish” would ascend to Number One the following week, so Leo didn’t take anything away from it.)
Men who shamelessly sing in falsetto own (viz. Brian and Carl Wilson) … and there’s a certain snap to the beat that makes it hard to forget.

I’m gonna hit Publish before I take back that last bold.

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

From the old blog, January 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on

From the old blog, January 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 3: Linda Ronstadt, “Blue Bayou.”

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

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

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