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Encore Performances: Holiday stoner fudge-spheres.

From the old blog, November 2007. Apparently I was thinking about trying to make a fruitcake. Still haven’t.

Y’know, I never did make that brandy-drenched fruitcake I blogged about a week or two ago.
But I am already indulging in another established holiday favourite:
The bourbon ball.

Way back when, during my days in Massachusetts, I worked with an older lady we’ll call Agnes — not her real name, but an acceptable enough simulation for this purpose.
Agnes was sixtyish, perfectly amiable, rather dotty, somewhat professionally past her prime.
And every holiday she brought in batches of homemade bourbon balls that would stun an ox.
Seriously.

I am a robustly built adult male who is no stranger to bourbon … and I could only eat one of her holiday pastries at work, or else my head would start spinning gently and my work would begin to seem incidental and unimportant.
This is still a running joke between my wife and I, years later.
(She made sure to skip Agnes’s bourbon balls the Christmas she was pregnant. We conservatively estimated each ball contained the equivalent of 4.1 shots of the hard stuff.)

I make my own bourbon balls now.
They’re not as strong as Agnes’s, but they sure are forthright … because once you get used to that, it’s hard to go back.

I made my first batch of the year the other night.
They were supposed to “age,” but I’ve already got my fingers into them, and I just know I’m gonna have to make more if I expect to have any for Xmas.
The way I make them, they come out like bourbon fudge, with crispy little bits of nutmeat to break up the smoothness.
Aw, man; I just know I’m gonna have another once the kids go to sleep.

Here’s the recipe, in case anyone else wants to ride the love train:

1 cup crushed vanilla wafers (you want powder)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (again, I like ’em as small as I can possibly get ’em — not big chunks of nut)
2 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup (you could use honey)
1/4 cup bourbon

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Combine corn syrup and bourbon separately. Then mix it into the dry ingredients.
Form into balls. Roll in more powdered sugar (I don’t always do that) and chill.

They will seem sticky when you make ’em, and maybe a little less firmly coherent than you want, but if you let them chill a while they hold together nicely enough.
Have five or six and then you’ll seem sticky and incoherent.

Encore Performances: New Orleans Nights, the morning after.

RIP, Allen Toussaint. From the old blog, November 2010.

I see live music so infrequently that I feel compelled, when I do, to review it.
Plus, it appears that the local paper’s music critic was busy reviewing the Never Shot Never and The Maine show at Crocodile Rock.
So, in case anyone on the interwebs wants an opinion of the show I attended, here’s mine:

Last night I went to Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center for “New Orleans Nights,” a multi-performer concert headlined by the legendary songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint.
Most of the 900 people there were sixty-somethings who seemed to be attending because they had season tickets at Zoellner, not because they particularly longed to see the man who produced the original “Lady Marmalade.”
(Toussaint never got around to “Marmalade,” alas; that might have been entertaining. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

The Joe Krown Trio (Krown on Hammond organ, Walter “Wolfman” Washington on guitar and Russell Batiste Jr. on drums) kicked things off with four songs — two fine, Meters-y funk instrumentals, and two blues tunes with Washington on vocals.
Washington, to me, was a discovery; he maintains his own solo career as a blues performer, and I made myself a mental note to go see him if he ever blows through here on his own.
Krown plays a solid, soulful B3, while Batiste is a swinging (and entertaining) drummer — more of an ass-kicker, not one of those laid-back, minimalist Zig Modeliste kind of guys.

They were joined by trumpeter/singer Nicholas Payton, as well as a bassist and percussionist, for six more songs.
Payton is one of those young-turk jazzmen who is not content to express himself merely by rattling off chorus after chorus of bebop.
This is all well and good … but his horn playing is better than his singing or his songwriting.
Most of his vocal tunes were kinda Quiet Storm-y, and (except for one that was specifically about New Orleans) seemed to lack any specific musical or lyrical connection to the Crescent City.
Guy has both chops and ideas on the horn, though.

Break time with the grandees.
And then, Allen Toussaint took the stage for a 45-minute set that included a little of everything — some old Toussaint originals with full band accompaniment; a song or two from Toussaint’s Elvis Costello collaboration; a duet with Payton; a solo cover of “City of New Orleans;” and one of those flaky New Orleans piano solos.

New Orleans piano men have it easy in some ways.
Their style was in large part codified by the screwloose Professor Longhair, whose solos might include anything from “Danny Boy” to mutant Ninth Ward rhumbas.
So a N’awlins piano player has free rein to indulge in just about any melodic segue or tempo change he can conjure up.
Toussaint, who is a capable if not revelatory player, engaged the crowd with a lengthy musical game of three-card monte that folded in scraps of classical, boogie-woogie and no fewer than six Christmas carols — finishing, natch, with “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Toussaint’s instrumental duet with Payton followed the same deconstructive vein, taking “Summertime” down any number of avenues. At worst it was simply curious; at best it was near-mesmerizing.
I’d love to hear a tape of that someday.
(By contrast, his solo piano-and-vocal version of “City of New Orleans” was played straight. It was affecting enough, though y’know, I’ve yet to hear a version of that song with any of New Orleans’ wacky funk. I guess that would be contrary to the lyrical tone of the song, but it would be fun to hear someone try.)

At 72, Toussaint remains a more-than-serviceable singer; it surprised me that he didn’t make more of a splash as a solo performer back in the day.
The old tunes (including “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further?” and “Get Out Of My Life, Woman”) had plenty of life.
He closed with a punchy version of “Southern Nights” good enough to erase anybody’s associated memories of bell-bottoms and 8-tracks, followed by a slow blues that highlighted some tasty solos from Washington.

There are, alas, only two shows left on the “New Orleans Nights” tour — one outside Washington, D.C., and one in Toronto.
I would still recommend seeing Toussaint on his own; or the Joe Krown Trio for jazzy B3 funk; or Washington playing blues; or Payton in a setting where he just plays jazz (if he does that sort of thing.)
For $25 it was a more-than-worthwhile evening of music … not the swingingest of crowds or settings, I suppose, but so be it.

Encore performances: Hey rock n’ roll.

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Four years ago this week, I folded my first blog, for a variety of reasons. Here’s the last thing I posted there. It doesn’t say much, but I still find the song in question kinda catchy, due to my eternal fondness for Seventies British glam.

William “Buddy” Gask, one of two lead singers of the ’70s British band Showaddywaddy, died a few days ago following a lengthy illness.

Gask sang lead on the band’s first hit, 1974’s “Hey Rock and Roll,” a thumping, fist-pumping anthem that promised glammy good times ahead.

Unfortunately, the band shifted after that into a comfy Fifties revivalism that, while tremendously successful in the U.K., doesn’t quite stir the pulse like “Hey Rock and Roll.”

Apparently, a version of Showaddywaddy with three of the original eight members is still on the road in the U.K.
I guess that means they are now reviving a revival movement. (That is, they’re trying to revive the Seventies, when they were reviving the Fifties.)

If I formed a tribute band to today’s Showaddywaddy, I would be reviving a revival movement of a revival movement.
Do you think the earth would blow up?

Also, how many pots of stew can you make with a hambone before you run out of meat?

Anyway, here’s Buddy Gask and the band in action.

Encore Performances: Virginia death trip.

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During my recent trip to Virginia I procured my second-ever bottle of moonshine. This post from February 2011 on the old blog tells what happened when I bought my first.

Just back from a few days at the in-laws’ in Virginia, a trip chiefly memorable for producing two reminders of how short, nasty and brutish life used to be.

Took the family to Mount Vernon on Washington’s birthday.
We saw the General and Martha their ownselves, and toured the buildings and grounds.
I was vaguely aware that Washington died of quinsy, but I’d never realized what that was until I heard a tour guide explain it.
(Several times, in fact. The line wasn’t moving very quickly.)

Turns out what killed Washington was an infection that swelled his throat shut, closed off his windpipe and suffocated him.

That’s a pretty goddamn horrible way to die, in my humble opinion.

I was not able to visit George Washington’s restored whiskey distillery, which was closed for the day.
But I did check out one of Virginia’s state-run liquor stores, which, not surprisingly, offer about four times as much of everything as your average Pennsylvania state store.

I couldn’t resist bringing a couple bottles of bourbon back with me — as well as a bottle of Virginia Lightning brand 100-proof corn whiskey, a.k.a. moonshine.
I’d been intrigued by descriptions of corn whiskey, and had toyed for a while with the idea of trying it.
So — with visions of frontier corn-drinkers in my head — I invested in a bottle of the clear stuff; ran it past the hapless gendarmerie of two states; opened it up and tried some.

Holy crap, is that stuff toxic.
It tastes a tiny bit like corn if you use your imagination … but mostly it tastes like Prestone.

As a spoiled modern drinker, I am used to beverages that bring joy to an occasion; that spur conversation, and sparkle and dance in the mouth.
Stuff that tastes good, in other words.

There is no joy or pleasure in corn whiskey.
This is stuff you drink to escape.
Stuff to help you stop thinking about your wife who died in childbirth, or to temporarily forget that you’re expected to work 12 hours at the mill tomorrow even though you are physically unable to straighten your back.
Stuff you drink when the average lifespan in your county is 40 years, and you’re 37, and you’re feeling like those extra three years ain’t gonna bring you much besides pain anyhow.

It smacks you in the face with every sip — and I can only imagine the brainhammer hangovers this stuff produces.
(I hope only to imagine them, anyway.)
Even pleasure came hard in the old days, it seems.

The 20th-century equivalent of a corn-whiskey bender would have been to take a fistful of pills at a Black Oak Arkansas concert, wash ’em down with some Mad Dog 20/20 and fall asleep directly in front of a tweeter.

It might have been corn whiskey that fired the “old, weird America” that Dylan summoned so well.
But I prefer to think all those 19th-century Mrs. Henrys and Ruben Remuses were drinking rye.
So much more convivial.

Having vomited all that vitriol out of my system, it is worth noting that I fully expect to finish the remainder of the bottle.
Maybe before I get to the much friendlier bottles of bourbon in my haul.
And almost certainly at a pace that will surprise me with its quickness.
(April 2015 editor’s note: I did indeed finish my first bottle. The stuff goes very nicely in stone fences. Shame I bought this second bottle outside of peak cider season.)

Maybe someday I will explore what drives me to drink.
But right now I gotta go to bed and get my head into the gray race again.
It’s possible that a week in the corporate world will make a shot of corn whiskey seem as comforting as a featherbed.

Encore Performances: OMG!!!!!!!!!1 jonas brothers!!

I went for my first run in almost a week tonight after my ice-skating injury. It was a short run but it went well. Also, I’m re-reading posts from my old blog and wishing I still wrote as well as I used to. So, to combine the threads, here’s a running-themed post from April 2008.

It was so insanely warm today that I went for my run at 9:30 wearing a long-sleeve shirt and a windbreaker and was still overdressed.
I wore shorts for the first time in months. It felt so unnatural that I had to look down at my legs to make sure I wasn’t just wearing my underwear.

My house, and many of my running routes, are under various flight paths to here.
It’s not close enough to be bothersome, but it is close enough that I notice maybe a half-dozen planes a day, and probably don’t notice two dozen more.
Practically every time I go out for a run at night, I see at least one shining blob suspended seemingly motionless over the horizon.
I hold my breath for a second … but then they always turn out to be either landing or taking off from LVIA.

I’ve often thought that running alone at night — especially on still nights like this one — would be the perfect time to see a UFO.
Never have, though.

I guess the previous statement presupposes that I believe in UFOs.
I don’t stare at the skies for them … one could be outside the window as we speak and I wouldn’t have any idea.
But, given the size of the universe, I have no trouble believing that other civilizations exist, and that some of them could be far enough ahead of us to galaxy-hop at will.
(“Then why do they let themselves be seen?” you ask. Well, maybe they don’t give a damn. And besides, if they’re that far ahead of us in development, they probably don’t stop by Earth very often anyway, since we would have little to offer them.)

The girls who live next door have Jonas Brothers slogans chalked all over their driveway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what else was scoring that week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore Performances: Singular sensation.

This ran on the old blog in July 2009. It is being reprinted in honor of the 44th anniversary of Roe Skidmore’s moment in the sun.

Back around 1984, when computing was all about fun, I received a baseball game for the family Apple II+.

The game was text-based, except for a window shaped like a baseball field where a small dot representing a baseball would amble into play.
You could always tell when it was headed out of play — i.e., over the fence — because home runs traveled faster than any other kind of batted ball.

(Upon further review, I think the game was Macro League Baseball, which looks familiar, though not 100 percent like what I have in mind. Maybe what I had was an earlier, simpler generation of Macro League Baseball.)

Screenshot reproduced from stadium64.com.

Screenshot reproduced from stadium64.com.

Graphics-based games weren’t much back then. You could move a blocky “player” back and forth across the screen, clicking the button on your joystick or paddle at the appropriate time.
So I preferred my largely text-based game. It came with 20 real-life teams programmed in, with actual players and everything, and you could program in as many additional teams as your geeky pre-teen heart desired.

One of the teams I programmed in was the 1970 Cubs, based pretty much entirely on the legend of Roe Skidmore.

I’d learned about him in Baseball Digest magazine, which interviewed a retired big-leaguer every month for a column called “The Game I’ll Never Forget.”

In a creative masterstroke, they chose one month to interview Skidmore — a career minor-leaguer who only played one game in the big leagues, making a solitary successful pinch-hit appearance in September 1970.

After entering his team into the game — and giving him a roster spot over any number of better-qualified teammates — I discovered how brilliantly Skidmore’s brief career translated to the computer world.

Y’see, the game was pretty firmly based on statistical performance.
If you had a player who hit .250, and he came up four times in a game, he would almost inevitably go 1-for-4 (unless he managed to work a tired pitcher for a walk and went 1-for-3.)
If you started a pitcher who averaged six innings per start in the real world, he would almost always lose his mojo in the seventh inning.

In that world, Roe Skidmore was pure dynamite, because a 1.000 real-world batting average translated into a 1.000 computer-world batting average.
You name it — Walter Johnson with a fastball, Sandy Koufax with a curve — nobody could get Roe Skidmore out.

All he ever hit were singles, since that’s all he ever hit in the real world. I think I got a double out of him once and felt as if I’d received a birthday present.
Still, a guaranteed hit is a guaranteed hit, even if it’s only a single, and it was a nice thing to have at one’s disposal.

There were a few early games when I started him in the field, choking the golden goose for four singles a game.
In a totally uninformed but correct guess, I had entered his data into the game as a first baseman. He never played the field in his only big-league game, and I had no Internet to look him up with in 1984, so I had no idea what he actually did with a glove on his hand.

But by and large, I thought it coolest to keep him in my back pocket until the late innings, sending him up to pinch-hit when I absolutely needed a hit and/or a run.
(Occasionally I’d do something goofy like send him in to pinch-run if I was ahead or behind by a large margin. I wish I could see a statistical roundup of his career under my management. That would be one of the weirder lines anybody’s ever posted.)

I can still remember a couple of games where I called his number in the bottom of the ninth, with a runner in scoring position … and did he come through?
Damn right, he did.

I guess it’s good for a boy to have things he can count on; and in the weird green-tinted cyber-ballparks of 1984, Roe Skidmore was one of baseball’s few truly sure things.

In my own personal Cooperstown, his plaque remains bronzed and resplendent.

And in the world of Macro League Baseball, Ted Williams still watches Roe Skidmore walk down the street and says, “There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.”

Encore Performances: Between the ears.

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I went for a good long walk tonight. The crisp air and the long late light made it feel like October.

I missed having a working iPod along. I don’t listen to anything when I run, but I do enjoy it when I walk.

The best thing I ever had on my old white iPod (remember those? they’re already starting to seem antiquated) was a 10-minute clip of Alan Freed. With a few pushes of the dial, I could force my magic 21st-century sound machine back into 1956.

Some songs I associate with specific places. But that soundcheck I associate with a general away-from-homeness. I remember listening to it as I waited to board a plane in southern California, and as I walked through neighborhoods five minutes from my house.

Anyway, here’s a piece about night-walking that ran on my old blog in May 2010. Alan Freed’s not in it, but some other stuff is.

This might have been one of the last walks I took with my old companion. It sits mute on my basement desk now; someday I’ll find an electronics recycling day and retire it for good.

So …

# # #

Out for a walk tonight with my balky old friend providing a soundtrack of old radio airchecks again.

Walking down one of the main drags and I hear a rattle and bark from the other side.
“I am the Unafraid, the one who walks alone at night,” I tell myself.
“I am the Unafraid, the one who walks alone at night, and that dog is about to hurdle his hedgerow and come rip my fucking tendons out.”

He doesn’t.

The DJ my iPod deigns to play is working the overnight shift on an oldies station in New York City, July 1972.
He is just this side of comatose; apparently this was during the Great Words Shortage of ’72 and he’s using as few as possible.

“1957,” he intones reverently. “The Charts.”

As I hear the first few notes of a classic ’50s-style greasy kids’ stuff musical intro, I walk past the laundromat and get assaulted — thwack. — by an olfactory wave of sweet, sweet fabric softener.
It makes me think of the mustiest walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, and of the scent the old lady inside sprays a few times each year to make the place more habitable when the priest comes to visit.

Mr. Mellow gives way to a news broadcast. The lead story is a solar eclipse that will be visible to New Yorkers later that day.
The newsman helpfully notes that two people were permanently blinded by looking directly at the previous solar eclipse, in 1970.
I wonder for a moment where those people are now, and how many years they had to regret their one really stupid decision.

The newsman cuts to an expert who is about to explain the correct way to observe an eclipse.
The recording ends.
Righty-ho, then.

Then we’re into the dimly lit backstreets, in time for a melange (medley?) of various New York stations from 1974.
Barely time to think coherently as the aircheck jumps from DJ to DJ, contest to contest, local-town namedrop to local-town namedrop, promotion to promotion.
It’s Labor Day and one channel is running six hours of previously unheard Beatles interviews.
“I always liked singles,” John Lennon says in his owlish Scouse. “I never collected albums. I collected singles.”
Fair enough.

Barking dog somewhere to my right; climbing rosebush on the fence to my left.
In defiance I stop and smell the roses, confident that the dog, wherever he is, is constrained.
Yup.

Walking back toward the main street to the smell of woodsmoke.
Who on this godblessed evening could possibly be having a fire?
Last time I walked down this road it was a Saturday night, and someone was burning leaves and stems, not logs and branches.
I don’t smell that smell very often any more.
Last time it was like smelling beer-soaked carpet.

Back on the main street. My playlist of airchecks is done.
Let’s see. Will it play some selections from Nuggets for me?
No, it won’t.
Crickets.

I am desperate, heading up the hill, so I abandon pop entirely and try Selling England By The Pound instead.
I try to rustle up “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” but the unifaun and his true love have decamped elsewhere.
Oh, wait, there they are — Peter Gabriel’s voice arrives in my stilled eardrums so suddenly I almost trade in my prize.

You know what the word for these guys is? Stentorian.
I don’t think any other band was ever quite so stentorian.
Especially not when Tony Banks fires up the Hammond organ with one hand and the Mellotron choir sound with the other.

Top of the hill. Will the iPod let me hear “The Cinema Show”?
Nope.

Entrance to my development. Will the iPod let me hear “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”?
Nope … it is still shuffling around amidst the columnated ruins of Their Satanic Majesties Request when I get to my front door.

I think I need a new walking companion.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 22: Lynn Anderson, “Rose Garden.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to bed now.