A Special Part

When American Top 40 first went on the air in 1970, it was recorded more-or-less in real time. If Casey fluffed a line or there was some technical problem, he and his production staff went back and re-recorded the segment. After Dick Clark guest-hosted the show in 1972, he suggested that it would save time if Casey cut his voice tracks all at once and had his production staff assemble the show. Eventually, that was how it was done.

But that method opened the door for especially fascinating errors, like the one in the show dated October 13, 1973, which was repeated across the country this past weekend. One of the debut records was a pretty big deal, the first duet by Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, “You’re a Special Part of Me.” Casey introduced it, but that’s not the song we heard. When the production staff spliced in the record, they played the B-side, a song called “I’m Falling in Love With You.” And when Casey back-announced it—because he’d cut his line hours or days earlier—he called it “You’re a Special Part of Me” again.

Turns out that was neither the first time such an error happened, nor the last. There were so many of them that Rob Durkee’s book on the show has a section devoted entirely to such errors—several of which happened in the pre-voicetracking era. In late 1970, AT40 played “So Close” by Jake Holmes as the week’s #39 song instead the correct one, “Love the One You’re With” by Stephen Stills. Amazingly, Billboard used to phone the new chart over to the AT40 office, where a staffer would jot the new numbers for the week on a copy of the previous week’s chart, and on that particular week, the notation was made incorrectly. In the fall of 1971, when the Glass Bottle’s “I Ain’t Got Time Anymore” was on the chart, Casey played the B-side, “The First Time,” for two of the record’s three weeks in the 40. In December 1972, when Rod Stewart’s “Angel” took a one-week foothold at #40, Casey accidentally played the flip side, “Lost Paraguayos” (which instantly became the coolest thing heard on AT40 up to that time). On a January week in 1979, Andy Gibb’s “An Everlasting Love” was played when “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away)” should have been. And there were other errors in the 70s involving the Osmonds, Bad Company, and Marvin Gaye.

We have often speculated about the amount of modern post-production that’s done on these shows. It certainly would have been possible for the syndicator to fix the Marvin Gaye/Diana Ross error before sending the show to affiliates for last weekend’s broadcast. But I love the fact that it went out wrong in 2012 just as it did 39 years ago.

I confess to a little curiosity regarding whether the denizens of the AT40: the 70s Facebook group noticed this anomaly when they listened to the show this past weekend, but I may never know. I dropped out of the group last week, finally reaching a point of toxic exasperation with people who think of Casey Kasem the way some people think of the pope, or Jesus, or Ronald Reagan. They believe what they want to believe about Casey and AT40, and when challenged, they cling even tighter to what they are sure is true. As a result, I expect some of them to argue that what I heard as a mistake couldn’t possibly have been one. Casey must have known exactly what he was doing when playing “I’m Falling in Love With You” and calling it “A Special Part of Me.”

4 thoughts on “A Special Part

  1. Yah Shure

    It’s hard to believe that AT40 wouldn’t have been serviced with double A-side promo 45s by the labels after a few such mix-ups, especially if said mix-ups were due to the stock 45s having the labels reversed. That might explain the wrong Glass Bottle side having been played for two consecutive weeks. The mono/mono double-A “I Ain’t Got Time Anymore” promo 45 would’ve saved face for both AT40 and Avco-Embassy. You have to wonder whether the mix-up might’ve ultimately cost the record a few rungs on the Hot 100 ladder.

  2. Gary

    Always fascinated with the history of AT40, Jim. These glitches are the stuff of legend. I remember one I committed in my radio days. Thinking the LP cut of “Who Are You” by The Who was the same as the special promo 45 with the long version edit, I cued it and let it fly. Oh boy! Need I say more. Once I heard the first Fbomb, the hotline lit! OOPS. I did get reamed but kept working. Oh man the days!

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