I have been stuck at the end of the summer of 1970 recently, and now you’re stuck there too. Here are a few highlights from the American Top 40 show for the week of August 22, 1970.
40. “It’s a Shame”/Spinners. I have read that the show was produced in mono until sometime in 1972, but “It’s a Shame” breaks forth in glorious, widely separated—and clearly remastered—stereo.
38. “Snowbird”/Anne Murray, 28. “Solitary Man”/Neil Diamond, and 20. “Looking Out My Back Door”/CCR. Still capable of giving me a glimpse of the world as it looked to a 10-year-old boy out the school bus window.
37. “(I Know) I’m Losing You”/Rare Earth. That booming, echo-drenched cold intro was creepy in 1970, and it still creeps me out a little bit now.
36. “I’ve Lost You”/Elvis Presley. By this time, RCA must have figured they could just release any damn thing with the King’s name on it.
30. “The Sly, the Slick, and the Wicked”/Lost Generation. Casey introduces “The Sly, the Slick, and the Wicked” with a weird ad lib, something about how “it seems as though the engineer worked overtime on this one,” which is tossed off so fast I had to listen three times before I could understand it. And what he meant, I still haven’t figured out.
29. “Big Yellow Taxi”/The Neighborhood. A bigger hit than Joni’s original.
27. “Summertime Blues”/The Who. Three minutes and 22 seconds of pointless clattering and banging. Listening to the show the other day (and trying to experience it as a listener would have back then, so no fast-forwarding allowed), I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
24. “Ohio”/Crosby Stills Nash & Young and 3. “War”/Edwin Starr. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a draft-eligible kid or a college student in those days, hearing these songs on the radio every couple of hours all summer.
17. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”/Diana Ross. Introducing this song, Casey tells about Diana’s recent Los Angeles opening as a solo act, and says she referred to it from the stage as the “‘Let’s See If Diana Ross Can Do It by Herself’ Show.”
14. “Ball of Confusion”/Temptations. For those wondering “if Motown has cooled down,” Casey reports that this is the seventh of nine Motown singles on the chart this week. If you count the acts on subsidiary labels like V.I.P. (Spinners) and Rare Earth (ditto), yes. The cool-down is coming, but not quite yet.
11. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me”/Robin McNamara and 10. “Tighter, Tighter”/Alive & Kickin’. Pure Top 40 pleasure, with some fairly obvious edits in Casey’s bits, almost certainly made during the remastering process. I’d love to know what they took out.
7. “Patches”/Clarence Carter. Along with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” this is the biggest mover in the countdown, up nine spots, or “points,” as Casey awkwardly called them in the show’s earliest days. I am glad to have lived in a world where a Southern soul story song could be the hottest thing on the radio.
3. “Spill the Wine”/Eric Burdon and War. If I did karaoke, this is the song I would do. “She poured some of the wine from the bottle into the glass / And raised it to her lips / And just before she drank, she said . . .”
1. “Make it With You”/Bread. Casey informs us that “Make it With You” is not sung by the group’s regular lead singer, Jim Griffin, but by David Gates—not a particularly relevant factoid when it concerns a brand-new band and its first hit single.
More than most of the other songs in this countdown, “Make it With You” signals that the 1960s are over and a new musical decade is underway. American Top 40 was a harbinger of that decade, too. The August 22 show was the eighth in its history. The staff was still trying to figure out what AT40 was supposed to be—and Casey, despite having been a major-market air talent for a decade by 1970, was still trying to figure out how he should fit in. The charm of the 1970 shows isn’t the music as much as it’s the spectacle of an indispensable radio institution climbing out of the primordial ooze.