(Pictured: Al Green in 1975, with more soul in his little finger than all of us in our whole bodies, combined.)
I have written a great deal about the winter of 1975 at this blog recently, so I’m not going to make you sit through yet another live blog of yet another American Top 40 show from that season—just the first hour of one, specifically the show from March 22, 1975. This part is one that makes program directors cringe. The songs run the gamut as widely as anything can, and a few are pretty obscure now.
40. ‘Wolf Creek Pass”/C. W. McCall. Before “Convoy,” there was “Wolf Creek Pass,” the flat-out hilarious tale of two truckers and a runaway load of chickens. I hadn’t heard it in a while, and I found myself repeatedly laughing out loud as I listened. A longer post on the works of C. W. McCall would seem to be in order.
39. “Jackie Blue”/Ozark Mountain Daredevils. This is a deeply weird record, really—the effeminate vocal, the oddly sliding guitar solo, and the enigmatic Jackie herself.
38. “My Boy”/Elvis Presley. Casey says “My Boy” is one of his favorite Elvis songs. To me, it’s just another one of those windy but emotionally empty Elvis performances so common during the last couple years of his life.
37. “To the Door of the Sun (Alle Porte del Sol)”/Al Martino. This actually made it to #17 on the Hot 100 earlier in March. If your local station didn’t play “To the Door of the Sun,” I’m not surprised—although it’s actually pretty good.
36. “The Bertha Butt Boogie”/Jimmy Castor Bunch. To make sense of “The Bertha Butt Boogie,” it helps to know a little about the universe Jimmy Castor created on his earlier records, lest his references to the Butt Sisters, Leroy, and the Troglodyte leave you baffled. Or you can just surrender to the absolutely ferocious groove and not worry about it.
34. “L-O-V-E (Love)”/Al Green. Which Casey introduces as “Love, Love,” not spelling out the first one, as we’re intended to do. If you don’t dig “L-O-V-E,” we probably shouldn’t see each other anymore.
32. “Satin Soul”/Love Unlimited Orchestra. Writing about “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” earlier this winter, I referred to the Love Unlimited Orchestra as the sound of a finely tuned limo cruising on the Interstate. On “Satin Soul,” it comes on like a freight train, and you best scramble aboard or get run over.
30. “Butter Boy”/Fancy. If you remember Fanny’s bangin’-great “Charity Ball,” the best way to enjoy “Butter Boy” is to forget that. If if it’s the last thing you hear before you turn off the radio, it’ll keep playing in your head for a while afterward.
29. “The South’s Gonna Do It”/Charlie Daniels Band. In which Daniels name-checks a number of Southern rock acts, from Marshall Tucker to ZZ Top and even his own band. Includes a lengthy fiddle solo, which is both awesome and an indication of just how long ago 40 years is. Imagine such a thing now. Even in country music.
28. “Walkin’ in Rhythm”/Blackbyrds. See #34.
There’s one song in the second hour I want to mention.
23. “Emma”/Hot Chocolate. I was hooked on the sound of this from the moment I heard it—the ominous tempo, that low buzzing guitar, and lead singer Errol Wilson’s idiosyncratic voice as he narrates the story of Emmeline, the aspiring actress “searching for that play / That never ever came her way.” Even after 40 years of hearing it, the end of the story remains horrifying. Wilson comes home to “find her lying still and cold upon the bed / A love letter lying on the bedroom floor.” The suicide note tells him that “I just can’t keep on livin’ on dreams no more / Tried so very hard not to leave you alone / I just can’t keep on tryin’ no more.”
He gasps her name. Then he screams it. Over and over.
There’s a 1975-vintage video. Go watch it. And if you are unmoved, see #34.