(Pictured: James Garner and Joe Santos in The Rockford Files.)
In my hometown, school is starting before Labor Day this year. That used to be the norm, but not anymore; Wisconsin obliged the tourism industry’s workforce requirements a few years ago by passing an idiotic law forbidding school to start before September 1, apparently without realizing that it takes only a couple of snow days before schools are in session until Father’s Day. In most years, it’s September 4th or 5th before schools open. But Labor Day is as late as it can be this year, so kids go can go back next Tuesday.
I was always ready to go back in the fall. Before I had a driver’s license, I saw very little of my friends during the summer because I was out on the farm, and I missed them. The opening of school also got me out of having to do farm work, which I mostly hated.
So: 40 years ago this week, I was about to begin my sophomore year in high school. I was listening to the radio all the time during the last days of summer, but I don’t recall whether I listened to American Top 40 in that season. I don’t think so; it was never on one of my primary radio stations, so I had to go looking for it, and I don’t remember doing so. The odds are good that I was hearing the August 23, 1975, show for the first time when it was a recent rerun. Some notable tunes are on the flip.
40. “It Only Takes a Minute”/Tavares. This is one of the best examples of the way soul music could take on a disco beat without losing what makes it soulful.
37. “Run Joey Run”/David Geddes and 35. “Feelings”/Morris Albert. Two of the most widely reviled records of all time, both debuting in the Top 40 during the same week. I hate “Feelings” less than most people do, but “Run Joey Run” is fertilizer.
34. “The Proud One”/Osmonds. Casey front-and back-announces “The Proud One,” but his engineer mistakenly plays the B-side of the single, “The Last Day Is Coming.” (This is a phenomenon I have written about before.) I read recently that for a while, Premiere Radio Networks corrected such mistakes in the repeats, but they don’t do it anymore because fans prefer to hear the shows as originally broadcast.
32. “Til the World Ends”/Three Dog Night. Just as “The Proud One” was the Osmonds’ last Top 40 hit, the lovely “Til the World Ends” is Three Dog Night’s last Top 40 hit. Tastes in the second half of the 70s would be different from those in the first half.
30. “Solitaire”/Carpenters. Neil Sedaka wrote and recorded “Solitaire,” and it has the feel of a standard. Karen’s performance is astoundingly beautiful. It was the biggest mover on this week’s show, up 10 spots—but it would eventually stall out at #17. Maybe it was too perfect.
28. “Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)”/Johnny Wakelin and the Kinshasa Band. This record never fails to amuse me.
25. “Tush”/ZZ Top. Among the many things some Midwestern teenagers did not know in 1975 was precisely what tush means.
23. “Rockford Files”/Mike Post. The appearance of this song (which had peaked in the Top 10 the previous week) gives me an excuse to link to the complete collection of answering machine messages left on Jim Rockford’s answering machine during the run of the show.
22. “Help Me Rhonda”/Johnny Rivers. Although this was zooming up the Hot 100, #22 would be its chart peak, and I’m pretty sure I never heard it until just a few years ago. Casey notes in his introduction how many of Rivers’ hits were remakes, and “Help Me Rhonda” is one of the least inspired.
21. “Third Rate Romance”/Amazing Rhythm Aces. In which a Midwestern teenager is first introduced to the concept of adultery.
20. “Ballroom Blitz”/The Sweet. A short list of great opening seconds: “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Go All the Way,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and maybe “Ballroom Blitz” at #4. Which ones am I missing?
Second half of the countdown to come in the next installment.