This Song Is About You

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(Pictured: Carly Simon, 1972.)

We continue here with a rundown of the American Top 40 show from the week of January 20, 1973, at the beginning of an intermittent series about 1973.

26.  “Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend”/Lobo. All of the elementary schools in our town fed into a single junior high, so when I got to seventh grade, there were lots of new people to meet, and many of them were girls. I wrote about one of them in 2006.

She had all the necessary attributes—short brown hair framing a pretty round face, a body that curved in all the best places and a wardrobe that proved it. From the moment I saw her in math class, I was head-over-heels in like. However, if I had developed a crush on someone from another planet, I’d have had about the same chance I had with [her]. Never mind the gulf between us in terms of social class. . . . My immediate problem was that I knew that even if I lived to be 100, I was never going to work up the courage to talk to her. 

She eventually faded out of the picture, as crushes do. A friend who searches for former classmates on Facebook told me recently that he had found her. I am not sorry to say I went and stalked her profile. I don’t think I would have recognized her, but I can’t be sure. I am not tempted to friend her, though. Not even a little bit.

(I notice I haven’t said anything about “Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend.” Or have I?)

For a brief time in 1972 and 1973, when Casey name-checked affiliate radio stations, he gave their call letters as if they were words. Sometimes this worked fine, as with KERN in Bakersfield, California. On this show, Casey mentioned “wixy in Madison, Wisconsin,” and it took me a moment to remember he was referring to WYXE, which was actually licensed to suburban Sun Prairie. It put a Top 40 format on the air in 1972 and was an FM competitor for market leader WISM-AM. The station did indeed refer to itself as “wixy” occasionally, as on this aircheck of overnight guy Bob Billings from March 1973.

18.  “Do It Again”/Steely Dan
17.  “I Wanna Be With You”/Raspberries
16.  “Keeper of the Castle”/Four Tops
15.  “The World Is a Ghetto”/War
14.  “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”/James Taylor
13.  “Trouble Man”/Marvin Gaye
12.  “Hi Hi Hi”/Wings

Here’s another stretch of songs that bring home the remarkable variety of music on the radio in those days, and how much fun it was to listen. Depending on you feel about “Funny Face” by Donna Fargo at #11 (which I do not dislike, but it’s weird in this company), you could extend the streak even farther:

10.  “Oh Babe What Would You Say”/Hurricane Smith
9.  “Why Can’t We Live Together”/Timmy Thomas
8.  “Superfly”/Curtis Mayfield 

In the midst of all this, Casey answers a listener question about which day of the week is mentioned in the greatest number of song titles. This is something that would have taken a great deal of effort to find in the days before searchable electronic databases—and the AT40 staff apparently didn’t invest too much. Casey says that they don’t have exact figures, but that there are “about 12” songs mentioning Saturday and “about 20” mentioning Sunday. I would have bet on Monday, myself.

6.  “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”/Johnny Rivers. Casey flubs his introduction, saying the record is at #7 and then correcting himself to say #6. Several months after guest host Dick Clark proposed the idea of voice-tracking the show instead of doing it live on tape, the idea hadn’t taken hold yet.

4.  “Crocodile Rock”/Elton John. During this very week in 1973 (January 26th, to be exact), Elton released Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. It’s not as good as Honky Chateau or the four studio albums that would follow it, but it’s not bad, either. Today, nobody needs to hear “Crocodile Rock” again, but it sounded pretty good in the winter of ’73.

3.  “Me and Mrs. Jones”/Billy Paul
2.  “Superstition”/Stevie Wonder
1.  “You’re So Vain”/Carly Simon

The top three are unchanged from the previous week; Carly and former #1 Billy hold their positions for the third week in a row while Stevie holds at #2 for a second week. “Superstition” will go to #1 the next week. “You’re So Vain” will spend the next four weeks at #2.

I have said that 1973 is my least-favorite year for 70s music, but you couldn’t tell it by this list. There’s some serious AM radio pleasure here. Nearly all of it first charted in 1972, but still.

2 thoughts on “This Song Is About You

  1. A quick glance suggests the songs by black performers are bleaker in tone, commenting on either social strife or the challenges of interpersonal relationships, while the white stuff is … more trifling? Less significant? Less weighed down by the world? “Poppier”?
    (Steely Dan may be the exception to this.)

    Dunno if that’s any Great Observation but it jumped out at me from this selection of songs.

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