(Pictured: Edgar Winter, performing on ABC’s late-night music show, In Concert.)
Over the years, I’ve frequently gotten two posts out of a single edition of American Top 40. So that makes this post a record-breaker of a sort: a third one from the show dated April 21, 1973. Having discussed the first hour as well as the song at #1, here are a few noteworthy bits from elsewhere.
When Dick Clark guest-hosted in March 1972, it was he who suggested that instead of recording the show live in real time, Casey’s bits could be scripted in advance and tracked all at once, with the engineers piecing the show together later. I suspect, however, that the 4/21/73 show was done in real time, and here’s why: over the introduction to “Hallelujah Day” by the Jackson Five (#31), Casey wanted to list the 4 #1 singles the Jackson Five had to date. He mentioned “ABC,” “I Want You Back,” and “I’ll Be There,” but in a peculiarly halting way not at all characteristic of his smooth style.
The reason was that he was trying to think of the fourth title, and he couldn’t remember it.
There is a particular feeling when you, the jock, get into a bit and it starts to go haywire. I’ve experienced it more times than I care to remember. With the song intro starting to run out, Casey was considering two questions at once: A) “what’s the goddamn fourth song?” and B) “how can I salvage this if I don’t think of it?” He eventually opted for B, saying “There’s a fourth song I can’t remember! Here’s ‘Hallelujah Day.'”
(Casey came out of “Hallelujah Day” by mentioning that the song he couldn’t remember was “The Love You Save.” In his defense, that’s the one everybody forgets.)
Back to back at #27 and #26 are two songs that couldn’t be more different, but which both suffer from the same thing: overzealous production. “Out of the Question” by Gilbert O’Sullivan is a little gimmicky simply as a song. Then producer Gordon Mills adds various musical accents and flourishes that sound OK for a minute-and-a-half, but by the end, the record is simply trying too hard. “Funky Worm,” the self-produced first hit by the Ohio Players, hits a pretty good groove, especially with what was then a groundbreaking ARP synthesizer line, but renders itself unlistenable with a speeded-up “worm” voice yammering all the way through it.
The highest-debuting song of the week is Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” at #25, coming in from #41 on the Hot 100 the week before. WLS had charted it for the first time in the same week, so it wouldn’t have been long before I went out and bought the 45. It had been a while since I’d heard the edit, which cuts the 4:44 album version to 3:28, and it improves quite a bit on the original.
The week’s #24 hit, “Daisy a Day” by Jud Strunk, created yet another train wreck on a show that’s full of them. Strunk’s gentle, sentimental tale about a couple’s love that survives the death of one of them made #14 on the Hot 100 in a 16-week run (although WLS only charted it for two weeks), and #4 on Easy Listening. Strunk was a multimedia star, having been a regular during the last season of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, which aired its last original episode in March. The wreck is redoubled with #23, “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Deodato. This is the third time I’ve heard it on old AT40s this year, and every time, it’s been shortened, either by the engineers in 1973 or today.
Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” checking in at #22, joins “Frankenstein” and “Hocus Pocus” (#39) as the hardest-rockin’ records on this chart. The #1 album in the nation during this week was rockin’ too: Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies, which makes quite a contrast with the Dawn/Vicki Lawrence/Carpenters threesome topping the singles chart.
Up at #20 is “Wildflower” by Skylark, which Casey introduces by name-checking its producer, Eirik the Norwegian. (Although Casey didn’t explain, that’s Eirik Wangberg, who got his nickname from Paul McCartney after doing some engineering on the album Ram.) I wrote earlier this year about my growing interest in girls during the spring I turned 13, and how I was less interested in physical action than in simply making some pretty girl happy. The girl in “Wildflower” clearly needed a man like me, because “she’s faced the hardest times you could imagine / And many times her eyes fought back the tears.” Thirteen-year-old me promised himself that he would never do anything to make her cry. But that free and gentle flower was not growing wild in any field I knew of.