(Pictured: KC and the Sunshine Band.)
I wrote a few years back how Kurt Vonnegut was onto something with the concept of foma, or harmless untruths. What does it matter if your memory of some personal event is wrong, as long as the memory makes you happy and nobody gets hurt? Behold the soundtrack for one of my foma, the American Top 40 show from December 20, 1975. The family was happy, I was doing well in school, and I was secure in my friendships—because at this distance, why not?
39. “Fire on the Mountain”/Marshall Tucker Band. This song would become an album-rock radio staple, but this is its only week on AT40. It would peak at #38 the week of 12/27 and then fall out of the 40, but the 12/27 show was the first part of AT40‘s 1975 year-end countdown.
35. “Winners and Losers”/Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds. There is nothing about “Winners and Losers” that’s not awesome, and if you do not dig it, we shouldn’t see each other anymore. It’s a great big Hollywood production with the piano player getting his Liberace on amidst an oceanic orchestra arrangement. Also, the introduction dares a radio jock to be great.
33. “Volare”/Al Martino. In which one of the great Italian-American saloon singers hits a mid-70s pop chart with a famous Italian song. Might it be a disco version of said song? Hell and yes. (See also Frankie Valli’s disco version of “Our Day Will Come” at #11.)
The original 1975 broadcast of this show contained two Christmas warhorses: “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Feliz Navidad,” both of which were edited from the pre-Christmas repeat. Subject for further research: how AT40 programmed Christmas music during its heyday.
24. “You Sexy Thing”/Hot Chocolate. This is the good stuff right here.
19. “The Way I Want to Touch You”/Captain and Tennille. When I wrote about C&T last week, I mentioned that I didn’t like this song much in 1975. It liked me, however, and now it’s one of the songs that most strongly evokes my late-’75 foma.
18. “The Last Game of the Season”/David Geddes. The story of a scrub football player who performs heroically after his blind father dies during the game. Asked why he played so well he says, “It’s the first time my father’s seen me play.” Geddes, just off the craptastic “Run Joey Run,” sings “The Last Game of the Season” with the same melodramatic manliness, backed by the same angel chorus. In storytelling terms it makes “Run Joey Run” sound like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”—but schlock sells, and it always has.
14. “Convoy”/C. W. McCall. “Convoy” was, at Christmas of 1975, the one record nobody could get enough of, and I’ll have more to say about it on Monday.
10. “Nights on Broadway”/Bee Gees. What you want is the radio edit, without the verse in the middle (“I will wait / Even if it takes forever”), because that way, the Bee Gees’ hellaciously good band never has to let off the throttle.
4. “Saturday Night”/Bay City Rollers. Casey talks over the “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!” cold vocal opening here.
3. “Fly Robin Fly”/Silver Convention. On both the original shows and the repeats, songs are sometimes edited to save time. “Fly Robin Fly” is loaded with obvious edit points, so I have no idea why this show used a smash cut so abrupt it sounds like the record skipped.
1. “That’s the Way I Like It”/KC and the Sunshine Band. My memory is either full or failing, so I didn’t remember that this song made #1 for a week, spent three weeks out of the top spot (falling as far as #4), and then went back for a week. Casey calls it a “yo-yo” record. Second subject for further research: how many yo-yo records there were during the rock era, and how far they bounced.
The truth, as 1975 turned to 1976, school wasn’t so great. I had a chemistry course in which I was barely hanging on, a speech class I didn’t like, the tedious classroom part of driver education, and the routine horror of physical education. A couple of my friends were prone to turn on me when we were in a group. I could talk to girls, but couldn’t bring myself to ask one of them out. And our family, with two teenage boys whose desires were occasionally selfish, was every bit as fractious and no more harmonious than any other. But all of that is overshadowed now by the songs that were on the radio, because that’s the way I like to remember it.