Summer Madness

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(Pictured: I never need a reason to post a picture of Linda Ronstadt, but I am always glad to legitimately have one.)

The phrase “set and setting” first came into the language thanks to Timothy Leary, who talked about its importance to psychedelic experience. “Set” is the mental state one brings to the experience: mood, feelings, desires, etc. “Setting” is the physical environment where the experience takes place, including the room, the music, the lighting, and so on. (Setting can also involve the social environment—who else is present for one’s experience and how they interact with the person tripping.) Leary believed that the right set and setting could enhance a trip, and that a bad trip could result from the wrong one.

I thought about set and setting while I was listening to the American Top 40 show from June 28, 1975. I heard a large chunk of it in my car on a hot Saturday afternoon, flying down the highway on the way to something I was looking forward to doing. The set and setting definitely enhanced the trip.

38. “Spirit of the Boogie”-“Summer Madness”/Kool and the Gang. “Spirit of the Boogie,” which is what Casey played on the show, is basically another five mintues of “Jungle Boogie.” Simmering, sexy “Summer Madness” is way, way better.

37. “Black Friday”/Steely Dan
36. “Slippery When Wet”/Commodores
35. “The Last Farewell”/Roger Whittaker
34. “Bad Luck”/Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
33. “Jive Talkin'”/Bee Gees
32. “Rockford Files”/Mike Post
31. “Bad Time”/Grand Funk
Set and setting, people—this stretch was an absolute blast, even “The Last Farewell.”

30. “Rhinestone Cowboy”/Glen Campbell. Casey tells a story I can’t remember hearing before: in 1964, Campbell provided the voice for Steve McQueen’s character in Baby the Rain Must Fall, but instead of doing a lip-sync to a recording, McQueen mouthed along with Campbell as Glen sang live, just out of camera range.

29. “I’m on Fire”/Dwight Twilley Band. During which I may have violated the speed limit out on the interstate. If you do not dig “I’m on Fire,” we have to break up.

26. “Baby That’s Backatcha”/Smokey Robinson
25. “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”/John Denver
24. “Why Can’t We Be Friends”/War

23. “Dynomite”/Bazuka
22. “Hey You”/Bachman-Turner Overdrive
21. “Midnight Blue”/Melissa Manchester
20. “Misty”/Ray Stevens
Lots of radio stations promote themselves with some variation of the phrase “better variety.” But they’ve got nothing on your average Top 40 station in the middle of the 1970s. In order you’ve got a sinuous R&B love song, country twang and yee-haw, an R&B novelty, a Parliament-style funk number incorporating a TV catchphrase, sturdy heartland rock, a beautifully sung and produced love ballad, and a slick country cover of a pop classic. Beat that, if you can.

16. “One of These Nights”/Eagles
15. “Please Mr. Please”/Olivia Newton-John
14. “Swearin’ to God”/Frankie Valli
When Casey started the show he said, “There’s a lot of action,” and there is. The Eagles are up 15 spots this week, ONJ is up 19, and Frankie Valli is up 13. Back at #21, “Midnight Blue” was up 11 from the previous week. But just wait: nine of the week’s Top 12, including the top five, are in the same positions as last week.

13. “Sister Golden Hair”/America
12. “Only Women”/Alice Cooper
11. “Take Me in Your Arms”/Doobie Brothers
10. “Cut the Cake”/AWB

9. “Magic”/Pilot
8. “Get Down, Get Down”/Joe Simon
7. “Listen to What the Man Said”/Paul McCartney and Wings
6. “The Hustle”/Van McCoy
By the time I got to this part of the show, my set and setting had changed. I was on my way to work at 4:30 in the morning. Never mind, though. I got high on my own supply, because these songs come with some pleasant associations from the summer of ’75.

5. “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”/Major Harris. The soft female moans on “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” were hard for me to hear when I was 15. Today, the sexier thing is that luscious Philly-soul arrangement.

4. “I’m Not Lisa”/Jessi Colter
3. “Wildfire”/Michael Murphey
2. “When Will I Be Loved”/Linda Ronstadt
Jessi and Linda both made #1 country within the preceding month. So did “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” would get there in August. “Wildfire” didn’t make the country chart, but Murphey would start hitting there in 1976.

1. “Love Will Keep Us Together”/Captain and Tennille. I like this a lot better now than I did then. It’s in its second of what will be four weeks at #1, and four weeks will be the longest run at the top since “My Love” by Wings two years earlier.

I could go on for another 700 words about how the summer of 1975 looked out the windows of the house I grew up in, but I’ll spare you that, I think.

7 responses

  1. Someone else who feels the way I do about Dwight Twilley? Cool.

    And Ray Stevens—generally, I don’t like his records. Lame jokes at which he usually laughs himself and then adds a laugh track so we’re sure not to miss that it’s supposed to be funny.

    So here comes “Misty”, and I think he’s going to wreck it, and instead, his one joke…”a thousand violins begin to play” followed by country fiddles—is just f-ing transcendent.

    “Wildfire”, as long as it’s the long version with the piano front and back ripped off from Alexander Scriabin, is a great song.

    And Linda, well, hey. You could put Linda’s picture at the top of every post and never hear a complaint from me.

  2. There are a lot of the ingredients of “Mr. Jaws” here.

    1. Anybody who makes a Dickie Goodman reference gets a thumbs up from me.

      Good eye….if memory serves, nine of these songs did appear in “Mr. Jaws.”

  3. For what it’s worth – and I’m not exactly sure what it is – four of these records won Grammys. “Love Will Keep Us Together” was Record of the Year, “The Hustle” was Best Pop Instrumental Performance, “The Rockford Files” won Best Instrumental Arrangement, and “Misty” won Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).

  4. A lot of good records here but when Joe Simon starts singing “Get Down, Get Down”,
    you better clear the furniture!!!! The party starts now!

  5. John Gallagher | Reply

    Roger Whittaker was a big favorite in my grandparents house. I think they even had an album or his or two on 8-track.

    I heard this broadcast a few weeks ago and cringed when I heard Jessi Colter. That song bothered me immensely in 1975 and even more so now. Yet, Minnie Riperton doesn’t bug me as much as it does for others. Go figure.

  6. There’s almost nothing on this list I don’t love (though in some cases it may be mainly due to nostalgia).

    Probably my least favorite would be “Rockford Files”, although it’s the only one I actually bought the 45 of at the time (I did buy the Steely Dan album containing “Black Friday” though), and the only one not in my digital music collection today. I never was too crazy about “Please Mr. Please”, and “Spirit of the Boogie” is my least favorite Kool & the Gang hit…you’re right, it’s “Jungle Boogie Pt. 2”, minus the catchy chorus.

    Everything else is pretty much golden.

    A good chunk of these I would never have known were it not for AT40, because they weren’t played on my local San Diego AM stations: “I’m Not Lisa”, “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”, “Get Down Get Down”, “Misty”, “Dynomite”, “Baby That’s Backatcha”, “I’m on Fire”, “Bad Luck” (I’m not sure I’m capable of conveying how much I love “Bad Luck”…it’s one of those that just sends an automatic jolt of adrenaline to my system upon hearing the first note), “The Last Farewell” (which I’ve always appreciated as a unique record, like nothing else on the radio at the time, or since…Whittaker’s rich, aged baritone, the arcane language of the lyrics, the fanfare-like beginning, the sound effects…wow), and “Slippery When Wet”. Come to think of it, “Black Friday” didn’t make the AM stations either, but I was already starting to dabble in FM at that point (I turned 13 that summer), and I definitely heard it there.

    Even without hearing those records in regular rotation, I heard them once a week during their top 40 chart runs, which was enough to make an imprint on my musical DNA.

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