(Pictured: Diana Ross.)
Everybody’s got a creation story, and I’ve either told mine or referred to it many times: in the fall of 1970, I had to ride the school bus for an hour every morning, and after the driver put WLS on the bus radio, I was gone. I loved the music, and I loved the sound of radio, and it took me no more than four months from that fateful day to decide, “I want to do that.”
So when I put on the American Top 40 show from October 17, 1970, it was with two thoughts: A) I probably won’t need to write about this show because I’ve written about this season so much already and B) I’m gonna end up doing it anyway, and I’ll need to find some new stuff to say.
38. “Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite the World)”/Temptations
37. “Do What You Wanna Do”/Five Flights Up
36. “Deeper and Deeper”/Freda Payne
35. “Stand by Your Man”/Candi Staton
34. “Super Bad”/James Brown
33. “Lucretia MacEvil”/Blood Sweat and Tears
This stretch of better than 20 minutes is evidence for why a lot of Premiere Radio Networks affiliates don’t run the early 70s shows. You need to be a bit of an antiquarian to remember these songs. And no, Casey didn’t try giving the Temptations title in Swahili; he settled for “Unite the World.”
EXTRA: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”/Rolling Stones. For some reason, Casey decided to review the top five from a random week in July 1968 at this point in the show, and he did it in a decidedly odd manner, mentioning #5, then #1, then #4, then #2, and finally #3, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” This is the kind of weird little oddment we frequently hear on the earliest shows (and this one is the 13th since the show premiered in July), and it’s one of the things I love most about them.
32. “Our House”/Crosby Stills Nash and Young
31. “It Don’t Matter to Me”/Bread
30. “God, Love, and Rock and Roll”/Teegarden and Van Winkle
29. “That’s Where I Went Wrong”/Poppy Family
28. “Somebody’s Been Sleeping”/100 Proof Aged in Soul
27. “Joanne”/Michael Nesmith
26. “Groovy Situation”/Gene Chandler
Narrator: “It was in this portion of the program that Jim knew he’d have to write about it.” These songs put me back on the bus, listening to Larry Lujack play the hits every morning, and I’m gonna need a minute.
21. “El Condor Pasa”/Simon and Garfunkel
18. “Still Water (Love)”/Four Tops
13. “Express Yourself”/Charles Wright
5. “We’ve Only Just Begun”/Carpenters
We get some FM-radio Casey on the show, where he drops his voice into a soft, late-night register to introduce “Still Water” and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and while introducing “El Condor Pasa,” to recite a bit of the lyrics. Meanwhile, when he talks up the introduction to the Charles Wright record, he calls it “Express Yo’self.”
11. “Indiana Wants Me”/R. Dean Taylor. Today, it’s easy to hear that this is weapons-grade 70s cheese. Ten-year-old me, who had taken the weekly Batman cliffhangers so seriously only a few years before, was all in on the melodrama of “Indiana Wants Me.” He loved her, he committed murder for her, and he just wants to get a message to her one last time.
7. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”/Diana Ross. Will say again: I don’t think there’s much in popular music that’s more straight-up thrilling than Diana’s last spoken bit in this song, the way it builds to “just remember what I told you the day I set you free.”
6. “Candida”/Dawn. I’m sorry, but Jim is not available to take your call. Please leave a message and he will return your call when he gets back from 1970.
EXTRA: “Make the World Go Away”/Eddy Arnold. “Make the World Go Away” is a lovely countrypolitan record and was a big pop hit in 1965, but even in 1970 it was a little incongruous between “All Right Now” and “Green Eyed Lady.”
2. “Cracklin’ Rosie”/Neil Diamond
1. “I’ll Be There”/Jackson Five
Words fail. These songs and the others from the fall of 1970 made me. Without them, I’d be here in 2019 as someone else entirely.