(Pictured: Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand dress down to record “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”)
The American Top 40 show from December 16, 1978, was, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the most Christmas-heavy regular edition in the show’s history—and it was also the show that ran the weekend after I did my first real radio shows. The college station was running a Top 40 format at the time—which would be dumped when the new management team took over in January—but it was a blast while it lasted. So the 12/16/78 show contains some of the music I played back then.
40. “Don’t Hold Back”/Chanson
36. “There’ll Never Be”/Switch
35. “I Was Made for Dancing”/Leif Garrett
34. “Instant Replay”/Dan Hartman
Saturday Night Fever brought disco to every hotel cocktail lounge in America during 1978, and by the end of the year, a lot of the big dance hits were more product than music. There’s nothing special about any of these records; they’re just there, and you can dance to ’em.
39. “I Will Be in Love With You”/Livingston Taylor
30. “Shake It”/Ian Matthews
When the Sensitive Male of the 70s made music, it sounded like this.
32. “Fire”/Pointer Sisters
31. “September”/Earth Wind and Fire
Both are debut records in this week.
EXTRA: “Step Into Christmas”/Elton John
EXTRA: “Merry Christmas Darling”/Carpenters
EXTRA: “O Holy Night”/Nat King Cole
EXTRA: “Little Saint Nick”/Beach Boys
EXTRA: “White Christmas”/Bing Crosby
EXTRA: “The Christmas Song”/Nat King Cole
(These were sprinkled throughout the show but I’m gonna talk about ’em all at once because of reasons.)
Casey mentions that “Step Into Christmas” is Elton’s only single release of the 70s that didn’t chart, but it became a million-seller anyhow thanks to annual re-releases. Introducing “Merry Christmas Darling,” Casey says it’s the only one of the 10 most popular Christmas hits of all time that doesn’t go back to the 40s or 50s—so even 41 years ago, the Christmas radio canon was frozen in time. Along with “O Holy Night,” Casey tells the story of how the song temporarily stopped the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 when a French soldier poked his head outside of a trench on Christmas Eve to sing it. The story is an unconfirmed legend, but it’s nice enough at Christmastime. “Little Saint Nick” is accompanied by a lengthy Beach Boys origin story that I confess I tuned out of partway through. Before playing “White Christmas,” Casey sketches the record’s remarkable chart history, how it hit almost annually for the next 20 years. “The Christmas Song” was snipped from the recent repeat and offered as an optional extra.
28. “Every 1’s a Winner”/Hot Chocolate
25. “New York Groove”/Ace Frehley
Hot Chocolate’s signature low, buzzy guitar sound wedded to a monstrous stomp kicks every ass in the neighborhood and makes Ace Frehley sound like Livingston Taylor.
14. “How Much I Feel”/Ambrosia
4. “I Just Wanna Stop”/Gino Vannelli
I have written a couple of times recently about the fall of 1978, and about my difficult transition into life as a freshman away from home for the first time. Increasing involvement at the radio station as the semester ended gave me a direction I didn’t have when I first got to school, but there were still some landmines in my path, and I had to step carefully.
12. “YMCA”/Village People
10. “Mac Arthur Park”/Donna Summer
6. “I Love the Nightlife”/Alicia Bridges
Unlike the disco records I mentioned earlier, these have both purpose and personality, and they’re bigger hits as a result.
11. “Strange Way”/Firefall
7. “Time Passages”/Al Stewart
5. “My Life”/Billy Joel
One of these is the best song on the show and I don’t know which. Billy Joel’s 52nd Street is the #1 album in this week.
LDD: “This One’s for You”/Barry Manilow. AT40 had gone to four-hour shows in October, but this one doesn’t need to be. It’s got nearly a full hour of padding: six Christmas songs, three #1 hits of the 70s, and this. It’s introduced with a jingle singing “long distance dedication,” which I don’t think I’ve ever heard before.
2. “Le Freak”/Chic
1. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”/Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
These two songs traded the #1 spot on the five December charts issued in 1978: Barbra and Neil on 12/2 and 12/16, Chic on 12/9, 12/23, and 12/30 (a frozen chart from the previous week). On this show, Casey plays the original version of the song, spliced together from Barbra and Neil’s solo performances by Louisville radio programmer Gary Guthrie, which inspired the two stars to record it together. Here’s the clip from the show.
The weekend this show aired, I was on my way home for semester break. My radio career had begun. And all of a sudden, it was the year 2020.