Hear Me Roar

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(Pictured: a women’s liberation parade in New York City, August 1971.)

There’s a lot to recommend the American Top 40 show from December 16, 1972. It contains a famous error: Casey announced Rod Stewart’s “Angel” at #40 but played the B-side, “Lost Paraguayos.” “Angel” dropped back to #43 the next week, so it never appeared on the show. Casey’s modern-day restoration expert, Ken Martin, who does mono-to-stereo conversions for the earliest shows, fixed the error, but the original misidentified “Lost Paraguayos” was offered to stations as an extra during the recent repeat. The show features James Taylor and Carly Simon, then husband and wife, back to back with “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and “You’re So Vain,” both debuting in this week. It’s got some AM-radio classics: the Raspberries’ “I Wanna Be With You,” “I’d Love You to Want Me” by Lobo, Loggins and Messina with “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” Jim Croce’s “Operator,” and Seals and Crofts with “Summer Breeze.”

And there’s also this:

30. “I’ll Be Around”/Spinners
27. “Superstition”/Stevie Wonder
18. “Corner of the Sky”/Jackson Five
17. “Keeper of the Castle”/Four Tops
15. “Superfly”/Curtis Mayfield
10. “I’m Stone in Love With You”/Stylistics
9. “I Can See Clearly Now”/Johnny Nash
6. “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”/Temptations
4. “You Ought to Be With Me”/Al Green
3. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”/Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
Soul music was at a peak as 1972 drew to a close. (Your mileage may vary with the Jackson Five and the Stylistics, which is fine with me, and be sure to include #1, below.) Casey observes that Al Green had more Top 40 hits than any other act in 1972—four—which is a pretty good piece of trivia, and evidence that 1972 was a better year than it gets credit for.

11. “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu”/Johnny Rivers. The great pleasure of this song is the piano-bangin’ introduction and solo, over which Johnny (and anybody listening) whoops and generally enjoys the hell out of. That pleasure is being lost in our Spotify’d, algorithm-driven world. No singer lets the band play anymore.

7. “Clair”/Gilbert O’Sullivan. Honesty compels me to report that out of the 40 songs on this chart, I bought exactly two of them on 45s that fall: “I’d Love You to Want Me” and “Clair.” I can’t remember what attracted me to it. The song elides the question of whether O’Sullivan’s affection for Clair is familial or romantic until the very end, when it’s revealed that he’s babysitting his niece.

2. “I Am Woman”/Helen Reddy. This was unexpectedly moving when I heard it on the recent repeat: its joyful celebration of liberation, its glorious optimism, its strong determination to keep reaching higher.

1. “Me and Mrs. Jones”/Billy Paul. From November 1972 until sometime in 1974, Casey and the AT40 staff tried to predict each week what the next week’s #1 song would be. The previous week’s prediction of “Me and Mrs. Jones”—the third time they’d made a prediction—was the first time they’d gotten it right. Casey smiles and says a batting average of .333 is “better than I did in high school.”

Recommended Reading: Elvis in Vegas: How the King Reinvented the Las Vegas Show, by Richard Zoglin, is a bit mistitled. Only about a third of the book has to do with Presley’s Vegas years; most of the rest covers the fascinating history of Las Vegas showbiz itself, from the 50s glory days through the end of the 60s when Elvis arrived: from the Rat Pack to Wayne Newton to Howard Hughes, plus mobsters and topless showgirls. It’s definitely worth your time. Zoglin’s other books, a biography of Bob Hope and a history of 70s standup comedy, are highly recommended also.

Fear the Reaper: (Usual disclaimer: my opinion only, nobody else’s, anywhere on Earth.) I am not going to say much about iHeart Media’s reorganization and “employee dislocation” (except that the PR flack who came up with that phrase should choke on it). I know of only one high-profile person who lost a job in Madison, but back in the Quad Cities, our home between 1987 and 1997, cuts included three personalities with over 30 years in the market and one with better than 40. Local morning shows across the country: gone. Highly rated programs in all dayparts: gone. All are likely to be replaced by generic national shows. This feels like a declaration that local personalities no longer matter in local radio. And that is a dark and terrible thing for a radio company to declare.

(There will be a rare Saturday post here, so stop back.)

9 thoughts on “Hear Me Roar

  1. Wesley

    Another top summary, jb. And I’ll gladly include The Jackson 5 and the Stylistics here too, even if they had bigger hits than these here.

    Other thoughts: I agree with you that the pendulum is probably swinging back to more tolerance if not approval of “I Am Woman” given the recent passage of the ERA by the Virginia legislature and other women’s issues that I’m sure will come to the front of the news during this session of the Supreme Court. I’ve always felt like asking those who mock the song to listen to previous top 40 hits around that period like “Born a Woman” and “For the Love of Him” and see how much their perspective might change in light of these anti-feminist hits.

    And as for the iHeart matter, I hate to say it, but I agree with the general consensus that Cumulous and the other radio conglomerates are going to follow the leader and make their stations sound all the same everywhere. Terrestrial commercial radio is becoming as homogenous as fluid milk and about as exciting and profitable as well these days.

  2. mikehagerty

    I’m sorry to say I am among the dislocated. I’ll be fine, but it’s not the ending I’d hoped for. I made more lifelong friends and had more fun at KFBK than anywhere else in a 49-year (and hopefully still counting) career.

    1. Yah Shure

      Well, hell, Mike. The only way you were supposed to have been dislocated was if Mother Nature had shaken things up in Sacramento. Here’s hoping you’ll be able to keep the meter running past 50.

  3. Alvaro Leos

    And I thought I was the only guy who liked “I Am Woman”! Assertive lyrics and a great arrangement, especially the countryish guitar (steel or something else?). Plus, “embryo” has to rank with the use of “placenta” in Live’s 1995 hit “Lightning Crashes” as the least likely word ever used in a top 40 hit.

  4. spinetingler

    “The song elides the question of whether O’Sullivan’s affection for Clair is familial or romantic until the very end, when it’s revealed that he’s babysitting his niece.”

    C’mon! Spoilers!!!!

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