Look Out for Number One

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(Pictured: Kiki Dee and Elton John sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” 1977.)

The radio station I work for has recently stopped running both the 70s and 80s American Top 40 countdowns. I’d like to know what’s happening to the affiliate numbers across the country. With more and more AC and classic-hits stations dropping 70s music altogether, the 70s repeats can’t have much shelf-life remaining. Except around here. In an earlier installment, we started listening to the show from the week of July 17, 1976.

Jingle: “Now on with the countdown!”

25. “You Should Be Dancing”/Bee Gees
23. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”/Elton John and Kiki Dee
22. “Let ‘Em In”/Paul McCartney and Wings
These are all debuts on the show, coming in so high that Casey teased their coming arrival at the end of the first hour. “You Should Be Dancing” was up from #51, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” from #46, and “Let ‘Em In” from #43. All were in their third week on the Hot 100. With “Let ‘Em In,” Casey says that Paul McCartney is the second performer to sing on three hits in the same Top 40 since Paul did it with the Beatles in 1964. You could guess all day without identifying the other performer, so I’ll save the answer for the end of this post.

14. “If You Know What I Mean”/Neil Diamond. “From another time / From another place / Do you remember it babe” HELL YEAH MAN SING IT

10. “Rock and Roll Music”/Beach Boys. I don’t mind the Beach Boys’ version of this when it pops up in isolation. On this show, Casey plays it as an edited medley with the versions by Chuck Berry and the Beatles, and it suffers a lot in comparison.

9. “Silly Love Songs”/Paul McCartney and Wings
8. “Got to Get You Into My Life”/Beatles
Casey notes another chart milestone for Paul McCartney: the first time that the same person has sung lead for two different groups in the same Top 40. I suspect this has probably happened on other occasions since 1976, especially given the proliferation of featured artist credits in the last two decades, but I don’t know.

A listener asks which male and female artist have the most double-sided hits. The male answer, Casey says, is obvious: Elvis, with 57. The leader among female artists is Brenda Lee, with 19.

3. “I’ll Be Good to You”/Brothers Johnson. The seventh and last duo in the countdown (along with the Captain and Tennille, Seals and Crofts, Hall and Oates, Elton and Kiki, the Carpenters, and England Dan and John Ford Coley). Casey notes that the Brothers Johnson album Look Out for Number One was certified gold seven weeks after its release, that one of the songs has been chosen as the new theme for NBC’s show Tomorrow, and two others are featured in an upcoming movie. I suspect I had bought my copy by July 1976, or shortly thereafter. “I’ll Be Good to You” was my favorite song of the moment—but the rest of the album didn’t do much for me.

Before we get to the #1 song of the week, here’s the trivia answer: the only artist besides Paul McCartney to sing lead on three hits in the same Top 40 between 1964 and 1976 is Melanie. “Brand New Key,” “Ring the Living Bell,” and “The Nickel Song” were all in the Top 40 during the week of February 26, 1972.

Jingle: “Billboard‘s number one!”

1. “Afternoon Delight”/Starland Vocal Band. I have, in the past, referred to songs from the summer of 1976 as icons in the religious sense—they have objective characteristics we can describe in real-world terms, but their true meaning is in what they represent. Among the objective characteristics  of “Afternoon Delight” is that it is a ripe slab of 70s cheese. That is a real thing I cannot help but acknowledge. But what “Afternoon Delight” represents transcends that. Everything the summer of 1976 meant to me, the stuff I can remember and the stuff I can no longer recall, what it really felt like at the time and the feelings I have grafted on in the 44 summers since, it’s all encoded in those three minutes and 12 seconds. And if, in those three minutes and 12 seconds, I can live in my favorite summer again, who’s going to tell me I shouldn’t?

11 thoughts on “Look Out for Number One

  1. I am curious as to how Casey’s accounting of “singing on three songs in one Top 40” excluded John Lennon.
    (Perhaps Casey means only solo vocals, so harmony leads like “She Loves You” don’t count? Or maybe Paul did it subsequent to John doing it? Or maybe John just never quite managed it, even in the torrid days of 1964? I dunno.)

    I also assume Casey had no idea that the same person sang lead for two “groups” on a couple of his very first AT40 countdowns in July 1970. Tony Burrows probably didn’t have much of a public profile in 1976.

    The AT40 countdowns have been re-running for some years now, haven’t they? Maybe the interest has worn off them.

  2. mikehagerty

    “I’ll Be Good To You” just plain stomps. Love that song.

    As for AT40, as early as the 80s, a lot of CHRs stopped running the show because as many as half of the songs on it were songs they weren’t playing. And now, as you say, JB, the entire shows are increasingly made of of songs the affiliates don’t play.

    Also, a major upside to AT40 was the ability to put three (or later, four) professional-sounding hours on the air on Sunday morning in any market. But automation and voice-tracking means a station can sound just the way the PD wants it to 24/7/365, without paying a license fee or bartering away ad inventory.

    If your target is 25-54, the center of that is 39 1/2. So, someone born in January of 1981. There’s very little nostalgia value for anything from the 80s for that person, and none for the 70s.

    Bummer, because it was a great show.

  3. Wesley

    Agree 100% with you, JB, and Mike Hagerty. “I’ll Be Good to You” is one of the 1970s quintessential midlevel jams (not too slow, not too fast), with great guitar licks and other production magic which showed Quincy Jones at his finest as producer.

    It may have been covered on here already, but I’m wondering if there’s been any analysis about songs debuting in the top 40 at #25 or higher almost assured making the top five, or maybe even top three, as that’s where “Let ‘Em In” peaked? Ah, whatever. What maybe is even more amazing is that it took three weeks for all of them to enter the top 40, especially with Elton John and Wings at or near the top of their popularity at the time. Two would seem more realistic given their hot track records.

    1. mikehagerty

      Wesley: Gotta remember there was a different supply chain in those days. No internet, no FedEx. Stores in major metropolitan areas could call distributors on the phone and have five cartons of the new McCartney in stock that day. But outside the majors? Long distance cost money. Orders were mailed in—so two or three days before they’re received—and then stock shipped to the store by UPS, which didn’t hustle nearly as much when there was no FedEx.

      It was often a good two or three weeks before there was stock in enough places in the country for a record to show up in the top 40. And anything earlier than that was always cause for suspicion (wholesale orders being counted instead of retail sales).

  4. victorvector

    Someone recently who sang lead on three different attributed songs (2 “groups”, 1 lead): Sam Smith–“Stay with Me”, “La La La” by Naughty Boy, “Latch” by Disclosure.

  5. mackdaddyg


    Any idea why your station stopped running American Top 40? There were two stations around here that carried it. One was an oldies station that changed formats, but the other one (an all around “hits” station) still plays it, I think.

    1. Mostly it’s because time marches on. The station’s updated its sound a bit in the last few months, and the 70s shows really don’t fit anymore. Apart from that, the decisions were made high above my pay grade, so I don’t have any grand insights.

  6. John Gallagher

    The Neil Diamond time period of recordings from 1976-early 1978 seems to have never even made it to Sirius. I don’t think they’ve ever (or rarely) played “If You Know What I Mean”, “Beautiful Noise” and “Desiree.”

    1. Guy K

      “If You Know What I Mean” was Neil Diamond’s great forgotten gem. In New York, Top 40 giant WABC-AM never charted the song, even though it reached No. 11 on Billboard. For me, it’s the best thing Neil Diamond ever did, with the exception of the non-Top 40 stunner “Brooklyn Roads,” which is just a remarkable song.

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