Groovy Situation

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(Pictured: Melanie.)

Here’s more about the American Top 40 show from September 5, 1970—a half-century ago, and feeling every minute of 50 years gone, although maybe that’s just me.

The cue sheet for this show marks it as an artifact of a bygone time. The show is made up of 10 segments per hour and has about nine minutes of local commercial availability per hour. So the assumption was that the breaks would contain only a spot or two. Not only that—more than half of the show’s segments consist of a single song. The rest have two. The show would seem pretty choppy to a modern audience: a song, two spots, two songs, two spots, and so on. This was not terribly uncommon for Top 40 radio then. There was no premium on uninterrupted music, and “less talk” was not yet in anyone’s vocabulary. But anybody who’s grown up with radio since the 1980s would find it cluttered and frustrating. (Today’s edited repeats are structured with three breaks per hour.)

Now let’s talk about the music.

40. “All Right Now”/Free
39. “Summertime Blues”/The Who
38. “Neanderthal Man”/Hotlegs
37. “Peace Will Come (According to Plan)”/Melanie
This show starts out great, with the short radio edit of “All Right Now” in its first week on, but the next three are a slog. “Summertime Blues,” the single from Live at Leeds, has always seemed pointless to me, while “Neanderthal Man,” for what it is, is twice as long as it needs to be. Melanie’s appeal has always eluded me—her music is redolent of patchouli oil and wet dog, and I have never understood why, at age 23, she sounded like somebody’s grandmother.

36. “Closer to Home”/Grand Funk Railroad
35. “Joanne”/Michael Nesmith and the First National Band
30. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me”/Robin McNamara
29. “Cracklin’ Rosie”/Neil Diamond
24. “Groovy Situation”/Gene Chandler
23. “Solitary Man”/Neil Diamond
This, on the other hand, is some of the stuff that got me started, on pop music, on radio, on everything that came after.

31. “(Get Up I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”/James Brown. Contrary to urban legend, Casey gives the title of this. In later years, he would announce other PG-rated titles including “The Bitch Is Back” and “I Want Your Sex,” also contrary to urban legend. Sometimes he would gloss over or omit them, but not 100 percent of the time.

28. “Tighter, Tighter”/Alive and Kicking. Casey says that this song is one of his favorites. In later years, he would rarely, if ever, be so explicit about which songs he liked. On a show that would become laser-focused on the music and the listener, the host’s opinion about what’s good is irrelevant.

26. “Rubber Duckie”/Ernie (Jim Henson). I haven’t been a program director for 25 years, but I still have that spidey sense. If some hilariously terrible record takes up three minutes of AT40 airtime with an audience that knows what they’re getting when they tune in, I’m fine with that. There are a couple of exceptions, however. A few years back, at my suggestion, my station snipped the full four minutes of Bloodrock’s godawful “D.O.A.” down to a minute. Were I programming an AT40 affiliate today, I’d do the same thing with “Rubber Duckie.” Although it got to #16 on the Hot 100, was #1 in Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and smaller cities, top-five in other major markets, and top-10 at WLS in Chicago, the precise nature of its appeal is mystifying now.

Digression: “Rubber Duckie” is on The Sesame Street Book and Record, which came out in the spring of 1970. It would be my four-year-old brother’s gift from Santa at Christmas that year, so I would come to know it well. It has Kermit the Frog’s performance of “Bein’ Green,” the funky “Rub Your Tummy” by Gordon, and “ABC-DEF-GHI,” in which Big Bird reads the entire alphabet as a single word, pronounced: “abkadeaf-gheejekyllminop-qurrstoovwicksizz.” They’re all infinitely more listenable than “Rubber Duckie.”

18. “Candida”/Dawn. The biggest mover on the 9/5/70 show, up 15 “points,” to use Casey’s formulation from the early days.

The place of “Candida” in my personal mythology has been well-established at this website. I was listening to this show on a particularly horrible day this week, a day on which I was sick of my work, sick of this sad world, sick of everything from morning til night—and all I could think was how badly I wanted to be young again, my discoveries yet unmade and my roads yet untraveled, to be able to love my cherished songs again for the first time.

And I couldn’t get through it. But I will, and we’ll finish off this show in the next installment.

4 thoughts on “Groovy Situation

  1. I really like “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” but that’s probably more for The Edwin Hawkins Singers contributions than Melanie’s. That song also deserves credit for being 15 years or so ahead of the trend of using gospel choirs for backing vocals on pop songs.

    Rest of Melanie’s singles, I can take or leave.

  2. I should probably not read the phrase “the funky ‘Rub Your Tummy’ by Gordon” and start imagining a six-minute wah-wah and hi-hat intro punctuated by lascivious “awwwwww yeahhhhhh”s.

    I do agree that “ABC-DEF-GHI” is a jam. In fact, I could go for a listen to that right now, and there aren’t too many kids’ songs I can say that about.

    The Who in ’69-’70 were a fire-breathing live act, and yet I haven’t listened to Live At Leeds in years and don’t immediately plan to. “Young Man Blues” is probably my favorite, though Roger Daltrey’s ad-libbed f-word at the end probably helped keep it off the radio.

    Your mention of Casey naming a song he liked reminds me of the period when Case and company would try to predict the next week’s Number One. That came and went.

    Sorry 2020 is getting you so down. For what it’s worth, we’re wit’cha.

  3. Wesley

    The huge popularity of Melanie in the early 1970s perplexes me as well. She was the second rock act to play New York’s Metropolitan Opera after The Who, although calling her a rock artist is a stretch. She also in 1972 was the first woman to have three songs in the top 40 in the same week since Gale Storm in 1956 (another oddity). And yet since she’s fallen out of vogue, so have most of her records on the radio, even the #1 “Brand New Key.” On the other hand, the title tune of this entry produces an effect on me similar to what JB has when hearing “Candida.” A delight now as much as then.

  4. leo edelstein

    Just realized you’ve taken me back to my first commercial radio gig, maybe one of the shortest radio gigs of anyone in 1970 (about 3 months). My mother got me on my horse by finding me a DJ/salesman job at WRDB Reedsburg, WI, where the Chicago and North Western Railway’s “400” passenger train passed by on its 400 minute trip from Chitown to Minneapolis. I spun the Carpenters, Gene Chandler, Charlie Pride, Neil Diamond by morning, hit the streets with yellow pages and rate cards by afternoon. Now, that’s getting a feel for Highways 33, 23, 12 and doing not a lot of selling. Great short-term memories, tumbleweeds blowing across Highway 33, rooming at Mike and Tootie Beth’s house, wonderful couple!

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