(Pictured: Diana Ross.)
I have already written over 1500 words about the American Top 40 show from September 5, 1970, and here are a few hundred more.
EXTRA: “Second Hand Rose”/Barbra Streisand
EXTRA: “Mr. Businessman”/Ray Stevens
When this show originally aired in 1970, it contained several extra songs beyond the week’s Top 40. They included “Hey Little Girl” by Dee Clark and “Dominique” by the Singing Nun, which were snipped from the modern-day repeat, along with CCR’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which was probably spotlighted as a track from the #1 album that week, Cosmo’s Factory, something Casey did regularly during the show’s earliest days. “Second Hand Rose” was left in the repeat, however, and before playing it, Casey explains that Barbra’s then-husband, Elliott Gould, fell in love with her partly because she reminded him of a combination of his two favorite people: Sophia Loren and former New York Giants quarterback Y. A. Tittle. With “Mr. Businessman,” Casey says that Ray Stevens is the great-great grandson of Alexander Stephens, who was the vice-president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Although Stevens has gone full Trumper in recent years, “Mr. Businessman” criticizes the soulless pursuit of success in period-appropriate fashion.
I wrote last week about how American Top 40 was developing in real time during 1970 and 1971, gradually becoming the show we know today. Beyond extra songs, there’s other stuff in the earliest shows that is edited out of the repeats. Teases for those extra songs are only a part of it. In the show’s first year or so, certain promos and national commercials were placed outside of the local break structure. They are usually removed from the repeats, although there was one show from May 1971, if I’m recalling correctly, that left ’em in, and it was fascinating to hear them. I am guessing there were some in the 9/5/70 show, although they aren’t shown on the cue sheet (which may be a modern-day recreation of the original). Because Casey talks so fast on this show, some of the edits are very abrupt. I’m not sure the average listener would notice them, but I do.
13. “Julie Do Ya Love Me”/Bobby Sherman. Have I ever admitted at this website that that this was one of the first 45s I ever owned?
10. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”/CCR. The fifth and final CCR hit to eventually stall at #2. Despite its success, it was never played live, apparently—not until John Fogerty put it into a solo setlist in 1989.
9. “Spill the Wine”/Eric Burdon and War. I said on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that there is not enough alcohol in the world to get me to do karaoke, but if there was, “Spill the Wine” would be my song.
8. “Why Can’t I Touch You”/Ronnie Dyson
7. “Patches”/Clarence Carter
6. “25 or 6 to 4″/Chicago
5. “Close to You”/Carpenters
4. “In the Summertime”/Mungo Jerry
3. “Make It With You”/Bread
Top to bottom, the variety on this show is impressive, typified by this stretch: a glorious pop/soul production, a deep Southern soul story song, the hardest-rockin’ hit of the week, a Burt Bacharach/Hal David joint made immortal by a brilliant singer/producer duo, some thoroughly English pop oddness, and the template for 70s soft rock, one after the other.
2. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”/Diana Ross. Up from #9 last week and headed for #1 two weeks hence, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” does not unstick me in time like other songs on this chart do. I’ve heard it too many times in 50 years for that to happen anymore. But it might be the best thing on the show nevertheless.
1. “War”/Edwin Starr. In 2020, a year of unchecked pandemic, economic ruin, racial hatred, and the looming threat of a fascist takeover, popular music has doubled down on escapism, to the point at which turning on the radio can be an embarrassment. Who are these vapid, singing nitwits, and what planet do they live on? Look, I get it. Music is a diversion for most people, a way to stop having to think about our collapsing society. But there’s a point at which seeking nothing but diversion becomes a lie you tell to yourself.
Here in 2020 there is no equivalent to “War,” a massive hit record that cries out in disbelief while it churns with rage. There is nothing, and there likely will be nothing, that says, “You might have the power to kill us, but we won’t go without telling how much we hate you.”
But there damn well ought to be.