A Beautiful Lie

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(Pictured: Kiki Dee on stage in 1974.)

I have written a lot about the fall of 1974 at this website over the years. Were I ranking seasons of the 70s, it’s top-five, and maybe top-three. In reviewing old posts about it, I find that I keep telling a beautiful lie. The fall of 1974 simply could not have been as warm and secure and happy as I remember it. At this distance, however, I’m pretty sure it can’t hurt to remember it that way. We’ll do it with the American Top 40 show from the weekend of November 2, 1974.

40. “You Got the Love”/Rufus
38. “After the Gold Rush”/Prelude
37. “Cat’s in the Cradle”/Harry Chapin

36. “Angie Baby”/Helen Reddy
33. “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)”/Al Green
31. “Wishing You Were Here”/Chicago
26. “When Will I See You Again”/Three Degrees
24. “I’ve Got the Music in Me”/Kiki Dee Band
22. “Longfellow Serenade”/Neil Diamond
21. “Love Me for a Reason”/Osmonds
19. “Everlasting Love”/Carl Carlton
14. “Do It Til You’re Satisfied”/B.T. Express
13. “Carefree Highway”/Gordon Lightfoot
11. “Back Home Again”/John Denver
10. “Tin Man”/America
9. “Stop and Smell the Roses”/Mac Davis
3. “Jazzman”/Carole King
If you are the kind of person whose life has a soundtrack—who can make a playlist that brings vividly back a specific time, person, group, place, or incident—you can understand how this list works on me. I am not a good-enough writer to explain or even describe it. If you know it, you know it. If not, insert shrug emoji here.

35. “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)”/Three Dog Night
30. “Rockin’ Soul”/Hues Corporation
12. “Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)”/Reunion
You may not remember ’em, or like the ones you do remember, but I will always stan for pure Top-40 pleasures like these.

34. “Second Avenue”/Art Garfunkel
23. “Love Don’t Love Nobody (Part 1)”/Spinners
20. “Overnight Sensation”/Raspberries
These very different records are magnificent achievements in songwriting, production, and performance. “Second Avenue” peaked at #34, “Love Don’t Love Nobody” at #15, and “Overnight Sensation” at #18, but I hope that there is some universe in which they were #1 hits, and I want to go there because it would be better than this one. If you don’t dig ’em, we shouldn’t see each other anymore.

Casey plays the full-length “Overnight Sensation,” which includes a long mid-song fade-out and six seconds of dead silence before it comes back for one more chorus. That’s just mean to weekend radio board operators—the people sitting in the studios playing the AT40 show discs live on the air, back before that became an automated function. Board operators usually listen with only one ear, and they must have freaked out coast-to-coast.

25. “I Can Help”/Billy Swan. The biggest mover on the show this week, up 11 spots. Casey says, “It’s a winner and headed for #1.” In four weeks, his prediction would come true. You cannot fully appreciate how great “I Can Help” sounds until you hear it on an AM radio wave at night, though.

17. “My Melody of Love”/Bobby Vinton. Casey recaps the anomaly of Vinton’s remarkable popularity and his simultaneous anonymity, quoting a magazine article that says nobody knows he sold 11 million records in a recent four-year span. “My Melody of Love,” which features a couple of lines in Polish, will take a mighty leap to #6 next week as it continues to scratch some mysterious American itch of the moment.

15. “Then Came You”/Dionne Warwicke and the Spinners. Casey notes that this record represents only the second time in history that established chart acts paired up to record a #1 hit. (“Somethin’ Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra was the other.) He does not make a big deal about the fact that this was the previous week’s #1 song all the way down here at #15. Maybe because Billy Preston’s “Nothing From Nothing” (on the show at #39) had made the exact plunge two weeks earlier.

8. “Sweet Home Alabama”/Lynryd Skynyrd
7. “Steppin’ Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)”/Tony Orlando and Dawn
6. “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”/John Lennon
5. “Can’t Get Enough”/Bad Company
4. “The Bitch Is Back”/Elton John
One of these things is not like the others, because it’s the fall of 1974.

2. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”/Bachman-Turner Overdrive
1. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”/Stevie Wonder
Back at #39, introducing “Nothing From Nothing,” Casey noted the unusual number of songs on this week’s show with “nothing” in the title. He also teased that there was another new #1 this week, the 30th of 1974, an all-time record. There would eventually be 36, a mark that still stands today and is likely never to be broken.

If you’d like more website content at this time, please leave a message and Jim will return your call when he gets back from 1974. 

6 thoughts on “A Beautiful Lie

  1. T.

    Amen Brother- The RASPBERRIES.. They set the bar so high that only Cheap Trick has equalled it.
    And that is as good as you can get.

  2. I too love “Second Avenue,” one of my favorite lost love laments. I have however always been puzzled why the singer writes “I am you” on the window pane and not “I love you” or “I miss you.”

  3. Listened to this show last night. Was a little too young to be aware of a number of these songs growing up, but I agree it’s overall a strong set. I’ll have to listen to that Spinners more closely, ’cause I’m totally on board with the greatness of the two with which you’ve grouped it.

    1. Wesley

      As far as I’m concerned, the Spinners took over the position the Temptations had as the most dynamic and fascinating soul group on the charts in 1972 with “I’ll Be Around” and kept it going strong two years later. A remarkable string of hits, all vibrant and compelling today as they were nearly 50 years ago.

      But yeah, the Tony Orlando and Dawn hit is a real “Huh?!” entry to rest of a mostly strong top 40 for this week.

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