(Pictured: Three Dog Night on stage, 1972.)
(Note to patrons: at the end of each year, it is traditional for us to look at one or more year-end music surveys. We’re starting a fair bit before New Year’s because of reasons.)
At the end of its debut year, American Top 40 counted down the Top 80 hits of 1970 in a two-part show that aired on the weekends of January 2 and 9, 1971. The show aired Christmas countdowns on the weekends of December 25, 1971, and December 22, 1973, then played back the Top 40 hits of each year on the weekends following. In 1972, with no Christmas countdown, the show went back to the Top 80 format, on the weekends of December 23 and 30. Eighty is an oddball number, but it made sense—if each three-hour installment of the show normally contained 40 songs, a two-part countdown would have room for 80. (The year-end countdown didn’t expand to 100 until 1974.)
Our feature today is the 1972 Top 80 show. Here’s some of what was on the first part.
78. “School’s Out”/Alice Cooper. Every time I hear Casey talking about Alice Cooper, during the chart run of “School’s Out” and on this show, it’s always with an incredulous note in his voice, as if he couldn’t believe A) how bizarre the band’s act was and B) that people seemed to like it.
77. “Never Been to Spain”/Three Dog Night
66. “Black and White”/Three Dog Night
Casey says Three Dog Night grossed $10 million from concert dates alone in 1971 and 1972. That’s equivalent to over $60 million today.
76. “Drowning in the Sea of Love”/Joe Simon
65. “Day Dreaming”/Aretha Franklin
59. “Look What You’ve Done to Me”/Al Green
55. “Where Is the Love”/Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
54. “I’m Still in Love With You”/Al Green
53. “In the Rain”/Dramatics
46. “Clean Up Woman”/Betty Wright
Nineteen seventy-two was the last great year for soul music. Joe Simon sounds like he’s literally drowning, thanks to the oceanic production of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Al Green is at the apex of his towering talent, with more great records to come. Aretha is eternally Aretha.
75. “Joy”/Apollo 100
60. “Freddie’s Dead”/Curtis Mayfield
56. “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”/T. Rex
43. “Rocket Man”/Elton John
I was still buying exclusively singles in 1972, and I bought these.
74. “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done”/Sonny and Cher
73. “Hot Rod Lincoln”/Commander Cody
72. “Puppy Love”/Donny Osmond
Wreck the train, back it up, and wreck it again.
64. “Kiss an Angel Good Morning”/Charley Pride
62. “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”/Donna Fargo
Both of these were #1 country hits, but count them with the soul records maybe, and not because Charley Pride is a black man. Count ’em because they have the same kind of authenticity, singers doing what only they and no one else could do. I love that Pride is all the way up at #64, having peaked at #21 early in the year. “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” made #11 in the late summer, and it sounded insanely good to me on this show. Its simple joy provides an antidote to this dark time in which we’re living, at least for a couple of minutes.
58. “Mother and Child Reunion”/Paul Simon
42. “Day After Day”/Badfinger
Some awkwardness: Casey introduces “Mother and Child Reunion” by calling Simon the “survivor” of the most popular duo of the rock era, but quickly adding “Art Garfunkel has gone on to other things.” Acting, specifically, although he would be back on AT40 in 1973. Further awkwardness: he twice introduces Badfinger as “owned by the Beatles.” Owned? Discovered and produced by them and on Apple Records, yes, but scarcely indentured servants.
51. “Rockin’ Robin”/Michael Jackson. We’re not counting this with the soul records because it’s pure bubblegum. It’s a 13-year-old boy singing a song about sexual prowess, a skeevy idea made even more so by the man that boy became.
48. “Morning Has Broken”/Cat Stevens. I have no use for religion, but it occurs to me that this beautiful production is in the finest tradition of praise music, a worthy offering to God.
47. “Beautiful Sunday”/Daniel Boone
41. “Starting All Over Again”/Mel and Tim
Not everybody likes key changes, but everybody who doesn’t can bite me. “Beautiful Sunday” and “Starting All Over Again” have quite pleasing ones.
At the end of each hour, Casey recaps the dozen-or-so songs he just played, “in case you’re keeping track at home,” which I always did back then. At the end of the show, he notes that the Top 80 is AT40‘s own tabulation, based on the Hot 100. And he ends in such a way that an affiliate that wanted to re-air the show over New Year’s with both parts back to back could easily do so.
Next installment shortly. As Casey said, “I’ll be back before you know it.”