(Pictured: Grace Slick, 1975)
As is customary around here after discussing an American Top 40 show, let’s see what else we can see on the Hot 100 during the week of January 10, 1976.
42. “Take It to the Limit”/Eagles. Most people never take anything to the limit, ever. Considering Randy Meisner is singing about how he’s going to take it to the limit one more time, implying that he’s done it before (whatever “it” is), no wonder he sounds so weary.
49. “Play on Love”/Jefferson Starship. Grace Slick sings the hell out of “Play on Love” and I’ve always liked that, but I wish the arrangement behind her had more going on, on the order of “Miracles” or “Runaway.”
51. “Tracks of My Tears”/Linda Ronstadt
52. “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)”/Bee Gees
59. “The Homecoming”/Hagood Hardy
61. “Break Away”/Art Garfunkel
62. “Back to the Island”/Leon Russell
The challenge for me in writing this post is finding new things to say about records I like instead of repeating things I have said before.
54. “Love or Leave”/Spinners. From the album Pick of the Litter, released in the summer of 1975, which contains the magnificent “They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play).”
58. “Feelings”/Morris Albert. This record had peaked at #6 back in the fall, but here it is moving up again, from #64, in its 30th week on the Hot 100.
67. “Don’t Cry Joni”/Conway Twitty. A few years ago, we noted that Conway Twitty had 40 #1 country singles, the second-most of all time, but never became cool on the level of George Jones, Johnny Cash, or Merle Haggard. Incredibly sappy records like “Don’t Cry Joni” probably didn’t help.
(Digression: “Don’t Cry Joni” tells a fairly predictable story—young girl falls for older boy and asks him to wait for her til she’s grown, he says he’s too old for her and moves away but realizes years later he’s in love with her, he moves back home, and he finds out that she didn’t wait. Even a predictable story can be made enjoyable if the author is just as careful about what he leaves out as what he puts in. The last verse of “Don’t Cry Joni” makes it clear where the story will end, but the last line is the lyricist saying to the audience, “I don’t think you’re smart enough to get this unless I smack you upside the head with it.” My instantaneous reaction at the moment I heard it: “oh for chrissakes.”)
71. “Bohemian Rhapsody”/Queen. Here it comes, in its second week on the Hot 100.
73. “This Old Man”/Purple Reign
95. “The Little Drummer Boy”/Moonlion
Friends, that’s a disco version of a nursery rhyme and a disco version of a Christmas song. “This Old Man” peaked a week earlier at #48 and was now in its eighth week on the Hot 100. We’ve mentioned “The Little Drummer Boy” at this website previously. (It’s not terrible.) Disco adaptations of already-familiar tunes were thick on the ground during disco’s formative years; although the phenomenon never disappeared completely, it became less prevalent as disco grew in popularity.
74. “Free Ride”/Tavares. Here’s a cover of the Edgar Winter hit from 1973 that’s not as different from the original as you’d expect.
77. “Fire on the Mountain”/Marshall Tucker Band. This country-rock classic had peaked at #37 on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks in the Top 40, but was heard on American Top 40 only once, on the show dated December 20, 1977. The other two weeks of its run corresponded with the 1975 yearend countdown shows.
(Further digression: surely there must have been a few songs during the AT40 era that made the Top 40 for a single week but were never heard on the show because they charted during a week when Casey was doing a special countdown of some sort. Would anybody with a better work ethic than mine like to research that?)
81. “Dream On”/Aerosmith. “Dream On” had run the Hot 100 for nine weeks between October and December 1973, getting as high as #59. Now here it is again, in its first week back.
90. “This Old Heart of Mine”/Rod Stewart. The album Atlantic Crossing was Stewart’s first without Ron Wood, Ian McLagan, and the rest of Faces, but Rod rounded up some decent players: members of Booker T and the MG’s, the Memphis Horns, and the Swampers. The album didn’t contain any big American hits, although “Sailing” and “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” were #1 in the UK, and this made #4. If you think you remember hearing “This Old Heart of Mine” on the radio, you might: Rod recut it for the 1990 Storyteller box set with Ronald Isley and released it (a far-better version) as a single.
10 thoughts on “Rolling Home”
Purely opinion: “Back to the Island” is the best of these songs.
As an on-and-off Aerophile, I wonder whether the band or the record company had the idea of reissuing “Dream On.”
I would guess the latter — but that would require someone at Columbia Records to remember (and champion) a semi-lost, semi-regional hit from two years before, amidst the sea of 45s that Columbia released in that time period.
Who spotted the potential, I wonder?
kblumenau: If I recall (and it’s been 45 years), Top 40 stations that shared audience with an FM rockers would get requests for “Dream On”. Columbia kept striking out with them at Top 40—“Sweet Emotion” peaked at #36, the first release of “Walk This Way” didn’t chart at all, and neither did “You See Me Crying”. .
My guess is Columbia was asking what programmers heard that could be a hit and programmers suggested the re-issue. Looking at the back issues of Radio and Records on WorldRadioHistory.com, the song took of quickly, with significant stations jumping on in the first couple of weeks. They had to know the appeal was there.
“Disco adaptations of already-familiar tunes were thick on the ground during disco’s formative years;”
See also: Rock and roll adaptations of already-familiar tunes were thick on the ground during rock and roll’s formative years; (e.g., dreck like Red River Rock)
Classical adaptations, too. I don’t especially want to do a full post on it, but it seems to me that the plundering of humanity’s back catalog—the repurposing of folk songs, nursery rhymes, and classical pieces, which was a common practice in pop music for a long time—largely died out at some point at the end of the 70s or start of the 80s, when the idea of a mass popular culture started to fragment. For instance, I’m trying to think of a classical adaptation that hit big after “A Fifth of Beethoven” in 76, but all I can come up with is “Hooked on Classics” in 1982, which seems qualitatively different. And after that, I got nothin’.
Re your comment that “surely there must have been a few songs during the AT40 era that made the Top 40 for a single week but were never heard on the show because they charted during a week when Casey was doing a special countdown of some sort. Would anybody with a better work ethic than mine like to research that?)”: It’s tempting, but I’m in the thick of promoting my Betty White on TV book because she’s turning 99 Sunday and everybody loves her and wants to talk about her to me, so unfortunately I’ll have to pass this tempting offer for now.
Otherwise, this is another superb blog, jb. You nailed with every single entry and oh my gosh, how did I not know until now that one of my favorite 1970s groups (Tavares) covered one of my favorite 1970s songs (“Free Ride”)? Ah, the more you learn indeed …
Jefferson Starship was an odd band, wasn’t it? When Balin sang, they usually verged on blue eyed soul; when Grace sang, the songs got harder driving and more lyrically trippy–in other words, much more like the Airplane. I think that’s why the Starship has been relatively forgotten for all its 70s success.
Rod Stewart’s “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” is infamous as the song that kept the Sex Pistol’s “God Save The Queen” out of number one in the UK. And if you believe British chart geeks, there were a lot of shenanigans to make sure it stopped at No.2.
Regarding your query I found two instances of Pachelbel’s Canon being exploited for the theme from “Ordinary People.” Marvin Hamlisch’s version came out in December 1980 on Richard Perry’s Planet label.
Charles Fox’s was called “Seasons (Based On Theme From Ordinary People),” released on the odd Handshake label in November 1980. That label is mainly known for Willis “The Guard” And Vigorish’s “Merry Christmas In The NFL” (in reality Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia before they caught Pac-Man fever) and Sneaker’s “More Than Just The Two Of Us.”
My source says that both “Ordinary People” records charted on Cashbox.
“Singasong” is the best thing in this countdown, but “Fox On The Run” is very, very close.
Top of my head, I can think of two songs that missed AT40 due to being unlucky enough to chart during “special” weeks. Alice Cooper was the only victim in the eighties, as his “Clones (We’re All)” peaked at #40 the week of July 1980’s Book of Records special. Ann Peebles’ version of “I Can’t Stand The Rain” had the misfortune of hitting #38 during the Christmas countdown at the end of 1973. I feel like I’m missing another one though…