Good Time

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(Pictured: Van Morrison at work in 1971.)

Before we get into the American Top 40 show from January 30, 1971, let me stipulate for the rest of this year/decade that I can’t believe it’s been a half-century because it doesn’t seem that long ago to me, etc. and so forth.

With this show, American Top 40 reaches the end of its seventh month on the air. It’s still evolving: in spots, Casey still talks too fast and it feels like he’s ad-libbing, but he’s miles better than he was, and he and his producers are starting to figure out the template that the show would use throughout its long life, one that countdown shows everywhere still use today.

40. “Somebody’s Watching You”/Little Sister
39. “Precious Precious”/Jackie Moore
38. “Tears of a Clown”/Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
36. “Do the Push and Pull”/Rufus Thomas
35. “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”/James Brown
This show gets jumpin’ with a soul-music party. In AT40‘s earliest days, Casey would say that the Billboard Hot 100 is based on sales data from 100 record stores across the country. That does not seem like a lot, and I am betting that the bulk of them were in major metros. And so I wonder if that might have skewed the chart performance of hard R&B records with little pop appeal, like “Do the Push and Pull” and “Get Up, Get Into It,” which were more likely to sell in New York or Chicago than in, for example, Dubuque or Allentown.

37. “1900 Yesterday”/Liz Damon’s Orient Express. Right in the middle of all that soul shoutin’ comes a record as ethereal as the cigarette smoke mentioned in the lyric. This original video, made in the group’s native Hawaii, really doesn’t fit the song, but watch it and see if you can identify the actor reading the newspaper in it. (Answer below.)

34. “Games”/Redeye
31. “Amos Moses”/Jerry Reed
30. “One Man Band”/Three Dog Night
23. “For the Good Times”/Ray Price
20. “We Gotta Get You a Woman”/Runt
I would have heard these songs on my first radio, the fabled green plastic Westinghouse tube-type, and as I listen to them today, I can see it sitting in its spot next to my bed. Casey tells how Jerry Reed commutes from his home in Nashville to Los Angeles every week to tape episodes of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, on which he’s a guitarist in Campbell’s band. Casey says Reed prefers the 1800-mile round trip to actually living in Los Angeles.

32. “Domino”/Van Morrison
I’m halfway sure that “Domino” was the first record I ever bought with my own money, unless it was “Love the One You’re With,” on this show at #14.

29. “River Deep, Mountain High”/Supremes and Four Tops
21. “Stoned Love”/Supremes
19. “Remember Me”/Diana Ross

Diana Ross left the Supremes at the end of 1969 but it didn’t hurt them much. Jean Terrell stepped into the lead-singer slot and the group’s hits (so to speak) just kept on comin’. As for “Remember Me,” it’s another one of those green plastic Westinghouse records.

28. “If You Could Read My Mind”/Gordon Lightfoot. Which Casey introduces in his FM-radio register, so mellow he’s barely audible.

On the original 1971 broadcast, “If You Could Read My Mind” was followed by a national commercial for MGM Records. MGM was of the show’s earliest major sponsors and plugging the new Eydie Gorme album, It Was a Good Time. In a radio world where formats and audiences were not as fragmented as they would become, it’s not the craziest buy I can think of. The Eydie Gorme spot appears three times on the show in all.

The Increase label also had three spots on the show to plug its Cruisin’ series of 50s and 60s oldies compilations, which also feature DJ patter. The series was the brainchild of Ron Jacobs, one of the co-creators of American Top 40. The first seven volumes of Cruisin’ came out in 1970; featured DJs included Dick Biondi, Hunter Hancock, and Joe Niagara. Once upon a time, the Cruisin’ albums were ubiqitous in used-record stores, although I imagine they’re pretty pricey nowadays.

It will take us another installment to get through all of this show, so stop back tomorrow.

(Answer to the question above: the actor reading the newspaper in the “1900 Yesterday” video is Gilbert Lani Kauhi, who billed himself as Zulu, and is most famous for playing Kono in the first four seasons of the original Hawaii Five-O. )

6 thoughts on “Good Time

  1. Wesley

    I’m not an expert on Phil Spector by any means, so I’d love if anyone knows if any reporter asked him his opinion of the Vegas-style “River Deep-Mountain High” remake that did much better on the charts than his original with Ike and Tina Turner. I can imagine him seething over this production getting so much more airplay over his at the time.

    “Stoned Love” was producer and co-writer Frank Wilson’s effort to mimic the style and success of Ashford and Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Diana Ross, particularly in the album take with its dramatic intro. Still sounds great to me in either version, as does “Remember Me,” Ashford and Simpson’s followup to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Diana Ross. Billboard had it peak at #16 pop, below the #14 peak for “River Deep-Mountain High,” but it’s miles better in my book.

    1. SteveE.

      “Stoned Love” was one of the few times KHJ in SoCal always played the album version instead of the shorter single version. So I was used to hearing it with the long intro and the instrumental break in the middle. I was disappointed when I got the single not long afterward and found out it didn’t have the long intro. It peaked at No. 6 on KHJ.

  2. mikehagerty

    Somehow (this was three months before I began in radio) I missed the explanation of “100 record stores across the country”. In those days, that could easily have been 10 stores in each of the top 10 markets. Or five in the top 20.

    1. Aaron McCracken

      I always wondered how accurate that number even was… On a few occasions in those early shows, Casey would also add that Billboard surveyed airplay data from 100 radio stations (in addition to sales from 100 record stores), and ran it through their “data processing computer” to come up with the Hot 100 singles. As Mike has pointed out, airplay probably wasn’t even factored into the Hot 100 until the eighties, so any specific methodology they claimed to use in the seventies was likely simplified for the AT40 crowd.

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