(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.)
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. )