How Sweet the Sound

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(Pictured: Judy Collins performs on TV, 1969.)

We continue here with a look inside the American Top 40 show from January 30, 1971, in which we find some key differences between the show as it was heard back then and the version that is repeated today.

EXTRA: “Isn’t It a Pity”/George Harrison
EXTRA: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”/Shirelles
At the end of the first hour of the original 1971 broadcast, Casey played “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as an extra, part of a feature on the #1 songs “10 years ago today.” On the repeat, it was snipped and offered as an extra at the end of the third hour. The extra included with the first hour of the repeat was “Isn’t It a Pity,” the flip side of “My Sweet Lord,” introduced as a track from the #1 album of the week, All Things Must Pass. But here’s something weird: “Isn’t It a Pity” wasn’t heard on the original 1/30/71 show at all. While on later shows extras are voiced by modern-day announcer Larry Morgan, extras from the earliest shows are often segments voiced by Casey and snipped from original shows. The 1/31/71 extra must have been taken from either January 23 or February 6, when All Things Must Pass was still #1, and when it looks from the cue sheets as if Casey played both sides of the single, albeit a shortened version of “Isn’t It a Pity.” (He had also played both sides on the December 26, 1970, show, including the whole seven minutes of “Isn’t It a Pity,” but that required him to drop a song from the top 40.)

26. “Amazing Grace”/Judy Collins. What does it mean for 50 years to pass? Imagine how unlikely it would be today for a hymn, recorded unironically by a singer with a pure, clear voice and backed by a choir, to be a vast pop success. “Amazing Grace” did three weeks at #1 at WHBQ in Memphis, and also hit #1 in San Bernardino, California, and Birmingham, Alabama. It was a top-10 hit in Dallas, Wichita, Portland, Oklahoma City, Orlando, St. Louis, Fresno, Tulsa, Columbus, Seattle, Kansas City, Phoenix, New Orleans, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and smaller cities including Madison, where it made #3. It would peak at #13 in Cash Box, #15 on the Hot 100, and #5 on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart.

25. “Watching Scotty Grow”/Bobby Goldsboro. Me, 2018: “I’d rather listen to ‘Honey’ 100 times than ‘Watching Scotty Grow’ once.”

18. “Mr. Bojangles”/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
17. “Born to Wander”/Rare Earth
16. “Immigrant Song”/Led Zeppelin
12. “Black Magic Woman”/Santana
11. “If I Were Your Woman”/Gladys Knight and the Pips
10. “Stoney End”/Barbra Streisand
7. “I Hear You Knockin'”/Dave Edmunds
5. “Rose Garden”/Lynn Anderson
4. “One Less Bell to Answer”/Fifth Dimension

Each of these had a particular sound on my green plastic Westinghouse radio. “Born to Wander,”  “Immigrant Song,” and “Black Magic Woman” came sizzling in like transmissions from another reality, which for 10-year-old-me, they were.

15. “I Think I Love You”/Partridge Family
EXTRA: “Theme From A Summer Place“/Percy Faith
14. “Love the One You’re With”/Stephen Stills
EXTRA: “We Can Work It Out”/Beatles
On the original 1/30/71 broadcast, Casey ends the second hour of the show as you see here. Percy Faith is on as part of a feature about the two acts that have had the #1 song for the entire year twice: the Beatles in 1964 and 1968 (“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Hey Jude”) and Faith in 1953 and 1960 (“Song from Moulin Rouge” and this). After “Love the One You’re With,” he recaps the top five from “five years ago today” and plays “We Can Work It Out.” It’s all kind of awkward. (The Percy Faith record was snipped from the repeat and offered as an extra.)

13. “It’s Impossible”/Perry Como. Down from #10 the previous week, and his biggest hit since 1958. He would return to the Top 40 one more time, with the Don McLean song “And I Love You So” in 1973.

9. “One Bad Apple”/Osmonds
3. “Lonely Days”/Bee Gees
“One Bad Apple” vaults to this lofty position from #34 the week before, but Casey reports that it’s already #1 in Salt Lake City. He does something similar after “Lonely Days,” name-checking someone at an affiliate station “on the coast of Maine” who says the song is #1 there.

8. “Your Song”/Elton John. In the second of what would be four weeks at #8.

2. “My Sweet Lord”/George Harrison. On the green plastic Westinghouse, this sounded like God himself playing a 50-foot guitar.

1. “Knock Three Times”/Dawn. In its second week at #1. Casey introduces it in an oddly downbeat fashion, musing that most young American males have been in the position of falling in love with a woman they’ve never met or spoken to. “That’s what this song is about,” he says.

I hadn’t been there yet, but it wouldn’t be long.

4 thoughts on “How Sweet the Sound

  1. TN

    The key to understanding “One Bad Apple” is to recognize that the Jackson 5 had already had four straight Number One hits by this point. Even though the Osmonds were a bunch of white Mormons (excuse the redundancy), the producer, Rick Hall of Muscle Shoals fame, obviously was hoping people would think it was the new single by the Jackson 5 – it couldn’t have sounded more like a note-for-note ripoff. Indeed, it had been written with the Jackson 5 in mind, and Donny Osmond later claimed that the Jackson 5 came very close to recording it themselves.

  2. Wesley

    I checked to see what it would be like AT40 played the #1 song 10 years ago today and found out it was “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. I feel absolutely ancient to realize he’s been around even longer than a decade as an artist.

    Anyhow, I’ve never ever heard “Isn’t It a Pity” on any oldies radio, but the rest of these I definitely have. Yes, including “Amazing Grace.” And yes, unfortunately, “Watching Scotty Grow” too.

    1. Alvaro Leos

      Did “Isn’t It a Pity” get much top 40 airplay in 1970? Some of Billboard’s decisions on what is and what isn’t a double sided hit are pretty strange.

      1. mikehagerty

        I can only speak for L.A. and San Francisco, but yes, at least for the first few weeks of “My Sweet Lord”‘s run, they (KHJ, KRLA, KYA, KFRC) played both sides.

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