(Pictured: Gerry Rafferty.)
A few years ago I passed up the opportunity to write about an AT40 show from May 1978, when the Class of ’78 had its Wile E. Coyote moment. This year, I’m doin’ it. Here’s the show from the weekend before graduation: May 27, 1978.
39. “I Was Only Joking”/Rod Stewart
28. “Dust in the Wind”/Kansas
I once wrote, in the voice of 1978 Me, that “I Was Only Joking” “feels like a giant apology I need to make to everyone I know, for not sufficiently savoring the time we’ve had together now that it’s almost gone.” I needed to apologize for a lot more than that, as it turned out. As for “Dust in the Wind,” well, you do the math.
36. “Two Doors Down”/Dolly Parton. In which Casey calls 32-year-old Dolly a “girl,” as he did throughout the 70s to female singers without calling male singers “boys.” You and I have forgotten that this downright funky former #1 country hit peaked at #19.
34. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”/ELO. The audio quality of the AT40 repeats varies. A few of them have been brickwalled in the remastering process. Not this one, although it’s mastered louder than many. And that makes “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” sound especially hot.
31. “Lay Down Sally”/Eric Clapton
27. “Because the Night”/Patti Smith Group
26. “Dance With Me”/Peter Brown
6. “Feels So Good”/Chuck Mangione
AT40 went to four hours in October 1978, and the need for more time is audible on this show. It’s like edited highlights of the Top 40, with records snipped or faded early one after the other. “Lay Down Sally” is in its 17th week on the show, but it’s not just the oldest records getting the treatment. “Heartless,” “Because the Night,” and “Dance With Me,” fairly new and pretty hot, get barely two minutes each. “Feels So Good” is the victim of a hideous smash cut; it’s an instrumental, my dudes—you can fade it literally anywhere.
30. “Jack and Jill”/Raydio Featuring Ray Parker Jr.
25. “Every Kinda People”/Robert Palmer
24. “Werewolves of London”/Warren Zevon
23. “Deacon Blues”/Steely Dan
17. “Baker Street”/Gerry Rafferty
11. “Disco Inferno”/Trammps
One of these is the best song on the show. The album version of “Deacon Blues” runs 7:36 and the single was 6:33; the full-length “Baker Street” is 6:06 and the single is 4:10. Casey gives each one about 3:40 (and the show’s remastering makes “Baker Street” rumble like a tidal wave, in a good way). The full-length “Disco Inferno” is nearly 11 minutes and the single is 3:35. Casey gives it about 2:20.
Also: if you are an author looking for a subject, I would read a biography of Ray Parker Jr.
22. “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”/Meat Loaf
18. “It’s a Heartache”/Bonnie Tyler
17. “Movin’ Out”/Billy Joel
15. “Love Is Like Oxygen”/Sweet
10. “On Broadway”/George Benson
I won’t spend a lot of time writing about my summer of 1978 here since I’ve done it before, but a lot of records on this show are deeply evocative of that time. “Movin’ Out” is not among them; I’ve heard it so much that it’s completely lost its time-traveling mojo. Casey plays the version without the car sound effects.
21. “Can’t Smile Without You”/Barry Manilow. This is A)
Manilow’s bid to write something new for the Great American Songbook and B) three minutes of insufferable cheese. There’s no reason it can’t be both. [Late edit for fact-checking fail: per comment below, Manilow didn’t write this. That does not, however, impact its cheese factor.]
14. “Baby Hold On”/Eddie Money. Which Casey introduces with a story about Money holding an autograph session on the side of a New York City expressway after getting into a fender-bender on the way home from a Saturday Night Live rehearsal.
12. “This Time I’m in It for Love”/Player
8. “Imaginary Lover”/Atlanta Rhythm Section
7. “If I Can’t Have You”/Yvonne Elliman
No, wait, one of these is the best record on the show.
2. “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late”/Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams
1. “With a Little Luck”/Paul McCartney and Wings
I wasn’t on the best of terms with God at the end of May 1978, although I still believed that there was some kind of force in the universe that had an interest in me. And so “With a Little Luck” being #1 on the most significant day of my life could not be a coincidence, I thought. But even if it wasn’t deliberately ordered by fate, it remains the sort of poetic happenstance that pattern-seeking creatures such as we will always cherish. (But if Johnny and Deniece had been #1, with a song about love, loss, and going out gracefully, it might have felt just as cosmically correct.)
Strictly on the merits, and personal associations aside, to the extent that’s possible, the songs on this show are solid, and Casey was in peak form. The bitter and the sweet are definitely in there, though.