At the Edge of the Universe

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Continuing with our 1977 theme this week, here’s a look inside the American Top 40 show from the week of August 20, 1977.

40. “That’s Rock and Roll”/Shaun Cassidy
28. “Da Doo Ron Ron”/Shaun Cassidy
“Da Doo Ron Ron” is a fabulous update of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound by producer Michael Lloyd. “That’s Rock and Roll” is not even a half-inch deep.

38. “Hard Rock Café”/Carole King. Carole King was only 35 when she recorded this, but fashions had changed so much since she last charted early in 1975 that she and her song both sound geriatric.

37. “It’s a Crazy World”/Mac McAnally. If you remember “It’s a Crazy World,” which is about as 70s as the 70s got, we should probably have lunch sometime.

34. “Don’t Worry Baby”/B. J. Thomas. On the original, the Beach Boys sing, “She told me, baby when you race today just take along my love with you.” Thomas changes “race today” to “leave today,” turning it from yet another car song into something universal.

33. “Edge of the Universe”/Bee Gees. “Edge of the Universe” is from the album Here at Last … Bee Gees … Live, recorded during a single Los Angeles concert in December 1976. They generated a fair number of screams from their audience, but nothing like they would eventually do. In 1979, a friend of mine took his little sister to see them here in Madison, and he said the screaming was the single loudest noise he’d ever heard.

Casey does a feature on the most successful married couple in chart history. Not Sonny and Cher or the Captain and Tennille, he says, but Les Paul and Mary Ford, who charted most of their biggest hits in the pre-rock 50s. I suspect they’re still #1, but if they’re not, I’m sure somebody will tell me.

32. “Slide”/Slave. I could never remember if this was “Slide” by Slave or “Slave” by Slide. It had been #1 on the R&B chart, and it’s got enough guitar skronk to appeal to white kids. This is its peak on the Hot 100.

30. “Keep It Comin’ Love”/KC and the Sunshine Band
27. “My Heart Belongs to Me”/Barbra Streisand
26. “You’re My World”/Helen Reddy
25. “On and On”/Stephen Bishop
24. “Swayin’ to the Music”/Johnny Rivers
I spent the first hour of this show thinking how difficult it was to access 17-year-old me, listening to these songs as the summer of 1977 began to turn toward fall. And then came the second hour.

23. “Strawberry Letter 23″/Brothers Johnson
15. “Smoke From a Distant Fire”/Sanford-Townsend BAnd
If we have lunch over our shared memory of Mac McAnally but you tell me you don’t like either of these, I’m sticking you with the check.

22. “Cold as Ice”/Foreigner
17. “Give a Little Bit”/Supertramp
16. “Telephone Line”/Electric Light Orchestra
14. “Barracuda”/Heart
12. “Handy Man”/James Taylor
11. “Don’t Stop”/Fleetwood Mac
9. “You and Me”/Alice Cooper
8. “Just a Song Before I Go”/Crosby Stills and Nash

This chart has its share of goofballs (see next entry) but it’s also loaded with established, respectable rock acts. “Telephone Line” is the best thing on the show, unless it’s “Strawberry Letter 23” or “Smoke From a Distant Fire.”

18. “Telephone Man”/Meri Wilson
13. “Float On”/Floaters
Heaven help the listeners of radio stations that insisted on playing “Telephone Man” every couple of hours like it was the latest Peter Frampton hit. “Float On,” meanwhile, is absurd, but it was the #1 soul song in this week and would eventually get to #2 on the Hot 100.

EXTRA: “Let’s Stay Together”/Al Green. No, wait, maybe this is the best song on the show, the answer to a listener question about the #1 soul song of the 70s so far. “Let’s Stay Together” spent nine weeks at #1 on the soul chart in early 1972. Nothing would equal that mark until 1982: Stevie Wonder’s “That Girl.” Marvin Gaye would do 10 weeks at #1 with “Sexual Healing” starting later that same year.

6. “Whatcha Gonna Do”/Pablo Cruise
5. “Easy”/Commodores
4. “I’m in You”/Peter Frampton

3. “Higher and Higher”/Rita Coolidge
Hot damn, this show sounds so good right here. As I have written before, I am an unapologetic “Higher and Higher” fanboy. Rita and producer Booker T. Jones don’t try to remake Jackie Wilson, and as a result, they make something that is quintessentially 70s and insanely great.

2. “I Just Want to Be Your Everything”/Andy Gibb
1. “Best of My Love”/Emotions
You couldn’t escape these records. For seven straight weeks in August and September, both were in the Top Three. Each of them had two runs, a long one and a short one, at #1. “Best of My Love” is a record I respect more than I like; considering the ubiquity of “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” that summer, opinions about it are irrelevant.

Still more from the summer of 1977 is ahead, so stay tuned. 

10 thoughts on “At the Edge of the Universe

  1. Gene Baxter

    I do remember that Mac McAnally song and it was okay but I loved his song, “It’s My Job.” I had the 45 and don’t remember that one going anywhere but later Jimmy Buffet covered it. I know, good story, right?

  2. TN

    I had no memory of “It’s a Crazy World,” although in my defense, its slot here at No. 37 is the highest it would get on the Hot 100. I’m surprised to see that Mac McAnally had just turned 20 at the time of this chart, which means he probably cut it when he was 19. It seems far too leaden for a 19-year-old’s first single.

    Since I’m gonna miss out on that lunch with you, I’ll get it on the record now: “Strawberry Letter 23” is easily the best thing on this chart. I started playing it for my then-teenaged sons a few years ago, and they loved it too.

  3. mikehagerty

    *Phew*. Not gonna get stuck with the check.

    If you had told me, even pre-SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, that the Bee Gees would stiff with a record that had a line like “Just my love and I at the edge of the universe”, I’d never have believed it. Which, I guess, is why I played it at KUKI in Ukiah, California.

    …Where it stiffed.

      1. mikehagerty

        Well, crap, briguyx… wonder it stiffed!

        I really should have asked for lyric sheets back in the day…

      2. I enjoyed hearing “Edge of the Universe” on this show. The Bee Gees’ band is really good, as always, and in retrospect it’s kind of refreshing to hear them singing in normal registers.

  4. The best thing on the show is either “Smoke From a Distant Fire” or “Barracuda” – probably the former because I’m guessing they played some cut-down version of the latter.
    (Coming in proudly for the bronze medal: “I’m In You.”)

  5. Wesley

    Having been to several Hard Rock Cafes, not to mention the disastrous Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (which is another story I’ll save for another time), I can understand why none of them probably play the Carole King song, and not just because it was a minor chart entry. The music and lyrics hardly reflect the establishment’s atmosphere, which admittedly has become more tourist-y over the last 44 years.

    And heaven help me, my local station was one of those that insisted on playing “Telephone Man” every couple of hours like it was the latest Peter Frampton hit, as you put it. I was 12 at the time, so that song was right in my sweet spot, so to speak. The same applies to “Float On.” “Aquarius/And my name is Wesley/I like a woman who takes her time to look special on weekends …”

    I’m sorry, what was I saying? Oh yeah, great Sidepiece as always too, jb!

  6. Guy K

    “Smoke From a Distant Fire” is the best song on this very good countdown, is one of my favorite songs of the ’70s, and is the greatest Hall & Oates song that Hall & Oates never did.

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