(Pictured: ABBA on Saturday Night Live in November 1975. They were one of the few acts in the history of the show to lip-sync, because Lorne Michaels didn’t believe they could sing live.)
We have spent a lot of time in 1971 around here lately. Let’s come forward in time a bit and listen to the American Top 40 show from November 22, 1975.
39. “Theme From Mahogany”/Diana Ross
38. “I Write the Songs”/Barry Manilow
34. “Love Rollercoaster”/Ohio Players
Seven songs debut on the show in this week. Three of them would reach #1 in January 1976.
37. “For the Love of You”/Isley Brothers
19. “I Only Have Eyes for You”/Art Garfunkel
18. “Eighteen With a Bullet”/Pete Wingfield
14. “Miracles”/Jefferson Starship
12. “Lyin’ Eyes”/Eagles
8. “Low Rider”/War
Any one of these could be the best song on the show were it not for #13 below. The ultra-smooth “For the Love of You” would get to #22 during Christmas week. That “Eighteen With a Bullet” would end up at #18 in some week was inevitable. And as I’ve said before, “Lyin’ Eyes” is another case of Glenn Frey and Don Henley revealing themselves as terrible people through the lyrics they write, but at the same time, it’s beautifully performed and anchored in time and place, so sue me if I still like it.
36. “The Last Game of the Season”/David Geddes. Casey answers a listener letter asking which song debuted the highest on the chart in 1975. In the Top 40, it’s “Old Days” by Chicago, which came on at #17 back in the summer. On the Hot 100, it was “The Last Game of the Season,” which had come on the previous week at #44. My tolerance for 70s cheese is higher than most people’s, and I’ve heard “The Last Game of the Season” many times, but this time, I couldn’t make it to the end.
33. “Brazil”/Ritchie Family
32. “I’m on Fire”/5000 Volts
25. “Our Day Will Come”/Frankie Valli
Three flavors of early disco. The Ritchie Family was a studio group created by Village People impresario Jacques Morali. 5000 Volts was a real group, although due to a contractual issue, lead singer Tina Charles did not appear when the group performed “I’m on Fire” live and on TV. “Our Day Will Come” takes three minutes to do not very much.
28. “Secret Love”/Freddy Fender. Fender had two big country-to-pop crossover hits in 1975, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.” “Secret Love,” made famous by Doris Day, was not destined to be the third, but Fender sings the hell out of it.
27. “Venus and Mars-Rock Show”/Paul McCartney and Wings. Casey welcomes new stations to the AT40 family this week, including KSTT in Davenport, Iowa. I’ve mentioned KSTT before as a dominant local station that was every bit as hot and fun and important to its community as bigger and more famous major market stations were. By 1975, it had been a Top 40 powerhouse for nearly 20 years.
15. “My Little Town”/Simon and Garfunkel. In October, Garfunkel’s Breakaway and Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years came out within two weeks of each other; between the two release dates, Paul and Artie sang together on the second episode of Saturday Night Live.
13. “They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play)”/Spinners. I have said before that “Games People Play” is my favorite single of all time, another genius production by Thom Bell, arresting from the first second, smooth and soulful all the way home. It’s a time-and-place record for me, certainly, but I have listened to it so often since the fall of 1975 that it’s not as firmly anchored there as others on this show.
7. “Feelings”/Morris Albert. Casey says that “Feelings” has been around for 23 weeks (on the Hot 100) and that it has recently started moving up the chart again after slipping down. It had peaked at #6 on October 25 and then fell to #7 and #9 before creeping back up to #8 and then to #7 in this week. After falling out of the Top 40 in mid-December, it would make two more upward turns before exiting the Hot 100 in late January. Its 32-week run was the longest of 1975.
4. “Island Girl”/Elton John
3. “Who Loves You”/Four Seasons
2. “Fly Robin Fly”/Silver Convention
1. “That’s the Way (I Like It)”/KC and the Sunshine Band
Silver Convention is up from #16 the week before; KC leaps from #6 to #1, taking out Elton after three weeks. Casey notes that “Island Girl” had made Elton the first act of the 70s to have five #1 singles.
Your mileage may vary, but at 46 years’ distance, this show still sounds like 70s Top 40 glory to me, full of songs that are inventive, hooky, uptempo, and fun. If you turn on the radio to be entertained, it’s what you want.