(Pictured: the Carpenters on The Johnny Cash Show in March 1971.)
On Christmas weekend in 1971, American Top 40 aired a countdown of the Top 40 Christmas hits. On New Year’s weekend in 1972, Casey counted down the Top 40 hits of 1971. It’s a weird show. Even taking into account Casey’s evolving style throughout 1971, it’s unusually low in energy. He speaks very softly most of the time, and as I listened, I wondered if he was ill. In addition, the show was produced so that when he’s talking over intros, you can barely hear the music, which doesn’t help the energy level.
Now on with the countdown:
38. “Rainy Days and Mondays”/Carpenter
35. “For All We Know”/Carpenters
The Carpenters are the only act with three songs on the show, unless you want to count Donny Osmond and his brothers, who have three between them. Putting aside all that: have you ever noticed that Casey pronounces “Sunday” and “Monday” as “sundee” and “mondee”? It’s a quirk he maintained even after he had become the Most Famous Voice in America. It’s probably not a regionalism—some googling reveals that too many people from too many parts of the country claim it’s unique to where they live. It’s more likely generational, something Casey acquired from growing up in the 1930s and 40s.
34. “Chick-a-Boom”/Daddy Dewdrop
33. “Put Your Hand in the Hand”/Ocean
32. “Sweet and Innocent”/Donny Osmond
31. “My Sweet Lord”/George Harrison
This is quite a blend of the sacred and the profane.
29. “Temptation Eyes”/Grass Roots
26. “Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey”/Paul and Linda McCartney
9. “Just My Imagination”/Temptations
There was nothing on this show I enjoyed hearing more than these songs, unless it was “Chick-a-Boom.”
27. “Superstar”/Murray Head
14. “Smiling Faces Sometimes”/Undisputed Truth
Casey wraps up the first and second hours by inviting listeners to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and 25 cents to cover printing and handling costs to receive a list of the top 40 of 1971 plus a list of the top 40 Christmas hits from the week before. If you send a dollar, you can get both of them plus a 2-by-3-foot poster with the American Top 40 logo, and what a collectible that would be.
21. “What’s Going On”/Marvin Gaye
2. “Maggie May”/Rod Stewart
Good trivia notes from Casey: Marvin has more Top 10 hits since 1963 than any other solo recording artist, and in 1971 Rod Stewart became the first artist since the Beatles in 1964 to top the American and British singles and albums charts all at the same time, with “Maggie May” and Every Picture Tells a Story.
18. “Mr. Big Stuff”/Jean Knight
15. “Treat Her Like a Lady”/Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
Casey introduces both of these songs by asking the listeners if they remember them. The answer seems obvious: of course they would, since both were hits only a few months ago. However, in the different radio programming world of 1971, a lot of hits slipped into a kind of netherworld after they left current rotations. They faded from popularity but had yet to achieve “oldies but goodies” status, which both required time and reputation. A listener in December 1971 might not have heard “Treat Her Like a Lady” for six months, and in the absence of a followup hit, might indeed have forgotten about it.
16. “Brown Sugar”/Rolling Stones. Casey says that since the breakup of the Beatles, the Stones are the most important rock band in the world. But hang on, the Led Zeppelin of 1971 would like a word.
10. “Knock Three Times”/Dawn. Casey’s low-energy presentation really annoyed me here. “Knock Three Times” is an uptempo bubblegum record on which Tony Orlando sounds completely confident in his ability to win the heart of the girl downstairs, but Casey introduces it morosely, talking about the many young men who fall in love with women who don’t know they exist. In 50 years of listening to “Knock Three Times,” I never interpreted it that way, not once.
6. “Indian Reservation”/Raiders. Casey introduces this by telling yet again the bogus story of how it came to be written.
1. “Joy to the World”/Three Dog Night. Casey sounds a little more energized as he announces this one, although maybe it’s just relief that the taping is almost over and he can go lie down.
Many thanks to Chuck, a longtime friend of the blog, for providing me with a copy of this show. He’s also provided the Top 80 of 1970 show, which I’ll get to eventually.