(Pictured: Bobby Sherman and a co-star on the set of Here Come the Brides.)
On the first two weekends in January of 1971, American Top 40 counted down the Top 80 hits of 1970. The cutoff for Billboard‘s year-end chart was the end of November, so the show includes only five months of AT40‘s young lifetime, since its debut in July. I’m not going to do the heavy lifting to find out, but I wonder exactly how many songs on the show were heard on this edition of AT40 and never before or since.
Now on with the countdown of what Casey calls “the back 40”:
79. “I Want to Take You Higher”/Ike and Tina Turner
77. “For the Love of Him”/Bobbi Martin
67. “We’ve Only Just Begun”/Carpenters
42. “Snowbird”/Anne Murray
To get up to four female acts for the first half of the countdown, we have to include Tina Turner and Karen Carpenter. Introducing “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Casey runs through a list of commercial jingles that became hit songs. “We’ve Only Just Begun” was a commercial for a California bank, but quickly transcended such a mundane purpose.
74. “Why Can’t I Touch You”/Ronnie Dyson
66. “Arizona”/Mark Lindsay
44. “Hey There Lonely Girl”/Eddie Holman
43. “Reflections of My Life”/Marmalade
One of these is the best song on the back 40, and as usual I can’t say which.
73. “Up Around the Bend”-“Run Through the Jungle”/Creedence Clearwater Revival. Casey plays both, and he alludes to the band’s support for a now-forgotten historical event: the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native Americans that was in the news throughout 1970.
67. “Fire and Rain”/James Taylor. This show is mostly free of the weird quirks and digressions we have noticed while studying the early evolution of AT40, but Casey still frequently busts out his soft-spoken FM-radio voice, which he used in the early years to introduce ballads or serious songs like “Fire and Rain.” It must have sounded incongruous on many of his affiliates, especially the ones with on-air staffs full of screamers (loud, high-energy jocks) and pukers (jocks with artificial “radio voices,” unnaturally low or strangely inflected).
EXTRA: “Keep the Customer Satisfied”/Simon and Garfunkel
49. “Cecelia”/Simon and Garfunkel
“Keep the Customer Satisfied,” from the year’s #1 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, sounds like it should have been a radio hit, but I’d rather hear anything else on the album.
61. “25 or 6 to 4″/Chicago
59. “Make Me Smile”/Chicago
Introducing “25 or 6 to 4,” and for probably the only time in AT40 history, Casey name-checks bandleader Stan Kenton, comparing Chicago’s music to Kenton’s brand of “progressive jazz.”
60. “House of the Rising Sun”/Frijid Pink. While I’m unable to pick the best record in the back 40, choosing the worst is much easier.
57. “Express Yourself”/Charles Wright
50. “Love Land”/Charles Wright
On “Express Yourself” Wright sings, “It’s not what you look like when you’re doing what you’re doing / It’s what you’re doing when you’re doing what you look like you’re doing.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds great. Meanwhile, for people listening a half-century in the future, “Love Land” might be the most obscure record on the show.
56. “Easy Come, Easy Go”/Bobby Sherman. Casey says that Sherman received two million fan letters during his two-year run on the TV series Here Come the Brides. Shoutout to the PR flack who got that hype on Casey’s air.
55. “I Know I’m Losing You”/Rare Earth. I wrote not long ago that some songs you haven’t properly heard until you hear them on a distant AM-radio skywave at night. Those conditions made “I Know I’m Losing You” sound creepy as hell, but in a good way.
EXTRA: “Sex Machine”/James Brown. Brown is Billboard‘s top male artist of 1970, and yes, Casey gives the title of the song, twice—although he also cuts the song short because he’s up against the clock at the end of the second hour.
45. “The Rapper”/The Jaggerz. Casey says that people confused this record with the Rolling Stones because of the group’s name. That reminds me of his contention a decade later that people thought Toto’s “99” was about Barbara Feldon’s character on Get Smart. It sounds logical, but it doesn’t really stand up at all.
41. “The Long and Winding Road”-“For You Blue”/Beatles. Casey plays both sides, and “For You Blue” is not the most scintillating way to end the show. It’s likely that a lot of his listeners didn’t know it. At ARSA, it has about one-third of the listings that “The Long and Winding Road” has.
When Casey starts the next week’s installment, he no longer says that he’s playing the Top 80 of 1970, only the Top 40. Which we will get to in our own later installment.