Reflections

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(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.

12 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Gary Omaha

    This list covers the period in which I:
    — was finishing high school along with working at my first station,
    — then left for college, quickly getting involved in the student radio station rather than studying).
    It was, quite likely, the time of the most changes in my life, and many of the songs on this list take me right back.

  2. Wesley

    Lots of good, interesting bits here as always, jb. The male domination of the chart in 1970 is something that I’ve overlooked in my ignorance but should’ve realized in a casual review of my Joel Whitburn books. And Bobbi Martin’s song is anything but a feminist statement, so it really shows the need for a Helen Reddy (if not the Helen Reddy) to come onto the pop chart at that time.

    For Ronnie Dyson’s magnificent vocal alone, I’d give the nod to the sadly underplayed Why Can’t I Touch You as best song in the bottom 40 here. Frijid Pink’s is the worst indeed, and I’d argue that it’s played even less now than Love Land, although ARSA may prove me otherwise. All I know is I didn’t hear it until my 50s and had to purposefully search it out on the internet because no terrestrial radio station I know of ever played it as an oldie.

    And I’d have to check, but this may be the last countdown where Casey played both sides of a double-sided hit at least twice within the show. Also, I don’t recall album tracks by the year’s number one album being featured as an extra in later year-end countdowns, but that’s just based on my foggy, aging memory.

    And man, comparing Chicago to Stan Kenton and claiming the Jaggerz name made some think they were listening to the Stones is the kind of amusing nuggets that make listening to AT40 again such a delight. Even when Casey seemed to be wrong, he nevertheless sounded right. Love it all, and thanks again for an excellent summation here.

    1. porky

      Coincidentally our American Top 40 which aired yesterday played the December 26, 1970 show with “My Sweet Lord” at number 1. Casey then introduced and played “Isn’t It a Pity.” As with the above “For You Blue” the show ended on a very low energy note.

  3. TimMoore

    Frijid Pinks version of House…Sun, is my favorite version..it’s rocks.. their other music you can scrap, but that rocks.. as for Porky , you stole my nickmane!!. I’ve been Porky for 55 years

    1. porky

      Porky is actually shortened from Porcupine, which most of friends of longer than 30 years call me. We were all Stooges fanatics and Moe called Larry that. Since I, like Larry, never said much, I got the nickname.

  4. mackdaddyg

    As a kid, I actually dug Frijid Pink’s version of Rising Sun, as well as the single’s flip side Drivin’ Blues.

    Listening with my older ears, they don’t hold as much allure as back then, but I’m holding on to their two Parrot albums from my youth for no real good reason at all.

  5. For all the confusing bands and sounds in rock at the time, Chicago seems to have really scrambled some brains. Not only what Casey says here, but there exists an aircheck of Gary Owens on MOR powerhouse KMPC in Los Angeles in 1970 playing Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” and calling it an exciting take on the classic Four Freshmen sound.

    (And yes, the best song is Ronnie Dyson’s)

    1. Chris Herman

      It wasn’t just Chicago scrambling people’s brains at the time. 1970 was the peak period for jazz-rock (a.k.a., jazz fusion) and many fans of jazz and fans of rock approached the blend with puzzled ears not knowing exactly how to compare and categorize it. To me, on the spectrum of jazz-rock acts, early Chicago ranked to the left of David Clayton Thomas-era Blood, Sweat, & Tears and to the right of Traffic.

  6. Aaron McCracken

    Funny you should mention Stan Kenton… just the other day, iHeartRadio was airing an AT40 from the summer of 1979, and Casey told the story of how Charlie Daniels said he’d give Stan Kenton $1,000 if he could record a country tune. Don’t recall the specific details, but Charlie never paid up.

    1. porky

      In 1975 Kenton slammed country music and the press picked up on it big time. Ironically in 1962 Stan had charted with a version of Bill Anderson’s “Mama Sang a Song” (also done by Walter Brennan). An enterprising label, Creative World, leased the master from Capitol and re-issued the 45 in ’75 with sleeve notes explaining the irony of Stan having success with a country song in the early 1960s.

  7. Thank you everyone for your interesting comments here. Couple of things: Stan Kenton is quite the polarizing figure, I find. IIRC, he got a lot of pushback from other jazz musicians and jazz fans for his bombastic style, and as you have noted here, he wasn’t afraid to mix it up with critics. But it’s been a long while since I did much reading about him.

    Also: I wrote about the AT40 episode that ended with both “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It a Pity.” Casey dropped one song from the week’s Top 40 to make room. The post is here: https://thjkoc.net/2010/12/28/american-top-39/. It’s reeeeeeal old.

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