On January 2 and 9, 1971, American Top 40 counted down the Top 80 hits of 1970. During the second installment, Casey keeps talking about “a holiday special,” even though the holidays, for most people, were long gone by January 9. But considering the show was recorded in December and the AT40 offices were likely festooned with Christmas decorations, we’ll give the man a break. Now on with the countdown:
40. “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”/Edison Lighthouse. Casey will tout the number of Jackson Five records on this show (below) but there are at least three in the Top 80 featuring studio titan Tony Burrows: “Love Grows” (best song on the show, BTW) and two from earlier, “United We Stand” by Brotherhood of Man at #64 and “My Baby Loves Lovin'” by White Plains at #62.
38. “Something’s Burning”/Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. I have read that “Something’s Burning” was resisted by American radio for being too sexy. A better reason might be that it takes forever to get to the hook. I am not sure anybody with a major reputation made two records in 1970 that were more tedious than “Something’s Burning” and “Tell It All Brother.”
37. “Rainy Night in Georgia”/Brook Benton
35. “Patches”/Clarence Carter
These are magnificent deep-soul records of course, but they’re country songs, too. Here in the new millennium, mainstream country’s ongoing struggle to maintain its apartheid system is not only unfair to Black artists, it cuts off bountiful streams of creative energy.
33. “Venus”/Shocking Blue
32. “Ride Captain Ride”/Blues Image
22. “Spirit in the Sky”/Norman Greenbaum
14. “Hitchin’ a Ride”/Vanity Fare
Do kids listening to mopey indie pop or hip-hop sing along with the records? Is it even possible?
28. “I Want You Back”/Jackson Five
16. “The Love You Save”/Jackson Five
15. “ABC”/Jackson Five
7. “I’ll Be There”/Jackson Five
A remarkable run of success, and four of the nine Motown hits among the year’s top songs.
26. “Which Way You Goin’ Billy”/Poppy Family
23. “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”/Melanie
10. “Band of Gold”/Freda Payne
6. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”/Diana Ross
We noted only four female vocalists in what Casey called the “back 40,” and the Top 40 isn’t much better. Diana Ross was the only female performer to hit #1 in 1970, although the Carpenters (see below) made it too.
17. “Cracklin’ Rosie”/Neil Diamond
Songs from the beginning of everything, and 45s I received for Christmas in 1970.
12. “Everything Is Beautiful”/Ray Stevens. For a song that reached #1, “Everything Is Beautiful” dropped down the memory hole in a hurry. Even in the 70s, I don’t remember hearing it much. Today it’s easily the most-forgotten big hit on this chart.
9. “Let It Be”/Beatles. American Top 40 overlapped the Beatles for only a moment. “The Long and Winding Road” dropped out of the Top 40 from #21 during the week of July 25, 1970. Introducing “The Long and Winding Road” back at #41, Casey called the Beatles the most important act of the 20th century. Probably, but there’s an argument for Bing Crosby, who was the first to achieve mass multi-media stardom; for Frank Sinatra, who was the first to turn young people into the arbiters of popular culture; and for Elvis, who was the first rocker to blow the minds of young people not just with music but with kinetic energy.
Also: regarding the Get Back documentary, it is both too much and not enough. I can’t imagine a casual fan like The Mrs. sitting through the whole thing, but the Beatles’ creative process is so interesting, and they’re just so damn likeable (even John, who was prone to monstrous behavior elsewhere), that a fan such as I wanted to keep hanging out with them after it was over.
8. “Get Ready”/Rare Earth
3. “American Woman”/Guess Who
It’s a genuine surprise to see “Get Ready,” which peaked at #4, rank higher than 10 songs that made #1. “American Woman,” meanwhile, did three weeks at #1 but places higher than “I’ll Be There” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” which were #1 longer.
4. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”/B. J. Thomas
2. “Close to You”/Carpenters
1. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”/Simon and Garfunkel
Cherry-picking the charts in support of a idea is a bad practice, but it is also my jam, so here we go. The top of this chart is a strong indication that the 70s are going to vibe a lot differently than the 1960s did. It’s hard to hear any of these three records in the context of, for example, 1968, but much easier to imagine them getting traction at any point during the next several years.
Apart from an entirely predictable One Day in Your Life on Friday, this will be the final post of 2021. Thanks again for your continuing support of this Internet feature.