(Pictured: Perry Como with Tom Jones and Debbie Reynolds on This Is Tom Jones, November 1970.)
As documented here, American Top 40 as it existed in the fall of 1970 was a slapdash work-in-progress, but it didn’t take long for Casey and his producers to figure things out. By December 5, 1970, his weird ad-libs and non-sequiturs are mostly gone, and the show is tighter and cleaner than it was only a month or two before.
40. “Do It”/Neil Diamond
31. “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”/Neil Diamond
Casey mentions that “Do It” keeps Diamond with two songs in the countdown after “Cracklin’ Rosie” dropped off, and it’s pretty good. “He Ain’t Heavy,” on the other hand, is a weirdly lugubrious performance. He doesn’t seem to be feeling it at all until the very end.
39. “One Man Band”/Three Dog Night
29. “Green Eyed Lady”/Sugarloaf
22. “Be My Baby”/Andy Kim
21. “After Midnight”/Eric Clapton
20. “Stoned Love”/Supremes
18. “Indiana Wants Me”/R. Dean Taylor
17. “Black Magic Woman”/Santana
12. “See Me, Feel Me”/The Who
10. “Share the Land”/Guess Who
9. “Heaven Help Us All”/Stevie Wonder
4. “I’ll Be There”/Jackson Five
3. “Gypsy Woman”/Brian Hyland
I couldn’t have articulated it after only a few months as a listener, but it wasn’t just the music that I loved, it was the way that music sounded on WLS. As I wrote a few years ago, it was “larger than life, better than real.”
36. “It’s Impossible”/Perry Como. Few people today grasp how big Perry Como was, and for how long. Casey calls him “the original Mr. Cool.” He came up in the 1940s during the musicians’ strike, so his first hits came fronting vocal groups. He was also a pioneer of television, with regular series starting in 1948 and continuing into the early 60s; after that, he did holiday-themed specials every year until the late 80s. His peak years as a hitmaker were the late 1950s, but “It’s Impossible” would make the Top 10 in January 1971, and he would return to the Top 40 one more time in 1973 with “And I Love You So.” Como died in 2001, but he routinely charts every year at Christmas, as his most famous holiday songs are discovered anew.
34. “Can’t Stop Loving You”/Tom Jones. There is no better indication of the growing maturity of American Top 40 than the fact that Casey does not feel compelled to make a cringey remark about Jones’ effect on his female listeners.
30. “Cry Me a River”/Joe Cocker. We have previously noted Casey’s tendency to pronounce “Sunday” and “Monday” as “sundee” and “mondee.” Another of his pronunciation quirks is “Joe Caulker.”
EXTRA: “Take Good Care of My Baby”/Bobby Vee. Which Casey introduces with a story about how Bobby Vee employed a young Bob Dylan for a while, but fired him to save money. In later years, Vee would say that he did not fire the young pianist, who called himself Elston Gunnn (with three n’s). Vee auditioned him and put him on stage for one show (at a badly out-of-tune piano), but then decided “it wasn’t gonna work.” Later, Vee said, he was walking down a New York street and saw an album in a record store window with “Bob Dylan” on it. “I thought to myself, ‘looks a lot like Elston Gunnn.'”
13. “My Sweet Lord”/George Harrison
11. “Patch It Up”/Elvis Presley
“My Sweet Lord” makes the highest debut of the week, up from #72. Casey notes that the flip side, “Isn’t It a Pity,” is also a hit. Two songs later, he plays “Patch It Up,” the other side of the much better “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” Somebody with a better work ethic should look into the history of Casey playing both sides of double-sided hits.
8. “No Matter What”/Badfinger
7. “One Less Bell to Answer”/Fifth Dimension
“My Sweet Lord” isn’t the only record zooming up the chart. Badfinger was #24 the previous week and the Fifth Dimension #25. Casey notes that little is known about Badfinger beyond the first names of the members. He says, “A few people have come up with the theory that this song is an old Beatle recording released under the name of a non-existent group.” He doesn’t think that’s likely, however. After “One Less Bell,” Casey says, “Ahh, that’s so beautiful.”
2. “Tears of a Clown”/Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
1. “I Think I Love You”/Partridge Family
It’s the third week at #1 for the Partridges. Smokey will take over for two weeks starting on December 12.
Although some of the oddball stuff from AT40’s earliest days would persist for a little while yet, by the end of 1970, the show is clearly on its way to becoming an institution we would still care about a half-century later.