When Will I See You Again

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(Pictured: the Three Degrees, Valerie Hudson, Fayette Pinkney, and Sheila Ferguson, in 1974.)

I have written a lot about the fall of 1974, and I hereby vow as I start writing about the American Top 40 show from December 12, 1974, that I won’t get caught up in how the season felt. I’ll write only about the music and the show.

40. “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”/John Lennon
32. “Dark Horse”/George Harrison
18. “Only You”/Ringo Starr
10. “Junior’s Farm”/Paul McCartney and Wings
Before playing the debuting “Dark Horse,” Casey talks about how this week marks the first time every member of “a defunct group” has a solo hit in the countdown. “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” had to hold at #40 for a second week to make it happen, which has led some AT40 fans to suspect that the chart was manipulated to create that bit of trivia for Casey to highlight. Ringo’s “Only You” is one of the better reinventions of a 1950s hit; “Junior’s Farm” was probably my favorite song of the moment in 1974.

33. “Woman to Woman”/Shirley Brown. What was the last big hit to contain a long monologue like “Woman to Woman”? “I’ve Never Been to Me”? Or was there something later? Enlighten us, fellow nerds, if you can.

30. “Mandy”/Barry Manilow
16. “Laughter in the Rain”/Neil Sedaka
Here’s a major star whose career is at the embryonic stage (Manilow in his second week on the show) and a former star making a comeback (Sedaka’s first hit since 1963). The way AT40 chronicled musical history, in real time one week at a time, is one of the most fascinating things about it.

26. “Willie and the Hand Jive”/Eric Clapton. On which Clapton sounds like he just woke up and heard someone say, “We’re rolling, sing it.”

24. “One Man Woman, One Woman Man”/Paul Anka with Odia Coates. And now we come to one of those oddments that makes the study of AT40 on a molecular level so interesting. On the hit version of “One Man Woman,” Anka and Coates don’t just swap lines, like they did on “You’re Having My Baby,” they trade entire verses. But on this show, Casey plays a version with Anka singing alone. Coates is on it as a standard background vocalist. He plays the verse-swapping version on both earlier and later shows, so what’s happened here I don’t know.

20. “Must of Got Lost”/J. Geils Band
19. “My Melody of Love”/Bobby Vinton
Both of these songs are genres unto themselves compared to all the stuff around them. Not gonna lie: I kinda enjoyed hearing the galactically cheesy “My Melody of Love” when I wasn’t expecting it.

12. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”/Bachman-Turner Overdrive
11. “You Got the Love”/Rufus
I heard these two back-to-back and thought, “This is how the world is supposed to sound.” I’d elaborate, but I took a vow.

9. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”/Elton John. Up from #36 last week. Allow me to get back on my BS and say that the contrast between this and Elton’s “Hold Me Closer” could not be more stark. While it’s true that styles change in a half-century, the human ear does not. “Lucy” is a tapestry of sound in which the individual threads can be appreciated. “Hold Me Closer” is a bolt of neon-green polyester.

5. “Angie Baby”/Helen Reddy. Which gets a long introduction from Casey quoting songwriter Alan O’Day who says that it’s about “a bright but lonely teenager with no social life who just hangs out in her room living out romantic fantasies triggered by the pop songs she hears on the radio, and within the four walls of that room her fantasies become real.” But is it? O’Day’s own lyric says of her, “you’re a little touched, you know.” It calls her “a crazy girl” and says, “it’s so nice to be insane.” “Angie Baby” is a modern gothic horror story in which a mad girl commits the terrifying, fantastical act of imprisoning a boy in her radio. Is O’Day misreading his own song—or did he tell Casey what he wanted Casey to hear?

2. “When Will I See You Again”/Three Degrees. Listening to this show, I thought about my two best friends in the fall of 1974. One went to a different college and we just drifted apart. The other I was much closer to, and for much longer, but our friendship seems to have ended in the last couple of years due to COVID and Trump. It makes me sad, but there’s little to be done about it.

1. “Kung Fu Fighting”/Carl Douglas. You can trust me, I was there in the fall of 1974, and I can tell you beyond a doubt: not everybody was kung-fu fighting.

12 thoughts on “When Will I See You Again

  1. Douglas Trapasso

    Oh wow, spoken words in a song – great category!

    Three come to mind right away:

    “Kiss and Say Goodbye” – The Manhattans
    “The Look of Love” – ABC
    “The Rain” – Oran “Juice” Jones

  2. mikehagerty

    I vote for a full post on what you’re not saying about #12 and #11.

    Also, Helen Reddy did a lot of crazy women songs—“Angie Baby”, “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” and “Delta Dawn”.

  3. Mitch Winder

    I’m just a wee bit too young to have appreciated The Beatles. Yes, I understand their impact, but I was 8 when they separated. I grew up fast in the years that followed and Wings was on seemingly every station I’d turn to. I was always a fan, but it took me until my adult years to really appreciate just how good that band was. And it was really good.

    And the Three Degrees’ When Will I See You Again is what every Junior High boy wanted for a slow song to close out a school dance. Ok, maybe not every boy, but it was my choice as the girls seemed to love it. Busted.

  4. Oh, man, “When Will I See You Again.” That was the song for another someone and me way back when. Some nice memories in there, stuff I don’t often take out of the box. Thanks, truly, for the reminder.

  5. Wesley

    Trivial thing I didn’t note until now: Ringo is the only one of the Beatles not to have a solo hit for this holiday season. Paul has Wonderful Christmastime, John (and Yoko) have Happy Xmas (War is Over) and George rings in the new year with Ding Dong. But our boy Richard Starkey has yet to have something like what the others have here.

  6. JP

    I’m more amazed that “Woman To Woman” spawned two amusing answer records. On the first song, Shirley Brown is matter-of-factly telling “the other woman” not to flirt with her man, while asking for sympathy. Barbara Mason then countered with “From His Woman To You,” which told the story from the sidepiece’s point of view. Then along came Lonnie Youngblood with “Man To Woman,” where he admits flat-out that “Shirley” ain’t doing a damn thing for him.

    All have monologues. And since Youngblood is a sax player, there’s a mournful horn solo towards the end of his record.

    1. porky

      And Barbara Mandrell covered “Woman to Woman” (with a shorter spoken-word monologue) and had a #4 Country hit with it in late ’77 (it went #92 pop). As an aside, there are a large number of R&B covers in Mandrell’s discography.

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