Superstars and Not

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(Pictured: Jeff Fenholt and the Broadway cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Having spent time on the American Top 40 show from January 30, 1971, last week, it would be our usual practice to look at the Bottom 60 from that week’s chart. This time, however, I’d like to revisit the Cash Box Looking Ahead chart, equivalent to Billboard‘s Bubbling Under the Hot 100. If there’s anything you recognize on the January 30, 1971, Looking Ahead chart, it’s probably “Treat Her Like a Lady” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose or “Revival” by the Allman Brothers Band. But there are other records worth taking note of.

2. “Wooly Bully”/Canned Heat. After scoring a hit with “Let’s Work Together,” Canned Heat decided to cover another song that most working rock bands of the era would have known. Compared to the hard ‘n’ heavy “Let’s Work Together,” “Wooly Bully” is almost light, and while it’s got some good playing on it, Sam the Sham still owns.

7. “We Can Make the World (A Whole Lot Brighter)/Gravy. Gravy was the songwriting team of Robert John and Michael Gately; John later scored hits under his own name, including the #1 hit “Sad Eyes,” while Gately recorded an album with musicians including Al Kooper, Herbie Flowers, and Paul Kossoff. “We Can Make the World (A Whole Lot Brighter)” would reach a far larger audience after the Brady Bunch sang it on TV in 1972 and later put it on an album.

(Do I need to repeat that the Brady Bunch records were roundly ignored in the 70s, and that it was only in the 1990s, when kids who had grown up on the show discovered them, that they came to be considered “hits”? I think not.)

10. “Nothing Rhymed”/Gilbert O’Sullivan
25. “Brand New Day”/Rufus
A couple of years before “Alone Again (Naturally),” Gilbert O’Sullivan was already moping around on “Nothing Rhymed.” Rufus spent a lot of time in the weeds before breaking through in 1974. “Brand New Day” is their first release; the female voice on it belongs to Paulette McWilliams, who left the band in 1972 and recommended her friend, Chaka Khan, as a replacement.

12. “Theme From Love Story“/Peter Nero.
 Two versions of the Love Story theme, by Henry Mancini and Francis Lai, were already on the Cash Box and Billboard charts in this week and other versions, by Andy Williams and Tony Bennett, would also get some chart action. With the novel atop the fiction best-sellers list and the movie raking it in at the box office in January 1971, peak Love Story was not far away.

13. “When I’m Dead and Gone”/Bob Summers. Summers was the brother of Mary Ford, Mrs. Les Paul. After Les and Mary divorced, she went on the road solo, but with Summers playing Les Paul’s parts. By 1970, Summers was a producer and arranger at MGM Records, which released his “When I’m Dead and Gone” single and album. (The thoroughly English folk-rock version of “When I’m Dead and Gone” by McGuinness Flint was just outside the Cash Box Top 40 in this week.)

19. “Something to Make You Happy”/Mason and Cass. Dave Mason and Cass Elliot’s lone album together, which I have not heard, supposedly sounds like a Dave Mason solo record with Cass providing a few backing vocals. “Something to Make You Happy” sounds like a lost classic, though.

21. “Medley From Superstar (A Rock Opera)“/Assembled Multitude.  Jesus Christ Superstar was a snowballing cultural force in the winter of 1971; the album would spend three non-consecutive weeks at #1 in February and again in May, and two songs, “Superstar” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” would become significant hit singles. Producer Tom Sellers put together the Assembled Multitude from Philadelphia studio musicians and scored a big hit with “Overture From Tommy” in the summer of 1970. You can hardly blame a guy for going to the next well over and trying again, although “Medley From Superstar is not as compelling as “Overture From Tommy” had been. It probably didn’t matter to the Philadelphia studio cats, however. They were about to find themselves playing on dozens of far bigger hits.

22. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”/Otis Redding. Recorded at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, this isn’t so much a record as it is a force of nature.

If you are a fan of Looking Ahead or Bubbling Under, you will want to keep an eye on Songs in the Key of E, where Erik has just begun a series on Bubbling Under songs from the 80s that never made the Hot 100. It’s been pretty great already.


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(Pictured: Morgan Wallen, on stage in Nashville last month.)

If you do not A) live most of your life online and B) listen to country music, you might not know who Morgan Wallen is, or why he’s been Topic A among online country music people the last few days. Last week, a video of an intoxicated Wallen shouting a racial slur at a companion went viral, which prompted radio stations, streaming services, and websites to yank his music, and his record label to “suspend” his contract. This is notable for a couple of reasons: first, Wallen’s album Dangerous has been #1 on the Billboard 200 for the last four weeks, making him quite literally the #1 star in country right now; and second, it’s not the first time he’s been in embarrassing public trouble.

I am not going to rehash the whole case here, nor am I going to link you to much stuff that other people have written. I refer you to the Twitter feeds of Marissa R. Moss, Andrea Williams, and WOMAN Nashville, all of whom have been writing and thinking about and discussing what happened, and the controversy that has followed. Here’s what I think I think.

Friday morning, a couple of days after the scandal broke, I logged onto Facebook to see white fans defending Wallen. “Other people have done worse and they didn’t get canceled.” These same folks are unlikely to agree that two wrongs make a right, however. They also say, “What about all the rappers who use that word?” First: whatabout-ism is the lowest form of argument. And second, the word in question hasn’t been normalized in rap and hip-hop in the way white folks think. There are Black critics of the word, and there are questions of context and ownership to consider regarding its use. It wasn’t like The Weeknd was gonna casually launch it during the Super Bowl halftime show.

Some defenders pointed to Wallen’s iTunes sales figures—Dangerous increased over 1200 percent after the scandal broke—as vindication. (They didn’t say how it vindicated him, exactly; they just pointed out the numbers as if they made a sufficient argument for … something.) But right and wrong isn’t decided by a vote, in the marketplace or anywhere else. And also, thinking “Morgan Wallen is in trouble for using a word a lot of people find abhorrent. I need to go to iTunes and get some of his music” doesn’t vindicate anybody of anything. Journalist Bill Werde wrote, in a thread highly worth your time, “Those are protest buys. And it’s upsetting to think about what’s being protested.”

Corporate country did what it had to by removing Wallen from the air and “suspending” his contract. (Interesting word, “suspended.” Will they refuse to pay royalties on everything sold since the “suspension”? If you think so, perhaps I can interest you in this bridge I own in Brooklyn.) But Wallen’s fellow artists haven’t exactly gone along. Many have chimed in with expressions of support, as if the racial-slur incident is something that happened to him, and not something he did to someone else. Meanwhile, many of country’s black artists stand gobsmacked at the spectacle of their fellow performers dismissing the significance of casual racism, something they deal with every day.

Nashville will declare its intent to do better by people of color, but let’s not confuse declarations of intent with action. “Raising awareness” only serves to take the heat off unless it’s followed by concrete steps to address specifics. Canadian country artist Donovan Woods tweeted over the weekend, “Nashville is a corporate town, top to bottom. They’d rehabilitate Ted Bundy if it meant they’d all make $50.” So I worry that this is what will happen: at some awards show in the intermediate future, Morgan Wallen will come onstage with a guitar, sit on a stool, sing a ballad that mentions regret, smile ruefully, get a standing ovation … and it’ll be like nothing ever happened.

If Morgan Wallen truly repents and changes his behavior, good for him. (Good too if the Nashville power structure commits to real change.) If the incident prompts some of Wallen’s white fans to interrogate their own unconscious racism, good for them. But if all it does is to make the general run of white people clutch tighter to the phrase, “This is not who we are,” we’ll end up no better off.

I submit that unless you’re a person of color in America, you don’t really know who “we” are, as least as far as race is concerned. And if you can’t see why Wallen’s slur should be a problem . . . that’s a problem.

Chili Bowl

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(Pictured: Emerson Boozer, #32, takes a handoff from Joe Namath on January 12, 1969.)

I have referred to the record charts as the calendar of my life. Super Bowls can serve a similar function. Each of the games I can recall directly has flashes of memory attached, carrying me along from the second grade to geezerhood. Here are a few.

SB2: I went to a friend’s birthday party that day, and I think I recall a football game on TV in another room of his house. I remember coming home so jazzed about the party that I asked if I could have one for my upcoming eighth birthday. My party remains a vivid memory even now, although part of the reason may be that there’s a home movie of it—which I should digitize for your amusement, and mine.

SB3: After the Jets beat the invincible Colts, there was universal agreement among the third-grade boys that Emerson Boozer was the coolest name we’d ever heard.

SB5: In the week following the game, my fifth-grade reading class did a media unit, which included groups of us doing a “broadcast” in front of the class. I was a sportscaster, I read a story about the Colts’ last-second win, and I remember throwing ad-libs into my copy. I was not yet 11, but I’d already heard my calling.

SB14: Before the game, a friend who was a Rams fan invited us for celebratory old fashioneds in his dorm room. I missed the game itself because I had to be on the radio. I think it’s the only Super Bowl other than the first two that I didn’t see a single minute of.

SB18: Ann’s parents had given us a microwave oven as a wedding present. It came with a small cookbook, and on a whim, I decided to make the chili recipe it contained for the game. We have had chili of various sorts on Super Sunday every year since—almost.

SB21: The elevator-music station gave away a one-day rental of a big-screen TV for the game. It was a common promotion, back when big screens were unwieldy, bargelike appliances and very expensive to buy. I recall that the winner was angry she would have it only for Sunday, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of “one-day rental.”

SB31: The Packers beat the Patriots, and I sat on my couch in tears, although the tears may have had a little to do with the fact that I was to start student teaching the next day, and I was petrified. I honestly didn’t know if I was capable of doing it. As it turned out, I was. But when the job I found that summer was in publishing and not a conventional classroom teaching job, I was not unhappy.

SB32: My team simply didn’t lose championship games (not since 1960, the year I was born), and nearly 25 years later, I’m still not completely over it.

SB35/36: If you want to pay attention to the game and the associated hoopla, you need to watch at home, on your couch, no distractions. In each of these years, friends invited us to watch this game with them. I told ’em that no matter what else was on their menu, I was bringing chili. I don’t remember anything about the games, because of the distractions.

SB45: The Packers beat the Steelers, and I think I tried a new chili recipe, which was a bust.

SB51: I was on the air during the first half, and I never felt more alone. If I’m ever going to say “fuck” on the air, that would have been the day to do it. There were more people listening in reading class.

SB53: The chili streak was broken because I had to drive to Michigan, and we didn’t want to eat it for breakfast before I left. I watched the game in a dingy Baymont Inn not knowing it would be my home for five days, as the class I’d been sent there to teach was postponed four times by weather.

What will stick in memory from SB55 on Sunday won’t be revealed to us for years. Not until the game, and the day, and this whole dumb and deadly era, are firmly part of history. The fullness of time reveals what matters most. As Drew Magary wrote this week at Defector, in “Life Is Measured in Super Bowls,” “The game never changes. But you will.”

I’ll probably remember we had chili.

February 4, 1971: Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You

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(Pictured: a TV screencap from Apollo 14 showing astronaut Alan Shepard hitting a golf ball with an improvised club on February 6, 1971.)

(This post is by request from a longtime reader. If there’s something you’d like to read about here, get in touch.)

February 4, 1971, was a Thursday. Apollo 14 went into orbit around the moon early this morning. Astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell are scheduled to land early tomorrow morning while Stuart Roosa stays behind in the command module. Twenty thousand South Vietnamese troops have invaded the neighboring nation of Laos. American commanders have refused to discuss the situation in recent days, although an official news embargo has been lifted today. It’s learned that 20,000 more South Vietnamese and 9,000 American troops are massing at the Laotian border. In Oakland, California, authorities fear that the bombing of an Army induction center, which shattered storefronts nearby but injured no one, may mark an escalation of the antiwar movement. Eight American soldiers and one Marine die in Vietnam today. A Delta Air Lines flight from Chicago to Nashville with 27 people aboard is hijacked and flown to Cuba. President Nixon speaks to the American College of Cardiology meeting in Washington. A tornado in rural Grenada County, Mississippi, kills four members of one family. Future actor/comedian Rob Corddry and future Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti are born. The Vatican says that Catholic theologians and teachers will no longer face excommunication or be charged with heresy for opposing church doctrine.

Major League Baseball announces that it will induct former Negro Leagues players into the Hall of Fame, but they will be enshrined in their own wing. Two games are played in the NBA: the San Francisco Warriors beat Phoenix 117-105 and Portland beats Atlanta 137-123. In the ABA, the Virginia Squires beat the Floridians 138-129 in double overtime and the Kentucky Colonels beat the New York Nets 106-99.

On TV tonight, CBS opens with Family Affair and The Jim Nabors Hour, followed by Sinatra in Concert, a November 1970 show taped at the Royal Festival Hall in London. On NBC, it’s The Flip Wilson Show (with guests including Joe Namath and George Carlin), Ironside, Adam-12, and The Dean Martin Show. ABC airs Alias Smith and Jones, Bewitched, Make Room for Granddaddy, Dan August, and This Is Your Life. Movies in theaters include Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn in There’s a Girl in My Soup, Barbra Streisand and George Segal in The Owl and the Pussycat, plus Tora! Tora! Tora!, Lovers and Other Strangers, and Song of Norway, the musical biography of composer Edvard Grieg. At Syracuse University hot spot The Scene, tonight is Wino Thursday. Cover is 50 cents for the wine and cheese party; glasses of Budweiser are 40 cents.

T. Rex plays Croydon, England, while Earth Wind and Fire plays a club date in West Hollywood. Just off a three-night stand at the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles, the Allman Brothers fly halfway across the country for the first of two nights at Ohio Wesleyan University. Elvis Presley plays dinner and midnight shows at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. The James Gang plays Morehead State University in Kentucky.

At WRKO in Boston, “One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds holds at #1 on the new survey released today. “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot is #2, and “Mr. Bojangles” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is #3. One song is new in the Top 10: “Groove Me” by King Floyd is at #10 from #13, replacing “Knock Three Times” by Dawn, which slips to #11. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, is up seven spots to #12. “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones is the week’s biggest mover, leaping 12 spots to #15 in its second week on the chart. Five songs debut: Bobby Goldsboro’s “Watching Scotty Grow,” “For All We Know” by the Carpenters (from the movie Lovers and Other Strangers), Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You,” “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations, and Santana’s “Oye Como Va.”

Perspective From the Present: On Saturday the 6th, astronaut Alan Shepard would make history by hitting a golf ball during a moonwalk. The “separate but equal” Negro Leagues wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame was shot down pretty quickly. I received a 45 of “Knock Three Times” for Christmas 1970, and I would eventually buy “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You,” as well as Wadsworth Mansion’s “Sweet Mary” and the Jackson Five’s “Mama’s Pearl,” also on the WRKO chart this week. The song that would stick with me the longest, however, is “Just My Imagination” by the Temptations, which remains one of my very favorite records of all time.

How Sweet the Sound

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(Pictured: Judy Collins performs on TV, 1969.)

We continue here with a look inside the American Top 40 show from January 30, 1971, in which we find some key differences between the show as it was heard back then and the version that is repeated today.

EXTRA: “Isn’t It a Pity”/George Harrison
EXTRA: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”/Shirelles
At the end of the first hour of the original 1971 broadcast, Casey played “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as an extra, part of a feature on the #1 songs “10 years ago today.” On the repeat, it was snipped and offered as an extra at the end of the third hour. The extra included with the first hour of the repeat was “Isn’t It a Pity,” the flip side of “My Sweet Lord,” introduced as a track from the #1 album of the week, All Things Must Pass. But here’s something weird: “Isn’t It a Pity” wasn’t heard on the original 1/30/71 show at all. While on later shows extras are voiced by modern-day announcer Larry Morgan, extras from the earliest shows are often segments voiced by Casey and snipped from original shows. The 1/31/71 extra must have been taken from either January 23 or February 6, when All Things Must Pass was still #1, and when it looks from the cue sheets as if Casey played both sides of the single, albeit a shortened version of “Isn’t It a Pity.” (He had also played both sides on the December 26, 1970, show, including the whole seven minutes of “Isn’t It a Pity,” but that required him to drop a song from the top 40.)

26. “Amazing Grace”/Judy Collins. What does it mean for 50 years to pass? Imagine how unlikely it would be today for a hymn, recorded unironically by a singer with a pure, clear voice and backed by a choir, to be a vast pop success. “Amazing Grace” did three weeks at #1 at WHBQ in Memphis, and also hit #1 in San Bernardino, California, and Birmingham, Alabama. It was a top-10 hit in Dallas, Wichita, Portland, Oklahoma City, Orlando, St. Louis, Fresno, Tulsa, Columbus, Seattle, Kansas City, Phoenix, New Orleans, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and smaller cities including Madison, where it made #3. It would peak at #13 in Cash Box, #15 on the Hot 100, and #5 on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart.

25. “Watching Scotty Grow”/Bobby Goldsboro. Me, 2018: “I’d rather listen to ‘Honey’ 100 times than ‘Watching Scotty Grow’ once.”

18. “Mr. Bojangles”/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
17. “Born to Wander”/Rare Earth
16. “Immigrant Song”/Led Zeppelin
12. “Black Magic Woman”/Santana
11. “If I Were Your Woman”/Gladys Knight and the Pips
10. “Stoney End”/Barbra Streisand
7. “I Hear You Knockin'”/Dave Edmunds
5. “Rose Garden”/Lynn Anderson
4. “One Less Bell to Answer”/Fifth Dimension

Each of these had a particular sound on my green plastic Westinghouse radio. “Born to Wander,”  “Immigrant Song,” and “Black Magic Woman” came sizzling in like transmissions from another reality, which for 10-year-old-me, they were.

15. “I Think I Love You”/Partridge Family
EXTRA: “Theme From A Summer Place“/Percy Faith
14. “Love the One You’re With”/Stephen Stills
EXTRA: “We Can Work It Out”/Beatles
On the original 1/30/71 broadcast, Casey ends the second hour of the show as you see here. Percy Faith is on as part of a feature about the two acts that have had the #1 song for the entire year twice: the Beatles in 1964 and 1968 (“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Hey Jude”) and Faith in 1953 and 1960 (“Song from Moulin Rouge” and this). After “Love the One You’re With,” he recaps the top five from “five years ago today” and plays “We Can Work It Out.” It’s all kind of awkward. (The Percy Faith record was snipped from the repeat and offered as an extra.)

13. “It’s Impossible”/Perry Como. Down from #10 the previous week, and his biggest hit since 1958. He would return to the Top 40 one more time, with the Don McLean song “And I Love You So” in 1973.

9. “One Bad Apple”/Osmonds
3. “Lonely Days”/Bee Gees
“One Bad Apple” vaults to this lofty position from #34 the week before, but Casey reports that it’s already #1 in Salt Lake City. He does something similar after “Lonely Days,” name-checking someone at an affiliate station “on the coast of Maine” who says the song is #1 there.

8. “Your Song”/Elton John. In the second of what would be four weeks at #8.

2. “My Sweet Lord”/George Harrison. On the green plastic Westinghouse, this sounded like God himself playing a 50-foot guitar.

1. “Knock Three Times”/Dawn. In its second week at #1. Casey introduces it in an oddly downbeat fashion, musing that most young American males have been in the position of falling in love with a woman they’ve never met or spoken to. “That’s what this song is about,” he says.

I hadn’t been there yet, but it wouldn’t be long.

Good Time

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(Pictured: Van Morrison at work in 1971.)

Before we get into the American Top 40 show from January 30, 1971, let me stipulate for the rest of this year/decade that I can’t believe it’s been a half-century because it doesn’t seem that long ago to me, etc. and so forth.

With this show, American Top 40 reaches the end of its seventh month on the air. It’s still evolving: in spots, Casey still talks too fast and it feels like he’s ad-libbing, but he’s miles better than he was, and he and his producers are starting to figure out the template that the show would use throughout its long life, one that countdown shows everywhere still use today.

40. “Somebody’s Watching You”/Little Sister
39. “Precious Precious”/Jackie Moore
38. “Tears of a Clown”/Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
36. “Do the Push and Pull”/Rufus Thomas
35. “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”/James Brown
This show gets jumpin’ with a soul-music party. In AT40‘s earliest days, Casey would say that the Billboard Hot 100 is based on sales data from 100 record stores across the country. That does not seem like a lot, and I am betting that the bulk of them were in major metros. And so I wonder if that might have skewed the chart performance of hard R&B records with little pop appeal, like “Do the Push and Pull” and “Get Up, Get Into It,” which were more likely to sell in New York or Chicago than in, for example, Dubuque or Allentown.

37. “1900 Yesterday”/Liz Damon’s Orient Express. Right in the middle of all that soul shoutin’ comes a record as ethereal as the cigarette smoke mentioned in the lyric. This original video, made in the group’s native Hawaii, really doesn’t fit the song, but watch it and see if you can identify the actor reading the newspaper in it. (Answer below.)

34. “Games”/Redeye
31. “Amos Moses”/Jerry Reed
30. “One Man Band”/Three Dog Night
23. “For the Good Times”/Ray Price
20. “We Gotta Get You a Woman”/Runt
I would have heard these songs on my first radio, the fabled green plastic Westinghouse tube-type, and as I listen to them today, I can see it sitting in its spot next to my bed. Casey tells how Jerry Reed commutes from his home in Nashville to Los Angeles every week to tape episodes of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, on which he’s a guitarist in Campbell’s band. Casey says Reed prefers the 1800-mile round trip to actually living in Los Angeles.

32. “Domino”/Van Morrison
I’m halfway sure that “Domino” was the first record I ever bought with my own money, unless it was “Love the One You’re With,” on this show at #14.

29. “River Deep, Mountain High”/Supremes and Four Tops
21. “Stoned Love”/Supremes
19. “Remember Me”/Diana Ross

Diana Ross left the Supremes at the end of 1969 but it didn’t hurt them much. Jean Terrell stepped into the lead-singer slot and the group’s hits (so to speak) just kept on comin’. As for “Remember Me,” it’s another one of those green plastic Westinghouse records.

28. “If You Could Read My Mind”/Gordon Lightfoot. Which Casey introduces in his FM-radio register, so mellow he’s barely audible.

On the original 1971 broadcast, “If You Could Read My Mind” was followed by a national commercial for MGM Records. MGM was of the show’s earliest major sponsors and plugging the new Eydie Gorme album, It Was a Good Time. In a radio world where formats and audiences were not as fragmented as they would become, it’s not the craziest buy I can think of. The Eydie Gorme spot appears three times on the show in all.

The Increase label also had three spots on the show to plug its Cruisin’ series of 50s and 60s oldies compilations, which also feature DJ patter. The series was the brainchild of Ron Jacobs, one of the co-creators of American Top 40. The first seven volumes of Cruisin’ came out in 1970; featured DJs included Dick Biondi, Hunter Hancock, and Joe Niagara. Once upon a time, the Cruisin’ albums were ubiqitous in used-record stores, although I imagine they’re pretty pricey nowadays.

It will take us another installment to get through all of this show, so stop back tomorrow.

(Answer to the question above: the actor reading the newspaper in the “1900 Yesterday” video is Gilbert Lani Kauhi, who billed himself as Zulu, and is most famous for playing Kono in the first four seasons of the original Hawaii Five-O. )