We’re All Gonna Go

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: Black Sabbath. Not your standard AM radio fare.)

I recently wrote about the AT40 show for the week of December 5, 1970. Here’s some stuff from the rest of the Billboard chart that week, not just the Bottom 60 but a 20-position Bubbling Under chart too.

41. “Pay to the Piper”/Chairmen of the Board
45. “River Deep Mountain High”/Supremes and Four Tops
46. “Groove Me”/King Floyd
48. “Border Song”/Aretha Franklin
59. “If I Were Your Woman”/Gladys Knight and the Pips
63. “If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going to Go”/Curtis Mayfield
This is but a fraction of the soul superstars and notable songs on this chart. Also appearing: B. B. King, Ray Charles, Clarence Carter, Johnnie Taylor, Bobby “Blue” Bland, David and Jimmy Ruffin, O. V. Wright, the Moments, the Intruders, and Al Green.

44. “Immigrant Song”/Led Zeppelin
69. “Mr. Bojangles”/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

70. “Amos Moses”/Jerry Reed
71. “Your Song'”/Elton John

81. “Lonely Days”/Bee Gees
In my earlier post about the 12/5/70 AT40 show, I wrote that I loved the way the music sounded on WLS. These songs sounded great in that environment, too. “Immigrant Song” was amazing in that environment.

67. “Rose Garden”/Lynn Anderson. “Rose Garden” was a modern-day extra provided to AT40 affiliates with the 12/5/70 show. The extras are often songs that the oldies, classic hits, and AC stations that typically carry AT40 repeats might otherwise be playing, but “Rose Garden,” despite eventually making #3, seems like an exception.

76. “Paranoid”/Black Sabbath. I love that this was a hit in the same week as “I Think I Love You” and “Knock Three Times” by Dawn. It was actually #1 at WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of November, sharing the Top 10 with the Partridge Family, Smokey Robinson, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, and Elvis—and also “Fresh Air” by Quicksilver Messenger Service. “Paranoid” made the Top 10 in Denver, Winnipeg, and Norfolk, Virginia. And in Erie, Pennsylvania, too, but not until March 1971.

68. “Morning”/Jim Ed Brown
91. “Coal Miner’s Daughter”/Loretta Lynn
93. “Where Have All the Heroes Gone”/Bill Anderson
101. “Fifteen Years Ago”/Conway Twitty
102. “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me”/Charley Pride
111. “I Wouldn’t Live in New York City (If They Gave Me the Whole Dang Town)”/Buck Owens
112. “I’m Alright”/Lynn Anderson
115. “Flesh and Blood”/Johnny Cash
116. “The Wonders You Perform”/Tammy Wynette
Country crossovers to the Hot 100 were a thing in 1970 just as they are now. (Fun fact: “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which would hit #1 on the Billboard country chart on December 19, peaked at #83 a week later.) “I Wouldn’t Live in New York City”  is a 1970 version of the 2022 conservative trope about cities being dangerous hellholes no decent person would live in or visit. It likely didn’t offend anybody who actually lived in NYC, however, because the only country radio stations in the metro area in 1970 were in Hackensack, New Jersey, and Mineola, New York. The city didn’t get one of its own until WHN started playing country in 1973.

95. “Lady Love”/The Klowns. After the success of made-for-TV acts like the Monkees and the Archies, Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey Circus tried to manufacture a similar act. They called upon bubblegum god Jeff Barry, who dug a few songs out of his closet, hired some studio musicians, and birthed the Klowns. The Klowns who appeared on the album cover were not the people who performed on the album; they were actors, among them Barry Bostwick, later of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. Those actors appeared in a Klowns TV special in November 1970, which guest-starred Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis. Nothing came of either the TV show or the album, although “Lady Love” lasted two weeks at #95.

120. “Down to the Wire”/Yellow Hand. This band, whoever they were, had friends in high places. Six of the 10 songs on their lone album were by Stephen Stills and/or Neil Young, apparently written for the Buffalo Springfield but never officially released by them. This is the only week on the Bubbling Under chart for “Down to the Wire.” It has 12 listings at ARSA, ten from KIMN in Denver.

The same Norfolk station that charted “Paranoid” in the Top 10, WNOR, had also charted Yellow Hand, on a list that included other oddball singles such as Procol Harum’s “Whiskey Train,” “What Now America” by Lee Michaels, and “Catch the Man on the Rise” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, as well as “Up and Down” by Two Monsters, which is from The Sesame Street Book and Record, the 1970 original cast album that also inflicted “Rubber Duckie” on the world.

I don’t know if WNOR was a good radio station in 1970, but it had to be an interesting one.

The Only Art That’s Really Worth a Damn

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: from somewhere in the 70s, Waylon Jennings is silently judging your taste in music.)

The Cash Box chart from November 1, 1975, isn’t going to be for everybody. For me, it’s a great one. I have to go down to #11 and #12 before I find something I don’t like a lot, and I can tolerate both of them, even “Feelings.” It’s not until I get to #20, and George Harrison’s “You,” that I find something I straight-up don’t like. Part of this chart’s appeal has to do with the way I have mythologized the fall of 1975, but not all of it. Any chart that contains my all-time favorite record, the Spinners’ “Games People Play,” just gots to be cool. And some of the most iconic records of the 70s are here, too: “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Low Rider,” “Born to Run.”

But if you don’t dig it, I understand. Let’s see how you might feel about some of the stuff farther down.

43. “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”/Willie Nelson
74. “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”/Waylon Jennings
83. “What’s Happened to Blue Eyes”/Jessi Colter
“Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar / Where do we take it from here?” “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” is Waylon wondering if there was a path to success in country music different from the one Nashville stars had followed for years. As it turned out, he and the other prominent outlaws found it.

55. “(How I Spent My Summer Vacation) Or a Day at the Beach With Pedro and Man Part 1″/Cheech and Chong. In the fall of 1974, “Earache My Eye” rose all the way into the Top 10 because A) it included a song with a monster riff and B) it was actually funny. Neither of those things is true about “A Day at the Beach With Pedro and Man,” which yammers on in its full-length version for seven deadly dull minutes.

65. “Manhattan Spiritual”/Mike Post. Post hit with the Rockford Files theme in the summer of 1975 and applied the same template to “Manhattan Spiritual,” a 1958 hit by British jazzman Reg Owen. Really, it’s quite remarkable how much it sounds like “The Rockford Files,” to the extent you can tell from the wobbly 45 at YouTube.

89. “Come and Get Your Love”/Roger Daltrey. The YouTuber who posted this says it was marketed in some countries as “Get Your Love.” The United States was apparently not one of them, even though a different “Come and Get Your Love” had been to #1 a year before. This “Come and Get Your Love” is arranged and played like it wants to be a soul record. As such, it would be better sung by quite literally anybody other than Roger Daltrey.

94. “Machines”/John Livigni
98. “Wake Up”/Law
It’s an indication of how obscure these records are that they aren’t posted in full at YouTube or anywhere else, which means they’ve disappeared as completely as any record ever does anymore. To have made the national charts for only a week or two, how many copies must they have moved, or how much payola was distributed on their behalf? Law was on the GRC label, which was a money-laundering operation for one of the largest pornographers in the country, although the artists signed to the label or one of its many subsidiaries didn’t necessarily know it. John Livigni, whose record was on the Raintree label (which was based in Los Angeles, Nashville, or Louisiana depending on which Internet source you prefer), changed his name to John Valenti and scored a minor hit in 1976 with “Anything You Want.” But that’s according to Wikipedia, so caveat emptor.

96. “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”/Ambrosia. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut gets a writing credit on “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” because it’s adapted from lyrics he wrote in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle. It was going to be a little much for Top 40 radio, but underground FMs were another story. After hearing it on the radio one night, Vonnegut wrote to the band: “Those who know pop music keep telling me how lucky I am to be tied in with you. And I myself am crazy about our song, of course, but what do I know and why wouldn’t I be? This much I have always known, anyway: Music is the only art that’s really worth a damn. I envy you guys.”

Looking Over My Shoulder

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: Aimee Mann of Til Tuesday, in the mid-80s.) 

I have fallen out of the former habit of looking at the Bottom 60 of every American Top 40 show I write about, so let’s try and get back into that. First up, a few songs from the week of September 12, 1970.

43. “That’s Where I Went Wrong”/Poppy Family. A very autumnal record that has been a favorite of this website since always.

45. “Indiana Wants Me”/R. Dean Taylor. Up from #86 in its second week on. Taylor had a gift for weirdly intense melodrama, which “Indiana Wants Me” surely is. See also “Candy Apple Red,” in which jilted lover R. Dean commits suicide in a church.

58. “Sunday Morning Coming Down”/Johnny Cash
82. “For the Good Times”/Ray Price
Both of these Kris Kristofferson songs reward repeated listening. Cash carries (yeah I said it) “Sunday Morning Coming Down” with the authority in his voice; “For the Good Times” has a beautiful arrangement by Nashville veteran Cam Mullins.

83. “Fire and Rain”/James Taylor
84. “We’ve Only Just Begun”/Carpenters
Both of these debut on the Hot 100 in this week, signaling that the soft-rock 70s had begun.

88. “Montego Bay”/Bobby Bloom
105. “God, Love, and Rock and Roll”/Teegarden and Van Winkle
Two of the first 45s I ever owned; if I’m recalling correctly, Santa Claus brought ’em in December.

91. “Monster Mash”/Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers. Here’s the first return of the 1962 #1 hit; it would be back and bigger in 1973, when it made the Billboard Top 10—in the middle of the summer.

96. “Border Song”/Elton John. This was Elton’s first American chart single, a couple of weeks after his debut at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. It charted briefly at WMCA in New York and became a Top-10 hit in Memphis, but would peak at #92 on the Hot 100. “Your Song” was not far behind.

100. “Loving You’s a Natural Thing”/Ronnie Milsap. While he was coming up, Milsap made several records in an R&B style. “Loving You’s a Natural Thing” moves him toward the country sound that would make him a superstar before long.

102. “Holy Man”/Diane Kolby. Behold this Christian rock song of praise in which Kolby sings to Jesus like one would to a lover, aroused by the idea that “you’re the one who knows when I will die, die, die.”

And now, the Bottom 60 from another week I’ve discussed here recently: August 31, 1985, with links to music videos from the time:

41. “Do You Want Crying”/Katrina and the Waves
43. “Spanish Eddie”/Laura Branigan
Both of the videos for “Do You Want Crying” and “Spanish Eddie” are very very 80s (and both songs sounded great on the radio back then), but what’s striking as I watch them is how both Katrina Leskanich and Laura Branigan look like the kind of woman you’d run into at the grocery store, and I mean that in a positive way. Nikki Minaj they ain’t.

52. “Four in the Morning”/Night Ranger
63. “Sentimental Street”/Night Ranger
“Four in the Morning” and “Sentimental Street” are bombastic, overblown hogwash that also sounded great on the radio. Like Night Ranger’s stuff generally.

61. “You Look Marvelous”/Billy Crystal. The 1984-85 season of Saturday Night Live featured a great cast, including Crystal, Christopher Guest, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jim Belushi, Rich Hall, and Martin Short. Although few involved remember the season very fondly today, it featured some great characters, including Crystal’s Latin lover Fernando. I am mildly surprised to have found a copy of Crystal’s album Mahvelous! on a shelf in my office.

66. “Looking Over My Shoulder”/Til Tuesday
73. “Voices Carry”/Til Tuesday
Like Katrina and the Waves, Til Tuesday deserved better than to be a one-hit wonder, although “Looking Over My Shoulder” isn’t as memorable as “Do You Want Crying.”

Another Thing Entirely: on my early-morning Internet rounds today I found a fabulous story about Chicago DJ Dex Card and the rock clubs and concerts he promoted in the Chicago area and southeastern Wisconsin during the late 60s and early 70s. It’s actually the third post in a series. Another tells the story of the Majestic Hills Music Theater near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, an outdoor venue that attracted top artists of 50 years ago, before the more famous Alpine Valley Music Theater was built. Still another charts the frequent appearances of the Buffalo Springfield in the area during their 1967 heyday. The posts are on Kenosha [Wisconsin] Potpourri, which is maintained by local historian Steve Marovich, and is the kind of site every community ought to have. If you’re in Wisconsin, you’ll dig it, and maybe even if you’re not.

/jingle out/

Tied to Their Moment

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, 1987.)

Just as I was kind of underwhelmed by the American Top 40 show from June 21, 1986, the rest of the Hot 100 from that week is kind of meh also. There are a few songs of note, however.

41. “Secret Separation”/The Fixx. “Red Skies,” “Saved by Zero,” “One Thing Leads to Another,” “Are We Ourselves,” and “Stand or Fall” were all big radio hits, either on Top 40 or AOR and frequently both. So was “Secret Separation,” although didn’t have the same sort of staying power, despite outperforming most of the others on the American charts. The Fixx is still together with several original members, they released their first new album in 10 years earlier this month, and are still touring.

42. “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”/Jermaine Stewart. Well, son, strictly speaking, you’re right, although as a line of smooth talk, “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” leaves a lot to be desired: “I’m not a piece of meat, stimulate my brain” and “Take my hand, let’s hit the floor, shake our bodies to the music, maybe then you’ll score.” Back in 1986, I hated hearing this low-rent Prince imitation on my air.

43. “West End Girls”/Pet Shop Boys
44. “What Have You Done for Me Lately”/Janet Jackson
48. “Your Love”/The Outfield
49. “Addicted to Love”/Robert Palmer
55. “Take Me Home”/Phil Collins
90. “Kiss”/Prince
If the summer of 1986 felt fallow, maybe it was because the spring had seen several iconic hits riding high at the same time. All of these were just out of the Top 40, and some would be heard on the radio regularly for at least 36 years to come. “West End Girls” might be the best song on the entire Hot 100 in this week, half-sung, half-rapped, a mysterious transmission from Another Place that didn’t sound like anything else. (The contrast with “Opportunities” couldn’t be greater. I would like to be able to explain to you why I hate that record so much. I tried listening to it again while writing this paragraph, but I was literally unable to get through it.)

47. “Bad Boy”/Miami Sound Machine
79. “Words Get in the Way”/Miami Sound Machine
“Bad Boy,” just out of the Top 40 in this week, is a tenacious earworm—seriously, it ought to come with a warning label—but “Words Get in the Way” was the first example of the kind of thing Gloria Estefan would make bank on for the next decade.

65. “Sweet Freedom”/Michael McDonald
96. “Take My Breath Away”/Berlin
I play “Take My Breath Away” on my radio shows once or twice each week here in 2022, but I’m not sure anybody would have bet on such longevity for it in June 1986. Another unlikely bet in June 1986: at WLS in Chicago, “Sweet Freedom” would end up the #1 song for all of 1986, the last year the station published a year-end survey.)

64. “I Must Be Dreaming”/Guiffria. Our friend Wesley made a good point in the comments to my earlier post, noting that “When the Heart Rules the Mind” by GTR, on this chart at #25, “is the type of undistinguished song that helped bring down AOR radio. Generic in all departments.” Record labels and radio became deeply invested in that kind of thing during the middle of the 1980s: “supergroups” making big, windy, empty, radio-friendly hard-ish rock, of which “I Must Be Dreaming” is a grade-A example. GTR was led by guitar heroes Steve Howe (who had already played in a band of similar ilk, Asia) and Steve Hackett of Genesis; Giuffria was led by Greg Guiffria, formerly of Angel. Both were lauded as the next big thing in rock, and were instantly added at AOR and Top 40 radio. They took up a lot of airtime and could do pretty well on the singles chart (Giuffria’s “Call to the Heart” got up to #15), but their style was tied to their specific historical moment. Before long, it would sound positively geriatric in a world dominated by Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Nirvana, and other, newer acts.

While the music of 1986 does not measure up to that of 1984 and 1985, the year itself remains a pretty good one in memory, as I have mentioned here before. I was doing the morning show in small-town Illinois, where we rattled around in a big old rented house. For a while that year, The Mrs. sold advertising for a regional tourism newspaper run by a guy who was a little better at planning and dreaming than execution. For that reason, at the end of the summer, she allowed herself to be drawn back into radio. Funny how that happens.

Right Now

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: Mariah Carey on MTV Unplugged 30 years ago today, if we can trust the Getty Images caption.)

The March 14, 1992, American Top 40 show I wrote about last week was from an era when the show used Billboard‘s Hot 100 Airplay chart as opposed to the regular Hot 100 (although they didn’t announce that on this particular show). Compared to the actual Hot 100 from the same week, there are some differences. Certain songs riding high on the Airplay chart were not doing nearly so well on the Hot 100. (The opposite was also true.) One example is “Make It Happen” by Mariah Carey, at #8 on Airplay while it sat at #20 on the Hot 100 in its fourth week on.

I didn’t have room for this observation in my earlier post, but I think “Make It Happen” is one of Mariah Carey’s greatest performances. I have always found her technically impressive but emotionally reserved—she rarely sounds spontaneous to me, like she’s always conscious of the fact that she’s putting on a performance, and I might even go so far as to say “curating a brand.” But on “Make It Happen” she cuts loose, and it feels real in a way that her records often do not.

What else is there to see on the Hot 100?

Continue reading “Right Now”

Old Fashioned Love Songs

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: the Stylistics on tour circa 1974. Note the song titles painted on the side of the bus.)

It is always a challenge, especially with time periods I have covered extensively, to find new songs to write about or new things to say. But I’ll take a shot with the Bottom 60 of the Hot 100 from the week of November 13, 1971.

59. “You Are Everything”/Stylistics. In the fall of 1971, I’d only been listening to the radio for a year, so lots of things would have sounded new and exciting. But “You Are Everything” hit different. There was not, had never been—and would never be—anything that sounded quite like it. I am a fan of little moments in songs, and the instant where the dreamy, ethereal introduction gives way to the opening line, “Today I saw somebody who looked just like you” is an all-timer, still raising goosebumps after 50 years, every time I hear it. But the whole record is great—pain and regret made impossibly beautiful in the way only the best pop music can. Last week I tweeted a new profile of the great Philadelphia songwriter/producer Thom Bell and suggested that while there should be a statue of Bell somewhere, “no matter how grand we made the thing, it wouldn’t be as great as intro of ‘Back Stabbers.'” I could have said “as great as ‘You Are Everything.'” Nobody else on Earth has that man’s gift. 

65. “Rub It In”/Layng Martine. I have written a bit here about Billy “Crash” Craddock, the mid-70s country star, and his pop crossover hit “Rub It In.” This is the OG, recorded by the man who wrote it, eventually a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and produced by Ray Stevens. (It’s easy to imagine Stevens singing it, actually.) Craddock’s version is better, and it was timed better, running the charts in the summer of 1974.

73. “Gimme Some Lovin’ (Part 1)”/Traffic, Etc. This is an oddly credited single from an oddly credited album. The album is Welcome to the Canteen, which is a live album taken from two English concert dates in the summer of 1971. The album was not credited to Traffic, but to the seven individual musicians who made up the group at the time: Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Ric Grech, Dave Mason, Reebop Kwaku Baah, and Jim Gordon. But since it wasn’t practical to issue a single with all those names, “Gimme Some Lovin'” was credited to Traffic, Etc., with part 1 of the nine-minute album version on one side and part 2 on the other. That it got any traction as a single is pretty surprising, as it’s mostly a jam and not the sort of thing you’d expect your local Top 40 station to play.

76. “Stones”-“Crunchy Granola Suite”/Neil Diamond. Another excellent article I read recently was by the great Dan Epstein, about how Lenny Bruce inspired Neil Diamond to write his best song, “I Am … I Said,” which appeared (according to Epstein) on Diamond’s worst album. I feel more warmly toward “Stones” than Epstein does (fall of 1971 and all), and “Crunchy Granola Suite” is just odd enough to be charming. But your mileage, like Epstein’s, may vary.

77. “Old Fashioned Love Song”/Three Dog Night. A friend and I were talking the other day about the sound of music on AM radio. To the extent people think about it at all (which is not much anymore), I suspect they find AM’s sound quality inferior and figure that everybody just lived with it until something better came along. But the great AM music stations cared deeply about the quality of their audio. They tweaked their processing in various ways to minimize the limitations of the AM band, and to provide the best possible sound on the radios most commonly in use, especially little transistor sets and car radios. Although that’s not done much anymore, I still enjoy listening to 60s and 70s music on AM. (And it’s not just music. If I am listening to a sports broadcast and I have a choice, I will always choose the AM signal.) Record labels helped too, with special mixes for 45s and/or for radio. It’s a subject I’ve written about before so I won’t belabor the point here, but “Old Fashioned Love Song” is a record that you have not heard properly until you have heard its 45 mix.

It’s arguable, of course, that you have not heard “Old Fashioned Love Song” properly until you’ve heard it on a fading nighttime skywave from 100 miles and 50 years away, but insert shrug emoji here.