(Pictured: Linda Ronstadt with David Bowie, 1980.)
I wasn’t going to write about the American Top 40 show from May 3, 1980, partly because Music in the Key of E wrote about the same week’s chart (part 1 here, part 2 here) and it was great. Then I got done listening to the show and decided that what I want to say about it won’t overlap, so here goes.
—The recap of the previous week’s chart was a fine idea, as a way of padding the shows out to four hours, because the Top 40 stations airing the original shows would likely have played the top songs twice in that span anyhow. But with the shows running today as repeats on oldies, AC, or classic-hits stations, it doesn’t work nearly so well.
—On the subject of padding, Casey is almost done running through the #1 hits of the 70s, which he started doing when the show went to four hours in October 1978, and which he plays at the rate of three a week. He’s up to the spring of 1979 on this show and the 234th #1 hit, “Tragedy” by the Bee Gees. I count 19 more to go, which will take him well into June.
—A listener writes to ask about the most popular songs by Caribbean acts. Casey runs down a list that’s topped by Cuban bandleader Perez Prado, whose “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” was #1 in 1955, before the advent of the Hot 100. I wonder how many AT40 listeners of 1980 had heard of that song from 25 years earlier, considering that it wouldn’t have been in anybody’s oldies rotation.
—Before playing Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “Hurt So Bad,” Casey plays snippets of earlier versions by Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Lettermen. Each version has something to recommend it: I am a fan of Little Anthony’s voice and the Lettermen’s harmonies, but Linda stomps both of them.
—Before playing “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia, Casey opens “the AT40 book of recipes” and tells listeners what’s in ambrosia salad. It probably wasn’t the least interesting thing I ever heard him say, but it would be in the semifinals. (Sirius/XM’s Alan Hunter also talked about ambrosia salad when he counted down this list recently, so it’s the only thing anybody can think of to say, apparently.)
—Casey follows “Biggest Part of Me” with a feature listing the biggest hits Frankie Valli ever sang on, solo and with the Four Seasons, and then he plays the biggest, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Subject for further examination: do we still want to hear the Four Seasons’ 60s hits today, over 50 years later? The last few times they’ve popped up on shuffle, I’ve had a strongly negative reaction to them. I’m fine with Valli’s 70s stuff, and on some of the lesser-known 60s material. But lately, they sound dated and gimmicky in a way they never did before.
Now, some of the Top 10, in the usual style.
10. “Hold on to My Love”/Jimmy Ruffin
9. “Sexy Eyes”/Dr. Hook
I barely remembered “Hold on to My Love,” which was co-written and produced by Robin Gibb. Backed up with “Sexy Eyes,” you’ve got two records that practically no radio station played after they fell out of recurrents.
8. “I Can’t Tell You Why”/Eagles. Casey describes Joe Walsh’s record of hotel-room destruction, which he portrays as rock-star eccentricity. He closes the story by saying that Walsh may be ramping up his destructiveness after his manager gave him a chainsaw for Christmas. In the context of what we know today about Walsh’s substance-abuse problems (and our ongoing international plague of spoiled, entitled people behaving badly without being held to account), none of it is funny.
4. “With You I’m Born Again”/Billy Preston and Syreeta
3. “Lost in Love”/Air Supply
Casey calls “With You I’m Born Again” the most romantic record of the year. All I hear is the longest three minutes of the year, which sucked the life out of your favorite station then and would do the same thing today. It’s a subtle difference, but I think this is it: “With You I’m Born Again” is the sound of people telling how it feels to be in love, while “Lost in Love,” all dreamy, wondrous befuddlement, actually captures the feeling.
1 “Call Me”/Blondie. I didn’t know anybody in 1980 who liked this song, but it did six weeks at #1, so somebody did.
Go read Music in the Key of E on this week, and on other weeks too. And be sure to stop by on Monday for a new thing I have discovered that we can do, entirely by accident.
(Pictured: Thelma Houston at Motown 60. She’s still got it and she knows it.)
I have written about other weeks from the spring of 1977, but I don’t think I’ve written about the AT40 show from April 16, 1977, so here you go.
40. “Spring Rain”/Silvetti
39. “Uptown Festival (Part 1)”/Shalamar
This is not the most scintillating way to start a radio show. “Spring Rain” (which is at #40 for a second straight week) has some nice piano, but that’s it; “Uptown Festival,” a medley of Motown songs set to a disco beat, never catches fire.
34. “Dancin’ Man”/Q. Late in April 1984—I forget the precise date—my best friend died, after the third open-heart surgery of his short life. We never talked about it, but I suspect that he always knew he wasn’t going to live as long as the rest of us, which would explain why he lived the way he did: with no limits and no regrets. “Dancin’ Man” was a song he liked, and every time I hear it, I can see him improvising a dance step to the radio, grinning beneath the white-guy Afro he sometimes wore.
33. “Sometimes”/Facts of Life
30. “At Midnight”/Rufus
28. “New York, You Got Me Dancing”/Andrea True Connection
25. “Free”/Deniece Williams
A lot of the songs on this chart (“Spring Rain” and “Uptown Festival” too) weren’t on the radio stations I was listening to that spring.
32. “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow”/Tom Jones
3. “Southern Nights”/Glen Campbell
Both of these had been to #1 on the Billboard country chart earlier in the spring. Ten of the year’s #1 country hits would cross over. Another of the #1s, Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille,” will debut on the 40 next week.
23. “I Like Dreamin'”/Kenny Nolan. Casey says that Nolan wrote “I Like Dreamin'” out of anger, after his songs were rejected by prominent performers even after he’d written two #1 hits, “My Eyes Adored You” and “Lady Marmalade.” Only in the sensitive 70s would an angry man channel that emotion into an ultra-sappy love song.
22. “Your Love”/Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. A #1 hit like “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” was the kind of record that made careers back in the day, and as the summer of 1977 glimmered in the distance, it must have seemed like Marilyn and Billy would become Captain-and-Tennille-level stars. “Your Love” was climbing the chart, and they’d landed a limited-run summer variety show on CBS. But it didn’t happen: “Your Love” stalled at #15, “Look What You’ve Done to My Heart” got only to #51 in the summer, and they never hit the Hot 100 again. Still, they won at life: this summer, they’ll celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
17. “Lido Shuffle”/Boz Scaggs
16. “Couldn’t Get It Right”/Climax Blues Band
15. “I Wanna Get Next to You”/Rose Royce
14. “Carry On Wayward Son”/Kansas
13. “When I Need You”/Leo Sayer
12. “Tryin’ to Love Two”/William Bell
11. “Right Time of the Night”/Jennifer Warnes
That’s some serious Top 40 pleasure right there. As much as I love #17, #16, #15, and #13, “Tryin’ to Love Two” might be the best song on the show.
8. “Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)”/Barbra Streisand
6. “Dancing Queen”/ABBA
After spending three weeks at #1 in March and starting on its way down, “Evergreen” is actually up one spot this week, its 12th straight week in the Top 10. Lots of people would be surprised to learn “Dancing Queen,” last week’s #1, was #1 for only a week, and that it came and went in a hurry compared to other top hits of 1977.
2. “Don’t Leave Me This Way”/Thelma Houston. If you saw the Motown 60th anniversary special a couple of weekends back, you saw Thelma Houston, age 72, blow singers young enough to be her grandchildren right off the stage. I tweeted something to that effect during the show using the Motown 60 hashtag, and it ended up with 32 retweets and 187 likes from around the world, which would make it the single most popular thing I ever said on that hellsite. Perhaps I should quit now. Perhaps all of us should.
1. “Don’t Give Up on Us”/David Soul. In a three-channel universe with mass-appeal radio stations, we all watched and listened to pretty much the same stuff. “Don’t Give Up on Us” got a weekly boost on TV every time Starsky and Hutch was on, even if the song had nothing to do with the show. If I had a longer attention span, I might research the synergy between TV and the record charts in the last half of the 1970s. A better work ethic wouldn’t hurt, either.
At some point during April 1975, I kissed a girl for the first time. As I wrote in 2010, “It was not a hormonally driven assault on a somewhat-willing target; it was, in fact, as magical as you’d like your first kiss to be.” I hope it’s because my memory is full and not failing, but the American Top 40 show from April 12, 1975, doesn’t bring that time back quite as vividly as I’d like it to. But memories aside, there was some interesting stuff on the show.
39. “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You”/Sugarloaf
There has never been anything else that sounds quite like either one of these records.
31. “Tangled Up in Blue”/Bob Dylan
30. “Stand by Me”/John Lennon
Not bad, 1975. Not bad at all. The speedy wordplay of “Tangled Up in Blue” is a little incongruous amidst the pop tunes, but the record always sounds good no matter when you hear it. Meanwhile, Lennon sounds desperate for connection and support, which at the time he recorded “Stand by Me,” he might have been.
25. “The Bertha Butt Boogie (Part 1)”/Jimmy Castor Bunch. Me, 2015: “To make sense of “The Bertha Butt Boogie,” it helps to know a little about the universe Jimmy Castor created on his earlier records, lest his references to the Butt Sisters, Leroy, and the Troglodyte leave you baffled. Or you can just surrender to the absolutely ferocious groove and not worry about it.”
23. “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)”/Tony Orlando and Dawn. This is a remake of Jerry Butler’s “He Will Break Your Heart,” renamed, Casey says, because producer Hank Medress kept calling it “He Don’t Love You” and finally got permission from the publisher to change it. I have a theory that certain songs are helped by the time of the year in which they appear; this would have felt different had it hit in a season other than springtime. And I love the way it starts—so much so that on the radio, I won’t talk over the first five seconds of it.
22. “Satin Soul”/Love Unlimited Orchestra. ABC Sports used “Satin Soul” as a theme for its golf coverage back in the middle of the 70s. One fine night in college, a couple of us used it on a fake golf broadcast we made up, in which various classmates were playing in a tournament and having various misadventures on the course. That tape must be out there somewhere, although I don’t think I have it.
14. “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”/Freddy Fender. This song, which had gone #1 country in March, would spend three weeks at #2 on the Hot 100 in May before hitting #1 at the end of the month, and somebody smarter than me will have to explain its crossover appeal.
13. “Harry Truman”/Chicago. Casey tells the story of President Truman’s 1950 dust-up with a music critic who panned a public performance by Truman’s daughter, and quotes from the letter Truman wrote to the critic as “Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, and a lot of beefsteak for black eyes.” Casey leaves off the last part of that sentence, however: “and perhaps a supporter below!”
12. “Supernatural Thing (Part 1)”/Ben E. King. Introducing King’s first big chart hit since 1963, Casey says it’s one of four “comeback records” this week, but doesn’t elaborate. So let me guess on the other three. Two of the comeback artists must be Frankie Valli (“My Eyes Adored You” #27), who hadn’t been in the Top 40 since 1967, and Shirley and Company (“Shame Shame Shame,” #35); as part of Shirley and Lee, Shirley Goodman hit big in 1956 with “Let the Good Times Roll.” Best candidate for the third one is B. J. Thomas ( “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” #6), who had been absent from the Top 40 since 1972.
3. “The No No Song”-“Snookeroo”/Ringo Starr. “The No No Song” is pretty much what people expected from the funny Beatle by this time. Why “Snookeroo” took off as the flipside, I don’t know. Squeamishness about playing the A-side, which mentions marijuana and cocaine? “Snookeroo” was custom-written for Ringo by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, with Elton on piano and doing the opening count-off, but there’s absolutely nothing to it.
1. “Philadelphia Freedom”/Elton John. The chart action on “Philadelphia Freedom” is pretty interesting. It went 53-35-11-3-2 before its two weeks at #1 in April. Then it went 2-4-7-11-15 before returning to the Top 10 for two weeks in June, about the time the Captain Fantastic album came out. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t on the album, and people discovered that if they wanted it, they had to go get the 45.
(Pictured: Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, stars of Love Story.)
Honk if you remember how big a deal Love Story was.
The novel, by Erich Segal, hit the top of the New York Times Fiction Bestsellers List in May 1970 and stayed there for 41 straight weeks, into February 1971. Just before Christmas 1970 came the film adaptation of the novel, starring Ali MacGraw as Jenny and Ryan O’Neil as Oliver, with a screenplay by Segal. It topped the grosses for 11 non-consecutive weeks from December to March and got seven Oscar nominations: three for acting, one each for direction, screenplay, and score, and for Best Picture. And in early 1971, the movie’s theme song was inescapable. Four different versions charted on either the Hot 100 or the Bubbling Under chart.
—The first to hit was Henry Mancini’s version, which made the Easy Listening chart on December 19, bubbled under the Hot 100 on 12/26/70 and 1/2/71, and cracked the big chart on January 9, 1971.
—Francis Lai, who had scored the movie, charted with his version of the theme on January 30.
—Andy Williams charted a vocal version of the theme, officially titled “Where Do I Begin,” on February 6.
—Tony Bennett bubbled under the Hot 100 for five weeks in February and March, never getting above #114.
Mancini’s version made the Top 40 on February 6. It climbed swiftly, from #30 in its first week to #21, then #14 for the week of February 27. In that same week, the Francis Lai and Andy Williams versions both cracked the Top 40 for the first time, at #33 and #35 respectively. The three versions rode the Top 40 together for four weeks in all, through the week of March 20.
How did American Top 40 handle this glut of Love Story themes? As it happens, I have the February 27 show in my archives. Introducing Andy Williams, Casey says, “Here’s the first vocal of a song to hit the Top 40 that’s a hit in three different versions. We got two more to go.” Moments later, he introduces Francis Lai, also debuting that week, by saying, “We’ve already heard one version of ‘Theme from Love Story.’ Here’s the second of three versions.” Later on Casey says, “The countdown continues with the third version we’ve heard today of the song from the motion picture Love Story. First, it was Andy Williams with the new vocal version. Then Francis Lai with the soundtrack from the picture. And now here’s Henry Mancini with his arrangement of that same theme.” I also have the March 13 show, and Casey played all three versions on that show too. Based on the cue sheets from the shows, I’m pretty sure he did the same on March 6 and March 20.
According to listings at ARSA, other versions of the Love Story theme got some airplay, including versions by Roger Williams, Peter Nero, and, inevitably, the Ray Conniff Singers. Roy Clark performed a version that’s not very country, and Eddie Holman did an R&B version. I would really like to hear “(The Answer) To a Love Story” by a group called Brand X, which got a one-line mention in Billboard and two weeks of airplay at WAVZ in New Haven, Connecticut, in June of ’71, but the Internet knows nothing apart from those two factoids.
The final Billboard scoreboard: Andy Williams topped out at #9, Mancini at #13, and Lai at #31. America reached peak Love Story during the week of March 20, when both Williams and Mancini were in the pop Top 20, and Williams spent the first of four non-consecutive weeks at #1 Easy Listening. (Mancini peaked at #2 on Easy Listening, Lai at #21.)
Unless I’m missing something (which is always a possibility), I believe it would be 1977 before multiple versions of the same movie theme again charted so high together. For three weeks in May, three versions of “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky, by Bill Conti, Maynard Ferguson, and Rhythm Heritage, were on the Hot 100 at the same time; in June, Conti and Ferguson would run the Top 30 together. In September, two versions of the Star Wars theme, the disco version by Meco and the main title by John Williams, were in the Top 20 at the same time. In February 1978, the same two artists put themes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind into the Top 30 at the same time.
There have been other instances of multiple versions of the same song running the charts at the same time, especially in the 50s and 60s, but you don’t want to read a 2,000-word post today and I don’t especially want to write it. So we’ll deal with that another time.
(Pictured: Sammi Smith sings with Johnny Cash, 1971.)
I have written a fair amount about the spring of 1971 at this blog, and I was glad to revisit recently it via the American Top 40 show from April 10, 1971.
38. “Friends”/Elton John. This is one of five debut songs on the show, one of which, Casey teases, is way up at #15. “Friends,” the beautiful title song for an obscure film, was the followup to “Your Song” and would get only to #34.
(The other debuts besides the one at #15: John Lennon’s “Power to the People” at #40, “Chick-a-Boom” by Daddy Dewdrop at #39, and Dawn’s “I Play and Sing” at #30.)
Special: “My Way”/Frank Sinatra. Casey mentions Sinatra’s then-recent announcement that he intended to retire, and he plays this as a tribute. As you read earlier in the week, “My Way” was written after Sinatra told lyricist Paul Anka in 1968 that he intended to quit. He did not quit, of course, but he took a year off before returning to work. In the fall of 1973, he released a new album called Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back.
20. “Temptation Eyes”/Grass Roots. There were few records on the radio in 1971 that sounded better than the Grass Roots’ three big hits that year, this one, “Sooner or Later,” and “Two Divided by Love.”
Special: “Honky Tonk”/Bill Doggett. I suspect that the vast majority of people who heard “Honky Tonk” on the recent repeat of this show couldn’t identify it. Even I had a hard time placing it for a moment until the sax started honkin’. But in 1971, as Casey told his listeners, it was the largest selling rock ‘n’ roll instrumental in the history of the charts, having moved four million copies in two different chart runs, in 1956 (when it went to #2 for three weeks behind Elvis Presley’s unassailable “Hound Dog”/” Don’t Be Cruel”) and again in 1961.
15. “Never Can Say Goodbye”/Jackson Five. After “Never Can Say Goodbye” vaulted to this lofty position after debuting on the Hot 100 the previous week at #57, Casey says it’s headed for #1, and if you were him, you’d probably say the same thing. But “Never Can Say Goodbye” didn’t make it. It went to #13 the next week, then made another impressive leap to #4, and then #2, where it got stuck for three weeks. Read on to find out what stuck it.
14. “What Is Life”/George Harrison. I got my first 45s for Christmas in 1970, but by the spring of ’71 I was buying them myself, 94 cents apiece at S&O TV in my hometown. At some point late in this winter or in the spring I bought “What Is Life” and three others on this chart: “I Play and Sing” and the Partridge Family’s “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” (at #7 this week) because of course I did, and also Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line,” about which there’s more below.
13. “Where Do I Begin (Love Story)”/Andy Williams. Multiple versions of this song charted during the winter and spring of 1971, and you’ll read more about them next week.
12. “Help Me Make It Through the Night”/Sammi Smith. If you do not dig this, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.
10. “One Toke Over the Line”/Brewer and Shipley. A couple of songs before this, Casey teased that he would explain what a toke is. And although I was skeptical about whether he’d tell the whole truth, he did: “It refers to a puff of a marijuana cigarette in some places.” But he goes on to explain that it can also mean a ticket, and that if you are in Las Vegas and you ask for a toke, you’ll get a gambling chip. Brewer and Shipley meant “one toke over the line” to be an expression of regret for having gone too far, he says. Perhaps, but the lyrics make more sense if a toke is a smoke.
3. “Joy to the World”/Three Dog Night
2. “What’s Going On”/Marvin Gaye
1. “Just My Imagination”/Temptations
That’s a solid way to end a show. “Joy to the World” had gone from #34 to #11 to #3 this week, and will start at six-week stretch at #1 next week, three of them with “Never Can Say Goodbye” at #2. As for “What’s Going On” and “Just My Imagination,” it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when stuff so magnificent was an everyday thing.
(Pictured: David Bowie onstage in Detroit, February 29, 1976.)
I have several American Top 40 shows riding with me in the car these days. First up is the one from March 27, 1976. (Bad link fixed. –Ed.) I have written a lot about this season in the past, so I’ll do what I can to avoid repeating myself.
40. “Fopp”/Ohio Players
38. “He’s a Friend”/Eddie Kendricks
37. “Livin’ for the Weekend”/O’Jays
36. “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”/ABBA
35. “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”/Freddy Fender
34. “Looking for Space”/John Denver
33. “Love Fire”/Jigsaw
32. “Inseparable”/Natalie Cole
The first two segments of this repeat are fine if you’re a pop nerd, but an average listener might get a little impatient. ABBA and John Denver at least sound familiar, and “I Do” did make it to #15. “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” and “Inseparable” are pretty good, but neither “Fopp,” “He’s a Friend,” nor “Livin’ for the Weekend” is remotely close to its performer’s best work. And more people know “Love Fire” from being anthologized over the years than they do from hearing it on the radio in ’76. The best-remembered record of the bunch nowadays is probably “Lorelei,” although it wasn’t a particularly big hit back then, peaking at #27.
31. “Slow Ride”/Foghat
30. “Only Love Is Real”/Carole King
29. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”/Paul Simon
28. “Theme from SWAT“/Rhythm Heritage
27. “Love Hurts”/Nazareth
That’s how the first hour wraps up, and it’s much better. Thank the gods that “Inseparable” and “Slow Ride” were separated by a commercial break, both in 1976 and on the recent repeat. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is weirdly holding at #29 for a second straight week; “SWAT” and “Love Hurts” also on their way off the chart.
23. “Action”/The Sweet
19. “Bohemian Rhapsody”/Queen
11. “Golden Years”/David Bowie
Each of these three was my favorite song of the moment in the spring of 1976, depending on the moment.
22. “Cupid”/Tony Orlando and Dawn
13. “Only Sixteen”/Dr. Hook
A Sam Cooke revival was on and we barely knew it. “Cupid” was the last Top 40 hit for Dawn; they’d scored 14 of ’em since “Candida” in the fall of 1970. Three went to #1, including “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree,” which was Billboard‘s #1 single for all of 1973.
9. “Right Back Where We Started From”/Maxine Nightingale
8. “Let Your Love Flow”/Bellamy Brothers
Casey says that “Right Back Where We Started From” has the chart action of a #1 record, having gone from #25 to #14 to #9 this week, although he doesn’t say that about “Let Your Love Flow,” which has gone 28-17-8 in the same period. But come May 1, it would be “Let Your Love Flow” at #1 and “Right Back Where We Started From” at #2. And although she would spend eight weeks in the Top 10, Maxine would never get above #2.
1. “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)”/Four Seasons. Casey notes that this record, in its third and final week at #1, is the Four Seasons’ biggest hit since 1963 (when “Walk Like a Man” spent three weeks at #1). Its fall out of the 40, which will begin next week, is weird: it goes from #1 to #8, then to #14 for three straight weeks, then to #16, then to #25, and finally to #44. It will linger below the Top 40 for seven weeks after that, including three straight weeks at #95 and a final week—June 26—at #98. It had debuted on December 27, 1975, and would spend 27 weeks on the Hot 100 in all.
There are some enduring hits on this chart (“Dream Weaver,” “Dream On,” “Take It to the Limit,” “Show Me the Way”), a couple of under-appreciated gems (“Sweet Thing,” “Sweet Love”), and some guilty pleasures (“Lonely Night,” “Money Honey,” “Fanny”), but in the interest of keeping this post from being 2,000 words long, I’m gonna leave ’em un-mentioned. And I could go on: among the indelible 1976 hits outside the Top 40 ready to debut within the next couple of weeks include “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” “Sara Smile,” “Strange Magic,” “Rhiannon,” “Misty Blue,” and “Welcome Back.”
One More Thing: My hometown, Monroe, Wisconsin, briefly had a record label. During the 1920s, a local businessman founded Helvetia Records, which released traditional Swiss, German, and Austrian music. University of Wisconsin folklorist Jim Leary and Archeophone Records searched quite literally the entire world to find 36 Helvetia sides recorded between 1920 and 1924, which Archeophone has released in a collection called Alpine Dreaming. I went home last night to attend a talk about the album given by Leary, whose liner notes were nominated for a Grammy. The talk was held in the same hall where The Mrs. and I had our wedding reception 36 years ago . . . to the day.