Top 5: Demon Tonight

One day last week I wrote about the crapfest that was the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 40 for a September week in 1973. As a wee experiment this week, I have taken the Hot 100 from a couple of weeks later—October 6—to see if I can find five interesting and worthwhile records somewhere within, to save the season.

16. “Brother Louie”/Stories (down from 11). I got into a brief exchange with the artist formerly known as Kinky Paprika last week about this song. He says it doesn’t do anything for him. I maintain that it is not only one of the greatest AM-radio records of all time, the call-and-response between the strings and guitar at the end is one of the most awesome AM-radio moments of all time. Trouble is, you can’t hear it on AM anymore. But you will.

33. “Jimmy Loves Mary Anne”/Looking Glass (holding at 33). Wow, this is too easy. Although #33 was as high as “Jimmy” would get on the Hot 100, it went to #2 on WLS, and why not? If you do not dig its essential coolness, particularly the guitar solo, which is run through a Leslie speaker, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.

64. “Outlaw Man”/Eagles (up from 73). Far from being big stars, the Eagles were just another band looking for a hit in the fall of 1973, exactly a year removed from their first Top-10 single (“Witchy Woman”) and about a year away from the next one (“Best of My Love”). Although “Outlaw Man” fits nicely into the concept of the Desperado album, it’s one of the rare Eagles chart singles written entirely by an outsider, singer/songwriter David Blue.

82. “Tonight”/Raspberries (down from 69). In which the band that released “Go All the Way” and the equally hormonal “I Wanna Be With You” completes their great horndog trilogy. Somehow “Tonight” reached only #69 on the Hot 100. How it missed being huge like the other two, I got no idea.

83. “Country Sunshine”/Dottie West (up from 92). Lots of crossover country in the lower reaches of this chart, from Donna Fargo, Ray Price, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Rodriguez, Charlie Rich (“The Most Beautiful Girl,” which would eventually make #1), and Merle Haggard. West had been charting on the country side for a decade by 1973, although her biggest successes would come in the late 70s in several duets with Kenny Rogers. If you think you remember “Country Sunshine,” it might be because it went to #2 on the country chart. However, it’s more likely because of this:

In a twist on the way it happens now, the Coke jingle came first and was turned into a record later.

It’s been a few years since I mentioned an aircheck I received out of the blue from a kind reader one day in 2006. It’s 90 minutes of ass-kickin’ classic Top 40 goodness from the border blaster X-ROCK 80, based across the line from El Paso, Texas, in Juarez, Mexico, as heard on the night of August 23, 1976. With 150,000 watts, X-ROCK-80 blanketed the western United States, and in 1975 it claimed to be the most-listened-to station in the country (despite jocks who, on the night shift at least, were not very good). I have posted excerpts from this aircheck before. Nevertheless, until you hear “Brother Louie” on that skywave from halfway across the country, which makes it sound like some sort of demon about to break out of the radio and eat your face, you haven’t heard it the way it was meant to be heard.

(If you’re interested in hearing the whole X-ROCK 80 aircheck, get in touch.)

“Brother Louie” and “Ballroom Blitz” on X-ROCK 80, 8/23/76

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4 responses

  1. If you add “Let’s Pretend” to your Raspberries list (“for now, just let me spend the night with you”), it becomes a great horndog tetralogy.

    For strictly puerile reasons, I would love to see a list of singles that peaked at No. 69. Todd Rundgren’s “A Dream Goes On Forever” is another, or so I have read.

    I *will* listen to that aircheck later.

  2. Agree 100% on “Brother Louie.” The way AM audio processing turned that 7-inch piece of plastic into *the* Summer of ’73-defining hypnotic groove was nothing short of magic. The radio had cast that same spell in 1965, when I’d noticed how the drum break during the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy” sounded awesome on the AM stations, yet seemed to just sit there on my Bang 45.

    The autocratic music director at my college station was on vacation that August when “Tonight” was released. Being huge Raspberries fans, one of the other staffers and I watched the mail each day as we awaited the arrival of the precious package from Capitol. We were like kids on Christmas Eve when it finally came in, so I carefully opened the mailing envelope, then placed the newest holy grail on the office turntable as we steeled ourselves for the revelation to come as the stylus made contact with the noticeably warped vinyl surface.

    Talk about a major letdown: on the heels of the glorious “Let’s Pretend,” the last thing we were expecting was a Whofest. Where the hell were the shimmering harmonies? It wasn’t that “Tonight” was a bad record; it was just too drastic of a departure from what had come before made it.

    Once the record ended, I stuffed it back into its mailing envelope, as if it had never been opened. Upon his return, the MD shared our tepid opinion on the record, which I’d fessed up to having sneak-previewed. It likewise failed to thrill the rest of the staff. Fortunately, “Tonight” has grown on me a lot over the years. Capitol had a single out at about the same time by Hamlet – “I Feel Like Smiling (Tonight)” – and to segue them together along with “I Wanna Be With You” is the “tonight” fest to end all tonight fests.

    If “Tonight” seemed an unlikely choice for a Raspberries single at the time, it was a positively brilliant move compared to the total misfire that followed (“I’m A Rocker.”) That one should’ve stayed on ‘Side 3′ in favor of “On The Beach.”

  3. Was detassling corn (a central Illinois rite of passage) summer of ’73 and “Brother Louie,” “That Lady” and Pink Floyd’s “Money” were oozing out of transistors as we pulled the stalks (ooh, that sounded awkward). When I hear those songs again I can almost smell the pollen.

  4. Brother Louie is like being in the room when family members start to fight and it starts to get heated: awkward, scary, confused, trapped.

    Which is probably why Louis CK used it for the theme to his show, Louie

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