I Can Hear You, Mama

American Top 40 offered another ancient show to its affiliates recently—the one from February 26, 1972. As that was the week of my 12th birthday and the day has rolled around again, here are a few notes about that long-gone show.

40. “Kiss an Angel Good Morning”/Charley Pride. Compared to today’s country, full of frat boys singing about moonshine and dirt roads despite having grown up in the suburbs, this is the absolute truth—and it did 11 weeks on AT40 in the winter of ’72.

38. “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing”/James Brown. Casey misidentifies this as the second of six debut songs this week when it’s actually the first. It’s another Brown joint to sneak into the lower reaches of the survey while going unplayed by many Top 40 stations.

36. “The Nickel Song”/Melanie. Casey notes that Melanie has three songs in the Top 40 this week, two from her own label (“Ring the Living Bell,” which debuts at #34, and the former #1 “Brand New Key,” still around at #24.) and “The Nickel Song,” from the label that originally signed her. Casey will wonder later if Melanie will be the star in 1972 that Carole King had in 1971. Yes and no. Not even King had three Top 40 hits at the same time, but Tapestry would remain on the charts for years while Melanie’s three singles would be packed away with the macrame owls within six weeks.

35. “Runnin’ Away”/Sly and the Family Stone. Although WLS charted “Runnin’ Away” for four weeks, I can’t remember hearing it before I started playing it on Saturday at the 70s.

32. “Rock and Roll Lullaby”/B. J. Thomas. Casey mentions that members of the Crystals, Ronettes, and Diamonds, along with Duane Eddy, appear on this, and that it was assembled in the studio from sessions recorded in various places around the country. The result was, and is, spectacular—“Rock and Roll Lullaby” is one of the most beautiful performances ever to hit the Top 40 and I ain’t joking.

Numbers 31 through 28 create a remarkable train wreck: “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex brings the hard R&B; I am not sure what “Softly Whispering I Love You” by the English Congregation is supposed to be, with its feathery chorale giving way to a Michael Boltonesque lead vocal (and not to be confused with the Mike Curb Congregation); “Footstompin’ Music” by Grand Funk Railroad (which Casey introduces with a story about producer/manager Terry Knight that credits him exclusively for the band’s success); and “Fire and Water” by Wilson Pickett, a burnin’ R&B number with a guitar lead played by Dennis Coffey.

I would not have heard either “Softly Whispering I Love You” or “Footstompin’ Music” in 1972 because WLS didn’t chart either one. The station charted “Fire and Water” for only a week. “I Gotcha,” on the other hand, was around 13 weeks, and seemed to be on the air every hour later that spring.

21. “Black Dog”/Led Zeppelin and 20. “Stay With Me”/Faces. Your AM radio could indeed kick ass in 1972, although Casey introduces “Stay With Me” in the late-night FM-radio mode he sometimes used on the early AT40s. From this point through the rest of the show, Casey is unusually soft-spoken, so much so that he’s occasionally drowned out by the music. I wonder if he was coming down with something on the day the show was recorded.

We’ll listen to the second half of the show, which includes a couple of pretty strong pieces of trivia, on Monday.

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3 responses

  1. not disagreeing at all about “Rock and Roll Lullaby” but I will up the ante and say that “Stay With Me” is one of the best rock and roll (emphasis on the “roll”) songs to ever grace the Top 40. Of any era.

    Not a big Melanie fan but “Candles in the Rain (Lay Down)” is my favorite thing to come from that debacle called Woodstock. Except maybe Matthews’ Southern Comfort’s version of the titular song. About fifteen years ago was white knuckle driving in an ice storm and the song appeared on the radio out of nowhere, like a forgotten ghost from my past, the eery steel guitar completely matching the weather.

  2. Bonus points to you, sir, for the “macrame owls” reference.

  3. I was in eighth grade here and always tried to listen to “American Top 40″ on Sunday mornings on whatever FM station was carrying it in Southern California. I was fascinated by “Softly Whispering I Love You” just for the reasons you cited; it was like two records in one. It seemed like every few months there’d be a record like this that I would find mysterious and play over and over, trying to figure out what it was all about. One record in that category from the previous year was “Toast and Marmalade For Tea.”

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