On Friday we started listening to the American Top 40 show from February 26, 1972, and we left off in the middle. Here’s the rest.
19. “Anticipation”/Carly Simon. I like this much better now than I did in 1972, when I had no way to understand what Carly was singing about.
17. “Day After Day”/Badfinger and 16. “My World”/Bee Gees. Dang, there were a lot of pretty records on the radio back then.
Before playing “Day After Day” Casey answers a trivia question: which song debuted the highest on the Hot 100 but never got any higher than its debut position? Turns out it was a 1957 record by the Mello-Tones called “Rosie Lee,” which came on at #24 and immediately started down. (Surely the mark has been broken since, but I don’t know.) Before playing “My World,” Casey remarks that AT40 is heard in “15 foreign cities” and on over 350 Armed Forces Radio Network outlets. Not bad for a show about 18 months old.
The extra that closes out the second hour is “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor, and it includes a story about Taylor’s prize pig Mona, which won ribbons at a show on Martha’s Vineyard. This seemed so absurd that I had to look into it, but sure enough, it really happened—and in 2013, a tragic dimension of the story was revealed.
14. “Bang a Gong”/T. Rex and 13. “Heart of Gold”/Neil Young. Casey reports on a T. Rex concert that sent 33 crazed fans to the hospital and suggests that T. Rex mania is reaching Beatles/Stones proportions in England. Meanwhile back at home, I was buying another T. Rex single, having snagged “Hot Love” the previous summer. I bought “Heart of Gold,” too, and lots of other singles that winter. I count six of the top 20 that I owned on 45s.
10. “Sweet Seasons”/Carole King. I can’t remember a time, in 1972 or anytime since, when I didn’t love hearing this song.
7. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”/Robert John. My brother and I used to go around our house approximating Robert John’s yodel. Our mother must have been so pleased.
5. “Down by the Lazy River”/Osmonds. The week I am turning 12, I already know that I want to be on the radio—and that a hot-sounding record with a cold opening sounds insanely great off a jingle.
3. “Precious and Few”/Climax. The week I am turning 12, I already am writer enough to admire “Quiet and blue like the sky / I’m hung over you.”
Before “Precious and Few,” Casey answers a listener question about the most non-American acts ever to appear in the Top 10 in the same week. It’s the week of May 8, 1965. With the British Invasion in full rage, nine of the top 10 are by foreign acts: Herman’s Hermits (who have two), the Beatles, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, the Seekers, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Rolling Stones, and Sounds Orchestral. What Casey doesn’t mention is the outsider at the party, the lone American group, an example of the sort of trivia that will interest me many years hence: Gary Lewis and the Playboys.
1. “Without You”/Nilsson. Gary Wright’s opening piano is timid and stately at the same time, like someone shyly stepping into a cathedral. But that’s the last timid thing about the record.
The end of February 1972 was the second semester of sixth grade. I might have had a birthday party at some point that month, or maybe I got to have a friend or two come out to the farm and stay overnight. The details are lost. Only the music endures.
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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.
The question of which record label released which Beatles single, the note upon which we ended last week’s Beatle post, is something geeks enjoy sorting out 50 years after the fact, but the average fan, going breathlessly to his or her local record store during those fevered days of 1964, could not have cared less.
Just as they dominated Billboard in April, the Beatles ruled Cash Box, too: on the chart of April 4, the Beatles held the top five spots and 12 out of 100, albeit in a different order than in Billboard. At KQV in Pittsburgh, the Beatles held the top 10 spots, and all were listed as co-Number Ones. At CHUM in Toronto, they had eight of the top 12; at “WA-Beatle-C” in New York, as the station billed itself during the Beatles’ February visit, five of the top 10; at WLS in Chicago, the Beatles had held the top four spots a couple of weeks before. The week of April 4, the Beatles also had the top two albums on the Billboard chart, and topped several charts in Britain and around the world. It’s frequently mentioned on the web that they had nine of the top 10 in Australia, but I can’t find a chart that shows it.
Although scoring the whole top five remains the greatest feat of dominance in American chart history, it was neither the first nor the last time an artist would hold more than one place at the top. Elvis had done it in 1956 with “Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel” and “Love Me Tender.” The Bee Gees would do it in 1978, when “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive” sat at #1 and #2. That same week, “Emotion” by Samantha Sang, written, produced, and featuring background vocals by the Bee Gees, sat at #3, while Andy Gibb’s “Love Is Thicker Than Water” held the #5 position. (In my view, that makes the Bee Gees second to the Beatles in this particular category.) Since 2002, and a change in chart methodology that counts paid digital downloads as well as purchased pieces of plastic, taking the top two spots has been done fairly often. Wikipedia sums it up nicely here. But take note: nobody’s ever managed the top three, let alone five.
Those changes in methodology have rendered the leap taken by “Can’t Buy Me Love” to the top spot on April 4, 1964, from #27 to #1, far less impressive. In 1998, “The Boy Is Mine” by Brandy and Monica went from #28 to #1; since the methodology change of 2002, bigger leaps are relatively commonplace. Just since 2007, 11 records have taken leaps of at least 52 places to the #1 position, including a 97-to-1 leap for Kelly Clarkson’s “My World Would Suck Without You” back in 2009. Since 1995, 21 records have actually debuted on the Hot 100 at #1.
I can gas on about this for a lot longer than you’d care to read about it, so I’ll wrap up here with one last observation: Given that nobody, even in a marketplace where the record-charting methodology is much more precise and up-to-the-minute, has come especially close to equaling what the Beatles did in 1964, their mark for chart dominance, set 50 years ago, is going to last until the end of time.
Back in 2008, I crunched the numbers regarding the Beatles’ unprecedented dominance of the Billboard singles chart during the spring of 1964. What follows is part 1 of a two-part reboot. Small correction added.
It is the most stupendous, bodacious feat of dominance in the history of the record charts. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated February 8, 1964, the day before the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was spending its second week at #1, and “She Loves You” had blasted to #7 from #21. The storm that was Beatlemania would continue to rise with the coming of spring:
February 15: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” remains at #1; “She Loves You” rises to #3.
February 22: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” remains at #1; “She Loves You” rises to #2.
February 29: Same two in the same spots at the top; “Please Please Me” zooms to #6 from #29.
March 7: Status quo at the top, “Please Please Me” to #4.
March 14: The Beatles hold the top three spots: “Hand,” “Loves You,” “Please.”
March 21: “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” switch positions; “Please Please Me” holds at #3; “Twist and Shout” makes an amazing leap to #7 from #55.
March 28: The top two are the same; “Twist and Shout” takes over #3, dropping “Please Please Me” to #4.
And so, things were falling into place. On April 4, 1964, “Can’t Buy Me Love” made the greatest leap in chart history up to that time, reaching #1 from #27 the previous week. The rest of the top five lined up this way: “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me.” That same week, seven other Beatles songs were on the Hot 100: “I Saw Her Standing There” at #31, “From Me to You” at #41, “Do You Want to Know a Secret” at #46, “All My Loving” at #58, “You Can’t Do That” at #65, “Roll Over Beethoven” at #68, and “Thank You Girl” at #79.
There was even a pair of Beatles-related novelties on the chart that week. “We Love You Beatles” by the Carefrees was based on the chant heard outside the New York hotel where the Beatles stayed in February, which was in turn based on a song heard in the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie. “A Letter to the Beatles” by the Four Preps, the last chart hit for the popular vocal group of the 50s, criticizes the Beatles for charging for fan-club memberships. Like the handful of other anti-Beatles records released in 1964, it’s the last bleat of people who know they’ve lost the battle and the war.
The 12 Beatles songs on the Hot 100 during that April week 50 years ago were released in the United States on four different labels. “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret” were on Vee-Jay, which licensed them from EMI after EMI’s American subsidiary, Capitol, refused to release them. “Twist and Shout” was on Tollie, a Vee-Jay subsidiary. (Vee-Jay is said to have gone under in 1964 partly because it couldn’t keep up with the demand for Beatles records.) “She Loves You” was on Swan, a Philadelphia label
in which Dick Clark was a silent partner. (He had been, but not in ’63; see below.) “All My Loving” and “Roll Over Beethoven” were on Capitol of Canada, the Canadian EMI subsidiary, which had not shared the Beatle resistance of its American counterpart. Only “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” were official Capitol releases, which came after the company saw the light.
More along this line follows in our next installment of this, next week.
If you have watched much TV lately, you’ve seen the USAA Insurance ad in which a young woman says her policy was earned “orbiting the moon in 1971.” She’s referring to the flight of Stuart Roosa, command module pilot aboard Apollo 14, who I presume is her grandfather. Roosa’s crewmates were original Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, who would famously hit a golf ball during his moon walk, and Edgar Mitchell, who reportedly did ESP experiments while on the surface of the moon, and has spoken repeatedly since of his belief that UFOs represent genuine extraterrestrial visitations. So they were an unusual group of men—and their mission to the moon launched on January 31, 1971.
That day was a Sunday. If you watched The Ed Sullivan Show that night—then heading toward cancellation later in the spring after 23 years on the air—you’d have seen the Temptations, on the show for the fifth time in four years, singing their new song, “Just My Imagination,” along with a medley of recent Motown hits that also included George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” The Jackson Five played a show in their hometown, Gary, Indiana. The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons 131-104; the Bucks ran their record to 44-and-9 on the way to their only NBA championship later in the spring. The “Winter Soldier” investigation sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War” began in Detroit. A protester was shot to death at an antiwar rally in Los Angeles.
In Salt Lake City, KCPX was playing the hits, and not necessarily the same ones that other stations were playing elsewhere in the country, including (from their survey dated February 1, 1971):
5. “Most of All”/B. J. Thomas. I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for this song about a guy on a train, and the lovely last verse:
Tomorrow there’ll be snow in Minnesota
But I won’t be around to watch it fall
I’ll be heading for an old familiar station
Hopin’ you still love me most of all
There’s a spectacular version of “Most of All” in which Thomas teams with acoustic bluesman Keb’ Mo’, which you should go and listen to right now. It’s from an album of duets he released last year, which you and I should probably go and buy right now.
11. “Nothing Rhymed”/Gilbert O’Sullivan (up from 17). Over a year-and-a-half before most of us would hear of this guy thanks to “Alone Again (Naturally),” he was moping on this.
13. “D.O.A.”/Bloodrock (down from 8) and 14. “1900 Yesterday”/Liz Damon’s Orient Express (down from 13). KCPX was on “D.O.A” before most of the country, charting it at #1 for the week of December 21, 1970, a couple of weeks before it hit the Hot 100. Outraging the public decency is a good career move; 40-plus years later, “D.O.A.,” the thoughts of a guy dying after being injured an accident, is the only thing Bloodrock is remembered for, even though it’s complete garbage. It’s supposed to be eerie, but it’s not—it’s just exploitative and stupid. “1900 Yesterday,” on the other hand, is eerie in the best way, and as evanescent as the smoke from a cigarette. (Together, those two records represent one of the great train-wrecks of all time, and #15, “Hang on to Your Life” by the Guess Who, only adds to the carnage.)
19. “Whole Lotta Love”/C.C.S. The Led Zeppelin song covered by a band made up of several members of Blue Mink including famed session bassist Herbie Flowers. It was the theme for the British TV show Top of the Pops for much of the 70s.
I would certainly have watched the Apollo 14 launch that afternoon. If the Bucks were on TV—and I don’t know if they were—I’d have been watching that, too, for I was a huge fan that winter. (A year to the day before, I had attended my first Bucks game, at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison. The program I bought that day is still around here somewhere.)
I can’t say I remember anything else about that day, except for the music. It’s what I expect to remember when I’ve forgotten everything else.
In past years at this blog, our custom has been to see out the old year by looking back at a year-end record chart of some kind. This year, I’m writing about American Top 40 repeats I have been listening to in the car lately. This one is from December 4, 1976, five years to the day after the one I wrote about yesterday. That winter remains a time I am unable to be objective about, so while I listen to these songs, I’m not completely here.
40. “I Wish”/Stevie Wonder. Casey says this is the first single to make its Hot 100 debut within the top 40 since John Lennon’s “Imagine” in October 1971, which is one crazy-good bit of chart trivia.
38. “Whenever I’m Away From You”/John Travolta. Compared to this, “Let Her In” is “Be My Baby.” Watch Travolta lip-sync it on this clip from the Captain and Tennille’s variety show, which is the most 70s thing you’re going to see all day.
36. “Shake Your Rump to the Funk”/Bar-Kays. This disco-funk burner sounds exactly like the Ohio Players and should probably have been a bigger hit. I am tempted to say that the ass reference in the title couldn’t have helped, but KC and the Sunshine’s “Shake Your Booty” had gone to #1 the previous September.
31. “Don’t Fear the Reaper”/Blue Oyster Cult. Introducing this record and again after it ends, Casey says it sounds like “the old Byrds.” Whatever you say, Case.
25. “Do You Feel Like We Do”/Peter Frampton. The song is nearly 14 minutes on the album and over seven on the single, but the AT40 staff cut it to about four, and other than a clunky edit to the very end of the talkbox solo, it’s not bad.
21. “Love Ballad”/LTD and 20. “After the Lovin’”/Engelbert Humperdinck. Choose your flavor of bedroom ballad. I pick Engelbert, for the vivid personal associations I have with it, and don’t you judge me.
17. “The Best Disco in Town”/Ritchie Family. The cheesiest record on the show, and completely delightful.
Casey answers a listener question about whether there’s even been a Top 40 hit that wasn’t a vocal, instrumental, or spoken-word recording. His researchers found two of them: “Oh Susanna” by the Singing Dogs and “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith. I find this bit of trivia to be somewhat disappointing, even as I marvel at how much research it must have taken to uncover it in the days before the Internet.
15. “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”/Elton John. In which Elton mopes for four minutes and makes everybody listening want to kill themselves. Rose bloom: off.
9. “Nadia’s Theme”/Barry Devorzon & Perry Botkin Jr. Casey and ABC were business partners, so this is synergy: he tells the story of how an ABC-TV producer plucked this song from the soundtrack of Bless the Beasts and Children thinking it would be perfect for ’76 Olympics gymnastics montages. He does not mention that it had been the theme for the CBS soap The Young and the Restless since 1973.
8. “More Than a Feeling”/Boston. “It’s more than a feeling / When I hear that old song they used to play.” I saw those lines in print recently and it struck me that for 37 years, I have never clearly understood what Brad Delp was singing.
6. “You Don’t Have to Be a Star”/Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. The slickest record to chart since “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds five years before, so perfectly produced (by former Motown session man and Stax writer/producer Don Davis) that it couldn’t help but be a smash.
2. “The Rubberband Man”/Spinners. I am pleased to have lived in a time when something so fine could become a monster hit.
1. “Tonight’s the Night”/Rod Stewart. Spending its fourth of eight straight weeks at #1, this would become the longest-running #1 since “Hey Jude” went nine weeks in 1968. I think this was on the radio the first time I ever got to second base. I’ve always liked it, and by “it” I mean second base.
Happy new year, everybody, and thanks as always for your patronage.