American Top 39

I’m a big fan of Kinky Paprika’s American Top 40 breakdowns at Songs of the Cholera King. I go full geek on 70s music because I lived those years through the radio; as a younger man who didn’t, his perspective is more dispassionate. So I was especially interested in his recent post on the AT40 show from December 26, 1970, one of the more memorable weeks of my young life as a radio listener.

But it turns out that the show from that week is interesting for technical reasons and not so much the songs themselves. The week’s Number One song, “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison, was listed as a double-A side by Billboard, and so Casey decided to play “Isn’t It a Pity” too, all seven minutes’ worth. To do this, however, he told the audience that he would be forced to omit a song from the countdown as a result. I’d love to know the thought process by which the AT40 staff decided to drop Number 30, “Share the Land” by the Guess Who. “Share the Land” was on its way down the chart, but Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” had taken a bigger fall to Number 38, and had been around the same number of weeks. Casey chose to play only one side of another double-A-sided record, “Patch It Up” by Elvis Presley (in lieu of the far superior “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” which is listed on the show’s original cue sheet), and he could have made a similar decision with “My Sweet Lord.”

But it seems to me that the decision might have had just as much to do with Christmas as it did with Harrison’s landmark single. Casey chose to tell a Chrstmas story involving singer Jackie Wilson, and he played “Higher and Higher” to go along with it. Later in the show, he played Bing Crosby’s version of “Silent Night”—more Christmas flavor for the kiddies. He could have bagged either one to make “Share the Land” fit, so I wonder if Casey, in those early days of the show, wasn’t trying to placate program directors who didn’t want to go three hours during Christmas week without some mention of the season, or some seasonal music.

The Crosby “Silent Night” was edited out of the version of the show that aired around the country last weekend. Kinky noted that the version of the show that aired on Sirius/XM contained an odd glitch—it played Dawn’s “Knock Three Times,” the week’s Number 4 song, twice, and omitted Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown.” The version shipped to terrestrial radio stations had it right, though.

To make up for what Casey missed, here’s “Share the Land.” I linked to this live TV performance three weeks ago, so here’s a lip-synched performance of about the same vintage.

If you dig the classic AT40s, Magic 98 will be running an entire day of them on New Year’s Day, including the top 40 hits of 1974, starting at 6AM US Central. Click “listen live” here, where you can also listen to my Green County shitkicker routine today and tomorrow from 3 to 7 in the afternoon.

At this blog, I will have one last post on Thursday before 2010 trails off into history, but otherwise, we’re on hiatus until next week. May 2011 be a better year for you than 2010 was for me—because saints preserve us if it’s worse.

5 responses

  1. Thanks for the shout-out.
    I thought about mentioning you in that post b/c I knew that was a big week in your life. Not sure why I didn’t — probably just b/c I thought I had already rambled on long enough.

    One would think the most equitable solution, if you have to lop off a song, would be to eliminate No. 40.
    In this case, that would have meant kicking my man Todd Rundgren off the countdown, so I’m glad they didn’t choose that.

    Pete Battistini’s book mentions that Casey eventually stopped playing both versions of “The Americans” when both were on the chart — to the point where he didn’t play the version that was at Number Six one week.
    (He would alternate between playing the McGregor and Sinclair versions, not taking into account which one was more popular. And one week, the one that got cut was in the Top Ten.)

    I know what I’ll be doing on New Year’s Day, and it’s not watching college football.

  2. While listening to that broadcast, I remember Casey’s explanation and then thinking the Jackie Wilson “extra” seemed odd. However, the Christmas angle makes sense.

    As for what Kinky Paprika says about “The Americans,” I noticed that last year when the AT40 shows from ’71 were rebroadcast. I also noticed that there was a week when THREE versions of the “Love Story” theme appeared (Mancini, Andy Williams and Francis Lai)…and all three were played. I assumed Casey wasn’t a fan of the spoken-word recording over cloyingly patriotic music.

    As for that Dec. 26, 1970 chart…there’s a little more to be said. I’ll be featuring the new songs from that week’s Hot 100 this weekend on my blog (click my name to see it). And that’s not because of the broadcast or even this post…I actually picked the week several months back.

  3. The kinky paprika blog seems to have disappeared. Has it been reposted at another link?

    1. As the artist formerly known as KP, I apologize. The old blog is indeed down, but maybe I will repost at my current blog just so Jim isn’t saddled with a dead link.

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