Top 5: The Way You’re Goin’

Starved for inspiration at one point a few years back, I hit upon the idea of looking at a series of top fives instead of breaking down a single chart. Starved for inspiration at a couple of points since then, I’ve revisited the idea. Starved for inspiration again today, here’s another edition that examines charts from 22, 27, 32, 37 and 42 years ago this week, because round numbers are an unnecessary bar to creativity. It also gives us a chance to celebrate the return of the Cash Box Archives to the Interwebs. I didn’t realize how often I used ’em until they disappeared earlier this spring.

Cash Box, week of May 12, 1990:
1. “Nothing Compares 2 U”/Sinead O’Connor
2. “I Wanna Be Rich”/Calloway
3. “Vogue”/Madonna
4. “How Can We Be Lovers”/Michael Bolton
5. “All I Want to Do Is Make Love to You”/Heart

Comment: Calloway was a pair of brothers who had been in Midnight Star, a group that scored hits in the mid 80s with “No Parking on the Dance Floor” and the completely demented vortex of funk that is “Operator.” As for “I Wanna Be Rich,” it’s pretty damn catchy, too.

Cash Box, week of May 11, 1985:
1. “We Are the World”/USA for Africa
2. “Crazy for You”/Madonna
3. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”/Simple Minds
4. “One Night in Bangkok”/Murray Head
5. “Rhythm of the Night”/DeBarge

Comment: Few weeks of the 80s were more 80s than this week of the 80s. Look at the whole chart and you’ll see what I mean—it’s loaded with records that now help define the sound of the decade. Like “Crazy for You,” Madonna’s first attempt at an adult ballad after five highly successful dance numbers. It was the point at which she proved she was going to be around for a while. And speaking of demented and damn catchy, “One Night in Bangkok.”

Cash Box, week of May 10, 1980:
1. “Call Me”/Blondie
2. “Another Brick in the Wall”/Pink Floyd
3. “Lost in Love”/Air Supply
4. “Ride Like the Wind”/Christopher Cross
5. “With You I’m Born Again”/Billy Preston and Syreeta

Comment: If you remember the top 40 in the spring of 1980 as particularly dull, here’s the reason why: Beginning with the week of April 12, when “Call Me” knocked “Another Brick in the Wall” from the top spot in Cash Box, the two songs would run 1-2 for five straight weeks. In fact, these five songs would hold the top five spots in slightly shifting order for three straight weeks. “Lost in Love” is the best of the lot; “With You I’m Born Again” is one of the great momentum killers in radio history. Play it anywhere and it stops your show dead, and not in a good way.

WSM, Nashville, week of May 16, 1975:
1. “Wildfire”/Michael Murphey
2. “Sister Golden Hair”/America
3. “Philadelphia Freedom”/Elton John
4. “I’m Not Lisa”/Jessi Colter
5. “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)”/Tony Orlando and Dawn

Comment: I wrote about the lower reaches of this same chart in 2008. (Because the oddities further down are a lot more interesting than the utterly conventional top of the chart.) What I don’t believe I noticed back then is the picture of the afternoon jock on the front of the survey.

KHJ, Los Angeles, week of May 13, 1970:
1. “Viva Tirado”/El Chicano
2. “Get Ready”/Rare Earth
3. “The Letter”/Joe Cocker
4. “My Baby Loves Lovin'”/White Plains
5. “Which Way You Goin’ Billy”/Poppy Family

Comment: There is apparently but one clip of “Which Way You Goin’ Billy” in the world, put up by various YouTube users. It’s taken from a 1971 TV special starring Bobby Darin that starred George Burns and Linda Ronstadt. It’s been released on DVD, although it’s out of print now. The quality of the one-and-only video sucks, but not so much that you can’t see how smokin’ hot Susan Jacks was. And if you do not dig that gorgeous organ rush up the scale on the refrain of “Which Way You Goin’ Billy,” I don’t want to know you.

8 responses

  1. The bigger news was on the backside of the WSM survey, where “Minnesota” was listed as an extra.

  2. Every time I read about “Another Brick in the Wall” I’m reminded of its role in Fredric Dannen’s great book, “Hit Men,” available for preview on Google books.

    “Margaritaville” gives “With You..” some stiff competition as momentum killer. Our Jack FM tries to shoe-horn it in and it just don’t fit….

  3. This topic makes me curious. What other songs are considered radio momentum killers?

    1. J.A. Bartlett | Reply

      I define “momentum killer” as a song that messes up the pacing of the show. I can think of two more right away: “We’ve Got Tonite” by Bob Seger, which starts too quietly, goes too slow–it’s almost guaranteed to be slower than whatever it follows and whatever comes after it. Plus it lasts too long, and it isn’t very interesting to begin with. “Desperado” is another killer, especially if you’re trying to segue into it or out of it—no song needs to be isolated by jingles or sweepers more than it does.

      To me, “Margaritaville” is a momentum killer only in the sense that it’s burnt to a crisp after 35 years of airplay. Have another if you want, Jimmy, but stop singing about it.

      1. Interesting. I’ve never thought of “Desperado” that way, but then I’ve never considered it from the vantage point of radio programming. What about a massive hit like “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”? It starts quietly, goes slowly, and is long. While it was all over the airwaves 40 years ago, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it on an oldies station (except when it’s part of a countdown). I wonder if Top 40 stations considered “Yesterday” a momentum killer in 1965.

      2. J.A. Bartlett

        “First Time Ever” would be in the “We’ve Got Tonite”/”Desperado” category for me. Not “Yesterday,” however. The other three records have very little going on in terms of instrumentation, if that makes sense. “Yesterday” is a busier record, and also benefits from a quicker tempo than any of the other three.

  4. In my radio days at an automated FM there was a feature called a “silence sensor” and, hearing silence (?) the computer would go on to the next source. “The First Time….” was such a low-key recording that this repeatedly happened and we would have to switch the console out of “auto” and then remember to put it back after Flack was done singing.

  5. Speaking of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”…during my radio days,one of my fellow DJs took that song and added beeps to it in certain places to make it sound “dirty.” So, you’d hear Flack sing “the first time…ever I (bleep) your (bleep)” and it sounded funny in the same way the questions on Match Game were silly.

    It was carted up and sitting in our rack of extra material, but I don’t think it ever got played live.

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