Got to Give It Up

Unlike some editions of American Top 40, the one from July 9, 1977, is pretty strong. Although it’s not quite all killer and no filler, it’s about as close as we’re likely to get at this distance. Of the top 20, only a couple songs are ones nobody needs to hear again (“Love’s Grown Deep” by Kenny Nolan and the Rocky theme “Gonna Fly Now”). On the bottom half of the list, once you take out the country crossovers (“Luckenbach Texas,” which I like, and “Lucille,” which I do not), you’re left with only a couple of dogs—although one of them is the execrable “Telephone Man.” While some of what’s left is burned beyond recognition—“Margaritaville,” I’m lookin’ at  you—a batting average of .800 is pretty good for a show on the edge of the disco era, although I suppose your mileage may vary.

Casey remarks that Marvin Gaye’s former #1 hit “Got to Give It Up,” which is sitting at #6 this particular week, is only the fourth single of the rock era to be recorded live. Presumably this means “live in concert,” because the other three songs Casey mentions, Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips,” Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” which I wrote about at Popdose way back when, and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, are all concert recordings.

But “Got to Give It Up” is not a concert recording. According to Wikipedia (by way of Joel Whitburn, allegedly), Marvin wanted to create a club atmosphere on the record, so he brought in family and friends to provide party background sound, not unlike what he had done on “What’s Going On” in 1971. But most of the voices heard talking and laughing on the record were dubbed in later, after the instrumental track and vocals were already complete. It’s unclear to me whether the rest of the record was laid down live, so it’s possible that Casey’s claim is technically correct—maybe Marvin and the musicians played live while the studio guests watched—but it seems to me that equating “Got to Give It Up” with the other three “live” #1 hits is comparing an apple to a bunch of oranges.

(Parenthetical aside: it’s entirely possible that I never heard “Got to Give It Up” while it was running the charts, except on AT40. I was listening mostly to stations from Madison and Dubuque in the summer of 1977, and I don’t recall any of them playing it. WLS charted it for 11 weeks, but I don’t recall hearing it there, either. “High School Dance” by the Sylvers, sitting at #18 in this particular week, is an even more extreme case: I never heard that until I started doing “Saturday at the 70s” on the radio here in Madison five years ago.)

When Casey introduces the week’s #1 song, “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day, he says it’s only the third “fantasy song” in history to reach the #1 position. He defines fantasy as magical things that couldn’t happen in the real world, and mentions Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby” (also written by O’Day) and Elton John’s recent cover of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” as the other two. This strikes me as a pretty thin reed to grasp in search of a factoid. I can think of several #1 hits that are fanciful: “The Night Chicago Died” is a fictional story set on “the east side of Chicago,” a place that doesn’t exist; there was never any such thing as “Crocodile Rock”; and if America’s “A Horse With No Name” isn’t a fantasy, I’ll eat my hat.

But if he’s grasping a thin reed, it’s not an unreasonable thing to do. It ain’t easy to fill three hours of radio, especially when the songs don’t change much from week to week. You gotta take your factoids wherever you can get them, and if some aren’t quite as awesomely good as others, that’s the way it goes. I have the same problem on the air myself.

7 responses

  1. Presumably, Case found “In The Year 2525” believable.

    1. Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star,” too.

  2. file “Got to Give It Up” under #1 songs I can’t recall ever hearing despite continuously listening to the radio back then. It also now joins my list of 70’s songs with a “live” audience:
    The Rapper: Jaggerz
    I Can Help: Billy Swan
    Bennie and the Jets: Elton John
    Get Dancin’: Disco Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes

  3. “Got to Give It Up” (in its almost-12-minute full-length incarnation) took up the fourth side of Marvin’s Live at the London Palladium album, the only studio cut in the package. Maybe someone in the AT40 crew saw the album credit on the label and erroneously put two and two together, not taking the disproportionate crowd noise into account. (The Wikipedia article for the album describes “Give It Up” as follows: “… the singer vocalized a song where the author is longing to get out of his shy cover and get on the dance floor with reckless abandon.” Sounds like a 6th-grade essay answer.)

    Count me among those who can’t recall hearing “Give It Up” in its heyday. That might be one of the reasons it’s never sounded like a #1 single to me. (I still have a favorite moment, nonetheless…the “Say, Don!” when Marvin notices Mr. Cornelius on the premises.)

  4. Make room for another “don’t ever remember hearing ‘Got To Give It Up’ on the radio” club member. Heck, I don’t even remember the song, and I was working for a Motown distributor at the time and still have the virtually untouched promo 45 from those days.

    Funny how the Motown labels were always among the most prevalent in the 45 cutout bins back in the day, while the label never had its sales figures audited by the RIAA. Hmmmm….

    Going in the opposite direction: earlier today, I was perusing the liner notes to the recent U.K. re-release of ‘Head East Live,’ in which John Schlitt confesses to having re-recorded some of his “live in concert” vocals in the studio (“concert microphones weren’t as good back then,” he claimed.) No matter; having had all of their studio albums up to that point (and having seen them play at UW Eau Claire in ’77) it sounds fantastic, studio-doctored or not.

    Then again, those liner notes were dated “December, 2013,” so I’m not sure what to believe.

  5. Apparently doctoring up live tapes in the studio was quite common, “KISS Alive” being the most-cited instance. There is some online debate (shocking!) regarding Cheap Trick’s Budokan LP, though drummer Bun E. Carlos said it was about 98% original with very minor things fixed in the studio (singing too far away from mics etc).

    1. A lot of “Eagles Live” is alleged to have been doctored after the fact as well. I recall reading someplace that Emerson Lake & Palmer had the option to fix bum notes for the CD release of “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends” (said notes blamed on voltage fluctuations because their rig strained the power capacity of many arenas they played), but chose to leave ’em as is, believing that “live” means “live.”

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