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.