Gonna Do It Again

(Pictured: Al Green in 1975, with more soul in his little finger than all of us in our whole bodies, combined.) 

I have written a great deal about the winter of 1975 at this blog recently, so I’m not going to make you sit through yet another live blog of yet another American Top 40 show from that season—just the first hour of one, specifically the show from March 22, 1975. This part is one that makes program directors cringe. The songs run the gamut as widely as anything can, and a few are pretty obscure now.

40. ‘Wolf Creek Pass”/C. W. McCall. Before “Convoy,” there was “Wolf Creek Pass,” the flat-out hilarious tale of two truckers and a runaway load of chickens. I hadn’t heard it in a while, and I found myself repeatedly laughing out loud as I listened. A longer post on the works of C. W. McCall would seem to be in order.

39. “Jackie Blue”/Ozark Mountain Daredevils. This is a deeply weird record, really—the effeminate vocal, the oddly sliding guitar solo, and the enigmatic Jackie herself.

38. “My Boy”/Elvis Presley. Casey says “My Boy” is one of his favorite Elvis songs. To me, it’s just another one of those windy but emotionally empty Elvis performances so common during the last couple years of his life.

37. “To the Door of the Sun (Alle Porte del Sol)”/Al Martino. This actually made it to #17 on the Hot 100 earlier in March. If your local station didn’t play “To the Door of the Sun,” I’m not surprised—although it’s actually pretty good.

36. “The Bertha Butt Boogie”/Jimmy Castor Bunch. To make sense of “The Bertha Butt Boogie,” it helps to know a little about the universe Jimmy Castor created on his earlier records, lest his references to the Butt Sisters, Leroy, and the Troglodyte leave you baffled. Or you can just surrender to the absolutely ferocious groove and not worry about it.

34. “L-O-V-E (Love)”/Al Green. Which Casey introduces as “Love, Love,” not spelling out the first one, as we’re intended to do. If you don’t dig “L-O-V-E,” we probably shouldn’t see each other anymore.

32. “Satin Soul”/Love Unlimited Orchestra. Writing about “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” earlier this winter, I referred to the Love Unlimited Orchestra as the sound of a finely tuned limo cruising on the Interstate. On “Satin Soul,” it comes on like a freight train, and you best scramble aboard or get run over.

30. “Butter Boy”/Fancy. If you remember Fanny’s bangin’-great “Charity Ball,” the best way to enjoy “Butter Boy” is to forget that. If if it’s the last thing you hear before you turn off the radio, it’ll keep playing in your head for a while afterward.

29. “The South’s Gonna Do It”/Charlie Daniels Band. In which Daniels name-checks a number of Southern rock acts, from Marshall Tucker to ZZ Top and even his own band. Includes a lengthy fiddle solo, which is both awesome and an indication of just how long ago 40 years is. Imagine such a thing now. Even in country music.

28. “Walkin’ in Rhythm”/Blackbyrds. See #34.

There’s one song in the second hour I want to mention.

23. “Emma”/Hot Chocolate. I was hooked on the sound of this from the moment I heard it—the ominous tempo, that low buzzing guitar, and lead singer Errol Wilson’s idiosyncratic voice as he narrates the story of Emmeline, the aspiring actress “searching for that play / That never ever came her way.” Even after 40 years of hearing it, the end of the story remains horrifying. Wilson comes home to “find her lying still and cold upon the bed / A love letter lying on the bedroom floor.” The suicide note tells him that “I just can’t keep on livin’ on dreams no more / Tried so very hard not to leave you alone / I just can’t keep on tryin’ no more.”

He gasps her name. Then he screams it. Over and over.

There’s a 1975-vintage video. Go watch it. And if you are unmoved, see #34.

4 responses

  1. Aw, c’mon. At least give us your highlights and lowlights of the rest of the show!

  2. “Emma” nailed me from the first time I heard it, still never fails to deliver. Hot Chocolate were so good. I loved April Wine’s “You Could Have Been a Lady” years before finding out it was a Hot Chocolate tune.

    I rediscovered the Al Martino tune via a local station airing the Casey reruns, yes, it’s a good one. Tend to agree with your late-period Elvis assessment but his take on Timi Yuro’s “Hurt” is volcanic. The man was definitely hurting.

  3. I have every single one of these songs on my iPod, most of which I wouldn’t even know if it weren’t for American Top 40. The only ones that got any significant airplay in San Diego in 1975 were “Jackie Blue” and “Walking in Rhythm”. I think “Emma” got a little play as well, but it didn’t really catch on locally. “The South is Gonna Do It” got airplay on the local FM stations, so I knew that one as well.

    Kinda makes me a bit angry now that I think about it…”L-O-V-E (Love)” is probably my very favorite Al Green song, and I should have a few good memories associated with listening to it back when it was a hit…instead, the only memories I have are of spending Sunday mornings alone in my room, waiting to hear it on AT40.

    I’ve always thought Hot Chocolate succeeded in spite of, not because of, Errol Wilson’s voice, but I have to admit he really nails it on “Emma”.

    I agree with “Jackie Blue” being a pretty strange one (and a great one), especially in the context of the rest of Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ output. I haven’t heard much, but what I have heard is pretty standard 70’s Southern/country rock, and sounds absolutely nothing like “Jackie Blue” whatsoever.

    Fanny was an interesting band. Not only were they the first all-female rock band of any significance, the two sisters who were the leaders were both Filipinas, which made them even more of a rarity. And another one of their members was Suzi Quatro’s older sister. Apparently they were breaking up just as “Butter Boy” was moving up the charts.

    Both “My Boy” and “To the Door of the Sun” were European hits translated into English (“My Boy” was in French originally), which may explain why they sounded so out-of-place and corny, even for 1975. I do like the Al Martino tune quite a bit, and although I’m fond of some of the Fat Elvis hits, “My Boy” is just pure cheese.

    As much as I absolutely love “Jackie Blue”, “Walking in Rhythm”, and “L-O-V-E (Love)”, if I had to pick just one of these to take with me to my desert island, I’d have to go with “The Bertha Butt Boogie”, which is sheer brilliant insanity, and just so much damn fun. Again, I feel a little deprived that every teenage boy in my junior high wasn’t walking around torturing the girls by singing “bomp bomp bompadomp, baaaaa bomp bomp bomp bompadomp” as they walked by. Probably the word “butt” in the title was reason enough back then for it to be denied airplay.

    Man, the sheer diversity of music we were exposed to on 70’s AM pop radio was something, wasn’t it? Spoken-word country novelty, orchestral instrumental disco, funky R&B comedy, dramatic Italian balladry, jazzy flute-driven soul…whoever says the 70’s sucked musically just doesn’t, as Steve Miller once said, “know just exactly what the facts is.”

  4. I heard “Jackie Blue” back-to-back with “Running On Empty” during a road trip this past weekend, and was struck by the constrast between their slide solos.
    “Running On Empty” features David Lindley, who’s a virtuoso (he might be playing a lap steel rather than slide guitar, but that’s an arcane distinction for this purpose), while the guy in Ozark Mountain Daredevils sounds like he played slide once every couple of months.

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