Don’t Lose That Number

(Pictured: the Hues Corporation.)

In the summer of 1974, Casey Kasem landed a guest role on Hawaii Five-O, playing a crooked furniture store owner. American Top 40 was preparing its annual summer special (“The Top 40 Singles Artists of the 1970s”) for the weekend of July 6th, which could be recorded far in advance, and Casey had already arranged for Humble Harve Miller to fill in for him on the weekend of the 13th. But Casey’s shooting schedule required him to be in Hawaii in late June—which would interfere with the recording schedule for the show airing on June 29th. The new Billboard Hot 100 wouldn’t be available in time. So the AT40 staff made a fateful decision. Instead of rounding up yet another substitute host, they would estimate the chart positions for the week of June 29th and count down that chart instead. They didn’t make a big deal about it. They presented the songs just as if Billboard had placed them, with only a disclaimer at the end saying that the chart was based on staff estimates.

What follows is the chart Casey counted down that weekend, with the actual Hot 100 position in parentheses and various random observations.

40. “Keep on Smilin'”/Wet Willie (44)
39. “The Loco-motion”/Grand Funk (33)
38. “Come Monday”/Jimmy Buffett (40)
37. “Finally Got Myself Together”/Impressions (35). At #1 on the soul chart.

36. “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues”/Jim Croce (39)
35. “Taking Care of Business”/Bachman Turner Overdrive (37)

34. “If You Talk in Your Sleep”/Elvis Presley (34). Hit on the nose.

33. “La Grange”/ZZ Top (41). A big whiff. The previous week’s #41 was as high as “La Grange” would ever reach. This was not the only time AT40 played a song that never actually made the chart—in 1970, a clerical era had put “So Close” by Jake Holmes onto the show, and other errors were made over the years. But this is probably the most famous one.

32. “Help Me”/Joni Mitchell (31)
31. “My Girl Bill”/Jim Stafford (28)
30. “Already Gone”/Eagles (32)
29. “Waterloo”/ABBA (30)
28. “Radar Love”/Golden Earring (29)
27. “If You Wanna Get to Heaven”/Ozark Mountain Daredevils (25)

26. “Sideshow”/Blue Magic (20).
Casey and company guessed this one would hold steady instead of making a six-place jump.

25. “The Entertainer”/Marvin Hamlisch (22)

24. “Train of Thought”/Cher (27)

23. “You Won’t See Me”/Anne Murray (12). AT40 was betting this song had peaked the previous week at #16 after 10 weeks on the chart, but it actually made another nice move, up four spots. Probably the second-biggest whiff on the show.

22. “Midnight at the Oasis”/Maria Muldaur (21)
21. “Save the Last Dance for Me”/DeFranco Family (26). Pretty decent late-period bubblegum.
20. “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”/Steely Dan (17)

19. “I’m Coming Home”/Spinners (18)
18. “One Hell of a Woman”/Mac Davis (15)

17. “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”/Carly Simon (24)
. A much bigger fall than AT40 expected.
16. “Annie’s Song”/John Denver (10). A much bigger leap than AT40 expected.
15. “For the Love of Money”/O’Jays (23). See #17.
14. “Rock and Roll Heaven”/Righteous Brothers (19). This record didn’t stay quite as hot in reality as Casey and the staff thought it might.

13. “The Air That I Breathe”/Hollies (11)
12. “Dancing Machine”/Jackson Five (16)
11. “On and On”/Gladys Knight and the Pips (13)
10. “Band on the Run”/Wings (8)
9. “The Streak”/Ray Stevens (14)
8. “Hollywood Swinging”/Kool and the Gang (7)
7. “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)”/Olivia Newton-John (5)
6. “Rock Your Baby”/George McCrae (9)
5. “Rock the Boat”/Hues Corporation (6)
4. “You Make Me Feel Brand New”/Stylistics (3)
3. “Be Thankful for What You Got”/William DeVaughn (4)
2. “Billy Don’t Be a Hero”/Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (2)

1. “Sundown”/Gordon Lightfoot (1). Casey introduced this with the jingle “Billboard‘s Number One,” which was either reckless or ballsy and I don’t know which.

Of the 40 records on the chart, the AT40 staff predicted the exact positions of just three—but they did hit #2 and #1 on the nose. The staff got nine of the top 10 right, only keeping “The Streak” at the expense of “Annie’s Song.” They put only two records in the Top 40 that didn’t belong: “La Grange,” which would never make it, and “Keep on Smilin’,” which would get in the next week. The two songs dropped prematurely were Three Dog Night’s “The Show Must Go On” and “Oh Very Young” by Cat Stevens, which hung on at #36 and #38 on the Hot 100.

Bottom line: Had you been listening that week, you wouldn’t have noticed a thing.

2 responses

  1. JB, have you ever written an article on the June 9, 1973, countdown? It’s another example of a show that had the songs in the wrong order. But in this case, it wasn’t AT40’s doing.

    They had a show all recorded and pressed onto vinyl. Then Billboard called to say there was a glitch in the brand-new computer system they had just started to use to compile the charts. The top-40 list they gave AT40 was not the one that would appear in Billboard. It was too late for AT40 to stop the shipment of the discs to stations.

    The following week, it was on Casey’s fill-in, future American Country Countdown host Don Bowman, to explain the discrepancy and offer listeners a copy of the corrected chart, which they could obtain by mail.

    I’ve done a rough statistical analysis of the two versions of that June 9 chart. One fun fact that stands out in my mind was that, like the improvised list you just wrote about, there were only three songs AT40 got right. If you’re interested, I’ll e-mail it to you.

  2. Now I’m gonna hafta listen to that episode. With the exception of Wings, Kool, and Stylistics, that’s a fairly puny top 10. But I’ll listen to Midnight at the Oasis anytime.

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