Deep Autumn

(Pictured: Silver Convention performs on a basketball court just as whatever drug you’ve taken begins to kick in.)

I mentioned just yesterday that I had one more October American Top 40 in my CD bag. It’s the one from October 25, 1975, and here we go.

40. “Rocky”/Austin Roberts. Gains extra points for its truck driver’s key change; loses them for being titled “Rocky” and never mentioning the name of Rocky’s dead wife.

After “Rocky,” Casey does a rare thing: he talks about his work outside of the show. Casey tells us he does voiceover work on a couple of cartoon series, Scooby-Doo and Josie and the Pussycats, and notes that Austin Roberts wrote and recorded some songs used on Scooby-Doo before he scored his first hits.

38. “The Agony and the Ecstasy”/Smokey Robinson. Here’s something as rare as Casey talking about himself: a song that I am hearing for the first time ever as I listen to this repeat. “The Agony and the Ecstasy” would spend three weeks on the show, peaking the week of November 1 at #36 before dropping off the next week.

37. “Just Too Many People”/Melissa Manchester. Somebody smarter than I will have to explain why “Just Too Many People,”  a #2 hit on the AC chart, could make it only to #30 in five weeks on the Top 40.

36. “Eighteen With a Bullet”/Pete Wingfield. A record much beloved around these parts.

35. “Mr. Jaws”/Dickie Goodman. Goodman’s second most successful break-in record (behind only “The Flying Saucer” in 1956), “Mr. Jaws” is a perfect example of the form. It’s actually funny: I remember laughing out loud the first time I heard Goodman ask the shark, “Why are you taking my hand?”, followed by “Wouldn’t you give your hand to a friend” from Melissa Manchester’s “Midnight Blue.” And the other day in the car, it made me smile again.

32. “Fly Robin Fly”/Silver Convention. Less is more: a bass guitar and a drummer, a string section, a couple of keyboards, and three singers chanting “fly robin fly up up to the sky” over and over. It was so hypnotically simple it had to end up at #1.

31. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”/Willie Nelson. Casey occasionally intros or back-announces a song by reciting a snippet of the lyrics. For “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” he quotes a verse that doesn’t appear in the version he just played (“Now my hair has turned to silver / All my life I’ve loved in vain”), although it’s in hit versions by Roy Acuff and Hank Williams.

Train wreck alert: between David Bowie’s “Fame” (#29) and John Fogerty’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” (#28, on which Fogerty sounds even more screechy than usual), Casey features “Something Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra.

27. “I Only Have Eyes for You”/Art Garfunkel. Art’s gorgeous voice soars over a dreamy, romantic arrangement rich with electric piano. If there’s such a thing as a deep autumn sound, the shimmering “I Only Have Eyes for You” is it.

26. “Born to Run”/Bruce Springsteen. In its third week on the chart, the same week that Springsteen appeared on the covers of both Time and Newsweek, evidence for Casey’s contention that Springsteen is “the most talked-about new artist of the last five years.”

24. “What a Difference a Day Makes”/Esther Phillips. Esther’s voice favors that of Dinah Washington, who recorded the most famous version of “What a Difference a Day Makes,” but this disco version is at a breakneck tempo that’s a poor match for a jazz singer.

23. “You”/George Harrison. I have heard it said that every song you play on your radio station should be somebody’s favorite. I am not sure what kind of person would consider the godawful hash of “You” to be his or her favorite song, but there must have been somebody.

21. “Carolina in the Pines”/Michael Murphey. More prolific than just “Wildfire,” Murphey had five Top 40 hits between 1972 and 1982. He also was in a pre-Monkees band with Michael Nesmith, and he was cast in The Kowboys, a 1969 television pilot that was supposed to be a Western version of The Monkees.

We’ll discuss the second half of this show in a future installment.

7 responses

  1. “I have heard it said that every song you play on your radio station should be somebody’s favorite.”
    Interesting comment. I often used to hear songs on old AT40s that made me think, “Whose song was this? Who held hands to this, or blasted it on their radio driving home from school?”
    There are just some songs that I have a hard time imagining really *mattered* to somebody.
    (Several of them are post-Beatle solo singles. I sometimes think George, for instance, got an automatic pass for at least one Top Forty single per record just as a sort of noblesse oblige.)

    1. That latter phenomenon actually seems to exist in country radio: certain singles by certain artists are automatic adds, and they stay on playlists for an inordinate number of weeks even though they’re bland and boring and don’t sell much. The last couple of Kenny Chesney singles were like that.

  2. Excellent point about never learning the identity of Rocky’s spouse. My question remains decades on: who throws a “crazy party” for their kid’s first birthday? I know it was the Seventies, but you’ve got to help yourself sometimes.

    I also wonder how many people got burned at the record shop thinking they were getting the movie theme.

    1. Well . . . a couple of our friends used to throw a rager for their daughter’s birthday when she was just a toddler. I still don’t remember some of them.

  3. Agreed on “Just Too Many People.” Considering Manchester was coming off the big hit “Midnight Blue,” there should have been a greater reception for this record. “Carolina in the Pines” is one of my favorite tracks from 1975. At the time I thought it was John Denver. Forty years later, it still sounds like a Denver record to me in its lyrics and overall feel.

  4. lots of winners in this lot, of course ’75 records have a strong hold in my memory bank.

    Something really strange, a month or so ago I found a record, Salty Holmes and His Brown Country Boys, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain/ Harmonica Boogie.” I picked it up because I never pass up records done by guys named Salty or anything old with “Boogie” in the title. I finally listened to it and the extra lyric in “Blue Eyes…” jumped out at me. Then I read your blog that same day, referring to it. Really weird.

    One last thing, Esther Phillips’ Donna Summer-ish moans and groans are fairly un-erotic now and when I was 15 when the record was on the charts.

  5. I’ll take “You” over the steaming pantload that is “Rocky” any day.

    It was originally conceived as a follow-up single for the Ronnie Spector’s 1971 low-charting “Try Some, Buy Some”, which George wrote and produced (and Spector later admitted she hated…although David Bowie thought it worthwhile enough to cover in 2003). It’s got some worthwhile elements to it, mainly the sweet bubblegum-pop melody, the middle eight riff, and the overall driving feel of it. The fact that he barely bothered to come up with lyrics for it is disappointing, and he definitely should have re-recorded the instrumental track in a key he could comfortably sing in, rather than just using the original 1971 track meant for Ronnie. He winds up sounding a little bit chipmunk-y in places (he may have actually sped up his vocals a bit in order to match them to the key, I’m not sure.)

    “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, like “Eighteen With a Bullet”, continues to be a classic of the lowrider oldies genre in the southwest. The album version has an additional verse that was edited out of the single.

    I remember “Carolina in the Pines” and “Just Too Many People” getting some FM airplay in San Diego, but nothing on AM. Weird now to think that Melissa Manchester was once more of an FM artist, but that line between AM and FM was more about image and cred as a serious artist than it was about the actual music.

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