American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/9/74: Carole King, “Jazzman”

According to Pete Battistini’s book on 70s AT40 shows, on 8/3/74 Casey fielded a question from a listener who wanted to know what song in the rock era had suffered the largest drop from the #1 spot. The answer turned out to be “The Sound of Silence,” which fell all the way to #12 in January 66. It also happened to be the only song to that point to fall completely out of the Top 10 directly from the summit. Little did anyone know that within four months Paul & Art would get a lot of company in that distinction.

Over a nine-week stretch in the autumn of 74—9/28 to 11/23—seven #1 songs matched or beat the fall of “The Sound of Silence.” It started with Barry White and Andy Kim: “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” and “Rock Me Gently” both dropped to #12. After a two-week pause (“I Honestly Love You” stayed a second week at #1 and then dropped only to #4), the onslaught continued: two plunging all the way to #15 (Billy Preston, with “Nothing from Nothing,” and the Dionne Warwicke/Spinners collaboration “Then Came You”), followed by three more droppers to #12 (Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” and John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”).

And then…just as soon as it started, that spigot was turned off. Charttoppers recommenced falling to positions like #2, #5, and #6. In fact, a fall out of the Top 10 by a #1 has happened only once since, when Diana Ross dropped to #11 with “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To),” in late January 76, exactly ten years after “The Sound of Silence” kicked things off.

It wasn’t just #1 songs that fell harder than normal. On the previous show, “Steppin’ Out,” by Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” were at #7 and #8; this week, they’re nowhere to be played, dropping to #48 and #44, respectively. (“Steppin’ Out” held the record for highest-ranked song to fall out of the 40 until “Even the Nights Are Better,” by Air Supply, went from #6 to #42 in September 82—don’t even get me started on the huge-dropping songs of late 82).

This was simply a period of high churn. Compare the Top 10 between the weeks that bracket this countdown:

11/2/74 11/16/74
1 You Haven’t Done Nothin’ Whatever Gets You Through the Night
2 You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet Do It ‘Til You’re Satisfied
3 Jazzman My Melody of Love
4 The Bitch Is Back Tin Man
5 Can’t Get Enough Back Home Again
6 Whatever Gets You Through the Night I Can Help
7 Steppin’ Out Longfellow Serenade
8 Sweet Home Alabama Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)
9 Stop and Smell the Roses Everlasting Love
10 Tin Man Carefree Highway

Eight new songs in two weeks! A record? I wonder, and I wonder how easily it’s researched…

But back to large drops from #1: what caused that run of heretofore virtually unseen behavior? I’ve seen some speculation on a message board I read that it was perhaps related to the economy: a recession had been going for a while, there could have been some residual issues from the Oil Crisis the previous year, etc. I’m not convinced there was any sort of external stimulus; the sudden-on/sudden-off nature of the phenomenon feels a little strange.

As you can see above, even Carole King wasn’t immune to a quick fall from on high. “Jazzman” had climbed to #2 on this show; the next week, it’d be #11. I’d put it right up there with “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away,” and “Sweet Seasons” among her best singles. The writing, the arrangement, the musicianship (especially that sax) are all top-notch. I think it’s time to let it try to take my blues away.

 

There’ll be more chart nerdishness tomorrow.

10/16/82, 10/25/80, and 10/27/79 Charts

More from my archives of charts:

Even after I stopped writing down AT40 with the 10/2/82 chart, I maintained my personal top 50 through the end of the year. I’m going to go full-size on Harris Top 50s in this post, even though I think they’ll appear plenty large this way.

HarrisTop50101682

Randy Meisner was in the second of a four-week run at the top. Glenn Frey and Fleetwood Mac would later reach the summit; “Gypsy” was the penultimate #1 before I stopped this practice. Browne was at his peak; America would get to #2 and Steel Breeze climbed to #6. Finally, there was one song farther on down the list, at #41, that fell short of the real Top 40, a Steve Winwood gig I still really enjoy (especially the duet in the chorus with his first wife, Nicole):

 

Here’s the 10/25/80 chart:

AT40102580

I wasn’t familiar at all with Mr. Acker Bilk and so had no idea how to interpret what Casey said about who performed “Stranger on the Shore.” Don’t know why I didn’t write down the LDDs–could have something to do with the fact they both came in the second half of the show.

As a bonus, here’s Q102’s list from the following Monday (in real life, the sheet is light blue):

Q102101780

Nothing terribly unusual here until you get to #35, a song I don’t remember at all.  A little bit of digging reveals that Hegel hailed from nearby Dayton. He Bubbled Under at #109 for three weeks in August 80 with “Tommy, Judy, and Me,” a tale about sex-crazed high schoolers (it’s also completely unfamiliar to me). The producers at American Bandstand wouldn’t let him perform his single, but he did sing “We’re Lovers After All.” I find it a little drippy, but see what you think:

As for my own preferences in 80:

HarrisTop50102580

Air Supply and Irene Cara were former #1’s, Cara for four weeks. ON-J/ELO held on for one more before ceding to Larson-Feiten, who were followed by Stewart and Devo. “Master Blaster” was perhaps my favorite Stevie single from the 76-85 period, at least in real time; it reached #3.  There’s a song that didn’t make AT40 on this list, too, at its peak of #27. I liked this medley much better than “Walks Like a Lady:”

 

Finally, here’s the 10/27/79 chart. As I’ve noted a couple of times already, there are so many songs still near and dear to me on this show, especially on the back page.

I did the “Pick” thing from time to time on my charts, in particular quite often in 79. I have many, many misses, including the Orleans tune listed here.  Can’t imagine I heard it much; I’m not even sure how I came to pick it in the first place, as it never charted.  It’s not bad, and since I seem to be into obscurities today, we’ll spin this one, too.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/3/84: Tina Turner, “Better Be Good to Me”

Dr. Miller, my advisor, did a great job of identifying opportunities for Transy’s computer science majors that would help them gain a variety of valuable experiences. Some of them didn’t require much expertise—doing set-up and gopher work for high school competitions or counseling at camps, for instance—but he found summer programming opportunities for a number of us as well, at the college’s IT department and at the local IBM office.  The most fun activity he organized for us, though, was arranging for a team to compete in the Association for Computing Machinery’s annual programming contest in November of my junior and senior years. That first year we surprised even ourselves with our success.

Eight folks loaded into a college van early on the Friday before Thanksgiving of 84 to drive north several hours to Kalamazoo, where Western Michigan University was playing host. There were the four who’d be competing on Saturday morning (James, Mark, Cathy, and me), Dr. Miller and David, a very recent grad who now worked in IT, to serve as chaperones, and Michelle and Jim. Michelle, a fellow junior CS major, went with us both as alternate and female company for Cathy; Jim was an alum from a few years earlier who was in grad school and had served as senior counselor at the programming camp back in June (Mark, Michelle, and I had all worked it, too). Since the summer, Mark and I had been teaching ourselves bridge, dealing out hand after hand in the dorm. We didn’t have much of a bidding system and we knew nothing about defensive signaling at that point, but, if nothing else, we were enthusiastic and persistent.  The two of us spent much of the trip on Friday playing against Michelle and Jim, who were also trying to learn.

The day we left was sunny, the temperature seasonable. With Daylight Savings over for the year, it was dark and brisk when we went for dinner after first checking in at WMU and then the place we were staying. We weren’t far from the interstate, so the bright lights of restaurants and hotels pretty well filled the view. That sight is still what comes to mind when I think about “the suburban Midwest.”

The welcome and final briefing started at 8:15 the next morning. Scoring was based first on the number of problems correctly solved. The tie breaker was the total length of time it took for one’s correct submissions, so a lower score was better. Penalty points were awarded for each incorrect submission. After discussing the conditions of contest, competitors from 47 teams were taken to an adjacent building. At 9:00, each group was handed four problems and given four hours to do with them what they could. We hadn’t discussed a plan of attack in advance; each of us wound up taking one problem as our own. As soon as I saw Problem 1, I knew it had to be mine, and not only because it involved programming a card game.

ACMClockProblem

I didn’t learn bridge when I was growing up, but I had played the trick-taking game Rook from a pretty young age. Along with dominos, it was one of my Papaw’s favorite games to play, so it was no surprise that a deck (the one pictured above) wound up in our house. It’s a bidding-then-trump-setting partnership game; the goal is to take tricks that contain point cards (5’s , 10’s, and 14’s, plus the “bird card”) to reach your bid. I have a number of fond memories playing, but what had me excited that morning in Michigan was recognizing the solitaire variant I’d taught myself years earlier after finding instructions at the back of the Rook rule book.

ClockPastime

I knew the mechanics of the game well enough that it’s possible I had a leg up on some of the other teams when it came to writing the code. Even if that wasn’t actually true, I did put something together that gave correct output on their test data on the second submission. It had taken about three hours to complete it (my copy of the problems came from Dr. Miller—that “Score = 210” is in his writing and must be my minutes plus penalty). It was the second problem our team had solved—Mark had gotten his on the first try about an hour earlier. Because of how we’d divided the labor, he and I weren’t of much use to James or Cathy as things wound down. Just before 1:00, Cathy submitted her code for testing. We learned after time had expired it had run successfully. The folks back in the auditorium in the other building, getting regular live updates, knew how we placed before we did.

Only one team, Michigan State, had solved all four problems. There were several with three right, but because of Mark’s relatively early success, we finished fourth. We’d caught lightning in a bottle—as you can read below in the article Michelle wrote for the school newspaper, for at least one day tiny Transylvania, enrollment 800+, was better than Notre Dame, Purdue, and all other competing Kentucky schools, including UK and Louisville. It honestly was stunning; we practically floated home.

RamblerCompConArticle

The following year the competition was in East Lansing, so we had another long van ride. Suzanne replaced Cathy, and history did not repeat, as I don’t think we got anything to run. That was valuable experience, too—it’s good to be kept humble.

Tina Turner had blown everyone away in the summer with “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” It’s clearly the best song on Private Dancer, and was fully deserving of being a #1 hit. But if you press me for my favorite from that album, I’ll always go with “Better Be Good to Me.” It’d be many years before I realized it was a Holly Knight creation, originally recorded by her band Spider in 81. The first words that spring to mind to describe it are electric and hot, and that’s before even taking her performance in the video into account (why am I realizing only now that’s Cy Curnin of the Fixx trying to gain her affection in this clip?). It’s jumping up to #9 on this show, and would reach #5. I don’t associate it particularly with our foray to Kalamazoo two weeks later, but it was one I was absolutely loving right at that moment.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/8/75: Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes”

My mother didn’t own a car with a cassette player in it until at least the late 80s. One year soon thereafter, she had a single Christmas wish for a tape to play while driving: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Mom was not nearly the rock ‘n’ roll fan that Dad was—on the whole I suspect she merely tolerated anything harder than, oh, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, or Gordon Lightfoot (though she never complained about what came on the radio). The country-rock of the pre-Hotel California Eagles was very much her style; I was happy to buy the cassette for her, and it remained in whatever vehicle she was then driving for more than two decades.

Their greatest hit I think of Mom liking most is “Lyin’ Eyes,” here at its peak of #2. I find it a profoundly sad piece, more so than I did in my younger days—no one in the lover’s triangle is satisfied, and Frey’s subdued vocals only add to the sense of that the protagonist’s choices have left her with no chance of escape. On the other hand, it does  have their best arrangement of harmonies.

I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s hard to access Eagles tracks on YouTube—what you’re seeing here only went up a couple of days ago, so who knows how long the link will be live. I’d much rather listen to the LP version—honestly, the song isn’t complete without the middle verse—but I hear you can’t always get what you want.

Last year when I was going through one of my recurring periods of poor sleep, the phrase “Another night, it’s going to be a long one,” came to mind as I was about to climb into bed. I regret to inform you that I had to Google the line for its source.

SotD: The Pursuit of Happiness, “I’m an Adult Now”

Ben turns 18 today (as of 11:13am, I suppose). Any number of changes in the eyes of the law have arrived: among them, he now gets to register for the Selective Service (seems like yesterday that I was doing that myself), and he’ll be voting on Tuesday. Those first few days of his life feel so near in time–Martha beginning labor soon after trick-or-treating was over, holding this tiny, wrinkly thing in my arms, trying to settle on a name (Ben had been a serious contender for a while, but we didn’t make a final decision for more than 24 hours post-delivery), videoing Martha walking into our house with him for the first time.

And these days? He’s in the middle of applying to colleges; November 1 turns out to be the deadline for “early action” on applications at a few places he’s considering (he did get the bulk of things submitted over this past weekend). A couple of places are asking that Ben do an interview as part of the application process, so there’ll be that to address in the coming weeks. I’m curious to see how it all shakes out.

Last year on 11/1 I posted about his 7th birthday, one that was bowling-themed. For his 8th, we took a number of his classmates to a place in Lexington where one can jump/bounce/swing around on stuff and dive into a huge pool of foam pieces. I’ll spare you pix from that event, but will show off the cake that Martha made. It’s a scene many of you will recognize:

StarWarsCake2008

Of course, Halloween and the boy’s birthday are closely linked at our house. Last night, I shared on Facebook a photo of Ben from the night before he turned 8. It’s probably the coolest costume he had, made with love by his mother:

BRHLegoCostume08

Alas, he tripped and fell not long after starting out on trick-or-treating, damaging a number of the cups glued to the front. Nonetheless, that box is still stored in a big bag up in our attic.

Happy birthday, Ben, and welcome to your adulthood. I know you’re going to make mistakes along the way–we all do–but my wish for you today is that you commit fewer of them than I have and that you learn quickly and well from those you do make.

This song has been running through my head the last month or so (if only for the title and not its lyrical content), knowing that today was coming. James discovered it before I did; he told me about it during one of my trips back to Lexington in 88. “I’m an Adult Now” is not my favorite song on the decently-good Love Junk (that would be “She’s So Young”), but it’s the one that got this Toronto band noticed for a short while.

Gotta get up and take on that world/When you’re an adult it’s no cliché, it’s the truth.”

Word, Ben.