The weather of January 77 is legendary in my neck of the woods. Massive snows, unbelievable cold, so frigid for so long that the Ohio River froze solid and folks could walk back and forth between Cincinnati and Covington/Newport (the only time in my life when that’s happened). I went to school exactly one day that month—Tuesday, January 4. Our part of the county was still very rural, and it’d been decades since the area had experienced anything like it, so the powers that were simply weren’t prepared to deal with what Mother Nature was dishing out. The Walton-Verona system became a bit of a butt of jokes on the radio, as we were one of the final districts to reopen as winter’s grip finally lessened toward the end of the month. I have very fond memories of spending hours out with my sister and various neighbor kids that month, piling the snow super high outside our side door and digging out caves for hiding. I was just about to turn 13; it was a great point in my life to have that sort of opportunity.
Not quite thirty years later, I was beginning to assemble playlists of AT40 shows from my charting years to play on our iPod. Late January 77 quickly became one period that I thought would provide a good list. Initially I vacillated between the 1/22 and 1/29 shows—I remembered the former for its sweet set of seven debut songs. In the end, I decided that I liked the four newcomers on 1/29 better than the ones they were replacing.
I think I’ve said before that it became perhaps my most-played “countdown” out of the three dozen or so I put together (rivaled only by 6/5/76 and 4/21/84). Premiere Networks featured the show back in 2013, and I heard almost all of it then. I learned this past Sunday they’re playing it again this coming weekend, and I must admit I’m pretty stoked.
Even if Premiere hadn’t selected it for rebroadcast this year, I was already planning on doing a write-up on the show, with a twist: taking the 40 songs Casey played, but rearranging them in my own order of preference. I’ve listened to them all quite a bit over the last decade, and that’s given me a chance to reconsider things. It’s fair to say my opinions on a few songs have changed over 42 years, but by and large the favorites then are the favorites now. And while there’s bound to be some degree of imprecision (honestly, how do you quantify how much you like a song?), what I’m putting before you is close enough to current reality. Today, we’ll cover #40-#21; the second half will appear Saturday. I’ll be noting in parentheses the song’s actual position on the 1/29/77 chart. Drum roll, please…
40. KC and the Sunshine Band, “I Like to Do It” (39)
Starting off with one of the four debuts. This would spend only one more week in the Top 40, at #37. It’s got KC’s typical lyrical depth (that is to say, almost none) but little of the catchiness of their big hits. What amazes me most is that there were people who thought it should be released before both “I’m Your Boogie Man” and “Keep It Comin’ Love.”
39. Mary MacGregor, “Torn Between Two Lovers” (7)
My sister bought this 45, so she’s partly to blame for it hitting the top. I guess it sounds alright, but one sure can’t feel much sympathy for MacGregor’s character. What were you thinking, Peter Yarrow?
A couple months later, William Bell hit the show with “Trying to Love Two.” I’ve always wondered if Bell’s song got some of its attention because of “Torn”—does anyone have insight into that?
38. Bread, “Lost Without Your Love” (12)
I probably liked this better at the time, but it’s a pretty minor offering compared to much of Bread’s earlier work. Maybe it was Stereo Review that noted how weak the line “I’m as helpless as a ship without a wheel, a touch without a feel” was; they’re not wrong.
37. Rod Stewart, “Tonight’s the Night” (22)
I think “Maggie May” is outstanding, one of 71’s greatest. But I was not a fan of “Tonight’s the Night” from the beginning. Sometime in the last year or two, my friend Warren observed that one of the song’s lines actually means the opposite of what it intends: Rod definitely wouldn’t want his paramour’s inhibitions to run wild!
36. Donny and Marie Osmond, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” (23)
Just to show you how little I think of “Tonight’s the Night,” I’m putting Donny and Marie ahead of it. Yes, this has zero, zilch, nada on Marvin and Tammi, but I’d still rate it as one of D & M’s better efforts.
35. Alice Cooper, “I Never Cry” (34)
Kudos to Cooper for kicking his addiction. And kudos for writing honestly about his battles with it.
34. Burton Cummings, “Stand Tall” (29)
Another of Amy’s purchases. I guess she and I didn’t see eye to eye overall?
33. Engelbert Humperdinck, “After the Lovin’” (19)
This one screams polyester shirts, excessive chest hair, and medallions hung around one’s neck. Nonetheless, I’ll still sing along when it comes on.
32. Doobie Brothers, “It Keeps You Runnin’” (37)
I’ve never thought to investigate what the record might be for “dropped g’s” in song titles on an AT40 show, but we’ve got five in this one. And we’re already getting to the portion of the list with songs I’m happy to hear most of the time.
31. Elton John, “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” (33)
This is the very tail end of peak Elton—it’d be over three years before he hit the Top 10 again.
30. Eagles, “New Kid in Town” (6)
I bought this single a couple of weeks later, on my 13th birthday. I guess I like it less now than I did then. However, the B-side, “Victim of Love,” still kicks major tail—too bad you can find only live versions of it on YouTube.
29. Jacksons, “Enjoy Yourself” (11)
Their first hit after dropping “Five” from their name, and their first single after leaving Motown. Michael’s voice is really starting to come into its own at this point.
28. Barbra Streisand, “Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’ (Evergreen)” (9)
Here’s one that’s risen a few spots in my estimation over the years. It’s well-written, and prettier than I once thought.
27. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)” (18)
There are eleven songs on this list that made #1, stretching from the November 13 to April 23 countdowns (though a couple of future toppers within that span aren’t on the show yet). This is the second of them chronologically but the fifth one to appear so far today. Yet another of my sister’s purchases, but one I still enjoy.
26. Sylvers, “Hot Line” (5)
Has anyone compiled a list of songs rendered complete anachronisms because of changes in telephone technology?
25. Stephen Bishop, “Save It for a Rainy Day” (31)
Fabulous turn by Chaka Khan on background vocals at the end. It’s totally overshadowed now in terms of airplay by “On and On,” which is a shame.
24. Bee Gees, “Boogie Child” (38)
As overplayed as the brothers Gibb are on 70s stations now, this one tends to be overlooked—I don’t think it ever appeared on any disco or 70s compilation album. It’s plenty silly, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it.
23. Rose Royce, “Car Wash” (1)
Really great Norman Whitfield joint here. I’m not trying to slight it by slotting it this low—it’s just that it’s got tons of competition.
22. Leo Sayer, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” (4)
Endless Flight was one of the first albums that Sis purchased. Can’t say that I ever listened to it all that much, but its lead single always makes me feel happy (and maybe like dancing occasionally, too).
21. Kenny Nolan, “I Like Dreamin’” (14)
It was several years before I realized that Nolan had also written “My Eyes Adored You.” I don’t know why I hadn’t figured it out, because this one is practically the same song all over again. That said, I enjoy both versions; here, the line “Little smiles so warm and tender, looking up at us” gets to me now in a way it never would have back then.
Back on Saturday with the rest. I’ll end things today with a vid for the week’s real #1 song.