American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/29/77: Gene Cotton, “You Got Me Runnin'”

AKA My Personal Top 40, 1/29/77, Part 2…  Here’s a link to Part 1.

20. Kiss, “Hard Luck Woman” (20)
The seventh-grade girls at my school had the Bay City Rollers, while a number of the boys were members of the Kiss Army. Except for “Beth” and “Hard Luck Woman,” both of which feel atypical of their overall work—though in different ways—I’ve always pretty much taken a pass on these guys.

19. Brick, “Dazz” (3)
Very solid dance tune, super groovy. Deserving of its peak position, too. Could stand to receive more airplay.

18. Earth, Wind and Fire, “Saturday Nite” (21)
This one was just sort of there back then, but now it’s among my top 5 EWF songs.  It was only after I downloaded it that I heard its fun ending. Things break down in laughter, as someone, maybe Maurice White, basically asks, “Who farted?”

17. David Dundas, “Jeans On” (17)
Yes, this is slight. But it’s also an earworm in the best possible way.

16. Stevie Wonder, “I Wish” (2)
One I appreciate much more than I did at the time—easily the song here with the largest positive discrepancy between how I feel now vs. then.

15. Gene Cotton, “You Got Me Runnin’” (35)
The song on the show that you’re least likely to know (though I guess the KC track might qualify, too). I may not have heard it more than half-a-dozen times back in the day, including its three plays on AT40, but it’d immediately struck me quite favorably. It was absolutely the hardest song to track down digitally when I was putting the playlist together back in 2005-06. I finally discovered Cotton sold a “Best of” CD on his own website. I stuck the disk in my player and skipped to “You Got Me Runnin’” immediately after it arrived in the mail; I was hearing it for the first time in almost three decades, and it sounded just like I remembered. Heaven! For two minutes I was on the cusp of 13 again.

Cotton had three other Top 40 hits, all in 78. One of those, his duet with Kim Carnes, “You’re a Part of Me,” might be the best-known now.

14. Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like an Eagle” (15)
One of the suboptimal things about listening to the old shows is having to hear 45 edits, or even worse, edits of 45 edits, of the various songs one knows and loves. I tried to obtain the LP versions of the classics for my list. This is the one song whose full LP version didn’t happen—I made do ripping a track from a greatest hits disk rather than purchasing all of Fly Like an Eagle outright. I may just have to correct that someday.

13. Smokie, “Living Next Door to Alice” (36)
It’s no surprise to learn this was a Nicky Chinn/Mike Chapman song. It was a world-wide smash, but could only muster a #25 peak here in the US. A longtime favorite here at Harris Heights.

Some free association: Chris Norman, Smokie’s lead singer, teamed up with Suzy Quatro two years later on the #4 hit “Stumblin’ In.” My grad school bridge friend Toby was constantly laying slang and obscure references on us while playing cards.  One of his favorites, whenever we played hearts: the opening lead of the four (quattro, in Italian, just to make it all clear) of a suit was regularly accompanied by the interjection “Suzy!” Yeah, you had to be there…

12. Barry Manilow, “Weekend in New England” (16)
I’m not ashamed in the least to say I was a Manilow fan in the late 70s.  I bought the 45 for this very pretty tune quite early in its ride up the charts—I’d gotten my own record player that Christmas and can remember playing it over and again on it while we were snowbound. It’s definitely in the running for my favorite song from him.

11. Aerosmith, “Walk This Way” (10)
Run-DMC made it clear that this song was in many ways ahead of its time. I kinda got a kick out of “Rag Doll” when Aerosmith made their late 80s comeback, but honestly, my hot take is this was their last really good one.

10. Queen, “Somebody to Love” (13)
Getting to the rarefied air now. This is no “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it’s amazing in its own way. It helped propel one of my fellow Kentuckians to victory on The Voice three ago.

9. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, “Whispering/Cherchez La Femme/Se Si Bon” (27)
This is in its last week on the show—and that’s the main reason I didn’t pick the 2/5 show to compile (well, that and the presence of the Henhouse Five Plus Too’s clucking of “In the Mood”).  I was big on it at the time, too—it sounded like nothing else I was hearing on the radio.

8. Abba, “Dancing Queen” (26)
It’s about to become clear which portion of the show is my favorite: #30 and all of #28-#24 comprise two-thirds of the top nine. I’ve done just a tiny bit of thinking lately about which Abba song might be my favorite.  While I’m pretty sure it’s not “Dancing Queen,” I would go so far as to say that this deserved to be their biggest US hit.

7. Thelma Houston, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (30)
The highest debut of the week—this and the next song are ultimately why the 1/29 show got picked over 1/22. I was either too young or too naïve to get exactly what Houston was going on about then, but her vocal performance is so visceral that I should have figured it out anyway.

6. 10cc, “The Things We Do for Love” (40)
One thing about that makes this set so great is that it has a dynamite leadoff song.

5. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Blinded By the Light” (8)
These next two would have been sitting at #3 and #2 in some order back in the day. It’s not really that time has dimmed them so much as that two other songs have elbowed past.

Both Amy and I really liked “Blinded By the Light” from the start; searching for any kind of meaning in its lyrics was a pastime for a good while that winter.

4. Electric Light Orchestra, “Livin’ Thing” (28)
I’d liked what I’d heard of ELO prior to “Livin’ Thing,” but this was the song that catapulted them to favorite band status; that lasted up through their Xanadu stuff.  A New World Record is one of the twenty-five or so disks in my top ten albums of all time.

3. Bob Seger, “Night Moves” (25)
There aren’t all that many Seger songs that I truly like, but “Night Moves” is outstanding, almost certainly my favorite of his (the only real competition would be “Against the Wind”). I have no idea how autobiographical this is, but it sure feels like he captured someone’s truth. Back in 77 this probably would have been sitting somewhere in the 11-20 range.

2. Fleetwood Mac, “Go Your Own Way” (32)
My love for this song has only increased with time. I was attracted to Fleetwood’s drumming from the get-go, but over time I came to recognize Buckingham’s guitar work taking the song to the fade out is pure dynamite. I know I’ve said it before, but this 45, with “Silver Springs” on the flip, is the favorite in my collection when taking both sides into consideration.

1. Al Stewart, “Year of the Cat” (24)
I debated whether this really still is my favorite out of all these fine tunes. It still feels fresh and timeless, unlike “Time Passages,” which has that disco-ish percussion toward the end; I’m definitely not tired of hearing it. So yeah, it stays here.

So, lots of familiarity at the top—not too surprising, given the reasonably large number of tunes still get lots of play today. But it’s the Cotton song that we’re playing now—the synth line dates it, but if it’s new to you, enjoy.

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