In the fall of 77, my 8th grade English teacher passed out a small, bound booklet with around fifty blank 5.5″ by 8.5″ pages to everyone in the class. The assignment: assemble a “creative notebook.” We were to come up with ten articles on topics of our choosing, enliven them with illustrations or photos, and decorate the cover as we saw fit. My awesome title: The Past, Present, and Future of William Richard Harris. Included are a one-page sci-fi story, an editorial (“Students Should Eat Their Lunch!”), a diatribe on “What I Would Do To Improve the World” (apparently, I would crack down on pollution yet encourage energy companies to drill for more oil to avert an energy crisis), a reflective piece on “How I Look To Others,” and an ode to My Favorite Person, my father. (I didn’t ignore the rest of the family–the notebook was dedicated to Mom, Sis, and our dog Friskie.)
My AT40 obsession is on display in other articles. “Life of an American Top 40 Song” provides a week-by-week accounting of the path Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” took as it climbed to and fell from its #8 peak earlier in 77. “What I Hope To Be Doing 10 Years From Now” is, well, let me just show you the first paragraph:
The things 13-year-olds write…
Finally, there was “The Top 40 Coincidences,” which spells out in detail the two times I found new AT40 stations just as WSAI in Cincinnati was changing its schedule. The first was the weekend of 9/11/76: early that Sunday morning, I heard Casey announcing “Who’d She Coo” at #20 as I flipped my trusty transistor radio past WAKY, a well-known AM station in Louisville. I scribbled the titles down in the same little spiral notebook I’d used to track The National Album Countdown during the summer, at least through #11 (I could get the Top 10 out of the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer). It was good to have found another option for catching some of the show, and it got even better later than evening, when it became apparent that WSAI had discontinued AT40. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t hear full shows or resume chart-keeping until 10/16, when WSAI brought Kasem back. There exists a half-hearted accounting of the portion of the 9/11 show I did hear:
(For the sake of completeness: the second ‘coincidence’ occurred in early February 77, when WSAI moved the show from evening to morning on Sundays, in conflict with church attendance. The following Saturday night, I found AT40 on WLAP-AM in Lexington–perhaps that explains my interest in future employment there.)
I knew the Ohio Players, out of Dayton, best for “Love Rollercoaster,” their #1 hit from earlier in 76. Like so many others, I was aware at the time of the false rumor that the scream one hears about halfway through was that of a woman being murdered in the studio during recording. The groovy, funky “Who’d She Coo” was the eighth and would be the final song of theirs to make the countdown. It wound up climbing just a couple of spots higher from where I heard it that September Sunday morning.