American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/25/75: Jigsaw, “Sky High”

Last October I attempted to determine periods of both high and low turnover on AT40 by looking at four-week rolling averages of # of debut songs from June 76 to August 88 (because I could get the data for those years reasonably easily). It took a little time and some patience, but I finally got back on the case and am ready to report on the first part of the 70s.

I used the Ultimate Music Database for my research, which like Billboard includes the previous week’s Hot 100 position next to each song’s current spot. I just counted the number of songs that were below #40 each the previous week on each page. 100% accuracy isn’t guaranteed (hey, I’m doing this for free—I’ll go back and be extra careful if someone offers a little $), but at the least it’s darn close. And I elected to go the extra mile and cover from 1/3/70, six months before Casey hosted his first show, so we could see the whole of the 70s. That’s the ten-year graph at the top of this post.

(One note: I counted songs that re-entered the show after falling off, like “Ecstasy” by Ohio Players and “Why Me” by Kris Kristofferson from 73, as a debut each time.)

The average number of new songs each week over the decade was 4.66; the standard deviation was 1.33. Even while entering numbers in my spreadsheet, I thought I could identify some of these semi-interesting things:
–Every week between 8/8/70 and 11/21/70 had either 4 or 5 new songs.
–The wilder oscillations in 70 and 71 gave way to a more even up-and-down flow from 72 through much of 74.
–There was incredible activity in October and November of 74. Over those nine weekends, here are the number of new songs: 8-8-4-7-6-6-5-7-5. It’s easy to locate this period, the highest on the graph. I knew about the back-to-back weeks of eight debuts in July 78—glad to learn of this other one. While I’d become aware of songs flying up and down the chart that fall in recent years, I hadn’t fully considered the implications for chart turnover. See this post of Jim Bartlett’s from 2012 for additional details.
–Above average turnover continued well into 75, up until close to the time of this show. There were 32 instances of seven debuts throughout the 70s, and a quarter of them occurred in 75, though two were in the overall slower last two months of the year. (Yet more from JB here.)
–Outside of a couple of brief bursts in the second quarters of 76 and (to a lesser extent) 77, we can now see that November 75 through June 78 was easily the slowest period of the decade. The last eighteen months look more like the 72-74 era.

Two weeks prior to this show, AT40 saw the single highest number of debuts during its classic Casey 6/70-8/88 era: nine.  Here’s a table that gives counts for how many times each number of debuts occurred in the 70s, assuming no mistakes:

# of Debuts# of Times
12
221
376
4138
5148
692
732
87
92

Asides: 1) The other nine-debut week was on 2/7/70—I’d like to research this more, but I have the distinct sense that this kind of single-week turnover was more frequent in the 60s; 2) It feels rather strange that out of seven eight-debut weeks across an entire decade, four of them form two back-to-back pairs.

I wonder if the 10/11/75 show isn’t as remarked upon as it could be in the rebroadcast era because it was guest-hosted, and thus isn’t on Premiere’s or SiriusXM’s radar. Wink Martindale was the host that week; based on what happened in recent years after Dick Clark and Gary Owens passed away, it’s possible that Premiere will provide the show as an extra offering at some later date.

You can go here to see what songs were in that oversized 10/11 cohort. The 10/25 show is the last one all nine were still around. Notes about some of them:

Personal favorite: Abba, “S.O.S.” Still magic to these ears.
Most unusual chart ride: Olivia Newton-John, “Something Better to Do.” It had the highest debut of the bunch, all the way up at #19, but climbed no higher than #13. I think it and the Eagles’ “Please Come Home for Christmas” are the only two 70s songs to debut inside the Top 20 yet fail to go Top 10.
Most well-known today: Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run.” Sometime in the very late 70s or very early 80s, I decided that the two most underappreciated 70s singles, in terms of chart peak relative to their importance, were “Piano Man” and “Born to Run” (they peaked at #25 and #23, respectively). I could go a long time now before I heard “Piano Man” again, but I’ll still crank “Born to Run.”
Most successful at the time: Jigsaw, “Sky High.” These Brits had been slogging away at the music thing for several years when they caught lightning in a bottle with “Sky High.” It went Top 10 in the UK and reached #3 here (we’re hearing it at #25); some minor hits on both sides of the pond followed, including a second Top 40 hit that isn’t nearly as good, “Love Fire.” Jigsaw split up before the decade was over. 

“Sky High” is one of those songs that transports me back in time. No specific moments, but I must have heard it several times that fall of 75 on cold and cloudy days, because that’s the image/feeling/mood it invariably conjures.

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