American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/8/72: Three Dog Night, "An Old Fashioned Love Song"

This past Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon, we hosted my cousin from Massachusetts and her friend. The four of us spent three days gallivanting all around these parts, and had quite the good time doing it. On Thursday, we took an informal tour of the horse country that surrounds the county in which I live, visited the local food co-op, and checked out a favorite Indian restaurant (the veggie samosas were especially to die for this time). Friday, we headed west to Louisville for a smallish but fascinating Picasso exhibit, a late lunch of massive non-standard burgers, and wrapped up with a trip to the very cool art studio of one of my cousin’s HS classmates. Saturday took us south and east, first to Richmond to see the church where my cousin’s parents were married and accidentally discover that the house where my grandparents had lived back in the early 70s had been recently demolished. After that, we went to the arts-and-crafts mecca of Berea. Dinner was at local landmark Boone Tavern, but before that we’d hit the state-run Kentucky Artisans Center and an amazing pottery, Tater Knob. The latter of these is fifteen minutes east of town; to call it “out of one’s way” is a sizable understatement. But I’m so glad we went–Sarah, the owner and one of the primary potters, was incredibly welcoming and gracious in showing us how she plies her craft. Martha and I bought a couple of juice cups–I have a feeling we’ll be going back again before all that long.

Needless to say, we were all a bit worn down by the end of our time together, but it was a fun, fun long weekend. Today, I’m back in the classroom, as Georgetown rings in the Spring 2020 semester. It’s good to see the students again.

Toward the end of our visit to Tater Knob, Sarah mentioned a business partnership of sorts she’s struck up recently with a group in Stanford, about forty miles to the west of the pottery. The folks there run a guest house, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a store featuring soaps and other handicrafts (such as Tater Knob pottery). What piqued my interest about this was that Stanford was the town where I lived between September 68 and June 72, covering the end of my pre-school days up through second grade. I’d been in town a little over two years ago, but hadn’t paid any attention to these Main Street businesses then (turns out they’re closed on Sunday, anyway). It’s not like I need all that much reason to return to the hometowns of my youth, but knowing about these might get me there a little sooner than otherwise.

During my second-grade year at Stanford Elementary, they undertook a school-wide spelling bee. Each grade was to select through competition one champion, and the six representatives would face off at an assembly. I had started reading at an early age, and spelling turned out to be one of those things that came pretty naturally to me. I wound up being the second-grade winner; I’d guess that within the next couple of weeks the assembly was held. Mom probably had me dress up somewhat. I remember the bright stage lights beating down on the six of us and whoever it was that served as pronouncer (the principal?). We all survived the first round, but my nerves weren’t calming down. The second word I got was a homophone–was I being asked about a body part or a first-person pronoun? I came to understand it was the latter. “i,” I said, and out to a seat in the crowd I went.

My recollection is that the sixth-grader won. He was someone I knew, an occasional companion on the afternoon walks home from school. Nice kid. I think he may offered some consolation the next time we walked together.

I did wind up having a modicum of spelling bee success a few years later, in seventh and eighth grades, but any tales about those can easily wait for some other time, if ever.

I have no idea what portion of the 71-72 school year the spelling competition took place, though I’m somewhat doubting it was January. Regardless, mention of my old stomping grounds over the weekend, in conjunction with the show selected by Premiere for rebroadcast, perhaps made it a decent choice for writing up now. Looking over this countdown, I realize that I was still some time away from regularly being able to focus on what was playing on the car radio in the moment (I was a few weeks shy of turning eight). But Three Dog Night was one group whose work I already had some awareness of. They had two songs on this show: “Never Been to Spain” debuts at #24, while “An Old Fashioned Love Song” tumbles from #4 to #18. The one that’s falling is among my favorites of theirs, so it gets the nod here. The speller in me is twitching over the lack of a hyphen in the title, however.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/26/87: Icehouse, "Crazy"

This weekend it’s an Aussie band on the leading edge of their greatest success. Iva Davies and company originally called themselves Flowers, but were forced to take on a new name after signing with Chrysalis Records for international distribution; they settled on using the title song of their debut album. I did hear “Icehouse” a time or two back in 81 after a friend down the street told me about it.

Personnel changes were the order of the day over the next few years. It wouldn’t be until 86’s Measure for Measure that they came to my attention again: both “No Promises,” which kinda brings to mind now “This Is Not America,” and “Cross the Border” got play on the AOR stations within my hearing that summer and fall. I didn’t dislike the songs, but can’t say I found them much more than serviceable, either. (Re-listening the last couple of days makes me wonder if I shouldn’t go back and dig on them a little deeper, however.)

Their next release, Man of Colours, gave the band their two biggest hits in both the UK and US. “Crazy” was ascendant at the very end of 87 (#21 this week, heading toward #14), while “Electric Blue” would go Top 10 here and #1 in Britain. I might like “Electric Blue” a little better myself, but how can I not promote what must be one of the last videos ever made to show a 45 spinning on a radio station turntable?

Davies seems to have kept Icehouse in some form or fashion a going concern to this day, though their releases over the last fifteen years or so have all been EPs, remix albums, live recordings, or compilations.

I’m guessing another song from their debut album will be popping up here sometime in the next couple of months.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/16/78: Lindisfarne, "Run for Home"

I’ve written before about songs of the last half of the 70s with which I fell in love solely from hearing them a very few times on AT40—tunes that Cincinnati radio never touched (Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams” and Sweet’s “Action” come immediately to mind in this regard). This week it’s another nugget from that treasure trove, a song hanging on at its peak of #33 in its fourth and final week on the show. Gotta say that “Run for Home” still sounds amazing to me, especially now that I’m paying attention to the swell of the strings and that oboe line in the chorus.

Being ignorant about British geography back in the day (and still, to be honest), I had virtually no chance of getting the band’s name right from Casey when they debuted on the 11/25 show. (I didn’t know that Lindisfarne is a tiny island rich in history just off the northeastern coast of England, not too far away from Scotland.) Perhaps someday you’ll get to see in a Charts post how I dubbed them “Lindasparn” for one week. 

Lindisfarne, the musical endeavor, has been an on-and-off thing for just a little over 50 years now. Their greatest commercial success in the UK was in the early 70s; “Run for Home” was a comeback hit, from the LP they recorded following their first reunion. One original member, guitarist Rod Clements, is still playing with the band (Alan Hull, who sang “Run for Home,” died of a heart attack in 95).

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/4/71: Coven, "One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack)"

On the Wikipedia page for a song from this past weekend’s 70s rebroadcast is this somewhat odd sentence:

The single went to number 26 on the Billboard pop chart before it was pulled from radio by the film’s producer. 

The single in question is Coven’s cover of “One Tin Solder.” The film is, of course, Billy Jack, and the producer was also its director, co-screenwriter, and lead actor, Tom Loughlin. On the surface, the twelve-week Hot 100 run of the song doesn’t exactly scream support for the above claim: 87-80-64-52-43-41-39-30-29-27-26-30. There’s no surge up the chart followed by a sudden collapse. Additionally, it was not uncommon at all in the early 70s for songs to tumble out of the Hot 100 from within the Top 40 (on this chart, the songs at #35, #29, #26, and #23 do the same).

On the other hand, it is true that Loughlin was having trouble with Warner Brothers, Billy Jack’s distributor—it appears that perhaps the movie was taken out of theaters suddenly. Loughlin eventually gained control of the distribution rights and re-released it himself, to significant success, two years later. (I’ve never seen it; I don’t find this synopsis of the plot enticing, either.)

And this is where I think my memories of encountering “One Tin Solder (The Legend of Billy Jack)” begin. Even though it didn’t get all that high on the charts in 73 (more on that shortly), based on my mind’s eye, there had to have been stations in Cincinnati playing it then. My sister and I were known to sing along robustly with the chorus; I’m still pretty fond of it.

Some other stuff I’ve gleaned from working the Internet the last couple of days (yes, mostly Wikipedia, I fear), in bullet form:

–Even though Coven is credited on the 71 single, it’s really just their vocalist Jinx Dawson in the studio with an orchestra. Coven did record the song for themselves around the time of Billy Jack’s re-release. The new take peaked at #79 in August of 73. (The Dawson-only version that hit in 71 was also put back out there a few months later; it reached #73 in January of 74.)

–I had a conversation with my friend Warren about the song a couple of years ago. He doesn’t like it at all, for reasons I think I can guess (I’ll let him say why, though, if he wishes). But he had a theory for the song’s appeal: its trochaic meter, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. (“LIS-ten CHIL-dren TO a STO-ry THAT was WRIT-ten LONG a-GO”). I don’t know if that’s really what makes it attractive, but I definitely learned something about poetry from the discussion.

–The first version of “One Tin Soldier,” by Canadians the Original Caste, was a Top 10 hit in Canada at the end of 69 (it made #34 here in the U.S. in February of 70).

–I know you’re dying to watch Cher’s medley of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “One Tin Soldier,” doubtless from a December 73 episode of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

Lots of other versions out there, but here’s the one that got to #26 (it was at #30 on its way down on this show).

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/29/80: Randy Meisner, "Deep Inside My Heart"

The music of the Eagles has both very loud supporters and detractors. I’m not a hater, but I’m not all that much of a fan, either—so many of their songs are played to death on retro stations, and there are only a very few I’m actively not unhappy to listen to when they pop up on the radio. What about the solo stuff, though? Some of that’s been overplayed as well, but is any of it any good? Let’s take a crack at checking things out.

All told, there were twenty-three solo Top 40 hits by five of the guys who at one time or another were members of the Eagles: eight by Don Henley, seven by Glenn Frey, four by Joe Walsh, three by Randy Meisner, and one by Timothy B. Schmit. Only Henley (four times) and Frey (twice) made the Top 10 (though Henley also had Top 10 duets with Stevie Nicks and Patty Smyth); none went all the way to #1. 

I’ve picked three honorable mentions and an unranked Top 5 Eagles solo hits; a top one-third seems like a reasonable cutoff, maybe before things start smelling a bit. While I’ve tried a little to avoid overweighting personal preference, that can’t help but creep in, I’m sure. Before I get to those eight,though, a small shout-out to Schmit, whose “Boy’s Night Out” came nowhere close to making the cut: he did a fair amount of notable backup singing and session work throughout the 80s, and his “I Can’t Tell You Why” is one of those Eagles hits I can still bear to hear.

Honorable mention:
Joe Walsh, “Rocky Mountain Way,” Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer,” Glenn Frey, “The Heat Is On.”

“Rocky Mountain Way” pre-dates Walsh’s time with the Eagles, and I guess actually isn’t a solo cut (credit really goes to Barnstorm, his band at the time), but label attribution is 90% of the law, no? I’ve always liked “The Boys of Summer” and its oh-so-serious video; I had a couple of college friends who thought the lyric “Remember how I made you scream” was awful, and they may not be wrong. The Frey piece, from the beginning of his Hollywood phase, was in the Top 10 with “The Boys of Summer,” back-to-back at #8 and #9, on 2/16/85.

Top 5, in chronological order:

Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good.” Walsh wasn’t content to do only Eagles work after he joined the band. This humorous take on self-destructive rock star behavior probably points toward Walsh’s own excesses, but it’s justifiably a classic. LP version only, please.

Randy Meisner, “Deep Inside My Heart.” I was huge on “Never Been in Love” in the late summer/early fall of 82, but this is Meisner’s best single, and it isn’t that close. A greatly underrated rocker; if I were ranking these, I’d be sorely tempted to put it at #1. It’s a travesty that Kim Carnes gets no label credit (not even a “with”)—without her interplay on the chorus, this wouldn’t be nearly so good.

Glenn Frey, “The One You Love.” I’ll confess I’m letting my bias show here—I just really like this song and the emotions it conveys. If you want to put “The Heat Is On” in this spot instead, I won’t complain too much. I’m realizing now how important the sax parts are to those two Frey hits, as well as “You Belong to the City.”

Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence” and “Heart of the Matter.” No real surprise if you read what I wrote last Saturday. Pretty, mature songcraft in both instances. There’s a strong case to be made that Henley ran laps around Frey in their post-Eagle years.

“Deep Inside My Heart” made it to just #22 (it was #25 on this show). The audio on the clip below is great, while the quality of the video is anything but. Nonetheless, we get a sense of how Carnes helped take the result up a few notches.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/28/81: Chilliwack, “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)”

One of the special things for me about the music of my high school and college years is how certain songs wound up getting linked to moments, important or otherwise. Sometimes those associations are incredibly specific; other times, things are a little broader or fuzzier—a tune may simply conjure up a season, an ambiance, a feeling, an emotion.

Another kind of connection occurs when two songs get fused together in my brain’s filing system. While this can happen because they both were played on the radio that one time I was doing thing X, today I’m thinking about a pair of tunes that had pretty similar chart runs on AT40 at the end of 81: “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone).”

The two songs debuted at #40 one week apart, the Go-Go’s going first on 10/24. Counting the frozen chart of 1/2/82, they spent eleven weeks together on the countdown, and except for 1/9, the last of those, they were always within three spots of each other (only once, on 11/7, was Chilliwack ahead). They both peaked the weeks of 12/12 and 12/19, OLAS at #20, and MG(GGG) at #22.

But it was more than that, because these two hung close to one another on my personal Top 50 for a long time, too. On 12/5, they both made big jumps, OLAS from #25 to #10, and MG(GGG) from #21 to #13. Starting on 1/9/82, they were 1-2 for three weeks, Chilliwack being on top for the first of those. From there, they both held on more than two months after they’d departed Casey-land, until 3/20. For all but one of those weeks, they were back-to-back. Frozen in time together, indeed.

The broader real-life picture is a little different, though. “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” had a reasonably standard ride up and down the Hot 100 for a song that spent eleven weeks on the Top 40 in this period: it hit the show in its sixth week, and hung around the lower 60 for only three more weeks on the way down. “Our Lips Are Sealed,” on the other hand, was much slower going about its business. It took nine weeks to climb to #40 (on top of three weeks Bubbling Under), and would linger for nine more weeks after finishing its thirteen appearances on AT40—a total of thirty-three weeks, counting Bubbling Under time. A true sleeper hit, bigger than might have seemed superficially. On the 1982 year-end countdown—really a November 81 to November 82 affair, I suppose—“My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” was nowhere to be found, but “Our Lips Are Sealed” finished at #78.

You can hear OLAS just about any time you want these days, so I’m raising a glass now to the Canadian trio who were finally breaking through stateside after a few minor hits and more than a decade together. That street corner-like section toward the end, with its sweet harmonies flowing into the modulation, makes the song for me. For the record, it was #26 on this show, three positions behind OLAS.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/23/74: Prelude, “After the Gold Rush”

Here’s a song that’s in two pretty exclusive clubs.

1) At least a couple of times in recent years, I’ve heard on the weekly rebroadcasts Casey read a listener question about a cappella songs that hit the Top 40. Each time, he said there’d been two, and played a small bit of both: Judy Collins’s “Amazing Grace,” which hit #15 in February of 71, and Prelude’s “After the Gold Rush,” sitting here at #24 and ready to peak two spots higher the following week. A sorta thorough tour through my copy of Pete Battistini’s American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 1980s) turned up at least three occasions this question was addressed: 5/30/81, 10/27/84, and 7/26/86 (the 81 show played earlier this year). I confess that I’ve not attempted to track post-summer-of-86 instrument-free hits.

2) “After the Gold Rush” is, of course, a remake of the title track of Neil Young’s classic 1970 album. That got me wondering how many times Young covers made AT40. Again, I didn’t research it heavily, but the only other one I could think of/readily discover was the excellent “Lotta Love,” from early 79, by Nicolette Larson. It’s certainly possible I’m missing something, though—please feel free to let me know.

(Two enjoyable covers of other tracks from After the Gold Rush graced tapes I made in the early 90s: Anne Richmond Boston’s version of “When You Dance I Can Really Love,” and St. Etienne’s club take on “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.”)