American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/22/87

There’s no “Danny Wilson” in this band; they took their name from an early 50s Frank Sinatra flick (in fact, their debut album’s title is that of the movie: Meet Danny Wilson). A Scottish trio, they had only this one success stateside (five spots away from a peak of #23). It’s a sad yet charming tale of regret over throwing away a relationship.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/19/78

This was the Kinks’ only Top 40 song between “Lola” in 70 and “Come Dancing” in 83. It’s a brutal meditation by Ray Davies, appreciating and yet questioning the time and energy invested by both performer and audience. Amazing track.

The reference to Elvis (the song was written in part as a reaction to his death) given my post earlier this week is purely coincidental yet appropriate. Debuting at #37, it was on its way to #30.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/18/84

Summer is apparently a great time for hit songs with the word “summer” in the title: “Summer in the City” by Lovin’ Spoonful (in 66), “Summer” by War (76), “Summer Nights” by ON-J and Johnny Revolta (78), “Hot Summer Nights” by Night (79), “First Day of Summer” by Tony Carey (84), “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams (85). Something tells me this is not a coincidence.

Here’s another entry in that pantheon, from three British women, their first big US hit. They had a couple other get to the top 10, most notably a remake of Shocking Blue’s “Venus.” The video is clearly low-budget, but I guess you’ve got to start somewhere. Got to #9; it’s on the way up at #32 here.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/14/76

Back in my early days of listening to AT40, I would really look forward to the show’s start. Some of my strongest memories from those months–even before I began writing the charts down–center on learning the identity of the song at #40. Plenty of those tunes get no play any more: “Action” by Sweet (the first one I remember, from that March), “Hit the Road, Jack” by the Stampeders (I think I’ll be mentioning this one again before too long), and “Shop Around” by Captain and Tennille. Others, like “More, More, More” by Andrea True Connection and “Love is Alive” by Gary Wright, might ring a louder bell.

This countdown’s #40 is one of the more obscure. Lady Flash was Barry Manilow’s backup group; he co-wrote and co-produced this song, their only hit. It’s a nice tribute to an earlier era, and would reach #27.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/9/80

George Benson charted between 76 and 83, generally shifting over the years from jazz to smooth R&B. His first hit, “This Masquerade,” is a great example of the jazzier side, as is the instrumental “Breezin’.” I like his live version of “On Broadway” now more than I did back in the day, and I probably prefer his take on “Greatest Love of All” to Whitney’s. This one, though, is almost certainly my favorite. I don’t know if it’s the presence of the word “night” in the title, but it’s a fabulous track to listen to in the wee hours. Got to #4, his highest peaking single on the pop chart; it’s near the beginning of its AT40 climb here, at #33.

(Chart geek aside: This countdown featured the highest debuting record during all the years I listened to AT40: Diana Ross comes in at #10 with “Upside Down.”)

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/7/71

I remember hearing this a lot in the first half of the 70s. Some of the older kids I knew at the time must have had it as a piano lesson piece, because I can see them in my mind playing it. I’ve always liked it quite a bit.  It’s part of a double-sided hit–another of my Chicago faves, “Beginnings,” was the A-side. They’re sitting at #8 here, one slot below their peak. I’ve learned from the various AT40 sites I visit that, although Casey would often feature the B-side occasionally during a double-sided hit’s run, he never actually played this side of the single on the show.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 7/30/83

One of the great kiss-off songs of the 80s. Lots of good venom here! This was Briley’s only American hit.

Several years ago I assembled the tunes on this countdown into a playlist; a primary reason was for some of the songs present at the bottom: this one (it’s at its peak of #36), “Slipping Away” by Dave Edmunds (its only week on, at #39), and “Pieces of Ice” by Diana Ross. Lots of fun stuff towards the top, too. 83 is turning out to be one of my favorite years for popular music as I look back.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 7/26/75

A year before this countdown, George McCrae, a heretofore unknown soul singer, had just peaked at #1 with “Rock Your Baby,” written by two members of a struggling Florida band. The original intention had been to give the song to George’s wife Gwen, but by the time she got to the studio George had already laid down the tracks that would become his big hit. Gwen did get her chance for real reasonably soon afterward: this is at #10, one short of its peak position. It’s one I clearly remember hearing on the car radio at the time.

One week after this countdown, the songwriters of “Rock Your Baby,” Harry Casey and Rick Finch, made their first appearance on AT40 as members of KC and the Sunshine Band with “Get Down Tonight;” their time in the spotlight was just about to begin.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 7/25/81

Jim Steinman wrote some of the most overwrought music of the late 70s/early 80s. We first encountered him on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (“Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”). Perhaps his crowning achievement came in October 83 when he wrote the songs in spots #1 and #2 (“Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Making Love Out of Nothing At All”).   He also penned Barry Manilow’s last Top 40 song (“Read ‘em and Weep”). To be honest, I liked the Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler songs pretty well, but man, some of his metaphors are really tortured.

In the middle of all that, he released the album Bad For Good under his own name, though he didn’t do vocals on all of the songs. (I’m thinking the title tune is a Paul Hunter song.) One of those sung by Rory Dodd (he’s best known for “Turn around, bright eyes” in “Total Eclipse”) was released as a single and made it to #32 in the late summer of 81 (it’s #37 here). Yes, it’s got most of the histrionics of his other stuff, but I’m really fond of it–I guess I relate to its theme of the power of music! Takes me back to a particular moment in time, right before my senior year in HS.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 7/25/70

American Top 40 was first broadcast the weekend of July 4, 1970 on seven radio stations, mostly in CA. For the first ten months of the show’s existence, they used Billboard chart data from the following week (for instance, the 7/4/70 show used the 7/11/70 chart). I’m citing the chart date above, so this countdown was the third one overall. It’s no surprise that Casey’s delivery and style evolved in the eighteen years he did AT40. Based on shows I’ve heard over the past five years, it took him over a year to hit his stride, particularly in developing his storytelling chops. In the very early days, his patter was overall more rushed and clipped than later on.

Melanie Safka is best known for her #1 hit “Brand New Key,” which plenty of folks find really annoying (I’m okay with it); this one was her first hit. It was at its peak position of #6 on the first AT40 broadcast, and had fallen to #10 here. It’s about her experience performing at Woodstock. I find it pretty powerful. The Edwin Hawkins Singers (“O Happy Day”) are doing the backup work. Pleased to find a video for this one, though I have no idea why she’s hanging around with those big concrete pipes…