Now it’s Sunday, 1/2/77. The New Year has started off much colder and snowier than normal, and it’s only going to get worse. On just one day across the whole of January–the 26th–will temps in the Cincinnati area inch above freezing; on three successive nights in the middle of the month, overnight lows will be -20° F or lower. (Perhaps that’s not too impressive to readers in the northern tier of states, Canada, or Scandinavia, but it’s the only time I’ve experienced anything of the kind.) School is scheduled to start back the next day, but we don’t go until Tuesday, the 4th. That day, I’ll learn that two of my more popular classmates have broken up with each other (ah, the joys and perils of 7th grade romance). After that, a barrage of snow and frigid temps; the next time we’ll all enter the hallowed halls of Walton-Verona High School will be four weeks later, on 2/1.
But I couldn’t know what the rest of the month held in store as I listened to Casey tell me all about the top 50 hits from 11/75-11/76.
The one thing I distinctly recall from listening to the show that night was Casey saying that if any of the songs from this year were to become a classic, it would be the one that clocked in at #13. Like so many of his predictions, it’s fair to say that didn’t actually come to pass.
The last time I listened in full to a countdown during the classic AT40 era was the weekend of January 4-5, 1986, when Casey laid the Top 100 of 1985 on us all. It was the third time that they’d released the year-end show as a single, eight-hour extravaganza. I’m sure I was tuned in to WKRQ, Q102. In my head, I see myself listening to Dad’s stereo system in the basement of our house in Florence. It would have been the tail end of winter break during my senior year in college. Even though it’d been over three years since I’d written things down carefully on a weekly basis, I was still frequenting the right record stores in Lexington often enough to have a decent idea about peak Hot 100 positions for most of the hits of 85.
As you see, it’s the barest of records, song titles only, on the back of what looks to be a page torn from one of my course notebooks; the front consists of the kind of mark you make when you’re trying to see if a pen works and seven four-digit numbers whose significance, assuming there ever was one, is long gone. I’d taken considerably more care with the 83 and 84 year-enders.
Perhaps the biggest surprise that weekend was hearing “Out of Touch,” “I Feel for You,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” so high in the Top 10. I’d recalled that these songs had all done reasonably well on the end-of-84 show (#25 for Chaka Khan, #13 for Wham!, and #12 for Hall and Oates). All had peaked in December, previously a precarious time when it comes to doing well in year-end rankings. Clearly the methodology used had evolved so that: a) the qualifying period extended much closer to the end of the calendar year than it had in the mid-to-late 70s, allowing those three even to have placed in 84; and b) they gave credit for a song’s full run on the chart, rather than only that which occurred in the official time frame (I’ve read on the AT40 Fun and Games message board that 85 was the first year that the whole run got credited for songs peaking after the beginning of the period, which I believe was mid-November).
Looking at it again now, I see some amusing back-to-backs: Julian Lennon at #78 and #77, the two ‘Night’ songs at #33 and #32, and especially Teena Marie and Billy Ocean at #29 and #28.
Toward the end of 76, WSAI–1360 on your AM dial in Cincinnati back then, as I’ve noted before–was broadcasting American Top 40 at 8pm on Sunday evenings. Let me take you back to the day after Christmas of that almost-concluded bicentennial year. I’m fairly pumped, as Casey has been teasing AT40‘s year-end countdown of the Top 100 Songs of 1976 for a few weeks. I’ve even taken a few moments to prep two full pages, front and back, for the recording of history as it happens. As I often do, I’ve commandeered the kitchen table; perhaps I’ve got my charts on hand, just in case they can provide anything useful. And maybe I’m a little antsy, so I tune into WSAI a little after 7:30. Playing is “Getaway,” from Earth, Wind and Fire; as it fades out, Casey informs me that the #12 hit from October is checking in at #80 for the year. A mix of confusion and irritation quickly sets in. Apparently I’ve missed the announcements that the folks at WSAI have given over the last week or so saying they’ll be starting the four-hour special show at 6pm?
Anyway, here’s what I heard and wrote down that night, now just over forty-three years in the past. You can be sure I didn’t miss the start of the show the following weekend.
It’s quite possible this night was the first time I really paid attention to both “Wake Up Everybody” and “I Love Music.”
As you can see, I stapled the two pages together, likely very soon after the second half of the show played. Obviously I was really into record label info, even filling in some I didn’t know in real time after the fact. Since I’d only started listening in late winter and charting in June, peak position wasn’t always known to me.
If you want to know the first twenty songs of the show, you can check out the cue sheets here. It would be over thirty years before I’d learn what they were.
November featured several rebroadcasts from my charting years; I decided to hold off another write-up until the end of the year, since I didn’t expect many more in December. But now that they’re all done…
First, it’s 11/13/76. The paper was originally a bluish-green, though it’s faded some over the years. As I think I’ve noted before, my phone’s camera doesn’t do colors justice when it comes to many of my charts, though.
Looks like I initially tried to make it Opposite Day with the England Dan/John Ford Coley title…
Hello/Goodbye: If you look a week or two back or forward you’ll find plenty, but there are no acts in their first or last week ever on this chart.
Stuff from 81, 80, and 78 on the flip (added: and 79!):
As noted on Tuesday, I allowed myself to get derailed in my chart-keeping for the remainder of 77 when I broke my wrist on 11/5. Three weeks earlier, I’d switched to putting all 40 songs on a single page for the first time–those three charts became essentially a prototype for what I did through all of 78.
Don’t know why I wasn’t up on the name of Donna’s album (I Remember Yesterday). Apparently I decided that ten lines was too much space for the Top 10 to consume when I got back to organized charting at the beginning of 78–I clearly needed some space for extras, etc.
New potential ongoing feature: Hello/Goodbye, in which we check for acts either in their first or final week ever on AT40. No hellos on this one, but we are saying goodbye to Ted Nugent as a solo act–he’d be back in thirteen years as lead axeman for Damn Yankees.
If we’re at the end of 82, then all I have is to share is my own personal ranking of the hits of the day:
Several holdovers that had already fallen off of the real 40: Randy Meisner, Kim Wilde, .38 Special, and Billy Idol. Usually a big ON-J fan, but “Heart Attack” is probably the song of hers I like least. Frey was just about to knock his former Eagle buddy off his perch.
Lastly, this past weekend’s 78 show:
I’m amused that I first thought Joel’s new single was called “High Life.” I sure wish I hadn’t crammed all the extras and #1’s of the 70s into those tiny boxes–clearly, I had plenty of room! Missing is the LDD from the 4th hour: “Easy.”
This show is Donna Summer’s first turn ever at #1–over the following thirteen months, she’d accumulate twelve more weeks in that spot.
Hello/Goodbye: Seven songs are about to depart, but only John Paul Young would never return. And even though its members had played on various hits to this point, we’re getting Toto as an entity unto itself for the first time.
Like just about every kid, I had bumps and bruises, scrapes and scabs growing up. I was pretty fast and loved to race, but otherwise wasn’t athletic or especially coordinated. There were a goodly number of children within a year or two of me in our neighborhood, our back yard was large, and my grandparents lived on a small farm about ten miles away—it feels like I was outdoors plenty, especially in my pre-high school years. With that, though, always comes the risk of getting hurt.
I can think of a couple of incidents where I completely lucked out in avoiding serious injury. Our house was close to the corner of Bedinger Ave. and Plum St.; Plum ran entirely downhill. One summer afternoon not too long after we moved to Walton—let’s say it was in 73, which would have made me 9 years old—I was riding my one-speed red bicycle down Plum. At the bottom was a dead end into a grassy field, with a sharp right onto Catalina Dr. Whether out of a sense of adventure or recklessness (or both), I found myself going too fast to take the turn or stop. As I left the street, my bike and I turned a somersault through the air. The bike and I separated, and I landed on my back. After a few seconds of verifying there were no major issues, I sprung up and slowly wheeled my bike up the hill. I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, of course.
A second close call happened a year or two later, at my grandparents’ farm in Union. They let a local farmer keep cows in one of their fields, and the loft in the barn was used for storing hay. My cousin Alan also lived close by, and there were several occasions when he would be out there at the same time as my sister and I. One time when the three of us found ourselves at loose ends, we climbed up into the loft, which had a trap door near the center of the floor. We discovered the door open and began horsing around, pretending to push one another toward the hole. Except that Amy and Alan took it a little too far with me. Down I went; I tried to grab onto the floor as I sailed through, but that just altered my momentum enough to land on my back hard on the packed dirt floor. Again, I was able to get up and walk away with nothing more than some soreness. That was the end of playing in the loft, though I don’t think we got in particular trouble over it.
My luck ran out 42 years ago today. I’ve mentioned a time or two before that I suffered a broken left wrist on 11/5/77, but to date I’ve elided exactly how it happened. Today you get the embarrassing details.
My sister had turned 12 about a month earlier; it could be that one of her gifts that year was a skateboard (she was the family athlete)—regardless, Amy and at least one friend from down the street had one by this point. That Saturday was a warm and cloudy day, and a few of us wound up in my next-door neighbor’s driveway with the skateboards. One thing led to another and, in spite of my inexperience, I found myself standing on two skateboards, one for each foot. Boards started rolling, balance got lost, I fell backward and tried to brace my fall—you can tell how this story ends.
Mom was soon apprised of my mischief, and off we took to Covington (the hospitals hadn’t migrated away from the river yet). It took quite a while, but eventually an x-ray confirmed what was obvious (waiting for the orthopedist, another doctor sauntered by, lifted my arm, and muttered, “Yes, it’s broken,” before wandering off). Fortunately, it was a clean break, so I was casted for the minimum time, about four weeks. I kept the cast, full of autographs from my classmates, for many more years than I should have.
Since it was Saturday, I had an AT40 to catch at 8pm; we made it home in time. I’d started a new chart design three weeks earlier (you’ll see one of those later in the week), but that got cast aside (no pun intended) that evening. Apparently there was time enough to sit in front of the typewriter in our basement before Casey came on:
As I noted when I first wrote about this experience, the song that always springs to mind was that show’s opener, the penultimate trip to the show by the Carpenters. We’ll mark the anniversary of my folly with the full seven-plus minute LP version.
Another foray into my page protector-filled binders of AT40 charts…
Okay, so 9/19 isn’t quite early autumn, but I claim it’s close enough.
Who knows how long it would be before I learned how to spell Mersey?
After I got my license, I was somewhat free not to listen to full shows, as I could fill holes by hitting up Recordland at the Florence Mall to take a peek at the Hot 100 they posted there. The evidence this very likely occurred is in the missing 60s Archive song and fourth-hour LDD, pretty common on my charts from this time frame. On this occasion, I skipped out on the Feb/Mar 68 #1 “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat and a dedication of Kenny Rogers’ “Lady” (I’m happy to report I’ve already forgotten what prompted the letter-writer when I heard this show a few weeks ago–it’s never been a favorite).
Next, my own 81 musings:
I’m still alright with that whole Top 10. I was beginning to be less interested in ELO by the time of Time, but “Hold On Tight” was one of my father’s top 25 songs of all time. I’d been digging on “Burnin’ for You” for quite a while by this point, even though it hadn’t debuted on the show yet.
As for 78, I must have had other things going on that week–this one just has the facts. It was the last of the three-hour shows; my recollection is that WLAP-AM started an hour earlier the next Saturday evening, catching me off-guard–I think I missed the first few songs.
Up next, here’s early October of 80:
Why yes, I’d been driving for several months by Oct of 80–why do you ask? This time I’d missed out on Chubby Checker’s second go-round at the top with “The Twist” and an LDD of Ray Charles’s “Georgia on My Mind”–that was a loss back then, but not this past weekend.
As for my own 80 favorites:
Irene Cara, Billy Joel, ELO, Ambrosia, Eddie Rabbitt, George Benson–those were the artists whose songs buoyed me through August and September that year. “Midnight Rocks” and “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight,” despite never getting out of the 20s nationally, were future chart-toppers for me.
And last but not least, here are two Q102 lists from more or less the corresponding periods of 78 and 80:
The 78 list, from my sister’s sweet thirteenth birthday, is kinda interesting in spots. The big news to me is that Bee Gees/Frampton piece being so high–I don’t remember it getting played wall-to-wall at the time, though that doesn’t mean much. (The Beatles’ original was sitting at its peak of #71 on the 9/30/78 Hot 100.) Q102 was a laggard on “Love Is in the Air,” aggressive with “Who Are You,” “London Town,” and “Straight On,” and really forward-looking on “The Power of Gold”–it was still two weeks away from its Hot 100 debut.
The 80 chart is much more conventional, maybe even a bit lagging time-wise–they do seem to be out in front on “She’s So Cold” and “I’m Almost Ready,” but I’ll note that Pure Prairie League had deep roots in the local scene.