AT40, Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

American Top 40: First Show Debut July 1970

Long ago and far away: Fifty years ago.  July 4th weekend 1970.  The first words and opening sentences spoken by radio host Casey Kasem with the maiden voyage of American Top 40:

“Here we go with the top 40 hits of the nation this week on American Top 40, the best-selling and most played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific from Canada to Mexico. This is Casey Kasem in Hollywood, and in the next three hours, we’ll count down the 40 most popular hits in the United States this week, hot off the record charts of Billboard magazine for the week ending July 11, 1970.

In this hour at number 32 in the countdown, a song that’s been a hit 4 different time in 19 years! And just about one tune away from the singer with the $10,000 gold hubcaps on his car! Now, on with the countdown!”

With those words by Casey Kasem, the first American Top 40 countdown was launched and underway on Independence Day weekend 1970.  Since July 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the American Top 40 debut, I am going to be looking back on the first broadcast and reminiscing on the music that Kasem played during his commencing show.

American Top 40 (commonly abbreviated to AT40) was started in 1970 and is a syndicated music countdown radio program.  According to Pete Battistini, author of the book, “American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 1970’s),” Don Bustany, Tom Rounds, Ron Jacobs and Casey Kasem were the individuals who helped create the AT40 show.

My copy of the book, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 70’s) by Pete Battistini

If you are a fan with the early years of AT40, I would highly recommend Pete Battistini’s book.  His highlights, information and insights about Casey Kasem and American Top 40 during the 1970’s is excellent.  As Battistini points out in his book, the original AT40 show aired on only 7 radio stations during the 4th of July weekend in 1970. WMEX Boston was among that first group of 7 stations that ran the debut broadcast. Upon the one year anniversary of AT40, 115 stations were carrying the weekly countdown.

One other radio station that aired the AT40 debut show was WPGC Washington.  According to the tribute site WPGC amandfmmorningside.com, “WPGC and WMEX became the first two stations to agree to run the program. By the time of the show’s debut, both stations were among the original 7 affiliates to air it. On WPGC, this occurred on Sunday, July 5, 1970 from 9a-12 noon.”

Below is an audio clip of the original AT40 show that was provided to me by Lee Chambers of the WPGC Washington tribute site. Here is a quote from Chambers about this audio clip:

“WPGC’s ‘Captain Good Guy’ would like to direct your attention to the 50th anniversary of the first American Top 40 show as it would have sounded on WPGC, one of the original 7 stations to carry the program on Sunday, July 5th, 1970 from 9a-12p (EDT), re-created with vintage commercials, promos, jingles, Sound Offs and custom Casey WPGC elements which is available as of right now for your listening pleasure, completely intact and unscoped here.”

 

Before the advent of AT40, many “top 40 radio stations” published playlists of their biggest hits and had countdown shows featuring the top songs each week.  Major market stations such as WABC New York, WLS Chicago and KHJ Los Angeles all published weekly playlists of their top hits. Surveys from all three of those radio stations can still be viewed on the Internet here in 2020.

WLS Chicago Hit Parade survey for July 6, 1970. Photo courtesy of Pete Battistini.

On the WLS Chicago Hit Parade photo posted above, I am a huge fan of number 40, “Up Around the Bend” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  John Fogerty’s song had peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 during June 1970 but had fallen off the national chart by the time the first AT40 broadcast happened.

The other Top 40 station in Chicago during the summer of 1970 was WCFL.  Below is a photo of the WCFL Big 10 Countdown for July 6, 1970.

WCFL Chicago Big 10 Countdown Survey for July 6, 1970. Photo courtesy of Pete Battistini.

My interest listening to countdown shows started during the late 60’s, when I discovered rock music on Top 40 WROV 1240 AM Roanoke, Virginia.  Every Sunday afternoon, I would hear legendary WROV DJ’s like Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz and Bart Prater countdown the Top 40 hits on my transistor radio. My love for music countdowns flourished during this time period.

Also during my early teen years, I would walk to the local Sears record department every week to pick up a copy of the WROV Musicard survey.  Once back home, I would compare my favorite records, verify their new chart positions and pretend I was a DJ “counting down the hits.”

WROV Roanoke Fabulous Forty Musicard: February 16, 1969. Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson and the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

First knowledge for me of AT40 came during June 1971 when Top 40 WBLU 1480 AM Salem, Virginia starting broadcasting the syndicated show that month.  I fondly remember sitting in the backyard of my Grandmother’s house, listening to my transistor radio and hearing Casey Kasem proclaim that “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones was the number 1 song in America for that week.

A couple of years later in 1973, WBLU dropped AT40 and the program was picked up by WFIR 960 Roanoke.  AT40 remained a fixture on WFIR throughout the 70’s.  During the 80’s, AT40 was aired on WROV AM 1240.  Below is an audio clip of Casey Kasem promoting AT40 on WROV.  The file was provided to me courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson.

 

In 1970, Billboard Magazine had competition from two other national publications with weekly music charts:  Cash Box and Record World.  As a comparison to the 40 songs Billboard used on the first AT40 broadcast, below is a photo for the Record World “100 Top Pops” chart from July 11, 1970, which was provided to me by Pete Battistini.

Record World 100 Top Pops Survey for July 11, 1970. Photo courtesy of Pete Battistini.

As Battistini pointed out to me when he submitted his photo, Billboard and Record World both have the same records at positions 1 and 40:  “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night is at the top of the charts while Marvin Gaye’s, “The End Of the Road” holds down number 40 on each survey.

Before I share the 40 songs that aired on the first AT40 show, here are some observations:

 

  • Two different songs with the word “Mississippi.”
  • Crosby Stills Nash & Young have two separate singles in the Top 40.
  • The Beatles and Elvis Presley, the top two artists from the 50’s and 60’s both have songs in the Top 10.
  • Marvin Gaye’s song, “The End of the Road” at number 40 is not at the “end” but is actually at the start of the show:  The first song ever played on AT40.

 

What were the top 40 songs on the first AT40 show that aired on the July 4th weekend 1970?

Here are the songs the Kasem counted down, plus 4 additional oldies:

 

40 Marvin Gaye – The End Of Our Road

39 Mark Lindsay – Silver Bird

38 Eric Burdon and War – Spill The Wine

37 Crabby Appleton – Go Back

36 B.J. Thomas – I Just Can’t Help Believing

 

35 Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark

34 John Phillips – Mississippi

33 The Flaming Ember – Westbound #9

32 The Four Tops – It’s All In The Game

31 The 5th Dimension – Save The Country

 

30 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Ohio

29 Ray Stevens – Everything Is Beautiful

28 The Impressions – Check Out Your Mind!

27 The Moody Blues – Question

26 Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours

 

25 Wilson Pickett– Sugar, Sugar

24 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Teach Your Children

23 The Poppy Family – Which Way You Goin’ Billy?

Oldie: Bill Cosby – Little Ole Man

22 The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street

21 Mountain – Mississippi Queen

 

20 Bread – Make It With You

19 Pacific Gas and Electric – Are You Ready?

18 Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Love Land

17 Alive ‘N Kickin’ – Tighter, Tighter

16 White Plains – My Baby Loves Lovin’

 

15 Miguel Rios – A Song Of Joy

Oldie: Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!

14 Brotherhood Of Man – United We Stand

13 Rare Earth – Get Ready

12 The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child

11 The Pipkins – Gimme Dat Ding

 

10 Vanity Fair – Hitchin’ A Ride

Oldie: Blood, Sweat, and Tears – Spinning Wheel

09 Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You

08 The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road

07 The Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You

06 Melanie- Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)

 

05 Freda Payne – Band Of Gold

04 Blues Image – Ride Captain Ride

03 The Temptations – Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

02 The Jackson 5 – The Love You Save

Oldie: The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

01 Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me (Not To Come)  ** 1 week @ no. 1 **

 

 

My 45 rpm single of “Everything is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens that I bought in 1970 and still own the record here in 2020.

I have compiled my own listing of favorite songs from the first AT40 show.  Just like Casey Kasem, I am going to countdown my favorite songs:  From number 20 down to the number 1.

My go to reference for highest peaking chart positions with my Top 20 songs is, “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s book to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent book.

 

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn

 

Staring off my countdown are numbers 20 through 14.  I consider all of these songs between good and great, just below excellent. On a scale of 10, these songs are somewhere around 8.

Now on with the countdown:

 

  1. Which Way You Going Billy—Poppy Family Featuring Susan Jacks

Peaked at #2:  26th biggest song of 1970

Poppy Family was a wife/husband Canadian duo of Susan and Terry Jacks.  “Which Way You Going Billy” was their biggest American hit.  The couple divorced in 1973, the same year that Terry Jacks recorded the insipid, bubble gum death pop tune, “Seasons in the Sun.”

  1. Are You Ready—Pacific Gas and Light

Peaked at #14: 93rd biggest song of 1970

Los Angeles California based Pacific Gas and Light band is a “one hit wonder” with their song “Are You Ready.”  This was just one of many songs that became hits during 1970, which featured Christian based themes and painted a positive message to a troubled world.

 

 

  1. Hitchin’ a Ride—Vanity Fare

Peaked at #5:  14th biggest song of 1970

The English pop rock band Vanity Fare had their only two Top 40 hits chart during 1970: “Early in the Morning” and “Hitchin’ a Ride.”  The song featuring an electric guitar, two recorders and a base guitar, is light and breezy, a pleasant up-tempo tune. One of the catchiest records of 50 years ago.

  1. Teach Your Children—Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Peaked at #16.   1st of two CSN&Y songs on countdown

The supergroup Crosby Stills Nash & Young had two songs on the first AT40 countdown.  “Teach Your Children” was written by Graham Nash and featured Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel guitar.  The summer of 1970 was good for CSN&Y.

 

Records “(They Long To Be) Close To You” from the Carpenters and “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image. I bought these singles during the summer of 1970 and still own them here in 2020.

 

  1. Get Ready—Rare Earth

Peaked at #4:  8th biggest song of 1970

Motown’s rock band Rare Earth covered the Temptations song “Get Ready” and the song quickly established this “blue eyed soul” group as a force within the music industry.  The hard driving, up tempo groove was the debut single for the Rare Earth record label.

 

  1. Go Back—Crabby Appleton

Peaked at #36.     A one hit wonder

Crabby Appleton were a rock band from Los Angeles, California, and was named after the cartoon character Tom Terrific.  “Go Back” is a true “one hit wonder” and I consider this song to be the most underrated tune in my AT40 countdown.

  1. Question—The Moody Blues

Peaked at #21    Song reached #2 in the United Kingdom

English band the Moody Blues scored their third top 40 hit in America with the song, “Question.”  This anti-war protest song seemed to resonate with listeners during the turbulent days of the Vietnam conflict and is still one of the most popular songs for the band 50 years later.

 

Records “Are You Ready” from Pacific Gas & Light” and “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain. I bought these singles during the summer of 1970 and still own them here in 2020.

 

  • Baker’s Dozen:  My top 13 selections. I consider these songs as being the “cream of the crop” and all fit into the following categories: I deem the Baker’s Dozen to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful, relevant and absolute all time favorite songs for me.

 

  1. (They Long To Be) Close to You—The Carpenters

Peaked at #1     2nd biggest song of 1970

Siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter had their first breakthrough hit with “(They Long To Be) Close to You.”  The Burt Bacharach and Hal David song spent 4 weeks at number 1 and won a Grammy Award in 1971.  The duos’ mega hit is a signature song by the Carpenters.

  1. Band of Gold—Freda Payne

Peaked at #3.     10th biggest song of 1970

With backing from the legendary Motown band, the Funk Brothers, Freda Payne hit pay dirt with her catchy, hooked-laden song, “Band of Gold.”  Payne’s smash record was popular on both Top 40 and Soul radio stations, and was the biggest hit during her career.

 

  1. O-o-h Child—The Five Stairsteps

Peaked at #8.    21st biggest song of 1970

A family group from Chicago, Illinois, the Five Stairsteps had their only Top 40 hit with “O-o-h Child.”  The lyrics are positive suggesting the “things are going to get easier” during times of trouble.  The smooth sound and the message of this “one hit wonder” is still relevant for us here in 2020.

 

  1. Lay Down (Candles In the Rain)—Melanie and the Edwin Hawkins Singers

Peaked at #6.    23rd biggest song of 1970

Having played at Woodstock during August 1969, Melanie Safka wrote the song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” after performing at the “peace and love music festival” in New York state. Melanie is joined by the Edwin Hawkins Singers and their collaboration gives this song a wonderful, gospel type feeling.

 

  1. Make It With You—Bread

Peaked at #1.    13th biggest song of 1970

Lead singer David Gates of Bread wrote the song, “Make It With You” and the song was the first of many top 40 hits by the soft rock California band. The relaxing, smooth guitar and piano on this number 1 hit, paved the way for future bands to incorporate these sounds, into what is now known as “Yacht Rock.”

 

 

  1. Ohio—Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Peaked at #14.    2nd of two CSN&Y songs on the countdown

Just after Ohio National Guardsmen killed four Kent State University students on May 4th, 1970, Neil Young wrote the words to his legendary protest song.  The hard driving rock sounds of “Ohio” gave CSN&Y simultaneous hits on the very first AT40 show 50 years ago.

 

  1. Mississippi Queen—Mountain

Peaked at #21.  78th biggest song of 1970

During the summer of ‘69, the hard rock band Mountain played at Woodstock. The following year, the band released “Mississippi Queen” and the song became their only hit. The song opens up with signature cowbell percussion, a powerful guitar riff and strong vocals by Leslie West. The song remains a staple on classic rock radio stations here in the 21st Century.

  1. Tighter Tighter—Alive N Kickin’

Peaked at #7    47th biggest song of 1970

Another excellent “one hit wonder” during the summer of 1970 was “Tighter Tighter” by Alive N Kickin’.  One of the writers of the song was Tommy James and the leader of the Shondells actually produced the recording of the hit.  Perfect harmonies and awesome saxophone playing kept the song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks.

 

  1. The Long and Winding Road—The Beatles

Peaked at #1.    41st biggest song of 1970

It has always been ironic to me that the last number 1 song for the Beatles was “The Long and Winding Road.”  After producer Phil Spector added orchestral and choral overdubs to this song, McCartney announced the official end of the Fab Four during April 1970.   It was sad to realize that “the Beatles’ long and winding road” ended with their last chart-topping song.

 

  1. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours—Stevie Wonder

Peaked at #3.   31st biggest song of 1970

Little Stevie Wonder had his first number 1 hit at age 13 in 1963. Seven years later, he was a co-writer, singer and producer for his own song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”  Wonder received a Grammy nomination for this Soul music smash and arguably is among the best singles ever recorded by the 1989 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

 

 

  1. Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)—The Temptations

Peaked at #3.   24th biggest song of 1970

Summer of 1970 was a troublesome time in America.  The Temptations socially conscious song “Ball of Confusion” accurately captured the pulse of turmoil that prevailed in our country.  The message was relevant 50 years ago. Unfortunately, the issues of this song still hold true:  50 years later. “Ball of confusion, that’s what the world is today.”  “And the band played on.”

 

 

  1. Ride Captain Ride—Blues Image

Peaked at #4.    32nd biggest song of 1970

Blues Image is my favorite “one hit wonder” with the AT40 songs on the countdown.  “Ride Captain Ride” has soaring guitar riffs, sharp piano playing and a smooth jazz sound.  With lyrics like, “73 men sailed up from the San Francisco Bay” and a catchy, up tempo groove, this tune is now considered Yacht Rock, a term that was not contemporaneously used during 1970.

 

  1. Mama Told Me (Not To Come)—Three Dog Night

Peaked at #1.   11th biggest song of 1970

Randy Newman wrote the lyrics to “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” in 1966 and Three Dog Night’s cover of this tune is my top selection on this countdown.  Ironically, it was also the number 1 song on the premiere AT40 broadcast, 50 years ago. Musically, the song features excellent instrumentation, vocal harmonies and distinct lead vocals by Cory Wells.  “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” was the first number 1 song for Three Dog Night and is absolutely my favorite song from the first AT40 broadcast during the first weekend of July 1970.

 

 

Now that I have submitted my favorite song listing of the 40 songs Casey Kasey played on the first AT40 show, I am curious to find out your thoughts on the biggest hits in America from July 1970.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with the critique of my favorite songs from 50 years ago.  Your top songs maybe be completely different than my selections.  There are no right or wrong answers, just various opinions with the 40 biggest songs listed by Billboard and counted down by Kasem on the debut AT40 program.

I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest or most significant of the 40 songs from the first AT40 broadcast. I await your replies.

 

My 45 rpm single of “Mama Told Ne (Not To Come)” that I bought in summer of 1970. I still own this record in June 2020.

I leave you with the words that Casey Kasem spoke at the close of every AT40 show:

“Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

 

 

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Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

Essential Pop Rock Songs of the 70’s

 

Raspberries-630-420

What is Power Pop Rock?

“Power pop is what we play – what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop the Beach Boys played in the days of “Fun, Fun, Fun” which I preferred.”   Pete Townsend in an interview with British magazine NME, May 1967.

When British rock band the Who released their single “Pictures of Lily” during the spring of 1967, Pete Townsend used the term “Power Pop” to describe the song and the type of music that his band played. More than likely, Townsend had no idea that the “Power Pop” phrase he made to NME magazine in 1967 would become a sub genre of rock music during the 70’s.

What is Power Pop Rock?   Wikipedia gives their definition: “The genre typically incorporates melodic hooks, vocal harmonies, an energetic performance, and “happy” sounding music underpinned by a sense of yearning, longing, or despair.”

Online “AllMusic” website describes the style as “a cross between the crunching hard rock of the Who and the sweet melodicism of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, with the ringing guitars of the Byrds thrown in for good measure.”

I would describe “Power Pop” as prominent guitars, catchy melodies, excellent vocal harmonies and up-tempo beats, with a cross section of either happy or angst lyrics.

To truly understand how the “Power Pop” genre of music came into existence, we must go backwards to the early days of rock and roll music.

Foundation and influences of “Power Pop” sounds can be traced back to 50’s rock and roll artists like, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and the Everly Brothers. The next major influence of “Power Pop” came in the form of the British Invasion.

The Beatles brought a fresh new musical wave to America in 1964, when they introduced “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to audiences via the Ed Sullivan Show. Suddenly, teenagers and young adults were wrapped up with Beatlemania and the new sounds of soaring guitar pop music.

Many of the Beatles early songs contain the elements of what would later to be known as “Power Pop.” Fab Four songs like, “Please, Please Me” and “If I Needed Someone” are excellent examples along with “Day Tripper” and ‘Eight Days a Week.”

Soon after the Beatles success, there were dozens of other British bands recording hit songs with an up-tempo pop beat. The Hollies and the Kinks are two of the most prominent British bands that incorporated the light pop melodies during the musical “British Invasion” between 1964 and 1967.

American rock bands also got into the act of recording up-tempo pop records, the most notable groups being the Beach Boys and the Byrds. Pop rock songs were dominate on Top 40 radio during the mid to late 60’s.

Here are some of best examples of hit pop rock songs from the 60’s, way before “Power Pop” became a named genre of music:

  • Paperback Writer–The Beatles
  • Wouldn’t It be Nice—The Beach Boys
  • I Can See For Miles—The Who
  • Daydream Believer—The Monkees
  • My Back Pages—The Byrds

  • Look Through Any Window—The Hollies
  • Happy Together—The Turtles
  • Do It Again—The Beach Boys
  • You Really Got Me—The Kinks
  • Penny Lane—The Beatles

  • So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star—The Byrds
  • The Kids Are Alright—The Who
  • Hungry Paul Revere and the Raiders
  • Elenore—The Turtles
  • A Girl like You—The Young Rascals

When the Beatles officially broke up in 1970, many thought that the pop rock sounds that the Fab Four helped to make popular was finished as a relevant form of music.  However, there were two bands that helped carry on the Beatles musical legacy during the early 70’s:  Badfinger and Raspberries.

Badfinger started in the early 60’s with the name of the Iveys.  During the summer of 1968, they signed a contact with the Beatles owned, Apple Records company.  The Iveys first single was “Maybe Tomorrow” and the song’s success had mixed results. It was a hit in some European countries but was a failure in the United Kingdom and in America.

In 1969, Paul McCartney wrote a song call “Come and Get It” that he had planned to have the Beatles record for their Abbey Road album.  Obviously, the song didn’t make the Fab Four album and it was then offered to the Iveys. Just prior to “Come and Get It” being released, Apple Records and the band agreed to change their name to Badfinger.

With the new name, Badfinger assembled four huge hit records:

  • Come and Get It
  • No Matter What
  • Day After Day
  • Baby Blue

With soaring guitar riffs, excellent melodies and superb vocal harmonies, Badfinger is considered to be the most influential and pioneers of the “Power Pop” rock genre of music.

The second band to have the greatest impact on “Power Pop” music during the early 70’s, is a group simply known as Raspberries.  This Cleveland, Ohio based band was formed in the late 60’s and came together with the name Raspberries during 1971.

Eric Carmen was the front man for the band, being lead vocalist and playing rhythm guitar.  All of the Raspberries members wore tuxedos while playing on stage and emulated former British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Who.

Raspberries had four top 40 hits between 1972 and 1974:

  • Go All the Way
  • I Want Be With You
  • Let’s Pretend
  • Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)

Just like their English counterpart band Badfinger, Eric Carmen’s group Raspberries  were also sonic pioneers with this new type of musical style.    Their influential playing style, flowing melodies and harmonies, placed the band as leaders in the development of the genre which came to be known later as “Power Pop.”

Raspberries-Album-Cover-web-optimised-820

After the demise of Badfinger and Raspberries bands, there still were a few other groups performing “Power Pop” music during the mid 70’s. Here are some examples of popular songs during this time period:

  • Magic—Pilot
  • Ballroom Blitz—Sweet
  • Abracadabra  (Have You Seen Her)—Blue Ash

  • September Gurls—Big Star
  • I’m On Fire—Dwight Twilly Band
  • Fox on the Run—Sweet

The “Power Pop” genre then saw a renewed resurgence during the late 70’s with the emergence of “Punk Rock” and “New Wave” bands.  Many of these new groups incorporated the sounds of pop/rock into their respective genres of music.

Naming of the “Power Pop” genre of music took root during 1978 when Bomp! magazine editor Greg Shaw started using the term “powerpop” in music reviews of punk and new wave bands.  In the article, Shaw defined and gave a history of “power pop” up to that point.

Many of the popular “new wave” bands of the late 70’s, moved away from traditional blues-based rock and roll, to assimilate more pop grooves with their music. Popular “new wave” bands such as the Police, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Blondie and the Cars, all tended to mesh together a hybrid fusion of pop rock sounds.  Many of their songs easily fit into the “Power Pop” category.

When I was attending James Madison University from 1978 until 1980, I worked at Public Radio Station WMRA Harrisonburg, Virginia.  During the evening hours at the station, I would be a radio host for an album rock radio show.  I regularly played “Power Pop” album songs on my radio show broadcasting throughout the Shenandoah Valley.

Here are some of the most memorable “Power Pop” rock songs that I played on my WMRA “After Hours” radio show during this time period:

  • Starry Eyes—The Records
  • Girl Of My Dreams –Bram Tchaikovsky
  • One Way or Another—Blondie
  • My Sharona—The Knack
  • Let’s Go—The Cars
  • I Want You To Want Me—Cheap Trick

Below is one of my radio airchecks from WMRA Harrisonburg, Virginia, from April 1st, 1980, when I hosted the album rock program called After Hours.

Although “Power Pop” continued to flourish beyond 1979, my concentration for the rest of this article will be on the 70’s.  I have selected what I consider to be the essential top ten singles of the “Power Pop” genre of music during the 70’s decade.  These are my favorite songs in this category.

Before I share my listing, I must point out a couple of things:  First there are 10 different artists on my listing.  If I didn’t set that criteria, Badfinger and Raspberries would have dominated my selections with multiple songs.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant in the category of “Power Pop” rock.

 

  1. Pump It Up—Elvis Costello and the Attractions

From “This Year’s Model” album

Signature song by Elvis Costello from 1978 is a toe-tapping, up tempo, fast-paced adrenaline laced tune that was inspired by Bob Dylan’s, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”  The combination interplay of excellent guitar and organ riffs, helps to solidify “Pump It Up” as “Power Pop” rock magic.

 

  1. What I Like About You—The Romantics

From the self-titled, “The Romantics” debut album

Initially released at the end of 1979, “What I Like About You” wasn’t a big top 40 hit. During late 1980, someone from Budweiser liked the memorable refrain, “Hey, uh-huh-huh” and the flowing guitar riffs on the song, and licensed it to be use in beer commercials.  The Romantics debut single has become one of the greatest rock anthems from the past 40 years.

 

  1. Surrender—Cheap Trick

From the “Heaven Tonight” album

During the late 70’s, Cheap Trick is considered one of the premier “Power Pop” rock band and I have selected their 1978 song, “Surrender” as their best in this category.   With dueling guitar playing and lyrics describing teenage angst, Rolling Stone magazine has proclaimed, “Surrender” as the “Ultimate 70’s teen anthem.”

 

  1. Cinnamon Girl—Neil Young and Crazy Horse

From the album “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

Just a month before Neil Young wrote the iconic protest song “Ohio” about the May 1970 Kent State massacre, his record company released “Cinnamon Girl” as a single.  The tune features a prominent bass line, multiple guitars laying down accompanied rhythms and ends with a brilliant, “one note guitar solo.”   “Cinnamon Girl” remains one of Young’s most enduring songs.

 

  1. American Girl—Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers

From the self-titled debut “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” album

It is quite ironic that Tom Petty recorded, “American Girl” on the Bicentennial of the United States, July 4th, 1976. The tune captures the fast, lively twin guitar riffs of Petty and his band member Mike Campbell, while following the urgent beats found on many “Power Pop” rock songs.  “American Girl” was the last song that Tom Petty played as an encore, during his last concert, just a week before he passed away in October 2017.

 

  1. Just What I Needed—The Cars

From the self-titled, “The Cars” debut album.

A combination of new wave, classic rock, synth pop, the Cars were mainstays with multiple power pop rock songs during the 70’s.  The ubiquitous “Just What I Needed” is a complete pop song.  Ringing guitars, catchy keyboard riffs and quirky lyrics brings this song to perfection.  This 1978 gem is ranked as one of the best recordings ever made by the Cars.

 

  1. Cruel To Be Kind—Nick Lowe

From the “Labour of Lust” album

Musically, “Cruel To Be Kind” was inspired by the Philadelphia soul sound of “The Love I Lost” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.  Lively and highly-spirited electric guitars combined with mockingly sarcastic lyrics, makes this Nick Lowe tune a crown jewel.  The official video for “Cruel To Be Kind” was actually filmed at Lowe’s 1979 wedding with his wife Carlene Carter and was his only Top 40 hit.

 

  1. Couldn’t I Just Tell You—Todd Rundgren

From the “Something/Anything?” album

Without a doubt, Todd Rundgren is the most influential solo performer on my Top 10 listing.  His ground breaking song “Couldn’t I Just Tell You”during 1972 paved the way for countless bands to emulate his creative guitar sounds.  Most music critics highly regard Rundgren as a pioneer and his song is considered a pure showpiece within the “Power Pop” genre of rock music.

 

  1. No Matter What—Badfinger

From the “No Dice” album

While I could have picked either “Day After Day” or “Baby Blue” at number two, I selected, “No Matter What” as the best Badfinger song in this category. This British band set the standard in 1970 and was the first to incorporate and develop all of the essential elements associated with this new genre of music.  “No Matter What” has excellent harmonies, melodies and superb instrumentation.  It remains Badfinger’s best and most powerful song in the “Power Pop” canon of music.

 

  1. Go All the Way—Raspberries

From the self-titled debut “Raspberries” album

My number one selection is “Power Pop” royalty. I consider, “Go All the Way” by the American rock band Raspberries as the perfect quintessential song in this category.  This tune starts off kicking:  Blazing guitars, infectious guitar riff and catchy hooks. Eric Carmen and his bandmates provide soaring harmonies, on this hot rocking, flame throwing masterpiece.  I place the 1972 Raspberries’ tune, “Go All the Way” as the essential “Power Pop” rock song of all time.

 

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Now that I have submitted my thoughts on the top 10 essential “Power Pop” rock songs, I am curious to find out your opinion on this genre of music from the 70’s.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique with the 1970’s decade and your favorite songs maybe be completely different than my selections.  There are no right or wrong answers, just various opinions on music known as “Power Pop” rock.

So I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest, most significant and essential “Power Pop” rock songs of the 70’s decade?  I await your replies.  Rock on!

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

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Music, Music Countdowns, Retro Rock

Quintessential Social Distancing Songs

Photo above by Amy Woodson

 

April 2020: With the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping across our world, normal everyday life activities have come to a screeching halt. Our existence has been temporarily transformed: From freely associating and interacting with other humans, including some family members, friends and acquaintances, to a new dynamic called social distancing.

How to deal with this new social distancing model has been a challenge for many of us. One of the ways that I have tried to maintain an ability to think and behave in a rational manner is through my Christian faith.

One other mechanism that I am using through these times of social distancing is music therapy. Utilizing music during this time has been powerful for me.

Stevie Wonder’s song “Sir Duke” summarizes accurately how music can bring unity in our world:

 

“Music is a world within itself

With a language we all understand

With an equal opportunity

For all to sing, dance and clap their hands

Music knows it is and always will

Be one of the things that life just won’t quit.”

Although I utilize music for my own therapeutic proposes, I am not advocating that there are individual songs or genres of music that are perfect for social distancing.

So what are the perfect social distancing songs for you? As Mama Cass Elliott sang on her, “Make Your Own Kind of Music” hit from 1969:

 

“You gotta make your own kind of music

Sing your own special song

Make your own kind of music

Even if nobody else sings along”

My advice to all reading this message: Choose songs and music that is right for you when engaging in music therapy for yourself. Any type of music or songs that you already love should be included during your musical sessions.

The genesis for this latest music blog came to me a couple of weeks ago when I was a substitute host for a weekly music show on social media. My friend David Hardie asked me to come up with 10 songs with a common theme for his “Friday Drive” show.

The theme I selected when hosting the “Friday Drive” was 10 perfect social distancing songs. The criteria of the songs that I picked: All of the tunes needed to have something that related to social distancing, somewhere in the title of the song.

Before I narrowed my listing to 10 songs, there were a few songs I had to eliminate.

 

  •  End of the world songs: I love R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) and ‘End of the World” by Skeeter Davis. However, Coronavirus is not the end of the world. One day we will resume normal living options and I choose to be optimistic instead of pessimistic with our current situation.

  • Songs that lyrically fit but not favorites for me: “Alone Again Naturally” Gilbert O’Sullivan, “Isolation” John Lennon and “Behind the Mask” Michael Jackson.

  • Lyrics about social distancing but song title ambiguous: “Get Off of My Cloud” Rolling Stones, “My Life” Billy Joel and “I Am a Rock” Simon & Garfunkel.

  • Songs of Optimism: “I Will Survive” Gloria Gaynor and “Things Will Only Get Better” Howard Jones.

  • Songs just outside the top 10:   “Out of Touch” Hall & Oates, “Human Touch” Bruce Springsteen, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Stand Back” Stevie Nicks, “So Far Away” Carole King.

In order for a song to be in my top 10, I set up the following criteria:

  • The title of the song had to be lyrically related to our current social distancing protocol.

 

  • I actually had to love listening to the song myself. Thus, horrid, insipid songs like Donny Osmond’s “Go Away Little Girl” would never be used, even if the song title fits the category!

 

Now I submit to you, my top 10 playlist of quintessential social distancing songs:

 

  1. Get Back—The Beatles

This number 1 single from the Beatles spent 5 weeks at the top spot during May and June 1969. “Get Back” is my 4th favorite Fab Four song of all time.

 

  1. Keep Your Hands to Yourself—Georgia Satellites

Southern rock band Georgia Satellites reached number 2 with their novelty song “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” in February 1987. The band is considered a one hit wonder.

 

  1. Go Your Own Way—Fleetwood Mac

The first record from the legendary “Rumours” album, this Fleetwood Mac song peaked at number 10 in the winter of 1977. “Go Your Own Way” paved the way for 3 other top 10 singles in America that year.

 

  1. All By Myself—Eric Carmen

Former Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen took the chorus from his band’s song, “Let’s Pretend” and mixed a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, to create a masterpiece. “All By Myself” hit number 1 with the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1976.

 

  1. Alone—Heart

One of the best power ballads ever recorded by sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson. Heart’s song “Alone” vaulted to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became the 2nd biggest record of 1987.

 

  1. I Think We’re Alone Now—Tommy James & the Shondells

After “Hanky Panky” topped the charts in 1966, Tommy James & the Shondells came back strong in 1967 with their up tempo smash, “I Think We’re Alone Now.” The song peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

 

  1. Dancing With Myself—Billy Idol

Interesting facts about “Dancing With Myself” and Billy Idol: As lead singer of the new wave band Gen X, his band had a United Kingdom hit with the song in 1980. After his band broke up, Idol recorded the song as a solo artist and it became a hit in America during 1981.

 

  1. Too Much Time on My Hands—Styx

Tommy Shaw both wrote and is the lead singer on “Too Much Time On My Hands” which came from the 1981 triple-platinum “Paradise Theatre” album. The song was a top ten hit on both AOR and Top 40 radio stations during the spring of 1981.

 

  1. One—Three Dog Night

Harry Nilsson wrote the lyrics for “One” and the song became the first top ten hit for Three Dog Night, reaching number 2 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart. The band then went on to chart 21 straight Top 40 hits from the summer of 1969 until 1975.

 

  1. Don’t Stand So Close to Me—The Police

Winning a Grammy Award for “Best Rock Performance” in 1981, the Police had an international smash with their song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.” Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland put together a winning sound with Top 40 and rock radio listeners 39 years ago.

So there you go: The Police and their “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is my number 1 quintessential social distancing song of all time.

The Police and their self titled compilation album which includes the song, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me.”

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on favorite quintessential social distancing songs, I am curious to find out your opinions on this topic.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of excellent social distancing tunes. Your top ten listing of songs maybe totally be different from my selections.

So I am asking for your thoughts: What do you consider to be the best social distancing songs? There are no right or wrong answers.

I am hoping this message will be an encouragement to you. The power of music can be used as a powerful tool to lift up our spirits during trying times.

As German Baroque classical music composer Johann Sebastian Bach stated during the 18th Century, “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul.”

Let music be therapeutic for your soul. Rock on!

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

 

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The 007 Best James Bond Theme Songs

 

Photo above created by Amy Woodson.

 

The first three months of 2020 have been extremely good for 18-year-old American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish.

During the last Sunday in January, Eilish won four Grammy Awards, sweeping all four major categories presented by the Recording Academy:

* Best New Artist

* Song of the Year

* Record of the Year

* Best Pop Vocal Album

 

Then in February, Eilish became the youngest person to write and record a theme song for a James Bond movie.   The song “No Time To Die” was written by Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell, and is the official James Bond theme song for the latest 007 movie, “No Time To Die.”

The new James Bond movie theme song landed at the number 1 position on the United Kingdom’s Official Singles Chart the first week it was released. Eilish is now credited as the youngest artist and first female ever to have a James Bond theme song reach the apex of the Official Singles Chart.

Here in America, “No Time To Die” debuted at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is currently number 12 on that chart. The James Bond film, “No Time To Die” had originally been set to be released next month but has been postposed to November 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Since the Eilish release of “No Time To Die” last month, I have been thinking about the best James Bond movie theme songs of all time. With this in mind, I am going to share what I consider to be the greatest 007 James Bond songs ever made.

I have excluded ranking “No Time To Die” in my Top 007 greatest James Bond movie theme listing even though I feel it is a strong song. I am giving Eilish’s song a pass this time around on my music blog.

Here are my top 007 best James Bond theme song selections:

  • 007 song number seven: “James Bond Theme” John Berry Orchestra (From Dr. No 1962)

Signature song for the entire 25 James Bond movie series.   This instrumental was used in the very first 007 movie,“Dr. No” and has been used as a backdrop to the gun barrel sequence in almost every James Bond film. The music has also been used with the closing credits on nine 007 movies over the years.

  • 007 song number six: “Skyfall” Adele 2012

“Skyfall” is my only entry during the 21st Century and peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Adele won a Grammy Award, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award all for her James Bond theme song.  Musically, the song has the feel of early 007 movie theme songs.

  • 007 song number five: “For Your Eyes Only” Sheena Easton 1981

This lush ballad was nominated for Best Original Song with the Academy Awards and became one of Sheena Easton’s biggest hits. “For Your Eyes Only” was a number 1 song around the world and peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • 007 song number four: “Diamonds Are Forever” Shirley Bassey 1971

Although it only peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100, Bassey’s song has become one of the most beloved of all 007 film songs of all time. Along with “Moonraker” from 1979 and “Goldfinger” from 1965, Bassey is the “Queen” of James Bond movie theme songs.

  • 007 song number three: “Nobody Does It Better” Carly Simon (From The Spy Who Loved Me) 1977

This power ballad composed by Marvin Hamlish and written by Carole Bayer Sager, is one of Carly Simon’s biggest hits. Peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song received both Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for best original song. Simon soars with her vocals throughout the song.

  • 007 song number two: “Goldfinger” Shirley Bassey 1964

I consider “Goldfinger” to be the quintessential James Bond movie theme song.   It was Shirley Bassey’s only top 40 hit in America, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was extremely hard for me to place “Goldfinger” as the second greatest 007 song of all time.

  • 007 song number one: “Live and Let Die” Paul McCartney & Wings 1973

My number 1 greatest James Bond movie theme song is “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings. The song reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the first rock song to be a James Bond film song. McCartney still performs this song in concert, using pyrotechnics during instrumental breaks. Without a doubt, I consider “Live and Let Die” to be the best 007 film song of all time.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the best James Bond movie theme songs, I am curious to find out your opinion on this subject.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the best 007 film songs of all time. Your top songs in this category may be completely different from my selections.

Album cover of Pure McCartney. This compilation LP contains the track, “Live and Let Die.”

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the Top 3 best James Bond movie theme songs ever made? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

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1970: Greatest Year For One Hit Wonders?

 

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant in life is change.”  The concept of change accurately describes the musical landscape of Top 40 radio in 1970.

Since the beginning of the Top 40 radio format, there has always been change. As 1969 turned into 1970, many established artists started following new musical paths.

  • Diana Ross left the Supremes
  • The Beatles officially ended their band
  • Simon & Garfunkel split as a duo

Death ended the careers of two more artists: Both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died of drug overdoses, at age 27.

1970 also saw new artists emerge, starting a stream of multiple top 40 hits:

  • The Carpenters
  • Bread
  • The Jackson 5
  • James Taylor
  • Chicago

During the July 4th weekend of 1970, American Top 40 (AT40) debuted as the first nationally syndicated music count down program. Hosted by Los Angeles DJ Casey Kasem, AT40 played the Top 40 songs each week, from the Billboard Hot 100.

 

Casey Kasem Host of American Top 40

Here are the Top 10 songs that Kasem counted down on the first AT40 broadcast during the first weekend in July 1970:

  1. Mama Told Me (Not To Come)             Three Dog Night
  2. The Love You Save                               Jackson 5
  3. Ball of Confusion                                 The Temptations
  4. Ride Captain Ride                                 Blues Image
  5. Band of Gold                                        Freda Payne

 

  1. Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)       Melanie/Edwin Hawkins Singers
  2. (They Long to Be) Close To You      The Carpenters
  3. The Long and Winding Road           The Beatles
  4. The Wonder of You                         Elvis Presley
  5. Hitchin’ A Ride                                Vanity Fare

 

WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 3/23/70 & 4/27/70. Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S)

At the end of 1970, Billboard Magazine published the top hits of the year. All of the Top 10 songs for the entire year of 1970, were by artists who had more than one hit:

1          “Bridge Over Troubled Water”               Simon & Garfunkel

2          “(They Long to Be) Close to You”          The Carpenters

3          “American Woman”                              The Guess Who

4          “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”    B.J. Thomas

5          “War”                                                    Edwin Starr

6          “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”        Diana Ross

7          “I’ll Be There”                                      The Jackson 5

8          “Get Ready”                                         Rare Earth

9          “Let It Be”                                            The Beatles

10       “Band of Gold”                                      Freda Payne

Taking a deeper dive into the top 100 hits of fifty years ago, it reveals that 1970 was a great year for “one hit wonder” artists.

So what exactly is a “One Hit Wonder?” The basic definition is an artist has only one hit song during their career on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. Obviously, there some other rules that should be included if an artist is to be included for consideration as a one hit wonder.

 

  • No other songs from an artist ever peaking at number 40 or higher on the Billboard National Pop Chart.
  • One hit wonders vary from country to country. An artist may have just one hit in America but have multiple hits in another country.
  • Regional hits are not taken into account: A second song must be a national hit and chart within the Billboard Top 40 pop survey.
  • Any song peaking outside of the Top 40, are always excluded for consideration.
  • Songs that peak from numbers 41 through 100 on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart are never considered as second hits.

 

The rule that a second song must be a Top 40 Billboard National pop chart hit was established in 1998, by music historian Wayne Jancik in his definitive work on the subject, “The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders.”

The subject of “one hit wonders” has always been interesting to me and researching the reasons why some artists have only one hit song. Way before the advent of the Internet, my go to reference for this subject has been “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s book to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent book.

For the remainder of this message, I will be focusing on the musical year of 1970 and the numerous excellent one hit wonder songs during this golden year of Top 40 radio.

During my research of Joel Whitburn’s book and reviewing the Billboard Hot 100 songs of 1970 chart listing, I have come up with this conclusion: 1970 is the greatest year for excellent “one hit wonder” songs.

By my estimation, there are at least 25 “one hit wonder” songs, which I consider to range from fine to superb from 1970.   There are also 4 outlier songs that I want to document before proceeding with my comments on the twenty-five good to excellent “one hit wonders” from 1970.

  •  Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye—Steam:  Technically a 1969 hit but spilled over into 1970.  I consider this a transitional one hit wonder as it reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 during mid December 1969 but still was in the Top 10 on the Billboard chart during the first two weeks of January 1970. A popular song that is still popular at sporting events here in 2020.

  •  Spill The Wine: Eric Burdon & War: Some on the Internet proclaim that “Spill the Wine” is a “one hit wonder” but the group War had 11 other Top 40 hits without Eric Burdon. In my mind, this song shouldn’t be considered in this category.

 

  •   Two Novelty One Hit Wonders Songs: “Rubber Duckie” by Ernie (Jim Henson) and “Gimme Dat Ding” from the Pipkins. I am not a fan of either of these tunes but they were Top 40 hits during 1970. I will humbly pass on affirming these two selections as being good.

 

Various “one hit wonder” records that I bought during 1970 and still own in 2020

 

Now it is on to my 25 “one hit wonders” from 1970 that I rank from good to excellent. First up are songs from 25 to 11: all are pleasing to my ears

Questionable lyric songs: Understood differently here in 2020

  • In the Summertime—Mungo Jerry
  • The Rapper—The Jaggerz

Songs with same lead singer: Tony Burrows

  • Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)—Edison Lighthouse
  • My Baby Loves Love—White Plains

Spiritual Songs: Christian themed messages

  • Are You Ready—Pacific Gas and Electric
  • God Love & Rock and Roll—Teegarden & Van Winkle

 

Canadian Artists: Only Hit in America

  • Indiana Wants Me—R Dean Taylor
  • As Years Go By—Maskmakhan

 

Various Topical Songs: A potpourri of subject matters

  • Hey There Lonely Girl—Eddie Holman
  • Montego Bay—Bobby Bloom
  • Neanderthal Man—Hotlegs

  • Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games With Me—Crow
  • Lay a Little Lovin’ On Me—Robin McNamara
  • Go Back—Crabby Appleton
  • Ma Belle Amie—The Tee Set

 

Various “one hit wonder” records that I bought during 1970 and still own in 2020

 

Now I submit to you, my top 10 listing of “one hit wonder” songs from 1970.

I am not declaring these songs are the “best or greatest” in this category. These selections happen to be my Top 10 personal favorite “one hit wonders” from 1970: Songs which I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

  1. Venus—Shocking Blue

Peaked at #1 in February: 33rd biggest record of 1970

 

Shocking Blue was the first rock band from the Netherlands to have a hit in America.

Before Dutch bands Golden Earring and Focus had hits in the United States, “Venus” was a number 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has a memorable opening guitar riff, a catchy melodic tune and superb vocals by lead singer Mariska Veres. “Venus” was a worldwide hit, reaching number one in nine countries.

  1. All Right Now—Free

Peaked at #4 in October: 27th biggest song of 1970

English blues-hard rock band Free broke through in America during the fall of 1970 with “All Right Now.”   With Paul Rodgers on lead vocals, the song has a driving beat and is considered a quintessential classic rock tune. “All Right Now” was a hit all over, Europe, Canada and in Australia. After Free broke up, Rodgers became a premier rock vocalist with Bad Company.

  1. House of the Rising Sun—Frijid Pink

Peaked at #7 in April: 60th biggest song of 1970

A Detroit, Michigan hard rock band Frijid Pink, made a psychedelic cover of the Animals 1964 hit, “House of the Rising Sun” 50 years ago.   The song features distorted fuzz and wah-wah guitar playing, with hard driving drumming. I have fond memories winning a copy of this record from Top 40 WROV Roanoke, Virginia. It was absolutely thrilling for me to be able to speak on the air with legendary WROV DJ Bart Prater, when I won this Frijid Pink record during the spring of 1970.

  1. O-o-h Child—Five Stairsteps

Peaked at #8 in July: 21st biggest song of 1970

A family group from Chicago, Illinois, the Five Stairsteps reached the top 10 during on the Billboard Hot 100 with “O-o-h Child.” The lyrics are positive suggesting the “things are going to get easier” during times of trouble.  The smooth sound of the Five Stairsteps resonated with folks all across America. The first time I heard this song was on Top 40 WABC New York, with hall of fame DJ Cousin Brucie on the air.

  1. Mississippi Queen—Mountain

Peaked at #21 in July: 78th biggest song of 1970

During the summer of ‘69, the hard rock band Mountain played at Woodstock. The following year, the band released “Mississippi Queen” and the song became their only hit. Mountain’s summer of 1970 hit opens up with signature cowbell percussion, a powerful guitar riff and strong vocals by Leslie West. The song remains a staple on classic rock radio stations here in 2020.

  1. Vehicle—The Ides of March

Peaked at #2 in May: 85th biggest song of 1970

Often mistaken for another “Horn” band Blood Sweat & Tears, a Chicago, Illinois based band, the Ides of March, flew up the charts with their tune “Vehicle.” The song features a catchy guitar riff and has a matching magical percussion horn section. The Ides of March were led by Jim Pererik, who in the 80’s founded the rock band Survivor. I distinctly remember hearing “Vehicle” being played by Top 40 WLS Chicago DJ’s Chuck Buell and Kris Erik Stevens, prior to the song becoming a national hit.

  1. Yellow River—Christie

Peaked at #23 in December: 83rd biggest song of 1970

During the early part of 1970, British songwriter Jeff Christie formed the band called Christie and they recorded his song “Yellow River” as their first single. Jeff Christie says the lyrics of his song was inspired by a soldier going home at the end of the American Civil War. However, most listeners in America thought this power pop song was referring to the Vietnam Conflict. I remember hearing “Yellow River” for the first time on Top 40 WEBC Duluth, Minnesota, while I was visiting the land of 10,000 lakes on vacation during August 1970.

  1. Tighter, Tighter—Alive N Kickin’

Peaked at #7 in August: 47th biggest song of 1970

Tommy James and Bob King were both songwriters and producers for the song “Tighter, Tighter” by Alive N Kickin’. The band was from Brooklyn, New York and featured singers Pepe Cardona and Sandy Toder. Also in the group was Bruce Sudano, who later married disco singer Donna Summer. The song has excellent harmonies and has a Tommy James and the Shondells power pop groove. My first time hearing “Tighter, Tighter” was when I was traveling through Illinois and listening to DJ Larry Lujack on WLS Chicago.

  1. Ride Captain Ride—Blues Image

Peaked at #4 in July: 32nd biggest song on 1970

Blues Image formed in Tampa, Florida in 1967 and moved to Los Angeles, California during 1969. Musically, “Ride Captain Ride” has soaring guitar riffs, sharp piano playing and a smooth jazz sound. Prominent Blues Image member Denny Correll went on to play in the “Jesus Music” rock band Love Song after leaving the group. “Ride Captain Ride” is considered part of the “Yacht Rock” genre. It is my second favorite “one hit wonder” from 1970.

  1. Spirit in the Sky—Norman Greenbaum

Peaked at #3 in April: 22nd biggest song of 1970

My favorite “one hit wonder” from 1970 is “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. The music on the song is excellent: Driving drums, tambourines and distorted electric guitars, brought together a hard rock sound with a spiritual lyrical message. I also consider “Spirit in the Sky” to be in the Top 10 best memorable rock guitar riffs of all time. Greenbaum’s song is still regularly played on classic rock radio stations and is considered one of the greatest “one hit wonders” of the 1970’s.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on “one hit wonders” of 1970, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music of that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the “one hit wonder” songs from 1970. The songs that you might feel are the best, maybe be completely different from my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the best “one hit wonders” of 50 years ago? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

 

Listening to music from the golden age of Top 40 radio will always have a special place in my heart. In my humble opinion, 1970 was the greatest year ever for “one hit wonders.” Rock on!

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What is the Greatest Christmas Song of All Time?

Oh, all the lights are shining so brightly everywhere

And the sound of children’s laughter fills the air

 

And everyone is singing

I hear those sleigh bells ringing

Santa, won’t you bring me the one I really need?

Won’t you please bring my baby to me?

 

Oh, I don’t want a lot for Christmas

This is all I’m asking for

I just wanna see my baby

Standing right outside my door

 

Oh, I just want you for my own

More than you could ever know

Make my wish come true

Baby, all I want for Christmas is you

 

 

What is the greatest Christmas song of all time? Over the past 25 years, “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey has become one of the most popular Christmas songs ever recorded.

Just how popular is Carey’s song?   “All I Want For Christmas is You” has been recognized for setting 3 Guinness World Records and her accomplishments will be published in the 2020 edition of the Guinness book. Here are the 3 records that Carey has broken:

 

  • The highest charting Christmas song on the Billboard Hot 100 by a solo artist
  • The most streamed track on Spotify in a 24 hour period
  • The most weeks in the United Kingdom singles Top 10 chart for a Christmas song

 

“All I Want For Christmas is You” is also riding high with popularity here in 2019 as the song just reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, for the week ending December 21st.   Carey’s song is just the 2nd Christmas song ever to reach the top spot on the Billboard chart (The first song to do so was “The Chipmunk Song” by the Chipmunks in 1958-59).

Since Carey’s Christmas song was first released in 1994, it has sold over 16 million units. Every Christmas season for the past 25 years, I have regularly heard Carey’s song played on Roanoke, Virginia radio stations, Top 40 K92 and Adult Contemporary Q99. Those stations are still playing “All I Want For Christmas is You” again this holiday season.

Arguably, Carey’s song is the biggest Christmas hit during the past quarter century. However, I go back to my original question at the start of this message: Is “All I Want For Christmas is You” the greatest Christmas song of all time?

I personally maintain that proclamations concerning “the best or greatest” Christmas song ever made, are rather pompous and are an exercise in futility.

Rather than ranking Christmas songs as the “best or greatest” of all time, I prefer to give acclaim to individual songs about Christmas, which are still meaningful and have lasted through the test of time.

My hypothesis on music and song likability: Generally, the songs that a person listened to as a teen or as a young adult, tend to be the songs that are fondly remembered and considered to be their favorite music selections of all time.

The most memorable and favorite songs for older adults tend to be the songs they loved during middle school, high school and college days.

While baby boomers might think Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby have the best Christmas songs, those growing up in the 2010 decade may consider Lauren Daigle or Kacey Musgraves to have the greatest Christmas songs ever made.

For the remainder of this article, I will be highlighting Christmas songs that were first written prior to 1994. My ranking of songs will not be based on greatness or popularity. My criteria will focus on songs and artists, whom I feel are still relevant and have withstood the test of time.

When I attended the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra “Holiday Pops” Christmas concert with my wife Priscilla a couple weeks ago, I began to realize how many wonderful Christmas songs there are in western civilization.

Roanoke Symphony Orchestra “Holiday Pops” concert at Salem Civic Center. December 6th, 2019

The Christmas songs that I like the most, all seem to be tunes older than 25 years old.   The Hallmark Christmas music channel on SiriusXM radio has became a favorite for me this holiday season. This station plays everything from the sounds of Nat King Cole to the modern tunes of Jen Lilley.

I do have a wide range of artists that I listen to on a regular basis for Christmas music. I can go from tuning in standard Christmas classics from Gene Autry, Andy Williams and Perry Como, to enjoying contemporary artists like Pentatonix, Mannheim Steamroller and Sara Niemietz.

Before revealing my top selections of Christmas songs, I want to document some music that I fondly remember during my childhood and are still favorites to me.

My first memories of Christmas music happened around age 10 during my childhood. Both of my parents each had one favorite Christmas album and those records were regularly played on the Woodson family RCA stereo system.

“The Andy Williams Christmas Album” was Shirley Woodson’s absolute favorite Christmas record. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was my mom’s most treasured song on the album. She also loved Williams’ covers of “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.”

For my dad Andy Woodson, “The Twelve Songs of Christmas” by Jim Reeves was his favorite Christmas album. “Mary’s Boy Child” was his most loved song on the album. He also cherished “An Old Christmas Card” and “The Merry Christmas Polka.”

Around the age of 13, I began listening to Top 40 radio and I started forming my own favorite list of Christmas songs. Here are some of songs I loved during my teen years:

 

Novelty Songs

  • Snoopy’s Christmas—The Royal Guardsmen
  • Little Saint Nick—The Beach Boys
  • The Chipmunk Song—The Chipmunks (David Seville)
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer—Gene Autry

Top 40 Rock Songs

 

  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree—Brenda Lee
  • Jingle Bell Rock—Bobby Helms
  • Sleigh Ride—The Ronettes

 

Middle of the Road Songs

 

  • (There’s No Place Like) Home For the Holiday—Perry Como
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas—Burl Ives
  • Pretty Paper—Roy Orbison

Holiday Songs

 

  • This Christmas—Donnie Hathaway
  • It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way—Jim Croce
  • Aspenglow—John Denver

As an adult, I expanded my musical horizons and added a couple songs from the Contemporary Christian genre to my favorite playlist.

 

Star Song (There Is Born a Child)—Sheila Walsh

 

 

Come On Ring Those Bells—Evie

 

 

I now humbly submit to you, my top Christmas song listing of all time. I am not declaring they are the “best or greatest” holiday songs ever made. These selections are my favorite Christmas songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.

 

  1. Do You Hear What I Hear—Whitney Houston

 

Obviously hundreds of artists have covered “Do You Hear What I Hear” over the years, so it is hard to choose just one version. I have selected Whitney Houston’s performance of the song that was written in 1962.

 

  1. Silent Night—The Temptations

 

Written in Salzburg, Austria during 1818, “Silent Night” is one of the most widely acclaimed Christmas carols of all time. Hundreds of artists have recorded the song and I enjoy listening to the Temptations Motown version best of all.

 

 

  1. Mary Did You Know—Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd

 

Mark Lowry wrote “Mary Did You Know” in 1984 and Michael English was the first to record the tune. Mother Mary and her possible understanding with the virgin conception of Jesus, totally makes this an intriguing lyrical song. I prefer the Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd version of this tune.

 

  1. That’s What Christmas Means To me—Stevie Wonder

 

Stevie Wonder released a Christmas album in 1967 called “Someday at Christmas” and his song “That’s What Christmas Means To Me” is the crown jewel on this recording. Wonder’s top-tapping tune continues to be a winner in my book.

 

  1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)—Darlene Love

 

The most underrated of my top 10 selections is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. Utilizing Phil Spector’s, “Wall of Sound” production, Love’s emotion and excellent vocals are powerful and still sound fresh to me.

  1. O Holy Night—Martina McBride

 

One of the best known Christmas carols of all time is “O Holy Night” which was written in France during 1847.   Many have recorded the song but my favorite rendition is by Martina McBride. The country music singer provides outstanding vocals with her recording on the song.

 

 

  1. Merry Christmas Darling—The Carpenters

 

Originally released in 1970, “Merry Christmas Darling” was a perennial Christmastime hit on Top 40 radio during the 70’s decade for the Carpenters. Karen Carpenter’s vocals are superb: Haunting, longing and inviting. She had one of the purest voices in pop music when this song was recorded.

 

  1. The Christmas Song—Nat King Cole

 

Known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” by many folks, “The Christmas Song” was written in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé.   My favorite version of the song is by Nat King Cole and his rendition was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.

  1. Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)—Amy Grant

 

One of the most melodic Christmas tunes of the past 30 years is the song Amy Grant wrote with Chris Eaton, “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song). The lyrics are written from Mary’s perspective of the nativity story with Jesus’ birth. Grant’s tender vocals are exceptional on this modern day Christmas classic song.  My second favorite Christmas song of all time.

 

 

  1. White Christmas—Bing Crosby

 

Irving Berlin wrote the lyrics to “White Christmas” in 1942 and Bing Crosby’s version is my number one all time favorite Christmas song. The song has sold over 50 million units worldwide and is the biggest selling single ever recorded.   “White Christmas” is ranked number 2 on NPR’s “Songs of the Century” listing and is in the Library of Congress, National Recording Registry.   Without a doubt, “White Christmas” is the most beloved holiday song ever made.

Now that you have viewed my selections of what I consider to be the top Christmas songs ever made, I want to pose the question again: Is Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” the greatest Christmas song of all time?

My answer is no. Although I do not want to disrespect those who place Mariah Carey’s song as the greatest Christmas song of all time, I respectfully submit that “All I Want For Christmas is You” is a wonderful holiday tune but hasn’t yet weathered the test of time.

“All I Want For Christmas” has achieved great accolades over the past 25 years since Carey’s song was released and most likely will be highly rated during upcoming Christmas seasons during the 2020 decade. However, comparing the current number 1 song in America with Christmas songs like Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is completely unfair to Mariah Carey.

Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” was recorded in 1942 and has sold over 50 million units worldwide. For the past 78 years, “White Christmas” has been the most beloved Christmas song around the world and without a doubt, is the greatest Christmas song of all time.

Those are my thoughts on Christmas songs. Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of Christmas music. Your top selections of Christmas songs could be totally different than my picks. There are no right or wrong answers on this topic.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

 

I close with the lyrics to the greatest Christmas song ever made:

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know

Where the treetops glisten

And children listen

To hear sleigh bells in the snow

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

With every Christmas card I write

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know

Where the treetops glisten

And children listen

To hear sleigh bells in the snow

 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

With every Christmas card I write

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white

 

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

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AT40, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1974 Singles: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

I remember listening to AM radio on my transistor radio and hearing the novelty hit, “Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” during the summer of 1974.

Some music historians would point to the “one hit wonder” song by Reunion and proclaim that it was indicative of how bad the music was on Top 40 during 1974.   Many musical experts completely pan the entire year of 1974 music, claiming it to be the worst year ever for Top 40 radio. Is that hypothesis correct?

I completely understand why some folks may not like a lot of the top songs from 1974, as many of those tunes are horrid. However, I refuse to throw out the baby with the bath water.

During any given year, there are plenty of good songs and also bunches of wretched, insipid tunes. I refuse to categorically describe all music released during 1974 as wretched. I prefer to place the music from 45 years ago into three silos: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

For this edition of my musical musings, I will be investigating the Top 100 songs of 1974, which were compiled by Cashbox and Billboard music publications.

Here are the Top 20 songs from Cashbox:

 

  1. Show And Tell – Al Wilson (Rocky Road)
  2. Come And Get Your Love – Redbone (Epic)
  3. The Most Beautiful Girl – Charlie Rich (Epic)
  4. Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim (Capitol)
  5. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand (Columbia)

 

  1. Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver (Rca Victor)
  2. You Make Me Feel Brand New – The Stylistics (Avco)
  3. Rock On – David Essex (Columbia)
  4. Seasons In The Sun – Terry Jacks (Bell)
  5. The Joker – The Steve Miller Band (Capitol)

  1. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – Stevie Wonder (Tamla)
  2. Bennie And The Jets – Elton John (Mca)
  3. The Loco-Motion – Grand Funk (Capitol)
  4. Love’s Theme – The Love Unlimited Orchestra (20th Century)
  5. Spiders And Snakes – Jim Stafford (Mgm)

 

  1. Nothing From Nothing – Billy Preston (A&M)
  2. TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) – MFSB (Philadelphia Int’l)
  3. You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr (Apple)
  4. The Night Chicago Died – Paper Lace (Mercury)
  5. Top Of The World – Carpenters (A&M)

Here are the Top 20 songs from Billboard:

  1. “The Way We Were” – Barbra Streisand
  2. “Seasons in the Sun” – Terry Jacks
  3. “Love’s Theme” – Love Unlimited Orchestra
  4. “Come and Get Your Love” – Redbone
  5. “Dancing Machine” – The Jackson 5

 

  1. “The Loco-Motion” – Grand Funk Railroad
  2. “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” – MFSB
  3. “The Streak” – Ray Stevens
  4. “Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John
  5. “One Hell of a Woman” – Mac Davis

  1. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” – Aretha Franklin
  2. “Jungle Boogie” – Kool & the Gang
  3. “Midnight at the Oasis” – Maria Muldaur
  4. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” – The Stylistics
  5. “Show and Tell” – Al Wilson

 

  1. “Spiders and Snakes” – Jim Stafford
  2. “Rock On” – David Essex
  3. “Sunshine on My Shoulders” – John Denver
  4. “Sideshow” – Blue Magic
  5. “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede

As you can tell from comparing the two 1974 year-end surveys, there are distinct differences with these listings. I will be selecting my choices for Good, Bad and Ugly from these two lists.

The musical landscape of 1974 is dear to my heart, as my first job in radio started in April of that year. At age 18, I was hired to be a remote engineer by Top 40 radio station WROV in Roanoke, Virginia. My responsibilities at the station included setting up equipment for remote broadcasts, running the soundboard and playing records, while a WROV DJ was in charge of announcing duties.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

During my first remote broadcast, I worked with the legendary WROV DJ Larry Bly. The first song I played that day was “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, so for sentimental reasons, I am placing that song in the Good category for 1974 singles.

Two other Good 1974 songs associated with WROV are “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band and “Blackwater” from the Doobie Brothers. The Roanoke radio station added “The Joker” during the fall of 1973, and was credited with a “gold record” by Capitol Records, as WROV was the first station in America to play the song.

Then during September 1974, WROV music director Chuck Holloway started playing “Blackwater” as a Doobie Brothers album cut on his nighttime DJ air-shift. The WROV request line lit up every time “Blackwater” was played and it immediately became a hit in Roanoke.

Soon after, Phil Beckman at WQRK Norfolk and Buzz Bennett with KDWB Minneapolis added “Blackwater” to their playlists. Finally, Warner Bros Records released the song as a single and it became the first number 1 tune for the Doobie Brothers during March 1975. Later that year, WROV proudly received another “gold record” for breaking “Blackwater” in America.

Working for WROV gave me a chance to thoroughly evaluate the music from 1974. From my perspective, there are a whole lot more Good songs than Bad or Ugly tunes from this year.

Since I will be evaluating just the top singles of 1974, according to Cashbox and Billboard, there are many Good songs that I will not be mentioning with this message. The sole parameter that I am using will be if the song made one of the year-end surveys for 1974.

Before I reveal my Top 10 good songs from 45 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from 1974. I consider all of these songs to be Good.

  • I Shot the Sheriff—Eric Clapton
  • Beach Baby—First Class
  • Sideshow—Blue Magic
  • Nothing From Nothing—Billy Preston
  • Rock on—David Essex

  • The Air That I Breathe—The Hollies
  • Annie’s Song—John Denver
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road—Elton John
  • Help Me—Joni Mitchell
  • Please Come to Boston—Dave Loggins

  • Be Thankful For What You Got—William DeVaughn
  • Then Came You—The Spinners & Dionne Warwick
  • Whatever Gets You Through the Night—John Lennon & Elton John
  • You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet—Bachman Turner Overdrive
  • (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long—Chicago

  • Hello It’s Me—Todd Rundgren
  • The Lord’s Prayer—Sister Janet Meade
  • Midnight Train To Georgia—Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • I Got A Name—Jim Croce
  • You Make Me Feel Brand New—The Stylistics

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten Good songs of 1974.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

Time in a Bottle—Jim Croce    

 

After Jim Croce died in a plane crash during September 1973, “Time in a Bottle” was released as a single and became a posthumous number 1 hit.   The haunting lyrics of mortality and the wish to have more time, brings sadness to this melodic tune. The song truly resonated with music listeners and is one of Croce’s greatest musical achievements.

 

Band on the Run—Paul McCartney & Wings

 

The musical structure of “Band on the Run,” is absolutely incredible. Continuous switching of tempos, with three distinct music segments, the song flows into a musical masterpiece. Paul and Wings provide excellent three part harmonies throughout the song, which utilizes rock, funk and country influences. I consider “Band on the Run” to be the best song recorded by McCartney after the break up of the Beatles.

Living For the City—Stevie Wonder

 

Prior to 1974, Stevie Wonder sang mostly love songs and stayed away from controversial issues. This changed with his hit, “Living for the City.” It became one of his first songs to deal with racism and gave Wonder a chance to express concerns facing life in America. The other thing I admire about this song is that Wonder played all the instruments on this wonderful tune.

 

You Haven’t Done Nothin’—Stevie Wonder

 

The second good Stevie Wonder song of 1974 is “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” With backup vocals from the Jackson 5, Wonder unleashes fiery lyrics about U.S. President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Ironically, Nixon resigned his presidency in August, the same month that Wonder’s song was released as a single.

Cat’s in the Cradle—Harry Chapin

 

Listening to Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” for the first time, one may think it is a mellow song. However, the subject matter is any thing but mellow. Chapin’s signature song paints a sorrowful picture with a father neglecting his son, and then when the son becomes a man, he actually neglects his father, the same way he was treated as a boy. This folk rock song gives a baleful warning with brilliant lyrics.

 

Sweet Home Alabama—Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

One of the most iconic Southern Rock songs from the 70’s, “Sweet Home Alabama” pans multiple political subjects and stoked controversial topics. The lyrics mention Neil Young and his song, “Southern Man,” the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace and the Watergate scandal. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first hit record has become an anthem for the state of Alabama.

For the Love of Money—The O’Jays

 

First Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That message is the basis for the O’Jay’s hit song, “For the Love of Money.” This R&B groove features powerful vocals and has a killer bass line. The group from Philadelphia gives a powerful warning about the misuse of money on the toe-tapping soul song.

 

Takin’ Care of Business—Bachman Turner Overdrive

 

During the summer of 1974, Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive had one of the hottest sounding songs with, “Takin’ Care of Business.” Randy Bachman, formally of the Guess Who, teamed up with Fred Turner to give us straight-up catchy guitar rifts and tongue in cheek lyrics. The band from Canada sure knew how to rock during this year.

Keep on Smilin’—Wet Willie

 

Making lemonade out of lemons is the main message on Wet Willie’s song, “Keep on Smilin’.” The band was from Alabama, giving Southern Rock more exposure on Top 40 radio. A positive message is heard on the chorus, “Keep on smilin’ through the rain, laughin’ at the pain, just flowin’ with the changes, till the sun comes out again.”

Wet Willie’s biggest hit happened during the summertime.

 

Radar Love—Golden Earring

 

Throughout the history of Rock and Roll, there have been songs dealing with death. The Dutch band, Golden Earring, gave us a perfect “death rock” song in 1974. “Radar Love” is actually a “Rock Suite” and has two distinct musical segments. Lyrics mention Brenda Lee, driving at a high rate of speed in the middle of the night, and reconnecting with his angel “in the sky.” It is an excellent highway road song.

The next 6 songs are in the Bad category.

 

Spiders and Snakes—Jim Stafford

 

I don’t like spiders or snakes, and I sure don’t like Jim Stafford’s number 1 song about arachnids and serpents. “Spiders and Snakes’ ” lyrics of sexual innuendo are not clever and are down right trite. Stafford’s follow up hit, “My Girl Bill” was equally insipid and wretched to my ears. I don’t know why this became a hit record.

 

Midnight At The Oasis—Maria Maldaur

 

Some may call this song a guilty pleasure. I call the fantasy desert love affair song, “Midnight at the Oasis” lascivious. Maldaur’s stereotypes of Arab “sultans and sheiks” are appalling and her suggestive sexual euphemisms are way over the top. Lyrics like, “But you won’t need no harem, honey, when I’m by your side, and you won’t need no camel, when I take you for a ride” are absolutely insidious.

 

Maria Muldaur

The Streak—Ray Stevens

 

When the streaking craze happened in 1974, someone had to record a song on the topic. That someone was Ray Stevens. His novelty song, “The Streak” may have been funny the first time heard. After the second hearing, the song became annoying. These are lyrics I never want to hear again: “Don’t Look Ethel”, “Ethel, you shameless hussy”, “Ethel, you get your clothes on” and “Say it ain’t so, Ethel.” Ray Stevens’ number 1 song is a dud.

 

You’re Sixteen—Ringo Starr

 

Ringo Starr should have never covered the song “You’re Sixteen.” The Beatles drummer was 33 years old when he recorded the song, and it was creepy listening to it on the radio in 1974. I attended Ringo’s concert with His All Starr Band last month, and he is STILL performing “You’re Sixteen” during his shows. Hearing a 79 year old man singing this song is beyond disgusting. It is atrocious.

 

 

Ringo Starr at Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

I Can Help—Billy Swan

 

Country crossover artist Billy Swan hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his dreadful song, “I Can Help.” The singer pleads, begs and promises to do any and every thing possible in order to be her lover. The last line of the song is unbelievable: “If your child needs a daddy, I can help, It would sure do me good to do you good, let me help.” Any woman that is gullible enough to believe that line definitely needs HELP!

 

Dark Lady—Cher

 

Normally, I can tolerate story songs but Cher’s number 1 song from 1974 is rather sordid. “Dark Lady” is a New Orleans fortune-teller, which the narrator of the song (Cher) goes to see. When money is paid for a fortune, the woman proclaims that Cher’s lover has been unfaithful and gives this advice: “Leave this place, never come back and forget you ever saw my face. “ Of course, Cher goes back to the fortune-teller with a gun, catches her lover kissing the woman, and shoots them both dead. Some may claim the song is clever, I maintain the song is just wretched.

 

Cher

Finally, here are 6 songs in the Ugly category:

 

I’m Leaving It Up To You—Donny and Marie Osmond

 

Every time that I heard Donny and Marie’s horrid song during 1974, I would sing, “I’m heaving it up on you.” Listening to this song made me want to puke! In deference to Marie Osmond, she should have never recorded any duets with her brother. Every single Donny Osmond song is completely detestable and obnoxious to my ears. Same for the Osmond Brothers. The song is ugly to the max!

 

Hooked On a Feeling—Blue Swede

 

Why would Swedish pop band sing, “Ooga-chaka, Ooga-Ooga, Ooga-Chaka” over and over, with their cover version of, “Hooked on a Feeling?” Why ruin a wonderful song, which B.J. Thomas made popular in 1968? I prefer listening to Thomas singing “Hooked on a Feeling.” Listening to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is worse than torture for me.

 

Blue Swede

The Night Chicago Died—Paper Lace

 

One may think that “The Night Chicago Died” was based on a true story. However, it is about a fictional shoot-out between the Chicago Police and members of Al Capone’s crime syndicate. Instead of Capone and his men meeting their doom, the lyrics state “about 100 cops are dead” at the hands of the gangsters. Even worse than unbelievable lyrics is the “bubble gum pop music” that Paper Lace performs on this vapid tune. Chicago would have been better off without this song by Paper Lace.

 

Billy Don’t Be a Hero—Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods

 

One of the sappiest bubble gum songs of 1974, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” is the ultimate, miserable death pop music song. With the Vietnam Conflict still going on in 1974, many folks assumed that “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” was associated with the Southeast Asian war. However, the lyrics suggest it is about the American Civil War. A young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to enlist with the Army. Eventually, Billy is killed in action during a battle. A dreadfully sad tune, that continues to be irritating to me 45 years later.

 

(You’re) Having My Baby—Paul Anka

 

Besides being a duet with Odia Coates, I can’t think of anything positive about this Paul Anka song. “You’re Having My Baby” is overtly sentimental, sappy and the most sexist record of 1974. With Anka declaring, “it is his baby” without acknowledgement of the mother and her part in the pregnancy, is the ultimate in male chauvinism. Furthermore, the song was voted the number 1 “Worst Song of All Time” by CNN in 2006. Needless to say, this is one horrible tune.

 

Terry Jacks

Seasons in the Sun—Terry Jacks

 

The bubble gum, death pop tune, “Seasons in the Sun,” quite possibly is one of the worst songs ever made. The tune is an English-language adaptation of the song “Le Moribond” by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with lyrics rewritten by American singer-poet Rod McKuen. The singer laments that he is dying and says goodbye to his Papa, Michelle and a trusted friend. Terry Jacks’ singing delivery is a schmaltzy, emotional mess. Just hearing the opening chords of this song makes me shiver. Rolling Stone ranks the record as the 7th “Worst Song of the 70’s. I proclaim “Seasons in the Sun” as the ugliest of ugly songs of 1974.

 

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the Good, Bad and Ugly singles from 1974, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music of that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the 100 biggest songs from 1974. The songs that you might feel are the Good, Bad and Ugly, maybe be completely different from my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the Good, Bad and Ugly songs for 1974? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

If anyone ever suggests that the music from 1974 is all bad and ugly, I hope those folks educate themselves. The majority of the top 100 songs from 1974 are on the good side of the ledger. Long live Top 40 music from 45 years ago!

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

 

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Music, Music Countdowns, Radio

Billboard Hot 100: Comparing Ariana Grande with the Beatles?

Ariana Grande has an excellent singing voice. Her four-octave vocal range makes her one of the best pure singers over the past ten years.

February 19th, 2019 was a historic day for Grande. She became only the second artist ever to achieve the top three positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, matching the feat first accomplished by the Beatles in 1964.

(Now it must be noted that the Beatles actually held all five of the top spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week during April 1964, at the height of Beatlemania in America. Obviously, the Beatles holding all 5 songs at the Top of the Hot 100 is still the overall record with the Billboard chart).

 

Still, it is impressive that Grande held down the top three spots with these songs for the Billboard Hot 100 survey dated 2/23/19:

  1. 7 Rings
  2. Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored
  3. Thank U, Next

 

 

Even more impressive are the Beatles and their overall record, with the Top 5 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending April 4th, 1964:

1: Can’t Buy Me Love

2: Twist And Shout

3: She Loves You

4: I Want To Hold Your Hand

5: Please Please Me

 

 

While I admire and respect the accomplishment of Ariana Grande, I am wondering how can we accurately rank Grande’s historic position in relation to the Beatles holding down the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1964?

For over 60 years, Billboard Magazine has tracked the top songs in America with their Billboard Hot 100 chart. Since 1958, Billboard has tracked song popularity by using various metrics.

During the early days of the Billboard Hot 100, the chart was calculated based on:

  • Record Sales
  • Radio Airplay
  • Radio Stations Top Hits Surveys
  • Jukebox Plays

 

The first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson, on August 4, 1958.

 

 

During the golden age of Top 40 radio, major market radio stations played a key role in songs becoming hits. If either Cousin Brucie on WABC New York or Larry Lujack on WLS Chicago played your song on their radio stations, the song generally reached the top 10 and quite possibly the number 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100.

 

 

Over the years, the way people bought and listened to music changed and so did the policy of criteria used by Billboard to calculate the Hot 100.

When record and singles sales dropped during the 90’s, Billboard switched the Hot 100 from a singles chart to a songs chart. Album cuts were also considered for the first time during this time period.

Last decade, Billboard introduced digital downloads and online audio streaming to the Hot 100 process and earlier in this decade added video streaming from YouTube and other sources to the Hot 100 mix.

Today the Hot 100 tracks radio airplay by audience impressions as measured by Nielsen BDS, sales data compiled by Nielsen Soundscan, both at retail and digitally, and streaming activity provided by online music sources, according to Billboard.

 

 

As you can tell, the criteria that Billboard uses here in 2019 is completely different than what they utilized in 1964 when the Beatles held the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100.

My question that I pose for you: How can we compare the Billboard Hot 100 chart success of Ariana Grande (or any other artist today) with the historic Beatles music feat of 55 years ago? Isn’t this comparing apples to oranges?

The only constant thing for over 60 years is that Billboard has created a weekly Hot 100 chart. Everything else about the chart: How the songs are measured, are completely different now compared to Hot 100 calculations in 1964.

Should we even compare rote facts and figures associated with the Hot 100 from 1958 with the music of 2019? Is it fair to place a song like, “Can’t Buy Me Love” next to, “Thank U, Next?”

 

 

I’ve asked a couple of my friends to speak on this topic. Al Weed, General Surgeon for the Veterans Medical Center in Salem, Virginia, stated to me, “It is like comparing sports records from different eras” but Grande’s historic achievement is “still an impressive feat.”

Dave Delaney, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for Lutheran Churches in Virginia, also agreed that Grande’s topping of the Hot 100 “is an impressive achievement.” Delaney went on to say, “regardless of what you think of Grande’s music, she has prevailed over an extremely large field of gifted performers.”

I am in agreement with both Al Weed and Dave Delaney with their assessment of Grande and her recent historic success. However, I still wonder how to accurately rank the music feat of the Beatles: Which happened 55 years ago, to the chart topping Billboard Hot 100 record, just set by Grande?

Can I reconcile the totally different set of criteria used by Billboard in 1964, compared to the music measurements used by the Hot 100 in 2019? Quite frankly, I do not consider there is a fair and accurate way to evaluate extreme differences of Hot 100 benchmarks between the 1960’s and today.

Ranking music over a 60-year period of time can be subjective. My thoughts could be totally different from what you think on this subject. Reasonable minds can agree to disagree when it comes to opinions on music.

I find it extremely hard to properly rank and place music, compiled over 6-decades, when the metrics and categories of measurements have radically changed over the course of time.

Billboard will probably continue to crank out their Hot 100 chart, as long as there is recorded music on a national level. Many will debate music history as it relates to the current music scene. More than likely, people will have dialogue on the Billboard Hot 100 for years to come.

 

What are your thoughts on Ariana Grande and her recent Billboard Hot 100 music performance? Is it equal to the Beatles 1964 Hot 100 achievement? Better? Not as good? Different?   Ariana or the Fab 4? Which do you choose?

Obviously, there are no definitive answers on this topic. The only sure thing that I can come up with is from the song, “Spinning Wheel” by Blood Sweat and Tears:

“What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel, got to go ‘round.”

 

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Music Countdowns

Dancing In The Street: Best Summer Song of All Time?

Calling out around the world

Are you ready for a brand new beat

Summer’s here and the time is right

For dancing in the street

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street” is the best summer song of all time. So why did this song get selected as number 1 best summer song? In my humble opinion, “Dancing in the Street” is not even the best summer song by Martha and the Vandellas. I would select “Heat Wave” as the greatest summer song by the 60’s R&B group.

At the beginning of every summer season, publications like Billboard and Rolling Stone promote their “definitive” listings of “the greatest or best summer songs” ever recorded. While I am always curious to read which songs are selected, I also personally scoff at these yearly listings.

So what are the best summer songs of all time? Can anyone ever come up with a definitive list of the greatest songs that describe or are about the summer season? Just who has the audacity to declare which songs are the greatest summer songs of all time? Not me.

Can anyone tell me the key ingredient that music critics use to determine what are the best or greatest summer songs in modern musical history? Maybe but probably not? I have a theory on the subject and I want to submit my thoughts to you:

Most people consider the music that they listened to during their formative years, generally teen years and/or young adult stage of life, as the best or greatest music that they have ever known. During this developmental stage, favorite music is not forced by parents but rather is willingly chosen by individuals and has a lasting influence on the types of music they listen to the rest of their life.

With this in mind, it will be easy for you to figure out what era of music I consider to be the greatest in relation to summer songs. The very first summer song that I can remember liking as a young boy was “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole. Other early summer tunes that I remember liking during that time period were, “Under the Boardwalk” from The Drifters, “Summertime” by Billy Stewart, “All Summer Long” from the Beach Boys and “Summertime Blues” from Eddie Cochran (and then later cover versions by The Who and Blue Cheer).

If I had grown up during the 80’s, my favorite summer songs might be “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama or “Blister in the Sun” from the Violent Femmes. Had I been a 90’s boys, maybe “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & and Fresh Prince or “Island in the Sun” from Weezer would have been my favorites? If I had come to love music this century, my favorite summer songs might be “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, “California Gurls” from Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg or “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray.

Since I am from the baby boomer generation, most of my selections are from when I was a teenager or a young adult. Without further ado, here are my favorite top 10 summer songs of all time:

  1. School’s Out—Alice Cooper

School’s out for summer, school’s out forever, my school’s been blown to pieces.

There are always two days a year that all girls and boys love: First is Christmas morning and second is the last day of school. Alice Cooper’s 1972 hard rocking tune remains a staple for school children everywhere: They all sing with glee, school’s out for summer!

  1. In the Summertime—Mungo Jerry

In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky, when the weather’s fine, you got women on your mind.

While the lyrics of drinking and driving are not kosher here in 2018, this song was unusual as it featured a banjo, a string bass and the jug. The feel good song summarizes the content of the tune with the line, “We’re always happy, life’s for livin’ that’s our philosophy.”   With that type of mindset, summer living is always easy.

  1. Sunny Afternoon—The Kinks

Now I’m sitting here, sipping at my ice cold beer, lazing on a sunny afternoon and I love to live so pleasantly, live this life of luxury, in the summertime.

Most everyone at one time or another dream about spending their summer afternoons living the type of lifestyle that is depicted in the Ray Davies’ 1966 hit for the Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon.” The laid back music of the song invites the listener to enjoy the moment and soak up easy living during the summertime.

  1. A Summer Song—Chad & Jeremy

Trees swayin’ in the summer breeze, showin’ off their silver leaves, as we walked by, soft kisses on a summer’s day, laughing all our cares away, just you and I.

The folk/rock British duo Chad and Jeremy have a melodic masterpiece with their wistful tune reminiscences of summer romance. The combination of gentle guitar and a light string orchestra arrangement gives the song a pleasing harmonic flow and was the biggest American hit for the British Invasion pair in 1964.

  1. Hot Fun in the Summer Time—Sly and the Family Stone

Them summer days, those summer days, that’s when I had most of my fun back, I cloud nine when I want to, out of school, county fair in the country sun and everything, it’s true, hot fun in the summertime.

Sly Stone’s celebration song of school being out, attending county fairs in the country sun and joyfully praising the summer days, created one of the best R&B tunes reminiscing the pleasures of summertime activities. The added violins to the music mix helped to make “Hot Fun in the Summertime” the 7th biggest record for 1969.

  1. The Boys of Summer—Don Henley

Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, a liitle voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back, you can never look back.” I can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the boys of summer have gone.

Don Henley’s song about aging, questioning the past and the baby boomer generation selling out is both amiable and baleful at the same time. “The Boys of Summer” hit from 1984 is a summer song that will make you think and is also an excellent tune when driving down a highway during the summertime.

  1. Do It Again—Beach Boys

It’s automatic when I talk with old friends, the conversation turns to girls we knew when their hair was soft and long and the beach was the place to go. Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine the California girls and a beautiful coastline, warmed up weather, let’s get together and do it again.

The Beach Boys are the ultimate “summer song” band with dozens of songs recorded in this genre and “Do It Again” is the best of the bunch. The harmonies on this song 1968 song are Excellent: I saw Brian Wilson in concert two years ago and he and his band sang 5 separate parts of the song simultaneously and I could hear each of the 5 parts perfectly clear and in harmony at the same time. It was absolutely astounding!

  1. Saturday in the Park—Chicago

Saturday in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July, people dancing, people laughing, a man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs, Can you dig it (Yes I Can) and I’ve been waiting such a long time for Saturday.

Most likely “Saturday in the Park” has the best description for a sunny Saturday afternoon in a park than any other song in modern music history. Robert Lamm’s 1972 classic song incorporates all pleasant things associated with spending a wonderful summer afternoon with friends and loved ones in a park setting.

  1. Summer in the City—Lovin’ Spoonful

Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty, been down, isn’t it a pity, doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city, but at night it’s a different world, go out and find a girl, come on and dance all night, despite the heat it’ll be all right.

The stark contrast between the intense heat of the daytime with work duties and then after dark activities of dancing the night way brings to life different aspects of city life and makes the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 hit an intriguing song. With sounds such as a car horn and a jackhammer as part of the mix, “Summer in the City” is a perfect summer song no matter what location you are at during the summertime.

  1. Summer Breeze—Seals and Crofts

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom, July is dressed up and playing her tune, see the paper layin’ on the sidewalk, a little music from the house next door, so I walk on up to the doorstep, through the screen and across the floor, summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.

Idyllic lyrics of the 1972 Seals and Crofts hit paints a picturesque setting of summer living in suburbia America. The descriptions of everyday life combined with the melodic sounds from the soft rock duo makes “Summer Breeze” my number 1 greatest summer song of all time.

So there you have my top ten listing. I am not like Rolling Stone and proclaim that my selections are the best or greatest summer songs ever. Now that you know my top summer songs, I would love for you to post your thoughts. What songs do you consider to be the greatest or best summer songs?

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message. Rock on!

 

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