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.

 

f9d87880-c63c-11e4-9845-e5daa690cd7e

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.

Standard
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.

 

 

Standard
Music, Music Countdowns, Retro Rock

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.

Standard
Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

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 Images

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!

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

Standard
Music, Music Countdowns, Radio

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.

 

Standard
Artist Profiles, Music, Radio, Retro Rock

You Say: Lauren Daigle’s Surprise Crossover Hit

Once in a blue moon, there will be a Christian song to crossover and be a hit on secular radio in America. In 2019, that song is “You Say” from Lauren Daigle.

 

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?

Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

 

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, ooh

 

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at your feet

You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, ooh

 

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours

And I believe, (I) oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

I believe

 

“You Say” by Lauren Daigle is truly a surprise hit song. During the 21st century, it has been rare for a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) song to crossover and become a secular hit on multiple secular radio formats.

However, Daigle’s song has broken the mold: “You Say” became a huge secular hit this year and seems to resonate with many folks outside the traditional Christian music genre.

So how rare is it to have a Christian song become a hit here in 2019?   The last time a CCM song crossed over and became a secular hit was “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe in 2003.

 

 

 

 

I can only imagine what it will be like

When I walk by Your side

I can only imagine what my eyes will see

When Your face is before me

I can only imagine, yeah

 

Surrounded by Your glory

What will my heart feel?

Will I dance for You, Jesus

Or in awe of You be still?

 

Will I stand in Your presence

Or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing hallelujah?

Will I be able to speak at all?

 

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

Occasionally, a country artist singing about Christian topics will crossover to Top 40 radio. Just after Carrie Underwood won American Idol, she recorded the song, “Jesus Take the Wheel” in 2005. This song was a huge number 1 country hit before crossing over to Top 40 radio. It was the first of many hits by Underwood, to chart on multiple formats.

Rarely do songs like “I Can Only Imagine “ or “Jesus Take the Wheel” ever become crossover hits. But that hasn’t always been true on secular pop radio.

During the late 60’s and early 70’s, songs on various Christian topics were regularly played on Top 40 radio. Here are a few of the songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, in the golden age of Top 40 radio:

 

  • Oh Happy Day—Edwin Hawkins Singers
  • Jesus is a Soul Man—Lawrence Reynolds
  • Spirit in the Sky—Norman Greenbaum
  • Are You Ready—Pacific Gas and Electric
  • Superstar—Murray Head
  • Mighty Clouds of Joy—B.J. Thomas
  • I’ll Take You There–The Staple Singers

  • God, Love & Rock N’ Roll—Teegarden & Van Winkle
  • Why Me Lord—Kris Kristofferson
  • I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)—Glen Campbell
  • Morning Has Broken—Cat Stevens
  • That’s the Way God Planned It—Billy Preston
  • Amazing Grace—Judy Collins
  • Speak To The Sky–Rick Springfield
  • I Don’t Know How To Love Him—Helen Reddy
  • Put Your Hand in the Hand—Ocean
  • Day By Day—Godspell
  • Jesus is Just Alright—Doobie Brothers
  • The Lord’s Prayer—Sister Janet Mead
  • The Wedding Song—Noel Paul Stookey
  • One Day at a Time–Marilyn Sellars

With the growth of CCM radio stations during the mid 70’s, there were not as many Christian songs played on Top 40 stations. Jesus Music was played exclusively on newly formatted 24 hour a day CCM stations, instead of secular music outlets.

There were a few songs with Christian themes that were hits in the late 70’s. One of those songs is Bob Dylan’s, “Gotta Serve Somebody” in 1979.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

The next significant artist to crossover and have two number I hits on the Billboard Hot 100 was Amy Grant. In 1986, Grant teamed up with Peter Cetera and recorded the duet, “Next Time I Fall” which peaked at number one. Five years later, her solo hit, “Baby Baby” was number 1, for three consecutive weeks during 1991.

Other Christian artists also had secular hits during the 90’s. Michael W Smith had a top 10 hit with “Place in This World” during the summer of 1991 and Jars of Clay had a multi-format crossover hit with their song, “Flood” during 1995.

That brings us to the surprising hit of “You Say” by Lauren Daigle.

“You Say” was written by Daigle, along with co-writers Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram. Last year, Daigle shared with CCM Magazine, the story behind the song.

“It was the day after my very first Dove awards (2015), and I remember being completely overwhelmed. I walked into the studio, and Paul and Jason, my producers, were in there and they’re like “All right what’s going on in your world, how’s it been?

It was the first time we had written since “How Can It Be”…I just remember feeling like so much had happened the night before, wondering How do I come back down to normal, how do I come back down to reality?

And I started realizing these patterns of really high highs and then, okay now there’s a low. Really high, high, now there’s a low…And Involving expectation in that space can just leave you kind of questioning your identity- Where do I fit in, where is my security, where is my footing?

So when writing “You Say,” I just remember feeling for the first time pretty conflicted. It was definitely the first moment in just being an artist that I was like Okay, where is all this going exactly?”

“And I know that we’ve all faced moments in life where we can feel a crossroads happen— where we can see the past and also see the future, and realize how we are supposed to exist in the present. And it was one of those moments where I could see where things were going and I knew exactly where I came from, and I needed those worlds to still be married.

And thus brought up the issue of identity and trying to figure out how to exist when I felt like so many things were pulling me in so many different directions. I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome.

And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my every day life? When I feel inadequate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supersedes my inadequacies.

This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.”

Daigle’s song, “You Say” was the first single from the album, “Look Up Child” and was released to CCM radio stations during July 2018. It immediately shot up the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart and became the number one song in America.

For the week of November 2nd, 2019, “You Say” spent its final week on top of the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart, logging 66 consecutive weeks at number 1. This broke the record that Hillsong United set of 61 straight weeks at number one with “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” during 2013-2014.

Interesting side note: Kanye West just replaced “You Say” as the top Christian song in America during the past two weeks with, “Follow God.”

Obviously, the “You Say” single was huge on Christian radio last year, as it was ranked the 2nd biggest song on 2018, according to Billboard magazine. With such a strong showing, Warner Brothers released Daigle’s song as a single to secular radio during January 2019.

Then in early February 2019, Daigle won a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Christian Music performance with “You Say.” After her Grammy victory, Daigle’s song was added to many secular Adult Contemporary and Top 40 radio stations.

Her song then exploded on multiple radio formats, during the spring and summer of 2019. Here are some of the impressive stats on how well “You Say” performed on secular radio, according to Billboard:

  • Peaked at #1   Adult Contemporary
  • Peaked at #5   Adult Top 40
  • Peaked at #20 Mainstream Top 40
  • Peaked at #29 Billboard Hot 100

Daigle also won two other awards for “You Say” during 2019. In May, she picked up the Billboard, “Top Christian Song” award and last month Daigle took home the Gospel Music Association, “Song of the Year” award. 2019 has been an extremely successful year for Lauren Daigle.

The song, “You Say” isn’t the only musical success for the Lafayette, Louisiana native. Daigle’s album, “Look Up Child” spent 44 weeks at the number 1 position of the Billboard “Christian Album Chart.” The album also received a 2019 Grammy Award for, “Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.”

For those individuals who listen to CCM radio, they are familiar with three other hits from the album: The title track “Look Up Child” peaked at #3, “Rescue” reached #2 and Daigle’s current single is, “Still Rolling Stones” which is still charting during the fall of 2019.

Singer-songwriter Annie Lawrence with Lauren Daigle. Photo courtesy of Annie Lawrence.

The past 16 months have been a whirlwind for Lauren Daigle, with the unexpected success of her the song “You Say.”   A fair question to ask would be: What will be Daigle’s chart success in the future? Will she achieve multiple hits or go the way of Debby Boone and become a one hit wonder?

Although I do not know the reason why, “You Say” became a crossover hit, her song has resonated with many folks outside the CCM genre of music. Maybe there is a renewal of spiritual awakening happening in America?

Where will Lauren Daigle’s career go from here?   Obviously, that remains to be seen. The lyrics to Natasha Bedingfield’s song, “Unwritten” seems to sum it up best:

“Drench yourself in words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten”

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
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.

 

 

Standard