American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/21/70: Supremes, “Stoned Love”

In early August 76, we spent the weekend with my mother’s sister and her family, who lived near Dayton, OH. Amy and I spent a good chunk of Saturday helping my cousins Mark and Suzanne (four and two years my senior), along with the youth at their church, with a paper drive (has anybody conducted one of those since the 70s?), lugging bundle upon bundle of newsprint into a semi-trailer. After church, dinner, and a lazy afternoon the following day, we packed up and pointed south on I-75 toward Walton. We were still in Ohio when time came to crank up AT40 on WSAI on the car radio. I was pretty surprised to hear Sonny Melendrez, filling in for Casey, announcing that the act kicking off the show was the Supremes. Even though I was just 12, I knew that their heyday was well in the past—I had no clue there was an incarnation still recording. Through the magic of today’s rebroadcasts, I’ve learned some about the extent to which Diana Ross’s departure in early 70 was not quite an immediately fatal blow.

The new lead singer was Jean Terrell, and for the first couple of years, she, Mary Wilson, and Cindy Birdsong had decent chart success: seven AT40 hits, two of which hit the Top 10.  I guess I didn’t hear any of them enough at the time to make an impression, so it’s only been in the last five years I’ve made a real acquaintance with their electric collaboration with the Four Tops, a cover of “River Deep—Mountain High.” Another fun discovery has been this week’s highest debuting song, “Stoned Love;” it’s coming in at #22 and would reach #7, the best they did without Diana. I’ve gotta say it’s pretty darn awesome.

Ongoing turnover in personnel began in the spring of 72, and the hits, already not quite as big, dried up. The song I heard that August 76 afternoon, “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking,” would be the eighth and final time the Supremes made the Top 40 post-Ross. (It spent just that one week on the show; I can’t imagine I’d heard it since until I started writing this up. It doesn’t strike me today as anything I need to go back and hear too often.) The act by that time consisted of Wilson, Scherrie Payne, and Susaye Greene. The end, as it turns out, was nigh. A final, farewell concert took place in June 77.

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SotD: Patty Smyth, “Never Enough”

I got a small television as a Christmas gift from my parents in 86, halfway through my first year at Illinois. Sherman Hall had cable jacks and free access, so I spent a number of hours in the first half of 87 watching stuff, often MTV, in that closet of a dorm room. By that time, MTV was going through its initial round of VJ replacements (hello, Downtown Julie Brown!), but since they were still playing videos pretty much 24/7, I tuned in plenty. One clip that caught both eye (high energy, engaging performance vid) and ear (catchiness out the wazoo) in the spring semester of 87 was Patty Smyth’s “Never Enough;” before long I was shuffling down to Record Service to buy the 45. I’d been a big fan of Smyth’s work with Scandal, even though they broke through to the Top 40 only with “The Warrior.” [Side note: IMO they have a strong stable of singles that missed: “Goodbye To You” (#65), “Love’s Got a Line on You” (#59), “Hands Tied” (#41), and “Beat of a Heart” (also #41).]  Somehow, someway, “Never Enough” suffered a similar fate, reaching only #61 in April–I have to confess that I don’t get it. And while I don’t care nearly as much for her big 92 #2 hit duet with Don Henley, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” I’m happy enough that she had another taste of real success.

When I first threw “Never Enough” on the turntable, I noticed that Smyth shared songwriting credit with Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian of the Hooters, along with a couple other guys. One was Smyth’s producer Rick Chertoff, who was long-time buds with Hyman and Bazilian and had produced their 85 LP Nervous Night. This all made sense, as I certainly got a chunk of a Hooters vibe from listening to it. But it wasn’t until I dialed Patty up on YouTube recently and read through some comments that I learned there’s a version of “Never Enough,” with completely different lyrics, from ten years earlier. Hyman and Bazilian were then members of the Philadelphia-area band Baby Grand, and they’d written this song with Chertoff and David Kagan, the group’s vocalist. Its lyrics are moderately clever, I suppose, but I’d call Smyth’s efforts, while not earth-shaking, an improvement.  And the original definitely lacks the punch and drive of the later version.

You may be familiar with Baby Grand, but I’ll put the two takes side by side in case you aren’t and want to compare.

 

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/7/81: Lindsey Buckingham, “Trouble”

There are seven debut songs on this show, and five of them made the Top 10: “Harden My Heart” (#3), “Leather and Lace” (#6), “The Sweetest Thing” (#7), “Trouble” (#9), and “Don’t Stop Believin’” (also #9). The two laggards were “Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)” (#17) and “No Reply at All” (#29). This yields a mean peak position of about 11.5, which seems reasonably high to me, and it got me wondering: what was the highest (and lowest) average peak position for a cohort of debuts over the years I know most well? Was 11/7/81 the best, at least for such a large set?

This post focuses mainly on weeks when there were six or more debuts, spanning the same twelve-plus-year period I examined in another analysis last month: 6/5/76-8/6/88 (it’s just the data I can most easily access). I decided to go with a simple mean computation, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s simple (duh). Two, attempting to factor in such things as total weeks spent by a cohort, while potentially worthwhile, is complicated by variation in chart methodology throughout the period. Maybe I’ll try to make adjustments someday, but not now.

Before I get to the large debut sets, though, a little on weeks where only one or two songs came on the show. The best performance by the sole debut in a week was Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings,” which hit #1 (debuted 10/19/85). There’s a two-way tie for lowest: “Teddy Bear,” by Red Sovine (8/28/76) and “Just Like Heaven,” from the Cure (1/9/88), both peaking at #40.  I haven’t researched the two-debut case, but I’m willing to bet modestly large sums that both extremes occurred in 76: on 10/23, two future #1s were the only new entries (“Tonight’s the Night” and “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)”), while on 7/24, Neil Sedaka and Donny Osmond debuted with songs that crapped out at #36 and #38, respectively (“Steppin’ Out” and “C’mon Marianne”).

If I had to guess the single best-performing cohort of debut songs taking into account both quantity and quality, I’d currently run with the four-debut set from 8/24/85. Three made it to #1 (“Oh Sheila,” “Take on Me,” and “Saving All My Love for You”), and the fourth made #6 (Lonely Ol’ Night”).

But let’s move to the results for the six-or-more debut weeks. There were 7 instances of eight debuts, 29 instances of seven, and 81 instances of six in the period under study. The case of eight is not that interesting: the averages are all between 12.875 and 19.25, with three (5/12/79, 6/13/81, and 4/10/82) close together on the high end and three others bunched on the low end.

For the case of six debuts, here are the top five weeks:

Week Mean Peak Position
12/10/77 6.67
7/31/76 8.17
2/11/84 8.33
7/17/76 9.83
4/19/80 9.83

As I was inputting the data, I figured 12/10/77 was going to be the winner, with peaks of 1, 2, 3, 6, 13, and 15. For the record, those songs are, in order of peak position,  “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” “Short People,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah),” “Turn to Stone,” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” That’s a mighty sweet set. Rather than recite lists of songs for the other notable weeks, I’m just linking to charts at Ultimate Music Database; you can pretty easily identify the debuts. But notice at those two weeks in 76, just two weeks apart (and sandwiching the above-mentioned stinkeroo two-debut week). I remember both of those shows well.

As for the bottom:

Week Mean Peak Position
6/24/78 27.83
8/17/85 25.33
5/27/78 24.33
6/26/76 24.00
10/29/83 22.83
6/23/84 22.83

An average peak position of 28 for six debuts!!! Three of those songs from 6/24/78 were gone two weeks later; also note that this immediately preceded the two consecutive weeks of eight debuts. Interesting to see 8/17/85 here, given what I noted above about the week that followed it. Boy, 76 has sure showed up a lot in this post, on both ends of the spectrum. I presume it’s only an odd coincidence that the fourth weekend of June pops up three times on this list.

There are only 3 weeks from 84 out of the 117 shows being examined here, and we’re seeing two of them at the extremes.

Finally, the big reveal about the case of seven debuts. With fewer of them, we’ll go with only a top and bottom 3.

Week Mean Peak Position
2/27/88 8.29
11/10/79 10.14
11/7/81 11.43

I was right that this week’s set was among the better showings. That 88 collection is mighty impressive: peaks of 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 14, and 23. The songs are “Wishing Well,” “Devil Inside,” “Angel”, “Girlfriend,” Some Kind of Lover,” “Check It Out,” and “When We Was Fab.”

There’s a tie on the lower-performing end in this case, too.

Week Mean Peak Position
9/11/82 23.00
7/17/82 22.57
1/19/80 22.00
11/12/83 22.00

Here’s where we might be seeing some evidence of the “clogged chart” phenomenon from 82—plenty of songs coming on, but some occasions where several just couldn’t climb very high. Despite its overall lack of chart success, that July 82 set of debuts has five songs I absolutely adore; cannot say the same for the far weaker September collection, though. Note we’re seeing Fall 83 crop up for a second time on the low side of things.

(By the way, in going back through the data I compiled last month, I discovered two weeks from 76 in which I mistakenly input six debut songs, when there were only five. That would lower the four-week rolling averages a little in two places near the beginning–in particular, 6/26/76 now drops to a tie for second-highest value. My most humble apologies–ten lashes for me!)

There are no big lessons here, mostly just curiosities. Nonetheless, I expect (hope?) I’ll do a run someday of the more common cases of three, four, and five debuts, as well as attempt to confirm my claims for the case of two debuts. Maybe I’ll reach farther back in time, too.

For now, though, let’s enjoy the highest of this week’s seven newcomers. Stevie and Lindsey entered back-to-back, with Nicks being edged out by Buckingham, #31 to #30.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/9/74: Carole King, “Jazzman”

According to Pete Battistini’s book on 70s AT40 shows, on 8/3/74 Casey fielded a question from a listener who wanted to know what song in the rock era had suffered the largest drop from the #1 spot. The answer turned out to be “The Sound of Silence,” which fell all the way to #12 in January 66. It also happened to be the only song to that point to fall completely out of the Top 10 directly from the summit. Little did anyone know that within four months Paul & Art would get a lot of company in that distinction.

Over a nine-week stretch in the autumn of 74—9/28 to 11/23—seven #1 songs matched or beat the fall of “The Sound of Silence.” It started with Barry White and Andy Kim: “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” and “Rock Me Gently” both dropped to #12. After a two-week pause (“I Honestly Love You” stayed a second week at #1 and then dropped only to #4), the onslaught continued: two plunging all the way to #15 (Billy Preston, with “Nothing from Nothing,” and the Dionne Warwicke/Spinners collaboration “Then Came You”), followed by three more droppers to #12 (Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” and John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”).

And then…just as soon as it started, that spigot was turned off. Charttoppers recommenced falling to positions like #2, #5, and #6. In fact, a fall out of the Top 10 by a #1 has happened only once since, when Diana Ross dropped to #11 with “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To),” in late January 76, exactly ten years after “The Sound of Silence” kicked things off.

It wasn’t just #1 songs that fell harder than normal. On the previous show, “Steppin’ Out,” by Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” were at #7 and #8; this week, they’re nowhere to be played, dropping to #48 and #44, respectively. (“Steppin’ Out” held the record for highest-ranked song to fall out of the 40 until “Even the Nights Are Better,” by Air Supply, went from #6 to #42 in September 82—don’t even get me started on the huge-dropping songs of late 82).

This was simply a period of high churn. Compare the Top 10 between the weeks that bracket this countdown:

11/2/74 11/16/74
1 You Haven’t Done Nothin’ Whatever Gets You Through the Night
2 You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet Do It ‘Til You’re Satisfied
3 Jazzman My Melody of Love
4 The Bitch Is Back Tin Man
5 Can’t Get Enough Back Home Again
6 Whatever Gets You Through the Night I Can Help
7 Steppin’ Out Longfellow Serenade
8 Sweet Home Alabama Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)
9 Stop and Smell the Roses Everlasting Love
10 Tin Man Carefree Highway

Eight new songs in two weeks! A record? I wonder, and I wonder how easily it’s researched…

But back to large drops from #1: what caused that run of heretofore virtually unseen behavior? I’ve seen some speculation on a message board I read that it was perhaps related to the economy: a recession had been going for a while, there could have been some residual issues from the Oil Crisis the previous year, etc. I’m not convinced there was any sort of external stimulus; the sudden-on/sudden-off nature of the phenomenon feels a little strange.

As you can see above, even Carole King wasn’t immune to a quick fall from on high. “Jazzman” had climbed to #2 on this show; the next week, it’d be #11. I’d put it right up there with “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away,” and “Sweet Seasons” among her best singles. The writing, the arrangement, the musicianship (especially that sax) are all top-notch. I think it’s time to let it try to take my blues away.

 

There’ll be more chart nerdishness tomorrow.

10/16/82, 10/25/80, and 10/27/79 Charts

More from my archives of charts:

Even after I stopped writing down AT40 with the 10/2/82 chart, I maintained my personal top 50 through the end of the year. I’m going to go full-size on Harris Top 50s in this post, even though I think they’ll appear plenty large this way.

HarrisTop50101682

Randy Meisner was in the second of a four-week run at the top. Glenn Frey and Fleetwood Mac would later reach the summit; “Gypsy” was the penultimate #1 before I stopped this practice. Browne was at his peak; America would get to #2 and Steel Breeze climbed to #6. Finally, there was one song farther on down the list, at #41, that fell short of the real Top 40, a Steve Winwood gig I still really enjoy (especially the duet in the chorus with his first wife, Nicole):

 

Here’s the 10/25/80 chart:

AT40102580

I wasn’t familiar at all with Mr. Acker Bilk and so had no idea how to interpret what Casey said about who performed “Stranger on the Shore.” Don’t know why I didn’t write down the LDDs–could have something to do with the fact they both came in the second half of the show.

As a bonus, here’s Q102’s list from the following Monday (in real life, the sheet is light blue):

Q102101780

Nothing terribly unusual here until you get to #35, a song I don’t remember at all.  A little bit of digging reveals that Hegel hailed from nearby Dayton. He Bubbled Under at #109 for three weeks in August 80 with “Tommy, Judy, and Me,” a tale about sex-crazed high schoolers (it’s also completely unfamiliar to me). The producers at American Bandstand wouldn’t let him perform his single, but he did sing “We’re Lovers After All.” I find it a little drippy, but see what you think:

As for my own preferences in 80:

HarrisTop50102580

Air Supply and Irene Cara were former #1’s, Cara for four weeks. ON-J/ELO held on for one more before ceding to Larson-Feiten, who were followed by Stewart and Devo. “Master Blaster” was perhaps my favorite Stevie single from the 76-85 period, at least in real time; it reached #3.  There’s a song that didn’t make AT40 on this list, too, at its peak of #27. I liked this medley much better than “Walks Like a Lady:”

 

Finally, here’s the 10/27/79 chart. As I’ve noted a couple of times already, there are so many songs still near and dear to me on this show, especially on the back page.

I did the “Pick” thing from time to time on my charts, in particular quite often in 79. I have many, many misses, including the Orleans tune listed here.  Can’t imagine I heard it much; I’m not even sure how I came to pick it in the first place, as it never charted.  It’s not bad, and since I seem to be into obscurities today, we’ll spin this one, too.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/3/84: Tina Turner, “Better Be Good to Me”

Dr. Miller, my advisor, did a great job of identifying opportunities for Transy’s computer science majors that would help them gain a variety of valuable experiences. Some of them didn’t require much expertise—doing set-up and gopher work for high school competitions or counseling at camps, for instance—but he found summer programming opportunities for a number of us as well, at the college’s IT department and at the local IBM office.  The most fun activity he organized for us, though, was arranging for a team to compete in the Association for Computing Machinery’s annual programming contest in November of my junior and senior years. That first year we surprised even ourselves with our success.

Eight folks loaded into a college van early on the Friday before Thanksgiving of 84 to drive north several hours to Kalamazoo, where Western Michigan University was playing host. There were the four who’d be competing on Saturday morning (James, Mark, Cathy, and me), Dr. Miller and David, a very recent grad who now worked in IT, to serve as chaperones, and Michelle and Jim. Michelle, a fellow junior CS major, went with us both as alternate and female company for Cathy; Jim was an alum from a few years earlier who was in grad school and had served as senior counselor at the programming camp back in June (Mark, Michelle, and I had all worked it, too). Since the summer, Mark and I had been teaching ourselves bridge, dealing out hand after hand in the dorm. We didn’t have much of a bidding system and we knew nothing about defensive signaling at that point, but, if nothing else, we were enthusiastic and persistent.  The two of us spent much of the trip on Friday playing against Michelle and Jim, who were also trying to learn.

The day we left was sunny, the temperature seasonable. With Daylight Savings over for the year, it was dark and brisk when we went for dinner after first checking in at WMU and then the place we were staying. We weren’t far from the interstate, so the bright lights of restaurants and hotels pretty well filled the view. That sight is still what comes to mind when I think about “the suburban Midwest.”

The welcome and final briefing started at 8:15 the next morning. Scoring was based first on the number of problems correctly solved. The tie breaker was the total length of time it took for one’s correct submissions, so a lower score was better. Penalty points were awarded for each incorrect submission. After discussing the conditions of contest, competitors from 47 teams were taken to an adjacent building. At 9:00, each group was handed four problems and given four hours to do with them what they could. We hadn’t discussed a plan of attack in advance; each of us wound up taking one problem as our own. As soon as I saw Problem 1, I knew it had to be mine, and not only because it involved programming a card game.

ACMClockProblem

I didn’t learn bridge when I was growing up, but I had played the trick-taking game Rook from a pretty young age. Along with dominos, it was one of my Papaw’s favorite games to play, so it was no surprise that a deck (the one pictured above) wound up in our house. It’s a bidding-then-trump-setting partnership game; the goal is to take tricks that contain point cards (5’s , 10’s, and 14’s, plus the “bird card”) to reach your bid. I have a number of fond memories playing, but what had me excited that morning in Michigan was recognizing the solitaire variant I’d taught myself years earlier after finding instructions at the back of the Rook rule book.

ClockPastime

I knew the mechanics of the game well enough that it’s possible I had a leg up on some of the other teams when it came to writing the code. Even if that wasn’t actually true, I did put something together that gave correct output on their test data on the second submission. It had taken about three hours to complete it (my copy of the problems came from Dr. Miller—that “Score = 210” is in his writing and must be my minutes plus penalty). It was the second problem our team had solved—Mark had gotten his on the first try about an hour earlier. Because of how we’d divided the labor, he and I weren’t of much use to James or Cathy as things wound down. Just before 1:00, Cathy submitted her code for testing. We learned after time had expired it had run successfully. The folks back in the auditorium in the other building, getting regular live updates, knew how we placed before we did.

Only one team, Michigan State, had solved all four problems. There were several with three right, but because of Mark’s relatively early success, we finished fourth. We’d caught lightning in a bottle—as you can read below in the article Michelle wrote for the school newspaper, for at least one day tiny Transylvania, enrollment 800+, was better than Notre Dame, Purdue, and all other competing Kentucky schools, including UK and Louisville. It honestly was stunning; we practically floated home.

RamblerCompConArticle

The following year the competition was in East Lansing, so we had another long van ride. Suzanne replaced Cathy, and history did not repeat, as I don’t think we got anything to run. That was valuable experience, too—it’s good to be kept humble.

Tina Turner had blown everyone away in the summer with “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” It’s clearly the best song on Private Dancer, and was fully deserving of being a #1 hit. But if you press me for my favorite from that album, I’ll always go with “Better Be Good to Me.” It’d be many years before I realized it was a Holly Knight creation, originally recorded by her band Spider in 81. The first words that spring to mind to describe it are electric and hot, and that’s before even taking her performance in the video into account (why am I realizing only now that’s Cy Curnin of the Fixx trying to gain her affection in this clip?). It’s jumping up to #9 on this show, and would reach #5. I don’t associate it particularly with our foray to Kalamazoo two weeks later, but it was one I was absolutely loving right at that moment.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/8/75: Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes”

My mother didn’t own a car with a cassette player in it until at least the late 80s. One year soon thereafter, she had a single Christmas wish for a tape to play while driving: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Mom was not nearly the rock ‘n’ roll fan that Dad was—on the whole I suspect she merely tolerated anything harder than, oh, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, or Gordon Lightfoot (though she never complained about what came on the radio). The country-rock of the pre-Hotel California Eagles was very much her style; I was happy to buy the cassette for her, and it remained in whatever vehicle she was then driving for more than two decades.

Their greatest hit I think of Mom liking most is “Lyin’ Eyes,” here at its peak of #2. I find it a profoundly sad piece, more so than I did in my younger days—no one in the lover’s triangle is satisfied, and Frey’s subdued vocals only add to the sense of that the protagonist’s choices have left her with no chance of escape. On the other hand, it does  have their best arrangement of harmonies.

I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s hard to access Eagles tracks on YouTube—what you’re seeing here only went up a couple of days ago, so who knows how long the link will be live. I’d much rather listen to the LP version—honestly, the song isn’t complete without the middle verse—but I hear you can’t always get what you want.

Last year when I was going through one of my recurring periods of poor sleep, the phrase “Another night, it’s going to be a long one,” came to mind as I was about to climb into bed. I regret to inform you that I had to Google the line for its source.