Wanting to dig around in some radio surveys this morning, I fired up the search engine at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and checked out the site’s holdings for December 20, 1974, forty years ago today. Sometimes when I lay a bet on a single date, the results overwhelm me, and I’m forced to figure out which four or five out of twenty or so surveys I want to examine.
Sometimes, however, there are so few surveys for a specific date – two or three, maybe – that I’m forced to improvise. And sometimes, I hit the Goldilocks zone, where things are just right. So it is today, with five surveys available from that date forty years ago, and they’re nicely spaced across the U.S., too.
So we’ll check them out, looking at – since today is 12/20 – the No. 12 and No. 20 records in search of a single for the day. We’ll also, as we generally do, note the No. 1 record at each of the five stations. We’ll start with the two East Coast stations and then head west.
Sitting at No. 20 in the “Big Hit Survey” at WHYN in Springfield, Massachusetts, was one of those records that either makes folks get misty-eyed or makes them head off somewhere to puke in privacy: Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” As most readers here might imagine, I’m one of the misty-eyed bunch. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m just a softy in general or whether it’s because hearing the record during that late autumn forty years ago reminded me of my first real college girlfriend just months gone at the time. Just to keep track of these things, the record peaked at No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 (and at No. 1 on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart).
The No. 12 record at WHYN forty years ago was the much funkier “Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied),” by B.T. Express, one of those records that I don’t recall hearing at the time but have gotten to know in the years since. Every time I do, it reminds me of the Isley Brothers. The record, which peaked at No. 2 in Billboard (and at No. 1 on the R&B chart), was the first hit for the group from Brooklyn; five more made the Hot 100 in the next couple of years.
The No. 1 record at WHYN forty years ago this week was Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle,” a record that wore out its welcome in these parts long, long ago.
From Springfield, we head pretty much straight south to Hartford, Connecticut, where WDRN issued its “Big D Sound Survey.” Parked at No. 20 in Hartford forty years ago this week was “I’ve Got The Music In Me” by the Kiki Dee Band. This one, which went to No. 12 in the Hot 100, popped up this week when the Texas Gal and I had the cable system’s Seventies Channel playing. She was less than thrilled. I was pleased. It also popped up this week in a post by my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. His reaction? “Imagine not-yet-famous Ann and Nancy Wilson sitting by the radio in Seattle in 1974 going ‘damn, THAT’S the stuff.’”
The No. 12 record in Springfield was Neil Diamond’s “Longfellow Serenade,” a record that I’ve never liked all that much. But like many such records from the years 1968 through 1975, I know every twist, turn and flip of the melody and the production, which just goes to show how much I heard even when I wasn’t listening. The record went to No. 5 in Billboard (No. 1, AC).
The No. 1 record on the “Big D Sound Survey” that long-ago week was “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas.
West we go, to WYSL in Buffalo, New York, and its “Singular Singles” survey. Sitting at No. 20 was Al Green’s “Sha La La (Make Me Happy),” a Hi Records confection that, like all of Green’s great work, rides a Willie Mitchell production for nearly three exquisite minutes. It went to No. 7 on the Hot 100, No. 28 on the AC chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart.
Sitting at No. 12 among the “Singular Singles” was “I Feel A Song In My Heart” by Gladys Knight & The Pips, a record that’s not nearly as familiar to me as the others we’ve run into so far. It went to No. 21 in the Hot 100 (No. 1, R&B), and its lack of familiarity here might mean only that it didn’t make it to the Atwood Center jukebox at St. Cloud State, which is where a lot of my Top 40 listening went on in those days. Familiar or not, I like the record a lot.
No. 1 at WYSL that week was “Kung Fu Fighting.”
We head next to the Midwest for a stop at WHB in Kansas City, Missouri, and its “40 Star Super Hit Survey.” The No. 20 slot was occupied forty years ago this week by Elvis Presley’s “Promised Land,” a pretty good cover of Chuck Berry’s 1964 single. Berry’s single went to No. 21 in the Hot 100 (No. 16, R&B), and Elvis’ cover went to No. 14 (No. 8, AC).
Taking up the No. 12 spot at WHB was Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” Wonder’s groove took the record to No. 3 on the Hot 100 (No. 2, R&B), and the mere sound of the record – one of my favorites on the Atwood jukebox during that time – puts my soul back into 1974 in a way that many of the other records listed here do not.
No. 1 at WHB forty years ago today was, as it was in Hartford and Buffalo, was “Kung Fu Fighting.”
Our fifth and last stop this morning is KYA on the West Coast, where we dig into the station’s “San Francisco Hits.” The No. 20 record all those years ago, speaking of records I don’t particularly like but know well enough to play them in my head, was “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates. The record went to No. 7 in the Hot 100 (No. 5, AC). As I think about it this morning, my disdain for the record must come from the fact that its theme and message just seemed so square and out of touch with the social realities of college students back in 1974, because today, those aspects of the record are much more reasonable. Musically, though, it’s still L-7.
Taking up the No. 12 spot at in the “San Francisco Hits” forty years ago was Rufus’ “You Got The Love,” a great bit of funk and chunk that went to No. 11 in the Hot 100 (No. 1, unsurprisingly, on the R&B chart). I must have heard it back then – I’m not sure I did – but I sure do love it now.
And finally, sitting at No. 1 at KYA was Neil Sedaka’s sweet “Laughter In The Rain.”
Well, we’ve got some good candidates (and a clunker or two). I’m tempted by the Gladys Knight record, but it feels like an Elvis day here this morning, so Elvis Presley’s cover of “Promised Land” is today’s Saturday Single.