Friday, December 30, 2005

Kiss and Say Goodbye

This week last year, I wrote about the ritual of bidding farewell to the old year with the New Year's Eve countdown of the year's top songs, and focused on the yearend charts from WLS in Chicago. This year, let's examine the charts from another influential AM Top 40 station of the classic era, WABC in New York. Musicradio 77 lives on at a comprehensive tribute website that includes history, airchecks, and a treasure trove of music charts, including the station's yearend surveys. WABC began surveying the year's top hits in 1964, and published its last yearend list in 1981. I've included the top song from each year, as well as the one placing at Number 100, the last slot on the chart (except for a couple of years, when WABC counted down the Top 77), plus a bonus list for 1982.

#1: "Hello Dolly"/Louis Armstrong
#100: "I Have a Boyfriend"/Chiffons
Comment: Strange that Armstrong would top the list for the year in which the station frequently proclaimed itself "WA-Beatle-C." The Beatles had two of the top three, five of the top 20, and 10 of the top 100, however.

"Satisfaction"/Rolling Stones
#100: "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"/The Silkie
Weirdest entry: "The Mouse"/Soupy Sales (#60), a dance novelty.

"The Ballad of the Green Berets"/SSgt. Barry Sadler
#100: "Flowers on the Wall"/Statler Brothers
Comment: The counterculture hadn't taken complete control of pop culture just yet, with the ultimate pro-military anthem and a country record bracketing the chart. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" by the Silkie appeared on the list for a second year, at Number 99 this time. Records overlapped two different years a lot more often on WABC than they did on WLS.

"To Sir With Love"/Lulu
#100: "Higher and Higher"/Jackie Wilson
Comment: Hard to picture an essential classic like "Higher and Higher" being unable to outdo "Lady" by Jack Jones (#97) or "Hey Leroy" by Jimmy Castor (#76). Or "To Sir With Love," for that matter.

"Hey Jude"/Beatles
#100: "Do It Again"/Beach Boys
Weirdest segue: "The Unicorn" by the Irish Rovers (#63) into "Dance to the Music" by Sly and the Family Stone (#62).

"Aquarius-Let the Sun Shine"/Fifth Dimension
#100: "This Girl's in Love With You"/Dionne Warwick
Weirdest segue: "Proud Mary" by CCR (#18) into "A Time for Us" by Henry Mancini (#17) into "I Can't Get Next to You" by the Temptations (#16). Damn, I love me some classic top 40.

"Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"/B.J. Thomas
#100: "Something's Burning"/Kenny Rogers and the First Edition
Best segue: "All Right Now" by Free (#55) into "Whole Lotta Love" by Zeppelin (#54). Made even better by following "I Think I Love You," which was Number 56.

"Joy to the World"/Three Dog Night
#100: "Sweet City Woman"/Stampeders
Weirdest entry: "Hymm 43"/Jethro Tull (#86). Pretty strong stuff for Top 40 radio in 1971.

"Alone Again (Naturally)/Gilbert O'Sullivan
#100: "Suavecito"/Malo
Comment: "Suavecito"!

"Killing Me Softly"/Roberta Flack
#100: "Do You Want to Dance"/Bette Midler
Comment: "Do You Want to Dance" is one of the forgotten horny classics of top 40, slowed down and sexed up from Bobby Freeman's 1958 original. It should have been a much bigger hit everywhere, not just in New York City.

"Rock the Boat"/Hues Corporation
#100: "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely"/Main Ingredient
Best segue: Either "Living for the City" by Stevie Wonder (#96) into "Junior's Farm" by Wings (but almost any segue into "Junior's Farm" sounds pretty good), or "The Entertainer" by Marvin Hamlisch (#21) into "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede (#20).

"The Hustle"/Van McCoy
#100: "My Little Town"/Simon and Garfunkel
Weirdest entry: "Swearin' to God" by Frankie Valli at Number 4--a lot higher than it ranked on other yearend charts.

"Kiss and Say Goodbye"/Manhattans
#100: "Rhiannon"/Fleetwood Mac
Best segues: Lots of them. "Magic Man" by Heart (#82) into "Rock and Roll Music" by the Beach Boys (#81); "Only Sixteen" by Dr. Hook (#72) into "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate (#71); "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka (#47) into "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers (#46).

(Chart changes from Top 100 to Top 77 of the year.)
#1: "I Just Want to Be Your Everything"/Andy Gibb
#77: "Just a Song Before I Go"/Crosby Stills and Nash
Weirdest entry: "Whodunit"/Tavares (#23). There's not much evidence of regional, New York-specific variation on the WABC yearend charts up to this point (apart from 1965's chart, which contains a number of oddballs). That could be due to the sheer size of the New York market--what was big there was big across the country. Whatever the reasons, "Whodunit" is an exception that proves the rule.

"Boogie Oogie Oogie"/Taste of Honey
#77: "Love Is in the Air"/John Paul Young
Comment: As '64, so '78: In the year of the Bee Gees, another performer gets the top spot, but the Bee Gees get Numbers 2 and 3, and Andy Gibb gets Number 4. Despite New York's status as ground zero of the disco revolution, nothing out of the Top 40 mainstream made WABC's list in this year.

(Back to the top 100 again.)
#1: "I Will Survive"/Gloria Gaynor
#100: "Take the Long Way Home"/Supertramp
Comment: A few more dance-floor tracks outperform their national profile on WABC--"Keep on Dancin'" by Gary's Gang (#92), "You Stepped Into My Life" by Melba Moore (#90), "Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'" by Stephanie Mills (#52), and "Haven't Stopped Dancin' Yet" by Gonzales (#41).

"Another One Bites the Dust"/Queen
#100: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"/Hall and Oates
Comment: Half-a-continent away, WLS had tweaked its playlist in a more rock-oriented direction by 1980. This chart proves why WLS was right.

(Back to the top 77 again.)
#1: "Endless Love"/Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
#77: "Living Inside Myself"/Gino Vannelli
Comment: Let's hope that during the countdown, there was a commercial break somewhere in the stretch from Number 30 through Number 22, to ameliorate the awful spectacle of Top 40 radio in America jumping the shark.

#1: "Centerfold"/J. Geils Band
#40: "Eye in the Sky"/Alan Parsons Project
Comment: As was the case across the country during the early 80s, WABC's dominance was eroded by FM penetration and market fragmentation. This list is evidence of just how hard it was to create a coherent, broadly appealing pop-music format at that time. The station changed to all-talk in May 1982, so this list reflects program director Rick Sklar's ranking of the year's 40 biggest hits, and not airplay or sales statistics.

Now that the countdown is over, we end another year here at The Hits Just Keep On Comin' by going on a hiatus that will last approximately a week. This is not one of the busier streetcorners of the Internet, but I like to think our tunes are decent. To those of you who hang out here now and then, I thank you.


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