Thread: AT40 Flashback

  • avatar
    • 6 years 3 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    So many notable entertainers have die recently and I keep going over in my head the movies I've seen, the music I've heard and the TV shows I've watched . . . over and over again.

    Since the death of Casey Kasem I can't stop thinking about the beginning of American Top 40 waay back on Independence Day weekend in 1970.

    No one, not even Casey Kasem himself, could have imagined the amazingly eclectic range of music that the new decade had in store!

    Just try this clip as one example:

    By the spring of 1970, Melanie's "Lay Down" (Candles In The Rain)quickly climbed to the top of the music charts, but then it just stayed there month after month. At the time this song really surprised me, I just couldn't make sense of it. The song is like nothing I was used to hearing on the radio. The song is more like a gospel revival type of song, so much so that both my parents just loved to turn up the radio when that song was playing while the family was in the car.

    It was Casey Kasem that told about Melanie singing at Woodstock the year before and being inspired by that event as the key to understanding this song.

    See if you can catch the lyrics of "Lay Down", a very unique song from 1970:

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  • avatar
    • 6 years 3 months ago
    • Posts: 2437
    First time I've ever heard this song! But music is definitely a changing entity. Seems like no style is timeless for the generations, maybe certain songs but not a whole genre. On XM radio they have a station for every decade down to the 20 or 30s. I can go down to the 50s but that's it. Before that there doesn't seem to be any lyrics.

    I also heard Nicki Minaj usurped Michael Jackson as artist with the most number one hits.
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  • avatar
    • 6 years 3 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    I have to tell ya v-man, if I could send you back in time to meet up with me in 1970 you would quickly notice the unusual mix of music that poured outta every radio.

    It didn't take long for listeners of American Top 40 to hang onto Casey Kasem's bios on chart topping music every week on his broadcast. I wasn't the only one trying to measure Casey's likes and dislikes as he went through the rankings of popular songs.

    I tried to convince the kids at school that I could tell if Casey Kasem loved or hated a song by "reading between the lines" of his on air commentary set-ups. By the fall of 1970 American Top 40 would add one odd song after another.

    Casey sure had a time with Jerry Reed! Jerry had a song that made my first year at middle school unforgettable - "Amos Moses".

    You could hear Casey Kasem try to keep from laughing as he introduced this tune, you try to say "tie a rope around his waist, and throw him in the swamp" and maintain your dignity, lol.

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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    Like I said, I tried to read Casey's mind during his AT40 broadcasts.

    Sure seemed to me that Casey really warmed up to the "new" Supremes with the departure of Diana Ross - something in his voice maybe.

    Anyway, just like the youtube comments I'm still awed by maybe one of the best songs the Supremes ever recorded:

    Nathan Jones, 1971

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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 474
    Edd... have you ever heard the Casey Kasem tantrum that is on YouTube? Such hilarious stuff. It really makes you wonder how often he went off on the people in the studio during his 100 million years doing the AT40.
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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    Yes, that's what got me thinking about posting some songs I remembered from listening to American Top 40. I had one of those transistor pocket radios as a kid and AT40 aired in my town on Sunday nights at 8pm.

    Casey Kasem was a bit like some of my local DJ's, I'm glad that youtube caught him "off-air", lol.

    I need to give credit to Casey for saying something that changed my relationship to music. He said, "there are two kinds of music, the music that's available to listen to and the music that you hear on the radio".

    Yes, the two are not the same. Many of the kids I went to school with gave me real examples of what Casey said.

    The songs on the radio from 1970 through 1972 were very romantic, and I heard lots of complaints from my friends in school as a result. Norfolk city schools had racially desegregated in 1965 and lots of the white kids introduced me to songs that never got airtime on radio - and never aired on American Top 40.

    Early 70's pop was dominated by love songs that I always grouped with TSOP, The Sound of Philadelphia. Here's an example of what Casey aired as it hit the top of the charts in early 1971. The Stylistics had that TSOP sound that seemed to be everywhere during my middle school years. While it was difficult to tell, I got the sense that Casey really liked the Stylistics:

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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 474
    He could basically MAKE you as an artist if it was a groove he thought would play well. You don't have that much any more... DJ's with that much power. Much like the power that the big three television networks wielded for so long.
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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    You can say that again.

    I'm so glad to have caught American Top 40 when it started back in 1970. During Casey's first two years with the broadcast he was very enthusiastic to review what America was listening to every weekend. AT40 hit right at the moment FM radio was expanding format. It didn't take long for FM to dominate the airwaves over AM.

    I can understand why Casey was surprised by the direction popular music took in the early 70's. I'm sure he never expected all the sickly-sweet love songs that made it to the Top 40 charts.

    For me it was kinda exciting to join in on Sunday nights and countdown with a national audience the most popular tunes on radio. That fact alone may explain why love songs took over the radio, record sales were driven by school-age kids more than young adults. My generation was a huge radio hog that could push all kinds of fluff to the number one spot on Billboard's Hot 100 - remember The Archie's with "Sugar, Sugar" from 1969? That was the #1 hit song of the year!

    The real problem for Casey Kasem was the Top 40 charts themselves. When a song began climbing to the top it could hit it fast. But going the other way could takes weeks, if not months.

    Let's use the song by Climax, "Precious And Few" from 1972. This tune became both loved and hated by millions of listeners. I actually like the song for its vocal harmonies but it was the song's staying power that upset so many people.

    Instead of being released nationally by the record label, it was "test released" market by market resulting in the song climbing the charts slowly and falling from the charts slowly.

    As a result "Precious And Few" topped the charts only briefly yet hung around at the lower ratings for months. Instead of playing the song every week, Casey would on some broadcasts list it by rank number, then move on. Eight weeks later "Precious And Few" stalled around #32 on the charts. You could hear the dismay in Kasem's voice, LOL!

    Then came that glorious day when "Precious And Few" finally fell off the Top 40.

    But just for fun, let's give it a post!

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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 474
    Yeesh. I think the same could be said of the 15 minute female pop artists (Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Taylor Dane, etc.) of the late 80's. You had school age girls eating their stuff up and then when that segment was milked, you had no other audience to reach, and died a quick career death.

    I don't recall Casey's willingness or unwillingness to give that music time on airwaves, but my guess is it made him squirm in a similar way.
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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    What Casey used to do when AT40 got started was look over all the songs that made it on the Top 40 that week. For the broadcast, songs that were new to the list got airtime. Also songs that moved up usually got airplay too.

    For the most part, week to week, AT40 was going over the same batch of music as the previous week. That gave Casey and his staff some leeway since he didn't have to actually play every song on the Top 40 list.

    AT40 started as a three hour broadcast, if my memory serves me right, and most of the time was a countdown of songs with periodic playing of selected titles.

    It was in the first couple of years of AT40 that Casey filled time with music industry insider stories like bios and trivia, the kind of stuff that few listeners would know even if they read the music magazines available at the time.

    Later Casey started airing dedications, especially from G.I.'s stationed overseas to the folks back home. I think it was all the time Casey spent on dedications that pushed the show to expand from three to four hours.
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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 474
    One has to wonder, with a 4 hour radio broadcast, time spent in the recording booth for his various animated voice work, and actual film appearances, how he was able to stay as sharp as he was each and every work day.
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  • avatar
    • 6 years 2 months ago
    • Posts: 7014
    I used to wonder about that myself. My mom used to say that people in entertainment keep strange hours.

    Maybe Casey had a twin!
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