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American Top 40 Flashback: October 26, 1974

The full chart from October 26, 1974

Radio stations playing this episode

How’s the chart as a whole?

Some critics have argued that 1974 was the worst year in the history of popular music. If you focus solely on the year’s #1 hits, it’s a compelling case: it’s an extraordinarily weak crop, loaded with kitsch and ugliness of all kinds. But personally, I find a lot to like about the year. We may have sent our worst music to the very top of the chart, but I’ve found that the bottom of these charts fill out rather well. I think the key is that 1974 had a great overall sound that luxuriates in the increasing popularity of FM stereo. Most importantly, the lush orchestral arrangements of Philly soul dominated the year’s R&B, but many of the pop acts and singer-songwriter types sounded great, as well. This chart avoids many of the worst chart-toppers of 1974, and I’d rate it as a better-than-average sample of the year, though it still hits a couple of lackluster stretches in the top half. Overall, I give it a B-minus.

Forgotten gems

#30 – Kiki Dee Band, “I Got the Music in Me”

I suspect that in 99% of the universes parallel to our own that have branched off since 1974, this song is still played on oldies radio stations every single day while the likes of Bachman-Turner Overdrive are forgotten. OK, I don’t think it works like that, but something here feels cosmically unjust. This song rocks with energy and authority, and Kiki deserves to be remembered for more than “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”

#39 – Chicago, “Wishing You Were Here”

The Beach Boys’ greatest hits package Endless Summer was released in June of 1974, which puts this chart right in the middle of the band’s revival. This shows in quite a few of the pop singles on this chart (Reunion, First Class, ABBA, The Raspberries), but only Chicago pulled off the coup of featuring the actual Beach Boys on their song. It’s an absolutely gorgeous one that shows that band still had plenty of artistic life at this point.

#24 – The Raspberries, “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”

The song methodically builds to an absolute stunner of a 60s-pop climax with vocal harmonies, booming drums and wailing sax, then it deploys a pop-music cliché that I’m an absolute sucker for– the false ending. Yes! Yes! Give me 60 more seconds of this! Eric Carmen would basically rewrite this song 14 years later as “Make Me Lose Control,” and it was still great, 80s overproduction and all.

Justly forgotten

#33 – Blue Swede, “Never My Love”

I can’t figure out why Blue Swede thought that this delicate song would be a good match for their aggressively tacky treatment, but it did manage to make the top 10. This is the 1974 that everybody hates.

#7 – Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Steppin’ Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)”
#10 – The Osmonds, “Love Me For a Reason”

More of the 1974 everybody hates.

#35 – The Hudson Brothers, “So You Are a Star”

A psychedelic Beatles pastiche (complete with over-the-top fake British accents from these brothers from Portland) that sounds nice enough at first, but goes nowhere. The brothers had a TV variety show which premiered before they even had a charting record; it lasted about a year. One of them was married to Goldie Hawn for four years and is the father of Kate Hudson.

#16 – Reunion, “Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)”

List songs are low-potential affairs with even lower replay value, even when they’re written by the likes of Bob Dylan, and the bubblegum pop producer behind this is no Dylan. At least “Rock and Roll Heaven” had a clear purpose. The song’s Wikipedia page leads me to believe purpose of this song was to generate extra revenue by customizing versions of the lyrics for radio station promos around the country.

Songs I’d like to banish from the radio forever

It’s a tossup between the perfunctory blues-rock of Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough” and the obscure snooziness of America’s “Tin Man.”

Is the #1 song worthy?

Yes.  It’s not my favorite Philly soul song but it’s solid and has some cool funk accents. “Nothing From Nothing” to “Then Came You” to “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” is a nice little run of #1 hits for a year where they were mostly lousy.

Worst rhyme

“Mushroom omelet/

Bonnie Bramlett”

No, Reunion, you don’t get to pad out your list song by half-rhyming musicians with random foods. Have some integrity. Unless, of course, there is a rock song that references mushroom omelets– if you know of one, please point it out in the comment section.

Bubbling under

Future #1s “Angie Baby” and “Cat’s in the Cradle;” an a capella cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” by Prelude.

Top five

#30 – Kiki Dee Band, “I Got the Music in Me”

#5 – Elton John, “The Bitch Is Back” (Elton is basically the icon of good-1974)

#2 – Stevie Wonder, “You Haven’t Done Nothin’”

#24 – The Raspberries, “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”

#17 – Gordon Lightfoot, “Carefree Highway”

Honorable mention: “Nothing From Nothing,” “When Will I See You Again,” “Wishing You Were Here,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” “Everlasting Love,” “Skin Tight,” “Then Came You”