American Top 40 Flashback: November 26, 1977

The full chart from November 26, 1977:

All the Casey Kasem segments from this episode (no songs):

How’s the chart as a whole?

In its component parts– soft ballads, disco, and what we now call classic rock– it’s not much different from the chart from 1978, which I hated. And yet I actually like this one. Perhaps there’s a bit of musical Stockholm Syndrome at play here after five weeks of uneven 70s charts, but mostly I think the songs are just stronger. This week’s group of ballads cotains some all-time greats of the form, and this week’s set of disco songs is a group you could point to for a serious defense of the genre. Overall, there’s a sense of anodyne professionalism on the chart even at its worst that helps it play through very well, at least until you get to that number one song. I give this week a B-plus.

Forgotten gems

#20 – The Babys, “Isn’t It Time”

A kitchen-sink glammy pop song from John Waite’s first band that builds from a piano ballad to an overstuffed chorus that feels like it’s about to burst with both musical embellishment (a trio of female backup singers with a gospel background, strings, horns) and emotive tension. As the band’s second career single, it feels quite auspicious to me, though the group never did really become huge.

#18 – Brick, “Dusic”

This jammy jazz-funk stomper is miles ahead of the disco songs we heard from last week’s 1975 chart in terms of musical seriousness. This is another group I’d love to hear a lot more from, though this would be only their second and final top 40 hit on the pop charts.

#7 – Rita Coolidge, “We’re All Alone”

One of those adult contemporary ballds that’s just better than the similar offerings from 1978. This was originally the final track from Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees, and is improved by adding a singer who doesn’t sound like a Muppet.

Worth a listen

#32 – The Carpenters, “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”

What a strange piece of mid-70s kitsch this is. For starters, the song was originally recorded by an anonymous group of Canadian art-poppers called Klaatu, who were caught up in a fake-Beatles hysteria at the time (as of this week’s Casey Kasem broadcast, the band’s true identity was still unknown). Second, the lyrics to the song are absolutely bonkers, urging listeners to participate in something called “World Contact Day,” where they would telepathically send messages to extraterrestrial life monitoring the Earth. And yet here it is, presumably buoyed by the concurrent release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and performed by one of the most middle-of-the-road pop acts of the decade. It’s not bad, but it’s mostly weird.

#40 – Shaun Cassidy, “Hey Deanie”

As far as teenybopper pop goes, the two Shaun Cassidy singles on this chart, both written by Eric Carmen, aren’t bad at all, retaining something of the power-pop flavor of the Raspberries. They’re a heck of a lot better than the covers of “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Do You Believe In Magic?” that were his other big hits.

Justly forgotten

#6 – Paul Nicholas, “Heaven on the 7th Floor”

This fluffy tune is the only one of this week’s disco songs that sounds half-hearted and mercenary. Nicholas was a musical theatre star in England (playing the title role in the original London production of Jesus Christ Superstar, for instance) who was attempting to use a pop music career to increase his profile and land him bigger acting roles. This woud be his only top 40 hit in the States.

#27 – England Dan and John Ford Coley, “Gone Too Far”

#28 – Paul Davis, “I Go Crazy”

#29 – Firefall, “Just Remember I Love You”

This was the one section of the chart that made me worry that it was going to turn out to be a total soft-rock snoozefest. Barry Manilow covered two of these songs on a 1996 album, because he’s a total cheeseball.

Is the #1 worthy?

Debby Boone, “You Light Up My Life” – Oh hell no, any of the other songs on this chart would have been more worthy, and it’s baffling how this song managed to stay on top for 10 weeks. Not-fun fact: the writer-producer of the song was a serial casting-couch rapist who killed himself awaiting trial for 91 counts of rape. He also badly mistreated Kacey Cisyk, the original singer of “You Light Up My Life,” before replacing her with Boone. All the more reason to hate this song.

Song I would banish from the radio forever

I like most Queen, and love some of their work, but I loathe (the arguably fascist) “We Will Rock You.” If I had to banish the single’s other A-side, “We Are the Champions” to get rid of it, would I do it? Yes, I still would.

Bubbling under

Stevie Wonder’s “As,” Leif Garrett’s “Runaround Sue,” Chic’s “Dance, Dance, Dance,” Elvis’ “My Way,” Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”

Top five

#16 – Donna Summer, “I Feel Love”

#13 – Fleetwood Mac, “You Make Loving Fun”

#20 – The Babys, “Isn’t It Time”

#3 – The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love”

#18 – Brick, “Dusic”

Honorable mention: “Slip Slidin’ Away,” “Nobody Does It Better,” “Blue Bayou,” “We’re All Alone,” “Swingtown,” “Back in Love Again,” “Serpentine Fire,” “She’s Not There,” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” “We Are the Champions”