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Posted by powerpopclassics on February 25, 2019 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We are now a month into our shortwave broadcasts on 7440 khz and 6070 khz, and we have started receiving reception reports from all over the world.  So far we have heard from listeners in Slovenia, Italy, Finland, Germany, Russia, Japan, Belarus, Florida (USA), and The Philippines!  If you missed any of the shows from February that you wanted to hear, simply go to our "Links & Archives" page, choose a show, and click on the link!  If you wish to compare the mono and stereo versions, then go to our homepage and click on the "Follow us on Mixcloud" link!  Thank you for listening!  We are hooked on shortwave!  KEEP ON SMILING THROUGH THE STATIC!!!!


Posted by powerpopclassics on February 1, 2019 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (1)

Just as a reminder, tomorrow at 12:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), Alt Universe Top 40 will be broadcast on 7440 khz, Channel 292.  What time is that?  Well, that is noon in London, 7:00 a.m. in New York, 9:00 a.m. in Buenos Aires, 9:00 p.m. in Tokyo, and 6:00 a.m. in Memphis!  Please join us on the Shortwave airwaves!  Cheers, JTMc


Posted by powerpopclassics on January 31, 2019 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

On Saturday, February 2, 2019, Alt Universe Top 40 will broadcast on Channel 292, on 7440 khz at 12:00 UTC, which is 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time in the United States, and 6:00 a.m. Central Time in the United States.  A rebroadcast of the show will take place on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 11:00 UTC, also on Channel 292, but the rebroadcast will be directed to Europe on 6070 khz.  As a general rule, each show will then be made available on Mixcloud the following Friday in both mono and stereo, when possible.  Thank you for listening! 

Cheers, JTMc


Posted by powerpopclassics on October 19, 2016 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (2)

Here is a mini-correction:


The Top Five 15 years ago:

1. I’m Real – Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule

2. Fallin’ – Alicia Keys

3. Family Affair – Mary J. Blige

4. Where the Party At – Jagged Edge with Nelly

5. It’s Been Awhile – Staind


Notable entries and recurrents from the chart of 10/20/01:

10. Let Me Blow Ya Mind – Eve featuring Gwen Stefani

11. Turn Off the Light – Nelly Furtado

16. Only Time – Enya

17. Hanging By a Moment – Lifehouse

18. Drops of Jupiter – Train

19. Everywhere – Michelle Branch

28. Be Like That – 3 Doors Down

29. Smooth Criminal – Alien Ant Farm

39. Drive – Incubus (Definitely MY favorite song on that chart)


Candidates that barely survive removal from the chart of 10/20/01:

20. Ugly – Bubba Sparxxx (Mainly because of his name)

36. How You Remind Me – Nickelback

37. Where I Come From – Alan Jackson



40. Feelin’ On Yo Booty – R Kelly


REPLACED BY…Radio Police – The Masticators



Posted by powerpopclassics on February 16, 2015 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the last several months, the rules have been very simple here at Alt Universe Top 40. Chart by chart, countdown by countdown, the task has been to review an episode of American Top 40, remove its worst song, and replace it. Rarely is there a battle between the “replacing” songs. They have been working their way into their deserved positions one listen at a time for years. As a result, one solitary non-charted record always seems ready to step into its appropriate slot. Conversely, every chart we have examined has contained multiple duds. While it has been difficult at times to find each countdown’s single worst song, thus far, the inevitable lameness champ has always emerged.




After studying the Top 40 from February 16, 1980 on and off for two weeks now, it is obvious that TWO songs simply must be removed. Since this is against the rules, we have a dilemma. What do we do? Well, we look at the chart, and then do what we have to do to keep musical equilibrium intact.


At first glance, it is obvious that there is no dominant genre on this chart. It does, however, seem to have a slightly larger amount of “Middle of the Road” music than one would expect from this time period. Statistically, there are 12 really bad songs, 15 OK to good songs, and 13 really good songs. Nothing new there. What is new is the dual depth of craptitude reached by two of these 12 really bad songs. Staggering.


The best song on this chart was “Refugee,” one of two entries from the incredible DAMN THE TORPEDOES album by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. (“Don’t Do Me Like That” was the other.) Interestingly, Pat Benatar’s first hit, “Heartbreaker” was catching fire at the same time that Petty and his same-named band burned up the chart. Linda Ronstadt had the second-best record on the survey with her spunky cover of Billy Steinberg’s Power Pop burst “How Do I Make You” at #23. And climbing at #14 was new Folk/Rock bard Steve Forbert with “Romeo’s Tune,” from the adventurous and respectable album JACKRABBIT SLIM. While hardly representative of the energy of the New Wave of the time, these records brought a different tilt to the Album Rock side of the chart.


Established FM rock acts included Fleetwood Mac and their incredible harmonies on “Sara” at #7, Toto at #33 with “99,” Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” at #18, and the getting-ready-to-break-up Eagles at #15 with “The Long Run.” Queen rock-a-billied their way to #2 with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” while Kenny Loggins doobied up to #11 with “This Is It.” At #21, Led Zeppelin’s intricate rhythms in “Fool In The Rain” gave John Bonham a moment to shine several months before his September 1980 death. Sadly, Styx, at #35, sounded dead with their lifeless “Why Me,” a song that would have been a perfect candidate for removal, but for the egregiousness of this survey’s two horrendous offenders that we address in a moment.


The best Soul/Disco record on this chart was “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson at #5. Donna Summer was not far behind with “On The Radio” at #9. Kool & the Gang was “Too Hot” at #22, and Chuck Mangione’s winter Olympic theme, “Give It All You Got” won the Gold for the best Instrumental. Teri DeSario & K.C.’s soft soul version of Barbara Mason’s “Yes, I’m Ready” was a radical departure for him, but was rising fast at #6. Another soul cover with a disco-ish beat was “Working My Way Back To You” by The Spinners at #17. Shalamar’s “Second Time Around” was listenable at #20, and Isaac Hayes put some hot buttered soul onto “Don’t Let Go” at #30, his last charted hit. In an almost ceremonial passing of the soul-genius torch, Prince was next door to Isaac on this chart, with his first hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” at #31. While some record buyers loved Dionne Warwick’s “Déjà Vu” at #29, others, including me, pined for the days when she was THE voice for Burt Bacharach’s perfectly constructed and arranged selections. Finally, the title to Bonnie Pointer’s “I Can’t Help Myself” sounded like an excuse for the pitiful quality of her chart entry at #40, and up a couple of notches at #38, “Special Lady” by Ray, Goodman & Brown was so bland that one could not help but wonder just how “special” the female who served as muse for this song must have really been.


In the Adult Contemporary category, we actually find three VERY solid records. “Cruisin’” by Smokey Robinson was smartly produced at #4, and Toni Tennille’s lyrics in that week’s #1 song, “Do That To Me One More Time,” must have given the Captain a full-sail ego boost. Dan Fogelberg’s soon-to-be-wedding-classic, “Longer,” was on its way to flying higher than any bird ever flew at #8. At #39, Nicolette Larson’s pretty voice graced “Let Me Go, Love” and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “American Dream” at #16 featured the lovely Linda Ronstadt on harmony vocals. Radio was giving listeners a few last sips of Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by now on its way down at #24, while Rupert’s follow-up “Him” was in the early stages of stalling at #28. Tolerable, but many steps down from “Devil Woman” was Cliff Richard at #32 with “We Don’t Talk Anymore.”




“Desire” by Andy Gibb? Yuck! “When I Want You” by Barry Manilow? What were you thinking, Barry? “Wonderland” by The Commodores? Sounds more like “BLUNDER-land” to me. And then “September Morn” by Neil Diamond. Uh, yeah, THAT Neil Diamond. What do we do when even HE comes up with a dud? Hmmmm. OK, Neil, you get a pass this time, but only because you wrote “I’m A Believer,” “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” for The Monkees. Another songwriter with Monkees roots, John Stewart, was floundering at #36 with “Lost Her In The Sun.” Yes, John, since Neil got a pass, you get one too. Well, let me clarify. As a solo act, John Stewart, you get a pass.




…and John Stewart, you WROTE one of them! Don’t worry, John Stewart, you have already banked all the cover-song proceeds from this terrible re-make, and here at Alt Universe Top 40, we don’t have the authority to place a lien on your songwriting revenue. (Of course, if we did, you’d be in trouble.) One song that absolutely MUST be extracted from this countdown is a truly horrendous cover version of your song, John Stewart. It is Anne Murray’s way-beyond-dismal version of that Monkee classic, “Daydream Believer.” Oh my. This record REEKS in every way. Didn’t you feel dirty, John Stewart, cashing those songwriting checks once you heard her butcher your best song? OK. Enough questions for John Stewart. I suppose this is more about Anne Murray.


It is hard to put into words just how utterly dreadful Anne Murray’s “Daydream Believer” sounds. Astonishingly, there were actually DJ’s out there who played this record. Even more astonishingly and, quite inaccurately, while cueing up Anne Murray’s version, some DJ’s even MADE FUN of The Monkees for NOT playing on their #1 version of the same song.




More Monkees played on “Daydream Believer” than Beach Boys played on “Good Vibrations.” More Monkees played on “Daydream Believer” than Byrds played on “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Yes, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz only sang on “Daydream Believer,” but Mike Nesmith played guitar and Peter Tork’s piano part was an integral hook to this classic. Of course, strings and horns covered a lot of territory on The Monkees’ version, but there were lots of strings and horns on the Beatles’ releases from the same time period. Nobody expected John and Paul to man the cellos. But, back to the point, The Monkees’ version of “Daydream Believer” is THE definitive version, even though they did not write the song. Would we want to hear Crystal Gayle sing “Happy Together,” a classic by The Turtles that they didn’t write? I think not. That settles it. Anne Murray, your version of “Daydream Believer” is hereby revoked, removed, disqualified and extracted from this chart.




We have looked at 39 records, and there is still one more to deal with. And, yes, it is every bit as painful as Anne Murray’s “Daydream Believer.” What is it?


“Coward Of The County” by Kenny Rogers.


Good Lord. This was the #3 song in the country? What on earth were all these record buyers thinking? All I know is that every single time I heard it, I wanted to throw up. In fact, I honestly did throw up once while this song was playing. Of course, it may have been a stomach bug, but it just as easily could have been a terrible case of sound poisoning. Part of it is that I just never bought Kenny Rogers as the narrator of this type of story song. Kenny’s hair sabotaged that idea. Furthermore, there was nothing tough about this “fighting” record. Producer Larry Butler, a one-time cohort of Chips Moman’s at American Sound Studios, really lost his touch the moment he left Memphis. The slick musicians who took home paychecks from United Artists on this recording really did the “plot” within the song NO service whatsoever. Toto could have easily played a slicker, more elaborate backing track for Kenny-the-white-haired-moaner, but why? Actually, this song might have had a chance, had it been a Johnny Cash song. It would have needed to have been recorded live, at a prison, or a river dock, or a truck stop, or out by some bridge somewhere in Arkansas or Mississippi, with the Tennessee Three joining in with their simple Dunk-Chucka-Dome-Chucka instrumental backing. IF this song could have been saved, and that is a very unlikely proposition, then ONLY Johnny Cash could have saved it. But he didn’t. And the resulting record by Kenny Rogers is a disaster. It is frightening. And, Kenny’s just-woke-up grunt during the words, “…considered him…” is creepy. Disturbing. This record, too, MUST BE REMOVED!


So, how do we do it? Well, we invoke a technicality. Because the following week’s chart on February 23, 1980 was SO similar to this week’s chart, we will throw one song off this week, and throw another one off next week. Since both must go, all that is left to do is pick which one gets the boot right now. “Coward Of The County.” Why? Even though both records are equally horrible, we will be polite and give Anne Murray an extra week of chart life ONLY because she is female, and seems to be less creepy than Kenny Rogers. But her version of “Daydream Believer” still will be gone, one week from today.


So, here’s a new situation, too. With two vacancies, what do we do?


Well, actually, this was a very ripe period for some incredible music that appeared to be heading toward commercial success all the while reaping all sorts of critical praise. In late 1979, during the aftermath of “My Sharona” by The Knack, record companies were finding Power Pop bands from everywhere, and recording relatively inexpensive, but absolutely mind-shattering albums. By early 1980, two classic albums by two incredible bands were out, and were receiving play on the “cool” stations. I remember hearing them both for the first time, and, in both cases, thinking they were the best band I had ever heard. Each album was self-titled. The bands? 20/20 and The Beat. The songs? “Remember The Lightning” by 20/20 and “Rock And Roll Girl” by The Beat.


In this month’s rule-bending article, at a time where we have two absolutely terrible records on this chart, it is amazing that, in the name of musical equilibrium, there are two absolutely brilliant records, each waiting to be plugged in and take its rightful place. Because 20/20 came out slightly sooner, “Remember The Lightning” will replace “Coward Of The County,” and will thereby receive its universal chart correction one week sooner than “Rock And Roll Girl.”


Check out each song, and you will doubly agree…



AND (in one week)





Posted by powerpopclassics on January 27, 2015 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The American Top 40 countdowns during the ‘90’s weren’t always pretty. Most, in fact, were pretty lame. But during one incredible week, twenty years ago, Billboard Magazine published a chart that was never rivaled in that decade. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but credible entries and long-lasting records absolutely outnumbered the duds by far. Let’s take a closer look before we replace the worst of the duds with the best of the “should’ve beens” from that period.


By the time this Top 40 aired, Alternative, as a genre, was boasting artistic peaks from acts making commercially successful records. Weezer was flying high with “Buddy Holly.” Stone Temple Pilots were cruising with their “Interstate Love Song.” Counting Crows, fast becoming Alternative royalty, ruled Progressive Radio with “Rain King.” Young snots, Green Day, had TWO entries, “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around.” Old guard Alt-Rockers, R.E.M., long graduated from College Radio, also claimed two spots with “Bang and Blame” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” The catchy “New Age Girl” became Deadeye Dick’s reward for non-stop club work, and “Zombie” by The Cranberries rounded out the Alternative entries by staying alive at #18.


Several new acts straddled the line between Alternative and more traditional Rock. Hootie & the Blowfish snagged a #8 position with “Hold My Hand.” Sheryl Crow’s hit, “All I Wanna Do” was rising faster the sun over Santa Monica Boulevard. Melissa Etherage poured her emotion all over the airwaves with “I’m The Only One” at #5. Former New Wavers, The Pretenders, stood at #25 with their concert anthem, “I’ll Stand By You.” And the spectacular “Allison Road” by the Gin Blossoms sported a crisp, Big Star-like John Hampton production, and confirmed that the Ardent sound was, indeed, 22 years ahead of its time.


If my math can be trusted, I count 14 releases thus far with Alternative leanings on this chart. Wow. Alternative doesn’t always mean “good” or “credible,” especially these days. But back then it generally did. That group of songs really holds up twenty years later.


More established Rock acts were fewer in number on this particular week, but still offered up decent songs. Tom Petty’s single from his second masterpiece album, WILDFLOWERS, was “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” It rolled in at #11. Bon Jovi’s “Always” kept Jon and company’s hit streak alive at #3. And Aerosmith, with “Blind Man,” a song that fell short of some apparent lofty intentions, still rocked satisfactorily at #35.


In comparison to the Rock, Alt-Rock and Alternative selections on this chart, would the Pop, Soul and Dance entries hold up? During the ‘90’s, many of these types of recordings could not. But on this chart, yes, they did.


In the Dance category, 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This” was beginning its twenty year reign as the greatest cheer/tumble/gymnastics song of all time. Not far behind it was “The Rhythm of The Night” by Corona, with its detached vocal, staccato keyboard and sequenced bass foretelling Electronic Dance Music playlists far into the future. Madonna’s two entries, “Secret” (#19) and “Take a Bow” (#4) may not have been her two greatest hits, but they were perfect for the times, rhythmically and lyrically. Two sweet Pop/Soul voices, belonging to Vanessa Williams and Toni Braxton, were each represented with “The Sweetest Days” (#23) and “I Belong to You” (#33), respectively. And at #1 with “On Bended Knee” and #15 with “I’ll Make Love to You,” Boyz II Men temporarily hushed staunch Boy-Band critics (like me) with some decent vocals. While groups with choreography usually nauseated me, even I had to reluctantly admit that these guys COULD sing.


Other catchy Pop entries from that week included “You Gotta Be” by Des’Ree at #10, “Creep” by TLC at #20, “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Waters at #13, and “Mishale” by Andru Donalds at #27. Ace of Base was “Living in Danger” at #29, and Jon Secada’s “Mental Picture” was at #31. Not monumental Pop, but from this batch, “You Gotta Be” has held up rather well over time.


Alas, all good things must come to an end. Sadly, there are three entries that scar up this chart so badly that their mere appearance in this progressive countdown is, quite simply, disrespectful to music.


Starting with the least offensive dud, we have “Turn the Beat Around” by Gloria Estefan. WHY? The cut-in-one-take Vicki Sue Robinson version from 1976 is definitive. No room for improvement, Gloria. Maybe you can (or could) get a loud ovation by performing it in concert with your Sound Machine, but releasing it as a single back in 1995 reduced you to that week’s karaoke girl. And it also put you in the same league as Laura Branigan, who had already mistakenly covered it in 1990. Gloria, we forgive you, and we will let your song stay, but only because there were two other glaring atrocities worse than yours that week. (You knew better though.)


Next, and even more repulsive, is a remix that I initially presumed would be the song chucked right off of this chart, “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” by the Four Seasons. Now before you get mad, this is the second REMIX I’m talking about, NOT the clever Piano, Bass and Drum driven original that hit #1 in 1976. WE ALL LOVED the original’s intro, its fantastic energy, those classic synthesizer solos and the vocal trading between Gerry Polci and Frankie Valli.  But for the love of falsetto, REMIX THAT RECORD?  TWICE?  There was not one grain of artistic improvement bestowed upon this classic record by the twisting of a few knobs after the fact.  Either time.  Even though it charted again and sold a bunch more units.  Luckily, this studio debacle has since disappeared, while the original Bob Gaudio mix still gets played all the time.


The only question that remains, though, is what song on this chart could possibly smell SO bad that the Four Seasons remix gets to stay? Well, the odor produced by the above-mentioned twiddling and tampering was not nearly as suffocating as the stench brought on by, quite possibly, the worst recording of the decade, if not the worst recording ever released.


What is it? It’s another remake. Another pointless remake. At #7 that week was the song, “Sukiyaki” by 4PM. And (as I return to my tendency to bash Boy-Bands) did this Boy-Band ever brew up a stinking pot of Boy-Soy. The original recording by Kyu Sakamoto, a 1963 #1 single in the US, was a decent, well produced record. It was enjoyable primarily because of a strong melody line dueling with a string and horn counterpoint in the backing track. While it was before my time, I can remember hearing it played on “Beautiful Music” or “Muzak” channels my mother liked in the 70’s. I also recall that the lyrics to the original were Japanese, and never mentioned the word “Sukiyaki.”


Then, in 1981, A Taste of Honey “Boogie-Oogie-Oogied” a remake of it onto the charts, and replaced the Japanese lyrics with new English words. These lyrics DEFINITELY did not mention the word, “Sukiyaki,” making this first charted remake a novelty record of sorts. Yes, it was sickening. But somehow, fourteen years later, as if answering a challenge to ruin the song worse than A Taste of Honey did, 4PM found a way to screw the song up even more. As difficult as it may be to believe, it is actually MUCH worse than A Taste of Honey’s remake. The most positive word I can find to describe this record is “terrible.” It is faux-cappella, with vocals that never seem to get quite tuned up. After making myself listen to the whole song last night, I realized that I was pining for the nearest Auto-Tune app on my son’s iPhone. For your own safety, and to prevent yourself from stabbing your ears with nearby pencils, please take my word on this issue.

I can’t even wait until 4PM today to throw this song off of this chart. It must go NOW.


With the space vacated by “Sukiyaki,” what should be put in its place? Some might suggest that a popular Country song of the time should have crossed over. However, it seems that part of what makes this chart so progressive, is its noticeable lack of Country music. The closest this chart comes to Country is its inclusion of Sheryl Crow and Darius Rucker, both of whom have "gone Country" in recent years. But we will edge no closer to Nashville than Sheryl and Hootie here. I don’t want to start any honky tonk fights, but what good could possibly come from the inclusion of a Country song on this, of all, charts?


Instead, we will stay true to the Alternative and Alt-Rock leanings this chart already possesses. In place of the completely lame and inexcusable “Sukiyaki” by 4 PM, we MUST insert “Stars” by Devin Hill, a song released the summer before on an indie label. It likely would have taken until the end of the following January for it to gather enough steam to take its rightful place in the Billboard Top 40.


So why “Stars?” Well, we have already mentioned how “Allison Road” by the Gin Blossoms echoed the Big Star sound. With “Stars,” Devin Hill tipped the cap to Big Star even further, and created what may very well be the most perfect College Rock/Alternative Rock/Power Pop/Retro single of all time. His voice sounds remarkably like Alex Chilton’s did during the period of Big Star’s second album, RADIO CITY. His chord progressions sound remarkably like those of Chris Bell during his solo outing “I Am The Cosmos.” The understated background vocals are perfect for the mood of longing created by this song. The guitar solo sounds like Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers joined Alex and Chris for the evening. Yet, all put together, it is Devin Hill’s finest moment. There is not one aspect of this single that is less than perfect.



Now let's dump that bad batch of “Sukiyaki” and keep reaching for the “Stars!”





Posted by powerpopclassics on November 30, 2014 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Casey Kasem counted down one of the best Billboard Charts ever on December 1, 1973.  Of the forty songs played on American Top Forty that week, fourteen were offered up by truly credible Soul artists, nine were released by respectable Album Rock acts, and seven decent Pop records charted.  With five more slots taken by some excellent to tolerable Country crossover hits, we are left with only FIVE "bad" songs on this survey.  Of course, we can remove only one!

Let's start with what's good about this week in chart history.  Just look at this Detroit to Philly to Memphis Soul onslaught:  The Four Tops, Gladys Knight, Eddie Kendricks, Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye, Marvin Gaye (solo), Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston, Harold Melvin, The Stylistics, Barry White, The Staple Singers and Johnnie Taylor.  Not a dud in the bunch.  Then, from Meridian, Mississippi, we have Al Wilson, with his soon-to-be #1 hit, "Show and Tell" at #33.  And at #38, Ike & Tina Turner pay some gritty homage to Tina's tiny little West Tennessee hometown with "Nutbush City Limits."  Even if there were NO other passable songs on this chart, the above list alone would make this a Top 40 worth hearing.

Next we switch gears to the Album Rock acts.  Amazingly, we see the rare occurrence of Dylan ("Knocking On Heaven's Door"), Lennon ("Mind Games"), and Led Zeppelin ("D'yer Mak'er") simultaneously charting with SINGLES!  Not to be outdone, Ringo, with George as co-writer, actually outperformed John with "Photograph" at #2.  The Stones rolled up to #19 with Jagger's alleged ode to Bowie's wife, "Angie."  Musical genius Todd Rundgren answered in at #11 with "Hello, It's Me" while Steve Miller toked his way to #22 with "The Joker."  Elton John, still a credible FM artist, was planted at #3 with the title track to that week's #1 album, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."  And rounding out the Album Rock stable was one of the greatest fade-out jams ever, "Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Brothers at #39.

Pop was also well represented on this chart, with these seven listenable singles:  "Be" by Neil Diamond;  "Let Me Serenade You" by Three Dog Night;  "We May Never Pass This Way Again" by Seals & Crofts;  "Ooh Baby" by Gilbert O'Sullivan; "My Music" by Loggins & Messina; "Just You 'N' Me" by Chicago; and the impressive vocal of Art Garfunkel at #23 with "All I Know."  Not earth shattering music, but pleasant enough to hear without an eruption of visceral convulsions.

Country acts crossed over with varying degrees of critical success.  Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me" easily won the battle here, as it is a solid song presented in a believable recording.  Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl" seemed like a belated Nashville reward for an artist that built credibility without much commercial success while paying dues at Sun Records in Memphis.  The impossible-to-pigeonhole Jim Croce had two posthumous chart entries, "Time In A Bottle" and "I Got A Name."  Both songs sounded Country to true Rock fans, and sounded like Pop/Rock to the Country fans of the day.  (Whatever label you put on Croce, his September 1973 death silenced a beloved folk storyteller who was more seasoned and manly than John Denver and a little less bar-wise than the up-and-coming Jimmy Buffett.  We'll call him Folk/Country.)  Finally, fourteen-year-old Marie Osmond, without Donny, surprisingly and not terribly, wrapped up the Country acts with the Donna Fargo-ish "Paper Roses."

Whew.  We have now covered 35 of the 40 entries on this chart, and have not yet encountered one truly puke-worthy record!  Can this Top Forty hold out and be the one perfect full-spectrum chart full of irreplaceable hits?  Can this be THE chart?

Well, no.  Cher is on this chart.  "Half-Breed" would, under most circumstances, be an automatic candidate for removal.  So would "Top Of The World" by The Carpenters, the #1 record that week, and the SECOND WORST use of Karen's beautiful voice EVER.  (Regular ALT UNIVERSE readers have already read about the worst, right?)  Then we have "Heartbeat - It's A Lovebeat" by The DeFranco Family, an act that was derided as an Osmonds copy, but whose hit on this chart is actually a well-constructed song, one that is nowhere near as offensive as the two true klunkers that are left.  

Helen Reddy's "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" is one of the two remaining flubs, and it really does make me want to throw up.  I don't know who wrote it or where it was recorded, and I refuse to waste my time looking it up.  Obviously, they tried for a New Orleans feel that simply didn't come to pass.  Eeeeeek.   And, yet, as bad as this record disturbs me, there is one absolutely ROTTEN, VILE and NOXIOUS recording that, WITHOUT QUESTION, allows Cher and Helen Reddy to remain on this chart.  What on earth could be so OBSCENE?

"Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally" by Tony Orlando & Dawn.


If you want to torture yourself, look it up.  Test yourself.  See if you can listen to "Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally" from beginning to end.  You can't.  No reasonable music fan can sit through it fully awake and unmedicated.  Tony Orlando delivers so little soul on this recording that Pat Boone records from the '50's sound good in comparison.  There should be a hefty reward offered up by Arista Records for that person (if he or she exists) who can actually make it through this entire song without immediate regurgitation or a sudden onset of eardrum contortion.  I'm getting woozy just contemplating listening to a record that sounds worse than rotten strawberries smell.

Besides, it comes down to a matter of principle.  Any episode of American Top 40 loaded with this much fantastic Soul, and with Rock acts like Todd Rundgren, Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, The Stones, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers piled in together with Kris Kristofferson is, well, no place for Tony Orlando & Dawn.  Period.  See you later, Tony.  You may have been friends with Toni Wine and Ellie Greenwich, but that won't save you here.  You're out.

So, who do we slip into the solitary spot vacated by "Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally?"

Hmmmm.  This may be a little out there, but if there ever existed an American Top Forty within which a Rock/Soul jam like "Eyes Of The World" by the Grateful Dead fit in, THIS is that chart.  No, I'm not a Dead Head.  Never have been.  But the WAKE OF THE FLOOD album by Jerry and the gang, released on October 15, 1973, would have had just enough time to generate a chart life for "Eyes Of The World."  At this point, it was still about the music for the Dead, even if a lot of it was sloppy.  Whatever they did to come up with this song, though, they did it right.  The solos are obviously improvised, but the modulations in the song are obviously not.  The vocals are a little off, but the backbeat more than makes up for that small detail.  And within the context of this particular chart on this particular week, there would have been no time more perfect to have a Grateful Dead offering on the singles chart.  "Eyes Of The World" is the proper offering.

No tie-dyes needed here, just listen and you will wake up and find...




Posted by powerpopclassics on November 20, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (1)

The American Top 40 of November 20, 1976 counted down a chart comprised of roughly a dozen decent singles, many by album artists.  Familiar names like Clapton, Frampton, ELO and Ringo comforted listeners.  Kiss, fresh off a loud and successful live album, surprised everyone, including themselves, with "Beth" at #9.  Boston's debut single, "More Than A Feeling" was climbing.  Long before Saturday Night Live forever re-branded it, Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" cowbelled its way to #17.  Elton's brand new "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" was just entering the charts, and the three-year-old "She's Gone" by Hall & Oates was being given a new chart life thanks to the popularity of  "Sara Smile" a few months earlier.  Even the Little River Band, often a source of cringe-worthy material, turned in a nice record with "It's A Long Way There" at #36.  So far, so good.

Then the chart starts to sour.  "The Best Disco In Town" by the Ritchie Family is the first of several foul balls. Foul SMELLING, that is.  As offensive as this record is, things quickly get much worse.  How much worse?  Well, the #1 song that week was "Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart.  YIKES!  Of course, nobody at the time would have believed it, but Rod was to sink even lower than this stinker before he started to recover (with Jeff Beck's help) in the late '80's.  Several more skunks invaded Casey's Hollywood studio that week, including "Nice 'n Naasty" by the Salsoul Orchestra, "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" by Leo Sayer, and "After the Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck.  YEEK!


The chart even included one song that was voted on VH1 as one of the worst songs of all time.  What song is that?  None other than "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees.  Now, are you ready for something really shocking?  Because we are only allowed to remove one song from this chart, "Disco Duck" actually gets to stay.

I repeat, "Disco Duck" is NOT the one song that gets shot off of this chart.


How is this possible?  Well, analyzed properly within its context, "Disco Duck" reveals itself to simply be a "Weird Al-esque" novelty record.  A novelty record in the form of an up-tempo Memphis soul workout that scores direct zaps on Disco AND Disney in two verses and three choruses.  While I will not go so far as to call it a good, respectable, or credible record, "Disco Duck" isn't terrible. The horn lines sound very much like Stax and Hi blasts. While the bass line does hit a disco lick or two, it is, throughout the song, a heavier soul bass than most disco bass parts.  And the lyrics?  What better topic to parody in 1976 than disco dancing? Especially the disco dancing of male disco patrons with quacky egos who loved to dance just a little too much.

Why the pass for Rick Dees?  As a child, I was a loyal listener to Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots on WMPS in Memphis.  A little edgier than John "Records" Landecker at WLS, Dees was quick-witted, irreverent, and ready to pounce on anything that became too popular too quickly.  He took swings at everything, including a living King.  Right there in Memphis, Dees mercilessly parodied Elvis before anyone else did, with the "Don't Be Cruel" sound-alike song, "He Ate Too Many Jelly Donuts."  He even continued to jab at Elvis in the fade of "Disco Duck."  Impressive.

You know what else is impressive? "Disco Duck" was recorded in Memphis, mastered by the legendary Larry Nix, and pressed on the Estelle Axton-owned Fretone Records. (Estelle Axton was the "AX" part of Stax, while her brother, Jim Stewart was the "ST.")  While Stax was being crushed by what some have called unethical activity at a bank in Memphis that shall remain unnamed, Estelle kept herself focused on the music side of the music business with Fretone.  With that pedigree, the odds were stacked (or "Stax-ed") against this record ever becoming any sort of hit.  However, Al Coury of RSO Records liked the song, and so did his kids. Thus, a master from Fretone was leased by RSO and the "Disco Duck" phenomenon took place.


That's that.  "Disco Duck" stays.  So what song gets the boot?


For a moment, let's talk about the Captain & Tennille.  Very cute female singer with a great voice, and her incredibly talented, keyboard-playing husband with an ear for arrangement.  Daryl Dragon, (the Captain) is the son of legendary Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conductor Carmen Dragon. Daryl and Toni (Tennille) definitely maintained a music-infused household.  Both of them had connections with Neil Sedaka.  Both of them had connections with Elton John.  Both of them also had connections with the Beach Boys.  Speaking of the Beach Boys, God Only Knows why the Captain & Tennille chose to cover a truly terrible song previously recorded by America, "Muskrat Love."


This song has terrible lyrics. This song has an annoying chirpy synthesizer solo which makes me want to break any component playing said solo. And while I definitely thought Toni Tennille was cute, and while I still love her voice, her diction is absolutely disturbing when she sings "and they whirl and they twirl and they tango."  (You  know what?  It is supremely disturbing that I know those lyrics without having to look them up.)


Easy-to-memorize lyrics or not, though, who on earth thought "Muskrat Love" was a good idea?


For Heaven's sake, the Captain & Tennille were signed to A&M Records!   Did not Herb Alpert hear this master before it was released?  How on earth did the almighty Herb let this happen?  To be fair, we should probably blame the entire record buying public. This disgraceful record actually made it up to #4, making it the fifth consecutive top five smash for the Captain & Tennille.   However, once this record's run was over, the duo never had another top five hit on A&M Records.   They did have a one–off #1 hit on Casablanca right before Neil Bogart passed away, but once Bogart died, they never hit the top 40 again on Casablanca or any other label.


Sorry Toni.  I loved your haircut when I was 12.  I noticed your name in the credits on a couple of Elton John albums as a preteen.  Your smile was fantastic, and your voice was, for the most part, every bit as attractive as your angel face.  But I never wanted, I never wanted to smash a record, the way that I wanted to smash this one.  "Muskrat Love" is now gone.

So, with "Muskrat Love" out, what takes its place?  Well, as previously mentioned, most of the decent acts on this chart were album artists.  In the 70's, there was one American band that definitely moved a ton of albums before they even dented the singles chart.  Grand Funk Railroad.  And even though they had very little time left, Grand Funk Railroad recorded the Frank Zappa-produced album GOOD SINGIN' GOOD PLAYIN' in 1976.  Quite frankly, it was ignored because the band broke up between the mixing of the album and its release date.  Regardless of that minor detail, we can't ignore the good singing and good playing on the song "Pass It Around."  Zappa stayed up all night trying to talk Grand Funk out of splitting up simply because, as the producer of this album, he saw exactly what this combination of talents could come up with.  In our alternative universe, of course, we can right the wrongs of this week in history, and save several careers in the process. 

Certainly, Frank Zappa would agree,






Posted by powerpopclassics on November 5, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The November 8, 1975 episode of American Top 40 was a typical collection of hit singles.  Far from the worst chart of all time, many of these records have lived on beyond their chart lives.  However, in batting average terms, the "Credibility Percentage" of this particular week was a pitiful .125!  (For the math-challenged among us, that translates to 5 credible records out of 40.)

Let's look at those five records that maintained true credibility.  Regardless of genre preference, we can all agree that "Lady Blue" by Leon Russell was a dignified single at #14.  Down a few notches at #23, Bruce Springsteen, not yet a boss of anything, literally gave birth to his chart career with "Born To Run."  Whether it's a personal favorite or not, we can again agree that this recording is packed with credibility, from the lyrics to the Spector-ish production.  At #27, Willie Nelson introduced himself to those outside the "Outlaw Movement" of Country Music with "Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain."  One place lower, at #28, "Let's Do It Again" by the Staple Singers was, by far, the best Soul record on this chart.  And, wrapping up this group, at #40 was Joan Baez, with the seemingly autobiographical "Diamonds and Rust."  Definitely a record with integrity.

From there we move to some "not-so-classic" singles by some previously superb artists.  Included in this group is the semi-bland "You" at #20 by George Harrison from his last Apple LP, EXTRA TEXTURE.  A Creedence-less John Fogerty showed up at #34 with "Rockin' All Over The World," a song that was less substantial than most Creedence B-sides.  A temporarily reunited Simon & Garfunkel sang about laundry at #24 with "My Little Town."  Strangely, nextdoor at #25, Art Garfunkel's solo remake of "I Only Have Eyes For You" was the most impressive vocal performance on the chart, which is really saying something since his competition included the aforementioned Mavis Staples, and then Frankie Valli, alone at #37 with "Our Day Will Come" and with the Four Seasons at #4 with "Who Loves You."

So, now we are left with roughly 30 moderately good to fully terrible songs.  Remember, we can only extract one.

In the category of decent substance-less pop, we start with "Dance With Me" by Orleans at #39;  Rollermania was just getting started with "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers at #36;  "Sky High" by Jigsaw cut its way up to #17, while the Captain & Tennille's "The Way That I Want To Touch You" seduced itself up to #10.  Abba rescued Euro-pop with "S.O.S." at #15, while legendary Miami sound studios were represented by KC & the Sunshine Band (TK) at #19 with "That's The Way I Like It" and by the Bee Gees (Criteria) at #18 with "Nights On Broadway."

From there, it's basically bad.  "Secret Love" by Freddie Fender?  Eeeeek.  Then there is the creepy "I Want'A Do Something Freaky To You" by Leon Haywood.  Yes, it's as perverse as the title suggests.  At #30, "Brazil" by Philadelphia's Ritchie Family struck out.  It simply failed to capture that 70's Philly magic that existed on many records of the time.  

Can these records get any worse?  Yes!  We have "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes" by Esther Phillips at #21, a disco remake of a standard that is so bad that I incorrectly remembered it as a laxative jingle.  And then, at #9, there is Morris Albert's "Feelings," which, fairly or unfairly to Morris, automatically conjures up childhood memories of Carol Burnett parodying this overplayed sap-stinker on her TV show.  While MANY would IMMEDIATELY choose "Feelings" as the song to extract from this chart, I will, however, decline to do so, and will defend Morris Albert, if only slightly.  Think about it for a minute.  Morris Albert, with zero prior chart history, had no idea that one of several songs he recorded in 1973, practically as a demo, would, by 1975, saturate the airwaves with woe.  Or, more correctly, with "Woah, woah, woah."  Let's not hurt Morris' feeeeee-lings.

So, if "Feelings" by Morris Albert isn't kicked off of this chart, what on earth deserves the boot?  It's easy.  It is, in fact, that week's #1 song, a single by 1975's unquestioned champ of the charts.  It must be extracted.  Period.  What is it?  

"Island Girl" by Elton John.  It must go.

Why?  Well, here is the logic behind this potentially controversial removal.  "Island Girl" was the first single from Elton's SECOND ALBUM IN 1975 TO DEBUT AT #1, ROCK OF THE WESTIES.  Let that sink in for just a second.  Twice, within months of each other, Elton did what no recording artist had ever done before.  Not Elvis.  Not The Beatles.  The first album ever to debut at #1 was the CAPTAIN FANTASTIC album, released on May 19, 1975.  Nobody on earth questions the integrity of that album.  A mere 5 months and 5 days later, October 24, 1975, Elton released ROCK OF THE WESTIES, which also debuted at #1.  

Surely, somebody at MCA Records could have, with those previous sales figures and future projections, predicted the no-brainer that Elton John's next single had a very good chance to also hit #1.  Was this a record company experiment to see just how bad an Elton John #1 could be?  It has been written over the years that Elton himself DID NOT WANT "Island Girl" to be released as a single.  Who knows?  Would the GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD album have been as universally loved had "Jamaica Jerk-Off" or "Social Disease" been the initial singles released?  Again, who knows?  Elton always seemed to do two throwaways per album, and his gift of melody was always so unique, that he could pull it off.  BUT NOT ON HIS SINGLES.  His fifteen chart singles prior to "Island Girl" were all literally great.  Expert songwriting, first rate vocal and band performances, crisp engineering, and something special about each of them.  Even "Crocodile Rock."

But, sadly, "Island Girl" tore down Elton John's credibility on the singles chart, and he never truly recovered what he lost with this single.  It didn't matter that practically nobody else had any credibility on the same chart.  Morris Albert became famous without credibility.  Elton John, the musical genius behind "Your Song" and "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" and "Madman Across The Water" and "Funeral For A Friend" was now dishing out "Island Girl?"  I totally believe the rumor that he tried to block its release as a single.  He knew.

So, with "Island Girl" out, what SHOULD have been in its place?  Well, we can look no further than the very same album from which "Island Girl" emerged.  ROCK OF THE WESTIES was not a bad album at all.  It has been derided FOREVER because the first song anybody heard from it was "Island Girl."  But, leading off side two, right there with its red-hot Davey Johnstone guitar lick and A-game Elton piano gymnastic, is an underappreciated Elton John/Bernie Taupin gem, "Street Kids."  It is instantly memorable, has a soulful vocal, and, as a song, absolutely ROCKS.  It SHOULD have been the first single released from this album.  "Island Girl" wasn't even good enough to be the B-side to "Street Kids."  (Actually, "Hard Luck Story" should have been the B-side.) 

Now, let's recapture Elton's crediblity and make the following correction to the November 8, 1975 chart...




Posted by powerpopclassics on September 26, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

By September 30, 1978, the radio dial had become fractured by the extreme proliferation of Disco on AM and Pop FM radio, and the refusal of “respectable” FM Rock stations to play ANYTHING resembling Disco. Unified Top 40 radio was crumbling. Ten years before, genres such as British Rock, Detroit R&B, and Folk complemented each other on the radio. By September, 1978, popular songs in one genre were often completely unknown in another. Disco dominated most of 1978, but its recent stronghold was, by now, beginning to slip. On this chart, Album Rock began to win the battle, but seemed tired. Punk had never really arrived in the U.S. and marketable New Wave was still several months away. With the airwaves this curdled, is it surprising that we ended up with a chart full of cheese?


In the FM/Album Rock world, Boston looked forward to #6 with “Don’t Look Back.” Foreigner was twice as hot with “Hot Blooded” at #15 and “Double Vision” at #38. The Stones made up for “Miss You” with “Beast Of Burden” at #31, while Steely Dan’s “Josie” came home at #32. Gerry Rafferty, coming off the monster hit “Baker Street,” wound his way to #18 with “Right Down The Line.” “Who Are You” by The Who windmilled into #26 as Billy Joel’s “She’s Always A Woman” threw shadows at #22. Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks, somehow believably platonic, were a beautiful sight at #12 with “Whenever I Call You Friend.” Finally, Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” rolled high in the hills at #14.


In the AM/Pop FM camp, the #2 song that week, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste Of Honey was the kind of Disco song that Album Rock fans simply could not tolerate. For the Disco crowd, though, it lit up the dance floor. Sylvester’s “Dance Disco Heat” strutted in at #40, while “I Love the Night Life” by Alicia Bridges boogied down to #27. Donna Summer’s respectable vocals carried “McArthur Park” to #1, but she was #25 on this week’s survey. Andy Gibb’s #10 entry “An Everlasting Love” kept the smooth side of Disco in the Top Ten, and the Miami/TK sound dashed on at #19 with Foxy’s “Get Off.” Although catchy Pop/Rock was almost extinct on this chart, Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child In The City” ran wild at #7. City Boy’s “5-7-0-5” dialed in at #30. Chris Rea’s “Fool If You Think It’s Over” mellowed its way to #17, while some other Pop entries, such as “I Will Still Love You” by Stonebolt, and “It’s A Laugh” by Hall & Oates have since become long forgotten. Which leads us into a collection of Cheese that SHOULD be forgotten!


The Cream Cheese that rose to the top of the Top 40? “Kiss You All Over” by Exile (#1), also at or near the top of the all-time Limburger list. Want more Cheese? “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores (#4) needed to be sent three times a whey! Toni Tennille’s lusty set of lyrics “sort of” rescued “You Never Done It Like That” (#24) from the dairy section, but no such luck for Crystal Gayle’s #28 snoozer “Talking in Your Sleep” or “Reminiscing” by the Little River Band at #8, both of which could only be classified as Sharp Cheese. “You Needed Me” by Anne Murray (or maybe Randy Vanwarmer?) was indeed a Canadian Cheddar, but was out-Swissed on this chart by something smelly called “Devoted To You” by the now-shredded couple Carly Simon & James Taylor. Similarly titled at #3 was “Hopelessly Devoted to You” by Olivia Newton-John from GREASE. On “Summer Nights” (#5)Travolta and the GREASE Cast joined Olivia, and helped propel GREASE into being RSO Records’ second monster soundtrack album of the year. Greasy cheeseburgers or not, nobody could argue with RSO’s successes with SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER or GREASE. But Stigwood and staff had no idea just how bleu things were about to turn. They believed in the project that was supposed to have been RSO’s next movie and soundtrack blockbuster.


Before we pounce and extract, we should ponder this situation. What causes a truly terrible record to exist? Is it simply a bad voice? A bad recording of a good voice? An irritating accent? A clumsy drummer? Not the problem this time.  Sometimes, the song itself is terrible.  Again, not the problem here.  Sometimes inept execution of even a great song is terrible. In the case of this week’s situation, an entire concept turned out to be terrible. The consensus now regarding Robert Stigwood’s SGT. PEPPER movie project is that it was the worst idea EVER.  Astonishingly, in the midst of this terrible idea, two very well executed Beatle covers from that movie are present on this very chart. “Got To Get You Into My Life” (#34) received an Earth, Wind & Fire funk workout, and Aerosmith, especially Steven Tyler, did an excellent job groovin’ up “Come Together.” (#23) And, yet, for some reason involving the “plot” of this jinxed movie, or because Robert Stigwood said so, Robin Gibb was assigned the impossible task of covering one of McCartney’s best-ever vocals, “Oh, Darling!”


Robin, you were indeed a wonderful singer. Musicians from all genres marveled at your voice, and even Disco haters respected the entire Bee Gees record production empire. But then “they” (Stigwood? RSO Records? Paramount Pictures? Barry?) made you sing “Oh, Darling” in this silly movie, to be forever out there in comparison with McCartney. And it turned out cheesy. Can you imagine McCartney attempting your lines in “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” “Run To Me,” or “Nights On Broadway?” No. No. No. He knows his limitations. Luckily for Sir Paul, nobody in the business end of music could MAKE him do it. Somebody MADE you sing this song. We certainly don’t hold it against your career in its entirety, but, unfortunately, and not with any happiness in doing so, we must remove you from this Top 40. In some way, we believe that you agree with us. We will blame it on RSO. But, you must go. Sorry, Robin.


So, what SHOULD have been at #16 in place of Robin Gibb’s “Oh, Darling?” Well, back in the spring of 1978, a promising rebellious singer/songwriter/bandleader broke a bluesy riff from a debut album into American Top 40, at #40, for exactly one week. That song, “Breakdown,” won this act a spot as the least known artist on the FM Soundtrack, but lined him up right alongside Classic Rock Royalty such as The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, and Steely Dan. By September, the follow-up album “You’re Gonna Get It” by, that's right, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers was released, and it contained one of the greatest songs ever, “Listen To Her Heart.” Petty apparently wrote this classic as a venting exercise after Ike Turner allegedly made passes at his wife. (No word as to whether Tom ever made a pass at Tina, by the way.) As a single, “Listen To Her Heart” hovered around the bottom half of the charts, eventually making it up to #53. Had ABC/Shelter Records not edited the chiming Byrdsy guitar intro, the record may very well have knocked one of the moldy cheeseballs mentioned above out of the 40, and taken its rightful place on its own. Of course, since we are an Alternate Universe, we can act as if this heartbreaking edit was never made, and that the album version of “Listen To Her Heart” was pressed into a single.

It's easy breezy, NOT easy cheesy...