|Posted by powerpopclassics on November 5, 2014 at 5:30 PM|
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...
OUT: "ISLAND GIRL" - ELTON JOHN
IN: "STREET KIDS" - ELTON JOHN