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The Devil Is In The Details – Fixing A 1977 American Top 40 Countdown Mistake

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I have no problems proudly wearing my music geekiness on my sleeve.

Case in point: How I recently spent a weekend: Rectifying a situation that frustrated me as a listener 47 years ago.

At the time, due to my mom’s largesse, I had a subscription to Billboard magazine.

I watched the Hot 100 every week. And I was amazed how the disco song “Devil’s Gun” by C.J. And Company kept bobbing on the charts.

It debuted May 21, 1977, at No. 98 before moving: 94-83-73-60-47-41-38-36, its peak position.

But it was what “Devil’s Gun” did after falling out of the Top 40 that made it fascinating.

The rest of its chart run went like this: 59-93-85-74-62-52-46-43-56-56-56-54-48-48-71-68-61-57-68-97. It spent 29 weeks on the Hot 100 and reversed its chart run, not once, not twice, but three times!

So when Billboard’s year-end chart came out, it was amazing, but not really surprising, that No. 100 for the year was “Devil’s Gun.”

I couldn’t wait to hear Casey Kasem explain this! A song that peaked at No. 36 in the year’s Hot 100.

I listened to the countdown on Chicago’s WMET-FM. After Casey’s intro to the program and the, “Now, on with the countdown!” jingle, he said, “And look what we have for a starter!” I crouched in, ready to hear the tale of “Devil’s Gun.”

But then, he continued: “A song by the No. 1 rock artist of the ’70s.”

“What?” I thought.

And then he went on to play Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” a song that Billboard ranked No. 95 for the year.

It dawned on me that I wouldn’t be hearing C.J. and Company, or Billboard’s Top 100 of the year. Instead, I was listening to a countdown created by the AT40 staff that approximated the Top 100 based on the weekly AT40 countdowns.

Major letdown.

I’ve mentioned before that, during the pandemic, one of my gifts to myself to stay sane was purchasing the complete digital sets of American Top 40 from their only legal seller, Shannon Lynn of Charis Music Group.

I enjoy listening to them, and as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes create “faux” countdowns for my own pleasure using music editing software and the original AT40 programs.

Recently, I realized: There’s no reason I can’t use the real Billboard Hot 100 to create a faux AT40 year-end countdown.

I pulled Casey’s voiceover and “Devil’s Gun” from the one week he announced it (the other week, another jock substituted for Kasem.) I spliced it with the “Look what we have for a starter” intro to create what I’d always wanted to hear.

It wouldn’t have the full description of the song’s amazing chart run, but you can’t have it all. What I had was enough to enjoy it.

I worked my way through 1977 and a different No. 1 than AT40 listed.

It crowned Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” the chart champ.

Billboard had Rod Stewart’s late 1976 holdover, “Tonight’s the Night,” as the winner, with Gibb runner-up.

We can’t always rectify the disappointments of age 14 so easily.

This one took a weekend…

… a computer,

and Casey.

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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rollerboogie
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rollerboogie
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May 7, 2024 5:52 am

Nice work righting a wrong and giving your 14 year old self some peace of mind. Fee fie fo fum. Looks like Chuck’s work here is done. Sorry, that’s the best I could come up with on not much sleep.

Phylum of Alexandria
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May 7, 2024 7:25 am

Great that you were able to fix things, at least in your eyes.

AI could take things a step further if you so wish. Casey Kasem seems to agree.

“Alright folks, it’s time to send some love over the airwaves to a truly remarkable individual. Chuck, this one’s for you.

He is the maestro of fact-checking, the guardian of truth in a world often shrouded in misinformation. With an eagle eye and a dedication to thoroughness, Chuck sifts through the noise to unveil the nuggets of truth, shining a light on what truly matters. In a time where misinformation spreads like wildfire, Chuck stands as a beacon of reliability, ensuring that only the facts make it to the forefront. So here’s to you, Chuck, the unsung hero of accuracy. Keep on fact-checking, my friend, because the truth matters now more than ever!”

–Casey Kasem

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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May 7, 2024 7:27 am

I like this.

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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May 7, 2024 7:31 am

I love seeing this 40+ year long story finally being resolved! Good work. I didn’t know that song, but today I do.

I have been in contact with Shannon Lynn, as well. I’m facebook friends with him, and occasionally he will offer to produce copies of his AT40 collection to sell. The price was understandably high ( in the $1000 range, if I remember correctly), because he slaved a LOT of hours to collect and restore them. I would have loved to own them, but we all have to make choices and that was one I didn’t feel was a high enough priority to spend that much on. But I’m glad to hear that you got a copy of them, Chuck! Do you find that you occasionally just put a show on from a year that you want to hear?

Virgindog
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May 7, 2024 8:57 am

I can’t say I’ve heard “Devil’s Gun” before today, it doesn’t sound familiar and yet it does, but is there any explanation for its roller coaster of a chart performance?

Virgindog
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May 7, 2024 9:32 am
Reply to  cstolliver

That was my guess, too, so it’s gotta be true!

JJ Live At Leeds
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May 7, 2024 9:25 am

Don’t recall ever hearing this before but it’s definitely going on rotation on my playlists. They look amazing in that clip as well; the stagedress and choreography.

They deserve the moment they (and you) were robbed of.

mt58
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mt58
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May 7, 2024 9:44 am

Chuck graciously provided a clip of his editing magic. Apologies to the early birds; was just able to edit the audio and post; it’s featured at the end of the article.

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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May 7, 2024 11:36 am
Reply to  mt58

I’m glad you included this. Good to hear.

Zeusaphone
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May 7, 2024 3:52 pm

I remember hearing this song a couple of times when I was a small child

Ozmoe
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May 7, 2024 4:50 pm

If I recall correctly, there was a conflicting date with another job Casey got during the time they’d get the Billboard results of that year’s top 100, so they decided “What the hell, let’s compile our own list and get him record it earlier and no one will be the wiser!” (Remember, y’all, this was before the internet. and the overlap of Billboard readers and AT40 listeners was a very small Venn diagram). I don’t think they ever did it again for a year-end special, but there was at least one “regular” week where they pulled this stunt again rather than replace Casey with a guest host.

By the way, Chuck, have you ever compiled your own faux Casey AT40 countdowns for the weeks when the regular show was pre-empted by a special during the 1970s and 1980s?

Aaron3000
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May 8, 2024 5:37 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

Surprisingly, it happened more often than you’d think (at least for the year-end specials). I’d have to look up the exact years in my reference books (currently have a dog on my lap who shan’t be disturbed), but it’s probably close to half of the 18 year-end countdowns during Casey’s original AT40 run that they compiled their own list rather than using Billboard’s official tally. Only a couple of times did it affect what was announced as the number one song, thankfully.

That one regular weekly show you mentioned that they “guessed” at was a classic, seeing as it gave ZZ Top an additional Top 40 hit (although I don’t think they counted it in the band’s total retroactively).

cappiethedog
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May 7, 2024 6:06 pm

I’m a pretty big Squeeze fan.

I would go to Tower Records every Tuesday or Wednesday and check the progress of “Hourglass”. I knew it had a shot. Because for a brief period, there was a U.S. version of “Top of the Pops”. Nia Peeples, the host? That’s who I see.

When it finally crossed the hit/minor hit threshold, I had to suppress my arm and hand from performing a fist pump. Or high-five myself like ex-Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal after he hit his first home run. Who do you share this momentous occasion with? The cashier? The bus driver? Your friends who were into comic books and Star Wars and only listened to top 40?

I was really into cinnamon pop tarts around this time. And Dr. Pepper. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had both to celebrate.

“Hourglass” isn’t even in my Squeeze HOF. But it doesn’t matter. “Hourglass” was a corrective measure. Maybe some college rock deejays accrued some power and demanded that radio stations play it. Justice for Argybargy. I can’t listen to “Another Nail in My Heart”, nearly the equal of “I Got You” by NZ Squeeze, and reconcile the fact that it completely missed the chart.

I understand this article Chuck, sir. I also charted the progress of “Luka”.

Mr. Plow
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Mr. Plow
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May 14, 2024 3:45 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

The “Hourglass” video certainly had a lot to do with it’s Top 20 success.

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