Monday, December 4, 2023

Rock Radio DECEMBER 1973 Strawberry Holiday

 We’re Rockin’ Strawberry Ornaments  

As always—OK, usually—there’s a method to my Christmas decorating madness. Take a look at our December Song of Note and you’ll know where my festive strawberry spirit originated, 50 Years Ago this month.

Of course, you don’t need to be old enough to remember December 1973 tunes on the radio to enjoy our monthly tribute to Oldies Rock & Roll and the fun and zany DJs who brought it to you. All you need is a love for pioneering Rock music and a curiosity of its amazing, enduring history on the radio. Let’s get Rockin’

DECEMBER 1973 Radio Muse & News    

What was happening in Rock music as we decorated our trees this month 50 Years Ago? Well, let me tell you …

December 5th: Paul McCartney—no longer a Beatles member, released Wings’ best and most enduring album, Band on the Run. What was your favorite tune from the album—same name “Band on the Run” or the puppy name turned into a silly love song, “Jet”? For a pure romantic romp though, I enjoy “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.” UK DJ Paul Gambaccini quoted Paul in a 1976 book that told of Paul’s penchant for 1st-line creativity, “'No one ever left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty-five.' That's all I had of that song for months. 'No one ever left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty... six?' It wouldn't have worked!" no one left alive in 1985 | will ever do | She may be right | She may be fine | She may get love but she won't get mine | Cause I got you Not the lyrics you would expect from a futuristic first line …

December 23rd: Sliding down the East Coast in December 1973, we find WKKO/Cocoa Beach, Florida, struttin’ their stuff on a music survey for  week ending December 23rd, with the "Keep on Truckin’" hippie cartoon art that we talked about last month. The station didn’t stop there, however, giving their cover the obligatory Florida psychedelic sun and a version of recently minted Rolling Stones’ salacious tongue.

December 31st: Of course, it’s New Year’s Eve 1973! Likely one of the most memorable nights of the decade for Young brothers, Malcolm and Angus as they debut AC/DC on the New Year’s Eve stage for former Syndney, Australia’s, Chequers nightclub. Although purportedly closed in 1970, the once-popular venue obviously limped on for a few more years. From the outset, AC/DC band members displayed a glam penchant for flashy costumes. Angus even tried out Zorro and lampooned a Superman costume. Known for their hard rock/heavy metal/blues-rock music, they began their career covering tunes of the Beatles, Chuck Berry and some of the old blues. Fun place and night to begin anew …

On Your Tinny Transistor Radio  
Where were you celebrating the holidays December 1973? New York, Houston, or Cocoa Beach, Florida? Here’s a sample of what and who you were listening to …

WKKO/Cocoa Beach, Florida’s, radio survey for week ending December 23, 1973, like the state itself, is a little different. It’s comprised of a Top 35 music chart … yep, you read it right—not Top 20 or Top 40—eccentric or creative, your choice.

It wasn’t easy to find history on the station, for all its apparent historical popularity. A surf community favorite, the station served it well, with afternoon wave forecasts by champion surfer, Bob Freeman. His job at Canaveral Pier’s Ron Jon Surf Shop gave Bob the perfect view with a penchant for the waves. A Florida Today site recalls a 2019 conversation with Freeman, "The disc jockeys still remember they were outrageous," Freeman said. "All the guys would come into the shop and I'd be doing this live feed, and they'd all be yelling in the background, like, 'Hey, Miami boys, go home, we got no waves here,' or, 'Stay away, this guy knows nothing,' but I'd be looking out the window of the shop at the wave breaks." 

DJ Bryan Norcross recalls living on the Florida coast as a kid during WKKO’s heyday, “… KO-860 was a daytimer. When the sun went down, they went off the air, and the AM radio dial exploded with the royalty of radio. Fifty-thousand-watt radio stations from big cities in the North and Midwest came booming in … the big one, WABC, lit up my radio from New York City …” 

Speaking of WABC … in its legendary 1970s era the New York City radio station compiled a year-end Top 100 music chart. I’ve always felt bad for the songs that debuted on the radio in November and December … aren’t
they kinda getting the short end of the year-end survey stick? You can probably argue that they may have made the top of the next year’s list … but did anyone even check? Prob’ly not.

#1 on WABC’s colorful “MusicRadio 77 100 Top Hits 1973” was Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” hitting top of charts in February & March. With a flood of now-iconic tunes throughout, the bottom #100 tune was by the compelling artist already tagged as The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, with “Do You Want to Dance.” The tune was an April big hit.

But did “Time In a Bottle” by Jim Croce truly deserve the year’s third-to-last spot at #97, while WABC’s own surveys shot him up from #28 on 12/03 to #5 by month’s end? Luck of the draw, I suppose. “Time” finally landed at #1 on their January 14, 1974, survey. Sadly, the song was released posthumously. Jim died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973.

Monthly Song of Note   
Have you sung along to any of the songs mentioned so far? If none of the above struck your year-end fancy for December 1973, let’s have a showdown for the Song of Note.

Contender: “Show and Tell” by Al Wilson is not your science project or day-after-Christmas kinda show-and-tell … he’s in loooove at #10 on WKKO’s music chart ladder, leaping seven rungs up from the previous week. Go ahead, I won’t watch while you warble … Just a game I play | When I wanna say "I love you" | Girl, so show me and tell me |That you feel the same way too …     

Winner: It’s Dawn’s juicy, ragtime-style “Strawberry Patch” however, up from #14 at WKKO last week to #6 that takes the Song of Note trophy this month. It’s a great example of how radio station surveys can be misleading if you 1) weren’t there back in the day; or 2) don’t know radio station surveys often altered song titles for space … the song’s full title: “Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally” … now that’s a far cry from just thinking about a strawberry patch! Inquiring minds wanted to know Who's in the strawberry patch with Sally | Now that she's not picking them with me? | Oh no, I don't care what they're doing there | 'Neath the shade of the old apple tree  

And why was it chosen as our December song? Because strawberries are the perfect bright red December ornament for a green Christmas tree!

Quirky Band Names  

I looked at El Chicano for this category and found the Los Angeles brown-eyed soul group had a great varietal style with “Tell Her She’s Lovely,” jumping quickly from #33 on WKKO’s chart to #23 this month. However, it was a beacon of light from Canada that caught my full Quirky Band Names attention …  

How could I pass it by with a name like Lighthouse? And, their lighthearted tribute to the ladies, “Pretty Lady,” also jumped ten spots on the chart in a week, up from #21 to #11. According to reports, the auspicious rise of the original 13-member band began in 1969 in Toronto, Ontario. It came with a performance introduction by none other than the illustrious Duke Ellington, “I'm beginning to see the" Unfortunately, by 1976, their light began to dim and the members disbanded. Reunited in 1992, a version of Lighthouse has remained on stage, since. 

December 2023 Music Events & More   

December 2nd:  And 50 Years from THIS day … make that December 2073KISS will be in the news again, with diehard metal fans remembering when, as a young’un, mom and dad took them to see the very last on-stage KISS performance at Madison Square Garden (New York). More astounding, as AP reporter Maria Sherman titled her article, “Kiss say farewell to live touring, become first US band to go virtual and become digital avatars.” Celebrated founders, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were joined by Eric Singer (drummer) and Tommy Thayer (guitarist) leaving the stage to delight fans with their immortal avatars in their final statement, “God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II.” (KISS 1991; Argent [original] 1973) Proving once again, Rock & Roll will never diiiiieeeee

December 21st: Looking for a way to honor 1973 during Christmas? Go Caroling Day doesn’t have an official link, but it’s a great time to remember and/or learn the many great Rockin’ Christmas tunes of the 1970s. Why not take the ‘70s songs caroling with you?

Beyond the 1970s there is a full 50-tune list for the past 50 years, but according to popularity, these ten 1970s songs were the best of the best December 2020:

“This Christmas” (1970) – Donny Hathaway
“Feliz Navidad” (1970) - José Feliciano
“River” (1971) – Joni Mitchell
“If We Make It Through December” (1973) – Merle Haggard
“Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” (1977) – Bing Crosby & David Bowie
“Pretty Paper” (1979) – Willie Nelson
“Aires de Navidad” (“Christmas Spirit”) (1970) - Willie Colón
“I Want to Come Home for Christmas” (1972) – Marvin Gaye
“Christmas in Prison” (1973) – John Prine
“Christmas Eve Can Kill You” (1972) – The Everly Brothers  

BFYP Featured Radio Survey  
DECEMBER 16-23, 1973 ~ WKKO/Cocoa Beach, Florida’s “860 Radio Hot Rocks” survey is pure psychedelic ‘70s. From its oversized, expressive artwork to its hip text style, there’s no doubt of its origin. Although WABC published a commendable 1973 year-end list, I had to give the FRS to WKKO. “Brevard County’s coverage giant wishes you a good day” … 50 Years Ago this Month in Rock & Roll Radio! Where were you that
groovy day when your radio played   

Let’s Celebrate DECEMBER 1973 and Cheers to Your Holiday Happiness!

BFYP Book 1 (1954-1959) on Amazon        
BFYP Book 2 (Swinging ‘60s) on Amazon 
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LinDee Rochelle is a writer and editor by trade, and author by way of Rock & Roll. Two books (of three planned) are published in her Blast from Your Past series, available on Amazon (eBook and print): Book 1Rock & Roll Radio DJs: The First Five Years 1954-1959; and Book 2Rock & Roll Radio DJs: The Swinging Sixties. Coming soon … Book 3 – The Psychedelic Seventies!

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