The 21st Year of the Top 77!
by Scott Benjamin

Mike Riccio


Does anyone or anything win something 12 years in a row?

Well, the late Jim Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist for The Los Angeles Times, was named best sportswriter in the nation 12 straight years in the 1960s and 1970s.

He’s better known for that then selling his home in Malibu to Bob Dylan.

Dynasties were formed in ancient China, not Jolly Old England, where Paul McCartney grew up.

But “Hey Jude,” the 1968 hit for The Beatles was number one on WABC’s Top 100 of the year after it spent six weeks at the top of the charts in September and October of that historic year.

That is a remarkable feat, particularly for a 7-minute, 11-second song in an era when record companies wanted artists to keep it to 2-minutes and 42-seconds to maintain the momentum on Top 40 radio.

It was one of the last chart-toppers for The Beatles, who would disband in the spring 1970. Survey Guy Mike Riccio started the Top 77 Of All Time, a survey of the songs from the WABC Musicradio era in 1998 – 30 years after “Hey Jude” was released. The song was number one on the Top 77 for 12 consecutive years from 1998 through 2009.

“Rag Doll,” by the Four Seasons supplanted “Hey Jude” in the top spot in 2010, but the Beatles recaptured the trophy in 2011 and the song has worn the winner’s circle blanket of red and white carnations each year since then, making it seven straight triumphs.

Nineteen victories in 20 years.

Isn’t that worthy of a chat with Regis Philbin?

Mike says the reason for “Hey Jude’s” long-term success is that the young and the old have sang it, turning it into an “anthem.”

He added that McCartney, who sang lead on “Hey Jude,” has made it his “go-to song” at his concerts.

Interestingly, in an early 1990’s interview with NBC’s Bob Costas on “Later,” McCartney noted that the Beatles didn’t get to perform “Hey Jude” and some their other hits from late 1966 onwards, because the fan interest was so overwhelming that they didn’t perform concerts during their final years.

Mike has said that if an artist is in the news it usually boosts the vote total.

McCartney is now touring Europe and will be in the United States starting next spring.

His latest album, “Egypt Station,” released in September, reached number one on Billboard. It had been more than 36 years since McCartney had achieved that feat.

And CBS’ “60 Minutes” profiled McCartney in late September for the start of its 51st season. Ironically, the show debuted in the fall 1968 while “Hey Jude” was number one on WABC weekly surveys and the station was rushing to get the Beatles Double White album on the air a short time later.

On the Top 77, he said in recent years 3,000 to 3,500 of them have filled out a ballot with their top 10 selections, ranked in order.

“People are contacting me about the Top 77 in the summer and the fall,” he said in a November 12, 2018 phone interview. “We have a very strong fan base.”

He said most of the voters grew up during the 1960s and 1970s when Cousin Brucie and then George Michael were counting down the songs on the WABC Musicradio Survey on Tuesday night. However, he added that there are some voters who are in their 20s and 30s who may have acquired an affinity for the music of that era when their parents were listening to the oldies stations.

The voting at and for the Top 77 of 2018 began in late October and will continue through Tuesday, December 4.

That will allow Mike ample time to compute the Top 77, which will be counted down in order on Rewound Radio on Wednesday, December 26, by the trio of Rewound Radio air personality Bob Radil, Mike and fellow survey guy Tom Natoli.

“There will be a whole week [on Rewound Radio] of the Top 77 songs and extras that got votes but didn’t make the Top 77,” said Mike, who formerly worked as an air personality at WBLI, WLIX and WGLT.

Mike, who sells residential real estate on Long Island, and Tom are part of small group that some years ago that assembled all of the weekly surveys from December 1960 until May 1982, while WABC was a Top 40 station.

Regarding the Top 77, Mike added, “We’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, which is to bring back that excitement of the week between Christmas and New Year’s” when based on record sales, WABC would present the Top 100 of the year and listeners could get a copy of the survey by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope.

 “It’s really special for a lot of people,” he said.

The late Chuck Leonard, the longtime WABC late evening and weekend air personality, once said that part of what made the Top 100 special was that you were able to enjoy some of the songs that you had forgotten about because they had climbed the charts early in the year.

Mike said that, predictably, through the years the top vote-getters have been The Beatles, - who had four entries in the Top 20 in 2017 - the Four Seasons, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and such Motown acts as Diana Ross & The Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops.

However, he reported some of the more popular songs have “been slow getting out of the gate this year. However, there is a real possibility that we’ll see a late surge.”

Mike said the period from 1964 – when the Beatles made their famed appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – to 1969 usually nets the most votes. He added that 1967 and 1968 have been the most popular years.

He said that by then there was a wide variety of artists – ranging from country to psychedelic -that had built upon the Beatles initial success.

Mike said, “I think a lot of people who vote grew up listening to those songs from the mid to late 1960s.”


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