The 22nd Year of the Top 77!
by Scott Benjamin

Mike Riccio

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the break-up of the band that introduced long hair, had teens screaming so loud that they finally had to stop doing concerts and was the force behind the Summer of Love.

Half a century later, even people born decades afterwards want to sing “She Loves You Yah Yah Yah.” Survey Guy Mike Riccio said between The Beatles hits from the 1960's and the material that the individual members – Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison – produced in the subsequent years, usually “one out of every five to six songs” on the Top 77 Of All Time that he develops each year are associated with the Fab Four.

Voting through the links at Rewound Radio, The Oldies Message Board, and will continue until early December, and the Las Vegas odds-makers say the probability of “Hey Jude” - which the Beatles took to number one on WABC’s Top 100 of 1968 – finishing first is even greater than Tom Brady being inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.

In 20 of the 21 years of the Top 77, the 7-minute, 11-second epic has placed first. “Rag Doll,” by the Four Seasons took the top spot in 2010, when the musical “Jersey Boys” was at the height of its popularity.

However, interestingly, Mike - who some years ago was one of the Survey Guys who assembled every WABC weekly survey from 1960 to 1982 for - said “Hey Jude” usually is not a wire-to-wire winner.

“It is erratic,” he said in an October 21, 2019 phone interview. “One-third of the way through the voting “Hey Jude” isn’t near the top, and then it takes off. The votes that it gets crosses a lot of demographics.”

“It is amazing, because it’s not always the same people who vote for ‘Hey Jude,’ “Mike said. “It’s different groups of people.”

The Long Island real estate professional said “Satisfaction,” the 1965 anthem by the Rolling Stones is “always a contender for number one because it crosses a lot of formats – including oldies and classic rock.”

He said in many years “American Pie” by Don McClean (1971), “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” by The Beatles (1964) and “MacArthur Park,” by Richard Harris (1968) are contenders for the top position.

Rewound Radio will air a countdown of the Top 77 on Thursday, December 26, and for the next week will play those songs and others that received votes but didn’t make the list.

“It’s been my inspiration to capture the feeling of that holiday week years ago when you cherished listening to the Top 100 of the year on WABC,” said Mike, who was an air personality at WBLI, WLIX and WGLT.

During the height of its popularity – when reportedly one out of every four radios in the metro New  York City area were tuned to 77 on the AM dial – the Top 40 station would play the Top 100 of that year and listeners could get a printed list by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope.

College and high school students would spend hours tuned to WABC during their holiday break to find out where their favorite song was on the list and hear tunes that had been off the survey for months and they might have forgotten about.

Mike said through the years songs that have left the Top 77 have resurfaced when an artist was in the news.

“Respect,” by “Aretha The Right Rocking Franklin” – as former WABC evening air personality Chuck Leonard would say – reappeared on the Top 77 in 2018 months after Franklin died.

“It hadn’t made the list for nine years,” Mike reported.

He said some of Billy Joel’s songs rose on the list following the publicity from his Madison Square Garden concerts. He added that a song also might annex more votes if it had recently been featured in a television commercial or a movie.

“But sometimes it happens for no rhyme or reason,” said Mike, using “Up On The Roof,” by the Drifters (1962) and “Earth Angel,” by the Penguins (1954), as examples.

Mike noted that as has been the case in recent years voters can select up to 10 songs with the voters’ number one election getting the most weight with a decreasing scale after that.

Through the technical help of Frank Thomas, most of the song titles pop up after a voter types the first letters in the title, which making voting more efficient and reduces confusion about titles that they can’t fully recall.

Mike said the security on the balloting has improved over the years, although there are still “people who try to vote more than once.”

He said usually there are 750 to 1,000 ballots, with a collective total of at least 3,000 songs.

Mike said he has gone from using index cards in 1998 to a sophisticated electronic vote tabulation system.

“Sometimes I look back and think that I have created a monster because of all the work that goes with this,” he said. “But I get e-mails months before from people who want to know when they can vote. It tells me that I am doing what I wanted to do, which is create that year-end feeling that WABC had with the Top 100. And it also fits in with Rewound Radio.”



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