Hooked on Medleys (Part 2)

Here’s the second part of what was once a single epic-length post on the early 80s medley craze. Find part 1 here. The original megapost, which I have updated a bit in these two installments, appeared on June 27, 2007.

What follows, in the interest of keeping this post from running longer than the era it’s discussing, is a timeline of medleys to hit the Billboard Hot 100 between June 1981 and the end of 1982. It’s hard to believe some of this actually happened.

June: The first Stars on 45 medley (which was officially titled, at the insistence of music publishers, “Intro Venus/Sugar Sugar/No Reply/I’ll Be Back/Drive My Car/Do You Want to Know a Secret/We Can Work It Out/I Should Have Known Better/Nowhere Man/You’re Going to Lose That Girl/Stars on 45”) hits #1.

August: “Stars on 45 II,” featuring nine more Beatles songs, reaches #67.

October: “The Beach Boys Medley” hits #12. “More Stars on 45,” featuring a schizophrenic collection of 60s and 70 tunes, hits #55.

The second-most successful medley of all time in terms of chart performance, “Hooked on Classics,” reaches #10. It’s a collection of classical themes orchestrated by former Electric Light Orchestra member Louis Clark and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. . . .  Also: “Seasons of Gold,” a medley of Four Seasons tunes by Gidea Park featuring Adrian Baker, reaches #82. Oddly, Baker would become a member of the Four Seasons for a couple of years in the mid 90s.

March: “Memories of Days Gone By,” a medley of doo-wop songs rerecorded by Fred Parris and the Five Satins, reaches #71.

April: “Pop Goes the Movies” by Meco, featuring familiar themes from eight movies including Gone With the Wind, The Magnificent Seven, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, reaches #35. Meco was a natural for this kind of thing—he’d already released singles featuring various themes from Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Wizard of Oz, and The Empire Strikes Back.

May: On the Hot 100 for the week of May 15, “The Beatles Movie Medley” peaks at #12; “Stars on 45 III,” which was made up entirely of Stevie Wonder tunes and was actually the fourth Stars on 45 single, peaks at #28, and “Hooked on Big Bands” by the Frank Barber Orchestra, is at #90. Thus, this month would seem to represent the peak of the medley’s pop-cultural reach. (Barber’s record, made up of themes made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, would eventually peak at #61 in June.)

July: “Hooked on Swing” by Larry Elgart and His Manhattan Swing Orchestra, which features several of the Miller tunes Frank Barber had done on his record along with other familiar swing themes, reaches #31.

December: “The Elvis Medley” reaches #71 on the pop charts and #31 on the country charts. (I was doing country radio during the medley craze, and if I’m recalling correctly, medleys didn’t really catch on there. We played “Just Hooked on Country” by Albert Coleman’s Atlanta Pops. It may have made the lower reaches of the country chart, but it didn’t place on the Hot 100.)

And so, the medley craze was pretty much over by the end of 1982. Stars on 45 kept releasing singles, featuring ABBA, the Rolling Stones, and the Carpenters, but none of them made the Hot 100. Producer Jaap Eggermont spun off the Star Sisters, whose Andrews Sisters medley, a massive hit in several countries, bubbled under in the summer of 1983. A group called Band of Gold was late to the party in December 1984 with a medley made up mostly of Stylistics songs entitled “Love Songs Are Back Again.” It got to #64, but didn’t reignite America’s passion for medleys.

Although the medley craze died down, it never died out. Channeling Stars on 45, Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers’ 1989 hit “Swing the Mood” became necessary wedding-reception fodder throughout the early 90s; the Grease Megamix recycled tunes from the movie soundtrack for the film’s 20th anniversary in 1998. Today, the medley spirit lives on. Do-it-yourself music mashups proliferate all over the Internet, and there’s a great debate raging among artists and intellectual property experts over the practice of reimagining existing works of art to make new ones, which is really just another form of medley-making.

(The radio show Crap from the Past from KFAI in Minneapolis often features these and other medleys. Their “Listing of all Godawful medleys” was extremely helpful in preparing this post.)

8 thoughts on “Hooked on Medleys (Part 2)

  1. I suppose one of the most loathsome hits of my teen years — Will to Power’s “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird” — was a couple songs short of a medley. At least, a couple songs short of a Stars On 45-style medley. Maybe they should have thrown in a little “You Light Up My Life” for good measure.

  2. “Just Hooked on Country [Parts I & II]” made it to #42 on the Country chart in the summer of ’82; Part III would reach #77 that fall. I might have heard one part or another once or twice on Houston country radio, but I’ll bet I might have bought the singles sound unheard if I had more money to throw around in my adolescence.

    Yes, I was a sucker for the medley fad. Let me count the ways:

    •I owned every Stars on 45/Long Play record I could lay my hands on. (I still have the first three LPs and a few 12″ singles on vinyl.) I only heard the ’83 bubbler “The Star Sisters Medley” (which honors the Andrews Sisters) a few months ago, but it would have gotten my coin if I’d seen it for sale anywhere.

    Hooked on Classics? Had the single and the first three albums, the third being my favorite.

    •I’ll be spinning “The Beach Boys Medley” (and most likely the new album in full) on my June 5 show in anticipation of their appearance here the following weekend. (Bonus: “God Only Knows” was the flipside.)

    •Speaking of flipsides, the only reason I bought “The Beatles Movie Medley” was because it was backed with “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You”. We had a jukebox on our patio at the time and any Beatles I could squeeze in was fine with me.

    •My copy of “Pop Goes the Movies” was purchased on Woolco’s final day in business. It coast me less than 50 cents.

    •That leaves “The Elvis Medley”: decent, but I fashioned better Elvis medleys (a year before RCA showed their hand) using the pause button on my stereo tape deck. I made two: one upbeat, one ballad-y, concentrating on his 50s prime. Again, the 45 provided an excellent flip: “Always on My Mind”, fresh on the public conscience thanks to Willie Nelson’s hit cover just months before.

    After I post this, I’ll be loading my phone with whatever hit medleys I can find on my hard drive. It’s gonna feel like junior high in my car this weekend.

    1. J.A. Bartlett

      Sweet mama, you are diseased.

      Thanks for the chart #s on “Just Hooked on Country”–my country chart book only covers the top 40. Neither the Elvis nor the Beach Boys Medley offends me, but on another listen earlier this week, “The Beatles Movie Medley” struck me as quite awful—not nearly as well sequenced as the Stars on 45.

  3. porky

    Crap From the Past is great; it’s where I found “Rock Me Jerry Lewis” that I’d been searching for forever.

    You forgot the Creedence Medley; I saw the 45 once and decided to pass, my mind couldn’t go there.

    1. Yah Shure

      I’ve had a copy of “Rock Me Jerry Lewis” lying fallow since the late ’80s prior to your mention. Will have to check out of the B-side, “The Making Of ‘Rock Me Jerry Lewis.'” Ya gotta love the very fine print on the label: “This record is not also available on special chromium-dioxide cassette.”

      After having given CCR’s “Medley U.S.A.” a fresh listen within the last year, I’d say your decision to keep moving along was spot on.

  4. Yah Shure

    Another not-so-hot Frankenstein: “Diana Ross & The Supremes Medley Of Hits”, a Motown promo-only 45. Great in theory; clunkier than hell in execution.

    If the labels had been smart at the time, they would have produced the most godawful medleys imaginable, then threatened to release them unless the original groups – or enough surviving members – reconvened in the studio for something that wouldn’t otherwise guarantee a windfall for 3M’s splicing tape division.

    When a gold-vinyl edition of “The Elvis Medley” DJ 45 arrived on my desk, I hit up the RCA Nashville rep for extra copies. In appreciation for the time a Presley collector/dealer had always taken to answer my Elvis-related questions at the OKC record shows, I surprised him with a copy. Witnessing the reaction of a dyed-in-the-velvet Elvis collector seeing something for the very first time was well worth its weight in gold vinyl.

  5. Pingback: Encounters of Every Kind | The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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