(Pictured: Motown singer Brenda Holloway, in an unconventional shot.)
Since before Christmas, we’ve been listening to records that spent a single week in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 between 1964 and 1986. This installment is starting beyond that time frame, however.
During the week of June 22, 1959, “Tall Cool One” by the Wailers rose to #36 for a single week before dropping out of the 40. Almost exactly five years later, during the week of May 30, 1964, the very same recording of “Tall Cool One” entered the Top 40 for another single week, hitting #38 before dropping out again. So they may not belong here at all—or they may deserve extra-special recognition. Either way, the Wailers occupy their own special niche in music history. Backing a fellow Washington state singer named Rockin’ Robin Roberts, they cut the prototype version of “Louie, Louie” in 1961, and are considered one of the first garage bands.
The Viscounts, an instrumental group from New Jersey, also re-charted an earlier hit to make this list. Early in 1960, they hit #52 with “Harlem Nocturne.” Six years later, the same recording made the Top 40—#39, to be precise, for the week of January 1, 1966.
Another fabled garage band, the Shadows of Knight, recorded a version of “Gloria” that hit #10, far eclipsing the original version by Van Morrison’s group Them. They had four other Hot 100 hits in 1966 alone, but only one made the Top 40 and stayed but a week, “Oh Yeah,” at #39 for the week of July 2, 1966. The Five Americans, a group of Oklahomans who formed officially in Dallas, are also considered a garage band. They hit the Top 40 four times, most famously with “Western Union” in 1967. “Zip Code” hit #36 for the week of September 17, 1967. Zip codes were relatively new back then, and the writer of the song had a little trouble with the concept, referring to the zip code “one double-oh-three six-oh-eleven.” Still, if the Postal Service never tried to turn it into a public-service announcement, they failed at their job.
Dionne Warwick, who charted many, many Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs, took their “Are You There (With Another Girl)” to #39 for the week of January 22, 1966. One week later, Fontella Bass, best known for “Rescue Me,” hit #37 with her followup single, “Recovery.”
“Rescue Me” is the best Motown single not to appear on Motown. Brenda Holloway, who actually did appear on Motown, hit #39 with the original version of “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” which she co-wrote, on December 4, 1967. Two weeks later, it would be gone from the Hot 100, and about as quickly, Holloway would be gone from Motown.
Just as Dionne Warwick recorded plenty of Bacharach/David songs, the Fifth Dimension recorded several by Jimmy Webb. After making an indelible smash of “Up Up and Away,” they released Webb’s “Paper Cup,” which Allmusic.com describes as Webb’s tribute to the Beatles, seeming to borrow from “Getting Better” and “Penny Lane.” It bounced from #44 to #34 and back to #44 again, reaching its peak for the week of December 9, 1967.
Other adult pop stars are on our list. Dean Martin made it with “Come Running Back,” which made #35 for the week of June 11, 1966. So did Vikki Carr, who followed her #3 smash “It Must Be Him” with “The Lesson,” which hit #34 for the week of January 27, 1968. Petula Clark hit the Top 40 with 15 straight singles between 1965 and 1968. The last one, “Don’t Give Up,” made #37 for the week of August 24, 1968. (“Don’t Give Up” is a song I didn’t know I remembered; it must have gotten a lot of airplay on our hometown radio station and I absorbed it by accident.) Engelbert Humperdinck was a regular visitor to the Top 40 during about the same time; “I’m a Better Man,” another Bacharach/David joint, made #38 for the week of September 27, 1969. All four of these hits made the Top 10 on the Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart; “The Lesson” was #1.
If I’m counting correctly (always a questionable proposition), we have 28 songs remaining on this list, so future installments of this feature are guaranteed—as much as anything is guaranteed in a world such as this.