(Pictured: Fleetwood Mac.)
Regular reader Wesley e-mailed a while back: “When the Hot 100 went into effect in 1958, it was rare for any record to stay at the same position from #11 to #40 for more than three weeks for the chart’s first 23 years.” And then he shared his list.
It turns out that two records stuck in the same spot for five weeks: “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers at #11 and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Joe Simon at #25, both in 1968.
Eight songs held for four weeks in the same spot:
“Honey Chile”/Martha and the Vandellas (#11, 1967)
“Neon Rainbow”/Box Tops (#24, 1967)
“Take Me for a Little While”/Vanilla Fudge (#38, 1968)
“Question”/Moody Blues (#21, 1970)
“Never Ending Song of Love”/Delaney and Bonnie (#13, 1971)
“You Can’t Turn Me Off (In the Middle of Turning Me On)”/High Inergy (#12, 1977)
“How You Gonna See Me Now”/Alice Cooper (#12, 1978)
“Touch Me When We’re Dancing”/Carpenters (#16, 1981)
(The complete randomness of that list is delightful.)
But come 1982, Billboard‘s methodology changed. The magazine introduced a “super star” or “super bullet,” a clear bullet distinct from the traditional solid-colored bullet. I have not been able to learn a great deal about how it worked, but as I understand it, the super bullet indicated a greater degree of strength and potential for future upward movement than the regular bullet. Although there might have been other methodology changes in the background, it seems at the very least that Billboard became more likely to change the color of the bullet than to move a record up or down, which led to some remarkable instances of stasis.
And so in 1982, Wesley says, Rick Springfield’s “What Kind of Fool” did six straight weeks at #21. Several others did five weeks in the same spot between #11 and #40:
“Love Will Turn You Around”/Kenny Rogers (#13)
“What’s Forever For”/Michael Murphey (#19)
“Missing You”/ Dan Fogelberg (#23)
“You Dropped a Bomb on Me”/Gap Band (#31)
“It’s Raining Again”/Supertramp (#11)
“Shadows of the Night”/Pat Benatar (#13)
“Take Me Down”/Alabama (#18)
“Hot in the City”/Billy Idol (#23)
“Kids in America”/Kim Wilde (#24)
“Voyeur”/Kim Carnes (#29)
“A Penny for Your Thoughts”/Tavares (#33)
I dug into the 1982 charts below #41 to find some more:
“I Gotta Try”/Michael McDonald (#44, four weeks)
“Bad Boy-Having a Party”/Luther Vandross (#55, five weeks)
“Psychobabble”/Alan Parsons Project (#57, four weeks)
“The Elvis Medley”/Elvis Presley (#71, four weeks)
“Over the Line”/Eddie Schwartz (#91, four weeks)
In addition, there were far more three-week holders in 1982 than ever before.
Wesley also notes: “And as for the top 10 itself, ‘Muscles’ by Diana Ross spent six weeks at #10. ‘Hold Me’ by Fleetwood Mac spent seven weeks at #3. Both were new records for those positions.” And also: “I Love Rock and Roll” and “Ebony and Ivory” each did seven weeks at #1. “Eye of the Tiger” and “Centerfold” were six weeks at #1, and “Open Arms” by Journey six weeks at #2. “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats did five weeks at #9 and “Take It Away” by Paul McCartney five weeks at #10. Wesley again: “Let’s not forget how 1982 began with ‘Physical’ ending a 10-week run at the top that kept ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ by Foreigner at #2 for ten weeks as well—again, another record.”
During the run of “Hold Me,” on August 28, 1982, the top 12 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 were in the exact positions as the previous week. And there was little movement in weeks around that: during the week of August 14, the top five were the same; the week of the 21st, the top seven.
In 1983, the wackiness continued: Billy Joel’s “Allentown” spent six straight weeks at #17; Kenny Loggins’ “Heart to Heart” five weeks at #15; “Synchronicity II” by the Police four weeks at #16, and “I’m Alive” by Neil Diamond four weeks at #35. Below the Top 40, “Always” by Firefall did five weeks at #59, and “Love Me Again” by the John Hall Band spent four weeks at #64.
In 1983, Billboard sacked its chart director, Bill Wardlow, amid fears about the credibility of the magazine’s charts; the Wardlow era was famed for all kinds of statistical shenanigans. Whether the weirdness of 1982 and 1983 had anything to do with his ultimate adios, I don’t know. Neither can I guess how it might have served Wardlow’s purposes to hold records for long runs at seemingly random chart positions.
At the top of the charts, it seems entirely plausible to say yes, this song has been the most popular for five or eight or ten straight weeks. But farther down, the concept gets shaky. Given all of the moving parts involved, how plausible is it that exactly 16 songs were more popular than “Allentown” (and 83 less popular) for six consecutive weeks?
Thanks to Wesley for getting this started, and for doing the heavy lifting.