Hold Me

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(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)

Four weeks:

“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. 

14 thoughts on “Hold Me

  1. Wesley

    Thanks for the shout out, jb. Glad to help with a post idea for you anytime I can. I should add that the idea of this came when I was listening to AT40 the 80s a few weeks ago and heard Casey announce that “What Kind of Fool” was in its sixth straight week at #21. “What?!” I thought when I heard that. A statistic like that had to have been unique, since I regularly listened to AT40 during the mid- to late 1970s and never could recall a long reign like that outside the top 10 for a song. Turns out I somehow missed or forgot about the four-week stays for the High Inergy and Alice Cooper entries. Or maybe AT40 didn’t make a big deal about those songs’ positions.

    Anyway, I appreciate the extra effort you put into looking up below the top 40 in 1982 and 1983, which surprise me as well. How a record gets stuck at #55 for five weeks strikes me as chart shenanigans indeed. And yes, the sheer variety of records in this post make it tempting to do a mixtape of them sometime and play them on a leisurely afternoon. It’s a better assortment than what’s on most contemporary radio right now, if you ask me.

  2. mikehagerty

    I won’t go into my whole thing about Billboard’s charts—it would redefine everyone’s notion of TL:DR. I’ll just point out that the further down you get on the chart, the less those numbers meant, both pre-1981 (when, no matter what Billboard was saying, the numbers were based on wholesale sales, period) and post-1981 (when they made good on a years-long threat to include airplay).

    Programmer Buzz Bennett (WTIX, KGB, KCBQ, KDWB) used to say there were only seven hit records at any given time. The rest were either not there yet and might never be or were losing popularity. That’s a bit severe for most folks. I tend to think of the Top 15 as being hits (though, some weeks, it’s the Top 11), but let’s say there are 20. There’s just way more difference between number 1 and number 20 than there is between number 21 and number 100.

    Personally, I’d take any “stuck at” number below 15 (and probably 11) as arbitrary.

    1. Chris Herman

      Didn’t Bennett’s “only 7 hit records” comment apply to a time before the charts were nationalized (i.e., little or no variation among the many local radio station charts)? I could understand that because back then it was still common for songs to be hugely popular in one city or region but ignored elsewhere. If so, did that mean the top 7 (or 11 or 15) songs on the Billboard Hot 100 were the only ones that had truly national appeal?

      1. mikehagerty

        Chris:

        Sure. But, apart from once a week on American Top 40, people didn’t listen to “national hits”, they listened to their local radio stations. Sales from their local record stores (and after 1981, airplay from their local stations) made up the “national hits.”

        And the differences could be stark. Growing up with KHJ, I thought Tower of Power had two top 5 hits (“You’re Still A Young Man” was #3 at KHJ and “So Very Hard To Go” was #4). In Billboard, those two records were #29 and #17.

        KHJ historian Ray Randolph’s blog has a fascinating chart showing every song that made KHJ’s “Boss 30” (and later, just “Thirty”) from 1965 to 1973, with KHJ’s peak next to Billboard’s peak:
        https://thebig93.com/khj_song_index.html

        Some of that was regional differences and some was timing. KHJ was notoriously early on records up until about 1973 and very quick to get off a record.

        50 years ago this week, the number one song in Billboard was Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie”. It was #27 at KHJ, in its last week on the chart, having peaked at #7 a month earlier.

        A lot of Los Angeles sales of a record came before a record was truly hot in a lot of markets at once. Since Billboard chart positions were snapshots of individual weeks and not cumulative, those sales had already taken place as a song was trying to break into the top ten.

        So fifty years ago today, “Cracklin’ Rosie” was the most popular song in the country. But in the second largest city in the country, is was a week from not getting played again until the year-end countdown.

  3. Chris, Buzz’ philosophy was that, wherever you were, there were only seven.

    Remember that most regular people never had any connection to (or likely awareness of) the Billboard charts until American Top 40 and AT 40 was three (later four) hours on a weekend compared to the hours all week long that people were listening to their local stations.

    (Side note to JB or other AT40 fans–I’d love to know what year AT40 is regarded to have peaked in terms of station clearances and strong stations in markets. It began with six stations.)

    As for “national appeal”, the songs that were selling all over the country were the ones that were going to show strongest in Billboard. More local or regional hits that weren’t universal would do less well.

    A classic example is KHJ in Los Angeles, which, at its peak, could move one helluva lot of records in Southern California. But a big record on KHJ didn’t guarantee big numbers in Billboard. I grew up thinking Tower of Power’s two hits from ’72 and ’73, “You’re Still A Young Man” and “So Very Hard To Go” were top 5 hits. They were number 3 and number 4 respectively at KHJ. They were #29 and #17 in Billboard.

    The reverse could also be true. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” peaked at #20 in Billboard. KHJ and KFRC didn’t play it, starving it of sales that certainly could have pushed it higher.

  4. Over at Stereogum.com, in the 3x weekly The Number Ones blog by Tom Breihan, the commenters have basically turned Wardlow into a folk hero, or folk villain.

    1. mikehagerty

      I’m inclined to go with folk villain. There were shenanigans.

      That said, chart manager at Billboard, even played absolutely straight, involved some choices that were not purely data-driven.

      Apart from special orders (which likely would be for a record not currently charting), singles were shipped in boxes of 25 (so were albums). Minimum orders could go as low as five copies, but it was always multiples of five, for ease of shipping and inventory control.

      That multiples of five thing virtually ensured ties in terms of copies moving at wholesale, which is what Billboard was really tracking. Let’s say that nine records were at 2,500 copies that week. Your chart does not allow for ties. How do you rank them?

      Billboard was a trade publication, never intended for the public, which invented new charts as a means of giving labels more reasons to advertise to the rackjobbers and record stores that were Billboard’s subscribers. The mission was never accurate data until probably Soundscan (though Casey Kasem’s mentions turned them into a “music authority” in the public’s eye).

  5. John Gallagher

    Michael,

    Thank you for the link to the historic KHJ chart info. Quickly scanning the spreadsheet, I was shocked to see KHJ didn’t play “Nice To Be With You” from Gallery or flip “It’s Too Late” from Carole King and play “I Feel The Earth Move.” They didn’t play “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” from The Partridge Family. Looks like they didn’t play “Me And Julio…” from Paul Simon.
    Also, countless low charters or stiffs in Billboard were often Top 5 at KHJ.

    What was the reason they ceased having surveys in 1973?

    1. mikehagerty

      John:

      KHJ kept printing surveys until the week they filpped to Country in 1980. Ray Randolph wanted to focus on the “glory years” of KHJ, when Bill Drake was in charge and when either Robert W. Morgan or Charlie Tuna were in mornings and The Real Don Steele was in afternoons. That all ended in the summer of ’73.

      Ray does have a section on 1974-80 surveys, only posting the ones with the first or last appearance of the jocks that were there in those years:

      https://93khj.blogspot.com/search/label/1974%20-%201980

      His argument for doing it that way was that when Drake, Morgan and Steele left, KHJ became just another Top 40 station. That’s true to an extent, but there were little renaissances along the way (Charlie Van Dyke’s run as PD from March of ’75 to May of ’77 is certainly one).

      KHJ made some unusual choices in music on some fairly big hits as you note. I think they DID play “I Feel The Earth Move”, but they did it as an album cut (which they experimented with in 1971 and 1972), along with “Smackwater Jack”.

      KHJ skipped the B-side (or the A-side, depending on how you look at it) of a couple of other two-sided hits, playing only “Up Around The Bend” and ignoring “Run Through The Jungle” from Creedence, and going with “Everybody Is A Star” at the expense of “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin”) from Sly and the Family Stone. And the Kinks’ “Lola” was HUGE in L.A., but KHJ played it for two weeks and dropped it once they figured out what the song was about.

      All those songs, at one point or another, ended up in KHJ’s Gold library by 1980.

      As for the Partridge Family and Gallery, in 1971 and 1972 KHJ was defending against KLOS, the ABC-owned FM album rock station, which actually beat KHJ from 7-midnight as early as 1972—a 7 share to KHJ’s 4. And they were fending off KKDJ, an automated Top 40 FM that tied their 4 share in evenings.

      They also gave only one week’s play to Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “The Candy Man”, which went to #1 in Billboard. Like Gallery and the Partridge Family, I think they thought it was just too uncool.

      Skipping Paul Simon I don’t understand, other than it wasn’t a big record—-peaking at #22 in Billboard coming off a #4 hit with “Mother and Child Reunion”—but KHJ would have made that decision before the Billboard number, so—-beats me.

      There was a whole discussion somewhere in the last 20 years online (I’m old enough to think in glacial terms) about records that hit #1 in Billboard that KHJ didn’t play. I’ll try to dig that up. It’s not showing in any searches.

      And, finally, Ray also compiled a list of songs that were “Hitbound” at KHJ, but never actually made it to the chart (#30 or above):

      https://www.thebig93.com/khj_hitbound_index.html

    2. mikehagerty

      John:

      I wrote a reply and it vanished when I hit “post”.

      I’ll wait a day and see if it got trapped in a moderation filter (it did have a couple of links), and if I don’t see it tomorrow, I’ll re-write it and hope.

      1. Anything with more than one link in it gets held by the spam filter. Posts that are really long with one link in them sometimes get held by the spam filter also. I try to check it every now and then, but not on anything like a regular basis.

    3. “Looks like they didn’t play “Me And Julio…” from Paul Simon.”

      That makes sense, because “Me and Julio …” was huge in the Northeast. It reached #2 at WABC-AM in New York, but didn’t crack Billboard’s Top 20. So that meant the sales it was racking up in the biggest market in the U.S. had to be offset somewhere. It makes sense that one of those places would be the second-largest market in the U.S.

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