Makin’ It

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(Pictured: Doris Troy takes five, 1969.)

(Before we begin: if you indicated interest in my e-mail thing last week, check your e-mail today for something from jb titled “Hello and Welcome to the Sidepiece.” Check your spam filter, too. It maybe knows better what’s worthwhile.)

Back on One Hit Wonder Day, my post included the top one-hit wonder in each year from 1955 through 1986. Later, I fell down a rabbit hole looking at other one-hit artists who made the Billboard Top 10 during the same period. The list follows. If a year is missing, the song shown on the other list was the only Top-10 one hitter in that year. Again, this is far longer than I like my posts to be, but insert shrug emoji here. If I missed any, I trust you’ll tell me.

Continue reading “Makin’ It”

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. 

Out of the Long Ago

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(Pictured: the Supremes deplane, 1966.)

Back at the beginning of the summer, we noodled with the idea of the greatest single Top 10 of all time. There are lots of candidates, as we found, but I keep going back to the one dated September 24, 1966. To refresh your recollection:

1. “Cherish”/Association
2. “You Can’t Hurry Love”/Supremes
3. “Sunshine Superman”/Donovan
4. “Yellow Submarine”/Beatles
5. “Bus Stop”/Hollies
6. “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”/Temptations
7. “Black Is Black”/Los Bravos
8. “96 Tears”/? and the Mysterians
9. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”/Beach Boys
10. “Reach Out I’ll Be There”/Four Tops
11. (bonus track) “Eleanor Rigby”/Beatles

It wasn’t just a killer Top 11. The rest of the Top 40 was studded with classics as well:

14. “Cherry Cherry”/Neil Diamond
15. “Sunny Afternoon”/Kinks
17. “Wipe Out”/Surfaris
21. “Sunny”/Bobby Hebb
22. “Turn Down Day”/Cyrkle
23. “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted/Jimmy Ruffin
24. “Land of 1000 Dances”/Wilson Pickett
25. “Psychotic Reaction”/Count Five
26. “Last Train to Clarksville”/Monkees
27. “Working in the Coal Mine”/Lee Dorsey

Sweet mama look at that. And this:

33. “7 and 7 Is”/Love
37. “Summer in the City”/Lovin’ Spoonful
39. “God Only Knows”/Beach Boys
40. “Walk Away Renee”/Left Banke

And below the Top 40:

41. “Just Like a Woman”/Bob Dylan
47. “Blowin’ in the Wind”/Stevie Wonder
50. “With a Girl Like You”/Troggs
53. “See See Rider”/Eric Burdon and the Animals
72. “Poor Side of Town”/Johnny Rivers
73. “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing”/Lou Rawls
89. “Knock on Wood”/Eddie Floyd
90. “Mr. Spaceman”/Byrds
96. “I’m Your Puppet”/James and Bobby Purify

It was an exceptional week for easy listening music on the Hot 100 as well.

30. “Flamingo”/Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
32. “Summer Wind”/Frank Sinatra

44. “Summer Samba”/Walter Wanderley
49. “In the Arms of Love”/Andy Williams
54. “Born Free”/Roger Williams
86. “Mas Que Nada”/Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

Over on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart, all six of those are in the Top 10, along with more of the easy-listeningest music of all time:

3. “Guantanamera”/Sandpipers
13. “Somewhere My Love (Lara’s Theme)”/Ray Conniff Singers

17. “The Impossible Dream”/Jack Jones

But Easy Listening is really winning on the Top LPs chart. Revolver is #1, but:

2. Doctor Zhivago/Soundtrack
3. Somewhere My Love/Ray Conniff Singers
4. The Sound of Music/Soundtrack
5. What Now My Love/Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
6. Whipped Cream and Other Delights/Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
7. Strangers in the Night/Frank Sinatra
11. Going Places/Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
13. Sinatra at the Sands/Frank Sinatra

Those big movie soundtracks, Sinatra albums, and the historic Tijuana Brass threesome make for an interesting mix with Revolver and the others in the Top 13: Best of the Beach Boys, the Stones’ Aftermath, Gettin’ Ready by the Temptations,  and Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Although the biggest rock acts are able to consistently break through, the album market is still dominated by acts selling to adults, although that will start to change within a year or so.

Digression: I am pretty sure that no famous movie has gone further down the memory hole than Doctor Zhivago. Adjusted for inflation, it’s still one of the top-grossing films of all time, but it never turns up on cable. It’s on several streaming services, but I suspect there are not a lot of people under the age of 70 who are willing to pony up $2.99 on a Saturday night for a three-hour epic set during the Russian Revolution. But in September 1966 it was still popular in theaters. The score had won an Oscar, and “Lara’s Theme,” heard only as an instrumental in the movie but with lyrics added by three-time Oscar winner Paul Webster, was a smash. Conniff’s version was #1 on Easy Listening for a month and had made #9 on the Hot 100.

“Somewhere My Love” also contains a lyric line that stops me in my tracks every time: “You’ll come to me out of the long ago.” As many of the most precious things often do.

The Hot Country Singles chart for the week of 9/24/66 is not the bonanza of eternal classics that the Hot 100 is, but it’s led by a record that didn’t get off the radio for years thereafter: “Almost Persuaded” by David Houston. Although he is forgotten now, David Houston was one of the biggest stars in country between 1965 and 1971, with seven Billboard #1 hits. The nine weeks “Almost Persuaded” spent at #1 country was the longest run of any record since 1963, and it wouldn’t be surpassed until the download era. It’s also at #29 on the Hot 100 in this week, on its way to #24.

It’s well known that terrestrial radio stations, even ones specializing in oldies or classic hits, have largely dumped 60s music. But it’s not because music of later decades is consistently better, cuz it ain’t. And the chart from 9/24/66 is Exhibit A.

A Little Magic

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(Pictured: I’m always happy to have an excuse to post a picture of Linda Ronstadt.)

Here we are below the Top 40 during the week of September 13, 1980. There’s even more yacht rock and urban cowboy country than there was in the Top 40, along with a few records we have never stopped hearing.

42. “Jojo”/Boz Scaggs
57. “Late at Night”/England Dan Seals
62. “Thunder and Lightning”/Chicago
71. “Leaving L.A.”/Deliverance
88. “If You Should Sail”/Nielsen-Pearson
100. “Steal Away”/Robbie Dupree
105. “Givin’ It All”/Player

More yacht rock, although one might argue whether “Thunder and Lightning” is a little too heavy. I don’t know if the various yacht rock stations streaming or on Sirius/XM play “Late at Night,” “Leaving L.A.,” “If You Should Sail,” or “Givin’ It All,” but how could they not? All sound like perfect examples of the form, to the extent that I care about it.

43. “Make a Little Magic”/Dirt Band
45. “Why Not Me”/Fred Knoblock
“Why Not Me” made Billboard‘s country chart, briefly; “Make a Little Magic” did not, although we played it at KDTH. Knoblock’s next hit, a duet with actress Susan Anton called “Killin’ Time,” would make the country Top 10; in the mid 80s, the Dirt Band, back to its original name of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, would reel off a string of big country hits.

47. “You Better Run”/Pat Benatar
54. “Games Without Frontiers”/Peter Gabriel
55. “Misunderstanding”/Genesis
58. “I Hear You Now”/Jon and Vangelis
73. “Turn It on Again”/Genesis
74. “Tulsa Time”/Eric Clapton
93. “Coming Up (Live at Glasgow)”/Paul McCartney and Wings
95. “I Can’t Let Go”/Linda Ronstadt

I spent the summer of 1980 on the night shift at an album-rock station. All of these songs were part of that summer. “Tulsa Time” was a live version. “I Hear You Now” was a record I fell in love with and put on our air, trying to make a hit out of it. It peaked at #58, so I must have helped.

49. “Shining Star”/Manhattans
60. “Whip It”/Devo
67. “Little Jeannie”/Elton John
80. “You Shook Me All Night Long”/AC-DC
Yup, there sure is a lot of stuff here that hasn’t been off the radio in 40 years all right.

41. “Take a Little Rhythm”/Ali Thomson
50. “Midnight Rocks”/Al Stewart
Do they let Brits on the boat? I’m inclined to say yes to “Take a Little Rhythm” for its white-guy-dancing vibe, and no to Al Stewart, who is sailing in a different direction entirely.

65. “This Beat Goes On”-“Switchin’ to Glide”/The Kings
101. “Turning Japanese”/The Vapors
If you came in for your show at the college radio station and the person before you had recently played one or the other of these, you might just break format and play ’em anyway. I wrote about “Beat/Glide” in the fall of 2008. The next spring, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from John Picard of the Kings (also known as Mister Zero), and our correspondence turned into a lengthy e-mail interview. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done at this website, and if you want to read the whole thing, all four parts are here: 1234.

51. “The Legend of Wooley Swamp”/Charlie Daniels Band
52. “I’m Almost Ready”/Pure Prairie League
79. “Don’t Misunderstand Me”/Rossington Collins Band
85. “Under the Gun”/Poco
90. “Angeline”/Allman Brothers Band
110. “Longshot”/Henry Paul Band
By 1980, the terms “country rock” and “Southern rock” were ceasing to mean much. Beyond some lead singers with strong Southern accents, there’s not much country or Southern about any of these. I would remind you that “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” is one of the world’s worst songs; the 1980 edition of Pure Prairie League featured Vince Gill on vocals; the Rossington Collins Band was a successor to Lynyrd Skynryd and the most-hyped band of the summer, at least on album-rock radio, where new wave had little impact; Henry Paul had been in the Outlaws during “Green Grass and High Tides” days.

69. “On the Road Again”/Willie Nelson
72. “Could I Have This Dance”/Anne Murray
87. “True Love Ways”/Mickey Gilley
91. “Stand By Me”/Mickey Gilley
97. “Theme From ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ (Good Ole Boys)”/Waylon Jennings
106. “I Believe in You”/Don Williams
The movie Urban Cowboy made pop country trendy in the summer of 1980. Gilley’s two hits had already gone #1 country (and “Stand By Me” had made #22 on the Hot 100); the other four would all make #1 country in the next couple of months.

94. “The Breaks”/Kurtis Blow. Earthquakes start deep below the surface. “The Breaks” would peak at #84, but as the first rap record to be certified gold, its influence would be felt for decades, and down unto the present day.

All Over the World

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(Pictured: Christopher Cross.)

Here’s more inside the American Top 40 show from September 13, 1980, which features plenty of yacht rock and other stuff both good and not so good.

We’ll pick up with Casey’s answer to a question about the first #1 album ever. It was in the March 24, 1945, edition of Billboard: Collection of Favorites by the King Cole Trio. Casey didn’t elaborate, but I will: it was a folio of four 78s that included “Sweet Lorraine,” “Embraceable You,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” among others. Also appearing on the Best-Selling Popular Record Albums chart were Glenn Miller, Judy Garland, Tommy Dorsey, Danny Kaye, and the original cast album from Oklahoma.

Now on with the countdown:

23. “Someone That I Used to Love”/Natalie Cole. Nat King Cole’s daughter serves up the best record on the show so far. Really. “Someone That I Used to Love,” a Michael Masser/Gerry Goffin composition, might have become part of the Great American Songbook had it still been accepting new entries in 1980.

21. “Don’t Ask Me Why”/Billy Joel. Billy’s gotta Billy. This has a lovely tune, but read the lyrics. It’s essentially a string of insults, some pretty vicious, aimed at a woman who has somehow given offense by . . . being a woman.

19. “Boulevard”/Jackson Browne. Casey introduces this by telling that Phoebe Snow had finally revealed that Browne was the inspiration for her song “Poetry Man.” (Browne’s Hold Out was the #1 album in this week.)

18. “All Over the World”/ELO
17. “Xanadu”/Olivia Newton-John and ELO
As much as I love ELO, “All Over the World” sounds like all the boring parts of every record they ever made. “Xanadu” is vastly more interesting, but not enough to make me think I’ll ever need to hear it again, either.

16. “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”/Bob Seger
7. “Late in the Evening”/Paul Simon
To the extent that I care, Seger’s voice is too rough and Simon’s backing track is too spiky to be yacht rock. Am I doing this right?

12. “I’m Alright”/Kenny Loggins
9. “Another One Bites the Dust”/Queen
These are the two biggest movers on the show, Loggins up 15 and Queen up 14.

10. “Drivin’ My Life Away”/Eddie Rabbitt
8. “Lookin’ for Love”/Johnny Lee

It wasn’t just the Golden Age of Yacht Rock, it was the Urban Cowboy Era, too. “Lookin’ for Love” is #1 on the country chart in this week; Rabbitt had been #1 three weeks before. Eight more songs that would top the country chart between September 1980 and January 1981 would also become major pop hits, including three #1s: Kenny Rogers’ “Lady,” Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night,” and “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.

LDD: “When I Need You”/Leo Sayer. This is the kind of letter Casey liked best, from a wheelchair-using former swimmer to the 17-year-old candy striper/nurse who responded to his anger and depression over the accident that paralyzed him by telling him he was better off than a lot of people in this world, before dying herself after being thrown from a horse. Because I have an irrational love for “When I Need You,” I will excuse the letter and the two minutes it took to read it, but come on.

5. “Sailing”/Christopher Cross. This gets its own entry instead of being lumped with the rest of the yacht rockers in the earlier post because it’s the most perfect example of the form, or so I have heard. But I didn’t like it in 1980, and I don’t have to like it now, either. The strings weigh it down so it kills momentum on the radio, and Cross can’t sing a lick. Without the promotional clout of a major label behind it and “Ride Like the Wind” to pave the way, it would have been sunk. (Yacht. Sunk. Hey-yo!) But it had all that going for it, plus the adult-ification of pop radio that we’ve discussed here a couple times this year.

3. “Emotional Rescue”/Rolling Stones. At #3 for a fourth week in row. After 40 years, I have decided to surrender to the weirdness of this and start liking it.

2. “All Out of Love”/Air Supply. I just typed and deleted the sentence “‘All Out of Love’ spent four years at #2.” It was four weeks, but you get the idea.

1. “Upside Down”/Diana Ross. Song lyrics can be poetry, but not all lyrics are poetry. We know how certain words and phrases fill a space or work well with the music, and not necessarily to carry any particular meaning. So it is with the repeated line “I say to thee respectfully” in “Upside Down,” which would be lame if wasn’t in the service of the funkiest thing Diana Ross ever took to #1.

Real Love

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(Pictured: Amy Holland, who has been Mrs. Michael McDonald since 1983.)

I have had my issues with American Top 40 shows from 1980 in the past, but what the hell, let’s take a bash at another one. It’s from September 13, 1980.

Casey starts the show by thanking last week’s fill-in, Australian personality Gordon Elliott, who would later become a fixture on American TV by producing various cooking and talk shows and hosting his own. After a recap of the previous week’s top three, it’s on with the countdown—which, among other things, represents a sort of high-water mark for a particular style.

40. “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight”/Larsen-Feiten Band
39. “First Time Love”/Livingston Taylor
38. “How Do I Survive”/Amy Holland
29. “Look What You’ve Done to Me”/Boz Scaggs
28. “Real Love”/Doobie Brothers
20. “Hot Rod Hearts”/Robbie Dupree
14. “You’re the Only Woman”/Ambrosia
11. “Into the Night”/Benny Mardones
6. “Give Me the Night”/George Benson

I like a lot of yacht rock, but I don’t care for the term “yacht rock” itself. A lot of the people who use it, up to and including Sirius/XM on Yacht Rock Radio, do so to demean or belittle a certain group of artists and a musical style, as if it had been quaint and vaguely cheesy even in 1980 but we poor benighted simpletons weren’t able to tell. Holier-than-thou postmodern hipness makes me tired. Americans have difficulty correctly remembering stuff that happened six months ago; we misunderstand the world of 1980 as profoundly as we misunderstand the Middle Ages.

27. “He’s So Shy”/Pointer Sisters
26. “Never Knew Love Like This Before”/Stephanie Mills
15. “One in a Million You”/Larry Graham
While a white dude such as I needs to tread lightly around this topic, and I could be completely wrong, isn’t there an argument that the yacht rock canon is kinda racist? To the extent that I care about it, I’m struck by just how white it is. There’s a lightly rhythmic feel to a lot of it, but not so much that you’d call it funky. “Give Me the Night” represents the far extreme of yacht-rock funkitude, so George Benson may be the exception that proves the rule. I suspect you’d get some debate about whether the Pointers, Stephanie, and Larry Graham are yacht—and might that be due to their obviously black voices? But if you strip the vocals and listen only to the backing tracks, they’re clearly on the boat. In fact, if you strip the vocals from “He’s So Shy,” it becomes “What a Fool Believes.”

36. “More Love”/Kim Carnes. Casey introduces this with a tic that drives me nuts: “Kim Carnes is the biggest dropper in the countdown this week, tumbling 22 notches from #14 to #36. Kim Carnes, with “‘More Love’,” repeating her name as if we wouldn’t be able to remember it from literally five seconds before.

Casey opens the AT40 Book of Records to find which act had the most Top-10 hits in a calendar year. Jimmy Dorsey and the Beatles tied for third place with 11; Bing Crosby once had 12. The leader: Glenn Miller, who hit the Top 10 15 times in 1942 alone. That record has since been smashed by Drake, who has 25 Top 10s—but to climb back up on a hill I would die on, such achievements during the streaming-and-download era cannot be directly compared to the era when you had to put on pants, go to a store, and buy a piece of plastic.

35. “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love for Me”/Jermaine Jackson. Before listening to this show, I’d never heard “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love for Me,” or even heard of it. It’s a Stevie Wonder production that did four weeks in the Top 40, peaking at #34.

EXTRA: “Moody River”/Pat Boone
EXTRA: “Quarter to Three”/Gary U.S. Bonds
EXTRA: “Tossin’ and Turnin'”/Bobby Lewis
Casey is playing all of the #1 songs of the 60s, like ’em or not. “Quarter to Three” and “Tossin’ and Turnin'” rock harder than all but a couple of the hits on this week’s chart.

30. “How Does It Feel to Be Back”/Hall and Oates. Repeating myself here: as many iconic songs as Voices contained, “How Does It Feel to Be Back,” the first single, is still the best thing on it.

LDD: “You Are So Beautiful”/Joe Cocker. With a letter from Dawn in Davenport, Iowa, to Fred (“both my fiance and my very special friend”) in South Korea. The letter is standard-issue I-miss-the-father-of-my-baby junk. For chrissakes, Dawn, buy a damn airmail stamp, write to Fred yourself, and spare us.

25. “Jesse”/Carly Simon Is this yacht? I’m about an hour-and-a-half into the show and I’m losing interest in the basic premise of this post. So I’ll stop here and pick it up again on Monday.