Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (1-30-1961)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

We’ve been using this particular tool – “What’s At No. 100?” – a fair amount lately for practical reasons: It’s an easy topic to research, generally requiring only one trip to the bookcase across the room, which aids in my convalescence. (I wish there had been a way to configure my portion of the lower level of the condo so that my reference books were near the computer, but it didn’t work out that way.)

Anyway, today, we’re going to stretch our game back to the early days of 1961, a time when I had no idea there was such a thing as the Top 40. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 30, 1961, fifty-eight years ago today:

“Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles
“Calcutta” by Lawrence Welk & His Orchestra
“Exodus” by Ferrante & Teicher
“Wonderland By Night” by Bert Kaempfert
“Shop Around” by the Miracles
“Angel Baby” by Rosie & The Originals
“Calendar Girl” by Neil Sedaka
“Emotions” by Brenda Lee
“Rubber Ball” by Bobby Vee
“Are You Lonesome To-night?” by Elvis Presley

Having decided to venture back to this date in 1961, I wondered how many of the week’s Top Ten I would know. After some thought, I defined “know” as being able to identify the song’s title and the artists in, say, ten seconds. And I’d do better than I expected, being able to meet that benchmark on seven of the above ten.

I’d recognize “Calcutta,” but I’m not sure I’d be able to sort out its title in the required time. (If I got the title, I’d know it was Welk’s work.) I’d have no clue on “Angel Baby.” And I’d recognize Brenda Lee’s voice and be able to make a guess at the title simply from the lyric, but that would be pure luck, as I have no memory of ever hearing the record.

But how many of these would I have heard back in 1961, when I was seven and making my way through second grade? Maybe “Exodus,” as my family had seen the 1960 movie, and I was very aware of the film’s theme. And the Ferrante & Teicher single had gone to No. 2, so – even though it did not reach the Easy Listening chart – I think I could easily have heard it somewhere, perhaps even at home on WCCO. The other nine? I have no idea if I heard them back then.

The second thing we consider when we do these posts, of course, is whether I like these records now, measuring that by their inclusion among the 3,900 or so tracks in the iPod. And a search through the iPod turns up three of those records, the ones by the Shirelles, Ferrante & Teicher, and Bert Kaempfert. Out of the absent seven, I might go find “Calcutta” and “Shop Around.” The other five? Nah.

Now we turn to our other bit of business this morning: What’s at No. 100? And when we drop to the bottom of that long-ago Hot 100, we find one of the historically great R&B groups, the Coasters, with “Wait A Minute.”

The Coasters, of course, had been a reliable presence on both the Top 40 and the R&B chart during the second half of the 1950s. They’d continue to do well on the R&B chart, but as the decade shifted, their records generally peaked in the lower half of the Hot 100. “Wait A Minute” was an exception, peaking at No. 37. (In the spring and summer of 1961, “Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)” would go to No. 23, the last Coasters record to reach the Top 40.)

As to “Wait A Minute,” it’s a pretty good record, and that’s not surprising, given the talent that worked on it: The song was written by Bobby Darin and Don Kirshner, and the record was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

What’s At No. 100? (1-23-1971)

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 23, 1971, forty-eight years ago today:

“Knock Three Times” by Dawn
“My Sweet Lord/Isn’t It A Pity” by George Harrison
“One Less Bell To Answer” by the 5th Dimension
“Lonely Days” by the Bee Gees
“Black Magic Woman” by Santana
“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand
“Groove Me” by King Floyd
“Your Song” by Elton John
“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson
“It’s Impossible” by Perry Como

Back then, as a high school senior, I liked almost all of these, some more than others. My faves among them were those by George Harrison, the Bee Gees, Elton John and the 5th Dimension. Those all merited an increase in volume when they came on the radio (although I don’t recall hearing “Isn’t It A Pity” on the air very often if at all).

I also liked the Santana and the Streisand singles, and I liked “Groove Me,” even though I thought it was a little weird, what with the grunting and all. And then there was “Knock Three Times.” I wrote some years ago about the decision that the St. Cloud Tech administration made as school resumed in September 1970 to relabel the cold lunch room as the Multi-Purpose Room and to install a jukebox. As I noted:

That was a move that I think the authorities eventually regretted, certainly by the second time Dawn’s No. 1 hit “Knock Three Times” drew the attention of some student’s quarter . . . When Tony Orlando and his crew told us to “knock three times,” feet stomped on the floor and books slammed on the table. “Twice on the pipe” drew the same reaction.

So, I liked the anarchy the record spawned, and I knew it had a great hook (even before I knew the term “hook”), but for some reason, it was still a little off-putting, kind of like Tony Orlando’s mustache.

What about “Rose Garden”? Well, the record was okay, but I was confused by the fact that about the same time the record began getting airplay, my sister was reading a book titled I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Was there a connection? Almost fifty years later, I don’t know. I have a vague memory of reading a piece in which songwriter Joe South refers to the book – a 1964 semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman’s struggle with mental illness – in connection with his song.

In that interview, did South acknowledge the book’s title as inspiration for a hook? Or maybe he said that the book’s existence is why the song title was changed. It was first recorded in 1967 by Billy Joe Royal as “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” but most subsequent recordings, including South’s and Lynn Anderson’s – were released as simply “Rose Garden.” I don’t know.

That leaves “It’s Impossible,” a record that was just too sappy, even for a kid who loved easy listening.

So that was then. How about now? Well, ten of those eleven are in the iPod. The only one that’s not there is the Perry Como single, which means that off-putting or not, “Knock Three Times” still has a place at the table (more by reason of nostalgia than quality, I guess).

And, as usual, we’re going to drop to the very bottom of that long-ago Hot 100 and see what we find.

When we play this game, most of the time we get a single that’s just okay. We’ve gotten some dreck. And now and then, we find a gem. Today, happily, is one of the gem days as we come across the first single by the Allman Brothers Band to reach the Hot 100: the Dickey Betts-penned “Revival (Love Is Everywhere).” The record was in its third week in the Hot 100, having peaked at No. 92. It would be gone a week later.

What’s At No. 100? (1-15-1972)

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Here’s the Billboard Hot 100 for January 15, 1972, forty-seven years ago today:

“American Pie (Parts 1 & 2)” by Don McLean
“Brand New Key” by Melanie
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards
“Family Affair” by Sly & The Family Stone
“Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band
“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by the New Seekers
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Hey Girl/I Knew You When” by Donny Osmond
“Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright

So what did I think about those eleven records back then, when I was just into my second quarter of college? Well, I liked “American Pie,” but generally heard the album track, not the bifurcated version on 45, which – if I remember things rightly – didn’t cover the entire track anyway. (I think our pal Yah Shure once detailed for us the history of the single vs. the album track, but I’m too lazy this early afternoon to go find that comment.)

I also liked “Let’s Stay Together,” even before hearing it during a sweet afternoon with a young lady a few weeks after this chart came out. And I kind of liked the Melanie single – with its winking naughtiness – and the Jonathan Edwards record. I was okay with the New Seekers record, too, although these days, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” is Don Draper.

I don’t recall ever hearing either of the Donny Osmond sides. If so, I would have cringed. Nor am I sure if – in 1972 – I’d ever heard Freddie Scott’s original version of “Hey Girl” or Billy Joe Royal’s version of “I Knew You When,” which charted in 1963 and 1965, respectively. (Royal’s record was a cover of Wade Flemons’ 1964 original.)

As to the other records in that Top Ten, I didn’t care about them then. I’ve changed my mind on a couple: “Family Affair” and “Clean Up Woman” are in my iPod along with the records by Don McLean, Al Green, Jonathan Edwards and the New Seekers. I know that “Scorpio” scratches an itch for some of my friends, but it doesn’t do anything for me. And the Melanie single no longer appeals (although thinking about it as I write, I can hear it clearly in my head).

With that done, let’s dive to the bottom of that 1972 Hot 100, and there we find the last charting single for Freda Payne, best remembered for “Band Of Gold” (No. 3 in 1970) and for “Bring The Boys Home” (No. 12 in 1971). “The Road We Didn’t Take” is a decent soul ballad, produced by the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland for their Invictus label. But it pretty much went nowhere, spending two weeks at No. 100 and then disappearing.

Saturday Single No. 621

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

It’s time for Games With Numbers!

We’re going to take today’s date – 12/22/18 – and add those numbers together in four ways to get 30, 34, 40 and 52, and then armed with those integers, take a look at a Billboard Hot 100 that was released on a December 22. We’ll check out the records at those positions and choose ourselves a Saturday Single. (As is our wont when we do these things, we’ll note the No. 1 record of the week.)

During the spread of years we’re generally interested in, we have four Hot 100s to choose from, released in 1958, 1962, 1973 and 1979. Although we’ve visited them occasionally, the two on the ends of that list don’t interest me this morning. And we do a lot of playing in the early Seventies. So we’re going to take a look at 1962, starting from the lowest ranked record and moving up.

Right off, we come to a name that’s been rare around here: Bobby Rydell, whose record “The Cha-Cha-Cha” is sitting at No. 52. A quick search shows that there have been only four posts where his name has popped up and only one post where his music has been shared; that was a look at the Twist craze in the spring of 1962, and the record we listened to then was a duet by Rydell and Twistmaster Chubby Checker (placed together because their labels, Cameo and Parkway, were sister firms). Rydell is an exemplar of a type of artist I don’t much care for, the teen idol. I lump him with Fabian, Bobby Vee and a bunch of others that labels found in the years between Clear Lake and Liverpool. (Other eras had their teen idols, to be sure. Leif Garrett, anyone?) He wasn’t the worst of them; nor was he the best. In our December 22 chart, “The Cha-Cha-Cha” was on its way down from No. 10, and it’s a pretty feeble piece of work.

So we move up twelve places to No. 40 and find ourselves listening to “Monsters’ Holiday” by Bobby (Boris) Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers, a Christmas-themed sequel to “Monster Mash,” which had spent two weeks at No. 1 in October. “Holiday” went to No. 30, and we’ll leave it sit there.

A trifle distressed, we move up six steps and find more Christmas joy, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by the 4 Seasons, heading up the chart to an eventual peak at No. 23. Admission: I am not a fan of holiday music unless it was produced by Phil Spector, sung by Darlene Love, written/adapted from folk songs by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, or has a big honking saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons. And there are some tunes that don’t survive Frankie Valli’s falsetto. So the 4 Seasons record leaves me colder than December in Moscow. At least it’s less than two minuntes long.

So as we ascend to the last of our numbers in play, I am despondent. And we find redemption at No. 30 in “He’s A Rebel,” one of the little symphonies for kids constructed with regularity in the early 1960s by Phil Spector, an admittedly evil genius. Sung by the Blossoms (with Darlene Love taking the lead) but credited by Spector to the Crystals, “He’s A Rebel” is one of Spector’s greatest records, with the Wrecking Crew – including Steve Douglas, who contributed the sax solo – and the Blossoms at the tops of their games. The record was on its way down the chart after spending two weeks at No. 1, and is probably the best thing we could have heard anywhere this morning.

As always, we note the No. 1 record, and fifty-six years ago today, that was the Tornadoes’ “Telstar.” We approve.

Given the four to choose from, we have an easy choice. Actually, out of the thousands and thousands of possibilities that float through here, we’d almost always have an easy choice; there aren’t many records I would choose over “He’s A Rebel.” (No, it didn’t make my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, but it is among the 3,900 or so on the iPod.) So let’s just listen again (and again) to “He’s A Rebel by the Crystals (Blossoms!), today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (12-20-75)

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

Here are the top ten records from the Billboard Hot 100 from December 20, 1975, forty-three years ago today:

“That’s The Way (I Like It)” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band.
“Let’s Do It Again” by the Staple Singers
“Fly, Robin, Fly” by the Silver Convention
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players
“Theme from ‘Mahogany’” by Diana Ross
“Sky High” by Jigsaw
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Nights On Broadway” by the Bee Gees

Our first note here is that for reasons of spacing, I’ve trimmed the title of the Diana Ross single, leaving off its parenthetical “(Do You Know Where You’re Going To).”

Beyond that, this is a very mixed bag. By this time in 1975, I was in the third week of interning at a Twin Cities television station, so on workdays, my radio listening was minimal: morning and afternoon drive time and perhaps in the evening if my roommate – a school portrait photographer who worked the northwestern portion of the Twin Cities – and I could agree on a station. He liked the harder-edged album rock of KQRS, while I preferred the softer adult contemporary sounds of KSTP-FM or WCCO-FM. We usually just watched television on weekday evenings.

So some of those records in that Top Ten, I didn’t know as well. As an example, the chart I’m looking at shows “Fox On The Run” as having been in the Hot 100 for six weeks. For the last three of those weeks, my listening was limited; for the first three of those weeks, the record was climbing the chart and I wouldn’t have heard it very often. And, as it turns out, that’s my least favorite record among those ten. I didn’t care about it then, and I don’t care about it now.

Beyond “Fox,” three other records in that Top Ten didn’t matter to me back then, even though I had heard them fairly frequently: “Saturday Night,” “Love Rollercoaster” and “I Write The Songs.” (I think that lots of folks then and now look at the Manilow single as one of the worst of all time. I don’t. I thought then and think now that the record’s idea was interesting but its lyrics were clumsy. And I can think of many singles that I dislike a great deal more.)

The other six records, though, I liked pretty well, even the early disco of Silver Convention and K.C. & The Sunshine Band. Both of them are worthy of current day listening (as measured by being in the 3,900 or so tracks on my iPod). The Silver Convention record is a potent reminder of a beautiful (and important) autumn. It’s a little monotonous, but a listen now and then is fine. The same goes for “That’s The Way (I Like It).”

The final four records – those by Diana Ross, Jigsaw, the Staple Singers and the Bee Gees – are also among the 3,900 in the iPod and they’re going to stay there. They are not only reminders of that sweet time in my life, but they’re great records as well.

But enough about that. Let’s drop deeper in that long-ago chart and see what resides on the very last rung.

And we find a record from an early rock & roll star who became a huge country star. He’s been mentioned here just four times and never featured over the course of nearly twelve years and about 2,200 posts. Parked at No. 100 forty-three years ago today was “Don’t Cry Joni” by Conway Twitty. The record – featuring Twitty’s daughter, Joni Lee – would spend another six weeks in the Hot 100, climbing to No. 63. As might be expected, it did appreciably better on the magazine’s country chart, peaking at No. 4.

Interestingly, it was the last time Twitty would put a single into the Hot 100 (or its Bubbling Under addendum). During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Twitty had been a regular presence on the pop chart, putting sixteen singles in or near the chart, with three of them hitting the Top Ten. Unquestionably, his greatest success had been “It’s Only Make Believe,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 in November 1958.

And then there was a second act. After “Portrait Of A Fool” stalled at No. 98 in early 1962, Twitty was gone from the pop chart for more than eight years. During that time, says Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, Twitty switched his focus from rock & roll to country. (Whitburn dates the shift to 1965.) The country hits began to pile up (forty of them going to No. 1 between 1968 and 1986, if I counted correctly), and some crossed over to the pop chart.

From the summer of 1970 (“Hello Darlin’,” No. 1 country, No. 60 pop) into early 1976, when “Don’t Cry Joni” went to No. 63, Twitty put nine more records into the Hot 100. The best performing of those was “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” which went to No. 22 (No. 1 country) in 1973.

But what about “Don’t Cry Joni”? That is how we got here. Well, it’s a pretty little first-person record about Jimmy and the younger girl who lives next door, Joni. The tale – about the choices the two make – is predictable, the backing is monotonous, and Twitty’s daughter, Joni Lee, doesn’t have a strong enough voice for her part. It’s interesting, I guess, but in the end not much more than a trifle.

What’s At No. 100? (11/30/74)

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Okay, so it’s the last day of November, and our time-waster today is to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this date in 1974, looking at the Top Ten and then taking a chance on whatever might be sitting at No. 100.

Here’s the Top Ten from that chart forty-four years ago today:

“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied” by B.T. Express
“Longfellow Serenade” by Neil Diamond
“Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton
“My Melody Of Love” by Bobby Vinton
“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet/Freewheelin’” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin
“Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy

Boy, there are some clinkers in there: The records by Carl Douglas, Bobby Vinton and Harry Chapin are pretty much guaranteed to make me wince (and if I’m in the car, punch a button for another station). I’m not all that fond of “I Can Help,” either, having heard it too many times on the Atwood Center jukebox at St. Cloud State forty-four years ago. (Someone who hung out in the snack bar must have really liked the record because it felt back then as if I heard it every day at The Table.) And after forty-four years, I still go back and forth on “Longfellow Serenade.”

Of the others, the records by the Three Degrees and Helen Reddy and the A-side of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive are on my iPod, and the Carl Carlton record should be (and will be within minutes). I took a few minutes this morning to listen to the B-side of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive record – Joel Whitburn notes in Top Pop Singles that the track, an instrumental, is dedicated to Duane Allman – and was not impressed.

What about B.T. Express? Well, maybe I should pop it into the iPod; it might be good for a kitchen dance or two.

As usual these days, though, we have business at the lowest end of the chart. We’re going to see what’s at No. 100.

And we find a classic track that I heard almost daily in September and October of 1974 while I sipped coffee at The Table: “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners. By the end of November, the record was in its last of its nineteen weeks in the Hot 100. A little more than a month earlier, it had been at No. 1. It’s a gem polished by a lot of good memories.

One From 1969

Friday, November 9th, 2018

The RealPlayer has been offering tunes from 1969 as I looked at some news online this morning, pondering at the same time what I might write about today. With nothing really shiny coming to mind, I guess I’m going to click through at random and when we land on the tenth click, that’s our tune for the day. Here we go!

And we land on Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” from her second album, Clouds:

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I heard
Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words
It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells and rapping up like pipes and drums
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll wear it till the night comes

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
There’s a sun show every second

Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today
And the streets are paved with passersby
And pigeons fly
And papers lie
Waiting to blow away

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll talk in present tenses

When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away
I will bring you incense owls by night
By candlelight
By jewel-light
If only you will stay
Pretty baby, won’t you
Wake up, it’s a Chelsea morning

Mitchell was not the first to record the song: According to Wikipedia, the first recording of “Chelsea Morning” was likely “its interpretation by Dave Van Ronk on his 1967 album Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters.” Fairport Convention included the song on the group’s self-titled 1968 debut album, and – again from Wikipedia – Jennifer Warnes recorded it for her 1968 release, I Can See Everything. That version was released as a single, but did not chart.

Clouds was released in May 1969. It went to No. 31 and earned Mitchell a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Reprise released a promo single of Mitchell’s version of “Chelsea Morning” (with “The Fiddle & The Drum” on the B-side), but the record failed to chart. The only charting single of “Chelsea Morning” came from Judy Collins, whose version went to No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1969 (and to No. 25 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart).

One Hit Wonder No. 1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Having delved into the origins of the cult of Onehit, I thought we’d start looking at so-called One Hit Wonders on an occasional basis. Our basic guide will be a slender volume I picked up in the early 1990s, one titled Billboard Top 1000 Singles.

Compiled by chart maven Joel Whitburn, the book covers the period from January 1955 through February 1993. Obviously, much has happened since then, including – unless I’m mistaken – at least one very large change in how the various Billboard charts are calculated. Thus, I’d guess, a current book of the top 1,000 singles of all time would include many more current records than historic ones. That would no doubt be accurate but would be a hell of a lot less fun than looking into the 1993 book.

And here’s some necessary housekeeping before we dig in: What, exactly, is a One Hit Wonder? My definition: It’s a record by a group or artist who focused on releasing singles that was the only record by that group or artist to reach the Top 40. Similarly, one can call the group or artist a One Hit Wonder as well. (The bit about being focused on singles is the best way to accommodate records like Jimi Hendrix’ cover of “All Along The Watchtower,” which went to No. 20 in 1968. It would be ludicrous to call Hendrix a One Hit Wonder as an artist, as singles were clearly not his focus.)

And before we start, let’s remind ourselves of how the all-time singles chart looked in 1993. Here’s the Top Twenty in that Top 1000 book. All of then went to No. 1 for at least eight weeks.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992, 14 weeks)
“End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men (1992, 13)
“Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley (1956, 11)
“Singing The Blues” by Guy Mitchell (1956, 10)
“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981, 10)
“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone (1977, 10)
“Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin (1959, 9)
“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley (1957, 9)
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (1981, 9)
“Hey Jude” by the Beatles (1968, 9)
“Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981, 9)*
“The Theme From ‘A Summer Place’” by Percy Faith (1960, 9)
“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets (1955, 8)
“The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant (1956, 8)
“Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955, 8)
“Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley (1956, 8)
“Every Breath You Take” by the Police (1983, 8)
“Jump” by Kris Kross (1992, 8)
“Night Fever” by the Bee Gees (1978, 8)
“Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart (1976, 8)

That Top Twenty serves as a reminder of the power of Elvis. Sixteen years after his death, he still had three of the top twenty singles of the Top Forty era, all of them nearly forty years old. And it’s actually not a bad bunch of singles, with only three I’d skip: I’m not fond of the Kris Kross record, but that’s a generational and societal thing. Neither am I crazy about the Whitney Houston single at the top of the list; I find it oversung and overbearing. And I’ve always believed the Rod Stewart single to be a blight on the world.

The other seventeen would be – in these precincts, anyway – a decent bunch of listening. Not really my favorites, but some fun listening, even the single One Hit Wonder of the bunch, a record that I admit I first kind of liked, then was tired of, and finally, was greatly annoyed by as it spun out its twenty-one weeks in the Top 40 in 1977 and 1978: Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”

I was surprised when I began digging this morning to learn that “You Light Up My Life” was a One Hit Wonder. But then, being afflicted with Boone fatigue by late 1977, I paid no attention to Debby Boone’s career, not caring what she’d done either before or after her massive hit. And it seems, digging this morning into Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, there wasn’t much to pay attention to, as least as far as the Hot 100 was concerned.

“You Light Up My Life” was the first charting single for Pat Boone’s daughter. As well as topping the Billboard pop chart for the above mentioned ten weeks, the record was also No. 1 for one week on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and went to No. 4 on the country chart.

After that, Boone had two singles reach the Hot 100, but both fell short of the Top 40: “California” went to No. 50 and the two-sided single “God Knows/Baby, I’m Yours” (the latter being a cover of Barbara Lewis’ 1965 hit) stalled at No. 74, both in 1978. Boone did have a better time of it on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart, with five more singles beyond “You Light Up My Life” reaching the Top Forty there into 1981.

“You Light Up My Life” was, of course, the title theme to a 1977 movie, sung for the soundtrack by Kasey Cisyk and lip-synched in the movie by actress Didi Conn. In the movie, it’s a love song, but the very devout Boone, according to Wikipedia, “interpreted it as inspirational and proclaimed that it was instead God who ‘lit up her life’.”

(There was some nasty hoo-ha in 1977 and beyond about songwriter and producer Joe Brooks not paying Cisyk or crediting her for her performance as well as something about Brooks’ recording Boone’s version of the song over the same instrumental tracks used for Cisyk’s version. But then nasty hoo-ha might have been Brooks’ default mode, as he committed suicide in 2011, says Wikipedia, while awaiting trial “on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges.”)

Billboard has since released at least two more lists of its top all-time records; in the last of them, in 2013, “You Light Up My Life” was at No. 9. I do not know if any of the eight records ranked above it are One Hit Wonders, and I really don’t care. In the era I care about most, reflected by the 1993 volume, Debby Boone’s hit is the top-ranking One Hit Wonder of all time.

*One might argue that “Endless Love” is a One Hit Wonder as it’s the only time that the duo of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie charted. But that would be silly.

Saturday Single No. 614

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

It’s cool and gray outside. Nevertheless, our plan is to head out this afternoon for a quick trip to the small town of Pierz, where we will stop at our favorite butcher shop to buy some bacon and other meats.

In the meantime, however, we’re going to play a quick game of “What’s At No. 100,” taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from October 27, 1973. That chart may provide surprises, as it came out during my time in Denmark. We’ll see.

We’ll start, as we always do, with the Top Fifteen:

“Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Angie” by the Rolling Stones
“Half Breed” by Cher
“Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band
“Keep In Truckin’ (Part 1)” by Eddie Kendricks
“Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
“Paper Roses” by Marie Osmond
“Heartbeat – It’s a Love Beat” by the DeFranco Family
“That Lady (Part 1)” by the Isley Brothers
“Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder
“All I Know” by Art Garfunkel
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
“Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters
“We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk

Obviously, I know all of those now, forty-five years later, and most of them well. At the time, I knew “Angie,” having had help from my Danish brother in working out the chords on the piano and also having heard it live at a Rolling Stones concert a little more than three weeks earlier.

Stones Ticket

And it’s a decent Top Fifteen. I can do without the Marie Osmond and DeFranco family singles, but otherwise, it’s fine. Art Garfunkel’s record is a bit light, but it’s lovely.

What lies below, however? Dropping down to No. 100, we find a nifty piece of boogie new to the Hot 100 and on its way to No. 3: “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” by Brownsville Station.

The band – from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and not from Texas as its name might imply – would never again come close to the Top Ten. The group’s only other Top Forty hit would be “Kings Of The Party,” which went to No. 31 in the autumn of 1974. There were a few other records in the Hot 100 before, after and between the two hits in a time frame that began in late 1972 and ended during the autumn of 1977.

As with most tunes from the 1973-74 academic year, I learned about “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” long after the fact, so there’s no emotional hook here for me. But it’s a fun record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Love, Murder & Regret

Friday, October 26th, 2018

One of my regular stops for tunes new to me or for new perspectives on tunes familiar is the fine blog Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. From imaginatively themed mixes to the multi-part history of country music, I’ve gotten more tunes from the Halfhearted Dude than I can easily digest, all offered with trenchant commentary.

We don’t agree on everything. There are tunes and genres he likes that leave me wanting, and I know there are tunes and genres dear to me that likely draw from the Dude eye-rolls worthy of a teen. As an example, I wasn’t crazy about everything he offered this week in his “Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 1,” which was nevertheless a fun mix. And one of the tracks in the mix pulled me back to one of my own explorations here: Olivia Newton-John’s 1971 cover of “Banks Of The Ohio,” a song of love, murder and regret.

I included Newton-John’s live performance of the song five years ago when I looked a little bit at the song’s long history. As I wrote then, it was startling “to see earlier this week in the Billboard Hot 100 from October 30, 1971, that Olivia Newton-John had a hit with a gender-flipped version of ‘Banks Of The Ohio.’ The single went only to No. 94 here in the U.S. (No. 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart), but it was No. 1 for five weeks in Australia.”

Here’s the studio version:

The Halfhearted Dude called the track “the weirdest” of the twenty-four he included in his murder collection. I left a note at his blog suggesting that if he truly wanted weird, he should listen to Glenn Yarbrough’s take on the tune, found on his 1957 album Come Sit By My Side. The video I linked to five years ago was layered with surface noise; in this video, the purposeful and disquieting dissonance conjured up by Yarbrough and his producer, whoever he was, is much more audible, as is Yarbrough’s odd and jarring diction. I called the whole thing “creepy” five years ago, and I have not changed my mind.

And when I shared Yarbrough’s “Banks Of The Ohio” five years ago, frequent visitor, commenter and pal Yah Shure agreed with my assessment: “Creepy is right! Must thoroughly cleanse musical palate now.”

He went on to compare Yarbrough’s take on the old folk song to a record a local band recorded during his youth:

Some fellow students from my high school were in a band called the Poore Boyes, whose “Give” – a 1966 single on the local Summer label – was a reverb-drenched love-’er and stab-’er affair that I’m guessing didn’t generate boatloads of requests at their high school prom gigs, in spite of some airplay on KDWB. It had that minor key/echo/surf Kay Bank Recording Studio sound (think “Liar, Liar” with knives and blood.)

Here’s the Poore Boyes “Give” on the Summer label (along with the B-side “It’s Love”):

There was a second version of “Give” by the Poore Boyes, Yah Shure said:

The group re-cut . . . er, re-recorded “Give” in a much drier version for Capitol’s perennially-hitless Uptown subsidiary, but the lyrics sounded even creepier – more premeditated, even – when uncloaked from the murky, damp darkness of the earlier echo-fest.

Here’s that second version:

I’ll let Yah Shure have the final word on “Give,” from his comments five years ago: “Maybe Olivia should’ve covered it.”