Saturday Single No. 270

One of the interesting things I’ve read in the past few days was a blog post at the Washington Post website noting what objects are ceremonially dropped – like the ball in New York City’s Times Square – to mark the new year. I didn’t wander through all the entries on the interactive map, but three of the New Year’s drops around the country caught my eye:

The first one, actually, is a raising: The elevation of a giant Hershey’s kiss in – of course – Hershey, Pennsylvania. And the second is what is listed as the “10-foot glowing guitar drop” at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, New York. Either one of those would be cool to see, as would the pickle drop in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.

I don’t know that any town or organization around here does any kind of object drop (or raising) for New Year’s. It really wouldn’t matter to us anyway, I guess, as the Texas Gal and I tend to stay in on New Year’s Eve. We don’t carouse much anymore. And that’s fine.

But I will mark the turning of the year here, with one of those little games I like to play with numbers: A look at records that were No. 31 in the Billboard Hot 100 on December 31 during a few different years. I’ll also take a look at the No. 1 records during those weeks. (Not all of the Hot 100s I’ll reference here were released on December 31, but they were the last rankings released during the years in question.)

We’ll start in 1961. Topping the chart was the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” It was the third of an eventual twenty records the Brooklyn group would have on or near the chart, and it spent three weeks at No. 1.

Sitting at No. 31 that last week of 1961 was Jimmy Elledge, a Nashville singer making the only chart appearance of his career with his version of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Elledge’s very good version of a now-familiar tune was moving up the chart as 1961 ended; it would peak at No. 22.

Five years later, as 1966 was ending, the No. 1 tune on the Billboard chart was the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” the second of three No. 1 hits and the second of a total of twenty-four records on or near the chart for the group.

Heading down to today’s sweet spot on the chart, No. 31, we find Neil Diamond with his third charting single. He’d eventually have fifty-six records on or near the charts, most of which are familiar, but I don’t think I’d ever heard “I Got The Feelin’ (Oh No No)” until this morning. The record, which I like a lot, was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 16.

The last week of 1971 found one of the more odd singles of the year – or any year – sitting in the top spot: “Brand New Key” by Melanie, with its quirky vocals and barely disguised metaphors, would spend three weeks at No. 1 and would be one of fourteen singles on or near the chart for the singer/songwriter from Queens, New York.

Thirty-one spots further down the chart from Melanie sat a record by the Jackson 5 that seems to get lost among that group’s stellar collection of hits: “Sugar Daddy” was on its way to No. 10, but that might have seemed like a letdown for a group that had placed four records at No. 1 and two at No. 2 in a little more than two years. After 1971, there would be one more Top Ten hit for the Jackson 5 and then three for the Jacksons; all together, the act would put thirty-one records on or near the chart. As to “Sugar Daddy,” my thought is that it sounds a little derivative of the Jackson 5’s earlier hits, especially “I Want You Back.”

Another powerhouse was atop the charts as 1976 was drawing to a close: Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” was in one of its eight weeks in the top spot; Stewart would put fifty-seven records on or near the chart through 1999 (and I suppose I should note that this Stewart hit is one of those records that would make my All-Time Bottom Ten).

Things sounded a bit better thirty-one spots down in that last Hot 100 for 1976, where the Bee Gees were holding court with “Love So Right.” The ballad had peaked at No. 3 a little earlier and was on its way down the chart; it was one of forty-eight records placed on or near the chart by the brothers from Australia.

And we’ll head, finally, to the end of 1981, when the No. 1 single was Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” which spent a total of ten weeks atop the chart. It was one of forty-one chart hits or near-hits for the Australian singer. (I don’t care that much for this one either, although in this case the dislike is not nearly as visceral; I think I just heard the record too frequently during its weeks of popularity.)

Our last stop of the morning is No. 31 during the last week of 1981, where we find Queen joined by David Bowie for the sometimes fascinating – depending on my mood – “Under Pressure,” which was on its way to No. 29. Queen would put twenty-eight records on or near the chart, and Bowie would get thirty-one records in or near the Hot 100.

So there are five tunes that sat at No. 31 on the last day of those years. Which of them would serve well as the last record shared here this year? I like the Neil Diamond single a lot, but I find myself drawn to Jimmy Elledge’s record. Part of that is because it was the only time he showed up in the Hot 100, but a large part of the attraction is the song itself, which makes it a suitable meditation for the last of this year. So Elledge’s version of “Funny How Time Slips Away” is today’s Saturday Single.

May we all have a fine and full 2012!

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 270”

  1. tom says:

    “Long time listener – first time caller” just wanted to thank you for all of you posts. I grew up in Iowa with a 1954 birth date and lived similar experiences – keep up the good work and happy 2012…. tom

  2. Steve E. says:

    Interesting that in three of the years you cited (1966, 1976, 1981), the No. 1 record on Dec. 31 was also the No. 1 record for the year. And I’m intrigued by your comment on the Rod Stewart track: What are other candidates for your All-Time Bottom 10?

  3. Paco Malo says:

    “…. We don’t carouse much anymore. And that’s fine.”

    I’m with you and the Texas gal. I’ve got all the New Year’s Eve excess stories I’ll ever need — especially one New Year’s Eve party bringing in 1985 at my soon-to-be-twenty-year-partner’s house.

    Whew! Lucky I survived. 30 below but snuggled up tight on her couch. The Sicilian thunderbolt for sure. That first date lasted 30 days straight until I had to rush back to Baltimore and wing it as the teaching assistant in a grad school psychology course.

    “But I better not say any more, or I might be saying too much.”
    I’m out. Great post.

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