Saturday Single No. 448

We’re going to play some games with numbers this morning, digging into some Billboard Hot 100s from a twenty-year span in search of a Saturday single. We’ll take today’s date – 5-23-15 – and add that up to 43, and then we’ll check out No. 43 in the Hot 100s for May 23 in the years 1987, 1981, 1976, 1972, 1969 and 1967.

Why, some may ask, are we beginning this in 1987, a year that rarely shows up here musically? (And many may not care.) Because May 23, 1987, was one of those dividing days, a day during which my life changed dramatically. First, and of lesser importance, it was the day that effectively ended my adjunct teaching time at St. Cloud State. I spent a good portion of the day sipping coffee in a St. Cloud restaurant, figuring out final grades for the students in my visual communications class. And then, that evening, I went to a friend’s party, where I met someone. By the time I drove home to Monticello in the early hours of May 24, my life had changed.

So off we go, starting with the Hot 100 released on May 23, 1987, where No. 43 was “Sweet Sixteen” by Billy Idol. More mellow and restrained than most of Idol’s charting work, the record was on its way up to No. 20. It’s catchy and sweet, but for some reason, the record unnerves me. I guess I’ve always had the sense that underneath the veneer of love, there’s an obsession for the young lady that might eventually find itself expressed in less-than-acceptable ways.

And in 1981, we fall directly on May 23 once more, and we find that the No. 43 record that week was “Say What,” by Jesse Winchester. The jaunty record was rising in the chart, heading for a peak of No. 32 (No. 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart), which would make it the only Top 40 hit in the long and mellow career of the late singer-songwriter. Running into “Say What,” which is a pretty good single, might be a sign, given my long-running affection for Winchester and his work, or it might just be a coincidence.

Things rock a little more when we go back to May 22, 1976, as we find “Crazy On You” by Heart sitting at No. 43. The first charting single for the Wilson sisters and their friends, “Crazy On You” was heading toward its peak at No. 35. (The Mushroom label reissued the single in 1977 after Heart had moved to the Portrait label on its eventual way to Epic; the reissued single went only to No. 52.) For some reason, I whiffed at the time on “Crazy On You” and its summertime follow-up, “Magic Man,” not catching on to Heart until “Dreamboat Annie” during the winter of 1976-77. I’ve since made up for that whiff.

And a decent bit of Stax soul greets us as we dig into the Hot 100 from May 20, 1972, when the No. 43 record was “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long” by Frederick Knight of Birmingham, Alabama. The record would peak at No. 27 (No. 8, R&B), giving Knight his only Top 40 hit. As I said, it’s a decent record, but the low bass parts contrast with the falsetto to make it sound – at some points, anyway – a little bit like a novelty.

And as we head back another three years, we go from an R&B singer with one Top 40 hit to a classic pop singer with twenty-seven Top 40 hits: “Seattle” by Perry Como was parked at No. 43 in the Hot 100 that was in play during this week in 1969. “Seattle” wouldn’t head too much higher; it would peak at No. 38 (No. 2, AC), but the song is etched deeply into my memory: One of Rick and Rob’s sisters was a big fan of the song and of the television series Here Come The Brides, which used the song as its theme, and I heard the record frequently when I was at their house. (According to Wikipedia, however, neither Como’s version nor the version recorded by Bobby Sherman – who starred in the show – was ever used on the show; when lyrics were added to the theme during the show’s first season, they were sung by “The New Establishment,” which one would guess was a group of studio singers.)

We finish our trek back today with a stop in the third week of May 1967, when the No. 43 record was “Melancholy Music Man” by the Righteous Brothers. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard the record until this morning, and it sounds like – a little more than a year after “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” went to No. 1 – Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were throwing anything at the wall, as long as it had a Spectorish backing and some call-and-response vocals, to see what would stick. Well, “Melancholy Music Man” didn’t stick, as it moved no higher than No. 43. And I understand its failure: The record sounds like a mess.

So, with six candidates, where do we go? Well, long-time readers will know that as soon as Jesse Winchester showed up, anything that came after would have to be better than good to alter the outcome of today’s contest. And although I like “Seattle,” it’s just not good enough. That means that “Say What” by Jesse Winchester, is today’s Saturday Single.

(The video above uses the version of the tune from the album Talk Memphis. Whether it’s the same as the single, I don’t know.)

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