What’s At No. 100? (1-30-1961)

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.

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