The 50 Least-Deserving #1s
“Fighting to stay free” #147..September 2010
And now, ladies and gentlemen…
…I would just like to say, what a summer this has been. As this is the first chance I've had to say anything about anything, here now the typed and bulleted version of all my scribbled notes since June.
Pixar Vs. Dr. Luke. When Pixar rolls out another family-friendly super-clever CG-eyeful, nobody complains. But when Dr. Luke dominates Top 40 radio and its format cousins, critics get the knives out. I guess that's because you could have chosen not to see Toy Story 3 more easily than you could have avoided “California Gurls,” “Dynamite” and “Magic” (et al) this summer. Also, the perception is that making a movie is not only harder than crafting a hit song, but there's more “art” to it: most just assume creating memorable characters, writing clever dialogue and perfecting digital animation takes more brain power than rhyming “ay-oh” with “let's go.”
Lately, a certain music business blogger has been spending way too much time denigrating those who make music for Top 40, arguing that those making music for its own sake are the only true artists. While I tend to side with this gentleman most of the time, in this instance methinks Mr. Rock has rocks in his head. For as long as there has been a music business, there have been singers and musicians who aspire to reach as many people as possible – and, just by the by, make as much money as possible too. Sometimes this happens by accident, but more often it's on purpose, moreso in the past 60 years given progress in production and greater organization at record companies. The bottom line is, music can be good whether it's popular or not, even if your kids like to say “I liked that band before everybody else discovered them.” The question shouldn't be, were the Allman Brothers trying to make a hit song when they recorded “Ramblin' Man” but rather, is it a good song? Why does it matter who plays it and how often?
Which brings me to...
This summer's most memorable music. A few things about the aforementioned “California Gurls”:
1) Was there ever a more blatant attempt to be the hit of the summer? That's not so much a knock as it is an observation about how much easier it is to do this in this era. Fewer labels, fewer stars of a larger stature, smaller budgets, fewer radio group owners and fewer adds per week mean this has become much like, well, summer movies. Years, make that decades ago, so many songs flew at you so fast that by September it was hard to narrow the field down to just a few, let alone one, song of summer.
2) The video made me see just how irrelevant MTV has become in the music world, even though, ironically, they still host the VMAs. Why isn't there a YouTube Video Awards? Sure makes more sense now.
3) If I had come from the future to 1993 and shown Snoop Dogg this clip, would he have jumped off a bridge right then?
4) Wouldn't it have been a nice touch if when Katy popped one of those bubbles, David Lee Roth was in there still wearing his bus driver outfit?
On to the awards.
· This summer's Chubby Checker Award for the most overused word in hit songs goes to “club.” At press time, 3 of the Top 5, and 7 of the Top 20, either took place in “the club” or “this club,” or were about a club. Please pardon me while I get my Seinfeld on: where is this club?
· The Zager O'Sullivan Award goes to Eminem and Rihanna for “Love the Way You Lie,” proving again that a dark-themed, downright depressing song can still take over radio in the happy days of summer.
· The “Why Didn't We Think of That?” Award goes to Travie McCoy for “Billionaire”; let's face, this is the one that goes in the time capsule (if there even is such a thing anymore). And the Will Smith “Men in Black” Award goes to Enrique Iglesias for the biggest summer comeback hit since that one, with the probably-isn't-a-club-anthem-but-sounds-like-it-should-be “I Like It.” (Wonder if Prez likes either? After all, he's referenced in both.)
· The “Who Is This, Really?” Award goes to Ke$ha for “Take It Off” because everyone knows Gaga should have had the hit taking its melody from “Oh, they don't wear pants.”
· The Round Robin Award goes to Cali Swag District for “Teach Me How to Dougie” and popularizing a dance nobody really knows how to do (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITkzmj_fE80&feature=fvsr).
· And the Judds “Why Not Me” Award goes to Carrie Underwood for “Undo It,” as Pop a Country hit as they come, yet snubbed by Pop radio. As will Miranda Lambert's “Only Prettier” be as well, in spite of its easily de-twangable hook and relatable message. At least Taylor Swift's back with the not-very-Country, Tom Petty-reminiscent “Mine.”
Which brings me to...
Why is current Country music so ashamed of being Country? On ABC's broadcast of last June's CMA Music Featival, Keith Urban and band opened with a faithful rendition of the Joe Cocker version of “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Later, Darius Rucker performed wearing a Beatles t-shirt, Kid Rock did “Rock N Roll Jesus,” Uncle Kracker and Lady Antebellum gave us a couple of '90s AC-sounding tunes, Carrie Underwood turned the volume up with the Def Leppard-influenced “Cowboy Casanova,” and even Martina McBride's song featured a blistering guitar solo in the middle. And let's not forget that the name-after-the-name of the special was “Country's Night to Rock.”
Before you say I'm just old, hold on there, pardner. Why do Country songs always seem to make reference to Pop/Rock artists and songs? Like in Kenny Chesney's “Out Last Night” where the girls are singing Sonny & Cher's “I Got You Babe”? Doesn't anything rhyme with Janie Fricke?
At least there's still good old boys and girls like Alan Jackson and Reba, Jason Aldean and Trace Adkins...but how long until radio pushes them to the side? Shouldn't there be a lesson in the phenomenal success of Zac Brown Band, whose debut's still a top-20 seller after nearly two years in release?
Lucky for you, I'm not able to make out the rest of my scribblings, so let's get to...
The 50 Least-Deserving Number One Songs
Try (read, Google) as I may, I could not come up with the origin of the quote “Everybody's (or is that, everyone's?) a critic.” Which upset me, because I really wanted to discover that it pre-dates all of us: that, by our nature, we are all critics. Then I could explain 90% of the suggestions received for THE 50 LEAST-DESERVING NUMBER ONE SONGS.
That's not to say that every novelty act, moonlighting TV star or non-English-speaking singer deserved his or her place at the top of the weekly pop chart. But it's hard to argue with chart-toppers which were clearly sales- and/or radio-driven for at least a few weeks. So when said and done, the final 50 consist mostly of:
Ø The 'sneakers,' as in those songs that slipped in for a week, maybe two, when it was clear that there just wasn't a powerhouse record out at the time.
Ø The 'superstar foregone conclusions,' as in those that got to #1 by being a hot act's long-awaited 1st single (or, later, a heavily-promoted 4th-5th) from a new album.
Ø The 'history book burners,' as in those songs which, taking into account an act's complete hit output, have no business being #1 when none of the true classics were. Or where an inferior remake made it to #1 while the original didn't.
Ø Those that got in due to odd national chart circumstances or rules, or which didn't perform at the same level on most Top 40 stations.
Ø Those that never get played anymore - gone from the charts, out of our hearts.
Ø Everything else that doesn't fit into any of the above. Such as the pair that kick off the list – one from a movie, the other from a TV show, both essentially instrumental, both essentially hook-less.
1. Batdance / Prince (1989) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmvRpWWpgiI
I just don't get this "song"...it's just a montage of stuff (I'm presuming from the Batman movie). I don't know anyone who ever bought it, likes it or even particularly remembers it. (Steve Ordinetz)
the Caped Crusader and Prince...now there's an image NOBODY needs...although rumor has it Prince had a thing for Robin anyway :-). All I can ask when I see or hear about this song is...WHY ??? (Bobby Comstock Jr.)
How “get the funk up!” relates to Batman I'll never know. Basically soundbites over noodling, from an otherwise groundbreaking artist whose nickname after this should have been changed to “His Purple Very-Badness.” And get this, the record “Batdance” kept out of #1? Bobby Brown's “On Our Own,” a song clearly shoe-horned into being the theme from Ghostbusters 2 (and which would definitely have made this list had it reached the top).
Couldn't they have made it even smaller?
2. Miami Vice Theme / Jan Hammer (1985) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQDU-2qMre0
A miracle: the only #1 song without a trace of melody, harmony or lyrics. Generic background music, plain and simple. Talk about riding the coattails of a hit TV show. (Chris Granozio)
Come to think of it, wouldn’t the American Idol theme have made a great radio hit as well? (Tom Smith)
And then consider all the unforgettable TV themes that never even charted.
3. A Big Hunk O'Love / Elvis Presley(1959) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sk1cSzZBqU
A side of the final 45 RCA released of songs Elvis recorded in 1958 before being shipped to Germany. Talk about “no justice,” this derivative track kept one of the best sides ever recorded, the Drifters' “There Goes My Baby,” from hitting #1. Fortunately for the Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me” was timed perfectly to reach the top spot between two Elvis singles the following year.
4. My Ding-a-Ling / Chuck Berry (1972) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YQQ2NF_qGY&feature=fvst
This could have been a career killer. The merry Chuck Berry, who really set the world on fire in the '50s, relegated to this?? Chuck, go back to "Sweet Little Sixteen" in a hurry.
(Charlie Jordan Clarksville, N.H.)
I'm furious that this piece of crap was Chuck's only #1. (Andrew C. Jones Gladstone, MI)
An EASY choice...that embarrassing, juvenile, unfunny, least common denominator, non-musical, blatantly obvious, terribly produced, poorly edited, lyrically nonsensical, incredibly boring, station change-inducing, ear assaulting, nauseating, AWFUL excuse of a record (...hmmm, have a made my point yet?)."When I was a rock and rollin' man, I sang a little song that belonged in the can. It is a song you should NEVER sing. The name of this crap is 'My Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling." 'Nuff said, Rich? (Mike Riccio)
All I can add is, how would you like to have been the guy who had to tell Colonel Tom that this is what kept “Burning Love” from getting to #1?
5. Monkey / George Michael (1988) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHb2XYeXcJI
Not that Elton John (who, oddly enough, would eventually have a #1 duet with George on his live remake of “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me”) needed another #1, but it would have been nice to see him get at least one during the 1980s. “I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That” was his best shot, at #2 when this chugging-on-album-momentum 5th single kept Elton at bay.
6. Before the Next Teardrop Falls / Freddy Fender (1975)
I’ve never quite believed that this was ever the most popular record in the country. It peaked at #13 in R&R, and there does not seem to be much evidence that it was a major sales powerhouse to make up the difference. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on oldies radio, as an AC gold cut, or on country oldies radio, for that matter. (Smith)
Came during a period when it seemed any single that under normal conditions would finish at 2-3-4 slipped into the top slot for one week. Not that Country wasn't big at the time, but this underproduced retro ballad didn't even hit #1 on WABC, where you'd expect a sales story to be borne out. What does it say that I can't even find the original version online to share with you?
7. Ringo / Lorne Greene (1964) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9sIPW9twl0
C'mon! This might be the least deserving of all time...a TV cowboy basically reciting a poem about a cowboy who HAPPENS to bear the name of the Beatles' drummer??? They throw this 3 minutes of manure out in late '64 at the peak of Beatlemania??? Almost makes me wanna swear off capitalism!!!...but it does beg the question...why did the Beatles never do a Western Movie? Cheer-ee-o y'all! (Comstock)
Go back to the Ponderosa, OK, Lorne? he didn't sing this so much as talk it... (Evan Marcus)
Makes you wonder why Michael Landon, heartthrob of the Ponderosa, never had a bonanza of a hit himself.
8. You Keep Me Hangin' On / Kim Wilde (1987) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNyRU0fKHAY
Remakes are really great – you don’t have to go through the trouble of actually writing a hit song, and the younger listeners probably won’t even notice that the original was pounded into the pavement 15 or 20 years prior. (Smith)
Let's see, if the Supremes' original was #1 and Vanilla Fudge's version went to #6, shouldn't this have peaked at #, I don't know, 2½?
9. He Don't Love You (Like I Love You) / Tony Orlando & Dawn (1975) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9_gV4fV5r8
See #7. Which is as high as Jerry Butler's original got. Being the group's first for Elektra (which should have shot the credibility of the Doors' and Carly Simon's label to hell), I'm sure there was a major push. But this was no “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” or “Knock Three Times.”
10. Heartache Tonight / Eagles (1979) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsV3L7Y7JrA
Starting with the mind-numbing beat and culminating with Glenn Frey's wannabe-bluesy vocal, this was the Eagles' worst single outside of perhaps "Seven Bridges Road." (Granozio)
For sure, a massive comedown from “Hotel California.” Plus it robbed Donna Summer of a 4th straight #1 with “Dim All the Lights.”
11. I'm Sorry / John Denver (1975) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5jj0Z_7ef0
By this time Denver had jumped the shark...but the shark didn't realize it yet. (Jon Brams)
In which John Denver gets so atrociously bored that he finally fesses up to having been primarily responsible for most of the excesses of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. DJs got so atrociously bored that they flipped the record over. (Smith)
Very telling that this came after his #1 “Thank God I'm a Country Boy” - his 3rd chart-topper – after which, he never reached the Top 10 again (unless you count that B side, “Calypso,” separately). Maybe he should have pulled a Jackie Gleason and followed this with “I'm Sorry for 'I'm Sorry'.”
12. Dirty Diana / Michael Jackson (1988) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb5lgUXqios
I mean, it’s like, Michael Jackson, you know? And Michael Jackson has records to break, dammit! Who cares if nobody took this embarrassing recycled rehash of “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” seriously? (Smith)
A pivotal #1 to be undeserved. If he'd been kept out for a second week by teen singer-writer-producer Debbie Gibson, would he still have been the King of Pop?
13. Black Cat / Janet Jackson (1990) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R70NFzsL4w
Janet's “Dirty Diana”: 6th single taken from Rhythm Nation can't beat “Beat It,” either.
14. Look Away / Chicago (1988) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhGUyXFyhNw
1. List every song this band's had that should have been #1.
2. Erase all the songs on that list when you realize none of them made it, but this post-Cetera snorer did.
15. Mr. Custer / Larry Verne (1960) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpA_X_7ktnQ
Fun song, but not really worthy of being number one (Steve Thompson in Boss Angeles)
Inane, goofy song that one should have to hear only once per lifetime (name withheld)
Kept Sam Cooke's “Chain Gang” out of #1. I bet that smarts, too, Charlie.
Little Big Deal.
16. Rock and Roll Waltz / Kay Starr (1956) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7GZ8u0WbRc
Not only is it a complete contradiction in terms, this ghastly composition makes my ears bleed. (Granozio)
Kay got lucky, as in the winter of '56, Pat Boone's R&B covers still outscored any original from Little Richard, Fats Domino or Chuck Berry, and “Heartbreak Hotel” was weeks away.
17. I Think We're Alone Now / Tiffany (1987) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826PTEuHKhE
There's nothing like watching a teenage vocalist who had just enough talent to handle the mall circuit chew on a piece of used bubble gum, is there? (Comstock)
Given that 'round this time no one's really sure what actually sold, and few songs stuck around the top for more than a week or two, admittedly this is an easy target. Of course, this made it to #1 while the TJ original didn't. If there's any saving grace, it's that Tiffany kept Madonna out of #1 with one of her more mediocre offerings “Causing a Commotion.”
18. Do I Make You Proud / Taylor Hicks (2006) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibSme0arxkU
Every year (until 2010, at least) it was tradition to have the American Idol finale coincide with the presentation of the “Worst Song Of The Year” award. And every year (through 2006, at least, after which physical releases ended), it was obligatory for AI fans to dutifully purchase the winner’s single as a collector’s item, and then stick it, unopened, in a drawer next to the ten unopened copies of “Candle In The Wind 1997” that they once purchased in the belief that someday they would be valuable. (Smith)
Whod'a thunk the only thing strong enough to stop Shakira's “Hips” was Hicks?
19. Round and Round / Perry Como (1957) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33nTSZ3FXDg
The only time there was a tie for #1 in Billboard pop chart history was when this challenged Elvis' “All Shook Up” in the midst of its two-month run at the top. I never bought it.
20. Don't Break the Heart That Loves You / Connie Francis (1962)
By this point, the Connie Francis/Brenda Lee ballad hit machine had just become stale. This didn't hold a candle to either of her (or Brenda's) 1960 chart-toppers.
21. Laffy Taffy / D4L (2006) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NXBgSCSrIk
In which kids all across the country take their brand-new iTunes gift certificates that they received for Christmas and proceed to download en masse the silliest record on the charts. (Smith)
#4 the week before, #6 the week after. They couldn't stretch this “Taffy” one more week.
22. 4 Seasons of Loneliness / Boyz II Men (1997) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUSOZAgl95A
Coasting off the momentum from "II" and "One Sweet Day," these guys were huge, but this was an undeserving followup at #1. (Eric Aiese)
And it never would have happened in the digital age. Had there been iTunes et al, Elton's “Candle in the Wind 1997” would have been #1 days after its performance.
23. Dark Lady / Cher (1974) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMOQkW4t1K
Multi-weekers “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” and “Half Breed” were legit, but it would have taken more than this to bring down “Seasons in the Sun” in the SoundScan era.
24. Heartaches by the Number / Guy Mitchell (1959) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmRjgWW8yn0
The first time I saw a listing of Billboard's #1 songs from the 50s and 60s – in the index of Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia – I knew every song from 1955 on except this one. I was 14 then and I still haven't ever heard this on the radio as an oldie. And I never got to play it on the radio myself.
25. The Long and Winding Road / The Beatles (1970) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeQGKqDfdU0
I know you won't agree, after all, it sounds like a #1, it was their last, and there's a lot of sentimental value attached. However, this was the only time in Beatle history that a second single was taken from an album. And it got a lot of play as a to-be-released-album cut before the 45 appeared, as opposed to the usual hit-stores-and-radio-at-about-the-same-time strategy. So it never had the instantaneous-#1 feel of earlier Beatles singles. Does this mean the door-knockin' Poppy Family's “Which Way You Goin' Billy?”, should have been #1 instead? Judging from every station I heard and survey I've seen, absolutely.
THE ***HZ SO GOOD*** HALF-TIME SHOW!
As you've seen, most of the mail about undeserving #1s was, let's say, emotional. Had I bent the rules and made this a free-for-all - where any #1 song, even those clearly sales- and radio-driven at the top for weeks, was allowed - we'd have a top 100 like nothin'. As it is, several of the Top 50 entries were fueled by criteria other than those bulleted up top. But the real opinionated stuff turned out to be so good that I wanted to showcase it here. So, here's the best of the rest, or, “Tell Us How You Really Feel.”
American Pie / Don McLean
“The #1 reason why I wish Buddy Holly had lived. I've loathed this monotonous, self-indulgent, endless record from the first time I heard it on my transistor radio.”
Bad Girls / Donna Summer
“The title is half right. The most annoying use of whistles in the history of music, not to mention a casually irresponsible glamorization of prostitution.”
Ben / Michael Jackson
“Are you REALLY sure this rat of a song went to number one?”
Brand New Key / Melanie
“A voice capable of peeling paint off inside walls on the top floor of a skyscraper while she stood underneath the ground floor canopy.”
Dominique / The Singing Nun
Sukiyaki / Kyu Sakamoto
“1963 was a great year, huh?”
“Nothing against the songs or the artists, but it clearly shows why both the British Invasion and Motown were able to find solid niches the next year. 1963 featured one of the biggest Hodgepodges of Hooey in the Pop Music era.”
Hello Dolly / Louis Armstrong
“Go back to trumpet playing, OK, Louis?”
Hold On To The Nights / Richard Marx
The master of over-produced '80s schlock was at his insufferable worst on this sleep-inducing, melodramatic turd.
Honey / Bobby Goldsboro
“What were we thinking????”
“Simply put, there is not enough Prozak in the world for me to like this song!”
I Am Woman / Helen Reddy
“Makes me want to menstruate.”
MacArthur Park / Donna Summer
“I hate this song. It makes me sick that 50 people recorded it. For some reason I see that stupid symbolic cake every time I'm subjected to Jimmy Webb's foray to the pits of lyricism. Wanna know what this stupid cake looks like? Pink eggy icing...blue birthday candles...& big...this is a humongous cake. I love Jimmy Webb's Glen Campbell songs...but I hate this song...I hate the cake...I've hated it from the first time I saw Richard Harris sing it, probably on Johnny Carson. & I still hate it. What a dumb idea! & who can believe that Waylon Jennings, the master of outlaw cool, had the very bad taste to cover it? Oh, Lordie, this is ALMOST as bad as the 'Year 2525.' & not only all this, the stupid song won a Grammy! You might say I hate this song.”
Michael / The Highwaymen
“Surely the beginning of the end of the golden age of Rock and Roll when a sing-along from my 3rd grade music class hits #1...Kum-by-ya 3rd grade music class...Kum-By-Ya!”
That's the Way I Like It / KC & the Sunshine Band “If 'Fly Robin Fly' killed disco, then this buried it.”
The Candy Man / Sammy Davis, Jr.
“All I could think is that Sammy thought he was doing 'something hip for the kids' with this nutty tune. I felt like I was trapped in an episode of 'Sesame Street' every time I heard it.”
This Guy's in Love With You / Herb Alpert
“Go back to trumpet playing, OK, Herb?”
Walk Like an Egyptian / The Bangles
“So annoying that it makes me feel like hopping a plane to Cario to try and knock down the Pyramids with a ball peen hammer.”
We Built This City / Starship
Starting with the laugh-inducing lyrics that belie all the evidence, this is a lamentable example of a once-iconic group sliding into the abyss of insignificance.
Winchester Cathedral / New Vaudeville Band
“Stole the Grammy from 'Good Vibrations' - unbelievable!”
And now we return to our regularly-scheduled program.
26. The Promise of a New Day / Paula Abdul (1991)
It may have seemed like many #1s from the late 80’s-early 90’s didn't deserve to chart so high, but in this case, there was proof. The Hot 100 had not yet been converted to a BDS/Soundscan format, but Billboard was nonetheless printing both BDS airplay and Soundscan sales charts. On the week that “Promise” reached #1, it was only #5 in airplay and #25 in sales – meaning that it would have struggled to reach the Top 10, let alone #1, under the new system. Even if one adds in minor-market airplay and sales chains that were not yet reporting to Soundscan, it seems rather unlikely that Paula Abdul would have come close to unseating Bryan Adams' “Everything I Do (I Do It for You).” (Smith)
Well, now all I have to do is justify the other 49.
“Paula, I have to agree with Tom and Rich: that did not deserve to be a number one song.”
27. Over and Over / The Dave Clark Five (1965) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZILCuvuiDg
Not a terrible record, but “Glad All Over,” “Bits and Pieces,” and “Because” were all much more deserving. (Smith)
What's more, I could find only one major market where it was #1, and that was weeks before it got there nationally.
28. Surrender / Elvis Presley (1961) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oov69t4LSw
The King went to the songs-your-parents-know remake/rewrite well one too many times. Had I been listening when this came out, I'd have raised a white flag too.
29. Love You Inside Out / Bee Gees (1979) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI1ItgP8QjI
Interrupted Donna Summer's stay at the top with “Hot Stuff” to become their 6th straight #1, but the writing was on the wall: they'd jumped the disco-shark with their 5th, the aptly-titled “Tragedy.” There was a new Queen in town whose stuff was hotter than this ever was.
30. Lately / Divine (1998) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uOzZRgJsX8
It almost isn't fair to count “Lately” as a #1 at all, seeing as it snuck in the final week of Billboard's 1998 chart year, before the Hot 100 switched to all-format airplay and allowing tracks not available as commercial singles. Had the change taken place weeks before, this fairly typical R&B girl group ballad wouldn't have had singles sales on its side.
31. Da Doo Ron Ron / Shaun Cassidy (1977) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmrcJe9qD6k
WHY??? (Chuck Igo)
since Billboard changed the charting methods several times, ie. in the mid-70's and mid-late 80's many songs "reached" #1 for only one/two weeks, thus should have never hit #1. (name withheld)
Although the Spectoriginal never had a shot at #1, blocked by “It's My Party” and “Sukiyaki” (and the latter was a phenomenon at the time, albeit a novelty), it just seems a travesty that this creampuff remake did get there. And sales-wise, deservedly.
32. If Wishes Came True / Sweet Sensation (1990) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWF1IBz4O9s
Around 1985, singles sales started declining precipitously, largely because for a long time they were only available on vinyl, which was rapidly becoming obsolete, and labels had little incentive to boost the sales market because of the belief that singles cannibalized album sales. Likewise, format fragmentation was accelerating in the late 1980’s after a brief period of unity forged by MTV. As such, the pop charts were largely determined by Top 40 radio programmers, who were only representative of a fraction of the listening audience and had little in the way of sales guidance as regards what should be played. Add to this the whole phenomenon of “paper adds” which was rife at that point in time, and you have an environment in which God-knows-what could get to #1. (Smith)
But it proved that at least under those circumstances, wishes really did come true.
33. You Haven't Done Nothin' / Stevie Wonder (1974) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji2ma2mfyhU
Q: How many times can Stevie rewrite the same song, as in “Superstition”? A: 3 (“Higher Ground,” “I Wish” and this). “I Wish” gets a pass as it struck a nostalgic chord and just seemed like the right song at the right time, kicking off Stevie's most ambitious album Songs in the Key of Life. “Nothin',” meanwhile, was just one of a string of one-week #1s.
34. Thank God I Found You / Mariah Carey (2000) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KVxjQUCyn0&ob=av2e
How can you manipulate the charts so that a mid-chart airplay hit gets to #1 on the Hot 100? One way, in 2000 at least, was to actually release a physical single. Such entities were becoming quite rare at that time, and if you had a large following of fans, you could gather a lot of chart points that airplay-only hits would not receive. Better yet, why not record two completely different songs with the same title, and call one a “remix” of the other? That way, you can not only more effectively target the song to multiple formats, but maybe you could even get radio stations to play both songs and get twice as many airplay points. Then, you can release the two versions as two separate singles, and get potentially twice the number of sales points, even though Billboard would chart both as a single entry due to the fact that they are both the same song, even though they really aren’t the same song. Clever? (Smith)
Due to payola, PR people, etc., about half of Mariah Carey's "hits" staying at about #15 for a couple of weeks, then all of a sudden shot to #1. Sadly, it's just a matter of payola, I mean time, before she tops the Beatles for most #1s. (name withheld)
You could dispute 5-6 other Mariah chart-toppers, but I really only want to print that once.
35. Amanda / Boston (1986) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhTSlJTP-P4
Because no song from their zillion-selling debut got close (“More Than a Feeling” #5?), and because this ballad had been leaked two years earlier. What's the opposite of “cool beans”? By the way, the week this made #1, Robert Palmer was denied a second trip to the top, with his version of “I Didn't Mean to Turn You On.”
36. How Do U Want It / 2Pac (1996) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfhiE3Jn-NA
CD single included “California Love,” a big radio hit a few months earlier, clearly used to drive the purchase of this and propel it to the top.
37. You're in Love / Wilson Phillips (1991) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7gYii2unkg
Sandwiched between two tough-to-dispute sales/radio hits, Londonbeat's “I've Been Thinking About You” and Amy Grant's “Baby Baby.” Oh, and how is it right that WilPhil had 3 #1s while the Beach Boys and Mamas and the Papas collectively had 5?
38. Go Away Little Girl / Donny Osmond (1971) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRVwpBns5R4
Little Donny trying to croon this classic which Steve Lawrence hit out of the park a decade earlier was a travesty. (name withheld)
This really isn’t an appropriate song for a 13-year-old, even though it may seem like one. I remember reading somewhere that it was because this record got to #1 but Michael Jackson’s excellent, grown-up “Got To Be There” only peaked at #4 that Motown decided to stop attempting to promote Jackson as a “mature” artist and rather milk the “kiddie” factor for all that it was worth. One can only speculate the effect that this may have had on MJ’s well-publicized childhood/adulthood issues. (Smith)
Kept another, arguably stronger, remake from hitting #1, Aretha's “Spanish Harlem.” Interestingly enough, several pains rallied for Steve's original to make this list too. From what I can glean, however, both “Go Aways” were sales powerhouses.
Someday, Justin, you too could have an undeserved #1 hit.
39. Rock On / Michael Damian (1989) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjV5XGfeWVs
The remake of the 1974 David Essex hit (which was #1 in Chicago, Boston, Detroit et al) barely rocked in the hands of this Young and the Restless actor, yet it made it all the way for one week. The song it stopped? Donny Osmond's comeback “Soldier of Love.”
40. Torn Between Two Lovers / Mary MacGregor (1977) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1F5BLLFAeM
When I set out to complete my collection of 50+ years of #1 singles, there were only a handful that I'd neither heard nor even *heard of*. As a 20+ year collector, this felt especially meaningful, since this implied that the songs had totally escaped my collection, oldies radio and pop culture. I'd say "Torn" was the clearest example. Granted, this was before I was born so maybe I missed something, but I'm the first to enjoy a sappy soft pop ballad and I just don't get this one. (Aiese)
Was dreadful - and still is. This may be a personal judgment, but at times the song sounds like the master tape had stretched in spots when they transferred it to vinyl. God help me that I play it in February as a #1 hit in my station's 530am Big Hits Rock&Roll Almanac feature, as The Big Hit of The Day, 1977. (Igo)
If a female act were to record this today, it would be a boast.
41. Incomplete / Sisqo (2000) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kwnn2necI-E
Chart weirdness: Sisqo’s “Thong Song” was such a huge hit that it got to #3 largely on airplay, without the benefit of sales points from a CD or cassette single. A CD single was finally released containing a version of “Thong Song” along with the follow-up radio track “Incomplete.” According to Billboard chart policy at the time, “Thong Song” should have been credited with all of the sales points from the CD, given that “Thong Song” had garnered more audience impressions than “Incomplete” at the time of release. There was a complication, however: “Thong Song” had already been issued as a 12” vinyl single several months prior. Thus, Billboard chose to credit “Incomplete,” a rather modest radio hit, with all of the sales points from the CD single. As such, the record books show “Thong Song” peaking at #3 and the follow-up “Incomplete” peaking at #1, whereas if the 12” had not existed, “Thong Song” would have peaked at #1 and “Incomplete” would have peaked somewhere in the mid-20s. Thankfully, within a few years the physical singles sales market had almost completely disappeared, taking such chart irregularities along with it. (Smith)
Or maybe Billboard was just punishing Sisqo for being such a perv on that first single.
42. Wooden Heart / Joe Dowell (1961) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxjSoPqhGrw
This lightweight (yeah I know, recorded by Elvis a year before) crept in between Bobby Lewis' “Tossin' and Turnin” and The Highwaymen's “Michael.” A couple of pains suggested the latter as undeserved, but sales trends suggest it actually should have had another week on top.
43. Don't Give Up on Us / David Soul (1977) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY8APrYU2Gs
Ya 'know I hope someone told Joshua Bolt/Detective Hutchenson not to quit his day job... oh yeah...that didn't sustain for that long either did it?? Well...hope the royalty checks don't bounce! (Comstock)
Well, better Soul than Hasselhoff, I say. But dare I also say, were there SoundScan in '77, this probably would have spent more than one week at #1.
44. Where Do Broken Hearts Go / Whitney Houston (1988) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yvsU4SNWPA
In 1988 it appeared that Whitney, George Michael and Michael Jackson were alternating with what seemed to be obligatory #1s. This was probably more obligatory than the rest: after all, how could radio programmers deny Whitney her 7th in a row? (Smith)
How about if they asked themselves, will we be playing this 6 weeks from now? Or ever again? Denied? INXS, with what could have been a 2nd straight #1, “Devil Inside.”
45. Listen to What the Man Said / Wings (1975) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw1lmCS11A8
Catchy, yes, but on par with earlier #1s “My Love” and “Band on the Run”? Something tells me it should have been The Captain & Tennille's “Love Will Keep Us Together” for another week.
46. Separate Lives / Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin (1985) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_4w3-CPP6E
Collins was flooding the airwaves with anything and everything in 1985, including this wandering, forgettable ballad. (Smith)
As it happened, right before this came out, Top 40 was on “We Said Hello Goodbye,” the bonus track on Phil's CD, which could have made it to #1 itself.
47. Baby, I Love Your Way / Freebird Medley (Free Baby) / Will to Power (1988) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSCzN3FxLeo
Did anyone ever shout “Freebird!” at a Will To Power concert? (Smith)
48. Imma Be / The Black Eyed Peas (2010) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdAj-dBNCi4
Is this even on the same planet as “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling”?
49. I'll Be Your Everything / Tommy Page (1990) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_ooc8RrehA
Jane Child's one hit “Don't Wanna Fall in Love” could have rang the bell if not for – what the heck was this, anyway?
50. Twilight Time / The Platters (1958) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWHuZa1DxrM
During one of rock 'n roll's most fertile periods – with “Get a Job” and “Tequila” on one side, “Witchdoctor” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream” on the other – this leaped to the top two weeks from its release on the promise of another “Great Pretender” or “My Prayer,” but it never had the same impact. They'd have to wait another year, and their remake of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” for that.
Alright, let me have it. What else deserves to be among the ranks of the undeserving?
MGA Top 50
Great issue, as always. Bone to pick on the omission of John Lennon's "Imagine," and the oft-referred-to-but-obviously-missing "Stairway To Heaven" by Zeppelin. Lennon's words are as applicable and germane today to every generation as they were 40 years ago. And Led Zeppelin is STILL the "last dance" at middle school dances here in South Portland, Maine.
Man, you left out the one crossover song that shocked everyone. “Beat It”-Michael Jackson with guitar work by Eddie Van Halen. I don’t think it had ever been done before. An African American “POP” artist getting (GOOD and constant) airplay on the “Rock” stations across America. I remember tuning in to WYNF (Y95), the rock station at the time in Tampa, FL, and hearing Beat It. I thought, “Wow! Now that’s a drastic format change overnight!”
Robert C. Heiney
The last line of number 49 (quoted):
49. DANCING QUEEN / ABBA (1976) Mama Mia, that's some spicy endorsement.
Is that from the Alka Seltzer commercial, or has that been used somewhere else that I have not seen?
Good list. No. Great list.
I've just been stuck on that commercial since 1970, Mike.
Excellent man, I loved your chart. Would there be enough songs to do a part 2? If so, I'll discuss amongst myself...
I bet there are at least 50 more lurking, Mel.
Young boy sees the future?
To see the Sunday funnies/adverts insert on Wednesday is noticeably early. Usually it comes here in Easton Friday, and for a time when independent contractors delivered our Express-Times, it was put in with Saturday's paper...the last one stopped after discovering he was sending them out to folks that only bought Mon. thru Sat. :-P
And the hits…
HZ' NEW ADDRESS Trouble with screen, file or printout? Worry not: this ish' of Hz should be posted on www.60s70s.org in a matter of days. My guess is you'll want to stick around for lots of other riveting stuff when you get there. If you don't pay a visit, then I should tell you here that webmaster Bob Radil's 60s70s Show is now on Saturdays from 8pm to midnight at http://www.60s70s.org/WNHUHIGH.ASX.
THE HARDEST-“REST”-ING JOCK ON WEEKENDS While on the topic of Saturday radio shows, it wouldn't be the end of this thing without my plugging The Rest of the Week with Rich Appel, Saturday 9am-1pm ET (most often) on www.wrnj.com.
Also, the 2012 edition of the I.R.S. (It Really Shoulda been a Top 10 hit) appears in April-May 2012 edition of Hz So Good.