1984 episode graphic

1984 Podcast

1984 episode graphic

1984 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The “visual sizzle” of music video defines the look and sound of the ’80s, soundtracks yield multiple hits, veteran acts relaunch and Prince floods the zone.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1984, the year that “the 80s” really started to look and feel like “the 80s.”

The year 1980 had been a clean break from Disco on the charts. ’70s Prog Rock faded circa 1978 and veteran Rock acts were trying to figure out their next moves, and it wasn’t Disco Rock. Just ask Kiss, Rod Stewart and others that learned that the hard way! In ’81 MTV launched and in ’82, video arcades swept in, the first big MTV New Wave hits like The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” topped the charts and Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out at the end of the year, making ’83 the year of Michael Jackson (he was everywhere!), but also the year that MTV and video music eclipsed radio and even touring as music’s driving force and all the major labels created music video divisions.

But it wasn’t just music. At the end of ’84, Billboard observed how utterly and completely the “visual sizzle” of music video had transformed American pop culture—from movies and TV (even children’s programming) to advertising and merchandising. “Madison Avenue shelved last year’s celebrities and yesterday’s fashions to create commercials applying the flash and flair of rock video to automobiles, cosmetics, cereal and toys.” The cop show Miami Vice premiered in the Fall of ’84, brainstormed by NBC’s Brandon Tartikoff in a memo that said, simply, “MTV cops.”

By 1984, the “’80s” weren’t just coming into focus, they’d arrived. And that was pretty exciting for a society exhausted from years of ’70s so-called “malaise:” energy crisis, Watergate, urban decay, high inflation and interest rates. It wasn’t too much of a stretch in the ’70s into the early ’80s to see 1984 shaping up as some version of the gray, totalitarian nightmare depicted in George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel 1984. But as it approached, it was turning out to be not that way at all. Apple, the computer company, put an exclamation point on that in its now-legendary Super Bowl ad that launched the Macintosh by Alien and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott, that showed said gray Orwellian dystopia being shattered, literally, with a sledgehammer hurled by a colorfully dressed woman athlete at Big Brother’s dreary visage on the big screen. Then later in the year, President Reagan’s re-election campaign sealed the deal with its famous “Morning in America” ad that helped sweep the President to his 49-state landslide victory over former Carter Veep, Walter Mondale.

#10 Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters

At #10, diving into our countdown, since ’84 was the year of the music video, no surprise that movie soundtracks loomed large on the charts. There were ten (count ’em ten) platinum-certified soundtrack albums in 1984. 1978 had five including Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Then there were four in 1980 including Urban Cowboy and Xanadu. But the ten in ’84 was more than both those two previous best years for soundtrack albums combined. And on the Hot100 singles chart, seven soundtrack songs got to #1 in ’84, five of which we’re gonna hear this hour on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. And the first of them is at #10. It’s Ray Parker, Jr’s “Ghostbusters!”

The theme song of the top grossing movie of 1984, the comedy starring Saturday Night Live’s Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and SCTV’s Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who run a ghost-hunting business out of an old fire house. Ray Parker, Jr’s “Ghostbusters!” #10 on our 1984 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Parker, a session guitarist since the late ’60s, with a string of hits starting in 1978 with his group Raydio (spelled with a “y”), and then as a solo act in the ’80s, hired by the producers to write the Ghostbusters theme in just three days after dozens of submissions had already been rejected. They were having trouble finding the right song because they’d been using Huey Lewis & The News’s current hit “I Want a New Drug,” as a placeholder in the film’s rough cut, but couldn’t get Lewis to do a new soundalike song because he was already locked in on another sci-fi comedy project, Back to the Future. That was 1985’s top grossing movie, and Huey Lewis’s song, “The Power of Love” is our #11 song of 1985.

So while agonizing over the tight deadline, Ray Parker, Jr. sees a pest-control commercial in the middle of the night on TV. Aha! So he quickly writes the “who you gonna call” lyrics to something similar to “I Want a New Drug,” and makes the deadline. Unfortunately though, the music is a little too similar to “I Want a New Drug,” so Huey’s people sue, and eventually settle, but according to Rolling Stone, Parker’s royalty situation remained “a mess.”

For the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II, Run-DMC turned in a Hip-Hop version of the song. Rock bands Walk the Moon and Fall Out Boy both did new versions for the 2016 female Ghostbusters reboot, Fall Out Boy’s version featuring rapper Missy Elliott. And then Ray Parker Jr’s original re-appeared in the end credits of the 2021 sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

#9 Stevie Wonder – I Just Called to Say I Love You

At #9, the return of an act who’d scored Hot100 hits in every year from 1963 to 1982: 20 consecutive years, starting with his live harmonica jam “Fingertips” in ’63, which made him the youngest act ever to score a #1 hit at just 13 and was the #7 song of the year on both Billboard’s year-end chart for ’63 and our Chartcrush ranking. From there to ’82: five more #1s, but he broke his 20 year streak in ’83 when he shelved the album he was working on, working title: People Work, Human Play, even after debuting two songs from it on Saturday Night Live.

Music was changing fast in ’83 with Michael Jackson and MTV, so maybe he needed to retrench and figure things out before making his next move. Which came in ’84: a soundtrack album for a romantic comedy starring Gene Wilder—and as breezy and down-the-middle a song as he’d ever done. It wound up the best-selling single of his whole career. Now, it’s just #25 on Billboard’s year-end chart for 1984 because its final 12 weeks were in their 1985 chart year that began with their November 24th issue, but counting its entire chart run, as we do for every song here on Chartcrush, it comes out #9. From The Woman in Red soundtrack, it’s Stevie Wonder’s, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

Stevie Wonder, “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” #1 for three weeks in October and #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1984. It also topped Billboard’s R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and won Best Original Song at the 57th Oscars, which, by the way, was the only Oscars ever in which all of the nominated songs were #1 hits. Stevie’s harmonica also appears on Elton John’s biggest hit in ’84, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” and Chaka Khan’s groundbreaking “I Feel for You.” And then in ’85 he resumed work on his aborted 1983 album, released it as In Square Circle, and topped the charts again with “Part-Time Lover,” his final #1.

#8 Culture ClubKarma Chameleon

OK, I have an ethnic joke for you, ready? What do you call a band with a Black bassist, a Jewish drummer, and a blond White guitarist fronted by an androgynous Gay Irishman? Actually it’s not a joke; that’s the origin story of our next act out of London’s Post-Punk New Romantic scene headquartered at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden. They named themselves for their diversity. Once the video for their reggae-tinged debut, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” hit MTV in ’82, they were on their way. Other hits followed and in ’84 they scored their biggest, and their only #1, “Karma Chameleon.” It’s Culture Club.

“Karma Chameleon,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1984. Culture Club’s first six charting singles all went top ten, and that was the fifth. Front man songwriter Boy George summed up the song’s message as karma justice if you don’t stay true to who you are. But turns out it’s a confessional song too—owning up to his failings in his strained relationship with Culture Club drummer, John Moss.

In its Rock recap article Billboard observed in ’84 that so-called “new music” was no longer dangerous; it was just new. And to drive home the point, cited Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, and yes, Culture Club. In ’86, Boy George guest starred as himself in an episode of NBC’s action series The A-Team that climaxes with Culture Club playing “Karma Chameleon” in a redneck bar!

#7 YesOwner of a Lonely Heart

So ’84 was a big year for soundtracks. It was also a big year for totally unexpected comebacks. Our #7 song is by one of the groups that pioneered and epitomized British Prog Rock in the late ’60s and ’70s who’d tried to continue making Prog Rock records but broke up in 1980, with the two remaining members eventually forming the Arena Rock supergroup Asia. The re-formed group in ’83 didn’t include either of those members and wasn’t even originally intended as a reunion. But it worked out that way as things started to gel in the studio and additional members including the group’s original lead singer got involved. I could spell all this out for you, but delineating the complicated family trees of ’70s British Prog Rock bands? That’s way beyond the scope of this program! At #7, here’s Yes, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Yes, representing legacy rock on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1984 with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Right up to just months before its release, intended as the lead single from the debut album of a completely new group called Cinema featuring three former members of Yes. As soon as original Yes singer Jon Anderson got involved late in the game, though, everyone knew it had to be a Yes record. And it wasn’t just their first #1 single, it was their first single since an edited version of “Roundabout” off their album Fragile in 1971 to even make more than a blip on the Pop charts.

Probably the best example there is of a ’70s Prog Rock band re-tooling for the ’80s, with most of the credit for that going to producer and Synthpop trailblazer Trevor Horn, who’d actually been in Yes for their 1980 album Drama after Anderson’s departure, and whose song as half of New Wave duo The Buggles was the very first video played on MTV: “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

#6 Lionel Richie – Hello

Now if you rank Billboard’s Hot100 charts by artist, summing up all their chart action in the year, you get what Billboard presents in its year-end issue as the year’s Top Singles Artist. 1984’s Top Singles Artist is our act at #6, with five songs in the top ten during the year. And the biggest of them had two weeks at #1 in May. He began writing it for his first solo album in ’82 but thought it was too corny. Which is really saying something! Not just because the ’80s were a golden age of corny love ballads, but because he’s one of the main reasons this side of Paul McCartney that it was—going all the way back to the ’70s when his ballads like “Easy” and “Three Times a Lady” put his Funk group The Commodores right alongside Barry Manilow and Anne Murray on Adult Contemporary radio. He thought the song was too corny, but his wife loved it, his producer encouraged him to finish it, and it was his top single, the year he was the top singles artist. It’s Lionel Richie’s “Hello.”

Lionel Richie at #6 as we count down the top hits of 1984 on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The R&B recap in Billboard’s year-end “Talent in Action” section made the obvious but still stunning observation that “in between the frightening sales of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the multimedia deluge of Prince’s Purple Rain, Black music’s biggest star was good old Lionel Richie.” When Richie’s second solo album Can’t Slow Down dropped in late ’83, its first two singles were the upbeat hits “All Night Long” and “Running with the Night.” So when “Hello” hit the airwaves, it was Richie’s first ballad in six months, and connected immediately. You’d think that Can’t Slow Down would’ve been the #1 album of the year too, but nope! It was #2 behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was #1 for the second year in a row: the only album ever to repeat at #1 on the year.

#5 Kenny LogginsFootloose

Well as I mentioned, ’84, the biggest year for soundtrack albums, and our #5 song was the biggest hit off the biggest of 1984’s soundtracks. Seven of the album’s songs were released as singles and four were top 20 hits, with two going all the way to #1, including the title track, by a veteran Singer-Songwriter who did a lot of soundtrack work in the ’80s, starting with the theme from Caddyshack, “I’m Alright,” a #7 hit in 1980, but this was his biggest hit. From the film starring Kevin Bacon about a big city kid who moves to a small town where dancing’s not allowed. At #5, Kenny Loggins, “Footloose”

Fun fact about Footloose: dancing bans in America weren’t just a product of Bible-thumping preachers like actor John Lithgow’s Rev. Shaw Moore in the film. At the tail end of World War Two, Congress singled out establishments that allowed dancing with a crushing 40% federal cabaret tax and that’s when the “no dancing” signs went up across the land! It was ostensibly a War funding measure but wasn’t repealed until the mid-’60s.

Kenny Loggins had two songs on the Footloose soundtrack: the title song we just heard at #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1984, plus “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man),” which peaked at #22. Also on the album, the top 20 hits “Dancing in the Sheets” by Shalamar, and a duet by Heart’s Ann Wilson and Loverboy front man Mike Reno, the power-ballad “Almost Paradise,” as well as the other #1 Footloose hit, Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Later in the ’80s, Kenny Loggins scored with the soundtrack hits “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, “Nobody’s Fool” from Caddyshack 2, and “Meet Me Half Way,” from the Sly Stallone arm wrestling movie, Over the Top.

#4 Phil CollinsAgainst All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)

At #4, yet another soundtrack hit. And also the first in a string of seven #1 solo hits for this Prog Rock drummer who assumed lead vocal duties in his group Genesis in 1975 when front man and group co-founder Peter Gabriel left. In ’81, the now drummer and singer in Genesis did a solo album himself, but unlike Gabriel, he stayed in the group. His distinctive vocals and the trademark gate reverb effect on the drums on his records, though?  Integral to both his solo work and his stuff with Genesis in the ’80s, so even fans sometimes have trouble telling what’s what! His first #1 hit either as a solo artist or in Genesis: right on the heels of Genesis’s first top ten hit, “That’s All” earlier in the year, it’s Phil Collins, “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).”

Phil Collins, “Against All Odds,” #4 as we count down the top ten from 1984 here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush: the title theme for the film of the same name starring Rachel Ward, Jeff Bridges and James Woods: a remake of the 1947 film noir classic Out of the Past. It got mixed reviews and played in less than 1,000 theaters, but the song gave it a boost at the box office.

Until Collins’s Hits compilation came out in the late ’90s, “Against All Odds” was only available as a single. And of course on the soundtrack. But it was one of those soundtrack albums with mostly score music and just a handful of songs by various artists, not the kind that’s loaded with hits and sells millions like Footloose.  So people bought the single and drove the song to #1 on the Hot100 for three weeks in the Spring.

#3 Tina TurnerWhat’s Love Got to Do with It

At #3, another astonishing comeback, by a female singer in her mid-40s who’d been recording and touring constantly in small venues, basically as a cabaret act, since her last charting hits in the early ’70s. She generated some buzz doing a stint at New York’s Ritz Rock club in ’83 and Capitol Records put out her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” as a single, which did well, so she recorded an album for Capitolin just two weeks in the Spring, and by September its leadoff single was #1 and she was on tour opening for Lionel Richie. At the time she was the oldest female singer ever to top the Hot100. The comeback leadoff single from the album Private Dancer, by Tina Turner: the #3 song of 1984 and Record of the Year at the Grammys “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

“What’s Love Got to Do with It,” 1984’s #3 song, Tina Turner. Two more top ten hits from the Private Dancer album followed in ’85, “Better Be Good to Me” and the title track, “Private Dancer” while she played a 177-date world tour and starred opposite Mel Gibson in the third Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome.

#2 Van Halen – Jump

Since the ’80s, MTV’s Video Music Awards, or VMAs, are of the year’s biggest music awards shows, held every year in late August or early September. Well, 1984 saw the very first MTV Video Music Awards show, hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler at Radio City in New York. “Video of the Year” went to the lead single off The Cars blockbuster 1984 album Heartbeat City, “You Might Think,” and other winners included David Bowie’s “China Girl,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” ZZ Top’s “Legs,” Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and our #2 song, which was the only major VMA winner that was among the top ten chart hits in the year. They won for Best Stage Performance in a Video. It’s Van Halen: the lead single from their blockbuster 1984 album, entitled 1984: “Jump.”

Van Halen won the VMA for “Best Stage Performance in a Music Video” thanks to front man David Lee Roth’s onstage martial arts antics in the video for “Jump,” our #2 song of 1984. The synth riff in “Jump:” the first prominent synth in a Van Halen song, and pretty controversial with the group’s devoted hard rock fan base who’d been with them since their first album in 1978. Rock fans, very leery of “New Wavey” keyboards in those years, perhaps foreshadowing the epic microgenre splintering of Rock’s audience in the ’90s and beyond. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen first came up with the riff in ’81, but it stayed on the shelf until other groups, notably Canadian Arena Rock trio Rush, made it safe for a Hard Rock group to add modern keyboards into the mix.

#1 PrinceWhen Doves Cry

And that brings us to the #1 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1984. The album it was on came out right in the middle of the year, but wasn’t just any album release. Besides records, tapes and CDs, it was tied in with a blockbuster biopic in movie theaters, home video, merchandizing and even the artist’s live shows in a sustained, coordinated multimedia brand assault the likes of which hadn’t been seen for a pop culture commodity since Beatlemania. And it was all timed to hit just as the well of singles from the artist’s 1982 breakthrough album ran dry and the album itself, 1999, dipped into the lower half of the Top 200 Album chart from its peak in the top ten in mid ’83. At #1, the artist? Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Prince. The album, movie and tour, Purple Rain. And its single: the #1 of 1984: “When Doves Cry.”

Prince, “When Doves Cry:” the #1 song of 1984. Now in a year of huge soundtrack hits, it’s easy to forget that Prince’s Purple Rain was a soundtrack album too—to the semi-autobiographical movie Purple Rain, which grossed $72 million, ten times what it cost to make. One of the most prolific Pop artists of the ’80s and ’90s, he managed to integrate almost every style of music into what critics called the Minneapolis sound. But it’s really The Prince sound, since he was closely involved with almost all the other acts that came under that banner: The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Morris Day, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Sheila E., The Family.

Three more singles from Purple Rain were top ten hits in 1984: the title track, “I Would Die 4 U” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” which was also a #1 hit. And he didn’t just top the Billboard charts: an album cut off Purple Rain topped the debut “Filthy Fifteen” chart released by Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center in ’84. “Darling Nikki” details Prince’s adventure with a woman he finds masturbating in a hotel lobby. But things were about to go from bad to worse for parents concerned about x-rated themes in Pop songs: at the end of ’84, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” came out—not a deep album cut, a #1 single. Egads! In 1990, after Senate hearings and a heated debate over censorship, the Recording Industry Association of America introduced the “Parental Advisory—Explicit Lyrics” label to identify music with mature themes.

For his part, Prince was just getting started in 1984. He stayed hot on the charts all the way into the mid-90s even after changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol in ’93. When being a one-name superstar gets old, there’s always unpronounceable symbols!

Well that’s our countdown! Now some years there are big differences between our Chartcrush top ten and the top ten on Billboard’s published year-end Hot100 chart. Not so 1984. The point system Billboard used to rank the songs in ’84? Very similar to the system we apply consistently to every year at Chartcrush.

Only one song from Billboard’s year-end top ten not in our countdown, and that’s Paul McCartney’s duet with Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say.” But not because it lacked ranking points; four of its six weeks at #1 were at the end of calendar 1983, so we have it as the #3 song of 1983. As they do every year, Billboard had a cut off issue for the 1983 chart year to give themselves time to prepare the charts and get the year-end issue printed and mailed by New Years. For ’83, that was their October 29th issue, so “Say Say Say” got kicked into ’84.

And that’s going to have to do it for our 1984 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other bitchin’ extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning ofthe charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

2002 episode graphic

2002 Podcast

Chartcrush 2002 Episode Graphic

2002 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The ’00s take shape after 9/11 as Emo and Bling Rap conquer the charts, Avril and Nelly emerge, Eminem goes mainstream and the ’00s biggest Rock bands debut.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome! I’m Christopher Verdesi, and this is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Every week, we take a look back at a different year in pop music history and count down the top ten hits according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time by the music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’ll be counting down 2002, the first year of the ’00s decade. And I mean that in a cultural sense, of course.

With some decades it’s hard to pinpoint when things changed. Not so the ’00s. Everything changed on 9/11/2001: the Al Qaeda terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, left the Pentagon broken and smoldering in Washington, and United flight 93 vaporized on impact in Pennsylvania. 9/11 was the deadliest act of terror in world history, and the trigger for America’s War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Before 9/11, from the start of the decade on the calendar, not much had changed. Which was weird! 50 years of science fiction had made dates starting with twos instead of ones seem like, well, science fiction! And then Prince in 1982 in his breakthrough hit, “1999:” “2000 zero zero, party over, oops, out of time.” But then people woke up after partying like it was 1999, and lights still on, stuff on TV, money still in the bank. No Y2K computer bug apocalypse. But no Moon colony, jetpacks or robot maids either. Just another day. And then on a sunny Fall Tuesday in September, 9/11.

Some of the distinguishing features of the ’00s emerged right away: a new skyline in New York, crazy security at airports, the Office of Homeland Security, the color coded terror alert level and, of course, war. And other features were already emerging: school security tightening after the Columbine shooting, cell phones doubling to nearly 40 million in the U.S. from ’99 to 2000. And then texting took off 2000 to 2001. Digital cameras were flying off the shelves. Survivor sparked a cascade of reality shows when it was a hit for CBS in 2000. Sony’s Playstation 2, which could also play DVDs, so before long VHS tapes and VCRs started showing up in thrift shops. Friendster and Myspace didn’t launch until ’03, but platforms like Geocities, SixDegrees and of course America Online with its chat rooms were already scratching that itch on the internet.

As for music, never bigger after a decade of explosive growth in the ’90s, but between ’99 and 2015 when music streaming took hold finally, revenue only saw a single growth year and by the end of that 15-plus year slide, the music biz had shrunk to just a third of its size at the end of the ’90s thanks to online filesharing. Courts shut down the original mp3 platform, Napster, in ’01, but the proverbial genie was out of the bottle and the industry spent the rest of the decade playing legal whack-a-mole vs. peer-to-peer services, and then users of those platforms. Once broadband internet became affordable, download times for songs went from minutes to seconds and by mid-decade literally billions of digital song files were changing hands every year, and labels weren’t getting a dime.

None of that frenzied, legally dubious music collecting showed up on the charts either: a huge blind spot. And all because labels had spent the ’90s pushing people to buy $16 albums on CD. Derailing that gravy train by offering individual song downloads? Yeah, no. We don’t think so! So the unthinkable happened: they lost control. But the industry’s revenue free-fall had only just begun.

#10 Avril LavigneComplicated

At #10 as we kick off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, an 18 year-old Canadian newcomer who was pitched to the world as the anti-Britney. The anti-Christina too, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera having dominated the female side of Millennial Teen Pop since ’99.

Now one of the factors that’d made Millennial Pop so successful was that after a decade of jarring Gen-X Nu Metal, Grunge and Gangsta Rap, Millennials’ Baby Boomer parents liked a lot of the stuff their kids were into. It was accessible: “inside the box” of what Boomers thought of as Pop and Rock music. And now that Britney and Christina were 20-somethings and the kiddos had a new teen sensation, parents liked her even better, especially this song: a #2 hit on the Hot100 in the top ten for 16 weeks, but #1 for 16 consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart, it’s Avril Lavigne, “Complicated.”

In a 2002 Entertainment Weekly piece, writer Chris Willman noted that the girls of America were no longer lowering their necklines in homage to Britney and Christina but, instead, learning how to knot a necktie like Lavigne. “Butt cheeks, dance beats, and gleeful artifice are suddenly out, while tank tops, rock, and ‘real’ are unexpectedly back in.”

Two big new things in Pop in ’02, Emo and Sk8ter Punk, both represented by the #10 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002 by 18 year-old Avril Lavigne. “Complicated,” her first and biggest hit until ’07’s “Girlfriend.” Emo: Rock, usually with a Punk edge, that features personal and emotional lyrics. The very first top ten Emo hit? Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” which preceded “Complicated” on the charts by seven weeks.

#9 Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule & Cadillac TahAin’t It Funny (Murder remix)

So in 2001, our next act at #9 pulled a fast one on the charts, releasing a completely new song, but with the same title as a cut on her album, labeling it a “remix,” and thereby combining airplay and sales points for both songs into a single chart position according to Billboard’s policy for remixes. The title “I’m Real” sat atop the Hot100 for five weeks and was our Chartcrush #4 song of 2001. But was it the Hip-Hop song, or the completely different Dance Pop song on the album? Well, that depended on what radio station you were listening to!

Either way, “I’m Real” was a hit. So in ’02, they did it again! Why not? Same crew, same scam: Jennifer Lopez and Epic Records, helmed by Mariah Carey’s ex, Tommy Mottola, bringing in New York’s “it” rapper of ’01 and ’02, Ja Rule, to write a whole new song, but with the same title as the one they’d chosen as the next single off Lopez’s J. Lo album, Lopez adding her vocals and Epic releasing it as the “Murder remix” after Ja Rule’s label, Murder, Inc. And it worked again! Another #1 hit, this time for six weeks, and our #9 song of 2002: “Ain’t It Funny.”

Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule and Cadillac Tah, the so-called “Murder remix” of “Ain’t It Funny.” Completely different song from the Latin Dance Pop cut with the same title that Adult Top 40 stations played once Epic Records released the single, but the two songs combined into one chart position, and “Ain’t It Funny” is #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2002.

When the supposed “remix” dropped, Billboard’s reviewer groused in print that J. Lo’s label “Sony has got to be kidding,” called the ploy “a disturbing trend,” and soon Billboard, not wanting to find out what could happen if an artist released three, or five, or ten different songs with the same title, changed its rule to only allow remixes with the same melody to combine for chart positions.

#8 Vanessa CarltonA Thousand Miles

Next at #8, a one-hit wonder. And the singer-songwriter herself told Elle in 2017 that she loves that expression because she wonders all the time how she ever had a hit. First heard on the big screen blaring out of a sorority house in the Reese Witherspoon flick Legally Blonde, once out as a single, it peaked at #5 and its 41 week run on the Hot100 was the third longest of ’02. Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.”

Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002. Two years after it was a hit, the Wayans brothers comedy White Chicks came out, in which Shawn and Marlon play FBI agents disguised as White Chicks to foil a kidnapping plot. In one scene they nearly blow their cover after “A Thousand Miles” comes on and sparks a singalong with a carful of White chicks, and, being African-American men, Shawn and Marlon don’t know the words. Awkward! You see, White chicks in the mid-’00s were supposed to know every syllable of that song, don’t you know.

#7 CallingWherever You Will Go

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, several hit songs were directly inspired by the attack and the war: Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye’s patriotic march “Remember Pearl Harbor,” musical comedian Spike Jones’s Hitler-mocking “Der Fuhrer’s Face,” and, most successful of all, Kay Kyser’s “Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition.”

9/11’s ripple on the charts, though: much more subtle, and it mainly took the form of existing records finding new resonance. Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” immediately re-entered the Hot100 for 16 weeks and got all the way to #6. But our song at #7, which had only scraped the Mainstream Rock chart after its release in May of 2001, began a slow, four-month crawl up the Hot100 after 9/11. It peaked at #5 and stayed on the chart until September ’02. Its 45 week run included 11 weeks in the top ten, making it our #7 song. It’s The Calling, “Wherever You Will Go.”

Inspired, according to songwriter Aaron Kamin, by a relative widowed after 50 years of marriage, but it took on a whole new meaning after 9/11. The Calling, #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002. Like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” it also topped the Adult Top 40 chart for an insanely long time—23 weeks—and was Billboard’s #1 year-end song of ’02 on that chart. Five for Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” another pre-9/11 song that assumed a new identity after the attacks.

#6 NellyHot In Herre

Next up, the first cut by the only act with two songs in our ’02 top ten countdown. It’s a rapper, which underscores how pivotal a year ’02 was for Hip-Hop. After pushing at the ramparts of Mainstream Pop for over 15 years, influencing a generation of R&B and Pop acts and occasionally breaking through with a hit on its own terms, Hip-Hop now was Mainstream Pop. So it’s fitting that our act at #6, who spent an amazing 17 combined weeks at #1, was also the first to perform in a Superbowl halftime show—Superbowl 35 in ’01 along with Britney Spears, Aerosmith, NSYNC and Mary J. Blige.

His first album Country Grammar came out in 2000 and was on the album chart for 104 weeks: an album of Pop-accessible Hip-Hop party anthems, two of which were top ten hits. If one album marked the start of Hip-Hop’s so-called “Bling Era” in the ’00s, that was it. And then his second album dropped at the end of June ’02 and this song was everywhere in the Summer: #1 from the end of June all the way to the middle of August, seven weeks. It’s Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.”

The Band-Aid rapper, Nelly at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, “Hot in Herre,” from—of all places—St. Louis, which didn’t even have a Hip-Hop scene. Nelly says his style had universal appeal because he took aspects from every region, but his Midwestern twang was something new and unique, and he leaned into it. Heck, it’s right in the title: the word “here” spelled H-E double R E, pronounced “herre”).

Incidentally, Nelly’s trademark facial Band-Aid? A tribute to his former collaborator Lavell Webb, a.k.a. City Spud, serving ten years in a Missouri jail for armed robbery and assault.

#5 UsherU Got It Bad

At #5 we’re gonna hear from the ’90s teen star mentored by moguls L.A. Reid and P. Diddy, who, after a couple of false starts, came to occupy a sweet spot on the male pop R&B sexiness spectrum midway between Michael Jackson’s too-goodness, and Bobby Brown’s too-badness, as songwriter Manuel Seal put it.

As he was just turning 20 he hooked up with Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri and scored a trio of top tens in ’97 and ’98 that updated the male R&B sound with Dupri’s Southern Hip-Hop production and beats. But not only that, his Hip-Hop-derived singing style—clustering syllables together like a rapper—set him up to be one of the biggest chart acts and heartthrobs of the ’00s after a second trio of top ten hits in ’01 and ’02 whose titles all begin with the word “you” abbreviated with the letter “U:” “U Remind Me,” “U Don’t Have to Call,” and the biggest, our #5 song, “U Got It Bad.” It’s Usher.

“U Got It Bad,” Usher: #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2002. Producer Jermaine Dupri wrote the song after Usher couldn’t stop obsessing over a girl he’d brought with him to the studio. He says he knew right away that he was updating Usher’s first smoldering slow-jam hit, “Nice & Slow,” from 1998. The girl may or may not’ve been TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.

#4 NickelbackHow You Remind Me

At #4, the song that gets the prize for chart longevity in ’02: 45 weeks, including four at #1, which made it Billboard’s #1 song of the year. But on chart points, the top four are a tight cluster, and the three songs that edge it out in our Chartcrush ranking all had many more weeks in the #1 spot.

It’s more apparent looking at the top ten on Billboard’s year-end chart than ours, but ’02 was a really big year for Rock on the Pop charts: the strongest since the late ’80s. Billboard had four Rock cuts among its top ten for the year, and two of them make the cut in our Chartcrush ranking. We already heard The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” at #7; here’s Nickelback’s chart debut, “How You Remind Me.”

Canadian Rockers Nickelback, the #4 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, “How You Remind Me.” #1 for four weeks in January, and it stayed in the top ten for 23 weeks. The most played song on radio in the entire ’00s decade.

In the years since 2002, and especially after their Diamond-certified fifth album All the Right Reasons in 2005, Nickelback became Rock’s scapegoats and whipping boys: “the one band that virtually everyone is happy to mock relentlessly,” as Stereogum’s Tom Breihan put it. Why? Well, their success, of course. Also, there was a sameyness to the style and sound of the Post-Grunge bands that dominated Rock radio in the early ’00s, and that contributed. But even beyond that, nowhere was the fracturing of Pop into a gazillion genres and micro-genres more pronounced than in Rock, so the idea of a band getting as big as Nickelback got was kind of an anachronism.

#3 Ashanti – Foolish

Now as I touched upon when we heard Ja Rule’s “Murder remix” of J. Lo’s “Ain’t It Funny” at #9, Irv and Chris Gotti’s Murder Inc. Records was the hottest Hip-Hop label in New York in ’02, and our act at #3 had gotten in on the ground floor, writing and singing hooks and background vocals, including on the J. Lo tracks, and featuring on Hip-Hop releases by the label’s roster of rappers. Those included Ja Rule’s biggest hit “Always on Time,” which catapulted her to instant stardom when it was in the top ten for 16 weeks starting in December ’01. Then, in February, her feature on Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” and her first solo single debuted simultaneously. With Billboard’s April 20 Hot100 chart, she became the first female ever to occupy the top two spots the same week. “What’s Luv?” was #2 for seven weeks and at #1 for five of those weeks? Our #3 song: it’s Ashanti’s “Foolish.”

That repeating piano figure in our #3 song, Ashanti’s “Foolish:” sampled from an album cut by 80’s R&B group DeBarge, but it had also been in rapper The Notorious B.I.G.’s biggest hit while he was alive. Biggie, gone just five years in ’02, so Ashanti protested when Murder, Inc. boss Irv Gotti gave it to her to write a song around. But Gotti said he knew what he was doing, and the sample, instantly familiar to Ashanti’s intended audience, helped “Foolish” shoot to the top of the charts, where it stayed ten weeks.

#2 Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland – Dilemma

We’re counting down the top hits of 2002 on this week’s edition of Chartcrush, and at #2 we have another rapper-singer duet, but unlike J. Lo and Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny,” on this one the rapper is singing too. Not too many singing rappers before Drake emerged late in the decade.

And it’s also the first #1 hit for a member of early ’00s R&B uber-trio Destiny’s Child. Nope, not that member! Beyonce’s first #1 hit was “Crazy in Love” (with Jay-Z) in 2003; our #2 song features Kelly Rowland, and as for the rapper, we heard his “Hot in Herre” at #6, so this is the second of his two hits in our countdown: the only act with two. It’s Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma.”

#1 for seven weeks, August and September, knocked down to #2 for two weeks, and then it returned to the top spot for another three weeks, October into November, Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma,” the #2 song of the year according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking.

In the video, Kelly is shown doing something that was pretty cutting-edge in ’02: texting. Except she’s doing it on an Excel spreadsheet, not a texting app. Maybe she needed more than 160 characters? By the way, the song that bumped “Dilemma” to #2 in October? American Idol Season One winner Kelly Clarkson’s coronation single, “A Moment like This.”

#1 Eminem – Lose Yourself

And that gets us down to the #1 song in our countdown. In a year of very long runs at the top of the Hot100, this was the longest: 12 weeks. But don’t look for it in the top ten or even the top 20 of any Billboard year-end chart, because Billboard only counted activity up to its November 30 cutoff issue for ’02. Everything after that? Kicked into ’03. This song was #1 from November 9 to January 25 ’03, so in Billboard, it’s #63 for ’02 and #28 for ’03.

Well that’s not right! In fact, there’s a long list of year-straddling hits throughout chart history that’ve fallen through the cracks like that. So here at Chartcrush, what we do is count every song’s entire chart run, and then rank it in the year it earned the majority of its points. Which makes this the #1 song of 2002. Are you ready? It’s a monster! Vanilla Ice was a distant memory and The Beastie Boys had thrown in with alt-rock; was the world ready for another White rapper? Capping off the year that Hip-Hop found its mojo at the top of the Pop charts, squarely in the mainstream of American Pop, from 8 Mile, the semiautobiographical film that made him a superstar, it’s Eminem “Lose Yourself.”

Eminem, out of Detroit, Michigan, “Lose Yourself.” #1 for 12 weeks on the Hot100 and #1 in our exclusive Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking of the biggest hits of 2002. Eminem came into ’02 already a big star since The Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers LPs, in ’99 and 2000, respectively, and his top ten hit, “The Real Slim Shady” in 2000. But 8 Mile and “Lose Yourself” expanded his appeal way beyond Hip-Hop. His album The Eminem Show topped Billboard’s year-end album chart in ’02, and “Lose Yourself” won Best Original Song at the 75th Oscars.

Bonus

So our #1 song, “Lose Yourself,” one of the three cuts in our Chartcrush Top Ten for 2002 that were absent from the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Hot100. J. Lo and Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny” and Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” the others at numbers 13 and 11 respectively on Billboard’s ranking.

So what songs from Billboard year-end top ten got bumped out of ours? Well as I said earlier, ’02 was a big year for Rock, which is better reflected on Billboard’s year-end top ten than ours.

Puddle of Mudd’s nihilistic Emo-Grunge song “Blurry” was #10.

“Blurry” was #15 on our Chartcrush ranking.

Unlike Kansas City’s Puddle of Mudd, Agora Hills, California’s Linkin Park continued charting top ten hits through the decade.

“In the End,” Linkin Park’s breakthrough, Billboard’s #7 song of ’02 and the second most played Rock song of the Aughts, behind Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me.” It just misses our Chartcrush top ten at #11.

And finally, Billboard’s #8 song was the other song in Ashanti’s two-fer at the top of the charts in April and May.

“What’s Luv?,” Fat Joe featuring Ashanti, missing our top ten at #13.

Well that’s the show! Thanks for listening to our 2002 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other tight extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again—same station, same time—for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1958 episode graphic

1958 Podcast

1958 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Teens take over the Pop charts as Billboard unveils the Hot100, silly hits abound, Folk is back and the Jet Age dawns with foreign language songs like “Volare.”

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1958, Rock’s “toddler year,” the terrible twos and threes when Rock and Rock’s teenaged fans with their frenzied fandom and record buying, really took over the Pop charts, kind of like how a toddler takes over the house.

American society gave birth to Rock ‘n Roll, now it had to tame it and assimilate it. Of course there’ve been many times since the ’50s when music’s youngest fans have planted their flag and made the Pop charts exhibit “A” in the generation gap, but the mid-to-late ’50s was the first time, and it wasn’t a gap, it was a chasm.

Columbia Records’ head of A&R, Mitch Miller, one of the most powerful men in the music biz, called Rock ‘n Roll, in 1958, “musical baby food” and “the worship of mediocrity,” adding that it’ll never last, and kids only like it because their parents don’t. In a French magazine, Frank Sinatra wrote that Rock is “the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it’s been my misfortune to hear. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” And these sentiments resonated broadly because the music was so different, yes, but also, juvenile delinquency was making headlines.

Court cases involving teens doubled from 1948 to 1957. Juvenile arrests in New York tripled in the ’50s, and as early as 1954, a subcommittee in the U.S. Senate was investigating links between juvenile delinquency and media. 1955, a banner year for movies about juvenile delinquency: Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean as an emotionally confused middle-class suburban teen, and Blackboard Jungle, adapted from author Evan Hunter (a.k.a. Ed McBain’s) book about the crime and violence he’d seen during an aborted teaching stint at a Bronx High School. That had “Rock Around the Clock” in its opening sequence, which helped push the song to #1, but also cemented the link in people’s minds between teenage hooliganism and Rock music.

Of course not all parents in the ’50s thought Rock ‘n Roll was going to turn their kids into juvenile delinquents, but not many households had more than one TV, radio or record player. And consumer headphones? Nope, not for another ten or fifteen years. So parents heard the music, saw the TV shows and were more clued in to their kids’ media and culture than most people in later years can imagine, whether they wanted to be or not. For ones that didn’t, transistor radios and portable record machines made great birthday or Christmas gifts. Stack your 45s on the spindle, drop the needle, instant dance party, but in your room, or better yet, over at a friend’s. “What do I have to do stop this racket and get a little peace and quiet around here?” “I don’t want you kids futzing with my hi-fi.” Tech to the rescue!

So Rock’s toddler year: things did get pretty silly, and we’ll hear that this hour. But more broadly, ’58 was a formative year in society’s grappling with a distinct “youth culture” that hadn’t been a thing before 1950 and was both formed and reflected by, but impossible without, mass media, and as separate from family as you could get in those days. Looking back, music: an even bigger influence on “youth culture” than even the most peppery anti-Rock ‘n Roll crusaders in the ’50s could’ve credibly asserted or even imagined. Which of course is why we even talk about these silly sonic artifacts decades after they first cast their spell on a willing but unsuspecting public. So with that, let’s count down some songs, shall we?

#10 (#13) The Platters Twilight Time

At #10 is a Black vocal group, heirs to a long tradition on the Pop Charts. 15 years before Rock ‘n Roll, The Ink Spots had notched three of the year’s top ten songs. And they stayed hot even after another Black vocal group, The Mills Brothers, debuted, scored the #1 hit of 1943 and nearly repeated in ’44. Then The Ink Spots were back with the #1 song of 1946. Things cooled off in the Crooner years, but The Mills Brothers returned to the year-end top ten in ’52, and The Four Knights in ’54. In ’55, Rock ‘n Roll hit and our act at #10, under the tutelage of L.A. songwriter-producer-arranger Buck Ram, updated the vocal group sound with more prominent lead vocals and rhythms. Ram finagled them a deal with Mercury, and they scored four top tens in the first eight months of 1956: romantic make-out classics like “Only You” and “(You’ve Got) The Magic Touch,” and the biggest of all, “The Great Pretender,” all Buck Ram songs. But it was a version of one of Ram’s old songs from the ’40s that became their first appearance in a yearly top ten, in 1958. #10 on our countdown, it’s The Platters’ “Twilight Time.”

Mercury wanted to sign a different group that Buck Ram was managing, The Penguins, on the strength of their top ten hit in early ’55, “Earth Angel.” Ram gave them The Penguins, but only on the condition that they also sign The Platters. “Twilight Time,” The Platters’ fifth top ten hit and the #10 song according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking for 1958.

#9 (#12) The Champs Tequila

At #9, an instrumental that burst into the American Pop consciousness by accident, and has never left. It was a jam session, based on a Mambo song “Como Mi Ritmo No Hay Dos” (“There Is No One Like You”) by Cuban musician Cachao, recorded in three takes by a group of L.A. studio musicians to put on the B-side of a single. A deejay in Cleveland started playing the B-side, and it shot to #1 for five weeks in March and April. Some critics have called it “the birth of Latin rock.” Here are The Champs “Tequila.”

“Tequila,” #9 in our 1958 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Danny Flores, the man behind “Tequila,” playing the dirty saxophone and saying “Tequila.” And he got the sole writing credit on the song, but had to use a pseudonym, Chuck Rio, because he was under contract with another label. After it was a hit, the nameless ad hoc studio group actually became The Champs, but the law of diminishing chart returns applied on their follow-up instrumentals, “Too Much Tequila” and “Tequila Twist.” But keep an ear out, we haven’t heard the last of “Tequila” this hour!

#8 (#11) Conway Twitty It’s Only Make Believe

Well we’re down to #8, and I have a confession to make: we’re actually counting down the top 13 songs of 1958 on this week’s show. How’s that? Well, when we crunched the data for the nearly 500 songs that made the charts in the year, same as we do for every year, there were three two-way ties among the top ranked songs. And they’re all in a row! Which is beyond unusual! But the next six songs we’re going to hear are a series of three two-way ties on points using our ranking method. And since this is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, that’s how we’re going to present them: tie at #8, tie at #7 and tie at #6.

So the first of our two songs tied at #8 is the chart debut by a future Country star who’s perhaps best known for his duets with the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn in the ’70s. It’s not a Country song, though; it’s a Rockabilly song, and he’s one of many major Country stars in the ’60s and beyond that scored their first hits in the ’50s as Rockers. Here’s Conway Twitty’s first hit, “It’s Only Make Believe.”

Conway Twitty, born Harold Jenkins but wanted a more memorable stage name, so he looked at a map and saw Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas. “It’s Only Make Believe,” #1 for two weeks in November ’58. Lots of folks first hearing that record thought it was Elvis, who’d just shipped out to Germany after being drafted into the Army. Twitty didn’t become a Country artist until after the British Invasion in the mid-60s, and Country radio was slow to embrace him after years of cutting Pop and Rock records. But he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last Rocker to make the switch. Hootie & The Blowfish’s Darius Rucker and Aaron Lewis of Metal band Staind, two 21st century examples.

#8 (#10) The McGuire Sisters Sugartime

Next up, a trio of sisters from the Dayton, Ohio area, discovered by the ubiquitous early ’50s radio and TV personality, Arthur Godfrey. In the wake of Mercury success with The Crew Cuts Pop version of “Sh-Boom” in 1954, upstart labels Dot and Coral were both out with Pop versions of Doo Wop R&B hits by sister acts: Dot had The Fontane Sisters’ “Hearts of Stone;” Coral had this trio’s “Sincerely,” our #3 Chartcrush hit of 1955. After two years with no chart action they were back with this song, which is tied with Conway Twitty at #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1958. It’s The McGuire Sisters, “Sugartime.”

McGuire Sisters, Ruby, Dottie and lead singer Phyllis, “Sugartime.” It was never #1, but its ten weeks in the top ten was enough to get it into our top ten on the year. The McGuires never charted a record on Billboard‘s Hot100, which launched August 4, 1958, but they appeared often on TV variety shows, and were darlings of Greatest and Silent Generation music fans through the ’60s. That is, until the middle sister Phyllis’s affair with mob boss Sam Giancana became public. But even that blew over, and the McGuires performed for every President from Nixon to G.W. Bush.

#7 (#9) Sheb Wooley The Purple People Eater

OK, that’s our tie at #8; on to our tie at #7: two of the silliest, wackiest songs in Pop chart history. First up, a sci-fi adjacent novelty hit the year Sputnik fell back to earth and The Fly and The Blob were in theaters. At first M-G-M Records rejected it, but reconsidered after execs noticed young staffers spinning it on lunch breaks and having a ball. It’s Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater.”

I told you we hadn’t heard the last of our #9 song, “Tequila!” Now most people assume that “The Purple People Eater” is a purple creature that eats people. Listen again: it’s a one-horned cyclops of indeterminate color that eats purple people. Which of course would be totally racist if there were purple people, but seems somehow less threatening since there aren’t. Sheb Wooley, better known at the time as an actor in TV and movie Westerns, but his recording career went all the way back to 1945, and continued into the ’60s on the Country charts, including the #1 Country novelty “That’s My Pa” in 1962. In the late ’60s into the ’70s he was a regular on the Country variety TV show Hee Haw.

#7 (#8) David Seville Witch Doctor

The chirpy, otherworldly voice of the “Purple People Eater,” of course, an effect achieved by recording a voice on tape, then playing it back at a faster speed. And the guy who first used it on a hit record is the other act in our tie at #7 in our countdown. As you listen, remember: no one at the time had ever heard sped-up voices like this on a record before. Here’s Ross Bagdasarian, under his pseudonym David Seville, “Witch Doctor.”

“Witch Doctor” hit #1 at the end of April 1958 and “Purple People Eater” just weeks later in early June. By the end of June, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson was out with “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor” on the flip-side of his big hit, “Chantilly Lace.” By Christmas, the guy who had started it all with “Witch Doctor,” Ross Bagdasarian as “David Seville” was unleashing “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” on an unsuspecting world. That too topped the charts for four weeks. Before he started experimenting with tape speeds, Bagdasarian wrote the #1 hit that launched Rosemary Clooney’s solo singing career in 1951, the Mitch Miller-produced “Come On-a My House.”

#6 (#7) Elvis Presley Don’t

Now in the car down on lover’s lane, at the drive-in movie or up at make-out ridge, or on the sofa when mom and dad were out for the evening, or during an unauthorized babysitting drop-in, when things were going too far, getting too amorous, too handsy, what’s the one word the guy didn’t want to hear? Well that word is the one-word title of our first song in yet another two-way tie at #6 in our Chartcrush countdown for 1958. It’s the song that was peaking on the charts in February and March just as its singer was reporting to basic training in Texas, a major news event heralded “the world’s most famous haircut.” Here’s Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.”

Elvis Presley’s “Don’t,” listed as a double-A-sided single on the Best Sellers chart with its upbeat flip-side “I Beg of You.” On Billboard‘s pre-Hot100 Top 100 chart, which ranked sides separately, “Don’t” reached #1 and “I Beg of You” peaked at #6. This ranking stuff can get complicated! Even though Elvis was in the Army from ’58 to 1960 and that obviously interrupted his career, he recorded a bunch of songs between basic and AIT in June, and his label, RCA, made sure there was plenty of material to release while he completed his two years of service. Totaling up the chart points for all singles that factored into our 1958 ranking, Elvis was back as the #1 artist of the year after getting edged out by Pat Boone in 1957.

#6 (#6) The Kingston Trio Tom Dooley

Our tie at the #6 spot on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1958: two songs with military nuances. In 1866 Civil War vet Thomas Dula returned home to the mountains of western North Carolina: hillbilly country, where he moved back in to the house he’d shared before the war with his lover Anne Melton, and Anne’s husband James, who apparently was fine with the arrangement. Soon Anne’s distant cousin Pauline joined the household as a servant and Thomas started sleeping with her. Apparently Anne was fine with that. Then yet another cousin Laura moved to the area, and Thomas took up with her too. But then, syphilis. And finger pointing. And everything unraveled. Laura ended up getting the blame and was found stabbed to death in a shallow grave, pregnant with Thomas’s unborn baby.

Now there are lots of versions of that story, but they all have the same ending, which is a matter of public record. Thomas was tried, convicted and hanged for Laura’s murder despite lingering questions about his guilt. Now the Appalachians where all this went down was America’s most fertile region for folklorists, and sure enough, there was a local poem about the events, which found its way to our San Francisco act that’s tied with Elvis at #6. They didn’t mean to, but with this song they brought back Folk to the top of the Pop charts. They pronounce the “a” at the end of the name in the hillbilly dialect that makes “opera” “opry,” so Tom Dula becomes “Tom Dooley,” the title of the song. In the intro, they call it a love triangle. Now that you know the story, you know it’s more like a hexagon. Here’s “Tom Dooley” by The Kingston Trio.

At the start of the ’50s, bandleader and Decca’s just-hired head of A&R, Gordon Jenkins, plucked Folk group The Weavers out of New York’s Greenwich Village, and they scored four top five hits including the biggest of them, “Goodnight Irene” and “On Top of Old Smoky.” But members Pete Seeger and Lee Hays were blacklisted when their ties to communist groups surfaced in the McCarthy era, and Folk completely disappeared from the Pop charts, until The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley,” which we just heard in a tie for #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1958.

They were out of North Beach in San Francisco: a club called The Purple Onion, a Beatnik hub, and “Tom Dooley” was a cut off their debut album. Capitol Records didn’t view them as a singles act at all until DJs started playing “Tom Dooley,” and once it was issued on a 45 it rose into the top ten for 12 weeks including a week at #1 just before Thanksgiving, after which Folk became one of the hottest sounds in music and labels scrambled to sign just about any act they could find: Peter Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, New Christy Minstrels, Bob Dylan and many others.

#5 Domenico Modugno Nel Blu di Pinto di Blu (Volare)

So ties at numbers 8, 7 and 6 in our ranking for 1958, but from here to #1, it’s just a straight countdown, and at #5, another left-field hit. The “Jet Age” began in 1958. Literally. The first passenger jet flights. National Airlines. Boeing’s 707. The world was getting smaller and smaller, and Americans were eager to travel, learn and engage. Billboard and the trades took notice when Neapolitan bandleader Renato Carosone’s “Torero,” sung in Italian, cracked the top 20 in May of ’58. But everyone took notice when our #5 song, also by an Italian singer and sung completely in Italian, shot to #2 in only its second week on the Hot100 in August, and went on to become the bestselling single of the year. That despite the availability of a bilingual version by well-known crooner Dean Martin. Deano’s version got to #15, but here’s Domenico Modugno, who co-wrote the song, the #1 version of “Nel Blu di Pinto di Blu” better known as “Volare.”

In the same issue of Billboard that “Volare” hit #2 in only its second week, is a mention of a DJ on New York’s WNEW who played eight different records of that song back-to-back. Not to be outdone, a DJ in Connecticut found yet another version, and played nine. Then he played all the “B” sides! The Modugno version was Billboard‘s #1 song of 1958, but it’s #5 on our Chartcrush ranking because three of the four songs remaining in our countdown, numbers 4 through 1, had chart runs that either started in ’57 or ran into ’59, and when you count their full chart runs (as we do for every song), they end up with more points. Billboard‘s year-end charts only count activity for weeks within their chart year.

#4 The Teddy Bears To Know Him Is to Love Him

We are counting down the top ten songs of 1958 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Now, before he was a big-time producer/entrepreneur and inventor of the so-called Wall of Sound heard on records like The Ronettes “Be My Baby” and The Righteous Brother’s, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and way before he was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in the ’00s and sentenced to 19 years in prison, where he died, Phil Spector wrote, arranged, played on and produced our #4 song and recorded it with his L.A. vocal group. With lead singer Carol Connors, not to be confused with the ’70s adult film star, it’s The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”

Teddy Bears, “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1958, written by future record producer Phil Spector right out of high school, inspired by the inscription on his fathers’ grave. It was #1 for three weeks in December, and stayed in the top ten through most of January. Because it was a hit so late in the year, Billboard couldn’t count most of its chart run so it was only #44 in the ranking published in the December 15, 1958 issue.

#3 Danny and The Juniors At the Hop

Similar deal with our #3 song, but this one’s run on the charts started in ’57 and carried over into ’58.

Philadelphia had a fertile youth music scene in the ’50s, and as the new host of a local TV show called Bandstand, DJ Dick Clark was right in the middle of it. One day some label guys played him a recording by a Philly Doo-Wop group called The Juvenaires of their song “Do the Bop,” which Clark liked but advised them to rewrite the lyrics and change the name of the group, which they did and the record was a local hit in the Summer of ’57. Meanwhile, Bandstand got picked up by the ABC network, became American Bandstand, and immediately started drawing millions of teenaged viewers in its after school timeslot. In December ’57, the former Juvenaires got their big break when Dick Clark asked them fill in for a no-show act on American Bandstand, and the retitled record by the renamed group shot to #1. At #3 on our ranking, it’s Danny and The Juniors, “At the Hop.”

Danny and the Juniors, “At the Hop,” #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1958. With seven weeks at #1 in January and February it’s hard to see how it was only #20 on Billboard‘s year-end chart, but it got a second life on oldies radio after ’50s revivalists Sha Na Na played it at Woodstock, and then when it appeared in George Lucas’ pre-Star Wars nostalgia-fest American Graffiti in ’73. Their next single “Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay” cracked the top 20, also in ’58, and they continued putting out records, but were no match for newer Italian-American vocal combos like Dion & The Belmonts and The Four Seasons into the ’60s. American Bandstand, with Dick Clark hosting, continued on TV all the way to 1989.

#2 The Everly Brothers All I Have to Do Is Dream

At #8, the most successful duo on the charts all the way until the ’80s when Hall & Oates surpassed them. After being signed by Archie Bleyer’s Cadence Records, they were on a roll! Their first Cadence single, “Bye Bye Love” went to #2 in July of ’57, and their second, “Wake Up Little Susie,” was #1 for two weeks in October. After those two upbeat hits, they toned things down and this slower song was their second #1, sitting atop either the Best Sellers or DJ chart for six weeks in May into June ’58. It’s The Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream.”

“All I Have to Do Is Dream,” #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1958: The Everly Brothers, Don and Phil, actual brothers. Those assertive, folky close harmonies sounded pretty fresh in 1958. As teens growing up in Liverpool, writing songs together in their early pre-Beatles days, John Lennon and Paul McCartney would pretend to be The Everly Brothers. After “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” they weren’t done for ’58: two more top five hits in the year, “Bird Dog” and “Problems.” On total chart points for all eight of their singles that factored into our ranking, they were the third top chart act of the year, behind only Elvis Presley and Teen Idol Ricky Nelson.

#1 Tommy Edwards It’s All in the Game

And that gets us down to our #1 record, a song that’d been a top 20 hit for the same singer, on the same label, with the same bandleader/arranger, seven years before in 1951. Lots of artists over the years have re-recorded songs. In ’58 with stereo just being unveiled as the next big thing in records, there was about to be a parade of Crooners and Pop singers doing sparkling new hi-fi stereo versions of their old hits from the shellac 78 era. But not too many acts have scored hits with different versions of the same song, and this one, again a remake of his own 1951 hit, was a whopper: #1 for six weeks in the Fall. Accompanied as he was in 1951 by Leroy Holmes and Orchestra, on M-G-M, here’s our Chartcrush #1 song of 1958, Tommy Edwards’ “It’s All in the Game.”

Neil Sedaka re-did his 1962 chart topper, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” as a ballad in 1975, and it got to #8: as far as we know the only other remake of a hit that was also a hit for the same artist. Tommy Edwards’ rock-era remake in 4/4 time of his 1951 hit that was in 3/4 waltz time, “It’s All in the Game,” the #1 song of 1958 according to our Chartcrush ranking. Billboard had it at #9 on the year because it only factored weeks through the end of November. Remember, they have to get their year-end chart tabulated, printed and mailed ahead of New Years, and Edwards stayed on the chart into January.

A few sources make kind of a big deal about that record being the first #1 hit by a Black artist on the Hot100. Which it was. But the Hot100 had only existed for nine weeks, and in the year prior, African-American acts The Coasters, Platters and Sam Cooke had all scored #1s on the earlier Top100 chart. Thanks to counting songs’ full chart runs, though, and our exclusive Chartcrush ranking method (which by the way applies to all years), we’re happy to report that Tommy Edwards not only scored the first #1 by a Black artist on the weekly Hot100 a few weeks after the chart launched, he scored the #1 hit of the year. The first Black artist to top a published Billboard year-end Hot100: Bobby Lewis, with “Tossin’ and Turnin'” in 1961.

Bonus

So there you have them: our top ten songs of 1958 according to our Chartcrush ranking. Now, Billboard published a year-end top 50 chart in its December 15 issue, and there are some big differences between their “official” top ten vs. ours, as I’ve been mentioning throughout the show. Here at Chartcrush, we base our rankings for all years on performance on Billboard‘s weekly charts, but that was a little tricky for 1958 because again, the Hot100 launched mid-year, in August. Before that, there was a weekly Top100 chart, similar to the Hot100, that started in November of 1955, plus separate weekly Best Sellers and DJ Airplay charts. Billboard discontinued the Jukebox chart in June of ’57.

For our ranking, we used the Hot100 for August to December, obviously, but for the first seven months before the Hot100 debuted, we used our combined ranking that’s derived from the Best Sellers and DJ charts, same as we do for years back to the early ’40s.

To calculate its year-end top 50, Billboard used the Hot100 for August on like we do. And you’d think they would’ve used their combined Top100 chart for the first part of the year, but nope. Instead they went with Best Sellers, which goes a long way toward explaining why all the songs that were in Billboard‘s year-end top ten but not ours peaked before the Hot100, and are much more representative of the adult side of Pop music in 1958. Looking at sales only, in all eras you get the records preferred by older, more affluent fans, which might’ve been just fine with the folks at Billboard, with so many big Rock ‘n Roll hits in the year. Just speculating.

At #10 on its 1958 year-end chart, Billboard had Dean Martin.

No, not his version of “Volare,” it was “Return to Me,” the third of Dino’s four top five hits in his long career. But like his version of “Volare,” it’s bilingual. He sings the last verse in Italian, so along with our #5 song, Domenico Modugno’s “Volare” (Billboard #1 song of the year), that’s two of Billboard top hits of 1958 sung in Italian. “Return to Me” is #23 on our Chartcrush ranking.

The first record ever to be certified Gold for sales of a million by the Record Industry Association of America, was Billboard‘s #7 song of 1958.

Crooner Perry Como’s final top ten hit on the Pop charts, #36 on our Chartcrush ranking, “Catch a Falling Star” peaked at #9 in February ’58 after Como sang it, wearing his trademark cardigan sweater, of course, in a “Sing to me, Mr. C.” segment on his top-rated Saturday night NBC TV show, The Perry Como Show. Fun fact: Perry Como took top male vocalist honors in the 1958 Gilbert Youth Survey of 5,000 American teens, beating Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, and the 1957 winner, Elvis Presley.

At #6 Billboard had an instrumental.

Billy Vaughn’s “Sail Along Silvery Moon,” Billboard‘s #6 song of 1958; #17 on our ranking. Vaughn was the most successful orchestra leader of the Rock era: 28 charting singles between ’55 and ’66, all with his trademark harmonized “singing saxophones” style. Before that Vaughn had been in vocal quartet The Hilltoppers, who helped put Dot Records on the map in ’52 and ’53 with the label’s only two top ten hits, until Dot honcho Randy Wood made him head of A&R and Musical Director, and the label hit pay-dirt with huge hits by The Fontane Sisters and Pat Boone.

Over on Billboard‘s year-end top ten for 1958, the #5 song was an instrumental by “The Mambo King.”

Now that one just missed our Chartcrush ranking, #11. Cuban bandleader Perez Prado’s “Patricia:” the last #1 on Billboard‘s “Top100” singles chart before the “Hot100” debuted August 4 with Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” at #1.

And speaking of Ricky Nelson, as I mentioned earlier, on total chart points, he was the #2 overall singles artist of the year between Elvis at #1 and The Everly Brothers at #3, with seven songs factoring into our ranking.

“Poor Little Fool” was the very first #1 hit on the Hot100 chart, and the biggest of Nelson’s seven chart hits in the year.

And finally, if you rank 1958’s songs using a straight inverse point system that doesn’t reward things like weeks in the top ten or weeks at #1, a method Billboard used for most of its early year-end charts, and, if you count its full chart run that extended into January of ’59, this comes out the #1 song of 1958!

The Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace,” 25 weeks on the Hot100, the most of any 1958 song, and it peaked at #6, but its nine weeks on the chart after Billboard‘s November 30 cutoff for the 1958 chart year, ignored. Otherwise it likely would’ve been among Billboard‘s top ten on the year.

Well that’s our show! I hope you enjoyed our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1958. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Now if you like what you heard, check out our website, chartcrush.com, where you can find written transcript and links to stream this and other Chartcrush shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other lid-flippin’ extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1993 episode graphic

1993 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1993 Episode Graphic

1993 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Music is fragmented the second year of the Soundscan era on the charts as Gen-X takes charge, but genres are blossoming and R&B and Hip-Hop rule the Hot100.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week, we’re counting down the top ten hits of 1993, the year when the two big defining features of pop in the ’90s came into focus: brokenness and dysfunction!

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” to borrow a catchphrase from the decade’s hottest TV sitcom, Seinfeld. Actually, for most fans in the early ’90s, brokenness felt like a good thing: an exciting thing! Artists in every genre were casting off mainstream formulas and pushing outside the box. As a fan, whether you were into Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock, Country, Dance or even New Age, it felt like Springtime after a long Winter, or like after the collapse of an empire, when all the provinces break away and become a patchwork of tribes doing their own thing.

Really, things were only “broken” from the point-of-view of the former overlords, the Baby Boom generation. And wouldn’t you know it: on the timeline, ’93 was the year the generation that came after the Baby Boom, Generation-X, born 1965 to ’80, hit its cultural peak: the five years before the youngest members of any generation turn 18.

It hadn’t been easy dislodging the Boomers. In fact, with music it might never have happened without a dramatic change that Billboard made to how it compiled its charts in 1991, switching to real point of sale and airplay data collected by Soundscan and Broadcast Data Systems, and scrapping its system of weekly retail and radio surveys. Slate writer and Gen-X chart geek Chris Molanphy has called the start of the “Soundscan Era” “the B.C./A.D. moment” of pop charts, when the illusion of a pop “mainstream” was shown to be a fiction, and the overdue flowering of Gen-X’s disparate left-field musical tastes could begin.

Of course, the downside: compared to other eras, there was no longer a common pop music language: an idiom or set of songs that everyone knew. As New York Times writer Eric Weisbard put it in his 2000 article “Pop in the 90’s: Everything for Everyone,” “The music world pays a price for diversity. Our new heroes are often only heroes to a few.” The Top 40 still existed, but no one wanted to hear all of it, and no broadcaster, not even MTV, was playing all of it.

So pop was broken and fractured: the first defining feature of ’90s music. The other? Dysfunction. And there I’m referring to Billboard‘s Hot100 chart. The Hot100 was conceived in the late ’50s as a definitive weekly ranking of the most popular records in the land. Scrapping the survey system improved accuracy, but at the same time, the music format that’d been the pillar of the Hot100 for decades was going extinct: the vinyl 45rpm single. Billboard reasoned that cassette and CD singles were just replacing 45s, but it never worked out that way. CD singles were great for genres that released multiple versions of songs, like Hip-Hop, Dance and R&B: actually a huge improvement over vinyl 12-inch singles. Artists could now put out CD “maxi-singles” with four, five, even six different remix versions of the same song, and those were hot items. But in genres that typically only released one version of a song like Rock and Country, fans had little use for tapes or CDs with just a couple of tracks on them. So with Billboard still insisting that songs be in U.S. stores as singles to chart, the Hot100 quickly skewed toward genres where maxi-singles were selling, and it took a series of massive radio hits not charting at all for Billboard to finally drop the rule and make the Hot100 a songs chart. That didn’t happen until the 1999 chart year. But in ’93, all this talk of chart dysfunction was still just that, talk, and nine of Billboard‘s top ten Hot100 songs of the year were also hits on the R&B charts.

#10 Meat Loaf – I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)

On our Chartcrush ranking though, it’s eight out of ten, and the first of the two non-R&B songs is at #10: the triumphal return to the U.S. charts after over 12 years by an act whose offbeat rock opera in 1977 had bubbled up out of nowhere at the height of disco to become one of the bestselling albums ever. Health and legal problems through the ’80s prevented him from following it up, but in ’93 he mended fences with his original collaborator, songwriter Jim Steinman, and did a sequel. Bat out of Hell 2 didn’t do quite as well as the original, but its lead single was his biggest-ever hit. At #10 it’s Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

https://open.spotify.com/track/391CwgcBxvUHmEKda2b5In

What wouldn’t you do for love? Hmm. A worthwhile question that millions pondered while Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” rode the charts in late ’93 into ’94. Something sexual? Something criminal? Some extraordinary sacrifice? There doesn’t seem to be an answer in the lyrics, but in a 1998 episode of VH1 Story Tellers, Meat Loaf wheeled out a chalkboard with the lyrics and, using a pointer, tried explain that “that” in the song refers to all the things people do that screw up relationships: cheat, lie, “stop dreaming of you every night of my life,” et cetera. But that’s an answer to a different question, isn’t it? What won’t you do when you’re in love? As for the question posed in the title: what won’t we do for love, the head-scratching continues.

#9 SWV – Weak

R&B girl groups, never bigger than in 1993, with R&B trio En Vogue following Latin Freestyle trios Expose and Sweet Sensation onto the pop charts in 1990, joined by TLC in ’92. At #9, another trio that joined the fray in ’93 and were the #2 overall singles artist of the year, with three top tens during the year. Their breakthrough was a #6 hit in February, “I’m So into You,” but in the summer, this one got all the way to #1. From New York, it’s Coko, Taj and LeeLee: Sisters with Voices, abbreviated SWV: “Weak.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/33jpyzIf64UkvmE85tuJHN

SWV’s, “Weak,” #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1993. Later in the year, the trio hit big again, peaking at #2 on the Hot100 and #1 on the R&B chart for a straight seven weeks, with a remix of their debut single, “Right Here:” a mashup with a sample of Michael Jackson’s 1982 song “Human Nature.” SWV stayed hot for another five years, splitting up in 1998 over creative and interpersonal differences, and “Weak” was their only #1 hit.

#8 Shai – If I Ever Fall in Love

From girl R&B groups to boy R&B groups: Boyz II Men had already been charting massive vocal harmony hits for nearly two years by ’93, but R&B fans couldn’t get enough. So when our act at #8 first came on the radio with their silky a capella smoothness, it was love at first hear. They scored three top tens, all in ’93, which made them the year’s #3 overall Hot100 singles artist, but the first was their biggest. Formed by four seniors at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University as a side hustle and catapulted to instant stardom, it’s Shai, “If I Ever Fall in Love.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/0uOPGU4CbYxzFxn6T7sblW

Shai, “If I Ever Fall in Love,” our #8 song here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1993. S-h-a-i, according to a 1993 article in the Hartford Courant newspaper, a Swahili word for “personification of destiny,” but if you look it up on Google Translate, it means “tea.” Hot or iced, not specified. What we just heard is an edit of the album version that’s also in the video, with backing track by group leader and co-producer Carl “Groove” Martin. Some stations, though, played an a capella version. It never got to #1, but it nearly broke the record for weeks at #2: eight weeks in the runner-up spot behind the song that did break the record for weeks at #1. You bet we’ll be hearing that one later.

#7 Silk – Freak Me

So, in 1991 after Boyz II Men first hit, Brooklyn, New York’s Uptown Records tasked an intern, future hip-hop mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, with molding another male R&B vocal group into a “bad boy” version of Boyz II Men. Motown’s Boyz sang about romance and love; Uptown’s bad boy slow-jammers Jodeci would sing about seduction and sex, and present as edgy, dangerous hip-hop characters wearing Timberland boots and baseball caps. Well it worked! Jodeci’s “Come and Talk to Me” was the #1 R&B song of 1992. But New Jack Swing impresario Keith Sweat thought he could go even further, and it was quite a scandal when the male R&B quintet he’d just plucked out of Atlanta topped not only the R&B charts, but the Hot100 for two weeks in May with as debauched and explicit a record as had ever been a hit on the pop charts. It’s our song at #7: Silk’s “Freak Me.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/5CdJveJgiGXoGwDFqF6afp

Silk, “Freak Me,” #1 for eight weeks on the R&B chart; two on the Hot100, our #7 song of 1993 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Keith Sweat, co-producing and even co-writing the songs on Silk’s double platinum 1992 debut, Lose Control. The hits dwindled by 1999, but Silk continued putting out albums and singles with the same lineup into the 2010s.

#6 Snow featuring MC Shan – Informer

So if a White guy in Miami named Robert Matthew Van Winkle can score a #1 hit in the early ’90s as rapper Vanilla Ice, can a White guy from Toronto, Canada named Darrin Kenneth O’Brien top the charts with a Jamaican Dancehall Reggae number? Sure, why not? And Mr. O’Brien isn’t the only White Reggae artist in our countdown. He came by his love of Reggae honestly though; Toronto’s Jamaican population exploded in the ’70s and ’80s and is the metro’s largest ethnic minority. At #6, it’s Snow, featuring Queens, New York rapper MC Shan, who also produced: “Informer.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/2LjiPAQOVazT8sRyXL3XRs

“Informer” not only topped the Hot100 for seven weeks in March and April, but also the Rap Songs and Dance Singles charts. Snow proved to be a one-hit wonder despite continuing to release music steadily into the ’00s and ’10s, but in 2019, Puerto Rican Reggaeton and Dancehall star Daddy Yankee featured him on his “Informer” influenced single “Con Calma,” which made it to #22.

#5 Janet Jackson – That’s the Way Love Goes

Well as you’re hearing, lots of new voices on the R&B landscape in 1993. Lots of new voices in every genre in the early ’90s. But at #5 is an established star whose album released in 1993 was her first in four years, and it debuted at #1 on the album chart when it dropped in May. At the same time its lead single rocketed to #1 on the Hot100 its third week and stayed on top for eight weeks. It’s Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/29rQJydAlO0uMyWvRIZxQg

Right after “That’s the Way Love Goes” was a hit, Janet Jackson made her feature film debut opposite rapper Tupac Shakur in John Singleton’s drama Poetic Justice, which helped update her image. Rolling Stone heralded her 1993 album, titled with just her first name and a period, as a cultural moment in which she announced her sexual maturity, after taking charge of her life on her album Control in ’86, then commanding a dancing army to fight society’s ills on Rhythm Nation in ’89. With the ’90s diva era already in full swing and Mariah, Celine and Whitney scoring hits, a handful of critics called out Janet Jackson for subpar vocals. “Looks good, sounds bad,” a Boston Globe headline said. But it didn’t matter much. “That’s the Way Love Goes,” the first of six top ten singles from the album. and the #5 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1993.

#4 UB40 – (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You

At #4, the other White reggae act I mentioned. They’re a U.K. group that started out in the late ’70s, but only got noticed Stateside after their album of reggae covers hit in ’83. “Red Red Wine,” a #1 hit from that after it was reissued in 1989. Then in ’93 their second #1, a cover of a 1962 hit by Elvis Presley that got a big big boost from being on the soundtrack of the Sharon Stone erotic thriller Sliver, it’s UB40’s version of, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/7ojJ4XvqBhBcteM0zjMebT

#4, UB40, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You,” which a writer at AllMusic.com pinpoints as completing UB40’s transition from a reggae band to an adult-contemporary band that plays reggae-pop. It also paved the way for 1994’s big overnight success story, the Swedish reggae-pop outfit Ace of Base.

#3 Mariah Carey – Dreamlover

Well we’re getting down to the small numbers here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1993. At #3, the lead single from the third album in as many years by not only the top diva of the ’90s, but the top Hot100 act, period. She had at least one yearly top ten hit in six out of the decade’s ten years, and ’93 marks the first of four consecutive years, ’93 to ’96. ’92, one of the years she missed because of the mixed reaction to the gospel and ’60s soul influence on her sophomore album Emotions. So she returned to pop and scored her seventh #1. Here’s Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/6HcQZfMrw3KwGyzrKw1Pjy

Mariah Carey’s, “Dreamlover,” the lead single from her album Music Box, #1 for eight straight weeks in September and October and the #3 song of 1993 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Mariah returning to pop on that song, this time with a bit of a hip-hop feel absent from her earlier hits, thanks to producer Dave “Jam” Hall, who was fresh from producing Mary J. Blige’s debut, What’s the 411, in ’92.

#2 Tag Team – Whoomp! (There It Is)

1993 was a big year for Hip-Hop, especially the West Coast and Death Row Records, with Dr. Dre, who’d just split from gangsta group N.W.A., planting the G-Funk flag on the charts with the year’s #6 album, The Chronic. Before the year was out, Dre’s protégé Snoop Dogg, featured on The Chronic‘s biggest hits, dropped his debut album on Death Row. Dre and Snoop’s “Nothin’ but a G Thang” just misses our countdown at #11, leaving our song at #2 the lone hip-hop cut in our 1993 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. And they’re a one hit wonder out of Atlanta! A mainstay at sporting events for decades, not to mention aerobics classes, frat parties and Spring Break beer halls, it’s Miami Bass duo Tag Team, “Whoomp! (There It Is).”

https://open.spotify.com/track/3oWXoSkjdbTlQlteizN7Hb

Tag Team, “Whoomp! (There It Is),” the #2 song on our 1993 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It never got to #1, peaking at #2 for seven weeks in August and September. But it stayed on the Hot100 for 45 weeks, until April of ’94: the longest chart run of any song in 1993. At the same time, a similar song, “Whoot,” (with a “t”) “There It Is” by a Miami bunch called 95 South made it to #11. But it was a total coincidence! Both had lifted the phrase from strip club vernacular, and, fun fact, on July 26, both appeared on Arsenio Hall’s syndicated late night talk show in a charity battle of the bands fundraiser for Midwest flood victims.

#1 Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

Now leading off his Year-in-Charts article for 1993 in the December 25 issue, Billboard‘s new “Chart Beat” columnist Fred Bronson observed that “the race for the #1 single of 1993 was over when the year began.” When the first Hot100 chart of calendar ’93 appeared, the song had already been #1 for five weeks, and it stayed there for another nine. 14 weeks total, a new record.

So who scored this amazing chart coup? Well, her career wasn’t exactly on the skids, but since blowing everyone away with her vocals on her amazing string of 1980s dance and pop crossover hits and starting the whole diva thing, she turned to R&B on her third album in 1990, and by ’92 there was serious competition in the pop diva space. Mariah Carey, cranking out albums and chart-topping singles like it was going out of style, Celine Dion ramping up, and newcomer Toni Braxton debuting on the Boomerang soundtrack.

But in the Fall of ’92, ads for the new Kevin Costner movie started showing up on TV. Not only did the singer co-star in the film (her acting debut), but she had six new songs on the soundtrack, and the impossible-to-ignore climactic key change moment in one of them was the centerpiece of the ads. Well the single was #1 even before the movie hit theaters, and by Christmas, Whitney Houston was again the undisputed queen of diva-dom. The #1 song of 1993 by a mile, from The Bodyguard soundtrack, “I Will Always Love You.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/4eHbdreAnSOrDDsFfc4Fpm

From 1993’s #1 album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You,” the #1 song of 1993: a cover of a song Country diva Dolly Parton wrote in 1973 when she split from her business partner and mentor Porter Wagoner to start her solo career. It’d been a #1 hit on the Country charts twice, first in 1974 and then again in 1982 when Dolly re-did it for a movie she co-starred in with Burt Reynolds: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. But then Whitney Houston’s version in ’92 and ’93 made it one of the biggest hits in Hot100 history. Not surprisingly, Whitney was the top singles artist of the year with four chart hits including three top tens, all from The Bodyguard.

Bonus

So there you have them, the top ten songs of 1993 according to our Chartcrush ranking. Now of the songs we heard in our countdown this hour, only one was absent from Billboard‘s official published year-end top ten for 1993. At Chartcrush, we count every song’s full chart run in whatever year it scored the most points, so Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love,” which straddled ’93 and ’94, comes out the #10 song of 1993 on our ranking. At Billboard, though, they have to split a chart run like that and factor it into both years, so it’s buried in the mid-30s on both their ’93 and ’94 year-end rankings.

Now the song from Billboard‘s 1993 year-end top ten that Meat Loaf displaced? Their #9 song: another memorable hip-hop vocal hook supplied by new jack swing producer Teddy Riley, whose brother was in the group, Wreckx-n-Effect.

#13 on our Chartcrush ranking for 1993, Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.” Teddy Riley’s rap verse written by a 20-year-old Pharrell Williams, one of his earliest credits.

And that’s gonna do it, for our 1993 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other fresh extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1976 episode graphic

1976 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1976 Episode Graphic

1976 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Dancing is back and Disco crests with novelty hits and Pop veterans jumping on the bandwagon, while Soft Rockers and balladeers continue charting massive chart hits.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1976, a watershed year in music, for a lot of reasons, some of which were obvious at the time; others, not so much.

On the obvious side, Disco. After ten years, dancing was back. All the structured dances of the early-to-mid sixties: the mashed potato, the swim, the frug, the jerk: casualties of the Hippies’ “Do Your Own Thing” ethic and zoned-out free-form body swaying a la Woodstock. In the early ’70s the idea of going to a “dance?” Like, you mean at the junior high school? Nah, that was something your little sister did.

But fueling that, quantum leaps in sound quality had ushered in a golden age of listening to music, on vinyl LP’s or FM radio at home with your hi-fi rack system, bitchin’ speakers and state-of-the-art headphones, or sitting in a seat at the new civic center or arena, or in your car on eight-track tapes. The technology to fully immerse yourself in sound: almost all Americans could now afford. And for their part, the record biz delivered: sprawling, ambitious, mind-blowing stereophonic Progressive Rock and Soul concept album masterpieces that you could totally lose yourself in, which were now being reviewed as important artistic and cultural statements, not only in Rolling Stone and other upstart music journalism outlets, but even in highbrow dailies and glossy mags. And of course, also in those years, sonically-superior FM radio grew by leaps and bounds catering to album-oriented listeners.

But let’s face it, we humans? We have a basic need to get out on that dancefloor and shake our booties. One undeniable truth of pop culture history: people gonna find a way to dance. In the mid-’40s it seemed like the government and other powerful institutions had conspired to wipe out dancing, and Big Band Swing went extinct. That’s a story for another episode, but eventually, young people started seeking out R&B records that you could dance to and Rock ‘n Roll happened. And in the mid ’70s, Disco happened.

Its roots were in Funk, Latin Salsa, and of course the Philly Soul sounds of producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff showcased (yes, with actual dancing) on the syndicated TV show Soul Train starting in 1971. A string of danceable hits had made the top ten in ’74 and ’75, but it was the underground Gay community, in New York especially, that took all of that and fashioned it into the late ’70s Disco scene, with its whole hedonistic, upscale aesthetic of flashing lights, snazzy clothes, and edgy (you could even say defiant), urban sophistication.

Women, looking for ways to express their newfound social and sexual freedoms, were immediately drawn to it. And as any club owner can tell you, get the women in the door, and the straight men follow. So Disco brought back dancing, which was the whole point of Disco music: the beat, the groove. Deep, meaningful lyrics and musical complexity though? Not just extraneous, but deadly to a track’s success on the dancefloor.

And at the same time Disco was erupting, a more frontal assault was coalescing to the whole pop-culture-as-high-art media Establishment. Namely, Punk. First The Ramones out of New York’s Lower East Side, with their February 1976 album of noisy, primitive two-minute songs. Sure, Disco went against everything critics considered artistically important, but for a reason: dancing. The Ramones’ though? Their only reason seemed to be: to go against everything critics considered artistically important!

You’d think critics would’ve been horrified, and some were, but most couldn’t deny the coolness of what The Ramones were doing. Why? Irony. Intentional irony: doing what’s considered low-brow and unsophisticated, not because that’s all you can do and don’t know any better, but because it’s low-brow and unsophisticated: as a conscious rebellion against assumptions and orthodoxies. Well, that was something new! And for aspiring musicians: “You mean I don’t have to double major in music theory and medieval literature to be a rock star? Where do I sign up?” Everywhere The Ramones played, new Punk bands formed. Youngstown, Ohio? The Dead Boys. U.K.? The Sex Pistols and The Clash. L.A.? Too many to count. And that set the attitudinal template for New Wave and Alternative Rock for the next 30-plus years.

The British tabloids covered Punk as the next big thing in music and fashion, and The Sex Pistols actually landed two singles in the UK’s year-end ranking for 1977. In the U.S., it took Blondie’s unlikely marriage of Punk and Disco on “Heart of Glass” (with Disco being by far the dominant partner in that marriage) to get New York’s Punk scene anywhere near the American charts in 1979. The Ramones barely dented the Hot100 in their ’70s heyday. But if you listen for it, you can definitely pick up on the new ironic attitude shift that was happening in music in 1976 in a couple of the tracks we’re gonna hear this hour.

#10 Elton John and Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Not in our #10 song, though. It has a touch of Disco but it’s as down-the-middle a straightforward Pop song as you could get in the mid-’70s, conceived as a nod to Marvin Gaye’s duets with Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston in the ’60s, by one of only two artists since the start of the Hot100 in 1958 to land hits in the top ten of our yearly rankings four years in a row. Needless to say, one of the biggest stars of the early ’70s. It’s Elton John, duetting here with singer Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”

So “Crocodile Rock,” our #7 song of 1973, “Bennie and the Jets,” #3 in ’74. “Philadelphia Freedom,” #3 in ’75 and his duet with Kiki Dee we just heard, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” #10 on the year 1976 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Top ten hits of the year in four consecutive years: Elton John. The only other artist since the ’50s to pull that off: Mariah Carey, ’93 to ’96, and even pre-Hot100 there were only two: Bing Crosby, ’42 to ’45 and Patti Page, ’50 to ’53. That’s how big Elton John was in the ’70s.

His duet partner Kiki Dee, had just scored a #12 hit on the Hot100 with her soulful recording of “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” and she was one of Elton John’s go-to backup singers on a lot of his early classics. But she wasn’t Elton John’s first choice for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” She only got the gig after Britain’s most famous blue-eyed soul singer, Dusty Springfield, turned it down due to illness.

#9 Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. – You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)

At #9, it’s another Soft Rock-Motown Disco-adjacent hybrid, definitely a winning formula in 1976, and our second duet in a row, by a husband and wife who were founding members of vocal group The Fifth Dimension. The husband, most famous for his ad-libbed, shouted counterpoints in the second half of the group’s era-defining 1969 Hair medley, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In;” and the wife, for her solo vocals on their follow-up hit “Wedding Bell Blues” and every Fifth Dimension top ten after 1969.

In ’75 they branched off as a duo and their second single slowly but steadily climbed the chart after entering in September, not reaching the top ten ’til December and not peaking at #1 until January ’77. But long chart runs like that make for good placements on yearly rankings, especially when you factor full chart runs regardless of whether they’re all in the same year or not, as we do for every song here on Chartcrush. #9 on the year 1976 because that’s when it earned most of its chart points: Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.’s “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show).”

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show),” #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown show of the biggest hits of 1976. In summer ’77 while the song was going gold and winning its Grammy award, McCoo and Davis became the first Black couple to host their own primetime network variety show, all six episodes of which featured up-and-coming comedian and future Tonight Show host Jay Leno.

Their follow-up album was a commercial disappointment in ’78 but it did include McCoo’s first recording of the song that became Whitney Houston’s first #1 hit in 1985, “Saving All My Love for You.” Gen-Xers may better remember Marilyn McCoo as the host of the countdown show Solid Gold in the early ’80s. In 2019, McCoo and Davis had clearly survived the “Wedding Bell Blues” when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

#8 The Manhattans – Kiss and Say Goodbye

Up next at #8, one of the most successful of a string of slow R&B songs in the ’70s that featured a sexy deep-voiced spoken part, precision calibrated to make women go weak at the knees. Barry White, definitely the most enduringly famous artist in that style with his string of top tens from ’73 to ’77, but not the only. Here are The Manhattans: a #1 hit in the summer of ’76 that went on to be Billboard’s #3 year-end Soul/R&B hit of 1976 as well as our Chartcrush #8 Pop hit: “Kiss and Say Goodbye.”

“Kiss and Say Goodbye,” The Manhattans at #8 as we count down the top ten hits of 1976 here on the Chartcrush Countdown Show. Winfred “Blue” Lovett of The Manhattans wrote “Kiss and Say Goodbye.” And yep, that’s him with that groovy spoken introduction.

#7 Chicago – If You Leave Me Now

Now car radios, of course, have preset buttons, so if you don’t like a song, you push the button and change the station. Well in the ’70s, you only had four or five mechanical presets, and most folks set them to different types of stations. Well imagine a song being so ubiquitous that you’re in your car pushing the preset buttons, and all the stations are playing it at the same time. According to a writer at the music site PopMatters, in the Fall of ’76 in New York, our #7 song was that ubiquitous. It was by a band whose Greatest Hits album covering their first five years and nine top ten singles had just come out at the end of ’75, and then, not missing a beat, their next album of new material dropped in June of ’76. And its second single became their first and only #1 hit in the ’70s. It’s Chicago, not the first but the biggest of their hit ballads sung by bassist Peter Cetera before the ’80s, and the first to emphasize strings over the group’s trademark horns, “If You Leave Me Now.”

“If You Leave Me Now,” Chicago, #7. Bassist Peter Cetera’s last-minute addition to the album it was on, Chicago X, which featured the group’s script logo from all their albums on the cover, but this go-’round, embossed on a chocolate bar: a no doubt coincidental announcement of the new, more sugary sweet direction the group was being pulled in to keep scoring chart hits: ballads with strings, minimal horns and Peter Cetera at the mic. Their next top ten hit in ’77 was another Cetera lead with strings: “Baby What a Big Surprise,” their big, funky horn section on earlier hits reduced to a solo piccolo trumpet, which, unlike producer James William Guercio’s Flamenco-y guitar on “If You Leave Me Now,” was at least played by a band member!

#6 Barry Manilow – I Write the Songs

Now speaking of saccharine songs with strings… You know, I really shouldn’t introduce a song all snarky like that, but in this case, I really don’t think the artist would mind, because of all the artists throughout chart history who’ve scored big ballad hits, this guy was going for exactly that: big big ballad hits, in more than just a chart sense. Power ballads before there even was such a thing, and they built and sustained not only one of the longest and most successful careers in Pop history, but a record label and an entire radio format: Arista Records and Adult Contemporary, respectively. Even in a decade that brimmed with lush, sentimental ballads, there was nothing quite like a Barry Manilow song. Written by Beach Boys sideman Bruce Johnston, it’s Manilow’s second #1 hit after his breakthrough “Mandy” in 1975, “I Write the Songs.”

“I Write the Songs,” Barry Manilow, #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1976. How that song starts off slow and mellow and swells gradually to a thunderous orchestral crescendo that Phil Spector couldn’t have even imagined: all of Barry Manilow’s hits are like that, and he racked up nine of them in four-and-a-half years. Towards the end of that run of top tens in 1979, pop wiseguy Ray Stevens, whose novelty number “The Streak” was #1 for three weeks in 1974, nearly cracked the top 40 again with a send-up of the style called “I Need Your Help Barry Manilow.”

#5 Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots – Disco Duck

So here we are at #5 and all we’ve heard are ballads and mid-tempo pop records, where’s the Disco? Well it’s time to put on your dancing shoes, picture the mirror ball and flashing lights, and boogie down! The #5 and #4 hits in our 1976 countdown: we couldn’t have chosen a better pair of artifacts to reflect the magnitude of the cresting Disco wave. And I say “reflect,” because neither are the object itself. There are plenty of straight-up Disco records in our ’77 to ’79 countdowns (and for that matter ’75 too!). No, both of these records are more properly regarded as reactions to a pop culture phenomenon, Disco, that arrived very suddenly and very unexpectedly in the mid-’70s. First at #5, a Memphis radio deejay’s goofy side-hustle song about a guy dancing at a party who gets the sudden urge to flap his arms like a duck. Next thing he knows, everybody’s doing it! Here’s Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots: “Disco Duck.”

Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots: “Disco Duck,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1976. Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “wait a minute, do ducks cluck?” No, ducks don’t cluck! As any kindergartner can tell you, chickens cluck; ducks quack. But quack doesn’t rhyme with duck, so the Disco Duck clucks instead of quacks. But no self-respecting Donald Duck imitator would ever commit that gaffe, right? So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s not Rick Dees quacking on the record. It’s not Clarence Nash either, the original voice of Donald Duck from the Disney films (Disney has had to officially distance itself from involvement in “Disco Duck” numerous times). No, the duck voice on “Disco Duck” is one Ken Pruitt, who’s the guy at Rick Dees’ local gym who inspired him to write the song in the first place.

#4 Wild Cherry – Play That Funky Music

Now Billboard’s National Disco Action Top 30 chart debuted August 28, 1976: the first chart to document the popularity of Dance music. Eventually it evolved into the Dance Club Songs chart. “Disco Duck” never made the Dance chart despite being a top ten Pop hit from September to December. Our next record, however, was #18 on that first Dance chart and stayed on it for 12 weeks, making it not just a reflection of the Disco phenomenon, but a disco hit in its own right.

It’s the first and only top 40 hit by a hard-working regional Rock band that’d been playing club gigs since the start of the ’70s, grinding ’em out four, five, six nights a week, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio. Then suddenly all the rock clubs are shutting down and Dance music is the happening new thing, with discos springing up everywhere, even where they were in Appalachia. So what’d they do? Well, the song tells the story. It got them their first major label record deal and was an immediate hit, catapulting them overnight from obscurity to the top of, not only the Hot100 for 3 weeks, but the Soul/R&B chart, and a pretty good showing on the Dance chart too. At #4 it’s Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.”

“Play That Funky Music,” Wild Cherry, #1 for three weeks and the #4 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1976. White rapper Vanilla Ice had a #4 hit in 1990 with his Rap version of “Play That Funky Music.” Not a straight cover, but Ice sampled the Wild Cherry record quite liberally, without permission or co-writing credit. Well, you can probably guess what happened next. Big lawsuit; big payout: 85% of Ice’s royalties. Rob Parissi, Wild Cherry’s front man who wrote “Play That Funky Music,” says it amounted to nearly a million bucks, more than he made from the record in the ’70s!

#3 Walter Murphy – A Fifth of Beethoven

OK, so “Disco Duck” and “Play That Funky Music,” two reactions to disco that resonated in the culture massively enough to propel them both to #1. At #3 on our countdown, we head straight into the white hot center of Disco, with a Disco reimagining of one of Classical music’s best-known themes, and one of the few cuts that were on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, but were hits before film came out.

Walter Murphy was making a living on Madison Avenue writing ad jingles when something possessed him to adapt Beethoven for discos. No, apparently the Punk scene didn’t have a monopoly on irony in ’76. It’s an instrumental, the last in a Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown: Walter Murphy “A Fifth of Beethoven.”

Now although “A Fifth of Beethoven” was in fact all Walter Murphy, the label thought it would sell better if it was marketed as by a band. So “Big Apple Band” was tagged on after Murphy’s name on the single. But there was a real band with that name, so “Big Apple Band” was removed from later pressings of the record. The damage was done, though, and the real Big Apple Band had to change their name, to Chic: Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards’s outfit who scored the #1 song of 1979 according to our Chartcrush ranking, “Le Freak.”

#2 Paul McCartney and Wings – Silly Love Songs

Now our song at #2 as we close in on the #1 hit of 1976 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1976: you may not think it’s a Disco song, but the artist kind of did, on the strength of its bassline. Being a bass player, he thought it was one of the best things he ever did on the instrument, and bass players to this day marvel at videos of him effortlessly playing it live, a driving rhythm, while singing the melody. It’s former Beatle Paul McCartney, with his group Wings. Their Wings Over America tour, McCartney’s first since The Beatles, helped propel the song on the charts. #2: Paul McCartney and Wings, “Silly Love Songs.”

Paul McCartney and Wings, “Silly Love Songs,” the #2 song of 1976. Now after The Beatles broke up, the Fab Four released even more music individually than they had as a group. They’d always had their individual styles of course, even when they were together. But at their best as a band, their different approaches combined into… well, into Beatles songs.

As solo acts in the ’70s though, there didn’t need to be any of that compromising with bandmates, and with McCartney, that meant he could indulge his most sappy and sentimental tendencies that had come through on Beatles songs like “When I’m 64,” “Yesterday” and “Penny Lane.” He took a lot of heat for it though, from Rock critics, sure, but even from his former bandmate John Lennon, whose public disses must’ve stung pretty bad. So “Silly Love Songs” was his response. “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. What’s wrong with that?”

AllMusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the song “so lightweight that its lack of substance seems nearly defiant.” Well, against the backdrop of uber-serious mid-70s Rock and soul-bearing Singer-Songwriter confessionals (to say nothing about angsty punk rock), “Silly Love Songs” was defiant. And it was #1 for five weeks, Chartcrush’s #2 song of 1976 and the song Billboard named the #1 song of the year! So take that, critics!

#1 Rod Stewart – Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)

Now the only reason “Silly Love Songs” isn’t our #1 song of the year too is: the song Billboard named its #1 year-end Hot100 song of 1977, was really a 1976 hit. It was #1 for eight weeks starting November 13. But Billboard has never been able to count big hits late in the year towards year-end rankings because they have to call a cut-off week to give themselves time to tabulate the year-end charts and get their year-in-review issue out before New Years. It’s a flaw that’s been baked-in to Billboard’s year-end rankings since the beginning, which we correct here at Chartcrush by counting every song’s full chart run in whichever calendar year it accumulated the most points.

Fortunately for this song, Billboard did count its weeks at #1 in late ’76 toward its 1977 rankings, which made it the #1 song of 1977. But those weeks, being in calendar ’76, make it our #1 song of 1976. The artist: no stranger to ballads, but he was mainly thought of as a Blues Rocker from his start in the late ’60s in the Jeff Beck Group, then the British album rock group Faces and his early solo records like “Maggie May” and “You Wear It Well” in the early ’70s. Here is Rod Stewart’s big Pop comeback, “Tonight’s the Night.”

So as we heard in the first half of today’s show, the mid-’70s, not just when Disco and Punk erupted, but also one of the great chillout periods in Pop history. Another example, the #1 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1976, Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night.” What we just heard, by the way, is the single edit. The sexy French pillow-talk heard in the fadeout of the slightly longer album version, courtesy of Stewart’s then-girlfriend Britt Eklund: a bit too racy for AM Top 40 in 1976, so it was omitted from the single.

Bonus

Well that’s our countdown. Before we wrap up the show though, I want to take a moment to shout out all the tracks that made Billboard’s year-end top ten which we didn’t hear this hour.

First, progressive rocker Gary Wright, from his album The Dream Weaver, one of the earliest chart records done almost entirely with synthesizers.

“Love Is Alive,” Billboard’s #9 song of 1976; #16 on our ranking.

Paul Simon, formerly of Simon & Garfunkel, scored his first and only solo #1 hit in ’76

A mistress’s advice to the married man she’s in a relationship with on how to leave his wife, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover:” #1 for three weeks in February, and that was enough to make it Billboard’s #8 song of ’76 despite its pretty short run on the charts. Billboard’s year-end ranking method in ’76 rewarded weeks at #1 more than usual. “50 Ways” was #26 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And The Miracles, post-Smokey Robinson…

Billboard’s #7 song, just missing our top ten at #11, “Love Machine.”

Billboard’s #4 song, #12 on our Chartcrush ranking, was The Four Seasons’ “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).”

Fun fact: according to songwriter Bob Gaudio, the original idea was to pay tribute to the date Prohibition was repealed in December 1933, but no one liked that, so he re-wrote it to be about a completely imaginary romantic memory in December 1963, which, by the way were The Four Seasons’ salad days just before the British Invasion.

Finally, Billboard’s #3 song of the year was Johnnie Taylor’s “Disco Lady.”

“Disco Lady,” #1 for the four weeks of April 1976 and the first chart topper with the word “disco” in the title, beating “Disco Duck” by six months. In a year where only 30 points separate the #5 and #13 songs, it didn’t take much to rejigger things. “Disco Lady” notched in at #13 on our Chartcrush ranking for 1976.

Well that’s gonna have to be a wrap. Thanks for listening to our 1976 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and streamable Spotify version of this and other Chartcrush Countdown Shows, plus chart run line graphs and other off-the-hook extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1963 episode graphic

1963 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1963 Episode Graphic

1963 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Pop is trending younger and more global the year before The Beatles and Supremes, girl groups are everywhere and Surf sounds are California’s hot new export.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush? It’s 1963, The last year before The Beatles hit in February ‘64 and everything changed in American pop. Or so say most pop culture critics and writers since the ‘60s—almost like an article of faith.

Now Beatlemania was a huge pop culture event, no doubt—a sudden mass hysteria over four English guys no one had even heard of just a few weeks before. And a lot did change, and very quickly. But the problem with looking at it like that, like some kind of BC/AD moment: everything that happened before matters less, or not at all. As much as Beatlemania might’ve seemed like a random thunderbolt out of the sky, it didn’t happen in a vacuum; what was happening in ‘63 and before set the stage. For starters, teenagers’ disposable incomes had been rising for years, and by the early ‘60s there were millions to be made targeting them with their own movies, records, TV shows and products. This was already abundantly clear by 1963, and thanks to the Baby Boom entering their teens, there were going to be more and more teenagers every quarter as far as the eye could see. Over 14 million babies born in the last four years of the ‘40s, and the first born in ‘46 turned 16 in 1962. So it should come as no surprise that the average age of artists scoring #1 hits reached an all-time low of just under 23 in 1963. Both the youngest female and male solo acts ever to score #1 hits scored them in 1963. So the kiddos were preferring records by other kiddos. But they were also suddenly (before The Beatles) preferring records from other countries and cultures, with the jet age just beginning to bring nonstop transatlantic travel within reach for millions of Americans.

Billboard’s music editor from 1947 to 1973, Paul Ackerman, picked up on this in his feature story in the year-in-review issue for 1963, writing that the music scene is “richer and more varied than at any period in past history” and “more international than ever before,” ranging “far afield to acquire hit material from European countries.” Again, that was in late ’63, before The Beatles hit. Our countdown of the top ten hits of ’63 has not one, but two records that aren’t in English!

#10 Little Peggy March – I Will Follow Him

But kicking things off, the aforementioned youngest female solo act to ever score a #1 hit on the Hot100, beating Brenda Lee by about six months. Lee was also 15 when her first hit, “I’m Sorry” topped the chart in July of 1960. Some others have come close over the years. Tiffany had just turned 16 when her first #1, “I Think We’re Alone Now” peaked in 1987. Lorde was also 16 when “Royals” hit #1 in 2013. Teen chart toppers Debbie Gibson, Monica, Britney Spears and Olivia Rodrigo: all 17 when they notched their first #1s. No, the youngest remains our singer at #10, whose second single hit #1 in April ’63 just after her 15th birthday. It’s Little Peggy March, “I Will Follow Him.”

“I Will Follow Him” at #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1963. Margaret Annemarie Battavio, discovered at just 13 singing at her cousin’s wedding by big-time RCA-Victor producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, who had their own distinctive “Hugo & Luigi” logo stamped on every record they produced. Hugo & Luigi, best known for producing all of Sam Cooke’s hits at RCA. Anyway, Margaret’s birthday was in March, so she became Little Peggy March. Later in ’63 into ’64, RCA followed up “I Will Follow Him” with four more singles in rapid succession, but nothing else cracked the top 20. She did, however, continue scoring hits in Germany, where she decided to move in ‘69 and was a major star through the ‘70s.

#9 Steve Lawrence – Go Away, Little Girl

At #9, an act whose appeal went beyond the teen market, having gotten his start in the mid-‘50s as a regular singer—duetting with his future wife Eydie Gormé—on the first late-night network TV talk show, NBC’s The Tonight Show, co-created and hosted until 1957 by comedian Steve Allen, succeeded through the decades by Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon in that order. The singer had already established himself as a top Easy Listening talent by ’63 when Columbia signed him and his first record for the label became his first #1 hit on the pop charts. It’s our #9 song: latter-day traditional pop crooner Steve Lawrence, “Go Away, Little Girl.”

#9, Steve Lawrence, soloing without wife Eydie Gormé, on 1963’s #9 hit according to our ranking here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The song, by Brill Building power songwriting couple, Gerry Goffin and Carole King. “Go Away, Little Girl” topped the Hot100 for two weeks in January ’63, and returned in 1971 in a cover version by teen heartthrob Donny Osmond. Since the Hot100 began in 1958, only nine songs have reached #1 by different artists, and two of them, written by Goffin and King. The other: “The Loco-Motion,” first a hit for Little Eva in 1962, then the hard rock version by Grand Funk Railroad in ’74.

#8 Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki

Now the pop charts had been making nice with our former World War 2 enemy Germany since 1949 when two versions of “Forever and Ever,” the theme song of the German Luftwaffe, with new English lyrics, were among the year’s top ten records. ’49, the year of the Berlin Blockade and then the Allies’ epic airlift of food and fuel that’d stopped West Berlin being absorbed into Soviet-controlled East Germany at the start of the Cold War. Other German songs had topped the charts since, as Germany remained a nexus of Cold War tensions. The biggest, English singer Vera Lynn’s “Auf Weiderseh’n Sweetheart” in ’52 and Joe Dowell’s “Wooden Heart” in ‘61.

’63, by the way, the year of President Kennedy’s historic trip to West Berlin and his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”) speech. But it took a lot longer for the pop charts to make nice with our Pacific Theater foe in World War 2, Japan, and that happened, yep, in 1963, when one of the two foreign language songs in our countdown topped the chart in June. Disco group A Taste of Honey took their remake of it to #3 on the charts in 1981, but here’s the original: Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki.”

Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki,” the only Japanese language song ever to top the U.S. pop charts: #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1963. Now, just so you know, “Sukiyaki” isn’t actually the real title of that tune. The real title is “Ue O Muite Aruko,” which translates to “I Look Up When I Walk.” It got retitled to “Sukiyaki” by a British label exec worried that DJs might have trouble with the title, and Capitol Records followed suit when they put it out in the U.S. a few months later.

Now are you ready for this? In Japanese, “Sukiyaki” is— a beef stir-fry dish! But few Brits or Americans in 1963 knew or cared. They loved the song though, enough to make it not only the first song in Japanese, but just the second song in any foreign language to top the Hot100. Domenico Modugno’s “Neu del Pinto de Blu” in Italian (better known as “Volare”) was the first in 1960.

#7 Little Stevie WonderFingertips, Part 2

So at #10 we heard the youngest ever female solo act to score a #1 hit, Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him.” At #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1963, the youngest ever male solo act to score a #1. It’s the chart debut—just his fourth single—by an African-American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist musician and producer who entered the seventh decade of his chart career when “Where Is Our Love Song” made the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts in 2020. In that time, eight of his nearly 60 Hot100 charting singles have been #1s, starting with this one that reached the top of the chart when he was just 13. It’s also the first live record to hit #1. Here’s Little Stevie Wonder, billed by Motown as “the 12-year-old genius” (he was 12 when it was recorded), “Fingertips.”

#7, Little Stevie Wonder, “Fingertips” on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1963—a two-part song that spanned both sides of the 45 it came out on. The hit we just heard was Part Two, starting with Stevie yelling “Everybody say yeah.” Oh, and guess who’s playing drums on that record? It’s Marvin Gaye, whose first top ten hit was also in 1963, “Pride and Joy.”

#6 The AngelsMy Boyfriend’s Back

OK, next at #6, we have the first record by a white girl group to hit #1. Black girl groups The Shirelles, Marvelettes, Crystals and Chiffons (in that order) had all done it previously. This group from the New York ‘burbs in Jersey scored their big hit with a song written and produced by one of the members’ boyfriends at the time, Jerry Goldstein, who with his partners Bob Feldman and Richard Gottehrer racked up a long, impressive list of writing and production credits in the ’60s and ’70s, including their own pop group The Strangeloves in ’65. Their big hit, “I Want Candy.” At #6, The Angels on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1963: “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

#6, The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back,” counting down the top hits of 1963 on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: one of the most familiar ’60s girl group songs. But did you know that there was an answer song on the charts in ’63? Yep. Bobby Comstock’s “Your Boyfriend’s Back,” in which the rebuffed suitor who’s gonna be in trouble in “My Boyfriend’s Back” promises to produce pictures and letters to show Mr. Awful Big ‘n Strong and let him know what’s really up! Uh oh! The answer song, incidentally, also written and produced by Goldstein, Feldman and Gottehrer.

#5 Paul & PaulaHey Paula

At #5 we have a song written by a college basketball player, Ray Hildebrand, while coach was letting him live in the gym over the summer. Now Ray didn’t live in the gym all year. When school was in session he stayed at a boarding house. And the landlord at the boarding house had a niece, Jill Jackson, who got a chance to sing live on the radio and tapped Ray as her duet partner—and they decided to do the song Ray had written over the summer in the gym. Well, a DJ at the radio station recorded the performance and started playing it on the air like it was a record. When requests started pouring in, Ray and Jill sought out a producer with a small label in nearby Ft. Worth, Texas to cut a record, and when that became a regional hit, it got picked up by Phillips for national release. But first, Ray and Jill had to change their names on the record to Paul and Paula so they’d match the names in the song. At #5, it’s “Hey Paula.”

Yeah, it might not have had the same impact if it’d come out under their real names, Ray and Jill. But as Paul & Paula, they scored the #5 hit of 1963, “Hey Paula,” and started a duet craze on the pop charts as labels immediately scrambled to pair up, for example, Nino Tempo & April Stevens and Dale & Grace, who topped the Hot100 back-to-back in late ’63.

#4 Bobby VintonBlue Velvet

We are counting down the top ten hits of 1963 on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and we’re down to #4. It’s by a singer whose very first charting single in 1962 was a #1 hit and the #4 song of 1962. To follow that up, he decided to do an album of 12 songs, all with “Blue” in the title. “Blue Skies,” “Blue Moon,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Little Miss Blue,” and so on. Ironically, the title of the #1 hit in 1962 that started it all was “Roses Are Red (My Love).” Here’s Bobby Vinton at #4: “Blue Velvet.”

“Blue Velvet,” Bobby Vinton, #4: a hit first for crooner Tony Bennett early in his career all the way back in 1951. In the U.K., Vinton’s version did not make the charts until 1990, when it was used in a commercial for a certain brand of hand moisturizer that comes in a blue container, and went all the way to #2.

The song of course shares its title with and is featured throughout Twin Peaks director David Lynch’s 1986 cult film Blue Velvet. Vinton scored again late in the year with a cover of Vaughn Monroe’s 1945 hit, “There! I’ve Said It Again,” which is our Chartcrush #6 song of 1964, and the last #1 song before Beatlemania and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” swept America in February ’64.

#3 The Singing Nun – Dominique

So back at #8 we heard the first of the two foreign language records in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown: Japanese singer Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki.” At #3 is the second, and it’s in French. It’s also the last record entirely in a foreign tongue to top the Hot100 until Los Lobos’s version of “La Bamba” in 1987.

Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers was a Dominican nun in a convent in Belgium who liked to write songs and accompany herself on guitar. With encouragement from her fellow sisters, she cut an album that included this song about the saint who founded her order, St. Dominic, and DJs turned to it after President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas to soothe listeners, whereupon it rocketed to the top of the charts for the four weeks of December. Here’s “Sister Smile,” The Singing Nun: “Dominique.”

“Dominique” by The Singing Nun at #3. Now the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963 initiated one of the most tumultuous (and unusual) couple of months in pop history, late ’63 into ’64: a crucible in which the nation’s profound mourning, confusion and distress intermingled with the already-manifesting restlessness, seeking, and boundless energy of the emerging Baby Boom generation.

“Dominique” topped the charts for a whole month right after, followed by Bobby Vinton’s next hit after “Blue Velvet,” the cover I mentioned earlier of Vaughn Monroe’s massive 1945 hit that every older American knew: “There! I’ve Said It Again.”

For six of the combined eight weeks that The Singing Nun and Vinton were on top, the #2 song was The Kingsmen’s monumentally inept “Louie Louie,” propelled to its chart heights by teen Boomers investigating rumors of swear words and pornographic themes in the song’s hopelessly unintelligible lyrics. Then, in early February ’64, just like that, Beatlemania seemed to wipe the whole slate clean.

By the way, in ’66, a movie called The Singing Nun inspired by Jeanne Deckers starring Debbie Reynolds was a hit, in which Reynolds sings “Dominique.”

#2 The ChiffonsHe’s So Fine

So maybe you’ve noticed: lots of female acts in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1963. We’ve heard three so far plus a male-female duet, and our #2 song is another: a new high watermark for the ladies after coming up short at the top of the charts for most of the late ’50s and early ’60s. And it came the same year Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published and JFK signed the Equal Pay Act into law—part of his New Frontier Program.

By our reckoning here at Chartcrush, ’63 was the strongest year for female acts in the top ten until 1977. We already heard from The Angels at #6; at #2, another girl group: The Bronx, New York’s own Chiffons, “He’s So Fine.”

Doo-lang doo-lang doo-lang, The Chiffons at #2 on the year 1963 with “He’s So Fine:” the plaintiff song in one of the first high-profile music plagiarism lawsuits against Beatle George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” his first solo hit and our Chartcrush #5 song of 1971. It took years for that case to wind its way through the courts, and The Chiffons even went back in the studio to do a version of “My Sweet Lord” to bolster the case. The ruling went against the former Beatle, but then it was many more years before Harrison had to pay up—about a half a million dollars. ♫ Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!

By the way, 1963, not just an important year for women; Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was in August ’63, at the historic Civil Rights March on Washington. Exactly a year later The Supremes scored the first of their five consecutive #1s, and four of the top ten records of 1964 were by black artists.

#1 Jimmy Gilmer & The FireballsSugar Shack

Another development in pre-1964 pop that helped pave the way for Beatlemania and the British Invasion: the concept of rock bands: young musicians working as a unit, playing instruments and writing songs. Until instrumental rock and surf groups started scoring hits, it was all soloists, orchestras and vocal groups on the pop charts. The Champs’ “Tequila:” the first big instrumental rock ‘n roll hit credited to a band in early 1958, then The Virtues’ “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” and Johnny & Hurricanes’ “Red River Rock” in ’59, The Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run” in ’60, String-a-Longs, Tornadoes and Rebels in ’61 and ’62, and then, of course The Beach Boys—all pre-British Invasion. And the #1 song of 1963, a mostly instrumental group out of New Mexico who’d scored minor hits with instrumentals “Torquay” and “Bulldog” in 1959 and ’60, but found that they could increase their audiences’ attention spans by sprinkling a few vocal numbers into the set. And one of those became by far their biggest hit. It’s The Fireballs with rockabilly singer Jimmy Gilmer, #1 for five weeks in October and November, “Sugar Shack.”

The #1 song of 1963, Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs’ “Sugar Shack,” on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: a song about a coffee shop. Or about a girl who works at a coffee shop. Well I guess that depends on what time of day you’re listening, right? I don’t know about you, but first thing, I’m all about the coffee! What girl?

Coffeehouses had become hipster teen hangouts in the early ’60s thanks to beatnik folkie culture, but songwriter Keith McCormick wrote “Sugar Shack” while enjoying his morning Joe, not at a hipster hangout, but at his aunt Faye’s house. And he gave her a songwriting co-credit on what wound up being a #1 hit, just for supplying the name of the sexy tight pants all the folkie beatnik hipster coffeehouse chicks were wearing. It’s in the lyrics: she’s got bare feet, and a black “leotard.”

Later in 1963, a singer named Georgia Lynn recorded a soundalike answer record from the girl’s point of view: “Sugar Shack Queen.”

And that is our Chartcrush top ten for 1963 here on this week’s Chartcrush Countdown show.

Now for our bonus segment in the time we have left, we’re gonna do a mini-countdown: the top three from Billboard’s originally published 1963 year-end Hot100 chart—none of which made our Chartcrush top ten! Now admittedly, that does seem a little weird, that the top three on Billboard’s official year-end ranking are absent from our top ten, but in those days before there was a computer on everyone’s desk, Billboard was using a much simpler ranking method that tends to grossly overemphasize longevity on the chart, at the expense of songs that reached the top ten or #1. Sure enough, none of the three songs—again, Billboard’s top three for 1963—ever made it to #1, and all had chart runs that were longer than the average for songs that reached the top ten in ’63: 13 weeks. Well, with the benefit of technology we can apply a more modern ranking method like what Billboard evolved in later years retroactively to the weekly chart data and get a much more accurate ranking for 1963—and that’s exactly what we do here at Chartcrush.

Bonus: The Cascades – Rhythm of the Rain

So first up at #3, counting down Billboard’s top three that weren’t in our top ten countdown, a song that was on the chart 16 weeks but only peaked at #3. Group member John Claude Gummoe wrote the song on watch in the U.S. Navy during a thunderstorm and recorded it with his group after he was out of the service. Despite it being a massive hit, and their best efforts to follow it up, it was their only hit. Here are The Cascades, “Rhythm of the Rain.”

Cascades, “Rhythm of the Rain,” Billboard’s #3 song of 1963; #15 on our Chartcrush ranking. Like The Fireballs, whose “Sugar Shack” we heard at #1 on our countdown, The Cascades were originally an instrumental group called The Thundernotes. Inspired by fellow Californians The Beach Boys, they decided to add vocals, and changed their name to The Cascades after seeing—I kid you not—a box of dishwasher soap!

Bonus: Skeeter DavisThe End of the World

Next in our bonus segment here on our 1963 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, the #2 song on Billboard’s published ranking, again ranking high due to its longer-than-average chart run of 17 weeks. We have it at #17. It’s a female singer who’d been racking up top ten hits on the Country charts for five years, but didn’t cross over to the Hot100 at all ’til a DJ started spinning this record on one of New York’s biggest Top 40 stations, WABC. It’s Skeeter Davis, “The End of the World.”

You know, sometimes you have to read between the lines a little to figure out why certain songs became hits. “The End of the World,” of course, is about a devastating breakup; but it came out in October ’62, just as the U.S. and Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. So doomsday fears, combined with the alarming title and Skeeter Davis’s innocent, childlike voice? Kind of the perfect ironic complement, to early ’60s Cold War tensions. It debuted on the country chart in December, but didn’t start climbing up the pop chart until the middle of January, whereupon it climbed steadily to its peak at #2.

Bonus: The Beach BoysSurfin’ U.S.A.

And that gets us to the #1 song on our mini-countdown of Billboard’s top three hits of 1963 on its original published year-end Hot100 chart. Like “End of the World,” the song stayed on the chart 17 weeks but never got to #1. Our Chartcrush ranking puts it at #22 on the year. But it’s an important song by one of 1963’s top acts: The Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

That California surf sound was a pretty big deal the year before the British Invasion hit. One surf song did make it to #1 during the year. That was Jan & Dean’s “Surf City” for two weeks in July, and at #13 it outranks “Surfin’ U.S.A.” at #22 on our Chartcrush ranking. But again, “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” #1 on Billboard’s published year-end Hot100 for the year.

Bonus: The Kingsmen – Louie Louie

OK, the top three from Billboard’s year-end ranking for 1963, none in our Chartcrush top ten for the year. Very strange indeed, and in that spirit, we’re gonna wrap up our 1963 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show with a song I’ve mentioned a few times this hour: one of the most ineptly performed and recorded records ever to make the top 40, let alone the top ten, yet it sat at the #2 spot for six weeks, in the top ten for nine weeks, and was of the songs that bridged the gap between the Kennedy assassination and The Beatles. Here now, the birth of American garage rock in the ’60s: The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie.”

National Lampoon’s Animal House prominently featured “Louie Louie” even though the writers knew the record didn’t exist yet in 1962 when the movie is set. But really, what other song could they have used as a backdrop for the drunken antics at Delta House fraternity during pledge week?

The early sixties after the payola scandal in ’59 and ’60 had such a chilling effect on rock ‘n roll labels, radio stations and personalities: not many straight-up, gritty, sloppy rock ‘n roll hits to choose from. British Invasion acts like the Rolling Stones and Kinks usually get the credit for filling that void, but “Louie Louie” and American garage rock was there first.

And that’s gonna have to do it for our 1963 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other neato extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week—same station and time—for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1949 episode graphic

1949 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1949 Episode Graphic

1949 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Big Band Swing is extinct and Jazz is off into Bebop-land, but Crooners, Pop Singers and Sweet Bands are making waves, and Country-Western is breaking through.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1949, when the biz emerged from the second and final musicians’ strike over royalty payments by record labels by James C. Petrillo’s American Federation of Musicians. Both so-called “Petrillo bans” had prohibited union musicians—basically all professional musicians in the ’40s—from cutting records, and the first, which lasted two years from 1942 into ’44 had been a crushing blow to Big Bands. Swing jazz: all but extinct by ’48.

So during the second ban, record labels focused on other things—like inventing new kinds of records! Up ’til the late ‘40s, the fragile, breakable ten-inch 78 rpm shellac record was the only format for music. Each side could have about three and a half minutes of music: a song. They were singles. The word “album” (what we still call a collection of songs packaged together): until 1948 when Columbia launched the 33⅓ RPM vinyl LP record (LP short for “long playing”), an “album” was literally an album—like a book or photo album—of 78s that you put on a bookshelf. An LP has, what? 10 songs or tracks? Well, that would be five 78s in an “album” of records.

Not to be outdone, in 1949, Columbia’s arch-rival, RCA-Victor, introduced the 45 RPM vinyl record. At launch, RCA pitched the 45 as not only a new format for singles, but as a competitor to the LP. People were already used to discs with one song on each side, and you could stack 45s in any order and play a whole “album” of them or even create your own album. Plus, they were smaller and more portable, and RCA, also the biggest consumer electronics company, was ready with several models of players with changers for 45s. Of course, what ended up happening was: the LP became the format for “albums” for the next 40 years, and the 45 became the format for singles, eliminating the shellac 78. But in 1949, when union musicians could record again, unbreakable LPs and 45s were the new media and vinyl itself, a kind of plastic: this new, atomic-age synthetic stuff: it was all very futuristic and exotic and exciting.

Now before we start counting down the songs, a note about how we compile our rankings for the pre-Hot100 era here on Chartcrush. Billboard launched its Hot100 chart in 1958. Before that there were three different weekly pop charts—Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played by DJs and Most Played on Jukeboxes—which Billboard compiled from weekly nationwide surveys of participating retail proprietors, radio DJs and jukebox operators. The Hot100 combined these sources and streamlined things, but actually, the three separate charts give us more, not less, information about what was popular and with whom than the combined ranking compiled from the same sources behind the scenes.

If you do a search for the top songs of 1949 or any other pre-Hot100 year, chances are what you’ll find is Billboard’s year-end Best Sellers chart—as if every household had an expensive record player and a collection of 78s lying around: certainly not the case in the ’40s and even most of the ’50s. As in all eras, looking only at sales of physical media paints a picture that skews older and richer. But that was even more true pre-Hot100. So rather than fall back on Best Sellers, what we’ve done here at Chartcrush is: just what Billboard did when it created the Hot100: combined the three pre-Hot100 charts—Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes—with equal weight for each into a single weekly ranking. And then from there we apply the exact same methodology we use for Hot100 years to get our year-end rankings.

#10 Perry Como – Forever and Ever

OK, so now that that’s out of the way, let’s spin some records! Our artist at #10 was back as the year’s top crooner after holding that distinction two years in a row in ’46 and ’47. But not only that, he was the top artist in ‘49, after slumping in 1948. Of the 15 sides he cut in a frenzy in late ’47 before the musicians’ strike went into effect, only one made the top ten. But in ’49, he had his best year yet, with six top tens. What a comeback! More about how and why after the song. Here’s Perry Como’s “Forever and Ever.”

Perry Como, “Forever and Ever,” #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1949. As I said before the song, ’49 was Perry Como’s best year yet after being on top for two years, then slumping in ’48. Of course, dramatic comebacks have happened throughout chart history, and while it can sometimes be a chore to try to figure out why, with Perry Como it’s pretty easy. Television!

’49 was the tipping point when prices dropped and everyone who could afford one went out and bought a TV: 100,000 sets a week were selling in ’49, with new stations popping up everywhere, not just in big cities. And it wasn’t just Perry Como. Also in ’49, a previously unknown Chicago pianist-singer’s very first record (Al “Flying Fingers” Morgan’s “Jealous Heart”) rocketed up the Best Sellers chart after his half-hour TV show premiered, proving that early TV adopters were also big-time record buyers.

But even before that, at the end of ’48, NBC decided to wheel some cameras in to televise established artist Perry Como’s usual Friday evening network radio show since 1944, The Chesterfield Supper Club. And from there all the way ’til 1967, Perry Como was one of TV’s highest rated variety hosts and a top crooner on the charts.

#9 Russ Morgan – Forever and Ever

Now we’ll be hearing from Perry Como again in our countdown, but we’re not quite done with that song, “Forever and Ever,” either, because it’s also our #9 record, by a different act. That’s right: two versions of the same song at the same time! Almost unheard of since the ’60s, but common in the ’40s into the ’50s. When a new song was published or was a hit, every record label’s A&R guy would scramble to match it up with an artist on their roster. That was their job: matching artists to repertoire: A and R. Often, many versions would chart, and occasionally more than one would be a big hit.

So, “Forever and Ever” started out as an old German folk song that was published and a big hit in Germany in 1940. When London Records noticed a sales spike in 1948, they thought “wow, what if this song was in English?” and recruited New York ukulele pioneer May Singhi Breen (“The Ukulele Lady”) to write English lyrics, whereupon multiple versions appeared of what Time described in 1949 as “the kind of lilting, easygoing melody in 3/4 time that almost everyone thought he had heard before, but no one could remember exactly where or when.”

London’s version by English singer Gracie Fields was the first to come out, but the two that were the biggest hits were also the first to chart: Perry Como’s and the one we’re about to hear at #9 by a bandleader who’d been at it since the early ’20s. He’d had some minor chart successes earlier in the ’40s, but ’49 was his year, with four top tens including two #1’s—all waltzy, singalongy carnival-sounding numbers like this. Here’s Russ Morgan & His Orchestra: the biggest hit version of “Forever and Ever.”

Russ Morgan—”Music in the Morgan Manner”— the tagline on all his records and the title of his radio program since the ’30s—joined by vocal group The Skylarks: their version of “Forever and Ever,” beating out Perry Como’s in our ranking by just a hair, the #9 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1949.

Now as I mentioned, “Forever and Ever” was a song that was a hit in Germany in 1940, with new English lyrics written in 1948. Well the original German song’s title translates to “Fly Home with Me,” and get this: it was the theme song of the German Luftwaffe in World War Two! So how in the world did the theme song of Hitler’s air force become a hit less than four years after the War? Well, it’s doubtful that many in the West knew any of this, but Germany was very much top of mind in ’48 and ’49 because of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift.

The Soviet Union had refused to join the other Allies in winding down the occupation of Germany and pulling out troops. So Britain, France and the U.S. combined their respective occupied sectors and formed a new, democratic, capitalist nation state, West Germany. The Soviets were not at all happy about this. So since Germany’s biggest city and capital, Berlin, was situated deep inside the Soviet-occupied Eastern sector, completely surrounded, the Soviets cut off the electricity and launched a military blockade—a siege to starve and freeze the Allied-occupied Western half into submission and absorb all of the city into East Germany. It didn’t work. Public sympathy for suffering Berliners mounted, and the Allies’ Berlin Airlift, incredibly, kept over two million West Berliners warm, fed and clothed through the winter by flying hundreds of tons of supplies over the blockade into West Berlin via previously-agreed-upon air corridors. Finally in the Spring of ’49, the Soviets lifted the blockade after nearly a year, but to make sure they were ready if it happened again, the Allies formed The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

#8 Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely – Slippin’ Around

OK, moving on now to #8, which was the first of seven top 20 hits for the unlikely duet pairing of a top female pop singer since her early hits with pianist Freddie Slack’s swing band in 1942, and a western movie actor turned singing cowboy who’d just scored his first top ten country crossover hit in ’48 with  “One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart).” The naughty (but playful) duet shot into the top ten in late September, and stayed all the way ’til February 1950. It’s Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely, doing Western swing and honky tonk trailblazer Floyd Tillman’s country hit from earlier in the year, “Slippin’ Around.”

“Slippin’ Around,” the #8 song on our Chartcrush Countdown Show for 1949: Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely: the longest stay in the top ten of any song in 1949 (21 weeks).

Capitol Records, eager to follow-up Whiting’s first playful-but-naughty duet hit with Johnny Mercer on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which of course became a winter holiday standard, but—fun fact—was first a hit in July and August of ’49 before AC was everywhere and people needed songs like that to help them “think cool” while watching the blowing ribbons on their oscillating fans in the dog days of summer.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” banned by some platforms in the 2010’s over sexual harassment connotations, but “Slippin’ Around” didn’t have to wait 60 years to become controversial. Adultery, the sensitive issue in ’49. But before “Slippin’ Around” had even exited the charts, songwriter Floyd Tillman, Capitol Records and Whiting ‘n Wakely were out with “I’ll Never Slip Around Again,” a soundalike sequel in which the “Slippin’ Around” couple is now married to each other and working through some pretty well-founded trust issues!

#7 Perry Como Some Enchanted Evening

Up next at #7, a song from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific: one of the most successful Broadway musicals ever, which had everything to do with the millions of young Pacific theater war veterans who were now back home, aged late 20s to early 30s, building their lives and giving birth to Baby Boomers. The so-called “Greatest” or “GI” Generation, at the peak of their cultural sway in ’49.

The song is the biggest hit—not just from South Pacific, but from any Rodgers and Hammerstein show, with seven versions on the Billboard charts between May and November ’49 including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Jo Stafford, plus the original cast version by Italian opera singer Ezio Pinza, who played the lead on Broadway opposite legendary stage actress Mary Martin. And six of those versions were top ten hits. But the biggest was by 1949’s top crooner, who we’ve already heard in our countdown. Here again, Perry Como, his biggest hit of the year: “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Perry Como, the singer whom the original crooner, Bing Crosby, called “the man who invented casual,” “Some Enchanted Evening” from 1949’s biggest musical, South Pacific: the #7 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

#6 Blue Barron or Russ Morgan – Cruising Down the River

And as we get set to spin our #6 song, recall that large touring big-name swing bands had ceased to be economically viable for a variety of reasons—the war and draft, the Petrillo AFM recording bans, gas and tire rationing and a crushing federal cabaret tax on dancing establishments. By ’46, most of the big bands had dissolved. So what happened to all those jazz players? Well, no doubt a lot of them took day jobs, but the most committed among them formed small, nimble combos that could find a niche and get gigs, and that became bebop: serious, complex jazz meant for listening, not dancing—and not the pop charts.

But some bands did survive into the era of TV and massive record sales: the so-called “sweet bands” (or “society orchestras”), who tended to have a profitable long-term radio or venue engagement in a single city, so didn’t need to tour, and weren’t even really affected by tax-related “no dancing” policies because they played light, innocuous, unchallenging pop, like “Forever and Ever” which we heard earlier, and like our song at #6, which had eight—eight!—versions on the charts in ’49. At #6, it’s “Cruising Down the River.”

“Cruising Down the River,” the #6 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1949. Now, if you’re listening on radio, you just heard the biggest of the eight versions, by Blue Barron & His Orchestra. Barron’s version isn’t on Spotify though, so if you’re listening to our podcast show, we subbed in the version that’s #12 on our ranking, by Russ Morgan & His Orchestra, the sweet band who’s very similar sounding, waltzy “Forever and Ever” we heard at #9. Both Barron and Morgan’s versions—quite similar to each other—were on Billboard’s charts for 22 weeks, but radio preferred Barron—possibly because they were already playing other Russ Morgan hits.

The song “Cruising Down the River” holds the distinction of being the first by British composers to top the U.S. charts—submitted to a songwriting competition by two middle-aged English ladies and winning, then becoming a hit in the U.K. in 1946 for bandleader Lou Preager before us Yanks got a hold of it in ’49.

#5 The Andrews Sisters – I Can Dream, Can’t I?

At #5 as we continue counting down the top ten from 1949 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, one of America’s most successful recording acts in the ’40s. So if we’re making a list of pop institutions that survived and thrived the demise of big bands, as evidenced by the 1949 charts, we’ve got to add this trio of sisters to sweet bands and the other, vocalist headliners, which we’ll get to in a few minutes. The singing siblings had already been making hit records for a couple years when the Billboard charts started in 1940. And they were tireless boosters of the war effort with USO tours and bond drives. They charted hits every year in the ’40s—over 20 of ‘em all told up to this one, their second #1 after 1945’s “Rum and Coca-Cola.” Here are Laverne, Patty and Maxene Andrews: The Andrews Sisters at #5 with the ballad, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?”

The Andrews Sisters with Patty Andrews singing the solo parts, “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” backed by bandleader Gordon Jenkins who’d just become Musical Director at Decca Records, and was about to unleash one of the top hits of 1950, Greenwich Village folk group The Weavers’ “Goodnight Irene.” Radio loved The Andrews Sisters. “I Can Dream” was Billboard’s #1 DJ song of ’49, and they had another good year in 1950 with multiple hits including the #1, “I Wanna Be Loved,” again featuring Patty singing the solo parts. In ’51, Patty split for a solo career which yielded one minor chart hit, but The Andrews Sisters were eclipsed by other sister acts in the ’50s—Fontanes and McGuires most notably, despite reuniting and cutting a dozen singles on Capitol from ’56 to ’59.

#4 Vic Damone – You’re Breaking My Heart

So from the week of August 20th when our #7 song, Perry Como’s “Some Enchanted Evening,” first hit #1, to the end of the year, it was all crooners at the top of the charts—which, it turned out, was a much more significant development in late ’40s pop than sweet bands or even the evergreen Andrews Sisters.

For many years, Bing Crosby had been the only successful male vocalist headliner on records. Early in the Depression, society just wasn’t ready for effete, tuxedoed singers whispering sweet nothings in women’s ears behind closed doors, so the first wave of crooners in the late ’20s and early ’30s provoked a backlash. Flapper heartthrob Rudy Vallee, the most prominent target. Alone among that group of first-gen crooners, Crosby managed to carve out a zone where pop singing and masculinity could co-exist until Frank Sinatra, then Perry Como caught on in the ’40s. But all three (Crosby, Sinatra and Como) continued to play it pretty safe, even after the floodgates opened and dozens of new crooners appeared, swinging for the fences. Which was already starting to happen in ’49, evidenced by our singer at #4—one of the first to break through with the Italian-inflected romantic singing style that was about to dominate the charts in the early ’50s. But in ’49, he was one of the singers who was blazing that trail, with his #1 hit, an English version of the Italian song, “La Mattinata.” It’s Vic Damone, “You’re Breaking My Heart.”

#4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1949, Italian-American crooner Vic Damone “You’re Breaking My Heart.” Damone’s first charting record in ’47, “I Have but One Heart” also has a verse in Italian, but with a much more restrained vocal, in line with the template set by Crosby and male singers who’d been successful as featured performers on records behind bandleaders. In the late ’40s no one really had a handle on what the public wanted or would tolerate from male singers, but tastes were changing and by the end of ’49, one thing that was abundantly clear was: Italian guys definitely had a leg up. Sinatra, Como, and now Vic Damone: all Italian-Americans. And every new crooner with a hit record was testing the waters and expanding the possibilities.

#3 Evelyn Knight & The Stardusters – A Little Bird Told Me

At #3, we have a cover version by a white female pop singer of a song by a black female R&B singer, and both versions hit the charts at the same time, with a couple more soon after. Now as you’ve been hearing, multiple versions of songs was the rule, not the exception, in the ’40s. But with this, the vocals on the pop version were so similar to the R&B version that it sparked a lawsuit that produced a landmark court decision. The original by the black singer, Paula Watson, got to #6 on the pop DJ chart, and a version by another black singer, Blu Lu Barker, got to #4 on that same chart a few weeks later which was pretty amazing for R&B crossover in 1949. But the dominant version was the supposed “pop” version by the white singer who’s clearly imitating Watson’s vocal: #1 on all three Billboard pop charts (Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes) for five solid weeks in January and February. It’s Evelyn Knight, “A Little Bird Told Me.”

Evelyn Knight, “A Little Bird Told Me,” #3 as we count down the top ten from 1949 here on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Knight hit #1 on the Jukebox chart again in March with her follow-up, “Powder Your Face with Sunshine.” Now more about that lawsuit. Knight’s cover of “Little Bird” was so similar to the original by black singer Paula Watson that Watson’s label, the west-coast indie, Supreme Records, sued Decca for lifting the arrangement, texture, and vocal style. They were so close that even musical experts called as witnesses couldn’t tell the difference. Still, the court upheld a previous court’s ruling that you can not copyright an arrangement or sue over interpretations of a style. That ruling, still in force.

#2 Frankie Laine – That Lucky Old Sun

Next at #2, another male singer whose big chart breakthrough was in 1949. Country-western was beginning to exert a strong influence on pop, which accelerated over the next few years as the major label A&R men started plundering the country charts for pop hits. Mitch Miller, the leading plunderer as the head of A&R at Columbia, where he launched crooner Tony Bennett’s career in 1951 with Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart” (which Bennett hit out of the park). But before that, in ’49 at Mercury Records, Miller prodded this Italian singer from Chicago whose emotive style hadn’t yet connected, to steer away from jazzy crooning and take up country and blues material. And 1949 turned out to be the year the world caught up to Frankie Laine. His first #1 hit and our #2 song of 1949, “That Lucky Old Sun.”

Frankie Laine’s first #1, “That Lucky Old Sun,” the #2 song on our Chartcrush Countdown of the top ten hits of 1949. Laine topped the chart later in 1949 with “Mule Train,” which came complete with whip snaps and hoof sounds. Gimmicky novelty hits, a Mitch Miller trademark. Not surprisingly Elvis Presley later cited Laine as a major influence, and he became ubiquitous on movie Westerns soundtracks in the ’50s. His version of “High Noon” did even better than the Tex Ritter version that was in the actual film starring Gary Cooper. When Mel Brooks made his classic 1974 comedy send-up of movie westerns, Blazing Saddles, Frankie Laine was the natural choice to sing that theme song too! Six versions of “Lucky Old Sun” charted in 1949—Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong and others, but Frankie Laine’s biggest competition with the song came from our artist at #1.

#1 Vaughn Monroe – Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)

Some years it’s close, but 1949 was not one of those years: by far the top Sales, Airplay and Jukebox song of the year: #1 on all three simultaneously for eight weeks, May into July. And it seemed to just come out of nowhere, this record.

The singer: already a big name but it was unlike anything he’d done before—unlike anything anyone had done before really. And almost certainly the catalyst for Frankie Laine’s sudden course correction into Western music at Mitch Miller’s urging (its run on the charts came months before Laine’s two hits late in the year). The artist being on RCA, it was also one of the first records issued on a 45. It’s Vaughn Monroe, the original hit version of a song that’s been covered many, many times, “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend).”

Vaughn Monroe with that deep baritone: one of the most instantly recognizable voices in the history of pop: the #1 song of 1949, “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend).” It really was a cowboy legend: when he was 12, songwriter Stan Jones says he was working on a ranch in Arizona, and one day he decided to take his horse on a shortcut over a mountain to get home before a storm rolled in, and he came across an old cowpoke who pointed up at the sky and said “Son, look up and you’ll see the red-eyed cows of the devil’s herd.” Well by golly, 12-year-old Stan looked, and what he saw looked just like a heard of red-eyed cattle in the clouds. “You be careful now,” the man said as a terrified Stan rode off, “or else you’ll end up one of those ghost riders chasing that herd across the sky for all eternity.”

Jones recorded the song himself. Then folk singer Burl Ives did a version, but it was Vaughn Monroe’s version that connected, and boy did it! Some of the more memorable covers of the song down through the years: instrumental surf bands The Ramrods and Ventures in the early ’60s, Johnny Cash in the ’70s, and southern rockers The Outlaws in the early ’80s: “Riders in the Sky.”

And there you have ‘em: the top ten songs of 1949 according to our recap of Billboard’s combined weekly Sales, Airplay and Jukebox charts here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Bonus: Hank Williams – Lovesick Blues

Since there’s some time left, we have a couple great bonus cuts for you. First up, Billboard’s #1 country bestseller of 1949: the explosive chart breakthrough for a gaunt Alabama singer-songwriter that earned him a spot at The Grand Ole Opry after they’d rejected him in 1946. And he sure wowed ’em: an unprecedented six encores. Hank Williams: “Lovesick Blues.”

Hank Williams’s first big hit: #1 on the country charts for a staggering 16 weeks, and it even dinged the pop DJ chart for a week “Lovesick Blues:” a Tin Pan Alley song from the ‘20s that country singer Rex Griffin reinterpreted in 1939. Hank didn’t really add anything new to the Griffin version, but it was getting such a reaction from crowds that he recorded it over the objections of his label and even his band. Interestingly, no one else put out a version of “Lovesick Blues” in 1949, but since the late 50s it’s easier to list the top country acts who haven’t attempted it.

Bonus: Paul Williams – The Hucklebuck

Now, it’s always nice when we’re doing these excavations for the Chartcrush Countdown Show to uncover a forgotten morsel of period slang in a big hit. The term “hucklebuck” was everywhere in 1949—long understood among black folks as a sexual position, at some point it became a dance in which the male partner hung back behind the female with one hand on her waist and the other on her shoulder, and the couple gyrated hips in unison. Very sexy. Of course, every dance craze needs a song, and in this case the song was the #1 R&B record of 1949, Paul Williams & His Hucklebuckers, “The Hucklebuck.”

Paul Williams, “The Hucklebuck,” Billboard’s #1 R&B song of 1949 here on the Chartcrush Countdown Show. The hucklebuck dance went national and cross-racial in 1949. Lyricist Roy Alfred wrote words: “Wiggle like a snake. Waddle like a duck. That’s the way you do it when you do the hucklebuck,” and big bandleader Tommy Dorsey took a stab at it, attempting a comeback after dissolving his band in 1946—a great swing version that got to #5 on the Best Sellers chart, followed on the chart by a version by none other than Frank Sinatra.

Well that’s gonna have to do it for our 1949 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and I want to thank you for listening! On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other jake extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts all the way up to the present, so tune again—same station, same time—for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1955 episode graphic

1955 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1955 Episode Graphic

1955 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The rock era begins with “Rock Around the Clock” and Chuck Berry, but for grown-ups there’s the hi-fi revolution, Easy Listening and the Mambo dance craze!

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome! This is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in Billboard magazine, the music industry’s top trade publication. This week we’re turning the clock back to 1955, the year Marty McFly returns to in the 1985 time travel movie Back to the Future, and the year the first Rock ‘n Roll song, “Rock Around the Clock,” hit #1 on a Billboard pop chart.

Before the Hot100 streamlined things in 1958, there were three different Billboard pop charts: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played in Juke Boxes and Most Played by Disc Jockeys. Bill Haley & The Comets’ so-called “first Rock ‘n Roll song” first hit #1 on the Best Sellers chart the week of July 9, 1955, then topped the Jukebox and DJ charts over the next couple weeks, finally winning Billboard’s “Triple Crown” in the August 6th issue when it was #1 on all three simultaneously.

Now I say “so-called first Rock ‘n Roll song” because over on Billboard’s R&B chart, there were lots of Black R&B records all the way back to the mid ’40s that had that same beat, sound and attitude. Rock ‘n Roll, you could even say, was the sound of Black America in those pre-Elvis years, when the pop charts, by contrast, were dominated by crooners, pop singers, Hollywood & Broadway show tunes and Mitch Miller’s gimmicky novelty productions.

Notably absent from the pop charts in the early ’50s? Anything kids could dance to. Mambo sparked an adult dance craze that made several Cuban bandleaders famous and had the top crooners and pop singers all cutting Mambo records, but besides that, you have to go back more than ten years to the early ’40s—the World War 2 years before a 40% federal cabaret tax on dancing establishments, plus wartime gas and tire rationing, the draft, and a two-year musicians’ strike hit Big Band Swing like a wrecking ball—to find the last time upbeat Dance music was America’s default music.

So no wonder that when DJ Alan Freed started spinning R&B records for the first time on a powerful radio station, Cleveland’s WJW, it caught on, notably with the up and coming generation of young White people, who’d never even been exposed to this music before, or really anything like it. So it was dangerous and exciting. And Freed played that up, treating his overnight audience of Silent Generation teenagers like some kind of secret hipster society, which he dubbed “The Moondoggers.” That was in 1951. Freed applied the Black slang phrase “Rock ‘n Roll” to describe the music, and by 1954, he was on a 50,000 watt station in New York: one of the nation’s top radio personalities—and R&B was the new wellspring of energy and ideas in Pop.

White crooner Johnny Ray had become a proto-Teen Idol star with his R&B-style emotive ballads. But the point of no return was “Sh-Boom”—an indie record by a Black Doo-Wop group, The Chords, that cracked the top ten on both the pop Jukebox and Sales charts with no radio support whatsoever in July 1954—followed just a week later by the major label cover version by The Crew-Cuts, a White Canadian vocal group, that hit #1 on all three Billboard Pop charts for four weeks.

#10 Les Baxter – Unchained Melody

And we’ll be getting back to all of that a little later, but first up at #10, a relic of a very different, but just as potent, trend in the mid ’50s: hi-fi. Folks gearing up their swanky mid-century living rooms with new cutting edge home audio equipment. Classical, the biggest music genre for that crowd, but the more Pop-oriented among them bought records like our #10 hit and carved out a whole new niche on the charts later dubbed “Easy Listening.” Here’s bandleader Les Baxter: his version of “Unchained Melody.”

Les Baxter along with his Orchestra and Chorus: the biggest hit version of a song that’s been recorded over 1,500 times since it was first published in 1955: “Unchained Melody,” #10 on our Chartcrush Countdown. Over the years, no fewer than nine different versions of that song have made the charts—four of them, including Baxter’s, in ’55. The most famous version today, of course: the one by The Righteous Brothers from 1965 that was in the ’90s movie Ghost starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.

Now, vinyl had only been around for a few years in ’55. Before vinyl, with shellac 78s, playback quality was so awful that even radio stations shied away from playing records. The difference was so obvious that listeners could immediately tell if it was a record versus a live performance. In the ’40s when American Federation of Musicians president James C. Petrillo railed against “canned music” during the AFM’s musicians’ strikes against record companies, folks knew exactly what he was talking about.

So imagine the thrill of hearing, for the first time sound bursting forth from speakers in a room like the performer was right there with you. Hi-fi shops were cropping up all over America in the ’50s and ’60s, and every one of them had a demonstration room where you could hear this miracle of modernity with your own ears. And if you were so inclined and could afford it, you broke out the wallet and geared up. Then, having made that investment, you wanted a record like Les Baxter’s “Unchained Melody,” with its lush strings and otherworldly chorus, that made your state-of-the-art hi-fi sound like the money it cost.

Baxter, no stranger to the charts in ’55. He backed Nat King Cole on two massive hits, “Mona Lisa” in 1950 and “Too Young” in ’51 (although there’s some controversy over whether it was really up-and-comer Nelson Riddle who did the work on those). On his own, though, Baxter had scored numerous top ten hits before “Unchained Melody.” And he was back with an even bigger hit the next year: “The Poor People of Paris,” the #5 record of the year on our Chartcrush ranking for the year of Elvis, 1956. That’s a pretty impressive string of chart achievements for what most folks (from about 1970 on) would dismiss as “elevator music.”

Baxter died in 1996, just as hipster Lounge music savants were reviving his career as the gravitational center of a subgenre of Lounge called “Exotica.” Baxter’s 1951 LP Ritual of the Savage: the origin point that inspired other Exotica notables like Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Juan García Esquivel. Jet age ersatz tropical and primitive sounds, for armchair explorers: good stuff for your cocktail hour.

#9 Tennessee Ernie Ford or Bill Hayes – The Ballad of Davy Crockett

We’re counting down the top ten hits of 1955 on this week’s edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and at #9, a chart artifact from the very first mass-cultural hysteria ignited by TV, in the year that AT&T completed the first trans-continental cable system for live broadcasts, and the number of American homes with TVs passed two thirds. The so-called “Crockett Craze” inspired by Disney’s five-part miniseries Davy Crockett launched no fewer than four versions of its theme song onto the pop charts. At #9, it’s “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

“Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the #9 song of 1955 according to our exclusive ranking here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Again, four different versions of that song on the charts during the Crockett Craze inspired by Disney’s Davy Crockett miniseries that aired December ’54 to February ’55.

If you’re streaming the podcast version of the show on Spotify, you heard Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version that’s more familiar since the ’50s. That was #5 for four weeks on the Jukebox chart and the #28 song of the year. But the most successful version in 1955 (and the one you just heard if you’re listening on radio) was the first one that producer Archie Bleyer cut with singer Bill Hayes literally the day after he got the idea to do a record of the theme song while watching on TV. The Hayes version, unfortunately: not available on Spotify.

On the charts, Hayes and Tennessee Ernie both beat the version that’s in the actual miniseries, which was also out on a record, by the actor who plays Davy Crockett, Fess Parker. All the versions peaked on the charts in May and June of ’55, when Disney’s repackaged wide-screen Technicolor feature film version of the miniseries was in theaters and practically every boy in America was walking around in a coonskin tail hat like the one Fess Parker wears in the film.

#8 Roger Williams – Autumn Leaves

So Rock ‘n Roll’s opening salvo on the Pop charts was in the summer of ’55—the one-two punch of “Rock Around the Clock” followed by Pat Boone’s version of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.” After that Rock percolated under the radar for a few months while the top of the Pop charts got very conservative, as if a horrified public was recoiling at what it’d just heard and needed a safe space.

At #9, one of the records that was a hit in those months as the weather got colder—in the top three of at least one of Billboard’s Pop charts (Sales, Airplay or Jukeboxes) for 13 weeks. It’s pianist Roger Williams’ unique instrumental take on a song that was already a familiar standard in 1955, having been recorded by many top artists since its appearance in 1945. Appropriately titled for when it was a hit on the calendar, here’s “Autumn Leaves.”

“Autumn Leaves,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955, Roger Williams, with his innovative descending scales and arpeggios at the piano, representing the random falling and blowing of leaves in Autumn—a unique touch he added to a familiar song. The only piano instrumental ever to hit #1 on a Billboard chart: four weeks atop the sales chart, suggesting that its biggest appeal was among the newly minted home hi-fi audiophiles I mentioned when we heard Les Baxter’s “Unchained Melody” back at #10. Williams scored big again in 1966 with his instrumental and chorus rendition of “Born Free.”

#7 The Four Lads – Moments to Remember

Now I mentioned The Crew-Cuts in the intro: the Canadian vocal quartet who scored a big hit in 1954 with their cover of The Chords’ “Sh-Boom.” Well the two founding members of The Crew Cuts got their start singing in a quartet with two of the founding members of the group with our #7 song. All of them were alumni of St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto.

In 1951, Mitch Miller, Columbia’s powerful head of A&R, signed them to sing backup on what became Johnnie Ray’s breakthrough hit, “Cry.” After charting three top tens in rapid succession with Ray, they started headlining their own records, and by ’55 they’d charted nine of them. But this one was the biggest of their career. The song, originally written specifically for crooner Perry Como, but he didn’t think it was right for him and The Four Lads got it. #7: Four Lads, “Moments to Remember.”

The Four Lads “Moments to Remember,” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1955. These clean-cut collegiate foursomes were quite a phenomenon in the early-to-mid ’50s: Four Lads, Four Coins, Four Freshmen, Four Preps, and the biggest of them all, still to come in our countdown. It can get confusing!

The Four Lads followed up “Moments” with two more top five hits in rapid succession heading into ’56, then two more in ’57. After that, though, the hits dried up and Columbia did not renew their contract, but they continued to release records on various labels, and even dented the Easy Listening chart a couple times in the late ’60s.

#6 The Chordettes – Mr. Sandman

At #6 is a song that has become a symbol of mid-’50s innocence, maybe even innocence itself, thanks to its appearance in dozens of movies and TV shows since for that express purpose. It’s often used in a jarringly ironic way, like in Deadpool or the first film to use it, 1981’s Halloween 2, but sometimes just to anchor the viewer to the time and place that produced it: mid-’50s America.

Given how ubiquitous it’s been since the ’50s, people are surprised when they look it up and see it at a middling #18 on Billboard’s 1955 year-end Best Sellers chart, which is what you’ll likely find if you do a search for “top songs of 1955” on the web. But it’s one of the many records throughout chart history that peaked over the holidays, so Billboard splits its ranking points between two different years. Counting its full chart run including its weeks in late 1954, however, as we do for every song here at Chartcrush, it’s #6. It topped at least one of Billboard’s three charts for nine straight weeks, Thanksgiving ’54 to the end of January ’55, here are The Chordettes, “Mr. Sandman.”

Chordettes, “Mr. Sandman,” the #6 song of 1955 according to our exclusive Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking, which is tabulated from positions on Billboard’s three weekly pop charts before the Hot100 debuted in late 1958: Best Sellers, Radio Airplay and Jukebox Plays.

It’s the second of the two hits in our countdown produced by Archie Bleyer, the guy whose idea it was to put a version “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” out on a record. That’s Bleyer doing the hands-on-knees percussion throughout the song and saying “Yes?” in the third verse. Both “Sandman” and “Davy Crockett” were on the label Bleyer founded and ran, Cadence Records, which launched The Everly Brothers in ’57.

#5 The Four Aces featuring Al Alberts – Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Now of all the movies “Mr. Sandman” appears in, maybe the most famous: the aforementioned Back to the Future: the scene where Michael J. Fox as Marty first sees his hometown after travelling back in time to 1955 in Doc Brown’s souped-up DeLorean. But that was a different version that was also a top ten hit in 1955, by another clean-cut collegiate-styled male vocal quartet: the one I was holding back after we heard The Four Lads’ “Moments to Remember” at #7—because I was saving them for right now at #5.

In ’54 they’d done a cinematic-sounding version of the title song from the movie Three Coins in the Fountain, which out-charted the actual soundtrack version by Frank Sinatra. Instead of recording songs for movies, these guys recorded songs from movies, and outsold the originals! In ’55, they repeated the trick with the Oscar winning title theme to a blockbuster romance starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones, and they didn’t even wait for the movie to hit theaters! Well, not only did it work again; it did even better than “Three Coins.” The biggest hit of their career, #7 on Billboard‘s 1955 year-end bestsellers list, #1 on the year-end DJ chart, and #5 on our Chartcrush ranking. Here are The Four Aces featuring lead singer Al Alberts: “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

#5 on our Chartcrush Countdown of the top ten songs of 1955, The Four Aces, “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” later used as the theme of a CBS daytime soap opera in the late ’60s and early ’70s also called, yep, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.

#4 Mitch Miller – The Yellow Rose of Texas

Now at #4 is a traditional Folk song, well known in Texas and the South, that dates back to at least the 1850s. But according to a Billboard article from when the song was #1 on the charts, it first resurfaced in the 1950s as part of a songbook published by the copyright-clearance organization BMI, Songs of the Confederacy. The book inspired a Columbia Records album that collected Confederate marching songs, and a companion album compiled Union songs. Columbia President at the time, Goddard Lieberson: a big Civil War buff. Well, that project, in turn, inspired one of Lieberson’s subordinates, again, Mitch Miller, Columbia’s head of A&R but also a bandleader, producer and chart veteran himself, to do a reworked version of one of the Confederate marching songs on Columbia’s The Confederacy album. And that turned out to be the record that dethroned “Rock Around the Clock” at the top of the Best Seller chart, staying at #1 for six weeks, and becoming the #4 song of 1955. Here is Mitch Miller headlining his own record, leading His Orchestra and Chorus: “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

A folksier version of “Yellow Rose of Texas” by veteran singer Johnny Desmond was also a hit on the pop DJ and Jukebox charts in 1955. And a version by Ernest Tubb on the Country charts. But Mitch Miller’s more military-sounding version we just heard came out on top.

OK, so let’s break this down: a Confederate marching song, a year after the Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, but Southern states and cities fighting those rulings throughout 1955, and the Civil Rights movement on the ground barely underway. Rosa Parks didn’t stay in her seat on that bus in Alabama until December 1955. So in the middle of all that, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” shoots to #1 on the pop charts for six straight weeks in the Fall: a Confederate marching song.

Not to question Columbia Records or Mitch Miller’s motives for making the record, but it seems like the song’s huge popularity once it was out there in the wild might’ve had more than a little to do with the backlash against Civil Rights. As an October 1955 Billboard article reported, though: since the Davy Crockett phenomenon in the Spring, “pioneer-type material” was all the rage, and “Yellow Rose” was just the latest in a string of hits in that mold. So that was another factor. But always fascinating to look at these song rankings in the context of when the songs were popular, and what else was happening in the world.

The political overtones weren’t lost on the pop culture at the time. Satirist Stan Freberg put a send-up of “Yellow Rose” on the charts, also in ’55, that opens with a rebel yell by the heavily-accented singer, whose irritation at the snare drummer for playing too loud increases until he finds out the drummer is a Yankee and threatens to secede from the band “so help me Mitch Miller.”

#3 The McGuire Sisters – Sincerely

At #3 in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955 is a girl group whose first charting single entered the charts literally the same week as The Crew-Cuts “Sh-Boom” in July of ’54, and it too was a Pop cover of a song by a Black Doo-Wop group, The Spaniels’ “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.” It didn’t do as well as “Sh-Boom,” but then in ’55 they offered up this sublime reinterpretation of a Doo-Wop song by future Motown co-founder, executive and Marvin Gaye mentor Harvey Fuqua. His group The Moonglows had taken it to #1 on the R&B Jukebox chart in December ’54; then The McGuire Sisters (Ruby, Dottie and Phyllis) made it their first #1 Pop hit in early ’55: “Sincerely.”

Billboard’s #1 bestseller for six weeks, but it topped the DJ chart for ten weeks, mid-February to mid-April, pre-Davy Crockett and “Rock Around the Clock:” The McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely,” #3 as we count down the biggest hits of 1955 here on The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

The Sisters scored another #1 hit in ’57 with “Sugartime.” They continued into the 1960s, but stopped performing in the late ’60s, because Phyllis, the middle girl and soloist in the group, got mixed up romantically with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. And there was a big trial and Phyllis had to testify, so it was all public and a big scandal. But they got back together in ’86, still looking and sounding great, for a series of nostalgic nightclub engagements in Vegas, New York, Atlantic City, et cetera.

#2 Bill Haley & His Comets – (We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock

And that brings us to the #2 song on our countdown. I’ve been talking about it since the start of the show because it’s the most important song of 1955. On July 9, it became the very first Rock ‘n Roll song to reach #1 on the Billboard pop chart. And it stayed at #1 for eight weeks: our #2 record of the year: Bill Haley and His Comets, “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.”

Record jobbers and retailers were telling Billboard in 1955 that they’d never seen anything like the way “Rock Around the Clock” was selling. And lots of people had never heard anything like it either. A reviewer who saw a show in Chicago wrote that Haley & The Comets “are masters of mob psychology and mass hysteria, building slow but hard and by the time they hit their last three numbers, there’s hardly a member of the audience, young or old, who isn’t keeping cadence clapping and foot stomping.” So there’s a data point for you: clapping and foot stomping equaled mass hysteria in Chicago in 1955!

Over in the U.K., audiences were more demonstrative: fights and riots broke out in theaters showing the movie that introduced “Rock Around the Clock” to a mass audience in the opening credits: Blackboard Jungle, starring Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier, about juvenile delinquency in urban schools. Suffice to say, Rock ‘n Roll started off with a big bang heard around the world on the pop charts, and music was never the same. Bill Haley & The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock:” the #2 song of 1955.

#1 Pérez Prado – Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White

But it wasn’t #1. And that brings us to the other big Pop music story in ’54 and ’55: Mambo: the fusion of Swing and Cuban music. And the artist at #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955: the guy who introduced Mambo in 1951 at the Tropicana Hotel in Havana. He also put out an album that year, Mambo-Jambo, and sparked a dance craze that continued through the ’50s. So while the kiddos were dancing again to R&B and Rock ‘n Roll, grownups were signing up in droves at Arthur Murray Dance Studios, learning the rhumba box step and other Latin dances. And buying records like our song at #1. It’s Pérez Prado and His Orchestra, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.”

Pérez Prado’s “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White:” Billboard’s #1 Best Selling record of 1955, #1 on its year-end Jukebox chart too. Radio DJs though? Not as enthusiastic: #7 on that one. And it was by no means the end of Prado’s impressive career on the Pop charts: he was back in 1958 with “Patricia.”

Now of course, if you’re even a casual fan of vintage television, you’ve seen I Love Lucy, and Lucy’s Cuban bandleader husband Ricky Ricardo. And you might assume that the Ricky character was modeled after a guy like Prado. Not so. It’s actually the other way around. Desi Arnaz, who played Ricky and was Lucille Ball’s real-life husband: also a Cuban bandleader in real life. A protégé of the original Latin bandleader, Xavier Cugat in the 1940s, when Prado was still tickling the ivories in Cuba. Not to diminish Prado’s achievements or title as the “Mambo King” at all, but I Love Lucy premiered on TV the same year Prado’s first album came out: 1951.

So, that’s our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955, but we’re not quite done yet. We have a couple pretty important honorable mentions before we wrap up…

Bonus: Chuck Berry – Maybellene

…starting with another Rock ‘n Roll milestone that was a hit after Rock’s initial surge in the Summer of ’55, but before Elvis Presley debuted in March ’56. Since the top of the show I’ve been talking about White artists doing Pop versions of Black R&B hits and outperforming the originals on the Pop charts: “Sh-Boom” in ’54, The McGuire Sisters’ “Goodnight Sweetheart” and “Sincerely.” Some other notable examples: The Fontane Sisters’ version of The Charms’ “Hearts of Stone,” Georgia Gibbs’ hit covers of LaVern Baker’s “Tweedly Dee” and Etta James’s “The Wallflower,” Pat Boone’s first hit with his thoroughly whitewashed version of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.”

“Whitewashing:” the term disparagingly applied to the whole phenomenon of “cleaning up” R&B songs so Mainstream Pop radio could play them alongside crooners and Pop singers and lushly-orchestrated Hollywood hits. Well, finally, in September of ’55, a rockin’ record by a Black artist cracked the top ten. It was pretty crude-sounding, so it received almost no airplay. Mainstream Pop radio wouldn’t play Country or “Hillbilly” records in the ’50s either, for the same reason. But it was a top ten jukebox hit and a top ten bestseller in stores for six weeks, despite cover versions by Pop singers that didn’t chart at all. And that makes it a milestone. It’s Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene.”

“Maybellene” wasn’t just Chuck Berry’s first pop hit. It wasn’t even just his first R&B hit; it was his first record, period! Adapted from a well-known Western Swing song called “Ida Red” that he liked to play at gigs with mixed-race audiences, or even Black audiences, if only for the shock value. Berry went to Chess Records in Chicago to see about releasing some blues music. Label head Leonard Chess was more excited, though, about selling a “Hillbilly song sung by a Black man.” Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock ‘n Roll.

Bonus: Frank Sinatra – Learnin’ the Blues

Finally, our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown look back at the year 1955 wouldn’t be complete without recognizing one of the most spectacular comebacks in Pop history. After a messy divorce from Ava Gardner and slumping badly on the charts in the late ’40s and early ’50s, ironically right at the height of the Crooner Era, he had a new label, Capitol, a new bandleader, arranger and collaborator, Nelson Riddle, and a new sound that he’d been honing—which with this song became his signature sound for the rest of his career.

On the charts it had the misfortune of being a hit at the same time as “Rock Around the Clock,” peaking at #2 for five of the weeks Bill Haley was #1 in July and August, and just missing our top ten at #11 on the year. But radio loved this song. It was #5 on Billboard‘s year-end DJ chart and #1 on the weekly DJ chart for two nonconsecutive weeks, making it his first #1 on any chart since 1947. Of course I’m talking about Frank Sinatra. Here’s “Learnin’ the Blues.”

So that sound that Sinatra and Nelson Riddle forged: it brought back Jazz and Swing on the charts and kept it relevant into the Rock Era. Call it “Neo-Swing” or “Vegas Swing:” it wasn’t a nostalgia trip; it was new territory, infusing Swing music with the excitement and energy of Rock ‘n Roll. By the end of the ’50s, it was as big as Rock ‘n Roll, with dozens of male and female singers scoring hits. Teen Idol Rock ‘n Roller Bobby Darin even abandoned Rock and scored his biggest hit with the #2 song of 1959 in the style, “Mack the Knife.”

And that’s gonna have to do it for our 1955 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thanks for listening. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other nifty extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the beginning of the charts in the 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station and time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1980 episode graphic

1980 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1980 Episode Graphic

1980 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

A “free-for-all” after Disco implodes! Michael Jackson survives but Bee Gees and Chic retreat to the producer’s booth as Rock, AC and New Wave fill the vacuum.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1980.

So probably the first thing you notice glancing at the top hits of 1980: what happened to Disco? Disco fever ruled the pop charts in the mid-to late ’70s. But the fever broke right about the middle of 1979 when The Knack’s “My Sharona” replaced Chic’s “Good Times” at #1 on August 25th, then stayed at #1 for six straight weeks, and just like that, Disco—that four-on-the-floor beat with the strings and the horns—was yesterday’s news.

So what happened? Well, first off, all pop culture crazes have a story arc, and after five solid years of chart domination, acts like The Village People, although very successful, were turning Disco into a caricature of itself. And then you had Rock acts jumping on the bandwagon: a cultural saturation point that just made Rock fans mad. And soon it became as cool to hate and poke fun at Disco as it’d been to buy a white suit or shiny dress and learn how to do the hustle just a couple years before.

Consider Disco Demolition Night. That’s right, Disco Demolition Night: an actual event. July 12, 1979, Comiskey Park in Chicago between games at a twi-night double header: Tigers at White Sox. As a promotion, the Sox teamed up with a popular rock DJ, Steve Dahl, to offer admission for just 98 cents to anyone who brought a vinyl Disco record to throw in a bin. And then in between doubleheader games, there’s Dahl’s Disco Demolition ceremony and all the donated records get blown up in the middle of the field. It was a live version of Dahl’s morning radio gimmick where he’d scratch the needle across a Disco record and play an explosion sound effect. Except at Comiskey, the explosives would be real! Well, what could go wrong with that?

So turnout to Disco Demolition Night was way way beyond what anyone expected. 55,000 in the park; another 15,000 outside. The biggest crowd anyone had ever seen there, with “Disco Sucks” banners in the stands, “Disco Sucks” chants during the game, and fans wearing concert and radio station shirts instead of team jerseys. This wasn’t a ballgame; it was a cultural event.

The U.K. had The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Punk Rock, covered in the British press as the shocking, sensational big new thing in music and fashion. Hardcore Punk songs were actually making the top 40 in the U.K. Well, America didn’t have that; America had just plain old Rock music, and “Disco Sucks.” But Disco Demolition Night, besides earning Steve Dahl his 15 minutes of fame, showed that the same rebellious spirit—anarchy just for kicks, basically—that was fueling Punk in the U.K. was alive and well Stateside.

So the big bin of Disco records was detonated behind second base. A spectacular series of explosions. Records launched straight up in the air as high as pop flies. Steve Dahl made a tongue-in-cheek anti-Disco speech, fans rushed the field, and total mayhem ensued. By the time Chicago riot police cleared the field, all the bases were gone, there were bottles and trash everywhere and a fire was burning. The White Sox had to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader because the field wasn’t playable. July of ’79: national headlines and a shock wave through the music biz: Disco Demolition Night.

Shellshocked music biz insiders expected the Punk-adjacent New Wave sound to rush in and fill the vacuum. Billboard editor Paul Grein had seen 1979 as “a title bout between the peaking Disco craze and the upstart New Wave movement.” But notwithstanding The Knack’s “My Sharona” in ’79, The Cars, Blondie, and other early chart triumphs, New Wave’s big push had to wait until MTV in ’82 and ’83. “1980,” as Grein put it, “was a free-for-all.”

#10 Billy Joel – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Now absolutely no one thought of our artist at #10 as “New Wave” until he shrewdly decided to don a bright orange jacket and matching attitude for the second single off his 1980 album intended to prove that he wasn’t just a Soft-Rock balladeer; he was more Elvis Costello than England Dan, and could rock out if he wanted to. His fame in the ’70s, though, was built on the strength of his biggest hits, which were the ballads on his albums The Stranger and 52nd Street, and in the “free-for-all” that was early ’80s Pop, career pivots like that weren’t just possible; they were becoming common. He even swigs a bottle of pre-longneck Budweiser in the video! Here is Billy Joel’s first career #1 hit, from his 1980 set, Glass Houses, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

Billy Joel’s very first #1, “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me.” Lyrically, a cynical jab at the music biz trying to get artists to update their sound and image to appeal to younger audiences. And in the song, Billy Joel, um, updates his sound and image to appeal to a younger audience. But he does it his way, and scores the #10 song of 1980 according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown ranking.

“Still Rock ‘n Roll” was the second single off Joel’s Glass Houses album. The first, “You May Be Right,” also the first cut on the album, opens with a breaking glass sound effect, dramatically announcing that whatever this is gonna be, it’s definitely not gonna be another AC-type ballad. Joel’s five-night sold-out stand at New York’s Madison Square Garden in June was the #1 grossing concert of 1980.

#9 Michael Jackson – Rock with You

Now after Disco Sucks took hold, most of Disco’s defining brands became obsolete overnight: Bee Gees, Donna Summer, KC & The Sunshine Band, Chic, Village People. Well there was one, and really only one, established Disco artist who spectacularly bucked that trend. The advance lead single off his 1979 LP was one of the Danciest Discoyest cuts on the album and was released literally two days before Disco Demolition night, yet it rose steadily over the next three months to #1. That cut, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” was then followed by our song at #9: an even bigger hit. From his 1979 album Off the Wall, it’s Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You.”

Amid the turn of the decade anti-Disco backlash ’79 into the ’80s, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album should’ve been dead on arrival, but instead it transcended Disco with its sheer variety and quality, and yielded four top ten hits, a record for a solo artist. “Rock with You,” the second of those hits, #9 as we count down the top ten from 1980 on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Countdown Show.

Of course, Michael: already a big star since The Jackson Five debuted in 1970 when he was just 11. In ’78 he played the Scarecrow in Motown/Universal’s movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical The Wiz. And then he sang lead on the The Jacksons’ “Shake Your Body,” huge on Disco dancefloors in ’79. His first solo album, Off the Wall (which contained “Rock with You”) dropped just a few months after that, re-launching Michael as a mature Pop star. And then his 33 times platinum album Thriller in ’82 cemented his status as “The King of Pop.”

#8 Barbra Streisand – Woman in Love

Well, no act personified Disco more than The Bee Gees. They were on the cover of the various artists Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which had three #1 Bee Gees hits in 1977 in ’78. Then their next album, Spirits Having Flown, yielded three more #1s in ’78 and ’79: all Disco classics. Once Disco imploded, though, The Bee Gees’ brand was rendered all but unmarketable for a generation practically overnight. Singles from their 1981 album barely cracked the top 40. But that didn’t mean they just threw up their hands.

Our song at #8 was not only written by Bee Gee Barry Gibb; it was produced by the exact same team that made all the The Bee Gees hits in the Disco years, plus all Andy Gibb’s hits, #1s by Samantha Sang (the song “Emotion”) and Frankie Valli (“Grease”), and dozens more chart entries. All of them have that Bee Gees production sheen, and so does this record.

In fact, it’s a dead-ringer for a Bee Gees hit in really every way except for the name on the label. Which is a big name: one of the top female singers of the ’70s who with this record notched her fifth #1 in seven years, since “The Way We Were” was the #1 song of 1974. It’s Barbra Streisand, with a lot of help from Barry Gibb even including his trademark Bee Gees backing vocals: “A Woman in Love.”

“A Woman in Love,” Barbra Streisand: #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1980: #1 for three weeks in October into November, and as it turned out, the end of Barbra’s run as a top chart diva. She made her mark for the rest of the ’80s making movies like Yentl and The Prince of Tides. By the way, “Woman in Love:” only #35 on Billboard’s published year-end Hot100 for 1980 because it hadn’t even entered the top ten yet, by Billboard’s unusually early cut-off date for the 1980 chart year. Much more on that later in the show.

#7 Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love

At #9, we heard the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Well in 1977, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley, died unexpectedly at just 42. The nation mourned for weeks and there was a huge resurgence in interest in Elvis’ catalog and ’50s music in general. ’50s sitcoms Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days were the two biggest shows on TV, ’77 to ‘78. ’50s nostalgia group Sha Na Na’s hit variety show premiered on TV. Grease was in theaters for all of ’78: the ’50s musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

With all that, notwithstanding the chart hits from the Grease soundtrack, it’s pretty amazing that our #7 song didn’t happen sooner than it did: a big hit that was a straight-up ’50s throwback. And when it did happen in 1980, where it came from was even more amazing. Freddie Mercury, the group’s front man reportedly wrote it in ten minutes taking a bath with a guitar, which he barely knew how to play. But because of that the song is exactly as simple and uncomplicated as it needs to be for what it is: a campy ’50s Rockabilly ditty. Here’s Queen, #7: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” the #7 song on our 1980 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Queen’s previous two top ten singles “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are the Champions” had set the bar for ’70s Arena Rock bombast, and now here they were as the ’80s began with a stripped-down, Elvis-inspired Rockabilly song!

It was #1 on the Hot100 for four weeks in February into March and by the middle of the year, a trio of young, heavily inked Rockabilly nuts from Long Island, New York suddenly found themselves being courted by major labels. That group? The Stray Cats. As for Queen, they had an even bigger hit in 1980 that’s not Rockabilly, which of course we’ll hear later.

#6 Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2

So no one was expecting a Rockabilly record out of Queen. Who would you say was the artist in 1980 least likely to put out a Disco single? Well in an era of fans blowing up Disco records in public, the veteran Rock band that scored the #6 song of 1980 was maybe the only kind of artist who could’ve pulled that off and come out unscathed. Others tried. Some of Rock’s biggest names, like Kiss with “I Was Made for Loving You,” Rod Stewart with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Those were big hits on dancefloors and the Pop charts. But Rock fans weren’t looking for an invitation to come boogie at the disco, and when Rock bands put out Disco-sounding records, most of the time it felt like a kick in the ribs. Rod Stewart never recovered his street cred after “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” And Kiss had to take off their makeup in ’83 and chase down a bandwagon they’d helped set in motion: Glam Metal.

But our act at #6 escaped that fate by already having an intensely cerebral but anonymous, limelight-shunning image that was the antithesis of Disco. But not only that, the song’s in-your-face, anti-authority message was the most jarringly controversial thing that’d been on Pop radio in a long time, maybe ever, excerpted as it was from a dark, mind-blowing double-LP Rock opera. You didn’t even notice it was Disco! But it’s got that beat. You can dance to it. And you can definitely shout to it. From their epic double album The Wall, #6: Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.”

Pink Floyd’s first charting U.S. single since “Money” in 1973, “Another Brick in the Wall,” the #6 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1980. Floyd songwriter Roger Waters’ original vision for that track in his demos was a chilled-out minute-and-a-half acoustic and vocal thing, nothing like what we just heard. The Disco beat? The funky rhythm guitar? Even the children’s choir in the second verse? That was all producer Bob Ezrin. And he had to go behind the band’s back to make it, and then beg them to release it as a single. At first they told him “we don’t do singles,” but when Ezrin persisted, the notoriously difficult-to-work-with Waters very uncharacteristically threw up his hands and said “Okay Bob, be my guest: go ahead and waste your time doing silly stuff.”

#5 Captain & Tennille – Do That to Me One More Time

Unlike classic Disco, the soft Pop-Rock Singer-Songwriter sound pushed on into the ’80s. There was even a new chart for it. Well, a newly re-named chart anyway. In ’79 Billboard relaunched its Easy Listening category as Adult Contemporary to include the growing number of lite music stations now playing what they called in the ’70s MOR, short for “middle-of-the-road.”

Our next song at #5 was the #20 song on Billboard’s year-end AC chart. It’s by a husband and wife act that’d been on the charts since “Love Will Keep Us Together” was the #1 song of the year 1975, and who’d even had their own prime time variety show on ABC in ’77 and ’78. At #5, it’s The Captain & Tennille: Toni Tennille’s self-penned homage to married intimacy, “Do That to Me One More Time.”

Captain & Tennille, “Do That to Me One More Time,” #1 for one week in mid-February, 1980 after stalling out at #2 for all four of the weeks that Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” was #1. But it was on the chart (and in the top ten) longer, hence its higher ranking: the #5 song here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1980.

Now Billboard’s #1 year-end AC song of 1980 was Air Supply’s “Lost in Love.” You’d think “Do That to Me” would’ve ranked higher than #20 on that chart. Maybe it was just too sexy and steamy for AC radio in 1980, which was still pretty conservative, having to conform to pre-Baby Boom sensibilities.

#4 Diana Ross – Upside Down

Here at Chartcrush, our rankings are based on the 52 weeks of Billboard charts from the first issue in January to the last in December. Well, that’s just what you’d expect, right? You might be surprised to learn that that’s never been true of Billboard’s own official published year-end charts, and for a pretty straightforward reason: they have get their printed “Year-in-Review” issue into everyone’s hands before New Years, and it takes time to tabulate these rankings, especially before there was a computer on everybody’s desk, let alone get it printed and mailed.

Logistically impossible to count all 52 weeks, so by necessity, every Billboard year-end chart has a cutoff date which is the last weekly chart that gets factored into the year-end ranking. Most often in the ’70s and ’80 it was an issue in late October or early November, but for some reason, in 1980, the cutoff was moved up to the end of September. It’s the earliest cutoff date of any year-end chart in Hot100 history. Literally the entire last quarter of 1980: not counted. And although they couldn’t have known when the decision was made, that was especially unfortunate in 1980 because three of the year’s top four biggest hits were in those last three months, including our song at #4.

Like Streisand’s “Woman in Love,” it’s by one of the biggest female Pop stars since the 1960s with a major assist from a top Disco songwriting and production team. This time it’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the masterminds of Chic. They were an A-team in the biz, having scored a string of late ’70s smashes that culminated in the #1 song of the year 1979, “Le Freak.” Here’s former Supreme Diana Ross, “Upside Down.”

Motown legend Diana Ross, #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1980, “Upside Down,” completing her comeback after inexplicably slumping on the charts at the height of Disco. Her “Love Hangover” was a pivotal early Disco hit and Ross’s fourth #1 since going solo in 1970. Was there anyone better positioned to ride atop the Disco wave than Diana Ross? But the singles from her Disco era albums Baby It’s Me and Ross barely cracked the top 40.

She starred as Dorothy in The Wiz movie, but The Wiz wasn’t the era-defining phenomenon producers were hoping for. It barely made half the $24 million it cost to make. Meanwhile singers like Yvonne Elliman, Thelma Houston, Alicia Bridges, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Gloria Gaynor, Anita Ward, Amii Stewart and of course Donna Summer were racking up top ten hits all over the place. Given the sudden collapse of Disco, which ended most of those chart careers, flying below the radar for a while may’ve been what made Diana Ross’s 1980 rally possible. Unlike the established Disco brands, she got a chance for a fresh start.

#3 Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

At #4, the second of the top four songs in our Chartcrush countdown for 1980 that were MIA from Billboard’s official year-end top ten. It’s the second Queen song in our 1980 countdown and the biggest chart hit of their career. We heard “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” at #7; at #3, here’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

#1 for three weeks in October, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” the #3 song on our Chartcrush countdown of the top ten hits of 1980: the best-selling single of Queen’s entire career and their last top ten hit on the U.S. charts. It got all the way to #2 on both the Soul/R&B chart and the Hot Disco Singles chart, rare for a British rock band but really not that surprising with that ultra-funky bass line inspired by Chic’s “Good Times,” and the fact that it was none other than Michael Jackson, backstage at a Queen show, who encouraged them to put it out as the fourth single from their album The Game, almost a whole year after that album came out.

The band’s initial reluctance may have had something to do with the whole “Disco Sucks” backlash: they were in the studio recording The Game in July ’79 when Disco Demolition Night happened. But as I pointed out earlier in the show, Michael Jackson was thriving despite “Disco Sucks,” so on his recommendation, release it they did, and it was their biggest hit, in the top ten for 14 weeks October into December, and #1 for three of those weeks.

Coming off that, on their next album, 1982’s Hot Space, they doubled down, adding synths and even horns: a whole Disco Synthpop album. Why not, right? Well “Under Pressure” was a big hit: a duet with David Bowie. But the change in direction was too much and Hot Space alienated North American Rock fans to the point where Queen could no longer even fill midsized arenas. So they skipped the U.S. and Canada on their next two tours and toured everywhere else, especially in untapped Latin America, where they were filling soccer stadiums. Then in ’85, their epic set at Live Aid was seen by tens of millions on TV in America, and Queen got a well-deserved fresh look. They never toured the States again, though, before 1991, when Freddie Mercury died after battling HIV/AIDS for nearly a decade.

#2 Kenny Rogers – Lady

Now our #2 song came so late in the year that Billboard bumped it into its 1981 chart year. It was Billboard’s #3 year-end song of 1981. But our policy here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show is to count a record with a chart run that spans two years in whichever year it accumulated the most chart points. And for this song, by a wide margin, that’s 1980.

It’s a ballad written and produced by Lionel Richie, who was still in The Commodores. And I guess he had surefire hit ballads to spare before he went solo in ’82. The singer, a veteran performer in a bunch of genres who’d settled on Country in the mid-’70s, was putting together his Greatest Hits album and wanted a new song for it. And it wound up the biggest hit of his career! With the #2 song of 1980, a hit on the Country, Soul/R&B and Adult Contemporary charts as well as the Hot100, here’s Kenny Rogers, “Lady.”

Kenny Rogers, “Lady,” the #2 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1980.

After the hits dried up for Rogers’s cross-genre Rock group, The First Edition, he went solo in ’76, focusing on country, and scored a huge crossover hit right out of the gate with “Lucille” in 1977. He kept the streak going and by 1980, he’d racked up enough hits on both the Country and Hot100 charts for a Greatest Hits album. For the new song on that collection, he teamed up with Lionel Richie, who’d notched several big ballad hits himself in the latter half of the ’70s with his group The Commodores.

Believe it or not, “Lady” was the only #1 Hot100 solo hit of Kenny Rogers’s long career, but his duet with Dolly Parton in ’83 hit #1. That was “Islands in the Stream.”

#1 Blondie – Call Me

Next up, our #1 song, also #1 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 for 1980: the song that bumped Pink Floyd out of the #1 spot in mid-April and held it for the next six weeks. It’s often included in lists of records from the short-lived “Disco Rock” genre, but this is not the typical story of a long-established Rock act scrambling to stay up-to-date. It was a pretty new group out of New York’s downtown punk scene that also produced The Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads.

How to explain that Punk scene coexisting on the same 23 square-mile island with Studio 54, the capital of Disco, in the late ’70s. Well, let’s just say Manhattan has always been a patchwork of different cultures side-by-side, so really just in that proud tradition, I guess.

And the group at #1: alone among their downtown Punk cohorts, they managed to carve out a sweet spot between the campy, ironic ’60s throwback thing they had going on downtown, and Disco. The result catapulted the group almost overnight from dive bars and fanzines to arenas and glossies, and turned its bleach-blonde singer into an international sex symbol with their first #1 hit, “Heart of Glass” in ’79. This was their second, a soundtrack cut, exactly a year later. It’s Blondie. “Call Me.”

The #1 song of 1980. Blondie’s “Call Me,” from the Richard Gere movie American Gigolo. Produced and co-written by one of Disco’s top producers Giorgio Moroder. Before “Call Me,” Blondie had been working with new wave producer Mike Chapman, who’d helmed their previous two albums including their breakthrough Parallel Lines, which contained the #1 hit “Heart of Glass.” But “Heart of Glass,” with its pulsating Disco synth lines, sounds like vintage Giorgio Moroder, and the band had been flirting with that sound on their own, playing a cover of one of Moroder’s signature Disco productions, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” at a benefit the New York Punk crowd held for hospitalized drummer Johnny Blitz before they even started recording Parallel Lines. So the for-real collab between Blondie and Moroder on “Call Me” was a long time coming when it finally came together in late ’79.

Bonus

So that is our top ten. Now as we’ve been going through our Chartcrush top ten for 1980 this hour I’ve been calling out the big hits from the last quarter of the year that didn’t make Billboard’s year-end ranking due to Billboard’s crazy-early late September cut-off date for the chart year. Streisand’s “A Woman in Love,” Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” Diana Ross’s “Upside Down” and Kenny Rogers’ “Lady:” all MIA from Billboard’s list.

So what songs from Billboard’s top ten got bumped from ours to make room? Let’s review:

Billboard had the big hit (and title track) off 1980’s top soundtrack album at #10, from a film that starred the singer in the title role, loosely based on the life of late Blues-Rock legend Janis Joplin.

“The Rose” never got to #1, but had a pretty long chart run and was #3 for three weeks. It was also the year’s #3 Adult Contemporary hit and Bette Midler’s biggest chart smash since her cover of The Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” in 1973. On our Chartcrush ranking it’s #19.

Billboard’s #8 song (#13 on our ranking) was a one-hit wonder with one foot in classic Disco and the other in ’80s Synthpop and New Wave, #1 for four weeks in May and June of 1980, right when that transition was taking place.

The evolutionary missing link between ’70s disco and ’80s post-disco with faster tempos, simpler backgrounds and synthesizers, Lipps, Inc.’s “Funkytown.”

Billboard’s year-end top ten for 1980 had a former Beatle at #7!

#11 on our ranking, Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up,” #1 for the three weeks in July right before our #10 song, Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me.”

And finally, Billboard’s #3 song was another soundtrack hit.

“Magic,” a big hit from a bad movie, Xanadu (20% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer), missing the top ten at #12 on our ranking due to its relatively short stay in the top ten despite being #1 for four weeks. Like “The Rose,” sung by the singer-actress who starred in the film, Olivia Newton-John.

Well I want to thank you for listening to our 1980 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other righteous extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1999 episode graphic

1999 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1999 Episode Graphic

1999 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Females dominate like never before as Latins invade, TLC returns, Auto-Tune appears and Millennials launch teen idols Britney, Christina, Backstreet and NSYNC.

Listen to Episode on Spotify

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a year in Pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1999.

Well, in 1999, Mainstream Pop was suddenly fun and unpredictable again. In the early ’90s, Generation-X had finally broken through and reshaped the music landscape, just as its oldest members approached the age of 30, after a quarter century of Baby Boom dominance in Pop, Rock and R&B.

Not to say that music was stale and didn’t evolve in the Boomer years. It did, but within a box: a set of rules and boundaries that flowed from Boomer sensibilities. And no one really even knew there was a box until Hip-Hop, Alt (or “College”) Rock and Nu-Metal appeared and were clearly outside of it.

Now the big breakthrough for Gen-X sounds wasn’t some dramatic, bottom-up generational pop culture moment like Beatlemania; more like how a new accounting rule or OSHA mandate ripples through a company. In ’91, Billboard ditched its 50-year-old system of retail and DJ surveys and started basing the charts instead, on point-of-sale and airplay data from Soundscan and Broadcast Data Systems. And that turned out to be a kind of a BC/AD moment for the charts, where stuff that’d been thought of as “underground” for years was suddenly revealed to be the most popular music in the land.

How long had that been the case? Well, no way to know, but no sooner had Gen-X sounds come out into the sunlight than pre-teen and barely-teen Millennials (the children of Boomers), announced their presence with a wave of Bubblegum Pop like hadn’t been seen since the early ’70s. And fueling that wave, this was the first stuff Boomers had heard on Pop radio in years that didn’t take effort to understand, let alone like. Mom and dad approved. Then in the Fall of ’98, Millennials got their own after-school MTV show, Total Request Live with Carson Daly.

So Pop was back big. The Cold War was a memory. 9/11 hadn’t happened yet. The dot-com tech boom was booming. The Dow hit 10,000. Banks were handing out credit like it was candy. And the music industry was raking it in, especially now that songs didn’t have to be out as $5 singles, a dying format that was only really useful anymore for releasing Dance and Hip-Hop remixes in the CD era since vinyl 45s went extinct. “In response to the increasing number of singles that have not been made available at retail,” Billboard announced at the end of 1998, “airplay-only tracks now qualify for the chart.” About five years too late, but Hallelujah! The Hot100 was back, just in time for Millennial Pop!

#10 Jennifer Lopez – If You Had My Love

And just in time for The Latin Invasion, which took the charts by storm after Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” heralded its arrival in the Spring and was #1 for five weeks. “La Vida Loca” misses our countdown at #14, but the female chart newcomer who replaced Ricky Martin at #1 for the next five weeks in June and July actually had more to do with setting the stage for the Latin Invasion. In 1997 she played the title role in the hit biopic Selena, about a Tejano pop star who was shot and killed in 1995 by a deranged former fan club president, just as her career singing in English for the American charts was about to take off. “La Vida Loca” hit in April ’99, and then Jennifer Lopez’s debut single replaced Ricky Martin at #1, and it’s the #10 song as we kick off our countdown: “If You Want My Love.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/1p8GNE0OTH0khjLr8ztcpP?si=91493722f2404672

Jennifer Lopez’s first smash, the #10 song of 1999 here on our 1999 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, “If You Want My Love.” In the second half of ’99, after the one-two shot of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “If You Want My Love” (a combined ten weeks atop the chart), there was a deluge of Latin Invasion hits: Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos!,” Marc Anthony’s “I Need to Know,” Lou Bega’s version of Pérez Prado’s “Mambo No. 5” and Shakira’s MTV Unplugged appearance and album (entirely in Spanish!), finally culminating with Santana’s comeback, “Smooth” in late October, which earned more chart points in calendar 2000 than 1999, so it’s in our 2000 countdown.

As for J-Lo, Pop stardom sure gave her budding movie acting career a boost. In January 2001 when The Wedding Planner co-starring Matt McConaughey hit theaters just ten days after her second album J.Lo dropped, she became the first person ever with the #1 album and the #1 film in the same week. And the album yielded three top-ten hits.

#9 Sixpence None the RicherKiss Me

Next up at #9, what one Millennial 90’s nostalgia writer described in a Buzzfeed feature as “your mom’s all-time favorite song:” a major hit on the Adult Alternative chart, but it was also a huge Hot100 Pop hit. It’s by an alternative Christian Rock trio from Texas, and it hit the chart at #90 for just a single week in November ’98 after it was in an episode of the WB network’s popular teen drama Dawson’s Creek. In January ’99 it showed up in theaters as the main theme of the teen romantic comedy She’s All That. But that movie didn’t have a soundtrack album, so it was included as the first track on the first Songs from Dawson’s Creek album, whereupon it re-entered the chart and rose into the top ten for 16 weeks, March into July, peaking at #2. Here is Sixpence None the Richer. “Kiss Me.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/7IDezLEJkTbVchK7swLb5y?si=28a0d7402cdf442d

Texas Indie Pop/Christian trio Sixpence None the Richer. “Kiss Me,” our #9 song as we count down the top ten from 1999 here on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Songs from Dawson’s Creek was a top ten album and also included Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait,” which had been used throughout the first season of the show and was on the charts for most of 1998. The group’s name “Sixpence None the Richer:” inspired by a line in British Christian apologist and Narnia author C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity.

#8 MonicaAngel of Mine

Polls in the late ’90s were showing an uptick of religion in America. Was it pre-millennium apocalyptic jitters? Maybe fueled a bit by the near-hysteria that was brewing over the Y2K computer bug? Whatever, it had a big effect on pop culture. A Newsweek feature in late ’93 had reported on a new obsession with angels, and that inspired CBS to develop Touched by an Angel, which was the network’s top drama series in ’99. Another drama, 7th Heaven, went on to be the longest-ever running show on the WB network. Meanwhile, faith-based TV was getting big ratings on cable, and in music, Gospel’s market share was surging.

Suddenly, in December ’98, all at once, no fewer than five songs with the word “angel” in the title appeared on the Hot100 after nearly five years of not a one. And there were at least four “angel” songs on the chart through most of March 1999. Not minor hits, mind you: three were top tens and two of those were #1s: first the R. Kelly and Celine Dion duet “I’m Your Angel” in December ’98, then the biggest of them, our song at #8: the singer’s seventh top ten hit and her third #1, it’s Monica, “Angel of Mine.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/1AM1o0mKbgAK5oMpY8B3Z7?si=9d450404de564400

“Angel of Mine” at #5. Former Miss Thang teen star and Brandy collaborator Monica’s third and final #1 hit. She had quite a run from ’95, when she scored her first #1 at just 14 with “Don’t Take It Personal” (from Miss Thang) up to ’99: six more top tens including three #1s counting her duet with Brandy, “The Boy Is Mine.”

In the 2000s, she was all over TV, every one of her albums was top ten, and she put singles on the R&B chart every year up to 2019 including a trio of R&B top tens in ’09 and 2010. But none of that crossed over to the Hot100 after her final top ten hit in ’03 with “So Gone.”

Now, “Angel of Mine” was a cover of British R&B girl group Eternal’s 1997 U.K. hit. And that’s as close as any British artist got to the top of the U.S. charts in 1999. From The Beatles to the late ’80s, British acts averaged about six #1 songs on the U.S. charts every year. But in the early ’90s, that dwindled to one or two, and after the Spice Girls “Wannabe” and Elton John’s Lady Diana remake of “Candle in the Wind” in ’97, we didn’t see another Brit top the Hot100 until James Blunt’s “Beautiful” in 2006. The weekly Hot100 for April 27, 2002 was the first with no Brits since 1963.

Once America finally joined the Euro-Dance party in the late ’00s into the ’10s, Brits made a comeback and Coldplay, Taio Cruz, Adele, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and others did well Stateside , but nothing like Britannia’s dominance in the Boomer years.

#7 The Goo Goo Dolls – Slide

So in the intro I mentioned Billboard’s big, monumental change for the 1999 chart year: making the Hot100 a songs chart instead of a singles chart by expanding eligibility to airplay-only album tracks not out as physical singles. Well the group at #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1999 had the #1 Airplay song for an astonishing 18 weeks in 1998, “Iris,” which Billboard ranked #1 on a 2012 list of the top pop songs from 1992 to 2012. Surely, it would’ve been in the top ten, probably the top five, for 1998 if Billboard had changed that rule sooner, but at least their next big airplay smash was able to chart, and its our #7 song of 1999: Buffalo, New York’s Goo Goo Dolls, “Slide.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/0nnwn7LWHCAu09jfuH1xTA?si=80942e7670774ac1

Post-Grunge Alternative Rock trio Goo Goo Dolls with the #7 song of 1999, “Slide,” here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It only peaked at #8 but was on the chart for 35 weeks, one of the longest chart runs of the year. And since it debuted on the Hot100 the week Billboard instituted the change to allow album cuts, December 5, 1998, it would’ve been even longer had it been out as a physical single. Goo Goo Dolls continued scoring Hot100 hits ’til 2008, and set the record for the most top tens in the history of Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in 2010, with 14.

#6 Deborah CoxNobody’s Supposed to Be Here

Our next artist at #6 was an “it” girl in Dance music at a time when Dance music was looming as large on the American charts as it would get before the EDM/Euro-Disco craze at the end of the ’00s into the 2010s. She’s had a whopping 13 #1’s on the Hot Dance Club Play chart from the ’90s up to 2017. From her second album One Wish, this was her first top ten on the Hot100. Raised in Toronto by her Guyanan parents, it’s Deborah Cox, “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/51QxenFmXlJXUN9mpvxlaL?si=4d4acfcfdffb4b91

Deborah Cox. “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1999: #1 for 14 weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, which set a new record for that chart. On the Hot100 it got stuck at #2 for eight straight weeks in December ’98 into January ’99; six of them behind the same song at #1, the aforementioned R. Kelly and Celine Dion duet, “I’m Your Angel.” And that was almost a record (longest stays at #2). Some radio stations preferred the upbeat Dance remix of the song by Puerto Rican producer Hex Hector.

Cox had no significant Pop hits after 1999, but she stayed hot on the Dance Club Play chart for years. She’s been married to her high-school sweetheart since 1998. They have three kids.

#5 Christina AguileraGenie in a Bottle

Now if this were the game show Family Feud at the turn of the millennium and the question was “name a female Millennial Pop star,” the top two “survey says” answers would be the pair of super-sexy teen-blonde chart newcomers whose debut smashes are back-to-back at numbers five and four in our countdown. They were both alumni of Star Search and The Disney Channel’s early ’90s Mickey Mouse Club reboot. And since they were vying for the same audience, their rivalry was tabloid catnip: 1999’s burning pop culture question, endlessly hyped on MTV and elsewhere in the media.

But it wasn’t a rivalry until the second song followed the first to the top of the chart, and Britney Spears’s debut, rocking a midriff-baring schoolgirl uniform asserting that she’s not so innocent on “…Baby One More Time,” was first in January, followed by our #5 hit in July: a sexy, innuendo-filled song that had its singer having to defend her innocence all summer. Britney was the good girl; Christina Aguilera, the bad girl thanks to 1999’s big summer hit, Christina’s “Genie in a Bottle.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/11mwFrKvLXCbcVGNxffGyP?si=b6b4249615304466

Squeaky clean ’80s Teen-Pop star Debbie Gibson was horrified by “Genie in a Bottle’s” sexual lyrics, and she wasn’t alone. Besieged with pointed questions along those lines all summer with the overlay of the ginned up rivalry vs. “good girl” Britney, 18 year-old Christina Aguilera had to repeat ad nauseum some version of “It’s not about sex, it’s about self-respect! I’m the genie in the bottle; you gotta rub me the right way!” But even with that helpful context, she had to go back and re-record lyrics like “hormones racing” to “heart-beats racing,” “rub me the right way” to “treat me the right way” to pass muster in some countries.

It didn’t hurt her though. After “Genie in a Bottle,” the rocket ship Christina Aguilera continued to ascend. Her next single, “What a Girl Wants,” was the first #1 of calendar 2000 and then she scored another top ten summer hit with her cover of All-4-One’s ballad from the film Space Jam, “I Turn to You,” followed by the star-studded remake of “Lady Marmalade” from the era-defining jukebox musical Moulin Rouge in ’01, on which Christina was the lead artist along with Missy Elliott, Pink, Mýa and Lil’ Kim.

#4 Britney Spears…Baby One More Time

Britney did okay too. “Oops! I Did It Again,” her big Y2K hit, peaking at #9. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s rewind. At #4 on the year 1999, beating Christina by literally just one point, 1,271 to 1,270, in our Chartcrush ranking system, the artist and her #1 debut single that emphatically announced the arrival of the Millennial generation.

And it was the only song in our 1999 top ten that debuted in the top 20. Up to 1999, fewer than 50 new artists in Hot100 history had done that, and the list reads like a chronology of teen sensations. Well, no exception here: the minute she appeared on TV screens in that aforementioned schoolgirl outfit, the future of Pop in the Y2K decade became crystal clear. Bubblegum was back, but it was never as sexy or broadly appealing as our #4 song, again, beating rival Christina Aguilera by just a single point (for all intents and purposes a tie), Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/3MjUtNVVq3C8Fn0MP3zhXa?si=82796e5f25074119

“…Baby One More Time,” 16-year-old Britney Spears, the first on the calendar of the three brand new female acts in the top ten, along with Christina Aguilera and J-Lo, whose chart debuts went to #1. And I’ve got to mention a fourth that didn’t make our top ten. Lauryn Hill’s first solo single, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was only the tenth song ever to debut at #1, but the very first by a new artist. Of course, Hill had just wowed everyone with her smash cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” in 1996, but that was with her group, The Fugees, not as a solo act.

Now the Britney vs. Christina rivalry never really went away. Coming out of 1999 into the early ’00s, Christina dominated with her aforementioned string of hits, but then Britney flipped the script in the second half of the decade starting with “Toxic” in ’04.

#3 Cher – Believe

At #3 on our 1999 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, the song that was Billboard’s #1 song of the year, by a singer whose first appearance on the charts was in 1965. At nearly 53, she became the oldest woman to sing lead on a #1 hit, shattering the record previously held by Grace Slick, formerly of The Jefferson Airplane, who was 47 when Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” peaked at #1 in 1987.  Here is the never-irrelevant Cher with her 1999 dance-pop hit, “Believe.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/2goLsvvODILDzeeiT4dAoR?si=d128f91431f94e48

It’s not often that a piece of behind-the-scenes studio technology becomes a celebrity, but that effect you hear on Cher’s vocals in that song? “Believe” was one of the first commercial recordings to use Auto-Tune, a digital audio software plugin developed to make subtle corrections to off-pitch vocals. But if you turn up all the controls to maximum, you get that artificial glitchy sound now known as “The Cher Effect” thanks to “Believe.” Music people always gonna turn those knobs up to ten, right?

Well, since then, top rappers like T-Pain and Lil Wayne have made The Cher Effect an integral part of their signature sounds. It became so ubiquitous in Hip-Hop that in 2009, Jay-Z titled the lead single off his album The Blueprint 3 “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” In 2010, Time magazine included Auto-Tune in its list of “The 50 Worst Inventions.” But back in ’99 when people heard it for the first time on our #3 song, Cher’s “Believe,” it got everyone’s attention straight away.

#2 TLCNo Scrubs

By now you’ve undoubtedly noticed the preponderance of female acts in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1999’s top hits. It was the year-of-the-woman like no other at the top of the Pop charts: the first and to-date only year in chart history with such a lopsided split in favor of the ladies.

Now that we’re down to #2, I’m not really spoiling anything by revealing to you that nine of the top ten songs of 1999 are sung by women, and all of the year’s top six hits are by female artists. Our #2 song was also #2 on Billboard’s year-end ranking, and the #1 most played song of the year on the radio, according to Billboard’s year-end Airplay chart.

They were the most successful Girl Group of the ’90s, but hadn’t put an album out since their 1994 Diamond certified CrazySexyCool. Diamond, the Recording Industry Association of America’s designation for sales of ten million, or ten times Platinum. So after five years, FanMail was one of the most anticipated releases by any artist. Their eighth top ten hit since 1992 and one of their most iconic songs, it’s TLC, “No Scrubs.”

https://open.spotify.com/track/1KGi9sZVMeszgZOWivFpxs?si=33381121f44f4c40

So what’s a cash-strapped hombre (or as TLC calls you, a “scrub”) supposed to do in the “No Scrubs” era? Well, there’s only one thing to do, I suppose: put romance on the back burner until you make your first million! Or, I guess you can write an answer song like Yonkers, New York Hip-Hop duo Sporty Thievz did. Their song about substandard women, “No Pigeons,” peaked at #12 on the Hot100 right in the middle of TLC’s chart run with the song we just heard, “No Scrubs,” the #2 song on our 1999 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown.

Each of TLC’s three albums through the ’90s reflected the rapid evolution of R&B in the Hip-Hop era. They were the first Girl Group that had a rapper! The other big hit from their 1999 FanMail album was a timely anti-body-shaming song done in an Acoustic Pop style inspired by the success of the all-female Lilith Fair festival tour. That song, “Unpretty,” just misses our countdown at #11. Billboard named TLC the top Hot100 artist of 1999 on the combined strength of just those two hits, plus the Techno-R&B advance-single, “Silly Ho,” which failed to crack the top 40, probably because most radio stations wouldn’t touch a song titled “Silly Ho,” even in 1999.

Despite friction in the group, TLC were working on a fourth album in ’02, when Left Eye crashed her rented SUV in Honduras and was killed. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas reunited as TLC for special appearances in the 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2015 that they attempted a real comeback with a new album and tour.

#1 702 – Where My Girls At?

Now get this: the #1 hit of 1999 according to our Chartcrush ranking is a song that was offered to TLC, but they passed on it! So another girl group snapped it up, and its 42 week run on the Hot100, peaking at #4 for a week in June, was the longest of the year, extending several weeks past Billboard’s November 27th cutoff date for the 1999 chart year and into 2000. As such it’s one of the many examples of songs throughout chart history that don’t get their due on any Billboard year-end chart because their ranking points are divided between two years.

Nothing at all Billboard can do about that since they have to get their year-end charts out in December, before New Years. But fortunately, Chartcrush is here to set the record straight, with the luxury of hindsight, by factoring every song’s full chart run. And when you do that in this case, what was Billboard’s #11 song of 1999 gets bumped all the way up to #1. In the top ten for 19 of its 42 weeks, racking up those big points, here’s 702, written and co-produced by rapper Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, the anti side-chick anthem, “Where My Girls At?”

https://open.spotify.com/track/4VSyH8AkIt3kaR5xIPFVVi?si=3891d782835144c9

Girl group 702, named after the area code in Vegas, where they were from: their second top ten hit, “Where My Girls At?” For their follow-up in 2003, they worked with Pharrell Williams and his production crew The Neptunes, and despite a star-studded roster of guest appearances on the album, it was a commercial disappointment with no hit singles, and 702 went on to solo careers.

Bonus

Now we have a couple minutes left, and lots of worthy honorable mentions for 1999.

Destiny’s Child’s very first #1 hit, “Bills, Bills, Bills” was the lead single from their smash album The Writing’s on the Wall.

“Bills, Bills, Bills” was our #26 song.

The male side of the 1999 Teen Pop explosion, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC produced four top tens in Pop’s most female-dominant year ever.

Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” our highest ranking Boy-Band hit of the year at #13.

And there are three cuts that were in the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Hot100, but didn’t make our countdown. One I mentioned earlier in the show: the song that broke the Latin Invasion wide open.

Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” was Billboard’s #10 song of 1999. It was #14 on our Chartcrush ranking.

After their song “Fly” was #1 on the Airplay chart for four straight weeks in 1997, critics advised Sugar Ray to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame because surely, they were destined for one-hit-wonder status. Well they titled their next album 14:59, one second shy of 15 minutes on the fame clock. Get it?

“Every Morning” defied Sugar Ray’s naysaying critics: #8 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100; #12 on our Chartcrush ranking.

Whitney Houston foreshadowed (or maybe caused) the end of the ’90s Pop Diva Era by moving away from Pop ballads and going full-bore R&B on her first studio album in eight years, and like 702’s “Where My Girls At,” the album’s biggest hit was a song that was offered first to TLC, and rejected!

“Heartbreak Hotel” featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price: Billboard’s #4 song of 1999, one of four 1999 hits, including three top tens, from Whitney Houston’s My Love Is Your Love album. If you add up all that chart action, Whitney comes out 1999’s top Hot100 Artist. “Heartbreak Hotel” was #18 on our Chartcrush ranking.

Alas, we are out of time and that’s gonna have to be a wrap for our 1999 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, but I want to thank you for listening! I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Be sure to check out our website, chartcrush.com. There you’ll find written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other phat (with a “ph”) extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the very beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station and time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

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