Chartcrush Countdown Show 1959 Episode Graphic

1959 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1959 Episode Graphic

1959 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Teen Idols and Folk surge as Congress takes aim at Rock ‘n Roll DJs and Payola, and a plane crash in Iowa claims three major stars on “the day the music died.”

::start transcript::

Welcome! This is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a year in Pop music and culture and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly charts published in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade mag. This week on Chartcrush, it’s 1959, a tough year for Greasers, Rock ‘n Roll’s original fan base of working class, gang-affiliated, motorcycle- and hotrod-obsessed young men portrayed by Marlon Brando and James Dean in ’50s films like The Wild Ones and Rebel Without a Cause, and then later by throwback group Sha Na Na, Henry Winkler as The Fonz in Happy Days and John Travolta as Danny Zuko in Grease once ’50s nostalgia took hold in the ’70s.

No one called them “Greasers” or thought of them as a movement ’til people started having to name all the Boomer youth subcultures in the mid-’60s (Hippies, Mods, Beats, Radicals), so it was applied retroactively, first by Surfers in California, who had their own distinct subculture. Then S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders in 1967 made it stick. In the ’50s, though, they were just Jets or Sharks or Jesters, Devils or Wanderers: their local gang. No connection with other leather-jacketed, dungareed and cigarette sleeved toughs. Usually the opposite! And to respectable folks, of course, they were just “hoodlums” and “troublemakers.” But they were the edgy, dangerous, thrill-seeking rebels in a time of unprecedented conformity, so girls were titillated, boys were jealous, and the Greaser became an enduring icon of “cool.”

Early Rock ‘n Roll was Greaser music, a marriage of Pop’s two low-brow musical ghettos, R&B and Country, but anyone could listen to it and safely have some of that “cool” rub off. But was it safe? The New York Daily News didn’t think so, calling Rock ‘n Roll “an inciter of juvenile delinquency” just as Elvis was breaking out in April of 1956. In ’58, a journal for music teachers called it “a threat to civilization” and “the most disgraceful blasphemy ever committed in the name of music.” And the most powerful man in the music biz, Columbia Records’ Mitch Miller, considered it “musical baby food.” Preachers and segregationists, of course, had been up in arms, for different reasons, right from the start.

So, quite a diverse collection of anti-Rock crusaders, but leaderless and without a coherent plan of attack, until 1959. That’s when Congress got out in front, but not for any of those reasons. Since 1950 the record biz had ballooned from a $50 million business to a $500 million business, but at the same time the five major labels’ share of top 40 hits had dwindled from 89% to just 25%, a catastrophic loss of market share. And blue-chip copyright clearers ASCAP were hemorrhaging too as rival BMI collected and paid the royalties for all the low-brow songwriters that ASCAP had been thumbing its nose at for years. So with lobbyists breathing down their necks, Congress targeted, not suggestive lyrics or onstage antics or even the link to juvenile delinquency; they found a money angle! Payola! Radio DJs accepting bribes to play certain records (ahem, indie label Rock ‘n Roll records, that is). Well that was a new one for anti-Rock ‘n Roll crusaders, but it explained everything, didn’t it? Well the moral panic and hearings over Payola cast DJs like Alan Freed (the guy who coined the term Rock ‘n Roll in the early ’50s), as shady racketeers selling out America’s youth. Freed was a combative, chain-smoking wise guy in the hearings, and it cost him his job at New York’s WABC, then his house, seized by tax authorities three months later. Dick Clark, on the other hand, was pleasant and cooperative when it was his turn in the 1960 hearings that shaped the legislation that outlawed Payola, and got to keep his network radio show and American Bandstand on TV. But going forward, radio got super-careful about what went on the air. Program directors, not DJs, picked the records, and anything too crude-sounding was a red flag, so they steered clear to stay above suspicion.

#10 Guy MitchellHeartaches by the Number

One record that didn’t raise any eyebrows though: our song at #10 as we get things rolling here on our 1959 edition of Chartcrush. He was a chart veteran: the first to make it purely as a recording act, with hardly any experience performing live. That was in 1950, and after 16 hits, followed by a chart slump from ’53 to ’56, he got a second act with his very first #1 and then his own variety show on ABC, which only aired for a few months, but he became one of only a handful of acts with career peaks before and during the Rock era. At #10 is his second career #1 from late ’59. It’s Guy Mitchell with “Heartaches by the Number.”

I mentioned Mitch Miller in the intro, head of A&R, first at Mercury, then Columbia Records. Well, mining the Country charts for Pop hits was one of Miller’s trademark gambits, and wildly successful. Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz,” Tony Bennett’s “Cold Cold Heart” and Rosemary Clooney’s “Half as Much” were all top five Country hits a year or less before Miller gave them to his Pop Singers to record.

And he still had the knack in ’56 when he gave Guy Mitchell what became his big comeback hit, “Singing the Blues,” his first #1 and the #1 overall song of 1957 by our reckoning, beating out Elvis Presley and Pat Boone. Marty Robbins’ version of “Singing the Blues” out at the same time was #1 on the Country charts for 13 weeks. Well after “Heartaches by the Number” was a big Country hit for Ray Price, Miller and Mitchell did it again. But Guy’s Pop version was his last #1 and last Top40. In 1967 though, he went to Nashville and reinvented himself as an actual Country singer.

#9 Ritchie Valens – Donna

So on February 3, 1959, three of Rock ‘n Roll’s biggest stars, Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and our 17-year-old act at #9 had just done a gig in Iowa as part of a three-week, 24 date package tour of three Upper Midwest states organized by a talent agency in the dead of Winter. The next day’s show was in Minnesota but the heater on their bus wasn’t working, so rather than freeze, they chartered a plane. Tragically, though, the plane crashed minutes into the flight and everyone was killed. Don McLean later memorialized the crash as “the day the music died” in his 1972 hit “American Pie.”

Holly and Richardson were veterans compared to the 17-year old star, who’d only just scored his first two hits in the Fall. But his third had just hit #3 on the Hot100 that fateful night on its way to #2 for two weeks, a bigger chart hit than either of his tourmates had yet scored. At #9, it’s Ritchie Valens’ ballad, “Donna.”

Blocked from the top spot at #2 for two weeks by a song we’ll be hearing later in the countdown, but its ten weeks in the top ten make it our #9 song of 1959, Ritchie Valens’ “Donna.” The upbeat “La Bamba” on the flip was on the chart at the same time but only got to #22. It’s Valens’ signature song though: one of the first Latin Rock hits, sung in Spanish, and the title of the Valens biopic starring Lou Diamond Phillips. Los Lobos’ version of “La Bamba” from the soundtrack to that film was #1 for three weeks in the Summer of 1987.

Now “Donna” missed the top ten on Billboard’s year-end ranking for ’59 at #14 because its first six weeks of chart action in late ’58 weren’t factored. At Chartcrush we rank every song’s full chart run: key difference. By the way, Guy Mitchell’s “Heartaches by the Number,” our #10 song? Same story, but at the end of the year. Billboard has that one at #88 for ’59 and #93 for 1960.

#8 The BrownsThe Three Bells

“Folkniks Оп March: Hill Sound Upsurge” was a front-page Billboard headline trumpeting the first Newport Folk Festival in ’59, an annual event that defined Folk as genre distinct from Country in the ’60s, but Country and Folk had already been resolving into separate camps.

The Kingston Trio’s 1958 smash “Tom Dooley” that started the Folk Revival had topped the Pop chart and never cracked the Country chart. And our trio from Arkansas at #8, who’d been scoring Country top tens for years and appearing on TV showcases like Louisiana Hayride and Ozark Jubilee, didn’t play at Newport. But they still managed to straddle the Country-Folk divide well into the ’60s after our next song, which was a huge Pop crossover hit: ten weeks at #1 on the Country chart and four on the Hot100. And it even got to #10 on the R&B chart!

The song was a standard by ’59, originally in French and done by numerous artists before, but the trio’s lead singer, Jim Ed Brown, had the same name as the song’s character, so it’d already been in their repertoire for years before they decided to record it. At #8, The Browns, Jim Ed and his sisters Maxine and Bonnie, “The Three Bells.”

The Browns at #8 as we count down the biggest hits of 1959 here on The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. “The Three Bells” got The Browns on Ed Sullivan and American Bandstand and they followed it up with more updated standards, including an update of the 1946 hit “The Old Lamplighter” that got to #5 in 1960.

After The Browns, Jim Ed Brown went on to a long solo career as a Country Singer through the early ’80s, including his 1967 drown-your-sorrows anthem “Pop a Top.”

#7 Lloyd PriceStagger Lee

So as anyone who’s ever done a corporate compliance job or had to operate under any kind of scrutiny can tell you: it’s not enough to just obey the letter of the law; you’ve got to avoid even the appearance of impropriety to keep regulators off your back. And since the Payola scandal was really about the broader backlash against Rock ‘n Roll, for radio that meant being very careful about what Rock records got on the air, if any.

New York’s WINS, Alan Freed’s station until he quit in 1958, nearly lost its broadcast license for turning a blind eye to its DJs taking Payola and played Frank Sinatra for 66 hours straight to demonstrate to everyone that they were committed to “pretty music.” Well, not every station went to that extreme, of course, but going forward it was clear to labels and artists that if they wanted their records on the radio, they had to have class and polish and production values: no more raucous R&B or raw Rockabilly.

So the Brill Building sound took hold over the next few years. But even before the first Payola hearings, our act at #7 saw the stitches on that fastball, so when he set out to update an old down ‘n dirty Blues standard in late ’58, he told the bandleader/arranger Don Costa that he didn’t want it to sound like a Blues record; he wanted horns like voices and a big, mainstream sound that’d pass muster with the general public. And Costa, who was also head of A&R at the label, ABC-Paramount, was just the guy to give him that. At #7 it’s 1959’s biggest R&B star, Lloyd Price: his first Pop hit, #1 for four weeks, “Stagger Lee.”

Yet another song that narrowly missed Billboard’s 1959 year-end top ten because they didn’t count its first few weeks on the chart in ’58. Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee” is #13 on their ranking. But his follow-up hit “Personality” did make their top ten at #3, despite it never reaching #1. We have that one at #15.

Price scored his first hit on the R&B chart as a Teen in the early ’50s after Art Rupe, founder of L.A.’s legendary Specialty label signed him on a scouting trip to New Orleans. His song “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” was 1952’s top R&B hit and one of the first to catch on with White kids digging Black R&B in the early ’50s. But he got drafted in the last months of the Korean War and when he returned in ’55, Specialty was scoring hits with Little Richard and Price’s former chauffer Larry Williams, and ‘ol Lloyd was yesterday’s news. So he bought out his contract from Rupe, co-founded his own label and his first release on that got picked up by ABC-Paramount, where he stayed until ’63.

After the hits dried up, Price started another label, Double L Records, which launched Wilson Pickett’s career in the mid-’60s, and mostly focused on the business side of things, and not just music. In 1974 he teamed up with Don King to promote the epic Rumble in the Jungle title fight, Ali vs. Forman

#6 The FleetwoodsMr. Blue

Next up, another example of the smooth, polished, unthreatening Folk-adjacent sound that was a safe bet for labels and radio in the thick of the Payola hysteria. And also another example of an act that, like Lloyd Price, had two massive hits in 1959. But in the case of this high school trio from the Pacific Northwest, both made Billboard’s year-end top ten at numbers 10 and 8. The latter, “Come Softly to Me,” just misses our top ten at #11, but the one Billboard had at #10, the follow-up, stayed on the chart into 1960, so again, counting that full chart run, it’s the bigger hit, #6 on the year. It’s Gretchen Christopher, Barbara Ellis and Gary Troxel, originally Two Girls and a Guy, but renamed to a Seattle record distributor’s telephone exchange as a gimmick to sell more records locally. It’s The Fleetwoods, “Mr. Blue.”

The Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1959. Are ya sleepy? That’s the song on the radio in the scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation where the camera pans to show the whole Griswold family asleep in the car, including Chevy Chase as Clark, who’s driving! “Mr. Blue” was only #1 for one week, but in the top ten for a very impressive 11.

Their debut “Come Softly to Me” was on top four weeks in the Spring, but had fewer in the top ten. Again, we have “Come Softly” at #11. Interestingly, both songs were top five hits on the R&B chart too. Gary Troxel got called to active duty in the Navy before 1959 was out and despite meeting up to record in L.A. during his shore leaves over the next couple years, they couldn’t keep their momentum and split in ’63.

#5 Paul AnkaLonely Boy

Now, I mentioned ABC-Paramount’s A&R head Don Costa when we heard Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee” back at #7. Well, one of Costa’s first discoveries in that role was our Canadian Singer and Songwriter at #5. At 17 in 1957, he moved to New York with just $100 in his pocket, auditioned for Costa, got signed, and his first record, “Diana,” was a #2 hit. A great start, but it took him nearly two years and a dozen more singles to match it. When he did, though, with this song, it was #1 for four weeks. At #5 it’s Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy.”

Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy,” the #5 hit of 1959, both on Billboard’s original year-end Hot100 chart and on our Chartcrush ranking that we’re counting down the top ten from this hour. It was on the charts while the Teen exploitation movie he sings it in was in theaters (his acting debut), about a sexy delinquent played by ’50s blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren, sent to a reform school run by nuns.

Anka was only getting started: four more top tens over the next year, and fun fact, in 1960 he wrote one of TV’s most instantly-recognizable themes, the theme to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, originally titled “Toot Sweet.”

After ’63 the hits trailed off and he spent the rest of the ’60s playing Vegas, but like other Teen Idols and early Rockers, he rode the ’70s nostalgia wave back to the top of the charts: a #1 duet with Soul singer Odia Coates in ’74, “(You’re) Having My Baby,” and another three top tens after that.

#4 The PlattersSmoke Gets in Your Eyes

At #4, the fourth and final #1 hit for the ’50s top charting Doo Wop group, honed into a powerhouse stage act by veteran Songwriter/Producer/Arranger/Manager Buck Ram, and then whooshed to fame on records and the charts along with Rock’s initial burst in ’55 and ’56 doing Ram’s songs. “Only You,” “The Great Pretender,” “(You’ve Got) The Magic Touch,” all top fives. Starting with “My Prayer” in late ’56 though, they pivoted to updating old standards in their unique style with Tony Williams’ distinctive lead vocals, and our #4 song was the third of those to top the charts. It’s The Platters with “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

The Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” at #4: yet another record whose run began at the tail end of 1958, so Billboard didn’t factor all of its chart action into their ranking for ’59 and ranked it #16 on the year. With its lush, dreamy orchestration, it was a milestone in Vocal Group records heading into the ’60s. No one would suspect Payola on a record like that, right?

The song had been recorded dozens of times back to the mid-’30s by a who’s who of Big Band and Pop names, but as with their previous covers of standards, The Platters completely reinvented it and made it their own. At the end of ’59, Lead Singer Tony Williams split from The Platters to pursue a solo career but was unsuccessful, as were The Platters without him.

#3 Frankie Avalon – Venus

So if you’re flipping through Billboard to see how they covered the plane crash that killed Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, the “day the music died,” it’d be pretty easy to miss the four column inches clustered on page six of the February 9, 1959 issue with 11 other short news items and a boxed legal notice that’s the most prominent thing on the page. The headline? “Tragedy Fails to Halt GAC Winter Tour.”

Since GAC was a talent agency (short for “General Amusement Corporation”), they had no problem filling the vacated slots for the remaining gigs on the tour, and one of the acts they brought in was the Teen Idol at #3, and the choice was emblematic of the shift from legit Rockers steeped in Blues and Country back to the swoon-worthy Pop Crooners of yesteryear. At #3 it’s Frankie Avalon’s first #1 hit that entered the chart the same Billboard issue as that short news burst, February 9, and peaked a month later: “Venus.”

Unlike the earthy, sometimes lewdly suggestive R&B hits earlier in the ’50s, the Teen Idol records that took over the charts in the wake of Payola usually framed romance in terms of unfulfilled yearnings and longings. Frankie Avalon’s “Venus,” #3 on our 1959 Chartcrush Countdown, the epitome of that: a prayer to the Roman goddess of love to be his matchmaker!

It was Avalon’s first #1 since his chart debut in the beginning of ’58, and he got to the top again later in ’59 with “Why.” And he continued charting singles for a few more years. But he was an even bigger movie star, paired with Annette Funicello in a string of seven American International Pictures beach party movies in the early ’60s. And remember what I said about that nostalgia-based comeback trend in the ’70s talking about Paul Anka? Well, add Frankie Avalon to that list with his Disco update of “Venus” that charted for 11 weeks in 1976.

#2 Johnny HortonThe Battle of New Orleans

At #2 is the second of the two Folk records in our countdown. Three if you count “Stagger Lee” but that was more of a Blues record and an R&B record. We heard The Browns’ “Three Bells” at #8. Both (or all three of those) are story songs, and over on the Country charts, the trend was even more glaring. Six of the ten songs that topped the Country chart in ’59 were story songs.

This one’s about an historical event: a decisive battle in the War of 1812, written and first recorded in 1957 by prolific Folk Songwriter and School Principal Johnny Driftwood to get his students in Arkansas interested in history. Driftwood’s own version didn’t cause much of a stir, but this one by our struggling Honky Tonk and Rockabilly Singer at #2 struck a chord with ’50s kiddos steeped in Westerns and mid-’50s Davy Crockett mania and it was #1 for six weeks in June and July. The #2 song of 1959 is Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.”

Johnny Horton, “The Battle of New Orleans,” #2 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1959’s biggest hits, about the American victory vs. the British Navy in the War of 1812 that made General Andrew Jackson a legend, and future President who’s on the $20 bill. Horton followed “Battle” with other historically-themed songs, and two were top five hits: “Sink the Bismarck” and “North to Alaska,” which was used in the opening credits of the John Wayne movie of the same name. But tragically, while the that one was climbing the chart in late 1960, Johnny Horton was killed in a head-on collision with a truck after playing a gig in Austin, Texas at the peak of his fame.

#1 Bobby DarinMack the Knife

Now Billboard has “Battle of New Orleans” as 1959’s #1 song of the year, but, yet again, we have a record with a chart run that went into 1960, that’s a bigger hit when you count it’s full run, so “Battle” gets bumped to #2, and we have at #1 the first Rock Era Teen Idol type Singer who had the stones to wade into neo-Swing Jazz Crooner territory and try to out-Sinatra Sinatra. And it entered the chart just two weeks after his feather-light, yearning Teen Idol ballad “Dream Lover” exited.

It’s a song from a German opera: a Kurt Weill composition from Berthold Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera,” which debuted in Berlin in 1928 and with American Marc Blitzstein’s updated English lyrics was one of the longest-running off-Broadway musicals in history. Louis Armstrong charted a version of the song in 1956, and after our Singer at #1 saw the show, he added the song to his nightclub act and recorded it with a fresh Swing arrangement by Richard Wess. Atlantic Records’ honcho Ahmet Ertugun was skeptical, but once he heard it, not only did he want it on the album, but he wanted it out as a single too, and it was #1 for seven weeks, October and November. At #1, it’s Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife.”

Bobby Darin had come a long way since “Splish Splash (I Was Taking a Bath),” his first hit in ’58. “Mack the Knife,” our #1 song of 1959 here on the Chartcrush Countdown Show. With Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee” at #7, that makes two songs about murder in our countdown. And I’ll just leave that there except to point out that 1959 was peak Mafia, just before Robert F. Kennedy, JFK’s brother and Attorney General, started really clamping down on organized crime in the first years of the ’60s.

So did Darin out-Sinatra Sinatra? Well Frank didn’t go anywhere near “Mack the Knife” until 1984 and he called Bobby’s “the definitive version.” Darin blazed the trail crossing over to Adult Pop territory in ’59, but year later, Elvis was out with his “O Sole Mio”-derived “It’s Now or Never,” and Bobby Darin followed up with more of the same on “Beyond the Sea” and charted 33 more hits before his untimely death in 1973 after heart surgery at just 37.

Bonus

So that’s our countdown. Now as I’ve been saying throughout the show, several of the hits we’ve heard this hour were not in Billboard’s year-end top ten for ’59 because their chart runs extended back into ’58 or ahead into 1960, and Billboard just didn’t factor those weeks. Again, at Chartcrush, our ranking method factors every song’s full chart run into whichever calendar year it earned the most points.

To recap, Guy Mitchell’s “Heartaches by the Number,” Ritchie Valens’ “Donna,” Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee” and The Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes:” none of those were among the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Hot100. But that means Billboard had four songs that weren’t in our countdown, so in the time we have left, just to be thorough, let’s take a look at those.

Wilbert Harrison – Kansas City

At #9, Billboard had one of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller’s first songs, written in 1952 and recorded a few times, including by Little Richard, but not a hit until Wilbert Harrison’s version in 1959, which was #1 for two weeks in May: “Kansas City.”

We have “Kansas City” at #20 on our Chartcrush ranking. Wilbert Harrison couldn’t release a timely follow-up to “Kansas City” because his previous label was claiming he was still under contract with them and sued. By the time that was settled, his moment had passed. But his song “Let’s Work Together” got to #32 in 1969 before Blues Rockers Canned Heat got their cover version all over FM radio in the early ’70s.

The FleetwoodsCome Softly to Me

Next, as I mentioned when we heard “Mr. Blue” at #6, The Fleetwoods’ first hit was also in Billboard’s year-end top ten. It just misses ours at #11, “Come Softly to Me.”

Recorded a cappella with just minimal instrumentation overdubbed later, The Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me,” #1 for four weeks in the Spring.

Bobby Darin – Dream Lover

Billboard also had Bobby Darin’s hit right before “Mack the Knife” in its ’59 year-end top ten at #6.

Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover” shakes out at #19 on our Chartcrush ranking for 1959. It never got to #1 but stayed in the top 10 ten weeks.

Lloyd Price – Personality

And finally in our bonus segment review of the four Billboard year-end top ten hits bumped out of our Chartcrush top ten by other hits whose chart runs weren’t entirely in Billboard’s ’59 chart year, Lloyd Price’s “Personality.”

“Personality” is our #15 song of 1959 and Billboard’s #3. That’s a discrepancy we can’t explain with what’s known about their ranking methodology that year, or any ranking methodology, but we’re sure it wasn’t Payola because they wouldn’t do that, right?

And on that shaky note, we’re going to have to wrap things up for our 1959 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show because we’re all out of time. Hey, if you like what you heard and you want more, head over to our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of the show and a link to the podcast version on Spotify, plus cool extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive graph of the actual chart runs of the songs we heard this hour. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website. Again, chartcrush.com. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thank you for listening, and be sure and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

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Chartcrush Countdown Show 2007 Episode Graphic

2007 Podcast

2007 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Online piracy tanks CD sales and the last big box music chain goes under, but Ringtones, ad deals, iTunes and Myspace are lifelines for the flailing music biz.

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Welcome! This is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a year in Pop music and culture and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade publication. This week we’re turning the clock back to 2007, “the year the music industry broke,” according to MTV, citing a series of lo-lights during the year like the Dreamgirls soundtrack debuting at #1 on the album chart with only 60,000 units sold; Sony-BMG getting smacked in court for sneaking anti-piracy rootkit malware onto people’s computers via music CDs, and the first judgment against a peer-to-peer user for sharing songs on KaZaA.

But the macro trends were even more sobering. Music biz revenues in a tailspin, down over 12% since ’06 and nearly 40% since the start of the decade. And retail Armageddon! The last of the iconic chains, Virgin Megastores, closing in ’07 after Wherehouse in ’03, HMV in ’04, and Tower and Musicland/Sam Goody in ’06. And along the way, Strawberries, Spec’s, the Wall, Camelot, Coconuts, DiscJockey, Saturday Matinee, Media Play. Trans-World Entertainment snapped all those up in addition to Wherehouse and Musicland/Sam Goody, and the ones they didn’t close, they rebranded under their F.Y.E. logo. By 2019 though, only about 200 F.Y.E.’s were still in business.

One investment banker quoted in Billboard had a creative way to get an unprofitable mall store closed fast: blast Heavy Metal and hire purple-haired employees until other tenants pressured the landlord to terminate the lease. Hey, it’s not rootkit malware, but desperate times do call for desperate measures!

Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris in ’07 compared the music biz trying to fix online piracy to a dog owner trying to operate on his sick pup to take out a kidney. Music biz types were not Techies, he said. Morris’ comments were yet another example MTV offered for why ’07 was “the year the music industry broke” because after years trying (and failing) to work out copy protection and digital rights management with Big Tech and the consumer electronics industry, and now, affordable broadband internet and high-capacity devices and storage penetrating down-market, music piracy was escalating geometrically.

So what did artists do? Well, they had to hustle. Paul McCartney ditched EMI and signed with Starbucks Coffee’s Hear Music label. Radiohead released their first album in over five years as a “pay-what-you-want” download. Veteran acts like The Police, Eagles, and Van Halen (reunited with David Lee Roth) hit the road and cashed in on the higher ticket prices that were becoming the norm as CD sales tanked. Aspiring artists put their stuff on Myspace, and Hip-Hop entered its “Blog Era” as the internet filled the void from a crackdown on bootleg mixtape CDs. And savvy Producers focused on catchy singles since in a world where fans were in charge of how songs were bundled and sequenced on their devices, albums had become really nothing more than suggested playlists. By ’07, of course, those devices included cell phones that could store and play music, and Apple quickly cornered that market with the iPhone, launched by CEO Steve Jobs in ’07 not just as a new kind of mobile phone, but as a next-gen iPod.

Ringtones, downloadable song snippets to customize the alerts on your phone: at their peak in ’07, a $1.5 billion industry, so Billboard gave them their own chart at the end of 2006.

#10 Akon featuring Eminem – Smack That

At #10 as we kick off the countdown is the very first #1 song on that Ringtone chart, and the first of the artist’s seven top tens in ’07 that helped make him Billboard’s Artist of the Year. The song never got to #1, stuck at #2 for five weeks behind Justin Timberlake, but from its peak at the end of ’06, it stayed in the top ten through January and on the chart ’til the end of April. It’s Akon, with a rare mid-to-late ’00s appearance by Rapper Eminem, who also produced, “Smack That.”

Akon’s “Smack That” at #10 as we count down the top hits of 2007 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Akon took the #1 spot for two weeks after Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” finished its run, but not with “Smack That;” with his next hit, “I Wanna Love You” with Snoop Dogg. But “Smack That” stayed at #2 for a fifth week, so Akon joined an elite group of acts who’ve locked down both of the two top spots on the Hot100 the same week.

His versatility singing on a dizzying array of styles and collabs made his voice ubiquitous in ’07, but at the cost of a coherent identity that fans could connect with. The Chicago Tribune dubbed him “Lord of the Ringtone,” and Vibe’s cover story was headlined “The Last Hitmaker,” more a comment on the sorry state of the music biz than on Akon as a personality. He did what he could to boost his street cred telling stories of high-stakes criminal hijinks in the ’90s every chance he got, but in ’08, The Smoking Gun website investigated and found his actual rap sheet to be far less colorful than he’d been making it out to be. After that he struggled on the charts as a headliner, but was a featured performer on several charting songs throughout the ’10s.

#9 Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah

Pivoting now from a artist and song that practically defined ’07 Pop, at #9 is one that really stood out, maybe because it was recorded over two years prior. It stood out on their album too: a lone acoustic ballad closing out a set of aggressive Emo Rock. One blogger credits the song’s success to it being the hottest thing on Myspace right when they launched a feature that let users embed a song on their profile. It hit the chart in April of ’07, took nine weeks to make the top ten and then climbed just one chart position a week, #6 to #1 mid-Summer. It’s Chicagoland’s Plain White T’s with “Hey There Delilah.”

Remote relationships were 1000% more viable once internet and cell phones replaced postage stamps and long-distance charges. Plain White T’s, “Hey There Delilah,” #9 on our Chartcrush look back at the top ten songs of 2007.

There really was a Delilah. Delilah DiCrescenzo, a nationally-ranked distance runner that frontman Tom Higgenson met in ’02. She had a boyfriend, but he promised to write a song for her anyway and they kept in touch. Once the song was a hit, she wanted to remain anonymous but a friend went behind her back set her up with an interview, and she ended up accompanying Higgenson to the Grammys, still just as friends though.

An AI-generated “cover” version of Kanye West singing “Hey There Delilah” caused quite a stir in 2023.

#8 T-Pain featuring Yung JocBuy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)

And speaking of Kanye, he doesn’t have a song in our countdown, but his Graduation album dropped in ’07, famously the same day as 50 Cent’s Curtis, which it outsold, and Kanye’s Daft Punk-sampling “Stronger” just misses our top ten at #11.

But at #8 is another trailblazing Rapper. Akon’s “Smack That” may’ve been the first #1 on the weekly Ringtone chart, but this one was #1 on Billboard’s first year-end Ringtone chart: the #1 ringtone in the year of the ringtone, and on the Hot100, his third top ten but first #1. It’s T-Pain featuring Atlanta rapper Yung Joc, who’d just scored a #3 hit with his first single “It’s Goin’ Down” in ’06. At #8, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’).”

Snap was a lighter form of Crunk Hip-Hop with snaps anchoring the beat. DL4’s “Laffy Taffy,” the first #1 in the genre in early ’06, but T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank” hit at the peak of ringtone mania, so detractors started dissing Snap as “Ringtone Rap.”

But T-Pain’s main legacy was being the first act to popularize Autotune’s fabled “zero setting” in Hip-Hop, as in, zero milliseconds for the effect’s pitch correction to kick in. Normal values fix off-pitch notes in a natural sounding way you don’t know is even there. With the zero setting, though, you get that stepped robotic effect, and T-Pain based his whole sound and persona on that, and it quickly became as ubiquitous in Hip-Hop as distortion pedals were in Rock after the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

T-Pain got to #1 again, but as a featured artist on Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” later in ’07, and then on Flo Rida’s “Low,” the #1 song of 2008.

#7 Gwen Stefani featuring AkonThe Sweet Escape

At #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for ’07, it’s Akon again, but this time as a featured singer, on a track he co-wrote and co-produced: the third big solo hit by an act that Blender magazine described as “an ageless bottle-blond eminence, stepping from mosh pit to Paris fashion show” since “appearing as a buff pinup on the cover of [her band’s breakthrough album] in 1995.”

Her label’s CEO brainstormed the collab with Akon, and she practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing it, thinking the result would be just some ho-hum, by-the-numbers Hip-Hop-adjacent yawn. But it was in the top ten on the AC chart for a whopping 26 weeks and the Hot100 for 15, jumping to #2 the week after she performed it with Akon on American Idol. At #7 it’s Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape.”

“If things weren’t the way they are, and I wasn’t the way I am, wouldn’t that be sweet?” Gwen Stefani at #7 with maybe the ultimate Millennial relationship excuse anthem co-written with Akon, “The Sweet Escape.”

As I mentioned after we heard “Smack That” at #10, Akon’s star did not maintain its A-list luster much past 2007, and with the field of top-tier female Pop acts getting very crowded in the last years of the decade, neither did Stefani’s. Her band No Doubt’s long-awaited reunion album in 2012 debuted at #3, but disappeared from the album chart forever after only four weeks. Gwen stayed busy, but after “The Sweet Escape,” she was most visible as an on-again, off-again coach on seven nonconsecutive seasons of NBC’s The Voice starting in 2014.

#6 Timbaland featuring Keri HilsonThe Way I Are

At #6, the Producer who helmed two of ’06’s top three hits: Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous,” but just as those acts’ follow-up #1s were exiting the top 10 in the Spring of ’07, a record featuring both of them appeared, with the Producer, at age 35, the lead artist. That record, “Give It to Me” (the first-ever Pop diss track, as Furtado later called it), was #1 for two weeks and in the top ten for seven, but the next single off our Producer-turned-headliner’s album Shock Value had 19 weeks in the top ten, so it was by far the bigger hit when you add it all up. Billboard could only count its run up to November 24, the cut-off for its ’07 chart year, so it came out at #18 on their year-end ranking. But factoring its full chart run, including its 14 weeks after the cut-off into ’08, it comes out #6 on our ’07 Chartcrush ranking we’re counting down this hour. And with 20 production credits in Billboard’s Year-End Hot100 including his own, he was ’07’s top charting Producer. At #6, it’s Timbaland featuring his protégé, R&B Singer Keri Hilson, her chart breakthrough, “The Way I Are.”

Kanye West’s Graduation album outselling 50 Cent’s Curtis released the same day was the turning point between Hip-Hop’s Bling and Blog Eras, but another strong signal that things had changed: two of the year’s top ten hits bucking the materialism of early ’00s Hip-Hop for a deeper, transcendent kind of love. Timbaland and Keri Hilson’s “The Way I Are,” the first of the two at #6,. He ain’t got no money or car, but it’s alright, he ain’t gotta flaunt it for her. That message paired with Timbaland’s futuristic beats rode the top ten for five solid months, right on the heels of the other love-before-money anthem that’s up next at #5 in our Chartcrush ’07 countdown, and both hits coming as Barack Obama’s campaign for President was ramping up. Movie and music celebs in general, but African-American ones like Timbaland especially, ecstatic over Obama’s candidacy and contagious “Yes We Can” message even before he won a single caucus or primary.

#5 Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – Umbrella

And as promised at #5, the other love-over-bling Hip-Hop-adjacent megahit of ’07. Despite the song’s central thrust, though, Jay-Z, who signed the Singer and was her mentor, manages to name check diamonds, the stock market and private jets in his 30 second intro. That wouldn’t’ve been in the song if the artist the Songwriters wrote it for, had gotten it, but Britney Spears’ A&R people passed on it without her even hearing the demo.

Britney had a rough year in ’07, in and out of rehab, shaving her head, custody battle with soon-to-be ex-hubby Kevin Federline and a lethargic performance at the MTV Awards panned by critics. But our Singer at #5 who got the song won Video and Single of the Year for it at those same MTV awards. From her third album in only two years, Good Girl Gone Bad, it’s Rihanna at #5, her signature song, “Umbrella.”

Another thing that wouldn’t’ve been in the song if Britney had gotten it, that whole “ella ella” thing. That was all Rihanna, and “Umbrella” propelled her from Teen Pop/R&B girl-next-door to full-fledged grownup Diva.

Her partnership with “Easy, Breezy” CoverGirl also helped. “Even if it’s raining, your lips will have lasting, fruity shine,” Rihanna said in her 30-second spot for Wetsticks Fruit Spritzers, twirling a pink umbrella with the song in the background: a watershed campaign that opened the floodgates for artist-brand partnerships and an explosion of “synchronization” licensing from deep-pocketed advertisers. Millennials, it turned out, didn’t care if their Pop stars hawked products, which was good news for brands, but even better news for a music biz flailing for revenue lifelines. By the end of the year Bob Dylan was doing an Escalade commercial.

#4 Carrie UnderwoodBefore He Cheats

Female empowerment anthems go way back on the Pop charts, but feminist-leaning Country songs? Far and few between until Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks and Martina McBride in the ’90s. But in the ’00s, Gretchen Wilson and Miranda Lambert went beyond sassy humor and unthreatening assertiveness into edgy, take-no-crap identity pride and just flat-out revenge, and into that new Bad Girl zone jumped our Singer at #4.

After winning Season Four of American Idol, her debut album Some Hearts dropped in the Fall of ’05 and its first three singles came and went, but one deep album cut cracked the Country chart and stayed for six months. And once it was finally issued as the album’s fourth single, it crossed over and spent a whopping 64 weeks on the Hot100. It only scraped the top ten for two of those weeks, but still, it’s #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2007. Originally written with the aforementioned Gretchen Wilson in mind, Carrie Underwood got a hold of it first. At #4, “Before He Cheats.”

Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” 2007’s #4 song here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. ’07 was a big year for American Idol alumni. Underwood, the big winner on the Hot100, but Season Five semifinalist Chris Daughtry scored the #1 album of the year; Season Three’s seventh place finisher Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar and Golden Globe for her Supporting role in Dreamgirls, and good ‘ol Kelly Clarkson, Season One winner and the first to legitimize an Idol win with an enduring Pop hit and multi-Platinum album… Kelly scored her seventh top ten, “Never Again,” which was another angry ex-boyfriend kiss-off.

#3 FergieBig Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)

Next we have the last and biggest of a solo act’s string of three #1 hits and a #2, all within the span of just a single year. Her Hip-Hop group had embraced a more Pop direction since adding her to the lineup in ’03, and by ’06 after two multi-Platinum albums and three group top tens, it was time for a solo album.

She’d already adopted British Royal Sarah Ferguson’s nickname since they shared the same surname, so for the album she borrowed her title too, adding a “t” to “Duchess.” The real Duchess of York wasn’t happy about either, and even wrote to tell her so. But that wasn’t all: the title of our #3 song, same as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ second #1 from 1962. Totally different song; same title. “Worst Four Seasons cover ever” got a guaranteed laugh in ’07 when the song came on the radio. At #3, it’s Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, with “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” at #3. It hung around in the top ten from the beginning of June to the end of October, #1 for just one week in September, but #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for six weeks. AC radio in ’07, happy to have a Rap-adjacent Female after two years of John Mayer, Michael Bublé and Maroon 5.

The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am produced The Dutchess and after Fergie wrapped up her U.S. tour in the Summer, she was back with the group for their 20-country international tour in the Fall of ’07, and then their album The E.N.D. and its #1 hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” in ’09.

#2 Soulja Boy Tell’emCrank That (Soulja Boy)

We are counting down the top ten hits of 2007 here on this week’s Chartcrush Countdown Show, and at #2, we have another first-of-its-kind smash. Not because it sparked a dance craze or because it’s a loud,  boisterous Rap song, or even because its beat uses Snap percussion, making it the second of the two Snap (or “Ringtone Rap”) tracks in our countdown. No, it was a first because it was a hit purely from grassroots buzz on the internet: the first viral chart topper.

The Blog Era meant that a kid in Batesville, Mississippi had the same access to fans as a mixtape MC in New York and he proved it, putting the song on his Myspace page and six months later it’s #1 on the Hot100. And since Billboard wasn’t factoring YouTube into the Hot100 yet, it was probably an even bigger hit than its already-impressive chart run shows, with hundreds of user dance vids that racked up millions of views on top of the artist’s own multimedia barrage, which included a step-by-step instructional video for the dance. Needless to say, it was massive on the Ringtone chart as well.

The beat consists entirely of sounds in the unregistered demo version of the FruityLoops Studio digital audio workstation. The #2 song of 2007 is Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em’s self-produced (in his bedroom) “Crank That (Soulja Boy).”

Soulja Boy had a clever way of getting his tracks out there into the wild. Get this: renaming his mp3s to titles of current hits and sharing them on filesharing platforms. That must’ve been as annoying to downloaders as “Crank That,” our #2 song of ’07, was to virtually everyone over 16 in the Fall of ’07 when the song, dance and videos were ubiquitous.

People were shocked when Billboard’s year-end Hot100 chart came out in December and “Crank That” was only #20. But, like Timbaland’s “The Way I Are,” it stayed on the chart 14 weeks into Billboard’s ’08 chart year and even jumped back into the top ten for a couple weeks in January ’08. Counting that full chart run, as we do for every song at Chartcrush, puts it at #2 on the year.

#1 Beyonce – Irreplaceable

No discrepancy like that for our #1 song though: it’s Billboard’s #1 song of ’07 as well: all but the first four of its 30 weeks in their ’07 chart year, including its ten straight at #1, mid-December ’06 to mid-February ’07.

The Singer was on the big screen that whole time too, the lead role in Dreamgirls about a fictional early ’60s Girl Group in Detroit that’s not The Supremes (wink wink). But she was upstaged in that by the aforementioned Jennifer Hudson: a riveting, Oscar-winning performance by the first-time actress and American Idol contestant. Destiny Fulfilled, her reunion album with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in Destiny’s Child didn’t match their earlier success, and the first two singles from her second solo album, B’Day (or Birthday) underperformed on the charts: the lead single featuring future hubby Jay-Z, “Déjà Vu,” reprising their collaboration on their ’03 monster hit “Crazy in Love,” only got to #4 amid rumors of a romance between Jay and Rihanna. And then the second single “Ring the Alarm” only got to #11. So up against Rihanna, plus strong mid-’00s comebacks by Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, her hold on the ’00s R&B Diva space was somewhat tenuous. But this hit humbled the doubters. At #1 it’s Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.”

“To the left, to the left.” Beyonce. “Irreplaceable,” the #1 song here on our 2007 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. At first, she didn’t think it was a fit for her upbeat B’Day album, but Producer Swizz Beats convinced her to include it, and from then on, all of Beyonce’s albums included ballads.

Bonus

So that’s our top ten according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking that, unlike Billboard’s, factors every song’s entire chart run, impossible for Billboard to do since they have to get their year-end issue out before New Years. So three of the songs we heard this hour, not in Billboard’s top ten on the year. To recap, Akon’s “Smack That” was #15; Timbaland and Keri Hilson’s “The Way I Are” was #18, and “Soulja Boy Tell’Em’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was #20. But those three coming in to our top ten displaces three songs from Billboard’s, so in the time we have left, let’s review those.

Billboard had the second #1 from Fergie’s The Dutchess at #10, featuring Rapper Ludacris, the song about staying rooted amid all the trappings of fame and fortune.

“Glamorous” notches in at #17 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And at #9, they had the other Akon hit I mentioned back at #10 that took the #1 spot after Justin Timberlake despite “Smack That” having sat patiently at #2 behind Timberlake for three weeks.

Akon & Snoop Dogg’s “I Wanna Love You” is our #15 song of ’07.

And finally at #8, Billboard had Nelly Furtado’s next #1 after ’06’s “Promiscuous,” also produced by Timbaland.

Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right” just narrowly misses our Chartcrush top ten at #12.

And that’s all we have time for in our 2007 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Hey, if you like what you heard and you want more, head over to our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of today’s show and a link to stream the podcast version on Spotify, plus sizzlin’ extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line graph of the actual Billboard chart runs of every song we heard this hour. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website. Again, that’s chartcrush.com. Thanks for listening and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another year and another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1965 Episode Graphic

1965 Podcast

1965 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

It’s the “Eve of Destruction” and young Boomers “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as Vietnam widens the generation gap and Motown hits become Civil Rights anthems.

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a dive deep into a year in Pop music and culture and count down the top ten songs of the year according to our exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts that were published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush it’s 1965.

“I guess the ’50s would have ended in about ’65,” said none other than Bob Dylan. Beatlemania swept in in ’64, and after seeing the Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night in the Summer, Folkie Roger McGuinn went out and got himself a 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar like George Harrison’s in the movie, and started playing Beatle hits and Rock versions of Folk songs at L.A.’s top Folk club, the Troubadour. By the end of the year he had a band, The Byrds (with a “y”), and their debut single, a cover of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”  went all the way to #1 in June. A month later Dylan himself was plugging in with a full Rock band for his set at the Newport Folk Festival: sacrilege to traditional Folkies, who only approved of acoustic instruments and booed Dylan. But Dylan doubled down on his all-electric Highway 61 Revisited album in the Fall.

The advance single was his opus, “Like a Rolling Stone,” which Columbia Records didn’t want to release because of its length, over six minutes. But after Dylan’s people leaked it to New York’s hot new society discotheque, Arthur, Columbia relented under pressure, and it became Dylan’s first top ten single. And just like that, a generation of screaming Teen Beatle fans were now plumbing the depths of Dylan’s psychedelic imagery and oblique social commentary, hanging on every word and expecting the same literary IQ from all their Pop stars.

Those kids of course were Baby Boomers: America’s largest-ever generation, and the first wave born in the late ’40s were aged 15 to 19, raised in affluence, comfort and modernity by parents who’d lived through the Depression and War, didn’t take much for granted, and took their responsibilities very seriously. Thousands of new schools built in the ’50s, Disneyland, Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo, and (speaking of Disney) Davy Crockett and The Mickey Mouse Club. And Hula Hoops and Slinkys and Mr. Potato Head and Barbie. And board games like the Game of Life to set them on the right path.

Get drafted and go to Vietnam though? Not a square on those board games. So when the U.S. put boots on the ground in March of ’65 and draft notices went out, it didn’t compute. No wonder Barry McGuire’s growly “Eve of Destruction” was an oddball #1 hit. “You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’,” right in the first verse! Now there was a generation gap. Just like that!

The values and norms and hard-nosed, ruthless pragmatism that’d won the War and built the so-called Affluent Society: was it all still necessary? Or was it all just relics of a harder world when their was no time to ponder nuances and deeper meanings or question authority? Either way it persisted, as deeply ingrained values and norms tend to do. Especially in advertising. “One-dimensional thought,” hostile to critical thinking and protest” was how counterculture philosopher Herbert Marcuse put it.

#10 The Beatles – Yesterday

Well, after a summer of big hits prying open the generation gap, our #10 song as we kick off our 1965 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show expressed a wistful, nostalgic yearning for simpler, less troubled times. A first for the band: just one member on the record with a string quartet added later by Producer George Martin and nearly issued as a Paul McCartney solo single. But it had the now requisite lyrical depth and intimacy to resonate with fans just turning on to Dylan, so it was a Beatle record, and it topped the chart for four weeks in October. “Yesterday.”

The Beatles’ “Yesterday” at #10 as we count down 1965’s top hits here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush.

Adult, or “Middle of the Road,” a top radio format in the mid ’60s, but unlike other eras, it didn’t have a lot in common with Top40: a bastion of pre-Rock Era artists and sounds that wanted nothing to do with The Beatles. You’d think “Yesterday” might’ve broken the ice, but not even a lush, orchestrated version by tuxedoed English Crooner Matt Monro arranged and produced by Beatles producer George Martin did. But The Beatles’ original sure soothed a lot of frayed Boomer nerves in the Fall with draft notices going out, troops in Vietnam nearing 200,000 and just weeks after the deadly Watts race riots in L.A.

#9 The Beatles – Help!

“Yesterday” of course, from The Beatles’ second feature film, Help!, but a single-only release in the U.S., not on the soundtrack album. The advance single from the movie and album though, “Ticket to Ride,” with George’s Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar had topped the chart in May, a month before The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” upped the ante on 12-string jangle, and then just before “Yesterday,” in September when the film was in theaters, its title song topped the chart for three weeks, and that’s our #9 song!

Yes, a Beatles two-fer leading off our 1965 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. “Yesterday” at #10; “Help!” at #9. John Lennon with the vocal on “Help!,” a song he dashed off after the group decided last minute to change the title of the movie from Eight Arms to Hold You. Up to then, Lennon had been the singer on 10 of The Beatles’ 13 top ten hits, but starting with “Yesterday,” Paul McCartney became more dominant, singing on over half the band’s next 17 top tens up to their split in 1970.

#8 The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)

Next up, the L.A. band I’ve been talking about that launched Folk Rock with their first record in the Spring of ’65, their #1 version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The follow-up was another Dylan cover, “All I Really Want to Do,” but Cher’s punchier version beat it on the charts in tandem with Sonny & Cher’s #1 hit “I Got You Babe” in the Summer, and for a minute it looked like they’d relinquished the Folk Rock torch. But they got it back with their second #1 in the Fall; not a Dylan song, but verses from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, set to music by Folk pioneer Pete Seeger. At #8 it’s The Byrds with “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season),” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1965. Roger McGuinn went way back with that song. He played on the first recorded version in ’62 by The Limeliters and did the arrangement for Singer Judy Collins’ in ’63. Neither of those charted, but his own version with The Byrds was the group’s second #1 of ’65 after “Mr. Tambourine Man” in the Spring.

Despite peaking in December, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” still wasn’t the last word in Folk-Rock in ’65. Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” made the top 10 the very last week of the year.

#7 Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs – Wooly Bully

At #7 is the song that Billboard named #1 on the year, even though it never topped the weekly chart. Not the first or last time that’s happened, but it was more likely in ’65 because Billboard‘s method for ranking the songs at the end of the year was a simple inverse point system. One point for #100, 100 points for #1 and so on. Add up the points for all the weeks and that’s the ranking. And this song logged more weeks on the chart than any other, 18.

They were a gimmicky Mexican-American Garage band that performed in robes and turbans and drove around in a 1952 Packard hearse. Front man Domingo “Sam” Samudio got his nickname for his shuffling dance while singing and playing his red Farfisa Compact electric organ. He wrote the song about his cat. At #7, Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs “Wooly Bully.”

“Wooly Bully.” Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs, the #7 song of 1965 by our ranking here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Again, Billboard‘s published year-end Hot100 has it as the #1 song of the year using their simple ranking method that tends to reward songs with long chart runs. Our more modern method, similar to Billboard’s in the 1980s, accounts for the fact that as a song approaches #1, its popularity based on sales, airplay etc. increases exponentially, more like a hockey stick graph than a straight line, so six other songs that did hit #1 beat out “Wooly Bully.”

#6 Herman’s Hermits – Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter

Now The Beatles may have introduced the whole cutesy, goofy, long-hair mop top thing, but it’s not called the British Invasion for nothing. 21 British acts in ’65 combined to score 40 of the 119 songs that cracked the top ten during the year. Six of those were Beatles records, but another six were by our act at #6, who faded from the U.K. charts after just a couple hits, but were hot on the Fab Four’s heels in the U.S. in ’65 as an export-only group, doubling down on cute with exaggerated accents and a singer who was just 17. It’s Herman’s Hermits, their first #1 hit, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Herman’s Hermits, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1965Herman’s Hermits notched nine more top tens over the next two years and were in three MGM movies (MGM, also their record label).

#5 The Four Tops – I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

At the end of 1963, Billboard decided it didn’t need an R&B chart anymore after over 20 years of publishing one. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial integration was a reality as far as the charts were concerned. And you can see why they’d think that glancing at the R&B and Hot100 charts from ’63 side-by-side: half the top 20 on both, week-to-week, give or take: the same songs by the same artists! And it wasn’t just R&B crossing over to the Hot100. White acts like The Four Seasons, Dion, Lesley Gore, Little Peggy March and even Folk group The Rooftop Singers scored top five hits on the R&B chart too.

But all that all changed when The Beatles hit just weeks after Billboard’s last R&B chart. As obsessed with R&B and Black culture as a lot of the British bands making the Hot100 were, that love affair only went one-way. Black America was at best indifferent to Beatles and Brits. One Black woman who did like The Beatles, quoted in a book about Chicago in the ’60s, recalled being shunned and bullied and called a “White girl” in sixth grade by her Black classmates. And when Billboard asked the Program Director of a major R&B radio station at the height of Beatlemania why they weren’t playing The Beatles, she told them: “We’ve already got enough of a menagerie.”

It would’ve been nice if Billboard’s readers at the time could’ve flipped to the R&B chart to investigate that, but instead they had to flip to Billboard’s competitor, Cashbox magazine, to see that not a single Brit cracked the top 20 on an R&B chart throughout 1964. Even after Billboard about-faced and re-instated its R&B chart in early ’65, it was months before any British act appeared on it.

Of course, the “menagerie” was the Motown and Soul music that was soundtracking the Civil Rights Movement, and at #5 in our countdown, the record that spent the most weeks at #1 on the R&B chart during that time: nine in the Summer ’65. And it topped the Hot100 for two weeks as well. It’s The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself.”

The Four Tops had honed themselves into a polished, experienced Detroit supper club attraction over their decade together, but couldn’t score a hit record until they landed at Motown. The difference? Songwriter/Producers Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Their songs, of course; but they also pushed lead singer Levi Stubbs to strain the upper limits of his baritone range to get that urgent desperation that became The Four Tops’ trademark, first on their breakthrough, ’64’s “Baby I Need Your Lovin’;” then on their first #1, “I Can’t Help Myself,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1965.

#4 The Supremes – Come See About Me

When the dust cleared from the first wave of Beatlemania in ’64, Billboard speculated that a sudden surge for R&B radio was because R&B stations, by avoiding Beatles records, had given listeners something other than wall-to-wall British Invasion on the airwaves. Well no label benefitted more from that than Motown. Of the 27 #1s in ’65, six were on Motown, and Motown’s most successful group in ’64 repeated in the top ten on the year in ’65. It was their third consecutive #1, the #4 song of the year, also written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, it’s The Supremes’ “Come See About Me.”

Supremes, “Come See About Me” at #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1965’s biggest hits. By the end of ’65, after three more #1s with “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again” and “I Hear a Symphony,” The Supremes were headlining New York’s bastion of oldskool midtown respectability, The Copacabana, where they recorded a live album.

Some have criticized Motown for its detachment from Civil Rights while Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading marches from Selma to Montgomery and Congress was debating the Voting Rights Act. White Folkies, after all, were going straight at it in their protest songs. But could a literal airing of inner-city grievances have been as potent a street anthem as, say, Martha & The Vandellas’ 1965 Motown hit “Nowhere to Run” was during the Watts Riots?

As with any novel interpretation of a work of art that resonates, there was ownership and empowerment in claiming and repurposing Gospel songs and hits about love and relationships. But more broadly, Motown and R&B/Soul reflected and created a new sense of Black pride as Civil Rights dominated the news. The lyrics and subject matter were almost beside the point; it was the attitude that came across and made the difference.

#3 Petula Clark – Downtown

At #3 we have another head-scratching omission from ’65’s Adult-MOR charts. Unlike The Beatles, this Brit was a 30-something Female, and it was a record done the old-fashioned way: live in a studio with a big brassy orchestra just like Sinatra! It should’ve been sonic catnip for an over-30 set enjoying its own British Invasion with Princess Margaret’s U.S. visit, Oscar sweeps for Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Michael Caine and Peter Sellers. James Bond! Triumphs, MGs, Minis and Jaguars on the highways. Twiggy, Mary Quant and Carnaby Street in the fashion mags. And Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Julie Rogers, Marianne Faithfull and even Chad & Jeremy on the radio and showing up on the MOR chart. So what happened? Well first, let’s have a listen at #3, to Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”

Petula Clark’s “Downtown” at #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1965’s biggest hits. It shot up the Hot100 over the holiday season in ’64 and was #1 the last two weeks in January, but that was before Billboard relaunched its Easy Listening chart in June of ’65 as a full-blown survey-based ranking of songs on so-called “conservative” music stations. Before that it was just an “MOR programming guide:” hits that weren’t Rock ‘n Roll or Teen records cherry picked off the Hot100 by Billboard staff. For whatever, they reason didn’t see fit to include “Downtown” in the category. But the very week the more scientific survey-based Easy Listening chart was unveiled, Clark’s follow-up hit, “I Know a Place” was #16 and her next two singles in ’65 both cracked the top five. So who really knows with “Downtown?”

The song was written by British Songwriter Tony Hatch about New York. He’d just arrived, first time in the city, and standing on a corner in Times Square the melody and title just popped into his head, and it was the first U.S. #1 by a British female since Vera Lynn’s “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” in 1952.

#2 The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

So back at #5, I mentioned The Four Tops’ breakthrough in ’64, “Baby I Need Your Loving.” Well that was the record that inspired our #2 song by the Southern California duo the phrase “Blue-Eyed Soul” was coined to describe. But it was also a milestone for its Producer, Phil Spector, already famous for his so-called “Wall of Sound” on Girl Group hits. Spector signed the group to his Philles label, flew A-list Brill Building Songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil out to L.A. to write the song for them, and spent countless hours and $35 grand making the record. At #2, The Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

Proof that Black music fans in the ’60s didn’t care if an act had blue eyes (or white skin) as long as a record had Soul. The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” spent nine weeks in the top ten on the R&B chart peaking at #2. So whatever R&B radio’s problem with The Beatles was, it didn’t apply to Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, who weren’t really brothers. They got their name when a Black Marine shouted at one of their shows: “That was righteous, brothers!”

#1 The Rolling Stones – (I Cant Get No) Satisfaction

And as it turns out, it didn’t apply to the act at #1 in our 1965 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown either. And they were British! The only British Invasion act to crack the top 20 on the R&B chart before 1967. On the chart we’re counting down the top ten from this hour, though, the Hot100, it was the group’s first #1, and the first four-week #1 since The Supremes’ “Baby Love” in the Fall of ’64. The #1 song of 1965 is The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

The Rolling Stones had made the top ten in ’64 with “Time Is on My Side” and earlier in ’65 with “The Last Time.” They had three albums out and had toured the U.S. twice, but were still in the third-tier of British Invasion bands on the charts, behind groups like The Searchers and Gerry & The Pacemakers… until what Newsweek later called the “five notes that shook the world:” Keith Richards’ fuzzed out guitar setting up Mick Jagger’s sneering putdown of America’s relentless advertising barrage. The riff came to Richards in a dream and Jagger fleshed out the words in ten minutes poolside at a Florida motel. In his memoir, Richards credits its success to the Maestro FZ-1 fuzztone pedal he used as a placeholder for a planned horn part, but before that could happen, the single was out, as it, and racing up the charts.

Bonus

So there you have ’em, the top ten hits of 1965 according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking that, as I mentioned earlier, uses a more advanced algorithm than Billboard had in 1965. We also count every song’s entire chart run, which Billboard can’t do having to get their year-end issue out before New Years. So if you look at the top ten that Billboard published at the end of ’65, some songs are missing. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” hit too late in the year, and The Supremes’ “Come See About Me” straddled ’64 into ’65, so those didn’t make Billboard’s year-end Hot100, let alone the top ten. And Herman’s Hermits “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” they had at #19 due to its short chart run, just 11 weeks.

So what are the four songs that made Billboard’s year-end top ten but not ours?

At #10, they had the song that was #1 on their R&B chart the first week they reinstated it, January 30. It was a Motown record, the group’s first top ten and first #1: The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

The Temptations’ “My Girl” notches in at #16 on our Chartcrush ranking, co-written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, whose own group The Miracles charted four hits themselves for Motown in ’65, including “Tracks of My Tears” and “Going to a Go-Go.”

Billboard’s #9 song of ’65 was an outtake from a Gospel album recorded in 1960, dusted off and issued as an Easter Special single in ’65. Nevertheless it was Elvis Presley’s biggest hit since “Return to Sender” in ’62.

Elvis still had a massive fan base in ’65 despite being almost completely disconnected from the music scene and focusing on his movie career.

Billboard’s simple inverse point method of ranking the songs in ’65 put a different Herman’s Hermits hit in the top ten on the year at #8. They had “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” down at #19 despite its three weeks at #1. This one only got to #2, but was on the chart four weeks longer. It’s “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.”

Herman’s Hermits’ “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” shakes out at #32 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And finally, Billboard’s #4 year-end song: another one that ranked high due to chart longevity: 15 weeks in a year when the longest chart run was 18 weeks, peaking for a week at #3. It’s #20 on our Chartcrush ranking. Again, no Byrds or Beatles on the Adult/MOR chart in ’65, but this Folk-Rocker was one of the biggest hits of the year on the radio format that evolved into Adult Contemporary, five weeks at #1 on that chart. It’s “We Five’s “You Were on My Mind.”

We Five were based in San Francisco and scored one of the earliest and biggest Folk-Rock hits of the ’60s just as the Hippie counterculture was coalescing. But being on MOR radio, doing ads for Coca-Cola and sprinkling their repertoire with show tunes and standards put them on the wrong side of the generation gap, and the ship sailed without them.

1965, what a year, huh? Unfortunately that’s all the time we have for our 1965 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. For more, go check out our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of today’s show, plus a link to stream the podcast version on Spotify and fab extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line graph of the actual chart runs of the top ten songs we heard this hour. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website, again, chartcrush.com. Thanks for listening, and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1971 Episode Graphic

1971 Podcast

1971 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The Beatles have split and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are dead, but Singer-Songwriters soothe frayed nerves as militant activism and protest go mainstream.

::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 culture, and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive 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 1971, an inflection point in music and pop culture after the deaths of two of Rock’s biggest counterculture icons less than three weeks apart in the Fall of 1970, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. And fans still mourning the breakup of The Beatles earlier in the year. And then The Doors’ Jim Morrison died in July of ’71.

How would music have been different in the ’70s with The Beatles still together and those three towering figures living on? Would the spirit of the ’60s have persisted? Perhaps, but it was already on life support after major body blows like the MLK and RFK assassinations in ’68, The Manson Murders and the Altamont festival-gone-bad in ’69… Nixon being president. And the protest movements of the ’60s, Black Civil Rights and the antiwar Movement, going full radical revolutionary: far-left splinter groups like The Weather Underground and The Black Liberation Army careening off into a revolutionary crazyland of bombings, murder, kidnappings.

But not just that: with billions in new federal anti-poverty funds flooding the zone, protest escalated and expanded. In his New York magazine essay “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers,” culture-critic Tom Wolfe detailed how in San Francisco alone, there were 87 different militant niche identity groups all devising ever-more creative, colorful, frightening and newsworthy ways to confront the system (or “mau-mau,” after Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion against the British), all to secure grants, or lucrative community organizing gigs or what have you, from the mostly clueless, almost exclusively White middle-class career bureaucrats (the “flak catchers”) whose agencies and committees were in charge of deciding who got the funds. How did they decide? “When somebody rises up in the ghetto and confronts you,” Wolfe explained, “then you know he’s a leader of the people. So the poverty program not only encouraged mau-mauing, it practically demanded it.”

Wolfe was writing about San Francisco in ’68; by ’71, the explosion of aggressive, militant, even theatrical activism, courtesy of taxpayers, was everywhere. And protest fashion went mainstream. At school, letter sweaters and McGregor back-to-school slacks and skirts, out. Guerilla berets, field jackets, combat boots and proletarian Can’t Bust ‘Em jeans or Army khakis, in. Radical Chic: the title of another Tom Wolfe essay about the same time as “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.”

All in the Family premiered on CBS in January of ’71: Norman Lear’s sitcom about a high-school educated, blue-collar loudmouth, Archie Bunker, under constant ideological assault in his own house over race, feminism, poverty, the war, Nixon, et cetera, by his obnoxious, freeloading student activist son-in-law Mike Stivic (a.k.a. Meathead), and it resonated because everything in ’71 was political. Every American was either confronting or being confronted. The show was #1 five years in a row, and Lear and CBS spun off Maude, Good Times and The Jeffersons from All in the Family later in the ’70s. Archie Bunker’s chair is in the Smithsonian.

Now where would Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and a still-intact Beatles have fallen on the spectrum between activism and escapism that developed in music in response to all that?

#10 The Raiders – Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)

Who can say? But our first song as we kick things off is the most conspicuous example of activism in our countdown: a song about the plight of Native Americans written in 1959, and a #20 hit in 1968 for Don Fardon, formerly of the British Mod band The Sorrows. But that was before Indian activists claimed Alcatraz, the island in the San Francisco Bay abandoned since 1963 when the federal prison there closed. Their physical occupation of the island for over a year-and-a-half got as much attention as any action by a militant group in the era, and just as the feds were clearing out the last of the occupiers in June of ’71, this new version of the song shot into the top ten. Ironically, the band had gotten famous in the ’60s wearing colonial costumes and tricorner hats, but Singer Mark Lindsay was part Cherokee, and he sings the song like he means it. It’s The Raiders’ “Indian Reservation.”

That 19-month Alcatraz occupation put the plight of Native Americans front-and-center. A who’s who of celebs got involved: Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, Anthony Quinn, Jonathan Winters and many others. Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rock band, pitched in $15 grand for a supply boat. Pre-Rock ‘n Roll Pop Singer Kay Starr, who was half-Iroquois, carried the message to the over-40 set. Keep America Beautiful’s iconic “Crying Indian” anti-littering ad was the right PSA at the right time when it hit TV screens on Earth Day in April. And The Raiders’ “Indian Reservation” was the right song at the right time when it topped the charts in the Summer, #10 here on our 1971 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

The song, subtitled “The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian.” It was really a Mark Lindsay solo record recorded in L.A. with Wrecking Crew studio aces, but the namesake of Lindsay’s ’60s band The Raiders, Paul Revere, jumped on his custom bike and rode coast-to-coast plugging it to every radio station he passed along the way, and it was the band’s first top 10 since 1967, and their only career chart-topper.

#9 Sly & The Family StoneFamily Affair

Another guy who got political in ’71, Marvin Gaye. And he scored his biggest hit since 1969’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” with the title track to his concept album What’s Goin’ On. No punctuation after that title but our artist at #9 heard a question, so last minute he retitled his group’s first album in two years to his answer: There’s a Riot Going On. On the cover, a reimagined American flag with black instead of blue and bursts instead of stars, and pessimistic, disillusioned and sometimes incoherent songs: a far cry from their ultra-catchy starry-eyed utopian hits from just a couple years before. The album got mixed reviews, but it still shot to #1, and its lead single was #1 for three weeks in December. It’s Sly & The Family Stone’s “Family Affair.”

Sly & The Family Stone were at the pinnacle of fame after their 1969 hits “Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Stand” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” but the racial colorblindness the group not only celebrated but embodied, having both Black and White members, put Sly at odds with the Black Panthers, who leaned hard on him to fire the White Drummer and Sax Player and embrace Black Power and revolution. So, squeezed from both ends, Sly holed himself up in his mansion in L.A. surrounded by hangers-on, drug dealers, petty gangsters, “bodyguards” and his Pitbull “Gun,” a “terminal zone of drugs, guns, chaos and paranoia,” as Guardian writer Sean O’Hagan put it in 2007. That’s where he recorded There’s a Riot Going On.

“Family Affair” replaced Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” at #1 in December, marking five straight weeks with a Black artist at #1. But that was just a preview for ’72, when Black artists scored a record-setting 11 of the year’s 22 #1 hits, and had a majority of the records in the top ten for 14 straight weeks. Sly coulda-shoulda been part of that, but showing up late or not at all to shows, and his rambling, incoherent interviews in print and on TV were just too weird, even for 1971, and after “Family Affair,” the Riot album yielded no further hits.

#8 Donny OsmondGo Away Little Girl

OK, so that concludes the blatantly political segment of our 1971 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, but as Isaac Newton taught us, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction, so maybe not! Because what could be more reactionary in an era of in-your-face political activism and racial consciousness than a group of five White brothers that sound just like the group of five Black brothers they’ve replaced at the top of the charts?

The Jackson 5 were 1970’s big Pop story: four consecutive #1s, lead vocals by 11-year-old Michael Jackson: “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.” But then, on literally the first Billboard chart in 1971, January 2, out of Ogden, Utah, here came The Osmonds, with their pre-Teen, voice-hasn’t-changed-yet Donny singing lead. One thing The Osmonds thought of first, though (maybe the only thing): issuing solo singles by the squeaky-voiced little guy getting all the attention. By Spring, Donny was a full-blown Tiger Beat heartthrob and his first solo record, “Sweet and Innocent” got to #7 just after the group’s first hit got bumped out of the #1 spot. The second group single only made it to #14, so the label, MGM, issued a second Donny single, and when it hit #1, it became the first song ever to top the Hot100 twice in two different versions. More on that in a minute, but first #8, Donny Osmond’s “Go Away Little Girl.”

“Go Away Little Girl,” written in 1962 for Teen Idol Bobby Vee by Brill Building power songwriting couple Carole King and Gerry Goffin. But only an album cut, so Pop Crooner Steve Lawrence put his version out as a single and it was his first #1 hit in 1963. Vocal group The Happenings took it to #12 in ’66, but in ’71 as a ’50s and early ’60s nostalgia wave was building, 13-year-old Donny Osmond got it to #1 again: maybe the only version of “Go Away Little Girl” that’s not cringeworthy since the ’80s. That’s when the topic of pedophilia first trended.

A side note: at the tail end of Tin Pan Alley in the ’40s and early ’50s it was common for multiple versions of a song to chart, usually at the same time, and several songs had more than one version that got a turn at #1: a double jackpot for the songwriters. But “Go Away Little Girl” was the first in the Hot100 era, eight and a half years apart. Before long, two other covers of early ’60s #1s topped the chart: Grand Funk’s “The Loco-Motion” in ’74 (another Carole King song), and then The Carpenters’ “Please Mr. Postman” in ’75. The originals of those by Little Eva and The Marvelettes, respectively. I did mention escapism and that nostalgia wave about to break, right?

#7 The OsmondsOne Bad Apple

And at #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1971, the hit that started it all for our White Jackson 5 copycats from Utah, and get this: it’s a song that was written for the Jackson 5, but rejected by Motown boss Berry Gordy, Jr. in favor of The Jackson 5’s second #1 hit, “ABC.” Here again, Donny Osmond, but this time with his brothers in the Osmonds group, their first hit, “One Bad Apple.”

Osmonds, “One Bad Apple,” #7 as we count down the top ten hits of 1971 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, by studio owner Rick Hall, who’d also produced ’60s Soul stars like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett… and, hired the longhaired, mutton-chopped session guitarist who’d pitched a tent in the parking lot to get noticed. Sadly, that guitarist, Duane Allman, the inventor of Southern Rock and founder and leader of The Allman Brothers, was another Rocker who didn’t live to see 1972.

#6 Bee GeesHow Can You Mend a Broken Heart

Up next, we have another brother act, but this time a trio, from Britain, who’d charted their first top 20 hits in 1967 and their first top tens in ’68. But the ground shifted under their feet in ’68 and they found themselves stuck, along with dozens of other popular mid-’60s acts, in the vast limbo between Hippie-approved Album Rock on the one hand, and Bubblegum, as adjudicated by the new arbiters of cool in the counterculture press. And when their Proggy 1969 double LP concept album failed to earn the Rolling Stone seal of approval, they disintegrated, but were back before too long with a renewed focus, tighter material, and a #1 hit, their first, for four weeks in August or ’71. It’s the Brothers Gibb, that’s right, The Bee Gees. “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”

Robin on the verses, Barry on the chorus and both along with the third Gibb brother Maurice on harmonies, The Bee Gees, “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” #6 as we count down the top ten from 1971 here on this week’s Chartcrush.

April of 1970 was when Paul McCartney announced that The Beatles were splitting, and by Summer the Bee Gees were back together cutting a record that many mistook for a lost latter-day Fab Four masterpiece. “Lonely Days” became their first top five hit, and then “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” their first #1.

They slumped badly again after ’71, but of course came back bigger than ever in the Disco years, with seven more #1s starting with “Jive Talkin'” in ’75.

#5 George HarrisonMy Sweet Lord

And speaking of The Beatles, here’s a trivia question: which Beatle was the first to get to #1 after the breakup? Well John Lennon was the first to chart a solo single: “Instant Karma.” That hit #3 behind The Beatles’ own “Let It Be” in April of ’70 as Paul McCartney was announcing the split and releasing his first solo album. “Maybe I’m Amazed” off that album might’ve topped the chart, but it was never issued as a single, and the charts were Beatle-free all Summer until Thanksgiving. That’s when our #5 song hit the airwaves, rocketed to #1 the last week of 1970 and stayed on top four weeks into ’71. His songwriting, voice and guitar on songs like “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “I Me Mine” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” had as much to do with The Fab Four’s sound in their last couple years as anything John, Paul or Ringo contributed, so for fans mourning the breakup all year, it was a delight. At #5, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”

George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord,” #5 on our 1971 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Don’t look for it anywhere near the top of Billboard’s year-end chart for 1971 though; it’s only #36. ’71 was the last year that Billboard’s “chart year” (the timeframe they count for their year-end rankings) didn’t include the last several weeks of the previous year after the press deadline for the issue with the year-end charts. They changed that for ’72, but for “My Sweet Lord,” not counting its weeks in December 1970 makes it one of the many year-straddling hits over the years that’ve fallen through the cracks on Billboard’s “official” year-end charts. Here at Chartcrush we avoid that by factoring every song’s full chart run in the year it earned the most points, so George’s ode to Krishna takes its rightful place as the #5 song of 1971.

Overtly religious Pop hits were a thing in the early ’70s. “My Sweet Lord,” preceded in the top ten by Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” in the Spring of 1970, and two weeks after it finished its run, Ocean’s “Put Your Hand in the Hand (Of the Man from Galilee)” debuted on its way to #2. And over on the album chart, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar: at or near the top ten pretty much all year: Billboard’s #1 album of 1971.

#4 Dawn featuring Tony OrlandoKnock Three Times

Religious songs on the charts, definitely a barometer of worldly stresses and anxieties. Nostalgia is another. But you know times are really tough when songs about literally escaping are topping the charts. There were a lot of those in the early ’70s. Two examples from ’71: John Denver’s first hit “Take Me Home Country Roads” and Janis Joplin’s last, “Me and Bobby McGee.”

But what if you live in the inner-city, right in the thick of it, and can’t just escape to the country, or hit the open road with nothing left to lose? Well you can still beat a tactical retreat back to the basics of home, family and neighbors, and that’s especially tempting when there’s a cute girl downstairs who blasts her music every night, and getting to know her would make life so much sweeter. Inspired by another “how to” song about finding sanctuary amid the hustle and bustle of the city, the 1962 Drifters hit “Up on the Roof,” at #4, it’s Dawn featuring Tony Orlando, “Knock Three Times.”

The narrative story song, with a beginning, middle and end: as old as the hills in Country and Folk, but in the early ’70s, Pop records that weren’t crossovers from those genres started topping the charts, and “Knock Three Times” was one of the first.

According to co-songwriter L. Russell Brown, it sold 100,000 copies a day for 10 days straight over the holidays heading in to 1971, and that was just in New York. Once it made the charts, it’s narrative depiction of the simple joys and dramas of urban life warmed the hearts even of folks who’d never even been in an apartment building, and it caught on nationally: three weeks at #1 and the #4 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1971.

Now, we never find out whether the girl downstairs knocks three times or bangs twice, or even if she sees the note on the string, but two years later Tony Orlando & Dawn were back at #1 with another story song that does have an ending: a happy one, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the ‘Ol Oak Tree.”

#3 Carole KingIt’s Too Late

At #3 we have the first hit by the woman that Billboard honored with a Trendsetter Award in ’71 for proving that Singer-Songwriters doing “personal statement songs” could sell boatloads of records. Well she had nothing to prove as a Songwriter: over 70 charted recordings of her songs on the Hot100 (including over a dozen top tens), most from the early ’60s co-written with her lyricist hubby Gerry Goffin in the Brill Building. But it wasn’t until she divorced Goffin, moved to L.A.’s Laurel Canyon and took a stripped-down, confessional approach for her ’71 album with producer Lou Adler that things gelled for her as a Singer.

The album Tapestry took a few months of word-of-mouth to crack the top ten on the album chart, but once it did, it became a big part of the soundtrack for the burgeoning Women’s movement: #1 for 15 straight weeks, and then Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Adler picked our #3 song for the single and put another winner from the album on the flip, “I Feel the Earth Move.” And it was #1 on the Hot100 the first five weeks Tapestry was the top album, mid-June to mid-July. At #3 it’s Carole King’s “It’s Too Late”

One of the great breakup songs, Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” at #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1971’s biggest hits. A very mature song for the Pop charts; it doesn’t wallow or cry or point fingers; it just observes kind of matter-of-factly that, for whatever reasons, things aren’t like they were and it’s time to move on. Critics have highlighted the implicit feminism of that, and besides opening the door for Singer-Songwriters in general, Tapestry‘ssales alerted the biz to the purchasing power of Women as a distinct demographic.

One reason it took Carole King so long to find success as a Singer: extreme stage fright. It wasn’t ’til the summer of ’71 when Tapestry and “It’s Too Late” were already #1, that she finally pushed through the jitters, for a sell-out crowd at New York’s Carnegie Hall. You go, girl!

#2 Rod StewartMaggie May

Now on the Male side of so-called “personal statement songs” in the first years of the ’70s, guys like Neil Young, Cat Stevens and James Taylor come to mind. Taylor, by the way, a close friend of Carole King after she moved to L.A. His #3 hit “Fire and Rain” in late ’70 credited with kicking off the Singer-Songwriter era. But one guy who usually isn’t thought of in that category scored the biggest hit in the genre in 1971. And he didn’t even mean to. It first appeared as an album cut, and then as the B side of his debut 45 as a solo artist. But radio started playing it instead of the A-side. Recorded essentially live in the studio, at #2, Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.”

A biographical song about his first intimate relationship, with an older woman: Rod Stewart’s first solo hit, “Maggie May,” #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1971’s top hits. Stewart was also the lead singer in the band Faces in the early ’70s, along with future Rolling Stones Guitarist Ron Wood, group founder and Bassist Ronnie Lane and Drummer Kenney Jones, who later replaced Keith Moon in The Who. None of those guys wanted to be thought of as Rod Stewart’s backing band though, which caused friction as Rod’s solo career took off, and they called it quits by ’75. Even most Classic Rock fans, to this day, think Faces biggest hit is a Rod Stewart song. The Rocker “Stay with Me” hit the chart less than a month after “Maggie May” exited and while Rod’s solo follow-up, “I’m Losing You,” another Rocker, was still on it.

#1 Three Dog NightJoy to the World

And speaking of Rockers, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Yes all had quintessential albums out and in the top ten on the album chart in ’71. So how did Classic Rock perennials from those albums like “Stairway to Heaven,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Aqualung,” “Iron Man” and “Roundabout” fare on the Hot100? Well, in a word: poorly.

Album Rock, a massive blind spot on the Hot100 for the simple reason that the Hot100 was a singles chart in the ’70s, and who needs a single of a song you have on an album? We can’t even guess at those songs’ popularity relative to others because Billboard didn’t start publishing Airplay charts until the ’80s.

Still, even with those dynamics in play, some Rock songs did manage to become #1 Hot100 hits. The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” in ’68 which was only out on a single; ditto Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” in ’70. The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” also in ’70, a band previously known for more easy-on-the-ears Jazzy Pop. And the band with the #1 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten for 1971, also more Top40 than FM before this hit, but it was an FM jock in Seattle who first played it, and based on the response, the big AM Top40 station in the same building started spinning it, and the rest is history. At #1 it’s Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.”

Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” another totally unexpected hit added last-minute to the end of their album just to fill out the time. The single version we just heard is a punchier mix, shorter, with some guitar overdubs in the break that aren’t on the album.

Veteran Country Singer-Songwriter Hoyt Axton had started “Joy to the World” for a kids’ cartoon that never got made, so the lyrics were still incomplete when he pitched it to the band. Jeremiah was only a bullfrog because those were the nonsense words he came up with there on the spot, planning to go back and polish things up if they wanted the song. But before he could, they recorded it and the album was out.

Three Dog Night charted 21 singles from ’69 to ’75 with 11 top tens, but ’71 was their high watermark: “Joy,” #1 for six weeks, plus two other top tens, “Liar” and “An Old-Fashioned Love Song.”

And there ya have ’em, the top ten songs of 1971 according to our Chartcrush ranking that based on Billboard’s weekly charts, but factoring songs’ full chart runs. None of that chart year stuff where things fall through the cracks, so there are some differences between our ranking and the top ten on Billboard’s published Hot100 for ’71. I mentioned that “My Sweet Lord” moves up from #36 to #5. Also absent from Billboard’s official top ten, our #9 song “Family Affair,” Sly & The Family Stone. But that one was so late in the year that Billboard has it in their 1972 chart year, but only at #79 because they didn’t factor its first weeks in ’71. So two songs coming in to our top ten means two songs from Billboard‘s that we didn’t get to hear this hour. So let’s take a look at those.

Billboard’s #9 song was Eddie Kendricks’ last lead vocal in The Temptations before going solo.

“Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” notches in at #13 on our Chartcrush ranking for ’71. The Temptations continued scoring hits without Kendricks: “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” in ’72 and “Masterpiece” in ’73. But Eddie did very well too with his top tens “Keep on Truckin'” in ’73, and “Boogie Down” in ’74.

And Billboard’s #8 year-end hit of 1971 I mentioned earlier talking about songs literally about escaping.

“Take Me Home Country Roads,” one of West Virginia’s official state anthems since 2014, and West Virginia University’s theme song since 1972, just after it was a hit: performed at every Mountaineers home football game to this day.

And that’s gonna have to wrap things up for our 1971 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Hey, if you like what you heard and want more, head over to our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of today’s show and a link to stream the podcast version on Spotify, plus outta sight extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line graph of the actual Billboard chart runs of every song we heard this hour. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website, again, chartcrush.com. Thanks for listening and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1997 Episode Graphic

1997 Podcast

1997 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The Lilith Fair festival galvanizes women in music while the late ’90s Pop boom begins on the charts and two shocking deaths inspire huge tribute singles.

::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, we’re setting our sights on 1997, a year when women consolidated their gains after Alanis Morrissette reset the bar for what females could do in music and still score big hits.

’97 was the first Lilith Fair tour: Singer-Songwriter Sarah McLachlan’s answer to music’s “glass ceiling” rule that you couldn’t do two females back-to-back on a concert bill or on the radio. “Lilith” was from Jewish folklore: Adam’s supposed first wife banished from the Garden of Eden, not Frasier’s girlfriend on the NBC sitcom Cheers, as some assumed. Alanis did her own tour in ’97 and wasn’t on Lilith Fair, but 16 other top female acts were, plus dozens more on two smaller stages: all-day shows in 36 cities: the year’s top festival tour according to Rolling Stone.

But as much as Lilith Fair did to put women in the spotlight, it was only a sliver of Female Pop in ’97: as the U.K. Observer put it at the time: the “sensitive side”. No R&B, Hip-Hop or Country on the roster, but on the charts, female R&B acts Monica, Mary J. Blige, TLC and En Vogue, scoring hits like crazy; ’90s Divadom at its peak (Mariah, Celine, Whitney and Toni); LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain taking Country crossover to new heights. Female Rappers even made their own watershed moment in ’97 with a top ten remix of Lil’ Kim’s “Not Tonight” featuring Da Brat, TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Missy Elliott and Angie Martinez.

Straight-up Pop, not at Lilith Fair either, but The Spice Girls hit in January, and that had everyone talking up a comeback for Pop, borne out later in the year when Hanson, Savage Garden and Backstreet Boys made it gender-inclusive. Now it’s not just a Pop surge; it’s Millennials taking over while the youngest of ’em are still in diapers, and right in the middle of what’s supposed to be Gen-X’s pop culture prime! In ’98 MTV made the takeover official, launching its Total Request Live after-school show.

Rapper The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in a drive-by shooting in March of ’97, and in August, Princess Diana died in a car wreck in Paris. Both of those sudden deaths shocked the public, and the tribute songs that came out as the world mourned were the two best-selling singles of the year. But neither of those songs got much airplay, so ’97 was the third year in a row that Billboard’s #1 Hot100 song of the year wasn’t among the year’s top Radio hits. But worse, some of the year’s biggest Airplay hits never charted on the Hot100 at all: excluded because the labels had opted not to release them as singles. That was Billboard’s rule all the way to the end of 1998: no single, no chart.

In a 1997 commentary piece in Billboard, writer Terry McManus lamented the death of the vinyl single with nothing replacing it, and for “song-is-the-song” genres like Rock and Country, he was 100% right. But CD singles were actually thriving in Dance, R&B and Hip-Hop, where multiple versions, edits and remixes of hit songs had been mandatory since the ’80s. So with that threshold eligibility rule and sales counting for 40% of the ranking, the Hot100 by the late ’90s had become pretty useless. Who needed a chart to see what songs out as retail singles were selling if half the most popular songs weren’t out as singles? The next best thing? Billboard’s weekly 50-position Radio Songs chart, which ranked songs based on how often they got played on a cross-section of hundreds of U.S. radio stations.

#10 The CardigansLovefool

Our song at #10 as we kick things off: the first of four glaring examples in our countdown of why we use that Airplay chart to rank the songs for the “broken Hot100 years,” ’95 to ’98. No single, so it never charted on the Hot100, but it was a top ten radio hit for 21 weeks. Movie director Baz Luhrman gave it a big boost when he picked it up for his modern-day Romeo + Juliet reboot with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The lead single plugged to radio from that soundtrack, The Cardigans’ “Lovefool.”

“Lovefool” peaked in March, and by Summer The Cardigans were one of the 16 acts on the Lilith Fair tour’s main stage. They continued charting hits in the U.K. and their native Sweden, but were a one-hit wonder in the States. “No-hit wonder” if you go by the Hot100. No commercial U.S. single, so “Lovefool” was ineligible. But it’s the year’s #10 song here on our 1997 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, thanks to the Airplay chart.

#9 Backstreet BoysQuit Playing Games (With My Heart)

At #9 is one of the Boy Band hits that got people thinking that maybe the The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” wasn’t a fluke and that a Pop surge was really happening. Hanson’s “Mmmbop” hit #1 on the Airplay chart for four weeks in June and July, but meanwhile, this one was scaling up the charts. Hanson was a one-hit wonder, but these guys kept on scoring hits, and #1 albums. They were from Orlando, Florida but got big in Europe first and were calling America “no fan land” ’til this song. It’s the Backstreet Boys “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).”

Since lip-syncing accusations derailed New Kids on the Block in the early ’90s, there’d been a stigma against White Boy Bands. And ever since, notwithstanding Motown’s squeaky clean Boyz II Men, it’d been a competition among Male R&B vocal groups like Jodeci, Silk and Blackstreet and their producers to out-raunch each other on the charts. Given that, Jive Records wanted to launch the Backstreet Boys in the U.S. with “If You Want to Be Good Girl, Get Yourself a Bad Boy.” But the group pushed back and “Quit Playing Games” was the lead single. It’d already topped the charts in Europe so it was the safer bet, and it was their first U.S. hit, #9 on our 1997 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown.

It was also the first big chart triumph for Swedish producer Max Martin. In ’98, he unleashed Britney Spears’ “..Baby One More Time” on an unsuspecting world, then in the ’00s and beyond, career-defining Pop hits by Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and many others.

#8 Shawn ColvinSunny Came Home

At #8, another Lilith Fair act, and hey, for anyone thinking this Girl Power thing in ’97 was just music, the two big TV premieres that year? Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ally McBeal. But I digress. She’d been at it since the ’70s, first fronting a Hard Rock band, then a Western Swing outfit, but after damaging her vocal chords in ’83 she moved to New York and gradually built up a following there in the emerging “New Folk” scene. Columbia signed her in the late ’80s as Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega and The Indigo Girls were scoring hits, and her 1989 debut Steady On won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. But success on the Pop charts eluded her until this song, which first appeared on the Adult Alternative Airplay chart in February, and was #1 on all of radio for four weeks in July: the entire first half of the Lilith Fair tour. It’s Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home.”

#8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1997’s biggest radio hits, “Sunny Came Home,” the opening song on Shawn Colvin’s 1996 divorce-themed concept album, A Few Small Repairs. Since there was a commercial single, it also made the Hot100, peaking at #7. And it won her another two Grammys, the big ones: Song of the Year and Record of the Year. At the awards, one of her acceptances was pre-empted by Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), who grabbed a mic to complain about his group Wu-Tang Clan not winning Best Rap Album, 11 years before Kanye West borrowed Taylor Swift’s mic at the ’09 VMAs on behalf of Beyonce. Shawn Colvin continued making music and all six of her albums up to 2016 made the album chart, but “Sunny Came Home” was her only Pop hit.

#7 Chumbawamba – Tubthumping

At #7, yet another one-hit wonder: as Variety put it, a “drinking-and-dancing anthem,” by a self-described “anarcho-communist Punk collective” that’d gone hitless, even in their native U.K., since forming in 1982. This one, however (their first on a major label) connected immediately, debuting at #2 on the U.K. charts and staying in the top ten 11 weeks. In the U.S. it took 10 weeks to top the Airplay chart, but once it did at the end of November, it was #1 for nine weeks. And there was a single so it got to #6 on the Hot100 too: an important milestone for Punk as a genre after two decades of little to no singles chart action. It may’ve been voted the 12th most annoying song of all-time in a 2007 Rolling Stone poll, but it sure was an earworm in the Fall of ’97. At #7 it’s Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping.”

So what would you do if you came up on restrooms labeled “chumba” and “wamba?” Well if you were in a band with males and females, you might think, as these guys did, to mash the words together for your band name. “Tubthumping,” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1997’s biggest radio hits.

So how does an anarcho-communist Punk group deal with sudden wealth and fame? Well, for one, they go on ABC’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and tell people to steal their CD from big box stores like HMV and Virgin. They donate their ill-gotten gains to antifa groups; lace acceptance speeches and interviews with controversial slogans; publicly refuse offers from brands, like Nike’s to use “Tubthumping” in a ’98 World Cup ad. And given the chance, they dump ice water on then-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the Brit Awards. All those things happened, and, hard to believe in an era when even the slightest perceived political threats elicit hysterical overreactions from some corners of law enforcement and the legal system, but Chumbawamba faced no reprisals at all for their agitprop and mischief, and carried on cranking out albums and singles until 2012.

#6 Toni BraxtonUn-Break My Heart

OK, #6 is a change of pace! Songwriter Diane Warren was busy in the late ’90. Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me, “Monica’s “For You I Will” (from the movie Space Jam) and LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live:” all Diane Warren songs. And our #6 song was another shiny framed disc for her wall.

The singer was LaFace Records’ answer to Whitney, Mariah and Celine, coming off her first #1 hit in ’96 with “You’re Makin’ Me High” after missing the top spot with three top tens from her 1993 self-titled debut. So song choice was key and she wasn’t sure about this one when label honcho L.A. Reid proposed it to her, but it became her second #1 on the Hot100, and even dislodged the #1 song in our countdown from the top of the Airplay chart right in the middle of its record-breaking 16-week run. We’re gonna hear that one a little later, of course, but at #6, it’s Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart.”

Toni Braxton, “Un-Break My Heart” at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1997’s biggest hits, one of just two songs in our Airplay-derived top ten that was also in the top ten on Billboard’s 1997 year-end Hot100 ranking: #4 on that. The CD maxi-single was the only way to get the non-album Hex Hector-Soul Solution remix that topped the Dance chart for four weeks and got played on Rhythmic stations. It sold a ton.

There was an opening in Divadom in ’97 and Toni Braxton whooshed in. Mariah Carey was making a movie (The Bachelor), separating from hubby Tommy Mottola and reinventing herself as a Hip-Hop-friendly R&B singer for her album Butterfly. Celine Dion, between her massive hits from her ’96 Falling into You album and Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On” in early ’98. And Whitney Houston, focusing mainly on her acting career (Waiting to Exhale, Preacher’s Wife, Cinderella).

#5 The WallflowersOne Headlight

So when you’re Bob Dylan’s son and your band cuts an album, you have some big advantages, right? But you also have a lot to live up to. Our act at #5 got a fair hearing, though, in ’96 when their second album came out and they started getting traction, because after years of L.A. club gigs, a first album that didn’t sell, and opening for other acts on tour, they’d paid their dues, and Jakob Dylan hadn’t traded on his name, not once. The opposite, in fact. He never talked about it, which made a difference for critics and fans. And when they finally broke through with this song, it was the first to top all three of Billboard’s Rock Airplay charts: Modern Rock, Mainstream Rock and Adult Alternative. Billboard has it as the #1 Adult Alternative song of all-time! It’s The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight.”

The Wallflowers, another act that never released an actual, physical single, so don’t look for them on the Hot100. But with 22 weeks in the top ten on the Radio Songs chart, “One Headlight” was the #5 hit of 1997 by our Chartcrush ranking of the year’s top airplay hits we’re counting down this hour. Their album Bringing Down the Horse went 4X Platinum, “One Headlight” won Best Rock Song at the ’98 Grammys, and Jakob Dylan was on the cover of Rolling Stone.

By the way, Jakob’s dad Bob Dylan released his first album of new songs in over six years in ’97, Time out of Mind, which topped multiple critics polls at the end of the year, including Billboard’s. Bob played a big role in another success story we’re gonna be hearing in a few minutes.

#4 Third Eye BlindSemi-Charmed Life

But first, at #4 we have the lead single from the debut album by the first San Francisco band to make it big since Huey Lewis & The News in the early ’80s. The song had been a work-in-progress for front man-Songwriter Stephan Jenkins since his days as half of Rap duo Puck & Natty, who got one of their songs on Beverly Hills 90210 in 1992. But once Grunge came along, Jenkins figured he’d have a better shot at making it in a Rock band, and by ’97 his band had evolved a loose, Rap/Jam Band sound that was irresistible to Alternative and Pop radio: “a bridge,” as Billboard later put it “between the grim Grunge years and the soon-to-explode pure Pop explosion.” The first in their string of hits that were ubiquitous on radio late ’90s, it’s Third Eye Blind with “Semi-Charmed Life.”

Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” at #4. 54 weeks on the Billboard Radio Songs chart, and since there was a single, it also charted on the Hot100, with four weeks at #4. While it was still on the charts “Semi-Charmed Life” was also on the big screen, in Robert Zemeckis’ sci-fi blockbuster Contact starring Jodie Foster, and it’s been used in at least eight other movies since, and counting.

#3 Sugar Ray – Fly

At #3 we have a third massive Rock debut in a row here on our 1997 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: another song that could be described as a bridge between Grunge and late ’90s Pop. Unlike “Semi-Charmed Life,” though, there wasn’t a single, so it only registered on the Airplay charts. But boy did it. Four weeks at #1 on Radio Songs and eight on the Alternative Airplay chart. But the Reggae-tinged hit was unlike anything else on their CD of funky Nu-Metal, so when fans bought their album Floored (the only way to get the song), a lot of them were sorely disappointed, which was a familiar experience in the late ’90s. At #3 it’s Sugar Ray’s breakout hit, “Fly.”

Sugar Ray’s “Fly,” from their album Floored, #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1997’s biggest airplay hits. Smash Mouth’s Fush Yu Mang, another debut album propelled to double-Platinum by a radio hit that sounded nothing like the rest of the band’s stuff. But both bands changed course for their next albums, building them around the massive radio hits from their previous ones, and both nailed it. Sugar Ray titled theirs 14:59, as in, one second left in the 15 minutes of fame critics advised them to enjoy before going back to their day jobs, and it yielded not one but two top tens in the “Fly” mold in ’99: “Every Morning” and “Someday.”

#2 JewelYou Were Meant for Me

Next up, the one song where the year-end Hot100 and Airplay top tens for 1997 agree. It’s #2 on both. The biggest of the Lilith Fair acts in our countdown, and the song is the second hit off her debut album recorded at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch in California and live at the coffeehouse in San Diego where she played when she was living out of her car. The album didn’t sell when it came out in ’95, but constant touring got her opening gigs for both Young and Bob Dylan (there’s that name again), and by ’97, things were happening. Her first single, “Who Will Save Your Soul,” spent the whole Summer of 1996 in the top ten, but this is the one that sealed the deal, #1 on the airwaves for nine straight weeks, mid-April to the beginning of June. It’s Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me.”

Jewel knew she’d arrived when she got to play Bill Clinton’s second inaugural in January of ’97. That was before “You Were Meant for Me” had even entered the top ten, and it went on to be the #2 song of the year. The other song on the single it was on was what turned out to be her next hit, “Foolish Games.” Once that started getting more airplay in September, Billboard started listing it on the Hot100 as the main song of what was now a “double-A sided” single. That’s industry jargon from vinyl 45 days for a record where both sides are hits. So technically, Billboard’s #2 Hot100 single of ’97 is “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games.” Thankfully, we don’t have to bother with those technicalities counting down the top ten Radio hits: “You Were Meant for Me” earns the #2 spot all on its own.

Once Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera hit in ’99, Jewel’s sensitive, Folky style was passe and the hits stopped, so in ’03 she tried to reinvent herself as a flashy Dance Pop Diva, but her makeover song “Intuition” only got as high as #20. Maybe if she’d tried that a couple years earlier with, say, Max Martin in the producer’s chair? But by ’03 skater grrrl Avril Lavigne was Pop’s new “it” girl and even Britney was struggling, so Jewel returned to her Country-Folk roots.

#1 No DoubtDon’t Speak

Well we’re down to #1 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1997, and it’s the hit people most often mention talking about how messed up the Hot100 was in the late ’90s. No U.S. single release, so it was ineligible, but it’s the #1 Airplay hit of the year no matter how you slice and dice it. Like Sugar Ray’s “Fly,” it wasn’t typical of the band’s sound, but unlike Sugar Ray, they’d already notched two top tens on the Alternative chart in ’96 in the amped up New Wavey Ska-Punk style that’d been packing ’em in back in Anaheim, California, “Just a Girl” and “Spiderwebs,” so their hardcore fans could look the other way as this one made them overnight Pop superstars. By the end of the Summer, their third album, Tragic Kingdom, was certified 8X Platinum and this was its biggest hit: 1997’s #1 song, No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.”

No Doubt at #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1997’s biggest hits. Like Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Don’t Speak,” as No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont put it, “had a long incubation process.” Originally a bouncy, Jazzy love song, singer Gwen Stefani rewrote the words after her seven-year romance with bassist Tony Kanal ended, and it evolved into the more mournful breakup song we just heard. Despite the drama, Kanal remained in the band, and the “Don’t Speak” video tackles the breakup fallout head-on.

Bonus

And that’s our countdown. Just two songs in common between the top ten of our Airplay-derived ranking and Billboard’s published year-end Hot100 chart: Toni Braxton and Jewel, which were numbers 4 and 2, respectively, in Billboard. But that means that eight of Billboard’s year-end top ten Hot100 singles were not among the year’s top ten Radio Songs. In the time we have left, let’s review those.

At #10 they had the all-female British Pop sensation, Spice Girls.

Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh Spice were everywhere in ’97; except the radio, at least as much as you’d think given all the hype. Their first hit “Wannabe” is only #38 on our Airplay ranking.

This one made Billboard’s Hot100 year-end top ten in ’97 and ’98.

LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” was on the Hot100 from June ’97 straight through to June ’98 and in the top ten nearly half of those 69 weeks, so it’s Billboard’s #9 song of ’97 and #5 on the year 1998. It’s run on the Airplay chart though? Not quite as impressive. Even factoring its full chart run into a single year, which we do for all songs in our Chartcrush rankings, it’s #15.

For its #8 song of 1997, Billboard had another British act.

Mark Morrison’s only U.S. hit, “Return of the Mack,” #21 on our Airplay ranking.

#7 in Billboard was the comeback of the original R&B Girl Group after over four years without a top ten hit.

En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go (Love),” founding member Dawn Robinson’s last record with the group, from the soundtrack of the 1996 bank robbery flick, Set It Off. That one shakes out at #14 on our Airplay ranking.

And at #6 on the year, Billboard had another soundtrack hit, from the live-action/animated sports fantasy Space Jam starring Michael Jordan… and Bugs Bunny.

R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” Michael Jordan’s theme, played at the end of the ’97 NBA Finals on NBC after five-time MVP Jordan’s Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz four games to two. And then the New York Yankees adopted it for home games in their four consecutive World Series appearances, ’98 to 2001. Our Airplay ranking for 1997 has it at #24.

#5 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 was Bad Boy Records mogul-producer Sean “P. Diddy” Combs headlining his first record as Puff Daddy and featuring one of his label’s hottest Rappers, Mase.

“Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” shakes out at #67 on our Airplay ranking. Even in ’97, not many U.S. radio stations outside major urban areas were playing Rap, despite Hip-Hop albums and singles selling in the millions, a definite drawback of using the Airplay charts, but one Hip-Hop track that did pretty well in addition to being Billboard’s #3 Hot100 single of the year, was Diddy’s tribute to slain Rapper The Notorious B.I.G., featuring Biggie’s widow Faith Evans and Bad Boy R&B group 112.

Biggie’s murder was big news, not just in Hip-Hop circles, so “I’ll Be Missing You” is our #23 Airplay song of the year. The sample from The Police’s 1983 megahit, “Every Breath You Take” sure didn’t hurt its crossover appeal to other radio formats.

And Billboard’s #1 song was the best-selling single in Billboard history. But for a hit of that magnitude it got remarkably, shockingly, little airplay, only on the Radio Songs chart for seven weeks, peaking at #21. It comes out #77 on our Chartcrush Airplay ranking.

Elton John’s reworked “Candle in the Wind ’97” for Lady Diana’s funeral. Tribute songs at numbers 3 and 1 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 for 1997. Folks wanted to buy those singles, obviously, but listen to them endlessly on the radio? Not as much as you’d think from the sales numbers.

And we’re gonna have to leave it there for our 1997 edition of Chartcrush, because we’re out of time! I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. For more, check out our website, chartcrush.com, where you’ll find transcripts and links to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other suh-weet extras. Each week we count down a different year from the ’40s up to now, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1986 Episode Graphic

1986 Podcast

1986 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Whitney Houston blitzes the charts as Hip-Hop, Glam Metal and The Bangles score big and music’s benefit streak peaks with a #1 charity single for AIDS research.

::start transcript::

Welcome! This is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host Christopher Verdesi. Every week we set our sights on a different year in Pop music and culture and count down the top ten hits according to our exclusive recap of the weekly charts published at the time by the music industry’s top trade mag, Billboard magazine. This week, we’re turning the clock back to 1986, a transitional year when the currents that’d made the early ’80s MTV revolution fresh and exciting were fading and new sounds were coming up from the underground and streets.

Hip-Hop, for one. MTV treated it like a novelty and it didn’t even have its own Billboard chart ’til 1989, but in ’86, Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell shared the top 5 on the album chart the seven weeks after Labor Day with the likes of Madonna, Lionel Richie, Steve Winwood and the Top Gun Soundtrack, and their remake of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith was all over MTV. And right after that in the Fall of ’86, what Billboard Chart Beat editor Paul Grein called the Thriller of Glam Metal, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, shot into the top five, and it was a whole new bag on the charts heading into ’87.

Other more gradual changes were reaching tipping points too: smooth R&B replacing Soft Rock and Country Pop as the dominant sound on Adult Contemporary radio, and so-called “College Rock” bands like U2 and R.E.M. nearing the cusp of superstardom. And as in other transitional periods, nostalgia was big. The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame honored its first inductees in ’86; Classic Rock was now a thing on radio, and after the demise of AM Top 40 earlier in the decade, FM Oldies, never bigger. And Doo-Wop was charting again: not just Billy Joel’s obvious throwbacks “Uptown Girl” and “The Longest Time,” but modern-sounding hits by Wham!, Huey Lewis & The News, Hall & Oates and even Madonna: enough of those that the smart alecks who invented the genre “Yacht Rock” in the ’00s to retroactively classify certain ’70s and ’80s Soft Rock hits, came up with a genre for that too: “Nu Wop!” The Monkees were back in ’86: on tour with six of their albums from the ’60s back on the charts at the same time. And James Brown back in the top 10 for the first time since 1968 (“Living in America” from Rocky IV). Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” and The Beatles “Twist and Shout,” both charted again thanks to movies.

And after a decade of abstract, escapist Prog; lusty, hedonistic Disco; angsty, nihilistic Punk; and flippant, aloof New Wave, Pop had a conscience again, even if it sometimes felt more top-down and prefab than bottom-up and organic, like a nostalgia trip for Woodstock Nation 40-somethings. Live Aid and Farm Aid in ’85, and the Amnesty International shows in ’86 were massive events that did raise awareness (and money) for neglected causes: hunger in Africa, family farm foreclosures and human rights.

But while the late ’60s were the tail end of the Postwar economic Boom and Boomers had had the luxury to take up causes, the ’80s were more like the beginning of it the late ’40s and early ’50s, after years of Depression and War. ’70s stagflation, “malaise” and urban collapse weren’t quite that bad, but coming out of it, people weren’t taking their opportunities for granted. They were focused on building careers, businesses and nest eggs. Which, according to President Reagan and economist Milton Freedman, was also the best way to solve the big problems. So the ’80s, not exactly fertile soil for Progressive activists, but just try keeping people away from an all-day A-list music extravaganza!

#10 Mr. Mister – Kyrie

And with that, let’s kick off our countdown! At #10, the second of two consecutive #1’s for a group of L.A. session guys who decided to form a Rock band, and their second album connected the last year before Glam Metal exploded. The front man had turned down offers to be the lead singer in Toto and to replace Peter Cetera in Chicago. Wise choices, it turned out, once their song “Broken Wings” hit #1. And then then this topped the chart just a few months later. It’s Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie.”

The slick, synthy Arena Rock sound perfected by Mr. Mister on “Kyrie” and other 1986 Rock hits like Europe’s “Final Countdown” and Survivor’s “Burning Heart:” swamped by grittier, keyboard-averse Glam Metal once Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet album came out at the end of ’86, soon followed by Cinderella, Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard. “Kyrie’s” chorus was among the top misheard lyrics in ’80s Rock: “Give me a laser down the road that I must travel” was what many heard, but those who paid attention when the DJ said the title, many of them, figured it was about a girl named Kyrie, and sure enough, 164 couples gave their baby girls that name in ’86 according to the Social Security Administration. But like the band’s run on the charts, the girls name Kyrie was a blip. Mr. Mister had two #1s in four months, and by the end of the decade they didn’t even have a label. But the name made a comeback on the boy’s list in 2012, Kyrie Irving’s rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. By the way, the actual lyric is “Kyrie eleison down this road that I must travel:” an ancient prayer invocation that means “Lord, have mercy.” Were churchgoers even listening to Rock in the mid-’80s, as preachers and Senators’ wives in the PMRC railed against smutty lyrics? Maybe a few.

#9 FalcoRock Me Amadeus

So the Berlin Wall was in the news throughout the ’80s, culminating in 1987 with Reagan’s iconic “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech, and in ’89, Berliners did just that. German songs had scored big on the U.S. charts in other eras when Berlin was in the news. “Forever and Ever” was a top hit during the Berlin Airlift in 1949, adapted from the German Air Force’s theme song in World War 2. Then in 1952 when East Germany sealed its border and cut power and phone lines to West Berlin, Vera Lynn’s “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart” was #1 for seven weeks. And in ’61, the year the wall went up, unknown singer Joe Dowell took a German Folk song, “Wooden Heart,” to #1. But in the ’80s, it wasn’t just German songs, it was German artists singing them, in German. At #9 on our 1986 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, an Austrian who’d made the top ten on the Dance chart in ’83 with his original version of “Der Kommisar” as British band After the Fire took their English one to #5 on the Hot100. But in ’86 he scored his own U.S. Pop smash, in German, inspired by Miloš Forman’s blockbuster Mozart biopic Amadeus, which won eight Oscars including Best Picture. #1 for three weeks in the Spring of ’86, it’s Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus.”

Falco, “Rock Me Amadeus,” #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1986 and the second big hit in German on the U.S. Pop charts in two years. Nena’s “99 Luftballons” had gotten to #2 in 1984, in German even though their English version, “99 Red Balloons,” was on the flip, so Falco didn’t bother, and Americans didn’t seem to have a problem with that.

#8 Bruce Hornsby & The RangeThe Way It Is

At #8 we have the most overtly political #1, lyrically-speaking, since Folkie Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” in 1965 or Edwin Starr’s “War” in ’70, and until Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” in 2023. But while those other songs sound raw and angry, this one is polished and nonchalant, by a previously unknown Singer-Songwriter, son of an uber-rich Virginia real-estate developer who himself was a generation removed from his dad who amassed the family’s wealth in the oil business. The Steinway grand in the living room was where he honed his piano chops growing up, and the song tackles racism and the wealth gap exactly like you’d expect from a guy with that background: a detached, fly-on-the-wall perspective on two emblematic rich guy/poor person interactions and a tidbit from Social Studies class about Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the ’60s to drive home the point. But his bright, shimmering piano transcended the song’s understated, ho-hum moralizing. Conservative talker Sean Hannity actually used the intro for years as bumper music on his radio show! At #8, it’s Bruce Hornsby & The Range, “The Way It Is.”

Bruce Hornsby & The Range’s “The Way It Is,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1986. Since it didn’t hit #1 ’til December 13th, after the cut-off for Billboard’s 1986 chart year for their year-end rankings, they have it as the #8 song of 1987. In the ’90s, Rappers Tupac Shakur and E-40 both built top 40 charting Hip-Hop tracks around Hornsby’s infectious piano riff. He later scored two apolitical top tens with “Mandolin Rain” in ’87 and “The Valley Road” in ’88, and his piano showed up on dozens of records including Don Henley’s hit “The End of the Innocence” in ’89, but in ’91 he disbanded The Range and became the Grateful Dead’s fulltime touring keyboardist: over 100 shows until Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia passed away in ’95.

#7 Huey Lewis & The NewsStuck with You

Next at #7, the closest thing to a Summer hit in our countdown. ’86 was weird that way. Of the nine #1s in the Summer, only two had more than a single week at #1. Those were Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” from The Karate Kid II and Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” each with two weeks on top. But in that weird zone after Labor Day when it’s still technically Summer but school’s back in session and everyone’s in their Fall clothes, the lead single from these guys’ first album in three years hit the airwaves, and its goofy story video (they were known for those) was all over MTV. It was the first song to hold down the #1 spot for more than two weeks since early June. Coming off their first #1 hit the previous Summer with “Power of Love” from Back to the Future, it’s Huey Lewis & The News’, “Stuck with You.”

A song for couples ratcheting down their relationship expectations, or, the ultimate pandemic quarantine track? Those are two of the dubious latter-day honors bestowed on Huey Lewis & The News’ “Stuck with You,” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1986. Good-natured ironic understatement (“ehhh, you’re okay, I guess I’ll keep you around, wink wink”): apparently that went extinct sometime in the Emo ’00s. Maybe just a Boomer thing! In ’87, Huey & The News notched five top tens including a second #1, “Jacob’s Ladder,” but their brand of good-timey Pub Rock didn’t track much beyond the Reagan era. They kept touring and making albums into the 2020s though, with four original members including Huey.

#6 Whitney HoustonGreatest Love of All

At numbers six and five we have a two-fer. That’s two songs by the same artist back-to-back: the third and second, respectively, of her record-breaking string of seven consecutive #1s from ’85 to ’88. That record still stands. There may not’ve been a single standout Summer hit in ’86, but make no mistake: the Summer of ’86 was the Summer of Whitney Houston, and the song that got Arista honcho Clive Davis to sign her in the first place when he saw her sing it at Sweetwater’s near Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 1983 is our song at #6, “Greatest Love of All.”

Whitney Houston, “Greatest Love of All,” #6. There was no one then on the charts who could sing like that. Adult contemporary listeners got to hear her first: “Hold Me,” Whitney’s duet with Teddy Pendergrass, a #6 AC hit in the Summer of ’84. Once her album was out in the Spring of ’85, her first solo single “You Give Good Love” hit the R&B bullseye, and Arista’s next move was to target AC again with “Saving All My Love for You.” Well, when that topped not only the AC chart, but also the R&B chart and became her first #1 on the Hot100, Clive Davis was validated and Whitney was a multi-format superstar. From there, the label staggered her single releases between Adult Contemporary ballads and lively Pop songs, and they were all #1 hits.

#5 Whitney HoustonHow Will I Know

“Greatest Love of All,” the second ballad after “Saving All My Love,” and between them, yep, the upbeat Pop song that won over the MTV crowd, and that’s the #5 hit here on our 1986 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. It had just come out when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in flight at the end of January, and hard to conceive of two more jarringly opposite things simultaneously on the minds of impressionable teens. But the two are closely linked in many GenX-ers’ memories. Again, it’s Whitney Houston with “How Will I Know.”

The hit that showed the MTV generation that Whitney Houston wasn’t just a ballad singer, “How Will I Know,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1986. Written for Janet Jackson, but her managers rejected it so Arista secured it for the unknown Whitney. And Clive Davis had to lean hard on Narada Michael Walden to get him produce, with his plate already full working on Aretha Franklin’s comeback album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Aretha’s “Freeway of Love” and Whitney’s “How Will I Know,” recorded in the same session! By the way, both of Whitney’s first two #1 ballads, “Saving All My Love” and “Greatest Love of All” which we just heard at #6, produced by Michael Masser and also co-written by him, but in the late ’70s for other artists. That’s right, Whitney’s were both covers! “Saving,” originally a Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. album cut in 1978, and “Greatest,” first done (and charted) by George Benson for the 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest.

#4 Patti Labelle & Michael McDonaldOn My Own

Our #4 song may be the first example of a collaboration where the artists recorded their parts separately, thousands of miles apart: piece of cake with the internet, right? But not sure how they pulled it off before most folks had even heard of FedEx. And they weren’t together for the video either! It’s a split screen. In fact, the first time they were ever in the same room was the day before they sang the song together on The Tonight Show, Joan Rivers guest-hosting, just as it was about to crack the top 20 in late April. Married producer/songwriters Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager recruited the singers and put the whole thing together. It’s Patti LaBelle coming off her hit “New Attitude” from Beverly Hills Cop, and former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, “On My Own.”

Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald, #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1986. “On My Own,” was Patti’s first #1 since her group LaBelle’s Disco smash “Lady Marmalade” in 1975, and McDonald’s first since “What a Fool Believes” with the Doobie Brothers in ’79. His highest charting solo hit? “I Keep Forgettin’,” #4 in 1982, the year the Doobies split up. Right after “On My Own,” McDonald’s “Sweet Freedom” from the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines buddy-cop flick Running Scared made it to #7, and he continued charting on the AC charts ’til 2008. And Patti Labelle stayed hot on the R&B chart well into the ’90s. She surged again after the all-star cover of “Lady Marmalade” for Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge! hit #1 for five weeks in 2001 and L.A. Reid signed her to Def Jam. Her ’04 Def Jam album Timeless Journey was her first to crack the top 20 since ’86, and then her reunion with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash in LaBelle debuted at #45 in ’08. Those three had first performed together all the way back in 1962!

#3 The BanglesWalk like an Egyptian

At #3 we have the last big, goofy MTV New Wave chart topper of the ’80s, although the B-52’s “Love Shack” did make it to #3 as late as 1989. This one’s got nonsense lyrics about cops in donut shops and gold crocodiles who want your cigarette. And a suitably goofy video and dance too, that was ubiquitous ’86 into ’87. It’s The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”

Now you’d think that ’60s revivalism would’ve been bigger in the ’80s, but while The Stray Cats and Billy Joel were mainlining pure ’50s sounds onto the charts, only one of the literally hundreds of bands worldwide in or adjacent to the 60’s-obsessed Paisley Underground scene centered in L.A. made it past college radio and ’60s-themed clubs to the top of the charts: all-Girl Group The Bangles.

Columbia signed them in ’83 to compete with The Go-Go’s, but their debut album in ’84 was a commercial dud. As luck would have it, though, The Go-Go’s cleared the lane by breaking up, and Bangle Susanna Hoffs caught Prince’s eye in the middle of his Paisley-influenced “Raspberry Beret” phase. His jangly song “Manic Monday” became The Bangles breakthrough hit in early ’86, but “Walk like an Egyptian” sealed the deal, #1 for four weeks at the end of the year. Too late to make Billboard’s 1986 year-end ranking so they have it as the #1 song of 1987, but most of its chart action was before New Years so it’s #3 in our 1986 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

#2 Lionel RichieSay You, Say Me (Title Song from White Nights)

Well we’re down to #2: the only soundtrack hit in our countdown the year after the Phil Collins/Marilyn Martin duet “Separate Lives” was the only soundtrack hit in our 1985 top ten, from the same movie, Taylor Hackford’s Cold War musical drama White Nights starring Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov. OK, technically, it’s not a soundtrack hit because the artist’s label, Motown, wouldn’t clear it for release on a rival label. But yet it was the movie’s theme song! Fresh from co-writing USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” #1 Live Aid charity single with Michael Jackson in ’85, and an unbroken string of nine top ten solo hits going back to 1980, it’s Lionel Richie with “Say You, Say Me.”

Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me,” #2 on our 1986 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Director Taylor Hackford had a real knack for picking award-winning #1 ballad hits to put in his movies: Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman, #1 in ’82, Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” from the movie of the same name, #1 in ’84, both of those nominated for Best Original Song Oscars, and “Up Where We Belong” won. So did “Say You, Say Me,” beating out “Separate Lives,” from the same movie, also nominated. Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling album yielded three more top tens in ’86 into ’87, but things cooled off for him on the charts as his marital woes dominated the tabloids from ’88 ’til his divorce in ’93. He continued charting AC hits into the ’10s, though, and was the elder-statesman judge on American Idol three years running in the late ’10s.

#1 Dionne & FriendsThat’s What Friends Are For

Now with all the big benefit concerts in the ’80s, surprising that there wasn’t one for the worsening AIDS crisis ’til 1992: the benefit in London after Queen front man Freddie Mercury died. But in ’86, after veteran actor Rock Hudson became the first big celebrity to die of AIDS, veteran actress Elizabeth Taylor and veteran playwright Neil Simon suggested to veteran Songwriters Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager (remember them from “On Our Own” at #4?) that the duet they were working on with two veteran Singers could be an AIDS charity single. Well, after adding two more veteran Singers, that’s what it became. And with ten weeks in the top ten and four at #1, it’s the #1 song of 1986. Billed on the record as Dionne Warwick & Friends, the “Friends” were Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Elton John. That’s a century of combined chart action between them. And the record raised millions for AIDS research. At #1, “That’s What Friends Are For.”

#1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1986, Dionne Warwick & Friends, “That’s What Friends Are For,” the Bacharach/Bayer-Sager song first recorded by Rod Stewart for the 1982 Ron Howard movie Night Shift starring Michael Keaton but not released as a single.

Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick went way back, to their amazing string of over 30 chart hits including seven top tens in the ’60s, which came to a messy end in 1972 when Bacharach’s long partnership with lyricist Hal David dissolved and Dionne found herself without Songwriters or Producers, having just signed a multi-million-dollar contract with a new label. “Friends” was the first time they’d worked together in 14 years.

Bonus

Well, there you have ’em: our Chartcrush Top Ten hits of 1986, based on their performance on Billboard’s weekly charts and ranked using our formula that we apply to every year’s songs. Up to the ’90s, that’s how Billboard got its year-end rankings too: recap the published charts. But they kept tweaking the formula every year, ostensibly to improve accuracy, and in the mid-’80s they started doing some very complex stuff. So comparing our ’86 ranking with Billboard’s, there are a few head-scratchers. Five of our top ten jive with Billboard’s ranking exactly or within one ranking position, but five don’t. Of those, two were hits late in the year (Bruce Hornsby and The Bangles), so they were in Billboard’s 1987 top ten. And Whitney’s “Greatest Love of All” just misses at #11 in Billboard. But Huey Lewis and Falco, despite three weeks each at #1 in a year where the #1 song had just four: those didn’t even make Billboard’s top 20. Very strange! Now let’s take a quick look at the five songs that made Billboard’s top ten for ’86, but not ours.

At #10 they had the first #1 by a British Rocker who’d been charting albums and singles since the mid ’70s, but just hadn’t been able to crack the top 10.

The video for Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” (off his eighth album) was all over MTV in the Spring, helping propel the song to #1 for its one week in May. We have “Addicted to Love” at #20 on the year.

Survivor’s “Burning Heart” never got to #1 but its 16 weeks in the top 40 was just one shy of Dionne & Friends’ 17.

Like Mr. Mister, Survivor did not survive into the Glam Metal era. “Is This Love,” #7 in early ’87, their last record to make the top 40.

And three other hits in Billboard’s year-end top ten for ’86 hit their chart peaks in December ’85, and, by our Chartcrush method, they’re really 1985 songs. Of those three, only Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” is in our top ten for ’85, though, at #7.

The song comedian Eddie Murphy cut, he says, to settle a bet with Richard Pryor over whether he could sing or not: that was Billboard’s #7 song of 1986.

We have Murphy’s “Party All the Time” at #19 on the year 1985.

And at #3 on their ’86 ranking they have the song that with 29 weeks, was on the chart two weeks longer than any other ’85 or ’86 song, even though it only got as high as #5.

That long chart run for Klymaxx’s “I Miss You” only gets it to #17 on our Chartcrush ranking, for ’85, not ’86.

And that’s gonna have to be it for our 1986 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show because we’re all out of time! I’m Christopher Verdesi and thanks for listening. If you like what you heard be sure and check out our website, chartcrush.com, for links to stream all our Chartcrush episodes on Spotify, plus written transcripts, chart run line graphs and other gnarly extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, 1940s to now, so tune again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 2013 Episode Graphic

2013 Podcast

2013 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Billboard adds YouTube to the Hot100 and bloggers recoil at “incorrect” fan-propelled hits, but JT is back, Folk booms, Katy Roars and Miley gets her twerk on!

::start transcript::

Welcome! This is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week we do a deep dive into a year in music and culture and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade mag and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 2013.

In the Year in Music issue at the end of 2013, CBS Radio’s top programmer Kevin Weatherly summed up the year with an observation that, really, sums up the whole ’10s decade. “This time,” he said, “feels less about any particular movement and more about how young people are discovering music.” Social media, including YouTube, was how young people were discovering music. A tough thing for a veteran radio programmer to admit, but viral videos had already been propelling songs onto the charts for a few years when Billboard officially added YouTube to its Hot100 song ranking calculus, making 2013 the peak year in one of the handful of brief periods in pop culture when organic, bottom-up trends could, and did, break through, with little or no help or approval from cultural buzz-leaders.

Often the opposite! The gatekeepers in the music biz and tapping away at keyboards in entertainment media had watched in horror as things like Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in 2011 and PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012 did end runs around their barriers, racking up tens of millions of views and making the charts. But in 2013 the gates were smashed completely when many of the year’s top hits were in that category, and the besieged pundit class lashed out.

It wasn’t just music, of course. Internet-fueled activism had toppled governments across the Middle East in the Arab Spring, and here at home, tipped the scales for same-sex marriage before many even realized it was a serious debate. Social media was driving so many headlines that when an attack by Islamic terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11 in Benghazi, Libya killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador, President Obama’s Secretary of State and U.N. Ambassador (Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, respectively) blamed a YouTube video, and the legacy media ran with it. Despite GOP challenger Mitt Romney’s best efforts to call that out in a debate, instead of Benghazi costing President Obama his re-election, he won his second term just weeks later.

Then after the 2016 election when Donald Trump upset Obama’s endorsed successor Hillary Clinton, Obama again singled out social media as the culprit. At first, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called that “pretty crazy,” but once Obama got the ball rolling behind the scenes, Silicon Valley bowed to enormous government pressure to aggressively moderate political discourse in tandem with the feds, and even after Trump was sworn in as President, new phrases no one had ever heard before like “algorithmic filtering,” “shadow banning” and “cancel culture” trended.

Now, music critics and other cultural gatekeepers of course didn’t have direct access to the feds’ legal and regulatory carrots and sticks, but they could study algorithms, master analytics, court influencers and ride favored political currents to amplify their voices, and entertainment media got a lot more political in the Trump years, along with everything else. But in 2013, when top-down manipulation and suppression on the internet was still unthinkable and it was a huge story when something, let alone someone, got censored or scrubbed, or for government officials to make their ideological preferences known via a back channel, there was less noise between artists and fans than at most other times in Pop history.

#10 P!nk featuring Nate Ruess – Just Give Me a Reason

And one surefire way to get lots of fans to pony up 99 cents for a download was for two name acts to join forces on a single, and our #10 song was the top charting example of that in 2013: #1 on the iTunes chart for six weeks before hitting #1 on the Hot100. It’s P!nk, teaming up with Nate Ruess, front man of one of 2012’s top chart debuts, the New York Indie Pop band fun. “Just Give Me a Reason.”

Billboard’s Woman of the Year for 2013, P!nk with fun.’s Nate Reuss, “Just Give Me a Reason, ” #10 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 2013’s top ten hits. P!nk first hit the charts all the way back in 2000, but being a little edgier and a year later than Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, her evolving brand of defiant, scrappy female Pop-Rock had to wait for hitmaking producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who made Kelly Clarkson’s multi-platinum Breakaway album mid-decade. P!nk’s ’07 Funhouse album had her first #1 hit, the Martin/Luke-produced “So What”, and from there she was unstoppable: a string of five consecutive top tens from 2010 to ’13. “Just Give Me a Reason” was the last of those.

#9 Justin Timberlake – Mirrors

At #9 a major musical comeback for another late ’90s Teen Pop alum who in ’06 and ’07 scored six top tens including three straight #1s, but slipped on the charts the next couple years and pivoted to acting: films like The Social Network, Bad Teacher, Friends with Benefits and the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis.

RCA’s marketing campaign for his highly-anticipated return to music rated a full feature story in the business section of Billboard, and to gin up pre-orders, music’s top retailer in 2013, Apple, streamed his new album The 20/20 Experience free in it’s iTunes mp3 download store the week before it was released, and it was Apple’s fastest-selling album ever the year after downloads eclipsed CDs as music’s top revenue source. Oh, and he was a guest on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for an entire week promoting it! The advance single was a collab with Rapper Jay-Z, “Suit & Tie,” which shot to #4 in its second week, but the follow-up was even bigger. It clocks in at over eight minutes on the album, but here’s the radio edit of Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors.”

Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” #9 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 2013’s top ten hits: a song he wrote with his longtime producer and co-writer Timbaland in 2009 just before switching to acting fulltime. But it was a paean to his then-girlfriend, 7th Heaven actress Jessica Biel, too personal to put on someone else’s album, so he held it back, and by the time he returned to it, he and Biel were engaged. Their October 2012 wedding was a huge story, and when “Mirrors” came out in early ’13: big boost from all that hoopla. And no hard feelings with Timbaland; he produced the finished version along with the rest of Justin’s 20/20 Experience album.

#8 Katy Perry – Roar

Our next act debuted the same year P!nk scored her first #1, 2008, and had the same producers, Max Martin and his protégé Dr. Luke. And both continued scoring hits with Martin behind the glass into the ’10s. But as successful as P!nk was, this singer was even bigger: eight consecutive top tens, including five #1s, since 2010. And just as a marriage can fuel a big hit, so can a divorce! She’d only been with English activist-comedian Russell Brand 18 months when Brand dumped her via text message! And she channeled all those emotions into her fourth album, Prism, which dropped in October of 2013. At #8 is the advance lead single from that album, Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Katy Perry’s “Roar” shot from #85 to #2 its second week on the Hot100, spent two weeks at #1 in September and is the #8 song of 2013 here on our Chartcrush 2013 countdown: the latest in a long string of early ’10s girl-power anthems, and it reminded enough people of another one that’d just been on the charts, Sara Bareilles’s “Brave,” that a mash-up vid of the two songs went viral. That is, until producer Dr. Luke took to Twitter to point out that “Roar” was already in the can when “Brave” came out.

But that wasn’t the end of Perry’s plagiarism woes. Her next big hit off her divorce-fueled Prism album, “Dark Horse” with Rapper Juicy J, helped introduce the world to the Trap style that defined Hip-Hop in the second half of the ’10s and was the #3 song of 2014 by our Chartcrush ranking, but it sounded an awful lot like the beat in a 2008 track by a Christian Rap act, and that lawsuit ground through the legal system for years: a lower court’s $3 million judgement against Perry overturned on appeal in 2022. Katy Perry’s next album Witness in 2017 got mixed reviews and only yielded one top ten hit, but she landed as a judge on ABC’s reboot of American Idol in 2018.

#7 The Lumineers – Ho Hey

But in the Spring of 2012, still on the Fox network, Idol crowned its season 11 champ Phillip Phillips, and his coronation single “Home,” unlike Idol coronation singles up until then that typically debuted in the top ten from the initial burst from the show but vanished quickly, “Home” stayed on the chart 40 weeks and sparked a mini Folk revival with other Indie Folk hits following in its wake, notably Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” and Of Monsters and Men’s “Little Talks,” but none were as big as our #7 hit, whose run in the top ten from December ’12 to February ’13 was also when those other songs peaked. The group got their name when an emcee at a Jersey City club mistakenly introduced them as the act that was slated to play there the following week, so they kept the name, true story! It’s The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey.”

Before moving out to Colorado, The Lumineers were based in Brooklyn, New York, and front man Wesley Schultz says, the “ho’s” and “hey’s” in “Ho Hey” were to wake up jaded scenesters in their local Brooklyn audiences. For the title, “Hey Ho” wouldn’t do (for obvious reasons), so it’s “Ho Hey,” and on top of its 62-week run on the Hot100, which makes it the #7 song on our 2013 Chartcrush top ten we’re counting down this hour, the song also topped the Rock, Alternative, Adult Pop and Adult Album Alternative or “Triple A” charts.

The Lumineers never cracked the Top 40 on the Hot100 again, but stayed big on those other formats and kept packing arenas, even opening for U2 on their Joshua Tree 30th anniversary stadium tour, the highest grossing tour of 2017. As for the mini-Folk boom they headlined, it reverberated with Avicii’s EDM-Folk hybrids “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother” later in ’13, then Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” George Ezra’s “Budapest,” X-Ambassadors’ “Renegades” and others mid-decade.

#6 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton – Can’t Hold Us

At #6 we have the follow-up hit by a duo whose chart breakthrough earlier in 2013 threw the music world for a loop and was considered by many to be a Novelty song. We’ll hear that one in a few minutes, but as deep as RCA’s pockets were hyping Justin Timberlake’s comeback, the one-two punch from this act right at the same time turned out to be the most successful launch in 2013. Which is amazing because other than a distribution deal with Warner Music’s Alternative Distribution Alliance, they didn’t have a label! The follow-up dropped just as that first left-field started slipping, and it’s a straight down-the-middle EDM-Hip-Hop club banger that dispelled once and for all the notion they were just a couple of goofballs poking fun at Rap culture, with a headline in Spin declaring “This Guy’s Not Going Anywhere” after their Saturday Night Live appearance that week. The follow-up made them the first duo in Hot100 history to top the chart with their first two singles. At #6 it’s Seattle Rapper Macklemore and his Producer/Partner Ryan Lewis, featuring Singer Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us.”

“Can’t Hold Us” at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013, Seattle Hip-Hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, the second single and second #1 hit off their debut album The Heist, but an older song. Lewis had made the beat in the late ’00s and they’d sat on it because Macklemore thought it sounded like a soccer anthem. And sure enough, once its initial release came out in 2011, the all-sports cable channel ESPN snapped it up for College GameDay promos. No airplay or chart action though, ’til after their big breakthrough in 2013, which we’ll be hearing in a few minutes.

#5 Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

But first, at #5 is Billboard’s Hot100 Artist of the Year, on the cover of the 2013 Year in Music issue: his fourth #1 hit since debuting on the charts in 2010 as the featured singer on Rapper-Producer B.o.B.’s #1 hit “Nothin’ on You.” And then his first single as a headliner, “Just the Way You Are,” was #1 for four weeks and our #3 song of 2011. And his next after that also topped the chart, “Grenade.” So coming into ’13, expectations were high for his Unorthodox Jukebox album (his dad was Jewish), and it didn’t disappoint: another pair of #1’s, and then he headlined the Super Bowl halftime show! This was his biggest 2013 hit, on top for six weeks. It’s Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”

Bruno Mars, “Locked Out of Heaven,” #5 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013. When his next single, “When I Was Your Man,” hit #1 for a week in April ’13, Mars became the fastest Male artist to score five #1’s since Elvis Presley in the 1950s. He was the singer on 2015’s biggest hit, British Producer Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and after his next set, 24K Magic, finally came out after a four-year wait at the end of 2016, he won all six of the Grammys he was nominated for, after losing all six in 2012 to Adele.

#4 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz – Thrift Shop

OK, at #4, as promised, the breakthrough hit by the duo whose club banger follow-up “Can’t Hold Us” we just heard at #6. It’d been #1 for four weeks when Billboard added YouTube plays to its Hot100 formula February 23. And the very next week, March 2, an even bigger YouTube hit, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” debuted at #1 thanks to tens of thousands of homemade vids of folks doing the dance and sampling the track. Yeah, all those views counted too on Billboard’s charts! So our #4 song sat at #2 for all of March but reclaimed the top spot for another two weeks in April.

Rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar had groundbreaking Hip-Hop tracks on the charts, but right from jump: a little kid introducing the Rapper: well that was something completely different, so it was the two White guys without a record deal blithely mocking 20 years of Hip-Hop cliches—poppin’ tags instead of bottles—who won the year in Hip-Hop. Only the second independently released #1 hit in history, at #4 it’s Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: “Thrift Shop.”

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s breakthrough hit, “Thrift Shop,” Billboard’s #1 song of 2013, but #4 on our Chartcrush ranking that factors full chart runs instead of only weeks within the chart year as Billboard does.

No one quite knew what to make of that song. Two White guys from Seattle and their 51-year-old Software Test Engineer bud upending 20 years of Hip-Hop luxury consumption cliches and making the case for secondhand shops. Was it a joke? If so, bloggers in the shriller corners of the blogosphere (Spin, Vulture, Salon et cetera) didn’t see the humor. Not in a year when Hip-Hop was in transition and Black headliners weren’t scoring #1 hits. None did in calendar 2013; just features like Wanz with the “I’m gonna pop some tags” and “this is frikkin’ awesome” lines on “Thrift Shop.”

After the Grammys, Macklemore validated his critics’ grumblings about race and Hip-Hop culture when he publicly apologized to Black Rapper Kendrick Lamar for winning all the Hip-Hop awards. Lamar demurred and Drake famously dissed Macklemore’s apology. But then in 2014 the top Rapper wasn’t just White, she was female, and Australian! Iggy Azalea! Uh oh! By 2015, though, Iggy had followed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis into Pop’s nascent cancel bin as the blogosphere effectively neutralized the hordes of irksome YouTubers who, with their millions of clicks and views, had surfaced all these “incorrect” artists and songs in the early ’10s.

#3 Lorde – Royals

But not before our #3 song with a similarly subversive message topped the Hot100 for nine weeks in the Fall of 2013. It was a minimalist Indie song by another unknown, and critics and pundits still seething about “Thrift Shop’s” success took aim at her callouts of Hip-Hop cliches like gold teeth, diamond watches, private jets and expensive liquor brands as “the kind of luxe” that “ain’t for us.” One blogger labeled the song “deeply racist,” and that got amplified by no less than CNN and Time magazine. But there was pushback. The singer was barely out of diapers during Hip-Hop’s bling era in the early ’00s, and while the tropes may’ve originated in Rap, by 2013 they’d become so widespread that no one could really claim exclusive ownership. One Black writer flipped the script: “Perhaps the notion that Maybachs, Cristal and gold teeth automatically equate to Rappers and ‘Black folks,'” she wrote, “is the real ‘deeply racist’ thing here.” And a journalist in the singer’s native New Zealand called viewing everything through the lens of American racial politics “ignorant” and “imperialistic.” The singer’s response to all of this? It’s in the song: “We don’t care, we crave a different kind of buzz.” At #3, it’s Lorde’s breakthrough and biggest hit, “Royals.”

Lorde’s “Royals,” #1 for nine weeks, October to December and the #3 song of the year here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013. It wasn’t the first Alt-ish leftfield chart topper in the ’10s. Fun’s “We Are Young” and Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” hit in the Spring of 2012. But Lorde was the first Gen-Zer. With YouTube now factoring into the Hot100, all a kid needed to impact the charts was access to mom and dad’s computer. But “Royals” was popular with older folks too. It was #1 on the Adult Top 40 chart for three weeks. And remixes by The Weeknd and Rick Ross even had it on urban radio. Lorde’s next album Melodrama didn’t arrive ’til 2017, but debuted at #1 on the album chart despite it’s biggest single “Green Light” only getting to #19.

#2 Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

Well, just two more hits to go, and at #2, the song with the longest run on the Hot100, not just of 2013, but of all-time up ’til then, 87 weeks. And it held that record ’til The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” notched 90 weeks in 2021. Really long chart runs, another feature of a Hot100 driven by on-demand video plays and streaming. About half of those 87 weeks were before it peaked, as it sputtered along behind the group’s first charting single, “In Time.” That got to #15, but this one continued its slow, four-month climb to its peak of #3: a slow-burning, bottom-up sleeper smash at the dawn of the streaming era. Out of Brigham Young University, relocated to Vegas, baby! It’s Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.”

Three different “Radioactive’s” charted before Imagine Dragons’ in 2012 and ’13. Kiss’s Gene Simmons in 1979, supergroup The Firm in ’85, and Alternative band Kings of Leon just two years earlier in 2010. But Imagine Dragons were unanimously hailed as the year’s top Rock debut on the strength of their “Radioactive” and other 2013 hits. Their next single, “Demons” also took its sweet time climbing the charts, debuting in January; peaking at #6 in December! “In Time,” “Radioactive” and “Demons,” all off their 2012 EP, Continued Silence, then ported over to their first full-length album, Night Visions.

#1 Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell – Blurred Lines

Well, we’ve chronicled in some detail how many of pop culture’s gatekeepers in the blogosphere in 2013 weren’t happy with where legions of YouTube and on-demand streaming clickers–a.k.a. “the public”–were steering music, and that went for the year’s top hit too. “Thrift Shop” and “Royals” got the lion’s share of the shade in 2013 for their perceived disses of Hip-Hop culture, but this one found itself on the receiving end too, for promoting “rape culture.” What do you think? #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013, it’s Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams: “Blurred Lines.”

The #1 song of 2013 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams, “Blurred Lines.” The album version has an R-rated rap verse from veteran Rapper T.I. that some radio stations played a heavily censored version of, but most went with the Rapless one we just heard.

So are the “Blurred Lines” between consent and non-consent as many angry bloggers asserted? Pharrell, the main songwriter, maintained that the song is about rejection. But the soft-core video banned by YouTube gave credence to the “rape culture” allegations, and to make matters worse, one of the models in it sued Robin Thicke for assault.

OK, but were all songs by men about romantic frustrations now off limits? It sure seemed that way. Even the holiday song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” Miley Cyrus, for one, must not’ve gotten that memo though, twerking all over Robin Thicke during his performance of “Blurred Lines” at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, while the song was #1.

By the way, Billboard had “Blurred Lines” at #2 on the year behind its #1 song, “Thrift Shop.” “Blurred Lines” still had 17 weeks left on the chart though after the end of Billboard’s chart year, so factoring songs’ full chart runs as we do at Chartcrush, it’s #1 by a pretty comfortable margin.

Bonus

And there were some other shake-ups as well comparing our Chartcrush Top Ten to Billboard’s. Of the songs we heard this hour, three didn’t make Billboard’s year-end top ten, again, because they only count weeks within their discrete “chart year.” They had Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven” at #11, The Lumineers “Ho Hey” at #12 and Lorde’s “Royals” at #15. So those three coming into our top ten bumps three of Billboard’s top ten on the year. What are those?

Well at #9 Billboard had the year’s biggest Country crossover hit: the song that defined the sub-genre Bro Country.

The original Country version of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” got all the way to #16 on the Hot100 in 2012, so for ’13, they did a remix with Rapper Nelly, and that was in the top 10 on the Hot100 for 14 weeks peaking at #4. Our ranking puts the “Cruise” remix at #19 on the year.

Although “Locked Out of Heaven” missed Billboard’s year-end top ten at #11, Bruno Mars’ other #1 hit in 2013, which we have at #14, was #8 on Billboard.

For four of the five weeks that “Harlem Shake” was #1 with “Thrift Shop” at #2, “When I Was Your Man” was #3. After “Thrift Shop” resumed the top spot for two weeks and dropped back to #2 on April 20, it moved up and got its one week at #1.

And speaking of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”…

“Harlem Shake” only “shakes” out at #28 on our Chartcrush ranking, but Billboard has it at #4 on the year, most likely from the humongous click volume on all those viral vids that sampled the song the five weeks it was #1. That’s just a guess though; since the early ’90s for its year-end charts Billboard has summed the underlying data it uses for its weekly rankings, and that data isn’t public. Our rankings are based only on Billboard’s published weekly chart positions, and despite debuting at #1 and staying for five, “Harlem Shake” faded fast, only racking up 20 total weeks on the chart, well below the average of 36 weeks for songs that hit #1 in 2013. An important hit though, for the viral dance craze, yeah, but also for breaking the ice on Hip-Hop’s next big thing on the Pop charts, Trap. Katy Perry’s Trap-influenced “Dark Horse” followed in 2014, then Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” in 2015: both among the top ten hits their respective years.

Well that’s it for our 2013 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Did you have fun? I hope so! Thanks for listening; I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and links to stream this and other Chartcrush shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other buzzworthy 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 again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1951 Episode Graphic

1951 Podcast

1951 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

It’s Crooners unleashed as ethnic sounds score, Mitch Miller starts a genre gold rush mining Country for Pop hits, and the year’s #1 record taps deep anxieties.

::start transcript::

Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week, we dive deep into a year in Pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly charts published at the time in Billboard magazine, the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority. This week on Chartcrush, we’re counting down 1951, the year the public’s appetite for emotive, belt-it-out, leave-it-all-on-the-table Crooning became unmistakable.

Which might seem like not that big a deal, but as scholar Allison McCracken lays out in her book Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture, for decades leading up to the early ’50s, society just wasn’t ready for strange men intimately addressing women in their homes on radio or records. Remember, this was pre-internet, pre-TV. People had very different ideas about privacy. So in the late 1920s when the electric microphone let singers get up close and sing softly and Crooners started showing up on the radio, it sparked a huge backlash. “Every time you kiss your girl, who is she thinking of?” asked the song in a 1932 Warner Brothers cartoon. And the response: “Crosby, Columbo and Vallée.”

Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo and Rudy Vallée, the first wave of swoon-worthy Crooners. Of those, only Crosby was able to adapt his voice and persona to masculine norms and build a durable career through the Great Depression. In the ’40s, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como captivated a whole new generation of Teen Bobbysoxers, but they didn’t stray too far from the narrow zone of acceptability mapped out by Crosby and Male Vocalists who dutifully sang their featured “vocal refrains” on Big Band records in the ’30s. In the late ’40s, Frankie Laine and Vic Damone pushed the envelope a little further, but ’51 was the year the floodgates opened.

Dramatic singing went over better on TV, of course, as America’s affluent households got their first sets, but also, a new generation was coming up, christened in 1951 “The Silent Generation,” aged 6 to 26 in 1951, America’s most conservative generation marked by a “revolt against revolt,” as Pulitzer-winning Poet Peter Viereck put it, with a “strong but inarticulate” belief in Democracy and the American Way that included improving race relations at home and engaging globally. Silents weren’t much into sign-carrying or street shouting, but those causes informed their taste in music, and that’s very apparent on the Pop charts through the ’50s and into the early ’60s. Silents, of course, the generation that put Rock ‘n Roll and R&B on the Pop charts, but first they got their Crooner on in the early ’50s, and it’s no coincidence that the previous generation’s smooth, low-key singers like Crosby scored their last top 10s in 1950. Even Frank Sinatra went out of style. He later made an epic comeback, of course, but in ’51, young people wanted more “oomph” from their Singers.

#10 Tony Martin – I Get Ideas

We lead off our 1951 countdown with an older Crooner who never gained much traction until “There’s No Tomorrow,” his adaptation of the Operatic Italian standard “O Sole Mio” that stayed in the top ten for 16 weeks in 1950. And his next blockbuster was another international song, this time from Argentina. At #10 it’s Tony Martin’s “I Get Ideas.”

Tony Martin repeating in the top 10 on the year with “I Get Ideas,” #10 on our 1951 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, the year after “There’s No Tomorrow” was 1950’s #6 hit. He starred in several big Technicolor musicals and made the top 10 four more times before his chart fortunes dried up mid-decade.

#9 Eddy Howard – (It’s No) Sin

Martin’s first solo hits in 1946 had been for then-startup Mercury Records. By ’51 he was on RCA, but Mercury out of Chicago, had become one of the top labels in the business, and at #9, the first of two hits on Mercury in our 1951 top 10 countdown, by an act who’d scored major hits in the ’40s for New York’s Majestic Records, but when Majestic went belly up in ’48, Mercury snapped him up, which made sense because for years he’d been headlining at Chicago’s top nightclub, the Aragon Ballroom, with his shows going out live on WGN, a station so powerful that it could sometimes be heard in the U.K.! It’s singing Bandleader Eddy Howard, “(It’s No) Sin.”

Six different versions of “(It’s No) Sin” made the charts in late ’51 into ’52 and Eddy Howard’s wasn’t the first. That was by unknown Philadelphia Vocal group The Four Aces, who couldn’t get signed, so they had to self-release it on their own label. Theirs had the title as just “Sin,” which raised eyebrows and no doubt moved some inventory, and Mercury repeated the trick with their Eddy Howard version we just heard at #9 here on our 1951 countdown, but then added the “It’s No” in parentheses for later pressings.

Eddy Howard faded over the next couple years, but The Four Aces were only getting started: eight top 10’s for Decca over the next four years: the top Male Vocal quartet in an era that, it turned out, couldn’t get enough fresh-faced, clean-cut collegiate foursomes.

#8 Mario Lanza – Be My Love

So after Tony Martin’s operatic “There’s No Tomorrow” sold a million in 1950, why not an actual Opera Singer? Good looks and acting ability, a definite plus, and that helped land our actual Opera singer at #8 his seven-year deal with the MGM movie studio after Louis B. Mayer saw him perform at the Hollywood Bowl. Metro cast him in back-to-back Technicolor musical blockbusters as an ethnic working-class singing Romeo opposite the refined, aristocratic Kathryn Grayson, also a trained Opera Singer. From the second of those, 1950’s The Toast of New Orleans, it’s a duet with Grayson in the film, but the record is all Mario Lanza: what became his signature song and first chart hit, “Be My Love.”

Mario Lanza’s “Be My Love,” #8 here on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1951’s top hits. Like his roles in those first two MGM musicals, Lanza really was a rags-to-riches success story: from South Philly, son of Italian immigrants. Then Opera Singer, movie star and starting in ’51, Pop star. For his next role he got the lead in The Great Caruso, a biopic of the great early 20th century Tenor Enrico Caruso, who was Lanza’s idol. And that movie yielded another top 10 hit later in ’51, “The Loveliest Time of the Year,” but then at his peak in ’52, he was fired from his next film over creative differences with the Director, which sent him into a tailspin of seclusion, alcoholism and overeating, and he died at just 38 in 1959 while undergoing a controversial crash weight-loss program in Italy.

#7 Tony Bennett – Cold, Cold Heart

At #7 we have another new Crooner who’d just exploded on the charts with his biggest hit that we’ll be hearing later in the Countdown, but for the follow-up, Columbia’s visionary new head of A&R, Mitch Miller, did something pretty audacious. He took a twangy, heartsick Honky Tonk ballad that’d just topped the Country charts, gave it to his new tuxedoed Italian-American Crooner from Astoria, Queens, and his just-hired Arranger-Conductor Percy Faith, and tasked them with transforming it into a Pop hit.

Now in his previous A&R role at the aforementioned Mercury Records in ’49, Miller had catapulted Jazz singer Frankie Laine to superstardom with the Bluesy Western hits “Mule Train” and “That Lucky Old Sun.” So Miller already had been mining the uncharted nexus between Country and Pop for a couple years by ’51. But here, he wasn’t looking to turn his Crooner into a Cowboy; this was about transforming a Country song into a slicked-up, citified Pop smash. And just about the last guy anyone would’ve expected to sing a Hank Williams song, hit it out of the park. At #7 it’s Tony Bennett, with his version of Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart.”

“Cold, Cold Heart” bought Hank Williams and his boys “quite a few beans and biscuits,” as he put it introducing the song on TV just after Tony Bennett’s version we just heard at #7 had completed its 30-week chart run. Hank’s twangy original sold a bunch too, but a #1 Pop hit was a whole ‘nother level, and no one had ever scored such a big one adapting a Honky Tonk song before: quite a coup for Columbia’s new A&R head, Mitch Miller.

Other labels got the message, but so did Nashville itself, and the Country music biz spent the rest of the decade re-tooling to crank out its own citified Pop hits with strings, choruses and lush arrangements. And it wasn’t long before others applied the same logic to R&B, mining that chart for songs that could be classed up into Pop hits. Which really took off once the Silent Generation’s fascination with Doo Wop and R&B and all Black music started showing up on the Pop charts thanks to DJs like Cleveland’s Alan Freed and L.A.’s Hunter Hancock. Young folks eventually embraced Folk, of course, but Honky-Tonk Country remained a musical ghetto, even in Nashville, until the Outlaw movement in the ’70s with “Convoy,” CB radios, Smokey & The Bandit and The Dukes of Hazard.

#6 Rosemary Clooney – Come On-a My House

Well, we’re counting down the top ten hits of 1951 here on this week’s Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, and we’re down to #6: a record that signaled a changing of the guard in Female Pop vocals. Dinah Shore had been one of Columbia’s biggest acts in the late ’40s, but arch-rival RCA wooed her away with a million dollar deal just as Mitch Miller was coming aboard at Columbia. Dinah was already known for cutesy Novelty hits, and RCA had one set to go for Summer, the teasing rhyme ditty “Sweet Violets,” so Miller countered by handing an ethnic Novelty song to Columbia’s promising young Female singer, and it was her breakthrough: #1 on all three Billboard Pop charts for five straight weeks in August, and the first of five top 5 hits over the next three years for Rosemary Clooney, backing ensemble directed by Miller with harpsichord (that was something new!). “Come On-a-My House.”

“Come on-a My House,” an early songwriting win for Ross Bagdasarian, the guy who, in the late ’50s under his pseudonym David Seville introduced the world to sped-up chipmunk voices on “Witch Doctor” and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Rosemary Clooney hated the song, but Mitch Miller threatened to terminate her contract if she didn’t do it, and she later said she could hear the anger in her voice whenever she heard it.

Miller and Columbia did notch the win vs. Dinah’s Novelty “Sweet Violets” though. That debuted the same week but only got to #3 and was Dinah’s last top 10 hit. Doubtful that RCA made back the million it cost to poach her from Columbia.

#5 Les Paul & Mary Ford – How High the Moon

At #5 as we continue counting down the top 10 hits of 1951 here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush, Billboard #1 Jukebox hit of the year, by music’s hottest guitarist since the late ’30s, now teaming up with his vocalist wife and an L.A. garage full of tape and studio gear, most of which he either invented or modded during his long recovery from a serious car accident. The record, entirely produced by him in that garage with just guitar, his wife’s vocals, and a whole lot of multitracking with tape.

Studio whiz Bill Putnam had overdubbed Patti Page’s vocals for Mercury using acetate records, but this guy geeking out in his garage in L.A. wasn’t just overdubbing one or two vocal parts. This was next-level studio gimmickry with flanging, delay, phasing, varispeed: all never-before-heard effects. Capitol Records sat on it for a whole year, but it rocketed straight to the top when it finally came out. It’s Les Paul and Mary Ford’s “How High the Moon.”

Husband-wife act Les Paul and Mary Ford, #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown of 1951’s biggest hits, “How High the Moon.” Again, just Les on guitar, Mary on vocals, with lots of overdubbing and effects, all cooked up in Les’s garage: an incredible achievement with the technology of the time. “How High” had become a standard since debuting on Broadway in 1940, and Paul called it “the national anthem of the jazz world,” but Les and Mary had the charts all to themselves with it in ’51: the only song in our countdown with no copycat cover versions, which must’ve felt like the music equivalent of Bobby Thompson’s famous walk-off homer that won the Giants the pennant in the Fall.

#4 Nat “King” Cole – Too Young

So if you go on the internet and look up 1951’s top hits, almost every source shows our song at #4 as year’s #1 song. So why do we have it at #4? Well, a couple reasons. Since the Hot100 debuted in 1958, Billboard’s Best-Sellers chart has become the default go-to for pre-Hot100 song rankings. OK, but most American homes in the ’50s did not have record players or stacks of records, so Retail Best-Sellers really only reflects the affluent end of Pop fandom. Well, at Chartcrush, our method for those years weighs the Jukebox and Airplay charts equally with Sales. Secondly, Billboard’s year-end rankings, even now, do not factor chart action outside of their “chart year,” even if a song was already on the chart before the start of the year, or still on it at the end. Instead, songs like that get split between the years, which is a huge disadvantage vs. songs whose whole runs were within that timeframe. Well, our Chartcrush rankings correct that flaw by counting every song’s full chart run in whichever of the calendar year it earned most of its points.

So for this artist’s 1951 hit, it’s a demotion, but either way it’s his second top 5 showing in back-to-back years after his “Mona Lisa” was the #1 song of 1950. Black artists had charted multiple Pop hits in the ’40s, but Nat “King” Cole set a new high watermark in the first years of the ’50s. At #4, “Too Young.”

Les Baxter gets the Conductor credit on that record but Baxter’s protégé Nelson Riddle has since been recognized as having done most of the work on “Too Young.” Riddle later pointed out that Nat “King” Cole was his own A&R man, selecting by his count 14 of 15 of the songs he scored hits with, at a time when label A&R guys like Mitch Miller ran tight ships and Singers rarely had much say.

Well “Too Young” was a savvy choice. Broadway vets Sidney Lippman and Sylvia Dee had written it to appeal to Teens, and it was the hit that convinced the music biz that that was a winning formula. Nat “King” Cole went on to be the first Black entertainer to host a network TV show in 1956 and ’57, and he scored another dozen top tens in the ’50s, Nelson Riddle getting credit on most of ’em, in addition to arranging and conducting Frank Sinatra’s comeback on Capitol.

Les Baxter did well too: his trailblazing Exotica albums, not to mention his seven top ten chorus-and-strings Easy Listening versions of current Pop hits from ’51 to ’56, which proved that targeting hi-fi nuts looking to soundtrack their soirees and cocktail hours was, for a time, just as smart as targeting Teens.

#3 Perry Como – If

Now, I began the show talking about all the smooth ’40s singers whose chart careers hit the skids as the new generation of emotive Crooners came up. At #3, the big exception, thanks to TV. His 15-minute musical variety show followed the news three nights a week on CBS, but on this song he also upped his vocal game enough to stay relevant up against the Marios and Tonys conquering the airwaves. Still, a lot of the drama is in the arrangement, while the man later dubbed “Mr. Relaxation” remains the calm in the eye of the storm. It might not’ve won over swaths of young fans looking for vocal thrill rides, but it kept him in the top 10 through the ’50s. At #3, here’s Perry Como’s big 1951 hit, a song there were eight versions of on the charts in ’51, “If.”

Bing Crosby, the sole survivor of the ’30s Crooner backlash thanks to his own masculine casualness, called Perry Como “the man who invented casual,” no doubt his humble way of passing the baton at age 48 and fading from the charts as the ’50s began.

In 1981, the Canadian sketch comedy show SCTV did a spoof commercial for a fictitious “Perry Como Is Still Alive” tour, in which Eugene Levy as Como sings recent Disco hits in various stages of repose up to and including lying in bed with head on pillow. Como had to wipe away tears of laughter after seeing that at the Emmys.

#2 Tony Bennett – Because of You

Now Mitch Miller’s biggest problem when he came on board as head of A&R at Columbia in 1950? An acute Crooner shortage. Buddy Clark had just been killed in a bizarre crash landing on Beverly Blvd. in L.A. after the plane he was on ran out of fuel. And Columbia’s most famous Crooner Frank Sinatra was a trainwreck, resented by veterans for playing soldiers and sailors on the big screen despite having never served, owing back taxes, having to answer a Senate committee’s questions about alleged mob ties, and all over the gossip magazines, his torrid affair with also-married actress Ava Gardner. He hadn’t scored a top 10 hit in three years when he angrily vetoed two songs Mitch Miller had lined up to revive his career, storming out of the studio saying “I don’t sing this crap,” and the songs ended up being back-to-back top 5 hits for the unknown Miller called in as a last-minute replacement, Guy Mitchell.

Now, Frankie Laine jumped ship at Mercury to follow Miller to Columbia, and “Jezebel” was a big hit for him in ’51, but our Singer at #2 was Miller’s biggest Crooner coup of the year: the only act with two hits in our 1951 Countdown. Before he cut it, Miller warned him: “Don’t try to imitate Sinatra,” and for the next 65 years, he never did. Here again, Tony Bennett: his breakout hit, “Because of You.”

Tony Bennett’s “Because of You” was #1 for nine of the 11 weeks between late September and the beginning of December. The song that displaced it for those two weeks in the middle? Bennett’s own “Cold, Cold Heart” which we heard at #7, and that was the longest stretch an artist held both the #1 and #2 spots on the charts until The Beatles in 1964.

Success came quickly for Bennett. After the War he studied singing on the GI bill. Then in ’49 Broadway star Pearl Bailey hired him to open for her at a club gig in Greenwich Village. Bob Hope was in the audience and snapped him up for his road show. Mitch Miller needed Crooners, heard Bennett’s demo, and next thing Tony’s signed to Columbia and his very first record, “Because of You,” is #1. All in less than two years. Appropriately, his next #1 hit after ’51? “Rags to Riches.”

#1 Patti Page – The Tennessee Waltz

And we’re down to #1 on our Chartcrush Countdown of the 1951’s top hits. It’s yet another Mitch Miller production, by another Miller A&R signing. But not at Columbia; before, when he was still at Mercury Records. And it’s not a Crooner; it’s the ’50s top Female singer. And the record we’re about to hear was her biggest hit. But unbelievably, it first came out as the B-side of her 1950 Christmas disc. Straight away Mercury knew they had a hit though, so later pressings put it as the A-side with a different song (not “Boogie Woogie Santa”) on the flip. Theories abound as to why the record connected so immediately and universally in the Winter of ’50 and ’51, but before we get into that, let’s hear it. At #1 it’s Patti Page’s “The Tennessee Waltz.”

“The Tennessee Waltz,” Patti Page, #1 for 13 straight weeks December 1950 to March of ’51, and our #1 record of 1951. Now when we heard Nat “King” Cole’s “Too Young” back at #4 (’51’s big Summer hit), I got into how Billboard’s rankings to this day only count weeks within its chart year, and how that strongly favors songs (like “Too Young”) whose runs were all within the year, vs. a record like “The Tennessee Waltz” that went ’50 into ’51. Well “Tennessee Waltz” was such a monumentally big hit that the article accompanying Billboard’s 1951 year-end recap had to go to great lengths to explain why “one of the top tunes and records of all time” is only #10 on their ranking! Well, counting its full chart run, as we do for every song here on Chartcrush, it gets its well-deserved trophy: a record that captured the public’s mood like few before or since, with its theme of betrayal and loss and Mitch Miller’s haunting, atmospheric production.

Writers over the years have argued that the “old friend” who steals Patti’s sweetheart represents the government getting caught up in the Cold War, NATO, the U.N., the War in Korea. Others have suggested that it’s former ally the Soviet Union. But really it can be any leftfield disruptive force, and there were plenty of those as the second half of the 20th century began, not just globalism and communist expansion, but TV, plastics, rampant consumerism, suburbia, the military-industrial complex… UFOs. Hard to single any one of those out.

Bonus

So that’s our Chartcrush Countdown of 1951’s top records, but as I’ve been pointing out throughout the show, nearly all big hits in those days had multiple versions on the charts. 1950 was the last year with two versions of any one song among the top ten records. From ’51 on, every year’s top ten records is ten different songs. But in ’51 there were still songs that, combining all the versions, were among the year’s biggest hits, despite no one version being strong enough to make the top 10 records, so let’s take a look at those in the time we have left.

#16 Del Wood – Down Yonder

First up we have a 1921 Ragtime Piano piece that had seven charting versions. The first to catch on was by a Female secretary who moonlighted as a Honky Tonk piano player, and got the chance to record after filling in on some sessions for an indie label in Nashville. A lawsuit from the song’s publisher yanked the record off the airwaves at the height of its popularity, but together with the six properly licensed copycat versions that were on the charts by then, it’s the #10 song of the year, and the secretary’s version notches in at #16 on our records ranking, higher than any of the others. Here’s Del Wood (real name Adelaide Hazelwood), “Down Yonder.”

“Down Yonder,” the #10 song of 1951 when you combine all seven charting versions. Lawsuits notwithstanding, Del Wood got to quit her typing job after “Down Yonder,” signing first with Decca, then RCA, then landing her dream job: full-time at the Grand Ole Opry.

#13 The Weavers and Terry Gilkyson – On Top of Old Smokey

Next in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown bonus segment of 1951 songs that were top hits combining all of the charted versions, a traditional song collected by folklorists visiting the Appalachians in the 1910s, re-worked by Pete Seeger and cut with his group The Weavers along with deep-voiced Folkie Terry Gilkyson. Versions by Vaughn Monroe and Percy Faith with Burl Ives appeared and all of them together make it 1951’s #6 top tune. The Weavers’ was by far the biggest, #13 on our records ranking: “On Top of Old Smokey.”

Pete Seeger calling out verses on The Weavers’ “On Top of Old Smokey.” They were huge stars after their record of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” was a #1 hit in 1950, but word spread about their leftist political activities pre-stardom, and with the Korean War raging, Mao in China, Soviets testing nukes, and Americans on trial for handing them the technology, the country wasn’t taking any chances with homegrown communists. So before the year was out, The Weavers found themselves without a recording contract, frozen out of stores, unable to book gigs or appear on radio or TV, and under FBI surveillance. Things eventually loosened up, but the surprise Folk craze they sparked in ’50 and ’51 had to wait for The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

#12 Les Paul and Mary Ford – Mockin’ Bird Hill

Now in all this competition with different versions of songs, sometimes there were some sharp elbows, like when Les Paul and Mary Ford’s cover of “The Tennessee Waltz” came out on Capitol a few weeks after Patti Page’s hit #1. Les and Mary didn’t just use the vocal overdubbing that’d become Page’s trademark, the harmonies themselves were the same. So when Les and Mary’s next record came out, Mercury rushed Page into the studio, and the two versions of that song duked it out in the top 10 for 14 weeks. Les and Mary’s was the bigger hit (#12 on our ranking), but just barely. Page’s is #17. Those plus the original Country version and one other that charted combined, it’s the #5 song of the year: “Mockin’ Bird Hill.”

“Mockin’ Bird Hill” was Les Paul and Mary Ford’s second biggest hit of ’51 after the one we heard earlier at #5, “How High the Moon.” And it was also Patti Page’s second biggest, after “The Tennessee Waltz.”

#14 Guy Mitchell – My Heart Cries for You

Finally, remember Frank Sinatra’s tantrum about the songs Mitch Miller wanted him to record? Well one of those wound up with eight versions on the chart. The biggest was by Miller last-minute replacement for Sinatra, Guy Mitchell. It narrowly misses our top 10 at #12, but all eight versions together make it the #2 song of the year: “My Heart Cries for You.”

The “B” side of “My Heart Cries for You” was the other song Sinatra swatted away, “The Roving Kind,” also recorded that day by Guy Mitchell. It was a #5 hit and #24 on our 1951 ranking.

And that’s gonna have to be a wrap for our 1951 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 Countdowns, plus chart run line graphs and other ginchy extras. Also, check out our Chartcrush Minute vids on TikTok, @Chartcrush. 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 in again next week, same station and time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 2004 Episode Graphic

2004 Podcast

2004 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Atlanta and Crunk ‘n B rule the year every #1 song is by a Black artist, Usher Confesses and scores big, and everyone’s shaking it like a Polaroid picture.

::start transcript::

Welcome! This is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a deep dive into a different year in Pop music history, and count down the top ten according to our recap of the weekly charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re counting down 2004, a year in which there were 12 #1 songs on the Hot100, and virtually every one of them was by a Black artist. But that’s not all. From the end of July 2003 to the beginning of April 2005, six or more of the top ten hits on the Hot100, a majority of the top ten every week in that period, by Black artists.

Now, the race, age, education and income demographics of internet access had a lot to do with what genres of music were legally purchased in the ’00s, as opposed to tracks and entire albums downloaded from legally-dubious mp3 file-sharing sites, which flew completely below Billboard’s radar. So what was happening on the charts in 2004 may have more to do with how widespread music piracy had become by the mid ’00s, than what was most popular. For perspective, a study in 2006 estimated four billion (with a “b”) mp3s downloaded from peer-to-peer networks in the U.S. that year, translating to 800 million lost paid downloads. For comparison, the #1 song in our 2004 countdown was certified Gold in the Fall of ’04 for sales, including paid downloads, of 500 thousand.

But there’ve been blind spots like that on the charts throughout Pop history. The Hot100 completely missed Album Rock in the early ’70s for example, and songs not out as physical singles in the late ’90s like The Rembrandt’s theme from Friends, “I’ll Be There for You” or No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” and many others, couldn’t chart.

And in Black music itself, mixtapes, a term that encompasses everything from simple home-recorded compilations to elaborately sampled, sequenced, beatmatched, and/or even voice-over’d DJ/MC performances. Of course, they became mix-CDs once blanks and burners replaced cassettes and dubbing decks, but were still called “mixtapes” in Hip-Hop because they’d been that integral to the development of the genre, especially after lawsuits in the ’90s all but outlawed sampling. Hip-Hop without sampling: almost as unimaginable as Rock without electric guitars! You could still do it, but only if you had permission from the copyright holder of the original record you were sampling. Or, you could just put it on a mixtape and sell it out of small shops, tables on the street or right out of the trunk of your car. But like online filesharing, mixtapes: totally under the chart’s radar.

Anyway, just a couple of grains of salt to keep in mind as we count down the top ten for ’04. No sooner had Billboard fixed the flaw with excluding album-only songs from the Hot100 for its 1999 chart year, here came Napster and an explosion of Hip-Hop mixtapes on the streets to muck things up again!

Now you might expect in a year when every #1 song was by a Black artist, that our top ten for 2004 would be all Hip-Hop and R&B, and those genres definitely do dominate, but another way songs can make cumulative rankings like this is longevity. If a song stays on the chart long enough, it can rack up enough points to beat out even songs that got to #1 without ever topping the chart itself. And that’s the case with four of the hits in our countdown, which all spent 40 or more weeks on the Hot100. The average for songs that made the top 10 in ’04, about 27 weeks.

#10 Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved

Our first two at #s 10 and 9 spent 41 and 43 weeks, respectively, and neither got higher than #5 in any of those weeks. Both are by the same group, back-to-back in our ranking, and both are from their album Songs About Jane that came out in 2002. Over two years later, this song made the charts and they were on their way to their Grammy win for Best New Artist. Huh? How can that be when their album is over two years old? Anyway, at #10, it’s Maroon 5 “She Will Be Loved.”

“She Will Be Loved” was L.A. Pop group Maroon 5’s second top ten hit and third charting hit. “Harder to Breathe,” the lead single from Songs About Jane scraped the top 20 in ’03, just one year after the album came out, peaking at #18 on the strength of radio airplay and constant touring.

#9 Maroon 5 – This Love

But their big breakthrough in ’04 was our next song at #9 in our Maroon 5 two-fer here on our 2004 edition of Chartcrush. It first entered the chart in February after the ultra-steamy video which one British writer described as “a porno-pop” debuted on MTV’s Total Request Live and the band played it on Saturday Night Live. Once the song made the top ten at the beginning of April, the Maroon 5 train had left the station and it stayed all the way to July: 14 weeks, and didn’t leave the chart ’til December. Part of its success was a remix version by famed New York House DJ Junior Vasquez that went to #1 on Billboard Dance Club Play chart, but at #9, here’s the album and radio version of “This Love.”

Maroon 5’s breakthrough hit “This Love” at #9 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Their album Songs About Jane really was a collection of songs about front man Adam Levine’s ex-crush/girlfriend, Jane, and the band’s original name, Kara’s Flowers, was an homage to another girl, name of (you guessed it!) Kara, that everyone in the band had a crush on.

“This Love” was also Billboard’s top paid digital download for 2004, the last year before downloads (legit, paid ones anyway) were added to the calculus for the Hot100.

The steamy video helped propel it up the charts, but also made front man singer Adam Levine a superstar sex symbol and the lead single from their sophomore album in ’07, five years after Songs About Jane, bolted to #1 in just a few weeks.

By the way, one of the nominated acts that Maroon 5 beat out for their Best New Artist Grammy? Kanye West, whose debut album The College Dropout album yielded three top 20 hits, plus the #1 hit “Slow Jamz” if you count the track that Kanye wrote and produced but gave Chicago speed-rapper Twista top billing so Twista’s label would pay for the video! At least Billboard recognized Kanye West as the year’s top Rapper and top R&B/Hip-Hop Producer.

#8 3 Doors Down – Here Without You

Now both of those Maroon 5 songs are in our countdown despite neither making it higher than #5 on the charts, thanks to chart longevity. But the award for the longest chart run of the year goes to our #8 hit: 51 weeks, August ’03 to August ’04, also peaking at #5. It’s a Rock song: the second single from the band’s hotly-anticipated 2002 sophomore album Away from the Sun, after the lead single, “When I’m Gone” had racked up 45 weeks on the Hot100 to become the #10 song of 2003. By the start of ’04, their debut album from 2000, The Better Life, was at 6X platinum and Away from the Sun was about to hit 3X. One of the top charting Rock bands on the early ’00s, here’s 3 Doors Down at #8: “Here Without You.”

Rockers ranking high on year-end Hot100 tallies thanks to chart longevity rather than peak chart positions: a pattern in the early ’00s. 3 Doors Down’s “Here Without You” only peaked at #5 but it’s our #8 song because it had the longest chart run of the year (51 weeks). Of all the Rock songs in our Chartcrush top tens ’01 to ’04, only Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” in ’02 got to #1 on the weekly chart. Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment,” Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” StainD’s “It’s Been Awhile,” The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go,” and Matchbox 20’s “If You’re Gone” and “Unwell:” none of those were #1’s, but they averaged 49 weeks on the chart.

3 Doors Down continued charting Hot100 hits into the ’10 s and their next two albums in ’05 and ’08 both topped the Billboard album chart. In 2017, they were one of the few name acts to play President Trump’s Inaugural, which prompted almost as much partisan snark and backlash as Kanye West donning a MAGA hat.

#7 Usher & Alicia Keys – My Boo

OK, from here on out, all of the songs in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2004 are by Black artists. And all but one were #1 hits. At #7, the first of three by the same artist: a rare feat. Billboard writer Fred Bronson opined that the artist’s name was the only word you needed to sum up the year in Pop, and with the three in our countdown, plus one other single hitting #1 during the year for a combined 27 weeks, a new record, it’s hard to argue with that. He was #1 for 22 of the 23 weeks from the end of February to the end of July. And then this one topped the chart for six weeks in late Fall. It’s Billboard’s #1 Artist of 2004 teaming with Billboard’s #2 Artist of 2004. Usher and Alicia Keys, “My Boo.”

Usher and Alicia Keys’ “My Boo,” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2004: six weeks at #1 from Halloween to the beginning of December, and then eight more weeks in the top ten after that. The song not on the initial track list of Usher’s ’04 album Confessions, but it was added to an Expanded Edition released with great fanfare in October, after “My Boo” had entered the top ten.

#6 Alicia Keys – If I Ain’t Got You

And speaking of Alicia Keys (again, named Billboard’s #2 artist of 2004), she’s at #6: a song inspired by two sudden, tragic events in the Summer of 2001: the death of R&B singer Aaliyah in a plane crash, and then just two and a half weeks later, 9/11. Keys said that one-two punch “just made everything crystal clear…what matters, and what doesn’t.” Usher sang on a U.K. remix of it later in the year, but at #6 the original that was in the top ten for 20 weeks, April to September: “If I Ain’t Got You.”

Alicia Keys, “If I Ain’t Got You” at #6 as we count down the top ten hits of 2004 here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush: yet another song that makes our countdown due to its longevity on the charts: 40 weeks with 20 in the top ten, peaking at #4 for a week. The Kanye West-produced lead single from Keys’ ’04 album The Diary of Alicia Keys, “You Don’t Know My Name,” actually peaked higher, but was only on the chart half as long.

Keys, already a star since her debut single “Fallin'” was #1 for six weeks in ’01. Her music and persona updated a classy, sophisticated R&B and Soul tradition for the 21st century and Billboard named her the top R&B artist of the 2000s decade.

#5 Outkast featuring Sleepy Brown – The Way You Move

At #5 we have the first of two hits in our countdown by a veteran Atlanta Hip-Hop duo, and the lead singles, plural, both came out on the same day. They debuted on the charts within three weeks of each other, and then they held down the #1 and #2 spots for eight straight weeks.

Now, why wouldn’t they stagger the releases? Well, because the duo’s double album in ’04 was actually two solo records bundled together. It even had a split-frame album cover. Speakerboxxx was Big Boi; The Love Below was André 3000. Releasing it as hyphenated double album leveraged the name ID of their duo moniker Outkast. At #5, from Speakerboxxx, here’s the one that made the charts first: Big Boi rapping with featured singer Sleepy Brown on the chorus: “The Way You Move.”

Outkast’s hyphenated double solo album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was the bestselling Hip-Hop album of all-time out of Atlanta and Billboard’s #2 album of the year. That was Big Boi’s “The Way You Move” from Speakerboxxx, which was #2 behind Andre 3000’s lead single for eight weeks, finally getting one week on top after Andre’s song slipped to #3 in February.

Sleepy Brown with that Earth, Wind and Fire-worthy falsetto chorus on “The Way You Move.” Brown went way back with Outkast: part of the Atlanta production team Organized Noize that discovered them and helped get them their record deal. Outkast was ten years into their chart career by ’04, having scored their first Hot100 hits in 1994 and their first #1, “Ms. Jackson,” with its Beatle-esque oooh’s off their fourth album Stankonia in 2000.

#4 Ciara featuring Petey Pablo – Goodies

Well we’re getting down to the small numbers here on our 2004 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. At #4, an answer song to bad boy Rapper Petey Pablo’s misogynistic “Freek-a-Leek.” And when it hit the airwaves, “Freek-a-Leek” was still in the top ten! Now such a rapid response would be amazing but for the fact that it was all an inside job. Petey Pablo even guests on the record, rebutting every verse sung by the innocent, breathy-voiced singer named after a Revlon perfume.

But the biggest common thread between “Freek-a-Leek” and our #4 song was Lil Jon, the Rapper/Producer who pioneered the Hip-Hop subgenre Crunk, which is either an invented past participle form of the verb “to crank” or a portmanteau of “crazy and drunk,” depending on which source for word origins you consult. But either way, Lil Jon pioneered and popularized it DJing in the ’90s at Atlanta’s Club 559, and then on records.

As it turned out, as a Hip-Hop style, Crunk was about to jump the shark, but not before Jon merged it with R&B to create the sub-sub-genre “Crunk ‘n B,” on our #4 song. Also from Atlanta, it’s Ciara, featuring raps by Petey Pablo, “Goodies.”

Ciara’s “Goodies,” #4 on our Chartcrush countdown on 2004’s top ten hits, seven weeks at #1, the longest for a debut single by a female artist since the late ’70s. That oscillating whistle gimmick, lifted from Missy Elliott’s 2002 hit “Work It,” and Ciara repaid the favor featuring on Elliott’s “Lose Control” in ’05, one of the six more top tens Ciara scored in ’05 and ’06.

After Janet Jackson’s “nipplegate” halftime fiasco at the ’04 Superbowl, plus Beyonce’s lackluster Destiny’s Child reunion and being eclipsed by Jennifer Hudson on the big screen in Dreamgirls, for a minute it seemed like Ciara was R&B’s new “it” girl, but Crunk ‘n B’s moment passed, along came Rihanna, and then Beyonce was back big with her long-delayed second album B’Day, so it wasn’t to be.

#3 Usher – Burn

Now besides L.A. in 1967, no one city has dominated the top ten on a year like Atlanta dominated 2004: six of the 10 songs in our countdown by Atlanta artists, and the guy who first put The Big Peach on the map? Producer Jermaine Dupri, who, at 19 in the early ’90s, son of a Columbia Records exec, plucked two kids out of Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall and just months later unleashed Kris Kross on the world.

Well Kris Kross was long gone by ’04, but Dupri’s crowning achievement since, was producing (and co-writing) practically all of our #3 act’s hits. His first #1 (for two weeks in ’98) was the sensuous ballad “Nice & Slow,” a hit Dupri was so happy with that on each of the artist’s two subsequent albums, he set out to re-create it: “U Got It Bad” on 2001’s 8701 was #1 for six weeks, and then this one on ’04’s Confessions was #1 for eight. We heard his duet with Alicia Keys at #7, “My Boo.” Here again at #3, it’s Usher, “Burn.”

MySpace, Friendster and LinkedIn launched in ’03 and Facebook in ’04, quenching (along with Reality TV) the Millennial generation’s profound thirst for deeper, realer, more frequent connections, to other people, to brands, to celebrities, and, yes, to Pop stars. Usher and his collaborators weren’t the first or only music figures to pick up on that, but Confessions going platinum in its first week and its first two singles locking down the #1 spot on the Hot100 for a record 19 straight weeks definitely helped announce its arrival.

The label wanted a club banger out first and got their wish, but “Burn” was the album’s mission statement and intended lead single. Usher was ready to “Confess” his own personal struggles and experiences. He’d just gotten dumped by his girlfriend, TLC’s Rozanda “Chili” Thomas for cheating. When a relationship flames out, he said, you just gotta let it “Burn.”

By the way, “Burn’s” run would’ve been nine weeks but for Fantasia’s single “I Believe” debuting at #1 the week she won season 3 of American Idol.

#2 Outkast – Hey Ya!

Well we’re down to #2 here on our 2004 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. For the first two months of ’04 until Usher’s spectacular 19-week run at #1, there was every reason to believe that ’04 was going to be the year of Outkast, whose two lead singles from their double solo album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below held down the #1 and #2 spots on the Hot100 from just before Christmas ’03 to the middle of February. At #5 we heard the one that was #2 all those weeks, Big Boi’s “The Way You Move;” here’s Andre 3000’s that was #1: a hit in every radio format except maybe Jazz and Classical it seemed. Even Alt Rock stations played it. It’s Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”

OutKast’s Andre 3000, the sole songwriter and producer of the mid-’00’s cross-genre smash “Hey Ya!,” #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2004. Billboard had it at #8 on the year, behind Big Boi’s “The Way You Move” at #5, which stayed on the chart four weeks longer and outranked “Hey Ya” as both songs moved down the chart in the Spring. But with all those weeks at #1, “Hey Ya!” comes out ahead on our ranking.

Polaroid, the company whose instant pictures everyone thinks develop faster if you shake ’em: not doing well in the ’00s as digital photography took over, until sales rebounded thanks to Andre’s line “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

In ’06, Andre and Big Boi starred in the Depression-era period musical Idlewild, which critics panned as “more idle than wild,” and their soundtrack album they did for the film also bombed, so they put Outkast on ice and went their separate ways ’til 2014, when they reunited for a festival tour, which included headlining two nights at California’s prestigious Coachella Festival.

#1 Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris – Yeah!

OK, you ready for #1? Well I hope you’ve been enjoying the show so far and your answer is… the title of the song.

Now I mentioned that our #3 hit, “Burn,” was the intended lead single from Usher’s Confessions album. But gearing up for release, the label wanted to lead with an upbeat club banger, so they brought in Crunk King Lil Jon, who you’ll recall produced our #4 song, Ciara’s “Goodies.” And a club banger they most certainly got. But with the album release set for March, over the Holidays, Jon leaked the track to street DJs. Now whole albums were being shelved or canceled due to leaks in those days, but once this song hit the air, it had the highest Hot100 debut the week of January 10, and was already four weeks into its 12 week run at #1 when Confessions dropped, so crisis averted! One of the enduring anthems of the decade, it’s Usher featuring lots of shouting from Lil Jon and a Rap verse from (also outta Atlanta) Ludacris, the #1 song of 2004 is “Yeah!”

One of the things that may’ve hastened and/or caused Crunk’s fall from the its mid-’00’s heights: Dave Chapelle’s “Moment in the Life of Lil Jon” sketches on his Comedy Central show, where Chapelle answers every question with one of Jon’s shouted words: “yeah,” “okay,” “let’s go,” “watch out” and so on. But Usher’s “Yeah!,” which Jon produced and shouts a lot on, far and away the #1 song of 2004 by any measure. And #1 on Billboard’s ’04 ranking too.

Bonus

But there are differences between Billboard’s top ten and our Chartcrush Top Ten we counted down this hour. I mentioned that they ranked OutKast’s “The Way You Move” higher than “Hey Ya!” And of the other songs we heard this hour, our #10 hit, Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” misses Billboard’s top ten all the way down at #35. The entire tail end of its chart run, kicked into their 2005 chart year, all 22 weeks of it. Similarly, the first 14 weeks of 3 Doors Down’s “Here Without You,” our #8 song: in Billboard’s 2003 chart year and not counted toward their ’04 ranking. Usher and Alicia Keys’ “My Boo:” that one was #1 the last week of Billboard’s ’04 chart year, November 29, so it’s both #24 for ’04 and #54 for ’05 in Billboard. Counting its full chart run in the year it saw most of its chart action makes it #7 for ’04. So three songs in to our top ten means three songs out from Billboard’s. Let’s take a quick look at those, shall we?

At #10, Billboard had the one #1 song in calendar ’04 not, strictly speaking, by a Black artist.

Terror Squad, headed by Puerto Rican Rapper Fat Joe, paired with Black female rapper Remy Ma, the only Dance craze record in Pop history that’s about not dancing! The Rockaway: just “lean back,” look over your shoulder and rock your head slightly to the beat. Usher does it at the end of the “Yeah!” video. “Lean Back” notches in at #12 on our Chartcrush ranking.

At #7 on the year, Billboard had this song that got stuck at #2 for eight weeks during Usher’s 12-week run on top with “Yeah” and “Burn.”

Mario Winans featuring Irish New Age Singer Enya and Rapper P. Diddy, “I Don’t Wanna Know.” That was #15 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And finally, at #6 Billboard had another Rock song that spent an eternity on the Hot100.

If you did a poll of Rock fans in the mid 00’s and asked “what’s the most original thing about that band?” a lot of them might’ve said, their name. Like Crunk, Post-Grunge’s story arc was nearly complete by ’04, but Hoobastank’s “The Reason” racked up 38 weeks on the Hot100 with 14 in the top ten, just missing our top ten at #11. Apparently, “Hoobastank” was how one of the group members mispronounced a German street name.

And we’re gonna have to leave it there, folks, because that the hour! I hope you enjoyed our 2004 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 shows, plus chart run line graphs and other “schway” extras. And check our Chartcrush Minute vids on TikTok, @Chartcrush. Every week on this show we count down a different year 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.

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Chartcrush Countdown Show 1989 Episode Graphic

1989 Podcast

1989 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Euro-Disco and Paula Abdul arrive as the Cold War ends, Teen Pop peaks, Milli Vanilli lip-syncs and some of Boomerdom’s top acts score their final big hits.

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Welcome! This is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show and I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we take a look back at the top 10 songs of a year in Pop music as determined by our exclusive ranking that’s based on the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music biz’s top trade pub and chart authority, Billboard magazine. And this week we’re turning the clock back to 1989, aside from the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska in March, and the 6.9 earthquake in the Bay Area in October right before game three of the World Series, a year of remarkably few “breaking news” headlines. Which cleared newspaper column inches and broadcast minutes for ongoing human-interest stories like AIDS and homelessness and environmental concerns like acid rain and the ozone hole.

But as relatively quiet as things were here in the States, ’89 was a monumental year out in the world, as communism collapsed and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the new President, George H.W. Bush, declared that the Cold War over. All year, Americans watched in disbelief as massive protests rocked the capitals of Eastern Bloc countries Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Czechoslovakia and Romania. And since the Soviets for a change weren’t sending in the tanks, the communist regimes in those countries, one after the other, dissolved.

In East Germany, the symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, was dismantled. But not before Knight Rider and Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, wearing a piano scarf and flashing leather jacket, got to sing his hit “Looking for Freedom” in front of it on New Years Eve. There was even a massive Rock concert in the Soviet Union itself, the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August. The event inspired Scorpions’ 1991 hit “Wind of Change.”

Sadly, communist China’s pro-democracy movement: nipped in the bud when the tanks rolled into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June and between 200 and 2,600 protesters were killed, depending on who you believe.

South Africa, not a communist country, but the new president there released activist and future president Nelson Mandela from prison and desegregated public facilities as first steps to ending apartheid.

So the ’80s, closing out with some historic changes on the world stage, and music was changing too. Eight of Billboard’s top 10 albums of 1989 were first or second releases. So, lots of fresh faces on the charts and on MTV. In April, Liz Taylor dubbed Michael Jackson the “King of Pop” at the Soul Train Heritage Awards, but as he settled into his new Neverland Ranch in California, he seemed to be going off the deep end with skin bleaching, plastic surgery, O2 sleeping chambers and trying to buy Elephant Man bones. The UK Sun dubbed him Wacko Jacko, and it kinda stuck.

Meanwhile, Queen of Pop Madonna got in trouble when the Vatican condemned her blasphemous video for “Like a Prayer” and urged a boycott that got Pepsi to pull its ad campaign with the song. With its three weeks a #1 in April, “Like a Prayer” ought to be in our 1989 countdown, but with all the controversy it was off the chart completely just nine weeks after being #1, one of the fastest drops for a #1 single in Madonna’s career. MTV and video in the ’80s had brought pop culture into America’s living rooms like never before. The Culture Wars were only getting started.

#10 Soul II Soul – Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)

Our #10 record had only just entered the top ten December 2nd, which was the last week of Billboard’s 1989 “chart year,” so it didn’t make their ’89 year-end Hot100. And since those weeks before the cutoff didn’t count toward 1990, it’s only #42 on their 1990 ranking. Now here at Chartcrush, we don’t do “chart years;” instead, we factor every song’s full chart run in the calendar year it had most of its chart action, and that puts the song at #10 for 1989.

Billboard did have it as the year’s #1 Dance hit though: a taste of the Euro-Disco wave that was about to crest on the Pop charts in the early ’90s. It’s U.K.-based “sound system” collective Soul II Soul with singer Caron Wheeler, who co-wrote, “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me).”

Soul II Soul’s residency at South London’s The Fridge nightclub: credited with setting the tone of 1988’s so-called “Second Summer of Love” in the U.K., and also in Ibiza, the Spanish island famous for its club scene. After the wall came down, East Berlin also became a Techno Mecca.

“Back to Life” had the longest chart run of any song in our countdown: 28 weeks, peaking at #4, after their Hot100 debut, “Keep on Movin’,” earlier in the year. It started out as an a cappella but they completely reworked it with new lyrics and that groovy, shuffling backing track.

House music exploded onto the charts ’89 into ’90: Belgian outfit Technotronic, just three weeks behind “Back to Life” on the Hot100 with the dancefloor anthem “Pump Up the Jam,” which got all the way to #2 in January of ’90. Then Madonna’s “Vogue” and Snap!’s “The Power” in the Spring.

#9 Paula AbdulCold Hearted

Next up at #9 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1989’s biggest hits, the only act with two songs in the top ten. And since both songs’ chart runs were entirely within Billboard’s December to November “chart year,” they’re also both in Billboard’s year-end top ten: a rarity for ’89 relative to other years, comparing our Chartcrush rankings with Billboard’s. Reason being: some of the year’s top records were hits at the end of ’89 into ’90, so Billboard split their chart runs for ranking purposes between the two years.

Boy Band New Kids on the Block had six singles on the Hot100 in 1989 so they grabbed top honors on Billboard’s Hot100 artist ranking that combines all charting songs. But our newcomer at #9 was #2 overall and the top female. Her album, Forever Your Girl, was the biggest debut album in history up to ’89 with 10 weeks at #1 on the album chart. Here’s the first of two Paula Abdul hits we’ll be hearing in our countdown, the third of her three straight #1’s in ’89, “Cold Hearted.”

Paula Abdul started out in the early ’80s, a freshman in college who beat out 700 girls for a spot on the L.A. Lakers cheerleading squad (the Lakers’ ’80s dynasty years with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), graduating to head choreographer after less than a year, and then to choreographing music videos. It was, afterall, the dawn of the MTV era! “Cold Hearted,” #9 as we count down 1989’s top ten biggest hits here on this week’s Chartcrush Show.

#8 Debbie GibsonLost in Your Eyes

At #8, the last top ten hit by the singer whose first hit “Only in My Dreams” in ’87 signaled the start of the late ’80s Teen Pop explosion. New Edition and The Jets had already scored R&B crossover smashes in ’85 and ’86, but this wholesome girl Singer was pure Pop. And she remained one of top acts along with Tiffany, the aforementioned New Kids on the Block, and latecomer Kylie Minogue until Teen Pop petered out circa late-1990 as its fans matured and House, Grunge, Hip-Hop, plus the overarching cultural postmodernism that paralleled the end of the Cold War in the West, surfaced edgier poses from the underground. But in ’89, Teen Pop was at its peak, and its biggest chart hit that year was our #8 song: what Record Mirror called a “big, moodsome ballad,” Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in Your Eyes.”

Fun fact: Debbie Gibson is the sole songwriter on all her top 20 hits, and that was also her playing piano on “Lost in Your Eyes,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1989. It was the lead single from her second album, Electric Youth, which didn’t do quite as well as her triple platinum debut Out of the Blue. “Only” double platinum. And after two more top 20s from Electric Youth in ’89, Debbie Gibson faded from the charts. In 2020, though, at the age of 49, she was back in the top five on the Dance chart with “Girls Night Out.”

#7 Milli VanilliBlame It on the Rain

Now, speaking of the postmodern taste inversion I mentioned that rendered wholesome Teen Idols like Debbie Gibson passe in the early ’90s, Glam Metal bands had been pushing the sex, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll envelope for years, but in ’89, Miami Rap group 2 Live Crew dropped the mic on Pop smut with their aptly-titled As Nasty as They Want to Be, the first album ever to be ruled obscene by a U.S. District Court. The music world rallied, the ruling was overturned on appeal, and the album went Platinum, so straight-up porn and misogyny had a green light heading into the ’90s.

But a scandal that pop culture couldn’t abide in ’89 was the revelation that Rob and Fab, in fact, are not the ones singing on our #7 song, or the other three 1989 megahits from their album Girl You Know It’s True. It was a glitchy hard drive during a live concert on MTV that did them in. The recording stopped and skipped and it was obvious that they were lip-syncing. After that, they had their Best New Artist Grammy canceled and lived in infamy. But they sure were riding high in ’89. At #7, it’s Milli Vanilli’s fourth and biggest hit of the year, “Blame It on the Rain.”

German producer Frank Farian, the actual the culprit behind the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal. He liked their look (thigh-high boots, Spandex shorts and corn-row hair extensions), but not their vocals so much. So he brought in session singers but put Rob and Fab on the album cover and sent them out on the road. And Girl You Know It’s True went six-times platinum, yielded six top five hits and Milli Vanilli was Best New Artist at the Grammys before anyone was the wiser. Four of their songs, all from that album, were among the top 25 hits of 1989 according to our Chartcrush rankings. Elvis in ’56, The Beatles in ’64, The Jackson 5 in 1970 and Usher in 2004: the only other acts in Pop history who can say that. “Blame It on the Rain,” the fourth and last of those hits at #7.

#6 Richard MarxRight Here Waiting

At #6 as we continue counting down the top hits of 1989 here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush, the only song in our countdown that’s also in the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Adult Contemporary chart. He started out as a Songwriter, writing hits for Kenny Rogers and James Ingram, but once he decided to step up to the mic himself, he was an immediate success. His self-titled debut album went triple-platinum in 1987, its lead single, the Rocker “Don’t Mean Nothing” was a #3 hit, and he became the first male artist ever to make the top five with his first seven singles. At #6 it’s Richard Marx, “Right Here Waiting.”

Even after becoming a star himself, Richard Marx continued to write songs for other artists. In fact, he wrote “Right Here Waiting” for Barbra Streisand. But she rejected it! “I’m not gonna be right here waiting for anyone,” she said. So he cut it himself for his second album, Repeat Offender, and it was the #6 song of 1989, not bad. It was #1 for three weeks in August, but it just missed Billboard’s year-end top ten at #11.

#5 Linda Ronstadt featuring Aaron NevilleDon’t Know Much

12 of the top 20 Hot100 acts in ’89, on the chart less than two years—the most since 1971 for that metric. And as you’d expect in a year like that, some of the previous generation’s stars struggled. New albums in 1989 by Boomer icons Diana Ross, Paul McCartney and a reunited Jefferson Airplane bombed relative to expectations. But others thrived. Neil Young reinvented himself for the Grunge era on his album Freedom, and The Rolling Stones mended fences within the band and had ’89’s top tour: Steel Wheels, their longest ever.

Up next on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1989, a pairing of two Boomer legends who both burst onto the charts in 1967 with massive hits: Californian Linda Ronstadt with her Folk-Pop Hippie group The Stone Poneys on “Different Drum,” and New Orleans’ own Aaron Neville with his Soulful “Tell It like It Is.” Here they are together on the same record in 1989. At #5, “Don’t Know Much.”

Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville on 1989’s #5 hit, “Don’t Know Much” here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The song, co-written by legendary Brill Building Songwriters Barry Mann and wife Cynthia Weil, and versions by Righteous Brother Bill Medley in ’81 and Bette Midler in ’83 didn’t have much impact. But in ’89 it was a huge comeback for both Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt.

#4 Billy JoelWe Didn’t Start the Fire

And at #4, another chart veteran since the early ’70s, and by our point tally, the #5 Hot100 artist of the ’80s decade behind only Hall & Oates, Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson, in that order. It’s yet another hit that got a raw deal from Billboard’s year-splitting with their year-end charts, with its first eight weeks in their 1989 chart year (up to December 2), and the next 11 in 1990, where they have it at #35 on the year. But factoring its full chart run in the calendar year it earned the most points makes it our #4 song of 1989.

He wrote it after listening to a young Gen-Xer bellyaching about how nice it must’ve been to grow up in the ’50s when “nothing happened.” Huh? Want a list? Well here it is: exactly 118 things in chronological order, in Billy Joel’s list song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Billy Joel, obviously influenced by R.E.M.’s list song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” which for all its fame since the ’80s, barely scraped the Hot100 when it came out, just a few months before Billboard unveiled its Modern Rock Chart to finally start keeping track of what was on College radio.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire,” #1 for two weeks in December, and #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1989. Joel’s 11th top ten hit off his seventh straight top ten album, but only his third #1, and his last. After his final Pop album River of Dreams in ’93, he stepped away from the Pop chart game, but his Face to Face tours in ’94 and ’95 with fellow piano-man Elton John filled stadiums across America.

#3 Paula AbdulStraight Up

At #3, the girlfriend of America’s hottest new late-night talk TV show host, whose syndicated show debuted mostly on the fledgling Fox network in ’89. Fox, only on the air a little over three years, struggling to get a ratings foothold against the big three, ABC, CBS and NBC, and Arsenio Hall went head-to-head against the undisputed king of late-night since the ’60s, Johnny Carson. He never beat Carson, but The Arsenio Hall Show‘s young, diverse audience made it the first major platform, certainly the first late-night show, that put African-American cultural sensibilities on an equal footing with mainstream America’s. Not many radio stations would play Hip-Hop in 1989, but Arsenio had the Fresh Prince, Tone Loc, MC Hammer, Young MC, even Ice-T. And his girlfriend appeared on just the seventh episode in January, right as our #3 song cracked the top 20. It was her breakthrough hit after the first two singles from her debut album Forever Your Girl went nowhere. Here again, Paula Abdul, “Straight Up,”

Paula Abdul’s chart breakthrough, “Straight Up,” took home four of the MTV Video Music Awards “moon men” trophies it was eligible for in ’89, the #3 song of 1989 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Her follow-up album Spellbound produced two more #1 hits in 1991, but her chart fortunes waned during peak Diva in the mid-to-late ’90s, only to become a household name all over again in the ’00s as one of the judges on the first eight seasons of American Idol.

#2 Janet JacksonMiss You Much

Now as I mentioned earlier, before she was a Pop star, Paula Abdul was an in-demand choreographer of music videos, and her first client, who hired her out of the Lakers’ cheerleading squad, was our act at #2. Abdul choreographed the videos for all three of the upbeat mid-’80s hits that made her a star: “What Have You Done for Me Lately”, “Nasty” and the title song from her multi-platinum 1986 album Control. The lead single off her next album, Rhythm Nation 1814, came out in August ’89 and became the first of its seven singles to peak in the top 5 over the next three years. It’s Janet Jackson with “Miss You Much.”

“Miss You Much,” #1 for all of October 1989, four weeks, and the #2 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Janet’s first two albums came out in the early ’80s when she was still just in her teens and playing a young student in the TV show Fame, and most folks just thought of her as Michael Jackson’s little sister. The Bubblegummy music on those albums barely dented the charts, but in ’85, Janet parted ways with her family and her career took off, first with Control and then ’89’s socially-conscious Rhythm Nation 1814. By the end of the decade, Janet had not only stepped out of her brother’s shadow, she’d eclipsed him, and her run of massive Hot100 hits continued all the way ’til her wardrobe malfunction in the 2004 Superbowl halftime show got her blacklisted by Viacom President Les Moonves.

#1 Phil CollinsAnother Day in Paradise

Now, in a 2014 piece, Billboard writer Kenneth Partridge argued that 1990 was the best year for music in the ’90s, despite two of the year’s biggest hits being 1989 “holdovers” by “Pop’s old guard” that left aging Boomers “feeling simultaneously guilty about their wealth and blameless for instigating the world’s problems.” The latter reference, to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and the former to the record we have at #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Well, as I pointed out when we heard “We Didn’t Start the Fire” at #4, it really wasn’t a 1990 hit at all; it was a 1989 hit. And so was the other one.

At #1, the seventh and final chart topper by the ’80s most unlikely Pop star, having started out as the drummer in a ’70s Prog Rock band. He became the front-man of that band, Genesis, after leader Peter Gabriel quit and went solo in 1975, and remained even after his own solo career took off in the early ’80s. Record of the Year at the Grammys, it’s Phil Collins’ exhortation to think twice and count your blessings when you see a homeless person, our #1 song of 1989 is “Another Day in Paradise.”

Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise,” the #1 song of 1989 according to our exclusive Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking that factors every song’s full Hot100 chart run into whichever calendar year it had the majority of its chart action. Now, we’re only able do that, of course, with the benefit of hindsight. Billboard‘s press deadline for their year-end issue forces them to end every “chart year” weeks before the actual end of the year on the calendar. “Another Day in Paradise” was in the top ten November ’89 through January ’90. They have it at #7 on their 1990 Hot100 recap. But it might’ve ranked higher than that had Billboard continued (in 1990) what they started in ’89: factoring the full runs for songs that were moving up the first week of their chart year.

I don’t want to get too far in the weeds with this, but the change was their attempt, after over 40 years doing year-end recaps, to finally give songs whose chart runs go from one year into the next a fair shake. The trouble with rolling that out in ’89, though: half the songs that ended up in their top ten were really 1988 hits. Even the #1 song, Chicago’s “Look Away.” So when the ranking appeared at the end of ’89, folks were like “Huh? That was #1 last Christmas!” And going down the list, Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” at #2 and Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” #3, also 1988 hits, plus two more.

So there was a whole lotta head shaking from fans. The news media even ran with the story, and for 1990, Billboard reverted back to factoring only weeks in its chart year like they’d always done, and Soul II Soul, Ronstadt & Neville and Billy Joel joined the long list of year-straddling hits that’ve fallen through the cracks over the years. Only “Another Day in Paradise” made the top ten of Billboard’s 1990 ranking, but at #7 since its first five weeks of chart action weren’t factored.

Of the seven songs from Billboard’s year-end top ten that weren’t in our 1989 countdown, only two were true 1989 hits. Billboard had the title cut and breakout hit off of Milli Vanilli’s album Girl You Know It’s True at #8.

“Girl You Know It’s True” was the Milli Vanilli’s only single before their lip-syncing scandal that didn’t get to #1. It peaked at #2 and is #19 on our ranking.

At #7, Billboard had another big Adult Contemporary smash.

Nine years after 1980’s “The Rose,” the title song of the film she starred in, Bette Midler repeated that trick with the movie Beaches and its song, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which lands at #13 on our 1989 ranking.

Well I hope you enjoyed our rough ‘n tumble 1989 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. That’s all the time we have. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and I want to thank you for listening! Hey, check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and links to stream this and all our Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus our full top 100 chart, chart run line graphs and other hella extras. Every week on this show, 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.

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