Chartcrush 1954 episode graphic

1954 Top 10 Pop Countdown Podcast

Chartcrush 1954 episode graphic

1954 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Racial integration is a Cold War imperative so Teens oblige by launching Black R&B records onto the Pop charts, amplified by the brand new Top40 radio format.

::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 recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority.

This week on Chartcrush, it’s 1954, the year Todd Storz invented Top40 radio, and Silent Generation Teens launched a crudely-recorded R&B disc by a Black Vocal Group, The Chords’ “Sh-Boom,” into the Top 10. The next Summer, Bill Haley & The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” was the first #1 Rock ‘n Roll record. Then Top 10s by Pat Boone, Chuck Berry and The Platters, a #1 by The Platters, and in May of ’56, Elvis’s debut with “Heartbreak Hotel.”

TV, the nation’s new communications medium in the early ’50s. Sets in U.S. households went from just 1% in 1948 to 75% in 1955, and at the same time, the FCC was feverishly granting radio broadcast licenses, so with all the new options on the dial vying for a shrinking audience, radio got to be a very tough business. Most stations, still chugging along with the same TV-style hodgepodge of network and local talk, music, news, serials and variety as had been on radio since the ’20s.

But in ’51, Todd Storz, the GM of KOWH in Omaha, Nebraska, noticed that the only time anyone was listening was when his station was spinning records, so in ’51 he did for radio what MTV did for TV in the ’80s: music all day. And by the end of the year, KOWH was #1 in Omaha and Storz was copying the formula at stations throughout the Midwest.

And then in ’54, legend has it, on a long lunch, Storz noticed a waitress plunk a quarter in the jukebox to play a record they’d been hearing all afternoon played by patrons three more times, and it was an “aha” moment for him: don’t just play music; play the same 30 or 40 records over and over again all day. Well, once KOWH started doing that, ratings soared even higher, thanks to the throngs of Teens that started tuning in to hear the latest hits.

With mom and dad in charge of the one TV in the house, music on the radio became their go-to media, and by the end of the ’50s, Top40 stations were #1 in almost every market playing Rock ‘n Roll, R&B, Country and Traditional Pop hits, a racially integrated mix.

DJs Alan Freed and Hunter Hancock may’ve pioneered playing Black R&B and Doo Wop on the radio for a few hours a day (or, more accurately, night) in Akron, Ohio and Los Angeles. But it took Top 40 to magnify that impact once, as Billboard noted in September, “youngsters, [who were] the backbone of the Pop record business, [sought out those R&B records] in stores and on juke boxes.”

“Gee” was first: an upbeat record by a Harlem Doo Wop group called The Crows that made the national top 20 in the Spring. But then in the Summer, another group, The Chords out of The Bronx, made the top 10 with “Sh-Boom,” immediately covered by a White Canadian Vocal Group with a Pop arrangement on a major label, and that was one of the year’s biggest hits, #1 for eight weeks, launching the R&B gold rush that led to Rock ‘n Roll.

White Silents were seeking out R&B records as a harmless form of personal rebellion and release amid the conformity of the ’50s, but it was also against the backdrop of the Cold War battle for hearts and minds against Communists out there promising full equality. As Civil Rights lawyer and future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall cautioned during the Korean War, “America’s dereliction on race issues would put the U.S. in a vulnerable position” globally. In ’54, Marshall successfully argued for school desegregation in the Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case.

#10 Dean Martin – That’s Amore

So once White kids’ interest in Black R&B started showing up on the charts, that was the headline, but foreign sounds were another aspect of America’s postwar cultural voyeurism. Les Baxter’s 1951 album Ritual of the Savage launched the Exotica genre of lushly orchestrated tropical ersatz, but War vets and Italian immigrants of all ages had joined Silents in helping the whole Italian Crooner thing go supernova in the early ’50s with the Operatic belting of Mario Lanza and Al Martino.

Things calmed down after that, but into a very crowded Crooner field in ’54 emerged our Italian-American Singer at #10 as we kick off our Countdown, from the unlikeliest of places: a comedy duo. Well, at least he was the straight man! Jerry Lewis was the “banana,” and the song was from their 1953 musical comedy The Caddy, in which Lewis joins in. But on the record it’s all Dean Martin. Not his first chart entry, but his breakthrough, and it would’ve been #1 in February if not for another ethnic hit by Eddie Fisher that we’ll be hearing here in a few minutes. At #10, it’s “That’s Amore.”

“That’s Amore,” #10 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1954, Dean Martin’s first top ten, still teamed with comic Jerry Lewis until their epic split in 1956. “Amore,” of course, Italian for love. Not in the top ten on any of Billboard‘s 1954 year-end rankings because it first hit the charts in November of ’53 and Billboard only counted weeks in calendar ’54. But it comes out at #10 when you count its full chart run like we do for every song here at Chartcrush.

Over the years, dozens of major hits have fallen through the cracks like that on Billboard‘s year-end rankings thanks to that chart run splitting between years, which Billboard has tried to address in various ways since the ’70s, but really can’t as long as they have to get those year-end charts out before New Years.

#9 The Four Knights – I Get So Lonely (Oh Baby Mine)

At #9, a Black Vocal Group that hit the charts three and a half months before The Crows’ “Gee,” that first R&B crossover hit I mentioned. But these guys had been together since the mid-’40s, on the charts since ’51, and regulars on TV variety shows like Red Skelton and Ed Sullivan. Plus, it’s a song by a White Songwriter, so they had more in common with The Mills Brothers or Ink Spots than The Crows or Chords. Yet this was their first top ten, and it hit just as Black R&B was about to break through. It’s The Four Knights’ “I Get So Lonely (When I Dream About You),” also known as “Oh Baby Mine.”

Also known as “Oh Baby Mine” because that was the title on the record when it first came out. It’s the hook repeatedly sung by Four Knights’ Bass Singer Oscar Broadway. But subsequent pressings retitled the song to “I Get So Lonely,” and Billboard changed it on the charts several weeks into its run. Fortunately, the confusion didn’t hurt though; it continued climbing and stayed in the top ten for 17 weeks.

The Four Knights’ next three charting singles, ’55 to ’57 were collabs with none other than Nat King Cole, their label-mate on Capitol Records.

#8 Rosemary Clooney – This Ole House

At #8 as we continue our Chartcrush Countdown of 1954’s top ten hits, the first of two we’re gonna hear this hour by ’54’s top-charting Female Singer, narrowly beating “The Singing Rage Miss Patti Page” for that title after being outranked by her three years in a row.

Bandleader Tony Pastor discovered her and her sister Betty in 1945 singing on radio in Cincinnati and she was the Singer on the Pastor band’s last four charting singles in ’48 and ’49. She cut her first solo discs in ’49, but didn’t break through ’til ’51 when Columbia Records’ new A&R Chief Mitch Miller gave her the ethnic Novelty “Come On-a My House.” Which she hated, but it was a huge hit and in ’52 she followed up with a Pop version of Hank Williams’ “Half as Much” and another Miller-decreed ethnic Novelty, “Botch-a Me.”

Both of those got to #2 and by ’53 she was making Technicolor big screen musicals for Paramount and getting hitched to Oscar-winning Puerto Rican Actor Jose Ferrer. #8 for ’54, it’s Rosemary Clooney’s “This Ole House.”

“This Ole House,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1954, one of the many hits that Mitch Miller snatched off the Country charts and handed to Columbia’s Arrangers and Singers to class up into Pop hits in the early ’50s. Tony Bennett doing Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart,” the first of those in ’51, and ’54 was when other enterprising diskmen started mining the R&B charts the same way: the R&B gold rush I mentioned earlier.

Cowboy Singer-Songwriter Stuart Hamblen wrote “This Ole House” after a hunting trip with Western Actor John Wayne in the High Sierras and finding an old miner dead in his dilapidated cabin with his dog still standing guard.

Hamblen’s own version was in the top ten on the Country charts at the same time as Clooney’s was on the Pop charts, and both versions have those deep bass vocals sung by the same guy, Thurl Ravenscroft, later the voice of the Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger (“they’re great!”), and also the Singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” which became Ravenscroft’s first entry on the Hot100 under his own name when streaming clicks first put it on the Hot100 over the holidays in 2020.

#7 Eddie Fisher – I Need You Now

So Rosemary Clooney, again, ’54’s top Female act; next up at numbers 7 and 6 we have a two-fer: two songs in a row by the year’s top Male act, and the top charting act overall by a slim margin thanks to landing eight records on the charts during the year: the most of any act in ’54. Clooney had three. The two in our countdown, of course, the biggest of the eight, and both recorded live at New York’s Webster Hall backed by his label RCA-Victor’s top Arranger-Conductor Hugo Winterhalter & Orchestra. At #7, the later of the two on the calendar: #1 for five weeks in November and December. It’s Eddie Fisher’s “I Need You Now.”

Eddie Fisher’s “I Need You Now” at #7 here on our 1954 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The song, written for 1953’s top-charting Female Singer, Joni James, but RCA rushed out Fisher’s version and it shot into the top 10 in just its second week before James’ label MGM could even get a single out, so James’ remained an album-only cut.

By the way, if you think Fisher’s eight chart hits in ’54 is impressive? In 1953 he had ten and in ’52, 13!

#6 Eddie Fisher – Oh! My Papa (O Mein Papa)

’51 and ’52 during the Korean War was when Fisher was all over the TV variety shows singing in uniform as “PFC Eddie Fisher.” Then, as soon as he was out of the Army, he got his own show on NBC, Coke Time with Eddie Fisher, and by ’54, he was dating his future wife, Actress-Singer Debbie Reynolds. Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia in Star Wars was their daughter.

Things got super-messy after he started cheating on Reynolds with Elizabeth Taylor, and the scandal raged for a few years, but NBC canceled his TV show due to the bad publicity in ’59, RCA Victor dropped him in ’60, and by the time late-Boomers came of age in the ’80s, Eddie Fisher was mostly forgotten. But back to 1954, Fisher at his peak: the first of his two #1’s in the year from January, at #6 in our 1954 Chartcrush Countdown, “Oh! My Pa-Pa.”

The Silent Generation already manifesting its global reach on the eve of the Jet Age and propelling “Oh! Mein Pa-Pa” to #1, Anglicized to “Oh! My Pa-Pa” on the record, a song from a Swiss-German stage musical that became a German movie musical in 1954. Eddie Fisher wasn’t involved in either, but his vocal version of the song soundly beat an instrumental by another Eddie, Trumpeter Eddie Calvert, that was in the top ten at the same time. In Calvert’s native U.K. it was the other way around: the instrumental was #1 and Fisher’s peaked at #9.

“Oh! My Pa-Pa,” recorded dozens of times since ’54 including by Siouxsie & The Banshees in 1979 and Bjork in 1990. It even showed up in an episode of The Simpsons, sung by Krusty the Clown! But doubtful that many of those listeners had ever heard the Eddie Fisher version or even of Eddie Fisher!

 #5 Rosemary Clooney – Hey There

At #5, the other Singer with two hits in our 1954 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. We heard the first of them at #8, right before our Eddie Fisher two-fer, and get this: the two songs were on the same single. “This Ole House” on the flip, and both sides were in the top ten for 16 straight weeks in the late Summer and Fall: the biggest double-A sided single of the ’50s until Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog” in ’56.

And this side, our #5 song: pretty ambitious for 1954: a Singer having a conversation with herself. In the hit Broadway musical the song is from, The Pajama Game, the character Sid confides his feelings singing into a Dictaphone tape machine and duets with himself in the playback, but how do you pull that off non-visually, i.e. on a record? Well here’s how. Again, Rosemary Clooney with “Hey There.”

Rosemary Clooney’s “Hey There” at #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1954’s biggest hits. Did I mention that Rosemary’s little brother Nicholas was Actor George Clooney’s dad? That makes Rosemary Clooney George Clooney’s Aunt, and she guest-starred as an Alzheimer’s patient in an Emmy nominated recurring role on his ’90s TV show E.R.

“Hey There” was her last top ten hit, but she was on TV regularly into the ’60s, and her ubiquitous paper towel commercials in the ’80s (“Extra value is what you get, when you buy Coronet”).

Unlike most Singers from her era, Clooney cut a ton of albums in her later years: one, often two a year almost every year from 1976 until her death in 2002.

#4 Jo Stafford – Make Love to Me!

At #4 we have another Female Singer: “The Singer’s Singer,” with impeccable phrasing and pitch, who by ’54 was a 15-year industry veteran with over 60 chart hits, updating for the mid-’50s on a brash, brassy, sexy record with a Doo-Woppy vocal hook that turned out to be her last top ten. Her follow-ups including a cover of Cuban-American Girl Group the DiCastro Sisters’ hit in 1954, “Teach Me Tonight,” only scraped the top 20. But “Make Love to Me!” was the #1 Jukebox hit in the land for seven straight weeks in early Spring. It’s Jo Stafford.

[note: song is not in Spotify’s library; here’s a link to it in Apple Music]

Jo Stafford’s “Make Love to Me!,” #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1954’s top ten hits, backed by her longtime Bandleader-Arranger Paul Weston, first at Capitol, then moving with her to Columbia, and along the way they got married.

In ’59 Stafford turned down an extended gig in Vegas to focus on her family and mostly retired from music, but in retirement, her and Weston honed their bad music party act into a Grammy-winning Comedy album under the pseudonyms Darlene and Jonathan Edwards, and music biz titan Mitch Miller blamed their third album in ’62 for fatally torpedoing his brand by spoofing his Sing Along with Mitch franchise.

Darlene and Jonathan went dormant in the late ’60s but resurfaced in ’79 with a one-off single butchering The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” right as Disco was crashing. According to Stafford in a 2003 interview, Barry Gibb was not amused.

#3 The Crew-Cuts – Sh-Boom

At #3, the record that started the 1954 R&B gold rush I’ve been talking about that made Rock ‘n Roll inevitable. It’s the first cover by a White act made deliberately to cash in on Teens’ newfound obsession with Black R&B, stoked by Alan Freed, Hunter Hancock and other trailblazing DJs on the radio, and then magnified by Top40 once enough kids bought the records and got them on the charts. That was the perfect storm that lifted this record to #1 on all three of Billboard‘s Pop charts (Best Sellers, Airplay and Jukeboxes), and kept it there for five straight weeks in late Summer.

Now, a quick note before we hear it about how we compile our Chartcrush rankings for pre-Hot100 years with those three separate charts. It can get confusing, so to streamline things, we just do the same thing that Billboard did when it created the Hot100: weigh the rankings on the Sales, Airplay and Jukebox charts equally and combine them into a single weekly chart. And from there we just rank the songs exactly how we do for Hot100 years, post-1958. Neat, huh?

OK, so without further ado, the hit that transformed the music biz in ’54: The Crew-Cuts cover of The Chords’ “Sh-Boom.”

After the success of “Gee” by The Crows just two months earlier, the minute executives at Mercury Records got wind of another R&B record selling like crazy, they paired their house Arranger-Bandleader and Musical Director David Carroll with the fresh-faced Canadian group they’d just signed, whose debut “Crazy ‘Bout Ya Baby” had just hit the charts, to class it up for the Pop charts. And 72 hours later, the Crew-Cuts version of “Sh-Boom” was recorded, pressed and on its way to radio stations and stores.

The Chords only had the Billboard charts to themselves with their original for a single week. It kept rising though, peaking at #5 on the Jukebox chart the week The Crew-Cuts version hit #2 on the Sales and DJ charts: the first R&B single to make the top 10 on any Pop chart. But it lost momentum once the Crew-Cuts hit #1.

“Boom,” according to Chords tenor Jimmy Keyes, was the slang word on the streets of New York: a word you’d hear 15 times in five minutes: “Hey, man, boom, how ya doin’.” They added the “shh” to make it sound like an incoming bomb. “Sh-Boom.” And “ding dong, alanga langa lang?” Well that’s church bells, of course!

The Crew-Cuts, of course, totally oblivious to all that, but would The Chords original have gotten the same traction in 1954 if Mercury hadn’t sprung into action with The Crew-Cuts version? Hard to say, but after “Sh-Boom” hit, the pillaging of the R&B charts for Pop hits reached a frenzy.

Gradually, more and more kids started seeking out the originals, but notwithstanding the massive Songwriting royalties generated by big Pop hits, the case could be made—was made—that all this Pop “whitewashing” was coming at the expense of Black artists. But once labels just started signing the Black R&B artists themselves to make bigger-budget records that could cross over, it was a moot point, and flush with cash, R&B labels new and old did the same. Motown, anyone?

#2 Perry Como – Wanted

Well we’re down to #2 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1954, and it’s another chart veteran. By ’54 he wasn’t just on TV, he’d been on TV as long as there’d been TV, and he had not one but two shows: his weekly Sunday night Chesterfield Supper Club, and a 15-minute musical variety show on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays immediately following the Nightly News. And both those shows, simulcast on the radio.

He hadn’t done any movies since the ’40s but still, with that TV and radio footprint, when he put out a new record, it was a big deal, and this one was a bigger deal than most. At #2, Perry Como’s “Wanted.”

The #1 DJ and Jukebox hit of the year in Billboard; #2 Sales; his biggest hit since “If” in 1951, Perry Como’s “Wanted” at #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1954. Same Arranger and backing band we heard on Eddie Fisher’s hits at numbers 7 and 6, RCA’s Hugo Winterhalter & Orchestra.

Como also scored in ’54 with not the first, but one of the biggest and best remembered hits of the first year of the ’50s Mambo dance craze sweeping the country two years before Elvis, “Papa Loves Mambo,” heard in many an Arthur Murray Dance studio as people answered ads and signed up for lessons in the tens of thousands.

By the way, another milestone in ’54: the first year vinyl 45s outsold shellac 78 RPM records: better sound with vinyl as consumer hi-fi caught on, and jukebox operators upgraded to newer models. A third of the 200 million records made in ’54, destined for America’s 450,000 jukeboxes, according to Billboard.

#1 Kitty Kallen – Little Things Mean a Lot

And at #1, the song that replaced “Wanted” at #1 on our weekly charts derived from Billboard‘s published Sales, DJ and Jukebox charts, and it was #1 for ten weeks, three longer than “Wanted.”

She was the Singer on two of the most iconic hits of 1945, as the Allies cruised to victory in World War 2: “I’m Beginning to See the Light” and “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” featured under Trumpeter Harry James and his Orchestra. After that, though, she couldn’t score another hit, even reuniting with Harry James for two singles on Columbia in ’52. But then this one appeared in March of ’54 and just left everyone breathless: one of those records that says exactly what folks need to hear, how and when they need to hear it. It’s Kitty Kallen’s “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

Kitty Kallen happened to be in her new label Decca Records’ A&R office looking for material to record the day “Little Things Mean a Lot” came in. She loved it, but Decca, not so much. “That’s a ‘women’s song;’ it could never be a hit,” they said. Which might’ve been the end of it had Kallen not believed so strongly in the song that she offered to be on the hook for the recording session until the record sold 50,000 units. Well Decca liked that idea, and “Little Things” topped the Best Sellers chart for nine straight weeks.

Kitty Kallen followed up with another top 10 in ’54, “In the Chapel in the Moonlight,” but in ’55 she lost her voice in the middle of a gig in London and wouldn’t perform again for four years. She was back on the charts in ’59 though with a new deal on Columbia. Then in ’62 on RCA.

Bonus

Well that’s the top 10 according to our exclusive Chartcrush recap of Billboard‘s weekly Sales, Airplay and Jukebox charts. Again, our ranking derived by combining those three into a Hot100-style chart, then using the same method we use for Hot100 years to calculate the points. But some records were among the top 10 on one, two, or even all three of Billboard‘s published year-end charts (again Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes), but yet didn’t make the top 10 on our Chartcrush ranking, so, just so we don’t leave anything out, let’s have a look at those.

#11 Patti Page – Cross Over the Bridge

The song Billboard ranked #8 on its year-end DJ chart and #6 on Jukeboxes just misses our Chartcrush Top ten at #11: the biggest hit in ’54 by the Singer Rosemary Clooney finally beat out for Top Charting Female in ’54: Patti Page with “Cross Over the Bridge.”

Patti Page had seven charting records in ’54, more than any other Female Singer, and “Cross Over the Bridge” was the biggest, but another was a cover of “The Queen of R&B” Ruth Brown’s “Oh, What a Dream,” around the same time as Mercury labelmates The Crew-Cuts were out there with their version of “Sh-Boom.” It only got to #15, so not all White R&B covers were big hits!

Oh, and here’s a fun fact: the Chords original version of “Sh-Boom” was not the intended hit. The A-side of that record was a cover of the song we just heard, Patti Page’s “Cross Over the Bridge!”

#12 Doris Day – Secret Love

Next as we look at the songs that made Billboard‘s year-end Sales, Airplay and Jukebox top 10s for ’54 but missed the top ten on our combined Chartcrush ranking, our #12 song which was Billboard‘s #9 Best Seller and #8 DJ hit of ’54. From the 1953 musical Calamity Jane, Doris Day, who also stars in the film, “Secret Love.”

Doris Day with the Best Original Song at the 26th Oscars, “Secret Love,” from Calamity Jane.

#13 Frank Sinatra – Young-at-Heart

Now Frank Sinatra in ’54 was fresh from his Supporting Actor Oscar win for his role in From Here to Eternity, which also lifted him out of his chart slump with his first top 5 hit since 1946. It was Billboard‘s #6 year-end Airplay hit, and it shakes out at #13 on our Chartcrush combined ranking we counted down the top 10 from earlier: “Young-at-Heart.”

“Young-at-Heart,” Frank Sinatra’s first major hit for Capitol Records after parting ways with Mitch Miller and Columbia; the title song from the movie that paired Sinatra with Doris Day. There’s that name again! And in the film Young at Heart, Day’s character’s father gets a hi-fi for his birthday. Billboard predicted that that was going to help drive hi-fi sales nationwide.

#15 The Gaylords – The Little Shoemaker

Billboard‘s #10 year-end Jukebox hit of ’54 notched in at #15 on our Chartcrush combined ranking: another imported song, this time from France, and Rosemary Clooney appropriately sang some of it in French on her version, but that didn’t chart. Chicago Vocal Trio The Gaylords’ version with verses sung in Italian did though. Go figure! But that was The Gaylords’ gimmick on almost all their hits, so… In the top 5 on all three Billboard charts for eight weeks: “The Little Shoemaker.”

Gaylords, “The Little Shoemaker.” Petula Clark scored the U.K. hit with her all-English version of that song. Petula, still a decade away from her first U.S. hit in ’64, “Downtown.”

#17 Tony Bennett – Stranger in Paradise

Now as you’ve been hearing throughout our Chartcrush Countdown Show for 1954, songs often had multiple versions on the charts simultaneously. That was dying down a little since its peak in the late ’40s, but it still happened, so Billboard‘s Honor Roll of Hits was a weekly chart that ranked songs instead of records, combining all the versions into a single ranking position.

Well at #8 on Billboard‘s year-end Honor Roll recap for ’54 was a song that had three competing top ten versions on the records charts, none strong enough to make the year-end top ten records, but when you combine all three of them, one of the year’s top hits. And the biggest with 12 weeks in the top 10 on all three weekly records charts: Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes was Crooner Tony Bennett’s version. “Stranger in Paradise”

Tony Bennett sang that song in concert for the next 57 years, and in 2011 even re-did it for his album Duets II with Opera Singer Andrea Bocelli, “Stranger in Paradise.” Our Chartcrush ranking has Bennett’s version at #17 for 1954, up against Singer Tony Martin’s and Vocal Group The Four Aces’ versions at numbers 57 and 26, respectively.

#18 Four Aces featuring Al Alberts – Three Coins in the Fountain

And speaking of the Four Aces, their biggest hit of ’54 was #8 on both Billboard‘s year-end Sales and Jukebox charts and #10 Airplay. So how on Earth is it only #18 on our Chartcrush ranking? Well, because it got stuck at #2 for six weeks in the Summer behind “Little Things Mean a Lot,” so songs that did get to #1 outrank it in our Chartcrush point system.

As Billboard started doing in 1967, our ranking method awards bonus points for weeks at #1, which better reflects the hockey-stick curve with sales and airplay as the song rankings approach #1. Still a massive hit, though: featuring Lead Singer Al Alberts, The Four Aces’ “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

The Four Aces’ grandiose, cinematic “Three Coins in the Fountain.” It was the title song of a movie and even won the Best Original Song Oscar the year after “Secret Love,” but the Four Aces version isn’t the one in the film; Frank Sinatra’s is, and his more low-key version even charted, but was “Aced” on the charts by the version we just heard. No Four Aces recording ever appeared in a movie in the ’50s, but Robert Zemekis used their version of “Mr. Sandman” in 1985’s Back to the Future

#19 Archie Bleyer & Maria Alba – Hernando’s Hideaway

…instead of the better-known Chordettes version produced by, the Artist who scored 1954’s #10 Best Seller according to Billboard; that’s #19 on our Chartcrush ranking. I mentioned the movie The Pajama Game back when we heard Rosemary Clooney’s “Hey There” back at #5. This was another big hit from the film, capitalizing on that Mambo craze I talked about: Cadence Records Founder-Owner-Producer Archie Bleyer with Spanish Actress Maria Alba on castanets, “Hernando’s Hideaway.”

Johnnie Ray and Guy Lombardo, both out with versions of “Hernando’s Hideaway” in ’54, but Archie Bleyer’s with the sound effects and castanets, the clear winner on the charts.

That meme of secret, mysterious after-hours clubs where only a select few are welcome and you need a password: it surfaced again in ’56 on Jim Lowe’s “The Green Door.” What goes on in there, hmmm? Well in ’50’s America there was a long, wide-ranging list of taboo and illicit behaviors that listeners could draw from to flesh out their imaginations.

And on that titillating note, it’s time to wrap up our 1954 edition of Chartcrush! 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 the show and a link to the podcast version on Spotify, plus boss 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, ’40s to present, and it’s all on the website, again, chartcrush.com. Thanks for listening and be sure and tune in again this time next week, same station, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush 1983 Episode Graphic

1983 Top 10 Pop Countdown Podcast

Chartcrush 1983 Episode Graphic

1983 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

MTV breaks its Rock format to air Michael Jackson vids under threat by CBS and accusations of racism, and becomes Pop’s new gravitational center post-AM Top40.

::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 culture, and count down the top ten hits according to our recap of the weekly Hot100 charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week it’s 1983, the year of Michael Jackson, and the year of MTV.

But at the beginning of 1983? Hard to believe, but MTV wasn’t even playing Michael Jackson. More on that and Michael Jackson later in the show when we play his— not one, but multiple hits in our top ten countdown.

But first to set the stage, MTV. It debuted in August of 1981 with 2.1 million households on just a handful of cable systems with a straightforward concept: AOR radio on TV; AOR short for Album Oriented Rock, the main FM Rock radio format charted on Billboard‘s just-launched Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Topping that chart in ’81, acts like The Who, Tom Petty, Moody Blues, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult and The Rolling Stones.

So OK. But one big problem with that right off the bat: MTV was TV, not radio. If a video was boring or low-budget, just the Band or Singer performing live like most vids by AOR acts in those days, it wasn’t going to play the same on TV. And of course if there was no video, MTV couldn’t play it at all. Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry,” Rush’s “New World Man,” Eric Clapton’s “I Can’t Stand It,” all #1 Mainstream Rock songs in MTV’s first couple years with no video.

MTV co-founder Les Garland told Jet magazine in 2006 that in the early days he was spending 50% of his time trying to convince artists to make videos, and labels to bankroll them.

Now the other problem was the AOR format itself. It was in trouble. The Sony Walkman was killing Top40 on AM as Pop fans craved better sound, so the FM band obliged, and many stations ditched AOR for CHR: Contemporary Hits.

As Billboard Rock editor Roman Kozak wrote in his radio recap at the end of ’83: “the son of once-despised top 40 was actually playing hipper and more exciting music than that being dredged up from the AOR dinosaurs, even with a few New Wave acts grudgingly thrown in.”

And by “New Wave,” he’s not just talking post-Punk New Wave like The Human League, Clash, Eurythmics and Talking Heads. Glam Metal fell under the “New Wave” banner too, groups like Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard, at least until Rock stations chose a path and veered into Modern or so-called “Active Rock” formats, or just stuck with AOR to become Classic Rock.

MTV though was all-of-the-above: stretching AOR to its limits in search of videos, which strongly favored sub-genres like Post-Punk and New Wave with a tradition of theatrics and wild art house visuals that went way beyond the guitar neck closeups and hands-on-keys shots in AOR vids.

One thing MTV wouldn’t do in ’81 and ’82? Branch off into pure Pop or R&B. That, they reasoned, would be a bridge too far for their target AOR demo, still on their Death of Disco victory lap.

But whatever MTV’s calculus was in its first two years, by golly it worked! It wasn’t just that people who already had cable were watching. People got cable just so they could get MTV. “I want my MTV” was what you were supposed to call your cable company and tell them so they’d add it. Only then would you sign up and subscribe. This was millions of people coast-to-coast and by ’83 almost every cable system was carrying MTV. It was cable’s killer app: MTV households up from 2.1 million at launch to 17 million by ’83.

#10 Patti Austin with James Ingram – Baby, Come to Me

But still not as big as broadcast! In 1981 for example, 30 million viewers tuned in to watch an episode of General Hospital, the daytime soap opera on ABC, a show that had almost as big an impact on the charts in the early ’80s as MTV. Exhibit A: our #10 song as we kick off our 1983 Chartcrush Countdown.

The episode was the one where Luke and Laura Spencer tie the knot two years after he professes his love, then rapes her on the floor of the Mafia-owned Disco he manages, thinking he’s going to be killed the next day attempting to assassinate a Senate candidate on orders from his mob boss. Talk about compelling video, right?

And at #10, the song that began a slow five-month climb on the Hot100 once it started showing up as Luke’s romantic theme music on the show. It’d only gotten to #73 upon its initial release in the Spring of ’82, but made it all the way to #1 for two weeks in February, thanks to, no, not MTV—they weren’t playing it—but General Hospital. It’s Patti Austin and James Ingram’s “Baby, Come to Me.”

Adult Contemporary, also evolving in ’83, from a Country-Pop dominated format in the first years of the ’80s to Slow R&B, like Patti Austin and James Ingram’s “Baby, Come to Me” at #10 as we count down the top hits 1983 on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Separately, both Austin and Ingram continued charting R&B and AC hits through the ’80s, but Ingram got another turn at #1 on the Hot100: his 1990 Power Ballad, “I Don’t Have the Heart,” and before that, his duet with Linda Ronstadt on “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail got to #2 in ’87 and won Best Song at the Oscars.

And speaking of General Hospital‘s impact on the charts, “Baby, Come to Me” wasn’t the show’s only export. The Afternoon Delights’ plot summary novelty, “General Hospi-Tale” had already made the Top40 in 1981, and also, former early ’70s Teen Idol Rick Springfield was Dr. Noah Drake on the show. “Jesse’s Girl” from his first album since the mid-’70s was #1 the same the week MTV launched in August of ’81.

#9 Kenny Rogers duet with Dolly Parton – Islands in the Stream

Now contrary to common perception, The Bee Gees did not disappear after Disco imploded, even if their brand was all but unmarketable after their last #1, “Love You Inside and Out,” in the Summer of ’79. Their 1981 album Living Eyes only got to #41 on the album chart, and its lead single barely scraped the Top40 on the Hot100.

But despite that, the appetite for their distinctive songs and production sheen was undiminished, provided it was someone else’s name on the record. Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love,” “Guilty” and “What Kind of Fool” in ’80 and ’81: Bee Gees songs in every conceivable way except Streisand’s vocals. All top ten hits. Ditto Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker” in ’82: her first top ten in over three years.

Well, for ’83, the Bee Gees teamed with our Singer at #9: Country crossover’s biggest star, looking for his next #1 after his collab with Lionel Richie on “Lady” in ’80. And he got it. And the brothers Gibb, who co-wrote and produced his entire 1983 album Eyes That See in the Dark? Well, after Streisand and Warwick, the Bee Gees were three-for-three in the post-Disco ’80s!

It started out as a solo record, but didn’t gel until they brought in Dolly Parton from down the hall in the same studio and made it a duet. At #9 it’s Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream.”

A duet by two of Country’s biggest stars, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, on a Bee Gees song, “Islands in the Stream,” #9 as we count down the top hits of 1983 here on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Younger GenXers will recall Mýa interpolating the song on Pras Michel’s “Ghetto Superstar (That Is What You Are)” from 1998.

Now don’t look for “Islands in the Stream” in the top ten on Billboard‘s 1983 year-end charts because it was too late in the year, its chart run split between their ’83 and ’84 chart years. They have it at #56 for ’84. But counting its full chart run in the calendar year it was biggest as we do for every song at Chartcrush reveals it as one of 1983’s top hits: one of the many hits throughout chart history that’ve fallen through the cracks on Billboard‘s year-end charts because their runs, arbitrarily split between adjacent “chart years.”

#8 Michael Jackson – Beat It

So AC hits notwithstanding, as I talked about in the intro, ’83’s big music headlines? MTV and Michael Jackson. Jackson’s Thriller came out in November of ’82, initially with two videos planned. But MTV was still positioning itself as Rock, with almost no Black artists in rotation, and no Disco artists, so it was gonna be tough to get them aired. Michael Jackson, of course, both Black and a Disco artist.

But with MTV already stretching the AOR format playing obscure British and Australian stuff that no American AOR radio station would’ve sought out on their own, and Black R&B star Rick James (“Slick Rick”) out there accusing MTV of racism for not playing “Superfreak,” it was pretty weak for MTV CEO Robert Pittman to exclude those Jackson vids. So in a bold move, CBS president Walter Yetnikov threatened to yank all vids by CBS and subsidiaries if they wouldn’t play Michael Jackson, and MTV relented.

Thriller, already on its way to becoming the best selling album of all time after Michael debuted the moonwalk on NBC’s Motown 25th Anniversary special for 40 million U.S. viewers, many of whom didn’t have cable yet. And of course, once MTV did start playing Michael Jackson, not only didn’t the expected anti-Disco backlash happen, but MTV became the first profitable cable channel, and a legit cultural force.

Now the song we’re gonna hear right now at #8 on our countdown wasn’t the first Michael Jackson vid on MTV, but it was his first to crack the top 20 on the Mainstream Rock chart: the same chart MTV used initially. It’s the third single issued from Thriller featuring a scorching solo by Rock guitar god Eddie Van Halen, “Beat It.”

“Beat It.” Michael Jackson, #8 as we count down the top ten songs of 1983 here on this week’s Chartcrush. That scorching Eddie Van Halen guitar solo: even conservative AOR stations had to play that, and it broke the logjam of Black artists on MTV. Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” both debuted on the Mainstream Rock chart the same week as “Beat It.” And both eventually made the top 20 too.

As for Eddie: partly thanks to “Beat It,” the next year, his band Van Halen crossed over to the Hot100. “Jump” was not only their first top ten Pop hit, it went all the way to #1 for five weeks!

#7 Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart

So at #9 we heard a Bee Gees song that got to #1 sung by other artists, “Islands in the Stream.” At #7 we have a Meat Loaf song that got to #1 sung by another artist.

Jim Steinman was the composer of Meat Loaf’s multi-platinum Bat out of Hell album in 1978, but its ’80s follow-ups Bad for Good and Dead Ringer, also by Steinman, tanked even worse than The Bee Gees even though there wasn’t anything remotely “Disco” about Steinman or Meat Loaf. Dead Ringer‘s only charting single peaked at #81.

So Steinman did exactly what The Bee Gees did: retreated behind the studio glass and scored with another artist out front, in this case, the husky-voiced Welsh Singer whose “It’s a Heartache” was five or ten Hot100 positions ahead of Meat Loaf’s biggest hit, “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad,” through most of its chart run in the Summer of ’78. But she didn’t chart again ’til this. At #7 it’s Bonnie Tyler doing Jim Steinman’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

Bonnie Tyler teaming up with Bat out of Hell mastermind Jim Steinman for “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1983. Steinman and Tyler teamed up again for her next hit, “Holding Out for a Hero” from the Footloose soundtrack in ’84. That one got to #2 in her native U.K., but only #34 on the Hot100, and Bonnie Tyler faded after that, but Steinman and Meat Loaf finally got their act together and scored again in ’93 with the Bat Out of Hell sequel, Back into Hell and its hit “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

#6 Men at Work – Down Under

Now if you look at 1983’s big albums, three loom the largest. Thriller first hit #1 at the end of February and then the album with the #1 song in our countdown dominated the charts in most of the second half of the year. But our #6 song is from the album that was #1 for 15 weeks over the holidays at the end of 1982 until Thriller reached #1 in February. And this was its second #1 single after the group’s MTV-fueled breakthrough with “Who Can It Be Now?” Originally the B-side of their first Australian single in 1980, they re-recorded it in ’81 for their debut album Business as Usual. It’s Men at Work’s “Down Under.”

Well thanks to that song’s celebration of all things peculiarly Australian, like Kombi’s, Vegemite and chundering (that’s Aussie slang for vomiting), not to mention the term “Down Under” itself, Men at Work had folks talking up an “Aussie invasion” in ’83 to rival the mid-’60s British invasion, with other Aussies like INXS, Midnight Oil and Split Enz lending credence.

But actually, Australians had been charting top ten hits in the U.S. for years: Helen Reddy, The Little River Band, Olivia Newton-John, and more recently Air Supply. They were the top-charting AC act of the early ’80s, and the second top-charting Hot100 act.

But what was new in ’83 thanks to MTV was the absolute dominance of non-North American acts on the Hot100. Five or more of the top ten in 27 of the year’s 52 weeks, by artists from abroad. No other year in chart history even comes close.

Australia and the U.K. had a head start making and airing clever videos. Australia’s Countdown and Sounds; Britain’s Top of the Pops, big pre-MTV music video shows. So when MTV needed videos to fill all that airtime their first couple of years before Americans ramped up, that’s where they came from.

#5 Lionel Richie – All Night Long (All Night)

At #5 as we continue our Chartcrush countdown of 1983’s top ten hits, a Danceable upbeat song from the early ’80s’ top-charting Balladeer, and exclusively a Balladeer for years: “Three Times a Lady” and “Still” in the ’70s with his group The Commodores; “Lady,” written for Kenny Rogers in 1980; “Endless Love,” his duet with Diana Ross in ’81, and “Truly,” his chart debut as a solo act in ’82: all #1s, but all Ballads.

His only charted non-Ballad up to ’83? “You Are” from his ’82 solo debut, which got to #4. But he still had something to prove, and prove it he did when the song he wrote for folks to dance to on vacation topped the chart for four weeks November into December—like “Islands in the Stream,” too late in the year for its full chart run to be factored into ’83, but Billboard has it their #12 Hot100 hit for ’84, counting just its weeks from November 5 on. That full run, though, makes it the #5 song of ’83 by our Chartcrush reckoning. It’s Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night).”

By the end of ’85, Lionel Richie’s 1983 album Can’t Slow Down was RIAA-certified Diamond for sales of ten million. “All Night Long” was its lead single, #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1983.

Lionel with a Jamaican lilt to his voice on that, did you notice? And an African chant inspired by the fourth single from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” Accent and chant, both fake, but no one in ’83 cared.

Richie’s next two hits off Can’t Slow Down were “Hello” and “Stuck on You,” two more Ballads, but he was back in ’86 with another upbeat hit, “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

#4 Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

And speaking of Thriller, at #4, the second single from the album. The first: Michael Jackson’s schmaltzy duet with former Beatle Paul McCartney, “The Girl Is Mine,” which might’ve impacted early sales as fans wondered if the rest of the album is less Thriller, and more filler.

But of course it wasn’t, and that became abundantly clear when this one hit the airwaves in January, and then the famous light-up sidewalk moonwalking video premiered the first week in March, after CBS Records honcho Walter Yetnikov forced MTV’s hand. One of the most iconic videos of all time, here’s Michael Jackson again: “Billie Jean.”

“Billie Jean,” the best-selling single of Michael Jackson’s entire solo career, #1 on the Hot100 for seven weeks, #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1983’s biggest hits, and the song that opened MTV up to sounds besides Rock, including the many other Black artists who followed. Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” added the same week as “Billie Jean.”

The Walkman may’ve doomed AM Top 40, not to mention vinyl LP’s (cassettes outsold vinyl for the first time in ’83), but the notion of a gravitational center in Pop lived on for another decade thanks to Walter Yetnikov’s ultimatum and MTV putting “Billie Jean” on the air.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the top R&B single of the year; that honor went to Marvin Gaye with “Sexual Healing.” “Billie Jean” was #2.

Quincy Jones, the Producer of Thriller and it’s six top ten singles, including “Billie Jean.” And he also produced Patti Austin & James Ingram’s “Baby, Come to Me” our #10 song.

#3 Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson – Say Say Say

But back to Michael Jackson. At #3 is the second MJ/Paul McCartney duet in less than a year. “The Girl Is Mine” off Thriller peaked at #2 in January; this one off McCartney’s ’83 album Pipes of Peace got to #1 in December, making it the third song in our 1983 countdown that peaked in calendar ’83, but after Billboard‘s October 29 cut-off for the chart year. Billboard has it as the #3 song of 1984.

On “Girl Is Mine” at the beginning of the Thriller juggernaut, Michael got the cachet of having a Beatle on his record, but on this, the Beatle got an even bigger boost from having Michael Jackson on his. It hit the charts one week after Thriller‘s sixth single, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” and went on to become McCartney’s biggest single ever, #1 for six weeks mid-December to mid-January. At #3, “Say Say Say.”

Now “Say Say Say” may’ve hit the charts at the end of ’83, but it was recorded in London in the Spring of ’81, a year before Michael Jackson even started working on Thriller. Beatles producer George Martin helmed the session.

McCartney and Jackson, two of Pop’s biggest stars of all-time, both accused at various points in their careers of over-indulging sappy, mawkish tendencies: McCartney on “Another Day” and “Silly Love Songs,” and Jackson on “Ben” and “She’s Out of My Life.”

Put ’em together and what do you get? Well, on “Girl Is Mine” you get a supremely sappy and mawkish record, exactly what you’d expect. Less so on “Say Say Say,” but in both cases you get massive hits. “Say Say Say” was McCartney’s last #1 but he continued charting on the Hot100 as a lead artist all the way to 2007.

#2 Irene Cara – Flashdance…What a Feeling

Well we’re down to #2 on our Chartcrush Countdown for 1983: the lone Soundtrack single in the top ten. It won Best Original Song at the Oscars for the Singer, who wrote the lyrics in the back of a taxicab on her way to record it. Three years earlier in 1980, she’d been the Singer on another top ten hit that won Best Original Song, “Fame.” But she hadn’t been among the Songwriters, so she didn’t get a gold statue.

This one’s also the title song of the movie, and also like Fame, the movie was a surprise box-office smash that grossed many many times the modest amount it cost to make. From ’83’s cinematic pop culture phenom, at #2 it’s Irene Cara’s “Flashdance…What a Feeling.”

Irene Cara, “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” the title song from the movie and the #2 song of 1983 here on our ’83 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. The video was all movie footage, as was the video for Flashdance‘s other #1 hit, Michael Sembello’s “Maniac,” and heavy rotation on MTV helped propel the movie’s massive success at the box office: a pattern that repeated many times through the ’80s as soundtrack hits proliferated. It wasn’t just the music biz looking to MTV to create hits, so was Hollywood!

#1 The Police – Every Breath You Take

And that gets us to #1, about which the most astonishing thing I can tell you is: in the year of Thriller, it’s not Michael Jackson. It’s actually the band’s only career #1, but eight weeks on top in the Summer, and since that chart run is all in Billboard‘s ’83 chart year, every week of it counted, and it’s #1 on their official published year-end Hot100 too. And the album it’s on was #1 for 17 weeks. That album? Synchronicity: the band’s fifth and final LP. Here are The Police with the #1 song of 1983, “Every Breath You Take.”

The Police, “Every Breath You Take,” the #1 song of 1983, beating out five singles from Michael Jackson’s Thriller that were on the Hot100 during the year. The Police nearly broke up in the middle of recording their Synchronicity album, with Singer-Bassist-Frontman Sting and Drummer Stewart Copeland actually coming to blows. But fortunately they were able to complete the album and a world tour that went through the Spring of ’84 and was one of the two top grossing tours of the year (David Bowie the other).

Critics at the time were calling The Police the biggest Rock band in the world. They reunited in ’85 to headline a stadium benefit for the human rights group Amnesty International and tried to record a new album, but it didn’t work out and Sting, Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers went their separate ways ’til their lucrative 30th Anniversary reunion tour in 2007. But they never made another album!

Bonus

And there you have ’em: the top ten songs of 1983 according to our Chartcrush ranking that factors every song’s full run. But the year-straddling hits “Islands in the Stream,” “All Night Long” and “Say Say Say” coming in to our top ten displaces three songs from Billboard‘s year-end top ten, so to be thorough, let’s have a look at those.

#11 Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

At #10, Billboard had a real MTV New Wave hit, and by that I mean: a song that wouldn’t have done nearly as well in the U.S. if not for the wide exposure its edgy, high-concept video got on MTV. The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” was ’82’s top example, our #7 song of 1982; this one though? Pushed to #11 on our 1983 ranking: Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

Eurythmics: Singer Annie Lennox and Songwriter-Producer Dave Stewart: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Their first and biggest of more than a dozen hits before they split in 1990: Lennox to a successful solo career, and Stewart, a top producer in the ’90s and beyond.

#9 Michael Sembello – Maniac

And at #9, Billboard had the second #1 from Flashdance, which topped the Hot100 for two weeks two months after Irene Cara’s six week reign at #1 in early Summer with the title song. We have it at #12 on the year: Michael Sembello’s “Maniac.”

Fun fact: “Maniac” was originally about a deranged killer, not a dancer, inspired by a slasher movie, but the Flashdance Producers wanted it so Writers Dennis Matkosky and Sembello rewrote the lyrics to be about a dancing maniac. Sembello was unable to follow up the success of “Maniac,” so he went back to songwriting and producing behind the scenes.

And finally, Billboard‘s #7 song of 1983 was Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “Maneater,” an ’82 to ’83 year-straddler that we have as 1982’s #8 song, so we won’t be spinning that one here on our 1983 edition of Chartcrush.

But you can hear it on our 1982 episode: the podcast version of which is streaming now on Spotify, along with all our other Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Shows, ’40s up to now. For links to those, head on over to our website, chartcrush.com, where you’ll also find full written episode transcripts with copious source links, and other radical extras like our full top 100 charts and interactive line graphs of the actual chart runs of the songs in each episode.

For now, though, we gotta wrap up our 1983 edition of Chartcrush. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi, and as always I want to thank you for listening. That website again: chartcrush.com, and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another year in another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1962 Top 10 Pop Countdown Podcast

1962 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

It’s Twistmania as the Silent Generation peaks culturally, Girl Groups surge, Ray Charles goes Country and The 4 Seasons make Doo Wop a commercial juggernaut.

::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 culture, and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush we’re turning back the clock to 1962, which began with an extraordinary event: “The Twist” hitting #1 for a second time in January after already having hit #1 in 1960 and falling completely off the Hot100 for almost a whole year. The only time that’s ever happened: same record hitting #1 in two different chart runs.

But it wasn’t just a curiosity for chart geeks; it was a legit turning point for Rock ‘n Roll because it was the first Rock record to cross over to an adult audience. That’s how it hit #1 that second time: different audience digging it and buying it: grownups, once high society gossip columns started reporting sightings of mucky-mucks and celebs from Judy Garland to JFK’s sister Jean to the Duke of Bedford doing the Twist at the Peppermint Lounge, a mob-owned dive bar on the West side of Midtown Manhattan that literally overnight became the hottest ticket in town.

Rock needed that win. In the six years since “Rock Around the Clock” and Elvis shaking his pelvis doing “Hound Dog,” many OG Rockers, sidelined for various reasons. Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, radioactive from scandals involving young girls. Elvis, drafted. Little Richard, now a Preacher. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper dead in the horrible “Day the Music Died” plane crash in Iowa in ’59.

’59, also the year the Payola scandal broke: DJ’s taking bribes from record labels. With Congress turning up the heat and DJs and radio stations facing fines and jail time, no one was taking any chances with crude-sounding records that could be red flags for enforcers, so Top40 got very middle-of-the-road.

Billboard even debuted a chart in 1961 called “Middle Road.” It later became Easy Listening and then in 1979, Adult Contemporary. Stations needed that chart! Percy Faith’s Musak-y “Theme from a Summer Place” was #1 for nine straight weeks, peak Payola hysteria: 1960’s top hit.

But even before the Payola scandal, Rock records were sounding more polished and professional as hit after hit raked in Teens’ disposable income and labels spent more on production. In ’58, ABC-Paramount A&R head, also a Bandleader, Don Costa signed down ‘n dirty OG New Orleans R&B Singer Lloyd Price and gave him the full Sinatra orchestra treatment in a top studio, and “Stagger Lee” and “Personality” made Price 1959’s top singles artist. And Teen Idol Rocker Bobby Darin scored the biggest hit of 1959 with “Mack the Knife,” not even a Rock song! He went straight at Sinatra on his own turf with that one!

Of course, the notion of cleaning up Rock ‘n Roll went all the way back to the beginning, Dot Records and Pat Boone in 1955, and even before that, Mitch Miller as head of A&R at Columbia getting Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney to record Hank Williams Country songs, but post-Payola, the difference was that only those kinds of records were safe for the airwaves.

So Rock was assimilating, but the Rock ‘n Roll generation, Silents, were aging: aged 17 to 37 in ’62, so most of the adults who “discovered” “The Twist” in ’62: technically in the same generation as the Teens who first got it to #1 after watching Chubby Checker on American Bandstand in 1960. That’s what we call a generational peak, the few years that come around every 15 to 20, when almost everyone in the coveted 18 to 34 target audience for ads and media is in the same generation. The oldest Boomers, just 17 in ’62: still too young to imprint themselves on the culture, which would change in ’64 with Beatlemania.

But the late ’50s and early ’60s were all about the Silents. And one of their defining features was their internationalism at the dawn of the Jet Age. Until 1958 only a couple records by non-U.S. artists had ever topped the charts, but that year Italian Domenico Modugno’s “Volare,” sung in Italian, was the Summer’s biggest hit and many other international hits followed. By ’62 Billboard was devoting a ton of space to musical happenings abroad.

#10 The Tornadoes – Telstar

Like the two British records in our ’62 countdown. Yup, that’s right: two years before The Beatles!

Joe Meek was a trailblazing Sound Engineer and Producer in London, a Silent, fascinated by space and electronic music, so after AT&T put the first comms satellite in orbit in the Summer of ’62, he wrote a song about it. His in-house studio band The Tornados cut it, and within weeks it was climbing the U.K. and U.S. charts. #1 on the Hot100 the last two weeks of ’62 and the first week of ’63 and #10 as we kick off our Chartcrush countdown of 1962’s biggest hits. It’s an instrumental: “Telstar.”

One of the biggest hits of 1961, Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” whet the public’s appetite for weird new keyboard sounds, and “Telstar,” delivered for ’62: #10 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, 1962 edition.

Joe Meek, the Brit behind the Tornadoes was an acknowledged genius, but a tortured genius, likely schizophrenic. His studio was above a shop in London run by the landlady, who’d bang on the ceiling with a broomstick to complain about the noise, which would drive anyone trying to run a studio nuts, but for Meek, it was too much, and in 1967 after years of feuding, he murdered her, then himself with a borrowed shotgun.

By the way, British Rockers Muse: Frontman Matt Bellamy is Tornados guitarist George Bellamy’s son. Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” in 2006, a tribute to “Telstar.”

#9 The ShirellesSoldier Boy

Next up at #9, what would a 1962 countdown be without a Girl Group? Girl Groups, a cornerstone of the more sophisticated, polished Brill Building sound that filled the airwaves post-Payola.

Notwithstanding countless pulp fiction paperbacks and B-movies, the “Bad girl” Pop star wasn’t a thing ’til Nancy Sinatra later in the ’60s, then Donna Summer in the mid-’70s and of course Madonna in the ’80s. And early Rock ‘n Roll was Male dominated, as was the Greaser hoodlumism critics said it incited. So records by Female Singers: automatically in the safe zone for nervous radio Program Directors, and June 27, 1960, peak Payola hysteria, there were more than three in the top ten for the first time in nearly four years.

Well, April 21, 1962 was another milestone: the first week in chart history with three songs by Black Females in the top ten. Our #9 song was #6 that week, on its way to #1 for three weeks in May. Their second #1 after “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” in ’61, written by Brill Building Songwriting power couple Carole King and Gerry Goffin, it’s The Shirelles’ “Soldier Boy.”

“Soldier Boy,” reportedly written on the spot by Luther Dixon and Scepter’s Owner-Producer Florence Greenberg and recorded in one take with five minutes left in the session, #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1962. A song that became closely associated with Vietnam once hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were in combat there, but in ’62 when it was a hit, Vietnam was just one of many countries around the world where Americans were deployed.

JFK’s administration had two big Cold War setbacks its first year: the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, then the Berlin Wall, and Kennedy was determined to not add Vietnam to that list. Now The Shirelles weren’t a Motown group, but Berry Gordy, Jr.’s first Motortown “Sound of Young America” package tour hit the road in ’62: Marvelettes and Mary Wells, Motown’s two big Female acts, pre-Supremes.

#8 Mr. Acker BilkStranger on the Shore

Next here on our 1962 edition of Chartcrush, the second of the two British records in our top ten countdown, also an instrumental, but unlike “Telstar’s” aggressive futurism, this is a sweet little piece from a BBC show about a French au pair in England that some assume was a hit because people needed something to calm them down during the Cuban Missile Crisis, yet another Cold War powderkeg as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev put America’s new, young, idealistic President through the ringer. But Kennedy didn’t spot Khruschev’s nukes in Cuba ’til October and this was #1 in May and June, so nope.

But, again, that Payola chill on the airwaves gave records like this a boost, not to mention all-in-one home stereo cabinets now showing up in department stores and the Sears catalog and bringing hi-fi within reach for millions. I mentioned Percy Faith’s 1960 smash “Theme from ‘A Summer Place'” in the intro; in ’62 it was bowler-hatted, goateed, striped-waistcoated English clarinetist Mr. Acker Bilk, “Stranger on the Shore.”

Mr. Acker Bilk vanished from the charts almost as quickly as he arrived, and he was back on the cabaret circuit by the time The Beatles hit in ’64, but his one big hit, “Stranger on the Shore,” secured his legacy. In the top ten for 11 weeks, and #1 for just one, yet Billboard named it the year’s top hit based on the simple inverse-rank point system they were using at the time. That’s one point for a week at #100, 100 points for a week at #1, and so on.

As Billboard started doing in 1967 and refined in the years since, our Chartcrush ranking awards bonus points for weeks at #1 and in the top ten to better reflect the hockey-stick reality of sales and airplay volume as you approach #1.

And by the way, we apply that consistently to every year: same ranking method, so our Chartcrush rankings are truly apples-to-apples.

#7 Chubby CheckerLimbo Rock

So with grownups now doing the Twist, the kiddos needed new dances, and 1962 was a parade of them, one after the other: Loco-Motion, Candied Yam, Slop, Martian Hop, Mess Around, Mashed Potato, Surfer’s Stomp, Bristol Stomp, Swim, Frug, Jerk, Monkey, Hitchhike, Watusi.

And at the end of year, Mr. Twist himself, Chubby Checker, unveiled one. Not his first since “The Twist,” mind you; he was a busy man in ’61 and ’62: “Pony Time” in early ’61, “Let’s Twist Again” and “The Fly” in the Summer and Fall of ’61, and “Slow Twistin‘” with Mashed Potato Diva Dee Dee Sharp in the Spring of ’62, all top tens. But people did this one at parties for decades to come. At #7, “How low can you go?” Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock.”

An Island feel on that song, Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock” at #8. An instrumental version was out first in the Summer by The Champs (the “Tequila” guys).

Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” unleashed Calypso on the charts in ’57 and it surged again in ’62. Soul shouter Gary U.S. Bonds’ big Summer hit was a mashup of Calypso and Twisting: “Twist Twist Senora.” I mentioned in the intro the Silent generation’s internationalism.

“Limbo Rock” at first was the B-side: the flip of “Popeye the Hitchhiker.” That was two dances in one song, The Popeye and the Hitch Hike. But it was the Limbo that caught fire, and the record peaked at #2, kept out of the top spot by “Telstar.”

But like “Telstar” and other hits in our Chartcrush 1962 top ten we’re counting down this hour, don’t look for it on Billboard‘s year-end ranking because their cutoff week for the ’62 chart year was October 27. Everything after that? Ignored in their ranking. At Chartcrush with the benefit of hindsight and not having to get an issue out by New Years, we get to count every song’s entire chart run and rank it just one year, and that year is the calendar year it scored the most points. Songs never fall through the cracks here on Chartcrush!

#6 The 4 SeasonsSherry

And neither do whole groups, like the year’s top chart debut, who broke through in the Fall and scored two back-to-back #1’s before the end of the year. But neither of those hits is in the top ten on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100: the second because it was after the October 27 chart year cutoff, but the first, which is our #6 song, because despite its five weeks at #1, lesser hits with more weeks on the chart outranked it.

Remember, Billboard wasn’t awarding those #1 bonus points yet in 1962, so under their simple inverse point method, for example, ten weeks at #50 got the same number of points as five at #1. Incredible that it took Billboard until 1967 to address that!

Anyway, they were one of two Vocal Harmony Groups from opposite coasts that burst onto the scene simultaneously in the Fall. California’s Beach Boys, and the “Jersey Boys” (the title of their Tony-winning jukebox musical that ran on Broadway for 12 years in the ’00s and ’10s). That’s right, The 4 Seasons! Their breakthrough, “Sherry.”

Frankie Valli there with his trademark powerhouse falsetto on The 4 Seasons’ “Sherry,” the #6 song of 1962 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. #1 in just its fourth week on the Hot100; only a handful of non-American Idol winners in chart history can say that about their debut singles!

Initially called “Jackie” for First Lady Jackie Kennedy, the song inspired by Bruce Channel’s #1 “Hey! Baby” from earlier in ’62 evolved first into “Terri,” then “Sherry” after the daughter of big-time New York DJ Jack Spector, Songwriter Bob Gaudio’s best bud.

Despite being dwarfed on the charts in 1962, The Beach Boys eventually caught up and surpassed The 4 Seasons in later years to become ’62’s biggest debut looking at career chart points, but The 4 Seasons scored two #1s right out of the gate in ’62, and a third in early ’63, “Walk like a Man.” We’ll be hearing that second 1962 hit here in a few minutes.

#5 Joey Dee & The StarlitersPeppermint Twist, Part 1

But first, another group of Jersey boys that just happened to be playing at the Peppermint Lounge the weekend in October of ’61 that New York society columnists spotted British actress Merle Oberon and Russian expat Prince Serge Oblinski there Twistin’ the night away.

The sighting hit the papers the next day, and that night at the Peppermint Lounge, the NYPD needed barricades and mounted police for crowd control. Which remained the situation on West 45th Street between Sixth and Broadway throughout all of ’62 as 30 other “Twist” records came and went from the charts. Even Frank Sinatra jumped on the bandwagon with “Ev’rybody’s Twistin’.”

But besides Chubby Checker’s original, the only other that topped the chart was the one that replaced it at #1 for three weeks in January and February, by our lucky combo from Jersey, who were immediately promoted to house band at the Peppermint. Obviously!

They wrote and cut the song as a tribute to the Peppermint and the Twist craze, along with a whole album titled, what else? Doin’ the Twist at the Peppermint Lounge, which got all the way to #2 on the album chart at a time when albums by Rockers almost never cracked the top ten. At #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1962 it’s Joey Dee & The Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist.”

Joey Dee & The Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist,” the #5 song of 1962 by our reckoning here at the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Billboard had it all the way down at #25, not counting the first six weeks of its chart run in 1961 and not awarding those bonus points for its three weeks at #1.

The group’s namesake Joey Dee co-wrote “The Peppermint Twist,” but the Lead Singer is not Dee; it’s bandmate Dave Brigati, whose kid brother Eddie went on to co-found The Young Rascals with Felix Cavaliere in 1965. Small world!

As for Dee & The Starlighters, they made the top ten one more time with a frantic, live cover of “Shout” that even got The Isley Brothers’ 1958 original back on the charts in mid-’62 and inspired their new top 20 hit “Twist and Shout.” That, of course, became a centerpiece of The Beatles’ early repertoire.

#4 Bobby VintonRoses Are Red (My Love)

Well we’re gonna slow things down considerably for our #4 hit, which is a last-ditch “hail Mary” by a guy from the same Pittsburgh suburb that produced Perry Como, whose dream of hosting a Teen version of the Lawrence Welk Show on TV seemed doomed after his 1961 Young Man with a Big Band album and its singles failed to connect.

But at the meeting where his label was about to drop him he noticed two more singles on his contract, so in desperation he grabbed one of the demos there on the table, cut a version in a Teen Idol style jettisoning the whole Bandleader thing, and promoted the hell out of it. He even bought a thousand copies himself for distribution to DJs with, get this, a red rose! Apparently, that wasn’t considered Payola!

And it worked. The record was #1 for four weeks in the Summer and the #4 song of 1962 both on Billboard and our Chartcrush rankings, one of just two songs in our top ten that line up with Billboard‘s ranking. It’s Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red (My Love).”

Teen Idols weren’t invented in the Early ’60s. Emotive Crooner Johnnie Ray pioneered the look and style in the early ’50s. But after the Payola scandal froze out edgier sounds on the radio, labels were on the lookout for Male avatars of style who had just enough James Dean swagger to get the Teen girls a-crushin’ and a-swoonin’, but who in real life were the opposite of Rockers out riding fast cars and motorcycles, doing scandalous dance moves on TV and generating shocking headlines. Teen Idols like Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Fabian and the Bobbies: Rydell, Vee, Darin, and, reluctantly, Vinton, whose first hit “Roses Are Red (My Love)” we just heard at #4.

Bobby Vinton was all the way to the zero-swagger end of the Teen Idol spectrum, but he made up for it with business smarts, professionalism and sheer force of will. After charting nearly 40 more hits over the next decade-plus, he finally realized that dream of hosting his own TV show. The Bobby Vinton Show aired on TV from ’75 to ’78.

#3 The 4 SeasonsBig Girls Don’t Cry

Del Shannon’s “Runaway” not only whet the public’s appetite for weird electronic keyboards like on “Telstar;” it also paved the way for powerhouse falsetto leads, along with Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs’ #1 hit from 1960, “Stay.” And Dion & The Belmonts with their snappy Pop arrangements and harmonies: next level Doo-Wop!

Well, the group at #3 who we’ve already heard in our countdown didn’t have any strange keyboards, but they did have snappy arrangements and intricate harmonies, and they sure took that falsetto to the bank! We heard their breakthrough “Sherry” back at #6; here again, The 4 Seasons: their second #1, also for five weeks and the #3 song of 1962 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

“Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Frankie Valli’s piercing falsetto along with that cleverly contrasting doofus voice by Bass Singer Nick Massi, another Four Seasons trademark also on their first #1 “Sherry” we heard back at #6.

“Big Girls,” the bigger hit, #3 on our Chartcrush ’62 Countdown, but it didn’t make Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 at all because all but its first two weeks on the chart were after their October 27 chart year cutoff. If Billboard had been factoring weeks after the cutoff into the following year like it started doing in 1972, “Big Girls” would’ve been one of 1963’s top hits.

As depicted in their jukebox musical Jersey Boys, The 4 Seasons’ road to stardom was a long one. Three of the guys had been in a ’50s group called The 4 Lovers, who were on RCA and even played Ed Sullivan, but nothing charted so RCA cut them loose and the hitmaking lineup didn’t come together until 1960, when none other than future Actor Joe Pesci, their friend, introduced them to Bob Gaudio, whose ’50s group The Royal Teens had scored a hit. “Short Shorts,” #4 in 1958, then resurrected in the ’80s for a ubiquitous Clio-winning ad for Nair, the hair removal lotion.

Gaudio wrote most of The 4 Seasons hits including “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” along with Producer Bob Crewe.

#2 Ray CharlesI Can’t Stop Loving You

So in the Summer of ’62 there were two million-selling singles after three years of tanking sales due to Payola fallout, but also the LP surge from stereo and hi-fi. Summer, typically the doldrums for single sales, so the industry took notice.

One of the million-sellers was Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red,” which was only available on a single ’til after it hit #1, but the other, our #2 song, was on an album, and that album was #1 all Summer, 14 weeks, in addition to the single selling a million.

He’s the acknowledged inventor of Soul music, but also a big Country-Western fan, and in 1962 he went all-in on Country. That album was Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, and the single was his reinterpretation of a 1958 hit by Country legend Don Gibson. It’s Ray Charles with “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” #1 for five weeks and the #2 song of the year as we count down the top ten from 1962 here on this week’s Chartcrush. It was also Billboard‘s #2 Hot100 hit of the year, and despite being a Country song, #1 on the R&B chart for ten weeks.

Connie Francis also dove head-first into Country earlier in ’62 and scored what turned out to be her last #1: “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You.”

#1 Chubby CheckerThe Twist

Well we’re down to our #1 song, and I’m not really sure what else to say since I’ve been talking about it since the top of the show: the centerpiece of 1962 Pop and the only record in history to get to #1 in two separate runs on the Hot100. That after it caught on with adults in late 1961 once gossip writers started catching celebrities slumming at New York’s Peppermint Lounge doing the dance.

It was a Teen sensation in 1960 after he did it on American Bandstand; then again for two weeks in January 1962 after dropping off the chart for almost all of ’61: Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”

So Billboard has “The Twist” at #9 on its year-end ranking for 1962 because they didn’t count the first seven weeks of its historic second chart run in late 1961. Again, at Chartcrush, we count every song’s full chart run and rank it in the year it earned the most points, so “The Twist” takes its no-brainer place as 1962’s top hit.

If you’re wondering, we consider chart runs “separate” if they have at least six months off the chart in between. And besides Christmas hits, and in the streaming era, songs that chart again after an artist’s death like Whitney Houston, Prince and Juice WRLD, only three records besides “The Twist” have made the top ten in separate runs:

Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” #4 in 1961 when it first came out, and then #9 in 1987 when it was the title song of the movie Stand by Me.

Bobby (Boris) Pickett’s 1962 Halloween #1 “Monster Mash” peaked again at #10 when it was reissued in the Summer of 1973.

And Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” #9 in 1976 and then #2 in 1992 when it was in the Wayne’s World soundtrack shortly after Freddie Mercury’s death.

And that’s it!

Bonus

Well there you have ’em, the real top ten songs of 1962. But in deference to Billboard despite their flawed ranking methodology in ’62, before we sign off we want to take a look at the songs that they had in their top ten for ’62,  but weren’t in our countdown. There were five of ’em.

#43 The SensationsLet Me In

At #8 they had a one-hit Doo Wop group out of Philly, The Sensations.

Sensations Singer Yvonne Mills Baker also wrote that song, “Let Me In,” Billboard‘s #8 song of 1962; #43 on our Chartcrush ranking: one of the first all-Male groups to add a Female Lead Singer.

#22 Little EvaThe Loco-Motion

We heard three dance craze records in our countdown, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and “Limbo Rock” and Joey Dee & The Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist.” Of those, Billboard‘s year-end top ten only had “The Twist” at #9. But they had two different ones, including their #7 song, #22 on our Chartcrush ranking, Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion.”

Husband-and-wife Brill Building Songsmiths Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote “The Loco-Motion” as the follow-up to another Singer’s dance craze record, but she passed so they gave it to their 16-year-old babysitter, and Little Eva Boyd went from making $35 a week to earning a cool $30 grand as a Pop star. She scored three more charting singles in ’62 and ’63, all written by Goffin and King.

#11 Shelley FabaresJohnny Angel

At #6 as we continue our look at the songs that made Billboard‘s year-end top ten but not our Chartcrush top ten we counted down this hour, Billboard had the record by the Teen daughter in TV’s Donna Reed Show, actress Shelly Fabares. It shot to #1 after she sang it in an episode, about a girl’s hopeless crush on a boy who doesn’t know she exists, “Johnny Angel.”

Shelly Fabares’ “Johnny Angel” just misses our Chartcrush Top Ten at #11. Fabares remained a big star on TV and movies into the ’90s but her Singing career began and ended with “Johnny Angel” and its sequel “Johnny Loves Me” a couple months later.

#17 David Rose & His OrchestraThe Stripper

Billboard‘s 1962 year-end top ten also had two instrumentals: their #1 song, Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” (#8 on our ranking), but instead of “Telstar” which was too late in the year to factor, at #5, they had… “The Stripper.”

Legend has it that a young, Male office assistant was sent down to the tape vault to grab an unreleased recording by David Rose & His Orchestra to slap on the B-side of their new Easy Listening version of the standard “Ebb Tide,” and he returned with “The Stripper,” recorded in 1958. And it was delighted young, Male Top40 DJs who completely ignored “Ebb Tide” and instead played the B-side to death in the Summer of ’62, making “The Stripper” Billboard‘s #5 hit of the year. Our Chartcrush ranking puts it at #17.

#14 Dee Dee SharpMashed Potato Time

And finally, Billboard‘s #3 song of 1962 didn’t make our top ten. It had lots of weeks in the Top 40 so it got a longevity boost in Billboard. But it never got to #1, so it lands at #14 when songs that did get their bonus points. It’s the hit that Goffin and King wrote “The Loco-Motion” as a follow up for: Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time.”

The Mashed Potato, the biggest Teen dance obsession of ’62 while mom and dad were out discovering the two-year-old Twist. But, wait, The Mashed Potato dance move was older than the Twist. James Brown came up with it in ’59!

Oh, and fun fact: “The Monster Mash” is the same dance as the Mashed Potato. Just add Frankenstein-style zombie gestures with your arms and hands!

So 1962, an interesting year in chart history! I hope you enjoyed our look back here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and if you did and want more, go check out our website, chartcrush.com where you can listen again to the podcast version on Spotify,  follow along with a written transcript and check out spiffy extras like our full Top100 chart and interactive line graph of the top ten songs. We do that for every year we count down, and we count down a different one every week on this show, ’40s to the present, so check it out, again chartcrush.com, and be sure and tune in next week, same station and time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1995 Top 10 Airplay Countdown Podcast

1995 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Politics lurches right, Madonna reins it in and Mariah goes Hip-Hop as Billboard names a Gangsta Rap song #1 on the year, but where is the Theme from Friends?

::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. This week, we’re turning the clock back to 1995, a politically-charged year after Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America to shrink the government swept Republicans to control of the House of Representatives, and the GOP also won back control of the Senate.

Republicans had won Presidential races against the backdrop of the culture wars raging since the early ’70s, but flipping the House? That was new. 1955, the last time there’d been a Republican Speaker. The Culture Wars, accelerating in the ’90 and spilling over into national politics, and music was at the center.

For its 1992 chart year, Billboard had completely transformed its data collection for ranking songs and albums, switching from its 40-year-old system of retail and radio surveys to actual barcode scans for sales through Soundscan and airplay spins reported by Broadcast Data Systems. And the change was dramatic as the charts started reflecting what Gen-X was actually consuming. Suddenly, artists and whole genres considered fringy and underground were on top: Gangsta Rap, Punk, Alt Rock, all aggressively pushing the limits of public taste.

Zooming out with the benefit of hindsight, it was the inflection point between modernism and postmodernism’s elevation of low culture and inversion of Western civ’s “meta-narratives,” in religion, morality, aesthetics, everything.

Gen-X essayist Chuck Klosterman in his book The Nineties highlights 1994’s Reality Bites as the cinematic epitome of his generation’s pathological fear and loathing of “selling out,” with “selling out” defined as embracing, rather than rejecting, virtually any aspect of those meta-narratives.

And in ’95, with the Cold War over five years and the youngest Boomers now in their 30s, when Billboard unveiled its year-end Hot100 chart and a Gangsta Rap track was the #1 song of the year, it was like an exclamation point on all that. Was Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” really 1995’s most popular song though? Well, definitely an important milestone in the mainstreaming of Hip-Hop: one of the major themes of ’90s and ’00s, but no, it wasn’t. It was more like wishful thinking on the part of postmodern taste inverters and envelope pushers, not to mention Hip-Hop fans. It was only #50 on Billboard’s year-end Airplay ranking.

How it got to be #1 on the year-end Hot100, we’ll explore in more detail as the show goes on, but for now, suffice to say that the Hot100 was broken in 1995, and stayed broken all the way ’til Billboard fixed it for its 1999 chart year. So for those late ’90s years, ’95 to ’98, Billboard‘s Airplay chart, not the Hot100, is the best gauge of what was broadly popular, so that’s what we’ll be counting down here on our 1995 edition of Chartcrush: the top ten derived from Billboard‘s weekly Airplay chart that ranked the songs based on actual spins on a broad cross-section of radio stations.

#10 Sophie B. Hawkins – As I Lay Me Down

Kicking things off at #10, speaking of Reality Bites, after Lisa Loeb scored the first-ever #1 hit by an unsigned artist in ’94 (her song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film), one of ’95’s big Indie Female sensations was our Singer at #10: her second hit after “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” in 1992 and one of the top Adult Contemporary hits of ’95 (#1 on that chart for six weeks), it’s Sophie B. Hawkins’ “As I Lay Me Down.”

What are those backing vocals saying in the chorus? If you thought “I like tacos,” you’re not alone. ’95, one of the last years that misheard lyrics could become memes, before fans could look ’em up on the Web. “Ooh La Kah Koh” is what they’re singing: just nonsense syllables.

Sophie B. Hawkins’ “As I Lay Me Down,” #10 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1995’s biggest hits according to our exclusive recap of Billboard‘s weekly “Radio Songs” airplay charts. It also peaked at #6 on the Hot100. It was in the Christina Ricci coming-of-age flick Now and Then and an episode of Fox’s Party of Five, the family Drama that made stars out of Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love-Hewitt. Hawkins even guest stars in the episode.

#9 Hootie & The Blowfish – Only Wanna Be with You

At #9, a band that surprised everyone by scoring the bestselling album of 1995—by a mile. 12 million in its first year. As AllMusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine puts it, they “defined the mid-’90s mainstream in the wake of Alt Rock” by flipping the script on the conventional notion of artsy left-of-the-dial college Rock. They sounded Alternative, but were really anything but, making Alt Rock safe for local pubs, mom’s minivan and mainstream radio.

It was #19 on the year going by the Hot100, but #9 looking at Airplay, it’s Hootie & The Blowfish, “Only Wanna Be with You.”

Hootie & The Blowfish, “Only Wanna Be with You,” #9 as we count down the top ten Airplay hits of 1995 on this week’s edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. They scored three other massive hits off their Cracked Rear View album, the breakout single, “Hold My Hand,” plus “Let Her Cry,” and “Time.” But later albums didn’t fare as well and the band went on hiatus in 2008. Singer Darius Rucker became a big Country star with eight Country #1’s from 2008 to ’18.

#8 Blues Traveler – Run-Around

While the O.J. Simpson trial was mesmerizing TV audiences in 1995, there were a couple notable deaths in the music world. Latin Pop singer Selena (dubbed the “Mexican Madonna”) / was shot and killed in a dispute over money, by a former fan club President. She was just 23 and on the verge of achieving major crossover success for Latin music, four years before Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

And then in August, Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack. In their long strange trip since the mid-60s, The Grateful Dead? Never bigger than when Garcia passed away. They spawned a whole movement of Jam Bands in the ’90s: Phish, Black Crowes, Spin Doctors, Dave Matthews and the group with the #8 Airplay hit of ’95, who were David Letterman’s favorite band: more appearances on that show than any other act.

It comes out #11 on the year ranking the songs according to the Hot100, but #8 Airplay, it’s Blues Traveler’s “Run Around.”

“Run Around.” In 1991, a few years before that song made Blues Traveler stars, group leader John Popper was at The Arrowhead Ranch 15 miles from the site of the original 1969 Woodstock playing with a bunch of other Jam Bands, and got the inspiration to organize the H.O.R.D.E. Festival: Jam Bands’ answer to the Alt Rock festival Lollapalooza. H.O.R.D.E. ran for seven successful years during a decade of Summer music festivals: Warped, Lilith Fair, Woodstock revivals.

#7 The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There for You

Next up at #7 is the song that made everyone realize that the Hot100 chart was broken: again, why we’re counting down the top ten Airplay hits here on our 1995 edition of the Chartcrush Countdown Show instead of the Hot100, our usual go-to. It was Billboard’s #1 Airplay song for eight straight weeks in the Summer of ’95, but disqualified from the Hot100 because it wasn’t out as a single.

All the way up to the end of 1998, Billboard stubbornly clung to its rule that songs had to be out as singles in order to chart on the Hot100, which was problematic because increasingly, hits weren’t being released as singles. Labels wanted to sell $15 albums, not $4 singles, but besides, once the 7-inch vinyl 45 faded, fans didn’t have much use for cassettes or CD’s with just a couple songs.

Now the exceptions, R&B, Dance and Hip-Hop: genres with a tradition of multiple versions and remixes of hit songs going back to the late ’70s and 12-inch vinyl. So-called “CD Maxi singles” in those genres: hot items because you couldn’t get the remixes and extended versions anywhere else. So the Hot100 skewed heavily in favor of R&B, Dance and Hip-Hop, at the expense of “song-is-the-song” genres.

But Rock and Country, still as big as ever on the Album charts and on the radio. And in the case of the #7 song on our 1995 Airplay countdown, TV, thanks to NBC’s Thursday night primetime hit Friends. It was the theme song. It’s The Rembrandts, “I’ll Be There for You.”

Friends premiered September 22, 1994, just three weeks after show producers decided it even needed a theme song, tried to get R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” but couldn’t, so recruited a Songwriter and Pop Rock Duo The Rembrandts to create one, and the result was “I’ll Be There for You.”

Friends was an immediate hit on TV but the whole first season you couldn’t buy the song in any format, until May of ’95 as Summer reruns were about to start and The Rembrandts tacked it on as the last track on their new album, L.P. But no single because the band didn’t write it and didn’t think it represented them, so the only way to get it was to buy the album. And before the end of the year, a million people did.

Finally in the Fall of ’95 with the release of the Friends soundtrack album for the premiere of Season Two of the show, “I’ll Be There for You” came out as a single and debuted at #17 on the Hot100, but that was after it’d become the first song ever to top the Airplay chart without being on the Hot100 at all over the Summer: the first of many like that over the next few years, it turned out, as Billboard continued its policy of disqualifying Airplay-only hits from the Hot100 all the way up to its 1999 chart year.

#6 Mariah Carey – Fantasy

At #6, the other extreme: a song that greatly benefitted from Billboard‘s singles-only policy. It was only the second single in history to debut at #1 on the Hot100, and by the end of ’95, that single was Double Platinum.

Billboard listed the album version on its charts, and that’s what Adult Contemporary and most Top40 stations played, but much of the song’s success was thanks to a remix (only on the single) by Bad Boy Records mogul Puff Daddy featuring Wu Tang Clan Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard that crossed it and the artist over to the Hip-Hop audience just as that was about to become an essential career move for Pop Singers who wanted to stay relevant.

And no one was a bigger Pop Singer in the ’90s than she was. That’s not hyperbole, she literally was Billboard‘s top charting act of the ’90s decade. It’s Mariah Carey’s ninth #1 hit, the lead single from her 1995 Dream Lover album and our #6 Airplay hit of the year, “Fantasy.”

Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy,” #6 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1995’s top hits ranked from Billboard‘s weekly “Radio Songs” Airplay chart. It was also Billboard‘s #7 year-end Hot100 song.

That remix version I mentioned: it was a bold move and a big deal in ’95 for a star of Mariah’s caliber to embrace Rap like that, and she did it against the bluntly-expressed wishes of her mentor, label boss and hubby Tommy Mottola, a first-wave Boomer 20 years her senior who, like most Boomers, was immune, even hostile, to the pull of the Postmodern Gen-X sounds and sensibilities that transformed pop culture in the early ’90s.

Mottola couldn’t stop that remix, but he did quash her Alt-Rock band Chick, whose 1995 album Someone’s Ugly Daughter would’ve no doubt caused more than just a ripple if it’d come out with her original vocals instead of her friend Clarissa Dane’s overdubs as the band’s subbed-in frontwoman. Mariah’s involvement, a closely-guarded secret until her memoir spilled the deets in 2020.

By the way, that catchy bass line in “Fantasy?” It’s a sample from “Genius of Love,” by Tom Tom Club, the Talking Heads spinoff, that immediately caught on with Rappers upon its first appearance in 1981. No fewer than 85 Hip-Hop records using that sample before Mariah got a hold of it in ’95.

#5 Dionne Farris – I Know

Moving on, our #5 Airplay hit of ’95, also out as a single, and it just missed the year-end top ten on the Hot100 at #11, by a Singer who, despite getting her start in the epicenter of Hip-Hop (New York), got involved with the Atlanta Alternative Hip-Hop group Arrested Development and sang on their big hit in ’92, “Tennessee.” From there future American Idol judge Randy Jackson signed her to a solo album deal on Columbia, and this was her debut single from the album. It’s Dionne Farris’s “I Know.”

One-hit wonder Dionne Farris’ “I Know:” the #5 radio Airplay song of 1995 as we count down our top ten derived from that chart here on our 1995 edition of Chartcrush. She cut a follow-up album, but the label (same as Mariah Carey’s, Columbia) declined to release it, citing creative differences, and after that she quit music altogether to raise her daughter. But in 2007, she released the album herself on iTunes.

#4 Real McCoy – Another Night

At #4, another of the five songs in our Radio Songs-derived top ten countdown that were also in the top ten on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 singles chart. This one, a crossover from the Dance chart. Again, Dance, one of the genres that continued selling tons of singles in the ’90s thanks to extended Club, House and Special mixes not available anywhere else.

And the four-minute Radio version caught on, thanks to Arista Records boss Clive Davis, who’d struck gold in 1994 breaking Reggae-tinged Swedes Ace of Base in the U.S. and was looking to repeat that trick with this German Euro-Disco outfit that’d suddenly caught on in Canada. Well, Ace of Base they weren’t, but they were 1995’s Club Culture triumph: Billboard’s #1 New Pop Group of 1995, with three other Hot100 hits during the year besides our #4 song. It’s The Real McCoy with “Another Night.”

“Another Night” could easily have been the song that Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell’s Roxbury Guys on SNL bobbed their heads to in their rayon suits cruising clubs for women, but instead they chose a lesser Euro-Disco hit from ’93, Haddaway’s “What Is Love.” “Another Night” never topped the Radio Songs chart. It peaked at #2. But it was on the chart longer than any other ’95 hit: 44 weeks. And 45 on the Hot100, where it holds the record for most weeks at a chart position besides #1: 11 at #3.

#3 Madonna – Take a Bow

So, Mariah Carey, the top Pop Diva of the early ’90s, breaking out of her Adult Contemporary box in ’95 to embrace the Gen-X Postmodern taste inversion. Well, our act at #3 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1995: Billboard‘s top charting act of the ’80s, a constant provocateur and envelope pusher, to the point where multiple scholars and books have highlighted her as the central figure of Postmodernism, and she did the exact opposite from Mariah in ’95, even apologizing for putting everyone through the ringer.

“I’m going to be a good girl this year, I swear,” she said on video with a little girl in her lap. “Secret,” the lead single from her 1994 album Bedtime Stories topped out at #3 on the Hot100, but the second was #1 for seven weeks and topped the Airplay chart for nine. It’s Madonna, “Take a Bow.”

It ain’t easy being the vanguard of a cultural sea change for ten years! Feminist lightning rod Camille Paglia for one, got it, calling Madonna in a 1990 New York Times op ed “the true feminist” for exposing “the puritanism and suffocating ideology of American feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode.”

So pushing limits worked in the ’80s and early ’90s. Why change? Well after MTV banned her video for “Justify My Love,” and after she almost got arrested for obscenity in Canada on her Blonde Ambition tour, her Girlie Show tour that made Blonde Ambition look tame by comparison, and finally, her bizarre, profanity-laced smell-my-panties appearance on Late Night with David Letterman in ’94, the eyebrow-raising had turned to serious public doubts about her sanity. So doing a 180 and cleaning it up seemed like the most shocking thing she could do for ’95, and with Bedtime Stories it paid off.

When “Take a Bow” hit #1, Madonna dethroned Carole King as the Female songwriter who had written the most #1 songs in chart history.

#2 Boyz II Men – On Bended Knee

And our act at #2 became the first act since The Beatles in 1964 to replace itself at #1 on the weekly Hot100 with a different song. Decades old chart records falling like dominoes in the ’90s.

Incidentally, The Beatles scored their first top ten Hot100 hit since the ’70s / in 1995, “Free as a Bird,” from their Anthology project. At #2 though, this group’s sixth Hot100 top ten hit since their chart debut in ’91, and their third #1, after “End of the Road” in ’92 and, more recently, “I’ll Make Love to You.” That’s our Chartcrush #1 song of 1994 and the one our #2 song of ’95 replaced to match that Beatles milestone. It’s Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee.”

So Mariah Carey, the top charting act of the ’90s on the Hot100; Boyz II Men, the top charting group of the decade, “On Bended Knee,” the #2 Airplay hit of 1995, and even bigger things were right around the corner. Their collaboration with Mariah, “One Sweet Day” hit the charts in December 1995 and stayed at #1 on the Hot100 for 16 weeks, another record broken. That one it stood until 2017.

#1 Seal – Kiss from a Rose

And that gets us to our #1 song according to the Billboard year-end Airplay chart: a sleeper hit. When the artist first wrote and recorded it all the way back in 1987, he was embarrassed by it; says he just threw the tape in the corner. Then five years later during the sessions for his second album, he dusted it off and gave it to his producer Trevor Horn to work on, and it peaked at #20 on the Hot100. Not bad for a throwaway song, right?

But then, it was selected for the hottest movie of 1995, Batman Forever and re-entered the chart, went all the way to #1, became the #1 Airplay single of 1995 with 10 weeks at #1, and won all the awards at the Grammys. It’s Seal, “Kiss from a Rose.”

“Kiss from a Rose,” Seal, the #1 song on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1995’s top Airplay songs, propelled by its appearance in the blockbuster Batman Returns. Over on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100, it was #4. Seal’s cover version of The Steve Miller Band’s “Fly like an Eagle” went to #10 in 1997, but he never came close to repeating his unexpected success with “Kiss from a Rose.”

Bonus

So that’s our top ten. As I’ve been saying, lots of differences between what was happening on radio in ’95 and the Hot100 with Billboard‘s rule about songs having to be out as commercial singles to be eligible to chart. Four of the year’s top ten Airplay hits we just heard in the countdown didn’t make Billboard‘s year-end top ten on the Hot100 despite being out as singles.

Our #10 song, Sophie B. Hawkins’ “As I Lay Me Down” was Billboard‘s #39 Hot100 hit of 1995 and #76 for ’96 since its chart run extended all the way to the end of March. Hootie & Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be with You,” which we have at #9: Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 had that one at #33. Our #8 Airplay hit, Blues Traveler’s “Run-Around” was #14 and Dionne Farris’ “I Know,” our #5 song was #11 on the year-end Hot100. And of course, The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You,” which we have at #7, didn’t make the year-end Hot100 at all because it wasn’t out as a single during its eight week run atop the Radio Songs chart.

But Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 had five other songs in the top ten that we didn’t hear this hour in our Airplay-derived ranking, so in the time we have left, let’s take a look at those.

#30 Montell JordanThis Is How We Do It

At #10, Billboard had a six-foot eight R&B Singer whose first single used a ubiquitous Hip-Hop sample like Mariah Carey did with Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” on “Fantasy.” Here it was Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” one of the most sampled tracks of all-time. It’s Montell Jordan, “This Is How We Do It.”

The first non-Rap record on Def Jam after its acquisition by PolyGram, Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” Billboard‘s #10 Hot100 song of 1995. It notches in at #30 on our Airplay ranking we counted down the top ten from earlier.

#36 Monica – Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)

At #9 on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 was the debut by a 14-year-old R&B Singer that was in the top ten for 14 weeks but only got to #2. If it’d gotten to #1, she would’ve dethroned Little Peggy March as the youngest Female with a #1 hit ever. Little Peggy March was 15 in 1963 when “I Will Follow Him” topped the chart. It’s Monica’s “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days).”

Before Britney vs. Christina in ’99, there was Brandy vs. Monica, two Black Female Teens. Brandy hit first with “I Wanna Be Down” and “Baby” in the first half of the year, both top tens, but Monica’s “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)” got all the way to #2. Neither Singer topped the chart ’til ’98, when they teamed up on “The Boy Is Mine.” “Don’t Take It Personal” was #36 on our Airplay ranking.

#19 TLC – Creep

Billboard‘s #3 and #2 Hot100 songs of 1995 were both by the ’90’s top charting Girl Group on the Hot100, but neither song was among the top ten Airplay hits we counted down this hour. Both were in the top 20 though. The one Billboard had at #3 was #19 on our Airplay ranking. Radio, generally more conservative about what goes on the air than fans about what they buy, and it’s a song about revenge cheating that topped the chart just weeks after the trio’s Rapper, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, burned down her boyfriend’s Atlanta mansion. It’s TLC’s “Creep.”

Considering how big they were in ’92 when their first album dropped, surprisingly, “Creep” was TLC’s first #1 hit on the Hot100. It only got to #3 on the Airplay chart though.

#17 TLC – Waterfalls

The third single off their 1994 CrazySexyCool album got to #2 though, and was #17 on our ’95 Airplay ranking, #2 on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100. The song that kept Monica’s “Don’t Take It Personal” from hitting #1 and breaking Little Peggy March’s record for youngest Female chart topper, it’s “Waterfalls.”

Tionne, Lisa & Chilli, TLC with “Waterfalls,” a song about AIDS and drug violence, and best video at the MTV Video Music Awards, a first for a Black artist.

#43 Coolio – Gangsta’s Paradise

As I said at the top of the show explaining why we were going with the Airplay chart for our ’95 Chartcrush Top Ten countdown, the Hot100 had ceased to be an accurate ranking of the nation’s top hits with Billboard sticking to its rule that songs had to be out as commercial singles. Until they finally changed that at the end of ’98, several top hits: absent from the Hot100. The Friends theme “I’ll Be There for You,” the most glaring omission in ’95.

Well the flip-side of that: looking at the Hot100, several songs that were out as singles appear much more popular than they really were, and no hit makes that point better than the song Billboard ranked #1 for 1995. It was #50 on their year-end Airplay ranking so how can it be the year’s top hit?

Besides the Soundtrack album it was on, the tough school Drama Dangerous Minds starring Michelle Pfeiffer, the only way fans could buy the song for its first three months in release was the single. That also boosted it on the Hot100, and a Gangsta Rap track being named the year’s #1 hit was a milestone in the mainstreaming of Hip-Hop. Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” featuring Singer L.V., Billboard‘s #1 Hot100 song of 1995 but only 50th on its Airplay ranking. No profanity on any version of that song thanks to Stevie Wonder, who made it a condition of sampling his 1976 song “Pastime Paradise” for the beat. Ironically, though, it’s one of the least Pop-oriented tracks by a Rapper, Coolio, who many have criticized for leaning too hard into Pop.

And with that, we’re gonna have to close out our 1995 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, but if you like what you heard and you want more, visit our website, chartcrush.com for a written transcript of the show, and a link to stream the expanded podcast version on Spotify, plus bangin’ extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line 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. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to tune in again next week, same station and time, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush 1979 episode graphic

1979 Top 10 Pop Countdown Podcast

1979 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Disco peaks, then collapses after Rock fans riot in Chicago, New Wave breaks out with “My Sharona” and Pop is a mostly Disco-free grab bag heading into the 80s.

::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 different 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, the music industry’s top trade mag.

This week on Chartcrush it’s 1979, the year Disco suddenly, and spectacularly, flamed out at its height, after surging nearly four years, swept away in a sudden, spontaneous release of pent up frustration over the whole gamut of ’70s problems: energy crisis, urban rot, stagflation, malaise, the misery index, President Carter’s smiley aw-shucks beta personality, pussy-footing around with Soviets and terrorists, hand-wringing over Watergate and Vietnam, the Welfare State, collapsing morals and social fallout, and on and on. On the eve of the ’80s, all of it had to go. Not a conscious rebellion; more like a primal scream: just let this decade be over!

The last #1 Disco hit, Chic’s “Good Times,” referenced the 1930s Depression era that spawned Big Band Swing, another bad time that went on too long, and the last time dancing had been so big, not coincidentally. Virtually every city in ’79 had a Disco. And the latest thing: Disco roller rinks, especially out in the ‘burbs, with mirror balls and lights and DJ booths and the latest Disco records pumped through state-of-the-art sound systems.

By ’79 Disco had become a hegemonic genre-devouring vortex. First Funk, Soul and R&B, then Jazz and now even Rock and Country acts taking the Disco plunge! And radio? Well, AM Top 40, which still had half the audience for music: their job was to play the Top 40, regardless of genre, so that was now half Disco. But on FM, Disco-exclusive stations cropping up in major cities, and beating everyone else, even the big AM stations.

WKTU “Disco 92” in New York and infamously, WDAI in Chicago, previously an Album Rock station. Infamously because one DJ who lost his job when WDAI switched to Disco didn’t take it lying down. Moving to another Chicago Rock station, Steve Dahl took up the “Disco Sucks” mantle on his morning show, where he’d put on a Disco record and a few seconds in, scratch the needle across it with an explosion sound.

He got so popular doing that that the struggling Chicago White Sox thought they could fill some seats with a “Disco Sucks” promotion. Bring a Disco record, throw it in a bin and get in to a White Sox-Tigers doubleheader for just 98 cents (98, Dahl’s new home on the FM dial). And between games, “Disco Demolition” where Dahl detonates the bin of Disco records behind second base.

Well, fill seats it did: the biggest crowd ever at Comiskey Park, but there for “Disco Sucks,” not baseball, and after the explosion, total mayhem as thousands rushed the field and the Sox had to forfeit game 2. July 12, 1979. Disco Demolition Night, when the simmering Disco backlash burst out into the open and became a national news story.

And the shift on the charts: sudden and dramatic. For the first eight months of ’79, almost every #1 was either Disco or a slow song by a Disco act. But less than a month after “Disco Demolition,” Chic’s “Good Times” was nudged to #2 and The Knack’s “My Sharona” topped the chart for six weeks. And for the rest of the year, the top ten was a Discoless grab bag and the music biz, already reeling from a 20% drop in LP sales since ’78, was left scrambling.

MCA fired its entire A&R staff in ’79 and those laid-off staffers no doubt rode down to the lobby with their pink slips grumbling about cassette decks, home taping and the just-launched Sony Walkman. So it wasn’t just that folks were tired of Disco. But things didn’t pick up again for the industry ’til 1983 and ’84 with MTV. But that’s for another episode.

#10 KC & The Sunshine Band – Please Don’t Go

We kick off our 1979 Chartcrush countdown, with two hits at numbers 10 and 9 that both came very late in the year, months after Disco Demolition, and the one at #10 is something different from an iconic Disco group that landed four #1’s pre-Saturday Night Fever and Bee Gees, but zero after, not even a top 20, until this. Sometimes a couple years out of the limelight can be a good thing! At #10 it’s KC & The Sunshine Band’s only Ballad, “Please Don’t Go.”

KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go” at #10, stuck at #2 the last two weeks of the year behind the song we’re gonna hear next at #9 in our 1979 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, and then it moved up, and was the first #1 of the ’80s.

Now at Billboard, their year-end charts don’t go by calendar years. They have to give themselves time to get their year-end issue out before New Years, so there’s a cutoff, and in ’79 that cutoff was early: October 20, “Please Don’t Go’s” ninth week on the chart. It’s remaining 17 weeks, including its 11 in the top ten? In Billboard’s 1980 chart year. They have it at #19 for 1980. Well at Chartcrush, we do go by the calendar year, and rank every song’s full chart run in the year it earned the majority of its ranking points. No splitting. So it’s our #10 song of 1979.

#9 Robert Holmes – Escape (The Pina Colada Song)

Same situation with our #9 song. It was neck-and-neck in the top ten with “Please Don’t Go” December into January, and was the last #1 of the ’70s decade: a story song with an unexpected twist at the end, by a Singer-Songwriter who got his start in the anonymous world of late ’60s Bubblegum, then spent most of the ’70s writing ad jingles, songs for other artists (notably Barbra Streisand) and four albums, none of which charted. His fifth, though, was the charm, and its lead single took off. At #9, Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).”

Narrative Story Songs, huge in the first half of the ’70s, then a lull as Disco ramped up, then a resurgence. Kenny Rogers had launched his solo career with his Country crossover Story Songs “Lucille” in ’77, “The Gambler” in ’78, and his latest “Coward of the County,” which was in the top ten at the same time as Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song),” the one we just heard at #9.

Rogers moved on from musical storytelling in the ’80s, but not Rupert Holmes. His Broadway musical based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished last novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, won five Tony Awards in 1986. Once the follow-up singles after “Escape” ran their course in 1980, though, and two from his next album failed to crack the top 40, that was it for Rupert Holmes on the Pop charts.

#8 Peaches & Herb – Reunited

Next, the third song in a row in our Chartcrush Countdown for 1979, that isn’t Disco, but unlike the first two at numbers 10 and 9, it hit in the first part of the year, so, one of the #1 Ballads by Disco acts that I mentioned at the top of the show. The Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven” was another: #1 for two weeks in January.

This one came later, #1 for four weeks in May, after their dancefloor-filler “Shake Your Groove Thing” had lit up the charts in March, four straight weeks at #5. Hey, the kiddos at the roller disco needed slow songs too! #1 for four weeks in May. At #8, it’s the Duo Peaches & Herb with “Reunited.”

Peaches & Herb weren’t really “Reunited” because it wasn’t the same “Peaches” who was with Herb Fame for their string of hits in the late ’60s including the song “United.” Francine Barker was “Peaches” in their “Sweethearts of Soul” days, and she’d retired. Herb had too, in 1970, to be a DC cop.

But music beckoned again and Producer Van McCoy, who’d put the first Peaches & Herb Duo together, hooked him up with former model Linda Greene, and she’s the “Peaches” on all their late ’70s stuff. McCoy had just scored himself with one of the first Disco #1s, his instrumental “The Hustle” in the Summer of ’75, but the Peaches & Herb relaunch album he produced in ’76 didn’t chart, so they switched labels and teamed up with Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren, the team who’d just done Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

Fekaris & Perren wrote and produced all of Peaches & Cream’s 2 Hot! album, and cranked out three more Peaches & Herb albums in ’80 and ’81, but except the ’80s wedding perennial “I Pledge My Love,” which topped out at #19, nothing connected like their hits in ’79.

#7 Village People – Y.M.C.A.

At #7, finally some Disco! By a group conceived as a celebration of the Gay lifestyle and club scene in New York that gave Disco its flashy, flamboyant aesthetic. Gays had come a long way since the 1969 Stonewall Riots that ignited the Gay Rights movement, but that scene was still deep underground, and few outside of it had any clue, least of all the kiddos at suburban roller rinks skating around to our #7 song, spelling out letters with their arms.

It never got to #1, but was #2 for three weeks in February and in the top ten for 12: enough to make it one of the top ten hits of the year. It’s The Village People’s second hit after “Macho Man” in the late Summer of ’78, “Y.M.C.A.”

A song about Gay men cruising for hookups—Cruisin’, the title of their album—at a place long-known for Gay hookups—the Y.M.C.A.—by a group named after New York’s Gay neighborhood—the Village—costumed as Gay Male fantasy personas—Cop, Cowboy, Hardhat, Indian, G.I., Biker—and formed specifically to target the Gay club scene… and still, most people in 1979 had no clue what any of that meant. Or even that there was a Gay club scene.

For many, their first inkling was scratching below the surface on “Y.M.C.A.” (or talking to someone who had). By the way, fun fact: Village People frontman Victor Willis, who wrote “Y.M.C.A.” is straight, married at the peak of the Village People’s fame to the future Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Phylicia Rashad.

#6 Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

Well, we’re counting down the biggest hits of 1979 here on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, and in 1974, our Singer at #6 had helped usher in Disco with one of the earliest Disco top tens, her cover of the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

On the album, it was the middle song in a three-song, 18-plus minute Disco suite: a first-of-its-kind by remix pioneer Tom Moulton, who understood that even DJs sometimes need to eat a sandwich or take a bathroom break! Moulton, also the compiler of Billboard’s first Dance Club Songs chart in October of ’74, on which he ranked “Never Can Say Goodbye” at #1. No more hits after that, though, until she helped close out the Disco era in ’79 with this, her biggest hit. At #6 it’s Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

It was the B-side, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” tacked on at the end a session after a long day recording the discoized Righteous Brothers cover issued as the A-side in August of ’78. But the single went nowhere until “I Will Survive” caught on with DJs, making the chart in December, then a slow four-month climb to #1 on the Hot100 for two weeks in March.

Written and produced by the same guys who did Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited” a short time later, former Motown producers Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren. And with the same backing band, but with a simpler arrangement, no back-up Singers, and none of the production flourishes usually on Disco hits by Female singers like sped up vocals, for one. So Gaynor’s voice on “I Will Survive” is unfiltered, unvarnished, and honest: a record that was way ahead of its time and remained a dancefloor anthem for many years.

#5 Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?

Well you’re listening to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, our 1979 edition, and we’re down to #5.

Now, David Bowie, Elton John, Paul McCartney and The Eagles had all scored Disco-dabbling hits in ’75 and ’76 when the sound was still incubating, having not yet completely outgrown its Funk and Philly Soul roots. But by ’78 thanks to Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees, it was nearly impossible to spin the radio dial, turn on a TV, or for that matter even walk down the street or go shopping without being bombarded by spandex, mirror balls and fuschia.

Imagine that from inside the music biz bubble! Disco wasn’t just a bandwagon anymore; it was a convoy of semis rolling down the interstate: Pop itself! So after the Rolling Stones took the plunge on “Miss You” and scored their first #1 in five years, our act at #5 saw the future and asked his Drummer Carmine Appice, formerly of the proto-Metal ’60s band Vanilla Fudge, to help him make it happen by writing a song like “Miss You.” And this was the result. At #5 it’s Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

The more ubiquitous Disco got, the more Rock fans felt alienated and forgotten. It’s a straight line from Rod Stewart showing up on TV in spandex and teased hair singing “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” in February to Steve Dahl and Disco Demolition mid-Summer.

Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” hit in the Spring: a downtown Punk band going Disco! Then Pop-Progsters ELO with “Shine a Little Light” and KISS with “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” in the immediate lead-up to Disco Demolition. Wings “Goodnight Tonight” and The Kinks “Superman,” two others along that timeline, but Rod Stewart and “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” bore the brunt.

Around the same time as Disco Demolition, Steve Dahl himself was out with a parody single on an indie label: “Do You Think I’m Disco?” It charted for six weeks.

#4 Donna SummerBad Girls

And meanwhile, Disco’s own stars were soaring to new heights on the charts, like the one with the two-fer at numbers 4 and 3 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1979’s top ten hits. Both songs were in the top 5 at the same time for six straight weeks, June to the end of July, and that made her the first Black Artist since Louis Jordan in 1944 to have two hits in the top five the same week on the Pop chart, and the first-ever Black Woman.

In the Hot100 era she would’ve been the first Woman, period, but Linda Ronstadt beat her to it in December ’77. Gloria Gaynor may’ve been the first and one of the last Disco Divas, but Donna Summer with her eight top tens including three #1s from ’76 to ’79, was the quintessential Disco Diva. At #4, the second single and title track from her 1979 double album, “Bad Girls.”

“Bad Girls” at #4, inspired by an office assistant at Donna Summer’s label, Casablanca Records, mistaken for a street prostitute by a police officer while running an errand for her on Sunset Blvd. in L.A.

Label boss Neil Bogart shelved the song as too Rock upon hearing Donna’s demo in January, even suggesting giving it to the label’s latest signing, Cher. But as the album came together, with all the Rock acts scoring Disco hits, “Disco Sucks” gaining steam out in the wild and Summer’s own instincts to incorporate more Rock into her style, what was disqualifying in January had become a strength, so they went to work on it.

The “toot toots” and “beep beeps” were a last-minute ad lib by Summer looking to spice up what struck her as empty spaces in the song. On the album version, they continue a few more bars a capella after the music fades, which top40 DJs could’ve had some fun with on the air, but, alas, it wasn’t on the single version. But it became a meme anyway: arguably what made “Bad Girls” such a monster hit, #1 for five weeks, July into August…

#3 Donna SummerHot Stuff

…and the second song on the album, that opens with… our #3 song. And like Tom Moulton’s Disco suite leading off Gloria Gaynor’s album in ’75, the two songs flow into each other without missing a beat.

“Bad Girls” wasn’t a Rock song by the time Producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte got done with it. But the leadoff track co-written by Bellotte (and also the album’s lead single)? At least as much a Rock song as “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” is Disco, four years before Michael Jackson’s Rock crossover “Beat It.” It even won Summer the first-ever Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. And she was nominated twice more for that in ’82 and ’83, but lost both times to Pat Benatar.

#1 for three weeks up against six for “Bad Girls,” but it hung around in the top ten four weeks longer, so when you add it all up it’s the bigger hit: again Donna Summer, with “Hot Stuff.”

Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” at #3. She went way back with Songwriter-Producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, to her first record deal in Germany in ’74, having moved there in the late ’60s with a part in the Munich production of Hair.

Moroder and Bellotte’s fellow Munich Producers Sylvester Levay and Michael Kunze hit first in the U.S. with “Fly, Robin, Fly,” their minimalist take on Philly Soul credited to their Silver Convention project, but the week after that hit #1 in December of ’75, Summer’s first hit “Love to Love You Baby” debuted. That got to #2, and together those hits launched Euro-Disco and completely changed the trajectory of Dance music in the U.S.

Donna Summer weathered the Disco backlash better than most: continuing to score top fives in late ’79 and into the ’80s, even after parting ways with Casablanca Records and Giorgio Moroder to expand her creative horizons. She was never far from the Dance charts; her final album Crayons in 2008 yielded four #1 Dance/Club Play hits.

#2 The KnackMy Sharona

Next as we close in on #1 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1979, the song Billboard named #1 on the year. And that was quite an exclamation point on the Disco backlash at the time because it’s the record that decisively broke Disco’s nearly continuous stranglehold on the top spot since just after Saturday Night Fever hit theaters at the end of ’77.

It hit #1 August 25 just after Disco Demolition Night, stayed on top for six straight weeks, and in his article leading off the year-end charts, Billboard writer Paul Grien called it “the clarion call of the new music.” OK, but hold on. Was it really the #1 song of the year? Well not according to our Chartcrush ranking; we have it at #2! Explanation after the song. Here’s The Knack’s “My Sharona.”

Of course, a complete break from Disco; that’s the main headline. But even within Rock circles, “My Sharona” stood apart from the Prog and Soft Rock sounds on FM radio in the ’70s.

L.A. Times Music Editor Robert Hilburn hailed it as having restored the Teenage viewpoint to Rock: same thing they’d been saying in the U.K. about Punk. But Punk never caught on like that in America. Remember, Blondie had to make a Disco record, “Heart of Glass,” to make the charts, and by the way, Blondie and The Knack had the same Producer, Aussie Mike Chapman. So “Sharona” was New Wave’s “Rock Around the Clock” Stateside, even if it took a few more years (and MTV) for it to blossom on the charts.

Here’s a bit of trivia: Sharona was a real person: Knack front man Doug Feiger’s girlfriend. She’s on the picture sleeve of the 45. When they met she was 17. He was 25.

Song parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic’s first single was a “My Sharona” send-up, “My Bologna.”

As for The Knack? Well, they toured nonstop and their second album sounded just like their first, but they faded fast after “My Sharona” and the follow-up “Good Girls Don’t,” which peaked at #11. ’79 was still too soon for a band to not sheepishly demur when compared to The Beatles, which they were, often. No, instead they invited that comparison, and appalled Rock critics punished them by blasting their over-the-top sexist lyrics.

Doug Feiger slipped into a spiral of addiction for a few years before sobering up in the mid-80s, but sadly died of cancer at just 57 in 2010.

#1 Chic – Le Freak

OK, so here’s why “My Sharona” was Billboard’s #1 song of 1979, but it’s #2 on our Chartcrush ranking we’ve been counting down. It’s because Billboard‘s methodology in ’79 strongly favored consecutive weeks at #1. “My Sharona” and our #1 song both had six weeks on top, but “Sharona’s” were consecutive while our #1 song’s weren’t: knocked down to #2 twice, first by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” in December ’78, then by The Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven” for its two weeks in January ’79.

Both times, though, it reclaimed the #1 spot to rack up its six weeks. And it was in the top ten three weeks longer than “Sharona,” so using our Chartcrush formula (which, by the way, is identical for every year we rank), our #1 song is Billboard’s #3 song of ’79: Chic’s “Le Freak.”

Chic was Guitarist Nile Rodgers and Bassist Bernard Edwards’ project, with hired female Singers, and “Le Freak,” the first of their two #1s before the Disco implosion and #1 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1979’s top ten hits.

Their first hit, “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” had been the #1 Dance Club song for seven weeks at the end of ’77, and then crossed over to peak at #6 on the Hot100 in early ’78, so Rodgers and Edwards were kind of a big deal New Years Eve ’78, when they showed up, dressed to the nines, at New York’s hottest Disco, Studio 54, invited by Jamaican-American Supermodel Singer Grace Jones, who was performing.

But Jones forgot to get them on the guest list and the door man wouldn’t let them in. So after a heated exchange, they hit a liquor store, went back to Rodgers’ apartment and wrote the song that would evolve into “Le Freak,” only that night, “Freak Out!” wasn’t the phrase on their minds; it was another more pointed phrase that also abbreviates to “F.O.” Chic topped the chart again later in ’79 with the aforementioned “Good Times,” Disco’s final #1 on August 18. “My Sharona” bumped it to #2 the next week.

So that’s the top ten here on our 1979 edition of Chartcrush, but between Billboard’s ranking published at the end of ’79 and ours, the shakeup at #1 isn’t the only difference. To review, our #10 song, KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Please Don’t Go,” had only just entered the weekly top ten at the end of Billboard‘s ’79 chart year, so they ranked it #19 in 1980. Same with our #9 song, Rupert Holmes’ “Escape.” That’s their #11 song, again 1980. So with those two coming in to our Chartcrush top ten, Billboard’s #9 and #10 songs got bumped out. So, just to be thorough, let’s take a look at those.

At #10 they had the song that replaced “My Sharona” at #1 in October: Robert John’s “Sad Eyes.”

“Sad Eyes” notches in at #12 on our Chartcrush ranking, Robert John had been at it since the late ’50s, didn’t score a big hit ’til ’72 (a cover of the Tokens’ “Lion Sleeps Tonight” that got to #3), and then it was another seven years before he got to #1, with a song he wrote, “Sad Eyes.”

And at #9, Billboard had another hit from the first half of the year (the Disco half), Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell.”

“Ring My Bell” was a longshot hit, written by one of the co-founders of start-up Juana Records as a Teen Pop song about talking on the phone, and intended for 12-year-old R&B singer Stacy Lattislaw, who jumped ship to sign with a major label before she cut it. So the song fell into Anita Ward’s lap; she was working on an album right at the same time on that label. Her only top 40 hit, #1 for two weeks. It just misses the top ten on our Chartcrush ranking, at #11.

And with that, we’re gonna have to close out our 1979 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show because we are all out of time. But if you like what you heard and you want more, visit our website, chartcrush.com for a written transcript of the show and link to stream our podcast version on Spotify, plus primo extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line 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. Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to tune in again next week, same station and time, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush 1946 Episode Graphic

1946 Top 10 Pop Countdown Podcast

1946 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Hays Code decency standards permeate showbiz and Big Bands throw in the towel the year after WW2, but Singers, Sweet Bands and songwriters shine on the charts.


::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 culture and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly charts published in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority. This week on Chartcrush we’re counting down the biggest hits of 1946, the first year Billboard did year-end charts, adding up the action on their previous 52 weekly Retail Sales, Disk Jockey, Jukebox, Live Radio and Sheet Music charts, song-by-song, record-by-record, artist-by-artist, label-by-label, composer-by-composer, publisher-by-publisher: quite an undertaking on a tight deadline without computers!

But in 1946, Americans knew all about epic undertakings, having just split the atom and won a two-front World War; then reassimilating 12 million returning GIs and transitioning from wartime quotas, wage and price controls and government central planning to the boom of suburbs, cars, consumer goods and babies that drove Postwar economic expansion.

But at the same time, a new threat was gathering, and the guy that first called it out, was the same guy who’d called out Hitler in the ’30s, Britain’s recently unemployed wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Invited to speak at a college in President Truman’s home state of Missouri in March of ’46 after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had said that a war between East and West was inevitable, Churchill declared that an “Iron Curtain” had descended across Central Europe, and all the countries behind it were now in what he called “the Soviet sphere.”

Truman, by the way, President less than a year. So, new President, a new world map, new technologies, and now a new threat. That’s a lot of anxiety-inducing newness to dump in the middle of a victory party, and the weird mix of confidence and terror spawned sci-fi and film noir in the late ’40s but also a massive nostalgia wave: people craving what was comfortable and familiar from the past, but also trying to define what America was and wasn’t in an era of ideologies.

The Hays Code had been around since the 30s: before ratings, the movie business’s guidelines so studios didn’t have to worry about the patchwork of different state and local decency laws across the country. It also affected music since most hit songs were written for movies. But all through ’46, Billboard was reporting on civic leaders and “vigilante” “blue-nose” groups (their words) going after “indecent” entertainment in their communities, pushing for tighter restrictions and more aggressive enforcement.

Frank Capra’s holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life came out at the end of ’46 contrasting protagonist George Bailey’s bucolic hometown, Bedford Falls, with trashy Pottersville in the alternate reality if Bailey had never been born. In 2019, a writer in Esquire preferred Pottersville’s neon, strip clubs, pool halls and Hot Jazz to Bedford Falls, “where,” he said, “the coolest thing you can do is throw rocks at a condemned house.”

But in ’46 it wasn’t a debate. Most of the top Jazz Big Bands called it quits in ’46, up against a changing market and a hefty federal sin tax on dancing establishments passed by Congress in ’44, and that left the field to the Crooners and Pop-oriented Bands that ruled the charts for the rest of the decade.

#10 Bing Crosby with Carmen Cavallaro at the Piano – I Can’t Begin to Tell You

And at #10 as we kick things off here on our 1946 edition of Chartcrush, the original star Crooner, teaming up with “The Poet of the Piano” Carmen Cavallaro, fresh from his massive 1945 hit with his band version of “Chopin’s Polonaise.” At #10 it’s Bing Crosby and Cavallaro with “I Can’t Begin to Tell You.”

Bing Crosby and Carmen Cavallaro’s “I Can’t Begin to Tell You” at #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1946’s biggest hits. The song was from a movie, The Dolly Sisters, a biopic about identical twins who make it big on Broadway. Singer-Actress and Pinup Betty Grable sings it in the film and her version was also out on a record, but Crosby and Cavallaro’s was the bigger chart hit.

Since the first six weeks of its run were in 1945, it’s not anywhere near the top ten on any of Billboard‘s three year-end charts for ’46: Best Sellers, DJ spins and Jukebox plays. But at Chartcrush we count every song’s full chart run in the year it scored most of its points, so we have it at #10 on the year: the biggest of Crosby’s 11 charting records in ’46.

#9 Kay Kyser and His Orchestra (vocal Michael Douglas) – Ole Buttermilk Sky

And at #9, another year-straddling hit, but from the end of 1946 into 1947. Again, counting full chart runs surfaces it as one of 46’s top hits. It’s a song by Great American Songbook legend Hoagy Carmichael, written for the 1946 Technicolor Western Canyon Passage: a scene where the Male lead is getting ready to propose to his girl, hoping for a romantic, moonlit night, and Carmichael sings it himself in the film, but the biggest hit was by the Kay Kyser Orchestra, sung by future daytime TV talk show host Mike Douglas, “Ol’ Buttermilk Sky.”

Hoagy Carmichael’s own record of his song “Ol’ Buttermilk Sky” on the ARA record label also charted, well below Kyser’s on Columbia we just heard at #9 for the last 12 weeks of the year, but a new Carmichael version on Decca dropped later in the year leading up to the Oscars and surpassed Kyser’s. Not long enough to be the bigger hit overall, and he lost the Oscar to Johnny Mercer’s “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

But fast forward five years to 1951 and it’s Carmichael and Mercer together at the podium accepting Best Original Song for “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” which they co-wrote! We’ll be hearing another tune by Hoagy Carmichael later as we continue counting down the top ten hits of 1946, here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush.

#8 Dinah Shore – The Gypsy

At #8 is the first of two versions of the same song in our top ten. Five versions were on the charts in the Summer of ’46: a common occurrence at a time when few performers were writing their own songs and Tin Pan Alley publishers were still the gravitational center of the music biz. After Mike Douglas we just heard, another ’40s Singer who went on to Daytime TV Talk Show glory in the ’70s. But she didn’t just sing on a couple hits; 21 top tens from ’41 to ’49. She was the top charting Female of the entire ’40s decade. It’s Dinah Shore’s version of “The Gypsy.”

Dinah Shore’s version of “The Gypsy,” #8 here on the 1946 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. English Bandleader Billy Reid wrote the song for Welsh Singer Dorothy Squires, and that record was a hit in the U.K., but Squires and Dinah have something else in common: serious relationships with much younger men: Squires married future James Bond Roger Moore at 38. He was 26. And Dinah in her late fifties was hot ‘n heavy with Actor Burt Reynolds for six years in the early ’70s. He was in his late thirties.

#7 Betty Hutton – Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief

At #7, as promised, another Hoagy Carmichael song from a movie, but unlike his “Old Buttermilk Sky” we heard at #9, the hit version is by the Singer-Actress who does it in the film, known for her over-the-top, manic performances in movies since 1942, and by ’46, one of Paramount’s top box office draws. And even though she was a Singer before she was an Actress, none of her records cracked the top 5 on any chart until this one in ’46. At #7, from the movie The Stork Club in which she plays a Nightclub Singer, it’s Betty Hutton’s “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief.”

Betty Hutton, “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief,” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1946. Irving Berlin’s Annie, Get Your Gun debuted on Broadway in ’46, about Buffalo Bill’s Female sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Ethel Merman played the lead on Broadway, but Betty Hutton was Annie in the 1950 blockbuster movie, her most enduring role.

By the way, two songs from Annie, Get Your Gun were in the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Honor Roll of Hits for ’46. That was their chart that combined all versions of songs out on records and factored in Sheet Music sales. “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” was #5 and “They Say It’s Wonderful” was #10, but none of the versions of those songs cut by A-list Pop Singers and on the charts at the same time made our countdown of the top ten records of the year.

#6 Frank Sinatra – Five Minutes More

At #6, a Singer who accumulated a lot of nicknames over the years in different phases of his career, but the first? “Skinny,” his most striking physical characteristic. He kind of invited the taunt as a hotshot upstart unapologetically Crooning to maximum seduction effect for his teenaged Female fans (“bobbysoxers”), and then brazenly challenging the status quo of headline Bandleaders and featured vocalists, going solo at the height of Big Bands in 1941. That was a genuinely gutsy move. Only Bing Crosby had survived the public backlash against the first wave of Pop Crooners in the early ’30s.

But also because Bandleader Tommy Dorsey owned 43% of his lifetime earnings by contract. Genovese family underboss Willie Moretti may or may not have convinced Dorsey to sell that contract for one dollar. As big as the Singer was as a solo act after that, though, he didn’t hit #1 on any chart, ’til 1946 when he did it twice, first with a Ballad that only topped the DJ chart, not Best Sellers or Jukeboxes, but then in late September, this was #1 on all three the same week, and Billboard started using a new nickname, “The Voice.” At #6, Frank Sinatra’s “Five Minutes More.”

You wanna hear some Swing, check out the Glenn Miller Band’s version of that song, “Five Minutes More,” which was on the charts at the same time as Sinatra’s we just heard at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1946. Miller, of course, the biggest of the Big Bandleaders before the war, but he enlisted to lead the Army Air Forces Band in ’42, and in ’44 the plane taking him to newly-liberated France went down over the English Channel.

Sax Player/Vocalist Tex Beneke took over, and the first records by Beneke and the Glenn Miller Orchestra hit in ’46, but #4 was as high as any of them got on the charts. By year’s end as I mentioned earlier, most of the Big Bands, even Tommy Dorsey’s, had called it quits.

#5 Perry Como – Prisoner of Love

So the Pop charts now belonged to Singers, but Crosby and Sinatra weren’t the only Crooners scoring hits, and in fact, the most successful on the charts in ’46 is the one at #5. Billboard named the record #1 on its year-end Retail Best-Sellers chart, and since most sources (even Billboard) default to Sales talking about pre-Hot100 song rankings, it’s considered the year’s biggest hit. Only problem with that, record players and records were expensive in the ’40s; the vast majority of people were listening on radios and jukeboxes. Still, on our combined ranking that factors Airplay, Jukeboxes and Retail Sales it was in the top 3 for 14 straight weeks. Here’s Perry Como’s “Prisoner of Love.”

Perry Como’s “Prisoner of Love,” the #5 song of 1946 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Como was making a good living on tour with the Ted Weems Orchestra in the ’30s but quit in 1940 after his son was born to go home to Pennsylvania, open a barber shop and settle down. It wasn’t long, though, before an agent wooed him back with a deal where he could stay put and didn’t have to travel: his own network radio show and a gig at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, which was held over through the entire Summer of ’43.

RCA-Victor needed a Crooner to compete with Sinatra on Columbia and Crosby on Decca, so they snapped him up, and his World War 2 victory year smash “Till the End of Time” in ’45 made him a superstar. Perry Como managed to chart at least one top ten hit every year until 1958.

#4 Frankie Carle and His Orchestra (vocal Marjorie Hughes) – Rumors Are Flying

At numbers 4 and 3 we have a two-fer for you: two records in a row by the same act, and it’s a Band, not a Singer. Well, a Band with a Singer, but the Singer isn’t the headliner. That crediting arrangement lingered a few more years before going all but extinct in the ’50s. Anyway, the Singer was the Bandleader’s daughter. His wife slipped an unmarked recording into an audition stack, and he chose his own 19-year-old daughter not knowing who she was!

Finding out didn’t change his mind, and audiences loved her, but he didn’t like the optics so it was a secret until Walter Winchell got the scoop and spilled it in his gossip column. But that was after their first big hit of ’46 and no one seemed to mind. At #4, their second big hit of ’46 (we’ll hear that first one next in our two-fer). #1’s, for eight straight weeks in the Fall it’s Frankie Carle & Orchestra, vocal by Marjorie Hughes, “Rumors Are Flying.”

“Rumors Are Flying,” #4 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1946’s top records, ’46’s top band, Frankie Carle’s Orchestra featuring Carle’s daughter Marjorie Hughes on the vocal.

#3 Frankie Carle and His Orchestra (vocal Marjorie Hughes) – Oh! What It Seemed to Be

Carle first got noticed as the Piano Player in Horace Heidt’s Musical Knights, who were big on network radio and scored a string of top tens in ’41 and ’42, but he eventually outgrew that and started his own band, which debuted live in early ’44. They first made the charts in ’45 but putting Marjorie in the spotlight was what cracked the code, and at #3, as promised, their first hit of ’46, #1 or 2 for ten weeks in the Spring, “Oh! What It Seemed to Be.”

Billboard named Dinah Shore the year’s top Female Singer even though Marjorie Hughes blew her away on chart points, but as the featured Singer on her dad’s band records. Being a headliner had its advantages! By the way, if you’re listening on Spotify, the podcast version of the show, you heard live versions of both those Frankie Carle songs from 1946 radio broadcasts. They don’t have the hit record versions.

Frank Sinatra also scored big with “Oh! What It Seemed to Be.” His version was tops on the DJ chart (radio’s love affair with ‘ol Blue Eyes: already in full blossom in ’46), but Carle had the edge in Record Stores and on Jukeboxes, so was #1 with Sinatra’s at #2 overall for five weeks in the Spring. After a few more hits with Marjorie singing ’47 to ’49, Carle took his band over to RCA-Victor and Marjorie stayed with Columbia as a solo act. They still performed live together for a while, but neither charted again and Marjorie left showbiz completely in 1950.

#2 Eddy Howard and His Orchestra (vocal Eddy Howard) – To Each His Own

OK, we’re down to #2 here on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1946’s top ten hits: the breakthrough by a Bandleader from L.A. who came up in the ’30s as a featured Singer with fellow Californian Dick Jurgens’ Swing band, then started his own band in ’39: one of the first Singing Bandleaders.

That was good way to weather the shift from Big Bands to star Vocalists in the mid-40s. He was a chart newcomer and had a lot of competition with the song: five different versions in the top ten on our combined weekly ranking for three straight weeks in September. That’s a record! But he came out on top and scored the year’s #1 Airplay hit and the #2 hit overall, it’s Eddy Howard with “To Each His Own.”

Eddy Howard’s “To Each His Own” at #2 here on our 1946 edition of Chartcrush: another song written for a movie, with the same title. Multiple Oscar-nominated score writer Victor Young wrote the music for the film, but passed on taking a crack at the title song because no one at the time knew that phrase, “to each his own.” It’s from a 17th century John Donne poem. Producer Charles Brackett wouldn’t change the title though, so second-string Songwriters Jay Livingston & Ray Evans got their big break: the #2 record of the year, but also the year’s #2 song.

#1 Ink Spots – The Gypsy

Now if you’re listening to the countdown and thinking “man, the charts were skewing awfully White in the ’40s,” well, we’ve got a surprise for you at #1. And ’46 wasn’t the first year that a Black artist scored the #1 hit of the year. The Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll,” #1 on the year 1943. And in the top ten for years in the ’40s, Louis Jordan and the Mills Brothers again in ’44 and Ella Fitzgerald, a very respectable #14 that year. And of course Nat “King” Cole in ’47 and again in ’48.

But the top charting Black act of the decade was the Group at #1 for ’46. After huge years in 1940 and ’43 they were back bigger than ever. We heard Dinah Shore doing the song back at #8, but at #1 it’s The Ink Spots version of “The Gypsy.”

Ink Spots with the #1 song of 1946 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, #1 for ten straight weeks, and their version of “To Each His Own” was also a top ten hit in ’46. They had one of the most identifiable sounds in Pop history thanks to their so-called “top & bottom” formula: lead vocal by balladeer Bill Kenny, and a talking bass part, first by Hoppy Jones until his death in 1944, then by Bill’s brother Herb Kenny, who we just heard on “The Gypsy.” From 1940 to ’51, 19 charting records including 11 top tens.

Bonus

Well there you go: the top ten songs of 1946 according to our Chartcrush recap of Billboard‘s weekly Sales, Airplay and Jukebox charts. Again, our ranking derived by combining those three charts into a Hot100-style chart, then using the same method we use for Hot100 years to calculate the points. But looking at the charts individually, there were records that made the top ten on one, but not the others, and since we have a little bit of time, let’s take a look at those.

Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers – Personality

First, one that Billboard had in the top ten of both their year-end Best-Sellers and DJ charts. Our ranking algorithm wasn’t as generous, but it’s our #17 song overall: the big 1946 hit by 1945’s top charting artist, Johnny Mercer, here with the Pied Pipers Vocal Group, “Personality.”

Pretty racy for a mid-’40s Pop hit! Where was the Hays office on that one? Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers’ “Personality.”

Frank SinatraOh! What It Seemed to Be

Next is the #4 song on our DJ ranking, but nowhere near the top ten on for Sales or Jukeboxes. Did I mention that radio loved Frank Sinatra? Here’s his version of “Oh! What It Seemed to Be.”

We heard Frankie Carle and Marjorie Hughes’ version of “Oh! What It Seemed to Be” at #3 in the Countdown; Sinatra’s shakes out at #16.

Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters – South America, Take It Away

Our #12 overall hit comes out #9 on our Best-Sellers re-crunch: two of the ’40s top acts teaming up for another #1 after their “Don’t Fence Me In” in ’45: Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, “South America, Take It Away.”

“South America, Take It Away,” Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters, a song about the Latin dance craze as Pan-Americanism and Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy took root in the culture.

Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra (vocal Vaughn Monroe and The Norton Sisters) – Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

And finally, just missing our top ten for 1946 at #11, a Holiday song that we have as the year’s #10 Best-Seller and #7 DJ hit. Five weeks on top January into February made it the biggest Holiday hit since Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” in ’42: Vaughn Monroe’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Dean Martin’s 1959 version of “Let It Snow!” started charting every year at holiday time in 2018 as on-demand streaming took over, but Vaughn Monroe’s, the original hit, was in 1946.

And wouldn’t you know it, just when you’re feeling festive, it’s time to wrap things up for our 1946 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 the show and a link to the podcast version on Spotify, plus ducky 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, ’40s to present, and it’s all on the website, again, chartcrush.com.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you’ll tune in again this time next week, same station, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 2010 Episode Graphic

2010 Top 10 Pop Countdown Podcast

2010 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Pop amps up as the music biz chases will.i.am’s “bubble” and the Recession spawns the biggest Dance boom since Disco, starring Gaga, Taio, Usher… and Auto-Tune!

::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 exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade publication and chart authority. This week on Chartcrush we’re turning the clock back to 2010, the second year of the Obama presidency, the country coming out of the Great Recession, and on Christmas Eve 2009 during a blizzard in D.C., the Senate passed Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the most sweeping expansion of federal social spending and power since the mid ’60s. And while the Tea Party ramped up to oppose final passage by the House, angrily confronting politicians at town halls waving yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, Pop amped up into a hedonistic party mode not seen since Disco. Bad economies and dancing: closely linked since at least the 1930s. And no one was more anxious about their wallet in 2010 than the music biz, in freefall from online piracy for ten years already, with five years still to go before rock bottom.

But the explosion of Dance Pop that started in the late ’00s as crowds at U.S. EDM festivals swelled to Woodstock proportions was different, so much so that Billboard declared it the start of a “new era.” For one, its scale was unprecedented. Of the 15 #1’s on the Hot100 in 2010, only six were not, as Billboard put it, “synth-driven, Auto-Tuned, four-on-the-floor-influenced” Dance Pop. Peak Disco in ’78, less than half the #1s were Disco.

But for another thing, 2010’s Dance Pop had the support and approval of critics. That was definitely new. Critics had always been at best dismissive of Dance music. That they weren’t in 2010 was thanks in large part to a kind of production philosophy articulated by Black Eyed Peas mastermind will.i.am. It went something like this: at any given moment there’s a “bubble” (Will’s word) of what people want to hear. Capturing it in the grooves and scoring a hit: obviously a commercial achievement. It’d always been that. But while Black Eyed Peas were #1 for an amazing 26 straight weeks over the Summer of ’09 with their back-to-back hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Got a Feeling,” will talked it up into an artistic achievement as well: the insight and ability to collect and harness sounds and feelings, and mold them into something that taps into or even becomes the “bubble,” not randomly but with intention. Kind of like Andy Warhol’s visual art philosophy applied to music, and critics ate it up. So did a music biz desperate for new models. And with the flood of view, click, like and share data now coming from the internet and social media, the “bubble” could be quantified and exploited with a scientific precision never before possible, which that made will’s new philosophy of Pop irresistible from a business standpoint.

All the data points, of course: also how success was now being measured too, on top of the old-skool metrics like sales, airplay and charts. But the downside? Well, it’s kind of like how the science of aerodynamics and government fuel efficiency standards made cars all look the same: hit records started sounding a lot alike. Critics noticed that too, but 2010’s Dance Pop was a perfect storm of converging trends, and the cover of Billboard‘s 2010 Year in Music issue summed it up: a man in a fur coat, fishnet stockings and a foil crown with arms outstretched holding a bottle of champagne with the headline “Why Pop Rules.”

#10 Usher featuring Pitbull – DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love

So with that, let’s dive in at #10 with the first of five Auto-tuned, four-on-the-floor Dance Poppers we’ll be hearing this hour. It peaked at #4, so not among the nine Clubby #1’s during the year that Billboard called out to make its point about a new era in Pop, but it hung around in the top ten for 15 weeks: a Singer-Rapper collab co-written by the Rapper, and co-produced by Swedish producer Max Martin, his first time working with either artist. It’s Usher and the Rapper who co-wrote, Pitbull, with “DJ Got Us Falling in Love.”

The perfect song to lead off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for a year when Club music conquered the charts: “DJ Got Us Falling in Love,” from what was disc two of the deluxe reissue of Usher’s 2010 album Raymond v. Raymond, also issued in the Fall as the standalone EP Versus. Cash-strapped fans appreciated that. Club sounds, of course: dominant across the Atlantic since the ’90s, and a handful of Euro-Disco singles had scored big in the U.S. But it took a full-on merger with Hip-Hop to put it over the top Stateside. Pitbull, the Miami-based Latin Rapper on the track, originally wrote “DJ Got Us Falling” with his collaborators for Rihanna, but she turned it down.

#9 Lady Gaga – Bad Romance

The origin point of the ’10s Club Pop boom was Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” in ’06, which topped both the Hot100 and Dance charts with Rapping throughout by the Producer/mastermind behind the track, Timbaland. Rap plus vocal hooks, common in R&B but not in Euro-Clubby hits, at least since the early ’90s. Britney Spears might’ve grabbed the momentum with her Clubby ’07 album Blackout, but the baggage of her Teen Pop image and imploding personal life held her back, so it was our upstart Diva at #9 who grabbed the controls and hit the launch button. Blogger Ryan McNutt described her in 2010 as “a twisted pop mashup of sex, murder and electro-clash,” and she quickly came to personify not just Euro-Disco, but will.i.am’s entire Warholian stardom-as-pop-art ethos. After three straight #1s in ’09, she barreled into 2010 with what Billboard described as a “virtually uninterrupted flow of content…and press-worthy spectacles.” Like Usher’s Versus, her Fame Monster EP was a recession-busting standalone release of just the new songs from the deluxe reissue of her album The Fame, and this was its lead single. At #9 it’s Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

Billboard’s #1 artist of 2010, Lady Gaga, with the #9 song of the year, “Bad Romance” here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It was also the #2 Dance/Club song of the year, and she accepted her Video of the Year award for it at the MTV VMAs wearing a dress made entirely of raw beef, which Time named the year’s top fashion statement. But maybe the most extreme thing about Gaga in 2010: the nine-and-a-half minute video for “Telephone,” her next hit after “Bad Romance.” It co-starred Beyonce, so that was huge, but it also had nine (count ’em nine) conspicuous paid product placements: Virgin Mobile, Diet Coke, Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and the dating site Plenty of Fish. And Polaroid, who even appointed her to be their new Creative Director. She also did a lucrative deal with Armani in 2010. An ad exec had told Billboard in ’07 that Pop stars getting in bed with corporations wasn’t “selling out” anymore, it was “selling in,” and indeed, Millennials didn’t seem to care. The poison used in the “Telephone” vid, though? Well, thankfully that was generic.

#8 Usher featuring will.i.am – OMG

So, Gaga, the epitome of the whole “bubble” concept that lifted the brazen pursuit of Pop culture glory to high art status (perhaps the final triumph of the postmodern taste inversion that turned the corner in the early ’90s), but next at #8, the guy I’ve been talking about who came up with that “bubble” concept, will.i.am. He’s the featured performer on the track, but doesn’t just Rap; he produced and wrote it. And if you’re thinking the headliner must be a pretty big deal if will.i.am settled for a feature, you’d be right. It’s the Singer’s ninth #1, and it made him the first act in the 2010’s to top the chart in three decades (and only the fourth in history). #1 for four weeks in May and June, at #8, again, Usher, “OMG.”

Usher, one of the top Singers of his time, had no use for Auto-Tune, yet it’s all over his vocals on “OMG,” #8 here on our Chartcrush Countdown of the top ten hits of 2010. Auto-Tune, the digital effect that produces a futuristic, stepped pitch effect when pushed to its limits on vocal tracks, unleashed by T-Pain in ’06. And by 2010 everyone was using it, even Usher. Reluctantly, though. In 2013, three years after “OMG” and fading on the charts, his steamy, Hip-Hop-inflected R&B style already a ’00s relic, Usher cornered T-Pain on a plane and bitterly accused him of ruining music for real Singers. Usher did go out with a bang, though: eight charting singles in 2010, including the #1 “OMG” and our #10 song, “DJ Got Us Falling in Love.” His biggest year since “Yeah,” “My Boo” and Confessions in ’04.

#7 Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind

And speaking of Auto-Tune, at #7, a song by its most famous and outspoken detractor. He even proclaimed its demise in ’09 in his song “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” Which was gutsy move: kind of like if Eric Clapton had announced the end of fuzztone in 1968, or Sting the end of synthesizers in ’87—wishful thinking. Drake, Future, Travis Scott kept Auto-Tune front and center through the ’10s, not to mention Kanye West, who was a protégé of our would-be prophet. But you won’t find any Auto-Tune on his ’09 album The Blueprint 3, or on what became his only career #1. At #7 it’s Jay-Z featuring Billboard’s #1 R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the 2000s decade Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind.”

“Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys at #7. Don’t look for it in the top ten of any Billboard year-end ranking though: its chart run was split between their 2009 and 2010 chart years, so it’s #62 on their ’09 tally, and #21 for 2010.. But factoring its full chart run into 2010 (the calendar year it accumulated most of its points, as we do with every song for our Chartcrush rankings), it comes out at #7. Jay-Z, a towering figure in Hip-Hop with nine straight #1 studio albums under his belt by 2010, but of his 36 Hot100 singles as a headliner since his debut in 1996, no #1s until “Empire State of Mind.” Different story as a featured Rapper though: 21 hits with three #1: Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” in ’99; girlfriend, then wife, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” in ’03; and his top discovery as the head of Def Jam Records, Rihanna: “Umbrella” in ’07.

#6 Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg – California Gurls

The rivalry between New York and L.A.’s Hip-Hop scenes in the ’90s, of course, like the Wild West: the stuff of legend. The bullets had stopped flying years ago by 2010, though, as Atlanta eclipsed both in the ’00s and Midwestern scenes flourished: Eminem out of Detroit, Nelly out of St. Louis; Kanye West from Chicago. But a #1 anthem about New York by Jay-Z demanded a West Coast response, even in 2010, and it’s at #6, back-to-back with “Empire State of Mind.” The bigger hit: six weeks at #1 vs. “Empire’s” five. It’s OG West Coast Rapper Snoop Dogg featuring on the lead single off fellow California native Katy Perry’s sophomore album Teenage Dream, “California Gurls.”

Major market radio stations in droves: flipping from Rock to Pop around the turn of the decade because the ratings books were telling execs that audiences were skewing too Male. That’s part of the reason why so many new Female superstars emerged in those years. As big as Katy Perry was in 2010 though, four other Females outranked her on Billboard’s overall Female Artists ranking: a crowded field in the early ’10s. “California Gurls,” her collab with Snoop Dogg, #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 2010’s biggest hits. Girls spelt with a “u,” so as not to be confused with the Beach Boys classic. Billboard named it the year’s top Summer hit, and when they updated their ranking of the top 30 Biggest Summer Hits of All Time, it came out #1. Beach Boys’ were #16.

#5 Eminem featuring Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie

At #5, another Rapper/Singer hit that replaced “California Gurls” at #1 at the end of July. Unlike Jay-Z, this Rapper did score #1 hits in the ’00s: two of ’em, the first of which was the #1 song of the year in 2002, “Lose Yourself” from his autobiographical hit movie 8 Mile. After struggling with addiction mid-decade, he came back in ’09 with his first new album in five years and got to #1 again with his all-star collab with Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, “Crack a Bottle;” then another star-studded track headlined by Drake in late ’09, “Forever,” also featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne. By mid-2010, fans were itching for new stuff from him so bad that the advance lead single from his next album Recovery, “Not Afraid,” debuted at #1. That was still just a once-every-couple-year occurrence in 2010, debuting at #1. But it was his controversial collaboration with Rihanna released the same day as the album that really connected: a song about lovers in a codependent relationship. The video intersperses scenes of domestic violence with performance shots in front of a burning house and it notched over six -and-a-half million views in one day, breaking YouTube’s record at the time. At #5 is Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie.”

Both Eminem and Rihanna had had very public dysfunctional relationships: Eminem divorcing his wife Kimberly Scott a second time, and Rihanna ending her relationship with R&B star Chris Brown after his felony assault on her in early ’09. So “Love the Way You Lie” came out of very real struggles, #1 for seven straight weeks in the late Summer, and #5 on our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Some critics faulted it for downplaying the woman’s perspective, so Rihanna did a part two sequel on her next album, with Eminem contributing a verse. It wasn’t promoted as a single, though, so it didn’t chart.

#4 Train – Hey, Soul Sister

So with Big Radio dumping Rock to lure Female listeners, bands needed other ways to reach the masses, and the band at #4 drove their song up the charts by blitzing it out on TV. Not just the usual late night guest spots, but embedded in so many primetime dramas and commercials that two guys started a social media campaign against that that rated a feature in Entertainment Weekly. But the song (their first chart entry in nearly five years) continued moving up for 25 weeks, eventually surpassing their previous chart high in 2001 with their song “Drops of Jupiter,” and peaking at #3 for four weeks in April. It was in the top 40 all the way to the end of September: a 54 week chart run, all told. The only Rock band in our Countdown, at #4 it’s Train, with “Hey, Soul Sister.”

Train isn’t just the only Rock band in our Countdown; they’re the only one that cracked the top 10 all year on the weekly chart. “Hey Soul Sister,” #4 on our 2010 edition of Chartcrush. The Script and Neon Trees: the only other bands that got close, with “Breakeven” and “Animal,” respectively.

Fewer radio stations playing current rock, a big factor in that, but it was also political. Hip-Hop’s mobilization had been key to Obama’s victory in ’08, so culture critics at progressive outlets: determined to deny the Tea Party that advantage. It was projection, of course: conservatives hadn’t rallied around a song since Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler’s pro-Vietnam “Ballad of the Green Berets” in 1966. And what had that accomplished? But if they were gonna rally around a song, the critics figured, it’d be one by a group like Train, so out came the long knives. In naming “Hey, Soul Sister” the worst song of 2010, The Village Voice‘s Christopher Weingarten dissed it as “so White that Sarah Palin just named it her running mate for 2012.” Less partisan critics just pointed out that it sounded a lot like Jason Mraz’s ukelele-strumming 2009 hit “I’m Yours.” As for Train, in ’13 they canceled their appearance at the Boy Scouts’ National Jamboree in protest of the Scouts’ ban on openly Gay scoutmasters, so did they really need that target on their backs?

#3 Taio Cruz – Dynamite

Anyway, we’re getting down to the small numbers here on our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown show, and at #3, a British act: the only one in the countdown, with a song co-written and produced by the aforementioned Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who’d helmed dozens of top hits in the ’00s by Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk and others, and burst into the ’10s with the Usher and Katy Perry tracks we heard at numbers 10 and 6. This singer’s first hit, “Break Your Heart,” shot from #53 to #1 in just its second week in March: the biggest jump to #1 for a debut single in chart history up to then. That one’s #13 on our Chartcrush ranking, but our #3 hit, the follow-up, took a little longer to top out at #2 for three weeks in August, but it was on the chart four and a half months longer, so it the bigger hit. It’s Taio Cruz, “Dynamite.”

Had Taio Cruz’s label been more impressed with his demo of “Umbrella,” which became a megahit for Rihanna, he might’ve broken through in 2007, but like Britney Spears’s people, who’d also had shot at that song, they passed. But “Break Your Heart” was his explosive debut in 2010, and then our #3 song “Dynamite.” And after that, he quickly faded almost as fast as he’d arrived. Someone leaked the songs from his follow-up album, so there was that, but Taio was never able to forge a Pop star identity and escape what Stereogum’s Tom Breihan called the “just some guy” zone, and never scored another hit, despite continuing to release new music, and even launching his own social media app, KeWe, in 2013.

#2 Lady Antebellum – Need You Now

At #2 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 2010’s top hits, the act that ruled the Country charts in 2010. But they were also Billboard’s #1 top overall Duo or Group of the year, with the #4 album. And their song at #2 was the year’s #1 Radio Airplay song, #1 Adult Contemporary song, and the biggest Country crossover hit since Faith Hill’s “Breathe” in 2000. Also the longest chart run of the year: 60 weeks: longer than Train’s 54. It’s Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.”

Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” #2 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, 2010 edition. Also #2 on Billboard‘s year-end Hot100 ranking. More Hot100 hits followed, and eight more Country #1’s, throughout the ’10s, but speaking of politics, as early as 2011, one writer in Ms. Magazine was on their case for glorifying slavery in the pre-Civil War South by having the word Antebellum in their name. Fast forward nine years to the Confederate history purge and statue hysteria that followed in the wake of the George Floyd protests. In 2020 they announced that henceforth, they’d just be “Lady A,” and the Dixie Chicks followed two weeks later. The newly rechristened “Chicks” got the blessing of the Duo in New Zealand that was already using that name, but Lady A wasn’t so fortunate. The Seattle-based Black Lives Matter activist-Singer already using the “Lady A” moniker sued for millions and hounded them in the press every chance she got until settling for an undisclosed sum in 2022. Yikes!

#1 Ke$ha – TiK ToK

Well we’re down to #1, and it’s back to pure, straight-up Pop: the headline Hot100 debut by a 23-year-old daughter of a Country songwriter mom, raised in Nashville. And based on that, you’d have every right not to expect what Genius.com calls an “aural glitter bomb” about a chick who wakes up feeling like P. Diddy and brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels before hitting the party circuit ’til the sun comes up, or the cops show up. But remember the fishnet stocking dude holding the champagne on the cover of Billboard’s Year in Music issue I mentioned at the top of the show?” Right, this is 2010 we’re talking about, and the #1 song of the year is Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK.”

White-girl rapping, 30 years after Blondie, and 4 years before Iggy Azalea! One of the most explosive debuts in chart history, Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK,” #1 for all of January and February, nine weeks, and the #1 song of the year, shattering the single-week download record for a song by a Female artist. After Ke$ha (and both of Taio Cruz’s big 2010 hits) the floodgates opened for repeated words in lyrics (“Boys blowin’ up our phones, phones;” “Wearing all my favorite brands, brands,” et cetera). That became a Pop trope in the early ’10s. “TiK ToK,” co-written with and co-produced by the protégé of the aforementioned Max Martin, Dr. Luke, who’d brought Ke$ha in to sing the hook on Flo Rida’s “Right Round” in ’09, which was a #1 hit. And even though she wasn’t officially credited on the record, fans knew that voice!

Well there ya have ’em, the top ten here on our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Again, unlike Billboard, we factor every song’s full chart run, which they can’t do because they have to get their year-end issue out before New Years. So two of the songs we heard this hour are not in the top ten on Billboard’s official Hot100 chart for the year. Our #10 song, Usher & Pitbull’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” was still high on the chart at the end of the 2010 chart year so Billboard ranked it #22 just counting its weeks up to it’s 2010 cutoff. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” our #7 hit, was also a year straddler, but ’09 into ’10. Billboard had it at #21. But those two coming in to our top ten bumps two songs out from Billboard’s, so in the little bit of time we have left, let’s take a look at those.

At #10, Billboard had Taio Cruz’s first hit I mentioned when we heard his second, “Dynamite” at #3.

Unlike “Dynamite,” which topped out at #2, Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” had a week at #1: it’s second week, rocketing to the top from its debut at #53. It shakes out at #13 on our Chartcrush ranking for 2010.

And at #6 Billboard had the year’s top New R&B/Hip-Hop artist, Georgia Rapper B.o.B: yet another Rapper/Singer combo with Rock band Paramore’s Hayley Williams on the hook: “Airplanes.”

“Airplanes” just misses our Chartcrush top ten at #11. B.o.B. also notable for introducing Bruno Mars, the featured singer on his first big hit earlier in 2010, “Nothing on You.” B.o.B cracked the top ten again in ’11 teaming up with Lil Wayne on “Strange Clouds” and got to #11 with “So Good” in 2012, but his career on the Hot100 didn’t last into the latter half of the decade. And with that, we’re gonna have to call it a wrap up for our 2010 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Thanks for listening! Hey, if you like what you heard, head over to our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of the show and a link to stream the expanded podcast version on Spotify, plus zeke extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive graph of the actual chart runs of our top ten songs. 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. See you again back here next week, hopefully, same station, same time, for another year, and another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1959 Episode Graphic

1959 Top 10 Pop Countdown 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.

::end transcript::

Chartcrush Countdown Show 2007 Episode Graphic

2007 Top 10 Pop Countdown 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.

::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 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 Top 10 Pop Countdown 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.

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