1958 episode graphic

1958 Podcast

1958 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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

::start transcript::

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10 (#13) The Platters Twilight Time

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

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

#9 (#12) The Champs Tequila

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 (#10) The McGuire Sisters Sugartime

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

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

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

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

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

#7 (#8) David Seville Witch Doctor

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

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

#6 (#7) Elvis Presley Don’t

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

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

#6 (#6) The Kingston Trio Tom Dooley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Danny and The Juniors At the Hop

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Tommy Edwards It’s All in the Game

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At #6 Billboard had an instrumental.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::end transcript::

1990 episode graphic

1990 Podcast

1990 episode graphic

1990 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The Cold War ends, but The Gulf War energizes the charts, yellow ribbons trend and postmodern irony, serial shock and taste inversion enflame the Culture War.

::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 10 songs according to our recap of the weekly charts published at the time in Billboard, the music industry’s top trade mag. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 1990, a transitional time in, not just America but the World.

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989: a symbolic end to the Cold War as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to modernize the Soviet system and open things up with his glasnost and perestroika policies. There wasn’t much of a choice. President Reagan’s reforms had pulled the West out of its ’70s “malaise” into a decade of prosperity that made the differences between the two opposing philosophies in the Cold War too glaring for anyone to ignore. Elsewhere, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and South Africa’s racist apartheid segregation system was on its way out. And there were free elections in a Soviet satellite country behind the Iron Curtain, Poland. A McDonald’s even opened up in Moscow! Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters staged a star-studded production of his opus The Wall in Berlin in 1990, and German Heavy Metal group Scorpions released their song “Winds of Change.”

But a different wind was blowing in U.S. culture. It had been breezin’ and gustin’ for decades in Lenny Bruce’s biting, vulgar comedy, Andy Warhol’s Pop Art, Punk’s primitivism and studied irony, cult movies by Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and the Monty Python gang. All of those, quirky oddities when they appeared, so they could be safely giggled at and ignored if what activist-intellectual Susan Sontag had labeled in the ’60s “the new sensibility” wasn’t your thing.

But right at the moment when the arc of world history bent decisively in America and the West’s favor, postmodernism achieved critical mass and the line between “lowbrow” and “highbrow” wasn’t just being blurred; as critic Roger Kimball observed a few years later, it was being erased and even inverted, so that “lowbrow” became “highbrow.” Gangsta rappers like Ice-T, Public Enemy and N.W.A. didn’t go mainstream despite being “ghetto,” but because they were “ghetto.” In Rock there was Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Grunge which had been underground for years; in R&B, Bobby Brown and the ultra-steamy bad boy Slow Jamming of Jodeci and Silk. Even in Country, you can think of Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Neo-Trad and “Friends in Low Places” as part of the inversion.

Which reached its tipping point in 1990, even if it was two more years before insurgent candidate Pat Buchanan made headlines by slapping a label on it in his prime-time “Culture War” speech at the ’92 GOP convention. Pop of course had contributed to social change before 1990, but the big difference after 1990: in Postmodernism, as theorist Marshall McLuhan put it in the ’60s “medium is message.” Now, music was change: shock and envelope pushing on all fronts, the rule, not the exception. Even having standards suddenly rendered unhip and fringy. Pop culture was now simply “culture.”

#10 Michael BoltonHow Am I Supposed to Live Without You

Don’t expect an hour of trailblazing bottom-is-now-top milestones though, in our Chartcrush Countdown for 1990. You’ll hear a few echoes of it for sure, but the Postmodern taste inversion played out over years and decades. ’90 was just the pivot point. #10 as we kick things off: a Singer-Songwriter who by the ’00s was doing Crooner tribute albums. But in the first half of the ’90s, his blend of Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul and Power Balladry was a down-the-middle bullseye for the Pop charts. Here is Michael Bolton’s own version of his song that singer Laura Branigan had already scored a hit with in 1983. It was his first #1: “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.”

Hard to believe, but Michael Bolton’s band before he went solo—a Hard Rock outfit called Blackjack—opened for Ozzy Osbourne. Even after scoring his first AC hits he didn’t sever his Hard Rock roots, co-writing KISS’s 1990 Power Ballad “Forever.” “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, just missing Billboard’s year-end top ten at #12 because the first few weeks of its chart run were in Billboard’s 1989 “chart year.”

#9 Damn YankeesHigh Enough

That’s what Billboard uses when it compiles its year-end charts, a discrete “chart year,” usually November to November. Only activity within the chart year is counted. It’s a baked-in problem since they have to print and mail an issue with their year-end charts before New Years, but it’s problematic because that’s not how charts work. Charts are a continuum, and not every song’s full run falls within one of Billboard’s chart years. For songs that are still on the chart when the chart year ends—the points for year-end rankings get divided between two years: a distinct disadvantage vs. songs with runs all in the same year. Well there are five—count ’em five—songs like that in our 1990 countdown. And as you’d expect given what I just laid out, none are in the top 10 of any Billboard year-end chart. They’re in our Chartcrush Top Ten though, because with the benefit of hindsight we get to correct this by counting every song’s full chart run toward whichever year it earned the most points based on weekly Hot100 chart positions. Cool, huh?

Anyway, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” was the first of the five, and the only one that entered the chart in 1989. Phil Collins’ massive hit, “Another Day in Paradise” was split between Billboard’s ’89 and ’90 chart years, and Billboard has it as the #7 song of 1990. But by our Chartcrush ranking, it saw most of its chart action in ’89, not ’90 and shakes out as our #1 song of 1989!

Now the #9 song in our countdown didn’t make the top 10 until mid-December 1990 after a three-month climb, and then it stayed on the chart all the way into April: the first of four songs we’re gonna hear this hour that started on the chart in ’90 and went into ’91. It’s by a Rock supergroup, one of several that formed in the late ’80s, this one with ’70s guitar God Ted Nugent, plus Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades from Arena Rock bands Styx and Night Ranger, respectively. During the Gulf War they incorporated patriotic displays into their live shows, and that turned out to be the start of Nugent’s long career as an outspoken political activist. Here are Damn Yankees, at #9: “High Enough.”

Damn Yankees, “High Enough,” the #9 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1990.

#8 Bette MidlerFrom a Distance

So the Gulf War. Mission: repel Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait. Hostilities didn’t start ’til January ’91. But Operation Desert Shield—the buildup—began just days after the Iraqi invasion in August of ’90. It was America’s first major military involvement since Vietnam, and the public was riveted. Yellow ribbons for the troops were everywhere: lapels, porches, cars, even on the cover of Rolling Stone. Yellow ribbons for loved ones being kept away from home, a meme that started in the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979, inspired by Tony Orlando & Dawn’s 1973 hit “Tie a Yellow Ribbon (‘Round the Ole Oak Tree).” Music acts from The Rolling Stones to Lenny Kravitz & Sean Lennon chimed in (“High Wire” and a remake of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” respectively). There was even a We Are the World-type celebrity assemblage called Voices That Care—as if the only thing missing from the ’80s stadium benefit frenzy had been a war to protest, and now here one finally was!

“Voices That Care” peaked at #11, and Whitney Houston’s “Star-Spangled Banner” from Superbowl XXV got to #20. But by far the biggest Gulf War hit was our song at #8, the second of our four songs that charted ’90 into ’91. Billboard has it at#15 on the year 1991, but it was recorded months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, came out right after and resonated: ten weeks in the top 10 November to January, peaking at #2 for a week, it’s Bette Midler’s “From a Distance.”

Bette Midler, fresh off her #1 hit in ’89, “Wind Beneath My Wings” from the movie Beaches, which she also starred in. That was Record and Song of the Year at the 32nd Grammys held in 1990. And then “From a Distance” won Song of the Year at the 33rd Grammys in ’91, first recorded by Texas Country-Folk singer Nanci Griffith and a hit in Ireland in ’88. But timing, of course, is everything, and Bette Midler and the Gulf War took it global.

#7 Madonna – Vogue

Next up on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1990, harkening back to my intro about the triumph of postmodernism, the singer that scholars who study and write about this stuff for a living (including consumer branding guru Stephen Brown in 2003) almost all agree is the “personification of postmodernism” Quote: “If, as someone once argued, the postmodern condition is characterized by fragmentation, de-differentiation, pastiche, retrospection and anti-foundationalism, [she fits the bill]… the blurring of sexual, ethnic and artistic boundaries; the serial shock tactics.” Of course, she never would’ve gotten away with any of it without the demographic current of Generation X, having internalized lifelong rebellion as a supreme virtue, looking to differentiate itself from the older Baby Boom who’d instilled that value by endlessly hyping how their Hippie counterculture had turned everything upside down in the ’60s! Boomers aged 26 to 45 in 1990: getting a little long in the tooth! And the singer (a Boomer aged 32) doubled down on shock in 1990, getting her video banned on MTV and then selling nearly a half million copies of the videotape and then showing up on the ABC News show Nightline to talk about it for the full half-hour. At #7, it’s not that song, “Justify My Love,” but it was 1990’s #1 best-selling single, about and inspired by a dance she’d seen in New York’s Gay club scene, using hand gestures and body poses to imitate Hollywood stars, and models from the dance (and song’s) namesake fashion magazine. It’s Madonna with “Vogue.”

“Strike a pose!” #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1990, Madonna’s “Vogue.” That video and the one MTV banned, “Justify My Love:” black and white photography with costumes and themes evoking the late Robert Mapplethorpe’s ultra-pornographic but artsy Gay sex photography that was making headlines in 1990. The uproar over the National Endowment for the Arts using tax dollars to fund Mapplethorpe exhibits in museums and galleries led to the NEA revoking several grants. But as much attention as all that got as a flashpoint in the Culture Wars, no one brought it all to America’s living rooms like the artist Billboard had just named “Artist of the ’80s Decade,” Madonna.

#6 Wilson PhillipsHold On

Next, the song Billboard had at #1 on its year-end Hot100 chart for 1990, pushed down to #6 on our ranking by factoring other songs’ full chart runs, but also, the extra juice we award for weeks at #1. Despite nine weeks in the top 10, the song only topped the chart for one week. It’s a trio of California Gen-Xers: Carnie and Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips: daughters, respectively, of ’60s legends Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, and John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & Papas. Their debut album sold millions and produced three #1s, making them the best-selling female group up ’til then—a record previously held by The Supremes. A lot was made at the time about generational baton passing and such. At #6, the lead single from that self-titled debut album, Wilson-Phillips, “Hold On.”

Wilson-Phillips “Hold On,” #6 as we count down the top 10 hits of 1990, here on this week’s edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Now those straightforward, innocent harmonies really stood out in 1990, influencing or at least foreshadowing countless female Alt- and Indie-Pop and Rock bands later in the decade. Chynna Phillips exited after another less-commercial sounding (and less successful) album in ’92, and that was it for Wilson-Phillips until their reunion album in 2004, which only got to #35 on the Album chart.

#5 RoxetteIt Must Have Been Love

Our #5 song was #2 on Billboard’s 1990 ranking, and beat Wilson-Phillips in our Chartcrush ranking by just one point, so practically a tie. And it was a hit at the same time, Spring into Summer. It’s the first and only soundtrack song in our countdown, from Pretty Woman, the movie starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, by a Swedish Pop duo that had a string of top 10s from ’89 to ’91. Roxette: “It Must Have Been Love.”

“It Must Have Been Love” from Pretty Woman: #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown for 1990.

#4 Mariah CareyVision of Love

So Madonna was Billboard’s artist of the 1980s decade. Up next at #4, the debut by the singer who went on to be Billboard’s artist of the 1990s decade. And the song entered the chart the same week that Madonna’s “Vogue” spent its third and final week at #1. She wasn’t after Madonna’s edgier, younger, Dance-oriented audience though. The Adult Contemporary format had undergone a huge transformation in the ’80s, becoming the new home for smooth R&B—which was great news for Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Patti Labelle, Billy Ocean, Anita Baker—even Whitney Houston, all of whom anchored themselves on AC, and then crossed over to the more fickle Pop charts to score some of the biggest hits of the ’80s. The stage was thus set for ’90s Divadom and Mariah Carey. The very first of her record 18 career #1’s: “Vision of Love.”

Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love,” the first big hit since Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You” in 1975 with vocals in the whistle register. And Mariah also gets the credit for popularizing melisma in modern Pop: stretching syllables out over multiple notes: something new in 1990. Mariah, not the only ’90s Pop Diva debuting in 1990. After a decade singing in French, Canadian Celine Dion’s first English-language hit “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” entered the chart in December on its way to #4.

#3 Sinead O’ConnorNothing Compares 2 U

Now for all of 1990’s significance as a cultural cusp year, our #3 hit is really the only song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown that can be called “Alternative.” It’s a song written by Prince from a 1985 album by one of his side-projects, The Family, but got a makeover in 1990 by an Irish singer with a shaved head and lots of in-your-face stands on controversial issues. It’s Sinead O’Connor. Her first and only hit: “Nothing Compares to U.”

Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares to U” at #3. Author Ken Partridge wrote in Billboard in 2014 about 1990 that “Aging boomers must have been even more confused than teenagers trying to decide if Jane Child’s ear-to-nose chain was a better look than Sinead O’Connor’s shaved head.” Jane Child, the other female act besides Sinead who debuted in 1990 with a bold new look, scored one hit (“Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”) and then vanished from the Pop charts. Not sure what happened to Jane Child’s career, but Sinead took the iconoclastic pose too far. Fellow disruptor Madonna’s quintessentially postmodern response to accusatory finger-pointing was typically a big smile and “Well you don’t understand, it’s all ironic, don’t take it too seriously.” By contrast, Sinead wrote angry open letters, tore up the Pope’s picture on live TV, cancelled gigs where they were going to play the national anthem and refused her Grammy. The first and only time she met Prince, who wrote “Nothing Compares,” he told her she shouldn’t cuss so much in interviews, which she didn’t like so she punched him and walked out.

#2 Mariah CareyLove Takes Time

At #2, it’s the second Mariah Carey song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown her breakout year, 1990. “Vision of Love,” which we heard at #4, was also in the top 10 on Billboard’s year-end chart, but this one, yet another song whose chart run was split between ’90 and ’91, so it wound up Billboard’s #76 (!) song of 1990. If you count its full chart run, though, it’s even bigger than “Vision.” #2 on the year by our Chartcrush reckoning. Again, Mariah Carey, the ballad, “Love Takes Time.”

The second of two year-end top tens for Mariah Carey her first year on the charts, 1990: “Love Takes Time.” What a start! Columbia Records, then headed by Carey’s future husband Tommy Motolla, had spent over a million bucks launching her, and she was back in the top 10 for 1991 with the title track off her second album, “Emotions,” on her way to becoming Billboard’s #1 Hot100 artist of the ’90s decade. The million was money well-spent.

#1 Stevie BBecause I Love You (The Postman Song)

And that gets us to #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1990. It topped the Hot100 for the last four weeks of the year and stayed on the chart ’til March: yet another year-straddler, which Billboard ranked at #12 on the year 1991. That’s not bad, but again, counting it full chart run in the calendar year it had the most chart action, it comes out Chartcrush’s #1 song of 1990! Stevie B’s “Because I Love You (The Postman Song).”

Now John Legend’s “All of Me” in 2014 was the first record with only piano and vocals to top the Hot100. Stevie B’s “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” has strings and bass so it doesn’t qualify, but it scratched the same itch in 1990 as “All of Me” did in 2014: the intimacy of just a singer and his or her instrument. It wasn’t a typical song for Stevie B. He’d emerged from the Miami Club scene with his Dance hit “Party Your Body,” But just as Glam Metal acts were scoring massive hits with heartfelt stripped-down acoustic songs, so Stevie B scored big with “Because I Love You.”


OK, so that’s the top 10! Now as I’ve been saying, five of the songs in our countdown were absent from Billboard’s year-end charts because their chart runs got split between adjacent years. So there were several songs from Billboard’s official published 1990 ranking that got bumped.

Billboard’s #10 song was Jon Bon Jovi’s solo song for the neo-Western Young Guns II

Emilio Estevez, who produced and starred in Young Guns II had approached Bon Jovi about using their song “Wanted Dead or Alive” for the film, but Jon Bon Jovi didn’t think a song about a Rock group on the road was a fit for a Western—so instead, he wrote “Blaze of Glory” and brought in guitar god Jeff Beck to do the solo. “Blaze of Glory” notches in at #21 on our Chartcrush ranking.

At #9, Billboard had another soundtrack cut, from politically incorrect comedian Andrew Dice Clay’s movie, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.

The biggest hit of Billy Idol’s career, “Cradle of Love,” was #19 on our ranking. A bad motorcycle accident in February of ’90 meant that Idol had to shoot the video for that song from the waist up, and turn down some big film roles. He never again reached the level of success he enjoyed in 1990.

In 2014, a Billboard feature cleverly pointed out that 1990 “was such a scary and exciting time that we needed two songs called ‘Hold On.'” Wilson-Phillips’s was Billboard’s #1 song. We heard it at  #6 in our countdown). The other: a completely different song.

Billboard’s #8 song of the year (#15 on our ranking), R&B Girl Group En Vogue’s first hit, “Hold On.”

And finally, Billboard’s #4 song of 1990 was a New Jack Swing classic that was top 10 for an impressive ten weeks from May to July, but only made it to #3.

Bell Biv Devoe, three members from multi-platinum ’80s boy band New Edition, re-branding for the ’90s. “Poison” was #17 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And we’re gonna have to leave it there, folks, because we’re out of time! I hope you enjoyed our 1990 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush shows, plus chart run line graphs and other “schwingy” extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning ofthe charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1976 episode graphic

1976 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1976 Episode Graphic

1976 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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

::start transcript::

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 The Manhattans – Kiss and Say Goodbye

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

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

#7 Chicago – If You Leave Me Now

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

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

#6 Barry Manilow – I Write the Songs

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

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

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

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

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

#4 Wild Cherry – Play That Funky Music

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

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

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

#3 Walter Murphy – A Fifth of Beethoven

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

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

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

#2 Paul McCartney and Wings – Silly Love Songs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

And The Miracles, post-Smokey Robinson…

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

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

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

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

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

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

::end transcript::

1963 episode graphic

1963 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1963 Episode Graphic

1963 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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

::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 10 songs according to our recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush it’s 1963, The last year before The Beatles hit in February ’64 and everything changed in American Pop. Or so say most pop culture critics and writers since the ’60s, almost like an article of faith.

Beatlemania was a huge pop culture event, no doubt: a sudden mass hysteria over four English guys no one had even heard of just a few weeks before. And a lot did change, and very quickly. But the problem with looking at it like that, like some kind of BC/AD moment: everything that happened before matters less, or not at all.

As much as Beatlemania might’ve seemed like a random thunderbolt out of the sky, it didn’t happen in a vacuum; what was happening in ’63 and before set the stage. For starters, teenagers’ disposable incomes had been rising for years, and by the early ’60s there were millions to be made targeting them with their own movies, records, TV shows and products. This was already abundantly clear by 1963, and thanks to the Baby Boom entering their teens, there were going to be more and more teenagers every quarter as far as the eye could see. Over 14 million babies born in the last four years of the ’40s, and the first born in ’46 turned 16 in 1962. So it should come as no surprise that the average age of artists scoring #1 hits reached an all-time low of just under 23 in 1963. Both the youngest female and male solo acts ever to score #1 hits scored them in 1963. So the kiddos were preferring records by other kiddos. But they were also suddenly (before The Beatles) preferring records from other countries and cultures, with the Jet Age just beginning to bring nonstop transatlantic travel within reach for millions of Americans.

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

#10 Little Peggy March – I Will Follow Him

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

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

#9 Steve Lawrence – Go Away, Little Girl

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

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

#8 Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki

Now the pop charts had been making nice with our former World War II enemy Germany since 1949 when two versions of “Forever and Ever,” the theme song of the German Luftwaffe, with new English lyrics, were among the year’s top 10 records. ’49, the year of the Berlin Blockade and then the Allies’ epic airlift of food and fuel that’d stopped West Berlin being absorbed into Soviet-controlled East Germany at the start of the Cold War. Other German songs had topped the charts since, as Germany remained a nexus of Cold War tensions. The biggest, English singer Vera Lynn’s “Auf Weiderseh’n Sweetheart” in ’52 and Joe Dowell’s “Wooden Heart” in ’61.

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

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

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

#7 Little Stevie WonderFingertips, Part 2

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

#7, Little Stevie Wonder, “Fingertips” on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1963—a two-part song that spanned both sides of the 45 it came out on. The hit we just heard was Part Two, starting with Stevie yelling “Everybody say yeah.” Oh, and guess who’s playing drums on that record? It’s Marvin Gaye, whose first top 10 hit was also in 1963, “Pride and Joy.”

#6 The AngelsMy Boyfriend’s Back

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

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

#5 Paul & PaulaHey Paula

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

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

#4 Bobby VintonBlue Velvet

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

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

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

#3 The Singing Nun – Dominique

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 The ChiffonsHe’s So Fine

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

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

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

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

#1 Jimmy Gilmer & The FireballsSugar Shack

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

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

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

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

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

Now for our bonus segment in the time we have left, we’re gonna do a mini-countdown: the top three from Billboard’s originally published 1963 year-end Hot100 chart, none of which made our Chartcrush top 10! Now admittedly, that does seem a little weird, that the top three on Billboard’s official year-end ranking are absent from our top 10, but in those days before there was a computer on everyone’s desk, Billboard was using a much simpler ranking method that tends to grossly overemphasize longevity on the chart, at the expense of songs that reached the top 10 or #1. Sure enough, none of the three songs (again, Billboard’s top three for 1963) ever made it to #1, and all had chart runs that were longer than the average for songs that reached the top 10 in ’63: 13 weeks. Well, with the benefit of technology we can apply a more modern ranking method like what Billboard evolved in later years retroactively to the weekly chart data and get a much more accurate ranking for 1963, and that’s exactly what we do here at Chartcrush.

Bonus: The Cascades – Rhythm of the Rain

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

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

Bonus: Skeeter DavisThe End of the World

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

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

Bonus: The Beach BoysSurfin’ U.S.A.

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

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

Bonus: The Kingsmen – Louie Louie

OK, the top three from Billboard’s year-end ranking for 1963, none in our Chartcrush top 10 for the year. Very strange indeed, and in that spirit, we’re gonna wrap up our 1963 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show with a song I’ve mentioned a few times this hour: one of the most ineptly performed and recorded records ever to make the top 40, let alone the top 10, yet it sat at the #2 spot for six weeks, in the top 10 for nine weeks, and was of the songs that bridged the gap between the Kennedy assassination and The Beatles. Here now, the birth of American Garage Rock in the ’60s: The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie.”

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

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

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

::end transcript::

1949 episode graphic

1949 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1949 Episode Graphic

1949 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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

::start transcript::

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

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

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

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

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

#10 Perry Como – Forever and Ever

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

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

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

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

#9 Russ Morgan – Forever and Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely – Slippin’ Around

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

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

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

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

#7 Perry Como Some Enchanted Evening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 Vic Damone – You’re Breaking My Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 Frankie Laine – That Lucky Old Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus: Hank Williams – Lovesick Blues

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

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

Bonus: Paul Williams – The Hucklebuck

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

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

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

::end transcript::

1955 episode graphic

1955 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1955 Episode Graphic

1955 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The Rock Era dawns with “Rock Around the Clock” and whitewashed R&B as grownups go nuts for hi-fi and Mambo, Mitch Miller continues scoring and Sinatra returns.

::start transcript::

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

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

Now I say “so-called first rock ‘n roll song” because over on Billboard’s R&B chart, there were lots of Black R&B records all the way back to the mid ’40s that had that same beat, sound and attitude. Rock ‘n Roll, you could even say, was the sound of black America in those pre-Elvis years, when the Pop charts (by contrast) were dominated by Crooners, Pop singers, Hollywood and Broadway Show Tunes, and Mitch Miller’s gimmicky Novelty productions. Notably absent from the Pop charts in the early ’50s? Anything kids could dance to.

Mambo sparked an adult Dance craze that made a few Cuban bandleaders famous and had the top Crooners and Pop Singers all cutting Mambo records, but besides that, you have to go back more than ten years to the early ’40s, the World War 2 years before a 40% federal cabaret tax on dancing establishments, plus wartime gas and tire rationing, the draft, and a two-year musicians’ strike hit Big Band Swing like a wrecking ball to find the last time upbeat Dance music was big on the charts.

So no wonder that in 1951, when DJ Alan Freed started playing R&B records for the first time on a powerful radio station, Cleveland’s WJW, it caught on, especially with the up and coming generation of young White people, who’d never even been exposed to this kind of music before, or really anything like it, so it was dangerous and exciting. And Freed totally played that up, treating his overnight audience of Silent Generation teens with flashlights under their blankets like some kind of secret Hipster society, which he dubbed “The Moondoggers.”

By ’54, Alan Freed was on a 50,000-watt station in New York, WINS, and R&B was the new wellspring of energy and ideas in Pop. White Crooner Johnny Ray had become a proto-Teen Idol star with his R&B-style emotive ballads, but the point of no return was “Sh-Boom,” an indie record by a Black Doo-Wop group from the Bronx (The Chords) that cracked the top ten on both the Pop Jukebox and Sales charts with barely any radio support at all in July 1954, followed just a week later by the major label cover version by The Crew-Cuts, a White Canadian vocal group, that hit #1 on all three Billboard pop charts for four weeks.

#10 “Tennessee” Ernie Ford or Bill Hayes – The Ballad of Davy Crockett

And then there was TV. AT&T completed the first coast-to-coast cable system for live broadcasts in 1955, and the number of American homes with a TV set passed two-thirds. TV was about to become a huge vehicle for Rock ‘n Roll and Teen music, but the first TV-ignited mass-cultural hysteria gripped those same kids when they were even younger, via Walt Disney’s five-part miniseries about an American folk hero from Tennessee who opposed Andrew Jackson’s Indian Relocation policies in the 1820s as a Congressman and died defending the Alamo.

The show put four different versions of its theme song on the Pop charts making it the #3 song of the year. Until 1963, Billboard actually had a chart that ranked songs just by their titles with all recorded versions combined, and factoring sheet music sales: the “Honor Roll of Hits.” So if we were counting down songs, it’d be #3. But counting down records, at #10 is the one version of the four that snagged Billboard’s “Triple Crown” when it hit #1 on all three disc charts (Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes) on April 23. Here’s “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

“Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the #10 song of 1955 according to our exclusive ranking here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Again, four different versions of that song on the charts during the Crockett Craze inspired by Disney’s Davy Crockett miniseries that aired December ’54 to February ’55.

If you’re streaming the podcast version of the show on Spotify, you heard Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version that was #5 for four weeks in May on the Jukebox chart. But the most successful version (and the one you just heard if you’re listening on radio) was the one that producer Archie Bleyer cut with singer Bill Hayes, which is not on Spotify.

Before the miniseries aired, Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, had been shopping around a version of “Ballad” sung by the actor who played Crockett, Fess Parker. But it was nothing like the one kids heard in the actual show sung by Folk group The Wellingtons, so after watching on TV, Bleyer had Bill Hayes in the studio the next day. After it started shooting up the charts, Columbia snapped up the Fess Parker version, but neither it or the Tennessee Ernie version on Capitol could overtake Hayes’. All the versions peaked in May and June of ’55, when Disney’s repackaged wide-screen Technicolor feature version of the miniseries was in theaters, and every boy in America was walking around in a Davy Crockett coonskin tail hat!

#9 Roger Williams – Autumn Leaves

So Rock ‘n Roll’s opening salvo on the Pop charts came in the Summer, soon after that burst of Davy Crockett mania, the one-two punch of “Rock Around the Clock” followed by Pat Boone’s version of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.”

After that, Rock percolated under the radar for a few months while the top of the Pop charts got very conservative, as if a horrified public was recoiling at what it’d just heard and needed a “safe space.” Well that’s one way to look at it, but at the same time, an obsession was budding among grownups: hi-fi: newly-minted home audio enthusiasts gearing up their swanky mid-century living rooms with all the cutting edge equipment that was coming out, and buying records that would make that gear sound like the money it cost.

At #9 is one that topped the Best Sellers chart in those months as the weather got colder, not the DJ or Jukebox charts, just Best Sellers, which is telling. It’s pianist Roger Williams’ unique instrumental take on what was already a familiar standard, having been recorded by many top artists since its appearance in 1945. Appropriately titled for when it was a hit on the calendar, “Autumn Leaves.”

Imagine for a moment that you’ve never in your life heard recorded music sound good before. In the ’40s when American Federation of Musicians president James C. Petrillo railed against “canned music” during the AFM’s musicians’ strikes against record companies, people knew exactly what he was talking about. With 78 rpm shellac records, even when they were played on the radio, listeners could easily tell that it wasn’t a live performance.

Well, starting in the early ’50s thanks to vinyl, there was a quantum leap in sound quality, on radio, yes, but even right in your own living room, thanks to all-American hi-fi brands like Marantz, Bogen, Jenson, Fairchild, National, McIntosh, Sonotone, Fisher, H.H. Scott, along with British imports Garard, Goodman and Quad, and a flurry of startup hi-fi mags that appeared overnight to collect their money for full-page ads.

Hi-fi shops opened in every city, where you could go and hear this new miracle of modernity for yourself. Then, having made what was by no means an insignificant investment, you needed a record like “Autumn Leaves,” lushly orchestrated instrumental hits that defined a whole new genre, Easy Listening.

Classical, by far the top genre for audiophiles, but Roger Williams’s innovative descending scales and arpeggios at the piano representing the random falling and blowing of leaves in Autumn scratched that itch too: #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955, the only piano instrumental ever to hit #1 on a Billboard chart. Williams scored big again in 1966 with his instrumental and chorus rendition of “Born Free.”

#8 The Four Lads – Moments to Remember

Now I mentioned The Crew-Cuts in the intro: the Canadian vocal quartet who scored in 1954 with their cover of The Chords’ “Sh-Boom.” Well the two founding members of The Crew Cuts got their start singing in a quartet with two of the founding members of the group with our #8 song. All of ’em were alumni of St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto.

In 1951, Mitch Miller, Columbia’s powerful head of A&R, signed them to sing backup on what became Johnnie Ray’s breakthrough hit, “Cry.” After charting three top tens in rapid succession with Ray, they started headlining their own records, and by ’55 they’d charted nine of ’em. But this was the biggest of their career. The song, written specifically for Crooner Perry Como, but he passed on it and The Four Lads got it. #8: “Moments to Remember.”

The Four Lads “Moments to Remember,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1955. These clean-cut collegiate foursomes were quite a phenomenon in the ’50s: Four Lads, Four Coins, Four Freshmen, Four Preps, and the biggest of them all still to come in our countdown. It can get confusing!

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

#7 The Chordettes – Mr. Sandman

At #7, a song that has become a symbol of mid-’50s innocence, maybe even innocence itself, thanks to its appearance in dozens of movies and TV shows since for that express purpose. It’s often used in a jarringly ironic way, like in Deadpool or the first film to use it, 1981’s Halloween 2, but sometimes just to anchor the viewer to the time and place that produced it: mid-’50s America.

Given how ubiquitous it’s been since the ’50s, people are surprised when they look it up and see it at a middling #18 on Billboard’s 1955 year-end Best Sellers chart, which is what you’ll likely find if you do a search for “top songs of 1955” on the Web. But it’s one of the many records throughout chart history that peaked over the holidays, so Billboard split its ranking points between two different years. Counting its full chart run including its weeks in late 1954, however, as we do for every song here at Chartcrush, it’s #7. It topped at least one of Billboard’s three charts for nine straight weeks, Thanksgiving ’54 to the end of January ’55, here are The Chordettes, “Mr. Sandman.”

Chordettes, “Mr. Sandman,” the #7 song of 1955 according to our exclusive Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking tabulated from positions on all three of Billboard’s weekly Pop charts before the Hot100 debuted in late 1958: Best Sellers, Radio Airplay and Jukebox Plays.

It’s the second of the two hits in our countdown produced by Archie Bleyer, the guy behind the hit version of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.” That’s Bleyer himself doing the hands-on-knees percussion and saying “Yes?” in the third verse. Both “Sandman” and “Davy Crockett” were on the label Bleyer founded and ran, Cadence Records, which later launched The Everly Brothers.

#6 “Tennessee” Ernie FordSixteen Tons

So like Black R&B, Country-Western (or “Hillbilly Folk,” as it was also called) has had an on-again/off-again flirtation with the Pop mainstream over the decades.  Things got interesting, though, after Singing Bandleader Vaughn Monroe scored 1949’s runaway smash Pop hit with a Western song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend).”

Within weeks of that, Mitch Miller, then at Mercury, had Crooner Frankie Laine singing rugged Western songs like “Lucky Old Sun” and “Mule Train,” and Capitol put out the first of Pop Singer Margaret Whiting’s many duets with Singing Cowboy Jimmy Wakeley, a cover of Honky Tonker Floyd Tillman’s adultery song “Slippin’ Around.” Decca’s Gordon Jenkins signed New York Folk group The Weavers, and “Goodnight Irene” was one of the top hits of 1950, and then the mic drop when Mitch Miller, now at Columbia, paired Italian Crooner Tony Bennett with Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart.”

Meanwhile in San Bernardino, California, a morning DJ doing a Country show forged a crazy, over-the-top Hillbilly persona and parlayed that into a deal with Capitol and multiple hits, including four twangy Whiting & Wakely-inspired duets with Pop Singer Kay Starr. By the end of ’55 when our #6 record hit, he was on national TV hosting Ozark Jubilee on ABC (the first national show that featured country music), plus a quiz show and a recurring role as country bumpkin Cousin Ernie on I Love Lucy. He only recorded the song after Capitol gently reminded him in the midst of all that TV glory that he still had a disc left on his contract. And it was issued a “B” side. But DJs played it and made it his biggest hit and signature tune, #1 for six weeks in December into January ’56, and also the #1 Best Seller on the Country chart for ten weeks. It’s Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.”

An ode to coal miners who were paid in scrip that was only good at the store owned by the mining company: “Sixteen Tons,” Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version, the #6 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955, first recorded in 1946 by the Kentucky Songwriter who wrote it, Merle Travis.

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

So back at #8 when we heard The Four Lads’ “Moments to Remember,” I ran down the list of all the clean-cut, fresh-faced male collegiate-styled foursomes that charted hits in the mid ’50s. At #5 is the biggest of ’em, and it was their version of “Mr. Sandman,” not the Chordettes’, that soundtracked the scene in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly first sees his hometown in 1955 after travelling back in time in Doc Brown’s souped-up DeLorean.

But they were best known for majestic, cinematic-sounding versions of title songs from blockbuster movies. Their version of “Three Coins in the Fountain” out-charted the one in the movie sung by Frank Sinatra in ’54. And then in ’55, their biggest hit was another cover version of an Oscar winning theme from a epic technicolor Hollywood romance film, this one starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones. And it did even better than “Three Coins.” #1 for the six weeks in October and November right before “Sixteen Tons, it’s The Four Aces featuring lead singer Al Alberts: “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

In all The Four Aces scored ten top tens between ’51 and ’55, culminating with the #5 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955, “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” later used as the theme of a CBS daytime soap opera that ran from the late ’60s into the early ’70s  also called, yep, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.

#4 Mitch Miller and His Orchestra and Chorus – The Yellow Rose of Texas

Now at #4, a traditional folk song, well known in Texas and the South, that dates back to at least the 1850s. But according to a Billboard piece from when the song was #1 on the charts, it first resurfaced in the 1950s as part of a songbook published by the copyright-clearance organization BMI, Songs of the Confederacy.

The book inspired a Columbia Records album that collected Confederate marching songs, and a companion album compiled Union songs. Columbia’s President at the time, Goddard Lieberson: a big Civil War buff. Well, that project, in turn, inspired one of Lieberson’s subordinates, again, Mitch Miller, Columbia’s A&R head but also a bandleader himself, to do a re-worked version of one of the Confederate marching songs on Columbia’s The Confederacy album, and it turned out to be the record that dethroned “Rock Around the Clock”  from the top of the Best Sellers chart, staying at #1 for six weeks and becoming the #4 song of 1955. Here is Mitch Miller headlining his own record, leading His Orchestra and Chorus: “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

A folksier version of “Yellow Rose of Texas” by singer Johnny Desmond was also a hit on the Pop DJ and Jukebox charts in 1955. And a version by Ernest Tubb on the Country charts. But Mitch Miller’s more military-sounding version we just heard came out on top and was the #4 record of the year.

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

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

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

#3 The McGuire Sisters – Sincerely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Pérez PradoCherry Pink and Apple Blossom White

But it wasn’t #1. And that brings us to the other big Pop music story in ’54 and ’55: Mambo: the fusion of swing and Cuban music. And the artist at #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955 is the guy who introduced mambo in 1951 at the Tropicana Hotel in Havana. He also put out an album that year, Mambo-Jambo, and sparked a dance craze that continued through the ’50s.

So while the kiddos were dancing again to R&B and Rock ‘n Roll, grownups were signing up in droves at Arthur Murray Dance Studios, learning the rhumba box step (and other Latin dances). And buying records like our song at #1. It’s Pérez Prado and His Orchestra, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.”

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

And speaking of I Love Lucy (the #1 show in America in 1955 with over 15 million viewers, which is half of the households with TVs), in its fourth and fifth seasons. Lucy’s husband Ricky Ricardo, of course, a Cuban bandleader, who it’d be reasonable to assume was modeled after a guy like Prado. But not so. It’s actually the other way around. Desi Arnaz, who played Ricky and was Lucille Ball’s real-life husband: also a Cuban bandleader in real life. A protégé of the original Latin bandleader, Xavier Cugat in the 1940s, when Prado was still tickling the ivories in Cuba. Not to diminish Prado’s achievements or title as the Mambo King at all, but I Love Lucy premiered on TV the same year that first Prado album came out: 1951.


So, that’s our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1955, but we’re not quite done. As I’ve been mentioning throughout the show, Billboard had three separate survey-based Pop charts in 1955 to rank songs by Record Sales, Radio Airplay and Jukebox Plays. Well at Chartcrush, for pre-Hot100 years like 1955, we merge the three into a single combined weekly chart, and then get our rankings for the year the same way we do Hot100 years, factoring every song’s full chart run so a song like, say, “Sixteen Tons” that spanned ’55 into ’56 doesn’t get lost in the shuffle as so often happens with Billboard’s year-end rankings based on discrete “chart year” time windows.

Well when you use our Chartcrush mojo for the individual charts (Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes), there are songs that come out in the top ten on the year on one chart but not the others. I mentioned that Prado’s “Cherry Pink” didn’t do as well on the Airplay chart as Sales and Jukeboxes, for example. That one was strong enough on two of the charts, though, that its still the #1 song of the year in the ranking from the combined chart. Others, though? Not so lucky! And there are six of those. A ragtime piano medley was the #10 Jukebox hit of the year.

Pianist Johnny Maddox’s version of a medley originally by “Der Schrage Otto” (“Crazy Otto”), a German comedian, big on Jukeboxes, but radio in 1955 didn’t know what to do with that song, #36 on that ranking. It comes out #20 on our combined ranking.

The #5 hit of the year on Jukeboxes is only #19 on both the DJ and Best Sellers rankings.

Georgia Gibbs’ “Dance with Me Henry,” a cover of Etta James’ “The Wallflower” that was a #1 hit on the R&B chart, but too risqué for the Pop mainstream in ’55. Etta’s original says “Roll with Me, Henry.” Gasp!

Gibbs, a White singer, had just scored with another R&B cover, of Black Chicago singer LaVern Baker’s “Tweedle Dee,” prompting Baker to sarcastically name Georgia Gibbs the beneficiary on a supplemental life insurance policy she took out before a flight to Australia, saying “you need this more than I do because if anything happens to me, you’re out of business!” “Dance with Me Henry,” #17 on our combined ranking for the year.

Yet another cover of an R&B hit by a White artist was among the top ten Jukebox hits of the year.

The Fontane Sisters cover of Otis Williams & The Charms’ “Hearts of Stone,” a #1 R&B hit in late ’54 that actually did cross over to the Pop Bestsellers chart in January, before the Fontanes version overtook it the following month. Dot Records co-founder Randy Wood, the guy who relaunched the Sisters as a teen-targeted Girl Group doing R&B covers after poaching them from RCA-Victor when the well ran dry on their string of hits with Crooner Perry Como in ’49 and ’50. Wood, taking his cue from the success of Mercury’s Crew Cuts covering The Charms’ crossover Doo-Wop hit “Sh-Boom” in ’54.

The reasoning was that, notwithstanding Alan Freed, big radio just was gonna play most R&B records no matter how much the kids wanted to hear them. Because racism, yes, but also for the same reason they wouldn’t play most Country records: just too unpolished sounding alongside Crooners and lushly-orchestrated Hollywood hits. So Dot and many other labels got White artists to record covers of R&B hits, completely reinventing them for a mainstream Pop audience. “Hearts of Stone,” another massive Jukebox hit that’s not among the top ten Sales or Airplay hits of the year, so it notches in at #14 in our combined ranking.

But Dot’s greatest success of ’55 was what’s since come to be regarded as the ultimate “Whitewashed” R&B hit.

Yet another Jukebox hit that didn’t do quite as well on radio and in stores: Pat Boone’s cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” a very respectable #13 on our combined ranking.

Domino didn’t harbor any ill will towards Boone for stealing his chart thunder. His original, also a top ten Jukebox hit in ’55 (his first of over 60 chart hits from ’55 to ’68). But as the songwriter, he collected royalties on Boone’s version and bought himself a big piano shaped diamond ring, which he showed off at gigs and told the crowd, “Pat Boone bought me this ring with this song” introducing “Ain’t That a Shame.”

So those are all the hits that were among the top ten Jukebox hits of the year but didn’t make the top ten when combined with Sales and Airplay. Next, the #8 song of the year on the radio Airwaves that missed the top ten on Jukeboxes and in record shops. Radio has always had a special place in its heart for Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra’s comeback to the top of the charts after his messy divorce from Ava Gardner and slumping badly in the late ’40s and early ’50s (ironically right at the height of the Crooner era), “Learnin’ the Blues,” Sinatra’s first #1 on any chart since 1947.

In ’55 he had a new label (Capitol), a new bandleader, arranger and collaborator (Nelson Riddle), a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (for From Here to Eternity) under his belt, and a new sound that updated Swing Jazz for the Rock era. Despite the misfortune of being a hit at the same time as “Rock Around the Clock,” “Learnin'” peaked at #2 (by our combined ranking) for five of the weeks Bill Haley was #1 in July and August. It just narrowly misses our combined top ten at #12 on the year.

And finally, the biggest hit version of a song that’s been recorded over 1,500 times since it first appeared in 1955, and with three records of it making the top ten, it was the #1 song of 1955 combining all versions. Like our #9 hit, Roger Williams’s “Autumn Leaves,” it did best on the Best Sellers chart: a perfect record for all the new audiophiles buying their first hi-fi sets. But while “Autumn Leaves” was also a big Jukebox hit; this one, not so much, #20 on the Jukebox ranking.

Band- and chorus leader Les Baxter’s “Unchained Melody,” numbers 7 and 10 on the yearly DJ and Sales rankings, respectively, which makes it the #11 song on our combined Chartcrush ranking for ’55. Baxter, no stranger to the charts after backing Nat King Cole on “Mona Lisa” in 1950and “Too Young” in ’51, and on his own scoring numerous top tens in the early ’50s. And he was back with an even bigger hit in ’56, “The Poor People of Paris.” Not bad for what most folks (from about 1970 on)would dismiss as “elevator music.”

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

And we’re gonna have to end on that note because we are out of time! You’ve been listening to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 1955 and I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other nifty extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the beginning ofthe charts in the 1940sall the way up to the present, so come back next week, will ya?, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1980 episode graphic

1980 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1980 Episode Graphic

1980 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

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

::start transcript::

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9 Michael Jackson – Rock with You

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

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

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

#8 Barbra Streisand – Woman in Love

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

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

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

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

#7 Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4 Diana Ross – Upside Down

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

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

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

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

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

#2 Kenny Rogers – Lady

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Blondie – Call Me

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::end transcript::

1999 episode graphic

1999 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1999 Episode Graphic

1999 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Females rule as Latins invade, TLC returns, AutoTune appears and Total Request Live showcases Millennial Pop idols Britney, Christina, Backstreet and ‘NSYNC.

::start transcript::

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10 Jennifer Lopez – If You Had My Love

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

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

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

#9 Sixpence None the RicherKiss Me

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

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

#8 MonicaAngel of Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7 The Goo Goo Dolls – Slide

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

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

#6 Deborah CoxNobody’s Supposed to Be Here

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

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

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

#5 Christina AguileraGenie in a Bottle

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

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

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

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

#4 Britney Spears…Baby One More Time

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

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

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

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

#3 Cher – Believe

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

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

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

#2 TLCNo Scrubs

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 702 – Where My Girls At?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::end transcript::

2011 episode graphic

2011 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 2011 Episode Graphic

2011 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

EDM triumphs as the “New Pop” unifies American music for the first time in a decade, while Adele sets a new standard for soulful female singers.

::start transcript::

Welcome! I’m Christopher Verdesi, and this is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Every week on Chartcrush, we set our sights on a different year in pop music history and count down the top ten hits according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time by the American music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week, we’re turning the clock back to 2011, a year that solidified a sea change on the pop charts that began as the aughts decade came to a close.

Some critics said that it was the return of pop. Others said it was America finally arriving at a party that’d already been raging across the Atlantic for 20 years, namely electronic dance music, or EDM. Well both are right. If the 2000s were a decade in search of an identity—a diversity of styles but not a lot of cultural cohesion—the last couple years of the decade into the 2010s were when it all coalesced into a distinct, massive popular sound rooted in EDM, but with pop being the common denominator, as if music fans suddenly got tired of all these fragmented genres and flavors and styles and scenes just co-existing in their silos, and spontaneously rallied around the idea of pulling it all together to create a new whole that was greater than the sum of its parts: a “New Pop,” as it was described in leading sources including Billboard.

Now who those fans were in 2011 had everything to do with how and why this happened. Every generation has a pinnacle or plateau: the five-years, plus or minus, before its youngest members turn 18. when its preferences get imprinted on the mainstream: the music they like, what they watch (TV and movies), the technology they use, the advertising they respond to, their slang, with little to no competition from older or younger folks. Well, the period from about 2008 to 2013? That was the Millennial generation’s pinnacle, and pulling together all the splintered styles and scenes that Gen-X had left in its wake—alt-rock and grunge, gangsta rap, pop divas, R&B vocal groups and trancey trip-hop and house—under that one “new pop” umbrella, was the Millennials’ crowning, defining contribution to music.

So what is it, this “new pop?” Well, as I said, it’s EDM. The sprawling, trancey, groove-centered native form of the music, was suddenly drawing Woodstock-sized crowds in America in 2011. Multi-day events like The Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival with LivePA’s (that’s EDM for “performances”) by top DJ-producers like David Guetta, Tiesto, Deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia and American newcomer Skrillex. The “new pop” was EDM, distilled, honed and crafted, often with the help of those bigtime DJ-producers, into irresistible pop songs with an emphasis on hooks and maybe even gimmicks, served up straight or spiced with reggae, hip-hop, R&B or even rock, not too much to overwhelm the dish, mind you, just enough to add a little flavor and character.

The Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga blazed the trail and set the template with their late 2000’s hits, and both were still going strong on the charts in ’11 although neither made our Chartcrush top ten. The Peas “Just Can’t Get Enough” was #10 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 chart but misses ours at #14, and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” an important LGBTQ anthem right as the debate on gay marriage was heating up, ranked #18 on both our and Billboard’s rankings.

#10 Nicki Minaj – Super Bass

But again, their influence is all over many of the hits that did make our top ten, including the one at #10, the first top ten hit by a Trinidad-born female rapper who was raised in Queens, New York, and has the accent to prove it! The fifth single off her debut album Pink Friday, proving that even in the era of focus groups and web analytics, big sleeper hits can still happen. Peaking at #3 for two weeks in the summer, but in the top 40 for 35 weeks, it’s Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.”

Nicki Minaj’s first big hit, “Super Bass,” #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2011. In a 2012 feature story, The New York Times called her “a sparkling rapper with a gift for comic accents and unexpected turns of phrase,” but hip-hop critics mostly slammed Nicki Minaj as bubblegum rap for her electropop-rap hybrids. Again, though, amalgams like that were the whole point of the “new pop,” and Nicki Minaj got her rewards on the pop charts.

#9 Katy Perry featuring Kanye West – E.T.

So, while The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am and Lady Gaga were pioneering the new pop in ’08 and ’09 and scoring massive hits, our next singer at #9 was also conquering the charts, but with a Kelly Clarkson/No Doubt-derived pop-rock sound. Her next album in 2010 though, Teenage Dream, was such a perfectly-timed “new pop” bullseye shot that she wound up overtaking Gaga and Will on the charts and personifying the style by the end of 2011. And no surprise, she has not one but two songs in our top ten countdown. At #9 is the first of them: Katy Perry, teaming with rapper Kanye West, on the single remix of “E.T.”

That “stomp-stomp-clap” beat from Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” repurposed for the 2010s by Katy Perry on the single remix of “E.T.,” the #9 song here on our Chartcrush countdown of the top ten pop hits of 2011. No Kanye on the original version from Katy’s multi-platinum Teenage Dream album though, just Katy. That version came out as a promo single before the album was released, but barely dented the charts. And then the remix with Kanye dropped and was #1 for five weeks in the Spring…

#8 CeeLo Green – Forget You

…the same time as NBC’s The Voice was debuting on TV. In 2018, four years after her last #1 hit, Katy Perry became a judge on the prime-time talent show that NBC launched The Voice to compete with: Fox’s American Idol. But one of the reasons The Voice was a such a big hit right out of the gate, was that all three of its judges, although music biz veterans with the gravitas to offer trenchant advice to aspiring pop stars on TV, were themselves still big enough to score major chart hits. And all three did in 2011. One of them is our artist at #8, tackling one of the evergreen themes of pop songs in all genres: being rejected in love over someone with more money. It’s CeeLo Green’s vintage-R&B throwback that was on the Hot100 for 48 weeks, “Forget You.”

Cee Lo Green at #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Pop Countdown for 2011. “Forget You’s” R-rated album version uses much saltier language to describe the song’s bitter feelings of anger and rejection, not just in the lyrics but in the song’s title, which prompted a Billboard writer to opine: “It’s as sunny as a ’60s Motown hit and as expletive-laden as an early Eminem song.” CeeLo’s only previous top ten hit was another oldskool soul-R&B throwback in 2006, “Crazy,” when he in the duo Gnarles Barkley. But his chart career stretches back all the way to the mid ’90s when he was in the Atlanta hip-hop group Goodie Mob.

#7 Katy Perry – Firework

Now recall from “E.T.,” which we heard at #9: the single remix with Kanye West’s rap verses dramatically outperformed Katy Perry’s original solo album version, which only peaked at #42 for one week when it was first released in 2010. But the months between the original and remix versions (December 2010 into January ’11)  were the months that another even bigger hit from Perry’s Teenage Dream went to #1, and that’s the song we’re going to hear right now at #5. Again it’s Katy Perry, “Firework.”

Katy Perry’s “Firework,” off Teenage Dream, after Michael Jackson’s Bad in 1987, only the second album in history to produce five #1 singles, and the first by a female artist. A sixth single from the album went to #3, and then a new song from a reissue version of the album went to #1 in 2012.

#6 Adele – Someone like You

At #6 as we count down the top ten hits of 2011 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown show, the other singer besides Katy Perry with two songs in our countdown: Billboard’s 2011 artist of the year, with the #1 album, and her face and name on the cover of the December 17th year-end issue under the headline “The Year of.”

She was one of the first pop stars discovered on social media, in ’06 on MySpace after a friend posted one of her demos. Soon she had a record deal and was being compared to Amy Winehouse, the blue-eyed soul sensation whose first big hit “Rehab” was on the charts that year. Two years later in ’08, she’d outdone Winehouse with two U.K. top tens, and then in America her second album 21 made 2011 “The Year of Adele.” Oh, and by the way, she also writes all her songs. At #6, “Someone like You.”

Adele, “Someone like You,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2011: the second of her three consecutive #1’s off her album 21. All three, by the way, on the Hot100 for over a year, well into 2012. Adele, obviously the big exception to the EDM/”new pop” theme of 2011. Later in the countdown, we’re gonna hear another Adele cut: her first and biggest U.S. hit of 2011.

#5 Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer – Give Me Everything

At #5, a Cuban-American rapper out of Miami who’d been in the biz and making records since 2002 when he featured on a track by crunk-rap pioneer Lil Jon, a mentor and collaborator throughout his career, and made his first of several appearances on a Fast & Furious film franchise soundtrack. In ’05, Sean “Puffy” Combs tapped him to co-found a Latin subsidiary of Bad Boy Records, and then his breakthrough on the Hot100 came in ’09 with two top tens. But in 2011 this was his first #1. It’s Pitbull, featuring singers Ne-Yo and Nayer and Dutch EDM DJ and producer Afrojack, “Give Me Everything.”

Pitbull, “Mr. 305” (Miami’s area code), the baton-holder for Latin Pop in 2011 “Give Me Everything,” the #5 song of 2011 on our Chartcrush ranking, and also in the top ten on Billboard’s Year-End chart. We get one of Pitbull’s trademark “dale’s” (Spanish for “give it”) at about the minute-twenty mark on the song, but a commenter on the lyrics website genius.com noted: “I can’t stand how Pitbull starts the song rhyming Kodak with Kodak.”

Lindsey Lohan, the perpetually troubled actress-singer, also had a problem with the song’s lyrics because they mention her name. She sued for mental anguish and damage to her image, but lost.

#4 Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera – Moves like Jagger

So back at #8 when we heard CeeLo Green’s “Forget You,” I mentioned that all three of the judges on season one of The Voice are in our top ten countdown, CeeLo being one of those judges. At #4 is the song with the other two. They debuted it on an episode of The Voice, and unlike Lindsey Lohan with the Pitbull song, Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger thought being mentioned not just in the lyrics but in the title (with old clips of Jagger featured throughout its video) was “very flattering.” It’s Maroon 5 with singer and Voice judge Adam Levine, their first #1 since ’07 featuring Levine’s fellow Voice judge, Christina Aguilera, her first #1 since 2001: “Moves Like Jagger.”

Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, “Moves Like Jagger.” #4 as we count down the top ten hits of 2011 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Back in ’04, Maroon 5 had updated the sound and image of pop boy bands on their pair of breakthrough top tens, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved.” But they struggled on the charts after 2007. And early aughts teen pop sensation Christina Aguilera hadn’t scored a top ten hit since ’08 despite going full-bore EDM and “new pop” at the same time Katy Perry did in 2010. But TV critics praised Levine and Aguilera’s onscreen chemistry as Voice judges, and it carried over to their pairing on “Moves Like Jagger.”

The song made Aguilera the second female artist, after rival Britney Spears, to hit #1 in the 90s, aughts, and 2010s, and only the fourth to score #1s in any three different decades, after Janet Jackson, Madonna and Britney.

Adam Levine also sang the chorus as a featured singer on the hit “Stereo Hearts” by alt-rap-rock group Gym Class Heroes, which just missed our countdown of 2011’s biggest hits at #12.

#3 Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are

At #3, we have a very interesting situation: a song that entered the Hot100 in August 2010 and rose to #1 for four weeks in October 2010. But wait! This is a 2011 countdown. Why is there a song that was #1 in 2010; shouldn’t that be in the 2010 countdown? Normally, yes! But after it was dislodged from the #1 spot, this particular song spent another 14 weeks in the top ten, which gets us to February 2011. Then it was in the top 40 for another 18 weeks after that, which puts us in June of 2011. When you add it up, even though its peak at #1 was in 2010, 51% of its total chart points, looking at its full chart run, came in calendar 2011. 51%! That’s crazy close!

Now Billboard will split a chart run like that between both years. They really don’t have a choice; they have to set a cut-off week for the chart year to get their year-end issue out before New Years. Okay, but as a result, throughout chart history, big hits with year-straddling chart runs have not been properly reflected in the year-end rankings. Our #3 song was Billboard’s #18 song of 2010 and the #15 song of 2011. Combining the full chart run and putting it in the year it earned the most points, which we do with every song here on Chartcrush, makes it the #3 song of 2011.

It’s the singer’s first record under his own name, but his voice had already been all over radio for months as the featured singer on rapper B.o.B’s #1 hit “Nothin’ on You” and Gym Class Heroes’ leader Travie McCoy’s solo debut “Billionaire,” both of which were produced by his production team, The Smeezingtons. It’s Bruno Mars, “Just the Way You Are.”

Bruno Mars’s solo debut at #3, “Just the Way You Are,” which he followed up with what became Billboard’s #10 song of 2011, “Grenade.” That one misses our Chartcrush countdown at #11.

compared to Michael Jackson, Mars’s halftime show at the 2014 Super Bowl was the most-watched in Super Bowl history up to then, and then he was back in the top ten in 2021 as half of the soul throwback superduo Silk Sonic.

#2 Adele – Rolling in the Deep

Well we’re down to #2 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 2011’s top ten hits. And if you’re comparing our ranking to Billboard’s published year-end Hot100, one of the first things you’ll notice is that numbers one and two are flipped. Both songs had extraordinarily long chart runs that extended well beyond Billboard’s December 3rd cutoff for the 2011 chart year and into 2012. Of course, Billboard could only factor chart activity up to the cutoff issue. But as I mentioned earlier with Bruno Mars, here at Chartcrush we count every song’s full chart run, so Billboard’s #1 song of 2011 becomes the #2 song. It’s the Hot100 breakthrough by the singer whose second #1 we heard at #6. Here again, Adele: “Rolling in the Deep.”

Our #2 song of 2011: Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” the lead single from her second album, 21, Billboard’s #1 album of 2011 and 2012, two years in a row. Adele titles all her albums with the age she was when she made them. How cool is that?

Now she might’ve had her big breakthrough on the American charts with her first album, 19 in ’08, but she cancelled the entire U.S. leg of her first tour so she wouldn’t have to be away from her boyfriend. Still, 19 did okay, in part because in October 2008 she got to be the musical guest on the episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It was the most-watched SNL since the mid-’90s, and enough of the episode’s 14 million viewers were sufficiently impressed to propel 19 to #4 on the album chart, get “Chasing Pavements,” one of the songs she performed from the album, into the top 40 for a week and help earn her the Best New Artist award at the 2009 Grammys.

Adele reverberated on the pop charts throughout the teens and beyond in hits by, in no particular order, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Lana Del Rey, Olivia Rodrigo and piano ballads like A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” and Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.” And Adele stayed hot too: three #1’s from her 2015 album 25 and another from her 2021 set, 30.

#1 LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock – Party Rock Anthem

And that brings us to the #1 song of the year 2011, by an electro dance-pop duo whose name is taken from an acronym commonly found in texting, which I can’t translate for you because Chartcrush has to stay radio-friendly. The duo consisted of a son and a grandson of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. Son and grandson, but Stefan Kendall Gordy, a.k.a. Redfoo, and Skylar Austen Gordy, a.k.a. Sky Blue, are not father and son to each other, they’re uncle-nephew. And in a year of very long chart runs, it topped the longevity list with 68 weeks (April 2011 to July 2012), and that included 52 in the top 40, 29 in the top ten, and six at #1 in July and August, making it the big summer hit of 2011. Here’s LMFAO featuring British singer Lauren Bennett and producer GoonRock, the #1 song of 2011, “Party Rock Anthem.”

LMFAO: the #1 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2011. In Vanity Fair, writer DJ Louie the 14th described “Party Rock Anthem” as a song “engineered for the peak of your molly roll and your 13-year-old cousin’s bar mitzvah,” adding that it “battered radio and clubs with its gloriously tacky synths, white-boy-rap verses, and preposterous, shuffling beat drop.” It became the bestselling single of all time in Australia thanks to the video, which took a dance from ’90s Australian techno raves and sparked one of the biggest dance crazes since the Macarena. Moms were notching hundreds of thousands of YouTube views with vids of their toddlers doing the dance. LMFAO had a second massive hit in 2011 with “Sexy and I Know It,” but shortly after, they announced a hiatus, and never regrouped.

Bonus: Lady Gaga – Born This Way

So in every year before 2011, a song that had six weeks at #1, even with less than 20 weeks total on the chart, would be a lock for a spot in the year-end top ten. Those were the stats on Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” But in 1985, the average total weeks on the Hot100 for #1 songs was about 21. In 2011 it was 35, and that average peaked at 45 in 2014: the increase due to direct consumer impact as Billboard added digital downloads, social media hits, video views and streams to its ever-changing chart calculus. Turns out songs have a lot longer shelf life for actual fans, than among radio programmers and retail merchandizers. Anyway, our 2011 honorable mention had those stats too, and it also debuted at #1 and was a transcendent cultural milestone for helping gain public acceptance of LGBTQ lifestyles right as the debate over gay marriage was heating up. Somehow, though, despite all that, the song only ranked #18 on the year on both our Chartcrush ranking and Billboard’s official published year-end ranking. Here’s Lady Gaga, “Born This Way.”

Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” our honorable mention here on our 2011 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show: a gay rights milestone and, by the way, also a chart milestone. It was the one-thousandth #1 hit on the Hot100 since the chart started in 1958. And Gaga, of course, one of the pioneers of the EDM “new pop” sound that dominated the charts in 2011. Lots of good reasons to make it our honorable mention in our 2011 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show.

Which, unfortunately, we’re gonna have to be a wrap up, because we’re out of time! I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi, and I want to thank you for listening. Be sure and check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other amped-up extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the very beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

1964 episode graphic

1964 Podcast

Chartcrush Countdown Show 1964 Episode Graphic

1964 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

The Beatles and Supremes flood the charts as the Baby Boom arrives and Motown, the British Invasion and the concept of the “Rock band” reshape U.S. Pop forever.

::start transcript::

Welcome! I’m Christopher Verdesi and this is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown show. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a different year in pop music history, and count down the top ten records  according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week we’re counting down the biggest hits of 1964, which kicked off with one of the most significant events in pop history: Beatlemania, February 7, when four mop-topped guys from Liverpool, England touched down at New York’s international airport, which had just been renamed for President John F. Kennedy—assassinated just a few short weeks before.

The Fab Four’s first major label U.S. single was already the #1 song in the land when they got off that plane, and to highlight the contrast to what came before on the charts, much has been made over the years about records that preceded The Beatles at #1. “Dominique” by The Singing Nun: #1 for four weeks in December ‘63 (a song sung entirely in French, by the way) and then teen idol Bobby Vinton’s cover of Vaughn Monroe’s hit from 1945, “There! I’ve Said It Again”—#1 for the four weeks of January 1964: very tame, MOR Easy Listening stuff—which tends to happen in all eras after major national traumas: folks looking to music for calm and reassurance. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, there were The Beatles: their mop-top haircuts, their goofball Merseyside charisma and humor, and throngs of screaming kids mobbing them everywhere they went. Jarring to say the least.

But an important detail that gets lost in that narrative is: for six of the weeks that The Singing Nun and Bobby Vinton were at #1 right before Beatlemania, the #2 song on the Hot100 was the gloriously sloppy “Louie Louie:” recorded in just one take in a primitive studio by an Oregon garage band, The Kingsmen, and propelled up the charts to become the first “underground” hit thanks to rumors about swear words and sex in lyrics that were so indecipherable that even the FBI couldn’t suss them out. Kinda takes the air out of the whole Beatle-centric narrative of what happened in those months, doesn’t it?

Well nothing against The Beatles, but Beatlemania, like “Louie Louie” at #2 for six weeks, was a symptom, not a cause, is my point. A new generation was coming of age: The Baby Boom: by far the largest generational cohort in American history, before or since, and the most culturally consequential. The oldest Boomers born in 1946 just after World War 2 were seventeen at the start of 1964, and the generation before, called the “Silent Generation,” had left their big teen culture upheaval, rock ‘n roll, in the rear-view as they graduated to adulthood, a lot like Gen-X did after making their mark in the early ’90s with grunge and hip-hop, and then jumping aboard the technology train and leaving the pop culture to Millennials.

Now “Louie Louie’s” chart run was split between 1963 and 1964, so it didn’t rank very high on either the ’63 or ’64 Billboard year-end rankings, and it just misses our Chartcrush top ten for 1964 at #12 despite our policy of factoring every song’s full chart run in whichever year it earned the most points.

#10 The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go

But our #10 song did get in under the wire, of course, and it’s a great way to kick off our countdown: the first of five consecutive #1 singles by the other group that took the charts by storm in 1964 and, like The Beatles, kept it going through the rest of the decade. They were the only other act in the ’60s besides The Beatles (and Elvis Presley) who logged over 100 weeks in the top ten on the Billboard Hot100. And they did it with just over half the charting records of The Beatles. Here are The Supremes with lead singer Diana Ross, again, the first of their five consecutive #1’s in ’64 and ’65, “Where Did Our Love Go.”

Berry Gordy Jr’s Motown label, including its subsidiaries Tamla and Gordy, had notched about a dozen top ten Hot100 hits before The Supremes, whose first #1 song we just heard, “Where Did Our Love Go,” #10 on our 1964 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. Another girl group, The Marvelettes, scored Motown’s first #1 in 1961, “Please Mr. Postman.” But it was The Supremes that took things to a whole ‘nother level and cemented Berry Gordy, Jr’s empire. Of Motown’s 14 #1 hits in the second half of the ’60s, only five were not Supremes records.

#9 Mary WellsMy Guy

At #9 we  have another Motown record and our third female vocal in a row. She was Motown’s first female star going back to early ’61, but her earlier stuff is in a rougher, bawdier R&B style than the polished classic Motown-y sound of this song we’re gonna hear. She left Motown at the peak of her fame, still just 21, to sign with 20th Century Records hoping to expand into movies. But she never cracked the top 20 again, and this was her last, but biggest hit. Here’s Mary Wells: “My Guy.”

Written and produced by Smokey Robinson, who wrote a lot of songs for Motown acts, not just for his own group The Miracles: Mary Wells’s “My Guy,” #9 as we count down the top ten songs of 1964 here on The Chartcrush Countdown Show.

Whether Smokey knew that the studio session group that did “My Guy” was ripping off the riff from pianist Eddie Heywood’s “Canadian Sunset” for the intro and break? Unknown. But the culprits, trombonist George Bohanon and session boss Earl Van Dyke, did. Exhausted at the end of a day, they noticed that it worked perfectly with what they’d already come up with, so they mashed it together with some bass-notes from another Heywood recording: his version of the Jazz standard “Begin the Beguine,” and voila!

Van Dyke later told Mary Wells’ biographer: “We were doing anything to get the hell out of that studio. We knew that the producers didn’t know nothing ’bout no ‘Canadian Sunset’ or ‘Begin the Beguine’ and we figured the song would wind up in the trash can anyway.” But “My Guy” became one of Motown’s biggest hits ever, and the second #1 on the chart after the first tsunami of Beatlemania receded.

#8 The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love

Which occurred when our next song dropped to #5 the week of May 9, ending The Beatles’ lock on the top spot, which they’d held with three different singles since February 1st—14 consecutive weeks. The third of them is our first Beatles song, recorded while the Fab Four were in Paris for a string of shows just a week before they got on that Pan-Am 707 and came to America. And it rocketed to the top spot in just its second week on the chart: “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Beatles, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the #8 song on our ranking of the top ten hits of 1964 here on the Chartcrush Countdown Show. Paul McCartney singing lead on a single, without harmony vocals from his bandmates—a first for The Beatles. Instead he double-tracked his vocal. That’s a studio trick where two unison takes are layered one atop the other for a fuller sound. Buddy Holly and his producer Norman Petty pioneered it for Rock ‘n Roll records, and The Beatles did it on almost all their earlier stuff.

#7 The Beach BoysI Get Around

Again, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the third of the three singles that kept The Beatles at #1 for 14 weeks in that first Beatlemania wave, which broke in May. They were back on top in August with “A Hard Day’s Night” (the movie and the song), but another record that got to #1 in that early summer Beatlemania lull at the top of the charts is by a group that’s all about summertime. They first cracked the top ten with “Surfin’ U.S.A.” just as the weather was getting nice in May of ’63—months before Americans had even heard of The Beatles. But of course, the weather’s always nice in their native Southern California, and our #8 song was their first #1. It’s The Beach Boys, “I Get Around.”

“I Get Around,” the #8 song on our 1964 Chartcrush Top Ten countdown. Like The Beatles, The Beach Boys were a band. Hard to imagine, but bands were a new thing on the charts in 1964: groups of young musicians working together under a single brand, not just singing on their records, but playing the instruments and writing songs, crafting a unique sound and identity. From the late ’40s to early ’60s, nearly all big hits, even Rock ‘n Roll hits, were written by professional songwriters and credited to solo acts, duos or, if a group, a vocal group with separate instrumental backing by an orchestra leader who worked for the label.

Starting with Instrumental Surf music in the early ’60s (Ventures, Surfaris, Chantay’s), then The Beach Boys, The Kingsmen (with “Louie Louie”) and culminating with the The Beatles and the British Invasion, the band became one of the main configurations for Pop records for the rest of the ’60s and beyond.

The Beatles and Beach Boys were both on the same label, Capitol, and beginning an incredibly productive back-and-forth competition that continued for years to push the creative limits of what this new musical configuration, the modern band, could accomplish, especially in the studio.

#6 Bobby Vinton – There! I’ve Said It Again

At #6 is a song I mentioned at the top of the show talking about the #1s that immediately preceded Beatlemania on the Hot100 and kept “Louie Louie” out of the top spot. There was “Dominique” by The Singing Nun, #1 for four weeks in December ’63, with “Louie Louie” at #2 for two of those weeks. Well this is the song that was #1 all four of the weeks in January ’64 that “Louie Louie” was #2, and it also happens to be the very song The Beatles replaced at #1 with their first American smash. It’s Teen Idol Bobby Vinton’s remake of the 1945 hit by crooner-bandleader Vaughn Monroe, “There! I’ve Said It Again.”

Teen Idol Bobby Vinton’s #1 cover version of the 1945 hit “There! I’ve Said It Again,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1964, an even bigger hit than Vinton’s previous single which was also a cover, of crooner Tony Bennett’s 1951 top 20 hit “Blue Velvet”. That one was our #4 song of 1963.

Vaughn Monroe first took “There I’ve Said It Again” to #1 in 1945, 19 years before 1964: the year World War Two ended. Most folks in their mid-’30s or older in ’64 already knew the song. A little perspective: Lenny Kravitz’s 1999 cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman”—29 years removed from the 1970 original. And 23 years had elapsed between 1987’s Dirty Dancing soundtrack and The Black-Eyed Peas rejiggering of “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” on their 2010 hit “The Time (Dirty Bit).” Greatest Generation 40- and 50-somethings in 1964 would’ve appreciated Vinton dusting off wholesome good-timey classics from their youths and repackaging them for their kids.

#5 The Supremes – Baby Love

Well, we’re down to #5, and it’s the second of this Motown girl group’s five consecutive singles to reach #1, a record for a female artist that stood until Whitney Houston in the late ’80s. We heard the first, “Where Did Our Love Go” at #10. That topped the chart in August, and then this one peaked around Halloween. Here again: Detroit natives Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Diana Ross: The Supremes: “Baby Love.”

The Supremes, “Baby Love,” the #5 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten countdown for 1964. Written and produced like most of their other hits by Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland: Holland-Dozier-Holland, Motown’s main songwriting and production team.

Now, timing, of course, is key when releasing singles for the charts, especially at the height of Beatlemania. Both “Where Did Our Love Go” and the song we just heard (“Baby Love”) peaked between Beatles chart-toppers: “Where Did Our Love Go” after “Can’t Buy Me Love” faded, and then “Baby Love” right as “A Hard Days Night” dropped off in August. But then at the end of the year they went head-to-head when new singles by The Supremes and Beatles entered the top ten within a week of each other. The Supremes’ “Come See About Me” (our #4 song of 1965) kept The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” at #2 the week before Christmas, then dislodged it from the top spot in January after its three weeks at #1. Eh, we’ll call it a draw.

#4 Roy OrbisonOh, Pretty Woman

At #4, the second #1 hit by an artist who in the mid ’50s, dented the charts with a Rockabilly record on the same label that launched Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis: Sam Phillips’ Sun Records out of Memphis. But that was it for him on the charts as a Sun artist, and by 1958, he was in Nashville, writing Country songs for the publisher Acuff-Rose behind the scenes. Now this was right at the time when Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley were pioneering the so-called “Nashville Sound,” or “Countrypolitan:” Country music with strings, background singers, polished production. No twangy Honky Tonk. Country that could make the pop charts was the point, very much like what Berry Gordy, Jr. was doing with R&B at Motown. Well, as it turned out, that was just what our failed Rockabilly singer needed to find his voice, and in 1960 he scored two top ten hits in an intense, vulnerable, complex style that Bob Dylan and others compared to Opera. By ’64 though, after a steady stream of those hits, he was ready to return to his roots. Credited on the record to Roy Orbison and The Candy Men, it’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” the #4 song of 1964 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown. The line “Pretty woman, yeah yeah yeah,” lifted straight from The Beatles’ “She Loves You,” of course. Things happened fast in those days!

Van Halen had a hit with their cover of “Pretty Woman” in 1982, and then it became the title and the theme song of the smash movie with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in 1990.

Despite other big hit covers of his songs over the years by big name artists, Roy Orbison lost his chart mojo after “Pretty Woman.” And he didn’t get it back ’til the mid-’80s when he teamed up with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty in The Traveling Wilburys. Sadly, Orbison died of a heart attack at just 52 in 1988, but “You Got It” posthumously became his first chart hit in 22 years.

By the way, common misconception about Orbison: despite always wearing those dark sunglasses, he was not blind! In 1963, he left his glasses on a plane and was forced to wear his clunky prescription shades for a show, and the look stuck.

#3 The BeatlesShe Loves You

At #3 is the song that broke Beatlemania wide open in the U.K. in 1963, and was the third of three Beatles singles released in the U.S. on small indie labels before Capitol saw them as even marketable stateside. (By agreement with the Beatles’ U.K. label, Parolophone, Capitol had first option). So even though it was recorded and released on that indie label three months before The Fab Four’s first Capitol single, it wound up being their second U.S. #1. Here they are again: John, Paul, George and Ringo, The Beatles: “She Loves You.”

Beatles, “She Loves You,” #7 on our countdown for 1964 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. That ending vocal chord, a sixth chord, made Beatles producer George Martin cringe at first. He thought it corny and dated: a throwback to the Big Band Era. And when EMI engineer Norman “Hurricane” Smith saw “yeah yeah yeah” on the lyric sheet setting up the mics in the studio, he shook his head. But that’s the thing about The Beatles. So much of what they did wasn’t supposed to work. It just did. Spectacularly!

Now how and why Beatlemania developed in Britain: that’s a question for social psychologists, but when crowds of screaming fans at airports and hotels and everywhere else the Beatles went started getting in the way of the important work of business and government? Well that was news—and not entertainment news either, but news news. And dry TV correspondents like NBC’s Edwin Newman were at a loss to explain it, describing The Beatles as throwbacks, not to the Big Band era (Newman might’ve liked that), but to something else that in his mind had come and gone more recently: Rock ‘n Roll. “One reason for the Beatles’ popularity,” Newman snarked against a backdrop of girls screaming at a Beatles concert, “may be that it’s almost impossible to hear them.”

As I mentioned before we heard the song, “She Loves You” first came out in the U.S. in September ’63 on an indie label, Swan Records out of Philadelphia, because Capitol, who had first option, had passed on it. And it was reviewed in Billboard and featured on American Bandstand‘s “rate-a-record” thanks to Swan’s relationship with the show, also based in Philly. But “She Loves You” didn’t cause even a ripple on the charts, on radio, anywhere—until those news stories just weeks later.

#2 Louis ArmstrongHello, Dolly!

And we’ll pick up that thread again after our #2 song. Which was #1 for just one week, but on the chart and in the top ten longer than any other record in 1964. It’s a Show Tune performed by one of America’s most beloved music figures since the 1920s. At almost 63, he became, and remains, the oldest artist ever to score a #1 hit after his manager persuaded him to come out of semi-retirement and cut a demo of the song to promote the musical, which was about to debut on Broadway. Kapp Records put out this supposed “demo” in January right at the start of Beatlemania, whereupon it inched up the charts and replaced “Can’t Buy Me Love” at #1 for the week of May 19, ending The Beatles’ 14-week stranglehold on the #1 spot. The original cast version is by star Carol Channing, but here is Louis Armstrong. The biggest chart hit of his storied five-decade career, “Hello, Dolly!”

That instantly recognizable gravelly voice of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. And of course his trademark muted Dixieland trumpet, on the #2 song of 1964. “Hello, Dolly!” was Armstrong’s return to studio recording after suffering a heart-attack in 1959. He hadn’t set foot in a studio in two years, and it ended up being the biggest hit of his career. Welcome back, Satch!

#1 The BeatlesI Want to Hold Your Hand

So at #3, we heard The Beatles’ “She Loves You” which Capitol Records had passed on, so it came out on an indie label in September of ’63—to a deafening silence. But over in the U.K., Beatlemania was disrupting airports and overwhelming police, and that got the attention of the U.S. news media, prompting Ed Sullivan to invite The Beatles to appear on his top-rated Sunday night CBS variety show. Now once word got out about that, Capitol relented and rushed The Moptops’ next single into production. And it shot to #1 in just three weeks, stayed for seven weeks, and is the #1 song of 1964. Here again, The Beatles: “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Seven weeks at #1 starting February 1st, and the #1 song in our 1964 edition of the Chartcrush Countdown Show: “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star: The Beatles.

34% of America’s 192 million people watched them on Ed Sullivan. They notched 19 top 40 hits in 1964. And the week of April 4, all of the top five records on the Hot100 were Beatles records. Now that’s just a few of the stats, but here’s something you may not have heard before that really underscores how massive and deep The Beatles phenomenon was. In December of ’64, a Country single about an old West outlaw was the #1 song on the Hot100. No Country record had topped the Hot100 in nearly four years, and there was nothing at all exceptional about this one by Bonanza star Lorne Greene, except that the outlaw’s name, which was also the title of the song, was “Ringo.” With stuff like that happening, it’s no wonder that labels scrambled to sign any British act they could in the wake of Beatlemania: The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Kinks, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Gerry & The Pacemakers (also from Liverpool): all made the charts in 1964. The British Invasion.

So Billboard of course publishes a year-end Hot100 each year based on its weekly charts. But its ranking algorithm varies year-to-year. And so does the cutoff date for the weeks they count, thanks to press deadlines. Here at Chartcrush, our countdowns factor all 52 weeks using the same point system for every year, so there are differences from Billboard’s official year-end top ten, and in the time we have left, we’re gonna spin some of the songs that made Billboard’s year-end top ten, but not ours.

Bonus: Dean MartinEverybody Loves Somebody

Starting with the song that Billboard had it at #6 (#13 on our Chartcrush ranking). It’s an important entry though because it’s one of the last big hits in the Pop Singer or Crooner Era that preceded Rock ‘n Roll. The very last: Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” in ’66. But in the year of Beatlemania, Dean Martin scored with “Everybody Loves Somebody.”

Dean Martin’s  “Everybody Loves Somebody:” #13 on our ranking of the top hits of 1964, on the Chartcrush Countdown Show, but it was #6 on Billboard’s recap. Fresh from recording that song, Deano told his 14 year-old Beatles-obsessed son, “I’m gonna knock your pallies off the charts.” And he did. Dean Martin’s first top ten hit since 1958, and his first #1, since 1956.

Bonus: Gale GarnettWe’ll Sing in the Sunshine

In the seventh Grammy Awards, the nominees for Best Folk Recording included Peter, Paul & Mary, The New Christy Minstrels, Woody Guthrie, Harry Belafonte and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” But the winner was our next cut that was #8 on Billboard’s 1964 ranking and #22 on ours. It’s the first and biggest hit by New Zealand born Canadian singer Gale Garnett, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.”

“We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” Gale Garnett: the Grammy winning Best Folk Song for 1964. Kind of an early free love anthem with its no-strings attitude about relationships. It was #4 for two weeks in October and the #8 song of 1964 according to Billboard’s recap. Our ranking puts it at #22.

Bonus: J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers – Last Kiss

Next up in our bonus segment here on the Chartcrush Countdown Show for 1964, a tragedy record. Also called “tear-jerkers” or “death discs”, these are songs that tell a story with a melodramatic, tragic ending, and several of them charted in ’64. Our ranking doesn’t have any of them in the top ten, but Billboard ranked this one #9 on the year. Pearl Jam did a version of it in the ’90s. It’s J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers: “Last Kiss.”

J. Frank Wilson, Cavaliers, “Last Kiss,” Billboard’s #9 song of 1964, #19 on our Chartcrush ranking. A song about a fatal car wreck. People forget, roads were dangerous in the mid-’60s: hair-pin turns, bad or nonexistent markings and signage. And car safety? What’s that? Cars weren’t even required to have seatbelts until 1966. So not surprisingly, traffic fatalities saw their sharpest increase ever in the years between 1961 when the original version of “Last Kiss” came out by the Rockabilly singer who wrote it, Wayne Cochran, and 1964 when the J. Frank Wilson version we just heard was a hit. Fortunately, those numbers have been declining steadily; they’re less than half what they were in the mid-’60s.

Bonus: Barbra StreisandPeople

Now besides The Beatles and Supremes, another artist who made her chart debut in 1964 became an Adult Contemporary mainstay, with major Pop crossover—especially when she was in a movie and sang the theme song, or teaming up with the likes of Donna Summer, Neil Diamond or Barry Gibb. She’d already been on Broadway and TV variety shows for a couple years, and her first album won a Grammy, all before making the pop charts with this song that peaked at #5 and was Billboard’s #11 year-end song. On our recap it came in at #33. It’s Barbra Streisand, “People.”

From Broadway’s Funny Face, which she starred in, Barbra Streisand’s first hit, “People.”

And that’s gonna have to wrap things up for our 1964 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thank you for listening, and be sure and visit the chartcrush.com website, where you’ll find written transcripts and streamable Spotify versions of this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other ace extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

::end transcript::

Verified by MonsterInsights