Chart Beat Tuesday: Neil Diamond, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks
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Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. Submit your burning music questions to Gary Trust at askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.

DIAMOND (AND STREISAND) RECORDS

Dear Gary,

Per last week's Ask Billboard discussion, when the question arose in the wake of Sugarland and Kings of Leon charting in the Billboard 200 top 10 simultaneously with albums featuring the same song ("Sex On Fire"), I may have found a prior occurrence of this rare feat.

In 1978, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond each had solo versions of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" as album tracks. Someone at a radio station played them both at exactly the same time, and the result actually sounded pretty good: the tempos matched, and they were both recorded in the same key. The success of this stunt led Columbia Records to team the two in the studio for what would become the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit version.

Now, I don't know which of their albums featured the original solo versions, nor whether they both appeared in the Billboard 200 top 10 at the same time, but if readers are going to research this item, my suggestion might be a good place to start.

Andy Ray
Indianapolis, Indiana

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the research. "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" is a great example, but, per the original reader question of two artists charting in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 with two different versions of the same song, this one just misses out.

On the Feb. 10, 1979, Billboard 200, Neil Diamond's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" album and Barbra Streisand's "Greatest Hits Vol. II" spent their last week in the top 10 together, back-to-back, at Nos. 4 and 5. However, each album contained the same duet recording of the ballad, not each artist's original, separate version (or any combination of solo and duet versions).

The initial solo versions of the song were released, respectively, on Diamond's "I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight" and Streisand's "Songbird," the latter of which never reached the Billboard 200 top 10.

So, while a relevant shot, it looks like we're still seeking the last pair of concurrent top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 to feature different versions of the same song prior to Sugarland and Kings of Leon's releases.

As for "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," here's an odd personal coincidence. The person who originated the idea of the Diamond/Streisand duet by matching their separate versions? Gary Guthrie, now the Chief Marketing Officer for WMVY (MVY Radio) on Martha's Vineyard, the station I worked at in 2006 before joining Billboard.

From a website celebrating the history of WAKY, the station where Guthrie worked his production magic, here's his firsthand account of the duet's origin. (The site also details Guthrie's subsequent legal wrangling with Columbia Records).

"There's some misinformation about how Barb and Neil came about. For example, most accounts have me listed as a "deejay," even though I was rarely on the air. The short story is this: Becky, my wife, and I were going through a very amiable divorce. The previous Fall, we had heard Neil's version at a friend's house and I noticed how it made her cry. Fast forward to Spring 1978 and Barbra's new album (another of Becky's favorites) came out and, dayumm, there it was again.

"There was just something that clicked in my head and I decided to do it for her. Since we weren't really sleeping in the same bed at that time, my nights were open and I'd hang out at the station and play with the mix, then take it in to whoever (was on the air and) have them play it while I went out to my car and listened to how it sounded.

"There was a lot of back and forth with that late at night before I ever unleashed it on the daytime public. Once I did, however, all hell broke loose. Requests, record store calls, you name it.

"I had two friends who had an in at Columbia - one who had been their Nashville VP and one who was their local guy in Miami - and I asked both to help me get this up the ladder. They did their job well.

"Word spread quickly, and my 15 minutes of fame was in full force. People magazine, the LA Times, Good Morning America, Merv Griffin, Casey Kasem, even the Aussie version of Johnny Carson came calling for the story.

"Now, 25-plus years later, I've finally made it as a trivia question on 'Jeopardy.'"

'TIL TUESDAY

Hi Gary,

I have a question about double CDs, and how they count towards sales.

Madonna's career-spanning greatest hits collection "Celebration" is out Tuesday. The same day, Mariah Carey releases one full-length CD, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" (and a digital version with extra remixes). How will sales count for the albums; does each count as one sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan?

Also, will the DVD sales of Madonna's video collection count towards Billboard's video sales charts?

Thank you,

Bryan Sanchez
Denver, Colorado

Hi Bryan,

Sept. 29 is certainly shaping up as a Super Tuesday, with Madonna and Mariah releasing new albums, as are Paramore, Miranda Lambert, AFI, Mario, Selena Gomez & the Scene, Breaking Benjamin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and, in another coincidence, Barbra Streisand.

You are correct: sales of Madonna's album will count as one to Nielsen SoundScan and Billboard. As Billboard 200 chart manager Keith Caulfield notes, "any sale in SoundScan has always counted as just one sale towards Billboard charts, no matter how many pieces are inside a package. Be it a box of 20 CDs or a double-vinyl album, it is still just one sale."

According to a Warner Bros. press release, the songs on "Celebration" "have all been remastered and selected by Madonna and her fans. They cover the expanse of the Material Girl's extraordinary career of hits, including 'Everybody,' 'Express Yourself,' 'Vogue' and '4 Minutes.'

"'Celebration' will be available in a two-CD set as well as a single CD. There will also be a 'Celebration' DVD released simultaneously which includes the video visionary's best videos including several that have never before been available on DVD."

A Warner Bros. spokesperson says that the "Celebration" DVD will not be sold as a stand-alone product. Thus, it will not be eligible to chart on any of Billboard's video charts. Similar to Sugarland's recent "LIVE on the Inside" CD/DVD, for example, because the DVD is sold only as part of the package including the CD, it will be eligible to chart on Billboard's album, not video, charts.

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