Ask Billboard: Small Screen, Big Hits
Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.
SMALL SCREEN, BIG HITS
I loved your piece on TV themes that have reached the Billboard Hot 100!
I know you featured 30 such songs from 1980 on, but there are many more TV themes that should be recognized. Here are just a few from the '60s and '70s to add to the list.
Two Hot 100 No. 1s from 1976 were TV themes: in late February, "Theme from S.W.A.T." by Rhythm Heritage spent a week at No. 1. Less than three months later, John Sebastian's memorable "Welcome Back," the theme from "Welcome Back, Kotter," led the Hot 100 for one week and the then-Easy Listening (now Adult Contemporary) chart for two frames.
In 1979, David Naughton, perhaps best known for his work in the 1981 film "An American Werewolf in London," hit No. 5 on the Hot 100 with "Makin' It," the theme to the TV show in which he starred. In fact, the song, which debuted on the chart two weeks after the show was cancelled, spent twice as many weeks in the top 40 - 16 - as the series lasted (eight episodes)!
Ten years earlier, the Ventures reached No. 4 with their version of the "Hawaii 5-0" theme. (Maybe we'll see a release of the re-recorded theme to the new incarnation of the series on CBS).
Theme songs have been popular Hot 100 hits for many, many years, from "Batman" to "Happy Days" to "Friends," and I'm always curious what the next one will be. It's been awhile.
Thanks again for keeping chart geeks like myself happy!
Ron Raymond, Jr.
Music Director, WMPG-FM
Thanks for expanding the list of charted TV themes with more essential songs from earlier eras. How about a few more?
"Harper Valley P.T.A.," Jeannie C. Riley
No. 1 Hot 100, Country Songs 1968 (the song served as the theme for TV series of the same name, inspired by the story song and 1978 film, in 1981-82)
"Those Were the Days," Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton (as the Bunkers) (theme from "All in the Family")
No. 43 Hot 100, 1972
"Making Our Dreams Come True," Cyndi Greco (theme from "Laverne & Shirley")
No. 25 Hot 100, 1976
"Disco Lucy (I Love Lucy Theme)," Wilton Place Street Band
No. 24 Hot 100, 1977
And one more each from the '80s and '90s:
"WKRP in Cincinnati," Steve Carlisle
No. 65 Hot 100, 1981
"I Don't Want to Wait," Paula Cole (theme from "Dawson's Creek")
No. 11 Hot 100, 1998
On a related note, and pertaining to "Glee," which inspired Tuesday's Chart Beat feature, multiple series, including "Scrubs," "Seventh Heaven" and "That '70s Show," turned into musicals last decade, for one episode each, at least.
Perhaps the most notable example was the 2001 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "Once More, With Feeling," in which residents of Sunnydale were besieged by a demon that caused them to reveal their thoughts in songs (which happened to be quite catchy, actually, thanks to talented series creator and songwriter Joss Whedon). A companion album, which featured the cast, including title star Sarah Michelle Gellar, reached No. 3 on Soundtracks and No. 49 on the Billboard 200 in 2002.
(Cleverly, even the series' weekly tag line that capped off the closing credits - "Grrr, argghh!" - regularly spoken by Whedon's Mutant Enemy Productions vampire mascot was sung in that episode).
In your feature about charted TV themes, you listed "As Long as We Got Each Other," the "Growing Pains" theme, as credited to Steve Dorff & Friends. Yes, Steve Dorff wrote the song (actually, co-wrote it with veteran songwriter John Bettis), but B.J. Thomas and Jennifer Warnes sang it. How was the song listed when it charted? It would seem odd if the singers were not officially billed, given that they were (and still are) such well-known names.
Also, three questions about Billboard's dance charts: Has any artist before Lady Gaga ever nailed down the top three spots on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart? When was the last time a song topped Dance/Club Play Songs for more than one week? And, what title has spent the most weeks at No. 1 in the history of that chart?
After a trip to the library of archived Billboard issues in our New York office, I can confirm that "As Long as We Got Each Other" showed in print on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it reached No. 7 in 1989, as by Steve Dorff & Friends. (Actually, Steve Dorff/Friends, due to space restrictions in the classic simple, black-and-white chart design of the time).
This is a complicated one, but according to multiple sources (including my brother, Michael, the most knowledgeable "Growing Pains" historian I know, even more than me), the single released to radio featured Thomas and Dusty Springfield, not Warnes. Thomas sang the ABC series' theme solo in its first season (1985-86), Thomas and Warnes duetted for seasons two, three, five and part of seven, and Take 6 sang an a capella version in seasons six and seven.
Season four, however, featured the Thomas and Springfield version. The recording also appeared on the Warner Bros. soundtrack "Growing Pains, Theme from Growing Pains and Other Hit TV Themes" by Steve Dorff & Friends.
Also on the soundtrack: the themes from "Just the Ten of Us" (the funny "Growing Pains" spinoff) as sung by Bill Medley, "My Sister Sam" and "Spenser: for Hire."
As for your dance-related questions:
- Only Lady Gaga has monopolized the top three spots on Dance/Electronic Albums, a feat she achieves for a sixth time this week.
- "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland was the last title to command Dance/Club Play Songs for multiple weeks (two, June 2009), not counting the two-week reign of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," which led for a second week to begin 2010 when the chart was "frozen" while Billboard did not publish post-Christmas 2009.
- Having ruled for 11 weeks in 1983, "Thriller (all cuts)" by Michael Jackson has spent the most time atop Dance/Club Play Songs since the chart launched as a national survey Aug. 28, 1976. The individual songs with the longest reigns are "Do What You Wanna Da" by T-Connection (1977) and "Can't Fake the "Feeling" by Geraldine Hunt, each of which spent seven weeks at No. 1. In the last 25 years, three songs lead with five weeks each at No. 1: C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" (1990), Cher's "Believe" (1998-99) and Madonna's "Music" (2000).
THAT OTHER MUSICAL FOX SHOW
"Glee" is making headlines with its return this week, but I am also a huge fan of "American Idol" and am astounded by the success its winners have enjoyed.
I know fourth-season champion Carrie Underwood owns the highest-selling album released by an "Idol," as well as the highest cumulative sales. I'm hoping you could provide a deeper list of cumulative sales by "American Idol" contestants.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
After the second-season premiere of "Glee" Tuesday (Sept. 21), Fox made more news with the official announcement of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler as the new "American Idol" judges alongside holdover Randy Jackson.
While we await the competition's return in January (with "Glee," as well as the promising "Raising Hope," which premiered after "Glee" this week, to keep viewers tuned to Fox on Tuesday nights until then), here is an updated look at the "American Idol" contestants with the most U.S. album sales to-date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. As you note, Underwood's "Some Hearts" is the best-selling set by an "Idol" contestant, with sales of 7,023,000 since its release in 2005.
Total U.S. Album Sales, Artist
11,886,000, Carrie Underwood
10,621,000, Kelly Clarkson
5,898,000, Daughtry (Chris Daughtry)
4,973,000, Clay Aiken
2,551,000, Ruben Studdard
1,313,000, David Cook
1,299,000, Kellie Pickler
1,265,000, Jordin Sparks
973,000, David Archuleta