Fred discusses Perry Como, "Happy X-mas (War Is Over)" and more!

IT'S NOT IMPOSSIBLE: There's an artist who is No. 1 on a Billboard chart this week who first went to No. 1 on a Billboard chart 61 years, three months and two weeks ago. Sound impossible? It's not.

This famous Pennsylvanian made his singles chart debut the week of Oct. 16, 1943, with "Goodbye, Sue," a song that peaked at No. 20. That gives this former barber a total career chart span of 63 years, two months and two weeks.

Have enough clues now? The artist is Perry Como, who is No. 1 on this week's Ringtones chart with "Jingle Bells." He's also No. 2 with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Como's "Jingle Bells" first appeared on his 1946 album, "Merry Christmas Music," which was his first No. 1 LP.

Como collected his first No. 1 single on a Billboard chart when "Till the End of Time" moved into pole position the week of Sept. 15, 1945. The song ruled the chart for 10 weeks. Before the rock era started, Como had seven more No. 1 singles (and even more if you count other Billboard singles charts). Como's final No. 1 pop single was "Round and Round" in 1957. His last top 10 hit was "It's Impossible," No. 10 in 1971. On the Adult Contemporary survey, "It's Impossible" had a four-week reign and Como went to No. 1 again in 1973 with a cover of Don McLean's "And I Love You So."

Como, who spent his entire career on RCA, died on May 12, 2001 -- long before there was a Ringtones chart.


'HAPPY' AT LAST: John Lennon and Yoko Ono released the Christmas single "Happy X-mas (War Is Over)" in 1971, but the song has never appeared on the Hot 100 until this week. A recording of the contemporary classic by the Fray on the Epic label is the week's highest new entry at No. 50. In 1995, the Lennon/Yoko recording of "Happy X-mas" spent one week on the Adult Contemporary chart, debuting and peaking at No. 32. That chart was dated Dec. 30, so it was exactly 11 years ago.

The same song enters the top 10 of the Adult Contemporary tally this week at No. 7, in a version recorded by Sarah McLachlan.


CHANELLING 'CLEAR': For the first time in the seven years that holiday songs have been rising to the top of the Adult Contemporary chart, two Christmas tunes have advanced to No. 1 in the same holiday season.

Last week, Kimberley Locke's version of the 1850 song "Jingle Bells" planted a flag at the summit. This week, a song that is even older moves to the top of the AC tree. Daryl Hall and John Oates' version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (U-Watch/Icon) is the new champ. The carol was written by Edmund Hamilton Sears in 1849.

"Midnight Clear" is the 32nd chart entry for Hall & Oates on the AC tally. It is the duo's second No. 1, following "Do It for Love" in 2002. The 33rd entry for Hall and Oates is also on the chart: "Home for Christmas" rises to No. 29 this week.


HEEEEEERE'S JOHNNY: Johnny Mathis made his Billboard album chart debut the week of Sept. 9, 1957, with "Wonderful Wonderful." But in 49 years of charting, he's never had two albums debut during the same week, until now.

On the current edition of The Billboard 200, "Johnny Mathis Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration" (Legacy/Columbia) opens at No. 171 and "Johnny Mathis: 50th Anniversary Christmas" bows at No. 191. They are Mathis' 71st and 72nd chart entries, respectively.

They are the second and third Mathis albums to appear on the survey this millennium, following "The Christmas Album" in December 2002. This is the first time since 1980 that two Mathis albums have debuted in the same calendar year. "Different Kinda Different" debuted in August 1980 and "The Best of Johnny Mathis 1975-1980" entered in December 1980.

On Top Rhythm & Blues/Hip-Hop Albums, the 50th anniversary Christmas CD is a new entry at No. 98. That makes it the first Mathis album to chart R&B in 22 years; "A Special Part of Me" peaked at No. 60 in 1984.


CLIFF-HANGER: The suspense is almost over: we'll know who has the Christmas No. 1 in the United Kingdom on Sunday (Dec. 24). Most likely it will be the winner of Simon Cowells's "The X-Factor" TV series, Leona, and her cover of Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This."

The odds are it won't be the song that debuts at No. 2 this week, "21st Century Christmas" / "Move It" (EMI) by Cliff Richard. Ironically, the single is Cliff's most successful of the 21st century, and his biggest hit since "The Millennium Prayer" went to No. 1 in 1999. The B-side is a remake of Richard's very first chart entry in September 1958, giving him a singles chart span of 48 years, three months and three weeks.

"Move It" was a No. 2 hit in 1958; was the flip side of "The Best of Me," a No. 2 hit in 1989 and now is No. 2 for the third time in history.

"21st Century Christmas" could have been Richard's 15th No. 1, had it arrived in the penthouse. Instead, it is his 10th No. 2 hit, giving him a total of 24 songs that have peaked in the top two. Counting all of his 131 chart singles, this week is his 1167th on the U.K. singles chart.


COMING ATTRACTIONS: There is still one more Chart Beat column to come in 2006, so I'll save my list of my top 10 favorite singles of the year until next week. My top 10 albums of the year appear in a special section on 2006 Year in Music here at Billboard.com.