Fred and his readers discuss the "Now That's What I Call Music" series, album trilogies and more!
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS 'NOW'
I started collecting the top 10 of the top 200 Billboard albums back in 1981. I also started comparing the U.S. album charts to the British album charts. I noticed that a few of the albums that hit No. 1 on the British chart were never commercially available in the United States.
For example, beginning in 1983, I started seeing "Now That's What I Call Music" peak at the summit fairly regularly on the British chart. In fact, 43 of the first 44 "Now" albums reached No. 1 and only "Now 4" missed the top spot by peaking at No. 2 in 1984. There were other "Now" albums that also peaked at No. 1 such as the "Now Christmas Album" and "Now Dance Mixes."
There have been considerably more greatest hits albums and compilation albums to chart in the United Kingdom than in the United States, including albums released by K-Tel and Ronco. I had always assumed that the Brits were more frugal with their pounds, and were buying albums with more (or all) hits. Last week, the U.S. version of "Now 23" debuted at No. 1, and although the U.S. series isn't as successful as the British series, 10 of the 23 albums in this series have reached No. 1.
Are we seeing a new purchasing trend in the United States, or are Americans slower to catch up to what is hip across the pond?
Thanks for your column,
Over the years, Billboard has extensively covered the "Now" series, including articles about why the marketing idea worked in the United Kingdom and was rejected by U.S. labels, which feared that collecting singles on one album would cannibalize sales of albums by the individual artists who were included on the "Now" compilations. That wasn't a surprise, since there was a time when the labels thought that releasing singles would kill the sales of their parent albums.
Eventually, someone was willing to take a chance on the "Now" concept in America. There was no guarantee when "Now 1" was released that it would become an ongoing series but sales were high enough to convince the labels involved to continue with the idea in the United States.
We'll never catch up to the British series, of course, as "Now 65" was released this week. The U.K. release pattern has three albums coming out each year, one in spring, one in summer and one at Christmas.
SAME 'BAT'-ALBUM, DIFFERENT 'BAT'-LABEL
I read your column weekly with great interest in the charts.
I have a question and a little bit of trivia you might be interested in. Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" trilogy was released by three separate record labels (Epic, MCA and Virgin, respectively).
Wouldn't this be the first time in chart history where a connected (however loosely) series of albums was released by more than one company?
Richard Stegman Jr.
This is one of those questions that could require days of research to come up with a complete answer. So if you'll accept a few examples, I'll tell you what I came up with after giving about an hour's worth of thought to your query.
There are a multitude of sequel albums that were issued on the same label, such as Barbra Streisand's "Guilty" and "Guilty Pleasures" and "The Broadway Album" and "Back to Broadway," all on Columbia. That same label also issued "Highwayman" and "Highwayman 2" by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Between 1958 and 1962, there were 17 different "Sing Along With Mitch" LPs that appeared on the Billboard album chart, all issued by - once again - Columbia.
Ray Charles had "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" and a second volume with the same title, both in 1962 and both released on ABC-Paramount. Linda Ronstadt's three albums of Nelson Riddle-produced standards ("What's New," "Lush Life" and "For Sentimental Reasons") were all released on the Asylum imprint. Comedian Bob Newhart had four albums with "Button-Down Mind" in the title, all released on Warner Brothers, and comedian Allan Sherman had three albums that began with "My Son," also on Warner Brothers.
Neil Young's "Harvest" and "Harvest Moon" were both issued by Reprise and the Kinks' "Preservation Act 1" and "Preservation Act 2" were both released by RCA. More recently, Rod Stewart recorded four volumes of "Great American Songbook" sets for J and Barry Manilow revisited the '50s and then the '60s on Arista.
As for sequel albums on different labels, I can think of some sets that just include two different albums. Peter Frampton spent 10 weeks at No. 1 in 1976 with "Frampton Comes Alive!" on A&M and then followed it with "Frampton Comes Alive II" on I.R.S. in 1995. Queensryche released "Operation:mindcrime" in 1988 on EMI-Manhattan and "Operation:mindcrime II" this year on Rhino (there was also a "livecrime" CD in 1991 on EMI).
Returning to the Linda Ronstadt catalog, there was "Trio" with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton issued on Warner Brothers in 1987 and "Trio II" with the same line-up on Asylum in 1999. And we shouldn't forget Elton John's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy: on MCA in 1975 and the sequel, "The Captain and the Kid," on Elton's own Rocket label this year.
So far, I haven't given you an example of three albums in a series on three different labels (and by the way, the first "Bat Out of Hell" album was released on an Epic imprint, Cleveland International). But what about four albums in a series, with three of them on different labels? I submit for your consideration a quartet of albums by Kiss: "Alive!" on Casablanca in 1975, "Alive II" on Casablanca in 1977, "Alive III" on Mercury in 1993 and "Symphony: Alive IV" on Kiss in 2003.
I'm sure there are more examples, but I'll leave it to Chart Beat Chat readers to send them in, and I'll post selected letters in a future column.
A CORRECTION, A COMMENT AND A QUESTION
In your Chart Beat column you said that the Beatles first U.K. hit "Love Me Do" went to No. 4. Yes, it did --when it was re-issued in 1982. In its original 1962 release it only went to No. 17.
Westlife may have had 14 No. 1 singles in the United Kingdom but sales are low. In 2004 an "All Time Best Selling Singles Artist" list was published; they ranked a lowly 44th.
Finally, on the Hot Digital Tracks and Hot Digital Songs chart I notice RIAA symbols for gold and platinum. How many copies sold do they signify?
Many folks wrote in offering corrections to the Beatles item as well as one about Westlife, so we'll let your e-mail represent all of those faithful Chart Beat readers.
If I had thought about it for one more moment, I would have realized the Beatles' "Love Me Do" originally peaked at No. 17, a fact I've known for years. I relied on the latest edition of "The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and Albums," which now only lists the ultimate peak position of No. 4.
Same goes for Westlife -- I've heard "Amazing" and I do know it's not "Amazed," the Lonestar song. As for your comment, remember, Chart Beat deals with chart positions, not sales figures. What counts in this forum is that the group has 14 No. 1 singles. If we start dissecting sales figures for Westlife, we'll have to do the same for every act. But in this space it doesn't matter if you went to No. 1 by selling 10,000; 100,000 or 1,000,000 copies, it matters that you went to No. 1.
And, speaking of selling a million copies, the RIAA certifies paid downloads gold when they sell 500,000 and platinum when they sell 1,000,000.
ALL REMIXED UP
Dear Mr. Bronson,
I was having a conversation with my friend a couple of weeks ago and we were wondering if Billboard (or any other organization) keeps track of "official remixes" being released by a particular artist. That said, who would be considered "the most remixed music artist" of all time? Thank you for your expertise on this.
David Scott Rich
Counting the number of remixes released by any one artist is not something Billboard keeps track of, but I'm including your e-mail in this week's column so Chart Beat Chat readers can write in if they want to suggest candidates for the most remixed artist.