Fred discusses Canadians, the Beatles, "Over the Rainbow" and turnover rates on The Billboard Hot 100.
CANADIANS ON TOP
With "Promiscuous" taking over the No. 1 spot [on the Hot 100], Nelly Furtado joins some rather elite company. She's the second Canadian this year to have a No. 1 song on the Hot 100, following Daniel Powter's "Bad Day." Having two Canadians reach top spot in the same calendar year has been a rare occurrence over the years.
As far as I can tell, the last time this happened was in 1998 when "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion and "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies hit No. 1. In 1994, "All for Love" by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting and Celine Dion's "The Power of Love" both made it to the top. There doesn't appear to have been any time in the '80s when two Canadians collected No. 1 honors in the same year.
Before that, you'd have to go back to 1978 for Nick Gilder's "Hot Child in the City" and Anne Murray's "You Needed Me," although I'm not sure whether Gilder would count since he came to Canada from Britain at a young age.
Canadians had a banner year in 1974 with five chart-toppers: "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks, "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot, "(You're) Having My Baby" by Paul Anka (with Odia Coates), "Rock Me Gently" by Andy Kim and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
I didn't research farther back than that so I don't know how Canadians fared before 1974 and perhaps I've missed others?
Thanks, as always, for your very informative column.
Duncan, B.C., Canada
With rare exception, I use country of birth to determine an artist's nationality. Nick Gilder is thus considered a U.K. artist, even though he moved with his family to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada when he was 10. But 1974 stands as a banner year for Canadian artists, as you point out.
There were No. 1 hits by Canadian-born artists before 1974 -- like Lorne Greene's "Ringo" in 1964, Percy Faith's "The Theme from 'A Summer Place'" in 1960, Paul Anka's "Diana" in 1957 and "Lonely Boy" in 1959 -- but I couldn't find any years in the rock era before 1974 with more than one Canadian artist on top.
The recent Chart Beat Chat discussion of No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 originating in other countries inspired another reader to write. See the next e-mail.
I would like to comment on two subjects that have been discussed in Chart Beat Chat recently.
First, a follow-up on the lead letter in last week's Chat regarding whether or not huge sales numbers like we have seen for some recent No. 1 hits would have translated into a No. 1 hit in the '60s, '70s or '80s. Aside from your fine answer, there was another factor which would have indicated "no."
Prior to 1991, sales points that went into calculating the Hot 100 came from ranked sales lists. A retailer would send a list to Billboard indicating song A was their No. 1 best seller and song B was No. 2. There was no way to determine whether A outsold B by a single unit or by a ten-to-one ratio. A huge-selling single would get the same number of points as a single that just barely outsold the next competitor, so huge sales in any one week would not produce a No. 1 single without huge airplay also.
I can remember (and so can you) when Ronnie McDowell's "The King Is Gone" sold a million and a half copies in its release week. It debuted on the Hot 100 at No. 89, ultimately peaking at No. 13. We can also remember when the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" had pre-orders for a million copies. I assume all one million of those pre-orders would have been counted in its release week. It debuted at No. 27 and the next week moved to No. 1.
Second topic: There has been some discussion lately about a lot of foreign recording acts having No. 1 hits this year. I have noticed some other items which I think are interesting.
The first thing that hit me was that Shakira is only the second recording act from South America ever to hit No. 1 on a Billboard pop singles chart (or at least the ones we use now, meaning the Best Sellers in Stores chart for the period before the Hot 100). The first No. 1 recording act to come from South America was Dick Haymes, who was born in Buenos Aires of British parents. He hit No. 1 with "You'll Never Know" in 1943. He also did the lead vocal on Harry James's "I'll Get By (As Long As I Have You)" in 1944. Some people may count Trinidad and Tobago as a South American country since it is so close to the coast, so I will mention Billy Ocean who came from Trinidad.
Another thing I noticed is that only two solo singers who were born in British Columbia have ever hit No. 1 and they both had their first No. 1 hits this year: Daniel Powter and Nelly Furtado.
Noticing that Rihanna is the second No. 1 act to come from Barbados (Rayvon was the first), I became curious about how many countries have produced No. 1 acts. So I counted them all up. Yes, I realize that no one in his right mind would do this, but I never did claim to be in my right mind. And I thought some of your readers might be interested.
United States: 541 recording acts
United Kingdom: 84
Austria, Barbados, Cuba, Holland: two (each)
Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), France, Greece, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago: one (each)
My criteria are, for a solo act, the country of birth; for a group, the country where the group was organized. This leads to some oddities with which you or your readers may disagree. I count Gloria Estefan as Cuban, but Miami Sound Machine as American. I count Andy Gibb as British but the Bee Gees as Australian. In the case of an orchestra, I count the native country of the leader since his name goes on the record label and he is the boss, and because membership in the orchestra can change. Thus I count Percy Faith as Canadian even though his orchestra was American. Since all those statements apply to Carlos Santana, I count him for Mexico even though Santana is a band, not an orchestra.
In addition to the above numbers, there were some acts that I thought should be counted as dual nationality because my country-where-it-was-organized idea didn't seem to fit. So I also have five acts that were British/American and one that was Spanish/American (Los Del Rio got label credit as the recording act, but the Bayside Boys were also listed on the label in the song subtitle). Besides all that, I could not track down the nationality of the Song Spinners, so they are not counted anywhere.
Forest Grove, Ore.
I don't know how long it took you to add all the numbers up, but I'm guessing this required quite a few hours. I'm sure it's appreciated by many Chart Beat readers.
Although I count the Bee Gees as British by birth and Los Del Rio as a song solely of Spanish origin since the Bayside Boys appear after the title rather than as the artist, I didn't alter your figures. Not after you put all that time into this project!
Your first point is correct, which is why I tell readers that it's virtually impossible to come up with accurate sales figures prior to 1991, when the Hot 100 was first compiled with sales data from Nielsen SoundScan.
WHAT GOES ON WITH COUNTRY AND R&B?
I have enjoyed your column for many years. I have a question concerning the Beatles. I was curious if any of the Beatles' singles ever charted on the R&B or the country charts and, if so, which were their highest charting singles on those charts? I realize that Paul McCartney appeared on the R&B charts with duets with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, but how about the Beatles as a group?
Let's start with the country charts. There are at least two Beatles' songs that you might think of as prime candidates: the cover of Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" and a song written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (under his real name, Richard Starkey), "What Goes On." But no single by the Beatles ever appeared on the country survey.
In 1989, Owens re-recorded "Act Naturally" with Ringo as guest star, and that single peaked at No. 27. Ringo recorded the country-oriented "Beaucoups of Blues," but that Apple single didn't make the chart.
Paul McCartney and Wings made one appearance on the country tally, with "Sally G." That single went to No. 51 in early 1975. George Harrison and John Lennon did not chart with any solo efforts.
When it comes to the R&B charts, Harrison and Starr charted, but their first names were Wilbert and Edwin, not George and Ringo.
No sign of John Lennon on the R&B list, either, but as you suspected, Paul McCartney had three chart entries, thanks to his duets with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson:
"Ebony and Ivory," No. 8 (1982) [Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder]
"The Girl Is Mine," No. 1 for three weeks (1983) [Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney]
"Say, Say, Say," No. 2 (1983) [Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson]
TAKING THE FIFTH
Katharine McPhee debuts at No. 12 this week with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the cover of the classic from the 1939 film, "The Wizard of Oz." McPhee performed the song twice on "American Idol." As a big "Wizard" fan (I'm currently reading several of the original books by L. Frank Baum to my six-year old son), I should point out that it is not the first cover of a song from that film to chart in the top 40 of the Hot 100 (which debuted in 1958).
In fact, "Over the Rainbow" is still one notch shy of the highest Hot 100 entry from that film. Some 39 years ago, when the movie was at the height of popularity due to regular airings on national television, a group called the Fifth Estate recorded a version of "Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead," which peaked at No. 11 in the summer of 1967.
Given the history of Idol contestants' debuts falling after their first week, it is unlikely that McPhee will climb higher and surpass the No. 11 peak of the Fifth Estate. But it is extremely encouraging that a song from that classic film of 67 years ago can still make its mark on the charts.
Long Island, N.Y.
You sent your e-mail before you could read Chart Beat, but great minds must think alike, as I highlighted the Fifth Estate in my column this week, which you can find here.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
Continuous thanks for your column. It's a weekly non-miss for me.
I was wondering if you think the high turnover rate of No. 1 songs is a trend that is here to stay. I'm already begining to miss the times when the Hot 100 had a certain stability about it and, in fact, could remain unchanged for up to three weeks in a row with only slight changes in the positions of songs that are already in the top 10.
Glad you enjoy Chart Beat!
I think all trends are cyclical. I think most chart-watchers thought we'd never get back to the days of having more than a few No. 1 hits a year, but here we are. Eventually, the chart will slow down again and we'll have some No. 1 songs that remain on top longer than five weeks.
During the days when we did have long-standing chart-toppers, I received a lot of letters from readers who yearned for a more rapid turnover of No. 1 songs. Yours is the first wishing for a return to a slower turnover rate.
Keep in mind that Chart Beat is much more interesting to read (and write!) when the chart is moving at a rapid pace.