Readers discuss the rebounding singles market, songs with spoken lyrics, discovering Billboard and more with Fred.
BORN AGAIN IN THE U.S.A.
As I read the column this week, I started thinking about the amazing rebirth of the single that has occurred in the last year. Here are some examples:
Mariah Carey's success: I had given up hope that she would tie Elvis Presley's 17 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, as I think most of your readers had. But the success of the singles from "The Emancipation of Mimi" has revived her impressive singles run. Although the Beatles are my favorite recording artist of all time, I would still be happy for Mariah if she tied/passed the Beatles' 20 No. 1s.
Albums with multiple hit singles: counting Mariah along with Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, Green Day and the Black Eyed Peas, the era of albums with over three hit singles is back. Not since the early 1990s have so many artists had so many singles from one album.
The digital download: what a difference a couple of years has made. With single sales increasing dramatically, sales are becoming more of a factor on the Hot 100, which is a wonderful trend that puts the Hot 100 back in balance again. It will be interesting to see if the rapid turnover of No. 1 singles lately is just a fluke or a trend.
As far as Paul Ketz's e-mail of last week asking about spoken word number ones, the only one I can remember without cheating and looking at your book is "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers.
One thing I've said so many times over the years that it has almost become a mantra is that everything is cyclical. It turns out that applies to the single, which is once again a viable format, even if it has gone from a tangible item to something that is intangible.
I remember reading a prediction when I was in high school that one day music would be beamed into a cube, and that's how we would listen to it. If you think about the iPod and other MP3 devices, the only thing they got wrong was the shape.
In last week's "Chart Beat Chat," Paul Ketz asked about No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 that feature singers talking (not rapping). After scouring through my CD collection, I came up with a whopping 10 songs!
The first three come from Boyz II Men -- almost every one of their songs feature Michael McCary's deep voice. They hit No. 1 with "End of The Road" and "On Bended Knee" and teamed up with Mariah Carey on what is still the longest-running No. 1 on that chart, "One Sweet Day."
Janet Jackson has done it twice -- "That's the Way Love Goes" and "Doesn't Really Matter" (at the end of the latter, she shrieks "I'm always doing that!").
Michael Jackson did it once, at the end of "Man in the Mirror" ("Make that change.") So did Christina Aguilera ("Genie in a Bottle"), Pet Shop Boys ("West End Girls"), OutKast ("Hey Ya!") and, finally, Madonna ("Justify My Love").
Incidentally, Madonna has a chance to collect her second [talking hit] with "Sorry," the second single from "Confessions on a Dance Floor."
Thanks to Paul for racking my brain and to you, Fred, for an excellent column!
There were many responses from readers about songs with "talking," but yours was the most complete. Thanks for remembering so many!
I loved your "Chart Beat Chat" even more than usual last week. I actually have some input related to two separate requests you made.
My first exposure to the Billboard charts occurred around 1968. There was a little "mom and pop" record store in my small hometown in rural Virginia, which I used to visit as a kid (My love of popular music began very early on!). I first noticed copies of Billboard there and browsed through them every chance I got. I distinctly recall my amazement and delight at discovering the Hot 100 and album charts for the first time! I quickly became obsessed with following the week-by-week chart performance of my favorite recording artists. I've been a "chart hound" ever since!
Concerning your request for hit songs that contain talking (asopposed to rapping), I think my all-time favorite -- not to mention the one that just might have the *most* talking -- is Donovan's "Atlantis," which hit No. 7 in 1969. Of course, I'm not counting records that are almost *all* talking, like Les Crane's No. 8 hit "Desiderata" and National Lampoon's hilarious No. 91 parody "Deteriorata" from 1972. And there's all sorts of background chatter in the Beach Boys' No. 2 hit from 1965-66, "Barbara Ann."
I could go on and on, but I'll leave it at that. Thanks, as always, foryour wonderful online columns!
The quality of "Chart Beat Chat" varies from week-to-week, depending on the quality of the letters I receive. It's funny, but just before receiving your e-mail, I commented to a friend that I thought last week's "Chat" was one of the best, because of the interesting e-mails.
Thanks for sharing your first experience of the Billboard charts. I forgot to mention that after discovering Billboard at a mom-and-pop record store in downtown Los Angeles, exactly one year later I started working in a mom-and-pop record store in Culver City, Calif., where I grew up. I was employed at Mr. Music when I was 15 and stayed there until I was 23, all through high school and college and even continued to work there on Saturdays after I started my first professional job.
The original letter about "talking" songs was referring to No. 1 hits, but a lot of readers sent in titles of songs that peaked in other positions, including this next writer:
I was very intrigued by the favorite "talking" songs thread. One of my favorite examples is a line in the Bee Gees' 1989 single "Ordinary Lives" (a minor hit in the United Kingdom, but top 10 in Germany), where Barry Gibb's voice breaks in after the first chorus:
"The clock on the wall keeps moving...
Time stands still
No matter how the dice may fall...
Someone else always gets to call the number"
Lyrics that are certainly more timely with the anniversary of Maurice Gibb's death this week, but a great song that demonstrates how they created memorable, melodic music for so many decades. The Bee Gees are now a bygone treasure, but what a wonderful legacy they've left behind.
I remember that Bee Gees song well. It was certainly a very effective use of talking in a song, so thanks for reminding us of Barry Gibb's narration. Before we leave this topic for now, here's another e-mail that cites some No. 1 hits with talking:
TALK TO ME
Here are some more No. 1 songs in which a singer spoke some of the lyrics instead of singing them.
"The Chipmunk Song," David Seville. Ross Bagdasarian sang part of the song using the names Theodore, Simon and Alvin, and spoke part of it using the name David Seville.
"Mr. Custer," Larry Verne
"Tighten Up," Archie Bell & the Drells
"Theme from Shaft," Isaac Hayes
"The Streak," Ray Stevens
"Convoy," C. W. McCall
"Kiss and Say Goodbye," the Manhattans
"Disco Duck," Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (Is that talking or quacking?)
"Rock Me Amadeus," Falco
"Human," Human League
"My Prerogative," Bobby Brown
"End of the Road," Boyz II Men
I did not include "Rapture" [by Blondie] because I think that was more rapping than talking. I did not include "We Built This City" [by Starship] because the talking was done by a DJ, not a singer. And I did not include Count Basie's version of "Open the Door, Richard!" for the same reason.
Forest Grove, Ore.
As always, thanks for your contribution, and thanks to all of the readers who wrote in about "talking" songs. There's actually one more, so here it is:
GOOD BAD, BUT NOT EVIL
Dear Mr. Bronson,
I am writing to you to tell you what a huge fan I have been of yours for the last few years. I have read your column religiously now for the last eight years.
I'm writing to you because of the person who wrote to you about artists who talk in their songs instead of singing. It was awesome that he mentioned the Shangri-Las because they don't get the recognition they deserve as one of the best American girl groups of all time.
Can you list all of the Shangri-Las hits that reached the Hot 100?
Your devoted fan,
Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoy "Chart Beat." I still love writing it after all these years.
The Shangri-Las had their first hit in 1964, just three months after I started working at Mr. Music, the record store mentioned above. I remember selling all of those great singles on the Red Bird label.
The four women from Queens, New York, only had 11 chart entries, all between the years 1964 and 1966. Here's a summary of those singles with peak positions:
"Remember (Walking in the Sand)," No. 5 (1964)
"Leader of the Pack," No. 1 for one week (1964)
"Give Him a Great Big Kiss," No. 18 (1965)
"Maybe," No. 91 (1965)
"Out in the Streets," No. 53 (1965)
"Give Us Your Blessings," No. 29 (1965)
"Right Now and Not Later," No. 99 (1965)
"I Can Never Go Home Anymore," No. 6 (1965)
"Long Live Our Love," No. 33 (1966)
"He Cried," No. 65 (1966)
"Past, Present and Future," No. 59 (1966)
There are two outstanding collections of Shangri-Las' greatest hits on CD and both are hard to find. One was issued on the Mercury label in America and the other on the RPM imprint in the United Kingdom.
ACCOUNTING WE WILL GO
I have just found your "Chart Beat" column on the Billboard website. Thank you for giving us so much great information. I'm an old music lover (I was around to buy Elvis' first records when they were actually new). Your column has certainly answered a lot of questions I've had over the years. Perhaps you can answer this one, too.
An article dated Dec. 7, 2005 (RCA Preps Presley Singles Box) announced the U.S. version of the "Elvis #1 Singles" box set due to be released in January. It stated that "the limited edition, numbered collection will feature all 21 No. 1 U.S. hits and their B-sides...."
Does Elvis in fact have 21 No. 1 hits? If not, how are they allowed to claim this? But if this is so, why is Mariah Carey tied with Elvis for second place with 17 No. 1 hits?
This is confusing as I read both pieces of information on Billboard's web site. Thanks for all your great work.
Always glad to have a new Chart Beat reader!
A few weeks ago I advised a reader to find out the source of chart statistics before embracing or condemning them. You're following that advice even if you didn't see that column, so thanks for taking the trouble.
You're correct that Elvis Presley has 17 No. 1 singles according to the Billboard pop singles charts -- the Best Sellers in Stores chart and the Hot 100. That would lead me to guess that Billboard is not the source -- or certainly not the only source for the story you cite. Or at least, the Hot 100 isn't the only source.
Elvis has had four No. 1 hits on our Hot Singles Sales chart, including the "Elvis vs JXL" remix of "A Little Less Conversation." The fourth and latest No. 1 on this chart just achieved pole position this week -- see "Chart Beat" for details.
"Burning Love" was a No. 2 hit on the Hot 100, but went to No. 1 in what was then a rival publication, Cash Box. So it's possible to come up with 21 No. 1s by adding in other sources besides Best Sellers in Stores and the Hot 100.
[Ed Note: The cited Billboard.com story about the "Elvis #1 Singles" box set specifically states "No. 1 U.S. hits," not "No. 1 Billboard hits" for the very reasons Fred notes in his answer above.]