Fred discusses Madonna & Elvis Presley chart facts, the Eurythmics & more with readers.
ELVIS' 36 TOP 10 HITS
In your recent article on Madonna's "Hung Up" single, you incorrectly stated that Elvis Presley had 36 top 10 hits. Elvis had 38 top 10 hits on the Billboard singles charts. I am not sure where you came up with 36.
President - Elvis
International Fan Club
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You were the first person to send me an e-mail about the stats reported in last week's 'Chart Beat' -- but you weren't the last, not by a longshot. This item has generated more letters to "Chart Beat Chat" than almost any other subject in 2005.
I understand why I've received so many missives about Madonna tying Elvis Presley's record number of top 10 hits. Joel Whitburn has long reported that Elvis has 38 top 10 hits. My respect and admiration for Joel knows no bounds, but it's important to know how he comes up with that number or any of the statistics reported in his books.
For example, in his latest edition of "Top Pop Singles," Joel counts songs that did not chart on Billboard's Hot 100 as Hot 100 hits if they made the Hot 100 Airplay or Hot 100 Sales charts. The same goes for songs that made a holiday chart but not the Hot 100.
On the R&B charts, which were not published between November 1963 and January 1965, Joel uses data from Cash Box, a now-defunct trade magazine that was a competitor to Billboard at the time. That data can't be used when citing Billboard stats -- for example, if I report the number of songs charted by Stevie Wonder on Billboard's R&B survey, I can't use the number of songs Joel reports because it includes titles that never charted in Billboard.
The Elvis "discrepancy" is because Joel counts things differently on pre-Hot 100 charts. Before there was a Hot 100, there were four different weekly charts. The main chart was Best Sellers in Stores, and that's the list Billboard uses as THE pre-Hot 100 chart. Joel counts information from all four charts. When he lists a peak position, for example, he picks the highest position from any one of the four charts. He will list more than one song at No. 1 in a particular week, because he counts all four charts.
Another reason for the Elvis "discrepancy" is that rules for how a two-sided single is charted has changed many times over the years.
On Best Sellers in Stores, a two-sided single counted as one hit and charted in one position. Thus, "Don't Be Cruel" / "Hound Dog" is one top 10 single, not two. The same goes for the early 1958 single "Don't" / "I Beg of You." Counting these two double-sided hits as four top 10 hits instead of two gives you the figure of 38 instead of 36.
When the Hot 100 was introduced, the two sides of a single charted separately. So some of Elvis' later top 10 singles DO count as two top 10 hits, if both sides made the top 10 separately.
In late 1969, Hot 100 rules were changed and two-sided hits again charted as one hit, occupying the same position. Later, the rules were changed again and they were separated once more. Then they counted as one again. Today, they are separate again (you think it's easy keeping track of all this?).
I've been consistent in my books and columns in using only the Best Sellers in Stores chart when compiling pre-Hot 100 stats, and following whatever two-sided single rule was in effect at the time. I don't favor Madonna over Elvis Presley, I just report the facts.
Having said all of this, I did shortchange Madonna in last week's column. "Hung Up" is her 47th top 40 hit, not her 45th. That pushes her past Stevie Wonder (with 46 top 40 hits) into fourth place among artists with the most top 40 hits in the rock era, behind Elvis, Elton John and the Beatles.
By the way, I could have avoided offending Elvis fans if I had just cited the number of top 10 hits collected by Madonna on the Hot 100. Since 12 of Presley's 36 top 10 hits occurred before the Hot 100 was introduced, Madonna would be the undisputed champion. However, I think it's more relevant to use the entire rock era to measure success.
JUST THE TWO OF THEM
As a longtime Eurythmics fan, I was thrilled about their entire catalogue being remastered and released last week, and it got me wondering which duos hold the record for being the most successful on the pop singles chart? I'm also curious which pop duo holds the record on the album chart? My guesses: The Everly Brothers, Carpenters, Simon and Garfunkel or Daryl Hall and John Oates. If anyone would know, I'm sure Fred Bronson would.
Thanks for your confidence in me. Ironically (especially considering my reply to the e-mail posted above), I am going to turn to Joel Whitburn to answer your question. Billboard doesn't actually keep lists of the most successful artists, other than our year-end recaps, so I could either spend months going through every singles and album chart by hand adding up points accrued by duos over 50 years, or I could refer to the lists of the top artists of the rock era that Joel compiles for his "Top Pop Singles" and "Top Pop Albums" books.
In his latest edition of "Top Pop Singles," Joel has used his own point system to come up with the top 600 artists of the rock era. His top three duos: Daryl Hall and John Oates, the Everly Brothers and Carpenters.
In his most recent edition of "Top Pop Albums," Joel has a list of the top 500 artists of the rock era, again compiled by his own point system. His top three duos: Daryl Hall and John Oates, Ferrante & Teicher and Simon & Garfunkel. Except for the pair of pianists, your guess was very accurate.
More information about Joel Whitburn's books can be found at his Web site, recordresearch.com.
THE $164 QUESTION
I read your column last week with the question regarding albums occupying every position on The Billboard 200. I figured the obvious choice of an album to analyze would be the chart champ "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd, which spent 741 weeks on The Billboard 200.
Amazingly, that album occupied 164 different positions on The Billboard 200. I doubt that any album that could top that.
And yes, I guess I have too much time on my hands!
P.S. The positions that "Dark Side of the Moon" did not occupy on The Billboard 200 are 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 25, 28, 36, 49, 51, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64, 66, 67, 69, 73, 74, 75, 77, 83, 84, 89, 93, 94, 97, 99, 100, 113 and 119.
My hat is off to you for taking the time to figure this one out. Let's see if anyone else can find an album that occupied 165 or more positions on The Billboard 200.
THE BRITISH AREN'T COMING, THE BRITISH AREN'T COMING
This is my first time asking a question but definitely not my last. Like you, I also study music charts but I'm not a veteran yet.
I want to know why it is so difficult for a non-American act to make it into the charts, especially for U.K. acts you think would have smooth sailing. Robbie Williams is one of the best-selling male artists in British history but his label will not release his latest album in the United States because they know it will flop.
It seems like since the Beatles the U.S. chart is a no-go area for the British while the Americans are successful, even the ones that aren't successful in America. I hope James Blunt breaks this jinx because I really love his music.
Do you know any reason why this is so, or is my thesis wrong?
I wouldn't say the British have been shut out of the American charts since the Beatles. You have to consider the success of Eurythmics, Human League, Culture Club, ABC, the Police and other 1980s acts -- but yes, that was a long time ago, too.
I can only think of three U.K. acts that had any kind of impact on The Billboard Hot 100 in 2005: Gorillaz, Coldplay and Natasha Bedingfield. Of those three, only Coldplay had a top 10 single.
As for Robbie Williams, I have always felt that with proper promotion, he could be a star in the United States. I don't think any effort has been made to promote him in the last few years, and his albums go unreleased here.
He's not the only U.K. act that deserves U.S. success. What about Sugababes, Girls Aloud and Will Young? I agree with your choice of James Blunt. We'll have to see what happens.
I think American record companies are more interested in American acts than international signings. That's a shame because there's a lot of great music that doesn't originate in the United States by artists capable of selling albums and having hit singles on the radio. A&R departments at U.S. labels are more interested in the acts they've signed themselves than artists signed by their counterparts in Europe.
Will that change? Again, we'll just have to wait and see.
WATCH OUT FOR THAT LAST SENTENCE
The new Madonna and Carrie Underwood albums that made their way into the top 5 of The Billboard 200 last week [helped set] a new record for the most albums to reach the top five in a single year (101 thus far and we have a whole month ahead till the end of 2005).
For your consideration, the average number of albums that have reached the top 5 has risen from 21 for the 1985-1989 period to 35.6 (1990-1994), 58.2 (1995-2000) and 83 (2001-2004). Plus, Madonna's "Confessions on a Dance Floor" is the 32nd No. 1 album of 2005, also an all-time record, while album sales have plummeted.
With all this in mind, do you think it's high time that Billboard ended basing this chart on Nielsen SoundScan data and went back to the pre-1991 norm?
You had me right up to your final sentence. Your facts are interesting, but they don't make a compelling case for abandoning the accurate sales data supplied by Nielsen SoundScan.
It doesn't matter if there are two or 52 No. 1 albums in a year; what matters is that the charts are accurate.
You ask if we should go back to the pre-1991 "norm" but I don't know why the charts were any more "normal" then than they are now. Before Nielsen SoundScan's point-of-sale tracking system came into existence, Billboard chart staffers called retail outlets to ask how albums were selling. That was the best information available during those days, considering the technology available -- or should I say lack of technology.
The charts may have different patterns now, but at least we have accurate sales figures and thus, much more accurate charts.