Fred Bronson answers e-mail from readers.
THE WAY WE WERE SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES: Carly Simon rewrites her own chart history with the debut of her new album on The Billboard 200. "Moonlight Serenade" (Columbia) bows at No. 7 and is instantly the highest-debuting album of Simon's career, as well as her third highest-charting title behind "No Secrets" (No. 1 in 1973) and "Hotcakes" (No. 3 in 1974). "Moonlight Serenade" is Simon's first top 10 album since "Boys in the Trees" peaked at No. 10 in 1978. A collection of standards, "Moonlight Serenade" marks Simon's debut on the Columbia imprint. Most of her albums were recorded for the Elektra, Warner Brothers and Arista labels, but Simon did have one release on Columbia's sister label, Epic. "Spoiled Girl" peaked at No. 88 exactly 20 years ago this week. Simon made her debut on the album chart the week of April 24, 1971, with a self-titled LP. With the entrance of "Moonlight Serenade," Simon's chart span is extended to 34 years, three months and two weeks.
Comparing and ranking today's music with those [songs] in the real rock era (1955-1990) is not just. Chart methodology has changed a lot since 1991. Due to new chart formulas, songs have stayed at No. 1 far longer than they really should have. If the chart methodology was left alone like it was in the '70s and '80s, and the darn singles market was alive here, like it still is in the United Kingdom, then maybe "One Sweet Day" would have been No. 1 for six weeks, not a ridiculous 16 weeks.
That goes for all these current songs staying No. 1 for seven, eight, nine or 10 weeks. I know that Internet downloads, lack of singles, airplay-only songs. etc., have to be compensated, but that's a new ballgame. It's a new era of music and songs. They may be considered rock, but these songs cannot be ranked with the older music, since the chart methods were different.
Remember, through the '50s and into the late '80s, the chart was based on airplay and sales -- singles! Now times are unfortunately different, so the charts reflect that. You cannot compare today's charts with those in the past, therefore, today's hits cannot be ranked with the old ones.
Do you really think a song like "One Sweet Day" deserved to be No. 1 for 16 weeks, outdoing all those other monster hits of the real rock era, including "Hey Jude" and "Don't Be Cruel" / "Hound Dog" and "Physical?" "One Sweet Day" was a huge hit, yes, but not for 16 weeks, please.
There has to be new rankings now since the chart changes of the early '90s. "One Sweet Day" is now the all-time leader at No. 1, yes -- since 1991 that is. The first year of the "new" rock era! Close the book on the first segment of the wonderful rock era (1955 - 1990), now we're in year 14 of the new rock era (1991 - 2005).
If you do continue to rank today's hits with the older ones, than please asterisk them, in reference to new chart methodolgies, so that all of us have a clear understanding of how songs are now ranked. "One Sweet Day," "Yeah!" and "End of the Road" all need asterisks next to them. They should be ranked in the "new rock era," not with the Beatles, Elvis, Debby Boone and the Bee Gees.
Simple as that -- apples against oranges!
Colorado Springs, Col.
I understand why you feel the way you do, and even empathize, as many of my favorite songs pre-date the introduction of the new technologies in 1991 that revolutionized how the charts are compiled. I'm sure that there are many people who would agree with your suggestions, especially people who grew up in the '60s, '70s and '80s (and see the next e-mail for someone making a similar request).
You will also find a lot of people who would disagree. There is a whole generation of younger music lovers who do not find "Don't Be Cruel" or "Physical" to be more important singles than No. 1 hits like "One Sweet Day." It has a lot to do with when you grew up. I know people born in the '70s or later who have no special regard for the '60s songs I love so much and don't understand my attachment to "It's My Party" or "Where Did Our Love Go."
More important, the logic of calling 1991-2005 the "new" rock era because of changes in chart methodology doesn't hold up. Chart policies have actually changed many times over the years. One of the biggest changes was the introduction of the Hot 100 the week of Aug. 4, 1958, but we don't divide the years 1955-58 from 1958-2005. Chart policies were changed repeatedly over the years and some changes were more radical than others. One of the most radical took place the week of June 9, 1973, but we don't separate the years 1955-1973 from the rest of the rock era.
After 1991, chart rules continued to be adjusted, with another major one taking place at the beginning of December 1998 when the rule that a song had to be available as a commercial single to chart was dropped. But we don't separate the years 1998-2005 from the rest of the rock era.
I wouldn't agree with your suggestion that "One Sweet Day" didn't deserve to be No. 1 for 16 weeks. The facts -- in this case, actual sales and actual radio airplay, support the 16-week run of "One Sweet Day" at No. 1. You might not feel the song deserves to be compared to "You Light Up My Life," but that's a subjective view and the charts are compiled objectively.
I'm sure that I feel strongly about this issue because of the mission statement behind "Chart Beat." People who work outside of the music business who aren't chart fans often ask me to explain what I do. I tell them that I put each week's charts in the context of the entire rock era.
The turnover rate for No. 1 songs has slowed down, speeded up, and slowed down again and that will continue to happen. Sometimes that's due to chart methodologies and sometimes it's due to radio airplay and retail sales patterns. Still, I'm not ready to divide up the rock era into partitions. For the purposes of "Chart Beat," it's all one long continuum.
WEIGHTING FOR A CHART LIKE THIS
I have been a fan of your Hot 100 books -- but would like one change. The top 5,000 has become dominated by songs from the mid-1990s forward due to the change in the Billboard computation of the Hot 100 sometime in the 1990s. As a result all older songs are totally eclipsed, and to me the top 5,000 is no longer at all useful.
I know you have played with the weighting idea and would urge you to offer up a weighted top 5,000 to compensate for the overweight given to the songs that have benefited by the change in the Billboard computations.
Maybe publish two lists -- one weighted and one unweighted.
I'm glad you like my chart books, and appreciate that you have given "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" enough thought to make a suggestion about the list of the top 5,000 songs of the rock era found at the back of the book.
You can probably guess my answer, having read the reply to the letter above. Many of my own personal favorite songs have fallen way down the list as songs from the 1990s -- and now the 2000s -- have taken up the top slots. But I feel strongly that the book reflect the actual Hot 100, not a fantasy version of the chart. That's what a weighted version would be. Running two top 5,000 lists would never get past my editor -- there wouldn't be enough room in the book to run both lists, even if I had an interest in doing a weighted chart.
The fact is, songs in the '60s moved up and down the Hot 100 very rapidly. That's because radio would play a song for about 12 weeks, then move on to an artist's next single. And that's how often artists were releasing singles, which is why some prolific acts could have five, six or even seven hits in a calendar year -- and that was without being featured as a guest artist on someone else's record.
No wonder a song like the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," with 10 weeks on the entire Hot 100, isn't ranked as high on the top 5,000 as a song like "Smooth" by Santana featuring Rob Thomas that spent 12 weeks at No. 1 and 58 weeks on the Hot 100.
First I love your column and Billboard magazine and am happy to say I own several of your books. I can't wait each week until the next issue comes out.
I do admit that I miss the old Hot 100 and old top 40 radio. I really miss the 45 single and looking for the picture sleeves, but that's all history now. I really love music and charts, but I usually love the songs that really don't go that high on the charts for example, "Pieces of Ice" by Diana Ross, "Shattered Glass" by Laura Branigan, "Cold Love" by Donna Summer and "Go Down Easy" by Dan Fogelberg. Those are some of my favorites, to name a few.
The world lost a great talent with the passing of Laura Branigan and she should have been as popular today as she was in the '80s. Could you give me an updated list of the top 10 singles of her career? I know Michael Bolton and Cher had bigger hits with "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" and "I Found Someone" respectively, but to me no one sang like Laura.
Thanks for the kind words about my column and my books. To answer your question about Laura Branigan, I consulted the top 5,000 songs of the rock era list referenced in the above e-mail. Laura has four songs in the top 5000, so here they are, along with position on the list. The fifth song I've included would come in around No. 5,975 if I had constructed a top 6,000.
488 "Gloria" (1982)
1,805 "Self Control" (1984)
3,152 "Solitaire" (1983)
3,454 "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" (1983)
"The Power of Love" (1988)
"The Lucky One" isn't ranked, but would show up somewhere between 6500 and 7000 if the chart had that many positions.
'MOONLIGHT' FEELS RIGHT
I was wondering about the incredible debut of Carly Simon's "Moonlight Serenade" at No. 7 on the album chart. I'm thinking that must be her biggest album hit in decades. Am I correct in that assumption?
You are absolutely right. You might have sent your e-mail before my item on Carly Simon's debut ran in "Chart Beat" last week. In case you missed it, here's what I wrote:
SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES: Carly Simon rewrites her own chart history with the debut of her new album on The Billboard 200. "Moonlight Serenade" (Columbia) bows at No. 7 and is instantly the highest-debuting album of Simon's career, as well as her third highest-charting title behind "No Secrets" (No. 1 in 1973) and "Hotcakes" (No. 3 in 1974). "Moonlight Serenade" is Simon's first top 10 album since "Boys in the Trees" peaked at No. 10 in 1978. A collection of standards, "Moonlight Serenade" marks Simon's debut on the Columbia imprint. Most of her albums were recorded for the Elektra, Warner Brothers and Arista labels, but Simon did have one release on Columbia's sister label, Epic. "Spoiled Girl" peaked at No. 88 exactly 20 years ago this week. Simon made her debut on the album chart the week of April 24, 1971, with a self-titled LP. With the entrance of "Moonlight Serenade," Simon's chart span is extended to 34 years, three months and two weeks.
Just read your latest column. Delighted to read the comments about the current U.K. charts. How about either having a separate column on the U.K. charts, or if you feel this would be too much, perhaps a U.K. corner in "Chart Beat."
Hope and you are well and definitely not being drip fed!
For those who missed the original reference, we should let readers know you're bringing up that strangely-titled Madness single, "Drip Fed Fred," which I'd rather forget about. Thanks!
I've been following the U.K. charts in Billboard ever since I was a teenager, and especially since my first visit to London in 1974. I do write about these charts whenever something seems relevant to Billboard readers, but I wouldn't want to commit to a weekly U.K. report.
One reason I don't want to focus on the U.K. every week is that there are two fine chart columnists covering this beat. Alan Jones writes about the charts for a British trade, Music Week, and we have been friends for much longer than I have been writing "Chart Beat." I don't know James Masterson, but he writes an online column that I'm sure many "Chart Beat" readers look at every week.
Since I like being original, I do my best to NOT read James' column. That way I know if I include some U.K. item in "Chart Beat," it was my original thought and not something I took from James. My issue of Music Week arrives after I've written "Chart Beat" for that equivalent week, so I don't see Alan's column until after I've written mine.
ALL IN THE 'FAMILY GUY'
I fired up iTunes this morning and was shocked to see that Journey's 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin'" has entered the top 10 most-downloaded songs. What goes on here? Was the song featured in a movie or TV show recently? Did Lance Armstrong or another athlete adopt it as a theme song?
And if the rush of downloads continues, could the song conceivably hit the Billboard Hot 100 again? Have the availability of paid downloads caused any other classic hits to re-enter the Billboard charts so far?
Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" was heard on two different TV series recently. The song was featured on an episode of "Family Guy" on Fox, as well as MTV's "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County."
Last year the song was played at Boston Red Sox games, but I don't know if it is "heavy rotation" at the ballpark this year. Maybe a Boston "Chart Beat" reader could let us know.
As an "oldie," Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" wouldn't re-enter the Hot 100 unless there was some reason to give it consideration. That could happen, for example, if the record company officially re-released it and top 40 radio stations started playing it as a current song.
Two vintage songs that showed up on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart recently were "Alone" by Heart and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. Both songs charted because of legal downloads purchased after they were performed on "American Idol" by fourth season finalists.
STATE THE FACTS
With George Strait's "Texas" sliding 35-42 on Billboard's Aug. 13 Hot Country Songs chart, it is now tied with Mississippi as the most charted "state" titles with two. The Charlie Daniels Band took the first "Texas" hit to No. 36 in 1976. Red Foley took the first "Mississippi" to No. 1 in 1950, while the Charlie Daniels Band also hit with a different song, taking it to No. 19 in 1979.
Strait's "Texas" song is also the eighth time a "state" has charted in the top 40 of the country chart and the first since February 2001, when Carolyn Dawn Johnson took "Georgia" to No. 25. Other "states" that have made top 40 appearances have been Alabama, California and Missouri.
For the record, I love Jo Dee Messina's No. 2 hit from 1966, "Heads Carolina, Tails California," even if she didn't specify North or South Carolina.
Thanks for the state trivia update. Now we'll be waiting to see if Texas or Mississippi can break the tie for first place.
'JAGGED' WITH A NEW EDGE
I just heard the acoustic version of "Jagged Little Pill" by Alanis Morissette, and it's great! The re-arrangements have made the songs totally different. Who would have thought that "You Oughta Know" could ever be a lounge song?
Perhaps this time Alanis can release the fantastic untitled song hidden at the end of the album since now it has instrumentation, whereas before it was sung a cappella. Or maybe she can even release her rearranged previous hits.
Which brings me to my question: Would you know which songs have hit the Billboard Hot 100 at least twice by the same artist with different arrangements? The only ones which came to my mind were "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" by Elton John (although the latter's re-release was primarily credited to George Michael).
I'm hoping that a whole new generation will get to appreciate Alanis' new album, as well as those who had enjoyed the original before.
Quezon City, Philippines
This has happened so many times that I wouldn't be able to list them all here, so please settle for the first few that come to mind.
We shouldn't forget Neil Sedaka's ballad version of "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do," which charted 14 years after the original pop version was No. 1. In 1976, Frankie Avalon charted with a disco version of "Venus," his No. 1 pop song from 1959. Coven charted three times with "One Tin Soldier," first in 1971, then again in 1973 with a new version, and again later in 1973 with the first recording.
You mentioned Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," but not the twin charting versions of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," first with Kiki Dee and then with RuPaul.
SHE'S HERE FOR HER SECOND PARTY
You noted that Gretchen Wilson's new single ["All Jacked Up"] is "the second-highest debut of the last 15 years" on the country singles chart. I assume you are citing the last 15 years because that covers the Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems (BDS) era.
Unless I am overlooking something, Wilson's No. 21 debut is actually the second highest in 26 years. Eddie Rabbitt's "Every Which Way but Loose" debuted at No. 18 in December 1978. Since then, Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" (No. 19) is the only song I can think of that debuted so high.
My records are nowhere near complete, but I haven't found such a high debut by a female artist since 1962. Carl Butler & Pearl had a No. 15 debut on Dec. 8, 1962 ("Don't Let Me Cross Over") and Patsy Cline had a No. 20 debut on March 3, 1962 ("She's Got You"). The chart only had 30 positions back then, so there is a good chance that I am missing some other high debuts.
All of those songs spent multiple weeks at No. 1, so Gretchen has to feel good about her new single's chances!
If I were Gretchen, I'd feel very encouraged. I'm sure we're looking at her next No. 1 song, and thanks for the information.