Fred Bronson answers e-mail from readers.
I SING THE ELTON ELECTRIC
This week "Ghetto Gospel" by 2Pac featuring Elton John is No. 2 and Elton's brand new single "Electricity" is No. 4 in the United Kingdom (and Elton's opening act on his European tour, James Blunt, is No. 1). What an achievement. Its quite amazing for a rock star who's been playing for more than 35 years to have two top five hits, but is it also a first for Elton?
He has always been more successful in the U.S. singles charts. Has he ever achieved something similar in the United States?
Elton John's "Electricity," hasn't been released in the United States yet. The song is from the new West End musical "Billy Elliot," a stage adaptation of the film with book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton.
The single is doing much better on the digital download chart in the United Kingdom than the physical singles chart, but all sales are combined to compile the main singles chart, and so "Electricity" moved enough copies over the counter and online to debut at No. 4.
Before 2005, Elton had amassed 17 top 5 hits in Britain. That sounds like a lot, but these 17 were spread among his 83 chart entries between 1971-2004. Before this week, there were only three times that Elton had two consecutive top five hits. As far as I know, this is the first time he's had two top five hits at once. That's not surprising, given the rapid turnover of the British charts.
On the Billboard Hot 100, Elton has had 18 top 5 hits, including eight in a row between 1973-1975, but I'm not aware of him ever having two top 5 hits at the same time.
WHEN IS A GREATEST HIT A GREATEST HIT?
Often an artist will include one or two new singles on a greatest hits compilation and sometimes these [new songs] become big hits (for example, Madonna's "Justify My Love" and No Doubt's "It's My Life").
However, I've been wondering if there is a situation where a song from a greatest hits album was literally the greatest hit for that artist in either chart position or sales. I can't think of any! This is hardly surprising I guess since "best of" albums typically contain an artist's top selling work, so bettering the performance of that work with one or two new songs would be difficult. Can you or anyone think of songs that fit this criterion or even come close?
P.S. What a treat to see you mention how much you like Donna Summer's "Another Place and Time" album. It's one of my favorites, too.
Donna Summer made so many great albums with Giorgio Moroder and other producers like Quincy Jones, so her CD produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman often gets overlooked. I'm glad you appreciated the mention.
Your question about greatest hits is a good one. There was a time when "best of" albums only collected an artist's hits and perhaps included the latest single, but not new tracks. Now it's a good marketing strategy. If you're a completist, or just a major fan of an act, you need that greatest hits collection to have all of their recordings.
Let's see if anyone writes in with a newly-added "greatest hit" that really did become an artist's biggest hit.
THE GREAT BIG ASTERISK
Last week you stated, "2005 is the first year that two songs penned by [John] Lennon and [Paul] McCartney have debuted on the chart since 1978." A number of Lennon/McCartney songs debuted as part of two different medleys in 1981 by Stars on 45.
The first included "No Reply," "I'll Be Back," "Drive My Car," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "We Can Work It Out," "I Should Have Known Better," "Nowhere Man" and "You're Gonna Lose That Girl." It debuted in April and peaked at No. 1. The second, which included "Good Day Sunshine," "A Hard Day's Night," "Please Please Me," "From Me to You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," debuted in July, but stalled at No. 67.
You also stated the "McCartney/U2 recording (of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band") makes history by becoming the first Beatles song to chart by an individual Beatle." Honorable mention should been given to John Lennon for his part in Elton John's No. 1 remake of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." While this has never been considered a solo Lennon No. 1 hit, he is credited as a performer beneath the song's title. Under a pseudonym referring to his original middle name, the 45 record states: "Elton John featuring the Reggae guitars of Dr. Winston O'Boogie."
Speaking of last week, I was in your city, attending the annual Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center. It was my first time at the event, and I was there to moderate a Q&A session with Greg Evans, creator of the "Luann" comic strip. Even though I don't live that far away, it was my first time in downtown San Diego in a long time, and I really enjoyed being there.
As for the John Lennon-Paul McCartney issue you raise, you make a good point. Since the Stars on 45 singles were medleys, it's always hard to know what to do with them, other than asterisk them. However, there is no question that Lennon and McCartney share in the writing credits of the first two Stars on 45 medleys.
I can't award credit to John for Elton's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," however. As you suggest, it's universally accepted that Elton alone gets credit for this single, even though John is on the track.
THE BRONSON QUESTION
As a huge Red Sox fan, I was eager to see how pitcher Bronson Arroyo's CD, "Covering the Bases," would fare on The Billboard 200. Given its limited publicity (it was probably only heavily marketed here in Boston), I was surprised to see it enter at No. 123 with approximately 8,700 units scanned.
Has any other Red Sox player made it onto any Billboard chart? I'm waiting to see who will be next -- perhaps Johnny Damon covering "Centerfield"?
By the way, a couple of weeks ago, you alerted a reader to the Dancing DJs vs. Roxette remake of "Fading Like a Flower." I downloaded it, and it is simply amazing. Thanks for the tip!
Bronson Arroyo -- and you gotta love that name -- is not the first baseball player to chart, or even the first to try his hand at recording.
Loren Harriet, who produced Arroyo's album of rock covers, also produced a smooth jazz album for New York Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams. His CD, "The Journey Within," peaked in 2003 at No. 3 on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and No. 8 on the Top Heatseekers chart.
Cy Young award winner Jack McDowell, who played for the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians and the Anaheim Angels had a band called V.I.E.W. that released some records, and then he went into a group called stickfigure. The Angels' first baseman Scott Spiezio has also dabbled in recording, and the Los Angeles Dodgers once recorded a version of Queen's "We Are the Champions."
The real question is, why aren't there more artists named Bronson?
'CLOUDY' WITH A CHANCE OF CHARTING
I read somewhere the Eagles released a single to radio of "No More Cloudy Days" from the new "Farewell I: Live from Melbourne" DVD. Please let us know if this single has hit the charts and your thoughts about the track. My wife and I
You're right, "No More Cloudy Days" did go to radio as a single. The song is performing well on Adult Contemporary stations, and so far is only showing up on Billboard's AC chart. This week, the Eagles move 23-21 there and earn "Most Airplay Adds" honors.
GIVE PEAS A CHANCE
While navigating Billboard.com charts this week, I've come up with a question. I've kept a close eye on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for the past few weeks and haven't seen a sign of the Black Eyed Peas' new single, "Don't Phunk with My Heart." However, I myself would consider the act a hip-hop, or at the very least, a hip-hop/rap-oriented act. How well have the Peas fared on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs up until now? I can't recall seeing any song from their breakthrough album reaching the top ten of this chart.
More importantly, is it common for artists who are clearly genre-oriented, like the Peas (who are definitely somewhat of an R&B/hip-hop act), not to have a hit on their genre chart? Could we consider those artists country or R&B or rock artists even when they have no success on that genre's chart?
Thanks in advance. Best regards!
Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart is based on sales and airplay. Unlike the Hot 100, where airplay comes from many different formats, this chart relies exclusively on airplay at R&B and hip-gop radio stations. It might surprise you, but R&B/hip-hop radio has not taken to the Black Eyed Peas. "Don't Phunk With My Heart" doesn't even show up in the 75-position Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart this week.
Only three of the Peas' songs have reached the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart to date. Early singles "Weekend" and "Request Live" (recorded with Macy Gray) fared best, peaking at No. 73 in September 2000 and No. 51 in April 2001, respectively. "Where Is the Love?" only went to No. 82 in July 2003.
Much has been made recently about the success of the third, fourth and even fifth singles from the same album by certain artists. With this in mind, what do the record companies or artists have to lose by releasing four or five singles from every album?
It seems to me you never can tell what's going to be a hit and, in many cases, the third through fifth singles on albums do indeed chart higher than the first or second.
Even in the case of the great Mariah Carey, the first single from "The Emancipation of Mimi," "It's Like That," didn't fare that well and, of course, "We Belong Together" has become a huge hit. Carey is maybe an extreme example, but it seems lesser-known artists can sometimes have a breakaway hit when they least expect it and it may take a third release from an album to achieve it.
I'm wondering about your opinion on this.
I don't disagree with you, but it is difficult for a record label to go to radio with a third or fourth single if the first and second ones have not performed well, and that is particularly true with new acts. Rightly or wrongly, radio usually believes that if an act hasn't made it with the first or second hit, they don't have what it takes.
Even established acts can have a tough time getting airplay on a third or fourth single if the earlier ones didn't perform as well as usual.