CHART BEAT CHAT

Fred Bronson discusses top singles of presidential eras, Steve Winwood, the Hot 100, Brian Wilson, George Strait and more with readers.

WEST WINGING IT

Dear Fred,

With the upcoming election I thought it might be interesting to list the top 5 hits of each presidential administration from Kennedy to Clinton. The lists are, of course, compiled from your book "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits."

[Dwight D.] Eisenhower's administration started in January 1953, two years before the rock era began. George W. Bush's administration continues beyond the cutoff of your book. "The Twist" only includes points from the second chart run since the first was during Eisenhower's term.

Here is what I've compiled:

John F. Kennedy (January 1961- November 1963)
1. "Tossin' and Turnin'," Bobby Lewis (1961)
2. "I Can't Stop Loving You," Ray Charles (1962)
3. "The Twist," Chubby Checker (1962)
4. "Big Bad John," Jimmy Dean (1961)
5. "Big Girls Don't Cry," the Four Seasons (1962)

Lyndon B. Johnson (November 1963 - January 1969)
1. "Hey Jude," the Beatles (1968)
2. "I Want To Hold Your Hand," the Beatles (1964)
3. "I'm a Believer," the Monkees (1966)
4. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Marvin Gaye (1968)
5. "Love Is Blue," Paul Mauriat (1968)

Richard M. Nixon (January 1969 - August 1974)
1. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," 5th Dimension (1969)
2. "Joy to the World," Three Dog Night (1971)
3. "Alone Again (Naturally)," Gilbert O'Sullivan (1972)
4. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Roberta Flack (1972)
5. "Sugar, Sugar," the Archies (1969)

Gerald R. Ford (August 1974 - January 1977)
1. "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)," Rod Stewart (1976)
2. "Silly Love Songs," Wings (1976)
3. "I'm Sorry" / "Calypso," John Denver (1975)
4. "Love Will Keep Us Together," Captain & Tennille (1975)
5. "Rhinestone Cowboy," Glen Campbell (1975)

Jimmy Carter (January 1977 - January 1981)
1. "You Light Up My Life," Debby Boone (1977)
2. "Le Freak," Chic (1978)
3. "Stayin' Alive," Bee Gees (1978)
4. "Night Fever," Bee Gees (1978)
5. "Shadow Dancing," Andy Gibb (1978)

Ronald Reagan (January 1981 - January 1989)
1. "Physical," Olivia Newton-John (1981)
2. "Endless Love," Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981)
3. "Bette Davis Eyes," Kim Carnes (1981)
4. "Every Breath You Take," the Police (1983)
5. "Say, Say, Say," Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson (1983)

George Bush (January 1989 - January 1993)
1. "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston (1992)
2. "End of the Road," Boyz II Men (1992)
3. "Jump," Kris Kross (1992)
4. "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-A-Lot (1992)
5. "If Ever I Fall," Shai (1992)

Bill Clinton (January 1993 - January 2001)
1. "Smooth," Santana (1999)
2. "Unbreak My Heart," Toni Braxton (1996)
3. "Macarena" (Bayside Boys Mix), Los Del Rio (1996)
4. "One Sweet Day," Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men (1995)
5. "I'll Make Love to You," Boyz II Men (1994)

Now, imagine some of those presidents singing those songs.

Richard K. Rogers
Brooklyn, N.Y.
[email protected]

Dear Richard,

Thank you for a unique look at the last 44 years of music. I'm sure some people will enjoy the fact that John Kennedy gets "Big Bad John," actor Ronald Reagan gets "Bette Davis Eyes," one-term President George Bush (the first) gets "End of the Road" and Bill Clinton gets "Smooth" and "I'll Make Love to You."



PRIDZ AND JOY

Fred,

With your recent vacation, I nearly missed your most recent article about Donny Osmond's return to the U.K. singles chart. Have you noted the even more extraordinary accomplishments on the same chart of Steve Winwood?

At the time of this writing, the No. 1 song for the past three weeks in the United Kingdom has been Eric Pridz's "Call on Me," but the melody and vocals of the song are built entirely around a short sample of Steve Winwood's mid-'80s hit "Valerie." In fact, Winwood went back to the studio to record a new version of his vocals specifically for Pridz's track. In a fair universe the song would be credited entirely to Steve Winwood, and Pridz would get only the producer or remixer credit, but such is the way of marketing.

As has been pointed out by others, that fact makes Steve Winwood the only person to sing lead vocals on a U.K. No. 1 single in both the 1960s ("Keep on Running" by the Spencer Davis Group) and the current decade. George Harrison also hit No. 1 in the United Kingdom in the past five years with a posthumous re-release of "My Sweet Lord," but not as a lead vocal with the Beatles, and not as a solo artist until 1971.

Finally, Donny Osmond isn't the only iconic singer of a bygone era to hit the U.K. charts recently. There have also been hits from Elvis Presley, Status Quo, the Kinks and Paul McCartney.

Congrats on your longevity.

Pat Kelly
Brampton, Ontario

Dear Pat,

Thanks. It's amazing how the last 11 years and nine months have flown by.

Thanks also for pointing out Steve Winwood's accomplishments. To be fair, though, it's not a marketing strategy that would keep Winwood's name off the credits. Credits are legal matters worked out through business affairs departments, and you can bet Winwood agreed to the credits as they stand. If he wasn't happy with them, he could have withheld his participation.



A MODEST PROPOSAL

Fred,

As has been pointed out recently, the Hot 100 is meaningless -- as it is airplay dominated. The singles sales chart is also irrelevant -- as sales are almost non-existent.

You say digital downloads will be incorporated into the Hot 100. Could you tell me how many units are sold, on average, for the No. 1 track?

I know the Billboard singles charts have always been a combination of airplay and sales. But does that always have to be the case? Why can't the official singles chart in the future be based on what people buy via digital downloads?

John Boylan

Dear John,

You haven't heard that the Hot 100 is meaningless from me. Since the chart has been compiled from sales and airplay data for the last 46 years, and since sales of physical singles have shrunk significantly, it stands to reason that the chart will be airplay-dominated.

It's a fairly recent phenomenon that has seen the sales of digital downloads surge way past the sales of commercial singles. While "Chart Beat" deals with chart positions and not sales figures, I can tell you that it has been reported in Billboard that in one recent week the No. 1 song on Hot Digital Downloads sold 37,000 copies. This week, the top three titles all sold over 20,000 downloads each.

Since the Hot 100 was designed as a sales and airplay chart, I don't think there's any chance you'll see either component dropped completely. But I do think changes coming in the next few weeks will strengthen the sales component of the chart as paid digital downloads are more fully integrated into the Hot 100.



A FROWN TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

Fred,

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see that Brian Wilson's long-awaited "Smile" album debuted on The Billboard 200 at No. 13. If I'm not mistaken, this is the highest charting of any Beach Boys (group or solo member) album in 28 years, since the Beach Boys "15 Big Ones" reached the top 10 in 1976.

And it's almost certainly the longest time in pop music history between an album's conception and birth, so to speak. As well documented, Brian began working on "Smile" in 1966, with a view to release it in January 1967. And it has taken until now -- more than 37 years -- for it to be completed and launched.

It's wonderful that, after all these years, Brian is achieving such critical and commercial success -- not to mention artistic vindication -- with this, his crowning achievement. It's a beautiful album. Kudos both to him and his marvelous lyricist and collaborator, Van Dyke Parks.

Do you have any additional chart-related facts or other observations that you'd like to add? In the meantime, thanks for a consistently fascinating and entertaining column, Fred. And congratulations on your own recent milestone!

Wayne Studer

Dear Wayne,

Thanks! It's amazing how the last 11 years, nine months and three minutes have flown by.

Brian Wilson's "Smile" was the lead item in the print version of "Chart Beat" last week. You've touched on the major points I raised, but in case you'd like to read what I wrote, here it is:

Some 38 years after the album was first conceived, Brian Wilson's "Smile" (BriMel/Nonesuch) finally makes its debut on The Billboard 200. By entering at No. 13, "Smile" becomes the highest-ranked of Wilson's four charted solo albums.

Wilson's self-titled CD peaked at No. 54 in August 1988. "Imagination" stopped at No. 88 in July 1998. "Gettin' in Over My Head" went to No. 100 just three months ago.

But "Smile" is also the highest-ranking set by a member of the Beach Boys since "15 Big Ones" peaked at No. 8 in 1976. That LP marked Wilson's return to the group.

"Smile" stretches Wilson's total chart span to 42 years, dating back to the debut of the Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari" in November 1962.



LET GEORGE DO IT

Dear Fred,

On the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart dated Oct. 23, George Strait scored his 39th No. 1 hit with "I Hate Everything." George is now one song shy of tying the late Conway Twitty's record of 40 No. 1s. What is even more impressive are the facts that:

1. All 39 of Strait's No. 1s have been solo.

2. All 39 of Strait's No. 1s have been on the same record label (MCA Nashville).

Just thought I would pass this along to you and the many fans that read and post on your column.

Thank you very much.

Lisa Curry
Beachwood, N.J.

Dear Lisa,

Just like Wayne wrote in about the lead item in last week's print edition of Chart Beat, you've hit on the lead item in this week's print column. That still doesn't answer the question raised by Bob Visser in our next e-mail:



39 DOWN, 11 TO GO

Fred,

George Strait's album "50 Number Ones" debuted this week at No. 1 on both The Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums. By my count however, only 38 of these songs actually hit No. 1 on [Billboard's] Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart. By what measure are the other 12 songs considered "Number Ones"?

Bob Visser
Mississauga, Ontario

Dear Bob,

You wrote your e-mail before "I Hate Everything" became George Strait's 39th No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart, though the album was released before that became a fait accompli.

After I received your letter, I dug out my copy of the CD to read the liner notes thinking there might be an explanation. There wasn't any, so I don't know how they came up with the number 50, except it makes for a better title. Perhaps some of the songs were No. 1 on various radio station playlists?

I may subscribe to the saying that it ain't No. 1 'til it's No. 1 in Billboard, but that doesn't mean we were the source for the title.



FIVE FOR CHARTING

Dear Fred,

There are many examples of a title containing a number reaching that number on the Hot 100. But there aren't as many examples of a group name containing a number reaching that number on the Hot 100.

"She Will Be Loved" by Maroon5 reached No. 5 on the Hot 100. I wonder how many times a group with a number in its name peaked at that number?

David Dana-Bashian
Garden Grove, Calif.

Dear David,

Let's see how many examples "Chart Beat Chat" readers can come up with. One might be Maroon5's previous No. 5 hit, "This Love."

See the next e-mail for another example of a song with a number in the title peaking in the same position.



NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE

Fred,

It would be a shame to mention the fine tradition of chart positions coinciding with numbers in titles or names without a shout out to the great John Lennon's "#9 Dream" peaking at No. 9.

Bob Ridge
Fishers, Ind.

Dear Bob,

Last week's list wasn't meant to include every example, but thanks for adding an excellent one.