Fred Bronson discusses Norwegian artists, Celia Cruz, Elton John and more with readers.
IDOL, NORWEGIAN STYLE
I've been a fan of yours for a long time, ever since I first bought "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" about 12 years ago. I want to tell you some chart happenings in Norway involving the Norwegian Idol contestants.
Apart from winning the Eurovision Song Contest twice (in 1985 and 1995), we haven't had a lot of commercial success in the music business. a-ha is the first and last Norwegian act to hit No. 1 in the U.S. (Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA being the first person), and there have been some successes recently with such acts as Rôyksopp and Lene Marlin.
With that not especially impressive record in mind, I still think it's time you played some Norwegian music from the Norwegian charts on your Billboard Radio chart show!
The Norwegian Idol contest final was held this spring on TV2 -- the biggest commercial channel in Norway. Big ratings of course, and the three finalists suddenly became megastars (being a megastar in a country of 4 million people doesn't actually give the financial rewards it does in the U.S. or U.K. but hey: If screaming girls and a paycheck to keep you afloat to the next album is your thing...).
Anyway, the top three are:
1. Kurt Nilsen, 24 year-old plumber from Bergen.
2. Gaute Ormasen, 22 year-old from Brummundal.
3. David Pedersen, 17 year-old from Tromso, the screaming girls' favorite.
Kurt Nilsens first single, "She's So High" (a modest hit for songwriter Tal Bachman in 1999) was No. 1 most of this summer and has sold an incredible 110,000 copies. It is the second biggest-selling single of all time in Norway, only beaten by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997."
Gaute Ormasen followed with "Chasing Rainbows," (a Ronan Keating-as-written-by-Gregg Alexander-type song) which replaced "She's So High" at No. 1. But the next week David Pedersen grabbed the top slot with "Wild at Heart" (a boyband-grunge song the Calling would have killed for).
Interestingly, David Pedersen's song was written by another Tromso native. Espen Lind had a decent hit in Europe and Asia with "When Susannah Cries" some years ago.
Thanks for the news from Norway. The "Pop Idol" franchise has been a hit all over the world, with the same results on the charts. I had dinner last night with an American songwriter living in Finland, and he's involved with Finnish Television's upcoming version of "Pop Idol."
We have played songs from Norway on "The Billboard Radio Countdown," where we feature one song every week from the "Hits of the World" section in Billboard magazine. Our most recent Norwegian song was "I'm Not Afraid To Move On" by Jostein Hasselgaard.
One secret about which songs we play on the Countdown: I need to have copies of them before we can air them, and I don't have any of the Norwegian Idols hits. If I could persuade the record label to send them my way, we can play them on the "Countdown."
I noticed on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart for the issue dated Aug. 23 that Celia Cruz had five albums in the top-20:
No. 1 "Regalo Del Alma"
No. 2 "Exitos Eternos"
No. 3 "Hits Mix"
No. 16 "La Negra Tiene Tumbao"
No. 18 "Siempre Celia Cruz: Boleros Eternos"
And for the previous week, four of those were in the top-10 at the same time ("Siempre Celia Cruz: Boleros Eternos" was No. 11).
Are either of these feats a record for the top-20 and top-10 respectively? Have any artists charted similarly on other Billboard charts?
By the way, I read your column every week and NEVER miss it (except during blackouts).
In that case, I'm glad the power is back on!
An artist's passing often causes this kind of chart activity. After her death in July, Celia Cruz appeared on The Billboard 200 for the first time, with three albums.
While having five albums in the top-20 of the Top Latin Albums chart was impressive, Cruz fared even better on the Top Tropical Albums chart, where she owned the top-5 titles the week of Aug. 16.
It's not the first time an artist has had the top-5 on a Billboard chart. The week of April 4, 1964, the Beatles occupied the top-5 positions on the Hot 100.
While it's not a Billboard chart, the singles chart in Japan was dominated by a duo known as the B'z earlier this year. They had 11 of the top 12 singles!
IF THERE'S ANYTHING I CAN DO...
Did Del Shannon's version of "From Me to You" chart on The Billboard Hot 100 before the Beatles' version? It was a hit here in Toronto in the summer of 1963 on CHUM, one of the biggest AM radio stations in North America at the time.
Shannon had toured with the Fab Four in the U.K. earlier that year and consequently this single was the Beatles' first North American hit (granted, a cover version). And weren't "She Loves You" and "Roll Over Beethoven" released in Canada as singles and in late '63, two months before the so-called British Invasion landed in New York in February 1964?
Many U.K. acts have first charted in Canada before breaching the Billboard charts. Did Sir Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday" or other pre-Beatles singles ever chart in the U.S.?. Again, that single, the movie and its soundtrack were very big way back then.
And one last Toronto-centric question: Did Jackie Shane's "Any Other Way" -- the first openly gay lyric by a gay artist ("Tell them that I'm happy, tell them that I'm gay, tell them I wouldn't have it -- any other way" -- ever chart in the U.S.? It was a No. 2 single here in April 1963. Shane, a flamboyant American soul singer in draft exile, was very popular in the clubs here at the time. His only LP "Live at the Saphire au Go Go" sells at record fairs for astronomical amounts.
And finally, do you know the Hard-to-Find-45s series of CDs? I bought all 12 on Amazon and they're fabulous. They feature a slew of one and two-hit wonders who never had enough material to warrant a "Best of" CD -- everything from Los Bravos to the Singing Nun!
Del Shannon's version of "From Me to You" was the first John Lennon-Paul McCartney composition to chart in the U.S. The story of how Shannon came to record the song, and what Lennon said to him, is told in my book "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits," so I won't repeat it here.
Shannon's "From Me to You" debuted on the Hot 100 the week of June 29, 1963, and spent four weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 77.
I don't know when those Beatles songs were released in Canada, but in March 1964, "Roll Over Beethoven" and "All My Loving," which were album tracks in the U.S., debuted on the Hot 100 based on sales in this country of singles released on Capitol Records of Canada.
"Summer Holiday" never appeared on the Hot 100, but Cliff Richard did have three chart entries that preceded the Beatles. "Living Doll" went to No. 30 in 1959, "Lucky Lips" worked its way to No. 62 in 1963 and "It's All in the Game" peaked at No. 25 in early 1964.
I don't know Jackie Shane at all; that may be because he never charted in the U.S.
Yes, I'm very familiar with Eric Records' "Hard-to-Find" series. Coincidentally, I wrote the liner notes for the label's release of a greatest hits collection by Tommy Edwards, whose biggest hit was the above-mentioned "It's All in the Game."
I worked in an independent record store in Culver City, Calif. from 1964-1972. I was responsible for keeping the large selection of 45 rpm oldies in stock, and that's when I first became aware of Eric Records. In the 1970s, a friend of mine who worked at NBC as I did told me one of his best friends was the founder of Eric Records, Bill Buster. I met Bill soon after and we have been friends ever since.
When Derek Goss inquired about No. 1 records that spent the fewest weeks on the top 40, the subject of No. 1 records on the Hot 100 for the fewest weeks surfaced. The Beatles had four other records besides "Can't Buy Me Love" that spent a record low 10 weeks total on the Hot 100: "Eight Days a Week," "Paperback Writer," "Penny Lane" and "The Long and Winding Road."
The Supremes' "I Hear a Symphony" and Herman's Hermits' "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" share this dubious distinction.
Garden Grove, Calif.
All of which I'm sure the Beatles, the Supremes and Herman's Hermits would like to forget!
If all predictions are accurate, the man born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, now Sir Elton John, is about to have his sixth U.K. No. 1 single this week, with a Fatboy Slim remix of a track from the 1970s called "Are You Ready for Love?"
Like nearly all of Elton's chart toppers in the U.K., "Are You Ready for Love?" is a re-release of a song that did not top the charts originally. When first released in 1977, the song failed to reach the U.K. top-40.
Here are other examples of Elton recycling for gold (all U.K. chart positions):
"Your Song" - Original version peaked at No. 7; remake last year as a duet with tenor Allesandro Safina peaked at No. 4.
"Candle in the Wind" - Originally No. 11; first remake (with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) No. 5; second remake (the Princess Diana version) No. 1.
"Sacrifice" / "Healing Hands" - Neither track originally made the top-40, but reissued back-to-back in 1990, they went to No. 1.
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" - Original No. 16; with George Michael, No. 1.
"Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" - Originally No. 11; with the U.K. boy band Blue, No. 1.
The only exception: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" originally made No. 1 with Kiki Dee, but the remake with RuPaul stalled at No. 7. That must have been a drag.
I've been waiting patiently to write about Elton John collecting another No. 1 song in the U.K., but I think you just wrote next week's column for me!