Fred Bronson discusses the Beatles, George Strait, falls from No. 1, "American Juniors" and Madonna with readers.

JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE AND RINGO

Dear Fred,

I enjoy reading your "Chart Beat Bonus" and "Chart Beat Chat" columns on the Internet, so thanks for all the useful information you've given so far.

My question relates to the Beatles and their meteoric rise to popularity in the U.S. This year is the 40th anniversary of "Beatlemania" in the U.K. -- the time when the Beatles' popularity was at its height. Over here, it took about 12 months from the appearance of their first hit on our chart, "Love Me Do" in October 1962, to their long run in the top-3 (including six weeks at No. 1) with "She Loves You" during the autumn of 1963.

In the U.S., their popularity seemed to come from nowhere, if you're measuring purely on chart stats. They raced up the Hot 100 with their first hit, "I Want To Hold Your Hand." That single reached No. 1 just two weeks after their first chart appearance, and they scored five more No. 1s (plus lots more chart hits) in 1964.

My question is: how did the Beatles become so popular so quickly?

I know that it's a fairly recent phenomenon when artists see their first hits go to No. 1 -- Mariah Carey, the Spice Girls, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and Hanson to name but a few. Presumably though, all these either had a huge marketing campaign behind them (the Spice Girls) or were well-known in other media (Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez).

Did the rise of the Beatles result from a vicious marketing campaign or was it that people just loved their music and their looks?

Phil Yates
Derby, England
Philyates@kingalfred.fslife.co.uk

Dear Phil,

I lived through this phenomenal time in rock'n'roll history, so I can give you my take on the subject.

In terms of a "vicious" marketing campaign, what might have been called "vicious"in 1964 would be considered mild today, but I don't think a marketing campaign had anything to do with it. Keep in mind that the kind of campaign you can do today would have been impossible in the first half of the 1960s. There was no USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, People or Rolling Stone magazines. There were no shows like "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood," and there was no MTV, VH1 or E! Television.

The Beatles were as much as an "overnight sensation" as one could be, though some seeds were planted early in the U.S. I grew up in Los Angeles, listening to top 40 station KRLA. In the summer of 1963, KRLA played the Beatles' "From Me to You." The song went as high as No. 31 on the station's top-50. That summer, KRLA had a new DJ named Casey Kasem. I remember Casey playing "From Me to You," and saying that the Beatles were as popular in England as the Four Seasons were in America.

That local incident aside, most people in the U.S. weren't aware of the Beatles until 1964. I remember watching "The Jack Paar Show" on Friday, Jan. 3. He didn't have the Beatles on live, but he did run clips of them performing in the U.K. The next day I went to my local record store and bought a copy of the just-released "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

I think the Beatles became such "overnight sensations" because they were so good and so different. The U.S. was coming out of a period of mourning for President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated just a little over a month before. The fact that there were so many Beatles singles on the chart at the same time had to do with the fact that so many of their earlier releases on other labels were reactivated when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" took off. "She Loves You" on Swan, "Please Please Me" on Vee-Jay and "Twist and Shout" on Vee-Jay's Tollie label all charted at once.

By the way, even though "I Want To Hold Your Hand" reached No. 1 in three weeks, it wasn't at all unusual for artists to come out of nowhere and go to No. 1 with their first chart entry. In 1963, just one year before the Beatles, "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March, "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore, "Easier Said Than Done" by the Essex, "So Much in Love" by the Tymes, "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto and "Fingertips Pt. 2" by Stevie Wonder were all No. 1 songs by debut artists.



QUERY FOR THE STRAIT GUY

Dear Fred,

In last week's "Chart Beat Chat," there were questions about Madonna's No. 1s on Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play chart and who has the most No. 1s on all the charts. You had your list, but where does my favorite singer George Strait fit in the record books? Does he not have more No. 1 songs than anybody in any music genre? Did he not surpass Conway Twitty and receive an award from the Country Music Association (CMA) for that accomplishment?

Please set me "Strait."

Randy S. Smith
Pulaski, N.Y.
snuffy1959@aol.com

Dear Randy,

George Strait is almost certain to surpass Conway Twitty's record of 40 No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, but he hasn't done it yet. His most recent chart-topper, "She'll Leave You With a Smile," was his 38th No. 1 there. "Smile" spent two weeks in pole position in December 2002-January 2003.

Strait is tied with Merle Haggard in second place among artists with the most country No. 1 hits. Ronnie Milsap is in third place with 35.

Even though CMA gave Strait an award for having 50 No. 1s, you might want to check what the organization's source was, as it wasn't Billboard's country chart.



CAN'T HELP FALLING

Dear Fred,

Two weeks ago Derek Goss brought up [the subject of] No. 1 songs that fell off the chart quickly. The previous record for fewest weeks in the top-40 for a No. 1 song was eight weeks held by "I'm Telling You Now" by Freddie & the Dreamers and "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" by Herman's Hermits.

I thought I'd add that the [record for the] quickest drop off the Hot 100 after hitting No. 1 is held by three songs. They all fell off the chart four weeks after hitting No. 1. They are "Rock Me Gently" by Andy Kim, "Nothing From Nothing" by Billy Preston and "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" by Freddy Fender.

Several No. 1 songs from late 1974 through early 1975 fell out of the top-40 three weeks after hitting No. 1. I must point out at that time radio often dropped songs from their rotation as soon as they peaked. So it wasn't that the songs burned out quickly. It's safe to say Clay [Aiken] suffered a similar fate [with "This Is the Night"].

The No. 1 song that spent the fewest weeks in the top-10 was "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" by John Lennon (three weeks).

Richard K. Rogers
Brooklyn, N.Y.
dizzydoctors@hotmail.com

Dear Richard,

Thanks for keeping track of all these dubious achievements!



STAYIN' 'ALIVE'

Hi Fred,

I have two questions. First, who is the original artist of the song "Alive" that was performed by A.J. Melendez on "American Juniors" (I still say he should've made the group)?

Also, do you know if another Madonna single will be released from the "American Life" album? I still can't believe "Hollywood" failed to reach the Hot 100. What are your thoughts as to why radio has suddenly turned against her?

J.D. Wine
Chambersburg, Pa.

Dear J.D.,

Like many of the American Juniors' songs, "Alive" was originally recorded by S Club 7. The group's greatest hits collection, titled "Best," also includes "Have You Ever," "Bring the House Down," "Reach" and "Never Had a Dream Come True," all songs performed by the American Juniors.

Not that you suggested it, but I know many Madonna fans feel there is a conspiracy against her at radio. I'm not sure that's true, but it's fair to say that after the album's title track, "American Life," turned in a mid-chart performance, radio was reluctant to jump on the follow-up. Normally, a Madonna song released as a commercial single sells enough copies to chart on the Hot 100, but "Hollywood" didn't, so the blame is not all to be placed at radio's door.

As for a third single, if it were up to me, I would go with something downtempo this time, so my choice would be either "Love Profusion" or "Nothing Fails," although I personally prefer "Intervention." As far as I know, there will be a third single, and we should have official word of what it is any day now.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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