"Chart Beat" columnist Fred Bronson discusses Joni Mitchell, Apple's iTunes, last name chart coincidences, James Ingram, and Madonna, with readers.

TRAVELS WITH JONI

Hi Fred,

As a longtime Joni Mitchell fan (and chart junkie), I have a few Joni-related chart questions:

First, is the promo single/album track "Big Yellow Taxi" by Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton (currently at No. 47 on the Hot 100) a cover of the Joni song? If so (or heck, even if not), could you provide a list of versions of the song that have charted, with highest position reached?

Also, I missed the boat completely on Joni's recent "Travelogue" release (a friend had to tell me it was in stores). A two-disc set of Joni doing orchestral covers of her own songs isn't exactly top-10 material, but did the album chart at all on The Billboard 200?

Thanks,

Joe Sadusky

Dear Joe,

"Travelogue" has not appeared on The Billboard 200 yet (he said optimistically). The most recent Joni Mitchell album to chart was "Both Sides Now," which peaked at No. 66 the week of April 29, 2000.

The Counting Crows/Vanessa Carlton "Big Yellow Taxi" is the Joni Mitchell song. It's the fifth version to chart. Mitchell's original peaked at No. 67 in 1970, while a cover version by the nine-member group Neighborhood went to No. 29 that same year. A live recording of the song by Mitchell reached No. 24 in 1975. Twenty years later, Amy Grant recorded the song, and her single stalled at No. 67.

In 1997, Mitchell was featured along with Q-Tip on Janet Jackson's "Got 'Til It's Gone," which sampled "Big Yellow Taxi." The track wasn't released as a commercial single, and so wasn't eligible to appear on the Hot 100 under the chart rules that existed at that time. The song did go to No. 36 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart.



APPLE, AS IN THE VALLEY

Dear Fred,

Speaking of a pop music explosion (in your letter from Dean Smedley), I was wondering what your thoughts are on Apple Computer's new song downloading service. From the ads and the reviews, it appears to be the first real contender to the downloadable music scene (the legal, downloadable music scene, that is). Coupled with their launch of the iPod, I think we can add Apple's recent innovation to the list of items changing the scene of popular music. Any thoughts?

James D. Zimmerman
Apple Valley, Minn.
Zimmerman@Charter.net

Dear James,

At home, I'm a PC guy, though we do have Apple computers in the Billboard office. Still, I haven't checked out the music store at Apple yet. It sounds like a great idea to me -- paid downloads for 99 cents each. The fact that they had a million downloads in the first week is a good indication of exactly how great an idea this is.

I have an MP3 player, and an MP3 CD player, and I do plan to buy an iPod now that they're available for Windows. Or should I just switch from PC to Apple?



SO NICE THEY NAMED THEM TWICE

Howdy Fred!

In "Chart Beat Bonus," a reader wondered if this is the first time that two different songs in the top-10 have singers with the same last name. It's happened several times. Here are some I found:

• Dodie Stevens' "Pink Shoelaces" and Connie Stevens' "Kookie Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" were in the top-10 together on May 11, 1959.
• Brenda Lee's "Dum Dum" and Curtis Lee's "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" on Aug. 7, 1961.
• Ray Stevens' "The Streak" and Cat Stevens "Oh Very Young" on June 1, 1974.
• Amii Stewart's "Knock on Wood" and Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" on April 7, 1979.
• Elton John's "Mama Can't Buy You Love" and Robert John's "Sad Eyes" on Sept. 1, 1979.
• Michael Jackson's "The Girl Is Mine" and Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" on Dec. 11, 1981.
• Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" and Rod Stewart's (again!) "Love Touch" on Aug. 9, 1986.

Also, two family members have shared time in the top-10 with different songs:

• Frank Sinatra's "That's Life" and Nancy Sinatra's "Sugar Town" on Dec. 31, 1966.
• Janet Jackson's "If" and Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" on Sept. 11, 1993.

There may be more, but I think that's enough for now!

Jeff Thomas
jeffwpi@hotmail.com

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for taking the time to look up all these double-names. David Dana-Bashian, who wrote the original letter, did amend his E-mail to include the Sinatras but I ran an earlier version he had sent.



SUPPORTING ROLE

Fred,

Regarding Darrell Roberts' letter, James Ingram was another who had a flurry of hits with others (including Quincy Jones, Michael McDonald, Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes, Patti Austin, etc.). But I believe the only time he hit the top-40 portion of the chart by himself was when he hit No. 1 in 1990 with "I Don't Have the Heart."

Another case of someone who gladly took a supporting role so that others may shine!

Andy Ray
Indianapolis

Dear Andy,

You're correct. James Ingram had one additional Hot 100 entry on his own. "There's No Easy Way" peaked at No. 58 in 1984. Still, I think of him as someone who has collaborated with other artists more than I think of him on his own.



PROUD TO BE AN 'AMERICAN'

Hi Fred,

Just wondering, what's going on with Madonna's "American Life" single? A few weeks ago it was at No. 37. I haven't seen it since. I live in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area and it's in heavy rotation on the pop stations down here. Also, I see the video quite frequently on VH1 & MTV. In terms of Billboard's Hot 100, would you consider this song a flop?

Kenny Rogers
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Dear Kenny,

"American Life" will not go down in chart history as one of Madonna's biggest hits. As the first single from a new Madonna album, it received surprisingly little airplay. This week the song holds at No. 71 on Billboard's Hot 100. I can best explain the reason by quoting from the "Singles Minded" column that appears in the May 17 issue of Billboard:


"The release of the maxi-CD pushes the title 4-3 on the sales chart with a gain of 150% to 12,000 units scanned for the week (of which 8,500 are maxi sales). But with airplay down 40%, the song's ranking does not benefit from the sales influx on the Hot 100."

Part of the problem is timing. If the maxi-single had been released earlier, "American Life" could have benefited from having sales and airplay points combined. The late release means that the song never collected enough combined sales and airplay points in the same week to rise higher than No. 37.

But the main problem is that radio didn't cotton to "American Life." There are some fine potential singles on the album, so Madonna could still earn a top-10 hit from her latest CD.