Fred Bronson discusses Little Peggy March, "American Idol," Celine Dion's Adult Contemporary chart success, Jennifer Lopez, singles and Ireland's contributions to the annual Eurovision Song Contest.
ASKING ABOUT MARCH IN APRIL
I noticed in your "Chart Beat Bonus" article about Peggy March that you never mentioned her birth name, Margaret Annemarie Battavio. I did some research on how she acquired her stage name and discovered that she was called "Little" by her first producers at RCA since she was only 4'10" at the time. "March" came from the month of her birth. But I'm still curious as to how she came to be known as "Peggy," instead of "Meg," "Maggie," or even "Annie." Do you know?
When producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore told Peggy March they were going to call her "Little Peggy March," she responded, "Please don't do that." Peggy told me years later, "They said it was cute. The one thing I never liked was to be made smaller than I was, but I had no say. When I was 16, we officially dropped 'Little.'"
So it might come as a surprise that she is sometimes still billed as "Little Peggy March." When she's starring in the "Legendary Ladies of Rock & Roll" show at the Stardust in Las Vegas, the huge marquee on the strip reads, "Little Peggy March," because that's how people know the woman who sang "I Will Follow Him." But when she opens for Don Rickles, that same marquee says, "Peggy March."
As for her first name, Peggy is a popular nickname for Margaret. I know a lot of Margarets who go by Peggy but I've never asked any of them why that is so. Is there a Peggy reading this column who would like to explain why?
And by the way, I'm not sure "Little Maggie March" would have had the same resonance, but maybe we're just so used to hearing "Little Peggy March" that any other name sounds strange.
A couple of thoughts on this week's charts happenings:
1) It's not too surprising to see the "American Idol" finalists' version of "God Bless the U.S.A." debut so high on the Hot 100, but realistically I also expect a huge drop for the same track next week. Almost certainly most of the song's points came from first-week sales, which will swiftly dwindle with the release of the album "American Idol Season 2 - All Time Classic Love Songs." Radio's (at best) tepid response will not be enough to boost it and it could easily drop out of the top-20 next week. Does its high debut set a new record for the modern technology era?
2) Kelly Clarkson has now had a debut single go to No. 1 and a debut album go to No. 1. When was the last time this happened?
The CD featuring love songs performed by the finalists of the second season of "American Idol" will be in stores April 29, so album sales won't affect the second-week sales of the single "God Bless the U.S.A." Still, there could be a dramatic drop in the number of singles sold of this charity single. A chart plunge is possible, but if sales continue at a healthy pace, we may be surprised at where "God Bless the U.S.A." will be on next week's Hot 100.
We don't have to go back very far to find an artist who went to No. 1 with a debut single and album. Ashanti topped the Hot 100 with "Always on Time," recorded with Ja Rule, and then with her self-titled debut album. Another artist who had twin debut No. 1s was Clarkson's label-mate, Christina Aguilera. She topped the Hot 100 with "Genie in a Bottle" and The Billboard 200 with her eponymous debut set.
A NEW E-MAIL HAS COME
Hello, Mr. Bronson!
As always, your column is one thing I visit every time I check out Billboard.com. I was wondering if you could give us the list of songs by Celine Dion that have made Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Does she hold the record for No. 1 songs or entries? I keep seeing her songs on the chart. Now "Have You Ever Been in Love" is getting heavy airplay.
From "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" to her current entry, Celine might hold a record soon. Please let us fans know her status.
Celine Dion has been called the queen of the Adult Contemporary chart, and with good reason. "Have You Ever Been in Love" is her 31st song to appear on this survey, over a period of 12 years, six months, and one week, dating back to the debut of "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" the week of Oct. 27, 1990.
I can't list all 31 songs here, but will you settle for a recap of her 11 No. 1 hits? Here they are:
"If You Asked Me To," three weeks (1992)
"Nothing Broken But My Heart," one week (1992)
"The Power of Love," four weeks (1994)
"Because You Loved me," 19 weeks (1996)
"It's All Coming Back to Me Now," five weeks (1996)
"All by Myself," three weeks (1997)
"My Heart Will Go On," 10 weeks (1998)
"To Love You More," eight weeks (1998)
"I'm Your Angel," 12 weeks (1998) [R. Kelly & Celine Dion]
"That's the Way It Is," one week (1999)
"A New Day Has Come," 21 weeks (2002)
That's an impressive list, but Celine does not have the most No. 1 songs of any AC artist. She is tied for fourth place with Lionel Richie, who also has 11. Barry Manilow is in third place with 13, the Carpenters are second with 15, and Elton John holds the record with 16.
You didn't inquire about top-10 hits, but Celine isn't yet among the top-25 artists when it comes to the most songs to reach the top-10. Artists with much longer chart careers are ahead of her, including Elton John (who has the most, with 38), Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers, and many others. You did ask if Celine has the most chart entries, and again, she doesn't figure in the top-25. Barbra Streisand has the most AC entries, with 63. Among the artists who have more AC chart entries than Celine are Johnny Mathis (48), Dionne Warwick (45), Bobby Vinton (44), Al Martino (41), Engelbert Humperdinck (33), and Jack Jones (32).
One field where Celine is the undisputed champ is the list of who has spent the most weeks at No. 1. Looking over her 11 chart-toppers, you probably noticed that several of them had impressively long runs. Dion has spent 87 weeks at No. 1, far ahead of the runner-up, Elton John, who has led the list for 49 weeks.
WHAT A FEELING
I recently caught the new Jennifer Lopez video, "I'm Glad," on MTV. As you probably know, this is the David LaChapelle clip, inspired by the movie "Flashdance." However, I don't know if "inspired" is the right word so much as "totally lifted from" is. Do you know if there are any rules regarding re-shooting movie images in a video? If the J-Lo video was about a dancer coming to the top, it wouldn't be a big deal, but with so many sections of the video blatantly coming from "Flashdance," it really makes me wonder.
This falls under the heading of "tribute," not rip-off. I doubt if the owners of the rights to "Flashdance" would have any interest in a lawsuit when someone is paying homage to the original film. It would be a different story if someone tried to remake the movie without obtaining the rights, but that's not the case here.
I know you get this a lot, but I just want to say I enjoy your column, and own a few of your books, and am looking forward to the next edition of "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits." I hate to bring up the singles debate again, but there are some things I am curious about.
First of all, I was wondering if you have any idea what profits record companies were making when singles still had a place in the music industry? Profits are often cited as the reason record companies are hesitant to release a commercial single. Is the real reason programs like KaZaA, that have eliminated demand for a single song? If so, that is confusing, because KaZaA is international, and the British singles market is still alive and kicking.
Second, I was wondering if you think they should still release singles at all? I personally think they should, especially for the lead off single for the album. If they want to cut corners to increase profit, I would understand not releasing singles for later releases from the album. The first release from an album is crucial, and a commercial single excites the consumer.
What do you think?
Thanks for the kind words about my column and the books.
I don't have profit figures at my fingertips, and while that information could be found through research, that's beyond the time and scope of "Chart Beat." For now, please accept the idea that at one time singles were profitable for record companies, but in recent years they have been more loss leader than profit center.
Ironically, downloadable music may be reviving the singles market. Some services will only allow you to download an entire album, but more and more paid downloads are available song-by-song, allowing consumers to buy individual tracks rather than an entire album, if they wish. We'll see how this all plays out, but it looks to me like the single will once again be a viable format, albeit in downloadable form rather than a tangible product you buy in a store.
I don't know if you've heard, but Ireland had a similar program to Spain's "Operacion Triunfo" to pick our representative for this year's Eurovision Song Contest, with a series called "You're a Star" selecting representatives from various regional finals, going forward to a series of weekly shows in Dublin. Each week one or two acts were dropped in what turned out to be a hugely successful, and at times controversial, TV show for RTE and which generated huge revenues from the volumes of phone and text-message votes.
The eventual winner was a guy called Mickey Joe Harte, singing "We've Got the World," written by Martin Brannigan and Keith Molloy. They've written songs for Boyzone in the past. The second-placed entry, "A Better Plan," written by Brian McFadden of Westlife and sung by Simon Casey, has kept 50 Cent from the No. 1 spot in the Irish charts for the last three weeks. The release of Mickey Joe's single has been delayed due to the recent death of his father.
I'm working my way through all of the national finals now, watching the videos before I head off to Riga in Latvia to cover the 48th annual Eurovision Song Contest. I haven't watched the last installment of "You're a Star" yet, but it's sitting in my living room and I've moved it up to the top of the pile after reading your E-mail. No surprise that the series was a success, given the huge ratings garnered by similar shows in other countries, including the much-discussed "American Idol" here in the U.S. Mickey Joe Harte won the telephone vote in Ireland, with 1.3 million people calling in.
Since you sent your letter, Harte's single has been released in Ireland and should be on the chart soon. The single hit the street on April 24, and the album "Sometimes Right Sometimes Wrong" will be released by Sony Records Ireland on May 23, one day before Eurovision is broadcast.
Songwriters Martin Brannigan and Keith Molloy did work with Westlife, as well as the Irish girl group, B*Witched.
Ireland has won Eurovision more than any other country, with seven victories. Ireland is the only country to win three years in a row -- in 1992, 1993, and 1994. But your home country hasn't triumphed since 1996, and two years ago was relegated out of the 2002 contest due to a low score. Will we be heading back to Ireland in 2004? We'll have to wait for the results, sometime around midnight CET as May 24 turns into May 25.