Fred Bronson discusses the Carpenters, 'The Disco Ball,' record holding artists, triple-titled tunes, artists who have charted under different names, and bad jokes with readers.

REMEMBERING KAREN

Hello Fred:

Feb. 4, 2003 marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of Karen Carpenter (where does the time go?). As a huge fan of the Carpenters to this day, I felt compelled to write, hoping that you would allow the occasion to be mentioned in your column.

The impact the Carpenters had on the Billboard charts is well noted; among other accolades, they were the No. 1 American act of the 1970s (4th overall). Despite their popularity at their peak, as evidenced by record sales, concert receipts, Grammy wins, and other awards, they had their critics. I think it's safe to say that time has treated them kindly; more respect has been given to them, especially to Karen's haunting, angelic, sincere, mesmerizing voice and Richard's crisp arrangements.

The tribute CD, "If I Were a Carpenter" from the mid-1990s, was a critical success and a labor of love. Richard and A&M Records still continue to release various hits compilations (or previously unreleased cuts) of the Carpenters in the U.S. and elsewhere; one such CD, "Love Songs" from just a few years ago, was a big seller, with a several-month Billboard chart run. I think it's also safe to say that the Carpenters were instrumental in introducing the "soft rock" genre.

Their popularity, especially in Great Britain and Japan, is still great. To me, though, it wouldn't matter how popular they are now or even in their heyday, as long as I can still listen to Karen's voice, which was so unique that it was, in my opinion, peerless.

She died way too young (at 32); yet her death brought international attention to an alarming disorder, anorexia nervosa. By many accounts, despite her fame and fortune, as evidenced by this disorder (with its underlying psychological etiology), her life may have not had the love she longed for, the unrequited love about which she often sang; her lone marriage was short-lived. And the sadness in her voice was evident in many of their songs.

I will always cherish Karen, with her voice and beauty. And I lament the songs that were never song. And I will always miss her. And I know I am not alone.

James J. Peters
Orlando, Fla.

Dear James,

Thank you for your eloquent tribute to Karen Carpenter on the 20th anniversary of her death. I know there are many "Chart Beat" readers who share your sentiments.

I still remember the strange way I found out about Karen's passing. I was living in London at the time. It was late at night on Feb. 4, and I was calling my aunt in Los Angeles to say hello. Without thinking, I didn't dial my aunt's number; I had mistakenly called a friend of mine in L.A. instead. Before he could say anything, he said I was obviously calling because I had heard about Karen's death. My friend was a major Carpenters fan -- the most devoted Carpenters fan I knew. I had to admit that not only did I not know that Karen had just died, but I hadn't even intended to call him. But I guess there are no accidents.



GET DOWN TONIGHT

Hi Fred!

I watched "The Disco Ball" on ABC on Jan. 16 and really enjoyed the show, since disco is my favorite music. While watching the closing credits, I noticed that someone named Fred Bronson was one of the writers. Did you help write this show? If so, can you give us some insight into what your role was in the process?

Hoping to see another "Disco Ball" in the future,

Michael James Miller
Middleton, Wisc.

Dear Michael,

Glad you saw the show, especially since we were opposite new episodes of "Friends" and "CSI"! Despite those ratings juggernauts, "The Disco Ball" improved on ABC's normal Nielsen ratings in the 8-10 p.m. time period on Thursday nights, so the show is being considered a big success. Just yesterday, I met with the executive producers to start work on a follow-up special. It won't be "The Disco Ball 2," although that might happen someday, but it will be something equally appealing and exciting. I can't say more at this point, but will post information when I can.

So yes, it was me. I wrote the show with Bruce Vilanch. I've known Bruce for 30 years, since he was a reporter covering television for a Chicago daily and I was an NBC publicist, but we never worked together until "The Disco Ball."

Bruce and I divided the work, so we wrote separately, each turning out half of the introductions you heard on the show. At least one -- Whoopi Goldberg's intro to the "Dancing Queen" fashion parade -- was half me, half Bruce.

I worked with executive producers John Hamlin and Jeff Margolis and producer Tisha Fein, making suggestions about which artists should be on the show and which songs they should perform. The show was John's idea and he called me months before we went into production and asked me to be involved. John was a big fan of Nicki French's recording of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and as I know Nicki, I passed along her phone number to Tisha, who called and booked her for the special -- our only performer to be flown in from the U.K.

The show was taped at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Oct. 13, as a benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles. And for those who missed it, VH1 has licensed the special for multiple airings, though I don't have airdates yet.



SOMEONE'S BEEN DOING THEIR HOMEWORK

Dear Fred,

I have recently obtained a copy of Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles 1955-1999" and haven't been able to put it down since. In any event, I've done some research that may be of interest to you -- and please if I am incorrect in any of this, let me know.

I was interested in finding out which artists have had the most Hot 100 hits without 1) hitting No. 1; 2) hitting the top-5; 3) hitting the top-10; 4) hitting the top-20; and 5) hitting the top-40. Here are the results:

1) James Brown had the most charted hits (99) without hitting No. 1. His biggest hit was "I Got You (I Feel Good)" which peaked at No. 3 in 1965.

2) Tony Bennett and Joe Simon are tied for most hits (31) without hitting the top-5, although Tony Bennett may have had top-5 hits prior to 1955. Tony Bennett's biggest hit was "In the Middle of an Island" which hit No. 9 in 1957. Joe Simon's biggest hit was "Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor)" which hit No. 8 in 1975.

3) Bobby Bland had the most hits (37) without hitting the top-10. His biggest hit was "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" which peaked at No. 20 in 1964.

4) Etta James had the most hits (28) without hitting the top-20. Her biggest hit was "Tell Mama" which peaked at No. 23 in 1967.

5) Steve Alaimo had the most hits (9) without hitting the top-40. His biggest hit was "Every Day I Have To Cry" which peaked at No. 46 in 1963.

I have to confess that James Brown and Tony Bennett are the only ones that I had even heard of prior to conducting this "research." I hope I am correct.

Thanks for your excellent column.

Andrew Thomas
Hampton, N.H.

Dear Andrew,

You've done your homework. I wish I had time to "check your work," but I don't. I can tell you that Tony Bennett did have top-5 hits prior to 1955, including three No. 1 hits. I'm not surprised you hadn't heard of Steve Alaimo (who went on to write hits for the T.K. label in the 1970s), but Etta James? Rush out and buy her greatest hits CD! You won't be sorry.



TRIPLE THREAT

Dear Fred,

By reaching No. 1 [on Billboard's Hot 100], "Bump, Bump, Bump" ties six other triple title tunes, which are songs with a title containing the same fragment, word, or phrase, grouped in exact threes. Here is a list of other such tunes to reach the top-15:

"Bills, Bills, Bills" (Destiny's Child, 1999) No. 1
"Music, Music, Music" (Teresa Brewer, 1950) No. 1
"Say, Say, Say" (Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, 1983) No. 1
"(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" (KC & the Sunshine Band, 1976) No. 1
"Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)" (The Byrds, 1965) No. 1
"You, You, You" (The Ames Brothers, 1953) No. 1
"Baby - Baby - Baby" (TLC, 1992) No. 2
"Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" (Genesis, 1987) No.3
"More, More, More Pt. 1" (Andrea True Connection, 1976) No. 4
"Fun, Fun, Fun" (The Beach Boys, 1964) No. 5
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (The Buckinghams, 1967) No.5
"Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" (Chic, 1978) No. 6
"Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" (Hank Ballard, 1960) No. 6
"Stop! Stop! Stop!" (The Hollies, 1966) No. 7
"Dance, Dance, Dance" (The Beach Boys, 1964) No. 8
"It's a Man's Man's Man's World" (James Brown, 1966) No. 8
"La La La (If I Had You)" (Bobby Sherman, 1970) No. 9
"The Cha-Cha-Cha" (Bobby Rydell, 1962) No. 10
"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" (The Police, 1980) No. 10
"Hi, Hi, Hi" (Paul McCartney and Wings, 1973) No. 10
"Buzz - Buzz - Buzz" (Hollywood Flames, 1958) No. 11
"Girls, Girls, Girls" (Motley Crue, 1987) No. 12
"Shame, Shame, Shame" (Shirley and Company, 1975) No. 13
"(Girls, Girls, Girls) Made To Love" (Eddie Hodges, 1962) No. 14

Note this list includes every peak position down to No. 14. Are there other such tunes to extend this list of consecutive peak positions?

David Dana-Bashian
Garden Grove, Calif.

Dear David,

I hope you don't expect any "Money, Money, Money" for the research you did but "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" appreciate your work. A couple of triple-treats come to mind that weren't on your list: "No, No, No Part 2" by Destiny's Child, a No. 3 hit in 1998, and "Yummy Yummy Yummy," a No. 4 hit for Ohio Express in 1968.



DIDDY AND DADDY

Hi Fred,

P. Diddy has become the first individual artist to reach the summit under two different names, as he also did it as Puff Daddy. One other act came close and that was John Cougar as he was known as in 1982 when he reached the top with "Jack and Diane." As John Cougar Mellencamp he reached No. 2 in 1986 with "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

There was, however, one group that reached pole position under two different names. Manfred Mann went to No. 1 in 1964 with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and Manfred Mann's Earth Band topped the chart in 1977 with "Blinded by the Light." Did you notice that "Diddy" is the common word here, as in "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and P. Diddy.

Larry Cohen
Trumbull, Conn.

Dear Larry,

Now if P. Diddy would just remake "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," we could be done with this!



GROAN!

Dear Fred,

A group of celebrities were playing the game Twister. Hugh Hefner put his left foot on top of Dennis Weaver's right hand. Then Mick Jagger spoke up and said, "Hey, Hugh, get off of McCloud" (plagiarized from The Oregonian newspaper).

Larry Dhooghe
Forest Grove, Ore.

Dear Larry,

I told someone the joke but forgot to mention Dennis Weaver and used Peter Graves' name instead. I don't know why, but it wasn't as funny... and for those who don't get the joke, check out the "40 Licks" album by the Rolling Stones.