Chart Beat Chat
Fred discusses Motown, "American Idol," Eurovision and the disappearance of physical singles.TAMLA, MOTOWN, GORDY AND A LITTLE BIT OF SOUL
I noticed an error in your article concerning Motown and its span of chart-topping hits. You stated that the run started with Mary Wells' "My Guy" which advanced to No. 1 the week of May 16, 1964.
Of course, that was not the case as the Marvelettes had the first Motown No. 1 with "Please Mr. Postman," which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart on Dec. 11, 1961, approximately two years and five months before "My Guy." Furthermore, Little Stevie Wonder also topped the chart on Aug. 10, 1963, with "Fingertips Pt. 2." So "My Guy" was in fact Motown's third No. 1!
Also, Motown have now had 58 No. 1 records on the Hot 100, which would make them third on your list.
John A Fraser
Hello again Fred.
A thought has just occurred to me. I've just realized that you were talking about Motown as in the label as opposed to the company. "Please Mr. Postman" was indeed Motown's first No. 1 but it was on Tamla, as was "Fingertips Pt 2." "My Guy" was in fact the label Motown's first No. 1. That would also account for the disparity in the total of No. 1 records as the additional 20 must be on Tamla, Gordy, etc.
Apologies for my misunderstanding.
John A Fraser
No need to apologize. Your second letter arrived just in time - I was just about to send my column to my editor in New York. I had already responded to your original letter. My first response follows, since I spent a long time composing it. I was pretty sure you were a Motown fan and wouldn't be surprised by my reply:
I can understand why someone in the United Kingdom might think I made a mistake counting Motown's No. 1 hits. The U.K. history of the Motown label is different from the U.S. In your country, Motown singles were issued on the London American, Fontana, Oriole and Stateside labels before the Tamla-Motown logo was introduced, starting with the Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love" in 1965. There was no "Tamla-Motown" counterpart in the United States.
Before the Motown label first appeared in America, Berry Gordy's released records on the Tamla imprint. The Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman" and Little Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips Pt. 2" were issued on Tamla.
The Motown label was finally introduced, and Mary Wells' "My Guy" was the first No. 1 on the Motown imprint, quickly followed by the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go." Martha & the Vandellas and the Temptations appeared on a third label, Gordy, and later Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jr. Walker & the All Stars and Jimmy Ruffin were assigned to the Soul label. There was also an imprint called V.I.P., best known for hits by the Elgins and the Velvelettes. There were other Motown imprints, including Chisa for jazz releases, Rare Earth for rock and Melodyland for country.
The No. 1 hits on Tamla and Gordy aren't counted when totaling up just the chart-toppers released on the Motown imprint. Even if we did combine them, Motown wouldn't rank third on the list. We'd have to combine all other labels as well, so Columbia and Epic's total would be added together, as would the No. 1 hits on Atlantic and Atco, Warner Bros. and Reprise, and Capitol and EMI America, among others.
AMERICA PICKS HICKS
You mentioned that you worked with this year's contestants with their choices for the theme of [any song from a] current Billboard top 10. As a representative of Aceaholics everywhere, just wondering if Ace Young had made a song choice before he was prematurely eliminated from the competition? Also, what are your thoughts on this year's Idols and their chances at success in the music business?
Here's hoping you'll love Ace's original material when you hear it and give it props like you did Kimberley Locke's single.
Studio City, Calif.
When I worked with the contestants this year, they were down to a top six, so Ace had already left and wasn't involved in making a song choice. Kellie Pickler was still a finalist the day I spent with the kids, but was voted off that week and so did not have to make a final decision about which top 10 song to perform.
I liked Ace's performances on the series and would look forward to hearing any new material from him. I can't tell you what I'll think of it before I hear it, but I'm predisposed to enjoying his music.
SPOILER ALERT - EUROVISION RESULTS
So Eurovision 2006 has come and gone. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The scandal for me started late Thursday night when I realized that the semi-finals had been held earlier in the day and I zoomed over to the Eurovision website to find the results. I was impressed by some of the [countries that made it into the final]. Ukraine yes, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia yes, Finland yes, Belgium -- wait -- where's Belgium? And no Iceland?!
I was completely blown away, especially for [Belgium's] Kate Ryan because she had been picked to win the whole thing by the BBC! Soon after, the semi-final videos were uploaded to [the internet] and while I still think those two countries should have made it through, I can see why the voters might not have agreed.
(Were you present for any of Silvia Night's big meltdowns? Some of the clips and the things she said were just so outlandish -- you would think at one point she would have come forward and revealed that it was all a big farce, but I guess once she was out of the competition she didn't care anymore).
So on Saturday afternoon I loaded up my computer, and was ready to watch the Grand Final. Unfortunately the first five or six songs were pretty average-to-lacking for me. Once [Germany's] Texas Lightning showed up I was getting excited and figured they would blow everyone out of the water [and so their poor finish was very disappointing].
There were some surprises - Malta's performance didn't go as well as I had expected (but at least no "nul points!"), Turkey's came across a lot better live and the audience even booed Lithuania - which I didn't think they would do in the live finale.
Lordi's win was appropriate, even though the novelty of the crazy monsters probably had something to do with it. However, that dang song is pretty catchy, a few days later I'm still singing in my head, "Hard... Rock... HALLE-LUJAHHH!" All in all it was a great first Eurovision and now I either need to get tickets for Finland in 2007 or keep my high-speed Internet!
I am sure we will read your thoughts about the show in Billboard and I am excited to see your observations.
Maybe I should have warned you - the Eurovision Song Contest can be quite addictive. Over the years I have introduced it to a number of my friends in the United States, and once they see it they want to view it every year. That may explain why it's been running for 51 years in Europe, and why we're finally about to get an American production.
Reveille Productions has licensed the format from the European Broadcasting Union and has sold the idea to NBC. I've had three Eurovision reports posted at Billboard.com, and two other stories appear in the current issue of Billboard, dated June 3. I did chronicle the adventures of Iceland's Silvia Night, so check out the magazine.
My favorite, Romania, came fourth. When I arrived in Athens to cover the event, I discovered that Romanian singer Mihai Traistariu had been informed that a Billboard writer had picked his song to win. During a one-day cruise to some Greek islands planned for delegates, Mihai interviewed me for Romanian television. I know of at least three labels that are pursuing his "Tornero" for release, so maybe he'll have an international summer hit with the song.
I was disappointed that Belgium didn't qualify for the final and, while I wanted Iceland to make it out of the semi-final, Silvia Night was also booed by the crowd at every rehearsal and during the live broadcast, so I was pretty sure she wasn't going to proceed.
Yes, the Lithuanians were booed loudly, too. I don't think it was personal as the six singers were all professional musicians and nice guys. People simply hated their song, the nursery-rhyme like "We Are the Winners." I had a great time in Athens, as I always do at Eurovision, even if the shuttle bus system between the hotels and the venue was a failure. The Greek volunteers more than made up for that with their kindness and helpful support.
Since I was in the venue, I haven't seen the contest on a television screen yet. The DVD is released on June 6, so I look forward to a screening soon after that.
MY SWEET LORDI
I love reading your column and must say that without it, I would have very little knowledge of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Now that Finland has shocked many people and won, I want to ask what is your opinion of "Hard Rock Hallelujah" by Lordi. After seeing several stories about the band's win, I located a video for the song and was pleasantly surprised. The song was much more pop-oriented than I had anticipated from seeing pictures of them and after hearing them always described as "heavy metal" or "monsters of rock." Just curious as to what you think of the song.
St. Louis, MO
Lordi's song wasn't my personal favorite song in Eurovision. It wasn't even in my top 10. But I did like the group personally and I didn't hate the song. I also recognized its potential to win, even while hoping that Romania was going to claim victory with "Tornero" (see above letter).
I agree that for a "heavy metal" song, it is very pop-oriented. European music tends to be more melodic, whether its hard rock or rap. I am glad that Finland won, as it is the country's first victory after competing since 1961. The Finnish have never even finished in the top five before, so they deserve to savor their victory. I'm sure they will make excellent hosts in 2007 and that their shuttle buses will run on time.
IS THAT YOUR VINYL ANSWER?
I can't believe it has fallen to me to document the first time in which not one song in the top 40 [portion of the Hot 100] is available on a seven-inch vinyl 45. Or that it took me about three weeks to catch it myself!
In the May 6 issue, Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" fell 36-41, with no other 45 ready to take over. Avant's "4 Minutes" is coming around the bend but didn't make it in time to keep the grand tradition alive.
I'm pretty sure I've written before about my continued dismay over the disappearance of "physical" singles, but this is big.
Can you think of any way Collectables and the remaining record "labels" can agree to release limited editions of, if not all chart hits, at least the No. 1s? I've been collecting them with increasing numbers of holes now dating back to R. Kelly's "Bump N' Grind" (1992). I discussed this with one retailer who said Collectables won't or can't reissue anything that wasn't originally issued on vinyl. That was not always the case (though the only exceptions I can think of right now are some Wilson Phillips singles, and maybe "Here Comes the Hotstepper").
I hope you will print this because this is one era that really hurts to see coming to an end. (Though since I recall the-end-is-near articles as far back as 1989, the format did pretty well for itself. It outlasted the -- I still chuckle -- "cassingle" and nearly the CD single as well).
(By the way, that's what the 45 is for -- I'm still younger than 45)
I think it was inevitable we would reach this moment - it's even surprising, as you point out, that it's happening so close to the demise of the CD single. Who ever thought during our days of collecting 45s that music would one day be intangible?
I also have a special connection to the 45rpm single. It was introduced to the world by RCA Victor the day I was born. You'll have to do your own research to find the date; I'm not going to make it that easy to find out how old I am!