There has been a lot of media coverage about Barry Bonds overtaking Hank Aaron’s all-time home run total, which was until recently considered virtually unreachable, and it got me thinking about Billboard chart records. Although there’s never been a “steroid era” at Billboard, changes in the business and the ways charts are compiled have made some accomplishments easier to reach. For decades nobody could match the 11-week reign at No. 1 of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” / “Hound Dog,” but after Boyz II Men broke the record with “End of the Road” a number of songs spent three months or more at No. 1.
For decades, no song ever debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, but thanks to the lack of physical singles in the 1990s and “American Idol,” that’s also become a relatively common occurrence. It used to take an artist as big as the Beatles to have five songs on the Hot 100 at once. Now, thanks to featured artists and digital downloads, Hannah Montana can accomplish that feat. Not too long ago, George Strait overtook Conway Twitty for having the most No. 1 hits on the country chart, and Mariah Carey is creeping close to that point on the Hot 100.
So, I was wondering what you would consider the most unbreakable Billboard chart record. Album-wise, I doubt there’s any contest. Pink Floyd spending 741 weeks on the album chart with “Dark Side of the Moon” seems incredibly out of reach.
But singles-wise, what is least likely to happen again? The 16 weeks at No. 1 for “One Sweet Day”? The 69 weeks on the Hot 100 for “How Do I Live”? The Beatles having the top five songs on the Hot 100 in the same week? Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” becoming a No. 1 hit twice? Michael Jackson having five No. 1 hits from the same album? Or something more obscure, like Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” becoming a top 10 hit on the Hot 100, R&B, country and Adult Contemporary charts?
It’s all speculation, but I’d be curious what you and your readers think. I used to believe nobody would match what the Beatles did with the five top songs in one week, but after seeing 50 Cent and Akon with multiple top 10 hits at once I don’t know anymore.
You raise an interesting issue, one I can’t recall being discussed in Chart Beat Chat before. It’s my contention that all records will be broken someday. It may take some time and it may not happen in our lifetimes, but all records will fall eventually.
As for which ones will be the most difficult to break, your suggestion of the longevity of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is probably a wise choice. Given that albums are removed from The Billboard 200 and moved to the Top Pop Catalog chart these days, it would be almost impossible for an album to rack up 741 weeks on our main album chart.
And, as you intimate, no one would be really surprised if Akon somehow captured the top five spots on the Hot 100 with a combination of lead and featured spots, though that record would have to be asterisked, as the Beatles were all by themselves when they locked up the top five in April 1964.
Since you’ve opened up the discussion to Chart Beat readers, let’s see what records they think are unbreakable.
YOU WON’T SEE HER
I know that Anne Murray reached the top 10 on the Hot 100 with a remake of the Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me.” Didn’t it also make a dent in the country chart?
BTW, I love your column. Discovered it last year when a song by my friend climbed to No. 1 on the country chart (“I Loved Her First” [by Heartland]). Thanks for the enjoyable reading.
You’re right about Anne Murray’s cover of the Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me” reaching the top 10 of the Hot 100. That single peaked at No. 8 in 1974 and is tied with “Snowbird” as the third highest-charting title of Murray’s career. Only “You Needed Me” (No. 1 in 1978) and “Danny’s Song” (No. 7 in 1973) ranked higher.
You might be surprised to know, however, that Murray’s “You Won’t See Me” never appeared on our country singles chart. The flip side, “He Thinks I Still Care,” a remake of a No. 1 song from 1962 by George Jones, was the hit on the country chart. It was the first of Anne’s 10 No. 1 hits and spent two weeks in pole position.
Murray did have some success with another Beatles’ cover on Hot Country Songs. “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” waltzed to No. 23 in 1980, but her version of the Fab Four’s “Day Tripper” was only a Hot 100 hit, marching to No. 59 in 1975.
Glad you enjoy Chart Beat, and that the song by Heartland helped you find the column!
And as an afterthought, I should mention that your e-mail was based on an item in this week’s Chart Beat about the Rascal Flatts’ update of the Beatles’ “Revolution” debuting on Hot Country Songs, bringing songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney back to this tally for the first time in 12 years.
IS IT A HIT OR A MISS?
I came across something rare recently on the Hot Country Songs list. Carrie Underwood, who topped the country chart earlier this year with “Wasted,” followed that up with a track only available by download. Her remake of the Pretenders’ No. 16 hit from 1994, “I’ll Stand By You,” stalled out just short of the top 40 of the country list. That’s only happened three times since 2003 that I can think of. The last time this may have happened was nearly three years ago, when Sara Evans followed up her 2004 No. 1 hit “Suds In The Bucket” with a song titled “Tonight” which fizzed out at No. 41.
Burt County, Neb.
Thanks for pointing out this interesting fact. To be fair to Carrie, “I’ll Stand By You” wasn’t aimed at country radio, so it’s not surprising it didn’t fare well on the airplay-based Hot Country Songs chart. It also wasn’t released by her own record label, Arista, but was issued by Fremantle, one of the production companies (along with 19) responsible for “American Idol” and the “Idol Gives Back” special that featured Carrie’s live performance of this Pretenders track.
For news of Carrie’s history-making debut on the country chart this week with her new single, “So Small,” see the current edition of Chart Beat.
THE ‘CLOCK’ AND THE ROCK
Since Solomon Mancino and Joseph West have written in with questions/comments concerning bona fide rock groups (I am assuming certain groups of the early rock era such as the Fleetwoods, the Platters, the Browns, etc. are considered pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B, country and western or whatever, as opposed to genuine rock and roll), I still have my vote for what I consider to be the first rock group at No. 1 on the Hot 100. It is also the official first ever No. 1 rock song to go to No. 1 pop, and the song that most of us old time chart enthusiasts consider to mark the beginning of the rock era in music!
Bill Haley and His Comets’ “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock,” which started its eight-week run at No. 1 in July 1955! I realize that the concept of “Front Man and the Whomever” was a common way of naming bands in the ’50s and ’60s (Danny and the Juniors, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, etc), but I still consider these full fledged groups, as opposed to solo artists backed by studio musicians or whatever. Some of these groups we can discuss as to whether they’re actually rock, pop, AC, country, R&B or any combination thereof, but I still say Bill Haley and His Comets is the first real rock group to have pop Success on the Hot 100. Your thoughts are appreciated!
Hillel M. Zelman
To address the issue of how groups like the Fleetwoods, the Platters and the Browns were classified, I would say it has nothing to do with whether they were pop, R&B or country. They were vocal groups as opposed to rock bands, so I didn’t consider them when answering the original question about which was the first rock group to have a No. 1 song on the Hot 100.
I also didn’t consider Bill Haley and His Comets, who I agree are a rock band. If they had qualified, I would have picked them. But the question wasn’t about the first rock group to have a No. 1 song in the rock era, it was which rock group had the first No. 1 song on the Hot 100. That meant I couldn’t consider any of the No. 1 songs between July 9, 1955 (the beginning of the rock era) and Aug. 4, 1958 (the date of the first Hot 100).
It’s true that most items I write about in Chart Beat and Chart Beat are placed in the context of the entire rock era, so it’s understandable that you would think Bill Haley and His Comets should have been the answer. Because the reader specifically said Hot 100, I qualified my response to meet his criterion.
I really enjoyed all the chart chat related to Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” ascending to the top of the Hot 100. It’s the kind of Billboard event that makes all of us readers anxious to tell you what related trivia we noticed!
But I think we would be remiss if we merely focused on the “Girls” in the title, since there are quite a few titles beginning with the word “Beautiful.” Whether by itself (Christina Aguilera, Snoop Dogg/Pharrell), or describing a “Life” (Ace of Base), “Morning” (Rascals) or “Stranger” (Madonna — since she rarely gets mentioned in Chart Beat), the adjective has appeared in the lyrics and titles of many songs. However, to my knowledge, Sean Kingston may be the first to make the FIRST word of his chart-topper as beautiful as possible.
Needless to say, “Ugly” hasn’t fared quite as well on the charts, although TLC did manage to reach No. 1 with “Unpretty.” Thanks for a LOVELY column, as always.
Thanks for the beauty tip. Until Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” occupied the penthouse, the highest-ranked title to begin with the word “Beautiful” was one of the songs you referenced. “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera peaked at No. 2 in 2003.