When I was a kid, I became aware that I would not hear from a particular artist for a while, with time between the pop hits. Then they would make what appeared to be a commercial comeback. And, if it were an artist I enjoyed, this would make me exceedingly happy.
I’m limiting this to the pop hits on the Billboard charts. They may have had country, rhythm and blues, or adult contemporary charters. But ever since I was a library page in high school, I relied on the pop charts.
There won’t be much from the 1950s, since they came to my ears simultaneously as “oldies.” Probably nothing from the 21st century because I don’t listen to commercial radio much anymore.
And because it’d be too damn long, I’m doing it in four parts. you know, sort of like harmonies.
Lonely People – America. In 1971, my freshman year of college, America performed. I didn’t go because of them, even though the admission was only fifty cents. Only a few months later A Horse with No Name (#1), I Need You (#9), and Ventura Highway (#8) ruled the airways. After a bit of a lull, they returned with Tin Man and Lonely People (#5 in 1975). My love for the latter is so great, I wrote a whole post about it.
Rock and Roll Music – the Beach Boys. I don’t love this version. But after the group had been relegated to being an oldies act, they put out an album of new music called 15 Big Ones, which I bought. This (#5 in 1976) was the lead cut. It was their first Top 20 single since Do It Again ((#20 in 1968) and first Top 5 since the #1 Good Vibrations in 1966.
Got To Get You Into My Life – The Beatles. This is a bit of a cheat. A single six years after The Long and Winding Road hit #1 in 1970. But I love the song, which reached #7 in 1976. One could make the case for Free As A Bird, a “new” tune, #6 in 1996.
Jive Talkin’ – the Bee Gees. Probably the inspiration of this project, after seeing the documentary How Do You Mend a Broken Heart and reading J. Eric Smith’s post on the group. My FAVORITE song by the group, and their first #1 in four years.
Steppin’ Out – Tony Bennett. Another cheat. This garnered airplay on MTV, which lifted his album sales for the first time in two decades.
No Particular Place To Go – Chuck Berry. At #10 in 1964, his first Top 10 since Johnny B. Goode, #8 in 1958. BTW, I despise – and own on an LP, his only #1, My Ding-A-Ling in 1972.
Time Is Tight – Booker T. and the MG’s. At #6 in 1969, their highest single since their first hit, Green Onions, #3 in 1962.
Modern Love – David Bowie. I’m surprised how poorly the singles after Golden Years (#10 in 1976) were because I know these songs so well. TVC 15 (#64), Ashes to Ashes (#101), Fashion (#70) Cat People (#67). Even Under Pressure, with Queen, only got to #29. Then the Let’s Dance album, which generated the title #1 single, his first since Fame (1975). But it wasn’t a one-off, with China Girl (#10) and Modern Love (#14) all charting in 1983.
Living In America – James Brown. The Godfather of Soul had over 100 songs on the pop charts. But his hit from Rocky IV (#4 in 1986) was his first Top 20 since Get On The Good Foot (#18 in 1972), and his first Top 10 since Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud (#10 in 1968). Only I Got You (#3 in 1965) charted higher. Long version.
A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash. Ring of Fire hit #17 in 1963, but this song, recorded in San Quentin prison got to #2 in 1969.
Crying Time – Ray Charles. #6 in ’66, and his first Top 10 since Busted, #4 in 1963.
Change The World – Eric Clapton. A Top 5 in 1996, it was his first hit since Tears in Heaven (#2 in 1992), which was his first Top 10 since I Can’t Stand It in 1981.
You Got What It Takes – Dave Clark Five. After three top 10 hits in 1965, including the #1 Over and Over, a brief return to form in 1967 at #7.
Ramblin’ Rose – Nat King Cole. the #2 hit in 1962 was the first Top 5 cut since Looking Back in 1958. I suppose I could have picked Unforgettable with Natalie Cole, #14 in 1991, 25 years after he had last charted, and 26 years after he died. But I didn’t.
Send In The Clowns – Judy Collins. She wasn’t a big singles star. But the reissue of this single, which had reached #36 in 1975, managed to hit #19 in 1977, her biggest record since Amazing Grace, #15 in 1971.
Nightshift – the Commodores. This tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson reached #3 in 1985, a return to the Top 5 after Oh No, #4 in 1981.