The last of the renewing hit single

The Spy Who Loved Me

Carly SimonHere is my last list of the renewing hit single. I define it as that pop single that lifts the artist to that place on the Billboard pop charts to where they had been in the past.

Upside Down – Diana Ross. In 1980, her first #1 since 1976’s Love Hangover.

Walk Away From Love – David Ruffin. He had two Top Ten songs, each reaching #9. This one from 1976, and his first solo hit, My Whole World Ended in 1969.

Winning – Santana. This track hit #17 in 1981. The previous Top 20 single was Everybody’s Everything, #12 in 1971.

Laughter In The Rain – Nel Sedaka. This song in 1975 was his first #1 since Breaking Up Is Hard To Do in 1962.

The Simons

Nobody Does It Better – Carly Simon. The song from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me reached #2 in 1977. Her previous Top Five was Mockingbird in 1974, with James Taylor. Before that, You’re So Vain, #1 in 1973.

My Little Town – Simon and Garfunkel. This one-off reunion appeared on both Simon’s and Garfunkel’s solo albums as it went to #9 in 1975. Cecilia was their last Top Ten track, hitting #4 in 1970.

Strangers In The Night – Frank Sinatra. Went to #1 in 1966. His last Top Ten was Witchcraft, #6 in 1958. His previous #1, Learnin’ the Blues in 1955.

Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me, Girl – the Spinners. It was #2 in 1980. The Rubberband Man was #2 in 1976.

Streets of Philadelphia – Bruce Springsteen. Before this #9 track from the movie Philadelphia, he most recently reached the Top Ten in 1988 with Tunnel of Love, which also got to #9.

She Works Hard For The Money – Donna Summer, With ten Top Five songs between 1976 and 1980, at least one a year, ending with the #3 The Wanderer in 1980, it wasn’t until 1983 before she got her next one, a #3 smash.

Tee to Zee

Her Town Too – James Taylor. His track with J D Souther reached #11. His previous Top 20 track was Your Smiling Face, #20 in 1977.

My Melody of Love – Bobby Vinton. the last Top Song for him was I Love How You Love Me, #9 in 1968. His last Top 20 hit reached #3 in 1974. It’s sung partially in Polish, and I have a great deal of affection for it. For years, almost every time I’d visit my hometown of Binghamton, I’d hear this song on the radio.

What Does It Take – Jr. Walker and the All-Stars. Like his big hit, Shotgun in 1965, this song too reached #1, in 1969. On one of those Motown compilations, Junior complained that the songwriter kept pitching it, but that Junior didn’t think it was his style. The voiceover: “But the songwriter won out.” That would have been Johnny Bristol, Vernon Bullock, or Harvey Fuqua.

Higher and Higher – Jackie Wilson. the #6 single in 1967 was his first Top Ten finish since Baby Workout, #5 in 1963.

Just the Two of Us – Bill Withers. The collaboration with Grover Washington, Jr. reached #2 in 1981, as did Use Me in 1972.

Smell Like Nirvana – Weird Al Yankovic. He was not a singles success in the 20th century, but this song got to #35 in 1992. Previously, Fat hit #99 in ’88, and Like A Surgeon, #47 in 1985.

Time of the Season – the Zombies. The group had its previous Top 10 hit with Tell Her No, #6 in 1965. It had to break up to get another one, #3 in 1969.

Time between the pop hits, part 1


Modern Love. David BowieWhen 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.

1961 looks the same flipped (I96I)

two instrumentals

bobby lewisOne of the more arcane things I remember growing up is that 1961 looked the same flipped over or right-side-up if you used the correct font. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs for the Yankees in ’61.

I was watching that Hemingway series on PBS by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The disastrous Bay of Pigs incursion meant that the author would never be able to return to his beloved home in Cuba. He died that very year.

By 1961, we’re up to the #1 songs I mostly can recall.

Tossin’ and Turnin’ – Bobby Lewis, seven weeks at #1. It’s one of those songs on every other compilation of songs of the late Fifties and early Sixties.

Big Bad John – Jimmy Dean, five weeks at #1, gold record. I loved this song as a kid, more a spoken word recording. But is anyone weirded out by him still plugging his sausages on television commercials when he died in 2010?

Runaway – Del Shannon, four weeks at #1, gold record. Bonnie Raitt did a great cover version.

Wonderland by Night – Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra, three weeks at #1, gold record. Instrumental.
Pony Time – Chubby Checker, three weeks at #1. His previous #1 was The Twist in 1960. His subsequent #1 was The Twist in 1962.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens, three weeks at #1, gold record. A song with a complicated history.
Blue Moon – the Marcels, three weeks at #1. Probably my favorite song from that year, written in the 1930s by Rodgers and Hart.
Take Good Care Of My Baby – Bobby Vee, three weeks at #1. I KNOW this song, but not from this version, or Bobby Vinton’s. (For a while I thought Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton were the same person.) Or the Beatles’. Hmm.

Two Weeks at #1

Calcutta – Lawrence Welk and his orchestra, gold record. Instrumental. I watched Welk a LOT growing up.
Runaround Sue – Dion, gold record. Dion seemed somehow cooler than the other ’59-’62 artists.
Michael – the Highwaymen, gold record. This a song – “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” – that my father used to sing, then my sister Leslie and I would sing with him in concert. BTW, the singers were the 1960s “collegiate folk” group, not the ’80s supergroup of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.

Travelin’ Man – Ricky Nelson. I wonder if he performed this on the TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966)?
Quarter To Three – Gary U.S. Bonds, gold record. I love this song.
Hit the Road, Jack – Ray Charles. One of the great call-and-response songs ever.
Surrender– Elvis Presley, platinum record. I hear the intro and think of some spy movie.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – the Shirelles. My favorite song, as performed by Carole King.

A single week at #1

Mother-in-Law – Ernie K-Doe. I first heard this song on a Herman’s Hermits album; this is much better. I should note I love my MIL.
Please Mr. Postman – The Marvelettes, gold record. I heard this first by The Beatles. I’m fond of both.
Wooden Heart – Joe Dowell. I remember this song, but I couldn’t have named the artist. In fact, ask me in six months, and I probably still couldn’t.
Moody River – Pat Boone. No recollection of this song, thank goodness.
Running Scared – Roy Orbison. I appreciated him more in retrospect.

1910 #1 hits : discs rule!

Bert Williams (pictured)

According to A Century of Pop Music: “By 1910, discs had assumed full dominance of the popular record market over wax cylinders…” And that advantage “expanded every year…”

Joel Whitburn explains, “Sheet music sales achieved an all-time high in 1910, with published estimates ranging from 30 million to substantially more. Two six-million sellers were ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ and ‘Down By the Old Mill Stream.'” I know both quite well, and I’m not nearly that old. “Not the new, but the old…”

Another popular song from 1910, Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet by Arthur Clough (#3) and the popular Haydn Quartet, among others.

Casey Jones – Billy Murray & the American Quartet (RCA Victor), 11 weeks at #1. Though the RIAA didn’t start certifying records until more than 40 years later, it was designated a gold single. It was “one of the biggest sellers of the entire acoustic recording era.” Billy Murray also had a #3 hit as a solo artist that same summer.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon – Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet (RCA Victor), 9 weeks at #1. Billy Murray was ubiquitous in this period. The song also went to #2 as performed by both the Columbia Male Quartet and Ada Jones. The Tin Pan Alley standard was first performed on-stage by Lillian Lorraine in the “Ziegfeld Follies of 1909.” Another song that is still a classic over a century later.

More hits

Where the River Shannon Flows – Harry MacDonough, 6 weeks at #1. The Irish Swanee River.

Play That Barber-Shop Chord – Bert Williams, 6 weeks at #1. “Bert Williams (November 12, 1874 – March 4, 1922) was a Bahamian American and was one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920. In 1918, the New York Dramatic Mirror called Williams “one of the great comedians of the world.”

Every Little Movement – Harry MacDonough & Lucy Isabelle Marsh, 4 weeks at #1.

Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon – Ada Jones & American Quartet (Columbia), 4 weeks at #1. Written by Irving Berlin.

Meet Me To-Night In Dreamland – Henry Burr, 4 weeks at #1.

Carrie (Carrie Marry Harry) – Billy Murray, 2 weeks at #1.

In the Valley of Yesterday – Harry MacDonough (RCA Victor), 2 weeks at #1. Recorded in 1905.

Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! – Byron Harlan & Frank Stanley, 1 week at #1. Apparently recorded in 1907.

Pop Hits 1940-1954, #1 on the charts

This song was in my father’s folk repertoire. Sometimes he’d sing it in my classroom, causing idle speculation that I had a crush on a girl in class.

Tennessee WaltzJoel Whitburn has compiled several books about the variety of pop hits from the Billboard charts plus other sources, and even before magazine was published. (He has a Pop Memories book going back to 1890!)

But the results are a tad confusing, because there were actually THREE different charts: Best Sellers (BS from 1940), Juke Box charts (JB from 1944) and Disc Jockey charts (DJ from 1945).

So I thought I’d pick out songs that charted at #1 ten weeks or more, or if there were none for that particular year, the songs that charted most often.

1940/2/10 In the Mood -Glenn Miller and His Orchestra – 13 weeks (including a week in 1939)

1941/3/29 Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy) – Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra; Bob Eberly & Helen O’Connell, vocal – 10 weeks.

1942/10/31 White ChristmasBing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers, orchestra conducted by John Scott Trotter- 11 weeks; it also went to #1 DJ in 1945. A new version, with same backing, hit #1 for two weeks DJ in 1946. One of the biggest singles of all time.

1943/3/6 I’ve Heard That Song Before – Harry James and His Orchestra, Helen Forrest, vocal- 13 weeks.

1943/11/6 Paper Doll – Mills Brothers – 12 weeks. I loved those guys.

1944/1/15 Shoo-Shoo BabyAndrews Sisters – 9 weeks JB,

1944/8/5 Swinging On A Star – Bing Crosby, with The Williams Brothers Quartet, orchestra conducted by John Scott Trotter – 9 weeks BS; 8 weeks JB.

1945/2/10 Rum And Coca-Cola – The Andrews Sisters, orchestra conducted by Vic Schoen- 10 weeks JB; 8 weeks BS.

1945/9/15 Till The End Of Time – Perry Como, orchestra conducted by Russell Case -10 weeks JB; 8 weeks BS. This is based on Chopin’s Polonaise.

1946/3/16 Oh! What It Seemed To Be – Frankie Carle & his Orchestra, vocal by Marjorie Hughes – 11 weeks JB; 6 weeks BS. This track competed with a version by Frank Sinatra, orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl, which was #1 for ONLY 8 weeks DJ.

1946/5/25 The Gypsy – Ink Spots – 13 weeks JB; 10 weeks BS; 2 weeks JB.

1947/8/30 Near You – Francis Craig & his Orchestra, vocal by Bob Lamm – 17 weeks DJ; 13 weeks JB; 12 weeks BS.

1948/11/6 Buttons And Bows – Dinah Shore and her Happy Valley Boys – 10 weeks BS; 9 weeks JB; 5 weeks DJ.

1949/5/14 Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend) -Vaughn Monroe & his Orchestra, vocal by Vaughn Monroe and the Quartet – 12 weeks DJ; 11 weeks BS; 10 weeks JB.

1950/3/25 If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked A Cake – Eileen Barton with the New Yorkers – 10 weeks DJ; 3 weeks JB; 2 weeks BS. Occasionally, my mother would sing this chorus.

1950/4/29 The Third Man Theme – Anton Karas – 11 weeks BS.

1950/5/6 The Third Man Theme – Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, guitar solo by Don Rodney – 11 weeks JB.

1950/8/13 Goodnight Irene – Gordon Jenkins & his Orchestra and The Weavers – 13 weeks BS; 12 weeks JB; 8 weeks JB. This song was in my father’s folk repertoire. Sometimes he’d sing it in my classroom, causing idle speculation that I had a crush on a girl in class.

1950/12/16 Tennessee Waltz -Patti Page, orchestra conducted by Jack Rael – 13 weeks JB; 9 weeks BS; 8 weeks DJ.

1951/9/8 Because Of You – Tony Bennett, orchestra conducted by Percy Faith – 10 weeks JB; 8 weeks BS; 8 weeks DJ. His voice has changed a LOT over the years.

1951/12/29 Cry – Johnnie Ray, with The Four Lads – 11 weeks BS; 10 weeks DJ; 9 weeks JB. I only really know Johnnie Ray from references in other songs.

1952/3/15 Wheel Of Fortune – Kay Starr, orchestra conducted by Harold Mooney – 10 weeks JB; 9 weeks BS; 9 weeks DJ.

1952/9/13 You Belong To Me – Jo Stafford, orchestra conducted by Paul Weston – 12 weeks DJ; 5 weeks BS; 2 weeks JB. I remember this song surprisingly well.

1952/9/27 I Went To Your Wedding – Patti Page, orchestra conducted by Jack Rael – 10 weeks JB; 5 weeks BS; 2 weeks JB.

1953/5/16 The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart) – Percy Faith & his Orchestra, featuring Felicia Sanders – 10 weeks BS; 9 weeks DJ; 6 weeks JB.

1953/8/8 Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You) – Les Paul and Mary Ford – 11 weeks BS; 9 weeks JB; 3 weeks DJ.

1954/6/5 Little Things Mean A Lot – Kitty Kallen, orchestra conducted by Jack Pleis – 9 weeks BS; 8 weeks DJ; 7 weeks JB.

1954/8/7 Sh-Boom – The Crew-Cuts, orchestra conducted by David Carroll – 9 weeks DJ; 8 weeks JB; 7 weeks 7 weeks. The pop hits of rock and roll era are on the horizon.

For ABC Wednesday

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