This Week’s Theme: Songs that Peaked at # 40 on the Billboard Charts (Artists A – C)
For this week’s show we get to use the greatest reference book ever published, Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. I know that the world has gone online for everything now, and I am not one of those who thinks you need to feel the pages and smell the paper of a book to enjoy reading. But a good reference book like this is not only easy to use, but worth owning just so you can randomly open up the pages and discover songs you don’t know. We own the 7th and 9th (final) editions at our house. This book is a must have in any serious music book collection.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show number twenty-two.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
How to Play Drop the Needle
Drop The Needle is a game designed for playing with records on turntables. There are many versions of this game, but the name Drop The Needle was coined by Ms. Faux’s father. He was a musician and avid life-long record collector himself, and from the time she was a small child they would play together: come home from the record store with a big stack of new purchases, pull one out, and start the game. It’s a super fun way to dig into new stuff, and a wonderful way to revisit and reappreciate old records reshelved and forgotten. In my days as a deejay, we called it “let’s check out the new records” and would flip through dozens of albums on new record delivery days.
No matter what you call it, the basic concept is this.
- Grab a random LP from the stack.
- Put on a random side.
- Drop the needle anywhere you want (starting at the beginning of a song is optional).
- Listen, analyze, discuss, repeat.
And you can still play Drop the Needle in the modern world. Just flip to a page of Joel Whitburn’s book and say “Alexa, play the song such and such by so and so.” This is hours of family entertainment, and much more educational than watching the latest Marvel Trek Wars movie.
Why only Artists from A-C?
By my count, there are over forty songs by A-C artists (group or last name) that peaked at number forty. We’ll save the rest of the artists for future Faux Shows.
Why is it the Top 40?
Why not the Top 50 or Top 34? The answer is simple. When the format was invented, 40 songs was the number of songs that could fit in the radio time slot. In other words, the technology drove the output. Other similar questions include why are singles usually 3 to 4 minutes long? That is about how long a song can be to fit on one side of a 45 RPM 7 inch record. Why do old vinyl double albums have sides 1/4 and 2/3? This allows you to put both records on your record player and have the disk changer play the first two sides without having to get up to go flip them over. Then you can do the same with sides 3 and 4. Why is the max length on a CD around 70 minutes? Same thing (although probably more technical).
Songs for this week’s theme:
- Blue Oyster Cult “Burnin’ For You” (10/3/81)
- The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star” (12/15/79)
- The Cure “Just Like Heaven” (1/9/88)
- Con Funk Shun “Too Tight” (2/28/81)
- B.T. Express “Give It What You Got” (9/6/75)
- James Brown “Get It Together Pt. 1” (11/25/67)
- James Brown “Bewildered” (4/3/61)
- Gene Chandler “What Now” (1/16/65)
- Paul Anka “I Love You In the Same Old Way” (9/12/60)
- The Communards “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (3/7/87)
- Change “A Lover’s Holiday” (7/19/80)
- The Byrds “All I Really Want to Do” (8/21/65)
- The Avante-Garde “Naturally Stoned” (10/26/68)
- Ashton, Gardner, and Dyke “Resurrection Shuffle” (8/7/71)
- Chubby Checker “Lazy Elsie Molly” (7/11/64)
- The Champs “Limbo Rock” (7/14/62)
Why care about songs that peaked at # 40?
If you listen to enough songs that peaked between # 21 and 40 on the Billboard charts, you will find that there isn’t a big difference in quality. In fact, I would argue that the number of weeks that a song stays on the charts probably tells you more about it’s quality than how high it charted. But, it is called the Top FORTY. So, songs that peak at number forty ONE don’t make it. So, maybe that doesn’t sound all that important, except that there is another piece of historical trivia that get’s thrown around all of the time: One Hit Wonders. That means, literally, an artist that has exactly one song that reached the Top 40. When you read through the list of songs that peaked at number forty, you start to notice a trend. Many of them are one hit wonders. Therefore, for many artists, getting that lucky bump up from number forty one to number forty is an invitation to immortality. And if being a one hit wonder isn’t that important, then how do you explain the fact that we all know this?
Highlights from this week’s selections
Best of the Best
Arguably three of the best songs to peak at number 40 are on this list: Blue Oyster Cult, The Buggles, and The Cure (their first Top 40 hit).
James Brown actually has three songs to peak at number forty, and two of them are here.
The Byrds. They’re pretty good. This is their second Top 40 hit.
One Hit Wonders
By my count, ten of the songs that could have been on the list are one hit wonders. I included Ashton, Gardner, and Dyke, Avante-Garde, The Buggles, Change, and The Communards. I left off Jim Backus (see Novelty Songs), David Ball, Keith Barbour, Beenie Man, and Desmond Child. The songs by Avante-Garde and Ashton, Gardner, and Dyke are great examples of one hit wonders that sound like normal songs until you listen closely to the lyrics and quality of the performances and start to wonder how they were hits. Of course, that is why they peaked at number forty.
Novelty songs and gimmicks are common songs to peak low on the charts. I included a ridiculous Paul Anka song where he actually sounds drunk (this one is also notable because it is originally a B-side but became a hit) and a surf guitar version of the limbo song. I left off other “classics” such as “Who’s Your Baby,” the last hit by The Archies, and a ridiculous song by Jim Backus, “Delicious,” which isn’t currently available on most streaming platforms but can be heard here.
Artist of the Week: The Buggles
Did you know that there is a lot more to The Buggles than that song everyone knows?
Happy Birthday (August 1)
MTV: Today is the 40th anniversary of the launch of MTV, so this is a perfect day to make The Buggles the Artist of the Week.
Rick Anderson: Bassist for The Tubes.
Maria Cole: Maria Cole was married to Nat King Cole until his death and was the mother of singer Natalie Cole. She started her career as Marie Ellington and sang with Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
Caroline Shaw: She is a composer, violinist, and singer, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for her a cappella piece Partita for 8 Voices. She is the youngest person (30) to win that award. This is brand new music recorded with the group So Percussion.
Coolio: “Too Hot” is from the Coolio album with the song that uses the Stevie Wonder song. It’s not from the other album that uses the Lakeside song. This song uses the Kool and the Gang song.
Jerry Garcia: Founding member of the Grateful Dead.
Adam Duritz: Duritz is the lead singer of Counting Crows. “Elevator Boots” is from their new album Butter Miracle Suite One.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott: Elliott was a protégé of Woody Guthrie and a major influence on young Bob Dylan. This is his version of “Do Re Mi,” one of my favorite Woody Guthrie songs.
Paddy Moloney: Maloney is a founding member of the Chieftains. He plays pipes, tin whistle, bodhran, and other instruments. This song is from their 3rd album, released in 1971. They’ve been doing the traditional Irish music thing since way before it was cool to do it.
Robert Cray: I can’t help thinking about Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death when I think of Robert Cray. Let’s all watch this incredible performance by a who’s who of blues guitarists and remember SRV. This was his last performance.
All of the theme-related songs plus Robert Cray’s “Smoking Gun.”
2 for “Two”day
James Brown: “Get It Together” is one of his first true funks songs and “Bewildered” is from his early soul years and was his second Top 40 hit.
The Champs: “Limbo Rock” is a total gimmick version of the well-known limbo song and “Tequila” is one of the greatest instrumental rock songs.
Toumani Diabate “Hainamady Town”
Caroline Shaw and So Percussion “To the Sky”
Counting Crows “Elevator Boots”
All of these songs are from 1988 and were popular college radio hits on the CMJ New Music Report.
The Primitives “Crash”: This is the great single from their debut. That was about it for this band, but I still listen to this song a lot.
A House “Call Me Blue”: This is a long-forgotten song that was also about it for this band.
The Wonder Stuff “A Wish Away”: This song took college radio by storm, but the band never followed up the early success of their debut album 8 Legged Groove Machine. This is a record I recommend to others if they like guitar pop.
3 Chunks of Funk
All three of these are songs from the theme.
“Too Tight” sounds like Earth, Wind &Fire but is actually Con Funk Shun, who aren’t as good as Earth, Wind & Fire.
“Give It What You Got” is by B.T. Express, one of the best disco-era funk groups.
“Get It Together, Pt. 1” is from 1967, the year that James Brown turned funk music into a force to be reckoned with.
A Little Jazz
Nat King Cole Trio “How Deep is the Ocean”: This is a beautiful King Cole ballad that is a great example of what his trio was doing in the early to mid forties.
Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd “O Pato”: This is from the 1962 album Jazz Samba. It is the first of many bossa nova recordings by Getz, and won a Grammy for the song “Desafinado” in 1963.
Toshiko Akiyoshi “Sunday Afternoon”: Toshiko Akiyoshi was born in China and later lived in Japan before moving to the US. She performed for well over fifty years (she is currently 91 years of age) and is an extremely overlooked jazz artist, most likely because of her gender and ethnicity. Her use of Japanese music in her playing and composition was influential in the genre. Her discography covers many forms of jazz, but my favorites have always been her big band recordings with then-husband Lew Tabackin in the ’70s and ’80s.
Let’s Take a Trip Around the World
Toshiko Akiyoshi “Sunday Afternoon”
Marina Lima “Fullgas”: Marina Lima was a pioneer of Brazilian rock music in the ’80s.
The Chieftains “Sonny’s Mazurka/Tommy Hunt’s Jig”
Toumani Diabate “Hainamady Town”: Toumani Diabate is a master of the kora, a 21 string instrument from West Africa. His father recorded the first kora album in 1970 and Toumani has been recording for over thirty years. This is from Korolen, his new album recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. The entire album is beautiful.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Blue Oyster Cult||Burnin’ For You|
|2||The Buggl||Video Killed the Radio Star|
|3||The Tubes||She’s a Beauty|
|4||The Cure||Just Like Heaven|
|6||A House||Call Me Blue|
|7||The Wonder Stuff||A Wish Away|
|8||Con Funk Shun||Too Tight|
|9||BT Express||Give It What You Got|
|10||James Brown||Get It Together (Pt. 1)|
|12||Gene Chandler||What Now|
|13||Paul Anka||I Love You in the Same Old Way|
|14||Maria Cole||Sweet Georgia Brown|
|15||Nat King Cole||How Deep Is the Ocean|
|16||Stan Getz||O Pato|
|17||Toshiko Akiyoshi||Sunday Afternoon|
|19||The Chieftains||Sonny’s Mazurka, Tom Hunt’s Jig|
|20||Toumani Diabate||Hainamady Town|
|21||Caroline Shaw||To the Sky|
|22||The Communards (with Sarah Jane Morris)||Don’t Leave Me This Way|
|23||Change||A Lover’s Holiday|
|25||Kurtis Blow||If I Ruled the World|
|26||Big Daddy Kane||Raw|
|27||Robert Cray||Smoking Gun|
|28||Counting Crows||Elevator Boots|
|29||Grateful Dead||Friend of the Devil|
|30||Ramblin’ Jack Elliott||Do-re-mi|
|31||The Byrds||All I Really Want to Do|
|33||Ashton, Gardner, & Dyke||Resurrection Shuffle|
|34||Chubby Checker||Lazy Elsie Molly|
|35||The Champs||Limbo Rock|
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