Forgotten 45: “Eighteen With a Bullet”

(This post has been updated here.)

One of the occupational hazards of the radio biz is that you get burned out on records a lot sooner than the average listener does. In its Top 40 glory days during the 1970s, Chicago’s WLS played its top two survey hits every 75 minutes and its next two every 95 minutes. When I was a little baby DJ at KDTH in Dubuque doing 6-to-midnight on weekends, we’d play our top 10 songs three times each in the course of six hours. Certain blockbuster hits would be thus beaten to death in the ears of a station’s DJs long before the public decided it had had enough. Sometimes months before.

A more common condition is when the public gave up on records that DJs can’t get enough of. Take Pete Wingfield’s 1975 hit, “Eighteen With a Bullet.” Perhaps the reason DJs loved this more than listeners is that it’s really aimed at us–Wingfield constructs a clever metaphor of love affair-as-record chart that zooms over the head of non-insiders. Favorite bit:

I’m a super-soul sure-shot, yeah
I’m a national breakout
So let me check your playlist, mama
C’mon let’s make out

The very title refers to Billboard‘s practice of assigning “bullets” to records that show the strongest chart growth from the past week to the current week. So when Wingfield says he’s “18 with a bullet,” he’s an up-and-comer showing continued potential.

In a happenstance that seems too perfect to be coincidental, “Eighteen With a Bullet” was Number 18 with a bullet in Billboard on the chart dated November 22, 1975, before peaking at Number 15 the next week–and losing the bullet, and starting to fall down the chart. Even if listeners didn’t get all the references, it’s hard to figure how anybody could fail to respond to Wingfield’s glorious blue-eyed soul.

Dig “Eighteen With a Bullet” here. Buy it here, but beware: You’ll also get “Run Joey Run” and other inexplicable failures of taste from late 1975, but there’s enough goodness apart from Wingfield to make up for it.

3 responses

  1. I’m glad that you talk about Eighteen with a Bullet because it is one of the great underrated songs of the 70’s

  2. I remember hearing it ONCE, on WNEW FM in ’75. I fell in love with the song and sing it in the shower constantly. Of course I could only remember the first two lines, so made up the rest of the words.
    And yes, being a lay listener, I had no clue what it meant, but dug, dug, dug it anyway.

  3. […] anticipating the 70s. “A smash double-header.” And, thankfully, not entirely forgotten: Forgotten 45: “Eighteen With a Bullet”: A more common condition is when the public gave up on records that DJs can’t get enough of. Take […]

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