The mid-60s were a fascinating time for aficionados of Billboard‘s Bubbling Under singles chart. In many weeks at that time, the chart contained up to 35 singles, a wealth of not-quite-hits. Continuing with our bubbling under adventures, the six we’ll cover in this post all peaked at #101 and represent the artist’s only charted single.
“Il Silenzio”/Nini Rosso (1/1/66, ten weeks on chart). Ten weeks on the Bubbling Under chart makes this a remarkably successful song for one that’s not a hit by most people’s standards. Nini Rosso was an Italian jazz trumpeter; “Il Silenzio” was a monster in Europe, going to Number One in several countries. It incorporates “Taps” and takes off from there into old-fashioned sentimental loveliness, including a spoken bit in Italian that translates to “Good night, love/I’ll see you in my dreams/Good night to you who are far away.”
“S.O.S. (Heart in Distress)”/Christine Cooper (2/19/66, four weeks). “S.O.S.” was the first production by the team of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, who later created some of Buddah Records’ greatest hits, including hits by the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Ohio Express, and under their own name, the magnificently weird “Quick Joey Small,” billed to the Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus. (Read more about the early days of the Kasenetz-Katz pairing here.) “S.O.S” is girl-group R&B, but its Morse code noises are pure bubblegum invention.
“He Wore the Green Beret”/Lesley Miller (3/19/66, three weeks). This is an answer song of a sort, responding to “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Barry Sadler. It got a hyperventilating review from Billboard that spring, suggesting that it would perform as well as Sadler’s original. Uh, no—for a couple of reasons. First, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” did five weeks at Number One in the spring of 1966, a hard standard to match. Second, it’s simply dreadful. Although Miller didn’t make the Hot 100, a version by Nancy Ames did, and Miller’s bubbled under a second time in October.
“Impressions”/Jones Boys (9/24/66, four weeks). Here’s a group about which I’ve been able to learn nothing, except that they were on the Atco label. Based on what I found at ARSA, it looks like they got local airplay in Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, so I suspect they may have been from around there, although they racked up their best chart numbers in Denver. They deserved better: “Impressions” is a nice bit of sunshine pop.
“She’s Looking Good”/Rodger Collins (3/25/67, two weeks). Back in the 60s, Collins appeared on concert bills with Elvis, Ike and Tina, Redd Foxx, and Joe Tex, and “She’s Looking Good” is a red-hot Stax-style rager. DJ Prestige over at Flea Market Funk told Collins’ story a few years ago, so go there now.
“All’s Quiet on West 23rd”/Jet Stream (7/1/67, five weeks). Some sources claim that the Jet Stream is actually the Buffalo Springfield, but it isn’t. “All’s Quiet on West 23rd,” according to our pal whiteray at Echoes in the Wind, features bubblegum king Joey Levine on lead vocals (a guy who does not sound like Stephen Stills one bit), and it’s about the 1964 Kitty Genovese case. Genovese was murdered in her New York City apartment, an incident reportedly witnessed by several of her neighbors, who did nothing to help her.
In our next installment, jazz, folk, and an old-time waltz done absolutely straight. You just don’t get this kind of entertainment anywhere else.