(Pictured: Clarence Carter, performing at the Chicago Blues Festival earlier this summer, can’t believe how weak this post’s title is.)
On this Friday the 13th, I’m stealing a riff from our man whiteray and playing a game with numbers: a completely arbitrary and therefore highly debatable list of the best songs to peak at #13 in Billboard beginning in 1955.
1955: All of the #13s in 1955 are pre-rock hits by pre-rock stars, including Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Julius LaRosa, and two by Nat King Cole. Jo Stafford’s version of “Suddenly There’s a Valley” is very pretty, though.
1956: “St. Therese of the Roses” by Billy Ward and the Dominoes features Jackie Wilson on a powerful lead vocal, and while it’s a throwback to pre-rock styles, the soul is there.
1957: “Lotta Lovin” by Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps is textbook early rock ‘n’ roll. The flipside, “Wear My Ring,” also charted.
1958: Ed Townsend’s “For Your Love,” a song Townsend originally pitched to Nat King Cole, but which is much better suited to his own more dramatic style. Townsend would later co-write “Let’s Get It On” with Marvin Gaye.
1960: Only three singles peaked at #13 in this year, “Down by the Station” by the Four Preps, “Sleep” by Little Willie John, and “Tracy’s Theme” by Spencer Ross. Since “Tracy’s Theme” holds a modest place in the mythology of this blog, so we’re going with that.
1961: “Barbara Ann” by the Regents, which predated the more famous Beach Boys version.
1962: Well, damn, this is a tough one. Gonna go with “Uptown” by the Crystals over Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity” and “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke. (And Billy Vaughn’s “A Swingin’ Safari,” too.)
1963: The most recognizable #13 of 1963 is “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton, but I’m not going there. Dig “Hey Little Girl” by Major Lance instead.
1964: It’s hard to pick it over “Needles and Pins” by the Searchers, but I’m going with Brenda Holloway’s “Every Little Bit Hurts.”
1965: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by the Animals, but if you ask me tomorrow, it might be “She’s About a Mover” by the Sir Douglas Quintet.
1966: The fact that “634-5789” by Wilson Pickett, “Over Under Sideways Down” by the Yardbirds, the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “A Well Respected Man” by the Kinks, “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel, and the Four Seasons’ “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me)” couldn’t get above #13 speaks to the monumental nature of this year’s music. But I’m going off the board for “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by the Walker Brothers.
1967: “Thank the Lord for the Night Time” by Neil Diamond. (I thought 1967 was going to be harder.)
1968: Only three songs peaked at #13 in this year, so “Different Drum” by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys is an easy choice.
1969: “Too Weak to Fight” by Clarence Carter, which should be a lot better remembered than it is.
1970: “My Baby Loves Lovin'” by White Plains, because prime-quality bubblegum always goes to the front of the line around here.
1971: Rivaling 1966 for quality, 1971 makes me choose among the deep Southern soul of Denise LaSalle’s “Trapped by a Thing Called Love,” the Hot Wax sound of “Pay to the Piper” by Chairmen of the Board, Wilson Pickett’s Delta smoker “Don’t Knock My Love,” and Stevie Wonder’s Motown cover of “We Can Work It Out.” I bought the latter on a 45 in 1971, so “We Can Work It Out” it is. (The 45 version is hotter than the pallid version at that YouTube link, but we don’t always get what we want.)
We will continue along this line on Monday.