The Best Part

(Pictured: Jerry Lee Lewis in the 70s, using all necessary body parts to play.)

The most recent post in this series started with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members who put a single into the Billboard Top 40 that stayed there for just one week. Here’s the last part of the list, organized loosely by theme and jumping around in time.

There are more songs on this list from 1964 than from any other year. “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up” by the Ronettes made #39 for the week of May 16, 1964. I haven’t got a lot of say about it, except that three minutes spent with Ronnie and the Phil Spector Wall of Sound Orchestra can never be wasted. I chose 1964 as the beginning date because I had to cut it off somewhere, and that year, beginning of the British Invasion and all, made sense to me. Had I gone further back, the Miracles would appear on the list twice. Their 1962 hit “I’ll Try Something New” spent a single week at #39. “That’s What Love Is Made Of,” in which Smokey Robinson plunders nursery rhymes for his lyric, reached #35 during the week of October 10, 1964.

There’s plenty of Motown on this list apart from Smokey: the Supremes’ “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking” reached #40 for the week of August 7, 1976. It marked the return of Brian and Eddie Holland to the Motown fold, and it was the last time the Supremes would ever reach the Top 40. The Temptations’ “Happy People” marks a collision of eras, where the first generation of Motown superstars meets the second. “Happy People” was co-written by Lionel Richie, and the Commodores are said to have considered recording it themselves. As well they might: it sounds much more like the Commodores than it does the Temptations, and it reached #40 for the week of February 1, 1975. Stevie Wonder makes the list with “I Don’t Know Why,” the B-side of “My Cherie Amour,” which made #39 for the week of March 22, 1969.

Otis Redding’s version of “Amen,” a spiritual number that might be familiar, manages to be churchy and swingin’ at the same time. “Amen” went to #36 for the week of July 27, 1968. The B-side, “Hard to Handle” (later made famous by the Black Crowes), charted separately and reached #51. Another familiar song, “Love Me Tender,” beautifully sung by Percy Sledge, made #40 for the week oif July 22, 1967.

I have been preaching the gospel of Rod Stewart’s early 70s material for years. It’s some of the finest music anybody ever made, and Rod’s recording of “Angel,” written by Jimi Hendrix, is a representative example of why it’s so great. It charted at #40 for the week of December 16, 1972—but it didn’t appear on that week’s American Top 40 show. Casey played the B-side, “Lost Paraguayos,” by mistake.

Jerry Lee Lewis exploded with a string of classics in the late 50s, songs that were hits on both the pop and country charts. After his early 60s years in the wilderness, he never regained his pop stature, but he was a big deal on the country charts, scoring 12 straight Top-10 country hits between 1968 and 1970. “Me and Bobby McGee” was the B-side of his #1 country hit “Would You Take Another Chance on Me,” and it ran up the pop chart to #40 for the week of January 15, 1974.

“Country Road” by James Taylor is one of those songs that’s pretty famous despite reaching only #37 on the Hot 100 (March 20, 1971). During its chart run, most radio stations played the version from the album Sweet Baby James. There’s also a “single version” that was a completely different recording made after Sweet Baby James, but by the time the record label got it out, the album version was already a hit. Also pretty famous: “Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which ran the Hot 100 for 17 weeks but made it only as high as #40 for the week of February 18, 1978.

I believe that covers all of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members to appear on this list. There are many more records left to cover, so stay tuned for further installments.

2 responses

  1. Seeing that photo of Jerry Lee Lewis at the top of your post reminded me of the time, somewhere in the early 80’s, when I annually attended the great Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. On this particular year it was held, as it was, at the big new Hyatt Hotel downtown (before the shindig moved to Opryland). A bunch of us radio guys from Wisconsin stations were on the same flight to Nashville (I remember Ned Hughes of WYNE-AM Appleton, and Chuck Mokri and a couple other guys from WTSO-AM Madison) and we all crammed into one taxi from the airport to the Hyatt. When we pulled up in front of the Hyatt there was a big black limo right ahead of us. As we were getting out, the door to the limo opened, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s fell out, a bombshell blonde in a tiny dress got out, then Jerry Lee Lewis got out, followed by another bombshell blonde – both the blondes about a third of Jerry Lee’s age at the time. He saw us getting out the cab behind him and hollered “y’all here for the disc jockey convention?” (what the conference was called in the 70’s) We all nodded, and Jerry Lee said “welcome to Nashville, boys – have a great time, and thanks for playin’ my records!”
    Sometime I’ve got to write a post about those annual convention get-togethers in Nashville, including stories about the time I literally knocked Marie Osmond down in a bar, and the time I accidentally spilled a beer all over Ronny Milsap. Radio….what fun it used to be!

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