Fifteen Hits to Number One

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(Pictured: Michael McDonald, Billy Crystal, and Gregory Hines wearing a bad Chicago Bears knockoff jersey, in the music video for McD’s “Sweet Freedom,” from the movie Running Scared, 1986.)

A couple of years ago I did a thing for Friday the 13th in which I picked, in a completely arbitrary fashion, the best song to peak at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in each year from 1955 through whenever we stopped. Let’s do that again, but since today is the 15th, let’s take #15.

1955: “Hearts of Stone” by Otis Williams and the Charms, although “Razzle Dazzle” by Bill Haley and the Comets is interesting, with its jackhammer drums and sharp lead guitar licks.

1956: Gotta be “Stranded in the Jungle” by the Cadets.

1957: “Can I Steal a Little Love” by Frank Sinatra sounds like something Elvis would have sung in one of his lesser movies. It was in the teenage drive-in quickie Rock Pretty Baby, although Sinatra didn’t sing it.

1958: “Maybe” by the Chantels.

1959: Because it’s December, we’ll go with “The Little Drummer Boy” by the Harry Simeone Chorale, back on the chart in 1959 after hitting #13 in 1958. Runners-up are “Dance With Me” by the Drifters and the Kingston Trio’s “M.T.A.”

1960: Choices. If you like guitar twang, there’s the Ventures (“Perfidia”) and Johnny and the Hurricanes (“Beatnik Fly”). If you prefer R&B, there’s “Three Nights a Week” by Fats Domino and two records by Jackie Wilson, “A Woman, a Lover, a Friend” and “Doggin’ Around,” which is what I’m going with.

1961: Fats takes it the next year with “Let the Four Winds Blow.”

1962: Some famous records peaked at #15 in this year, including “Follow That Dream” by Elvis, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” by the Blue-Belles, and “Sharing You,” a Carole King/Gerry Goffin song recorded by Bobby Vee. But the prize goes to the jazz classic “Desafinado” by saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd.

1963: “Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys.

1964: Despite a couple of Marvin Gaye tunes plus Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Impressions, and the Dave Clark Five, I’m going off the board for “Shangri-La” by Robert Maxwell, because I am a sucker for those big instrumentals from the 60s.

1965: I am tempted to pick “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by Little Jimmy Dickens, but I’ll take “Willow Weep for Me” by Chad and Jeremy.

1966: I want to pick something other than Al Martino’s “Spanish Eyes” here, but I can’t.

1967: Quite a list of possibilities here: “Talk Talk” by the Music Machine, “Alfie” by Dionne Warwick, and the Bob Crewe Generation’s “Music to Watch Girls By.” But I’m going with “Darling Be Home Soon” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

1968: “Words” by the Bee Gees.

1969: Billy Joe Royal’s “Cherry Hill Park,” a song we’ve dug around here since always.

1970: Out of “The Thrill Is Gone” by B. B. King, “Out in the Country” and “Celebrate” by Three Dog Night, and “Sex Machine” by James Brown, “Out in the Country” it is.

1971: “Won’t Get Fooled Again”? “Temptation Eyes”? “Funky Nassau”? The Donnie Elbert version of “Where Did Our Love Go”? Could be any of them, but it’s “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes.

1972: “Rock and Roll Lullaby” by B. J. Thomas and “Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone are both on my Desert Island list, but I’m going off the board again for the fabulous “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” by Honey Cone.

1973: “China Grove” by a nose over “Space Oddity.”

1974: “Who Do You Think You Are” by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods over “Heartbreaker” by the Stones, but I feel bad about not picking the Spinners’ “Love Don’t Love Nobody.”

1975: “SOS” by ABBA over “Bad Luck” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, but you could talk me out of it.

1976: “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” by Tavares.

1977: “Give a Little Bit” by Supertramp.

1978: “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Santa Esmeralda.

1979: “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears over “Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp.

1980: “Breakdown Dead Ahead” by Boz Scaggs over Tom Petty’s “Refugee.”

1981: “The Breakup Song” by the Greg Kihn Band.

1982: The cheesy pop addict in me wants to pick “Nobody” by Sylvia, but I’m going with Sheena Easton’s “You Could Have Been With Me”.

1983: Only two songs peaked at #15 in this year: “Heart to Heart” by Kenny Loggins and “Cuts Like a Knife” by Bryan Adams, but I can’t work up enough enthusiasm for either one to pick between ’em.

1984: “Don’t Answer Me” by the Alan Parsons Project.

1985: Here’s one you haven’t heard in a while: “Crazy in the Night” by Kim Carnes.

1986: “Man Size Love” by Klymaxx. It’s from the soundtrack of Running Scared, a buddy cop movie that The Mrs. and I love unreasonably.

Because this post is already too long, we’re gonna stop here. If after reading it, you want your two minutes back, I understand completely.

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7 responses

  1. My only quibble here would be “Out In The Country” – admittedly a great record – over “The Thrill Is Gone.” And thanks for “Shangri-La.” I, too, love those instrumentals, and I’d not come across that one before.

    1. My only quibble here would be “Out in the Country” – admittedly a great record – over “Sex Machine”.

      Fixed it for ya.

  2. I have always been a fan of overlooked, undervalued pop songs, and as such, I am a lot more likely to have songs that peaked between #11 and #30 on my MP3 player than top 10 hits.
    I am impressed by how many of these #15s I own and love. “You Could Have Been With Me” is the best thing Sheena Easton ever committed to vinyl. And it’s still hard for me to fathom “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” not being a Top 10 hit, because in these parts–the metro NYC area–it was a much, much bigger hit. I believe it peaked at #3 on WABC in the summer of ’76.

  3. I wasn’t about to spend any of my meager allowance on a throwback like “Shangri-La”, when just keeping up with the onslaught of new Beatles singles was a challenge. Of all the songs I’d heard on the radio in 1964, “Shangri-La” would have come in dead last on my want list.

    But how could it have possibly had a chance to compete for those few weekly coins during such a monumental year? It wasn’t until Al Capps tricked the song up with a “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” intro in 1973 that I paid attention, liked what I heard and bought Al’s Bell 45.

    When the Robert Maxwell hit happened to turn up on an instrumental hits compilation CD, it was almost like hearing it for the first time. Although I’d never changed stations whenever his record had played as a current, I’d never listened with enough interest to hear that an organ could pack such a wallop. Boy, does it ever! What a tremendous production.

  4. After reading this blog post, I made a temporary smart playlist on iTunes, just to see how many songs that peaked at #15 I have in my library. Total was 120, including the following:

    Al Jarreau – We’re In This Love Together
    Ali Thomson – Take a Little Rhythm
    Andy Gibb – Time is Time
    Barbara Acklin – Love Makes a Woman
    Bell & James – Livin’ it Up (Friday Night)
    Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors
    Crystal Gayle – Half the Way
    Dionne Warwick – Deja Vu
    The Dixiebelles with Cornbread and Jerry – Southtown, U.S.A.
    The Four Tops – Are You Man Enough?
    The Friends of Distinction – Going in Circles
    George Harrison – Dark Horse
    Jackson 5 – I Am Love
    Johnny Taylor – Cheaper to Keep Her
    Judy Collins – Amazing Grace
    Kiss – Hard Luck Woman
    Lamont Dozier – Trying to Hold On to My Woman
    Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
    Leon Haywood – I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You
    Luther Vandross – Stop to Love
    Mac Davis – Rock ‘N’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life)
    Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. – Your Love
    Marvin Gaye – I Want You
    Mary Wells – Laughing Boy
    Parliament – Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)
    Paul Anka & Odia Coates – (I Believe) There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love
    Pete Wingfield – Eighteen With a Bullet
    Robbie Dupree – Hot Rod Hearts
    Tony Orlando – Bless You
    Van Halen – Dance the Night Away
    War – Me and Baby Brother
    Wilson Pickett – She’s Looking Good

    Also, David Gates appears to be the king of #15’s. Three songs by Bread (Diary, Aubrey, Sweet Surrender), plus one solo (Goodbye Girl)

    Oh, and that “Shangri-La” thing…excellent. Never heard of it, looked it up, loved it, so thanks for that…

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out how to erase the sight of Michael McDonald’s out of control chest hair from my memory.

  5. I love it..great list…let me add Hourglass by Squeeze – my favorite #15 from 1987

  6. I never realized it until now, but in an annual listener contest in which I’ve been participating for the last five years on It Really Shoulda been a bigger hit (I.R.S. for short), I have always listed in my 100 selections the songs you picked from 1975-79. I also include “Bad Luck” as well. Amazing how many of these you chose from the 1970s especially have held up better than a lot of the other songs that peaked higher on the charts that decade.

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