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Listening to Number One songs through the years

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
I'm making good use of social distancing and my Spotify subscription to listen to a playlist of Billboard Number One songs. 69 hours worth of music, I don't know how far I'll carry through. But it's an activity and I need someplace to post my random thoughts.

Even in 1960 open racism against african americans would not fly. But you could get away with native american racism. 1960 saw such hits as "Running Bear" and "Mr. Custer," the latter which is pretty bad both in terms of sensitivity and that it's not a very good song at all.

In 1960 there's sleepy oldie music. Then there's Elvis Presley. I'm not a big Elvis fan as far as his music. But he is far and away better than his contemporaries on the list. Not that there weren't better musicians at the time, but none of them were hitting #1.

"Runaway" by Del Shannon is one of those songs that sticks out as far as quality and clearly something advancing music in it's time. Then after four weeks it is usurped by "Mother-In-Law" by Ernie K-Doe. Next time someone complains about modern music point out that song was a #1 hit.

1961 you're getting some more modern pioneers of rock like Roy Orbison. Then a Pat Boone song ("Moody River") takes over.

1963 has more bad than good. But "Little" Stevie Wonder playing Fingertips is an absolute marvel of energy for the time.

Last four weeks of 1963 sees Dominique by the Singing Nuns as the #1 song. It's a nice song, but the most popular song in the country for a month? Early 1960s pop music was weird.

Into 1964 and no wonder the Beatles exploded. The previous eight weeks before "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was "Dominique" and another Bobby Vinton song.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
“Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” is the most British song ever. At least, through 1965.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Took a short break thanks to the family's careless data usage. Into 1966 now.

List of Billboard Hot 100 number ones of 1966 - Wikipedia

Does anything scream culture wars like Sgt. Barry Sadler's "The Ballad of the Green Berets?" Like the last gasp before rock music takes over the chart for good.

The Supremes keep popping up and their songs are a delight.

The Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There" is on my short list for best pop song ever created. It's perfect.
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
You're hitting the sweet spot right now, @alkeiper . I would say '66 to '70 are just about the peak of pop music. 1984 I feel like might be best individual year for pop music though.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
1968 was a great year for music. But the songs that hit #1, it's not exactly what I would consider the cream of the musical crop.

-Judy In Disguise, I can't say that it's bad, but it's [weird.

-Paul Mauriat's "Love Is Blue." A cheesy instrumental at #1. It's honestly a good song. But how the heck does something like this make it to the top?

-"Dock of the Bay." Otis Redding left us at least forty years too soon. This is another song that's just...perfect.

-"Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro. Is there a vomiting emoji? I like a lot of music that's uncool. This has no redeeming qualities.

-"Tighten Up." I never heard this song before. I'm glad I did because now I understand another Simpsons' reference (young Homer's one man band).

-Herb Alpert makes an appearance. "This Guy's In Love With You." Not bad.

-"Grazing In the Grass." What IS it with terrible instrumentals? People who complain about pop music today should listen to the hits that don't get played on the oldies station.
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
I had to read that post twice cause I assumed al was listing "Dock of the Bay" as a terrible song of the late '60s and was gonna propose a ban. But yeah, it is an absolutely perfect song. And it's just a demo! Wonder why the full studio version would have sounded like...
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
January 31, 1970. The first Jackson 5 song hits #1. If you blindfolded someone, gave them the list and asked them to pinpoint the beginning of the '70s, they would only miss by 30 days.

There's a lot of Jackson 5 at the top. I have long believed that Michael Jackson's issues stemmed from being a celebrity virtually his entire life.

I'm not much of a Jackson 5 fan. But "I'll Be There" is really good. (Musically. The lyrics are essentially the perspective of a sad man in friend zone sung by an eleven year old boy.)

Ray Stevens' "Everything Is Beautiful." Bread, Neil Diamond, The Partridge Family, Tony Orlando & Dawn, the Osmonds. Popular music has lost the plot.
 

MFer

Administrator
Staff member
I've haven't seen many people tackle all the #1 hits, so I'm glad you're doing it. I might have to listen all the way through myself at some point, or at least go through the ones I don't know.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Into 1972 now. Like soft rock and baroque pop? This is all right up your alley! 1972 gave us Ziggy Stardust and Pink Moon. But no, your dad wanted to listen to Gilbert O'Sullivan on the radio!

The Raiders' "Indian Reservation." Why was there a market for this?!

"Papa Was a Rolling Stone." And America learns to love funk. Thank god.
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
1971-1976 is a very very very weird (but also at the same kind of boring) era for pop music. '70s in general is just odd music wise cause it's not like disco/punk & new wave era isn't completely fascinating.

Not only is "Indian Reservation" one of the worst number ones ever, the songwriter inexplicably pretended to be taken in by a Cherokee tribe who demanded he write the song.

I'm guessing its popularity was related to increased awareness of the plight of Native Americans. This was all around the time of Little Big Man, Marlon Brando having Sacheen Littlefeather accept his Oscar, Wonded Knee, etc.
 

Smues

Smuesicide
Staff member
Hey, I was just making fun of that stupid song last night! Glad I'm not the only one who hates it.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
1973 is interesting. You've got some schlock in there. But there are some absolute gems. Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song," Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," Elton John's "Crocodile Rock," and others. The year ends with Jim Croce's "Time In a Bottle." It's a year where a lot of different styles reached the top which I think is probably a real positive for music.
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
"Time in a Bottle" is such a beautifully poignant song, made even more so by the fact that it was released as a single posthumously. Plus it led to one of my favorite musical numbers from The Muppet Show

 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
Ringo Starr's "You're Sixteen," can we forget this song exists?
I saw Ringo live in 2016 and only solo songs he played IIRC were "Photograph" and "It Don't Come Easy" sensibly. I would have loved to hear "Back Off Boogaloo" though tbh. Ringo is actually a pretty good solo album. But his more whimsical solo material has aged poorly. "The No No Song" must be the most notable pro sobriety song that was obviously made by people who were gacked out of their minds.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
1974 is back to weirdness. I mentioned Ringo. Love's Theme by Love Unlimited Orchestra hits #1. Terry Jacks' Seasons In the Sun. Ray Stevens' The Streak. Two John Denver songs. Grand Funk Railroad hits #1 by covering the Locomotion. Paul Anka. Kung Fu Fighting. Angie Baby by Helen Reddy. There's a lot of novelty to the number ones this year.

For more about Grand Funk consult your local library.
 

BUTT

Kreese
I'm disappointed that Al didn't mention "In the Year 2525" when he was going through 1969.


If only so I could mention that Zager & Evans followed it up with a single called "Mr. Turnkey" sung from the perspective of a guy who rapes a girl in a bar and then commits suicide in his cell. They did not have another hit.
 

Alfie

Alfie
-Herb Alpert makes an appearance. "This Guy's In Love With You." Not bad.
this doesn't have anything to do with much of anything but I'd just like to point out that These New Puritans covered this song on Field of Reeds, which is one of the best albums of the 2010s. it's far from the best or most representative cut on the record but definitely a perfect opener. somehow never heard the original, you'd think I'd have been curious

 
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alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
1975. Some good songs sneaking in. "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt is as good as a song can be. "Lady Marmalade," "Philadelphia Freedom," those are great. There's bad hokey like John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." But Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" is pap you can hook to my veins. (Maybe it's the Muppet Show rendition that gives me a soft spot.)

The Carpenters. Karen Carpenter made hits out of some absolutely weak material. Generally I can't stand the music as a whole but sometimes it just works. "Please Mr. Postman" is not that song.

Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" is just bizarre.

Disco. I mentioned Love's Unlimited Theme previously and that's a disco influence. The first #1 song that sounds like Disco is probably the O'Jays "Love Train." But that's Philly Soul. Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony's "The Hustle" is the point where I really say disco's a thing. The Bee Gees hit #1 with "Jive Talkin" and KC and the Sunshine Band hit twice in the year. And David Bowie hits with "Fame!"
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
I can't believe I let Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" pass by without comment. I always thought of it as an obscure semi-suggestive novelty song. Number one?!

Disco really seemed to dominate my playlist but chronologically only for a short time. Mary MacGregor's "Torn Between Two Lovers" seems like a sign things are returning to normal. Until Glen Campbell does a disco-beat song and really, what are we even doing here?

I had to go outside Spotify to find Disco Duck. That thing got old before the song ended.
 

King Kamala

Integral Poster
I maintain that the opening of "Disco Duck" is really cool. Rest of the song is ass and it deserves to be rated as one of the worst #1s of all time but those duck sounds are kind of cool. Plus it indirectly led to "Me Lost Me Cookie At The Disco".
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
Spoke too soon. Up to the Star Wars Cantina and I'm beginning to see how my older siblings got screwed up.
 

alkeiper

Welcoming our new insect overlords
The Simpsons gave it new life:

Need to make a chart of Simpsons references. "Convoy." Wasn't "A Fifth of Beethoven" used as a Martin Prince/Phantom of the Opera joke? "(They Long To Be) Close To You" was Homer and Marge's wedding song. And I remember Marge singing "You Light Up My Life," which is currently playing.
 
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