Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Pay to Play

Forty-five years ago, the radio industry was being rocked by the payola scandals. In November 1959, Billboard magazine reported that at least 25 major DJs would see their careers ruined by allegations they had taken money and other compensation from record companies and their agents in exchange for playing certain records on the radio. The biggest one to fall was Alan Freed, who was fired by WNEW in New York in November 1959 and later convicted of accepting payola and accused of tax evasion. One who didn't was Dick Clark. Clark chose to cooperate with Congressional investigators looking into the scandals. Freed did not. You can argue--and some historians have--that Clark, boyishly scrubbed, WASPy, and eager to please the investigators, was spared, while Freed, dark, ethnic, and defensive, was made to suffer.

You can also argue that the payola investigations were motivated more by a dislike for rock and roll than by a desire to curb corruption. What you can't argue is that the scandal (well summarized here, albeit with a focus on payola in Boston) changed the way record promotion was done. You can also argue that it likely accelerated the development of tightly controlled radio formats that cost most DJs their autonomy in deciding what to play. And it also prompted radio stations to make sure their on-air people knew what payola was, and that they stayed away from it. When I got my first commercial radio job 25 years ago, I had to sign papers swearing I wouldn't take payola, and that I would report it if somebody offered it to me. And it wasn't just pay for playing records we were supposed to avoid; we were told that we couldn't take gifts in exchange for anything we did on the air--which once prompted me to turn down a plate of homemade cookies from a listener who enjoyed my show and wanted to send me something nice.

I doubt anybody has to sign such papers anymore--indeed, Salon's Eric Boehlert has reported that sweetheart deals between promoters and big radio chains go far beyond anything the payola-hunters of the late 1950s ever imagined. And while Alan Freed's reputation has been rehabilitated, he's not around to enjoy it. He drank himself to death in 1965.

To learn more about the payola scandals, I recommend two books by John A. Jackson: Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock, and American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire. Both are apparently out of print, but they're worth searching for. (Jackson has a new book that's just come out--A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul. Gotta tell Santa about that one.)

Monday, November 22, 2004

History Lesson: The Way I Like It

November 22, 1968: The Beatles is released. Known to one and all as the White Album, this double-disc set contains some of the most bizarre and disturbing music the group ever did. Yet a pall hangs over even the happier tunes. The group's breakup was underway during the making of the White Album, and you can hear the psychological effects of the impending divorce on every track. Key tracks: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Blackbird," "Birthday."

November 22, 1967: Sam and Dave's single "Soul Man" reaches gold-record status. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much we dig the music of Stax Records in Memphis. What you may not know is that one of the men responsible for creating a lot of it was Isaac Hayes, who along with David Porter wrote and produced Sam and Dave's greatest hits, such as "Soul Man," "Hold On I'm Comin," and "I Thank You." Hayes went on to a successful recording career of his own, and an Oscar for "Theme from Shaft." His role as the voice of Chef on South Park will be a footnote someday.

November 22, 1955: RCA Records signs a Memphis-based singer named Elvis Presley to the most lucrative contract in history up to that time: $40,000. The singer, of course, was never heard from again.

Birthday Today: Steven Van Zandt of the E-Street Band and the Bada Bing is 54. In the early 80s, he led a band called Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, which is one of the all-time great band names.

Number One Songs on This Date:

1981: "Physical"/Olivia Newton-John. Yeah, some people got upset about the "explicit" lyrics, but they're all dead now, because if "Physical" upset them, there were literally dozens of hit records in the 90s and 00s would have been fatal.

1975: "That's the Way (I Like It)"/KC and the Sunshine Band. I know KC can't sing, and I know most of their hits are repetitive to the point of inducing stupidity, but KC and the Sunshine Band remains one of my great guilty pleasures anyhow.

1970: "I Think I Love You"/Partridge Family. The "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" of the late boomer generation--the record that changed the way you listened to the radio, and/or made you want to listen more and more.

1960: "Stay"/Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. A classic hit from rock's early era, and the shortest single ever to make it to the top, clocking in at 1:50. Memorably covered by Jackson Browne in 1978.

1938: "Begin the Beguine"/Artie Shaw. This was the first hit for Shaw, a clarinetist and bandleader notable for being married eight times and being linked extra-maritally to some of the most celebrated women of the 1940s. He gave up his career 50 years ago while still one of the biggest names in the business, claiming to be bored by it, and is still alive and living in California, aged 94.

Note: This blog will be on hiatus until the week of November 29. Explore the links at the right. You won't be sorry.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Friday Top 5: Days of Future Passed

It's a good old-fashioned countdown, today, kids: the Top Five albums from the Billboard chart during this week in 1972:

5. Ben/Michael Jackson. There are multiple degrees of creepiness at work here. First, the whole idea of the rat movie, a brief craze during the 1970s. The rat movie Ben was a sequel to the rat movie Willard, which meant that people wanted to see two stories about the love between a boy and his rat. And of course, there's the song "Ben" itself, which is a tender love song to a rat (although it's pretty, and it's the first song I ever slow-danced to with a girl). And there's the whole creepiness issue involving Michael himself, which would take nearly a generation after "Ben" to fully manifest itself. Perhaps we should have seen it coming in 1972.

4. All Directions/Temptations. A major comeback album for the Temptations, in which producer Norman Whitfield completed the transformation of the Temps from guys with great moves and wardrobe to perceptive social chroniclers, which began with "Ball of Confusion" in 1970. This album features the epic 11-minute, 45-second version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

3. Days of Future Passed/Moody Blues. This album, featuring "Nights in White Satin," was first recorded and released in 1967, where despite its close proximity to Sgt. Pepper, it was a bit ahead of its time. Not until the early '70s would the time be right for classically influenced art rock, especially the kind punctuated with spoken poetry that sounds all serious and stuff.

2. Superfly (soundtrack)/Curtis Mayfield. This was an insanely great year for R&B, and Mayfield provides some of the best of it here. Mayfield doesn't glorify the film's drug dealers and street characters with his music--he simply reports on what they do and lets listeners see what happens to them as a result. Key tracks: "Freddie's Dead" (which I bought on a 45) and "Superfly."

1. Catch Bull at Four/Cat Stevens. One of the more unusual number-one albums of the 1970s. Despite Stevens' string of hits in 1971, the All-Music Guide calls this album "a more difficult listen than its three predecessors," none of which charted nearly as well. Bull topped the charts for three weeks and then was gone. Its biggest single, "Sitting," only got as far as Number 16 (and I don't remember hearing it much at the time). You're not likely to hear it, or anything else from the album, on the radio these days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

History Lesson: Built on Rock and Roll

November 17, 1987: U2's Bono pulls a fan up onstage to help sing "People Get Ready." The fan hands Bono a demo tape, thus proving yet again that everyone's a whore.

November 17, 1970: Elton John plays New York City; the concert is broadcast on progressive FM station WPLJ and becomes the album 11-17-70. 'PLJ is one of the legendary sets of call letters in radio history--the former WABC-FM went progressive to compete with format pioneer WNEW-FM. (Recommended reading on the progressive, free-form radio era: FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio, by Richard Neer, one of the golden-era WNEW jocks, who still works in New York radio.)

Birthdays Today: Gene Clark of the Byrds is 63. He was also part of the group with the most euphonious name this side of Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds: McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman. McGC&H had a single Top 40 hit--1979's "Don't You Write Her Off." Gordon Lightfoot is 66, which hardly seems possible.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1985: "We Built This City"/Starship.
Recently named the worst single of all time, it was, nevertheless, a smash. Countless radio stations (including the one I was programming at the time) turned it into an image line: "Damn straight, we built this city on rock and roll."

1980: "Lady"/Kenny Rogers. There are maybe two dozen pop and country songs from 1979 and 1980 that are vivid reminders of my early radio days, back when I used to do the 6-to-midnight shift every Saturday and Sunday. The biggest hits got played every two hours, so that meant you'd play "Lady" three times in a shift. Whether you wanted to or not.

1962: "Big Girls Don't Cry"/Four Seasons. This was their biggest hit, doing five weeks at Number One.

1960: "Georgia on My Mind"/Ray Charles. I had the opportunity to see Brother Ray sing this live a couple of years ago. I'd put it up with McCartney singing "Yesterday" on my list of Great Musical Moments. (Steve Winwood doing "Gimme Some Lovin'" is up there, too.)

1904: "Sweet Adeline"/Haydn Quartet. This was the most popular song of 1904, which was in turn a big year for what we now call barbershop harmony. The song was (and remains) so popular in barbershop circles that the worldwide association of female barbershop singers is called Sweet Adelines International. (The Mrs. is a member.)

Monday, November 15, 2004

Spam, John Denver, and a Lust for Glory

Last week's post about Cheech and Chong got me thinking: They may have had some hit singles, albums, and in the 80s, movies, but the kings of comedy in the 1970s were five Brits and an American expatriate from Minneapolis, Monty Python. The Pythons debuted on BBC-TV in 1969 but didn't come ashore in the States until about 1973, when Monty Python's Flying Circus began airing on PBS. The show aired on only a few PBS affiliates at first, not reaching my local affiliate until 1975 or so, about the time Monty Python and the Holy Grail had a brief theatrical run. Not everybody in my circle at the time got the Pythons, but those of us who did became part of a cult that's still intact today.

Python released several comedy albums during their heyday. The albums were unusual in that they were not simply recycled TV sketches. The British members of Python all had experience on the radio side of the BBC, so their early albums were designed to work without pictures. The albums contained significant amounts of brand-new material, some of which was never performed on TV at all, in addition to recycled TV sketches.

The greatest Python album is probably Another Monty Python Record, released in the United States while Python aired on only a few PBS stations. While most of the album was made up of TV sketches such as "Spam," "Penguin on the TV," and "The Piranha Brothers," they were modified so that listeners who knew nothing of the TV show could still appreciate the comedy. Most of the bits linking sketches together were done especially for the album, and one sketch, "Royal Festival Hall Concert," is classic theater-of-the-mind that wouldn't have been nearly as funny with pictures. The album cover purports to be for a recording of Beethoven's Second Symphony, but the titles and artwork are scratched out with black crayon and the words "Another Monty Python Record" are scrawled across it. (When I bought my copy, the clerk in the record store filled out the sales receipt as if the album really was Beethoven's Second.)

Another famous Python album is Matching Tie and Handkerchief. This is the one with three sides--one side had a set of concentric grooves, which meant that which program you heard depended on how you dropped the needle. (Alas, there's no way to duplicate the effect on CD.) This is the oddest of the Python albums, about 50-50 TV sketches and album-only material, some of it deeply, almost disturbingly surreal--"First World War Noises" especially.

Even the Holy Grail soundtrack contains brand-new material not in the film, but it marks the high point of Python's recorded career. They would do only one other album that wasn't either a concert recording or a film soundtrack--about which more below.

By the time the TV series and Holy Grail became cult favorites in the States, the Pythons had already become like the Rolling Stones--convening occasionally to work on projects, but not working together regularly. (John Cleese had wanted to quit the group in 1970 after the first dozen TV shows, but was persuaded to stay.) On a couple of American concert tours, they professed to be surprised that people recited the lines of the sketches, like they were singing along with rock stars, and sometimes didn't laugh at all the jokes. The group reached its creative and cultural peak with the controversial 1979 movie Life of Brian (original title: Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory).

Python's last non-soundtrack, non-live album was 1980's Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album which is just what its title indicates. Although it contains no TV sketches at all, some of the bits, such as "Bookshop," were written long before the TV series began. The album was pretty funny in spots, especially the lone single, "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio." One sketch, "Farewell to John Denver," which featured the sound of the singer being strangled, had to be removed from later editions of the album because the Pythons didn't get permission to use the excerpt from Denver's "Annie's Song" that led to his strangulation.

After the 1982 film The Meaning of Life, Python's work was anthologized and re-anthologized (one set is called The Final Rip Off) before the original albums were collected in The Monty Python Instant CD Collection. The entire TV series and all the movies are available on DVD. George Harrison, who produced and appeared in Life of Brian, is said to have remarked that the Pythons kept the spirit of the Beatles alive in the 1970s. They certainly were a major part of the spirit of my 1970s, and I can still recite far too many sketches from memory.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Friday Top 5: Hard Rock Comedy

So I was driving around one day this week when Cheech and Chong's "Sister Mary Elephant" came on. (Don't ask.) I was in eighth grade when Cheech and Chong first burst into public consciousness. It was an era when novelty songs and comedy cuts could become significant hits, without being limited to the morning-radio ghetto that comedy occupies today. C&C's first hit was "Basketball Jones," which made the Top 20 in the fall of 1973. "Elephant" entered the Hot 100 the week "Basketball Jones" dropped off, 31 years ago this month. It prompted the closest thing ever to an underground rage in my junior high, thanks to the album Big Bambu.

Kids who had copies of Big Bambu shared them, and then went out and got copies of their own. It's a wonder no adult tried to confiscate them--take, for example, "The Bust," in which a couple of dealers flush their stash, a radio spot in favor of the legalization of marijuana featuring a stoner named Ashley Roachclip, or a game show called "Let's Make a Dope Deal." Although its content would give parents and school officials an attack of the vapors today, it's doubtful that Big Bambu warped anybody I knew. To us, it was just funny. It certaintly didn't make a stoner of me. The giant-size rolling papers that came with the album, featuring a picture of Cheech and Chong, are still inside my copy today.

One of the reasons why Cheech and Chong's "hard rock comedy" became so popular on the radio when it did might have to do with the utter dreck that polluted the Top 40 during the fall of 1973. It's hard to find another season of the 1970s that was thicker with sludge. With that in mind, we present our Friday Top Five: The five biggest reasons why Cheech and Chong had to happen.

1. "Heartbeat It's a Lovebeat"/DeFranco Family. Low-rent bubblegum from these Partridge Family clones, featuring a bombastic introduction so incongruous that a radio station I once worked at used it to introduce newscasts.

2. "Paper Roses"/Marie Osmond. The longest 2:39 in history.

3. "Top of the World"/Carpenters. I'm not sure which annoyed me more back then--the sanitized steel guitar on this record, or the strident insistence by one girl I knew that it's about Jesus.

4. "Summer (The First Time)"/Bobby Goldsboro. In which our virginal teenage hero gets laid by an older woman--a common fantasy, yes, but in this song it just sounds creepy.

5. "The Most Beautiful Girl"/Charlie Rich It would get to Number One in December, dethroning "Top of the World." Ecch ptui. Worst month ever.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

History Lesson: The Yanks Are Coming

November 10, 1998: Bruce Springsteen releases the box set Tracks, a collection of demos, outtakes, and unreleased tracks covering his entire career. Every time Springsteen sat down to assemble an album, he had lots of material to choose from, and the revelation in the Tracks set is that the stuff that got left off was often every bit as good or better than the stuff that was put on. Essential tracks--plenty, such as "Thundercrack," which feels like a sloppier "Rosalita," "Wages of Sin," "Roulette," and "The Wish," which is as gorgeous a song as Springsteen ever recorded.

November 10, 1986: Springsteen releases another sprawling collection, Live 1975-1985, consisting of five vinyl discs. Few live albums have ever had the immediacy of this one--you are right there in the hall, and you get Springsteen's fabled charisma even without seeing him. Essential tracks--again, plenty. "Thunder Road," if I had to pick one.

Birthdays Today: Greg Lake is 56. He could be both an expressive singer and a doomy one, a talent that served him well during his years with Emerson Lake and Palmer--although if you've heard him lately, he sounds pretty ragged now. Gregg Allman is 57. For his 13th birthday in 1960, he got a guitar, which he and his brother Duane learned to play by listening to blues records. And the rest, as it's said, is history.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1990: "Love Takes Time"/Mariah Carey.
This was the first hit for Carey, possessor of an amazing five-octave voice, which she's used to sing some of the blandest songs imaginable. Even accounting for all the hits that came afterward, this is probably still the best of the bunch.

1979: "Heartache Tonight"/Eagles. I was the first jock on my college station to play the long-awaited album The Long Run on the air. We were betting on "The Disco Strangler" to be the key track. Turns out it was this one--a big, crunchy classic, co-written by Bob Seger, and it shows. Forgive us; we were young.

1974: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"/Bachman-Turner Overdrive. This is one of a handful of 70s records about which I am totally irrational. Great adolescent-boy crunch rock. Thirty years later, it still makes my car go faster when it comes on the stereo.

1965: "Get Off My Cloud"/Rolling Stones. The other night I listened to December's Children, the album from whence this comes, and was amazed at how raw and frightening some of it sounds, a protopunk noise assault 10 or 12 years ahead of its time. "Get Off My Cloud" is actually one of the more harmless-sounding tracks.

1918: "Over There"/Enrico Caruso. Caruso, the great opera star and recording pioneer, was actually the fourth performer to take this classic World War I song to Number One. His version, which featured verses in both English and French, would top the charts on Armistice Day, November 11. You can read more about the song and hear a bit of Caruso's recording here.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Top 5: Keep On-a Rockin' Me, Baby

When a radio station is programming music, it follows a very simple formula--play the most popular songs the most often. It's why Top 40 and country stations play the biggest hits to death, every 90 minutes and sometimes even more often than that. It's why you hear some oldies more often than others, and why classic rock stations are still playing "Stairway to Heaven," "Layla," and "Free Bird" on a daily basis.

Determining which classics to play involves research, to find out which old songs appeal to a station's target audience and how much they appeal. This research is usually done by calling people in the demographic group the station is targeting and playing snippets of songs over the phone. The result of this research is sometimes predictable and sometimes not. "Stairway to Heaven," "Layla," and "Free Bird" wouldn't be on the air so much if they weren't still appealing. But when I was doing classic rock radio in the mid 90s, the highest-rated song in my station's library according to audience research was "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas--which you'd probably never guess.

The songs that get tested are driven by two factors: First, their sound. A station's sound depends on the details of the demographic they're shooting for. For example, my station played the four songs I mentioned above, but we also played stuff like War's "Cisco Kid" and "Rich Girl" by Hall and Oates, which a station wanting to rock harder or skew to a younger audience might shun. A harder-rocking or younger-skewing station, while still playing "Stairway," "Free Bird," and "Layla," might mix in more contemporary artists like Nirvana or Metallica. But with few exceptions, the core of the classic rock format tends to be based on the sort of thing you'd have heard blasting from a passing car full of white suburban teenagers on a summer night circa 1980 or so.

A second factor driving the research is familiarity. Songs that were substantial hits, or strong tracks from hit albums, make up the vast majority of the songs that get tested and on the air. Any veteran classic rock DJ can think of a boatload of songs that would sound insanely great on the radio, but would never make it because they wouldn't be familiar enough for the mass audience.

Having said all that, I think it's possible to argue that the first week of November, 1976, was one of the greatest weeks ever for classic rock on the singles chart. No fewer than five grade-A, hot rotation, classic rock staples were in the Top 20 all at the same time.

Number One: "Rock'n Me"/Steve Miller Band. A fine argument for the brain-dead simplicity of rock music, but also for the ability of a catchy tune to get in your head and stay there--28 years and counting.

Number Nine: "Magic Man"/Heart. All of the bad habits Heart was prone to on Dreamboat Annie threaten to derail this record--mystical mumbo-jumbo, flatulent synthesizers, and yelped vocals--but instead, it all works. Horrific edit alert: the full-length version, which is the only one you ever hear now, clocks in at 5:25. The 45 edit was 2:10.

Number 11: "Do You Feel Like We Do"/Peter Frampton. This one was also edited to nearly half its original length for 45RPM consumption--from about 13:45 to just under eight minutes, which was still astoundingly long for a single. It's one of those rare cases in which editing actually improves the song, by tightening up Frampton's 70s-vintage on-stage excesses. And you can still get to the bathroom and back while it's playing, which is important to DJs everywhere.

Number 12: "(Don't Fear) The Reaper"/Blue Oyster Cult. After several albums with song titles and subject matter out of bad sci-fi comics, BOC softened their sound a bit on Agents of Fortune, and this enormous hit was the result. What makes it a classic are those lush-yet-spooky vocals, fitting for a song whose lyrics are about the enticing nature of suicide.

Number 20: "More Than a Feeling"/Boston. Boston really only had one great album in them--well, maybe 1 1/2 if you count the solid tracks from Don't Look Back. But at the moment of "More Than a Feeling"'s release, there'd never been anything that sounded remotely like them. "More Than a Feeling" was one of the prototypical heavy-metal ballads (although Boston really wasn't all that heavy). Because there hasn't been anything quite like it since, this song has never been off the radio.

You could conceivably throw Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night" (Number Eight) and "Beth" by Kiss (Number 13) into this mix as well, both of which have gotten substantial classic-rock airplay over the years. It would only reinforce the point that classic rock radio is indelibly stamped with the hits from this week in 1976.

Another Week Heard From: Late last year, Eric Boehlert of Salon published a story suggesting that the week of December 20, 1969, was the greatest week in rock history, period. And I am not going to argue against a week that had the Beatles, the Temptations, the Rolling Stones, and CCR all in the Top Ten of the album chart at the same time.
[J]ust imagine the mix tape possibilities from that single '69 week. "Come Together," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Weight," "It's Not Unusual," "Green River," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Wooden Ships," "Gimme Shelter," "I Can't Get Next to You," "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," "Here Comes the Sun," "Evil Ways," "And When I Die," "Bad Moon Rising," "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and "Born to Be Wild."
Although only "Come Together" and "Whole Lotta Love" were on the singles chart during that epic week, Boehlert's right about the list making a great mix tape.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

History Lesson: Just in Time for Christmas

November 4, 1974: Greatest Hits by Elton John is released. It remains one of the most attractive album packages ever, clean and beautiful red and blue graphics inside and out, which even extend to the label on the vinyl disc itself. It zoomed to the top of my Christmas list the moment I saw it in the stores. On the same day, Paul McCartney and Wings release the single "Junior's Farm," which would get to Number 3 by January. The flipside got enough airplay to make it to Number 39 in February. Big trivia points if you can remember the title, which is below.

November 4, 1963: The Beatles appear at a Royal Command Performance in London. This was the night John Lennon asked, "Will people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? All the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry."

November 4, 1957: For the only time in history, as far as I know, the top six songs on the pop and R&B charts are identical:

1. "Jailhouse Rock"/Elvis Presley
2. "Wake Up Little Susie"/Everly Brothers
3. "You Send Me"/Sam Cooke
4. "Silhouettes"/The Rays
5. "Be-Bop Baby"/Ricky Nelson
6. "Honeycomb"/Jimmie Rodgers

Talk about your multiculturalism. Only Cooke and the Rays were black, although Elvis had, in Sam Phillips' words, "the negro sound and the negro feel." It's hard now to hear any corresponding feel in the Everlys, Nelson, or Rodgers. Segregation may have been the rule in much of 1957 America, but clearly not here.

Birthdays Today: Sean "P-Diddy" Combs is 34. Has he ever had a hit that didn't lean predominantly on a sample of someone else's work? Does he even record music anymore? Or is he just famous for being famous now? Ike Turner is 73. He was a very bad dude, and probably not just while he was married to Tina. But he is also a seminal figure of rock and roll--it's his band on "Rocket 88" under the name of Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, the 1951 hit considered by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to be the first rock record.

Number One Songs on This Date:
1990: "Ice Ice Baby"/Vanilla Ice. An enormous pop-culture phenomenon then; in retrospect, the first profoundly embarrasing pop-culture phenomenon of the 1990s.
1974: "You Haven't Done Nothin'"/Stevie Wonder. An overtly anti-Nixon song, weirdly applicable again:
We are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling us how you are gonna change right from wrong
Cuz if you really want to hear our views
You haven't done nothin'
1969: "Suspicious Minds"/Elvis Presley. This is my favorite Elvis record, with a fade I'd listen to if you looped it for 10 minutes: "Caught in a trap/I can't walk out/Because I love you too much baby"
1962: "He's a Rebel"/Crystals. Girl-group nirvana, and their biggest hit ever, a followup to the gorgeous "Uptown." You don't hear either one as often as "Da Doo Ron Ron," but you should.
1942: "White Christmas"/Bing Crosby. And people say we rush the season nowadays. This was the first year for "White Christmas," and both this version and Freddy Martin's sold a million copies that winter. (Frank Sinatra would release his own million-selling recording in 1944.) Bing returned "White Christmas" to the pop charts at Christmas of 1943 in two different versions, and recharted the original version every year after through 1962. It hit Number One again around Christmas in 1945 and 1946.

Trivia Answer: "Sally G" was the flipside of McCartney's "Junior's Farm." Thanks to a bit of steel guitar, it actually got a bit of airplay on country radio, although not enough to make the charts.