Thursday, December 21, 2006

Forgotten 45: "Eighteen With a Bullet"

One of the occupational hazards of the radio biz is that you get burned out on records a lot sooner than the average listener does. In its Top 40 glory days during the 1970s, Chicago's WLS played its top two survey hits every 75 minutes and its next two every 95 minutes. When I was a little baby DJ at KDTH in Dubuque doing 6-to-midnight on weekends, we'd play our top 10 songs three times each in the course of six hours. Certain blockbuster hits would be thus beaten to death in the ears of a station's DJs long before the public decided it had had enough. Sometimes months before.

A more common condition is when the public gave up on records that DJs can't get enough of. Take Pete Wingfield's 1975 hit, "Eighteen With a Bullet." Perhaps the reason DJs loved this more than listeners is that it's really aimed at us--Wingfield constructs a clever metaphor of love affair-as-record chart that zooms over the head of non-insiders. Favorite bit:
I'm a super-soul sure-shot, yeah
I'm a national breakout
So let me check your playlist, mama
C'mon let's make out
The very title refers to Billboard's practice of assigning "bullets" to records that show the strongest chart growth from the past week to the current week. So when Wingfield says he's "18 with a bullet," he's an up-and-comer showing continued potential.

In a happenstance that seems too perfect to be coincidental, "Eighteen With a Bullet" was Number 18 with a bullet in Billboard on the chart dated November 22, 1975, before peaking at Number 15 the next week--and losing the bullet, and starting to fall down the chart. Even if listeners didn't get all the references, it's hard to figure how anybody could fail to respond to Wingfield's glorious blue-eyed soul.

Dig "Eighteen With a Bullet" here. Buy it here, but beware: You'll also get "Run Joey Run" and other inexplicable failures of taste from late 1975, but there's enough goodness apart from Wingfield to make up for it.


At 7:49 PM, Anonymous ilan said...

thank you for that post, preach!

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Judy Dixon Gabaldon said...

Thanks for the explanation. I don't remember this from 1975 - but I love it now - years later. Heard it on Art Laboe's show last night. Love doo-wop, and I like the double-entendre. If it were really about shooting someone, I'd skip sharing it on Facebook, but I'm going to share it now - with your explanation. Thank you.


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