Club 99: Songs That Peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100

Club 99 #3: Teresa Brewer, “Pickle Up A Doodle”

In Club 99, I look at songs that peaked at position #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and help to put them into context. Together we can decide if the song deserved more success or got too much.

The Song: “Pickle Up A Doodle”
The Artist: Teresa Brewer
#99 Chart Date: September 1, 1958

I don’t know that this entry necessarily counts as a novelty song, but it sure sounds like one upon first listen. The problem with making that determination is that at this point in American music history, the definition of pop music was much broader and more inclusive than it is today. So I’ll let you listen and make that call yourself:

Any idea? Pop? Novelty? Traditional? A little of each? It’s fun no matter what you call it, albeit somewhat inconsequential. I tracked down a live performance of the song, and the dramatic stage production certainly adds some interest.

Dig those flames!

On to the details. “Pickle Up A Doodle” was released in America on the Coral label (b/w “The Rain Falls On Everybody”) and hit #99 on September 1, 1958. It was also included on her Heavenly Lover LP. My two main impressions from this song (written by Jeannie Joy) are that it sounds like something from a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, and that Brewer sounds like a younger Dolly Parton.

Teresa Brewer was well-established as a successful singer by the time this was released in the summer of 1958, having already scored several Top 40 singles throughout the decade. However, while there were still a few more successful singles in Brewer’s future, her hit-making days were done within a few years. She charted her last Top 40 in 1960.

To hear other songs in Club 99, check out my Spotify playlist.

Club 99: Songs That Peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100

Club 99 #2: Nat King Cole, “Nothing in the World”

In Club 99, I look at songs that peaked at position #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and help to put them into context. Together we can decide if the song deserved more success or got too much.

The Song: “Nothing in the World”
The Artist: Nat King Cole
#99 Chart Date: August 11, 1958

Just one week after our last entry peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100, one of the 20th century’s greatest crooners grabbed the spot. And my friends, this is about as smooth and sumptuous a recording as we’re likely to come across during this project.

As far as I can tell, this song was actually the B-side to “Acércate Más (Come Closer to Me)”, released on Capitol Records F4004, which itself peaked at #41 in September 1958.

In addition to Cole’s smoother-than-butter vocals, I really love the orchestration on this single. So it shouldn’t have surprised me to learn they were by none other than the great Nelson Riddle.

“Nothing in the World” has since been included on at least one or two Nat King Cole compilations, and should absolutely be sought out.

To hear other songs in Club 99,  check out my Spotify playlist.

Club 99: Songs That Peaked at #99 on the Billboard Hot 100

Club 99 #1: Billy Williams, “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)”

In Club 99, I look at songs that peaked at position #99 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and help to put them into context. Together we can decide if the song deserved more success or got too much.

The Song: “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)”
The Artist: Billy Williams
#99 Chart Date: August 4, 1958

Today’s entry is the first #99 in the Billboard Hot 100 era, “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)” by Billy Williams. Williams charted several times going back to the mid-1940s, but by far his biggest hit was “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” which hit #3 in the summer of 1957. Just over one year later he released “I’ll Get By (As Long As I Have You)” as the b-side of “It’s Prayin’ Time.”

In just about every important way, “I’ll Get By” is a carbon copy of his earlier hit. The arrangement, melodies, and vocal gimmicks are purposely meant to evoke and duplicate Williams’ earlier hit.

The record-listening public wasn’t having any of it, however, and the new song peaked at #99 on August 4, 1958, the same week the new Hot 100 debuted.

It’s a decent song compared to others of the era, but loses points for being a total knockoff.

To hear other songs in Club 99,  check out my Spotify playlist.

Elvis Presley - King Creole, Vol. 2

Top 40 Radio Killed the Radio Star?

Elvis Presley - King Creole, Vol. 2

It’s a well-worn cliche by this point, but “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is just so appropriate for what I’m sharing with you today. It’s an article called “Program Monotony — Top 40 Menace to Industry, Says D.J.,” and it’s from the October 27, 1958 issue of Billboard magazine (known then as The Billboard). Click on the article for a larger version if you want to read the whole thing.

In the piece, a popular DJ based out of Hartford, CT named George “Hound Dog” Lorenz laments the rise of the Top 40 radio format, with its lack of variety and its potential to harm record sales and squash new artists.

"Top 40 Menace in Industry, Says D.J."One of his first complaints was probably valid then — I wouldn’t know — and is certainly valid now. “A lot of the stations are programming 24 hours a day with no more than 50 records. Maybe that’s okay, but when it’s the same records every day for a week and they change only 10 or so a week, then it begins to get pretty monotonous,” he said.

I can get on board with that. But until the rise of the iPod and ready access to your own music library, there was a good reason the limited-playlist format was used — it was profitable. I can see why it would suck as a DJ, but it made business sense.

Now, finally, after decades of dominance we’re seeing a major shift in listening habits. I don’t have hard numbers on ratings or anything like that, but I can confidently assert that Top 40 radio certainly no longer has the cultural importance it once did.

Elsewhere, Lorenz basically says that the Top 40 chart game was rigged, and based mostly on the personal preferences of program directors or deejays. He also claimed that record sales are hurt because of the Top 40 format when he said, “I find out from one dealer that he hasn’t sold 20 copies of [a Top 10 record]. Why? He tells me, ‘Do you think any kid is going to buy what he can hear on the radio till it’s coming out of his ears?'”

Sound like a familiar debate now? Just replace “Top 40” with “YouTube” or “streaming music services.”

Lorenz moves on to assert that new recording artists no longer stand a chance of getting wider exposure because they can’t break through the monolithic, hit-heavy playlists of radio. I understand where he’s coming from, but was it really any different in the early ’50s or late ’40s? It stands to reason that new performers in any field — pop music, radio, books — are going to have the odds stacked against them because relying on proven winners is more profitable. I’ll call this one a wash.

Finally, Lorenz makes his boldest claim: “I can tell you that the Top 40 stations, to say the least, aren’t helping [the singles market] any. I repeat, they’re helping to kill it for everybody. Elvis Presley’s “King Creole” EP has appeared on very few of those fancy lists. Yet it has sold close to a million. If anything kills Presley, it’ll probably be the charts.”

For the record, the King Creole soundtrack LP peaked at #2 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K. There were two EPs of the same name in 1958 and they both hit #1. Although he stopped being white hot he still scored Top 10 singles all the way through 1970.

Eydie Gormet - Eydie Swings the Blues

Album Cover of the Week: Two Sides of Eydie Gormé

With the passing of beloved singer Eydie Gormé (of the famed Steve and Eydie duo) at the age of 84, let’s look at a pair of her album covers from the 1950s. The first is the understated sophistication of 1959’s Eydie Swings the Blues (ABC-Paramount, ABC-192). Photography credit for this goes to Arthur Siegel.

Eydie Gormé - Eydie Swings the Blues

This cover is pretty much mid-century elegance defined, wouldn’t you agree? Meanwhile, here’s a fun little number from the next year. It’s 1960’s Eydie in Dixieland (ABC-Paramount, ABC/ABCS 343). Cover photography by Gary Wagner.

Eydie Gormé - Eydie in Dixieland

RIP, Eydie.

The Pac-Man Christmas Story (1983)

The Best Bizarre Christmas Album Covers Ever, Part 2

I had to take a year off after the first gallery of odd Christmas album covers, but I’m back with a strange vengeance. Here’s another set of Yuletide records sure to leave you saying, “Ho ho huh?”

The Border Brass - Tijuana Christmas
The Border Brass — Tijuana Christmas (date unknown)

So outrageous it can’t possibly be offensive, right? From the back cover: Take the festive spirit of the Christmas season, spice well with the merry mariachi sounds & you have a wassail bowl full of the happiest holiday music ever!

Christmas at Home with Nina and Frederik
Nina and Frederik — Christmas at Home with Nina and Frederik (1960)

From the looks of Frederik, there’s only one of four things he wants to do this Christmas.

1. Sex you up.
2. Chop you into little pieces.
3. Sex you up and then chop you into little pieces.
4. Chop you into little pieces and then sex you up.

The Pac-Man Christmas Story (1983)
The Pac-Man Christmas Story (1983)

And behold, Pac-Man was visited that night by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Pac-Man then consumed a power pellet and ate the ghost. Story over!

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The Monkees (1966) album cover

Album Cover of the Week: The Monkees (1966)

It was on this day, 46 years ago, that the so-called Prefab Four reached the top. For on November 12, 1966, the self-titled debut album from the Monkees hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard album chart. It stayed there for an amazing 13 weeks until it was knocked out of the top spot by… the second Monkees album.

So in recognition of the band’s achievement all those years ago — and not because it’s a terribly memorable cover by itself, here’s The Monkees (Colgems COS-101).

The Monkees (1966) album cover

The photo of the Monkees — Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones — was taken by Bernard Yeszin, whose work also appeared on a number of other records from the 1960s. Perhaps my favorite of his is Martha and the Vandellas’ Heat Wave, which I’ll have to cover some other time.

Ben Folds Five, The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Album Cover of the Week: Ben Folds Five, The Sound of the Life of the Mind

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway — I cannot wait until September 18th. For that’s the day we get the first new Ben Folds Five album since 1999, The Sound of the Life of the Mind. Here is the snazzy album cover:

Ben Folds Five, The Sound of the Life of the Mind

The rather mysterious but comical artwork on the cover is a piece called “Submerged” by artist Eric Joyner. Joyner’s work, which apparently focuses a lot on doughnuts and robots, features only the former here. It’s also reminiscent of the famous Auguste Rodin sculpture The Thinker (Le Penseur).

I’ll likely be reviewing the album, either for this site or Popdose, so keep your eyes peeled!

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No Doubt

Listening Booth — No Doubt, “Settle Down”

No Doubt

It’s been waaaay too long since we got new music from No Doubt, but I guess Gwen Stefani was busy raising kids and releasing stupid clothes. But finally, after more than a decade without new music, the band is back and set to release Push and Shove in September. Here’s the first single from the record, “Settle Down.”

Sounds like classic No Doubt to me, although not as traditionally rock as from around the Tragic Kingdom era. But it’s poppy, fun, and catchy, and that’s all we can ask for at this point. Welcome back!