Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Great Chart Meltdown: Week 2

For the background on this blog series, see this post.

This week’s 1950s charts bring us the first four-version hit of the year, in the guise of a song that was written as “Let Me Go Devil” but became a hit when the “Devil” was dropped, sort of like the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays. Maybe there’s something to that devil business.

January 8, 1955: This is the week that “Let Me Go, Lover!” shows up in four different versions, including a one-week appearance on the radio chart by Sunny Gale. “Mr. Sandman” still rules the sales chart, for the 6th week, and it is in fact the unanimous three-chart #1 song. Joan Weber’s “Let Me Go Lover” drops temporarily from #1 on radio. A second version of “Melody of Love” joins Billy Vaughn’s hit; David Carroll is responsible for this one. A future mammoth #1 hit, “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters, debuts this week on the sales chart.

January 14, 1956: Dean Martin dethrones “Sixteen Tons” by “Tennessee” Ernie Ford on both sales charts and the radio chart with a Terry Gilkyson tune, “Memories Are Made of This.” Ernie will hang on for two more weeks on the juke boxes. The Turbans show themselves to be the truest form of One-Week Wonder, as they spend just one week on the Top 100, and never hit any other Top 40 pop chart again. Their hit, “When You Dance,” spent 21 weeks in the Top 100 and jumped to #33 for one magical week. Then they were gone.

This week, a true low point of 1950s pop makes its debut: “Go On with the Wedding” by Patti Page rears its ugly head. The song tells the tale of a young lady who was in love with Jim. Jim went missing and was declared dead. So, the young lady fell in love with Fred, whose name conveniently rhymes with dead. She is about to marry Fred when someone enters the church: Jim. He says they should go on with the wedding and forget about him. But Fred, sensing the strength of a love that could make Jim return from the grave, tells Jim to marry the girl. This is so wrong. First of all, Jim had no business showing up and then claiming he didn’t want to mess up Fred’s good thing. And there was no way in the 1950s that Jim would be allowed to marry this girl without blood tests and some sort of waiting period. Years of being dead don’t count as a waiting period. Conclusion: this is one of the lamest story songs of the 1950s. This Gabler-Korb-Purvis-Yakus composition even found a second taker, Kitty Kallen and Georgie Shaw. And the public made them both hits, of a sort.

January 5, 1957: The “Banana Boat” craze begins today, though it seems to be a radio-perpetrated phenomenon, to start with. The Tarriers (Erik Darling, Bob Carey and the actor Alan Arkin) are in the Top Ten on both the sales chart and radio, but radio has added three other versions, including Harry Belafonte’s. There’s more to come on the Top 100 next week, if you can believe that. “Banana Boat” is part of an ongoing larger Calypso surge, as shown by Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.” Where will it end?

Fats Domino’s two-sided hit “Blue Monday”/“What’s the Reason I’m not Pleasing You” hits the sales chart, and “Blue Monday” debuts on the Top 100, but “Blueberry Hill” is the blue song still getting the airplay and the nickels. When it comes to blues songs, Guy Mitchell is still #1 with “Singing the Blues,” and Marty Robbins’s version is still charting, at a much lower level.

January 13, 1958: There are still three versions of “Raunchy” on the charts (Bill Justis, Ernie Freeman, and Billy Vaughn), but technically there are now two, as the nation has flipped Billy Vaughn’s version and made a hit of “Sail Along Silvery Moon.” While his “Raunchy” made it to #10, the other side will climb to #5 and spend 21 weeks in the Top 40.

The McGuire sisters are debuting yet another song that will peak at #1, “Sugartime.” Radio has made a hit of Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star,” which won’t show strong sales until February. But it’s Perry, so radio is all over a sure thing.

January 12, 1959: The Chipmunks are still at #1 with a Christmas-themed hit. How much money was that franchise worth after this song? The three little guys are keeping “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters out of the #1 spot, but not for long.

You would have thought that the 1955 hit, “Alabama Jubilee” by the Ferko String Band, would be the final Philadelphia-based string-band hit. But no, “Philadelphia USA” by the Nu Tornados is hanging on to its position in the lower third of the chart, almost four years after Ferko wore out its welcome. This is the last week of preaching by Anka, Hamilton & Nash, as “The Teen Commandments” finally goes away.

For your listening pleasure, I am including all four of the “Let Me Go, Lover!” hits. For two of the artists, New Jersey-born Joan Weber (1935-1981) and Sunny Gale (born Selma Segal in New Jersey in 1927), this would be their only hit, and Sunny’s version made her a One-Week Wonder, as only the radio got her into the Top 40 book. The other two versions come from 1950s vocal heavyweights who jumped into the fray. The varying punctuation is a result of the labels’ attempt to differentiate their recordings.

Since I mentioned “Go On with the Wedding,” I really have to include it as well. It’s quite the song.

For Wednesday, I’m bringing you a female singer-songwriter who came up with one of my favorite albums of the late 1990s. See you then!

Joan Weber, Let Me Go Lover

Patti Page, Let Me Go, Lover!

Teresa Brewer with the Lancers, Let Me Go, Lover!

Sunny Gale, Let Me Go, Lover!

Patti Page, Go On with the Wedding


Anonymous said...

Outstanding stuff. I love your deconstruction of Jim and Fred's nuptial travails.

Maia said...

Very interesting! Well written!