Monday, October 26, 2009

Your Reprise Records Comments

Here is some of the mail we received after our mini-series spotlighting Reprise Records ran on The Forgotten Hits Website last week:

>>>Meanwhile, old stalwarts Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra himself continued to regularly hit The Top 40 throughout the decade. (kk)

Not sure about this one, after 1963. I guess if you count the whole decade, the real change in music was 1964, not 1960 or 1970. 1960-63 music was much closer to 1959 than 1964-69, while 1969 music was much closer to 1970 than 1960.
Post 1963:

Davis, 2 Top 40
Sinatra 4
Martin 5
More than I thought.
I did not know about "I Got You Babe" bombing on its first release. Same with In The Year 2525 and all the Beatles 1963 releases. Others?
Did you know that each Beatles white album sale counted as 2? I always wondered why that album was the top Beatles seller.
Meeting with Richie Furay next month. He is the only musician who has shown any interest in my book. I will definitely ask him why he sang so many of Neil Young's early songs in the Buffalo Springfield. I am not sure if that was Neil's choice or not, but I do remember Neil insisted on singing Mr. Soul.
Which band musicians were not primary lead singers, nor played an instrument?
Which bands (which includes so-called individuals) had their first top 20 hit written by Bob Dylan? No, Peter Paul and Mary is not one of them, with Lemon Tree.
-- Dwight
Vote on your favorite 1960s song / group
There are dozens and dozens and dozens of hit songs that flopped upon their first release. The first two Bob Dylan-penned Top 20 Hits that came to my mind were "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds and "It Ain't Me Babe" by The Turtles ... I'm sure there were more. (Readers???)
I think your Reprise Records Top 40 count is off a bit ...
Post 1963, Dean Martin hit The National Top 40 a total of ELEVEN times (and just missed with three or four others that stopped at #41 - #46.) When you consider that in the ten years prior to 1963, Martin only had eight Top 40 Hits, it's safe to say that his BIGGEST hits came for Sinatra's Reprise label. Sammy Davis, Jr. hit The Top 40 four times while on Reprise ... that's one less than he achieved while signed to Decca Records. (He also hit it one more time with "The Candy Man" from "Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" in 1972 for MGM Records.) Sinatra, on the other hand, moved to Capitol Records in 1953 and proceeded to have 16 Top 40 Hits for the label between '53 and 1960. After moving over to Reprise, The Chairman Of The Board reached The Top 40 a dozen more times between 1962 and 1980.

Thanks for the great Reprise Records features this week. When you included "It Was A Very Good Year" on Monday's entry, it reminded me that Sinatra's career enjoyed a major boost as a result of the CBS Special "Sinatra - An American Original." That special aired on 11/16/65 and included footage of one-take Frank in the studio with Gordon Jenkins conducting the live orchestra on "It Was A Very Good Year." I remember the show well, since I didn't watch The Fugitive that night. In fact, that special was the only time any program that ran against The Fugitive actually brought in a higher audience share than Dr. Kimble. This special may have been the inspiration for the Elvis comeback special a few years later. CBS re-ran the Sinatra special in 1998 with a slightly modified title.
Don't you miss really great TV shows?
LOL ... I don't think I EVER missed an episode of "The Fugitive"!!! (lol) My VERY favorite show at the time ... and the ONLY weeknight (aka SCHOOL night) that I was allowed to stay up until 10:00 back then!!! And now we're watching all of the episodes again as they're being re-released on DVD. (Amazing to think, too, that some of these programs ran up to 32 episodes a season back then, too!!!) I was never much of a Sinatra fan ... but my MOM sure was ... I think she saw him live half a dozen times. I will admit to absolutely LOVING "That's Life", however ... and I STILL think it's a great recording. (kk)

Later, the Beach Boys were on the Reprise label ...

Yes, they were ... although not very successful with the label in the early days, it allowed them to use their "Brother" imprint. Here in Chicago, their first Reprise release, "Add Some Music To Your Day", snuck into The Top 40 (at #39). It came from my all-time favorite Beach Boys Album, "Sunflower". (We covered some of this history in greater detail in our Beach Boys Series a few years back ... in fact, you can STILL find some of it posted on The Forgotten Hits Web Page):
Click here: Forgotten Hits: The Beach Boys: 1970
Click here: Forgotten Hits: The Beach Boys - 1971
Hopefully once he sees today's piece run, former Beach Boys Manager Fred Vail will share a few memories with our readers regarding this pivitol time in The Beach Boys' career, making the label change to Reprise after such a successful run on Capitol Records. What say you, Fred??? (kk)

That's an interesting top 30. Who would have thought that Gordon Lightfoot would have had 3 of the top 15 singles? I was working at the Warner Brothers distribution center in Des Plaines, Il., in 1976, when Reprise was folded into the Warners catalogue. I was a bit curious about that as a look at your list shows four of the top 30 being released in 1976. Yet as you look at that top 30, while all are solid singles, there's not one mega hit among them. I guess it might have been a cost saving move, but that doesn't make much sense as 1976 was a huge year in the music business, as was the rest of the decade. If the parties and freebees trickled down to the peons in the workplace, just think what was going on with the higher ups. A very interesting list and a great idea for a story. It's great you have a couple of people on board that have first hand knowledge of what was going on. Preston brings up a point not widely know. Many a time a recording contract is with a middleman, not with the record label. More than one lawsuit has been brought about because of exactly who the artist is signed to. An artist signs with XYZ records and then it merges with another company, or is sold and the performer feels he's a free agent. Many a time the manager says you sign here and you sign. You've related stories like that before in Forgotten Hits.
Jack (Rock And Roll Never Forgets)

More on the Top 30 list below ... along with a bit of an explanation ...

Hi Kent --
Maybe I missed it, but just wondering what the Reprise Top 30 list was based on, since it obviously isn't chart position.
I enjoy the site when I get a chance to read it. Nice to see the artist contributions. In fact, I was talking to Freddy Cannon the other day and mentioned I saw his recent comments.
Randy Jay
Cruisin' Oldies 950
Actually the chart IS based on chart position ... Billboard Chart Statistician Fred Bronson worked from an "inverted scale" by assigning points to every record to chart on Billboard's Top 100 from 1955 through the present day, thus ranking each and every record based on its chart performance. As such, the points accumulated during a record's entire chart run determines its ranking. (Realistically, this ALSO means that a song that made The Top Ten and stayed on the charts for twenty weeks potentially could earn more points than a song that went all the way to #1 but disappeared from the charts in ten weeks.)
I'll let Fred explain it himself:
I became fascinated with record charts just after turning 14. Every Friday afternoon, I made sure I was home from school by 3:00 PM to write down the KRLA Top 30 Tune-Dex. Soon, I found out those surveys were available at my local record store, and a few months later, I discovered that a weekly trade paper called Billboard published a national singles chart, the Hot 100.

Bronson goes on to explain that he started compiling his OWN charts (as did dozens ... if not HUNDREDS of our Forgotten Hits Readers growing up) and then, at year's end, he would assemble a chart showing the biggest hits of the year by assigning points to each record's position ... on a Top 40 Chart, for example, the #1 Record would earn 40 points, #2, 39 points, and so on down an inverted scale.
I wondered what it would be like to apply this same process to the Billboard charts ... all of the pop singles charts, dating back to the beginning of the rock era. One could then produce a master list of the biggest hits of all time, ranked in order.
It took more than a cumulative five years to complete the research for the three editions of my book, "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits". The method I used was very similar to my teenage practice of computing the biggest hits of the year. First, I assembled all of the Billboard pop singles charts dating back to July 9, 1955, the date that "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets went to #1."

After publishing his first two books on the subject, Fred decided to re-evaluate his methodology regarding his points system.
Because only one point separated each position on the Hot 100, songs could rack up a huge number of points by hanging around the lower region of the chart for weeks at a time. The end result didn't appear to accurately reflect the true ranking of the biggest hits of the rock era. After consulting with chart experts, I came up with a new, improved formula for ranking songs. This new methodology gives more credit to songs in the top five positions of the Hot 100. I believe the new charts have resulted in the most accurate edition of "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" to date.
It's important to realize that all of the charts in my book, including the top 5000, are based on performance on The Billboard Hot 100. The songs are not ranked in the order of how many copies each title has sold, how critically acclaimed they are, or how much I like them personally. It is a totally objective ranking, based on highest position reached and length of stay on the Hot 100.

Fred even came up with a method of breaking ties!!!
Many songs earned the same number of points so there were multiple ties. These ties were broken by first determining the song's highest position on the chart and how many weeks it remained there. remaining ties were broken according to how many weeks atitle was in the top 10, the top 40 and the entire Hot 100. If a tie persisted, the song that debuted in the highest position on the Hot 100 was listed first. After all of these tie-breaking conditions were applied, there were no remaining ties.

So there you have it!!! If you haven't seen copies of Fred's book "Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits" before ... it's available in fine bookstores EVERYWHERE ... as well as online in the usual places ... and if you find this whole concept of ranking the hits fascinating, you'd do well to pick up a copy. (The 4th Edition is available now!) In addition to listing The Top 5000 Songs of All-Time, Bronson also ranks the biggest hits for a variety of artists, record labels, songwriters and themes. He also breaks it down to The Top 100 Hits of EACH year of the Rock Era ... and then recaps THOSE charts with the biggest hits of each decade. Truly educational and enlightening reading. (kk)
Click here: Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits, 4th Edition (9780823015566): Fred Bronson: Books


Any record label that would release singles by Tiny Tim AND Jimi Hendrix is all-right in MY book!!! (lol)

But that's how radio WAS back then ... all these songs played side-by-side, all day long ... WITHOUT the "segregation" that came later, branding songs (and artists) as genre-specific.

The week that "Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips" broke into Billboard's Top 40, Tiny Tim found himself in the company of Forgotten Hits Regulars like Bobby Vee, "Medley: My Girl, Hey Girl", Gary Puckett (and the Union Gap), "Young Girl", Tommy James (and the Shondells), "Mony Mony" The Rascals ("A Beautiful Morning" and The New Colony Six ("I Will Always Think About You"). Bubble Gum was big (with "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by The Ohio Express firmly planted in The Top Ten.) So was Movie Music with "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel, "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" by Hugo Montenegro and "The Look Of Love" by Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 all amongst the week's twenty biggest records. (And, speaking of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, this week's Top Ten Chart ALSO included "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and the Drells, "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro and "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris!)

Some of the biggest artists of the decade were represented on the chart issued for the Week Ending June 8, 1968 ... Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Tom Jones, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, James Brown, Engelbert Humperdinck, Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler and The Box Tops all had records that placed in Billboard's Top 40. So did Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Percy Sledge! ("Take Time To Know Her" was the #24 record that week! Wouldn't it be nice to hear THAT one once in a while instead of "When A Man Loves A Woman" four or five times a day?!?!?)

Some great One Hit Wonders were ALSO on the chart that week: "I Love You" by People, "Reach Out Of The Darkness" by Friend And Lover, "Master Jack" by Four Jacks and a Jill and "The Horse" by Cliff Nobles and Company. The Troggs were back with "Love Is All Around" ... Andy Kim was climbing the chart with his first big hit, "How'd We Ever Get This Way" ... and even Herb Alpert was SINGING!!! ("This Guy's In Love With You" jumped from #11 to #3 in only its fourth week on the chart! It would eventually go all the way to #1, something Alpert had been unable to do with his band, The Tijuana Brass, up to this point.)

Here are a few of the widely diverse Hit Records released by Reprise Records in the late 60's:

Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips - Tiny Tim

Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix

Something's Burning - Kenny Rogers and the First Edition

Turn Around, Look At Me - The Vogues

That's Life - Frank Sinatra

Sugar Town - Nancy Sinatra