Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gimme Back My Bullets!

File under:  DIDJAKNOW?  

The other day the subject of "the bullet" came up in conjunction with our Joel Whitburn 1950's Chart Challenge ... and I was curious as to when and how this designation first began.  (Joel referenced the second Hot 100 Chart in one of his questions, which listed ... for the very first time ... the fifteen biggest movers and/or highest premiers on the chart that week, highlighted on the charts as such.  At the time, these records were referred to as the "Star Performers" ... the term "bullet" didn't exist yet ... so I wondered when the "catch phrase" terminology first took place ... at what point did they stop referring to this special recognition as a "Star Performer" and start calling these records "climbing the charts with a bullet".  And, I was QUITE surprised when Joel pointed out that the term "bullet" actually originated in Cash Box Magazine sometime between late 1959 and early 1961.)  And, once they did, apparently this designation of significant upward movement or a strong increase in sales and/or airplay became "generically" known as "the bullet" in conjunction with all three major music trade publications:  Billboard, Cash Box and Record World.   

I was surprised to learn this as I always thought this was a Billboard creation ... and wanted to share this with our readers.  Chart guru Randy Price sent us this article (from the book "Record Makers And Breakers:  Voices Of The Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers", written by John Broven, that relates the origin of the "bullet." It was first applied to the Cash Box Top 100 chart dated Feb. 28, 1959.

The bullet in question in Joel's trivia quiz pertained to the Domenico Modugno hit "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)", which leaped from #54 all the way to #2 in its second week on the chart.  A week later it rose to #1, where it would stay for five of the next six weeks.  (It was interrupted for a week by "Little Star" by The Elegants ... but then returned to the top spot a week later.)  

It was about as unlikely a #1 Hit as could be in 1958 ... rock and roll was in full swing but this little "import" from Italy dominated the airwaves.  Sure, there were successful cover versions ... most notably by Bobby Rydell and Dean Martin ... but it was Domenico Modugno's version ... sung completely in Italian! ... that managed to top the charts.

Perhaps the most famous Billboard Bullet Event occurred on their survey dated November 22, 1975, when Pete Wingfield's only hit record, "Eighteen With A Bullet", reached #18 on Billboard's Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart ... WITH a bullet!  (It eventually peaked at #15.)

And since we're talking bullets here, how about a couple more long-forgotten hits from the '70's.  

First up "White Lies, Blue Eyes"  by Bullet, a #28 Hit in 1972 ... and this lost gem by 10cc, "Rubber Bullets", their first chart hit under their new name in 1973.