Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Hi Kent,
When I began my chart research in 1965, I began with the first Hot 100 chart in 1958. Realizing that all of the classic Elvis Presley, Platters, Chuck Berry and Little Richard hits were not represented in my research, I had to hold up publication of my research until they were accounted for - which meant I had to do three and a half more years of research to get all of the rock and roll classics included. Billboard tabulates their all-time hits beginning with the debut of the Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1958. I've talked to Silvio Pietroluongo
and others at Billboard as to these missing rock 'n roll classics and I do believe that they will soon tabulate those missing early years of the rock era.
I sat with Silvio two years ago in NYC and he showed me a print out of that week's top ranked songs - over 10,000 titles! The biggest change in the charts today is the streaming factor, which accounts for approximately 85% of the Hot 100 points. It's how this generation is getting their music.
Unfortunately for oldies fans like you and me, it's a completely different music atmosphere out there. Rap and hip-hop completely dominate the charts, leaving little room for rock and adult contemporary titles. I'm patiently waiting for a new "sound" to take over the charts, the same way Elvis and The Beatles did in 1956 and 1964, respectively.
In the meantime, I pour through my chart books of the '50s & '60s and realize just how lucky we were in those decades to have weekly charts that were plumb full of great pop, rock, R&B, country and adult contemporary genres of music. What a great mix of music and we believed it would always be that way.
The streaming factor today means that it is highly unfair to compare today's chart hits with those of yesteryear. In the early years, up until 1998, album cuts were not allowed to chart on the Hot 100. Today, a whole album full of cuts can make the charts in one week.
Because of the streaming factor, which began in earnest in 2007, I have drastically changed my overall ranking of artists from that point on. I came up with a new formula with help from Billboard's chart director, Silvio Pietroluongo. Because of the unfairness in comparing today's top artists with those from earlier in the rock era, I will have to formulate a whole new ranking system that would completely separate the two distinct eras.
I'll give you more info as we devise new methods. In the meantime, have no fear … all of your favorite artists and songs will NEVER be forgotten!!!
Joel Whitburn

Billboard’s Programmer of the Year, Scott Shannon, explains just how complicated it is to decipher what’s going on with the charts these days … and the frustration is abundantly clear.
Suffice to say that there is NO accurate way to compare the charts of yesteryear and the way they were compiled alongside the charts and the methodology used today … and, as such, they should NOT be compared as “equals” since the criteria is so DRASTICALLY different.  At the very least, it may be time to define “The Top 40 Era” of 1955 – 1985 (?) 1990 (?) vs. the digital age of music that’s been with us ever since.  (As pointed out numerous times in this column, a record staying on Billboard’s Hot 100 for six months to a year is much more common place today whereas back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, a HUGE hit song might stick around for about twelve weeks.  That’s because that era was SO creative and so competitive that artists were releasing sometimes 3-4 singles … and, in some cases, up to 3 ALBUMS within a single year!!!  As Joel Whitburn points out above, today an artist can chart EVERY track on their new album during its debut week as long as the downloading totals are high enough.  (Can you even imagine what the charts might have looked like in the ‘60’s had the same ground rules applied to artists like The Monkees and The Beatles, whose album tracks got played almost like they were singles just due to the sheer popularity of these artists???)

Anyway, Scott Shannon’s reluctant comments show, if nothing else, just how confusing and frustrating these chart comparisons have become …

Kent –
I would love to comment but is such a complicated situation and such BS, that I feel ill-equipped to explain my feelings and thoughts … but if you try to break it down to simple terms, it’s merely a case of comparing apples to oranges and, quite frankly, it’s actually ridiculous to try. 
It’ two completely different eras of music and two different systems of ranking the popularity of the songs. The whole damn controversy is a dumpster fire.
Yeah, I know I wasn’t going to comment … but I guess kinda did.

At the very least, Billboard should stop comparing the statistics of the pre-digital era side-by-side with the statistics compiled by the way people buy their music today … as it truly IS apples to oranges.  In fact, there is nothing even remotely similar … so all recaps should be SPLIT to distinguish what the basis is for each chart’s results.  (Certainly Billboard, of all people, should know this … they’re well into their second hundredth year of documenting this information.  When Billboard first started publishing charts in the late 1800’s, the benchmark was sheet music sales.  Would they ever have compared sheet music sales to the sale of records purchased by teenagers once the 45 became the main source of musical enjoyment?  Of course not.  They have a responsibility as “The Music Bible” to take these trends into consideration … and ACCURATELY report the truth in this area.)
The single, for all intents and purposes, phased out in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s.  Sure, they tried cassette singles for a while (a major flop) … and even CD singles.  For a while there, if you only wanted the hit song by an artist you had to go somewhere like Tower Records and purchase the import single on CD.  So draw a line that clearly defines the two different eras.  (Honestly, the end of the single signaled the end of The Top 40 Era … music simply isn’t measured the same way anymore … so just wrap that up as the bygone days of pop music.  Pop music TODAY doesn’t represent pop music … or Top 40 music anymore.)
On a side note, if Elvis’ first 26 Top 40 Hits were allowed toward his tally, he’d actually pull ahead of Drake by a few points … at least until Drake releases his next album and all 10-12 of THOSE songs make The Hot 100.  From 1955 – 1958, Billboard ran multiple charts each week measuring the relative popularity of then current hit music.  If you eliminated the DJ Picks and the Jukebox Plays, you’d still have their weekly Top 100 Chart … as well as their Best Sellers In Stores Chart to follow, either of which would accurately paint a picture of what was hot at the time.  Granted, consolidating all of these charts into one MASTER Chart, and calling it The Hot 100, was a GREAT idea at the time … once and for all, we knew the real deal.  But it really isn’t fair to eliminate the previous works of those artists represented on this new chart simply because Billboard came up with a new way of ranking the hits.  For the very same reason, it isn’t fair today to rank music downloaded … or YouTube plays … or Spotify streaming … against the only way we could purchase our music at the time, from 1955 – 1985 … which was to get up out of the house, get into our cars and DRIVE, walk or bike to our nearest neighborhood record store to BUY it.  Apples to Oranges indeed!!!  (kk)

You hit the nail on the head, sir.
Mike Wolstein

There is hope - Tommy James’ radio shows on Sirius / XM  is in its second year and it is very successful - we get emails from younger folks commenting on how much they like hearing the back stories of the great artists of the 60s - they are listening!!! And maybe that can develop a demand again for radio stations to re-think oldies shows and classic rock shows.  When I go to colleges and universities to talk to their communication students interested in getting into the music business, I refer to many of my previous clients - I ask if they know the artists and I get “of course.”  They tell  me that there are only a few new artists that they listen to – Wow!  That’s enlightening!
Carol Ross

What we have found … what we have ALWAYS found … is that if you expose young people to the music of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, they will respond in a positive way … it’s catchy, “feel good” music that sticks in your head … music with a MELODY (what a concept!!!)  Music that doesn’t have to be bleeped out EVERY line in order to get played on the radio.  Music that will outlive virtually EVERYTHING that is being played today.  So let Billboard’s Charts reflect THAT … and NOT how Taylor Swift is officially bigger than The Beatles.  No, she’s not … in what universe would ANYBODY believe that?!?!  Taking nothing away from Taylor Swift … she has definitely found her niche and her audience … and is in every way a MAJOR star … but bigger than the artists who dominated the chart scene when we were growing up?  I think not.  (I’m going to stop here … before she takes it upon herself to write a song about me!!!)  kk

Hi Kent:
If I might attempt to shed a bit of optimism on your (premature) obituary for Oldies music ...
Now, I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination; I'm just writing from my gut ... but it seems to me that Billboard has been allowed way too much reverence as the be-all and end-all of how we measure music popularity. Yes, it's been around for over a century, and has long been an industry standard … (back when I worked in a number of record stores -- when they existed -- we always displayed our 45s in the order of popularity according to Billboard) … but maybe we shouldn't allow the raw, numerical data the magazine computes in arriving at the Hot 100 to tell us what music has been the most successful (or certainly the most influential.)  Other top music magazines have their own "hot" lists, too, and not always with identical results.
This reminds me of the fact that while movies like "Avengers" or "Avatar" are the top money-making movies of all time, more people have still probably seen "Gone With The Wind" or "Star Wars" -- rising ticket prices will obviously affect net profits, but counting how many people have actually paid to see a given film -- or, perhaps more importantly, have considered it their favorite or most memorable -- is not so easy to calculate.
As for music, will the general population likely be singing Drake or Lil Wayne songs 50 years from now, as we sing 50-year-old Beatles songs today? Pretty doubtful.  There are so many factors that go into the life (or death) of a musical genre or artist, way beyond the numbers issued by the all-mighty Billboard.
If I may offer a little anecdote that may seem a bit off-topic (but isn't):
Lately, I've been obsessed with a jazz music school in Barcelona, the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, in which teens -- and even pre-teens -- are taught only jazz standards from the 1920s - 1950s, along with some Brazilian bossa nova, as well.
The kids are remarkable musicians and singers, and some are genuine prodigies, by any standard. They live and breathe the music of many decades ago, giving concerts and recording albums at a dizzying rate. I wish my parents were still around to see how these young people today (in Spain, no less!) are playing and singing standards made popular by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, to great popularity throughout Europe and beyond -- songs that my parents grew up with so long ago, and listened to throughout their lives. I've even written a few online articles about the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, partly because it is helping keep swing music alive at a time when you'd expect these young musicians to be listening to the very acts currently on the Billboard Hot 100.  My point being that great music will never truly die or be forgotten, and could pop up again to be revived in the least likely places.
So, take heart, and please break free of Billboard's monolithic grip on who is or isn't the "best-selling" artist at any given moment in time. It doesn't matter. It's only a magazine, and numbers don't tell the whole story, or record the passion people like you put into Oldies music and its history. We all decide for ourselves who's popular to us (my music collection might not resemble that of many of your readers in any way -- so, who's to say which collection is more relevant?)
I hope this jumble of thoughts makes sense to either you, or someone out there. 
All is not lost!
--Garry Berman

Hey Kent,
The oldies aren't going anywhere ...
I asked a friend (currently out on tour with The Eagles), “What do you think of my 'New Oldie'?”
He offered ... “I think you really nailed it, and would love to add a full string section.”
It's the avenue for getting The 'New Oldies' out there, so folks can get involved.
Forgotten Hits has provided coverage of many of The Oldies Artists from the late 50's and early 60's … artists that are still doing their thing … and we thank you for that.
L J Coon

Hi Kent -
GREAT email on the Legacy of Our Music!
It will be up to people like you that keep the Oldies Alive, Oldies But Goodies Radio Stations and Oldies Concerts ...
Each generation has their favorite kind of music, but honoring the other generations’ music is just as important.
This Christmas my 16 year old great nephew wanted to borrow a couple of my Beach Boy CD's ... so there is still hope!!!!! 
Rock On, Kent!
My experience has been that if they try it, they’ll like it … and soon develop their own list of favorites … a hundred times more addictive than crack … and so much better for you!  (kk)

Hey Kent,
Man, I hear ya ... I'm so glad we got to expose our kids and grandkids to real music while we had the chance. They love it to this day and have the same dim view we take on "today's" tunes.
Short of maybe Adele, and a couple of others that are played on the Top 40, I just quit listening to it all together.  Thank God we have oldies stations, and you, my friend, to help keep our music alive. It's appreciated deeply.
Ok ... off my soapbox now. 
Bud, have a great week and catch a breath when ya can.

>>>We’re not giving up … we’re going to continue saving the oldies, even if that means one song at a time.  Spread the word, people … Oldies Music Lives Here!!!  (Nicki Minaj be damned!!!)  kk 
AMEN, Kent ...

When I first started reading your blog, I thought that you were quitting ...
(Phew ... that was a close one!) 
I have to believe that we can pass the great music on to the next generation just by listening to it and singing it in their presence. My grandson knows "Blue Moon," "Surfin’ Bird," "Purple People Eater," "Oh, Sweet Pea" and others … so, in other words, I go around singing these songs all day long while my little four year old grandson visits me. He says "You know a lot of songs, Grandma."  Very cute. 
I have to believe that there are so many of us baby boomers around that the oldies will remain alive for a very long time. I still know songs from the 1920's and 30's.  The tv commercials are featuring some of the oldies songs … and the movies, restaurants and PBS specials do as well. So there are fans who want to keep the music going. 
A good song will always take on a life of its own and an existence of its own no matter what genre. All that we can hope to do is keep the music alive in our own ways. 
You are right though … I can’t name one song by Lil whatever or Big G, etc. (I don't think many of us can!)  I can name a couple songs by Bruno Mars and Lenny Kravitz.
I am doing my best to keep the music and the excitement of the music from our generation alive.  I am "Keepin the Faith."  Yaay, Yaay, Yaay.   Stay positive. 
I like quite a bit of the “new” music that has come out over the past twenty years … although most of the artists who rank highest on Billboard’s list have never really been on their radar.  I’m sure some of it must be pretty good or they wouldn’t have had as many hits as they have.
It’s the COMPARISON factor that bothers me … not that they’re having a lot of hits … but on today’s chart all twelve tracks of a new album can make The Hot 100 the day they are released … so of COURSE the tally is going to rack up a whole lot faster … and to a far greater number.
Truth is The Top 40 Era passed 30-35 years ago … some might even say 40 years ago.  It’s not the same make-up as it once was … and, as such, shouldn’t be compared “equally” when, in fact, it’s not.  And Billboard (of ALL people) knows better.  I don’t care about the statistics … I just don’t want these comparisons to be left for future generations to discover because they totally skew reality.  This is NOT the measurement that should be used to determine relative popularity.  (kk)

Hi Kent: 
I know it's pathetic to see how these modern day charts are depressing us, but it should be understood that modern charts are not the same as when we were following them. It's silly to even compare them. Glee is a perfect example. It has nothing in common with older charts except for a monetary component. Think now if the Beatles or Elvis were releasing all their records today, you would be downloading individual tracks from LP's and not just calculating the chosen 45's. So, instead of two Top 40 hits off of "Revolver," The Beatles might have had 11 Top 40 hits off of "Revolver."
What Joel Whitburn should have done / or should do is compile a 45 Era book from 1949 - 1989 basically. That would represent the comparison of 45 sales, etc. You could then have a modern chart book with how things are measured these days. It makes more sense than trying to measure Elvis 45's against every Lil' Wayne song.
See Joel’s comments above that kick off today’s post.  He is already looking at ways to better evaluate this new methodology of ranking the hits … and has been in talks with Billboard about doing the same.  I’m just saying that until they come up with one, Billboard should refrain from publishing the comparisons they do.  I swear it seems like a new record of some sort is broken almost weekly these days!  (kk) 

I’m extremely dismayed to read that Lil Wayne has had more Top 40 hits than The King, at least according to Billboard’s calculations. If you had asked me which artists would be on the list of the most Top 40 hits, I never would have guessed that there would only be three oldies artists, or that the cast of freaking Glee would show up!
I was born in 1981, so I never experienced the rush of running to a record store to buy the latest 45s, but I’ve grown up on music from the ‘50s through the ‘70s in large part because my parents listened to it and I fell in love with it. My music collection - mainly CDs and digital files - comprises of songs from all decades, but I love oldies music more than anything else. It truly is timeless and holds up so well. Today’s music trends tend to shift so quickly that I can’t imagine most of the current hit songs being relevant in five to ten years, unlike the music I love, which people still enjoy decades later.
I get excited when commercials feature oldies, especially obscure tunes, or when a new CD comes out with oldies I don’t already own. “Discovering” old songs for the first time is a pretty cool feeling. So I’ll certainly keep listening to these old tunes - and I’m not someone who’s contributing to Lil Wayne’s success!
Colin Donahue
I rest my case.  (kk)

Your rant about “the end is near” has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
You're not the first person to refer to the music as "our music" ... I see it all the time in various music groups I'm a part of.  Boomers do not have a copyright on music on music from 1955 -1972 and 1973 -1990. It is music we grew up with, but it's not "our" music.
So what … your parents or your children can't like it because it's "ours?" 
Does that mean we can't enjoy the music of Paul Whiteman on one end and Drake on the other end because it's a different era? 
It's been established that we are the most fond of the events that happened during our time as teens and young adults.  Indeed, the music of the last half of the 60s, was very much a salvation for me during my teens, as it truly is the only part of my youth that I can look back fondly upon. It's only natural then to look back fondly at the tunes that were on the radio 50 years ago.
Music is constantly changing. Today's Top 40 is not meant for you, nor does it pretend to be. It's probably not meant for your kids anymore either, as they have begun to age out as well.
The Top 40 of our youth was not meant for our parents. Raise your hand if you had a parent who chided you for listening to that "crap."  Speaking of your kids, within a dozen years, they'll be saying the same thing about that their kids are listening to. In short, you've become your parents. You are the Establishment.
Then you take on Billboard. Unless you're an industry insider, Billboard magazine is very dry reading. It is not a magazine that translates well to average music fans, and it doesn't pretend to be. It is a trade journal that reflects the state of the music industry today, not 50 years ago, or more. Their calculations on the status of a given song has changed over the years. We all used to assume that a #1 song was #1 because it sold more copies than the #2 song. It's not true and never was.
In the beginning, charts were tabulated by sheet music sales. Should we go back to that, since 45s didn't become the standard bearer until much later? Now, since singles are no longer mass produced, what standard do we use? Obviously, downloads are probably the best of any number poor choices. (I've never downloaded anything.)
Next we come to the "awful" realization that with the new method of calculations, Elvis is not the "King." 
I’ve got news for all of you … Elvis isn't the King. He's not even close.
The top artist of all time is the previously mentioned Paul Whiteman. He has almost double Elvis' point total.
Now at least one of you will say, but it was a different era, the charts were determined differently, the music was different. OK, if that's the case, are you telling me there's no difference between Elvis and Drake? Do you believe that the current era has lasted 65 years? It hasn't. 
The entertainment industry is constantly changing. The Rock And Roll Era probably died about 1990 with the discontinuation of mass production of singles. (CD singles never caught on.)  You could say it began as the 45 RPM took over from the 78 RPM, about 1955.
There's new adult rock out there, but don't look for it on Top 40.  And we've already determined what a waste of time a classic rock format is. So you either have to listen to satellite radio or college radio. Either way, it's out there.  If you care enough about the genre, you'll find it. 
Also consider the fact that your lifestyle is different than it was 50 years ago. Do you listen to the radio every waking hour? I'd wager you only listen while you're in the car. 
The end is NOT here, despite what anyone says.
I think you’re missing the main point of my rant … (yes, I call it a rant, too … in fact, I’m famous for them!  Lol)
What I’m saying is you cannot fairly and accurately compare these two different eras of music side by side.  (If what you’re saying is true … and I’m not certain that it is … then why isn’t Paul Whiteman at the top of these lists?)
The simple answer to that question is “Because he didn’t chart on The Hot 100.”
Forget all that he did BEFORE The Hot 100 list debuted in August of 1958 … it’s irrelevant.  So are Elvis’ first 26 Top 40 Hits … and everything recorded by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra before August of ’58, too.
It’s fine to define the perimeters of time measurement … 1958 thru today … but you CANNOT fairly and accurately compare The Cast Of “Glee” charting 200+ sides for one week each and say that they belong in the same league as Elvis or The Beatles!
But even THAT isn’t the real point of my rant and rave …
The REAL point isn’t what WE all think TODAY … we all know better than to think that Drake or Lil Wayne or Nicki Minaj are bigger than Elvis or The Beatles … there isn’t a Forgotten Hits Reader out there dumb enough to believe that this can be the case … my rant and rave was for the benefit of US … those who know better.
It was the genuine concern that 25 years from now … 50 years from now … when people interested in discovering popular music’s past stumble across the RIDICULOUS list that Billboard Magazine published this week listing the most important artists based on the number of Top 40 Hits they each had, they may stop there and determine that this is a real fact … an actual statistic … so it must be so.  Heaven forbid they don’t investigate any further.  Heaven forbid they don’t listen to the music of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s and ‘70’s and weigh it against these so-called superstars make music in the 2000’s, 2010’s and now 2020’s.  THAT is my real and genuine concern … and yes, I will attack Billboard Magazine for spouting out this crap because they know better and have always been a FAR more responsible and respected publication.  It’s not that I hate today’s music … I actually like quite a bit of today’s music and, unlike you, have downloaded my fair share of it … because it IS the only way to get music for your personal collection these days.
I listen to the radio every single day … in the car … at work … at home … I wake up to it … and I fall asleep to it … it has been part of my life for so long now that I can’t imagine a day without it.  (I flipped out the other night when Me-TV-FM’s signal was so weak that I had to change the station for my 30 minute “drift off to sleep” nightly ritual!!!)
I also see on a daily basis the way new generation has embraced this music once they've been exposed to it.  MY concern is the way a publication as well-respected as Billboard can dismiss it by ranking the achievements of the artists we grew up with alongside those that are establishing their mark with the way the charts are calculated today.  It simply isn't a fair comparison ... yet this is the information generations to come will be left with to determine its importance and significance.
I call it “our music” because I’m speaking here for the whole class, most of which grew up with the music of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s … and nothing could be further from the truth than your comment about the “ownership” meaning that our kids and our parents can’t enjoy it too … or stake their claim to it … because our parents DID enjoy a lot of this music … and our kids … and now our grandkids … do, too.
“Our Music” is universal … it appeals to anyone who gives it a chance.  THAT’S what makes it “Our Music.”
So that ends THIS rant (for the time being anyway!)  Thanks to anyone still reading or listening!  (kk)

It seems a necessity to me at this time (since Billboard has apparently no interest in doing so or including them) to recount the Rock And Roll Era Hits that happened BEFORE they switched over the name of their weekly chart to The Hot 100 … because SO many great rock and roll classics hit the charts between 1954 and August of 1958 that simply CANNOT be ignored or disqualified from their rightful place in the history of this music.
For example, Elvis had 34 chart hits during this period … Chuck Berry had 9, Little Richard 16, The Platters 20, Buddy Holly 10, Jerry Lee Lewis 5 … even mainstream artists like Pat Boone, who was primarily covering R&B tunes at the time had 31 … and that’s just to name a few.
We’ll be putting together a list of ESSENTIAL pre-Hot 100 Rock Hits in the near future … it just might blow your mind as to which rock and roll classics Billboard is now dismissing and ignoring with this latest round of rewriting pop music history.
Stay tuned!  (kk)