At Last, My Legacy Has Come Along Edition
Trying To: Cousin lives the nanny, and he sends him.
Speaker 2: To the finest school. Lynn Town.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Welcome to Hit Parade, a podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast. I’m Chris Molanphy, chart analyst, pop critic and writer of Slate’s Why is this song number one series? On today’s show, 50 years ago, Elton John cracked the American Top 40 with the lead off single from his album Madman Across the Water, a Majestic Story song with lyrics by John’s partner, Bernie Taupin, about a fictional character named Levi, anchored by Elton’s piano and bathed in plush orchestration. Live on reached number 24 on the hot 100. In February 1972.
Speaker 2: And his show. Man. Good man.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Among Elton John’s vast catalogue of hits, Leven still does pretty well at Spotify in the U.S.. The song has been played over 25 million times. If you are an Elton John fan or hear him on classic rock radio, there’s a pretty good chance you know it. But if most of your radio or digital music listening has happened in the last two decades, I’ll bet that the follow up hit to leave on another heavily orchestrated story song from that same Elton John LP is one, you know, much, much, much better.
Speaker 2: Pretty. It’s my.
Trying To: You marry music.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: This, of course, is Tiny Dancer at Spotify. As of this week, it’s been played more than 570 million times, about 23 times as much as live on at US radio nowadays. Tiny Dancer is consistently one of Elton John’s five most played seventies songs alongside the likes of Bennie and the Jets. Your song Rocket Man and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. If you’ve been alive in the 21st century, you can probably sing every word to tiny dancer out in the street.
Trying To: Tickets. I forgot.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But if you were alive in the 1970s, maybe you didn’t know Tiny Dancer so well. Because while this single also made the hot 100 back in 1972, it peaked at number 41. That’s not only 17 spots lower than LEVEN. That also means Tiny Dancer missed the American Top 40. It was never counted down by Casey Kasem. It was on and off the hot 100 in just seven weeks.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Songs like Tiny Dancer are what I call legacy hits. Their classic status isn’t captured by their original chart performance, but they may now be among the first songs an artist is remembered for. Some of these legacy hits missed the top ten.
Speaker 2: Chance of a great super fight. She’s freaking out.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Sometimes they missed the top 40 entirely.
Speaker 2: Oh, yeah. And last.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Or even failed to reach the entire hot 100. Myself. There are even legacy hits that went all the way to number one for a week or two, but are now arguably bigger than they were back in their day.
Speaker 2: But I want to finish with the.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Certainly a song’s legacy can be reshaped by the movies or television. Or even sports. You’re an artist with a number one hit. Might find that years later. The song that appeared on a soundtrack might now be better known than that other chart topper. In your.
Trying To: Eyes. The light you could be.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But sometimes sometimes the public just organically decides they like a lower charting song better than the song that went all the way.
Speaker 2: Moment. That’s when. My love. Again. I just.
Trying To: Make some more.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Room today on hit parade with the help of our friends from data providers. Illuminate we will break down just how and why the herd changes direction, why low charting hits might turn out to be iconic hits the ones that establish an act’s legacy.
Speaker 2: Go back to.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: It’s one thing when a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act like Talking Heads or Etta James or Peter Gabriel has one low charting song out of its vast catalog that now punches above its weight. But perhaps the more definitive examples of legacy hits are the acts with just two major singles say one hit that made the top ten that is now somewhat forgotten, and another hit that missed the top 40 but is arguably their song for the ages.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: As it happens, I have just such an example. And that’s where your hit parade marches today. The week ending March 15th, 1980, when the Romantics. What I like about you reached its peak on the Billboard Hot 100 of number 49. If you’ve danced to this barnburner at a wedding or grooved to it on your car radio, that peak for the Romantics legacy hit might surprise you.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Now, don’t fret about this foursome from Detroit. They’ll be back on the hot 100. They’ll crack the top 40, even the top three. Can you name their big hit from four years later? We’ll reveal it later in the show. I’ll whisper it in your ear. For now, it’s a secret that will keep you up.
Speaker 2: I wanna hear.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: I’m going to say something now that might strike our listeners as surprising, maybe even sacrilegious, given what this podcast is about. The charts aren’t everything. They even sometimes get it wrong or are just way, way off. Like, for example, how do I defend the fact that this song Modern English’s I Melt With You peaked on the Hot 100 in 1983 at number 78. Answer I don’t. That chart peak is a cry.
Speaker 2: On your face. Never really knowing. It was always mentioned.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: It’s a crime because our fellow Americans really love this British New Wave song. I Melt With You is a staple of classic hits radio. According to illuminate in the last 12 months. I Melt With You was played on U.S. Terrestrial Radio 74,000 times. That’s more airplay than most Christmas carols. And this is in 2021 and 22.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In that same 12 month period, modern English has one major hit with streamed nearly 31 million times. That’s more than some recent Taylor Swift songs, Long Gone. So how is it that back in 83, this early MTV classic, a legacy hit, if ever there was one, couldn’t even make it one quarter of the way up the hot 100.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Sure. As a critic and a chart analyst, I can provide theories. I melt with you. Sounded more edgy in 83 than it does now. Maybe too edgy for pop radio then. The fact that its label, Sire Records, was better known at the time for hip acts like the Ramones or Talking Heads, then for scoring pop hits, at least before they started promoting Madonna. That might have something to do with it, but honestly, these rationales just sound like excuses. In 1983, when it comes to I Melt with you, the charts just got it wrong.
Speaker 2: Stone cold out. I’ve seen some changes, but it’s against.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Mind you, I’m not accusing Billboard of anything here. I firmly believe that the trade magazine that compiles our flagship charts has always done its best with the data they had. Now, the public just wasn’t ready for I Melt With You in 1983. Clearly, over the last four decades, they have come around to it. This is what I mean by a legacy hit. You might say I melt with you is the Rocky Horror Picture Show of hits.
Speaker 4: And it’s astounding.
Trying To: Time is fleeting and madness takes its toll.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Rocky Horror is the third highest grossing film released in 1975, just below Jaws and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But Rocky Horror made the bulk of that money. One midnight show at a time in the years after 1975, it’s now considered a kitsch classic, but it took years to find its audience.
Speaker 2: My name is.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Back to the pop charts. Here’s one other thing to keep in mind. Like the box office rankings, the charts are only compiled one week at a time. As I say so often on hit parade, timing and circumstance have a lot to do with why one song does better than another.
Trying To: I remember when I remember I remember when I lost my mind.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The difference between a number one hit and a number two hit is often an accident, the result of how the data broke down in any given week. To pick one example. 16 years later, I’m still pissed that Gnarls Barkley’s superlative alternative R&B classic Crazy.
Trying To: Doesn’t Make Me Cry.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Was prevented from topping the hot 100 in the summer of oh six by a fluky leap to number one by Fergie’s schlocky London Bridge.
Speaker 2: How come every time you come around the London London Bridge, one of those. One of the.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Now Fergie’s song goes down in chart history as a number one hit, Gnarls Barkley’s as a number two. But Gnarls Barkley song is the legacy hit at Spotify. Crazy has accumulated a lifetime total of 730 million streams, more than five times the number of London Bridge. Sure, the charts in 2006 were accurate. That week, Fergie sold more downloads than Gnarls Barkley. But culturally, the charts kind of got it wrong.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And radio in particular is a good gauge of legacy hits. I call radio the truth serum of HITMAKING. We might hate the way it overplays certain records year in and year out. But with all that call out research and ratings data at their disposal, radio programmers know what keeps us from flipping the station. So if, for example, they play Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl 85,000 times in a year, as they did between September 2021 and August 2022.
Speaker 2: You know, I we. Jessie’s Girl.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Those radio guys have figured out that we really want to hear Jessie’s Girl more than any other Rick Springfield song. By the way, this is an instance where the Hot 100 got it right back in the day. Jessie’s Girl is Springfield’s only number one hit in August of 1981. In terms of legacy, the difference between Jessie’s Girl and any other Springfield song is stark Don’t Talk To Strangers made it all the way to number two just a few months later, in early 1982. But in the last year, Don’t Talk to Strangers was played 1/14 as much as Jessie’s Girl. Dun dun.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: I’ve got plenty more of this data where that came from throughout this episode with the kind assistance of the team at Illuminate Entertainment Data. They provide the raw numbers that fuel Billboard’s charts. I’m going to provide not only radio data, but also streaming plays. To break down how some low charting or no charting hits back in the day became legacy hits. Unless otherwise indicated. By the way, these numbers were collected between September 1st, 2021 and August 31st, 2022.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Most of the hitmakers I’ll be discussing, unlike modern English, were not one hit wonders. It’s actually more revealing to look at acts with multiple hits and compare how their lower charting hit back in the day might now have a stronger legacy than the one that peaked higher. The differences can sometimes be rather staggering. And there is often an explanation.
Trying To: Talk about.
Speaker 2: The finer things in.
Trying To: Check it out. Food address.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: For example. In 2000. R&B singer Sisqo scored with this lascivious landmark, his ode to Barely There Underwear, The Thong Song. Just say the name Sisqo and most folks will start singing Thong Song.
Trying To: Let me see that. The Navy show.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: It did very well on the hot 100 reaching number three in May of 2000. But a few months later, Sisqo scored a number one hit. And this one, I’ll wager, is less familiar to most Americans. I don’t see.
Trying To: There. And currently.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The ballad Incomplete topped the hot 100 in August of 2000. The reasons for this discrepancy are rather technical. Thong Song was never issued as a physical retail single. It charted based on radio airplay alone, which was considerable, but not enough to get Thong Song to number one. Incomplete, on the other hand, did come out as a CD single with Thong Song added as a bonus track, a B-side, if you will.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Incomplete scored respectable radio airplay, especially on R&B radio, but stellar sales. Hundreds of thousands bought the incomplete single, some to own the ballad, but many more to own a thong song. Hence, Sisqo got his number one hit with incomplete. But nowadays these songs fortunes are reversed. In the last year, Incomplete was played on the radio about 2700 times and streamed a little over 12 million times. Not bad, but Thong Song more than doubles those numbers, over 6000 radio spins and nearly 30 million streams.
Trying To: I love guys. He had said that. Maybe ever but I think thing and again she had.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In short, Thong Song, despite never topping the hot 100, is clearly Cisco’s legacy hit. It is far more popular than his hit. That charted better. Back in the day. And that’s just the difference between a number three hit and a number one hit. What if we widened the gap? Consider this ditty.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Legendary singer songwriter Paul Simon has scored many hits, both with Art Garfunkel and on his own in his solo career. He’s cracked Billboard’s Top Ten with such classics as Mother and Child Reunion, Kodachrome Loves Me Like a Rock and Slip slide, in a way. But the first single from his Graceland album, 1986, is You Can Call Me Al is not one of those top ten hits a way for me. You know.
Trying To: I don’t find this stuff amusing. Or if you will be my bodyguard, I can be on my.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Surprising, right? You can call me. Al is ridiculously catchy, but in 1986, Simon was coming off of a fallow period. His 1984 album, Hearts and Bones, had been a relative flop and generated no hits. No one was expecting a big pop hit from Paul Simon in 1986. When You Can Call Me Al was issued late that summer. It missed the top 40, peaking at number 44, and it soon fell off the chart entirely. It was only after Graceland won the Grammy for Album of the Year in the winter of 1987 that radio programmers gave. You can call me Al.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Another look. This gave out enough oomph to re-enter the hot 100 and finally crack the top 43 months after Simon won that Grammy. Al peaked at number 23, but number 23 still understates how popular Paul Simon was at this time. Millions of people bought Graceland, and if they were buying the LP, they probably weren’t buying the single. Which likely explains why Al missed the top 20.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Now, for comparison’s sake, let’s go back a decade. In 1976, Paul Simon also won the Grammy for Album of the Year. That time with his Still Crazy After All These Years LP. Only that time, Simon was on enough of a hot streak to also top the hot 100 with this funky little jam slip.
Trying To: Out the back, jack making new plans. You don’t need to be coy, right? Just get yourself.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: 50 ways to leave. Your lover is Paul Simon’s only solo number one hit. It spent three weeks on top of the hot 100 in February 1976. And these days, 50 Ways gets plenty of radio spin.
Trying To: See how all the buzz gets you down made it. It just might just jump off the ceilidh and get yourself.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the last year, it racked up 2100 radio plays. However, that number is dwarfed by Simon’s later Grammy Award and.
Trying To: His surround sound. Sue Catlin The Mark Scott.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the same 2020 122 period. You can call me Al was played nearly 12,000 times nearly six times as much as 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Now, in large part, this is generational oldies radio stations which are now targeted at Generations X and Y not. Baby boomers nowadays play more eighties music than seventies music.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Interestingly, on streaming services, you can call me Al and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. We’re about even in the last year at roughly 20 million streams apiece, but that’s still remarkable. A three week number one hit from 1976 is now streamed as much as a number 23 hit from a decade later.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Honestly, it’s hard to say. Paul Simon has any one legacy hit. Frankly, the first paragraph in his obituary someday will probably list his Simon and Garfunkel classics like The Sound of Silence, Mrs. Robinson or Bridge Over Troubled Water before his solo hits. Still, the data is hard to ignore for anyone younger than boomer age. Paul Simon’s solo legacy hit is arguably, you can call me Al. We can do this all day playing with the data, comparing old chart peaks with current musical consumption. Like this Barry Manilow song Copacabana, the one about the showgirl named Lola and her love triangle with Tony and Rico, which only peaked at number eight in 1978.
Speaker 2: But you can’t book a bad. The hottest spot north of Havana, the Copa Golf.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But now generates more airplay and streams than any of his number one hits. Like I Write the Songs or Looks Like We Made It. It’s even roughly on a par with Mandy or the Peter Gabriel single. That was a total flop in its day. Solsbury Hill, a number 69, hit in 1977.
Speaker 2: South Korea. I could see.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Which is now one of Gabriel’s most played radio hits. 8000 spins in the last year, nearly 18 million streams and so many movie trailer and TV appearances. Hold that thought on Peter Gabriel and the movies because we’ll come back to him with some other hits later. No choice.
Trying To: Sure.
Speaker 2: Sure my high school with.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The stories of why all of these legacy hits fell short in their day are pretty specific and bespoke. It’s difficult to generalize, but broadly speaking, you can place legacy hits into a handful of categories. Some very broad explanations for why a hit changes trajectory later in its life.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Before I get to the categories, we first have to set aside songs that didn’t appear on the Hot 100 in the first place. As we have explained on several previous hit Parade episodes for almost all of the 20th century, as per Billboard rules, a song had to be issued as a retail single, a standalone track you could buy in a record store. Apart from its album to be eligible for the chart. So that explains why such now legendary songs as The Beatles Here Comes the Sun Records.
Trying To: Okay. Come. Nice.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Or Fleetwood Mac’s landslide.
Trying To: The fate of.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Or Billy Joel’s Vienna.
Trying To: When will you realize Vienna Waits for you.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Or Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven?
Speaker 2: And it makes me wonder.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Now do better as radio songs than they did on the charts. These songs didn’t make the charts because they weren’t issued as 45. Zeppelin’s Stairway, for example, is by far their most played radio staple in a typical year. It’s spun about 40,000 times on U.S. stations, but in essence, stairways. Non-appearance on the hot 100 was intentional. Led Zeppelin in 1971 didn’t want to sully that song’s image by letting it be a mere pop hit. Perish the thought.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: As for the legacy hits that were issued as singles and did make the Hot 100, let’s group them together very broadly into three buckets. I’ll call the first bucket, the deus ex machina category songs and artists that were affected by an outside cultural force. They had nothing to do.
Speaker 2: You have never.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Among Neil Diamond hits, Sweet Caroline didn’t do badly at all. It reached a lofty number four on the hot 100 in August 1969. As we noted in the pilot of Hit Parade, that was the highest that any Diamond song had reached on the charts to that date. But Neil was just getting started. He scored number one hits throughout the seventies like Cracklin Rosie in 1970.
Speaker 2: This lasts for around one song or song.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Sung blue in 1972.
Trying To: Song.
Speaker 2: We’ve been like, oh, we’re.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Or Neil’s smash duet with Barbra Streisand. You don’t bring me flowers in 1978.
Trying To: You don’t bring me flowers. You said you.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And yet none of these chart toppers holds a candle to Sweet Caroline.
Speaker 2: You have never seen so good.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: On Spotify alone, Sweet Caroline has generated more streams over 516 million than the rest of diamonds 23 track greatest hits album combined just in the last year. It’s been played on the radio three times more than Cracklin Rosie and six times as much as Song Sung Blue. And again, those were number one hits. So why is that? Why Sweet Caroline?
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Oh, come now. If you’ve been in a stadium in the last quarter century, you know why? Some good. Legend has it that the practice of mass group singalongs to sweet Caroline including that triple so good, so good, so good that diamond never actually sings started at a Red Sox game in Boston’s Fenway Park in 1997.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: This practice has since spread to stadiums around the world, including English and Irish football clubs and the Ontario Hockey League. It will probably never die. Talk about a legacy. All this sports exposure ensures that Sweet Caroline will long outlive Neil Diamond.
Trying To: You have never seen so good.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: A combination of sports and television had something to do with the reappraisal of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin in the 21st century. As we noted earlier this year in our TV tunes edition of Hit Parade Believin was first adopted by the Chicago White Sox in 2005 before appearing on the finale of The Sopranos in 2007.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: 15 years later, Journey’s Anthem, a number nine hit in 1981. Lower charting than three other Journey hits is probably playing somewhere in America as I speak. According to a recent column by radio analyst Sean Ross, Journeys Don’t Stop Believin is routinely played on U.S. terrestrial radio around 3500 times a week. Again, that’s per week. That’s more than Neil Diamond’s Cracklin Rosie or Song Sung Blue are played in a year.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Speaking of media exposure, we could probably compile a list of legacy hits affected by the movies alone The Beatles Twist and Shout in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World. Dusty Springfield’s son of a preacher man in Pulp Fiction. Iggy Pop’s lust for life in Trainspotting. In all cases, these songs were not the artist’s highest charting hit, and they are now among the act’s most played or most streamed tracks.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: One of the best career redefining examples is Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet band’s all time rock and roll, a number 28 hit in 1979. That, after its appearance in the 1983 blockbuster Risky Business, became Seger’s most reliable radio staple.
Trying To: Just take those old records of.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Bouncer. Today, nothing like Tom Cruise in a pair of tighty whities to make a song iconic to this day, old time rock and roll has more lifetime streams than any Seeger song by a long shot. It’s 215 million Spotify streams beat his number for 1977, hit night moves by more than 30%. And they beat Seeger’s only number one hot 100 hit. 1987 shakedown by a multiple of 25 to 1.
Speaker 2: Three down to. The crowd would have taken down.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: One other deus ex mocking the trend. It is the song that gets sampled by another song, thus turning the original song into a legacy hit. That’s arguably what happened to this Stevie Nicks hit, which originally missed the top ten, peaking at a frustrating number 11. In 1982.
Speaker 2: Yes. SAT on the.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Edge of 17, was always popular on album rock stations, but it went into permanent classic hits rotation after Destiny’s Child did this to Stevie’s killer guitar riff. Two decades later.
Speaker 2: We look up to see. I don’t think.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Nothing like that. Beyonce Magic. Destiny’s Bootylicious hit number one in 2001 and two decades after that, edge of 17 is Stevie Nicks clear radio staple.
Speaker 2: They did it.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: With 63,000 spins in the last 12 months and 59 million streams. By the way, that seven times the radio spins and 14 times the streams of Stevie’s highest charting hot 100 hit her number three 1981 duet with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Stop Dragging My Heart Around.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: I’ll give the second legacy hits category, the somewhat cryptic name formatting. What I mean by that is there are songs that didn’t fit into radio’s format boxes in their heyday and as a result, underperformed on the charts. These were empirically classic songs that, like Modern English’s I Melt With You Should Have Done Better in the first place.
Trying To: Chancellor.
Speaker 2: So, Frank, she’s leaving now.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Speaking of samples, Rick James’s super freak was prominently sampled by M.C. Hammer on the rapper’s 1990 Smash. You Can’t Touch This. As we discussed in our Great War against the single episode of Hit Parade, but back in 1981, I’d argue that it was formatting that fouled up Rick James and kept his classic funk jam from reaching its potential.
Trying To: One in $10 is such a thing.
Speaker 2: Singing Fat Girl is making it so great.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The super freak reached number 16 on the hot 100 in 1981. Not terrible, but not remotely reflective of how ubiquitous that song seemed in 81. Basically, in the early eighties, in the wake of the disco backlash, pop stations were underplaying or under-reporting scores of records by black artists, even when they were connecting with the general public, even on black radio. The super freaky super freak only got as high as number three on Billboard’s R&B chart, while other Rick James hits like Cold Blooded went all the way to number one.
Speaker 2: Oh, lordy, what more can I say?
Trying To: The sexist. 6:00.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But now super freak obliterates all other Rick James jams. Oh. Super, super, super freak was spun 25,000 times in the last year and streamed 55 million times. Those numbers are 25 times the radio spins and 16 times the streams of cold blooded sticking with the early eighties format can also explain the entire early career of Billy Idol.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Billy Idol was always hard to define. Genre wise, a legitimate English punk who rose with the seventies punk group Generation X Idol became associated with everything from synth pop to new wave to even metal. By the eighties, this uncategorizable ability arguably hurt Idol’s career for a few years before it began to help him. Dancing with Myself, a 1980 Generation X song that Idol remixed and rereleased as a solo single in 1981, didn’t make the Billboard charts that year at all. But Billy wouldn’t give up on it.
Speaker 2: But he seemed to pass me by leaving dancing with my. So let’s say. Look in the top of the page. If I have a dance at the dance, then I’ll be dancing.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: After he scored a couple of minor hits in 1981 and 82, Idol rereleased Dancing With Myself in 1983. This time it made the charts, but it only bubbled under the hot 100 at number 102 at a moment when Top 40 radio was playing New Wave, but mostly the new romantic synth pop of Duran Duran, Kaja Googoo or Culture Club. Billy Idol still sounded a little too punk for Top 40. It was only a year later when Billy softened his sound that he cracked the U.S. top ten.
Speaker 2: He. But there is.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: With the rock in ballad Eyes Without a Face, a number four hit in 1984. Nowadays, Eyes does pretty well on the radio. 6300 plays in the last year, but that’s a fraction of the spins racked up by dancing with myself.
Speaker 2: So the classic. There’s nothing that’s a no fly zone.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Which generated 31,000 radio spins nearly five times the number of eyes without a face. What sounded too daring and punky in 1981 and 83 now sounds like toe tapping comfort food on classic hits radio. I would call Dancing with Myself one of Billy Idol’s legacy hits, but not necessarily the legacy hit. He has several. Hold that thought, because we’ll come back to him for the third category. I’m just going to label it zeitgeisty. Over time, as the public mood shifts about certain artists, so do opinions about their songs. The public may like a song in its original day, then grow to love it later. This has arguably happened multiple times with Irish rocker slash soul balladeer Van Morrison.
Speaker 2: Plus Domino. All right. Oh. Look.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: This is Van Morrison’s highest charting U.S. hit 1970s Domino, which peaked at number nine in early 71. It still scores some spins to this day, 2600 on the radio in the last year, 11 million on streaming services. But this much smaller, much jazzier hit does much better these days.
Trying To: That’s what you. I’m Milo.
Trying To: Can I just make some more romance with you?
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Moondance, a 1970 track that was only issued as a single in 1977 and then only hit number 92 on the hot 100, racked up 3800 radio spins in the last year and 27 million streams. Remarkable for a record that didn’t come close to the top 40. Of course, both Domino and Moon Dance are crushed by Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl.
Trying To: Brown Eyed Girl.
Speaker 2: You. Brown Eyed Girl.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: A 1967 number ten hit that is now the most played van hit of them all. 37,000 radio spins in the year and a staggering 126 million streams. I guess that’s what happens when you devote a song to brown eyed people. Still, the fact that Moondance, a number 92 hit, puts up such respectable numbers to this day indicates that Morrison has, one might say, more than one legacy hit.
Trying To: I know how much you want me back. You can’t hide.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: What if we run the numbers on a classic artist with more than one number one hit to determine which of her blockbusters is the biggest of them all? Even here, the charts are not a perfect barometer.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In 1987, Whitney Houston’s I Want to Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me was a smash two weeks at number one on the hot 100, but it spent fewer weeks on the chart than the number one hit. It replicated from the year before. How will I know? Hockey. Dance with somebody also spent fewer weeks at number one, then such contemporary hits as Whitney’s own power ballad. The Greatest Love of All.
Speaker 2: Because. It is happening.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And it spent far, far fewer weeks on top than Whitney’s 1992 mega blockbuster, the 14 week. Number one. I Will Always Love You. And yet in 2020, to just turn on the radio, pull up Spotify or hell, go to a wedding, and it’s as if I want a dance with somebody is the only Whitney Houston song that exists.
Trying To: What strikes. Out. And the sun begins to fade.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the last 12 months. I want a dance with somebody who loves me. Was played on the radio more than 70,000 times. 70,000. That’s three times. The Spins of I Will Always Love You, a song that spent a dozen more weeks at number one. Then wanna dance? Did I Want to Dance With Somebody was streamed 111 million times in the last year. Stunning. That’s more than double the streams of I Will Always Love You.
Speaker 2: So I’m fighting. I want to be.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The public has spoken. Maybe they like carefree Whitney over torchy Whitney or empowerment Whitney. Maybe folks just really want to dance. Why they like I want to dance with somebody over. How will I know? I’ll never understand.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The point is, even among the big hits by a pop titan like Houston, the way the public now gravitates toward one specific hit was wholly unpredictable, based on the charts of 3 to 4 decades ago. So now that we’ve established some categories, can we compile a list of the biggest legacy hits of all time? There’s no perfect yardstick. We’d have to compare singles that peaked all over the hot 100. And nowadays there are discrepancies between what radio programmers and streaming listeners prefer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
Trying To: Let. Mum has come a long.
Speaker 2: In the midnight hour. She tried. She?
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Welcome back to Hit Parade, a podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast. I’m Chris Molanphy, chart analyst, pop critic and writer of Slate’s Why is this song number one series? On our last episode, I explained the concept of the legacy hit a song that underperformed on the charts back in the day, missing the top ten, top 40, or even the entire hot 100. That is now one of the first songs we think of when we hear an artists name. I’m now going to attempt the near-impossible ranking a top ten list of the greatest legacy hits of all time.
Speaker 2: With her at.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Before I tried to rank what I consider the definitive legacy hits. We should set some parameters in this episode. I have already cited many songs that fell short of the number one spot when they originally charted, but some still managed to crack the top ten or even the top five. While it’s impressive that Sweet Caroline or Thong Song have gone on to outperform their original chart runs, those songs were not exactly struggling to begin with.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: This explains, for example, why I will not be ranking Journeys Don’t Stop Believin, which by most metrics is a bigger legacy hit than anything on this list. Still keep in mind Believin reached number nine in 1981. It was a top ten hit.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In case you’re curious, Journey’s biggest chart hit of all time, i.e. the single that did best in its moment was the prom worthy slow dance ballad. Open Arms from the same Journey album, Escape. It spent six weeks at number two on the hot 100. In early 1982.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: For the record, nowadays, Open Arms does just fine in airplay and streaming. 46,000 radio spins in the last 12 months and nearly 34 million streams. But other journey hits that charted lower on the hot 100 now do better than open arms, including their number 23 hit any way you want it and their number 12 power ballad faithfully.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And of course, these days, Don’t Stop Believin does the best of all 117,000 radio spins just in the last 12 months. More than double. Open arms and 175 million streams. More than five times. Open arms. But again, believin didn’t do badly on the hot 100 in the first place. So unlike Casey Kasem back in the day.
Speaker 5: And at number nine is another song from a recent number one LP. The song is Don’t Stop Believin from the LP Escape.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: I will not be counting it down here. My Legacy Hits Countdown will consist entirely of songs that peaked below the top 25 on the hot 100. Most of them missed the top 40. Also, to qualify for my list, a legacy hit has to reach a certain modern threshold of either radio airplay or streaming ubiquity. Even if the song is totally great.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Speaking of which, I’d like to give honorable mention before I start the countdown to the Isley Brothers 1959 Call and Response Classic Shout When.
Speaker 6: Oh, you know, you make me roll up our.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Sleeves up and down. Believe it or not, this party staple, The Isley, is first hot 100 hit way back in 1959, only reached number 47 in its day. Two decades later, a cover in the 1978 movie Animal House builds to Otis Day. And the night’s was what finally made Shout. A dance floor standard.
Speaker 2: You know, you make me wanna take my. So I’ve got to say to.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: These days, Shout is more of a favorite for wedding deejays than radio deejays in the last 12 months. The Isley Brothers original shout was played only about 700 times. That’s great for a song from the fifties, but it’s not. The Isley is biggest radio classic. Their 1969 number two hit It’s Your Thing was spun about double that show.
Speaker 2: Do what you want to do and I get to.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Still shout deserves honorable mention as one of the hot one hundred’s earliest legacy hits a low charter destined for greatness.
Speaker 6: You know you make.
Speaker 2: Me grown up the.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: All right. So with those stipulations, let’s now count down ten totemic legacy hits. Again, this list is highly subjective and even with all the data at my disposal, only partially scientific. One last asterisk is that in a couple of cases I had to make a tough call about which hit is the artist’s legacy hit. That’s definitely the case with my number ten artist, whom I’ve already mentioned as the singer behind Dancing With Myself. And he has two other viable legacy hit candidates Billy Idol.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: As I said earlier, before he finally broke through with eyes without a face, Billy Idol had a hard time cracking the top 40. From 1981 through 83, he only did it once with the mostly forgotten number 23 hit Hot in the City. But the first single and title track from his 1983 album, Rebel Yell, looked like it might change that.
Speaker 2: This is not how she tried.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Despite a ubiquitous video on MTV that found Billy memorably sneering and punching on stage Rebel Yell, the song could only manage a number 46 peak. In early 1984. Nowadays, rebel yell punches and sneers well above its weight class. In the last 12 months, it’s been spun 59,000 times on the radio and streamed a stunning 51 million times. Those are higher numbers than either dancing with myself or Eyes Without a face and would probably make Rebel Yell. Billy Idol’s legacy hit if not for this other song, which is even more iconic.
Speaker 2: Sister, what have you done? Little sister who’s the only white wedding.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Kind of has it all. Billy Idol wise, that crooning vocal punctuated by piercing shrieks melodic hooks bordering on Goth and the chorus lyric. It’s a nice day to start again. That’s like a warped Hallmark card of video with coffins, motorcycles and women cavorting in leather. And yet, because it was one of Idol’s early singles, it took two tries to crack the hot 100. And the second time, it only made it as far as number 36. Barely an American top 40 hit.
Speaker 5: At number 36 for the second week in a row was the latest hit by the Englishman, Billy Idol. It’s white wedding.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Today’s white wedding pulls down some serious numbers. 77,000 spins just in the last year. 30% higher than rebel yell on streaming services. Rebel Yell has the edge over white wedding, but only by about 13%. White Wedding is also the only Billy Idol song that gets more radio airplay than his only hot 100 number one hit, 1987 metallic cover of Tommy James and the Shondells Mony.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Mony. So given how much likelier you are to hear white wedding playing out in the world and how it defines the Billy Idol persona, by the way, it’s also a blast to do at karaoke. And I speak from personal experience. I am ranking white wedding as our number ten all time legacy hit.
Speaker 2: Stay. Why would a.
Trying To: Not State started.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the number nine spot is a much mellower, more soulful eighties single by a power pop band that really should have had more hits in America. And this wasn’t exactly one of them.
Speaker 2: I brought you some to.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Squeeze out one of the great post-punk pop bands of the late seventies and early eighties, led by the songwriting duo of Chris Difford England. Tilbrook in their native England. Squeeze scored a string of top 40 hits like Take Me I’m Yours Cool for Cats and Up the Junction. But they really switched things up on 1980. Once tempted a pure slice of blue eyed soul sung by journeyman vocalist Paul Carrack and produced by post-punk demigod Elvis Costello. Costello even has a brief cameo on the second verse.
Speaker 2: Funk Brother which. I said it’s the occasional snow storm.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Tempted, broke squeeze in America, but it couldn’t break them into the top 40. It peaked at number 49 in September 1981. Even in England, it underperformed, peaking there at number 41, apparently moonlighting as a blue eyed soul group, confused, squeezes British fans and didn’t cross them over enough in America. But gradually, over the decades, Tempted has become a staple. It’s appeared in advertisements, video games, films. In 1994, Squeeze remixed it for the soundtrack to the Winona Ryder movie Reality Bites, and that album went double platinum.
Speaker 2: But the truth is, it’s what’s been going on. You’ve got this all in between.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Squeeze did, by the way. Finally crack the top 40 in the U.S. 1987, Hourglass reached number 15 on the hot 100. But this sax laden, tongue twisting hit seems largely forgotten today.
Speaker 2: But. The House. Down to the bridge or whatever.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But indeed, in the last 12 months, Hourglass was played a scant 300 times on U.S. radio and streamed fewer than 500,000 times. Paltry figures, but tempted it was spun nearly 5000 times and streamed more than 7 million by Billy Idol or Journey standards. Those are modest numbers, but for Squeeze, that’s a blockbuster on Spotify. Tempted has double or more of the streams of any other squeeze hit.
Speaker 2: By the other number ten.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: So as anomalous as it is in squeezes sterling catalog tempted is unquestionably their legacy hit. At number eight in our ranking is a song that actually topped a billboard chart. To be specific, the country chart back in 1974. But to listeners across pop and country, it is now arguably this living legend’s signature hit, which is saying something.
Trying To: Jolene, Jolene.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Jolene, perhaps you’ve heard the story that Dolly Parton wrote. Both Jolene and I Will Always Love You on the same day in 1973. Talk about living your best life. Jolene Parton’s story song about a bewitching Lee beautiful woman who can steal another woman’s man. Was Dolly’s first song to cross from the country charts to the pop charts. It cracked the hot 100, peaking at number 60 in February 1974, at a time when Parton wasn’t actively courting a pop audience.
Trying To: He talks about in his sleep and there’s nothing I can do to keep from crying when he.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Daily would later go after that pop audience more deliberately with more overtly poppy records like Here You Come Again, and especially her hot 100 number one hit 9 to 5.
Speaker 2: Working 9 to 5. Why do you make me?
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But Jolene has arguably remained Dolly Parton’s definitive recording. Unlike I Will Always Love You, which was covered memorably by Whitney Houston, Jolene remains firmly associated with Dolly. Even though she says this is her most covered song with hit versions by Olivia Newton-John, Pentatonix and the White Stripes.
Trying To: Jolene. Jolene.
Speaker 2: Jolene. Jolene. Back it up to please don’t take my.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Today Jolene and 9 to 5 are basically in a dead heat as Parton’s most played recording on the radio. 9 to 5 is more played with 5400 spins in the last year versus Jolene’s 3200. But remember, that’s a number 60 hit, competing with a number one hit.
Trying To: Jolene, Jolene. Jolene, Jolene. I’m begging you. Please don’t take my.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And on streaming services. Jolene is the winner with a stunning 77.4 million streams in the last 12 months, edging out nine to fives, 74 million on Spotify. Jolene’s lifetime total of 430 million streams makes it handily. Parton’s top song to a younger generation. In other words, Jolene is the more iconic Dolly hit for his hit podcast. Dolly Parton’s America host Jad Abumrad even remixed it.
Speaker 2: Don’t take. Don’t take. I’m begging you.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Given her stellar catalog, it’s hard to single out any one Dolly Parton recording. But the momentum is with Jolene as her legacy hit at number seven on my list.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Remember I said we’d come back to Peter Gabriel? Solsbury Hill has certainly wildly outperformed its original, lowly hot 100 peak. But for Gabriel, the legacy hit. The one that will surely outlive him is the one Lloyd Dobler was playing from his boombox in 1989. Arkansas laws. Sometimes by all rights, when it came out in 1986, in your eyes should have been a big hit. It was, after all. Following up Gabriel’s biggest chart hit of all time, the summer 86 hot 100 number one. Sledgehammer.
Speaker 2: I wanna be. Of. Go.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Of course, what got everyone’s attention on Sledge Hammer wasn’t just its catchy Motown style sound. It was its eye popping music video, a stop motion animation extravaganza that would become the most acclaimed video in MTV history to that date. After making this painstaking video, Gabriel was understandably tired. So he didn’t shoot a video at first.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: For In Your Eyes. Oh, my. That might explain why in October of 86, in your eyes, peaked at a modest number 26 without MTV to promote it. I’s climbed the hot 100 with a handicap.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Sure enough, when Gabriel went back to making videos for his next single Big Time, that song returned him to the top ten. But in your eyes never went away. And when director Cameron Crowe needed a love song for his 1989 film Say Anything, the song John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler would play to Ione Sky’s Diane Court as a boombox serenade. He gave Gabriel’s ballad a visual accompaniment better than any music video except.
Speaker 2: I want to start.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the summer of 89, after the movie came out in your eyes, returned to the hot 100 thanks to say anything. During this second chart run it only reached number 41, but that return established the song punctuated by piercing harmonies from Senegalese vocal legend Youssou N’Dour as Gabriel’s signature radio hit.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Today, in your eyes, does far better than it did in 1986 or 89. Its streams are nearly even with sledgehammers 24 million to 27 million. And on the radio in your eyes, is the far bigger hit getting spun nearly 39,000 times in the last year, more than double the airplay of Sledgehammer and five times the airplay of Solsbury Hill. You might say that, like Lloyd Dobler in your eyes, has fulfilled its destiny. It’s Peter Gabriel’s legacy hit.
Speaker 2: So soon, we’ll go.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: For our number six legacy hit.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: I want to return to the Elton John song we led off this episode with and like Peter Gabriel’s hit. This one was completely turned around by a film. Crazily enough, another movie directed by Cameron Crowe.
Speaker 2: I have to go home.
Trying To: You are home.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Few movie scenes have had an impact on a song’s legacy as massive as 2000s almost famous. Crowe’s thinly veiled Roman a clef about his early years as a Rolling Stone journalist did on Tiny Dancer. Crow gives Elton John’s song a major showcase as the fictional band Stillwater and its entourage sing along to Dancer aboard their tour bus. At a pivotal, emotional moment. Prior to 2000, Tiny Dancer was considered a beloved deep cut by Elton John fans. A song that John would play sporadically in concert, but certainly not a regular radio rotator. After Almost Famous, the song went into permanent concert and classic hits rotation.
Speaker 2: Oh, I’ve really been.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: As I noted at the top of the show in 1972, Tiny Dancer just missed the top 40 at number 41, but it now competes effectively with Elton John songs that charted much higher. Any amateur.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Bennie and the Jets, for example, a number one hit from 1974. It remains one of Elton’s biggest radio perennials in the last 12 months. Benny was played more than 30,000 times and streamed more than 55 million times. But tiny dancer. It beats Benny in both metrics. Nearly 35,000 radio spins in the last year and an astonishing 91 million streams. That’s in a single year, folks. The fans.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: When it comes to Elton John, one has to distinguish between a legacy hit and a hit. Hit songs like Rocket Man and Your Song. Top ten hits in their day still get tons of spins and streams over their lifetime, even more than tiny dancer. But those were hit hits among Elton John’s songs that fell short the first time, without question. Tiny Dancer is the legacy hit.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Moving into the top five, we have another tough choice for which song should be a band’s legacy hit. There are at least two contenders from the Texas Electric Blues trio Z.Z. Top. From their start. At the turn of the seventies, Z.Z top were steeped in the law of the blues. Their name was a pun on legendary bluesman B.B. King, and their first major hit about a Texas brothel called La Grange borrowed its moves from two John Lee Hooker songs. It’s nonsense lyric. How, how, how, how. Was borrowed from Hooker’s Boom Boom and its scorching boogie blues guitar style was taken from Hooker’s classic boogie chillun.
Speaker 6: How When I Wake in the Town. I was walking down Haven Street.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In 1974, La Grange from Z.Z Top’s Breakthrough Trece on album. Nearly broke the trio into the top 40. It peaked on the hot 100 at a frustrating, tiny dancer like number 41.
Trying To: I’m right.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: To this day. La Grange is a resilient perennial in Tops catalogue. It’s the trio’s most streamed song with a lifetime Spotify total at least 30% higher than any other top song. Just in the last 12 months, La Grange was streamed nearly 50 million times. One pictures. Younger generations of aspiring guitar heroes playing and replaying La Grange to imitate its signature groove.
Trying To: And.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But in pop culture lore Z.Z top will be better remembered not for their boogie blues of the seventies, but for how they rebooted their sound for the eighties. I. Retrofitting their guitar crunch with sequencers, synthesizers and electronic effects.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: 1980 Three’s Eliminator album has to stand as one of the most improbable reinventions in pop history. The three toppers bearded guitar men Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, their ironically beardless drummer, became MTV icons, appearing in a series of slick music videos revolving around a magical eliminator car that turned meek people into confident sex. The new Z.Z top sound took time to catch on.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: However, beyond MTV, the first single from the album Gimme All Your Love and Barely Cracked the Top 40, hitting number 37. But the LP just kept selling, and a year later, in the summer of 84, it finally spawned a top ten hit. Let’s. Legs climbed all the way to number eight, Zizi Top’s biggest hit ever. In that video, the Eliminator car and its trio of supermodels turn a mousy young woman into a strutting sexpot.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In between Gimme all your love and legs, however, came the hit that, at least on MTV, defined Zizi top in the popular imagination. Weirdly, this hit missed the top 40 entirely, peaking on the hot 100 at number 56, but it came packed with an instantly memorable chorus hook every girl’s crazy bout a sharp dressed man.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Perhaps fond memories of this music video in which a young man working as a parking valet is remade by the Eliminator mobile supermodels into a yuppie fied ladies man is what makes this Z.Z Top’s biggest radio staple. Maybe generations of young people want to re-envision themselves as sharp, dressed men. Why? Whatever the reason.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Sharp dressed man is now tops hit for the ages. Its 48.5 million streams in the last year nearly equal those of La Grange and on the radio. Sharp dressed man crushes all others top tunes with 49,000 spins, nearly double the radio play of La Grange and 40% more than legs. Their biggest chart hit. Even if you don’t remember the eighties, there’s a pretty good chance you can sing the hook of sharp dressed man.
Trying To: Go crazy about a shag. Never.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Which makes it finally Zizi Top’s ultimate legacy hit at number four in my ranking. It’s the song that has the highest lifetime Spotify total of any of our legacy hits. And talk about a definitive hit. It’s literally autobiographical.
Speaker 6: Now I’m in the limelight cause I run by time to get blown up like the World Trade Hall film The Opposite of the Win November one, like Christopher Wallace.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: A.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G. Formally kicked off his career in 1994 with a track that mythologized his rags to riches story growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. He and producer Sean Puff Daddy Combs named the song Juicy. Inspired by the song, it prominently samples M2 May’s 1983 number one R&B hit Juicy Fruit.
Trying To: That Kiss Me Good Friend Juice. You said. You.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In Juicy, which was only Biggie’s second single ever, and the first issued from his debut album, Ready to Die Big chronicles his poverty stricken childhood with more nostalgia than regret, how he dreamed of becoming a rapper, dealt drugs to get by, and how he eventually got over in the music business. It is a Proustian reverie set to a thumping beat and its opening line about Biggie’s dream and Word Up magazine is now etched in hip hop lore.
Speaker 6: It was all a dream. I used to read word up magazine salt and pepper and heavy d up in the limousine, hanging pictures on my wall every Saturday rap with back.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In addition to reaching number one on Billboard’s hot rap singles chart, Juicy did remarkably well on the pop charts for a debut rap single, peaking at number 27 on the Hot 100. In November 1994. Besides, Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes, it’s the only single in my ranking to crack the pop top 30 Biggie’s classic also was mashed up with another of my legacy hits Elton John’s Tiny Dancer on Girl Talk’s acclaimed 2006 MASH Up, Smash Your Head. An oddly moving combination.
Speaker 2: Of rap and doing the hard to find enough the.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Though Biggie’s life and career were tragically short. His rise on the charts in that brief time was meteoric. He began scoring top ten pop hits by 1995, and just after his murder in March 1997, Biggie began scoring number ones, including The Banger Hypnotize.
Speaker 2: Oh, oh, oh. Come on, your average complex with ten with your.
Speaker 6: Doe.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And its party. Ready? Follow up. No money, no problem.
Speaker 6: No info for the DEA agents. Man The plague.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Was too soon and the former today bigs two chart toppers are airplay and streaming staples, but juicy rivals both of them on the radio. Juice’s 20,000 spins in the last 12 months are just a bit shy of mo. Money’s 26,000 and hypnotizes 28,000. On streaming services, however, Juicy’s amazing 12 month total of 111 million streams is more than double that of MO money and only about 22% shy of hypnotize on Spotify. Juice’s lifetime streaming total is 587 million higher even than Elton John’s tiny dancer.
Speaker 6: Oh, and if you don’t know that, you know, you know.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: So a number 27 hit that established The Notorious B.I.G. As a New York rap, King is now, in a way, even more legendary. If you don’t know now you know.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Coming in at number three, we have one more act with more than one possible legacy hit. That’s because for these artsy CBGB denizens, many of their most iconic singles were not pop hits at first. But that changed over time as their songs became Casca, say, more familiar.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Talking Heads, the foursome of David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth may have met in art school and gotten their start in downtown hipster New York nightclubs. But their songs were catchy, pretty much from the jump. Their 1977 single Psycho Killer, with its incongruous French and nonsense lyrics and its driving bassline, got talking heads on to the hot 100 for the first time in February 1978.
Trying To: BOP, bop, bop, bop.
Speaker 2: Bop, bop, bop. Better run, run, run.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Our hit only reached number 92. But it was remarkable for any band from New York club CBGB to make the charts in early 78. Talking Heads were ahead of Blondie and Patti Smith and just behind the Ramones, psycho killer remained definitive for Talking Heads. A stark version of the song, played solo by David Byrne, led off their immortal 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. And the song’s percolating. Tina Weymouth bassline was sampled very memorably on Selena Gomez’s acclaimed 2017 top 20 hit Bad Liar.
Trying To: All I’m Trying To Shine, trying. Oh, giant, I’m trying to change.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Perhaps this helps explain why Psycho Killer remains so popular with millennials and younger on Spotify. The song is Talking Heads all time most streamed track with 301 million lifetime streams, over 100 million more than any other contender.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: On the other hand, at Radio, one other low charting talking heads single is even more played, and this track is arguably their most iconic. And Afrobeat meets New Wave meets gospel masterpiece Once in a Lifetime is an existential crisis set to music, its lyrics a string of proto means This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. Same as it ever was. My God, what have I done? It is Talking Heads, most acclaimed song.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But in 1980, there was no way once in a lifetime was getting on the radio. Once in a lifetime bubbled under the hot 100. Spending just one week at number 103 in February 1981. Note that this was about six months before the launch of MTV, which might have helped it up the charts. Indeed, after MTV launched, Talking Heads were a much easier sell to record buyers and radio programmers. Their 1983 electro funk single Burning Down the House with an especially memorable music video, actually cracked the Billboard Top ten, peaking at number.
Trying To: 963.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Today. Burning down the house remains talking heads most played radio song with 23,000 spins in the last 12 months. That’s nearly double the radio plays of Once in a Lifetime with 13 million. But 13 million is impressive for a song as oddball as lifetime and at streaming services. Burning brings up the rear behind both of talking heads. Lower charting masterworks. Psycho Killer racked up 27 million streams in the last year.
Trying To: Just a single number. Far, far, far, far, far, far, far better.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: And once in a lifetime was not far behind with 23 million streams.
Speaker 2: Go back to.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The data provides a mixed picture for talking heads. Honestly, any one of these three singles could qualify as their legacy hit alongside such other low charting classics as Life during Wartime or This Must Be the place. But given its acclaim, its immortal lyrics and the fact that it’s the only one of these singles to miss the Hot 100 entirely back in the day I’m giving the edge to Once in a lifetime. Its continued gradual adoption by new generations is like water flowing underground from.
Speaker 2: In the fi. Reporter.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the runner up position on my list is another wedding staple alongside the likes of I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Shout. But this is the song they play for the Couples Dance. Indeed, it has been the centerpiece of more weddings than even illuminate could count. In Joel with Burns reference book of chart hits top pop singles under the name Etta James. He lists the following five hits as her top billboard, Pop Charter’s My Dearest Darling, All I could do was cry Trust in Me Pushover. And at the top of the list. Her biggest pop hit. Tell Mom.
Speaker 2: Tell Mom. For me.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: These songs are all great and all solid hits in their day. All made the pop top 40. But hearing that list, you may be thinking, well, yes, but where’s. You know, the song, the Etta James song?
Trying To: Let.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: At last, written in 1941 and first recorded by Glenn Miller, and his orchestra was utterly reinvented two decades later by the woman born James Sarah Hawkins on her 1961 album of the same name. Etta James Elongated and Eroticized at last. Finding its deep passion and turning it into a satisfied sigh.
Trying To: The skies above. Blue.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the sixties at last soon became Etta James’s signature hit. But back then, mostly with black audiences, it reached number two on Billboard’s R&B chart, but only number 47 on the hot 100. At last May have been just too earthy back then for mainstream white audiences who preferred James singing perkier pop tunes like Pushover. A number 25, Hot 100 Hit Me More.
Speaker 2: Just. Oh, I am.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Or the aforementioned R&B stomper tell Mama a Muscle Shoals classic and the number 23 pop hit Mama.
Trying To: What it means.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Today. Tell Mama receives very modest airplay and streams. It was spun on the radio only about 300 times in the last 12 months and streamed a little over 1 million times. But at last has become synonymous with Etta James and has only grown in popularity since her death a decade ago.
Trying To: Let. Love has come a long.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Way in the last year alone. At last received 1200 spins on the radio and a remarkable 42 million streams on Spotify. Its lifetime streams of 340 million are more than double that of any other Etta James hit. It is the very definition of a signature song, one that long after the artist has left, this earthly realm continues to define her legacy. Etta must still be singing it in heaven.
Speaker 2: And here. In heaven.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Finally, we have reached the top of my countdown of legacy hits. And here’s the thing. Speaking musically, this is not the greatest song on this list. Not by a long shot. It’s not an all out classic like at last or Tiny Dancer or a career definer like Juicy or Jolene. It’s from 1980, the same year as once in a lifetime, but it’s not a fraction as cutting edge as that song.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: No. I place this song atop this list because to me, this is the quintessential legacy hit. The proof of concept. If you could set up a lab experiment to determine what I call a legacy, hit a group with just a couple of hits with one song that misses the top 40 and another that comes close to the top of the charts but is less well remembered. This act and this song fit the bill to a tee. Also, despite all of my caveats, this legacy hit is a gem. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
Speaker 2: What I like about you. Your man? I. The only one.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: With bouffant hairdos and red leather outfits. Detroit Quartet The Romantics took power pop very seriously, descended from such acts as the Raspberries and Cheap Trick. And with echoes of the early Beatles, the Romantics proffered a stripped down new wave sound akin to the knack.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: What I Like About You was co-written by band members Wally Palmer, Mike Skill and Jimmy Marinos and sung by Marinos. Which was unusual because he was the drummer and not the usual frontman. It was a total rave up with elements of Chuck Berry and the Yardbirds, and it won fans in the Romantics live set. Even before they released their self-titled debut LP. Debuting on the Hot 100 in February 1980. What I like about you took five weeks to climb to number 49 before dropping back. It was off the chart just three weeks later.
Speaker 2: You’ll keep me on my feet.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The Romantics would persevere for the next three years, experiencing lineup changes as they tangled with their management, toured the world and tried to hone their sound. By 1983, the Romantics had the look and feel of a one hit wonder, and that wasn’t even a top 40 hit. But then.
Speaker 2: When you close your eyes, you go to.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: The band, reinventing themselves as an even slicker version of MTV New Wave, Talking in Your Sleep, a compact pop tune with synth elements and a sexy video finally broke the Romantics into the top 40, where it rose all the way to number three. In January 1984, the song was a savvy and very commercial evolution from their original sound. The band that in 1980 asked a girlfriend to, quote, Keep On Whispering in my ear was now claiming to, quote, hear the secrets that you keep.
Speaker 2: Hear the same footsteps.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In total, the romantic scored only three significant hits. The follow up to Talking in Your Sleep one in a million, which was closer to their earlier retro rock sound, managed to reach number 37 in the spring of 1984. They never came close to the top 40 again. Yeah. Factoring out one in a million which receives scant spins today. How do the Romantics fare on the modern hit parade? Talking in your sleep has entered the pantheon of nostalgic eighties new wave.
Speaker 2: Here the secret of. I. A sequence that’s.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: In the last 12 months. It’s been played on the radio an impressive 21,500 times and streamed about 16 million times. Those numbers are not nearly as strong as, say, I melt with you or Jessie’s girl, but they’re more than solid. If the Romantics only had talking in your sleep in their set list, that alone could keep their career going on the eighties nostalgia circuit.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: But there’s a reason why the Romantics named their Greatest Hits album after the song What I Like About You. It’s their all time perennial. In the last 12 months. What I like about you has been played on the radio nearly 42,000 times, roughly twice the spins of Talking in your sleep on the streamers. The 1980 hit was streamed more than 30 million times, again, nearly double the plays of the later hit night game.
Speaker 2: And you tell me.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: It’s one of the clearest examples of a lower charting hit, eclipsing its higher charting successor in hot 100 history. And what makes the Romantics interesting is how drastically they changed up their sound between 1980 and 83. The public is presented with a clear choice with this band. America clearly seems to prefer the Romantics original crunching power pop sound. That’s the point of a legacy hit. The public has its say. Charts be damned.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Speaking of the nostalgia circuit, the Romantics have indeed been out on the road in recent years playing Multi Act gigs with names like Eighties, Weekend or Lost Eighties Live 2021 as part of their set. They do play talking in your sleep and if they have time, one in a million. But virtually without fail, the Romantics closed their set with.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Yes, their legacy hit. The Bash It Out classic that they first honed on concert stages way back in the late seventies. It helps that it’s got just a couple of chords and sounds great in a giant field or a tiny club, and it’s what the crowd came for. The Romantics are telling them all the things they want to hear you.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: I hope you enjoyed this episode of Hit Parade. Our show was written, edited and narrated by Chris Molanphy. That’s me. My producer is Kevin Bendis. Special thanks. This month to Jimmy Hardy and the entire team at Illuminate for the wealth of data they provided. Alicia montgomery is the executive producer and Derek John, the supervising narrative producer of Slate Podcasts. Check out their roster of shows at Slate.com Slash Podcasts. You can subscribe to Hit Parade wherever you get your podcasts. In addition to finding it in the Slate Culture Feed, if you’re subscribing on Apple Podcasts, please rate and review us while you’re there. It helps other listeners find the show.
Yours Cool, Chris Molanphy: Thanks for listening and I look forward to leading the hit parade back your way. Until then, keep on marching on the one. I’m Chris Molanphy.