“RHYME AND REASON”
Well, here it is the complete record index. From many years of research and knowledge, I’ve put together an easy to find resource of every hit single ever released in the Rock era. It is primarily argued that the Rock era began on May 4, 1955 when Bill Haley’s “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” debuted on the Billboard harts, while it is more common knowledge to many that the Rock era began on June 29, 1955 when that very song hit #1.
Simple. Before that date the biggest songs of the year were (as we would call them today) Adult Contemporary in the form of Prez Prado (who, before that date held the #1 spot for a then-record 10 consecutive weeks with his single, “Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom”), Bill Hayes (“The Ballad Of Davey Crockett”), The McGuire Sisters and so forth. And despite their singles being popular among the adults and the kids, it was “Rock Around The Clock” that opened the forum to the term of Rock & Roll, coined by disc jockey, Alan Freed.
What is Rock & Roll?
It began as “black” blues. The term “Rock & Roll” was a euphemism for sex (you know, to “rock” and “roll” with your baby all night long). A “black” blues singer by the name of ‘Big Mama’ Thornton had a record called “Hound Dog” long before Elvis Presley graced the Ed Sullivan stage. And had Alan Freed not have recognized the music on his radio station earlier, Rock music would probably be different today. But, as it happened, he did and today we rock and roll with many decades and generations from:
- Bill Haley and Elvis
- The Beatles and Stones
- Deep Purple and Black Sabbath
- Bon Jovi and Motley Crue
- Nirvana and Pearl Jam
- Nickelback and Green Day
The longest running rock band to date is the Rolling Stones, hands down. As late as 2012 they are celebrating their 50th year with a hits package, called Grrr and a tour.
The most popular band in history is still, hands down, The Beatles. 40+ years after their break up in 1970 they continued to achieve major CD sales for their Anthology series, their greatest hits package, simply titled “1” and the most anticipated remasters in 2009.
U2 is definitely one of the most consistent bands in history, only second to The Stones. Since their 1982 debut, to date they are still producing excellent releases and intense sales. Green Day and Bon Jovi is extremely close behind.
Michael Jackson is still one of the most beloved rock artists of our time. After his death in June of 2009, his slew of fans, old and new, continued their support and eventually assisted in the renewed sales of his historic 1983 release, Thriller and the closely regarded 1987 follow-up Bad.
Rod Stewart would have to be one of the most renovated artists from his bluesy roots in the 60’s, to his rock-oriented slew of hits in the 70’s to his adult contemporary popularity in the 80’s and 90’s to his new flavor of doing broadway-ish standards. It was a long career only bested by the likes of The Stones.
I’ve also come to terms with the fact that the greatest amount of classic rock came out of the 70’s. Despite the fact that the music was the most ‘aimless’ of any decade, it still held up well with its large amount of stadium rock pieces by the likes of Queen, Boston, Journey, Foghat, Kansas and hundreds more (oops, I meant to add Eagles to that line-up). But in reality, as exciting as much of that music is now in the form of classic rock, it was somewhat boring and tasteless back in the day, with Disco bumping the songs further down on the charts, or Barry White claiming a top spot over his harder rocking contemporaries.
The 80’s was mostly electronic with more synthesizers and drum machines than one can count. But the decade created some of the more innovative sounds – “Hungry Like The Wolf” comes to mind as a greatly innovative song. But it wore thin quickly as the hair metal scene was rearing its ugly head with Bon Jovi claiming the new sound of the Hair Ballad from 1984 through out the decade. But one cannot discount the popularity of such names as Ratt, Poison, Warrant and more than the rest, Motley Crue. It was a messy decade, to say the least, but gave us a few shining moments – special thanks to the Jackson clan.
The 90’s was a haze of anger and dismay with many rock bands going for the pain and anguish of being themselves while rappers were claiming their stake at slappin’ bitches and pimpin’ hoes. Another messy decade, only rivaled by the late-60’s debacles. But decadence is the name of the Rock & Roll game, as evident by the horror Elvis Presley threw at the kids and the disgust of many parents who felt like the world was coming to an end.
But when you look at Elvis’ pelvis scandal and then compare it to Madonna’s sexual revolution in 1984, it seems that we have never lost the touch of evil and destruction over the world’s teen population. I’m not really up on the whole EMO thing when you consider the major complaint was a better world that we had in decades earlier, but every generation had its own diseases (as quoted by Fury In The Slaughterhouse in 1994).
Okay, here we are – we are about to take a complete look at every Billboard Top 40 charts ever produced from January of 1955 to December of 1999. It is a complete rundown of all the songs ever to hit the charts in that 45 year span and gives you a consistent and excellent source of the world of music in the Rock era. It is the first millennium all wrapped up in an easy to follow guide from the earliest days through the changes we all lived at one to or another and makes it clear where we’ve come and where we were going.
Being currently in my 40’s, my era runs from the summer of 1976 to the summer of 1996. By the early 90’s, the Billboard charts began changing rapidly towards a larger amount of hip-hop and dance around this time, almost drowning our beloved rock bands, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Metallica nearly into distinction. But we kept creeping through those months and by 1993/94, rock music had to go over to its own charts making everything labeled more distinctly. I was always hoping for a world of one Rock for one nation – but it didn’t go that way at all. But had we followed the rules of the early 70’s then chances are there would only be the “Rock Charts”, “Hip-Hop Charts”, “Country Charts” and the “Adult Contemporary Charts” (for which the latter two are pretty much the same). But as Billboard had it, the “Modern Rock” charts and the “Active Rock” charts claim a 90% ratio of the same songs in different positions weekly and makes for a more confusing world for us – hence the EMO generation, maybe?
In my day, “Modern Rock” was nothing more than the ‘other’ stuff from the darker back pages of music from the likes of Siouxie & The Banshees and The Cure, and the Pop / Rock charts filled in the rest of our music for places carved out for Barry Manilow, Michael Jackson and Bon Jovi to come together as one genre – and we called it ALL “Rock and Roll”.
But as Huey Lewis’ “The Heart Of Rock and Roll” is nothing more than just a novelty song awaiting for its day to shine as a commercial, he did make the point of letting us know the “heart” of rock music still beats and even though some may question my reasoning, but The Beatles still seem to prevail on modern rock music – hello, Oasis and Nickelback. The grittiness of The Stones makes it easier for the parents today to stomach more of the music our parents did back in our day. And the evil and twisted presence of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, along with Alice Cooper and KISS, gives us old folks rhyme and reason to Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. So the point is that our generation gap is closing more and more throughout the new millennium and my point in doing these collections is to keep the original generation gap at bay as we claimed our own stake in the world and gave us more freedoms in the 70’s and 80’s than the 90’s and 00’s will ever possess. And I believe that in the next two decades we will see old folks cooler than young folks. We will be looked up to unlike ever before and maybe when we sit our grandchildren down to talk to them they will find more passion for our lives than my boring grandparents and their Gogi Grant concerts and Perry Como worshiping.
And even though Billy Joel didn’t start the fire, admit it, his generation fanned the flames and then added lighter fluid on it – probably imitating Jimi Hendrix’ Woodstock performance. While looking back on the world of rock, as the 80’s practically stomped out the fire and allowed it to smolder for a few years, Curt Cobain and Nirvana came on the scene with his matches and fluid at his side. And no matter how “emo” it may be, the kids are excited and pumped up again and it was the last days of my generation that gave them that are we are proud.
“Q: ARE WE NOT MEN? A: WE ARE WRITERS OF THE ROCK ERA!”
Since the summer of 1979 I’ve been listening religiously to Casey Kasum’s American Top 40. I would write down the songs in their respective order and compare them week to week. It was exciting to hear the new songs and have them documented for life on my sheets of notebook paper, which my mother kept reminding of their more serious scholastic purposes. I wrote a make-shift book in 1981 that put together my many years of chart knowledge because of my mother giving me her old manual typewriter in lieu of her new electric one. I had to type something, despite the extremely painfully slow pace of searching for keys which taught me my method of typing even to this day (the two-finger method).
In 1984 I got in with a girl named Sharon who would call me up and compare our American Top 40 charts had we missed anything. And then actually talk about the facts that Huey Lewis fell off the charts, in disgust! I mean, the song was at #15 just the week before! What the hell!?! Seriously though, it was a passion for me until 1991 when I was becoming more and more distant from the charts due to the overwhelming appearances of such big hits as Color Me Badd, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul (past her one-shot prime) and the crushing sounds of Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”. Nirvana and Pearl Jam began taking the stage around this time and it attracted me further away from the pop sounds. Honestly, I think Casey Kasum felt the same way and eventually shut down his historic American Top 40 in trade for his countdown of the Adult Contemporary charts by 1998.
But even though Nirvana was beginning to pump us up over the hit-making chartbusters of the early 90’s, I found some songs pretty cool – the first to come to mind was Natural Selections’ “Do Anything” and Heavy D’s “Now That We Found Love” was stuck in my head for weeks that year. But one more drum-machine intro to a fake keyboard soul ballad by a bunch of female soulsters who fluctuated their voice like an Arabian terrorist and I was going to start punching babies in the face. I was mortified that we had gone nowhere in music and everyone displayed their talents and abilities through machine-oriented crap songs. And the boy band thing was bigger than anyone cared for – at least anyone over the age of 16. So we needed Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the incomparable, Stone Temple Pilots. Even the likes of Metallica and Megadeth showed their support with more palatable music in the ways of Metallica’s Black Album and Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction. We were thankful for that and we look back now realizing that how important those bands were.
We began loosening up a bit with Sheryl Crow, Black Crowes and Counting Crows (funny, isn’t it?). Thank you God for the Gin Blossoms, Melissa Etheridge, Wallflowers, R.E.M., and my ever-beloved Warren Zevon (you may not remember him but he was important in the 90’s because he stuck to his roots and produced many excellent albums). I was horrified that my most loved Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were veering way off course for a while there, along with Tom Petty, who opened the decade of a kick-ass note but ended the 90’s on a bad ride – and I can say that because he was quickly redeemed in the 2000’s with his solo album and that Mudcrutch reunion.
But in the 90’s I was turned-off by Hootie & The Blowfish, mostly because of Darius Rucker’s monotone delivery that made my ears bleed (although “Time” was a great song). And Dave Matthews’ whine was extremely painful for awhile there as Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlin gave us excellent CDs.
My point? Sorry, I veered off – like Springsteen’s Ghost Of Tom Joad album – is to give you an insight to this music historian’s passion to the project. Because even though Dave Matthews and Hootie threw me off for a loop, like Mellencamp’s Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky release in 1996, I still felt the need to keep the Rock era complete and available for everyone to keep tabs of their lives. And as much I tried to keep up with 90’s, I got lost when Classic Rock stations kept burying us with the same 12 songs by the same 12 bands and artists and “Angry” rock and “Violent” rap bent everyone out of shape (at least everyone that once admitted to their appreciation for real music by the real artists like The Beatles, Stones, Springsteen, Dylan, Bee Gees or even Mellencamp – did I say Bee Gees?)
But despite it all, the possession of the Billboard charts still proved important to keep the world on a continuous loop. And we, meaning my generation, will forever admit to our love for our music, whether it is Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, Dave Matthews or even The Ass Ponys. The 50’s being historic in that it was the genesis of it all and the 60’s was the innovation of it all, the 70’s being the fun of it and the 80’s being the result of the former 3 decades, the 90’s was the decadence and the 2K’s proved that innovation got lost somewhere between Nevermind and Vitology.
We can only hope another Beatles come back around (and not in the form of The Jonas Brothers), or maybe a new Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. Hell, I’d love to see the next Elton John, Michael Jackson or I’d even tolerate the next Bee Gees. To keep having to hear 3 Doors Down’s “Let Me Be Myself” over and over again in a Geico commercial is a sad reminder of how distraught music has become and I’m sad for the kids today who accept it as ‘the way’ – much like my dad felt when Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” came out and that puzzled look on his face being similar to my own currently.
So, sit back and look back on history, life, generations, events and happenings throughout the course of this collection. And use it to download songs you’ve never heard before and get a glimpse into the world before you and the world around you. Listen and learn of a life on another side of the moon and don’t be prejudice because it has a title of “Disco” or “Grunge” or “Abba”. Some pretty good music was produced in every decade. Sometimes, though, you just have to go find it. Hopefully my collection here will assist in that search for a new world for you.
Either that, you just want to know what was #1 30 years ago today. And for that, this collection will assist just perfectly.
“DO YOU REMEMBER ROCK AND ROLL RADIO?”
In 1979, The Ramones released their excellent album, End Of The Century, with the song “Do You Remember Rock And Roll Radio”. Tom Petty released the excellent single, “The Last D.J.” and then later Bruce Springsteen released his wonderful Magic album with the song, “Radio Nowhere”. Yes, radio, as we knew it, is completely dead. Dead! DEAD! DEAD! No more! Gone! Lost! Deceased! Radio is now the dead parrot in a Monty Python sketch. The day of the disc jockey is gone and the day of hearing the music of the day is nothing more than just a computer program that rotates what some non-music businessman says so. The intimacy of radio is long gone where the disc jockey would open the phone lines and get a laundry list of requests and pull out the most diverse selections to make his shift more interesting than the day shift where all the big hits continued on their loop.
Yes, Bruce is still ‘da man’ when he cries, “This is radio nowhere. Is there anyone alive out there?” Meanwhile his guitarist runs his own radio show that plays a lot of the REAL rock sounds of names of bands you probably never heard before. Tom Petty once fought the record company for the lowering of album prices to give the fans a break in a tough economical time. Frank Zappa once fought the PMRC for the right to keep our music uncensored. A DJ was a local hero and would help get you through the long lonely nights or give you a voice for a day in the sun and fun. A radio station was the place to go to hear the music of your life.
Now radio is a computer and a disc jockey is either gone altogether or some guy who recorded a voice liner some few hours or days ago. And how do I know? I am a former disc jockey who achieved my dream, if only for a few minutes before the final gigabyte dropped in our laps and made radio the last place I wanted to be.
But I’m here to tell you that there is a savior. Yes! A new messiah is in town and it’s available on the one medium that killed our old radio – the computer. ITunes and Rhapsody offer many radio stations to choose from but it is the pirate-like online radio station run by many wanna-bes who perform radio as they once knew it to be. They offer a million different stations with dozens of genres and the majority of it without commercials. It’s almost like the Indie record label of radio. Give them a try sometime and find a home for the music you love the most – before the F.C.C. takes that away, too.
“A GOOGLE OF INFORMATION”
You can Google ‘John Smith’ and find a whole wealth of the meaning of the name. Pornography has a new outlook. But more than anything, all of this information I’ve collected is cyberspaced in a million dimensions around the internet. And much like owning Time-Life’s slew of CD collections, the internet will give you the tidbit here and the tidbit there. So I’m looking at this collection like the MP3 download site where you can get all of everything without missing out on anything. I’m just curious as to how long Time-Life will continue to produce CDs of minuscule proportions. The internet is the new way to obtain the complete bunch of “50’s Doo-Wop” songs, where you can pick and choose or just download them all without a corporate version of 20 songs per disc in no real order – so searching for a favorite song is always a bitch.
And as much as I once detested the computer world for what they’ve done to my precious radio, I’ve warmed up to the fact that the internet is an excellent source for anything and everything you want to know about music from both now and then.
And that’s why this collection is vital to the audiophile out there because it is perfectly complete with no missing information. The charts are 100% accurate and contain a wealth of information – like the #1 song on any given date, the most currently released songs on any date, as well – every single popular hit record released in every decade of the Rock era. You can look up how far back certain artists go back and you can even look at how many its any artist have in the rock era. I’m sure you can find many other uses for this collection and will all be compatible with other collections I plan on putting together.