Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Number Ones

My dad asked me to make him a CD of my all time favorite Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles for his birthday. I thought I'd post the tracklist here, with a touch of commentary. Note that the list skews pretty old because, well, I'm making it for my dad. If I were just listing my true favorites I'd probably swap out a least 3 or 4 of those 60s/70s tracks for 90s and 00s ones ("In Da Club", "Genie In A Bottle", and "Get Busy" seem promising).

1. Tennessee Ernie Ford - "Sixteen Tons" (1955): A great working class song and country classic. Really ahead of its time and it still sounds great today.

2. Domenico Modugno - "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)" (1956): A really pretty melody and unlike a lot of the great 50's pop classics this one isn't killed by cheesy production. It maintains a nicely understated musical backing and just lets Domenico let fly with that great melody.

3. The Shirelles - "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" (1961): Another track a bit ahead of its time. Not included here because of any influence or anything, I just love the melody and the lyrics. I like the desperate neediness a lot, it really comes through in both the lyrics and the vocals. This has been one of my favorites my whole life.

4. The Tornados - "Telstar" (1962): Well I had to include an instrumental on here, and I never seriously considered anything else, though there are several other instrumental number one songs I really enjoy ("Love Is Blue", "Happy Organ", "Romeo and Juliet"). Just so futuristic and amazing. All about the melody on this one too, like I've said several times before I'm really a melody guy. Replay value is huge!

5. The Beatles - "She Loves You" (1964): I debated for a long time which Beatles song to include. For a variety of reasons (stylistic and era diversity, mostly), I ended up going with this one, my favorite of their Beatlemania period. Really underrated lyrics on this one and great vocals. And this one doesn't have the best melody of the Beatles tunes ("Hello Goodbye" is better, so is "Paperback Writer" and a few others), but it's just so happy! And the music on this one is great.

6. Nancy Sinatra - "These Boots Were Made For Walking" (1966): So awesome. What attitude on this one! Not much of a melody to speak of here, but really amazing vocals and that bass line. "Truthin". One of the most enduringly popular 60s songs, and a karaoke staple, this one is almost impossible not to love.

7. Rolling Stones - "Paint It, Black" (1966): My favorite of the Rolling Stones songs to hit number one, this one was a no-brainer to include as there was no way I could leave off the Stones. It's unfortunate that my favorite of their number ones is probably not one of my 5 or 10 favorite of their songs overall, and I do wish "Jumping Jack Flas" or "Under My Thumb" had hit number one, but what are you gonna do.

8. The Four Tops - "Reach Out, I'll Be There" (1966): Definitely the best song Motown ever produced, in my opinion. I really wanted to include a Supremes song on this, but I just like this song and the Shirelles too much more than any Supremes single, so they got bumped. Note that "Be My Baby" and "The Tracks of My Tears" never hit number one, though I may well prefer this song anyways. Amazing melody. Even better than "It's the Same Old Song" (which never hit #1).

What an utterly absurdly good year for number ones 1966 was. In addition to the 3 on this mix, there's "96 Tears", "Wild Thing", "Last Train to Clarksville", "Paperback Writer", and "Good Vibrations", all 5 of which were seriously considered at some point. And one of which ("96 Tears") was the very last song cut.

9. The Turtles - "Happy Together" (1967): One of my favorite songs of all time, and an easy inclusion. Fun and summery, beats the British Invasion bands at their own game. Yeah it's cliched, and overdone, and etc., but I still love it.

10. The Box Tops - "The Letter" (1967): Classic melody and lyrics and great scratchy vocals. This one is kind of throwaway, but it manages to pack a good punch in 2 minutes, and it's the one #1 most prone to get hopelessly stuck in my head for hours. ("Crimson and Clover" was too long to include on the mix, and I figured the downgrade from that to this was less than the cost of deleting another song entirely).

11. Shocking Blue - "Venus" (1970): This one is my silly inclusion. It's a personal favorite, and I even like it more than the Bananarama version, but I'm not going to pretend to objectively defend it. It's got ridiculous, mannered vocals, but I think they work for the song and they melody/music are undefeatable.

12. Charlie Rich - "The Most Beautiful Girl" (1973): A slick country/pop classic, that I suppose gets noted as a country song 'cause of the slightly twangy guitar. But it's just a really pretty and sweet love song. Probably my favorite song on Charlie's country classic Behind Closed Doors and probably my favorite true country #1, so it sneaks in.

13. George McCRae - "Rock Your Baby" (1974): Such an amazing midtempo ballad. Once again, there was no point where I even considered not including this. Fun fact: I don't know a single other George McCrae song.

14. The Bee Gees - "You Should Be Dancing" (1976): I really wanted to include a disco song on here, in deference to it's chart domination, and this is definitely my favorite Bee Gees number one. While that would seem to make it a slam dunk, I debated seriously between this and "Don't Leave Me This Way", and I'm still not sure I made the right decision. In any event, really nice chorus here and some real powerhouse instrumental hooks make this an amazing song.

15. Kim Carnes - "Bette Davis Eyes" (1981): Awesome, underrated power ballad here. This is the slot that really should have gone to "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (i.e. power ballad, scratchy throat female singer, drama), but man I just like this song more. Plus this came first!

16. Human League - "Don't You Want Me" (1982): Not impossibly one of my 10 favorite singles of all time. And, yeah, my dad prolly won't like it, but damnit I left "Genie in a Bottle" off for his sake and no way and I leaving both this and Xtina out. Plus it feels just wrong not to have an 80's upbeat synth song on here.

17. Prince - "Let's Go Crazy" (1984): Another easy inclusion. Like I'm gonna leave Prince off here. I really wish "Little Red Corvette" had made it to #1, and it was some debate as to whether include "When Doves Cry" or "Let's Go Crazy", but this song was picked due to a surplus of 80s ballads already otherwise included.

18. Wham! featuring George Michael - "Careless Whisper" (1985): Frickin' awesome ballad and George Michael is a really underrated songwriter. George Michael has several of my favorite number ones of the 80s but this one, with a killer downtempo melody, a powerhouse instrumental hook, and great heartbreaking lyrics is an all-time classic and a personal favorite.

19. Roxette - "Listen to Your Heart" (1989): Like "Venus", this is another silly personal favorite. But I love Roxette's female vocalist, and the music and melody is amazing on this song. This encapsulates why Roxette is one of my favorite singles bands of the late 80s/early 90s, and it's their best single to boot.

20. Mariah Carey - "Emotions" (1991): Once you get past the 80's, it's really unlikely I'll find a number one my dad will like, but it seems wrong to leave out the 90's entirely. This one is retro-sounding, which is good for my dad, and frickin awesome, which is good for me. That it's done by one of my 10 favorite artists of the 90's is just a nice added bonus. I thought picking out only one nineties hit would be hard, but this was a surprisingly easy choice.

21. Beyonce - "Irreplaceable" (2006): I've written plenty about this song on here before. I felt like the mix did need some 00's R&B representative, since I do love the genre so much, and of all my favorites, this one is the most dad friendly, so it's a pretty good default choice. Not to mention I'm loving this song more and more the more I hear it. Still hasn't gotten old.

Shocking omissions? Inexplicable inclusions? Comment, and I will defend myself!

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