Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7pjP_XkK4U) “Rip It Up” and “Lucille” were all great classics from the golden age of Rock ‘N’ Roll – so surely they all made Number One, right? Sadly, no. In fact, not one of them rose higher than number SEVENTEEN. “Lucille” did not even make the Top Twenty.
A check of the US Fifties charts reveals that Pat Boone’s appalling COVER version of “Tutti Frutti” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFxTvffJqOg) actually did BETTER – but who remembers THAT today? (Ironically, Boone’s OWN classic – “Speedy Gonzales” – only made number six in the US and two in the UK, despite being enormously popular there).
The reason is not hard to find. Having just struggled through a WAR, American adults were in no mood to take crap from their KIDS. Ignoring the fact that men are genetically pre-programmed to go “walkabout” around age thirteen – and hit their sexual PEAK at fifteen – they demanded their kids remain VIRGINS until EIGHTEEN – and abstain from alcohol until they reached TWENTY-ONE (and in many states – they still DO).
And they wondered why their kids REBELLED.
Unable to bring themselves to look INWARDS when their progeny became “delinquent” – the parents blamed it all on Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Of course, the music was only a SYMPTOM of rebellion – not the cause. But since the major record companies and radio stations were owned by ADULTS – the music still got BANNED.
And the situation in Britain was little better. The BBC (where the news-readers wore evening dress to read the news – on RADIO) was also dominated by fogeys and only devoted a couple of hours a week to the phenomenon.
The BULK of the records which occupied BOTH Top Twentys through the Fifties was MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD.
But in the SIXTIES, “yoof” finally got recognised (they now had MONEY) and once America’s small radio stations – and Britain’s “pirate” stations – took off, Pop ruled the day.
So no more problems – right?
Well – not necessarily. Elvis’ 1964 movie title track, “Viva Las Vegas” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fuGCxQE14w – you can sing ALONG to that one – you’re welcome) never made the Top Twenty either.
Despite its inclusion on various compilation albums (and a recent airing in the film “The Boat That Rocked” [US title: “Pirate Radio”]) Lorraine Ellison’s 1966 rendering of “Stay With Me (Baby)” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tVwIfiO8q8) originally only reached number sixty-four.
And in the Seventies, the story continued. Remember The Ides Of March’s “Vehicle”? Possibly not – but I promise you will know it when you hear it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRu93TEcSl8). A classic, covered by every show-band that ever played – however in the UK, it only got to number thirty-one. Even in the US, it was kept off the number one spot by the appropriately-named The Guess Who. Who? Precisely.
Then came a number that can be guaranteed to be in every British All-Time Top One Hundred – Peter Skellern’s endearing ballad, “You’re A Lady” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpoRPej88ik) – but it only peaked at number three in the UK charts (although granted while other records stormed to the top – only to be forgotten the following week – “You’re A Lady” sold steadily for MONTHS).
And what of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C74sjfGUQXo). The album originally flopped and it was not until two years later that the single was released – and THEN it was only a US number ten and UK seven.
But the undisputed KING of records that never made the prime slot but should have – was Ultravox’s 1981 hit, “Vienna” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W77LBPHQzl0&feature=related). This classic spent FOUR WEEKS as a UK number TWO. For the first week, thanks to John Lennon’s “Woman” – but infamously, for three further weeks it was denied its due by a ghastly novelty record called “Shaddap You Face” – the composer and performer of which received DEATH THREATS from Ultravox fans.
Joe Dolce has never lived it down.Footnote: The Little Richard, Elvis karaoke and Clapton uploads above were posted by yours truly, but curiously the “You’re A Lady” clip was NOT – yet you will hear a piece of “Muppets” at the end that I used to play when I was a DJ. Great – or perhaps not so – minds?