And that’s a wrap…

This post was supposed to go up on January 1, but real life got in the way.  A friend passed away on December 30, and it’s taken some time to get through it and get back to reality.

I guess that leads to the first thing that amazed me about this project – nothing of that scale happened early enough in the year to knock me off schedule.

The second was that I completed it.  I’ve started a lot of things that never finished.  I undertook Project 365 in the fall of 2011 – with the research and song selection going right through New Year’s Eve 2011 – in order to prove to myself that I could actually complete something meaningful.

And I did.  Yes, I did pre-post occasionally… around work schedules and a Christmas trip to see the family… but more than 90% of the posts were written on the day they were posted.

Not all of them were exactly masterpieces, naturally.  But overall, I’m happy with how it came out.  I’m not doing it again anytime soon – maybe in a year or two, but certainly not in 2013.  I need that prep time back right now…

To wrap up the wrap-up, a few numbers…

Every year from 1955 to 2011 is represented by at least one song.   The most songs came from 1974 and 1988 (15 each), and 1985 and 1986 (14 each).  Yes, 58 of the 366 songs came from just four years.  I can explain the ‘80s music, as that was when I really was into pop music.  I’m not sure I can tell you why I picked so heavily on 1974.  Four years were represented by one song each (1955, 1957, 2004, 2011).  The year of my birth, 1963, got 6 songs.

As to artists, it should be no surprise that the Beatles had the most entries, with 6 (one that I had to pick as it was the only #1 song that day, 5 that I chose).  If you add in solo Beatles and Beatles projects, there are a total of 14 songs (Paul 3, Ringo 2, Wings 1, George 1, John 1).  Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and the Rolling Stones got 4 mentions each – although Wonder gets a 5th as a “featured” artist.

The concept of “featured” artists made this a little more difficult – I used the designations from my research source (Bullfrog’s Pond’s compilation of the Billboard lists) to determine who the song artist was, for the most part.  Generally, whichever artist released the album that contained the single got the credit.  I only threw in the towel once, on the Brandy & Monica single “The Boy Is Mine” (June 6) as while Brandy’s album came out first (by a month), it was the title track of Monica’s album.

As you may recall, there were 7 days where no song ever debuted at #1.  I took advantage of that to bring in 6 artists who I otherwise would have left out of the project (Avril Lavigne, Ne-Yo, David Seville, the Chiffons, Player, and Coolio).  Yes, some of those were a challenge – and some were fun, like picking Player so I could mock the utterly-expressionless Ronn Moss again.

There were 43 days on which only one #1 song debuted – which included two “must use” songs each for Phil Collins, the Supremes, and Destiny’s Child.

There were 1075 songs available to me, of which I used (of course) 366.

And finally… although it really wasn’t relevant (other than making my choice more difficult), the day with the most #1 songs was April 21, with 8.

Thanks for following along.  If you’d like to see more of my writing, visit my primary blog

…and in the words of Casey Kasem, who used the Billboard listings for years to power American Top 40, “keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars”.  Take care.

Day 366: I’m A Believer

Song: “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees
Reached #1: December 31, 1966 (their second, 7 weeks)

I saw her face…

Neil Diamond originally wrote “I’m A Believer” for himself before selling it to the Monkees – along with three other songs that all became Monkees singles.  I think he’d like it made clear that he didn’t write them for the Monkees.

There’s always been – well, not a stigma, more like an asterisk – on the Monkees’ success as a group.  They were formed, of course, for a sitcom and originally weren’t really going to be a group.  But the songs they did on the show worked out so well that an album was inevitable.

The problem was that the first albums credited the Monkees as the perfomers – in reality, most of the early songs were done by studio musicians with only lead vocals by the Monkees (Micky Dolenz on “Believer”).  This (along with Don Kirshner releasing More Of The Monkees without telling the boys) led to the end of Kirshner’s time as the Monkees’ musical director – and the beginnings of the Monkees as a real band instead of a sitcom band. 

The Monkees’ first road dates as a band came just about the time “I’m A Believer” stormed to the top of the pop charts.  It was a month later, in January 1967, where the Monkees actually started recording as a band.  So, if you do the math, it’s clear that “Believer” was a Kirshner studio production with Dolenz on vocals.

The Monkees’ career was as tumultuous as the band the original sitcom took its inspiration from (do I have to mention them?).  They fought each other, the record label, the sitcom’s producers… they broke up into side projects… and finally Michael Nesmith washed his hands of the whole thing… a couple of times.  He quit in 1970, came back for a UK tour in 1997, left again, then came back in the wake of Davy Jones’ death in 2012 for a tour with Dolenz and Peter Tork.

And you may know this story – but Davy Jones’ success with the Monkees caused another David Jones to take a stage name that you might be familiar with… David Bowie.

You can look for a wrapup post later this week.

Other songs that reached #1 on December 31:
2005 –
“Don’t Forget About Us” by Mariah Carey (her seventeen, 2 weeks)

Day 365: Hello Goodbye

Song: “Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles
Reached #1: December 30, 1967 (their fifteenth, 3 weeks)
Previously: Day 32, Day 95, Day 151, Day 165, Day 272

You say stop, I say go…

So what caused the Beatles to stop saying “Hello” and start saying “Goodbye”?

There have been many, many theories.

Mine is simple, and it happened four months before “Hello Goodbye” hit #1.  The only man who could keep the four Beatles from each other’s throats died.

When Brian Epstein was found dead of an accidental drug overdose on August 27, 1967, it was recognized as a tragic event, of course.  It was only later recognized that he had so many secrets (drug problems, gambling problems, and being gay in the ‘60s) that it’s unlikely he’d have lasted in the role much longer anyway.

Epstein, for his flaws, was able to manage the growing differences among the Fab Four and keep the band working together, even as their fame broke them up.  After he was gone, nobody else could do so – partially because they had their own agendas, and partially because there was no guidebook for handling massive sudden fame (and there still isn’t).

Look at what fame has done to today’s tween, teen, and twenty-something stars… and remember that when “Hello Goodbye” hit #1, the boys were in their mid-twenties.

Brian Epstein was, for the most part, the last thing the Beatles could agree on.  Without him, I think the biggest surprise was that it took three years for the band to fall apart.

So, as far as I can tell, Brian Epstein’s “goodbye” said “hello” to the end of the world’s biggest pop group.

Tomorrow, to close out Project 365, the band who were created as an homage to the Beatles…

No other songs reached #1 on December 30.

Day 364: Time In A Bottle

Song: “Time In A Bottle” by Jim Croce
Reached #1: December 29, 1973 (his second, 2 weeks)
Previously: Day 203

If only he could have saved time in a bottle…

“Time In A Bottle” wasn’t really supposed to be a single – ABC Records, which released Croce’s album You Don’t Mess Around With Jim in 1972, was done with the album, as Croce had released Life And Times in mid-1973 and was working on I Got A Name as late as mid-September 1973.

Then came the plane crash.

But that wasn’t the only reason “Time In A Bottle” reached #1.  At the time, ABC had used the song as the end-credit song for a TV movie, She Lives!.  The movie, a tear-jerker featuring Desi Arnaz Jr., aired on September 12, 1973.  Croce’s plane went down 8 days later.  ABC released “Time In A Bottle” as a single a few weeks later – with the airplay it had already received in the wake of the movie, and Croce’s death, it hit #1 fairly quickly, becoming Croce’s last #1 single.

Of course, the storyline of the song – the wish to be able to live forever, in some way – mixed with the irony of Croce’s death, proved irresistible.  And, indeed, in this song, Jim Croce has lived forever…

Tomorrow, the song that would have made a terrific ending for this blog, if the final chart of 1967 had come out one day later…

No other songs reached #1 on December 29.

Day 363: Angie Baby

Song: “Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy
Reached #1: December 28, 1974 (her third, 1 week)

Just what was going on in Angie’s room?

The song was written by the infamous Alan O’Day (“Undercover Angel”) – who disagrees, to this day, with Helen Reddy about the story behind the song.  That does seem kind of odd, since you’d think O’Day knew what he had in mind…

O’Day intended for us to believe that Angie somehow shrunk her attacker into the radio (and kept him there as a plaything) – Reddy thought she’d turned him into a sound wave.

The moral, I guess, is that the song doesn’t belong exclusively to the songwriter once it’s released…?

Anyway, this song always creeped me out – whatever Angie did, it certainly seemed a bit scary, even though she did it to a boy who wanted to do… um… bad things.

After a fashion, it followed the theme of Reddy’s first two #1 songs (“I Am Woman”, “Delta Dawn”) – but Angie’s a different kind of woman than either the unnamed narrator of “I Am Woman” or the slightly batty lead character of “Delta Dawn”. 

There’s no way to know if the odd nature of “Angie Baby” was the reason it was her last #1, or just that music changed… but after this single, Reddy pretty much fell off the pop charts (with just one more Top 10 single).

She continued to perform until 2001, then retired to become a hypnotherapist and motivational speaker – the retirement lasted until earlier this year, when she started doing a few dates (but not some of her biggest hits, as she says she can’t hit those notes anymore).

Tomorrow, as we close in on the end of the year, what if we could store the lost time somewhere?

Other songs that reached #1 on December 28:
1959 –
“Why” by Frankie Avalon (his second, 1 week)

Day 362: Starting Over

Song: “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon
Reached #1: December 27, 1980 (his second, 5 weeks)

(Just like) a reminder of what we lost…

This was supposed to be just like starting over for John Lennon.

He’d just released Double Fantasy with Yoko after taking 5 years off from recording to help raise his son Sean.  The Beatles had been gone for 10 years now.  It was time to start his recording career over, and establish just who John Lennon was going to be.

Then came one horrible Monday night in New York City.

The irony, of course, is that most Americans heard about Lennon’s murder through a coincidence.

A news producer for New York’s ABC station, WABC-TV, had a motorcycle accident that same night (December 8, 1980) and had been taken to Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.  He saw Lennon brought into the hospital and immediately called the station, which quickly got the word to ABC News boss Roone Arledge.

With 30 seconds or so left in the Monday Night Football game between Miami and New England, Howard Cosell was instructed by Arledge to release the news that ABC had confirmed (this would have been about 30-40 minutes after Lennon was declared dead at the hospital)…

Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City. The most famous perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take.

When you ask why Cosell, and not an interruption from ABC News, keep in mind that Cosell had interviewed Lennon on Monday Night Football several years earlier.  I suppose that factored into it…

Anyway, you have to wonder what the 72-year-old John Lennon would think of today’s world… one in which his “Imagine” is sung without a second thought by Christians who miss its atheist message and political wonks who miss its socialist leanings… one in which “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” is just another Christmas carol… one where there is no peace, and no sign of it…

He’d have had a lot to say.

It’s a shame we never heard it.

Tomorrow, we turn from someone taken by a real-life madman to a fictional crazy woman…

Other songs that reached #1 on December 27:
1969
– “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (their twelfth, 1 week)
1975 – “Let’s Do It Again” by the Staple Singers (their second, 1 week)

Day 361: My Sweet Lord

Song: “My Sweet Lord / Isn’t It A Pity?” by George Harrison
Reached #1: December 26, 1970 (his first, 4 weeks)

He’s so fine, my sweet lord…

It’s still a weird, weird story, 40 years on…

George Harrison wrote “My Sweet Lord” in 1969, possibly with help from Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, and/or Delaney & Bonnie (depending on whose version you believe).

He was using an old (and public-domain) 18th-century hymn as the inspiration for the song, which crosses his interest with Indian spirituality with traditional Christianity.  Harrison didn’t plan to record it himself – it was originally recorded by Billy Preston, but Harrison added it to the studio track list for his first post-Beatles solo album.

Apparently, though, it also crossed that hymn with the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine”… which led Bright Music, the publisher of “He’s So Fine”, to sue Harrison in 1971.

At the time, Allan Klein was advising Harrison in the defense of the suit – until Harrison and the other former Beatles fired Klein as their financial caretaker in 1973.  Klein, showing the honesty and credibility that marked his career, promptly jumped sides.  He bought into Bright Music and gave them all of the non-public information he could about the success of “My Sweet Lord”.

It took a few years, but the courts caught Klein out at his dishonesty… but at first, the phrase “unconscious plagiarism” entered the vocabulary as a judge twisted logic and reality to find that Harrison somehow stole “He’s So Fine” despite no proof of that whatsoever.

By 1981, when Klein’s ABKCO bought the rights to “He’s So Fine”, the truth finally came out.  Most of the restitution amount was overturned.   Klein was admonished by the court for his double-dealing.  And the suit was promptly settled.

And by “promptly”, I mean 17 years later.  The last pieces of the suit were closed in 1998, 27 years after it was originally filed.

If any good came out of it, it was that plagiarism suits without a “smoking gun” weren’t worth litigating, and settlements became easier to get…

Tomorrow, another ex-Beatle goes to #1…

Other songs that reached #1 on December 26:
1964
– “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles (their sixth, 3 weeks)