Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Better Late Than Never

I can distinctly remember hearing the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life" on the radio in the summer of 1976, not as nostalgia or a novelty hit but simply as a song whose shimmering horns and bouncy melody fit in with the other hits of the day (well, it was a lot better than most of the hits of the day, but you know what I mean). I have often wondered what genius at Capitol thought to pluck a fairly unrecognized track from a ten-year-old album and release it as a single, only to watch it sail into the Top Ten. (Earth, Wind & Fire's cover, from the hugely successful film of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, made it into the Top Ten two years later.)

That got me to wondering, what song waited the longest before making it into the Top Forty? It's a really impressive feat, to make a record that still sounds fresh and exciting years and years after it was cut.

Occasionally, a single will become a hit on a pure nostalgia trip, such as "Rock Around the Clock" did in 1974, when it was used as the theme song to Happy Days. The Beatles themselves had such a hit when "Twist and Shout" went to Number 23 in 1986, 22 years after it was first recorded, when it was used in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

But that's not really what I'm talking about. If we restrict ourselves to singles that made their debut in the Top Forty the longest time after they were recorded, we eliminate the above examples, as well as "White Christmas" (which made the Top Forty as late as 1962 in a version cut by Der Bingle in 1947), "Stand by Me," which went Top Ten on two occasions twenty-five years apart, and "December, 1963," which went to Number 14 in a remixed dance version in 1994, eighteen years after the original. We're left with the following possibilities:

* Tommy James released "Hanky Panky" in 1963; it flopped. Another label put it out a year later; it flopped again. Finally, Roulette put it out in 1966, and it became a Number One hit, three years after it was recorded.

* Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me," recorded in 1977 (when it squeaked into the Hot 100 at Number 97), went all the way to Number Three five years later in 1982, by which time she had presumably seen even more things that a woman ain't s'posed to see.

* The aforementioned "Got to Get You Into My Life," ten years after.

* Elvis Presley's "Guitar Man," cut in 1968, stalled at Number 43, then was re-released in 1981, when it went Top Thirty. Thirteen years later! Elvis must have been thrilled.

That's all I could find. Any more ideas?

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