Because moving across the country (I have left a newspaper job in lovely Seattle in favor of a fine MP3 establishment in lovely New York) and its attendant packing and hauling apparently does not keep me busy enough, not to mention the fact that I haven't written anything for Boogie Fever in a good long time (the reviews up so far were all done at least a year ago), I have decided to add another ongoing project to this site. Where Boogie Fever seeks to review all the number-one R&B hits from the inception of Billboard
's "Harlem Hit Parade" chart in 1942 to the present, Boogie Oogie Oogie Fever will attempt to do the same for all the records that headed Billboard
's Hot Disco/Dance/Club Play chart from its inauguration in late 1974 onward.
I figured this might be equally fun, and it looks to be; I also thought it might be a bit easier to track these songs down than the 60-year-old R&B chart-toppers, and in some ways it is. Needless to say, there will undoubtedly be some logistical problems here. For several years, the Disco/Dance/Club (it's been all three at various times) chart is a club-DJ's domain, not a radio DJ's or programming director's, which makes a difference when it comes to records being played and reported. This means that in a number of cases, not only were multiple album tracks counted in a final tally, whether or not they'd appeared on the same 12-inch (or, chuckle, 7-inch), but entire albums
were counted, with the helpful caveat "(all cuts)" added at the end. Most of the albums receiving this honor are obvious enough, though I'd rather not spoil the fun if you don't happen to have the spare $50 for a copy of Joel Whitburn's reference book of this particular chart and/or imeptus to go to the library yourself and photocopy the list of Number Ones in the back. (I paid for mine, then went to the library and Xeroxed it while copying other stuff, covering all bases.)
Of course, like most lists of this sort (I copied the Country-chart Number Ones from Whitburn, just for reference), its shape is a little strange. It seems like these charts arise out of need--an emerging format/genre demanding its own recognition--and as such have, early on, giant hits that dominate for a good while. In R&B, Louis Jordan held the top spot for months at a time; in Country, established in 1944, there were a grand total of four
number-one hits in 1960. Then in the '70s, things spread out a lot more, with most titles enjoying one week on top, and no more. In R&B and Pop and Country, this opens things up to a lot of weird one-shots, career water-treading, and faddism as well as deathless oldies fodder and occasional flashes of genius.
With D/D/C, though, the chart began in late '74, so the assembly line of Number Ones doesn't really begin in earnest till the mid-'80s, with 1984 the first year the amount of #1s (29) divides into a 52-week year by a number lower than 2, and from 1985 through 2004, every year has at least 30 #1s--often 40 or more. This subdivisional action resists a trend that's been endemic in other Billboard
charts, which altered significantly when Soundscan was utilized to gather chart information in the early '90s: Number Ones have stayed on top longer, sometimes for ridiculous, Louis Jordan-like numbers of weeks. Not so the Club chart, where novelty reigns supreme and where Soundscan barely seems to factor.
Strictly speaking, not everything that made it onto the D/D/C charts is R&B, which may seem problematic given this blog's m.o. Nevertheless, I think it belongs, and so does Kellman, who gave me permission to do this here, for which I thank him. Now I have to actually follow through. Gulp.
By the way, as much as I like the comments boxes, if any of this blog's contributors feels like chiming in on a tune I write up here, I'd love to have you do it in a post-not-comment--seems more communally minded that way. That's what disco's about, right?