DEAR JERRY: In Serene Dominic's 2010 book, "Burt Bacharach - Song By Song (The ultimate Burt Bacharach reference for fans, serious record collectors, and music critics)," it mentions that when the Crystals recording of "He's a Rebel," written by Gene Pitney, reached No. 1 on Billboard, it kept Pitney's "Only Love Can Break a Heart" at No. 2.
If true, are there other singer/songwriters who have been denied a No. 1 hit by one of their own songs?
Chris Hankins, Port Ludlow, Wash.
DEAR CHRIS: For those curious about how Burt Bacharach figures into a question about Gene Pitney, Burt and Hal David wrote "Only Love Can Break a Heart."
The statement is true. For the week ending November 3, 1962, Billboard magazine shows "He's a Rebel" at No. 1, and "Only Love Can Break a Heart" is No. 2.
This pairing, exclusive to Billboard, lasted only one week, as the 4 Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry" supplanted Gene Pitney at No. 2.
For now, I'm calling this a unique happening. I find no other pop chart occurrence where one of the two top tunes is performed by the artist who composed the other song in the top two, regardless of their order.
Somewhat noteworthy is this example of the same singer-songwriter arrangement, still in the Top 10 but not quite at the top two chart positions:
For the week ending August 15, 1960, Billboard has "Finger Poppin' Time," by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters (King 5341) at No. 7, and Chubby Checker's "The Twist" is No. 8. "The Twist" (Parkway 811) was written by Hank Ballard.
Gene Pitney originally penned "He's a Rebel" with the Shirelles in mind, but they were just coming off "Soldier Boy," a No. 1 hit, and felt Gene's "Rebel" song was not quite appropriate for them at the time.
They chose "Welcome Home Baby," a "Soldier Boy" sequel of sorts that disappointingly didn't crack the Top 20.
Meanwhile, when Phil Spector learned that Snuff Garrett was producing "He's a Rebel," with Vikki Carr (and the Singing Strings of Ernie Freeman), he was determined to make his "Rebel" the next release by the Crystals.
For Phil, the bad news was that the Crystals were touring on the east coast, and could not come to Los Angeles to record.
But the good news turned out to be that the Crystals were touring on the east coast and could not come to Los Angeles to record.
With them out of the picture, and time being essential, Phil arranged to get it recorded by the Blossoms, a trio that featured an extraordinary vocalist named Darlene Love.
Interestingly, the Vikki Carr single (Liberty 55493) entered Record World's Top 100 for the week ending September 8, 1962, but never appeared in the Top 100 on Billboard or Cash Box. It was two weeks later that the Crystals' (i.e., Blossoms') version debuted on Record World.
As most everyone knows, Spector's single (Philles 106) did come out crediting only "The Crystals," as did countless subsequent releases, be they 45s, LPs, or CDs.
Even after "He's a Rebel" topped charts nationwide, very few outside Phil Spector's world, including most dee jays yours truly among them realized they were listening to the Blossoms, and that the Crystals had nothing to do with this recording.
The Crystals themselves were unaware of "their new release" until they heard it on the radio.
IZ ZAT SO? It's not exactly the same anomalous combination as Gene Pitney's double-up caper in 1962, but 15 months later the Beatles accomplished something similarly amazing.
We have written before about the week ending April 4, 1964, when the Beatles occupied Billboard's top five spots, but in case you've forgotten:
1. "Can't Buy Me Love" (Capitol 5150)
2. "Twist and Shout" (Tollie 9001)
3. "She Loves You" (Swan 4152)
4. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (Capitol 5112)
5. "Please Please Me" (Vee-Jay 581)
That alone is a unique feat, but there is more that could be said about that chart, and that year:
It is the only time four of the top five hits are from the same writer, or writers. In this case it is John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The exception is "Twist and Shout," penned by Phil Medley and Bert Russell.
It is the only time any artist was represented in the top five on four different labels.
It is the only time that all the nation's top four reached No. 1 individually, on at least two of the three major charts.
The exception is "Please Please Me," that peaked at No. 3 on all three of the Top 100 surveys.
Not surprisingly, the two hits keeping "Please Please Me" at No. 3 were also by the Beatles: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You."
Finally, for 10 consecutive weeks (February 22 - April 25, 1964), the Beatles held the top two, or more, positions on Billboard's Hot 100. This they did with different combinations of these same four songs: "Can't Buy Me Love"; "Twist and Shout"; "She Loves You"; and "I Want to Hold Your Hand."