Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I enjoyed your recent write-up on “Skokiaan,” a former No. 1 hit you don't hear played anymore.

It leads me to ask if, say over the past 70 years, there were two or more consecutive No. 1 instrumentals?

While you're at it, what are the most consecutive chart-toppers by females, either solo or by a girl group?
—Rusty Montclair, De Pere, Wisc.

DEAR RUSTY: Not many instrumentals reached No. 1, period.

From 1941 to present, the annual average of No. 1 instrumentals is just .457. That's less than one every two years. Two in a row is only slightly more common than centennials.

Only once in the past 70 years did back-to-back instrumentals occupy the No. 1 position.

In February 1956, sandwiched between “The Great Pretender” (Platters) and “Heartbreak Hotel” (Elvis Presley), came “Lisbon Antigua” (Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra) and “The Poor People of Paris” (Les Baxter with His Chorus and Orchestra). Together they held serve for 10 weeks, particularly amazing during the emergence of the rock and roll explosion.

Not included here are different recordings of the same song, such as “The Third Man Theme,” by Anton Karas as well as Guy Lombardo.

You didn't ask, but what about instrumental LPs?

The consecutive record in this category is three, which began in January 1961: “Wonderland By Night” (Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra); “Exodus: The Original Sound Track from the Film” (Ernest Gold); and “Calcutta!” (Lawrence Welk).

Turning to No. 1 songs by the gals, consecutive runs of three occurred eight different times (1945; 1953; 1955; 1990; 1999; 2000; 2005; 2012), but only once did they extend it to four.

In fact, they barely missed having a run of seven.

It happened in 1990 for “Opposites Attract” (Paula Abdul); “Escapade” (Janet Jackson); “Black Velvet” (Alannah Myles); and “Love Will Lead You Back” (Taylor Dayne).

Succeeding Taylor Dayne's hit, and snapping the girls' streak, was Tommy Paige's “I'll Be Your Everything.”

After just one week, Paige gave way to these three: “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Sinead O'Connor); “Vogue” (Madonna”); and “Hold On” (Wilson Phillips).

Had Paige not oozed into the top spot for one week, this female flock would own a seemingly unbeatable streak of seven straight No. 1 singles.

The ladies have not been as strong in the consecutive No. 1 albums department, especially in the earlier years. They did equal the instrumentals tally of three straight, not just once but four times over a 20-year period:

1985-'86: “Heart” (self-titled); “The Broadway Album” (Barbra Streisand); and “Promise” (Sade)
1999: “Christina Aguilera” (self-titled); “Fly” (Dixie Chicks); and “Ruff Ryders' First Lady” (Eve)
2003: “After the Storm” (Monica); “Dangerously in Love” (Beyonce); and “Chapter II” (Ashanti)
2005: “Unplugged” (Alicia Keys); “I Am Me” (Ashlee Simpson); and “No. 1's” (Destiny's Child)

DEAR JERRY: “Thanks for the Memory” is one of the best songs I've ever heard. Bob Hope and Shirley Ross sing it in the film “Big Broadcast of 1938,” and it later became Bob Hope's closing theme song.

“Thanks for the Memory” was a huge hit for Mildred Bailey that year, and has since been recorded many times. Even Rod Stewart released it just a few years ago.

All the versions I've heard, except one by the Platters, include a line that sounds like one of their memories is about being on a “train new.” Is it possible this is a mistake and they meant a new train?
—Joy Bigman, Columbia, S.C.

DEAR JOY: As popular as rail travel was in 1938, this verse is not about trains, old or new.

What sounds very much like “on train new” is the French phrase “entre nous.”

When Shirley sings “strictly entre nous, darling how are you?” to Bob, she means “strictly between us, how are you?”

IZ ZAT SO? It seems that nearly every recording of “Thanks for the Memory” has somewhat different lyrics than the words heard in the film, often because not everything has the same meaning now as in 1938.

Rod Stewart, for example, makes no mention in 2005 of “a pair of gay pajamas that he bought but never wore.”

With first-rate lyrics by Leo Robin, and the music of Ralph Rainger, “Thanks for the Memory” won the Oscar in 1939 for Best Music and Best Original Song.

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