Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: With May being such a big month for Elvis fans, partly because of the two CBS-TV specials (“Elvis,” and “Elvis, By the Presleys”), I am reminded of a question that's been buzzing around in my head lately.

Though the American press has not reported much about it, I have picked up bits and pieces about his setting and breaking records this year on the British charts.

Specifically, to which records are they referring?
—Glenn Winslow, Milford, Conn.

DEAR GLENN: This year is not quite half over, but what has already happened on the UK charts is mind-boggling. Here is a brief recap:

Between 1957 (“All Shook Up”) and 2002 (“A Little Less Conversation”), 18 of Presley's records reached No. 1 in Great Britain.

This past January, coinciding with Elvis' 70th birthday, BMG-UK launched history's most remarkable recording reissue program — releasing all 18 of those No. 1 tunes in chronological order, about one each week.

Here are those original 18 No. 1 hits, along with the highest 2005 chart position for all 18: “All Shook Up” (No. 2); “Jailhouse Rock” (No. 1); “One Night” (No. 1); “(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I” (No. 2); “It's Now Or Never” (No. 1); “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (No. 2); “Wooden Heart” (No. 2); “Surrender” (No. 2); “(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame” (No. 3); “Rock-a-Hula Baby” (No. 3); “Good Luck Charm” (No. 2); “She's Not You” (No. 3); “Return to Sender” (No. 5); “(You're the) Devil in Disguise” (No. 2); “Crying in the Chapel” (No. 2); “The Wonder of You” (No. 4); “Way Down” (No. 2); and the 2002 remix of “A Little Less Conversation” (No. 3).

Having 18 Top 5 hits in any full year is unheard of, but accomplishing it in less than six months is extraordinary.

Consider that for all of 1964 — the peak of Beatlemania — the Beatles reached the Top 5 just four times in their homeland. They fared much better in the states, having 11 of their songs in the Top 5.

Speaking of the Fab Four, their total of 17 No. 1 UK hits — the most ever until this year — is now eclipsed by Presley. With 21 to his credit, he leads them by four.

Also noteworthy is when “One Night” topped the charts in January, it became Britain's 1,000th No. 1 hit.

DEAR JERRY: In your opinion, which is the greatest American band of the rock era?

The choice must be a group consisting of American members only, and may not be a solo or duo act.

Criteria should not be limited to commercial success, and should include writing ability, general musical skills, and overall influence.

When I first ask people this question they are overwhelmed, but quickly narrow the prospects down to a very few.

For me, the answer is probably the Beach Boys.
—Dave Gehrke, Brookfield, Wisc.

DEAR DAVE: I agree. The criteria stated makes this one a slam dunk for the Beach Boys.

Groups like the 4 Seasons, Temptations, Jacksons, and the Supremes might get some fleeting consideration, but none can top the Beach Boys when it comes to meeting your assorted criteria.

IZ ZAT SO? As noted above, Elvis, with 21, now has more No. 1 hits than the Beatles (17) in the UK. Conversely, in the USA, the Beatles have 20 and Elvis 18.

With each act topping the other in their native land, it would appear there is no home court advantage when it comes to music.

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