Eventually, “Blurred Lines” will be stopped. But today’s not that day. Robin Thicke’s brightly colored pervert-soul continues to rest at the top of Billboard Hot 100, where it’s comfortably spread its legs since the middle of June. (It’s August 6th, and there have only been eight #1 songs this entire year, beginning with “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars and continuing onto Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Baauer, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis again, Bruno Mars again, Pink, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis AGAIN, and finally, Thicke.)
In hindsight, this sounds dumb, but the popularity of “Blurred” is remarkable and completely unexpected. By top-40 standards, the 36-year-old Thicke is ancient, and before he hooked up with Pharell, only one of his songs ever charted in the top-50. And that was “Lost Without U,” all the way back in 2007. In honor of “Blurred,” let’s take a look at some other very unlikely songs that hit #1 on the Hot 100, beginning back in 1966.
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
The year was 1966. Revolver, Pet Sounds, Blonde on Blonde, Freak Out!, and The Soul Album all came out in the same 12-month period, arguably the greatest in rock’s history. And yet on December 3rd, the top song in the land, wedged in between classics by the Supremes and the Beach Boys, was “Winchester Cathedral,” a fluke vaudeville hit performed by a group of session musicians. It was a sentimental throwback during a time of cultural upheaval, meaning: old people loved it. As did Grammy voters — it won the award for Best Contemporary Song.
There’s a reason that category doesn’t exist anymore.
“Love is Blue” by Paul Mauriat
Blue, blue, the world is blue, but for a brief spell in 1968, Paul Mauriat was rolling in green. Based on “L’amour est bleu,” Paul Mauriat’s whimsical, lyric-less cover of André Popp and Pierre Cour’s composition is still the only song by a French artist to hit #1. It’s also the only song by a French artist to play over the end credits of an episode of Mad Men in which Don takes Bobby to see Planet of the Apes. That’s more prestigious.
“In the Year 2525” by Dennis Zager and Richard Evans
Speaking of decades-old songs being repurposed for recent TV shows: Futurama fans will recognize the disdainful ode to technology, “In the Year 2525,” from “The Late Philip J. Fry.” Zager and Evans never fought a bloodthirsty shrimp, but they did follow up “2525,” which was written in 1964 but didn’t become a hit until four years later, with “Mr. Turnkey,” the best Everly Brothers single about a rapist who nails his wrist to a wall ever.
“My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry has recorded some of rock’s greatest brilliantly simplistic songs. “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell),” “Too Much Monkey Business” — his discography could fill an entire jukebox, without ever hitting a dud track. With one exception: “My Ding-a-Ling,” a 1972 cover of Dave Bartholomew’s juvenile double entendre disguised as “music.” It was Berry’s first song to turn up in the Hot-100 since “Dear Dad” in 1965, and his last in the top-20. It’s one of those smash songs that everyone knows but nobody likes. Am I saying if this song was an act, it’d be the Black Eyed Peas? Yes. Yes, I am.
“Disco Duck” by Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots
Satirical or not, anyone who claims “music hasn’t been good since the 1970s” is wrong. “Disco Duck” is why. It’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” decades before “Who Let the Dogs Out?” caused an increase in suicide.
“Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco
Outside the cast and crew and the guy who owns the rights to F*ckJarJar.com, few have profited off Star Wars as much as Domenico Monardo, a Pennsylvania-born Italian musician turned super Italian producer who-a recorded a disco-cheese take on John Williams’s massive space score. “Meco” saw Star Wars the night it came out, four more times the next day, and less than three weeks later, had recorded Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, which included the twice-platinum “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” (edited from fifteen minutes down to three for radio play). Meco later reworked the scores for The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek, and Casablanca, but without the help of the Fetus Grapes, he never attained the same level of success.
“Stars on 45” by Stars on 45
We should be thankful for “Stars on 45.” Not because it’s a good song — it’s about as tacky as you’d assume a Archies and Beatles medley put together by a Dutch novelty group would be (plus, its official title is “Medley: Intro Venus/ Sugar Sugar/No Reply/I’ll Be Back/Drive My Car/Do You Want to Know a Secret/We Can Work It Out/I Should Have Known Better/Nowhere Man/You’re Going to Lose That Girl/Stars on 45,” which, no — but because without it, Weird Al never would have launched his polka medley series, which culminated in 1996 with “The Alternative Polka.” So, thanks, Stars on 45?
“Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn
White people are the worst. The first rap song to be a #1 hit on the Hot 100: “Ice, Ice Baby.” The second rap song to be a #1 hit on the Hot 100: “Good Vibrations.” Finally, in late 1991, more than a year after Vanilla Ice stole our money and our David Bowie and Queen samples, P.M. Dawn broke though the musical color barrier, when their “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” made music history. (It would take another five years for the first GREAT rap track, no matter the color, to top the charts, when Bone Thugs took us to “Tha Crossroads.”)
“Amazed” by Lonestar
REAL TALK: I can’t hear this song without thinking about middle school dances, and how when all the cool kids (and even the lame ones, too) would slow dance to it, I’d be off near the payphone, either calling my mom to pick me up or pretending to act holier than thou. “PSH, this song’s, like, not even good.” That’s not NOT true, but shut up, Middle School Josh, and appreciate (?) “Amazed” being the only country song in the 2000s to hit #1. In fact, it would take another 12 years for another country artist to match Lonestar’s lonesome moans, when Taylor Swift topped the chart with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
I would have hated that song in middle school, too, and been right to do so.
“Harlem Shake” by Baauer
We don’t need to discuss this again.
(via Getty Image)