One of the major changes during the modern rock ‘n’ roll involves instrumental hits.
There have been 25 instrumental hits that reached the top of the charts since the Billboard Hot 100 was initiated on Aug. 4, 1958, with “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson on top. Only one instrumental – “Harlem Shake” by Baauer in 2013 – became a No. 1 hit since 1985.
Of the 24 instrumentals that gained No. 1 status between August 1958 and 1986, no artist had more than one.
Here are my favorite five No. 1 instrumentals in chronological order.
“The Happy Organ” by Dave Baby Cortez, was the first instrumental to feature an electric organ in the lead. The song was No. 1 for one week in 1959 and was the first instrumental to reach that plateau,
Cortez had one other Top 10 hit, “Rinky Dink” in 1962.
Brothers Santo and Johnny Farina, of Brooklyn, had the second No. 1 instrumental of 1959 with “Sleep Walk.”
Santo and Johnny had one other Top 40 hit when “Tear Drop” climbed to No. 23 in 1960.
Percy Faith set a record with his 1960 hit “Theme from A Summer Place” that may never be eclipsed. Buoyed by the release of the movie by the same name that starred teen heart throbs Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee, the song was No. 1 for nine weeks. No other instrumental before or since has been No. 1 for more than five weeks.
It also was named the No. 1 song of 1960.
Faith won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year for his recording. This was the first movie theme and the first instrumental to win a Record of the Year Grammy.
Faith’s record of nine straight weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 was not shattered until 1977, when “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone was No. 1 for 10 weeks.
The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” matched Faith’s record in 1968.
Elvis Presley’s two-sided hit “Don’t Be Cruel“ and “Hound Dog” stayed at the top of the charts for 11 weeks in 1956, but that was before he formation of the Hot 100 in 1958.
Although “Theme from A Summer Place” was Faith’s only No. 1 hit, he had one other top 40 hit in the modern rock ‘n’ roll era with “Theme for Young Lovers” in 1960.
Paul Mauriat was a French orchestra leader who is best known in the United States for his million-selling cover of André Popp’s “Love is Blue.” The song was No. 1 for five weeks in 1968.
This was Mauriat’s only Top 40 hit in the U.S.
“Gonna Fly Now.” is the theme song from the “Rocky” movie series and was composed by Bill Conti. The song was heard when the film’s main character Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone, did his daily training regimen running up the 72 steps leading to the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the City of Brother Love.
The song was No. 1 for one week in 1977 and was Conti’s only Top 40 hit.
Conti received an Academy Award nomination for best original song. Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” from “A Star is Born” won the Oscar.
Here’s a list of the other No. 1 instrumentals since the inception of the Hot 100, the artist and the year.
“Wonderland by Night,” Bert Kaempfert, 1961; Calcutta, Lawrence Welk, 1961; “Stranger on the Shore,” Mr. Aker Bilk, 1962; “The Stripper,” David Rose, 1962; Telstar, Tornados, 1962; “Grazing in the Grass,” Hugh Masekela, 1968; and “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet,” Henry Mancini, 1969.
Also, “Frankenstein,” The Edgar Winter Group, 1971; “Love’s Theme,” Love Unlimited Orchestra, 1974; “MSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” MFSB & The Three Degrees, 1974; “Pick Up the Pieces,” Average White Band, 1975; “The Hustle,” Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony; and ”Fly, Robin, Fly,” Silver Convention, 1975.
Also, “A Fifth of Beethoven,” Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band; “Star Wars Theme,” Meco, 1977; “Rise,” Herb Alpert, 1979; “Chariots of Fire,” Vangelis, 1982: Miami Vice Theme,” Jan Hammer, 1985; and “Harlem Shake,” Baauer, 2013.
This week in rock history — Still an unknown local singer, Bobby Rydell, 16, made his first TV appearance on “American Bandstand” on March 20, 1959. He recorded his breakthrough hit, “Kissin’ Time” in June, the first of his 19 Top 40 hits. … The Beatles replaced one chart topper with another when “She Loves You” took over from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on March 21, 1964. … At a truck stop in Jackson, Ala., The Allman Brothers Band were arrested by state troopers and charged with marijuana and heroin possession after drugs were found in the band’s car on March 22, 1971.
A teen quartet from Hollywood, The Four Preps saw their first big hit, “Twenty-Six Miles” peak at No. 2 on March 23, 1958. … The O’Jays followed their No. 3 hit, “Back Stabbers” by topping the chart with “Love Train” on March 24, 1973. … Ray Charles updated Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind,” on March 25, 1960, a song that first became a No. 10 hit for Frankie Trumbauer in 1931. Charles’ version became his first No. 1 hit. … Eddie Cochran recorded his only Top 20 hit, “Summertime Blues” on March 26, 1958.
Barry Levine is an entertainment writer for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.