Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits: 4th Edition Review
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I’m on a mission. I’m determined to find songs by Led Zepplin in Fred Bronson’s Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits. In this book, Bronson has assembled all of the Billboard pop singles charts dating pack to July 9, 1955. The charts in the book are ranked objectively, based on the highest position reached and their length of stay on the Billboard Hot 100. In other words, they’re based on chart performance, not record sales. Bronson explains the ranking method in detail in his introduction.

The first part of the book ranks songs from some of the leading recording artists of the rock era—130 artists in all. Fats Domino, The Beatles, Jackie Wilson, Chicago, and Ludacris are among them. A bio is also included for each artist. Yes, there’s something here for everyone.

The next part includes ranked songs based on famous songwriters, followed by those of producers (yes, Phil Spector is here, along with Jermaine Dupri)—and then top songs by record labels.

Following sections include charts such as Top 100 Songs by One-Hit Wonders, Top Songs from Movies, Top Instrumentals, Top Songs by Girl Groups, and Top 100 Songs by U.K. Artists. This is where my hunt for Led Zeppelin began—and I scored a fat zero. However, I did learn fascinating bits of information preceding each chart. For instance, under “Top Rock Remakes,” I learned that Hank Ballard wrote “The Twist” for his group, The Midnighters. However, Dick Clark persuaded Chubby Checker’s record label that he could make it a hit.

Top 100 singles charts by year—starting with 1956—follow, with two-page summaries preceding each chart. The same goes for Top 100s by decades.

But the next section of the book gets even more interesting: ranking songs by subjects. For instance “The Top 100 Songs About Places” includes the Clash’s 1983 hit, “Rock the Casbah” at number 65, while holding the number 1 position is 1955’s “The Yellow Rose of Texas” by Mitch Miller. Now when they ranked the top songs by animals, I figured I’d find Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” or at least Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” No, not in this top 100. Of course, I wasn’t surprised to find Elvis’s Hound Dog at number 1

The last section is the The Top 5000 Songs of the Rock Era. Will I find Led Zeppelin here? The only “Stairway to Heaven” listed is by Neil Sedaka. Finally, I find Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” at number 2431. You won’t believe what made number 1…and I won’t tell you, either.

As I was scratching my head, still searching for Zeppelin, my husband reminded me that the songs I was looking for were probably album cuts that became popular due to major radio airplay. I then re-read the introduction to recall that, until December 1998, a single had to be available for sale in order for it to be eligible for listing on the Hot 100.

In any event, any music lover will have so much fun with this book—not just to view the rankings but also to browse the bios and the little-known history. And, of course, it’ll inspire many of those “Oh, yeah…now I remember that song!” moments. This is the perfect gift for any pop music aficionado—from my husband, who prefers lyrically-based folk rock, to people like me, who prefer metal and southern rock. Even my son—whose iPod only contains rap and hip-hop—couldn’t keep his hands off this book. At around 600 pages, Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits is a conversation piece that you’ll keep grabbing, to thrash about and reminisce.

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