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The Number Twos: Bobby Day – “Rockin’ Robin”

8 Jan

Let’s get started.

There are only two #2s in the year of the very first Hot 100, 1958, but thankfully for our purposes, while there will surely be some duds, and many, many long forgotten songs, the first ever #2 is a solid if not spectacular classic still remembered quite well today.

That #2 is, of course, Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin,” which reached the marker on October 13, 1958.

“Rockin’ Robin” was Day’s only solo hit, though he had his hand in a number of other successful record ventures. As leader of the Hollywood Flames, he sang #11 hit “Buzz-Buzz-Buzz,” and he wrote “Little Bird Pretty One,” which would become a #6 hit for Thurston Harris and most notable “Over and Over” which would be the Dave Clark Five’s lone chart-topping single in the U.S.

The lively, mid-tempo, early-rock-and-roll jam evokes memories of being in a Johnny Rockets, or presumably, in an actual ’50s malt shop with your best girl. The tune’s most distinguishable element is its “Tweedle-lee-deedle-lee-dee” vocals and similar variants which open the song and back the refrain. The lyrics are impressively literal, being about a robin that is making rock-and-roll music with its tweets, inspiring different birds from all up and down the block to cheer it on and join in. It’s short, sweet, and upbeat and makes you want to dance at the hop in a way that adults might not quite get, but which avoids challenging their social mores in any meaningful way. It has the sound, but more importantly the recognizability to instantly confer a sense of the late ‘50s in a movie or TV program.

The song is best associated in recent pop culture with the scene in The Office in which Andy Bernard’s phone, which rings to a self-made a capella version of “Rockin’ Robin” is hidden in the ceiling by Jim, leading Andy to punch a wall and go on to anger management. Watching in hindsight though, it’s perplexing that there are no consequences for Jim for taking someone else’s phone and putting it in the ceiling, which seems wildly unprofessional.

Rating: 7.5

I started with 1-10 rating system and already broke the rules with decimals, but so be it. The hardest song to judge is the first because it sets the standard. And “Rockin’ Robin” is certainly a standard. It’s so solid I could set my watch by it. It’s reliable, rollicking, and a very sound tune, but doesn’t rise above that. It wouldn’t get me excited to hear it come on a jukebox. I reserve the right to rejigger the entire rating system later but for now here we are.

What was #1? “It’s All in the Game” by Tommy Edwards

Was the #2 better? Yes.

We’ll be hearing from this song again, confirming that it’s an apt choice as the first ever Hot 100 #2, but that’s for another day.

The Number Twos: Introduction

8 Jan

Number Ones are great. There’s no doubt about it. They’re the best, they’ve topped the charts, set the records, and gone as far as they could go. They’ve reached the pinnacle for popular music and can have no regrets. But everybody talks about them; and they don’t need someone else in their corner.

The true underdogs are the #2s. They’ve often got everything the #1s have but they just couldn’t make it quite over the top, for a variety of reasons. A little too strange, a bad quirk of timing, a powerhouse occupying the #1 spot. For but a quirk of fate, they don’t reach the pinnacle and thus get left out of all the trivia and nostalgic remembrances. Well, not here. An ingenious writer at Stereogum has been chronicling all the number ones of the Hot 100 era, which begins in late 1958. Here, we’ll do the same for the number twos. I’ll rate every one from 1-10 as well because, it’s a good idea.

(To get technical for a second, this means songs that peaked at #2, so if a song hung around the second spot for a couple weeks on the way to the top, or stopped at second on the way down from the pinnacle, we’ll leave it alone.)

Our first #2 coming up.