American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/7/81: Lindsey Buckingham, “Trouble”

There are seven debut songs on this show, and five of them made the Top 10: “Harden My Heart” (#3), “Leather and Lace” (#6), “The Sweetest Thing” (#7), “Trouble” (#9), and “Don’t Stop Believin’” (also #9). The two laggards were “Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)” (#17) and “No Reply at All” (#29). This yields a mean peak position of about 11.5, which seems reasonably high to me, and it got me wondering: what was the highest (and lowest) average peak position for a cohort of debuts over the years I know most well? Was 11/7/81 the best, at least for such a large set?

This post focuses mainly on weeks when there were six or more debuts, spanning the same twelve-plus-year period I examined in another analysis last month: 6/5/76-8/6/88 (it’s just the data I can most easily access). I decided to go with a simple mean computation, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s simple (duh). Two, attempting to factor in such things as total weeks spent by a cohort, while potentially worthwhile, is complicated by variation in chart methodology throughout the period. Maybe I’ll try to make adjustments someday, but not now.

Before I get to the large debut sets, though, a little on weeks where only one or two songs came on the show. The best performance by the sole debut in a week was Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings,” which hit #1 (debuted 10/19/85). There’s a two-way tie for lowest: “Teddy Bear,” by Red Sovine (8/28/76) and “Just Like Heaven,” from the Cure (1/9/88), both peaking at #40.  I haven’t researched the two-debut case, but I’m willing to bet modestly large sums that both extremes occurred in 76: on 10/23, two future #1s were the only new entries (“Tonight’s the Night” and “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)”), while on 7/24, Neil Sedaka and Donny Osmond debuted with songs that crapped out at #36 and #38, respectively (“Steppin’ Out” and “C’mon Marianne”).

If I had to guess the single best-performing cohort of debut songs taking into account both quantity and quality, I’d currently run with the four-debut set from 8/24/85. Three made it to #1 (“Oh Sheila,” “Take on Me,” and “Saving All My Love for You”), and the fourth made #6 (Lonely Ol’ Night”).

But let’s move to the results for the six-or-more debut weeks. There were 7 instances of eight debuts, 29 instances of seven, and 81 instances of six in the period under study. The case of eight is not that interesting: the averages are all between 12.875 and 19.25, with three (5/12/79, 6/13/81, and 4/10/82) close together on the high end and three others bunched on the low end.

For the case of six debuts, here are the top five weeks:

Week Mean Peak Position
12/10/77 6.67
7/31/76 8.17
2/11/84 8.33
7/17/76 9.83
4/19/80 9.83

As I was inputting the data, I figured 12/10/77 was going to be the winner, with peaks of 1, 2, 3, 6, 13, and 15. For the record, those songs are, in order of peak position,  “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” “Short People,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah),” “Turn to Stone,” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” That’s a mighty sweet set. Rather than recite lists of songs for the other notable weeks, I’m just linking to charts at Ultimate Music Database; you can pretty easily identify the debuts. But notice at those two weeks in 76, just two weeks apart (and sandwiching the above-mentioned stinkeroo two-debut week). I remember both of those shows well.

As for the bottom:

Week Mean Peak Position
6/24/78 27.83
8/17/85 25.33
5/27/78 24.33
6/26/76 24.00
10/29/83 22.83
6/23/84 22.83

An average peak position of 28 for six debuts!!! Three of those songs from 6/24/78 were gone two weeks later; also note that this immediately preceded the two consecutive weeks of eight debuts. Interesting to see 8/17/85 here, given what I noted above about the week that followed it. Boy, 76 has sure showed up a lot in this post, on both ends of the spectrum. I presume it’s only an odd coincidence that the fourth weekend of June pops up three times on this list.

There are only 3 weeks from 84 out of the 117 shows being examined here, and we’re seeing two of them at the extremes.

Finally, the big reveal about the case of seven debuts. With fewer of them, we’ll go with only a top and bottom 3.

Week Mean Peak Position
2/27/88 8.29
11/10/79 10.14
11/7/81 11.43

I was right that this week’s set was among the better showings. That 88 collection is mighty impressive: peaks of 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 14, and 23. The songs are “Wishing Well,” “Devil Inside,” “Angel”, “Girlfriend,” Some Kind of Lover,” “Check It Out,” and “When We Was Fab.”

There’s a tie on the lower-performing end in this case, too.

Week Mean Peak Position
9/11/82 23.00
7/17/82 22.57
1/19/80 22.00
11/12/83 22.00

Here’s where we might be seeing some evidence of the “clogged chart” phenomenon from 82—plenty of songs coming on, but some occasions where several just couldn’t climb very high. Despite its overall lack of chart success, that July 82 set of debuts has five songs I absolutely adore; cannot say the same for the far weaker September collection, though. Note we’re seeing Fall 83 crop up for a second time on the low side of things.

(By the way, in going back through the data I compiled last month, I discovered two weeks from 76 in which I mistakenly input six debut songs, when there were only five. That would lower the four-week rolling averages a little in two places near the beginning–in particular, 6/26/76 now drops to a tie for second-highest value. My most humble apologies–ten lashes for me!)

There are no big lessons here, mostly just curiosities. Nonetheless, I expect (hope?) I’ll do a run someday of the more common cases of three, four, and five debuts, as well as attempt to confirm my claims for the case of two debuts. Maybe I’ll reach farther back in time, too.

For now, though, let’s enjoy the highest of this week’s seven newcomers. Stevie and Lindsey entered back-to-back, with Nicks being edged out by Buckingham, #31 to #30.

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