Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne



FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 3, 2016

DEAR JERRY: What is the song with a nearly 100-word title … none of which I can remember. You wrote about it several years ago.

To the other extreme, the shortest title in my collection is "No," by Bulldog.

Is there a shorter title?
—Stewart Boerner, Los Angeles

DEAR STEWART: As for not remembering the longest title, I can help with that.

Released in 1985 by Christine Lavin, this amusing tune has 96 words (375 characters) in the title, and, though not in the count, three more words in the sub-title:

"Regretting What I Said to You When You Called Me at Eleven O'clock on a Friday Morning to Tell Me That at One O'clock Friday Afternoon You're Gonna Leave Your Office, Go Downstairs, Hail a Cab to Go Out to the Airport to Catch a Plane to Go Skiing in the Alps for Two Weeks. Not That I Wanted to Go With You, I Wasn't Able to Leave Town, I'm Not a Very Good Skier, I Couldn't Expect You to Pay My Way, But After Going Out With You for Three Years, I Don't Like Surprises (A Musical Apology)."

Now for the shortest possible titles, as you say, at the other extreme.

There are at least eight records with single-character titles. Five are a letter (mostly "I") and three are a numeral.

First is "I" by Don Cornell, with Norman Leyden and His Orchestra (Coral 60860).

Co-written by Milton Berle, this "I-tune" was a Top 10 pop hit in 1952.

Next came the Velvets with their doo-wop "I" (Red Robin 122), a 1954 R&B hit in some regions. This is not the same song as by Don Cornell.

In 1960, Johnny Flamingo masterfully updated the Velvets' "I" (Canton 1785). Though credited as a solo act, his version is every bit a doo-wop group sound.

As with the Velvets' original, Flamingo's success was limited to a few east and west coast markets.

Some folks refer to Ben E. King's "I (Who Have Nothing)" as just "I," but having a sub-title excludes it from being in today's competition.

King's original 1963 hit was the first of seven charted versions, and depending on the mood of the label designers, the title may also read "I Who Have Nothing" (no parenthesis). But none of those clip it down to just "I."

In order of release, the other six are:

(1967) Terry Knight and the Pack; (1969) Linda Jones; (1970) Tom Jones; (1982) Liquid Smoke; (1979) Sylvester; and (2007) Jordin Sparks.

The other known single character titles are:

In 1987, Madhouse, with Prince on guitar, had great success with "6" (Paisley 28485); then Prince himself charted with "7" (Paisley Park 18824) in 1993.

"X" by Xzibit (Loud 1968) came along in 2000; and in 2005, Omarion's "O" (Epic 72769) reached the Top 30.

Finally, there is "3" (Jive label, but no number used), by Britney Spears in 2009, one of her all-time biggest hits.

IZ ZAT SO? This week's research brought to my attention 32 charted titles with only two characters (meaning "Oh!" and "Up!" have one too many).

Thinking someone will inevitably ask about these, let's reveal them now:

"As" - 1977: Stevie Wonder; 1982: Jean-Luc Ponty; 1999: George Michael & Mary J. Blige
"Be" - 1973: Neil Diamond
"Go" - 1986: Asia
"Ha" - 1999: Juvenile
"He" - 1955: Al Hibbler; McGuire Sisters; 1966: Righteous Brothers
"He" - 1973: Today's People
"If" - 1951: Perry Como; Dean Martin; Jo Stafford; Ink Spots; Billy Eckstine; Vic Damone; Guy Lombardo; Jan Garber; 1961: Paragons; 1964: Timi Yuro; 1969: Al Hirt
"If" - 1971: Bread
"If" - 1993: Janet Jackson
"Lu" - 1970: Peggy Lipton
"Ma" - 1973: Rare Earth
"Me" - 1964: Bill Anderson
"Me" - 1978: Sherry Grooms
"Me" - 1998: Paula Cole
"Ms" - 1978: David Oliver
"No" - 1960: Dodie Stevens
"No" - 1972: Bulldog
"No" - 1984: Amuzement Park Band
"No" - 1996: Chuck D
"Oh" - 2005: Ciara Featuring Ludacris
"OK" - 2003: Sheek Louch
"Op" - 1958: Honeycones
"Up" - 2011: Justin Bieber
"We" - 1973: Shawn Phillips
"#1" - 2001: Nelly
"17" - 1984: Rick James
"19" - 1985: Paul Hardcastle
"21" - 1955: Spiders
"22" - 2013: Taylor Swift
"69" - 1993: Father MC
"85" - 2000: Youngbloodz
"99" - 1980: Toto


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