DEAR JERRY: Since no one else asks about songs with the same title, yet are completely different, I'll do it myself.
An example is Del Shannon's classic 1960s hit, “Runaway,” and another “Runaway” by Jefferson Starship, in the 1970s.
I have both and know, other than their titles, they have absolutely nothing in common.
What title appears on the greatest number of popular records, with each being a different song than the others?
Logic dictates it would be a one-word title, as the more words there are, the less likely other songs would have the same title.
It might be “Runaway,” though “Tonight” (Ferrante & Teicher) and “Crazy” (Patsy Cline) could also be in the running.
Linda Oakridge, Beaumont, Texas
DEAR LINDA: Sometimes if you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself.
It took several hours to research this, but it was fun and I love the question.
All three you suggest are in the running, and among my Top 10. I verified 10 different hit recordings of “Runaway”; 14 of “Tonight”; and 15 of “Crazy.”
Here are the other seven titles, and number of different songs: “Dreams” (11); “Sunshine” (12); “You” (12); “Happy” (16); “I Love You” (17); “Angel” (21); and at the top of the list, “Hold On” (33).
Other than “Hold On” and “I Love You,” my choices are indeed one-word titles, thus supporting your theory.
Each of the following artists, listed alphabetically with year of issue, recorded a significant and distinctive version of “Hold On”:
Badfinger (1981); Tanya Blount (1995); Crystal Bowersox (2010); Danny Brooks & Rockin' Revelators (2009); Michael Buble (2010); Rosanne Cash (1986); Natalie Cole (1980); Dove Brothers (2009); Dwele (2004); En Vogue (1990); Ian Gomm (1979); Good Charlotte (2004); Gail Davies (1983); Jonas Brothers (2007); Kansas (1980); Rich Landers (1981); Sarah McLachlan (1994); Donny Osmond (1989); R.J.'s Latest Arrival (1987); Radiants (1968); Rascals (1970); Rusko (2010); Santana (1982); Sons of Champlin (1976); Symba (1980); Ed Townsend (1959); Triumph (1979); KT Tunstall (2007); Tom Waits (1999); Jamie Walters (1995); Wild Cherry (1977); Wilson Phillips (1990); and Steve Winwood (1977).
Not included in our count are songs titled “Hold On” plus a subtitle. Three examples are “Hold On (To This Old Fool)” (Buddy Ace); “Hold On (Just a Little Bit Longer)” (Anthony & the Imperials); and “Hold On (For Love's Sake)” (Joyce Kennedy).
DEAR JERRY: There were a couple of records in our home in early '60s, both with such unusual titles I have never forgotten them.
Having not seen either in 50 years, I don't recall the singers. One is about daddy and the other about papa.
First is “Fill the Gap in Your Mouth with Teeth Because Your Daddy's Tired of Kissing Your Gums.”
Second is “When They Operated on Papa They Opened Mama's Male.”
Ever heard of these comical oldies but goodies?
Richard Tillman, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR RICHARD: Considering the degree of difficulty associated with remembering such long-winded titles, you did great.
The only corrections are inconsequential, but the title of the first one, exactly as shown on the label, is “Fill That Gap in Your Mouth with Teeth 'Cause Daddy's Tired of Kissing Gum.”
The credit on this 1949 single is Fat Man Robinson Quintet (Motif 2002).
“When They Operated on Papa They Opened Mama's Male” is by Jimmy Heap, and came out in 1960 (Imperial 8325).
IZ ZAT SO? Neither of the lengthy titles mentioned above are remotely close to being the longest ever on a U.S. record.
That honor belongs to Christine Lavin, whose 1985 “Future Fossils” LP (Philo 1104) includes this 99-word 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).”
Listen to Christina personally introduce it below: