Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

In syndication since 1986, and now in our 31st year — Over 3,100 questions answered
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FOR THE WEEK OF DECEMBER 11, 2017

DEAR JERRY: An oldies station in Philly played "Unchained Melody," by the Righteous Brothers, then said it was a charted hit "two or three" times.

Any idea about why he wouldn't know whether it was two or three times?

Were there other songs that became Top 25 hits more than once for the same artists?
—Carmen Hermansen, Upper Darby, Pa.

DEAR CARMEN: I can't know what prompted your local dee jay's uncertainty, but I can think of two possibilities.

"Unchained Melody" charted three times, in three different configurations:
1965 (Vinyl single) Philles 129
1990 (Vinyl single, reissue of Philles) Verve Forecast Timepieces 871 882-7
1990 (Cassette single) "The Newly Recorded Version By The Original Righteous Brothers" Curb 76842

If the dee jay was counting only records, there would be two. Add the cassette single and you have three. Another possibility is lumping the two 45s together as one, then the cassette would make two.

Here is the little known story of the revival of "Unchained Melody," a huge hit in 1955 for four artists: Les Baxter (Capitol 3055); Al Hibbler (Decca 29441); Roy Hamilton (Epic 9102); and June Valli (RCA Victor 6078).

It was the theme from the film, "Unchained," thus the title.

The first two Righteous Brothers' singles produced by Phil Spector, and issued on his Philles label, were "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (Philles 124), and "Just Once in My Life" (Philles 127), both in 1964. Spector's pick for their third single was "Hung on You," written by the trio of Phil Spector, Carole King, and Gerry Goffin. "Hung on You" (Philles 129) was the original A-side.

Many of Phil Spector's singles had B-sides that were often throw-away instrumentals, with inane titles reflecting inside jokes among his friends and session people.

Here are six examples, with the names of the people being referenced by B-side titles:

Philles 113: Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans - "Not Too Young to Get Married"/"Annette"
Annette Kleinbard (singer with Phil Spector in the Teddy Bears)

Philles 115: The Crystals - "Then He Kissed Me"/"Brother Julius
Brother Julius" (drums)

Philles 116: The Ronettes - "Be My Baby"/"Tedesco and Pitman"
Tommy Tedesco (guitar), Bill Pittman (guitar)

Philles 117: Darlene Love - "A Fine Fine Boy"/"Nino and Sonny (Big Trouble)"
Nino Tempo (saxophone/piano/drums), Sonny Bono (percussion)

Philles 119: Darlene Love - "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)"/"Harry and Milt Meet Hal B."
Harry Betts (trombone), Milton Bernhart (trombone), Hal Blaine (drums)

Philles 119X: The Crystals - "Little Boy"/"Harry (From W. Va.) and Milt"
Harry Betts (trombone), Milton Bernhart (trombone)

After completing "Hung on You," Spector left the studio (Radio Recorders in Los Angeles), leaving Bill Medley, himself a producer, to come up with something for the B-side.

Rather than recycle one of Phil's stock instrumentals, and merely giving it a new title — not an uncommon maneuver — Medley chose Bobby Hatfield's beautiful solo of "Unchained Melody." This tune was recorded in March for the LP, "Just Once in My Life" (Philles 4008).

With "Hung on You" as the A-side, the first promotional copies went to Los Angeles area radio stations. It debuted first on KRLA's Tune-Dex at No. 32, for the week of June 26, 1965.

"Hung on You" was quickly added by two more Southern California Top 40 outlets, KFWB (Los Angeles), and KFXM (San Bernardino).

As a single, "Unchained Melody" was thus far undiscovered, though not totally unknown. In the first week of May, KGB (San Diego) listed it as a "featured cut" from the "Just Once in My Life" LP.

But further north, surveys from KJR (Seattle), KEWB (San Francisco), and CFUN (Vancouver) listed only the "Unchained Melody" side. Soon, many stations had both sides on their playlists, but with "Unchained Melody" always the more popular of the two.

On the national front, "Unchained Melody" debuted July 10th at No. 73 on Cash Box. The following week, both sides debuted on Billboard, with "Unchained Melody" at No. 72, and "Hung on You" at No. 90. The high water mark for each would be No. 4 and No. 43, respectively. The B-side became the A-side.

As to your second question, here are 10 songs that became Top 25 hits more than once, with both being the same recording and title. Peak position on a national chart is given for each:

1960: "The Twist" - Chubby Checker (No. 1)
1961: "The Twist" - Chubby Checker (No. 1)

1961: "Stand By Me" - Ben E. King (No. 3)
1986: "Stand By Me" - Ben E. King (No. 9)

1962: "Monster Mash" Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers (No. 1)
1973: "Monster Mash" Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers (No. 10)

1962: "Do You Love Me" - The Contours (No. 2)
1988: "Do You Love Me" - The Contours (No. 11)

1963: "Wipe Out" - The Surfaris (No. 2)
1966: "Wipe Out" - The Surfaris (No. 9)

1964 "Twist and Shout" - The Beatles (No. 1)
1986 "Twist and Shout" - The Beatles (No. 23)

1965 "Unchained Melody" - The Righteous Brothers (No. 4)
1990 "Unchained Melody" - The Righteous Brothers (No. 9)

1976: "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen (No. 4)
1992: "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen (No. 1)

1980: "Into the Night" - Benny Mardones (No. 9)
1989: "Into the Night" - Benny Mardones (No. 20)

1991: "The Star-Spangled Banner" - Whitney Houston (No. 20)
2001: "The Star-Spangled Banner" - Whitney Houston (No. 6)

IZ ZAT SO? Astonishingly, for the week of November 3, 1990, both Righteous Brothers' versions of "Unchained Melody" were ranked in Billboard's Top 20; the Verve Forecast single at No.17 and "The Newly Recorded" Curb cassette single at No. 19. Definitely a unique occurrence!

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