The Number Ones: Whoa! Less Than a Decade to Go!


Do you realize where we’re at right now?

If we were running track, this would be the bell lap.

Or if we were in a vehicle or train in a dark ride, we’d call it “seeing a light at the end of a tunnel.” 

Still confused? Let me be more explicit about what I mean.

This week’s entry of “All of Me” in Tom Breihan’s Number Ones column on the Stereogum website peaked in the last half of May 2014. That means we now have less than ten virtual years of chart toppers to cover. 

We’re pushing closer to catching up to the present day. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be there anytime soon. It’ll take at least another four years to cover the remaining hits that keep being added.

Still, for a project that began near the start of 2018, we need from this point onward less time to cover what’s to come than what’s already been reviewed. That’s a nice reason to celebrate, don’t you think?

As McFadden and Whitehead would sing, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now!

A Few Overlooked Fun Facts:

I previously wrote a retrospective about interesting facts regarding Breihan’s series last year in my article A Milestone: The One-Thousandth Number Ones Column .

That got us up to virtual early 2011 with “Born This Way.”

Here are a few other factoids since then regarding Tom’s ratings of the songs and the ratings made by us, his readers who collectively call ourselves TNOCS.*

*(Meaning: “The Number Ones Comment Section,” although some of us think the letters stand for some naughtier phrases. To each his own.)

The Most Liked Songs by TNOCS

Though Tom has given some after “Born This Way” a 9 or 10, the most TNOCS has mustered favorably since then has been an 8.2 for “Rolling in the Deep.”

The all-time leaders among TNOCS are these 21 songs which scored at least a 9:

1. Otis Redding “Dock of the Bay” –  9.4 

2 (tie). The Temptations – “My Girl” – 9.3 

2 (tie). Marvin Gaye – “ I Heard It Through the Grapevine”– 9.3 

2 (tie). Stevie Wonder “Superstition”9.3 

5 (tie). The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – 9.2 

5 (tie). Aretha Franklin “Respect” 9.2 

5 (tie). Blondie – “Heart of Glass” 9.2 

8 (tie). The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations” – 9.1 

8 (tie). Al Green “Let’s Stay Together” – 9.1 

8 (tie). Bill Withers “Lean on Me” 9.1 

8 (tie). ABBA – “Dancing Queen” – 9.1 

8 (tie). The Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” -9.1 

8 (tie). Cyndi Lauper – “Time After Time” – 9.1 

8 (tie). Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls” – 9.1 

15 (tie). Ray Charles – “Georgia on My Mind” – 9.0 

15 (tie). The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go” – 9.0 

15 (tie). Roy Orbison – “Oh, Pretty Woman” – 9.0 

15 (tie). Simon and Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence” – 9.0 

15 (tie). The Rolling Stones – “Paint It Black” – 9.0 

15 (tie). Simon and Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water” -9.0 

15 (tie). Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U” – 9.0

  • The highest score TNOCS has given so far in this century is “Hey Ya!” by Outkast at 8.9.

It’s tied with:

  • “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
  • “Reach Out I’ll Be There”
  • “I Want You Back”
  • “Midnight Train to Georgia”
  • and “Call Me”

Given the makeup of TNOCS, I strongly doubt we’ll have consensus for any other entry to be at or above even an 8.9 as we finish surveying all Number One songs.

“Excuse me, Mr. Ozmoe, sir?”

“But did you forget about what I did last December?

(Oh. Uh, in that case, maybe there will be at least one exception…)

The Most Disliked Songs by TNOCS

Three recent hits to get low ratings were tied at 3.7: 

  • “Whistle”
  • “One More Night” 
  • “Harlem Shake”

Doing even worse were these songs that received a 3 or less rating from TNOCS voters:

1. Larry Verne –  “Mr. Custer” – 1.8 

2. Michael Bolton – “When a Man Loves a Woman” – 1.9 

3. Paul Anka – “You’re Having My Baby” – 2.1 

4. R. Kelly and Celine Dion – “I’m Your Angel” – 2.2 

5. Sgt. Barry Sadler – “The Ballad of the Green Berets” – 2.3 

6. (tie). Chuck Berry – “My Ding-a-Ling” – 2.4 

6. (tie). Tommy Page – “I’ll Be Your Everything”– 2.4 

6. (tie). Eminem, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent – “Crack a Bottle” – 2.4

9. (tie). Ray Stevens – “The Streak” – 2.5 

9. (tie). Will to Power –  “Baby I Love Your Way/Free Bird Medley (Free Baby)”– 2.5 

10. (tie). Donny Osmond –  “Go Away Little Girl” – 2.6 

10. (tie). Peter Cetera and Amy Grant –  “The Next Time I Fall”– 2.6 

13. (tie). Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots – “Disco Duck” – 2.7 

13. (tie). USA for Africa –  “We Are the World” – 2.7 

15. (tie). Milli Vanilli – “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” – 2.8 

15. (tie). Michael Bolton – “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” – 2.8 

17, (tie). Air Supply – “The One That You Love” -3.0 

17. (tie). Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder – “Ebony and Ivory” – 3.0 

17. (tie). Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin – “Separate Lives” – 3.0 

17. (tie). Peter Cetera –  “Glory of Love” – 3.0 

17. (tie). Stevie B –  “Because I Love You” – 3.0 

17. (tie). Taylor Hicks –  “Do I Make You Proud?” – 3.0

The only ones from this century are “Crack a Bottle” and “Do I Make You Proud.” However, seeing some comments in various entries about future number ones, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more added with this rating in the future.

Exactly The Same Rating from Tom and TNOCS

So far, it’s occurred 20 times. Here they are chronologically, with the score next to each:

  • Dave Baby Cortez:
    “The Happy Organ” – 6
  • Chubby Checker – “The Twist” – 8
  • Roy Orbison – “Oh Pretty Woman” – 9
  • Simon and Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence” – 9
  • Cher – “Half-Breed” – 5
  • Paper Lace – The Night Chicago Died” – 5
  • Diana Ross – “Theme from Mahogany” – 6
  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded by the Light” – 7
  • Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder – “Ebony & Ivory” – 3
  • Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin –“Separate Lives” – 3
  • Peter Cetera – “Glory of Love” – 3
  • Tiffany – “I Think We’re Alone Now”– 5
  • Billy Idol – “Mony Mony” – 6
  • Roxette – “It Must Have Been Love” – 7
  • Stevie B – “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” – 3
  • Wilson Phillips “You’re in Love– 5
  • Boys II Men – “I’ll Make Love to You” – 5
  • Sisqo – “Incomplete” – 4
  • Carrie Underwood – “Inside Your Heaven” – 4
  • Taylor Hicks – “Do I Make You Proud” – 3
  • Sean Kingston – “Beautiful Girls” – 4
  • Black Eyed Peas – “Boom Boom Pow” – 4

As you’ll note, only the 1960s songs (“The Twist,” “Oh Pretty Woman” and “The Sounds of Silence”) came to a consensus over 7.

And isn’t it odd that the consecutive Number One 1980s remakes of Tommy James and the Shondells hits “(I Think We’re Alone Now and Mony Mony)” both got exact scores from Tom and TNOCS?

We have 60 more songs to profile until we get into the virtual 2020s.

That means it’ll be over a year from now.

Which means it may be a long time to find an excuse for another chart check-in. 

So, for now… what are your thoughts about how the Number Ones column is going? And what do you see – or would you like to see in future entries in the column?

Post your comments below, and fasten your seat belts as we get closer to the modern-day number one! 

Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote! 


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Famed Member
May 21, 2024 1:08 am

my Y2K club entry will be “Highest in the Room” by Travis Scott

Famed Member
Online Now
May 21, 2024 7:24 am

The comments section is still fun and respectful, but some of the magic is gone from a few years ago. But that can probably be blamed on the music we’re covering. Even if we like some of the songs, we just aren’t as emotionally connected as we were to songs from when we were younger.

So we have something like 120 or so #1s yet to cover, which is about 2.5 years more columns. But in the next 2.5 years there will probably be another 30-40 songs to cover, which is another 9 months or so of columns. Which will likely result in another 12 or so songs to cover…so another 3 months…meaning another 4 songs…another month…another song.

So my prediction is 3.5-3.75 more years until we reach the current day. Somewhere around the very end of 2027? Sometimes I wish we had kept the 3/week schedule. That seemed like a happy medium.

And for the record, I really like “One More Night”.

Last edited 1 month ago by LinkCrawford
Famed Member
May 21, 2024 7:53 am
Reply to  LinkCrawford

As Tom progressed to years beyond the decades that many of us commenters cared about, I could see that the comment section would be fluid by nature and nothing we had was ever meant to last. My hope would be that new commenters, passionate about the music Tom was covering as he inched closer to the present would rise up and call the comment section their own. I believe that has happened. Though the magic for those of us who are old timers may not be what it was, it’s still a thriving place that people passionate about music enjoy and it’s good to see a mix of old and new there. And as you said, the tradition of it being a kinder, gentler version of most comment sections has continued, which may be the most important thing of all.

Famed Member
Online Now
May 21, 2024 12:40 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

To go along with that, participation in the poll has dropped since we got into the 2000s. Check out the Poll Count tab in the spreadsheet. For a while there, we were averaging 140 voters per poll. In the polls since 2010 (Kesha’s “Tik Tok”), it’s averaged about 80. In the 20 most recent polls, it’s dropped to 70.

My guess is that some of the old familiar commenters may still read the column but aren’t interested enough to scroll down to find the poll. Also, I don’t remember when the new commenting system went live but I have a feeling that correlates with the drop in participation.

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
May 21, 2024 12:53 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

I haven’t voted since the 90s. The commenting system is a big part of that. Maybe I need to be more proactive and exercise my democratic right.

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
May 21, 2024 8:24 am

My ding-a-ling, my ding-a-ling,

I want some Justice for my Ding-a-ling-a-ling!

Famed Member
May 21, 2024 8:53 am

Yeah, that ain’t happening.

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
May 21, 2024 11:22 am

Just to be clear; when you say ‘my ding-a-ling’, are you referring to the song or is there something else going on?!

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
May 21, 2024 11:54 am

I can’t elaborate without a lawyer present.

Famed Member
May 21, 2024 4:55 pm

That’s gonna be a “no” from me, dog.

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
May 21, 2024 11:32 am

I’ve cheated and looked ahead at what’s to come. I still listen to hits radio so I recognise most of the names and there are a number that I can’t say I’m bothered about hearing ever again but there are also quite a few that I could see myself giving a 9 or 10 to.

I look forward to seeing how Tom treats BTS and finding out whether their Stans are still as rabidly protective. Also seeing how he deals with multiple Mariah reprises. Will he review AIWFCIY anew each time it rolls around. I can see the score reducing by a point each year as familiarity takes its toll. Or by 2023 will the write up just say ‘Ditto’?

I’m surprised to find the top rated songs so 60/70s focussed. I expected they would make up a healthy portion but I’d have thought the 80s would be more competitive and the top performers would extend past 1990. Maybe I’m biased cos my childhood was the 80s and teen years were the 90s and the scores similarly reflect what were the sounds of the voters youth.

Noble Member
May 21, 2024 4:00 pm

I think it’ll probably be handled the same way as “The Twist” was in 1960/62 — i.e. it’ll only get one column

Famed Member
May 21, 2024 4:55 pm

I gave “Superstition” a 10. Because it’s a 10. From this list, it’s the most 10 in my book. (“Walk Away Renee” is a 10. But I digress.) “Superstition” could’ve been tied with “Dock of the Bay” if not thwarted by a stray 1.

I don’t know where I put my Rolling Stone Records Guide. The one with the blue cover. Those music critics were really tough graders. That’s what I respect most about Mr. Breihan. I get the same visceral reaction of incredulity from some of his grades like when I was a child.

What I remember most was Rolling Stone’s assessment of Queen. If memory serves me, they were docked a point for being, in the critic’s words, being partly responsible for Sparks. Wow. I didn’t quite get Sparks in 1982, but The Game made Queen gods in my eyes. (“Sail Away Sweet Sister” is my favorite deep cut. I’m an only child. I had an imaginary older sister. My imaginary sibling went to Northwestern.) Two stars? That’s what I recall.

In the spirit of old school music journalism, I dock one point from Otis Redding because of Michael Bolton’s version of “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay”. But I give Bolton some credit for having a sense of humor about his perceived awfulness.

“Superstition” is a really good song.

Famed Member
May 21, 2024 4:58 pm

Awesome stats, as always.

I’ll continue to stand tall behind my “Actually, ‘Separate Lives’ is a pretty good song” sign, even as it gets pummeled by fruits & vegetables.

Famed Member
May 21, 2024 8:59 pm

There have been quite a few times Tom has covered a song on the anniversary of it being #1. When he was doing five columns a week he could hardly help but hit them. But we want to know about the decade anniversaries. He’s now hit four of the five possible.

On 13 November 2018 he reviewed “Hey Jude”, which had been #1 exactly 50 years earlier.

On 20 March 2020 he reviewed “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)”, which had been #1 exactly 40 years earlier.

On 29 December 2021 he reviewed “Black Or White”, which had been #1 exactly 30 years earlier.

He missed the 20 year anniversary due to “Dilemma” returning to #1 after an interruption by “A Moment Like This”.

Famed Member
May 22, 2024 8:50 am

I believe that 3.7 “One More Night” above was meant to be Maroon 5 instead of Phil Collins (I don’t recall what Phil’s score was but it had to be higher than that)…

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