Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Author: Larry Irons
Publisher: Black Hills Publishing
If you were alive between 1956 and 1975, you heard hundreds of Top 10 hits on your handy radios and turntables. Of course, only a few had the distinction of becoming Number One records on the Billboard singles charts.
Now, former DJ Larry Irons offers a distinctive romp through memory lane by reviewing the Number One songs of those years—in a lengthy poem. For each year, Irons lists the tunes he'll be writing about, and then gives a very personal overview of that year in a succession of rhyming couplets. For example, he opens 1970 by observing:
"Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head", was a song,
From a box office smash, with a cast that was strong.
B.J. Thomas’ hit, reached the top this is clear,
On the thirteenth of January, nineteen seventy the year.
Then a family named Jackson, they numbered just five,
Had their first hit of many, from their big hit archive.
"I Want You Back", Michael sang it so cute,
On the Ed Sullivan Show, in his little boy suit.
Along the way, Irons offers quick responses to how he feels about some of the songs as well as his feelings about writing this book. It's clear the poem was composed in the nooks and crannies of Irons' free time while entertaining himself in his retirement. This results in unrelated digressions such as Irons' pain over the death of Robin Williams. On the other hand, we get some interesting trivia. For example, I didn't know the Singing Nun (Sister Luc Gabrielle), who had a Number One with "Dominique" in 1962, ended up committing suicide. I didn't know the T-Bones, who played the instrumental "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)," later became Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds.
In other cases, Irons' notes are questionable. For example, he claims Barry McGuire denounced his "Eve of Destruction" as "evil," perhaps not knowing McGuire is not only proud of that hit, but put out an updated version several years ago. When describing Elton John's 1975 cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," Irons says it was an LSD song, a claim discredited way back in 1967.
Irons' epic is full of good humor. Describing The Temptations seven-minute "Papa was a Rollin' Stone," Irons recalls such long songs were what DJs of the time needed to get in bathroom breaks. (I recall many jocks saying Richard Harris's "MacArthur's Park" became a hit because they kept it handy for such breaks.) All in all, Number One Songs is a quick, diverting take on the chart-toppers of the era that is a nostalgic reminder of the tunes we heard endlessly back in the day. It's also an opportunity to compare your memories and responses with those of Irons. For me, I remain astonished at all the songs popular in the rock era that had nothing to do with rock. Helen Reddy?