I assume I'm not the only person here who has gotten (or is going to get) the new edition of Whitburn, and at least some of those who aren't getting it probably have an earlier edition. So I thought I'd start a discussion of what's good and bad about it, and I particularly want to focus on one thing.
Before I do that, though, some general thoughts. Some things have improved since I last bought a version of the book 12 years ago. Having songwriter credits for every song is wonderful; it makes it easy to see whether a listed song is the same as another record of the same title, and it's sometimes fascinating to see certain names come up over and over. I also love that they've added Bubbling Under and Territorial/Breakout hits to the list. (For the unititiated, Bubbling Under refers to charts of songs below number 100; Territorial/Breakout to lists the magazine used to run of the top new songs in specific cities.) One the downside, they've dropped the separate Christmas charts, which is particularly troubling for those periods when Billboard did not allow Christmas songs to enter the main charts. A good reason to keep my old book.
One big change is that when a single is listed as "featuring" a certain artist, it is now NOT listed under the "featured" artist. This is a change from past Whitburn policy, where an artist listed in ANY way always gets credit for the record (unless he's Billy Preston getting credit with The Beatles). But given how common those featuring credits are these days, and how many pages all those multiple listings would add to the book, I think that was a good decision. There is a list for each artist of who they were "featured" with. I did notice that at least one older record was grandfathered in: in my 2000 edition, "We Can Make It Together" was listed as by "Steve & Eydie featuring The Osmonds"; now it's "Steve & Eydie with The Osmonds" and it still appears in the latter group's listing.
They fixed a longstanding error of having "In My Dreams" by Dokken and by The Party as two different songs. However, they've gone ahead and listed "Make You Feel My Love" by Adele as a separate song from "To Make You Feel My Love" by Billy Joel (and by Garth Brooks and Kris Allen). They're all the same Dylan song.
The pages of explanation seem a little lacking. For example, I can't find anywhere where is says whether, since they now include songs which only hit the "Bubbling Under" charts, the weeks on those charts have been included for songs which did hit the Hot 100. And I can't figure out what it means when a song listed as a "Classic Non-Hot 100 Song" is underlined.
But it's that last item that I want to focus on. Incidentally, that name is a bit of a misnomer, since it only lists songs that don't appear on the main list at all--those which hit the Airplay chart, the Bubbling Under chart, or the Territorial/Breakout lists aren't eligible to be "Classic Non-Hot 100 Songs" even though they didn't hit the Hot 100. That's as it should be, but the name is a little weird. It would also help to have an explanation of the criteria here; I suspect there was one in the first edition that had this.
What is NOT as it should be are the choices for those "Classic Non-Hot 100 Songs" (hereinafter referred to simply as "classics" to save me from carpal tunnel syndrome). Whitburn, frankly, does a TERRIBLE job with these. Like, if he came in here with his list of "classics", and we didn't know who he was, he'd be a laughingstock. And in many cases his lists suffer from a past scourge of this forum: classic rockism. Artists who don't fit that type of music but are of the same era get really shafted.
Exhibit A: Michael Jackson. Michael has exactly TWO classics listed: "Gone Too Soon" and his version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile". OK choices, I guess, but that means we're missing:
*"Working Day And Night"--a dancefloor burner from Off The Wall, which still gets airplay today.
*"The Lady In My Life"--the love song from Thriller, which got substantial airplay at the time and has frequently been recorded by other artists.
*"Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming (Too Good To Be True)"--a duet with brother Jackie, this is probably the single biggest airplay record of the 80s which didn't chart. It actually hit number one in The Gavin Report's CHR chart, but was ineligible for the Hot 100 because Michael's label wouldn't let Jermaine's label release it as a single while it was big. (No, it's not listed under Jermaine, either.)
*"Leave Me Alone"--the CD bonus track for Bad, this was huge on MTV.
These to me are huge omissions. Taking a look at Michael's old friend Stevie Wonder, the situation is only a little better. There are 8 classics listed, which would seem adequate until you realize that 4 of them are from 1988 or later. As Stevie once sang--what the fuss? "From The Bottom Of My Heart" seems to be there because it won a Grammy for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, so fair enough, and "These Three Words" got a bit of AC radio play, although not a lot. (Did Stevie set out to write a sappy ballad titled after EVERY line from "I Just Called To Say I Love You"?
) But "My Eyes Don't Cry" and "Fun Day"? Huh? Meanwhile, he's missing such far more important records as "What Christmas Means To Me", "I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)", "Golden Lady", and "Love's In Need Of Love Today". Those all defnitely belong.
Also: Curtis Mayfield's list does NOT include "Move On Up". Insane.
Meanwhile, major classic rock artists always seem to have a sizable list. Not necessary an ACCURATE list, but a lot of them. At the extreme, Stevie Ray Vaughan has TWENTY classics listed. TWENTY! Granted, Vaughan never charted at all (other than "Tick Tock" with brother Jimmy as The Vaughan Brothers), but is anyone out there going to seriously defend the notiong that SRV made 20 records which are more important than "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming" or "Golden Lady" or "Move On Up"? "Pride And Joy" is certainly worthy--I'd be complaining if it weren't here--and several others make sense to me, although I wonder about including "Look At Little Sister" for him and not for Hank Ballard. Ah, maybe. But, man, there are a bunch of songs here I've never heard of. "Change It", "Love Struck Baby", "Rude Mood", "Scuttle Buttin"...are these really notable?
Similarly, Mott The Hoople has seven songs listed, which seems out of proportion to a lot of the soul artists. Incidentally, the most famous of that lot is listed as "All The Way To Memphis" (in both the artist and songs section), but it's actually "All The Way From Memphis". A lot of other classic rock artists seem to have quite deep listings as well.
Again, there are some mistakes here, too. Most people here know I'm a huge Paul McCartney fan, but I'm hugely scratching my head over the inclusion on his classics list of "Bip Bop/Hey Diddle", listed as being from 1971. This medley so took the world by storm in 1971 that Paul didn't get around to releasing it for another thirty years. It's really just a home recording of Paul running through a couple of new songs which was thrown onto the Wingspan compilation album as a previously unreleased track. The two songs were given proper studio recordings separately, and "Bip Bop" appeared on the first Wings album, Wild Life, where it was considered one of the lesser tracks on a disappointing album. (I know some McCartney fans who really like that album, but I've never heard any say anything particularly nice about "Bip Bop".) "Hey Diddle" was slated for various incarnations of Paul's proposed Cold Cuts album of unreleased material, which never came out. I can't imagine any reason why this item would be included; it really seems as though Whitburn looked over the track listing of Wingspan and thought it sounded familiar or interesting. Even just looking at that album, "Junk", "Too Many People", or "The Back Seat Of My Car" would have been a better choice. Paul has 10 other classics listed, and there's nothing missing which is really essential, but that one's got to go.
Clash might want to know that The Clash gets 13 songs, which is generous; The Who gets 11, and probably should have a couple more (there's no "Goin' Mobile", which is nuts).
There are some other things I've come across which make no sense to me, too--I'm happy to see "El Salvador" by Peter Paul & Mary for my own personal taste, but I can't see a good reason for it being there, for example. And while they do a decent job of including pre-1955 rock classics and of presenting hits by rockers who often missed the charts in the 50s (11 classics each by Gene Vincent and Bo Diddley), where, for instance, is "Walking Along" by The Solitaires?
Even with all these flaws, I'm glad Whitburn included this; it's good that when going through the songs listing essentials such as "Isn't She Lovely", "Baba O'Reilly", and "A Day In The Life" are there. But, man, this needs a lot of work. Joel, if you should come across this, we could do a lot better!