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Mere Words Could Not Explain: An Introduction

Pulling myself free of the Then Play Long wreckage, my mind wandered for six months. What else can I write about - except for new music, about which I could write in some considerable depth, though not in the context of a blog.

Then, a discussion I had with my wife Lena this weekend about American number two hits took root in my mind. The Billboard number twos - no one has ever written about those*. But why the number twos? Why not the number ones? The simple reason is that a blog about Billboard number ones already exists - Sally O'Rourke's excellent No Hard Chords. True, there appear to have been no new posts there since 2014, and the exercise seems to have become marooned somewhere in 1967. I don't know whether Sally thought better of the idea, or became too exhausted by the thought of the idea, or simply had to go and do something else. But it is only right and proper that I leave analysis of any future chart-toppers to her, since she may wish to restart the blog at some future date.

This leaves the runners-up. Hence this blog is more or less being done in tandem with Lena's blog about UK number two hits - and we'll be doing this writing for essentially the same reason. Lena, an American in Britain trying to learn about the way the country, and its pop music, works; and me, a Briton married to an American, hoping to understand something about how that great country, and its music, works.

Many of these songs will be familiar to British readers, as they were also hits here, but many more will not; and I want to try to learn something more about pop myself since I am by no means familiar with every one of these songs. There will be those which went all the way in the UK but stopped at second place in the States - frequently by American artists. And, of course, vice versa. There will be some which didn't bother the UK charts, or the British consciousness, at all.


As with No Hard Chords, I am working from the formal establishment of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, the first of which was dated 9 August 1958. There were several different charts running before then, but the Hot 100 was the second and definitive attempt to combine them into one meaningful chart. For all entries I have given the date they climbed to number two, what kept them off number one, and the duration of their stay at number two. For British readers I have also indicated their peak position, if any, in the UK singles chart. Where possible, I will also provide a video link so that you can listen to the record in question.

This blog may come, to me, as a light but enormous relief - if that expression is not a paradox - from the ultimately futile labours of Then Play Long. I hope that readers will feel the same.

*With one exception; in 2000, The Billboard Book Of Number Two Singles, written by one Christopher G Feldman, was published, but I have never seen a copy, let alone read one.


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