GEORGE: “Quite nice, but I don’t think the public will buy it.”
JOHN: “Get an old song and everybody does it again at the same time.”
PAUL: “Secretly, teenagers don’t want old songs brought back.”
RINGO: “Nice and smooth, ‘specially if you’re sitting in one night – and not alone.”
-The Beatles rating Bobby Vinton’s “There! I’ve Said It Again” on BBC-TV’s Juke Box Jury, December 7, 1963. (Via The Beatles Diary, Volume 1: The Beatles Years by Barry Miles.)
Plenty of number-one records become answers to pop music trivia questions for reasons that have nothing to do with the songs themselves. What was the first song to hit number one on the Hot 100? Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool.” What song ruled the charts during President Kennedy’s assassination? Dale & Grace’s “I’m Leaving It Up to You.” Who was the only Belgian artist to top the Hot 100? Why, that’s The Singing Nun, of course. But alongside the firsts, whens and onlys is a factoid of somewhat sadder proportions: the last. Lasts mean the ends of careers, whether from death, scandal, or just the inevitable slide into irrelevance. Lasts mean failure to replicate past glories. Lasts mean pop audiences have moved on.
“There! I’ve Said It Again” is a record that is best remembered for being the last number-one on the Hot 100 before The Beatles. One could suspect the rock gods of selecting this record specifically to heighten the contrast between the English rockers and the sluggishness of early ’60s American pop. Of all the early ’60s teen idols, Bobby Vinton was both among the oldest (then pushing 30) and the one who owed the least to rock and roll – his ambition had always been to lead a big band, as his father had done. Vinton drew much of his material from his parents’ generation. “There! I’ve Said It Again,” originally a 1945 hit for Vaughn Monroe, followed his take on the oldie “Blue Velvet.” But unlike that mysterious, mournful ballad, “There! I’ve Said It Again” draws from the same saccharine-contaminated well as the “Roses Are Red (My Love).” At least “There! I’ve Said It Again” has the benefit of lyrics that don’t sound like a child’s rejected valentine.
But while “There! I’ve Said It Again” may have been the last of the pre-Beatles number ones, it wouldn’t be the last time Bobby Vinton would see the top. Vinton’s records had begun charting based more on sales than airplay, a typical sign that an artist’s target audience skewed older. By appealing to adults alienated by the British Invasion and the harder rock that followed, Vinton continued to enter the Top 40 well into the ’70s, eventually starring in his own CBS variety show (1975-1978) and performing shows at his Blue Velvet Theater in Branson, Missouri (the town of Baby Boomers’ nightmares). Nor did the triumph of The Beatles toll the death knell for chart pop aimed at adults. What “There! I Said It Again” does signify is the increasing rarity of number-one songs appealing across the generation gap. Although niche genres like country and R&B would continue to be popular across a wide age range of listeners, pop as a whole was becoming even more striated. The British Invasion made rock and roll viable again, while nostalgia artists profited from record buyers seeking a softer alternative. Even middle-of-the-road pop split into two forks, with “bubblegum” on one side and “mature” pop on the other. Vinton managed to cling to success because he could read his audience. When teenagers stopped buying his records, his material grew even more backward-looking, his arrangements more syrupy and overproduced. Compared with The Beatles, “There! I Said It Again” is stodgy and sentimental. But compared with Vinton’s post-Beatlemania singles, “There! I Said It Again” is positively rock and roll. 4
Hit #1 on January 4, 1964; total of 4 weeks at #1
103 of 979 #1′s reviewed; 10.52% through the Hot 100