DiscoverHit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia
Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia
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Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Author: Slate Podcasts

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What makes a song a smash? Talent? Luck? Timing? All that—and more. Chris Molanphy, pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts and shaped your memories forever.

129 Episodes
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The story of Fleetwood Mac is an oft-told rock n’ roll tale: British blues-rock band sells poorly until two Americans join, bringing California vibes and lots of drama. Everybody fights, cheats, drugs, and boozes. Out pops Rumours and tons of hits. It’s more complicated than that. Those two Americans—Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—got all the media coverage and wrote many great songs. But the quiet lady behind the keyboards, Christine McVie, actually wrote more of the hits: “Don’t Stop.” “Say You Love Me.” “Hold Me.” “Little Lies.” “Everywhere.” They were all Christine compositions. Join Chris Molanphy as he remembers Christine McVie, who died in late 2022 at age 79, and restores her rightful place as the glue that held Fleetwood Mac together. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The story of Fleetwood Mac is an oft-told rock n’ roll tale: British blues-rock band sells poorly until two Americans join, bringing California vibes and lots of drama. Everybody fights, cheats, drugs and boozes. Out pops Rumours and tons of hits. It’s more complicated than that. Those two Americans—Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—got all the media coverage and wrote many great songs. But the quiet lady behind the keyboards, Christine McVie, actually wrote more of the hits: “Don’t Stop.” “Say You Love Me.” “Hold Me.” “Little Lies.” “Everywhere.” They were all Christine compositions. Join Chris Molanphy as he remembers Christine McVie, who died in late 2022 at age 79, and restores her rightful place as the glue that held Fleetwood Mac together. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sam the Sham over the Rolling Stones? The Knack over Donna Summer? Wilson Phillips over Mariah Carey? Glass Animals over Harry Styles? On Billboard’s year-end Hot 100, upsets are quite common. Songs that seemed to dominate the chart all year are defeated by stealthily ubiquitous earworms. Sometimes the obvious song takes the prize: “Hey Jude,” “Every Breath You Take” or “I Will Always Love You.” And then sometimes it’s a one-hit wonder: Domencio Mudugno, Daniel Powter, Gotye, Glass Animals—all won the year-end Hot 100 prize. Join Chris Molanphy as he explains the secrets behind having the hit of the year—and why it doesn’t always go to a superstar. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Today, we’re excited to share an episode from Slate’s Decoder Ring that we think you’re going to love. For this episode, a story from Slate senior producer Evan Chung about how Yanni, John Tesh and a number of other surprising acts made it big in the 1990s. It’s a throwback to a simpler time— when musicians struggled to find their big break, but discovered it was possible with a telephone, a television, and our undivided attention. This story originally aired in 2019 on Studio 360 from PRX. We hear from George Veras, Pat Callahan, and John Tesh. This episode was written and produced by Slate’s Evan Chung. Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Slate’s Executive Producer of narrative podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sam the Sham over the Rolling Stones? The Knack over Donna Summer? Wilson Phillips over Mariah Carey? Glass Animals over Harry Styles? On Billboard’s year-end Hot 100, upsets are quite common. Songs that seemed to dominate the chart all year are defeated by stealthily ubiquitous earworms. Sometimes the obvious song takes the prize: “Hey Jude,” “Every Breath You Take” or “I Will Always Love You.” And then sometimes it’s a one-hit wonder: Domencio Mudugno, Daniel Powter, Gotye, Glass Animals—all won the year-end Hot 100 prize. Join Chris Molanphy as he explains the secrets behind having the hit of the year—and why it doesn’t always go to a superstar. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Punk was meant to be angry. But the so-called Angry Young Men of the late ’70s U.K. scene were secret sophisticates in punk clothing. They delivered withering lyrics and snarling attitude over melodies a pop fan could love. In so doing, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson and Graham Parker helped transform a slew of back-to-basic styles—pub-rock, power-pop, post-punk—into the catchall category New Wave. It would take over the charts at the turn of the ’80s. But the launch of the MTV era forced these sardonic troubadours to adjust their songwriting for a New Romantic age. Join Chris Molanphy as he chronicles the history of three men who wrote the book on alternative rock before it had a name. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Punk was meant to be angry. But the so-called Angry Young Men of the late ’70s U.K. scene were secret sophisticates in punk clothing. They delivered withering lyrics and snarling attitude over melodies a pop fan could love. In so doing, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson and Graham Parker helped transform a slew of back-to-basic styles—pub-rock, power-pop, post-punk—into the catchall category New Wave. It would take over the charts at the turn of the ’80s. But the launch of the MTV era forced these sardonic troubadours to adjust their songwriting for a New Romantic age. Join Chris Molanphy as he chronicles the history of three men who wrote the book on alternative rock before it had a name. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the ’70s, funk was pop—the cutting edge of Black music and the way listeners got their groove on, before disco and hip-hop. After James Brown taught a generation a new way to hear rhythm, and George Clinton tore the roof off with his P-Funk axis, nothing would be the same. Rising alongside blaxploitation at the movies, funk took many forms: Curtis Mayfield’s superfly storytelling. War’s low-riding grooves. Kool & the Gang’s jungle boogie. Earth, Wind and Fire’s jazzy crescendos. But when funk began fusing with rock and disco took over the charts, would these acts have to give up the funk? Join Chris Molanphy as he traces the history of funk’s first big decade. You’ll ride the mighty, mighty love rollercoaster and get down just for the funk of it. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the ’70s, funk was pop—the cutting edge of Black music and the way listeners got their groove on, before disco and hip-hop. After James Brown taught a generation a new way to hear rhythm, and George Clinton tore the roof off with his P-Funk axis, nothing would be the same. Rising alongside blaxploitation at the movies, funk took many forms: Curtis Mayfield’s superfly storytelling. War’s low-riding grooves. Kool & the Gang’s jungle boogie. Earth, Wind and Fire’s jazzy crescendos. But when funk began fusing with rock and disco took over the charts, would these acts have to give up the funk? Join Chris Molanphy as he traces the history of funk’s first big decade. You’ll ride the mighty, mighty love rollercoaster and get down just for the funk of it. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”   Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just collectively decides that this Whitney Houston hit, not that one, is her song for the ages.   Join Chris as he explains how the charts sometimes get it wrong, and how legacy hits correct the record—and counts down 10 of his favorite flops-turned-classics.   Podcast production by Kevin Bendis and Merritt Jacob. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”   Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just collectively decides that this Whitney Houston hit, not that one, is her song for the ages.   Join Chris as he explains how the charts sometimes get it wrong, and how legacy hits correct the record—and counts down 10 of his favorite flops-turned-classics.   Podcast production by Kevin Bendis and Merritt Jacob. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
So, sure—Billy Joel’s first Top 40 hit, way back in 1974, was “Piano Man,” and the nickname stuck. But for a guy who became famous sitting behind 88 keys, few of his biggest hits are really piano songs. In fact, on all three of his No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, keyboards are not the primary instrument. The truth is, Joel isn’t the Piano Man, he’s the pastiche man. He has openly admitted to borrowing genre tropes, vocal styles, and even specific song hooks from his Baby Boom-era heroes, from Ray Charles to the Beatles to the Supremes. He’s been a jazzy crooner, a saloon balladeer, an anthem rocker, even a pseudo-punk. And on his most hit-packed album, he literally tried on a different song mode on every single—and was rewarded for it. This month, Hit Parade breaks down the uncanny success of pop magpie Billy Joel, the guy who would try anything for a hit: the next phase, new wave, dance craze, any ways. Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch and Kevin Bendis Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
So, sure—Billy Joel’s first Top 40 hit, way back in 1974, was “Piano Man,” and the nickname stuck. But for a guy who became famous sitting behind 88 keys, few of his biggest hits are really piano songs. In fact, on all three of his No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, keyboards are not the primary instrument. The truth is, Joel isn’t the Piano Man, he’s the pastiche man. He has openly admitted to borrowing genre tropes, vocal styles, and even specific song hooks from his Baby Boom-era heroes, from Ray Charles to the Beatles to the Supremes. He’s been a jazzy crooner, a saloon balladeer, an anthem rocker, even a pseudo-punk. And on his most hit-packed album, he literally tried on a different song mode on every single—and was rewarded for it. This month, Hit Parade breaks down the uncanny success of pop magpie Billy Joel, the guy who would try anything for a hit: the next phase, new wave, dance craze, any ways. Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch and Kevin Bendis Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
After the so-called-but-not-really “death” of disco, dance music in the 1980s moved to its own beat. There was synthpop, electro, hi-NRG and house. But the scrappy genre that seemed to pull it all together was called freestyle—a breakbeat-tempo, Latin-flavored genre fortified with dizzying, proudly synthetic beats. Freestyle grew out of the clubs and streets of New York and Miami and briefly dominated ’80s dance-pop. Freestyle’s flagship artists were only medium-level stars: Shannon. Exposé. Lisa Lisa. Stevie B. Nu Shooz. Sweet Sensation. But these acts—most especially their yearning, floridly romantic, rhythmically hectic songs—punched above their weight on the charts and even affected the hits of superstars from Madonna to Duran Duran, Whitney Houston to Pet Shop Boys. Join Chris Molanphy as he defines the byways of this bespoke dance genre and traces how it bridged the disco era into the hiphop era. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Point of No Return Part 1

Point of No Return Part 1

2022-07-1601:02:232

After the so-called-but-not-really “death” of disco, dance music in the 1980s moved to its own beat. There was synthpop, electro, hi-NRG and house. But the scrappy genre that seemed to pull it all together was called freestyle—a breakbeat-tempo, Latin-flavored genre fortified with dizzying, proudly synthetic beats. Freestyle grew out of the clubs and streets of New York and Miami and briefly dominated ’80s dance-pop. Freestyle’s flagship artists were only medium-level stars: Shannon. Exposé. Lisa Lisa. Stevie B. Nu Shooz. Sweet Sensation. But these acts—most especially their yearning, floridly romantic, rhythmically hectic songs—punched above their weight on the charts and even affected the hits of superstars from Madonna to Duran Duran, Whitney Houston to Pet Shop Boys. Join Chris Molanphy as he defines the byways of this bespoke dance genre and traces how it bridged the disco era into the hiphop era. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
For decades, British alt-pop goddess Kate Bush had never had a Top 10 hit in America. Now, in 2022, she finds herself in the Hot 100’s Top Five—and television got her there. Her classic “Running Up That Hill” is featured prominently in the latest season of Netflix’s hit ’80s horror fantasy show Stranger Things. This puts Bush in a long lineage of hits spawned or made bigger by TV, dating all the way back to Davy Crockett and Peter Gunn, through Hawaii Five-O and Happy Days, and peaking in the ’80s with Miami Vice and Family Ties. Join host Chris Molanphy as he walks through more than six decades of hits from the so-called boob tube and reveals why—thanks to our streaming age—Kate Bush’s hit might be the biggest TV tune of all. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
For decades, British alt-pop goddess Kate Bush had never had a Top 10 hit in America. Now, in 2022, she finds herself in the Hot 100’s Top Five—and television got her there. Her classic “Running Up That Hill” is featured prominently in the latest season of Netflix’s hit ’80s horror fantasy show Stranger Things. This puts Bush in a long lineage of hits spawned or made bigger by TV, dating all the way back to Davy Crockett and Peter Gunn, through Hawaii Five-O and Happy Days, and peaking in the ’80s with Miami Vice and Family Ties. Join host Chris Molanphy as he walks through more than six decades of hits from the so-called boob tube and reveals why—thanks to our streaming age—Kate Bush’s hit might be the biggest TV tune of all. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What was in the water in Virginia Beach? Starting in the ’90s and peaking in the ’00s, Pharrell Williams, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley and Missy Elliott—friends and family from the Tidewater Region—made nerdy pop normal on the charts. Their productions whirred, gurgled, pinged and rumbled—the handiwork of studio geeks—while their lyrics embraced the freaky: Missy demanding that you work it…Pharrell declaring he’s a hustler, baby…Timbaland bringing sexy back. Join host Chris Molanphy as he explains how these three supa-dupa fly Virginia Beach geniuses helped us get our freak on. For over two decades, they never left you without a dope beat to step to. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What was in the water in Virginia Beach? Starting in the ’90s and peaking in the ’00s, Pharrell Williams, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley and Missy Elliott—friends and family from the Tidewater Region—made nerdy pop normal on the charts. Their productions whirred, gurgled, pinged and rumbled—the handiwork of studio geeks—while their lyrics embraced the freaky: Missy demanding that you work it…Pharrell declaring he’s a hustler, baby…Timbaland bringing sexy back. Join host Chris Molanphy as he explains how these three supa-dupa fly Virginia Beach geniuses helped us get our freak on. For over two decades, they never left you without a dope beat to step to. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the 1970s, a song about protesting truckers topped the music charts in multiple countries, and kicked off a pop culture craze for CB radios. In early 2022, that same song became an anthem for a new trucker-led protest movement in Canada and the US. How did C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” come to exist, and what had it been trying to say?  For this episode, which was inspired by a listener’s question, we’ve updated a story that originally aired in 2017, but that could not be more relevant today. Slate producer Evan Chung is going to take us through the history of this bizarre number-one smash, an artifact from a time when truckers were also at the center of the culture. It touches on advertising, hamburger buns, and speed limits but also global conflict, sky-rocketing gas prices, and aggrieved, protesting truck drivers.  Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Bill Fries, advertising executive; Chip Davis, singer and songwriter; and Meg Jacobs, historian and author of Panic at the Pump. This episode of Decoder Ring was written and produced by Evan Chung and Willa Paskin with help from Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director. If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (28)

Eric Raymond Igou

Born to Run peaked at #23. It just missed the inclusion criteria. But, in all honesty, is there a better legacy hit?

Oct 2nd
Reply

Eric Raymond Igou

I must admit, I have never heard of Biggy (but have recognized a song).

Oct 2nd
Reply

Al Bealing

Too many ads. Bye.

Feb 1st
Reply

Lucas Nasution

great podcasts!!

Sep 15th
Reply (1)

Rita J. Behm-Campos

I absolutely love ABBA. Just wished you would have done a whole segment on them.

May 12th
Reply

Danny Gette

Pandemic relief

Apr 4th
Reply

Fereshte Barzegar

thank u,that was amazing

Apr 1st
Reply

Mary Mildred

Excellent! Loved this!

Mar 11th
Reply

Adriana Lombardi

I kind of hoped they would also talk about former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips, who had his own string of successful progressive folk albums in the 70s as a solo artist.

Feb 7th
Reply

drora gibson

great episode , a must for you Brits admirers, good on you Chris! thanks

Dec 21st
Reply

Aaron Hartje

I've noticed a bit of verbal sleight of hand in other episodes, but to basically claim that the reason disco - an obvious music fad - died was because of a backlash against homosexuals, people of color and women is going a bit too far. It also kind of implies that women, homosexuals and people of color do not attend baseball games and did not participate in the occurrences that evening. I was around when this happened. As with other music fads, disco eventually became nothing but a parody and caricature of itself and it deserved the death it received. The good stuff survives, as is always the case.

Nov 8th
Reply

Jane Evangeline Antonia Feast

In the supermarket and guess what's on the radio?

Aug 17th
Reply

FRANCIS READER

That was a very interesting tale, the Stars On 45 part especially. One thing: Sparks are American, not British. Great podcast - please keep them coming.

Jul 26th
Reply

Tiffany Thornton

this episode is fantastic

Jun 25th
Reply

Sarah Cosgrove

Can u do a Queen trivia or the beatles trivia

Jun 23rd
Reply

Aaron Campbell

my wife and I look forward to every episode!

Dec 31st
Reply

Athena&TheOwl

and for all the predictions we voted for a no1 about Sausage Rolls!

Dec 23rd
Reply

Jeff Z

title = alt rock... spends a full third of the podcast talking about Mikey Cyrus. And then starts talking about hair metal. WTF?!?!?!?!

Nov 30th
Reply

One More Tune DJs

Absolutely fascinating. Every episode of this podcast is fantastic

Aug 16th
Reply

Tony Kearney

Love and Reccomend this 'Donna Summer' episode..

Jul 12th
Reply
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