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Book Review: The Billboard Book of No. 2 Singles
Christopher G. Feldman, Billboard Books/Watson-Guptill
By Matthew S. Robinson
(more articles from this author)
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Title: The Billboard Book of No. 2 Singles
Author: Christopher G. Feldman
Publisher: Billboard Books/Watson-Guptill
Pages: 288

What do The Beatles' "Twist and Shout," Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street," Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" and Madonna's "Material Girl" have in common? They all pulled up short, hanging around the place without ever clinching the win.

All of these songs, and a notable collection of others, soared near the top of the charts without ever reaching the peak.

Goodness! Gracious! "Great Balls of Fire" didn't burn all the way up the charts. "Wipeout!" didn't reach the beach. Wanna go to the "Y.M.C.A."? Don't expect all the people in the village to be celebrating. Even the legendary frat song "Louie Louie" wasn't able to crash the chart-topping party.

As for artists who never reached the summit, the list reads like a who's who of rock legends. From Aaron Neville to Robert Zimmerman (a.k.a. Bob Dylan), a surprising set of superstar singers and songwriters spent weeks if not months in the runner-up position without ever getting the gold. Leann Rimes was the bridesmaid for 69 weeks with her Grammy-worthy version of "How Do I Live." In an especially alarming (and perhaps infamous) episode of musical history, Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" never reached #1 for any given week, yet was chosen as the top song of 1993!

From Sinatra's "Learnin' The Blues" to Pearl Jam's version of "Last Kiss" (which had also reached #2 in 1964), Feldman chronicles every honorable mention from 1955 to 1999, listing songwriting credits, album information and even the songs that kept his quarry from the top of the heap. Feldman also includes shocking short-hands of artists with the most #2 hits, the most also-rans without a front-runner, the most consecutive shortcomings and the most #1s, hot 100s, top 40s and top 10s without pausing to collect the silver.

So next time someone asserts that Nat "King" Cole truly was the king of the charts, you know who to consult. From startling start to flabbergasting finish, Feldman's book is a fascinating compendium of facts and figures which may lead you to question the rhyme and reason of music charts, if not music itself.

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