The Top 40 Charting Hard-Rock Songs: Part 1

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Numbers. The applications to which they are used in various fields can yield results ranging from the trivial to the catastrophic if not interpreted properly. If you are involved with numbers at NASA or the military, lives could hang in the balance if something is miscalculated or misrepresented.

The misuse of numbers in the music industry isn't going to cost anyone his or her life. While music has been one of my biggest passions, I do have another guilty obsession: I'm also a baseball junkie, and if there's one field where trivial calculations influence decisions based on overinflated misinterpretations it's baseball. A perfect example of this is the 'W,' the pitcher's win: a pitcher can throw a terrible game and still get the win, and a pitcher can have an excellent game and still get a loss. For those who don't follow the sport, how a pitcher gets the win is not the point here, but the relevance is. Many around baseball (unfairly) still regard that 'W' as what determines a pitcher's worth during a season.

For those not in the know, the music industry had a number that, just like the 'W,' it relied on it for more than 50 years called the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Now, why is this one misleading as opposed to the other Billboard charts? Well, those charts tend to put the participants on an even field. There are charts exclusively for genres, such as country and Christian, and even the Top Albums chart tends to be mostly fair because it's open to all albums being sold.

Throughout most of its history, the Hot 100 chart was calculated based on a survey of retail outlets and radio stations in regards to the sale of a single and its airplay. That's correct; a survey. I've read a number of times how certain industry people influenced these numbers through various means, details I'll save you. But this is also why a popular song such as "Stairway to Heaven" never made the Hot 100 -- while its airplay was through the roof in the year of release, the song was never released as a single, therefore making it ineligible for the charts.

Billboard changed its tabulation methods starting in the mid-'90s with the emergence of digitized point-of-sale information and monitored airplay listings. Fast-forward to 2005 and the requirement of being released as a single was dropped as a result of digital downloads. Today's chart performance is less likely to be as manipulated as it was before the century's end.

It's these first 50 years of the Billboard charts that fascinate me, because as you can see, a song's performance on the chart can be misleading. Hard-rock and metal acts didn't stand much of a chance; popular radio stayed away from heavier acts, which eventually led to very few hard rock and metal singles being released. Many popular acts such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath had great success on the album chart, yet have zero representation in the Top 40 despite releasing at least one single from every album during this time.

So to have a little fun at the chart's expense, I've composed a list of the Top 40 hard rock songs...sort of. I went to my library to research the charts and found a small number of hard-rock songs that peaked at each position. Some positions yielded as few as two, and some had as many as six. For this list, a song's eligibility is determined by its peak position on the actual Top 40 during its time of release.

I'll include my runners-up (two if possible) at each position in case some happen to disagree with a choice and want to make an alternate list. I impose a rule to my list that an artist can own no more than two positions so as not to dominate due to their many eligible entries over those hard-rock artists who are not as fortunate.

In honor of the late, great Casey Kasem, we'll do this in the American Top 40 format. I'll even include one of his long-distance dedications in order to designate a footnote belonging to another chart. Here we go.

The countdown begins on the next page.

40. "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," Night Ranger This horse takes the photo finish over Ratt's "Lay It Down" and Rainbow's "Stone Cold." All three are great songs and any of the field could have won out.

39. "Cumbersome," Seven Mary Three Two great songs in a position low on entries, but I feel this one is stronger than Bon Jovi's "Runaway."

38. "Trampled Underfoot," Led Zeppelin Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" and Blackfoot's "Train, Train" don't stand a chance.

37. "Back in Black," AC/DC I'm trying not to use a power ballad (another list, perhaps?) so Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" will lose out to this one. Otherwise it goes up against Whitesnake's "Fool For Your Loving."

36. "Sweet Emotion," Aerosmith Beats out Cinderella's "Shelter Me" and edges out Van Halen's cover of "You Really Got Me."

35. "One," Metallica AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" concedes to Metallica to let them duke it out between "One" and "The Unforgiven." I'll take "One," as the single issued was the full seven minutes and arguably the heaviest song ever to make the Top 40 charts.

34. "Black & Blue," Van Halen This one beats out "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica. They just took a spot and I'm pretty sure they'll take another one further up the list. Besides, VH gets kudos for breaking these lyrics into the Top 40.

33. "Live & Let Die," Guns N' Roses I'll take this strong cover version over Heart's "Even It Up" in a weak position.

32. "Everybody Wants You," Billy Squier Tough call, as I love them both, but on my list it beats out Nirvana's "Come As You Are."

31. "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)," Quiet Riot I have to take this hard-rock anthem over Lenny Kravitz's "Dig In" and "Shout It Out Loud" by KISS.

We'll take a time out here and return to the countdown after station identification and a word from our sponsors. [See you tomorrow, same time, same station -- ed.]


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