The Number Ones is a new column where I’ll review every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present. It is, in other words, a shameless ripoff of the great British blogger Tom Ewing’s long-running column Popular, in which he’s spent more than a decade doing the same thing with the UK charts. (Popular is so good. Start with Ewing’s masterpiece on the Sugababes’ “Freak Like Me” and work your way backwards.) Since there have been more than 1,000 #1 singles, I’ll do one of these every day, or as close to every day as I can manage. And in a nod to Ewing, I’ll give all of them a grade, from 1 to 10.
It’s an almost unbelievably wholesome story: Four Italian teenagers from the South Shore of Staten Island grow up singing doo-wop under the boardwalk together, and then they hit #1 when a couple of them have the bright idea of turning “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” into a love song. They never scored another hit again, but they’re still out there singing the song on the nostalgia circuit, playing cruises and country clubs. Frontman Vito Picone now hosts a nostalgia-heavy talk show on Staten Island community TV. Their moment lasted for exactly one week, and they still can’t believe their luck.
“Little Star” seems almost too wholesome to work. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is a kids’ song, and by definition, there’s no danger or mystery to it. It’s also not especially well-suited to becoming a pop song. But the Elegants built on its familiarity, turning their song into a perfectly pretty little shimmer. There are plenty of better doo-wop songs, but there are plenty of worse ones, too.
BONUS BEATS: “Little Star” apparently played in the background of a scene in the Sopranos pilot, but I can’t find video of it online. So instead, we’ve got something that’s only vaguely related. Here’s Leonard Nimoy singing — or really more like intoning — “Twinkle Twinkle Little Earth,” from his 1967 album Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.