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.
Frankie Avalon – “Venus”
HIT #1: March 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 5 weeks
Frankie Avalon is a prototypical teen idol, one of those non-threatening and half-interchangeable smiley kids who flooded the era between Elvis and the Beatles. These days, he’s mostly famous for the innocuous, vaguely charming Beach Party movies he made in the early ’60s with Annette Funicello. (They also made the 1987 reunion movie Back To The Beach, which I thought was pretty funny when I saw it many, many years ago.) But years before those movies, Avalon got his first #1 with “Venus,” a song where he begs the Roman goddess of love to send him “a little girl for me to thrill.” It sucks.
Avalon could sing, at least a little, but you can’t really tell from “Venus.” He delivers the whole song in a simpering whine that does nothing to sell the thing emotionally. And there really is no emotion to sell; the song is an empty void, one that tries to get by on Avalon’s pure cuteness. If anything, the oohing backing vocals only make the whole thing more irritating, making sure there’s no dynamic variation to the song. It’s like a slightly noxious cloud. It doesn’t melt your flesh with pure offensive shittiness; it just makes your skin itch and your eyes sting for two minutes and 24 seconds, and then it’s gone.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s a promotional clip for Fight Club where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton sing “Venus” as “Penis”: