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.
Of all the fresh-faced and unthreatening kids who rose to teen-idol stardom as the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll died down, none was more fresh-faced or less threatening than Paul Anka. Anka, a Canadian kid with Middle Eastern Christian parents, was 15 when he recorded “Diana,” his first hit. Two years later, Anka hit #1 with “Lonely Boy,” a song about how he’s got everything you could think of but all he wants is someone to love.
Anka wrote “Lonely Boy” himself, which would be more impressive if the song was any more evocative than the average nursery rhyme. More than some of his peers, Anka actually sounded like a teenager, which could be both endearing and obnoxious. He sang through his nose, but he also ably communicated the impression that he was a lost little kid. The weeping strings and regal guitars of “Lonely Boy” are pretty enough, but they leave no real lasting impression. And neither would Anka; after “Lonely Boy,” he’d have to wait until 1974 when he returned to #1 with the absolutely putrid ballad “(You’re) Having My Baby.”
Anka would also go on to write songs for Frank Sinatra — he did “My Way” — and to be one of those loathsome people who agreed to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration before backing out at the last minute, thus infuriating everyone.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s a leaked audio clip of Anka ranting at his backing band sometime in the mid-’80s and coining the immortal phrase “When I move, I slice like a fuckin’ hammer”: