In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing 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.
Percy Faith – “Theme From A Summer Place“
HIT #1: February 22, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 9 weeks
How, exactly, does stuff like this happen? A piece of fluffy and inconsequential instrumental music, from a tawdry and manipulative melodrama that nobody even remembers today, ends up dominating the Billboard Hot 100 for a good chunk of 1960, selling more records than any other single that year and, for good measure, winning the Grammy for Record Of The Year. On top of that, Percy Faith’s version of “Theme From A Summer Place” isn’t even the one that plays during the movie, and it isn’t even the movie’s main theme. But all of that happened. By the Billboard chart metric, “Theme From A Summer Place” is the most popular instrumental song in history, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
Historically, movies have held a huge influence over the Billboard charts, and you can see an example of that as recently as the long reign of Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again.” But why this song? From this movie? If this trailer is any indication, the movie is an endless string of glares and accusations and family betrayals, and yet the theme is a light, gooey easy-listening waltz. So maybe the contrast between the story and the music is what drove this? Or maybe this was just a time when people actively sought out elevator music. In any case, more than any song I’ve encountered yet in the course of this project, this one baffles me.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s the part in the movie Con Air where Dave Chappelle’s corpse falls from the sky while “Theme From A Summer Place” plays: