Various Artists – Bubbling Under the American Charts (review)

Various Artists – Bubbling Under The American Charts – 1959-1963 (Fantastic Voyage) review

It’s like finding a goldmine full of forgotten classics

The “Bubbling Under” chart was started by Billboard magazine in 1959 to augment its Hot 100 list.  The idea was, these were the songs that could become big hits, but were “bubbling” just outside the main chart.  These included songs that were big regionally, but hadn’t yet broken on a large-scale basis.  The chart started with 15 songs, but was eventually expanded to 35.  Bubbling Under the American Charts brings together 90 of these songs – and none of them actually cracked the Hot 100.

Despite not being big hits, it’s amazing just how good this music really is – it’s like discovering a box of old tapes and realizing that you stumbled across a treasure trove of lost hits

The set opens with The Eligibles’ “Car Trouble,” which features what sounds like cussing, but is, in fact, just words played backwards.  What makes this set such good fun is the diversity – the foreign “Scandinavian Shuffle” by the Swe-Danes rubbing shoulders with the ethereal soul of Sam Fletcher’s “Time Has a Way.”  There’s a lot of relative unknowns, like the Latin-infused “Born to Be With You” by the Echoes, but there’s well-known artists too, like Sam Cooke’s “No One (Can Ever Take Your Place),” and Bobby Vee’s “One Last Kiss.”

There are “in-between hits” – songs that came right after a big hit and before another.  For instance, Gary ‘US” Bonds’ “Not Much” had a paltry chart showing, sandwiched in the middle of “New Orleans” and “Quarter to Three,”  while Little Stevie Wonder had just had the #1 hit “Fingertips pt. 1” when they released “I Call it Pretty Music But the Old People Call it the Blues.”

Jack B. Nimble & the Quicks is a curious entry – they had the original version of “Nut Rocker” but lost the battle to B. Bumble & the Stingers, who had a bigger record label (but, the Quicks version rocks harder).

Del Shannon turns in a pleading vocal on “I Won’t Be There,” while Jackie DeShannon infuses some country girl charm to “The Prince” (hearing her sing “ain’t been nothing” is good fun).  Frankie Valli is in fine falsetto form on the Four Seasons’ cover of “Peanuts.”

Kudos to writer Austin Powell, who manages to unearth details about even the most obscure entries on this collection.  90 songs spread over 3 discs and I bet you know less than ten.  Which means, Bubbling Under the American Charts is a treasure trove for oldies fans.  —Tony Peters