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"Way Down" US Chart Positions

Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:09 am

In the weeks following Elvis' death it was not uncommon to see signs in your local record shop pointing out that they were sold out of Elvis Presley records. One of the biggest movers would of course be Elvis' new releases the "Moody Blue" album and the single "Way Down" which would be the most widely available releases. Both records were big movers but in the case of "Way Down" its popularity was only partially reflected in the sales charts of the times. A #1 Country hit and a certified million seller, the record only hit a peak of #18 on Billboard's weekly pop chart. Granted, the record was on the charts a very long time, but this chart position seems extremely low for a record that got major play as Elvis Presley's last release, major country and easy listening play and major sales and you only have #18. (To be fair, the record did score #10 in the Record World chart but not Top 20 in Cashbox.)

Ace Collins, who penned the flawed but interesting recent book, "Untold Gold" speculated that the airplay devoted to Elvis' classic hits in the weeks following his death killed the time given to "Way Down". That Elvis' sales were spread throughout the catalogue almost surely kept the parent album out of the #1 position. The haphazard chart positions of the rest of the catalogue also makes you think that RCA, who posted record profits for the year, was unable to keep up with what was moving and when.

Along with the fact that a record like the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Nite (I'll Remember)" the most popular oldie of all-time only made #24, the saga of "Way Down" makes me suspect the accuracy of the music charts.

Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:17 am

ltb -

Elvis' lack of US chart action following his death in 1977 was always puzzling.

We hear stories of 'millions of records sold' during a few weeks/months following 16th August, but sales of this magnitude were not reflected in the charts of the day.

Even if the sales were spread over a number of different releases, it would have been expected that Elvis records would have monopolised the upper regions of the charts.

But it never happened.


Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:48 am

There was some Billboard Chart action and the country Top Ten was dominated by Elvis releases. Interestingly, the releases cited for chart action in Cashbox and Billboard and Record World did not always match.

Elvis' massive record sales in the weeks following his death was no illusion. I was just a boy at the time but I'll never forget all the signs in the stores: "We have no Elvis Presley records." It was a sight I never saw again with any other artist. Granted records are more widely available today, so much so that it is almost impossible to run out of the top releases. In articles of the time, Billboard itself reported the hysteria in shops around the US even if it wasn't 100 percent reflected in its charts. RCA's record profits next year, on the heels of no major innovation, were indicative of the movement of Presley records. When the onslaught of sales came it could have been so dramatic that the record company might not have been able to keep up with it as it was such a dramatic shift in product movement that had literally not been before. Also, you can't dismiss the idea that the company may have been hiding sales of the recent work to keep from shelling out royalties to the estate and even the vintage work to avoid pesky questions about the 1973 buyout.

Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:55 am

Also there may have been some motivation by Billboard to play up current sales by ignoring the sales of vintage music. When Crosby died a few weeks later, there was also a reported upsurge in his sales but it resulted in only one Billboard listing and that was only in the 90s.

Wed Apr 06, 2005 2:34 pm

ltb -

Are you implying that the US charts are manipulated to produce an outcome to suit certain parties ?

Shame on you !

They are an accurate reflection of airplay/sales for the week in question.

Nothing more, nothing less [cough].

Wed Apr 06, 2005 6:19 pm

Concerning Way Down's chart performance: The single initially peaked at #31 on the billboard hot 100 chart prior to Elvis' death, then dropped down somewhere into the mid-40's (I believe #46 but I'm not positive). Then with the news of Elvis' death the single began to re-climb the chart, peaking at #18. If we factor in the number of positions that the single regained from # 46 to it's previous peak of #31 (15 positions) plus the additional 13 positions it climbed to reach it's second peak of # 18 the record actually sold enough to be equivalent to a top 3 chart position.
Example: #31 + (actually minus) 15 positions = #16 + (minus) 13 positions = #3.
I hope this makes sense.

Thu Apr 07, 2005 12:47 am

Good theory Pete. However, with the explosion of interest in the weeks following Elvis' death should have secured a better spot regardless of the initial position of the record.

Colin- I have always thought the charts were a little fishy at times and not just in regard to Elvis. Many times I have told friends the actual chart positions of popular records and been greeted with disbelief. The problem was especially bad in the 1950s and in the past few years. In the '50s, rock and roll records would not get any play at all on certain mainstream stations although they dominated the rock oriented and even the country and R/B oriented stations, jukeboxes and sales and were truly the most popular records. That's how "In the Still of the Nite" could only rack up #24 and Little Willie John fell short of the Top 20 with "Fever". It's also why Elvis did so much better on the Best Sellers chart than on the actual Top 100 from 1956-1958.

Nowadays single sales have dwindled to nothing, stations take their playlist from a paid service, the segregation of stations is so complicated and contradictory no one can understand it. Worse I don't think video play is counted as airplay even though that is the preferred way for young people to listen to music. The charts as they exist today are practically useless. Even the album charts which are based solely on sales are problematic. Many times niche' hits are able to score top positions because all the hardcore fans turn out the first week and drive up the chart positions and it's not reflective of the tastes of the overall audience. (This is the same thing that's happened in the UK with the Elvis singles.)

I think during the prime of the Hot 100 it was a good general outline of the popularity of music but you can't take it as gospel.

Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 am

likethebike -

The UK chart has always been sales based.

We reckon it is pretty reliable.

Although there was a rumour that Elvis' It's Only Love was the best-selling single for a while there in 1980, but held to No.3 on the chart !

The story being that the powers-that-be didn't want to upset the level-pegging of Elvis & The Beatles with 17 No.1's each !

From 10th April, our singles chart is to include the songs 'officially' downloaded [paid for, that is].

So it will still be sales based.

But biased more toward the youngsters, I should think.

Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:38 am


I think it's already biased towards youngsters.

Collectors such as "us", who buy all the Elvis singles are surely the exception to the rule.


I don't think your calculation makes much sense.

You simply can't calculate with ranks in that way.

Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:44 am

Torben -

You wrote:
I think it's already biased towards youngsters.

Collectors such as "us", who buy all the Elvis singles are surely the exception to the rule.

You're right, of course !

But with downloads accounting for 25% of the chart from 10th April onward, it will be even more so !

Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:50 am


You're right, too, of course.

I'm a little surprised that downloads will make up a flat percentage of the charts, though.

Thu Apr 07, 2005 3:00 am

Torben -

Well, it will depend on the figures that come through each week.

But that's how they compare at the moment.

[The download chart was started last year but has been published separately up to now]

Thu Apr 07, 2005 3:05 am


So the 25% is not set in stone.

I guess in the not so distant future downloads will make up the major part of single song sales and this should of course also be reflected in the charts.

Thu Apr 07, 2005 11:12 pm

Torben wrote:

I don't think your calculation makes much sense.

What exactly is it about my calculation that doesn't make sense Torben?

Torben wrote:You simply can't calculate with ranks in that way.

Why not?

Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:28 am

ColinB wrote:Although there was a rumour that Elvis' It's Only Love was the best-selling single for a while there in 1980, but held to No.3 on the chart !

The story being that the powers-that-be didn't want to upset the level-pegging of Elvis & The Beatles with 17 No.1's each !

I understood the reason for that was, at that time, sales of 7" & 12" singles were kept separate. The combined sales of 'It's Only Love' were enough to take the number 1 spot but the 7" sales alone weren't enough to take the top spot.

Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:42 am

Delboy -

And if you believe that....................

Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:56 am

Well it seems more viable than the Elvis v Beatles #1 conspiracy. :D

Fri Apr 08, 2005 1:16 am


you wrote:
Torben wrote:You simply can't calculate with ranks in that way.

Why not?

I don't know.

You can't.


Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:59 am

Brazil 1977, I never see something similar before or after those days. They release the Double Lp´s 40 Greatest Hits with a stronger Media Campaign in Globo TV (the first from here) and several radio stations too. The album was a tremendous success. Globo TV, also make a special, heart-touching memorial Elvis special and that program help a lot to sell much more LP´s like, Elvis Disco de Ouro (Pink and Blue cover), Aloha Special, Almost In Love (does great here), Raised On Rock, Today, Boulevard Memphis, Madison Square Show, the compact with the song Kiss Me Quick (famous here), Sylvia, My Boy and other with Blue Suede Shoes from 69. Unfortunately, we don´t have acurate data from the record industry but, certainly, Elvis sold a lot records to put him in number One for several weeks. Globo Tv also shows several special programs for the least 4 or 5 years after 77, mainly the great and touching moment october 77 Elvis in Concert in a Wednesday great night with a by request Sunday afternoon reprise. We don´t have a bilboard here, its a shame, because Elvis was sold out here too.

Fri Apr 08, 2005 6:14 am

What i remember about IT"S ONLY LOVE 45...was the amount of air play it got,and dj"s giving it a good 3,never work that one out then or now.

Fri Apr 08, 2005 6:15 am

Torben -
Just get yourself some Australian wine, have a couple of glasses and it will make perfect sense ...... now I'm really not making sense. Why should you get Australian wine when you can have German beer!

Fri Apr 08, 2005 3:39 pm


I don't do drugs.

But I'll try some malt beer and grape juice later.

Maybe it makes sense then.

Sat Apr 09, 2005 10:49 am


I remember back then the week Elvis passed, it seemed like EVERYONE on the planet wanted an Elvis Lp, 45 rpm, a poster, whatever they could get, jus so they could have that last attachment to him!

I lived in New York at that time and every record store my friend and I visited either had no Elvis records left or had multiple leftover Camden Lp's!!!! :oops:

Granted, there were plugs or ads for Elvis' last single WAY DOWN in heavy rotation in the New York metro area!!! I am not lying when I say it took me 2 weeks to get that 45. a #18 position on the main BILLBOARD singles chart at that time jus seems a bit suspicious to me, even 28 years later!