The comeback of indie rockers Fall Out Boy has also issued in a return of those long song titles with the unnecessary subtitles that were popular about five or so years ago. “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)”, their newest single, has nine words in its main title along with a three word subtitle, totaling 12 words. However, it’s not the longest top-40 song title of all-time. In fact, two other songs by the band are on this list, which just shows how much they like the idea. Here’s a look at some of the rest of those pop hits that pack on the wordage: nine or more in the main title or twelve or more total.
(Information is provided by the Billboard Hot 100 prior to the fall of 1973 and Radio & Records/Mediabase through 2013. The list is composed of individual song titles, so double a-sided releases with two separate songs credited as opposed to a medley of them are not counted.)
There’s at least a dozen examples of top-40 singles with nine words in their main title. They range from 1965’s “May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” by Little Jimmy Dickens (#15) to 1988’s “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” by Elton John (#2) to 2001’s “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” by U2 (#30). Two such singles went to #1: “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn from 1973 and “When The Going Get Tough, The Tough Get Going” by Billy Ocean from 1986.
Here’s where the numbers start shrinking. Only four songs have gone top-40 with ten words in their main title. In 1976, ABBA went to #17 with “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”. Twenty years later, Bryan Adams rose to #20 with “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You”. The last two examples charted within less than six months of each other. From 2006, Fall Out Boy hit with “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me”” (#32) and then Panic! At The Disco got to #35 with “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom And Suicide Is Press Coverage”. I bet you thought that was a mouthful.
Going up to eleven words, we have two titles. The first, in 1968, was the last top ten hit for vocal group The Lettermen: the medley of “Goin’ Out Of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, originally by Little Anthony & the Imperials and Frankie Valli, respectively. It rose to #7, tying for their best peak position of all-time. In the summer of 1996, the only big song for the Primitive Radio Gods found itself at that same peak. It was called “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand”.
After Meat Loaf‘s grand comeback in 1993 with “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, the singer went to #20 the next year with an emotional song, “Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”, which stands at 12 words total. Only one other top-40 hit made it there, but with the help of a subtitle like Fall Out Boy‘s newest release. That was “Son Of A Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)” by Janet Jackson in collaboration with Missy Elliott, Carly Simon, and P. Diddy on some remixed versions. It stalled out at #22 towards the end of 2001.
Ray Stevens is best known for big #1 hits like comedy record “The Streak” (1974) and the more Country-tinged “Everything Is Beautiful” (1970), but back in 1961, he garnered his very first hit with novelty single “Jeremiah Peabody’s Polyunsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills”, at 13 words in length. It peaked at #35.
The Bellamy Brothers had a #1 smash on the pop survey in 1976 with “Let Your Love Flow”. Their second and last top-40 crossover single was 1979’s “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me”, which clocks in at 14 words. It spent two weeks at #39 on the Hot 100 (Radio & Records only published a top 30 at that point) and also went to #1 on the Country chart.
In 1985, the duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates were coming off another big era in Big Bam Boom, which landed them a one-off concert at the Apollo Theater in New York City. It was recorded into a full-length live album, and one-half of their opening medley was edited into a single that climbed to #24. The full title? “A Night at the Apollo Live! The Way You Do The Things You Do/My Girl”, sixteen words in length. After that, the terrific twosome never released a single more than five words long.
Beating them by one word is the last spot on this list by Fall Out Boy with a song they released in 2007, again, extended by an itsy bitsy subtitle. “I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)” peaked at #25, and could’ve been at the top of this list, peaking at 17 words, 14 in the main title. Alas, it only comes in second.
If you remember the charts in the early 1980’s, then you’ll probably know this song, or at least the components of it. Sometimes it was just referred to as “Medley” or “Beatles Medley” for the sake of convenience, but on the record itself and on the charts, every single song included was listed out in full. So, the longest title in terms of words to make the top 40 is (deep breath in) “Medley: Intro Venus/Sugar Sugar/No Reply/I’ll Be Back/Drive My Car/Do You Want To Know A Secret?/We Can Work It Out/I Should Have Known Better/Nowhere Man/You’re Going To Lose That Girl /Stars On 45”, a whopping forty-one words for the Dutch studio group Stars On 45. It went to #3 in airplay and #1 on the Hot 100 for a week. They charted a handful of times with other medleys on Billboard after that colossal single, but all of them had reduced titles like “More Stars” or “Stars on 45 III: In Tribute To Stevie Wonder”.
Well, that was a whole lot of words, but something tells me I’ve forgotten one or two, so I need you help. Can you think of any other hit singles that managed a length of at least nine words? Let me know in the comments or find me on Twitter at @AdamFSoybel.