After a GRAMMY nomination for his hit song “The A Team”, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is releasing a new single in the U.S., “Lego House”, though it’s not exactly new to a lot of audiences. The song peaked at #5 in the U.K. way back in November 2011. It’s also gone top ten in Australia, Belgium and Israel. Despite the song just picking up here, including a top 30 placing on Hot AC radio, it got me thinking about other toys that have made it onto the national charts. Lego products are popular enough, but how about dolls and video games? “Lego House” may be the next to join them with a run into the top 40 on the Hot 100. Supplies are limited, so buy into this post while you can.
BALLS AND BALLOONS
Whether you’re bouncing, dunking, hitting or kicking it, the ball has always been a playground favorite for kids. Only one top-40 hit has used the term referring to a toy, in which quintet The Cyrkle compared the sun to a “Red Rubber Ball”. It peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 in 1966. They continued to release singles for the next two years, though none were nearly as big.
In addition, three songs about balloons have made the top 40 over the decades. First up was The Yellow Balloon, who hit #25 in 1967 with a song also called “Yellow Balloon”, from, yes, a self-titled album, The Yellow Balloon. Fast forward to 1984 and we find the German group Nena and their only charting single, the #2 “99 Luftballons”, which was then sung in English and retitled as “99 Red Balloons”. Finally, in 1999, rockers the Goo Goo Dolls made it on the charts with “Black Balloon”. It achieved similar peaks on both the Hot 100 (#16) and CHR radio (#12).
DOLLS AND FIGURINES
Not a huge shocker, but this is the category where most of our entries are. We love dolls of all shapes and forms and they’re still popular today. Here are some of significant titles:
The first hit in the U.S. for superstar Cliff Richard also became his first #1 single in the U.K., “Living Doll”. It went to #30 on the Hot 100 in 1959. Two songs called “Rag Doll” have hit the top 40: in 1964, it was a #1 single for The Four Seasons, and in 1988, it was top 20 entry for Boston rockers Aerosmith. From the big screen, singer Dionne Warwick went to the runner-up spot in 1968 with the theme song from Valley Of The Dolls.
Arguably the most famous song about a doll hit during the summer of 1997. Danish quartet Aqua went from plastic to pop perfection with their biggest hit here., “Barbie Girl”, an ode to Mattel’s magnificent maiden. Huge sales propelled it into the top ten on Billboard, peaking at #7, but its airplay lagged behind, only reaching #21 on the CHR chart. The group had two more minor singles chart in the States, one of which was “Turn Back Time”, a bigger radio hit than “Barbie” but a no-show on the Hot 100 due to a lack of a physical single at the time.
You may as well have a pad to put all these ladies in, and singer-songwriter Priscilla Renea has just the solution. Her only charting song to date, “Dollhouse”, went to #33 on CHR radio in 2009. Lastly, for acts, we have the aforementioned Goo Goo Dolls, who had #1 radio hits like “Name” (1995) and “Iris” (1998), as well as the Pussycat Dolls, who had a string of top 5 hits at both radio and retail, including “Buttons” and “Don’t Cha”.
In addition to dolls, four songs about those G.I. Joes and Janes marched straight into the top 40. Two versions of the song “One Tin Solder” made the top 40; the original, by The Original Caste, went to #34 in 1969, and in 1971, Coven‘s take rose to #26. As for the other two songs, one sampled the other. That pair would be Martika‘s “Toy Soldiers” from 1989 (#1) and Eminem‘s 2005 single, “Like Toy Soldiers” (#34). The rapper’s song fared better at CHR radio, hitting #24. There have been many other songs with “soldier” in the title, but majority of those are addressing people and not play things.
Sometimes they’re cute and sometimes they’re a little bit on the scary side. I’d like to think that all of these selections can put on a good show. Two such singles about the subject made the top 40: in 1966, the duo of James & Bobby Purify went to #6 with “I’m Your Puppet”. They ranked seven other singles on the Hot 100 through 1968. Pop quintet The 5th Dimension scored the second of them, going to #24 in 1970 with “Puppet Man”. It was their first top-40 hit of the decade and would make that portion of the charts for three more years.
Remember the Meat Puppets? They’re the only act to pack the puppet into their name. Their one crossover single, “Backwater”, went to #30 on CHR radio in 1994. (It just missed the top 40 on the Hot 100 at #47.)
From Beanie Babies to Pillow Pets, you know you at least had a few of them. Might be obvious to some of you, but the only kind of stuffed animal to make the top 40 is that lovable, hugable teddy bear. Two song titles have made it that high. One pre-dated the Hot 100, but topped the similar Top 100 for seven weeks in 1957. That was “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” by the King himself, Elvis Presley. On the other side of the charts, a beary big Country hit that spent a lone week at #40 in 1976. That one was “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine. The song’s technically about a trucker whose handle on CB radio is “teddy bear”, but it still works. Sad song, by the way.
Of course, we can’t forget The Teddy Bears, the studio group that was Phil Spector’s first big foray into the music world. They spent three weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 in 1958 with the classic “To Know Him Is To Love Him”.
I was never good with these things, even though they were pretty popular when I was younger. Two songs with “yo-yo” in the title made it into the top 40 on the Hot 100. The first, in 1971, became the second top ten hit for family group The Osmonds. “Yo-Yo” peaked at #3. The second, by the female rapper named Yo-Yo, went to #36 in the spring of 1991. “You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo” also featured rapper turned television star Ice Cube.
You can probably sort “My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry into this category. It hit #1 during the fall of 1972. Hey, it is “silver bells hanging on a string”, right? Oh… yeah, let’s just move on.
Can you believe a character from Sesame Street actually made the Billboard Hot 100? Yes, it’s true, Ernie‘s “Rubber Duckie” was cut as a single and actually hit #16 in October 1970. The creator and voice behind him, the late Jim Henson, also hit the top 40 in 1979 as Kermit The Frog, who went to #25 with “The Rainbow Connection”.
In 1973, singer-songwriter Don McLean made the top 40 with his last single of the decade, a #21 song based off of a spinning top used by children during the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. That was called “Dreidel”. Based off of the hit video game, “Pac-Man Fever” went to #9 for Buckner & Garcia in 1982. Their followup, “Do The Donkey Kong”, failed to make the top 100. Then, in 1989, the only top-40 hit for Roachford, “Cuddly Toy (Feel For Me)”, went to #25 on the Hot 100.
As for the one act to fit in here, it didn’t take a lot of thought to come up with a name like The Toys, but the New York trio hit the #2 slot in 1965 with “A Lover’s Concerto”. They charted for several more years, but didn’t have anything as big as “Concerto”. Synthpop and rock act Shiny Toy Guns have hit the Alternative chart a total of five times since 2006, but have barely made the Hot 100.
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