Top 40 Smash Taps: “Sweet William”

These posts are about the songs that can accurately claim to crossed the key line of chart success, becoming Top 40 hits on Billboard, but just barely. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 40.

Jamaican-born Millie Small was just sixteen years old when she had a smash hit with “My Boy Lollipop,” a cover of a song originally performed by Barbie Gaye. The track went all the way to #2 on both the U.K. and U.S. charts (held out of the top spot on the latter by the first #1 single by the Beach Boys), and insinuated itself firmly enough into the culture that it promised to be a staple of future oldies radio for as long as such a thing as oldies radio exists. Know as “Little Millie,” presumably due to both her age and her diminutive height of 5’3″, Small had a mighty task in front of her in following up such a monster hit, especially during a time when the mighty moptops from Liverpool were claiming all the music biz attention for themselves (six U.S. chart-toppers for the Beatles in 1964 alone). The song also a touch of novelty to it, which only compounded the difficulty of figuring out the proper follow-up.

The solution opted for, it seems, was to get another song that was as close as possible to the big hit. “Sweet William” has the same loping tempo and sentiment of sweetly pining for a boy. It was written by Buddy Kaye and Philip Springer, a pair that knew their way around a calculated sound-alike cash-in, having written (along with Clay Cole) the title song for the movie Twist Around the Clock a couple years earlier. Like its predecessor, “Sweet William” made it onto the Billboard Top 40, although it was sadly bereft of similar upward momentum, peaking at a meager #40. It was also her last appearance on the Billboard charts, despite a few more singles and continued performing. Her career sputtering past the point of seeming revival she turned to that sad final outlet for many a teen singer, posing for a nudie magazine: Small appeared in a 1970 issue of Mayfair magazine.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.
“I’m in Love” by Evelyn King
“Buy Me a Rose” by Kenny Rogers
“Who’s Your Baby” by The Archies
“Me and Bobby McGee” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Angel in Blue” by J. Geils Band
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Rhythm of Love” by Yes
“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde
“Come See” by Major Lance
“Your Old Standby” by Mary Wells
“See the Lights” by Simple Minds
“Watch Out For Lucy” by Eric Clapton
“The Alvin Twist” by Alvin and the Chipmunks
“Love Me Tender” by Percy Sledge
“Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies
“Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Olympics
“The Bounce” by the Olympics
“Your One and Only Love” by Jackie Wilson
“Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano
“The Last Time I Made Love” by Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne
“Limbo Rock” by The Champs
“Crazy Eyes For You” by Bobby Hamilton
“Violet Hill” and “Lost+” by Coldplay
“Freight Train” by the Chas. McDevitt Skiffle Group

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