Top 40 Smash Taps: “Plastic Man” and “Happy People”

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.

By my rough count, the Temptations made thirty-seven visits to the Billboard Top 40, not counting an early nineteen-nineties collaboration with Rod Stewart at the precise moment he gave up all pretenses of being anything other than treacly hack. Of those, four actually made it all the way to #1, beginning with the sweetest of romantic tributes and ending with with a funk scorcher about a missing pater familias.They had two different tracks that just barely crossed the Top 40 threshold, both of them arriving in the nineteen-seventies. “Plastic Man,” the first of that pair had the burden of arriving while their final chart-topper was still a fresh memory. What’s more, the track was also the direct follow-up to their last song to make it into the Top 10, the title cut from their 1973 album Masterpiece. “Plastic Man” is a nice number, but nowhere near the sprawling funk/soul workouts that represented their most recent significant successes.

Late the following year, the Temptations released “Happy People,” the lead single from their 1975 album A Song for You. Co-written by Lionel Richie, the song was another tight little funk song, in line with other material they were releasing at the time and not that dissimilar from other punchy efforts climbing the charts. “Happy People,” though, stalled at #40. Though the Temptations squeezed out a couple more Top 40 entries from that album, some of the magic was clearly gone. Before long, the group jumped labels to Atlantic Records, a transition that once would have been considered unthinkable for one of the defining acts of the Motown sound. Their new home didn’t turn things around, and they were back with Motown Records by the end of the decade.

“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
“Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'” by Donna Summer
“Violet Hill” and “Lost+” by Coldplay
“Freight Train” by the Chas. McDevitt Skiffle Group
“Sweet William” by Little Millie Small
“Live My Life” by Boy George
“Lessons Learned” by Tracy Lawrence
“So Close” by Diana Ross
“Six Feet Deep” by the Geto Boys
“You Thrill Me” by Exile
“What Now” by Gene Chandler
“Put It in a Magazine” by Sonny Charles
“Got a Love for You” by Jomanda
“Stone Cold” by Rainbow
“People in Love” by 10cc
“Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)” by the Four Tops
“Thinkin’ Problem” by David Ball
“You Got Yours and I’ll Get Mine” and “Trying to Make a Fool of Me” by the Delfonics
“The Riddle (You and I)” by Five for Fighting
“I Can’t Wait” by Sleepy Brown
“Nature Boy” by Bobby Darin
“Give It to Me Baby” and “Cold Blooded” by Rick James
“Who’s Sorry Now?” by Marie Osmond
“A Love So Fine” by the Chiffons
“Funky Y-2-C” by the Puppies
“Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by Bonnie Pointer
“Mr. Loverman” by Shabba Ranks
“I’ve Never Found a Girl” by Eddie Floyd

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