Top 40 Smash Taps: “Bewildered,” “Get It Together, Part 1,” “Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn, Part 2” and “King Heroin”

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.

Throughout this life of this feature, I’ve featured several acts that wound up with two separate singles that peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As best I can tell, only one artist accomplished the strange feat more than twice. Fittingly, it’s the person dubbed “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” who did it, putting a total of four singles just over the line into the Top 40 and no higher up the chart.

Brown’s first single to peak at #40 was also one of his earliest entries into the Billboard promised land. “Bewildered” was written in 1936, by Teddy Powell and Leonard Whitcup, and enjoyed it first significant prominence in a version by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, two years later. It officially entered the Brown repertoire on the 1960 album Think! Brown’s take on the material owes a little something to Amos Milburn’s pass at the same song, though the Godfather of Soul and his Famous Flames stir in a distinct doo-wop flavor that marks it as their own.

By my count, James Brown claimed forty-four Top 40 singles over the course of his career, but it would a couple years yet before the hits started coming with regularity. He faced the same fate as many black artists during the decade of the nineteen-sixties, as radio’s reluctance kept them largely relegated to R&B stations. Even a big hit could be followed by a string of singles that roared up the R&B charts with only limited crossover attention. It wasn’t until the middle of the decade, when “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, Part 1” and “I Got You” punched their way into the Top 10 in quick succession. By 1967, it was clear that Brown was a huge force, including on the general pop charts. He was also gaining confidence about discounting pop song conventions to make the music he wanted, the way he wanted to. That included ignoring the accepted length of tracks with aspirations to the charts. Increasingly, he was making songs that were too long to fit onto a single side of a 45, so he just snapped them in half, releasing “Part 1” and “Part 2,” with a flip of the record required. He’d made it into the Top 10 again using that methodology with the song “Cold Sweat.” “Get It Together” followed, though with less success. “Get It Together, Part 1” peaked at #40.

On occasion, Brown split a song across two different singles, which was the case the next time one of his released finished it upward climb at #40. Brown expended a lot of his 1969 allotment of funk on the dance craze the Popcorn, releasing “The Popcorn,” “Mother Popcorn (You Got to Have a Mother For Me), Part 1,” and “Lowdown Popcorn.” It culminated with “Let a Man Come In and Do the Popcorn,” its two parts released on individual 45s. “Part 1” made it #21, second in popularity only to “Mother Popcorn” in the pantheon of James Brown popcorn songs. “Part 2” peaked at #40.

With the nineteen-seventies came a commitment to more politically-charged, socially conscious music, typified by Marvin Gaye’s phenomenal What’s Going On?, released in 1971. Brown, forever on trend, wasn’t about to let a trend pass him by, and he also explored more pointed material (which, to be fair, he’d been doing for some time, at least as far back as “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”). Released as a single in 1972, “King Heroin” is Brown’s attempt at addressing the scourge of drug use. There was perhaps only so much appetite for a story-song about a hard opioid, no matter how earnest (while Brown eventually developed his own sordid habits, this was still during the era that he would regularly fire people from his band if they were caught doing drugs). It peaked at #40.

While Brown had a few more hits in him, they started coming less frequently and made less headway on the charts. His last single to make the Top 40 was at least something of a commercial triumph, if hardly one of his better songs. “Living in America,” from the soundtrack to Rocky IV, made it all the way to #4. Any consideration of Brown’s career and life after that gets into some truly bleak territory, so instead let’s just finish with the reminder that, whatever else, he sure could dance.


“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
“Plastic Man” and “Happy People” by the Temptations
“Okay” by Nivea
“Go On” by George Strait
“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road
“Birthday Party” by the Pixies Three
“Livin’ in the Life” by the Isley Brothers
“Kissing You” by Keith Washington
“The End of Our Road” by Marvin Gaye
“Ticks” and “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley
“Nobody But You Babe” by Clarence Reid
“Like a Sunday in Salem” by Gene Cotton
“I’m Going to Let My Heart Do the Walking” by the Supremes
“Call Me Lightning” by the Who
“Ain’t It True” by Andy Williams
“Lazy Elsie Molly” and “Let’s Do the Freddie” by Chubby Checker
“Second Fiddle” by Kay Starr
“1999” by Prince
“I’ll Try Anything” by Dusty Springfield
“Oh Happy Day” by Glen Campbell
“I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After
“Friends” and “Married Men” by Bette Midler
“Spice of Life” by the Manhattan Transfer
“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” by Roger Miller
“Don’t Pity Me” by Dion and the Belmonts
“Ask Me No Questions” by B.B. King
“Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone” by Ciara
“All I Really Want to Do” by the Byrds
“Love Rollercoaster” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Just a Little” by Brenda Lee
“Sweet Maxine” by the Doobie Brothers
“Where You Lead” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel” by Barbra Streisand
“Charity Ball” by Fanny
“I’m Comin’ Home” by Tommy James
“I’m Goin’ In” by Drake
“Your Time to Cry” by Joe Simon
“We’re Free” by Beverly Bremers
“The Resurrection Shuffle” by Ashton, Gardner and Dyke
“It Should Have Been Me” by Gladys Knight
“Still Crazy After All These Years” and “One-Trick Pony” by Paul Simon
“I (Who Have Nothing)” by Sylvester
“Breakdown” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
“I’ll Be Your Shelter (In Time of Storm)” by Luther Ingram
“Spirit in the Night” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
“Don’t Ask Me Why” by Euryhtmics

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