Songs That Should Have Been #1… “Tutti Frutti”, by Little Richard

The Stargazers, Don Cornell, The Johnston Brothers, The Dream Weavers, Jerry Keller…? Nope, me neither. But they’ve all had the honour of topping the UK singles chart.

How well a single performs in the charts can be influenced by various things… promotion, star power, tastes and trends, time of year… pure luck. And that most fickle, unpredictable of  factors: the general public. Do enough of them like your song to make it a smash? Or will they ignore it, and let it fall by the wayside?

I’m taking a short break from the regular countdown to feature five discs that really should have topped the charts. Be it for their long-reaching influence, their enduring popularity or for the simple fact that, had they peaked a week earlier or later, they might have made it. (I’ll only be covering songs released before 1964, as that’s where I’m up to on the usual countdown.)

And first up… A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bom-bom!

little-richard

Tutti Frutti, by Little Richard

Recorded in September 1955, peaked at #29 in February 1957

‘Tutti Frutti’ came nowhere near the top of the charts. One week at #29, a year and a half after it was originally recorded. That’s all. But this is the sound of the rock ‘n’ roll starters whistle. This is rock ‘n’ roll: the tempo, the frenzied piano, the orgasmic ‘ooooh’s, the wonderful nonsense of the lyrics… Imagine, for a second, a parallel universe in which this was a chart-topping hit.

In real life, rock ‘n’ roll was announced at the top of the UK charts by ‘Rock Around the Clock’ – which is fine. A classic. A seminal record. We all know it. But if this had been the disc to kick it all off in the autumn of ’55… A flamboyant black pianist, pounding out a song (allegedly) originally written with references to gay sex (Tutti Frutti, Good booty, If it don’t fit, Don’t force it…) All that had been eliminated by the time it came to be recorded properly, but the sanitised version was still saucy enough: Got a girl, Named Sue, She knows just what to do… Imagine that knocking Jimmy Young’s plodding ‘The Man From Laramie’ unceremoniously off the top!

Of the big four rock ‘n’ rollers – Elvis, Chuck, Buddy, and Little Richard – the latter is the only one never to have topped the UK charts. He is the only one still alive so… who knows – there might still be time! The closest he came was with his cover of ‘Baby Face’, which reached #2 in early 1959.

7 thoughts on “Songs That Should Have Been #1… “Tutti Frutti”, by Little Richard

    1. Little Richard is such a fascinating character – a famous black star in the age of segregation, gay when it was illegal, addicted to pretty much every drug going, ordained as an Adventist Minister… and still pounding the piano well into his 80s!

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  2. badfinger20

    Little Richard’s voice was an instrument itself. He defined RAW…I mean that in the best way. It was electric and overwhelming.
    He is a performer who could have made it in any decade he came out in.

    1. Yeah, the way he could just flip into those ‘Woooo’s from a very low starting note… Imagine how thrilling this sounded to people hearing it for the first time in 1955.

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