(Even More) Fantasy Number Ones


A little while back, Contributing Author and Chart Expert Ozmoe introduced many of us – myself included – to Cash Box:

Billboard’s rival trade publication.

They had their own Top 100 from 1942 to 1996.

Complete with discrepancies from Billboard’s tallies.

And thus, the Fantasy Number Ones Game was born:

For each year in the three full decades that both magazines were putting out charts, Ozmoe looked at the list of Cash Box chart-toppers that never wound up with a feature on a certain blog series, swapped-in up to three of them for Billboard chart-toppers that year, and invited us to do the same.

Even if they weren’t traditional chart-toppers, these Fantasy Number Ones were undeniably hits.

Basically all of them made the top three on Billboard, and none failed to crack the top ten.

Nobody was questioning Cash Box’s right to a different count, especially when it was arguably giving exciting new sounds like folk, Motown, and New Wave better deals.

But while Billboard used SoundScan to change with the times, Cash Box followed its methodology to, well, the letter. 

And one particular week, Cash Box proudly announced that a 16-year-old Elvis-inspired tortured-soul country prayer was more popular than, um, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”.

This was bad enough. But Wayne Newton’s song simply did not chart on Billboard. At all.


Four years later, Cash Box was no more.

Seven years after that, the murder trials began.

But enough about that! “Letter” or not, we’ll look at all our ‘90s alternate options… and what the heck – I’ll throw in 1958 and 1959 to fill out the decade a bit. All songs peaked at #2 unless noted otherwise.

Patricia – Perez Prado
Topsy Part 2 – Cozy Cole (peaked at #3)

I… was not expecting two jazz-inflected instrumentals by alliteratively named artists for options. But this was 1958, so maybe I should have. Anyway, I like them both, and The Chipmunk Song and the Kingston Trio’s Tom Dooley need to go, stat.

There Goes My Baby -The Drifters
Don’t You Know – Della Reese

Is There Goes My Baby the first soul hit? I hear a genre finding its feet, but it’s a catchy, beautifully sung tune on its own merits. Don’t You Know is a bit less adventurous – it’s straight out of an aria – but I’m a sucker for grandly orchestral love songs, and Della Reese has such an emotive contralto. I’ll take out Frankie Avalon’s Why and Johnny Horton’s The Battle of New Orleans to make room.

[… jump cut to 1990…]

Pump Up The Jam – Technotronic
Downtown Train – Rod Stewart (peaked at #3)
Two To Make It Right – Seduction
Dangerous – Roxette
All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You – Heart
Come Back To Me – Janet Jackson
Thieves In The Temple – Prince (peaked at #6)

A pretty strong set. I don’t even dislike the much-maligned Heart song. Pump Up The Jam is the obvious winner, and the seemingly random Thieves In The Temple comes next. If you dislike those, I’ll end with Two To Make It Right. I’ll cut out Michael Bolton’s How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, Taylor Dayne’s Love Will Lead You Back, and Sweet Sensation’s If Wishes Came True, all of which seem to be begging to stay via song titles.

Here We Go
– C+C Music Factory (peaked at #3)
Rhythm Of My Heart – Rod Stewart (peaked at #5)
Right Here, Right Now – Jesus Jones
Can’t Stop This Thing We Started – Bryan Adams
It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday – Boyz II Men

Bryan Adams excepted, all are contenders. Full disclosure: I have an irrational love for Rhythm Of My Heart, so I’d totally pick it even if I didn’t think it was the best of the five. Right Here, Right Now is the next-best. To throw the ballads a bone, I’ll add It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday, which is truly pretty ‘90s fare. Out go Surface’s The First Time, Extreme’s More Than Words, and especially When A Man Loves A Woman 2: Michael Bolton Boogaloo.

Can’t Let Go – Mariah Carey
Diamonds and Pearls – Prince (peaked at #3)
Remember The Time – Michael Jackson (peaked at #3)
Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) – En Vogue
Under The Bridge
– Red Hot Chili Peppers
November Rain – Guns ‘n’ Roses (peaked at #3)
The Letter – Wayne Newton (didn’t chart)

How? How? The Wayne Newton dropped ball aside, how did all of these people have huge enough hits in 1992 that Cash Box called them chart-toppers? And how are most of them certified bangers?

Bohemian Rhapsody is a classic among classics, and I think my next two favourites are My Lovin’ and Diamonds and Pearls. En Vogue gets out of their always-the-bridesmaid funk. Madonna’s This Used To Be My Playground, The Heights’ How Do You Talk To An Angel, and Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy go out.


Ordinary World – Duran Duran (peaked at #3)
I’m Every Woman – Whitney Houston (peaked at #4)
I Have Nothing – Whitney Houston (peaked at #4)
Looking Through Patient Eyes -PM Dawn (peaked at #6)
The River of Dreams – Billy Joel (peaked at #3)
Just Kickin’ It – Xscape

The beginning of the end. Only Just Kickin’ It even made it to #2 on Billboard, and it’s probably my least favourite ‘90s-girl-group hit. The rest are a fascinating mix, full of ‘80s stars and PM Dawn sampling one. Ordinary World is a classic, and Looking Through Patient Eyes should be (though I’d Die Without You is even better). I’m Every Woman rounds out the list, though The River Of Dreams is my favourite Billy Joel song in at least ten years, for all its warts. I’ll take out Hero, Can’t Help Falling In Love, and A Whole New World, and pine for the more famous versions of the latter two.

Without You – Mariah Carey (peaked at #3)
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World – Prince (peaked at #3)
Don’t Turn Around – Ace of Base (peaked at #4)
Any Time, Any Place/And On And On -Janet Jackson

Don’t Turn Around takes the win (though Alejandro did that prechorus better), while the three chart titans bring out good songs that feel a bit like backup players. Mariah has so many #1s already, so I’ll give them to Prince and Janet here. All For Love, Bump ‘n’ Grind and I Swear are the obvious picks for removal.

I Know – Dionne Farris (peaked at #4)
Water Runs Dry – Boyz II Men

Not many options here. I really don’t like Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman and You Are Not Alone, though, so they’re both in.

Missing – Everything But The Girl
Not Gon’ Cry – Mary J. Blige
Sittin’ Up In My Room – Brandy
I Love You Always Forever – Donna Lewis
It’s All Coming Back To Me Now – Celine Dion

If you’re going to fold in disgrace, this is the way to do it. Five bona fide smashes, all of them highly worthy of the top spot and crossing all the major genres of the day. Brandy and Mary J. are holding the short straws, but they both had better chart-toppers. In go: the elegiacally titled Missing, I Love You Always Forever and It’s All Coming Back To Me Now; out go: Because You Loved Me, Macarena, and I guess, One Sweet Day because I like the other options too much.

And there we are. I’d love to see people’s choices below, and hope Ozmoe approves.

Of course, this game is just a sweet fantasy!

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Famed Member
October 31, 2023 5:32 am

I’ll bite, signing on to both your picks for ’58 and ’59.

As for the ’90s:

1990: I don’t share your love for “Pump Up the Jam,” so I’ll leave it be. I would’ve given Rod Stewart No. 1’s for both “Downtown Train” and a later hit before either of his late ’70s behemoths, so it gets in, along with Roxette’s “Dangerous,” which I love. Both Janet and Prince will get in as well. (Not Heart, though — I loathe that song.) Making room for those four are Tommy Page’s “I’ll Be Your Everything,” NKoTB’s “Step by Step,” Glenn Medeiros and Bobby Brown’s “She Ain’t Worth It” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”

1991: Like you, I love “Rhythm of My Heart,” so it gets in, as do “Right Here, Right Now” and Boyz II Men. Gone are Surface’s “The First Time,” Wilson Phillips’ “You’re in Love” and Color Me Badd’s “I Adore Mi Amor.”

side note … chucking, er, getting rid of Wilson Phillips here reminds me that my favorite of their singles from that album, “Impulsive,” was the one that didn’t go to the top in Billboard. I wish it had in Cashbox.

1992: Prince and En Vogue are shoo-ins here. I was never a G’n’R fan but if I’d have given them a No. 1, “November Rain” would have been it. So, let’s put in those three and take out “I’m Too Sexy,” “How Do You Talk to an Angel” and (perhaps controversially) “Baby Got Back.”

(Sorry, Queen, but you had your shot in 1976, when “Convoy,” “Welcome Back,” “Disco Duck” and “Afternoon Delight” all managed to make No. 1 …)

1993: Duran Duran, PM Dawn and Billy Joel all can get a chance at the top, and we can say goodbye to “Hero,” SWV’s aptly-named “Weak” and Silk’s “Freak Me.”

1994: Prince gets another one here, and I’ll give Mariah’s “Without You” a week to make up for “Hero” getting the bite in ’93. So long to “All for Love” and “Bump ‘N’ Grind.”

1995: “Water Runs Dry” isn’t as strong as other BIIM songs, so I’ll let it be. But Dionne Farris was robbed and could easily knock out “Have You Ever Really (Really!) Loved a Woman?”

1996: All 5 of those songs deserved a shot at the top but considering how few Billboard chart-toppers there were, it won’t work. So … goodbye to “Un-Break My Heart” (no loss there) and “Tha Crossroads,” and hello to “Not Gon’ Cry” and “Missing.” Brandy’s time would come, and Celine’s had hers. Alas, Donna, you’re going to be the bridesmaid here.

Famed Member
Online Now
October 31, 2023 9:24 am

A quick word about I Love You Always Forever. I never gave it much thought until I saw so much love for it over at The Number Ones. So I gave it another listen and it really is that good. It glistens. Hitting #2 was OK but, hey Macarena, it really should have been #1.

And I still can’t believe Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t hit #1 on Billboard in 1975. It was everywhere!

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 9:36 am

I couldn’t stand Pump Up The Jam first time round but now it’s my pick of those 1990 selections.

1992 has the strongest options for me; Under The Bridge, November Rain, Diamonds and Pearls and My Lovin’.

The following year Ordinary World felt like a real comeback by Duran Duran, up there as one of the best of their latter mature period. Its not my favourite PM Dawn track (between A Watchers Point of View and Reality Used To Be A Friend Of Mine) but its still better than the three you substituted out.

After that the only track that fits the classic status is Everything But The Girl; Missing.

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 10:35 am

I don’t want to live in a world without “The Chipmunk Song” in the pantheon.

As for the 90s, it seems there’s a bit more dancey R&B as opposed to maudlin ballads, so that’s an improvement. But still not much in the way of rock, let alone alternative rock. The charts just don’t do that era justice. Can’t we rebel and replace everything with Flaming Lips and Crash Test Dummies?

Famed Member
October 31, 2023 10:47 am

1958: Patricia is forgettable. Don’t know Topsy.

1959: There Goes My Baby sounds really thin even for its time. Don’t You Know is considerably better in my eyes.

1990: Pump Up the Jam absolutely rules, then I’d probably go Roxette > Seduction > Heart > Rod > Janet. Have no memory at all of the Prince one.

1991: Like you, I’d probably put “Rhythm of My Heart” on top, then Boyz and Bryan (even if Bryan’s is an inferior clone of “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone),” on which he provided backing vocals). “Right Here, Right Now” is extremely tied to its era and I am not sure whether I like or dislike it. The C+C hit is pretty instantly forgettable.

1992: “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Under the Bridge” give me no reaction at all due to their massive overplay, so the only two songs I even like from here are “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” and “Tears in Heaven.” If I had to pick three, “Can’t Let Go,” but as you said, Mariah already has so many #1’s.

1993: “Ordinary World” is really the only choice here for me. I despise “I Have Nothing” and “The River of Dreams,” and “I’m Every Woman” is way inferior to Chaka’s version. “Just Kickin’ It” is oddly low-energy. PM Dawn is another one I have no memory of.

1994: Janet and Ace of Base, clearly.

1995: Like but not love both, but I agree that they’re clearly better than those two #1’s.

1996: Probably go Donna/EBTG/Brandy.

Famed Member
October 31, 2023 10:58 am
Reply to  ISurvivedPop

A spoiler for the next post in my column, whenever that’s going to be published…

1996 had six #2’s, and the one in my next post is the one NOT in this post.

Also, the Waiting to Exhale songs placed much lower on the SiriusXM countdown than the other four. Does anyone here know whether they were limited singles, intended to drive up sales of the soundtrack upon their deletion?

(The reason I know this is because I have been looking at the possible “best years” for the countdown – there are four, and 1996 is not one of them because it’s really brought down by the two Waiting to Exhale songs.)

432. Not Gon’ Cry
256. Sittin’ Up In My Room
94. Missing
35. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
33. I Love You Always Forever
and then there’s the spoiler song which is in the top 20

Famed Member
October 31, 2023 11:39 am
Reply to  ISurvivedPop

Forgot about “Twisted” at #31! That one also placed higher than all of the 1996 #2’s that reached #1 on Cashbox.

And then there’s that 8th #2 which was excluded from the countdown (you can find it if you look on Wikipedia) and replaced with an airplay #2 hit, the Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly With His Song” which ranked at #368.

Last edited 5 months ago by ISurvivedPop
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 2:42 pm

I did some more reading on Cashbox, the highly suspect Wayne Newton chart appearance and the murder you briefly mentioned. I used to kind of feel bad for Cashbox, that they just got left out in the cold and Billboard became the acknowledged chart. I don’t any longer.

Last edited 5 months ago by rollerboogie
Famed Member
October 31, 2023 10:13 pm

Great Kubrick reference.

“Driving” sounded like peak Basia or a great Swing Out Sister album track. As you know, it opens The Language of Love. I was so sure it would break Everything But the Girl. So when “Missing” made them a household name, for awhile anyway, I felt like a mediocre psychic.

Famed Member
November 2, 2023 12:18 am

I most definitely approve! My apologies for being tardy to the party, as Halloween and work kept me too busy to respond until now. Anyhow, here are my takes:

58: Fine with all here
59: I only want There Goes My Baby, a total improvement over Why
90: Pump Up the Jam over How Am I Supposed to Live Without You only
91: Right Here Right Now over When a Man Loves a Woman only (yeah the dislike for Bolton is strong for me, though only as a singer)
92: Bohemian Rhapsody and Under the Bridge over How Do You Talk to an Angel and All 4 Love
93: I’m Every Woman by Whitney takes the diva spot from the weak Hero by Mariah
94: The Most Beautiful Girl in the World easily over Bump ‘n’ Grind
95: I Know is leagues better than Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman
96: Missing and I Love You Always Forever over the overly sappy Because You Loved Me and One Sweet Day

Thanks for another fun blog, Napoleon of Birds! Glad you had the time and inclination to do this where I didn’t.

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