t's as if someone was testing Robert John's patience. When "Sad Eyes" went to number one, he set one record for longevity and tied another. John waited longer than any other artist for a number one record. From the time of his first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 (as Bobby Pedrick, Jr.) on November 10, 1958, with "White Bucks and Saddle Shoes," to the time he topped the chart on October 6, 1979, was 20 years and 11 months. That record was eventually broken by Tina Turner in September 1984 with "What's Love Got to Do With It."
"Sad Eyes" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 85 on May 19, 1979. When it arrived at the top 20 weeks later, it tied the record set by Nick Gilder's "Hot Child In The City" for taking the longest amount of time to reach number one. John and Gilder's record was eventually broken by Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire" in May 1982.
"John met producer George Tobin, who was a fan of "If You Don't Want My Love." They collaborated on some singles for A&M that weren't hits and parted ways. In 1971 John recorded a cover of the Tokens' number one single "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," produced by original Token Hank Medress. John was not enthusiastic about recording the song, but he couldn't afford to be too picky. Released on Atlantic Records, the song spent three weeks at number three in March, 1972. "Even after 'Lion... the company didn't have enough faith to let me do an album. I decided that if that's what happens after a number one song, then I just wasn't going to sing anymore," John told Steve Pond in Rolling Stone.
In 1978, Tobin called John from California. "I had him come out and he lived in my house," Tobin recalls. "He was actually a laborer in New Jersey at the time, carrying bricks on a construction job. I was looking for material for him and I heard a song called 'My Angel Baby' (by Toby Beau) and said, 'That's the kind of song Robert should be doing.' So we used that as a frame of reference. Robert wrote 'Sad Eyes' and rewrote it for about three months. Every time he'd write it I'd go, 'Nah, change this and change that.' We recorded another song first and it was bought by Ariola.
"Then we got dropped... but the president of EMI heard one of the Ariola records ..we had on a juke box in Florida. He told his business affairs guy to contact me and see about Robert's availability." The EMI executive telephoned for six weeks, but Tobin's secretary misunderstood who he was and the calls were not returned. "Finally one day I had to pick up the phone myself. And he wanted to know if I was interested in making a deal with Robert John. At that point I had been turned down by everybody; there was no one left to go to. I mean, I would have literally paid a couple of thousand bucks to get the record out there because we believed in it so much."
In 1980, John remade the song "Hey There Lonely Girl," a number two hit for Eddie Holman in February 1970 and (as "Hey There Lonely Boy") a number twenty-seven hit for Ruby and the Romantics in August 1963. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 23 and peaked at number thirty-one.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
Main Page | Additional Singles Intro | Singles By Month | Seventies Almanac | Search The RockSite/The Web