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Only Yesterday Reached #4 on Billboard - But No Gold

ringves

Well-Known Member
As most Carpenters fans know, the last gold single of the Cs was "Please Mr. Postman".

But "Only Yesterday" did reach #4 on the Billboard charts. So it must have come very close to being certified as gold.

Does anyone know just how short it was from getting the gold designation?
 
As most Carpenters fans know, the last gold single of the Cs was "Please Mr. Postman".

But "Only Yesterday" did reach #4 on the Billboard charts. So it must have come very close to being certified as gold.

Does anyone know just how short it was from getting the gold designation?

Chart peaks and total sales don't necessarily correlate.

A chart peak is a snapshot of how a given record did on its best week compared to the other records on the charts, not a cumulative tally of sales up to that point. There are big sales weeks and not-so-big sales weeks. "Only Yesterday" was up against some weaker records.

If you look at the three records above "Only Yesterday" in its first week at number four, only one of them, Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" is what you'd call a monster record. It peaked at #1 and went gold.

At #2, Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" went gold, but it was driven by Top 40, Adult Contemporary and Country airplay...and after 1974, when rock/pop singles peaked, Country singles had an advantage, as those fans were still buying 45s in significant numbers.

And number 3 was The Ozark Mountain Daredevils' "Jackie Blue", which also didn't go gold.

"Only Yesterday" also faded fast---two weeks at number four, and then #16-#44-#55-gone from the Hot 100 entirely.

Finally, if you look at Carpenters singles that did go gold----none of them peaked below #3.
 
Didn't Only Yesterday come out right around the time they introduced platinum records, and changed the rule on what got gold certified ($1,000,000 vs 500,000 copies)?
 
Didn't Only Yesterday come out right around the time they introduced platinum records, and changed the rule on what got gold certified ($1,000,000 vs 500,000 copies)?
Platinum was a little less than a year later----the first Platinum single was Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady".

In 1975, Gold was one million singles sold. The RIAA didn't scale that back to 500,000 until the 80s.
 
In 1975, Gold was one million singles sold. The RIAA didn't scale that back to 500,000 until the 80s.
Oh wow, disregard what I said, then - the more you know! Wonder what made them decide to do that.

I guess Richard could have been talking about solely sales in the US, then.
 
Chart peaks and total sales don't necessarily correlate.
Which explains why every single has different sales, even those that reach the same position. For example, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" also reached #4 on Billboard, but reached a Diamond certification (10,000,000+ copies).

Another example would be a certain Mariah Carey song that we're going to start hearing everywhere in a few weeks...
 
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Oh wow, disregard what I said, then - the more you know! Wonder what made them decide to do that.
A couple of things. Singles sales peaked in 1974 and dropped sharply after that. It got to be embarrassing that each year, fewer and fewer singles, even by big artists, went Gold. So RIAA recalibrated---and by the time they adjusted Gold to mean 500,000 singles, the list price of singles had essentially doubled, meaning that 500,000 singles still equalled a million dollars at retail.
 
Which explains why every single has different sales, even those that reach the same position. For example, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" also reached #4 on Billboard, but reached a Diamond certification (10,000,000+ copies).
Two different things here. The Diamond certification for "Thriller" was for digital downloads, decades after its original release. The physical vinyl single of "Thriller" was Platinum, period. One million copies sold.

But yeah, "Thriller" was a much bigger record than "Only Yesterday" despite having the same chart peak.
 
To this day, the opening bars of Only Yesterday grab me, and I must stop and listen.
Yes, you must - we all must...actually it's the 1st 2 verses (roughly the 1st minute) - Karen at her peak with minimal accompaniment - one for her highlights reel - I, for one, would love to hear just her, exactly like this, for the entire song, without background vocals. Without ramped up instrumentation...just her, just once...
 
I stand corrected! I didn't know the rules were different for singles and albums. The $1,000,000 in sales rule was for albums.

The RIAA made it complicated and changed the rules a few times. The basics:

1958:

Gold record award introduced-Singles selling 1 million copies, albums selling 1 million dollars' worth.*

1975:

Gold- Singles selling 1 million copies, albums selling 500,000 copies.

1976:

Platinum award introduced-Singles selling 2 million copies, albums selling 1 million copies.

1984:

Multi-Platinum award introduced-Singles and albums selling more than 2 million copies.

1989:

Gold qualifications adjusted for 45s-singles selling more than 500,000 copies, Platinum-singles selling more than 1 million copies, adjusting for the declining sales of the 45 rpm format.


[*And here, the RIAA made it complicated from the start. A million singles was a million dollars in retail sales...the retail price of a 45 was $1.00. But they made the album requirement a million dollars wholesale---roughly a third of the then-common $2.98 retail price---to make a million LPs equal a million dollars..

In truth, the physical units being counted were all wholesale---albums and singles. Record companies counted what got shipped to stores and in many cases, as soon as a record got to Gold status, applied for the award.

This was often before retailers would return unsold or defective copies to the labels for credit toward new inventory, usually after 90 days.

Those returns were reported as a quarterly total for the industry in trade magazines, but not label by label and not record by record. So an unknown number of albums and singles got Gold records that, after unsold or defective stock was returned to the label, might not have met the sales criteria for the award.

This would become a problem in the late 70s, as labels, trying to set records, decided to game the system and began the practice of "shipping platinum"---pressing and sending a million albums to the stores in week one. Perhaps the most notorious offender was the soundtrack to the "Sergeant Pepper" movie, which many in the industry speculated may have seen 900,000 unsold copies sent back to the label (RSO) months later.

In 1979, largely in response to the tactic (which Casablanca Records also used for four solo albums from the members of KISS), the RIAA instituted a 120-day waiting period before a label could file for Gold or Platinum certification.
 
This is really interesting and reminds me of a trend that developed in the UK as vinyl single sales declined in the late 80s and early 90s. To boost overall unit sales, a popular technique was to release the same track at the same time (or in quick succession) in multiple formats - as 7”, 12”, picture disc, flexi-disc, single + poster, and then also 2-part CD single (as we know from the ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ CD single release in 1993 to support the box set). Queen were renowned for it with singles from The Miracle album in 1989 thorough to the Made In Heaven singles released in late 1995. They even released that last studio album with two different covers - one dusk, one dawn.

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In some cases, you bought the first iteration of the CD single, but the jewel case came with extra spaces for the next CD(s) released (usually with different bonus tracks and in a cardboard sleeve) in subsequent weeks. All of which meant, if you wanted your jewel case to be complete, you had to keep going back and buying the same lead single over and over. Very clever sales strategy really. I know, because I occasionally fell for it :laugh:
 
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Chart peaks and total sales don't necessarily correlate.

A chart peak is a snapshot of how a given record did on its best week compared to the other records on the charts, not a cumulative tally of sales up to that point. There are big sales weeks and not-so-big sales weeks. "Only Yesterday" was up against some weaker records.

If you look at the three records above "Only Yesterday" in its first week at number four, only one of them, Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" is what you'd call a monster record. It peaked at #1 and went gold.

At #2, Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" went gold, but it was driven by Top 40, Adult Contemporary and Country airplay...and after 1974, when rock/pop singles peaked, Country singles had an advantage, as those fans were still buying 45s in significant numbers.

And number 3 was The Ozark Mountain Daredevils' "Jackie Blue", which also didn't go gold.

"Only Yesterday" also faded fast---two weeks at number four, and then #16-#44-#55-gone from the Hot 100 entirely.

Finally, if you look at Carpenters singles that did go gold----none of them peaked below #3.
Thanks, Michael.

Very detailed explanation of the factors to consider. Also, I remember "Jackie Blue" very well. I can hear it playing in my head as I write this reply!
 
And number 3 was The Ozark Mountain Daredevils' "Jackie Blue", which also didn't go gold.
Gold or not, "Jackie Blue" is one of those still-commonly-played records on stations that play oldies and those that play classic rock. Far more common than "Only Yesterday".

"Jackie Blue" was included in the A&M 50th Anniversary compilation, and on the promotional FORGET ME NOTS album. I still hear it often.
 
"Jackie Blue" is one of those songs that shows up ina lot of formats. Rock, pop, soft rock, country rock, bluegrass, and maybe a few others. Whereas "Only Yesterday" would probably show up on one category only: "Pop." Plus most people, if they were asked to make a list of Carpenters hits, would stop short of "OY" since it came at the tail end of their hit streak and wasn't all over the place like "Close to You" or "Top of the World" or "Goodbye to Love" and others were. Hence its relative rarity on the radio and internet "station" airwaves.
 
Platinum was a little less than a year later----the first Platinum single was Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady".
I was/am a 70's disco baby and don't recall Taylor's Disco Lady. It shows up on a lot of disco comps. I must have been snorting coke or something. Need to check Wiki and see who this guy is.
 
I was/am a 70's disco baby and don't recall Taylor's Disco Lady. It shows up on a lot of disco comps. I must have been snorting coke or something. Need to check Wiki and see who this guy is.
Four weeks at #1, eight weeks in the top 10, 13 weeks in the Top 40 where Casey Kasem could play it. I'm betting you'll hear the first three seconds and go "Oh, yeah---that!"

 
"Jackie Blue" is one of those songs that shows up ina lot of formats. Rock, pop, soft rock, country rock, bluegrass, and maybe a few others. Whereas "Only Yesterday" would probably show up on one category only: "Pop." Plus most people, if they were asked to make a list of Carpenters hits, would stop short of "OY" since it came at the tail end of their hit streak and wasn't all over the place like "Close to You" or "Top of the World" or "Goodbye to Love" and others were. Hence its relative rarity on the radio and internet "station" airwaves.

Right.

"Only Yesterday" got airplay on Adult Contemporary stations (whose audience weren't big singles buyers) and Top 40. If you were listening to literally any other radio format, you weren't gonna hear "Only Yesterday" when it was new.

On top of that, there wasn't an album to buy until a month after "Only Yesterday" peaked on the singles chart. Bad timing.

Cap that with the fact that HORIZON was the first Carpenters album to be a commercial disappointment since OFFERING/TICKET TO RIDE (and the chart peaks would only get worse from there) and "Only Yesterday", beautiful as it is, gets pegged as the beginning of the decline, not the end of the glory days.
 
I can say that "Disco Lady" was not a song that I heard with any regularity, but perhaps on the fringes of my consciousness. It wasn't played on any radio station I listened to, but I didn't listen to strict Top 40 back then. It might have been the occasional Casey Kasem show where I would have heard it. And I really didn't have a regular outlet for that show when it was aired. There was a fringe station in Philly (WIFI92) that had a really bad signal where I lived, and on weekends where we were away, it aired on another semi-receivable station from Baltimore.
 
"Disco Lady" also has some pretty provocative lyrics (which seem pretty innocuous today, but we all know what they were writing about!), so it probably got less airplay than it might have. Some stations only played it at night, supposedly.

OY is a great record! A year or two earlier, it would have been a smash.

Maybe, although to me it doesn't seem to have as big of a "pop hook" as some of the other earlier hits. I'm not sure why, and it may just be my own taste talking. I've just never warmed up to that song, for some reason. To me it's OK, but not a classic.
 
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