Girls make the hits

I’m reading “Anatomy of A Song,” by Marc Myers, and it turns out that the girl groups were a desperate attempt by the labels to make money after the payola scandals. Once you couldn’t pay off a DJ to play your records, you had to come up with something listeners were sure to like — and teenage girls were (and remain) the biggest record buyers. Hence all the girl groups, singing songs about love and desire.

That shift was a big help to Motown Records, and “Please Mr. Postman” became the label’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts. It was released in August 1961 and steadily climbed.

I’ve already told you the story about Bruce Springsteen grousing to kingmaker Kal Rudman (of Friday Morning Quarterback fame) about why he didn’t have a No. 1 record. Rudman tells the tale this way:

“I said, ‘Bruce, the most numerous of record buyers— and if you don’t know it, you damn well better learn it— are the girls. And if you’ve got the word ‘cry’ in your lyric, you’re halfway to a hit.’ And his eyeballs went up into his forehead,” Rudman remembers.

“I said, ‘Bruce, what do you got against girls?’

” ‘Nothin’. I love girls.’

” ‘Why aren’t they in your songs?’

” ‘I don’t know.’

” ‘Well, that’s cost you a lot of money so far, in your career.’

” ‘I think you’re right. Wait, I got something good to tell you, Mr. Rudman. I’m working towards my next album, and there’s a song I’ve been toying around with … I’m going to give you what you want. And I’m going to call it “Hungry Heart.” ‘ ”

After following Rudman’s advice, Springsteen saw the results not just in his sales figures, but at his shows.

“This was the record where women started to come to the show,” he said on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Dec. 17. “We had a hit record (‘Hungry Heart’), and when we have a hit record, that means it’s date night. Women listen to Top 40 radio, that’s what my daughter does …and so finally people came, brought their dates, and girls came, it was a much nicer scene for us.”

Springsteen’s other song targeted to girls? “Dancing In The Dark,” his first dance-friendly hit, stayed No. 1 on Billboard for six weeks, the first of the seven Top 10 singles released on “Born In The U.S.A.”

So there you go: Girls and what they want rule the music world.