In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my approach up into the current.
The final #1 hit of the twentieth century wasn’t simply an unlikely smash. It was a blockbuster that defied all recognized legal guidelines of cultural consumption. Santana’s “Clean” may’ve simply been a hackneyed, determined seize for relevance from an artist who hadn’t had a radio hit in a few years and who hadn’t been within the prime 10 in many years. As a substitute, the track took benefit of some totally different cultural headwinds and snowballed into its new function as a virtually Thriller-level cultural phenomenon. No person may replicate what Carlos Santana and his collaborators did with “Clean” — not even Carlos Santana himself. The track was a one in all one, a freak stars-aligning burst of consensus in an more and more fracturing pop panorama.
On reflection, “Clean,” by chance or not, rode a number of totally different waves. The track got here on the heels of the Latin pop explosion, the manufactured and hyped-up blast of pleasure that also made full-on mainstream stars out of figures like Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Enrique Iglesias. The track additionally took benefit of the burst in growly post-grunge mushy rock that had put “Clean” singer and co-writer Rob Thomas’ band Matchbox 20 on prime. And “Clean” may be thought of the ultimate chart eruption from the infant boomer era that had dominated the charts for many years. It appears totally truthful to say that Carlos Santana was the final boomer icon to prime the Sizzling 100. (Somebody like Madonna, who will seem on this column as soon as extra, is technically a child boomer. However Madonna is an icon who occurs to be a boomer, whereas Carlos Santana is a boomer icon.)
These components all performed a task within the story, however I don’t suppose any of them led to “Clean” changing into the pop bulldozer that it was. As a substitute, I attribute the track’s success to one thing else: It was simply too fucking catchy to fail. “Clean” stacks hooks on prime of hooks, and people hooks are the diamond-sharp kind that sink into your mind, that may by no means be extracted. “Clean” isn’t simply caught in my head proper now. It’s caught in yours, too. When you’re sufficiently old, “Clean” has been taking part in on loop in your head for greater than 20 years. Proper now, this very second, “Clean” is squirming its approach via some a part of your cerebellum, and it’ll stay there till the day you die. It’s everlasting. It’s identical to the ocean below the moon.
No person may’ve predicted that “Clean” would hit the way in which that it did, however a complete lot of individuals needed to work onerous to place the track in place to succeed. “Clean” wasn’t a random prevalence that took everybody by storm. As a substitute, it’s the best-case state of affairs for record-label meddling, the type of factor that each A&R rep envisions once they give notes about how an album actually wants a single. The individuals who made “Clean” all intentionally got down to craft a hit, they usually all succeeded to a level that they couldn’t presumably have imagined.
A type of folks was Carlos Santana. In 1999, Santana’s legend standing was safe. He’d made hits. He’d offered tens of millions of data. A 12 months earlier, he’d joined the Rock And Roll Corridor Of Fame, and he’d satisfied one in all his heroes, the enigmatic ex-Fleetwood Mac axe-wizard recluse Peter Inexperienced, to play with him on the induction ceremony. However that wasn’t sufficient for Santana. He needed to get again into the sport. He needed hits.
When he made “Clean,” Carlos Santana wasn’t a up to date hitmaker, however he was a well-recognized title. The person wasn’t ranging from zero. He’d already completed that. Carlos Augusto Santana Alves was born within the Mexican metropolis of Autlán, and he finally moved together with his household, first to Tijuana after which to San Francisco. Santana’s father was a mariachi musician, and Santana and his brothers all discovered guitar once they have been younger. Carlos Santana cherished blues guitarists like BB King and John Lee Hooker, and he performed in Tijuana golf equipment when he was nonetheless a little bit child. In San Francisco, Santana acquired into jazz and people and psychedelia. After highschool, he labored as a dishwasher and saved up sufficient cash to purchase a Gibson SG. In 1966, when he was 19, he began the Santana Blues Band.
The Santana Blues Band spent a number of years gigging round San Francisco through the ’60s. The large-deal live performance promoter Invoice Graham was a fan, and he booked them to play the Fillmore Auditorium early on. In 1969, the younger Columbia label head Clive Davis signed the Santana Blues Band and altered their title to only Santana. That summer time, Invoice Graham known as in a favor and acquired Santana booked to play at Woodstock earlier than their self-titled debut album had even come out. Santana blew a variety of minds that day, they usually blew much more when Michael Wadleigh’s documentary Woodstock got here out a 12 months later.
In some methods, the pan-racial and stylistically omnivorous Santana match proper right into a psych-rock zeitgeist that additionally included bands like fellow Woodstock standouts Sly & The Household Stone. In different methods, although, Santana have been a real anomaly. The band performed blistering blues-rock, however additionally they went heavy on percussion, bringing in sounds and rhythms from totally different types of Latin music. Individuals did not know the best way to speak about music that didn’t match into the Black/white racial dynamic of ’60s pop; my buddy Jack Hamilton’s e-book Simply ‘Spherical Midnight quotes among the actually insane descriptions of Santana’s music from the rock critics of the day. However even when their music resisted straightforward categorization, Santana nonetheless caught on. The band’s debut album got here out a few weeks after Woodstock, and their first single “Jingo” entered the Sizzling 100 precisely 30 years earlier than “Clean” reached #1. “Jingo” peaked at #56, and that first album’s greatest hit, a canopy of jazz percussionist Willie Bobo’s 1967 track “Evil Methods,” peaked at #9. (It’s an 8.)
Santana acquired even larger with their second album, 1970’s Abraxas. That album achieved early-’70s blockbuster standing, going platinum 5 instances over. Its greatest hit was the band’s cowl of “Black Magic Girl” a track that former Quantity Ones artists Fleetwood Mac recorded through the pre-Stevie Nicks/Lindsay Buckingham interval once they simply weren’t breaking via within the US. (That’s the one which former Fleetwood Mac chief Peter Inexperienced performed with Santana when each bands went into the Rock And Roll Corridor Of Fame.) Santana’s model of “Black Magic Girl” turned a lot larger than Fleetwood Mac’s authentic, and it climbed as excessive as #4 on the Sizzling 100. (It’s a 9.) Up till “Clean,” “Black Magic Girl” was Santana’s greatest hit by far.
After “Black Magic Girl,” Santana wouldn’t make one other top-10 hit for an additional 29 years. There have been quite a lot of causes for that. Carlos Santana remained the one everlasting member of Santana — a definitive instance of why it’s all the time a good suggestion to call your band after your self. Carlos Santana didn’t sing, however his fluid, conversational guitar tone was all the time recognizable straight away. Because the ’70s went on, Santana performed with an enormous vary of musicians. Neal Schon and Greg Rollie each performed in Santana for some time earlier than they broke off to type Journey. Because the ’70s progressed, Carlos Santana acquired an increasing number of into mysticism and jazz fusion, influences that pushed him additional and farther from the pop charts. He recorded with jazz adventurers like Alice Coltrane and John McLaughlin, and he briefly adopted the Sanskrit title Devadip. His explicit type of bizarre was not particularly suited to the pop charts of the later ’70s and ’80s.
Over time, because the band’s lineup continued to fluctuate, Santana did make a number of extra hits. In 1981, Santana reached #17 with a model of Russ Ballard’s “Successful.” A 12 months later, Santana acquired to #15 with a canopy of the Ian Thomas track “Maintain On.” Each of these songs have been straight-up early ’80s studio-rock jams with all of the yowling vocals and pillowy synths that you just’d anticipate, they usually sounded completely nothing just like the Santana of Abraxas. Possibly Carlos Santana noticed what his ex-bandmates have been doing in Journey and needed a bit of that pie. However Santana all the time drifted again to his extra indulgent tendencies. Carlos Santana would often tackle vaguely industrial tasks, like scoring the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba, however he’d all the time return to jamming with jazz musicians at any time when attainable. At a sure level, his data simply weren’t promoting. After 1992’s Milagro, Santana went seven years with out releasing a studio album.
Sooner or later, Carlos Santana acquired in contact with an previous buddy. Santana’s youngsters had been declaring that they by no means heard his music on the radio, and Santana felt some type of approach about this. He talked to his religious guru and his spouse, and each of them requested who he related to being on the radio. Santana mentioned that Clive Davis was that individual. Davis had lengthy since moved on from Columbia and turned his Arista label right into a industrial powerhouse. Santana invited Davis out to see his band play Radio Metropolis Music Corridor one evening in 1997, and he additionally talked about that he’d like to work with Davis once more. On the time, Santana was attempting to get out of his Polydor contract, and he needed to go be part of Davis at Arista.
This wasn’t essentially a straightforward promote. Clive Davis had every kind of heat emotions in direction of Santana, however Clive Davis needed to promote data. Santana hadn’t made hits in years. He hadn’t even made data in years. However when Davis watched Santana taking part in Radio Metropolis together with his new band, his thoughts acquired to working. Speaking to Rolling Stone for a “Clean” oral historical past a number of years in the past, Davis mentioned how a lot he cherished that Radio Metropolis present, however he additionally considered it from a enterprise perspective: “It triggered ideas in regards to the progress of the Hispanic inhabitants in America. And I noticed a really various viewers there: ethnic make-up, racial make-up, age make-up. I began considering, ‘Wow, I ponder if Carlos may come again?’”
Clive Davis agreed to signal Santana, however he’d solely do it if Santana agreed to his stipulations. If Santana needed to file an album for Arista, then Santana would be capable to management half of the album. The opposite half can be Clive’s territory: “I might search for writers or materials that would definitely not bastardize your integrity, however that could possibly be to potential hit singles or cuts that you’d have provide you with by yourself.” Davis put it to Santana as a type of problem. Did Santana have the willingness, the self-discipline, to convey actual power to the studio? To make hits? Santana mentioned that he did, and Davis signed him to Arista.
Clive Davis spent a variety of money and time on Supernatural, the album that was set to be Santana’s huge comeback. Davis and his A&R reps went on the lookout for commercially related artists who had mentioned good issues about Santana in interviews, they usually got here up with a type of dream roster. A&R man Pete Ganbarg had paid consideration to what occurred with BB King’s 1997 album Deuces Wild, which was stuffed with collaborations with King admirers like D’Angelo and Tracy Chapman: “I seen it was promoting higher than a B.B. King file ought to be promoting. I went out and I acquired the file, and I’m like, ‘Wow, nice idea, flawed execution,’ as a result of the songs weren’t nice.” So Ganbarg got down to provide you with a bunch of contemporary collaborators and an album’s price of excellent songs.
The folks at Arista quickly discovered that there have been an excellent many artists who needed to work with Carlos Santana. They lined up collaborations with Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Everlast, Dave Matthews, and even Santana’s guitar-hero peer Eric Clapton. Even with that lineup, loads of the folks at Arista weren’t satisfied; Clive Davis mentioned that the album was nicknamed “Davis’ Folly.” At a sure level, somebody from the label instructed Davis that the label wanted to cease spending cash on this factor, to place the album out already. Davis refused. The album didn’t have a single but.
One of many songwriters who pitched a monitor to Santana was Itaal Shur, the co-founder of the acid jazz group Groove Collective. Shur had one hit below his belt; he’d co-written the neo-soul star Maxwell’s 1996 single “Ascension (Don’t Ever Surprise),” which peaked at #36. Shur tried to put in writing one thing that may have the identical type of groove as Santana classics like “Black Magic Girl,” and he got here up with “Room 17,” a monitor a few couple getting collectively for a bootleg tryst in a lodge. Shur recorded a demo for the monitor, arranging every thing himself, and he was satisfied that it was a success. Pete Ganbarg cherished the music, however he didn’t suppose the lyrics would work for Carlos Santana in any respect. Santana was a household man, and he wouldn’t need to get into something sexual like that. So Ganbarg mentioned that he may use the track’s groove however that one other songwriter must provide you with the lyrics and the vocal melody. A publishing exec instructed Rob Thomas.
Rob Thomas was (and is) 25 years youthful than Carlos Santana. Thomas was born in Germany, the place his father was stationed within the Military, six months after Santana launched Santana III. (When Rob Thomas was born, the #1 track in America was Al Inexperienced’s “Let’s Keep Collectively.”) Thomas had a tough, chaotic upbringing in South Carolina and Florida. He dropped out of highschool, spent a number of months in jail for automobile theft, and went homeless for some time. Finally, Thomas turned the singer for an Orlando membership band known as Tabitha’s Secret. When that group broke up, Thomas and two different ex-members began a brand new band known as Matchbox 20.
Matchbox 20 signed with Lava Data and launched their debut album Your self Or Somebody Like You in 1996. At first, the file went nowhere, and the band virtually misplaced their contract. However a radio station in Alabama began taking part in their track “Push,” so Lava made it a single. On the energy of “Push” and the equally yarly “3AM,” Matchbox 20 took off nationwide, and Your self Or Somebody Like You finally went platinum 12 instances over. (Because of the goofy-ass chart guidelines of the ’90s, “Push” and “3AM” by no means made the Sizzling 100. However Matchbox 20 will finally seem on this column, so we’ll get deeper into their story then.)
When Matchbox 20 acquired completed with the years that they spent touring behind their debut album, Rob Thomas moved in together with his girlfriend in New York. Certainly one of Pete Ganbarg’s writer mates instructed him that Rob Thomas was an excellent songwriter however that he was “doing nothing besides smoking pot and taking part in PlayStation.” (That sounds wonderful to me. My man was residing the dream.) Thomas spent a day engaged on the track, and he finally hit on the concept that he ought to write about his girlfriend, the half-Spanish and half-Puerto Rican mannequin Marisol Maldonado. In that Rolling Stone oral historical past, Thomas mentioned that he was kicking round a number of concepts and that he “realized someplace in the course of it that I had this wealth of knowledge as a result of I had this smokin’ sizzling Latin girlfriend already.”
Thomas took a crack on the track, after which he honed it additional with Itaal Shur, who lived a few blocks away from him. “Clean” was an ode to a “Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa,” occasion although Maldonado is from Queens. On the track, Thomas guarantees to “change my life to higher fit your temper, ’trigger you’re so easy.” He favored the concept that he could possibly be singing to a girl or that he could possibly be describing the way in which that Carlos Santana performs. Thomas recorded the demo, considering that one other singer can be on the file. (Thomas had envisioned George Michael, who would’ve crushed it.) Carlos Santana didn’t just like the “Clean” demo at first as a result of he thought it sounded too near “Guajira,” a track that Santana had recorded in 1971. However when Clive Davis wrote to Santana and instructed him that “Clean” was a success, Santana agreed to file it.
Finally, everybody determined that Rob Thomas ought to sing on “Clean,” they usually went via all of the music-business complications essential to clear Thomas’ look. Since Matchbox 20 recorded for a competing label, these have been appreciable, however they acquired it completed. Thomas lastly met Carlos Santana for the primary time when he joined Santana and Matchbox 20 producer Matt Serletic to file “Clean.” In Leila Cobo’s e-book Decoding “Despacito”, Thomas remembers the very first thing Santana ever mentioned to him: “Hey, you have to be married to a Latin girl; that’s the type of factor a white man married to a Latin girl would say.” I discover that to be fucking hilarious. In that very same e-book, Santana himself says that he did certainly inform Rob Thomas that: “He had a distinct kind of sassiness about him.” That’s hilarious, too, not least as a result of it’s true.
Generally, I consider Rob Thomas as probably the most generic rock singers of an period that was completely infested with generic rock singers. However on “Clean,” Thomas does handle to conjure a sure degree of sassiness. (He says he was simply imitating George Michael, the man he’d imagined singing the track within the first place, which tracks.) There’s one thing vaguely uncomfortable about this chesty-bellow man attempting to get all soulful with it, however Thomas principally succeeds. There’s a pleasant interaction between Thomas’ voice and Santana’s guitar solos. They know to remain out of one another’s approach, to enhance each other. Santana’s leads are huge and clear and melodic, they usually add drama to what Thomas does. For his half, Thomas does a pleasant job going from the sexy-crackle verses to the vein-throb refrain.
The entire thing is simply catchy. It was all the time catchy, from the primary time anybody heard it. The groove has a vivid sparkle to it, all these horns and pianos and congas winding their approach although the monitor. Thomas growls out stuff that will probably be caught in our collective heads for all of eternity. You recognize all of the traces already. “Man, it’s a sizzling one.” “My muñequita.” “Give me your coronary heart, make it actual, or else overlook about it.” These “Clean” traces — the “it’s a sizzling one” bit specifically — turn out to be memes each few months as a result of they’re simply caught in our shared brain-space.
When “Clean” turned unfathomably enormous, these traces went from catchy to oppressive, which makes it onerous to judge “Clean” now. “Clean” was an absolute leviathan of a success, a track that permeated the air for months and months. (Possibly it’s no coincidence that “Clean” went via a lot of its chart peak in winter. Possibly folks have been wishing for a sizzling one.) That omnipresence isn’t the track’s fault, however it’s onerous to totally embrace one thing that was as soon as so overplayed, one thing that may’t actually be rediscovered as a result of it by no means goes away. Even Rob Thomas has mentioned that he’d be OK if he by no means heard “Clean” once more. A few many years later, although, I really feel OK saying that “Clean” is a reasonably good track — not a nice one, however a reasonably good one.
It took time for “Clean” to bubble. The track and the Supernatural album each got here out in June 1999, after Clive Davis made a tough push for radio stations to play a brand new Santana track. This wasn’t straightforward, since Santana was a 51-year-old legend who didn’t sing and who hadn’t had a success in perpetually. However Davis booked Santana and Rob Thomas to play “Clean” at his huge annual pre-Grammy celebration. And Carlos Santana was already within the air, too. In 1998, Lauryn Hill had invited Santana to play on her track “To Zion,” making him one of many few big-name company on her massively enormous album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. At Grammy evening in 1998, the evening that she gained an enormous armload of statuettes, Hill closed out the present by taking part in “To Zion” with Santana.
“Clean” in the end spent greater than a 12 months on the Sizzling 100. For 3 months, the track sat at #1. The track match with the Latin pop hits that have been throughout pop radio on the time — tracks like Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” and Marc Anthony’s “I Want To Know,” each of which kicked across the prime 10 whereas “Clean” was on prime. (“Mambo No. 5” peaked at #3. I don’t understand how the fuck to price it. I suppose it’s a… 5? “I Want To Know” additionally peaked at #3. It’s a 9.) Because of Rob Thomas’ presence, “Clean” additionally acquired play on rock radio. The “Clean” video acquired a ton of MTV play, too. Santana and Thomas shot the video in a closed-off-street in Harlem, and Thomas’ girlfriend Marisol Maldonado performed the woman within the video. Thomas and Maldonado acquired married a few weeks earlier than “Clean” hit #1, they usually’re nonetheless collectively as we speak.
Just a few years in the past, Billboard printed a really unusual and aggravating checklist of the largest singles of all time, and “Clean” was at #2, behind Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” (In a more moderen model of the checklist, “Clean” had moved right down to #3. I implore you not to have a look at this. It will provide you with a mind bleed.) In 2013, The Onion ran a bit about “Clean” dominating the Grammys for the thirteenth 12 months in a row. “Clean” was so huge that it virtually doesn’t appear actual. Even with all that context above, it’s nonetheless a little bit onerous to determine how this enjoyable little track turned such an unstoppable maddening juggernaut. Some songs can survive that type of overexposure and nonetheless sound nice. I don’t put “Clean” in that class, however it deserves credit score for being a enjoyable little track.
In the end, although, it doesn’t matter whether or not I need to give “Clean” credit score for something. “Clean” is “Clean.” When the earth is consumed by the solar, the final surviving people will nonetheless have “Clean” taking part in of their heads as they breathe dying breaths. (It is going to be a sizzling one.) Quickly sufficient, we are going to see each Santana and Rob Thomas on this column once more.