In this list of the 100 songs that didn’t make the Top 40, we’ll find the most egregious error in Hot 100 history.
“Tempted” – Squeeze – #49 (1981). And you don’t have to wait too long for it. This song is now a classic, played continually on radio stations of many different formats, and I never get tired of hearing Paul Carrack and Glenn Tilbrook’s voices. It’s been covered by numerous artists, used in commercials and even video games, and movie soundtracks. Squeeze even re-recorded it for Reality Bites; called “Tempted ’94,” it failed to chart. This is a crime against humanity.
“Good Times” – INXS & Jimmy Barnes – #47 (1987). Who the hell is Jimmy Barnes? people asked. Despite the collaboration with the relatively unknown Scottish-Australian songwriter, INXS was on the cusp of superstardom at the time – this song was released right before their multi-platinum Kick was released – and the song came from the moderately successful film The Lost Boys. This remake of the 1968 song by the Australian group the Easybeats was more of a rocker, with that signature INXS sound. It should have done better.
“Shelter” – Lone Justice – #47 (1987). Another error in judgment by the U.S. buying public. “Shelter” was rootsy like John Cougar Mellencamp, featured a female lead singer with a beautiful voice, and had a memorable and easy chorus to sing along to. And it was the highest-charting single by both Lone Justice and Maria McKee, who had some amazing solo albums and singles. What was wrong with you people???
“Highway to Hell” – AC/DC – #47 (1979). Granted, AC/DC did not exist to sell singles, and due to the backlash from Tipper Gore and the Christian right, the group scared the hell out of people (pun intended). And with choruses like, “I’m on the highway to hell!”, you’d kind of understand, even though the lyric was not intended to be taken literally. Nevertheless, the song was good enough to propel itself up to #47, despite the objectionable subject matter. And you just can’t beat a good guitar riff by Angus Young.
“Rebel Yell” – Billy Idol – #46 (1984). I’m just surprised that with the airplay this got, it didn’t go higher. Am I disappointed that it didn’t hit the Top 40? Nope.
“The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get” – Morrissey – #46 (1994). A simply beautiful song from the post-Smiths Morrissey. It was really his last gasp; he would not be heard on American radio that much after Vauxhall & I, although this was the highest any Smiths or Morrissey song ever reached in the U.S. Of course, it hit #8 in the UK. Damn you Brits and your good taste in music.
“Fire (Live)” – Bruce Springsteen – #46 (1987). Most people probably heard this song and said, “What? Springsteen is covering a Pointer Sisters song?” and moved on. Little did they know that Springsteen wrote it back in 1977 and it had been covered by numerous artists, including the Pointer Sisters, whose version peaked at #2. Unfortunately, Springsteen couldn’t match that with his own version. NOTE: The link is to a rare live version of “Fire” – not the one released from Live: 1975-1985.
“Walking On The Chinese Wall” – Philip Bailey – #46 (1985). People knew Philip Bailey as that guy who sang “Easy Lover” with Phil Collins, not as one of the vocalists for Earth, Wind & Fire. As a result, his name recognition did not help this single, which is not what you’d expect from Bailey – pounding drums, a relaxing guitar, with his trademark falsetto vocals and a little EW&F brass accompanying it. It sounds more like a Peter Gabriel tune.
“Am I The Same Girl” – Swing Out Sister – #45 (1992). Oh, so close. Swing Out Sister almost had another Top 40 hit to accompany their Top 10 hit “Breakout.” This cover of a 1968 Barbara Acklin tune is not as good as the original, but is still catchy as hell. Aaaand…it charted higher (#21) in the UK. NOTE: This song was first released as an instrumental titled “Soulful Strut” and reached #3 on the U.S. Pop charts. The vocals make it better.
“Love Me In a Special Way” – DeBarge – #45 (1984). DeBarge didn’t have much chart success – two top 20 ballads – until their upbeat “Rhythm of the Night” hit #3 in 1985. This quiet, piano-driven song was the best of their slower material – much better the schmaltzy smash hit “Who’s Holding Donna Now?”