In this segment, you’ll be reminded of some songs that will have you turning your head and saying, “What? They played the crap out of that song and it didn’t hit the Top 40?”
“New Year’s Day” – U2 – #53 (1983). U2 was flying just under the radar in 1983; War received critical acclaim from U.S. critics and peaked at #12 on the album chart. But the U.S. was not ready for a Top 40 single from the group just yet; in fact, it would be another four years before they hit it big – really big – with “With or Without You” from The Joshua Tree, which shot to #1.
“What Does It Take” – Honeymoon Suite – #52 (1986). I’m slightly biased on this one; The Big Prizewas one of my favorite albums in 1986. Their first single, the energetic “Feel It Again,” reached only #34. This power ballad was the third single from the album, and I never understood why it didn’t get more airplay when all you heard that year were hair bands. Wait. Maybe it was the cheesy video. That’s the first time I’ve seen that. Yikes.
“Ready for the 80s” – The Village People – #52 (1979). Okay, this isn’t a song that should have made the Top 40. I just find it humorous – and ironic – that the last song by the Village People to hit the Hot 100 was a song released in 1979 called “Ready for the 80s.” The Village People were ready for the 80s, but America wasn’t ready to bring them along.
“Closer To Fine” – Indigo Girls – #52 (1989). This song was all I heard on the hall of my dorm in 1989. It’s still a staple on adult alternative radio stations, and the duo usually ends their concerts with what is arguably their best-known song. But you don’t get very far in the Hot 100 without some drums and electric guitars, and you don’t get very far with a song featuring a tin whistle solo -especially when Madonna and Roxette rule the airwaves.
“Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac – #51 (1998). You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who was enamored with Fleetwood Mac and their comeback tour. People were paying enormous amounts of money – just like the Eagles – to see an old 70s band reunite. “Landslide,” which first appeared on the band’s self-titled 1975 album, was recorded for their 1998 live album The Dance. You heard the song everywhere – classic rock, Top 40, lite rock stations, and the live version is intimate and beautiful. But it didn’t crack the Top 40 – that is, until the Dixie Chicks released their version and it climbed all the way to #7.
“Oh Yeah” – Yello – #51 (1987). Thanks to no Internet and John Hughes’ refusal to release a soundtrack to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” we all scrambled to read the tiny type on the credits at the end of the movie to find out what this song called “Oh Yeah” was and who performed it. Most people must have taken it to be a novelty hit, though, as the single reached only #51. (NOTE: La-La Land Records printed 5,000 copies of the soundtrack in 2016. So if you’re one of the lucky few to have gotten one, congratulations.)
“I’ll Be You” – The Replacements – #51 (1989). One of the first true alternative bands (whatever that means), the Replacements were darlings of college radio during the 1980s. Their one true attempt to make it big, “I’ll Be You” from the album Don’t Tell a Soul, was catchy – maybe too catchy for their diehard fans. The general public said, “Who are the Replacements?”
“Valentine” – Martina McBride – #50 (1997). How many times did this syrupy ballad get played on “Love Songs” and all-request weekends? The song, written by adult contemporary artist Jim Brickman and performed by Brickman and Martina McBride, failed to hit the Top 40 despite the tons of airplay it received. Perhaps people didn’t feel a need to buy the single, since they could just turn the dial to the local Lite Rock radio station and hear it any time.
“Should I Stay or Should I Go” – The Clash – #45 (1982), #50 (1983). Ranked #228 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was released not once, not twice, but three times. It failed twice to chart in the U.S. Instead, “Rock the Casbah” became the Clash’s first Top 10 single in America, and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” languished in the Hot 100 two different times. (The Clash released it a third time in 1991 in the U.K. with Big Audio Dynamite’s “Rush” as the other A-side, and it went to number 1.)
“There She Goes” – The La’s – #49 (1991). Like Jellyfish, the La’s were a Beatlesque band stuck in the middle of the grunge craze. They also were about four years too early; Britpop invaded the U.S. in the mid-90s, with groups such as Oasis, Blur and Suede achieving moderate success. As a result, the catchy “There She Goes” did not catch on with the buying public, and the La’s didn’t even get a chance to become a one-hit wonder.