Hitting the Top 10 is a sign of stardom. It shows that all the hard work has paid off, that the buying public has not only accepted you but also considered your song a hit. Your Wikipedia article will always have “performer of the Top 10 hit,” no matter if you’re a one-hit wonder. No one can take it away from you, unless you’re Milli Vanilli.
But what about those songs that missed the Top 10? Many great songs stalled at No. 11, relegated as a “Top 20 single” instead of a Top 10 hit. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but that single will always be considered a second-tier song, no matter how successful you were with other singles. Here are 20 of the most surprising songs that missed the Top 10.
1. ‘Moon River’ – Henry Mancini, His Orchestra and Chorus (1961)
“Moon River” has become a standard, an instantly recognizable classic, and was one of the first theme songs to a movie to make it big. But despite being in the Hot 100 for six months — 16 weeks in the Top 40 — it managed only a No. 11 position.
2. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – The Beatles (1966)
“Eleanor Rigby” was released as a double A-side along with “Yellow Submarine.” It spent four weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. but could only reach No. 11 in the U.S. Meanwhile, “Yellow Submarine” reached No. 2 here. Once again, the American public missed the mark.
3. ‘Tired Of Being Alone,’ Al Green (1971)
Yes, it just missed the Top 10, but it was the first bona fide hit for Al Green, who went on to have three straight Top 5 hits after this song. “Tired of Being Alone” was certified Gold by the RIAA, and was ranked No. 293 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
4. ‘Listen to the Music’ – The Doobie Brothers (1972)
Only the second single to come from the Doobie Brothers, “Listen to the Music” was a modest hit for the group, which had only five Top 10 hits and two No. 1 songs. I’m surprised that I can’t name more Doobie Brothers songs. Why were they so popular?
5. ‘Wishing You Were Here’ – Chicago (1974)
This was a rare miss for the hit-making factory, for Chicago had already hit the Top 10 an amazing 10 times in five years. They would have their first No. 1 hit two years later with another ballad, “If You Leave Me Now.” And then they’d jump the shark in 1982 with “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”
6. ‘Never Gonna Fall In Love Again’ – Eric Carmen (1976)
A hard-luck chart veteran, Carmen had only one Top 10 hit in the 1970s as a solo artist (1975’s “All By Myself”). He would have to wait 12 years for his next one, the abysmal “Hungry Eyes” from the equally awful movie Dirty Dancing.
7. ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ – Kansas (1976)
Kansas had only one Top 10 hit — 1978’s “Dust in the Wind.” This song, like “Don’t Stop Believin’,” found new life many years as the unofficial theme to the long-running TV series “Supernatural.” It’s epic and sprawling and should have been a top 10 hit.
8. ‘Barracuda’ – Heart (1977)
There may not be a better guitar riff than Nancy Wilson’s intro to “Barracuda.” It’s bold and angry, and the rest of the song tries to play catchup with it. It was the highest-charting single from the monster album Little Queen.
9. ‘Disco Inferno’ – The Trammps (1978)
Whaaaat? One of the songs that defined disco relegated to No. 11? Yes, and it was even the second time around for the song, which got released a year earlier and only made it to No. 53.
10. ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ – Meat Loaf (1978)
The top single from one of the greatest selling albums of all time, Bat Out of Hell, only managed No. 11 in the U.S. but made it to No. 5 in Canada. Meat Loaf remains more popular overseas than he is in the U.S., where he had only one Top 10 hit, 1993’s No. 1 smash “”I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
11. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ – KISS (1979)
This single was as close as the glam-metal group could get to the Top 10 without resorting to ballads. They had hit the Top 10 earlier with “Beth” and would follow it up in 1990 with “Forever.”
12. ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ – Prince (1979)
In 1979, America was not ready for His Royal Badness and the funky single “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” With lyrics such as “I wanna be the only one you come for,” it’s a miracle that the single got airplay and made it to No. 11.
13. ‘Edge Of Seventeen’ – Stevie Nicks (1982)
When I think of Stevie Nicks, I think of this song. Not “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” which went to No. 3, or “Talk to Me,” which reached No. 4. “Edge of Seventeen” did manage to reach No. 4 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
14. ‘Promises, Promises’ – Naked Eyes (1983)
This excellent follow-up to their Top 10 hit “Always Something There to Remind Me” deserved better, but inexplicably, the group fared much better in the U.S. than their native U.K., where “Promises, Promises” reached only No. 95.
15. ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’ – Dead Or Alive (1985)
Surprisingly, what was arguably the biggest techno/dance record of the 1980s didn’t make the Top 10. but it did reach No. 4 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. So there’s that…
16. ‘Perfect Way’ – Scritti Politti (1985)
By 1985, the buying public was starting to tire of new wave, and Scritti Politti was a bit late on the scene. As a result, this excellent tune didn’t hit the Top 10 and was subsequently forgotten.
17. ‘The Promise’ – When In Rome (1988)
If Scritti Politti was late to the party, the party was over for When In Rome, who released “The Promise” in 1988 as a 12-inch single. It promptly went to the top of the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. They released it as a regular single and it managed to go to No. 11 — much higher than the U.K., where it hit No. 58.
18. ‘So Close’ – Daryl Hall & John Oates (1990)
Oh, yes, sooo close! The 80s pop duo just missed the Top 10 with “So Close,” and it would prove to be their last Top 40 hit. In fact, they would hit the Hot 100 only two more times. The 80s were indeed over.
19. ‘What Is Love’ – Haddaway (1993)
“What Is Love” was a huge hit in Europe, reaching No. 1 in 13 countries. It was less successful in the U.S. but rose again in 1998 when Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell used it as the basis of their “Roxbury Guys” skit on “Saturday Night Live.”
20. ‘Who Will Save Your Soul’ – Jewel (1996)
For all the press that Jewel received for her debut album, her first single, “Who Will Save Your Soul,” didn’t break sales records. That was left up to the next two singles, “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games”, which both reached No. 2.