Several punk rockers are listed in this version of Songs That Didn’t Make the Hot 100, along with some popular songs that will have you wondering whether it actually is possible to hit the Hot 100.
“Blitzkrieg Bop” – The Ramones (1976). Hitting the charts would NOT be considered punk. Just ask Green Day, who has had practically all punk status stripped from them due to two Top 10 hits and a Broadway play. The Ramones are the grandfathers of punk; they only managed a #66 hit during their long career; “Blitzkrieg Bop” is among their best.
“Helpless” – Sugar (1992). It’s astounding that this group never had a Hot 100 hit. Led by ex-Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould, Sugar had a raucous but melodic sound that shook the airwaves of alternative radio in the 1990s. I could interchange half a dozen songs here, but this is among their most deserving.
“Marlene on the Wall” – Suzanne Vega (1985). Vega had a worldwide smash with “Luka,” which reached #3 in the U.S., but her first album was virtually unheard of. This jewel from the soft, folk-tinged, self-titled debut reached only #83 in the UK – nowhere in the U.S.
“Gloria” – Patti Smith Group (1976). Patti Smith was another founding member of the U.S. punk rock scene, and her group’s single “Gloria” was released the same year as the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The single did just as well as her contemporaries’ single did – nowhere. It may have been because of the lyrics – “Jesus died for somebody’s sins / But not mine“. No worries – she would hit #12 two years later with “Because the Night.”
“The Way” – Fastball (1998). Fastball had moderate success with “Out of My Head,” which reached #20, but their signature hit was “The Way,” which inexplicably missed the Hot 100, despite hitting #2 on the Adult Top 40 chart, #1 on the Alternative chart and #5 on the Airplay chart. Go figure.
“California” – Phantom Planet (2002). You may recognize “California” as the theme song for Fox TV’s “The O.C.” Phantom Planet only released a promo single in the U.S., so it didn’t make the Hot 100, but they released it all over Europe, where it hit #9 in the UK, #3 in Austria and #2 in Italy. Pretty good for a song named after a U.S. state.
“MoneyGrabber” – Fitz & the Tantrums (2011). Another head-scratcher. “MoneyGrabber” hit #2 on the Adult Alternative Song chart and #33 among Hot Rock Songs. It was even certified gold for selling 500,000 units. But no Hot 100. Either I’m missing something, or Billboard’s formula went all out of whack.
“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” – Elvis Costello (1978). Another punk rocker (I use the term loosely here), Elvis Costello has never had any luck with the charts; his other well-known song, “Alison,” didn’t hit the Hot 100 either. This song, written by Nick Lowe and ranked as the 284th best song of all time in 2004 by Rolling Stone magazine, initially appeared on the B-side of Lowe’s 1978 single “American Squirm,” credited to “Nick Lowe and His Sound.” So no A-side, and no Hot 100.
“Into the Groove” – Madonna (1985). Whaaa? Madonna missing the Hot 100 at the height of her popularity with one of her best-known songs? Call it a conspiracy between the record company and Billboard. According to Wikipedia, “Into the Groove” wasn’t released as a single because record company execs feared it would compete with “Angel,” the third single from Like a Virgin. It was eventually released as the B-side to the maxi-single of “Angel,” making it ineligible to enter the Billboard Hot 100 or Hot Singles Sales charts.
“Heal the Pain” – George Michael (1991). A rare dud by George Michael, “Heal the Pain” deserved better. But it was more of the lightweight, heartfelt acoustic fare that was present on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. After the successes of “Praying for Time” and “Freedom ’90,” other singles flopped, with “Waiting for the Day” hitting only #27, and this one and two others missing the Hot 100.