Some classic rock staples are on this edition of 70 Songs That Didn’t Make the Hot 100 this week – some that will surprise you…
“Save Me” – Queen (1980). This has all the makings of a classic Queen song – a soft beginning with Freddie’s distinct voice, then the bombastic chorus hits, full of harmonies. It’s like “We Are the Champions,” and it reached #11 in the UK. But for some reason, it wasn’t released in the United States. No Hot 100 for you!
“Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin (1971). People are shocked to learn that the most overplayed, most popular rock song ever was not released as a single and therefore did not make the Hot 100. But it’s true, and for some reason, that brings a level of satisfaction to me. It makes many lists of greatest songs ever – but not greatest singles ever. It’s one of those songs that I automatically turn the station when I hear it (That, “Margaritaville,” and anything by the Eagles.
“If I Fall” – Alice Martineau (2002). The tale of Alice Martineau is a sad one; born with cystic fibrosis, she pursued a career in modeling before turning to music. She performed live in 2000-2001 and was offered several record contracts until record companies learned of her failing health. Sony finally signed her, and “If I Fall” was released five months before she died. She was only 30.
“September Gurls” – Big Star (1974). Pick a song. Any song by the founders of power pop: “Thirteen,” “Feel,” “In the Street” – You’ll find that only a few were singles, and none of them came close to hitting the big time. “September Gurls,” which was released and failed miserably, was at least covered by the Bangles 10 years later, who paid homage to their mentors. They didn’t release it, though.
“The Killing Moon” – Echo & the Bunnymen (1984). Echo & the Bunnymen found success all over Europe, but that success didn’t translate to the United States. In fact, they hardly bothered with the U.S., with 1984’s Ocean Rain reaching #87 without any marketing at all. “The Killing Moon,” their signature hit in the U.K. (it reached #9), did nothing in the United States, probably because it was only released as a 12″ single, which doesn’t get a lot of airplay on radio stations.
“Once in a Lifetime” – Talking Heads (1980). To most people, Talking Heads are a one-hit wonder, with “Burning Down the House” their only Top 10 hit. But they did far more than that, and “Once in a Lifetime” was one of their best. “And you may ask yourself / Where is that large automobile?…” Love it.
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2 (1983). Like most of America, I discovered “Sunday Bloody Sunday” in 1984, after “Pride (In the Name of Love)” hit the Top 40 (#33). A lot of good that did U2, who eventually stormed the castle with The Joshua Tree in 1987 and all was well with the world. It wasn’t even released in the UK, but a 7″ found its way into the U.S. in 1985. It still didn’t do anything. It’s now one of U2’s most recognized anthems.
“Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley (1994). Wikipedia refers to this song as the “baseline of secular hymns,” whatever that means. I think it means it’s a modern classic, originally written by Leonard Cohen, but Buckley’s version is the most widely accepted. It’s sung at funerals, fundraisers for causes, even church sometimes. But apparently you didn’t hear it on radio stations, and it wasn’t released as a single until 10 years after his death. Even then, no Hot 100.
“Black Coffee in Bed” – Squeeze (1982). There’s always one that really pisses me off, and this one is it. It had all the makings of a Top 40 hit – a good video, a snappy lead singer who could sing circles around everyone else, and a song with clever lyrics and innovative melodies. What am I thinking? Of course that wouldn’t be a hit. It climbed to #103 and stalled – Just like “Tempted,” which peaked at #49, just missing the Top 40. Americans have something against Squeeze, and I aim to find out what it is.
“Locked Out” – Crowded House (1993). America had something against Crowded House, too. After two top 10 hits, the New Zealanders couldn’t get anything to climb the charts – including this surprising rocker from the group, usually known for its ballads and mid-tempo numbers. If you can’t get a rock song into the Hot 100, forget about mid-tempo stuff. You can’t dance to that.