Lots of songs about girls on this installment of songs that didn’t make the Hot 100. I thought songs about girls were all men wrote about.
“Cynical Girl” – Marshall Crenshaw (1982). Poor Marshall Crenshaw. Blessed with a voice like John Lennon and looking like a clean-cut version of the same, he churned out such infectious pop hits as “Someday, Someway” and this song. “Someday, Someway” only managed #36. “Cynical Girl” didn’t make it at all.
“American Girl” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1976). Kind of shocking that the most American song by one of the most American singer-songwriters failed to hit the Hot 100. Even worse, it hit the Top 40 in the UK instead . It was re-released in 1994 as part of his Greatest Hits package but only made it to #109. Since then, dozens of bands have covered the song. It’s now a classic.
“You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” – Sinead O’Connor (1994). The single from the movie “In the Name of the Father” was released only as a promotional single in the United States, but it still managed to climb to #24 on the U.S. Alternative chart. Perhaps the record company was afraid to release anything after she ripped up a photograph of the Pope on “Saturday Night Live” two years earlier.
“All Apologies” – Nirvana (1993). “All Apologies” was another single released as a promo only; although it did chart in other countries, it didn’t make the Billboard Hot 100, instead peaking at #45 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, #4 on the Mainstream Rock chart, and #1 on the Alternative chart.
“Candle in the Wind” – Elton John (1973). Everyone remembers the 1997 version of this song, which was a worldwide smash after the death of Princess Diana. Some even remember the 1987 version with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Not too many remember the original version released in 1973, which reached #11 in the UK but wasn’t even released in the U.S. And that’s surprising, given John’s growing popularity (he already had 6 Top 10 hits in America).
“Isn’t She Lovely?” – Stevie Wonder (1976). One of Stevie Wonder’s most popular hits was never released as a single. The song clocked in at just over six minutes, and Wonder refused to edit it down to a length that would fit on a 7″ single. So it didn’t hit the US or UK charts. Later, Wonder’s record company convinced him to edit it for a promotional single, and radio stations went wild for it, catapulting it to #23 on the Adult Contemporary chart based solely on airplay.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division (1981). Joy Division’s now-famous anthem was released in the UK one month after lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide. It reached #13 in the UK, and Joy Division’s record company released the single in the U.S. in 1981. It did nothing on the Hot 100, although it did manage to hit #42 on the short-lived Hot 100 Disco chart. Disco? Really? And yes, Joy Division is growing on me.
“Nightswimming” – R.E.M (1993). What has become one of R.E.M.’s most popular songs only got a cassette single (“cassingle!”) release in the United States, and cassette single sales, unfortunately, weren’t enough to put it in the Hot 100. It got a proper release overseas and reached #27 on the UK singles chart – a better reception for a song about skinny-dipping.
“Dirty Mind” – Prince (1980). The U.S. was not ready for Prince clad in bikini underwear. “Dirty Mind” didn’t make a dent in the Hot 100, even though the LP of the same name reached #45 on the album chart. Led by a keyboard riff from future Revolution band member Doctor Fink, it was the opening track to a surprisingly New Wave Prince album, full of synthesizers and, of course, racy lyrics.
“Life on Mars?” – David Bowie (1971). Why doesn’t America get any of the good singles? Unfortunately, like Prince, America wasn’t ready for a cross-dressing glam artist of Bowie’s caliber, even though his previous single “Space Oddity” had reached a respectable #15 on the Hot 100. Even though it wasn’t released as a single in the US, airplay still got it to #12 on Billboard‘s Hot Rock Songs chart.