I see red in the final version of Songs that Didn’t Make the Hot 100, including a disturbing trend in which the United Kingdom finds hits when the United States doesn’t. Of course, look who we elected president. We’re not much on taste.
“Red Rain” – Peter Gabriel (1986). The opener to Gabriel’s mammoth album So, “Red Rain” had the unfortunate distinction of being the follow-up to the smash hit and video “Sledgehammer.” A sober song about the environment isn’t going to do as well as a playful song about sex, now, is it? The song was released in the UK and Ireland a year later, where it hit #46 in the UK and #27 in Ireland. They must appreciate political songs at least a little bit more than us sex-crazed Americans.
“Red Skies” – The Fixx (1982). Another red song. The Fixx were mounted on the precipice of stardom and would reach it a year later with “One Thing Leads to Another.” It would not be so for “Red Skies,” the follow-up to the marginal hit “Stand or Fall.” It reached #13 on the Mainstream Rock chart, but only bubbled under the Hot 100, hitting #101.
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” – The Jayhawks (2000). Noted more for their albums instead of their singles, The Jayhawks released “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” in 2000 and was as close to a Top 40 sound as the alt-country band would get. The sound became more mainstream with the emergence of Gary Louris as the band’s true leader. However, the song could only manage a #40 slot in the Adult Contemporary chart.
“Cool the Engines” – Boston (1986). By the time “Cool the Engines” was released, America was starting to cool on Boston’s third album, Third Stage. It was the third single from the album and failed to hit the Hot 100, even though its successor, “Can’tcha Say (You Believe in Me)” reached #20. Perhaps it was a bit too hard rocking for the mainstream crowd, although Bon Jovi was doing well at the same time. America, where is your taste?
“When I Grow Up” – Garbage (1999). Sadly, America never really got Garbage, an American group that still managed to sell a lot of albums here – the first two shipped more than 1 million copies. By this time, the group may have given up on Top 40 success, releasing this song only as a promo and 12″ single. Meanwhile, it rocketed up to #9 in the UK, where they had a string of Top 10 hits. Damn you and your good taste, you Brits!
“Here’s Where the Story Ends” – The Sundays (1990). Another single-shy group, the Sundays didn’t even chart with this song in their home country (the UK again, drat). The band was still wildly successful on both sides of the shore, though, and this song may have been the best song from their best album, the debut “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.”
“Baby Now That I’ve Found You” – Alison Krauss (1995). The album of the same name – Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection – brought Krauss into the mainstream with her interpretation of Top 40 and country songs, but the single could only manage #49 on the country charts. Its performance failed to live up to the original version by the Foundations, which hit #11.
“Heaven Sent” – INXS (1992). Certain bands outwear their welcome and fall out of fashion, even though they may still have it musically. That’s what happened to INXS in 1992, when their album Welcome to Wherever You Are barely hit platinum – a far cry from 1987’s Kick, which sold 6 million copies. The tell-tale sign was the failure of the first single, “Heaven Sent,” which could have easily fit on Kick. The energetic anthem missed the Hot 100 entirely and could only muster #13 in the band’s native country of Australia.
“Vox” – Sarah McLachlan (1989). Sarah McLachlan debuted in her native country of Canada in 1988, sounding like a pop version of Enya and Loreena McKinnett. And no one bought it. She changed her sound slightly to sound more poppy in subsequent albums and found a niche in the adult-alternative scene of the mid-90s. This debut single shows her songwriting chops and potential, even if it didn’t hit the Hot 100.
“Now My Heart is Full” – Morrissey (1994). I already mentioned Morrissey in my 100 Songs that didn’t make the Top 40. America, who never fully embraced the Smiths, must have thought, “Who the hell is Morrissey?” when Vauxhall and I was released. Nothing from the album did well. And that’s a shame, because his two main singles from the album are simply breathtaking.