Skip

Hear them now, before they feature in Wes Anderson's next movie
May 11, 2014 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Each year for the past seven years, Billboard Magazine's Rich Appel has surveyed a group of classic pop aficianados to create his IRS chart--It Really Should have been a Top 10 hit. This list of more than a thousand records largely from the 60s and 70s runs the gamut from classics that somehow never cracked the Top 10 during their heyday to the unjustly overlooked and obscure. Via the best radio show in America, Crap From the Past.
1. NOTHING BUT A HEARTACHE The Flirtations
2. CAN'T FIND THE TIME (to Tell You) Orpheus
3. WILL YOU BE STAYING AFTER SUNDAY The Peppermint Rainbow
4. SHAME, SHAME The Magic Lanterns
5. MORNING GIRL The Neon Philharmonic
6. MR. DIEINGLY SAD The Critters
7. GOD ONLY KNOWS The Beach Boys
8. THINGS I'D LIKE TO SAY The New Colony Six
9. PRETTY LADY Lighthouse
10. YELLOW RIVER Christie
And so much more!
posted by Horace Rumpole (69 comments total) 148 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm very surprised "Morning Girl" hasn't shown up in an episode of Mad Men yet.

I hear "Nothing But A Heartache" all the time, maybe from TV/commercials or maybe it's just one of those tracks Songza loves, I'm not sure.
posted by Sara C. at 7:07 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Oh, hell, this is going to keep me busy for a while (very cool) and potentially result in hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of record purchases (not so cool.)

I don't know that any of the following had number one hit potential, but a couple of gems off the top of my head that could easily be slotted into such lists..

I'm Five Years Ahead of My Time - The Third Bardo
Don't Monkey With Tarzan - The Pygmies
Oogum Boogum - Brenton Woods
Drowning in the Sea of Love - Joe Simon

I love finding tracks like this that I can slot into the programming for the local radio show I share with some neighbors (small town; public radio station; six of us take turns doing a weekly show with an eclectic mandate..)
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:08 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


I remember hearing "Morning Girl" on the radio when I was a kid and thinking it was the most awesome song ever.

Considering how conservative radio was where I grew up, I'm really surprised that it hadn't cracked the Top 10 (and thanks to Wikipedia I see that it only got to #17, a near-miss).

I always wondered what kind of influence The Neon Philharmonic had on Jeff Lynn and Roy Wood, who started Electric Light Orchestra just two years later. There's something to their pop sensibility, as well as coincidental names.
posted by ardgedee at 7:10 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Spingsteen's "Born to Run" is #11 on that list... making it the top of MY ""It Really Shoulda" been on Rich Appel's I.R.S. List"...

I must applaud the placement at #22 of "Back When My Hair Was Short" by Gunhill Road, which has been my favorite Obscurity since it barely made the Top 40 in 1973.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:36 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I was an avid pop radio listener as a kid back in the early 70's and I'm surprised to see Harry Chapin's "Taxi" peaked at 24. Maybe Canadian radio was more receptive to it than the US, but I had the impression it was a massive hit.
posted by davebush at 7:47 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Morning Girl is one of my favorites....

How about "Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It" by the Buffalo Springfield.
posted by HuronBob at 7:49 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Of course the highest-ranked "never even released as a single so never charted" song was #111, "Stairway to Heaven".

And as for Harry Chapin, "Cats in the Cradle" was his ONLY Top Ten (and #1) hit, so I was glad to see "Taxi", "WOLD" (the cynical Disc Jockey's national anthem) and "Sequel" (literally a sequel to Taxi, and which did better on the charts than the original) all on the list.

I don't know how I'm going to go the next few hours without turning into Casey Kasem...
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:53 PM on May 11


God Only Knows - what a genius song.
posted by chris88 at 8:01 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


There's "Morning Girl," and for the even more cynical, "Morning Girl, Later," both covered by various people at various times. The broad context is here-- I don't know if Wes Anderson or the whole Mad Men team could exhaust this story.
posted by homerica at 8:16 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


God Only Knows never cracked the Top 10?! Someone please tell the oldies station I grew up listening to, because they played it A LOT.
posted by maryr at 8:59 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


... I think. Hm. It may have just been on that Beach Boys tape that was stuck in our car stereo for like a year. (The choices were no music whatsoever or The Beach Boys Greatest Hits. I have had a lifetime's worth of The Beach Boys Greatest Hits.)

(Except for Kokomo, which was not on that tape and I heard almost exclusively at rollerskating rinks...so it's still pretty awesome.)
posted by maryr at 9:04 PM on May 11


24 songs by the Beatles on the list (but not much by ex-Beatles - 3 Wings and 1 George), 17 songs by the Beach Boys (plus one Brian Wilson solo), 11 by the Rolling Stones, 9 by Elvis Presley (but no Elvis Costello?), 9 by the Bee Gees, 9 by the 4 Seasons, 7 by the 5th Dimension, 7 by the Four Tops, 7 by either the Mamas and the Papas or Mama Cass solo, 6 by either the Supremes or Diana Ross solo, 6 by the Who, 5 by the Guess Who, 5 by Steely Dan, 5 by Frank Sinatra... I'd call this a solidly inclusive list, if a little light on '80s (only one R.E.M. and Talking Heads each? - they had a lot more near misses than that), but for '60s and '70s it's a massive Memory Flogger for those of us old enough to remember.

#58 is "Timothy" by the Buoys, the only "anywhere CLOSE to Top 10" song ever about an incident of cannibalism. (Notably written by Rupert Holmes, who ultimately settled down to write about Pina Coladas)

My all-time favorite "driving song"... #60 "Sausalito Summernight" by Diesel. (I think this was playing when I pulled over for the ONLY speeding ticket in my driving life)

The Infamous 'First Video Ever Played on MTV', "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles never got higher than 40 on the Top 40 and is #489 here.

And #1040, at the bottom of the list? "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band (the Official Video here is insanely awesome).
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:20 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


Oh, so many of my most favorites are on here, such as the divine "No Milk Today," which at age six I thought was just tragic. I was just listening to "Soul Deep" by the Box Tops last night to accompany my reading of the Chilton bio and Gunhill Road yesterday afternoon, and "Twelve Thirty" is my most beloved Mamas & Papas song.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:23 PM on May 11


This is a fascinating list and I will, indeed, spend far too much time checking out everything I haven't heard. I do wonder if the fact that Billboard used to run separate charts (until 1969) for R & B, "Race Records", etc. had an effect on their placing on the "regular" Hot 100. AT LAST by Etta James, for example, went to #1 on the R & B chart but didn't get higher than #47 otherwise.
posted by TDavis at 9:25 PM on May 11


My addition to the list: "Why Not Your Baby" by Dillard and Clark
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:30 PM on May 11


"Nothing But A Heartache" amuses me with the message that the content owner has not approved viewing on mobile devices. What year is it again?
posted by Fibognocchi at 9:43 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


The Orlons: Them Terrible Boots
posted by Ferreous at 9:56 PM on May 11


Notably written by Rupert Holmes, who ultimately settled down to write about Pina Coladas
If you like eating the bodies
Of people caught in a mine
If you gnaw into yogis
If you'd love half a brain...
posted by pracowity at 12:28 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


My very favorite song from the '80s, and also my pick for the most beautiful song of the '80s.

REM Pretty Persuasion

And a damned fine low budget video to boot.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:29 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


Hmm… I'm not at all surprised that NOTHING BUT A HEARTACHE wasn't a Top Tenner. Here are some key reasons:

First off, there are lines (lyrics) that are difficult to understand. That alone is almost certainly gonna keep a song outta the Top 10, especially a song from a female vocal group. There's a little more leeway in that regard when it comes to more *hard rock* or psychedelic-tinged pop hits, but name me one Supremes song, for example, in the Top 10 that included any difficult-to-understand lyrics. Diction's gotta be cleaner than that for the toppermost of the poppermost.

Also, the lead singer's pitch. It's just a little too iffy, here and there. Again, something that white boys in a rock setting could get away with now and again, but a black female vocal group? Nah. Pitch has gotta be spot on.

Finally, the melody: melodically, it swings back and forth between gritty/soulful/churchified and middle-of-the-road pop in, well, a somewhat jarring and not very organic way. Feels cobbled together and lacking in any one *identity*, which is also a kind of Top 10 kiss of death.

That's my two cents, anyway.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:32 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Continuing…

CAN'T FIND THE TIME (to Tell You). Oh dear. Ba da da da da da…. We're off to a very bad start.

And "baby you're love" (is that what he's singing?) is a really weak hook (lyrically and melodically) to hang your B section on. And then that section is so short, and we're right back in ba da da da land. Both the weak B section and the ba da da bit sounds like something a songwriter would've used as a 'place-holder' until he tweaked it and found some actual workable lines and ideas.

The instrumental arrangement was ambitious, with its bongos and shakers and glockenspiel and strings, but ultimately winds up making the thing sound clattery and cluttered. And the track features one of the most ham-handed tambourine players to ever appear on any record anywhere.

I'm gonna keep listening to these, though, and see if there's anything that I can agree deserved a Top 10 spot!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:48 AM on May 12


Next up, WILL YOU BE STAYING AFTER SUNDAY

The drummer's rushing like crazy! Haha! But I don't think that in itself would keep the song outta the Ten. So, I have another theory. This line:

"will you be staying after Sunday or go home on Monday"

Perhaps the listening public just couldn't stomach such confused grammar. Perhaps "going" would've catapulted this frenetic little number into the pop stratosphere! Alas, we'll never know.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:55 AM on May 12


SHAME, SHAME

Structurally, formally, this tune is the closest so far to actual Top 10 material. If I were to venture some guesses as to why it didn't crack the 10 list, one would be that the opening vocal melody, those first crucial bars, are just too uninteresting, from both a melodic and a rhythmic point of view. And in addition to their being kinda dull and leaden, the singer's vocal timbre and delivery does them no favors either.

Also, there's a curiously uneasy meeting of the twangy, country-rock lead guitar stuff that winds its way through the track and the inappropriately bombastic sound of the drums. It's schizophrenic! For a song like this, the drummer needed to pull back a bit, but the drumming as it is sorta overpowers the track: played too hard and too loud.

I'll try to come back to this after dinner. Dammit, I wanna find a real Top 10 candidate in here!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:07 AM on May 12


I pasted these into a Spotify playlist generator and came up with the following 806 songs (including additions from the comments). This was generated in the UK, so all songs might not be available in your country.
http://open.spotify.com/user/miche11e/playlist/4pLtBF94p3n4mQWntqC8tb
posted by miche11e at 1:45 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]


MORNING GIRL

Well, this is the first of the list that I absolutely remember from my youth, and in fact I'm a little surprised that it didn't garner a coveted slot within the Mighty Ten. It is of course catchy, succinct, poppy as all fuck, sung in superbly crisp and professional manner, and, with that briefly atonal orchestral flourish at the end, truly distinctive.

Hmm… maybe, though, it was that atonal flourish at the end that kept it out of the Ten Club. Guess it might've been seen as slippery slope material by the powers-that-were. I mean, you open up that door, and next thing you know the kids'll be clamoring for Stockhausen and Cage, fer chrissakes!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:06 AM on May 12


MR. DIEINGLY SAD

"Blue be your eyes blonde be your hair"… uh, no. Uh-uh. But hey, this one, too, strikes me as at least close to being a serious Ten contender. That easy-breezy, mellow, kinda-sophisticated sound surely had a following. Maybe those title and hook lines ("mister dieingly glad, mister dieingly sad") were just a bit too much of a stretch. I think if I had produced the song I might've suggested a substitute: maybe "mister ever so sad" or "mister totally sad". "Dieingly" is just… well, not a Top Ten word, is it?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:14 AM on May 12


GOD ONLY KNOWS

Hey, GOD ONLY KNOWS is a great, great song and there's no conceivable reason why it shouldn't have been a Top Ten hit for weeks at a stretch.

Except, maybe, maybe… that it has "GOD" in the title? I dunno, the US has a thing about God, after all. Consider this: the song was recorded in March of 1966. During that same month John Lennon made his infamous 'we're bigger than Jesus' comment in a newspaper interview. GOD ONLY KNOWS was released in July 1966. Very shortly thereafter (a matter of days) the whole 'ban the Beatles' furor erupted in the US, over Lennon's comment, especially in the deep south*, where public record burnings were occurring. Might've been just a little too controversial?

Well, after coming up with that notion, I went over to… Wikipedia! And look what they said:

"God Only Knows" was one of the first pop songs to use the word "God" in its title, a decision that Wilson and Asher agonized over, fearing it would not get airplay as a result.

So, well. That may indeed be why it didn't reach the Top 10. Rock and religion weren't getting along well at all.

*and especially in my hometown of Birmingham Alabama
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:55 AM on May 12


A great and worthy project - but there are lots there that were genuine hits in the UK, doing much better here than in the US. Whereas something like Teenage Kicks never got a US release and never got top 30 in the UK charts, but must count as one of the greatest shuddas in pop history.
posted by Devonian at 3:11 AM on May 12


miche11e, thanks a lot!
posted by HuronBob at 3:34 AM on May 12


Great post (and great Spotifyin' miche11e!)
posted by Jofus at 4:39 AM on May 12


Hey, GOD ONLY KNOWS is a great, great song and there's no conceivable reason why it shouldn't have been a Top Ten hit for weeks at a stretch.

Except, maybe, maybe… that it has "GOD" in the title? I dunno, the US has a thing about God, after all.


I was about to posit the same idea as to why God Only Knows never cracked the top 10. Speaking as one who lived through that era, songs that had "God" in the title were universally gospel tunes. Even then, the actual word "God" wasn't used much. Usually, "God" was spoken of as "He" or "Him" or "Thou" in gospel titles.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:59 AM on May 12


Hey, GOD ONLY KNOWS is a great, great song and there's no conceivable reason why it shouldn't have been a Top Ten hit for weeks at a stretch.

It was the B-side of top-10 single "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" wasn't it? Did "God Only Knows" come out as an A-side later, after a lot of people already had "God Only Knows" on the album and as the B-side of "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" Because that would have to hurt the chances of "God Only Knows" going top 10 on its own.
posted by pracowity at 5:56 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


MR. DIEINGLY SAD
Heh — I went to high school with some of the Critters, who used to play (in other bands) at talent shows and school dances. Plainfield (NJ) High School, circa 1963. The Critters re-formed in recent years and toured a bit, reprising some of their old material including a better-spelled "Mr. Dyingly Sad."
posted by beagle at 6:02 AM on May 12


THINGS I'D LIKE TO SAY

Hmm. This odd little number just doesn't have enough breath in it. It's too jammed up, right from the get go. The sections just keep stumbling over themselves, and when that instrumental break finally rolls in, it still doesn't give enough pause to the relentless, nervous quality of this song. Definitely not Top Ten fodder!

NEXT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:03 AM on May 12


PRETTY LADY

Lead singer's voice is a bit weak, isn't it? Not really polished enough for top-o-the-charts. The Chicago / Blood Sweat and Tears soundalike horns and the vocal harmonies aren't enough to cover for the unimaginative, let's-just-repeat-the-same-riff-four-times-in-a-row vocal melody.

NEXT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on May 12


Yes, it's primarily a 60s and 70s list, still a lot of interesting stuff in there.

There are several listings that became better known through movie placement (In Your Eyes/Peter Gabriel, Forever Young/Alphaville). Some became tv commerical earworms (I Melt with You/Modern English, Mr Blue Sky/ELO). Some were much bigger hits in the UK (The Look of Love/ABC).

Bang the Drum All Day/Todd Rundgren--well known stadium anthem, I guess it never got radio play or single sales.

Ah Leah by Donnie Iris--wasn't that a regional hit out east somewhere?

Mull of Kintyre makes an appearance on this list, huge in the UK, never charted in the US.

Minor nitpick: Holiday by Madonna was not from 1969 (she's old, she's not that old).

Let's Spend the Night Together/Rolling Stones, another track that might have gotten limited airplay at the time due to subject matter. Today it's hard to understand what the problem was.

Super Freak by Rick James, 1999 by Prince--these came out during an era when several African-American artists, notably Mr. James himself, were complaining about not getting airplay on the then-new MTV specifically, possibly other outlets as well. Hard to believe in hindsight that Super Freak never made it above #16, seems like it was much, much bigger.
posted by gimonca at 6:13 AM on May 12


> Ah Leah by Donnie Iris--wasn't that a regional hit out east somewhere?

Donnie Iris got a fair amount of attention on MTV in the early years, back when they were playing nearly any music video they got just to fill airtime. I remember "Ah Leah" and "Love You Like a Rock" were on the radio a lot where I lived in western Pennsylvania but I don't know how well they caught on nationally.

(TIL while reading his Wikipedia page: He had a Billboard #2 hit before becoming a solo act, and he's in his seventies now.)
posted by ardgedee at 6:27 AM on May 12


chris88: "God Only Knows - what a genius song."

Is it bad I really like the Bioshock Infinite cover of it? It works really well with a barbershopish quartet. I even sing along when replaying, and after that scene.
posted by Samizdata at 6:51 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "24 songs by the Beatles on the list (but not much by ex-Beatles - 3 Wings and 1 George), 17 songs by the Beach Boys (plus one Brian Wilson solo), 11 by the Rolling Stones, 9 by Elvis Presley (but no Elvis Costello?), 9 by the Bee Gees, 9 by the 4 Seasons, 7 by the 5th Dimension, 7 by the Four Tops, 7 by either the Mamas and the Papas or Mama Cass solo, 6 by either the Supremes or Diana Ross solo, 6 by the Who, 5 by the Guess Who, 5 by Steely Dan, 5 by Frank Sinatra... I'd call this a solidly inclusive list, if a little light on '80s (only one R.E.M. and Talking Heads each? - they had a lot more near misses than that), but for '60s and '70s it's a massive Memory Flogger for those of us old enough to remember.

#58 is "Timothy" by the Buoys, the only "anywhere CLOSE to Top 10" song ever about an incident of cannibalism. (Notably written by Rupert Holmes, who ultimately settled down to write about Pina Coladas)

My all-time favorite "driving song"... #60 "Sausalito Summernight" by Diesel. (I think this was playing when I pulled over for the ONLY speeding ticket in my driving life)

The Infamous 'First Video Ever Played on MTV', "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles never got higher than 40 on the Top 40 and is #489 here.

And #1040, at the bottom of the list? "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band (the Official Video here is insanely awesome).
"

I remember watching that first video...
posted by Samizdata at 6:52 AM on May 12


YELLOW RIVER

This song strikes me as a passably good album track (as in not a single) from a passably good pop/rock combo, and nothing more. The kind of tune that is, well, very forgettable. Nothing especially *bad* about it, you understand, but almost nothing to recommend it as even a single release, much less a Top 10 single.

And there you have it, the last of my capsule reviews of the top 10 on the list of tunes that ostensibly should've cracked the Top 10. But lest you think I am merely a nattering nabob of negativity, dear friends, let me take just another moment to list some of the tunes from the list that I think should indeed have been Top Tenners:

BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX
AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
FRIDAY ON MY MIND
HOLD ON! I'M COMIN'
DON'T WORRY BABY
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
SHOUT
EIGHT MILES HIGH
LITTLE GREEN BAG
TINY DANCER
LA BAMBA
IN THE MIDNIGHT HOUR
AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG
WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE
THE WEIGHT
CHANGES
PUSH IT
SPACE ODDITY
DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD
DON'T PLAY THAT SONG

…and many others on the list. Of course, you look at those titles and realize they didn't make it and you think, well, the Top 10 is BULLSHIT! And indeed, it is!

Oh, and ALFIE? The Dionne Warwick rendition? That didn't crack the Top 10? Criminal.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:54 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


The Connells, "Slackjawed"
posted by kirkaracha at 6:59 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


These would be in a Tarantino movie before they would be in an Anderson movie.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:00 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Glad to see Tony Christie's Is This The Way To Amarillo on the list. It's catchy as all get-out and should have at LEAST made the top 40. Although perhaps this odd promo video had something to do with it. See Tony's head get larger and larger!!
posted by JanetLand at 7:33 AM on May 12


Also catchy, and good for dancing around while doing dishes, Concrete & Clay, by Unit Four plus Two.
posted by JanetLand at 7:39 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


"Is it bad I really like the Bioshock Infinite cover of it? It works really well with a barbershopish quartet. "

The Beach Boys did an acapella version of God Only Knows.
posted by HuronBob at 7:40 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


HuronBob: ""Is it bad I really like the Bioshock Infinite cover of it? It works really well with a barbershopish quartet. "

The Beach Boys did an acapella version of God Only Knows .
"

Nice. Cheers on the share! (not the biggest Beach Boys fan, so this was news to me.)
posted by Samizdata at 7:47 AM on May 12


Gorgeous pop-rock from an underrated band - Starz / Cherry Baby. Should have been huge.
posted by davebush at 8:39 AM on May 12


flapjax at midnite: ""God Only Knows" was one of the first pop songs to use the word "God" in its title, a decision that Wilson and Asher agonized over, fearing it would not get airplay as a result."

Seriously, they could have left the lyric as is and just kept "God" out of the title, and that probably would have been enough.

But as it is, for religious people it's taking the lord's name in vain, and for non-religious people it's a little embarrassing in its earnestness. Those thoughts are easily swept away by the gorgeousness and pleasure of the song, but burdening the title with "God" means not being allowed to forget getting past that sticking point.
posted by desuetude at 8:39 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Nothing But A Heartache is one of my favorite songs and if Wes Anderson turns it into another one of his extended ads for Anthropologie I will be very upset.

Anyway, it's not on youtube, but here's a spotify link to a local band covering it quite well:

https://play.spotify.com/track/50epdO7QO2LnJyX2lhE9qX
posted by lumpenprole at 8:49 AM on May 12


It's a fitting illustration of my wife and I that when she hears "God Only Knows", she thinks of the end of "Love Actually" and when I hear it, I think of the end of "Boogie Nights".
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:16 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


The Easybeats - Friday On My Mind 1967 #1 on the Australian and Dutch charts, 16 on Billboard and #6 in the UK. Written by Vanda & Young.

Covered by Bowie on his Pin Ups LP, said by Harry Vanda to be "the only cover I really liked."

Garry Moore 80's HAIR WARNING!

Covered by Springsteen earlier this year in Sydney.

From a recent RockWiz Vanda and Young tribute show, Steve Kilbey (of The Church) and friends rock out in MY favourite version.

OI!
posted by Duke999R at 9:55 AM on May 12


It feels like a bit of a weird list, but then I grew up with the UK charts rather than the US, so I'm sure there's a similar list to be compiled of "it really should have been a hit" on the UK charts covering stuff which were massive hits in the US.

Regarding God Only Knows, I forget where I first saw this mentioned - maybe somewhere on Tom Ewing's Freaky Trigger - but someone pointed out that it takes some chutzpah to start what is one of the all-time great songs about love with the line "I may not always love you ..."

Which is right up there with the start of Unchained Melody: "You never close your eyes anymore, when I kiss your lips." How does he know that? Yeah, he doesn't close his eyes either.
posted by Len at 9:58 AM on May 12 [4 favorites]


(Actually, that's "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".. "Unchained Melody" starts off "Oh my love, my darling, I've hungered for your touch a long, lonely time..")
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:47 AM on May 12


Nerd of the North -

Yes, sorry, you're absolutely right. I am idiot.
posted by Len at 12:28 PM on May 12


Why didn't Wilson and Asher just change the title to, say, "What I'd Be Without You"?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:55 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


"What I Like About You" by The Romantics is #28.

I have this theory that certain songs benefit from the lack of success of an earlier, better song. "Talking in Your Sleep," by The Romantics, was a Top 10 hit. I propose that the reason "Talking in Your Sleep" made it to the top 10 (#3, in fact) was because "What I Like About You" grew in esteem in popularity after it had failed to reach the top 10 (or, indeed, the top 40).

I attribute this largely to music industry incompetence. An executive doesn't realize the song they have on hand is going to be huge, so they don't promote it. It does poorly initially, but over time becomes popular and leads the company to think "Oh, shit, if we'd just promoted that, we'd have made a mint." In response, they promote the hell out of the next single, whether it is a great song or not.

I argue that this is true of "Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band ("The Break-Up Song" should have been a bigger hit) and everything after "Red Skies" and "Stand or Fall" by The Fixx (though, to be fair, "One Thing Leads To Another" is also arguably their finest song). There are many others, but I can't think of them off the top of my head because my brain hurts.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:37 PM on May 12



This list is quite heavy on the 60s and 70s, definitely to a fault. Not to be overly pedantic but they should qualify this list as such.

There only ONE song from 2000 or newer, Bon Jovi's 'it's my life' which for a pop song wasn't THAT bad and for being released in 2000, didn't become a top 10 hit because 'pop' (to mean popular) was becoming redefined: the billboard top 10 in 2000 was dominated by teen pop groups r&b, rap, and country ... The little rock that existed (in American pop culture) was the limp bizkit/linkin-park/"nu-metal" scene.

(I was 13 in '00 and didn't know that pop != teen pop until a couple years later),
posted by fizzix at 2:49 PM on May 12



On the plus side, this led me to create a theme for my mefi mixtape swap: songs that I'm surprised never became a commercial hit!
posted by fizzix at 3:03 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Some of these really surprise me. I remember Just What I Needed being in constant rotation on my local radio station. Ditto Ah! Leah! and Sweet Talking' Woman. Others- well, I can't think of any reason why Mull of Kintyre would be a hit in the U.S. It's a sentimental tune about a place that Americans have never heard of and can't pronounce. I can just imagine djs across the nation saying "What the fuck is a mull, anyway?" and flipping it over to play Girl's School*.


*which is a terrible tune. But perfectly comprehensible to an American.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:51 PM on May 12


Yeah, there are several tracks on there that seemed like they were being played everywhere at the time. One of the last items by year, Fields of Gold by Sting, was inescapable in 1993. Believe me, I tried.
posted by gimonca at 4:28 PM on May 12


An odd thing to note is that the number of songs in the list, 1040, happens to be the number of weeks in exactly 20 years.

So, in order for these to have all been #1, we simply have to remove 20 years worth of existing #1 songs.

Step 1: Limit all existing #1 hits to one week.
Step 2: Develop a consensus as to which songs to remove from #1 until 20 years worth are cleared.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit!

(Step 5: Repeat annually!)
posted by 1367 at 5:13 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I'll add my own -- and I've long thought this song worthy of much more attention -- Reggie Garner: "Hotline" (1976).

Ritchie Unterberger once said (of the group "Mouse and the Traps", vis-a-vis Bob Dylan), that we, culturally, look down upon imitators. But that when the imitator can capture the essence -- can (in their imitation) build upon and improve aspects of the original... that that should absolutely be celebrated, and that most frequently it isn't. The opposite is true, in fact.

The Reggie Garner track linked is an imitation pastiche of many Motown acts of the three years previous... (notably the Jackson Five). But damned if it doesn't improve on most of them. Just my two cents.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 5:23 PM on May 12


Reggie Garner: "Hotline."

Hotline was big in Wigan Casino back in the day. I'm pretty sure I still have my original release on Capitol 45.

Lamont Dozier's Fish Ain't Bitin is a record that I always thought deserved more love.

God Only Knows reached number 2 in the UK charts. Probably because we're a godless culture over here.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:25 PM on May 12


Oh, and ALFIE? The Dionne Warwick rendition? That didn't crack the Top 10?

It's Our Cilla's song and surprisingly, Cilla kicked Dionne's ass on this one.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:42 PM on May 12


Cilla kicked Dionne's ass on this one.

Can't agree with you there, PeterMcDermott. I know that Cilla version, and it's impressive as hell. And not just for her vocal performance, but for the stunningly professional, harkening-back-to-another-era, all-in-one-take-orchestra-and-singer-together thing. Sends shivers down my spine, actually: that clip is a treasure. But for my money, Dionne's calm, effortlessly relaxed, mellow and smoky version trumps Cilla's balls-to-the-wall vocal workout. I think it's a more appropriate and fitting reading of the song.

We're clearly in the area of personal taste here, obviously.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:27 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


The bear in the room here is that this is using Billboard as a source. During this period, Billboard was constantly breaking out charts for different genres. Anything that wasn't generic Rock and Roll that made the Hot 100 was labeled a "crossover" song.

Radio stations were fragmenting too. There was Rock, MOR (Middle of Road), AOR (Album oriented Rock), R&B, Country, Beautiful Music (usually automated), and others. Radio stations were winning major markets with 5 shares! That is, 5% of the listening audience won the market. So stations were constantly switching formats and tweaking playlists to get a slightly larger share (and more ad revenue).

Record companies also controlled what got released and promoted from albums. And it was often only those songs that got charted. Some artists would release several songs from an LP before one took off and made the artist a big star.

Many stations didn't even use Billboard. There were lots of specialty magazines, subscription newsletters, compiled playlists, and other sources.

So gist of nitpick: using Billboard as a source for what was Top Ten (or popular) is questionable. Needs more sauce/source.
posted by CrowGoat at 2:11 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


"Nothing But A Heartache" was one of Art Bell's favorite choices for bumper music and once even interviewed The Flirtations on Coast To Coast. It's where I first heard them.
posted by quartzcity at 6:57 PM on May 13


We're clearly in the area of personal taste here, obviously.

I don't even think it's that, Flapjax. I'm just rooting for the local kid. FWIW, I think pretty well everything else she did sucked.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:31 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]



Oh, and ALFIE? The Dionne Warwick rendition? That didn't crack the Top 10? Criminal.


Yeah. . . . what's that all about.

 
posted by Herodios at 7:02 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


« Older "Ethically Impossible" STD Research in Guatemala   |   There's no place like [home]. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post