If you’re reading this, then I’ll just bet:
Since you were about, let’s say, three years old, or so…
… you remember the magic of hearing music come out of the magic little box called “the radio.”
And if you are one of those weird and wonderful ones who subsequently morphed from casual listener to certified chart geek? Then you have earned the right to tell the world: you have great ears.
Go ahead. Brag. Take out an ad. You know your stuff. All these these years later, you can cite, within a reasonable margin of error, exactly how your faves did on the charts.
Until the day that you get fooled. Tricked. Owned.
It’s true for even the most knowledgeable of listeners: Sometimes, you’ll be bopping along to a favorite, and try to recall its top chart position. Lessee… that was a Top 10? Top 5? Hmm… Did it sputter at a soul-crushing #2?
Because you strive for accuracy, you do your research.
And then you learn that your beloved tune didn’t make it anywhere near the Top Twenty – in fact, it never saw the light of day on the Top 40.
I don’t know if it’s my rapidly aging brain, or some other unexplainable anomaly. But I have to admit it: I have been shocked, shocked, over the past couple of years on several occasions. Records that I could have sworn were bigger hits than our friends at Billboard had tabulated as such, are – while great pieces of music – chart floppers.
I should be an expert at this by now. The only consolation – maybe – is that misery loves company?
Let’s have a look at twenty tortuous examples of this phenomenon, ranked by increasing incredulity.
Is anyone else surprised at the numbers below?
Don’t Stop Me Now
If you remember this as a top 10, then you were a UK radio fan. Like many songs from the Queen discography, TV and movie placement have made this recognizable in the States – but it wasn’t a hit like it was across the pond.
An 80’s standout by Paul Simon. It may not have been a true hit, but the Grammys thought otherwise, and named it Record Of The Year. But purely as a single, it came up short, running out of gas in the lower 20% of the Hot 100.
Even though the typical Pearl Jam fan was likely an album buyer, you’d still think that this classic would have done better on the singles charts.
1983: #78, 1990: #76
I Melt With You
For goodness sakes. A song that was:
– a mainstay during the MTV imperial phase
– popular on radio, and in dance clubs
– featured in the movie Valley Girl
…stalled at #78? It seems impossible. Even when Modern English re-recorded the record in 1990, it still never cracked the Top 40.
1977: #68, 1983: #84
Released as a single from his debut solo album, it managed to get all the way up to #13 – but only in the UK. The live version released a few years later fared even worse.
OK, we admit that this one was not as big a record as No Parking On The Dance Floor, but… this one was everywhere in 1983. A #66 peak seems weirdly inaccurate.
Goodbye To You
Scandal Featuring Patty Smyth
Maybe it’s because I liked The Warrior so much, that I remembered this to be a stronger follow-up song than it was. In any event, Goodbye To You feels at least 40 positions in the wrong direction.
I Want Candy
Bow Wow Wow
Top 10 in London, but engine failure in the States. And why? Bow Wow Wow had the look, the sound, and that snappy little guitar hook. This record deserved more than #62.
Sharp Dressed Man
#56? Impossible. Sure, Legs was the bigger hit for the band, but not even cracking the Top 40 seems way off. Especially considering that this song was the followup to the perhaps lesser Gimme All Your Lovin’. Go figure.
New Year’s Day
Well, now, it’s getting personal. I know; they were just beginning to break in the US. But with the best dank-and-bleak piano sound of all time, New Year’s Day is just about my favorite U2 record. I humbly request a recount.
1982: #45 – 1983: #50
Should I Stay or Should I Go
When this record failed to make Top 40, the record company decided to try again a year later. It still failed, actually doing a bit worse. Oddly, it sort of hit #1 in the UK eight years later, as the flip side to Big Audio Dynamite’s Rush. A victory of sorts, albeit on a technicality.
There She Goes
So catchy, with just the right amount of circa-1965-throwback, Beatlesque guitar work. But apparently, it wasn’t enough to make it it a big hit. But you can’t keep a good song down: Eight years later, a version by Sixpence None The Richer made it to #14.
Seriously? Who doesn’t know this record? Another crazy-good songwriting example of many by Difford and Tilbrook. And Paul Carrack is singing lead? How could this not be a Top 10 record? Maybe we can blame the inexperienced producer. Oh, sorry – that would be Elvis Costello. Yikes!
Highway to Hell
Here’s how obvious a hit this record is: Springsteen has covered it in concert. And probably Paul Anka, too.The next time we see folks nodding their heads and singing along. we’ll not mention that it stopped moving at #47.
Another sorta silly – but ubiquitous MTV staple. For the “more, more, mores” alone, this should have fared better on the charts.
For the joyous Americana feel and the fun handclaps alone, this had to be a Top 10 record, anyway. Right? Nope. Yer out. And for what many would say was one of Fogerty’s career best, it’s a surprise at #45.
You learn something new all the time. Prior to last month, I had been living my life not knowing that David Bowie’s Changes was not a top 5 record. Can’t be right. (I’ll still show off and casually tell folks that his real name is David Jones. I need to keep up some appearance of knowingness.)
That Thing You Do!
I don’t care if The Wonders weren’t a real band – this is a great record that deserved to be in the Top 10 (preferably landing at Number 7, for you fans of the film.) Mike Viola’s vocal and the late Adam Schlesinger’s perfect-pop songwriting make this “fake” record better than many “real” records of 1996.