Let's face it 3rd place in the music biz is like showing up. Somehow the forces of nature decided your little song didn't have the oom-pah necessary to make that final push for the #1 spot. It's like the Little Engine That Really Couldn't. Yet, just about every song listed below is a stone classic either on radio or in the annals of music history. Classic rock stations may have never played James Brown because he's too…uh, hey, certainly looks like rain out there! But dang if they haven't loaded their playlists with these almost supersmashes!
25) Green Onions -- Booker T. and the MG's: Is there a guy over 50 who "tinkles the ivories" who doesn't play a mutated version of this tune. I'm under 50 and I mess with it all the time. Even people who don't play the organ know this is an iconic instrumental. An instrumental! Maybe that's why it never made it to #1? Quick, get somebody to rap over this thing, will ya?
24) Smokin' In The Boys Room -- Brownsville Station: I'd like to think it was songs like this that led to social change. In my case, by the time I got to high school they provided a smoking lounge to keep the bathrooms considerably less smoky. They put this lounge in the middle of the school where there was a cement yard not unlike a prison yard. They closed it down years after I left and now it's a legend! So glad to be a part of history!
23) Just The Way You Are -- Billy Joel: Even people who would never venture into New York City at night and who would certainly never enter a nightclub enjoy the idea of this song where our Billy Joel sings sentimental about love before divorce.
22) Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport -- Rolf Harris: Who cares what this sounds like? Look at that title!
21) Spill The Wine -- Eric Burdon and War: What a great world it was! I don't mean to sound like one of those old people who says that when they were young that was music. But consider the fact that I was too young to be conscious when this was a #3 hit and I've always considered the hits of the era before I could walk as being demonstrably better than the years I'm supposed to look back fondly upon. It doesn't mean there aren't simply wonderful songs out there today. It just means that it's highly unlikely they will make a cultural impact on any level. Because the machine is in charge now! Music by machines for machines!
20) Surfin' U.S.A. -- The Beach Boys: I'm pretty sure the reason this didn't go to #1 is because not everybody had an ocean and those who didn't were extremely bitter about it. I don't blame them. I'm bitter and I have limited access. No wonder they call them red states.
19) Hot Blooded -- Foreigner: Before there was the Gaslight Anthem, there was Foreigner out there hyperventilating and breaking out their Free records for mass consumption. At least it's hard rock. Foreigner would soon find the joys of pious arena-pop which always sounded more like divas gone wild than a functioning unit. No, I don't want to know what love is. Depends upon what you mean by 'is.'
18) I Never Promised You A Rose Garden -- Lynn Anderson: I'm sure there are plenty of youngsters who have no idea what this song is. Maybe even this entire list! But then I threw off Alicia Keys to put Lynn Anderson here, since I don't think "the kids" know who Alicia Keys is either. Unless she has an iPhone named after her. I don't know that I've even heard this song in decades, but I know the chorus like any semi-conscious human being who lived the decades that followed should. There's a reason for those late-night infomercials. Someone has to educate the masses.
17) Buffalo Stance -- Neneh Cherry: One of those songs that transcends genres and stubborn people. Sure, it's the freaky electronics of the tune that turn your head -- or did back when it debuted -- but there's still plenty of humanity here. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part.
16) Give Me Just A Little More Time -- Chairmen of the Board: Now being used to sell room deodorizer or car insurance or something, the tune is one of those infectious little monsters that causes everyone in the car to bounce up and down. Because dancing would get unruly.
15) I Got You (I Feel Good) -- James Brown: This is the closest James Brown ever got to #1. "Living In America" was stopped at #4. That most of good modern music is based on Brown's inventions was surely never lost on Brown himself. If there has ever been a performer who needs to be seen in order to get it, it's JB. Rent the T.A.M.I. show for starters and then tell me Rush put on a "great" show.
14) In the Summertime -- Mungo Jerry: They released it in the summertime, so it wasn't like they screwed that up. Sure, it's a junky little song, but it captures the sound of sweat and lazing in the park so perfectly that I wish I actually spent more time at the park playing my acoustic guitar and staring at the trees. But I don't have any friends and have to stay home and write this blog. Working for the man!
13) Whatta Man -- Salt-n-Pepa with En Vogue: Back when there were actually magazines to write for, I contributed to a female-directed publication where somehow every article I was assigned led me back to Salt-n-Pepa's "Whatta Man" and Queen Latifah's "Ladies First" (which for the record didn't chart into the Top 40). I always preferred the video for obvious reasons. Can I admit that?
12) Sign O' The Times -- Prince: The first time I ever heard "When Doves Cry" (a #1 hit), I was amazed that something so avant-garde could make it to #1. Large masses of people like weird? By the time Prince got to "Sign O' The Times," people were on to his game, his minimalism, his quirky canned rhythms, his socially relevant lyrics…his purpleness. I'll take it! Home!
11) Drive -- The Cars: Someone let Ben Orr sing a tune! C'mon Ocasek! You know your band needed hits. And this was just what you needed, har har. You would think a tune called "Drive" would have more, uh "drive," but then R.E.M. did the same freakin' thing with their "Drive" song, which only made it to #28, despite their record company pushing the crap out of the thing since they'd sunk the GDP of a small nation into them.
10) They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! -- Napoleon XIV: I guess novelty records should be glad they chart at all. Weird Al never had a tune make it this high on the charts. Lesson here, kids: learn to brood.
9) Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic -- The Police: I'd have been more surprised if "Every Breath You Take" hadn't made it to #1 (it did). This and "King of Pain" stuck to #3. Can you imagine a band in the late 1960s calling themselves The Police?
8) Time of the Season -- The Zombies: The band had broken up. Their singer got a job in insurance, while another guy formed Argent which coincidentally happened to be his last name. The album, Odessey and Oracle, was a spelling nightmare and mostly ignored upon initial release. It is now an established masterwork, though not to be confused with anything by White Zombie.
7) Baby I'm - A Want You -- Bread: Only "Make It With You" hit #1. The rest of this band's E-Z listening catalog performed worse. Odd, since who doesn't think of the early 1970s without Bread? Adult-contemporary placed it at #1, but they grade on a curve. Hard rock fans who held the group in contempt likely found a way to like them "ironically" when Thurston Moore appeared in a documentary and sang their praises. Or was that another documentary I'm thinking of? Sorry, Thirsty, I can't keep track.
6) Oh Sherrie -- Steve Perry: Journey never had a #1 pop hit and neither did their singer, Steve Perry, who didn't so much light up my life as nearly burn it down. I had no control over the radio at work and had to choose to live while hearing this song every day for an entire summer. Do you have any idea how hard it is to maintain hope in that situation? What if the future is like this? Turns out in the future, I controlled my own damn radio!
5) Love Shack -- The B-52's: This and "Roam" made it to #3. "Rock Lobster" never made it into the top 40 (#56, folks). No "Planet Claire" (only on the dance charts), but they did inspire John Lennon to resume his recording career. So, someone important understood their worth early on! By 1989, U.S. audiences were ready for New Wave. How charming.
4) Secret Agent Man -- Johnny Rivers: "Poor Side of Town" went to #1. "Memphis" hit #2. But "Secret Agent Man" simply wasn't made to be a #1 tune. I think this is sorta like hitting for the cycle in pop music terms, since no one cares about #4 hits, not even me.
3) Don't Stop -- Fleetwood Mac: Maybe it was because everyone bought Rumours and didn't bother with singles so much that the only #1 hit Fleetwood Mac ever had was "Dreams." Stevie struck one for stuffed animal rock! Christine and Lindsey couldn't compete with that.
2) Sexual Healing -- Marvin Gaye: These days there's cursing on my TV. On my TV! Considering how much they used to edit things for the little screen, I'm amazed. I've never seen an uncut version of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, since I've caught it two dozens times on TV and never got around to renting the real version. Think of how much information I'm missing because of censors! What about Phoebe Cates? I imagine these days listeners wouldn't even flinch when hearing a song called "Sexual Healing," but when I was a kid, it was like, he said WHAT? Mom, what's that?
1) Jumpin' Jack Flash -- The Rolling Stones: The idea that there were two songs more important in the 1960s seems hard to believe. But, clearly "The Horse" by Cliff Nobles & Co. (#2) and "This Guy's In Love With You" by Herb Alpert (#1) were far better songs. Who doesn't prefer to hear those tunes, huh? One thing I've learned about life is that the charts are always right and I am always wrong! I have wasted my life! You, too?
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