Once again a "hit" is defined as a song that landed into the Billboard Top 40, not the alterna-rock charts, not the country charts, not the radio playlists, the POP charts.
Granted, this is not the perfect measure of an artist's worth. Album-Oriented-Rock was just that and cared much less about singles and these days nearly every decent musician barely skims the charts if at all.
But pop hits are what everyone experiences, even against their will. They're the songs that pipe through the culture and cause future historians to skew their perceptions. Movie makers enjoy playing up the camp value of days bygone. And we innocent listeners wonder how some of these songs ever made it out of the garage or the corporate office while loving other songs unconditionally.
Let's enjoy ourselves here, as I handpick artists from across the spectrum to represent the musicians who have two songs everyone should know.
24) Barenaked Ladies -- "One Week," "Pinch Me": I don't think I know either of these songs and nothing in my contract says I have to listen to the tunes I pick out. "One Week," though, did spend exactly one week at #1 in the U.S., but only made it to #3 in Canada, who preferred to send "It's All Been Done" to #1, while the U.S. was happy with #44. Canadians liked "Pinch Me" more than us, but I'd like to interview actual Canadians before I accept these chart positions.
Nothing made sense.
22) The Black Crowes -- "Hard To Handle," "She Talks To Angels": On something called the U.S Mainstream Rock Tracks, a Billboard chart invented apparently to make rock bands feel better about themselves, The Black Crowes are wildly successful. 22 hits, in fact. The U.K. even likes them more than we do. In the U.S., those two hits, from their first album are all that non-rock people could stand. By their third album Amorica, it's as if the band and label just gave up trying to market their songs to non-rock radio. Weird.
20) Brownsville Station -- "Smokin' In the Boys Room," "Kings of the Party": So, Brownsville Station should be as popular as Blue Oyster Cult! I'll be part of a new openness here and admit I have no idea what "Kings of the Party" is, but unlike Berlin, who I sincerely don't wish to research, I am curious to hear this tune…OK, I'm back. I listened to it. These guys are really into "talking" on their songs. Not sure how much I want to buy albums by guys who talk through their songs. I gave up on Lou Reed for this reason many years ago. Though when these guys rock, they really sound like those bar bands I've been trying to avoid for my entire life.
18) Elvis Costello -- "Everyday I Write The Book," "Veronica": I won't go into such great detail here, but let's just say "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" went to #16, "Oliver's Army" went to #2. "I Cant Stand Up For Falling Down" went to #4 and "Pills and Soap" went to #16. Seriously, "Pills and Soap" charted better in the U.K. than "Everyday I Write The Book." Yeah, we won the Revolutionary War! But at what cost?
16) EMF -- "Unbelievable," "Lies": There was a brief period of time where it looked as if EMF would be a lasting concern. Their first album Schubert Dip went to #12 and scored these two singles along with two others ("I Believe," "Children") that went into the rock charts. But then grunge took over and we couldn't do two things at once.
14) SSG Barry Sadler -- "The Ballad Of The Green Berets," "The 'A' Team": Most people conscious of the 1960s remember the "Ballad," but the follow-up album with the follow-up single did a bit worse. From what I know, The Mr. T. television program did not use SSG Sadler's 1966 hit "The 'A' Team" for their theme song, a mistake in creative that just goes to show the kind of commie bastards we had running our family entertainment back in the good ol' days!
12) Men Without Hats -- "The Safety Dance," "Pop Goes The World": Is it my imagination or do Men Without Hats usually get trotted out as a One Hit Wonder? The always semi-reliable Wikipedia gets it wrong, if a book called The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits can be believed! "Pop Goes The World" landed at #20!
10) Strawberry Alarm Clock -- "Incense and Peppermints," "Tomorrow": If you name yourself the Strawberry Alarm Clock, you're pretty much guaranteeing yourself a future of about 18 months. Maybe in modern times, this wouldn't be the case, but by the second and third flash of psychedelia, it was obvious that bands with groovy names and heady song titles would be shown the way to the country-rock pastures before the decade was out.
8) Los Lobos -- "Come On, Let's Go," "La Bamba": Gee, you'd think they'd have a third hit with that other Ritchie Valens tune "Donna." Not sure what happened there. We would never expect a band as musically talented as Los Lobos to have a hit of their own. Besides, their "classic" album Kiko was made with producer Mitchell Froom, who is for people who want great reviews, not big hits.
6) Jethro Tull -- "Living In The Past," "Bungle In the Jungle": This Grammy-winning Heavy Metal band also were quite the pop-jingle machine with these nifty, catchy tunes where the flute takes its rightful place as the ultimate pop music instrument. The flute craze took over grammar school bands and even college freshman music classes like Introduction to Music, where everyone learned to play "Lady of Spain," a song never covered by Jethro Tull, to my knowledge.
4) Kris Kristofferson -- "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)," "Why Me": Of all the songs Kris wrote, these are the two he got in front of us. I can accept that he never struck with "Me and Bobby McGee," but not with "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"? Country artists always re-record each other's songs without penalty. He was always best narrating TV specials anyway. His job on Marvin Gaye: Behind the Music is epic.
2) Pink Floyd -- "Money," "Another Brick In the Wall (Part II)": Imagine no album charts, it's easy if you try. Most rock bands would be rendered irrelevant and Pink Floyd would never get the chance to make either of these songs. Or in the rare possibility they do -- boy, that "See Emily Play" single bought them a lot of second chances -- the context for "Money" never surfaces and budgets force it to sound like that early demo that floats around. Forget "Brick in the Wall." No way the label waits around four years for the follow-up to that Norwegian hit "Wish You Were Here."
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