Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blast from the Past: Songs that Should have Been Hits

Yes, this is a rerun, but I've added two new "shoulda beens" to the end!

For this week's Blast from the Past, I'm going to see how many songs I can find that are examples of great songs that either barely hit the Billboard charts, or didn't even break through at all. And I'm sure I'll only crack the surface here. These are the kinds of songs that you either know because they were on an album you played a lot, sometimes on a Greatest Hits collection with some "extras" that really weren't. Or it's an attempt at a comeback from an established star that just didn't do the trick. Whatever it is, these songs all have the makings of a hit, but just. . .weren't for some reason. See how many you know.

1. Ring Ring by ABBA (1973) - This early tune by the Swedish quartet managed to make several world-wide charts, some to number one. But it didn't chart in the states at all. It should have.

2. On and On and On by ABBA (1980) - A later track by the same group had all the makings of a hit (and the by now standard repeating title of many of their others), but only hit #90 in the US. It was still very catchy, and should have been a hit.

3. I'm Gonna Be Strong by Cyndi Lauper (1994) - According to Lauper, this is the song that got her a recording contract. Small wonder. I've always wondered what could have happened if Lauper had been a contestant on American Idol, and belted this out. It's amazing.

4. You Don't Know by Cyndi Lauper (1997) - As you can now tell, I have some favorite artists who have several songs I think should have been hits. This one was probably hampered by an album track that was slow and languid. This dance version is one of my favorites, a song about the stupidity of bigotry.

5. Quantum Mechanic by Thomas Dolby and Dr. Fiorella Terenzi (1994) - This great tune from the Gate to the Mind's Eye soundtrack always made me happy. And should have been released.

6. UMF by Duran Duran (1993) - One of several tracks from "The Wedding Album," something of a comeback album that did have a couple of hits. UMF stands for "ultimate mind f**k," thought the profanity is never uttered.

7. Only You by Pat Benatar (1997) - Again, a great album, chock full of great tunes, but it still couldn't revive Benatar's hit-making career.

8. Try by Billy Pilgrim (1994) - I saw this band when they opened for Melissa Etheridge on tour. I bought their album, and totally dug it. This is one of their best songs, and it turned up on a compilation or two, but didn't really go anywhere. Great harmonies.

9. Rock D.J. by Robbie Williams (2000) - This incredibly catchy dance tune was a hit around the world, but didn't manage more than #24 on the dance chart in the US. Maybe it had something to do with the gory, out-of-left-field video.

10. Little Bird by Annie Lennox (1993) - This is (along with a couple of other tracks that didn't chart) one of my favorite Lennox tunes. Amazing that I didn't do better.

11. One by One by Cher (1996) - Like the Cyndi Lauper tune, You Don't Know above, this one had a down-tempo album version, and this spirited dance version. The dance version charted at #6, the album version at #52. I'm fairly certain it was this song's performance that made Cher go straight for dance releases like Believe after this.

12. That's What I Think by Cyndi Lauper (1993) - Another Lauper tune, I can't help myself. I think she's been criminally overlooked. This one she even plays the recorder. I remember her blowing David Letterman away when she performed it on his show.

And that will wrap it up for now. I realized as I was writing that there are many, many songs I listen to that were never hits but seemingly could have been. Give these a listen, and look forward to another edition. This one is worth a sequel. (or a rerun, heh)

Happy Monday!

BONUS: Here's the Letterman clip.

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