Some classic rock staples here, along with some alternative rock legends with songs that didn’t make the top 40:
“Time for Me to Fly” – REO Speedwagon – #56 (1978), #77 (1980). Now a regular on classic rock stations, “Time for Me to Fly” originally flopped not once, but twice – the first time as a single from their horribly-named You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish, and the second time as a reissue from their “Greatest Hits” album – and this was before Hi Infidelity took the nation by storm. It must have been a short album, given that they had only three singles hit the Hot 100.
“Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top – #56 (1983). Whaaaat? This mainstay of Southern rock only hit #56? It seems like when it came out, every girl wasn’t crazy about “Sharp Dressed Man,” even though its predecessor, the weaker “Gimme All Your Lovin'” (but with the same drum beat) went to #37. They finally hit gold with the fourth single from that album, Eliminator, “Legs,” which was essentially the same song. In doing so, they became the first group to have the same song hit the Hot 100 under three different names.
“Rock Lobster” – The B-52’s – #56 (1980). Let’s face it: #56 for an Athens, Ga., party band’s first single isn’t bad at all. They had to wait another nine years for their first Top 10 hit, and songs such as “Planet Claire” and “Party Out of Bounds” didn’t even crack the Hot 100. For them to chart so high on their first single is pretty impressive.
“Only Happy When It Rains” – Garbage – #55 (1996). Garbage is a true mystery: A supergroup playing melodic but energetic, raucous alternative rock could only muster one Top 40 single and one Top 10 album. This song deserves better; it’s classic Garbage, with raw guitars and an infectious melody to go with the industrial drumbeat. Of course, “Push It,” “Special” and “When I Grow Up” suffered the same fate.
“Just Be Good To Me” – The SOS Band – #55 (1983). Before they made a star out of Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis wrote and produced this song by the Atlanta-based group the SOS Band. Somewhat mysterious, with synthesizers and a medium-tempo drum machine taking center stage, it’s different than most of what we were hearing in 1983.
“Right Now” – Van Halen – #55 (1992). A rare miss for Van Halen, “Right Now” was only the second single from the group to miss the Top 40 since 1984’s “Jump.” It may have been a case of too many keyboards and not enough rawkin’. Despite their next album going multi-platinum, the group would have only one more Top 40 hit, preferring to fight amongst themselves and change lead singers as often as they changed their socks.
“Change” – John Waite – #54 (1985). Many artists have had their first single be a ballad, and then fail when their second single is up-tempo; it’s as if the buying public expects another ballad, and any upbeat song is seen as weak or out of character. That’s what I think happened to John Waite, who hit the goldmine with the ballad “Missing You,” but failed to hit the top 40 with “Change.” He barely scraped the Top 40 with “Tears.”
“When You Say Nothing At All” – Alison Krauss – #53 (1995). The charts have never been kind to Alison Krauss, the winner of a record 27 Grammy awards. This was her only Hot 100 single, and it was surprisingly the only single to make the Top 10 on the Country chart. Good Lord, were there too many Garth Brooks songs around for people to pay attention to her? Sigh.
“Peek-A-Boo” – Siouxsie & the Banshees – #53 (1988). Chart success was something that really didn’t bother Siouxsie & the Banshees; while they had done well in their homeland of England, “Peek-A-Boo” was their first Hot 100 single in their 10-year existence. A bizarre song with backward percussion loops, the single hit #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. Siouxsie would finally hit the Top 40 three years later with the mainstream “Kiss Them for Me.”
“I Got You” – Split Enz – #53 (1980). Interesting that Split Enz floundered until Tim Finn’s younger brother Neil started writing songs for them. The master songwriter who went on to found Crowded House wrote this song, the first to go to #1 in their native New Zealand. The fact that it only reached #53 in the U.S….well, I’m out of excuses. I’m going to go throw out all my REO Speedwagon CDs now.