‘Big’ Joe Turner

There are songs we hear every week, if not daily, that were never big hits in their time. Many were never released as singles, while others cracked the Top 100, only to flounder and fade away before they could reach the Top 40. (I’m talking the US Charts by the way, not the charts in UK, Australia, Europe, etc.) Songs released that were recorded by Black artists before the Civil Rights Movement dismantled Jim Crow where never played on White radio; Charlie Pride’s race was not mentioned when country music stations aired his music, and Loretta Lynn, a huge fan of his, was advised not to kiss him during the Country Music Awards back in those dim dark days. (She did anyway.)

In fact, most songs did not become hits until White artists re-recorded them, such as Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton’s Hound Dog, Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti, Richard Berry’s Louie Louie, Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff, and Gloria Jones’s Tainted Love. (This is hardly a surprise, though I will admit that I have never heard Pat Boone’s version of Little Richard’s song. It doesn’t get played on Oldies music stations here in North Carolina, at least none that I have listened to.)

Below follows a list of dozens of artists and songs that 1) were never hits at all; 2) barely cracked the Top 100; 3) did not make it to the Top 40; 4) were not ever released as singles. Some of these bands, ABBA for instance, had loads of hits outside the US, but only a couple in America. Some of the songs listed are only a few of many that the artist or group may have released that did not hit. At Last seemed to become extremely popular after the death of Etta James, as it began popping up in TV ads all over during the last couple of years. I’ll confess too that some of these songs had videos to accompany them, but you rarely saw them played (MTV & VH1 were all about the hits). 

ABBA – Money Money Money, Super Trouper

AC/DC – Highway to Hell, Thunderstruck

Aerosmith – Walk This Way

Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself, Rebel Yell

Billy Joel – Piano Man

Bob Seger – Horizontal Bop, Katmandu, Rock & Roll Never Forgets, The Fire Down Below

Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy

David Bowie – Changes

Def Leppard – Bringing On The Heartbreak

Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Etta James – At Last

Eurogliders – Heaven Must Be There

Heaven 17 – Let Me Go (made it to the dance charts but not the Top 40)

Herbie Hancock – Rockit

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Hey Joe, Purple Haze

Joe Turner – Corrine, Corrina

Journey – Don’t Stop Believing, Wheel In The Sky

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Led Zeppelin – Kashmir, Stairway to Heaven

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

Michael Jackson with Diana Ross – Ease On Down The Road

Missing Persons – Destination Unknown

Modern English – I Melt With You

Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ With Disaster

Newcleus – Jam On It

Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train

Paul McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink, The Ghost In You

Ritchie Valens – Come On Let’s Go

Squeeze – Tempted

Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely? (He refused to release this one as a single)

The Beatles – From Me To You, Here Comes The Sun

The Bee Gees – More Than A Woman (not released as a single)

The Cars – Good Times Roll

The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go

The Eagles – Desperado (never released as a single), Tequila Sunrise

The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter, Under My Thumb

The Romantics – What I Like About You

The Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men

The Who – Baba O’Riley (only released in the Netherlands)

U2 – New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name of Love)

Van Halen – Hot For Teacher

ZZ Top – La Grange, Sharp Dressed Man


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