Monday, December 28, 2009

Shoulda-Been Hits

I write a lot here about songs that I think "shoulda bn hits." In fact, writing about them is 1 of the main 4ces that drive this blog -- the idea of trying 2 point people toward great overlooked music.
I 1st Bcame fully aware of the shoulda-bn-hit syndrome when I started getting 2 know the Moody Blues' catalog around age 15. As I played those 1st 7 Moodies albums over&over (in my bedroom, w/ the headphones clamped over my head), it struck me how many REALLY GREAT SONGS they'd released, only a handful of which I'd ever heard on the radio. & I wondered why that was.
Summa the songs just leapt right outta the speakers at me, undeniably great 4got10 rock&roll: "You and Me," "It's Up to You," "Peak Hour" (even tho it sounds like their beat-band days, a faint echo of the Dave Clark 5), "You Can Never Go Home," "Eyes of a Child (Part Two)," "Gypsy," "Twilight Time," "Don't You Feel Small?," "Our Guessing Game," "One More Time to Live," "For My Lady," "Land of Make-Believe".... & later on I discovered the killer B-side "Simple Game" (released backing the shoulda-bn-bigger hit "Ride My See-Saw" -- those "doo-doo-doo" choruses get me every time).
This Xperience continued as I got 2 know the Beatles' catalog a little better. I already knew they had TONS of songs I sometimes heard on the radio that I'd never find in the 45 bins at my fave local record store. (I knew I couldn't find some of this stuff on singles cos of LENGTH -- but I'm sure there were other reasons, 4 all artists: Record Companies R clueless, Radio can't B bothered, artists don't always know their best work.)
But also apparently back in the '60s the Beatles (or Capitol/EMI, or whoever) didn't Blieve in saturating the market w/ lotsa songs from 1 album as often happens these days. & the Beatles COULD have had 2wice as many hits -- hardta Blieve Capitol Records woulda held back, considering how they spread-out the Fabs' output as it was (10 songs per album rather than the standard British 14 in the early days, holding back a coupla trax 4 use as a later single....).
& the Fab 4's best stuff still blows right outta the speakers at U -- an immediate, obvious, thrilling musical Xperience. In some other reality's Top 40 they probly had 100 hits, summa which U can still hear on Oldies stations 2day, whether they were ever singles or not: "There's a Place," "Thank You Girl," "Tell Me Why," "Any Time at All," "Things We Said Today," "I'll Be Back," "No Reply," "I'm a Loser," "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," "I'm Down" (the B-side 2 "Help!"), "The Night Before," "I Need You," "It's Only Love," "In My Life," "Wait," "Taxman," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "For No One," "...Me and My Monkey," "Helter Skelter," "I Will," "Old Brown Shoe," "Oh! Darling," "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" ... They sure Blieved in giving fans their $$$'s worth. Surely if the Fabs were just making it big 2day the Music Industry would milk these songs 4 all they were worth (as U could almost say IS Bing done w/ the recent re-release of their Ntire catalog, etc).
As I looked in2 summa my other faves, this syndrome kept repeating. I already knew my ear was a little off at age 12 when I liked stuff that didn't Cm 2 catch NEbody else's ear 4 very long (the Wackers, Casey Kelly, Johnathon King, Billy Lee Riley, Chris Hodge....), but as I was then geared 2 hearing stuff played on the radio, it was a bit of a shock 2 later find that bands as out-there as Yes had radio-ready stuff in their less-complex early days (a cover of the Beatles' "Every Little Thing," "Looking Around," "Sweet Dreams," "Time and a Word"), & even later had shorter songs well worthy of radio airplay ("Wonderous Stories," "Into the Lens"), but radio didn't bother. I thot "Wonderous Stories" sounded enuf like "Your Move" 2 gain a play or 2, but I was wrong -- tho it made Top 10 in England (at the height of Punk Rock!).
If the key aspects of a hit R Xcitement, immediacy, impact, some of my faves had this stuff DOWN -- at least at times. So then I started wondering what was wrong w/ Radio if the best, most grabbing stuff was going unheard. Hell, even King Crimson had some grabby stuff that wouldn't shock people 2 much if it was played on the radio: "Frame By Frame," "Sleepless," "The Great Deceiver," "Happy With What You Have to be Happy With" -- OK, mayB the housewives'd B shocked, but mosta this stuff wouldn't shock listeners of yr avg Album Rock station (Xcept 2 wonder how this stuff got on the air in the 1st place). & all those songs R Xciting, immediate, grabby #'s w/ lotsa impact. So...?
There's an obvious reason why "Money" was the hit from Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON -- Bcos it was the most immediate, catchiest, most easily-accessible song on the whole album. MayB not the BEST -- that'd B "Us and Them." But I couldn't C that ever Bing a hit. Or "The Great Gig in the Sky".... THE WALL hadda LOT of great stuff on it, but "Another Brick" was the EZest 4 the most people 2 get in2. Then later on some folks latched on2 "Comfortably Numb" or "Run Like Hell," which have Bcome Album Rock Classics. Whereas "The Trial," "In the Flesh?" & "One of My Turns" (the original B-side 2 "Another Brick") could never have bn radio hits, 4 some fairly obvious reasons....
This could quickly Dgenerate in2 a list, which I'm hoping 2 avoid. I just wonder why more obviously great music isn't heard by more people. My Record Store boss had a theory that music that ain't dead-obvious goes right over most people's heads. We agreed Caravan was as EZ 2 Njoy as Fleetwood Mac, so why didn't Caravan ever make it big? Cos no1 ever heard them. Why? Cos Radio couldn't B bothered.
Caravan had some great poppy songs -- London Records even released a single of "Headloss" in America. That's a very HAPPY song, but it's like starting a novel in the middle -- the really stunning MUSIC was in the "Memory Lain/Hugh" sections that R the 1st 2/3rds of that suite. Still, worth a shot.... Other Caravan #'s that coulda/shoulda gained radio play: "Place of My Own," "The World is Yours," "Aristocracy," "Can You Hear Me?," "Golf Girl," "Surprise, Surprise," "Be All Right," "All the Way."
I was kinda shocked when Kansas broke-thru 2 big success in the late '70s -- they were an American, slightly-boogieized version of British art-rock, mayB slightly simpler. & I played LEFTOVERTURE 2 DEATH! But as I dug in2 their catalog, I learned they had some pretty poppy-yet-distinctive stuff from the Bginning. From their 1st album, "Journey from MariaBronn" was as striking as their later "Song for America," & a little shorter. They coulda gotten Clive Davis 2 do a good single-edit 4 them -- he always did a great job 4 Chicago ("Beginnings," "Questions 67 & 68"), or at least he always took the credit.... Summa Kansas's later stuff mixed radio briefness w/ complexity: "Reason to Be," "Back Door" -- & 1/2 of LEFTOVERTURE coulda bn hits: "Miracles Out of Nowhere," "What's On My Mind," "Questions of My Childhood" (issued as the B-side of "Carry On, Wayward Son")....
Speaking of Chicago, they had enuf hits, but what about summa their misses? I know why "Just You and Me" & "Feeling Stronger Every Day" were hits -- they both had that sunny, big-horn sound so many people liked. But on the same album, Peter Cetera's "In Terms of Two" coulda bn a hit -- but it didn't sound much like Chicago, more like "Oh, Susannah" w/ harmonica & guitar added & great choruses....
Boston had summa their best stuff ignored by radio. "Hitch a Ride" off their 1st album was a gorgeous, haunting # w/ a great gtr solo at the Nd. & Brad Delp's pretty, catchy, no-frills "Used to Bad News" on the 2nd album was thrown away as the B-side of "Feelin' Satisfied." "It's Easy" was pretty great 2, but U never heard it on the radio. "A Man I'll Never Be" shoulda bn a bigger hit, 2....
I feel this way about Tom Petty's "Even the Losers," 2. Great song, 2 bad U never hear it unless U put it on yrself....
Fleetwood Mac did a ton of great songs that over the yrs have Bcome Classic Rock Radio faves, even if they were never hits 2 Bgin w/ -- "The Chain," "Landslide," "Songbird," etc. But where's the airplay & recognition 4 greats like "I Know I'm Not Wrong," "The Farmer's Daughter," "Wish You Were Here," "World Turning," "Silver Springs," "Isn't it Midnight?," "Tango in the Night," etc....
A lotta Rush's post-1982 stuff has bn kinda ignored, & I think it's their best stuff song-construction-wise: "Time Stand Still," "Force Ten," "Mystic Rhythms," "Manhattan Project," "Distant Early Warning," "Marathon," "Show Don't Tell"....
Jefferson Starship did some great overlooked late-'70s stuff. FREEDOM AT POINT ZERO has some great 4got10 stuff on it, especially the driving title track & the gorgeous "Fading Lady Light." FREEDOM was 4 yrs my fave record 2 do dishes by, just like FMac's TUSK was my fave music 2 clean house by -- shoulda added FREEDOM 2 my "Top 40 Most Reliable" list awhile back....
Why did Cream's "Badge" tank in America? Probly the prettiest thing they ever did, w/ killer jagged & shimmering gtr work by Eric Clapton, it's Bcome an Album Rock Classic but barely made the Top 60 as a single in '69, even tho it made Top 30 in England....
Buffalo Springfield coulda had more than 1 Top 40 hit -- Ghod knows they had the talent & quick-impact songs: "Bluebird," "Mr. Soul," "On the Way Home," "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," "Rock and Roll Woman"....
The Turtles coulda broken thru a few more times, w/ stuff like the great singalong "We'll Meet Again" & the gorgeous "Lady-O"....
...I was still workin at the record store when the Moodies' LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER Bcame a suprise #1 hit. As a longtime Moodies fan, I was happy I was around 2 C it. & after Polygram wisely chose the ELO-ish "Gemini Dream" & the rather pretty "The Voice" as singles from the album, they followed-up w/ "Talking Out of Turn," a pretty but slow-moving 6-min ballad that was guaranteed 2 get ZERO airplay. & DID.
Meanwhile, great tracks like the gorgeous "Meanwhile," the rather Barry-Manilow-ish "Nervous" & the almost-rockin "Veteran Cosmic Rocker" were ignored (tho "Rocker" was actually chosen as the B-side of "Talking"). It was at this point that I Bcame convinced that record companies have no idea what they're doing....
I've mainly bn babbling on about my faverites here, as usual. I'd B intrested in hearing from y'all out there about some of yr choices 4 great overlooked shoulda-bn-hits -- I'm sure there R 1,000's more of them out there. Specially something from the last 20 yrs or so....

3 comments:

drewzepmeister said...

Some of favorite tunes are often the lesser known tunes off of most any album. The ones that get little or no airplay. Take Rush "Moving Pictures" for example. Everybody has heard Tom Sawyer a million tunes. I prefer to listen to The Camera Eye. I these kind of tunes deep cuts.

That is reason way I stopped caring about chart standings and album sales years ago.

tad said...

Drew: "The Camera Eye" is my faverite track on MOVING PICTURES, & I'm also a big fan of "Red Barchetta." "Tom Sawyer" & "Limelight," as good as they were, got way overplayed, 2 me. How come it Cms like almost no1 ever heard the 2nd side of that album? -- TAD.

drewzepmeister said...

I don't know Tad, don't have a clue.