Friday, May 07, 2010

Weekend Listomania (Special For All Sad Words of Tongue and Pen... Audio/Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental hand/groin coordination consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be off to...oh hell, the ongoing oil gusher in the Gulf has left me too depressed to even try to make a joke at the expense of one of those Republican idiots who are still advocating drilling.

In any case, during the next few days I'll be trying to lower my blood pressure over this whole business, so further posting by moi will be sporadic as a result.

But in the meantime, here's a fun little project for us all:

Best Post-Breakup-of-the-Beatles Pop/Rock Single That Should Have Been a Huge Fricking Hit But Wasn't!!!

Self-explanatory, I think -- records that should have been chart toppers in a sane world -- and no arbitrary rules, except that we're not talking album cuts; they have to be tracks that were actually released to radio as singles in the United States of America AFTER early 1970. Of course, given that they haven't made any of those little seven inch records with the big holes in the center for quite some time now, I realize this puts some of our younger readers at a disadvantage. So if you care to nominate, say, some piece of crap by Creed that was actually sent out to deejays in some format or another, I'm not going to object.

And yes, I'm absolutely positive we've done this category (or something nearly identical) before, but I for one am certifying that all my choices are first-timers.

And that said, my totally top of my head Top Eight is:

8. The Subdudes -- All the Time in the World

This got so much play on New York rock radio in 1996 that I always assumed it was a worldwide smash, but apparently no, it wasn't. A great Rolling Stones by way of New Orleans slice of blues-rock, in any case; the guy on slide guitar is a mofo, as the kids say.

7. The Capris -- Morse Code of Love

Capris - Morse Code Of Love
Found at bee mp3 search engine
The last great doo-wop record? Well, maybe; it was recorded in 1982 when somebody at CBS(!) decided it might be fun to do a series of albums featuring some of the surviving first-generation vocal groups. The Capris (of "There's a Moon Out Tonight" fame) actually wrote the tune themselves, and it took awhile for it to impinge on the public consciousness; Manhattan Transfer did a cover that got a fair amount of airplay in the 90s and most people still think it's an actual oldie from the Golden Age. Whatever -- a perfect song and performance, I think.

6. Billy Bremner -- Laughter Turns to Tears

From 1984, one of those terrific Stiff singles that, er, deserved not to stiff. Written and produced by the great Rockpile guitarist along with Will Birch of The Records; I recently discovered that the Hollies did a more or less note for note cover in 1985, but that wasn't a hit either. Pity.

5. Stevie Wright -- Hard Road

From the former Easybeats lead singer's solo debut album, and as infectious a piece of guitar-driven rock-and-roll as could be heard anywhere in 1974. Produced and written by the great Vanda-Young team, obviously, and frankly I can think of like fifty Vanda-Young records that could have made the list; Rod Stewart covered this one, unmemorably, on one of his last decent solo albums.

4. New York Dolls -- Dance Like a Monkey

From their 2006 comeback album, and for my money maybe their best song ever. Great guitars, a Bo Diddley beat, and a hilarious skewering of Creationism -- what the hell more could you want?

3. Pere Ubu -- I Hear They Smoke the Barbecue

On balance, my favorite song from their two late 80s "commercial" albums, although I almost nominated "Breath" instead. David Thomas' voice may be an acquired taste, but this track is a complete natural under any circumstances.

2. Shocking Blue -- Serenade

These guys had broken up by the time (1974) this European album cut got released as a Stateside single by Buddah -- I actually owned a promo copy, a treasured possession for many years -- and it remains one of my all time obscure faves. The lyrics are gorgeous, despite the fact (or perhaps because) English is composer Robbie van Leeuwen's second language, and the interplay between the dry, scratchy electric guitar strums and the acoustic finger-picking is just great. And then, of course, there's that lead vocal by actual gypsy front woman Mariska is, as I am wont to say, to swoon.

And the Numero Uno after-the-dream-was-over single that should have done it but clearly didn't is...

1. Dion -- And the Night Stood Still

Anybody who knows me knows that I consider Diane Warren, who wrote this, not just the worst songwriter in the history of music, but quite literally the spawn of Satan. That said, this goddamn song works like gangbusters, and between Dave Edmunds' production (those tremolo guitars, or whatever the hell they are) and Dion's utterly convincing vocals I lose any vestige of critical objectivity whenever I listen to it. An absolute apotheosis of New York City street corner romanticism.

Alrighty, then -- and what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: best performance by a reptilian performer (animal or otherwise) -- is now up over at the new and weird Box Office site here. As always, if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment I'd be your best friend; you have to sign up to be able to do that, but it seems a small inconvenience.]


Dave said...

Some of my picks later, but just wanted to confirm that the Capris record was from Columbia, on a label called "Ambient Sound." I have the whole series, and especially love the Harptones and Capris albums.

"Morse Code" and the Dion songs are particular favorites of mine, but want to thank you so much for introducing me to the Billy Bremner song, which after two listens I might like more than the first two.

Dave said...

I think there are some repeats from a similar Listomania, but here goes:

"Someday Someway" and "Whenever You're On My Mind" (Marshall Crenshaw). You could pretty well predict MC's commercial future when neither of these two songs hit paydirt.

"I Love You Suzanne" (for me, Lou Reed's catchiest song)

"Does Your Mama Know About Me" (Billy Taylor and the Vancouvers). One of Motown's most beautiful ballads? Did the theme of racial intolerance keep it from getting airplay on top 40 stations?

"Tell Her No" (a Del Shannon masterpiece, in every way a worthy take on the Zombie's original)

"Fall at Your Feet" (Crowded House)

"If Not For You" (Bob Dylan) I don't blame AM radio for blowing off Dylan after "Self Portrait," but...

Peter said...

"Wild Weekend" - NRBQ

"A Girl Like That" - NRBQ

"Get That Gasoline" - NRBQ

I could go on.

"On the Wings of a Nightingale" - The Everly Brothers from their fabulous EB84 abum, each track of which could have been a hit single, it says here.

"Don't Do It" - The Band. Everything that was great about Levon and the Hawks distilled into 3 minutes.

Anonymous said...

The Kinks - One of the Survivors

Stevie Wright - Evie (P1) (Was a hit in Australia, not in the USA, does it still qualify?)

Bruce Springsteen - Spirit in the Night

The Who - Slip Kid

Pete Townshend & Angie - Peppermint Lump (The great Who single that wasn't a Who single)


Feral said...

Chris Whitley's "Big Sky Country". Sensual and moody.

And Steve, you know I'll agree with you on anything regarding the Subdudes. They should have been much bigger than they were/are.

steve simels said...

A big ditto for the Everly's "On the Wings of a Nightingale."

Sal Nunziato said...

Spider- New Romance (It's A Mystery)

Remember these guys? I think Anton Fig was the drummer.

What a chorus!

steve simels said...

Sal -- I never heard of that one. If you've got an mp3...

NYMary said...

I think I'm officially exempt from this category, lest I become a parody of myself.

BUT allow me to humbly suggest this 2007 track from Rooney: "I Should've been After You." They're photogenic, the song is radio-friendly, the family has connections (the lead singer is Talia Shire's kid)and they opened for the damn Jonas Brothers. What more does the star-making machinery want?

Gummo said...

Steve, thanks for including the Pere Ubu. In a sane world, both of the songs you mention would have been smash hits.

Same goes for just about anything by the Ramones, but I'll nominate "I Wanna Be Sedated" as one of the catchiest nonhit singles ever (at least, I think it was a single).

steve simels said...

It was a B-Side.

Jon said...

Willie Nile "Vagabond Moon"
Almost anything by the Hoodoo Gurus ("Bittersweet")
The Call "Let the Day Begin"

steve simels said...

Wasn't "Bittersweet" actually a hit?

John Fowler said...

Jon beat me to "Bittersweet", which still ranks as one of the very best songs of the 80's for me. And is my number one with a bullet why-was-it-not-a-hit mystery. It came out in '85, and was not a hit, except on college radio. Why wasn't it all over the airwaves, MTV??? I can't see that it was even out of the mainstream at the time, which included tracks from Tears for Fears & Simple Minds, for example.

The second 80's track I'll nominate is "Can't Hardly Wait", from the 'Mats Pleased to Meet Me, of course (1987). Now, to me, the album track is better than the single, which was remixed/produced by Jimmy Iovine, so that was maybe a strike against it; and there's the line about Jesus, which maybe made some radio stations pause. But, again, it's just =not= out of that time's mainstream, and the hook, vocals and lyrics are undeniably wonderful.

steves said...

Not sure if these were actually released as singles, but they've long ranked among my shoulda-been-a-big-hit contenders:

One of the catchiest hooks known to Man and Woman, IMHO: Utopia - Feet Don't Fail Me Now

And that this was never a monster smash is merely more proof that there is no god: Gary Brooker - Lead Me to the Water

steves said...

Damn, my links vanished. Guess I'll do this the old-school way.


Gary Brooker:

cuddlefish said...

"Starry Eyes" - The Records
"Lee Remick" - The Go-Betweens
"Tally Ho!" - The Clean
"I Can't Cry" - The Silencers
"Blue" - The Jayhawks
The Ramones "She Talks to Rainbows" should have been a single.

John Fowler said...

PS. Steve, these were all just great nom's this week, and I hadn't actually heard even =one=. Sheltered life, whatever...

steve simels said...


I'd forgotten that Gary Brooker. Wonderful, thanks!!!!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I would also like to point out that "Starry Eyes", with lyrics adapted to their experiences in Florida, also tanked for Too Much Joy while maintaining all the catchiness of the original.

David said...

Bittersweet and Starry Eyes--totally!
As for Pere Ubu, hard to choose the best moments from those two LPs: I'm partial to "Breath," but "Waiting For Mary" is also pretty rad. Who'd a thunk these guys would have ever been this poppy?

Jeffrey said...

Brendan Benson Tiny Spark

For all know about radio it may very well have been a hit, but ever since I heard it at the end of the movie "World's Greatest Dad" I can't get enough of it.

Sal Nunziato said...


Feet Don't Fail Me Now was a European single, on SONY!!

James Lynch III said...

why no love for the dB's? "Black & White," "Neverland," "Amplifier," "Love Is For Lovers," I could go on!!!

steve simels said...

"Love is for Lovers..." The later dBs...

Ah, I swoon.

And if "Never Before and Never Again" wasn't a single, then it should have been....

Kevin said...

The Spider song Sal mentions is great, do find it, please.
The Harptones album had a great tune, "Love Needs a Heart," by Lowell George, Jackson Browne and others.
Always loved the Dion tune; great list overall (Bremner is a new one), thanks a "Million (Miles Away)"
Great unknowns/unmentioned so far include:
You Can Run by the Shake Shakes. Had it as a 45, would love to hear it again.
All Kindsa Girls by the Real Kids
Silver from The Searchers Sire era.
Rock and Roll Love Letter by Tim Moore.
Couldn't I Just Tell You.

Brooklyn Girl said...

I can't find any evidence that Little Feat's "All That You Dream" was ever released as a single (it didn't chart, that much I know), but if it wasn't, it should have been.

MBowen said...

Kirsty MacColl - "Walking Down Madison"

NRBQ - "Riding In My Car"

Aimee Mann - "That's Just What You Are"

Fairport Convention - "Meet On The Ledge"

DeepKarma said...

How about Cruel Girl by The Red Button .

Or maybe Tom Courtney by Yo La Tengo, although I'm not sure how well a YLT shout-out would go over around here

Marsupial said...

XTC's "Mayor of Simpleton". How could a song that 'hooky' not catch on?

I better not get started on Sparks or Game Theory songs...

Anonymous said...

Peter said...

The Featses "Easy to Slip" was a single and shouldabeenetc. And Utopia had one called "Crybaby" that I loved.

Anonymous said...

dwight twilley i'm on fire

David said...

"I'm On Fire" didn't crack the Top 10, but it did hit no. 16 on the Billboard chart in April 1975. Of course, Twilley only approached that level again in the early '80s with the fairly cheesy "Girls" and remains criminally under-appreciated to this I guess he deserves mention here.

John Shipley said...

"Mayor of Simpleton" was too Beatlesque, for lack of a better word, to be a hit. But I always thought "King for a Day" probably should have captured the zeitgeist.

What about Bram Thaikovsky's "Girl of My Dreams?"

Cleveland Jeff said...

Every NRBQ single release
Teacher Teacher by Rockpile
Open My Eyes by The Nazz
Welcome To The Boomtown by David and David
Half A Boy And Half A Man by Nick Lowe
A1 On The Jukebox by Dave Edmunds
Jewel-Eyed Judy by Fleetwood Mac
Caroline by Kirsty MacColl