The single stiffed, but…
Every once in a while I get to thinking about songs that everyone knows–or, at least that have achieved huge popularity and recognition–that were not hit singles. My case in point is The Romantics‘ “What I Like About You.” Everybody knows that song. It didn’t make the Top 40, though.
There are various reasons why such a song might take off later rather than sooner: maybe it had poor distribution or bad PR in the first place, maybe later it gets used in a commercial or movie or (now) videogame.
I have a few criteria in mind.
- I am talking about songs that were released as singles only–so no “Stairway to Heaven” and what have you. No album tracks. That’s a separate category.
- By “not a hit single” I mean it didn’t make the Top 40. I know that the invocation of Top 40 skews the discussion away from modern times when the Top 40 as we knew it has ceased to have any meaning whatsoever. Special pleading is welcome.
- Most subjective is “everyone knows it.” Use your judgement. Polling data are not required. A once-obscure song that is later used in a movie or commercial does not necessarily translate into a song that everyone knows. The 13th Floor Elevators‘ “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is known by a lot more people because of its use in High Fidelity, but most people don’t know it. We’re looking for major penetration into people’s brains here.