Wednesday, December 24, 2014

You'll Never Guess Which Hits Were Their Biggest!

I have theory (yes, another one): The more hits a classic act has had, the more likely the biggest one is to be something totally unexpected.

Take one of the greatest hitmakers of all time. "Hey Jude" spent more weeks (9) at No. 1 than any other Beatles single, but is it anyone's favorite Beatles song? Does anyone consider "Hey Jude" synonymous with the band? The Beatles racked up a number of signature early, mid- and late-period songs, and I wouldn't list "Hey Jude" among them.

Now consider ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. His longest-running post-Beatles No. 1 wasn't "Band on the Run" or "Silly Love Songs" or any of his other '70s radio staples. It was "Ebony and Ivory," his 1982 duet with Stevie Wonder that ruled Billboard's Hot 100 for seven weeks, which is as long at the top as the No. 1 runs of Wonder's "Superstition," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "You Haven't Done Nothin'," "I Wish" and "Sir Duke" combined.

Here are 11 other superstars with surprise biggest hits.

Bob Marley Believe it or not, not one of the reggae icon's iconic singles ever made it into the U.S. Top 40. Not "No Woman, No Cry," "One Love" or "Is This Love," all of which were Top 10 UK hits. Marley's only Hot 100 entry ever was "Roots, Rock, Reggae," which peaked at No. 51 in 1976 and despite its lack of Marley classic status, ranks among his finest work.

Bee Gees "Staying Alive" was the trio's disco signature, but "Night Fever" spent five more weeks at No. 1. Eight weeks on top isn't such a big deal these days, but in the '70s, it was virtually unheard of.

Depeche Mode Quick, name a DM song! Chances are you cited "Just Can't Get Enough" (which didn't even chart in the U.S.) or "People Are People" (No. 13), not the band's lone U.S. Top 10, "Enjoy the Silence," which climbed to No. 8 in 1990.

Donna Fargo She went down in history for "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.," but "Funny Face" brought the '70s country superstar her greatest chart success. While both hit No. 1 on the country side, Fargo's signature song peaked at No. 11 on the Hot 100, six rungs below the peak Top 10 spot of "Funny Face."

Duran Duran If you lived through the '80s, you definitely remember the band's two U.S. No. 1's ("The Reflex" and "A View to a Kill"), but you'd be forgiven for thinking that "Hungry Like the Wolf" (No. 3) or the non-U.S.-charting "Girls on Film" were bigger. I still can't believe they weren't.

Elton John Even if you don't count "Candle in the Wind 1997," which was a monster by association (with Princess Diana's untimely death), the Elton single that spent the most weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. wasn't either of the two arguably most associated with him, neither of which even went Top 5: "Your Song" (No. 8) and "Rocket Man" (No. 6). It was -- surprise! -- "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," his duet with Kiki Dee that spent four weeks at the Hot 100 summit in 1976 and was the No. 2 Billboard single of that year. Curiously, though Elton is most highly regarded for slower, more contemplative '70s songs like "Daniel," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Tiny Dancer," with the exception of his cover of The Beatles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," his No. 1 '70s hits ("Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets," "Philadelphia Freedom," "Island Girl" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart") were all uptempo.

Fleetwood Mac "Dreams" was the band's only U.S. chart-topper, but it's not even the most highly regarded Stevie Nicks-penned FM song, an honor that would more likely go to "Rihannon" (No. 11), "Sara" (No. 7) or the non-single "Landslide."

Gordon Lightfoot It was going to be toss-up between him and John Lennon, but since I vividly remember "(Just Like) Starting Over" being massive in the aftermath of Lennon's 1980 death, I can believe it was bigger than "Imagine" (No. 3). I'm surprised "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" and not Lennon's solo signature wasn't his other No. 1, but "Starting Over" makes that a moot point in this post. Which brings me to Gordon Lightfoot. "Sundown," the singer-songwriter's only U.S. No. 1, is a fantastic song, but am I the only one who would have expected "If You Could Read My Mind," which was resurrected as a '90s dance hit by Stars on 54, to have been bigger?

Janet Jackson I remember "That's the Way Love Goes" being huge in 1993, eight-weeks-at-No.-1 huge. But is it the first song anyone thinks about when they think about Miss Jackson-if-you're-nasty?

Madonna "Holiday" never made the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100; "Material Girl" stalled in the runner-up slot; and "Into the Groove" was never even a U.S. single. The Madonna song that spent one more week at the top than "Like A Virgin" (seven) was a now-all-but-forgotten ballad written by Babyface. When is the last time you heard "Take a Bow" (not the Rihanna No. 1 of the same title)?

Van Morrison The fantastic "Domino" (No. 9, 1970) bested his signature "Brown Eyed Girl" by one notch. Who said Americans have poor taste in music? Well, I did, but "Domino" is proof that they occasionally get it right.

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