Falling Through the Cracks By Donnie Thompson
Classic Hits That Weren’t
In the halcyon days of the top 40 single, a large portion of major label 45’s were released missing the charts, then disappearing into obscurity. Another portion nudged their way briefly into a coveted top 40 spot, yet barely remembered a year later. Finally, some made it to mega-hit status, forever etched into the public’s consciousness, and sometimes even then, having a rarely played b-side tagging along for the ride to the top. These are some records that fall into those categories. "Would–be" classic hits that have somehow managed to fall through the cracks so to speak, but worthy of seeking out for some spins.
Love’s Melody / Little Bit of Heaven – The Searchers (1981)
This song falls in the pop terrain somewhere between E. L. O. ’s "Hold on Tight" and the Bay City Roller’s version of "I Only Want to Be with You". Classic AM radio style music with a simple chorus and a jangly guitar lick. In reality, probably not what radio programmers were looking for in 1981, at least not by a former 60’s British invasion band.
Love Explosion / Time’s Going Slower – The Three O’ Clock (1988)
By 1988, after four albums and some personnel changes, L. A. "Paisley Underground" heroes The Three O’ Clock were running out of steam. Updating their sound with a new producer, they opted for the slick 1980’s style production complete with programmed drum sounds, and recorded a somewhat patchy final album. "Love Explosion" was the first single pulled from the album. Written by Ian Broudie of Lightning seeds, this bubbly up- tempo love song was a nice fit for the radio climate of 1988. The main hook of this record is its synthesizer riff which glues itself inside your head after one listen. Probably the catchiest Three O’ Clock single since their debut "Jet Fighter". Surprisingly this record did not chart.
Beggin’ / Dody – The Four Seasons (1967)
Beggin’ was a #16 hit in 1967 but the great thing about this record is it’s flip side, "Dody". Driven by a great guitar lick, handclaps and background vocals that are grunted and chanted, this rocking track evokes visions of white-booted go-go girls climbing into their cages to dance. Frankie Valli is in lust with a girl named Dody. The way he jumps into his falsetto for just one word in the whole song and the way he stretches the word "lipss… tick" is priceless.
Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime / Perfect Hostess – The Korgis (1980)
This haunting Beatle- esque ballad reached #18 and received a fair amount of radio exposure. Its wistful atmosphere is created to great effect by lone synthesizer and the repeating of just one simple verse and chorus. The Korgis were a duo who were former members of the 1970’s group Stackridge. Unfortunately none of their other singles made the top 40, relegating them to "one hit wonder" status.
Jill / New In Town – Gary Lewis and the Playboys (1967)
This track is from that brief golden period in 1967 when the pop single had reached a high level of sophistication yet still had not yet completely lost its innocence. Artists and producers mixing experimentation with big production was the order of the day and this was Gary Lewis and the Playboy’s contribution to the pot. This record fits nicely between the likes of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s "She’s Still a Mystery" and "Spanky and Our Gang’s "Sunday Mornin’". Written By the ace duo of Bonner & Gordon who wrote "Happy Together" and arranged by Jack Nitzsche, this beautiful mid- tempo piece is a "should-be" classic. It reached # 52 and thus remains obscured by The Playboys other well- known string of chart toppers.
It’s Different for Girls / Come On – Joe Jackson (1980)
This one charted one position shy of Billboards Hot 100. A melodious track steeped in the atmosphere of Elvis Costello’s "My Aim is True" album. Overshadowed by Joe Jackson’s huge radio hits, this is a "lost classic" of the new wave era.
Hold On / Passin’ Time – Badfinger (1981)
This great power pop record was an "almost" hit at #56. Powerful vocals and a memorable chorus mark this as hit material. The bridge in the middle of the song briefly "borrows" from The Beach Boy’s "God Only Knows" with its melody and even a lyric that goes "And if you ever doubt it, I’ll make you so sure about it". Unfortunately Badfinger’s curse of bad luck and tragedy turned this single into their swan song.
I’m Not In Love / Channel Swimmer – 10cc (1975)
Everyone is probably familiar with 10cc’s amazing pop creation "I’m Not In Love". That track alone makes this record invaluable, but holding its own on the flip side is the obscure track "Channel Swimmer". It’s a dead ringer for Paul McCartney and Wings at their very best. Coming off like an outtake from Wings’ "London Town" or "Speed of Sound" album it’s a wistful, slightly melancholic love song with breezy harmonies. Fans of 70’s Macca will like this. If you already have this record, flip it over and give "Channel Swimmer" a spin.
One Step Ahead / In the Wars – Split Enz (1981)
Split Enz guitarist and future Crowded House leader Neil Finn was just hitting his song writing stride when the Enz released this track. Neil expresses the uneasy angst of a foundering relationship beautifully with a pacing the floor- like tempo too quirky for dancing and too restless for relaxing. At the second verse keyboardist Eddie Rainer deftly kicks in with some clever synth licks that give the record an almost spooky quality. It’s not hard to imagine Colin Blunstone along with The Zombies wrapping his breathy vocals around this song some fifteen years earlier. Despite the fact the record has graphics laser- etched directly into the vinyl and the flip side is a non- album rarity, it only managed a #104 position on the chart.
Now its time for me to do research for all of you CD buyers who wish to hear these tracks. You can find "Loves Melody" on the Searcher’s CD "Sire Sessions" (Probably not the single mix though). "Dody" is on the Four Seasons CD "New Gold Hits", "Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime" is available on The Korgi’s CD "Dumb Waiters", "Jill" is on "The Best Of Gary Lewis and The Playboys" which is a budget CD released by EMI in their "10 Best" series. "It’s Different For Girls" is on "Steppin’ Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson". "One Step Ahead" is on "History Never Repeats: The Best Of Split Enz". The rest are currently digitally M.I.A.