Many musicians claim they never look at the pop charts. It's easy to see why. Even if you succeed in getting your music heard and into the hands of fans, there's never any guarantee that alleged payola makes it into the alleged right hands. If things are on the up and up and you have a decent-sized hit, there's still a chance that some other — less good — song will block it from being the No. 1 song in the land. Just ask Creedence Clearwater Revival, who had a string of No. 2 hits without ever hitting No. 1.
Here are popular songs that never made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Charts. Some made it to No. 1 at Adult-Contemporary or Modern Rock or Songs My Mother Likes, but they just missed the top prize. So, essentially, none of these songs is no "We Built This City"!
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper — OK, maybe it was because this was her first hit single and people needed to get warmed up. Maybe radio folks didn't know what to do with her yet. "Time After Time" went to No. 1, after all. Who understands why some songs have "broad appeal" and others do not? "Money Changes Everything" never even came close to the top 10, and it's often cited as a favorite among fans.
"Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen — The first time the song hit the charts, it went to No. 9. Then Wayne's World rescued it again and it went to No. 2. I'm counting on someone re-releasing it a third time in about 10 years and then it will reach No. 1. Third time's a charm!
"Tears in Heaven," Eric Clapton — Considering how this song was everywhere in the 1990s and how everyone knew the tragic story of Clapton son falling out of a window, you'd think this was a sureshot No. 1. It captivated the hearts and minds of a generation. Or not! Maybe listeners were too busy crying to buy it.
"Dancing in the Dark," Bruce Springsteen — "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield was a bigger hit than anything in the Bruce Springsteen catalog, which explains why… Rick consistently outsells Bruce on the concert circuit? Even "Blinded by the Light" was a No. 1 for Manfred Mann, after they altered the song. Sorry, Bruce, but the people have spoken. It was a nice ride while it lasted, but you might want to see if they've reopened the textile mill in Freehold.
"Under the Bridge," Red Hot Chili Peppers — The group's biggest hit really bugged their hardcore fans — well, the ones I met, anyhow. It didn't sound like their usual stuff. But that was the way for "alternative" bands for years — for most rock bands, really, throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Since I never was "emotionally invested" in these boys, I liked the hit just fine. I guess I'm the lemming they were after.
"Open Arms," Journey — You mean to tell me this prom anthem never went to No. 1? In fact, Journey never had a No. 1 hit? "Don't Stop Believin'" did worse, only going to No. 9? It's as if everything I ever learned in childhood is wrong. You mean you're not my real father? What about that lady over there? Who's she?
"Start Me Up," The Rolling Stones — While I'm giving career advice, I suggest the Rolling Stones drop this dud from their live sets. Stick to the No. 1 hits, which means "the people" want to hear the following: "Satisfaction," "Get Off of My Cloud," "Paint It Black," 'Ruby Tuesday," "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar," "Angie," and "Miss You" in a medley. Then clear the stage for those Black Eyed Peas!
"Fergalicious," Fergie — Speaking of the Black Eyed Peas, the lone female Peas' "London Bridge" and "Glamorous" went to No. 1, but this sucker stalled! Which surprises me, since I was sure it was in her contract that every song must go to No. 1 or else someone gets fired! Maybe Fergie's to blame for high unemployment.
"Born to Be Wild," Steppenwolf — I guess enough people weren't born to be wild. Had the song been called "Born to Live in the Suburbs and Be Domesticated," the song might have been more relatable and been a No. 1 hit.
"Complicated," Avril Lavigne — OK, it's narcissistic of me to think if I remember a pop song that the entire world must be remembering it, too. But as a casual radio listener, it takes a little something extra to make me notice a song and I assume there are many other casual radio listeners who need that something extra to connect. Fact is, I can still sing the chorus without having to think twice. You, too?
"Proud Mary," Creedence Clearwater Revival — What was it about Creedence that prevented them from ever reaching No. 1? Was it that the band name sounded like an environmental commission? Whatever the case, "Proud Mary" began a string of singles that reached No. 2, including "Bad Moon Rising," "Green River," "Travelin' Band," and "Lookin' Out My Back Door." On the bright side, had these guys formed today, they likely wouldn't have any hits at all!
"YMCA," Village People — Even if you didn't live through the times when the Village People were known everywhere and their songs were being piped through supermarkets, drug stores, athletic events, and car dealership sales drives, you surely can hear just how catchy this tune right here is. But in the end, the Village People never had a No. 1 hit. You could say, like many of the artists on this list, "They were no Milli Vanilli."