We’re Number one! almost, because we’re number one 2!
|Jerry Lee Lewis
would only ever reach as high as #2
on Billboard’s Hot 100
Here are some great songs that just didn’t make it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 or R&B charts.
In my post on Little Richard I commented on his breakthrough single, “Tutti Frutti” that got stalled at #2 because “Great Pretender” by ‘The Platters’ would not budge from the #1 spot from the beginning of January through to the week ending March 10. I’ve run across this before so I decided to research how many of the old classic hit songs had the same fate and just didn’t get to the #1 spot. I’ve talked about many of these songs but when you look at the number that didn’t make it is a bit surprising. And do we remember them any less for being #2? Let’s show the song that kept them out of the top spot and see how it compares.
Here are the #2 songs I could find up to 1970 alone;
Jerry Lee Lewis released “Great Balls Of Fire” in 1957, recorded at Sun Studios and written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer. It was one of the top selling singles at the time at 5 million copies, it did manage to hit #1 on the Country Singles chart and #1 in the UK (January 1958) but got stalled out in 1958 on the Billboard Hot 100 by “At the Hop” from Danny & The Juniors which spent the first seven weeks at #1.
Elvis Presley’s version is one of over 420 covers of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss. In 1962 it peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 behind Joey Dee & The Starliters with “Peppermint Twist“. Elvis’s song did hit #1 in the UK for four weeks in 1962.
The Ronettes, “Be My Baby” (1963) was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector. While the song did chart #1 on Cash Box it stayed at #2 on Billboard and on the Canadian Charts. The song was blocked by the #1 “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, produced by Norman Petty who’s studio rose to fame with Buddy Holly and the Crickets. “Be My Baby” has been given high praise by The Beatles, Brian Wilson said he changed the way he wrote music and it was ranked the #1 “Girl Group” song by Billboard Magazine so this is an example of where the #2 song has outlived the success of the #1 song.
“You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore was one of five songs she had hit the charts in 1963 and another “It’s My Party” did make it to #1. Released late in the year “You Don’t Own Me” would move into 1964 and so would Lesley’s success but it got stopped at #2 by The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand“.
The Beatles cover of “Twist And Shout” (1964) would get stalled at #2 by none other than… themselves. “Can’t Buy Me Love” spent five weeks at the top spot and for many weeks the Beatles monopolized the charts, in addition to these two songs for one week the top five included “She Loves You” at #3, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” #4 and “Please Please Me” at #5. An achievement that has not been broken.
“Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen is a cult cover song if ever there was one, controversial for the sillests of reasons the somewhat unintelligible lyrics got it banned at many ‘puritan’ Radio Stations. That did not stop it from climbing the charts, yet only to be stopped somewhat ironically by ‘The Singing Nun’ with “Dominique“.
“Dancing in the Street” Martha (Reeves) and the Vandellas in 1964 reached #2 for two weeks behind a cover of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann.
Bob Dylan, it may come as a surprise is another artist that never had a #1 hit single on the Billboard Hot 100. “Like A Rolling Stone” in 1965 would spend two weeks behind The Beatles “Help“. He actually rarely hit the top ten but would have another #2 in 1966 with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” which was behind “Monday Monday” by The Mamas and the Papas.
Speaking of (The) Rolling Stones they had their “19th Nervous Breakdown” in 1966 because they got stuck for three weeks at #2 behind “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler.
And while I mention gun toting soldiers, a song called “Bang Bang” by Cher in 1966 peaked for one week at #2 behind “(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration” from the Righteous Brothers.
“Sunny” is an R&B (#3) classic by Bobby Hebb from 1966 and it was covered live by Billie Eilish just recently. In August of 1966 it held ironically at #2 for two weeks behind “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, which of course was surpassed the following week by another ‘sun’ song “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan. “Sunny” would be covered by Chér on her album of the same name also in 1966 but it failed to chart.
“Georgy Girl” by The Seekers from Australia would hit the charts late in 1966 and carry over to reach #2 for two weeks in February 1967 behind The Monkees “I’m a Believer“. 1967 was the year of the #2 with six more well remembered songs getting held out of #1; Frankie Valli going solo with, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You“, “Sweet Soul Music” by Arthur Conley, “I was Made to Love Her” Stevie Wonder, “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave, “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin and “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues.
Steppenwolf with a song many considered to be the first “Heavy Metal” tune “Born to be Wild” hit #2 in 1968 for three weeks. The #1 song for five weeks however was “People Got to be Free” by The Rascals.
“Proud Mary” by CCR in 1969 was such a good #2 it took two songs to keep it there, first it was “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone and next week it was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe. We all know the cover by Ike and Tina Turner from 1971, which reached #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B chart and that was good enough to earn a Grammy award for the duo in 1972.
Well that’s enough for one day I have a least a dozen more for the 1970’s alone!