Hits You Never Heard Of, Part 3
by Chuck Eddy | July 19, 2012
So, this playlist is the third in a series that's still got quite a ways to go (you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here), and I have a confession to make: I don't really know which "hits you never heard of." In fact, I'd wager that many people reading this have actually heard at least a couple of the oldies I've compiled here. And if forced to guess which one the most folks reading have heard, I'd probably go with the playlist's first track: Gwen Guthrie's financially realistic "Ain't Nothin' Goin' on but the Rent," which went No. 42 pop and No. 1 R&B in 1986. So I might well be cheating by opening with that one, and including a few others -- maybe Aussie faux-New Wave duo Flash and The Pan's 1979 "Hey St. Peter," maybe New York frat-rappers Fun Lovin' Criminals' 1996 "Scooby Snacks," maybe Brit garage-disco trio 5000 Volts' 1975 "I'm on Fire," Maybe who knows what. But the way I see it, even if you did hear those once, odds are excellent you haven't heard them in a long while, since nobody talks about them anymore. Plus, they're really good.And most of the other songs are way more obscure than that bunch. Or obscure to me, anyway -- there's a stretch of '90s hip-hop in the middle, starting with John Forte and encompassing G-Wiz, Group Home, Kid Frost, and Funkdoobiest, that might just be new to my ears because I wasn't paying close attention to the genre at the time; as always, your mileage may vary. But even if it does, I bet you're clueless about most of the other selections - just like I was, before I found them. Which, by the way, occurred thusly: Paging alphabetically through a dog-eared physical copy of Joel Whitburn's Billboard Hot 100 guide Top Pop Singles 1955-1999, beginning with the middle F's (which is where I left off last time) and proceeding through the early H's. Then, whenever a title made me wonder what the heck it was, I listened to find out whether it was good enough to add. An imperfect method -- but hey, it's worked so far.
Unintentionally but perhaps intriguingly if you're as much a geek as I am, eight of the 38 songs this time were released in the '90s, but only the first two - by Gwen Guthrie and the late Ronnie Montrose's techy-crafty AOR foursome Gamma - came out in the '80s, and the latter's record, "I'm Alive," hit the Hot 100 that decade's very first week. With this project, I'm assuming that hits from the 21st century are not distant enough to have truly fallen through the cracks yet. But there are plenty from the '50s, '60s. and '70s, the oldest being the pre-Bob Villa hillbilly home-renovation lament "This Ole House" by Western movie cowboy Stuart Hamblen, which actually first charted in late 1954 -- two years after Hamblen "ran for president on the Prohibition Party ticket," Whitburn says! -- but stayed in the Hot 100 long enough to make the book's 1955 cutoff.
Two other country songs show up, plus a few pop-ish rockers, lots of lovely girl-group-ish '60s soul, some disco and doo-wop, something Italian, and, as usual, a pack of absurd novelty ditties: Larry Groce gorging on junk food in 1978 (Top 10 then, though radio has maybe understandably ignored it ever since); The Frantics and Five Blobs getting all spooky-ooky about werewolves and blobs, respectively, in 1960 and 1958; Gerry Granahan complaining that his date's sack dress precludes distinguishing her front from her back in 1958's #23 hit "No Chemise, Please." There was a fad for such garments, apparently -- you learn something new (like these songs) every day!