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by Chuck Eddy

June 16, 2014

Hits You Never Heard Of, Pt. 14

by Chuck Eddy  |  June 16, 2014

Rhapsody's investigation of Hot 100 hits that almost nobody remembers from the second half of the 20th century has reached its 14th chapter now. And since the project requires turning page after page of Joel Whitburn's Billboard reference book Top Pop Singles 1955-1999, that means a generous flock of mostly obscure artists whose names start with "R." As does the word "rockabilly," which might explain why this playlist's first several songs all sound like something Cramps fans would appreciate: The Revels' zombie-haunted 1959 "Midnight Stroll"; Jody Reynolds' eventually Gun Club and MC5-covered 1958 "Fire of Love"; adolescent sextet The Rock-A-Teens' crazed 1959 "Woo-Hoo"; The Rumblers' even wilder '63 instrumental "Boss," which later inspired The Cramps' own "Garbageman." And that's just the beginning.

From there, the mix moves to fast-dancing R&B: The Royal Jokers' 1955 "You Tickle Me Baby" (one of a couple songs here featuring laughter); Round Robin in 1964; Jackie Ross in 1965. Then Timmie Rogers bids adieu to summer vacation in 1957's "Back to School Again," which segues educationally into Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds' infrequently-recorded-under-their-own-name band Rockpile getting hot for teacher in 1980. Later, West Virginia group The Rose Garden's 1967 "Next Plane to London" contrasts travelogue-wise with Tejano country star Johnny Rodriguez's 1973 "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico," though neither journey sounds half as decadent as Montreal-born Hi-NRG mannequin Robey's 1985 "One Night in Bangkok."

Speaking of crossing borders, Ivo Robic's "Morgen," which went to No. 13 in 1959, is a rare German "schlager" song to score stateside, even though he came from Yugoslavia. Jack Ross' 1962 "Happy Jose (Ching Ching)" and Lee Ritenour's 1981 "Is It You?" both partake in remnants of Latin rhythm. But more common here are artists straddling the border between hard rock and funk: 1969 Californians Rhinoceros; 1980 Skynyrd spinoff the Rossington Collins Band and Mitch Ryder/Detroit Wheels spinoff The Rockets; biracial 1989 Brits Roachford; Free-covering 1975 Ohio soul-disco diva Lea Roberts. Eventually Toronto's Rough Trade and Rhode Island's Rubber Rodeo contribute some minor-league early '80s synth-pop; Chic's Nile Rodgers opens his only charting solo single, 1985's No. 88 "Let's Go Out Tonight," with faux Asian touches; and Richie Rich, then Rodney O & Joe Cooley end it all with supremely bounce-able mid-'90s hip-hop. By then, we're obviously very far from Cramps Land -- but still having a party.

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