Twelve of Jay’s Favorite Songs You (Probably) Never Heard Of
In all my years listening to the radio and working in music radio for as long as I did, I came across many songs that I really liked, but never became smash hits. Or, maybe they were moderate hits, but you either don’t remember them or never heard them because the radio station you listened to never played them. So, here’s a dozen of some of my favorite songs that you (probably) never heard of.
The list isn’t in order of preference. I’ve chosen to list them chronologically, with the oldest first. Yeah, I know. I’m dating myself with this list……
THE WILDWEEDS –“NO GOOD TO CRY” (1967)
“Big” Al Anderson was the lead guitarist for the cult group NRBQ for nearly 20 years and then moved to Nashville, where he wrote hit songs for Trisha Yearwood, Diamond Reo, Vince Gill and the #1 hit “The Cowboy in Me” for Tim McGraw. Before NRBQ, Anderson was the lead guitarist and lead vocalist for this group, which had a regional hit with this song back when I was in high school. I was really surprised later when I found out it was only a hit in the Northeast. I always thought “No Good to Cry” was a pretty solid tune and should have been a national hit
SERGE GAINSBOURG AND JANE BIRKIN—“JE T’AIME (MOI NOM PLUS) (1969)
The song was originally recorded by Gainsbourg and his then-girlfriend Brigette Bardot in the Winter of 1967, but that version was not released until 1986. Gainsbourg then began dating Jane Birkin and they recorded the tune in 1968. Because of the overt sexuality of the song, it was rumored the two were actually in bed when they recorded it, but that was not true. The song would up being banned in many countries and denounced by the Vatican, but not before it became a smash hit….everywhere except the United States, where it was difficult to find radio stations that would take a chance on playing it. As a result, the song reached the top three in Europe, but in the US, it peaked at, ironically, #69. (Note: Some may find the content of this song offensive….and I wouldn’t play it real loud in the office.)
DIANE KOLBY—“HOLY MAN” (1970)
Kolby recorded one album for Columbia Records. This was the only song to chart from the album. It reached #67 in the US, and was a #1 record in Australia. Kolby disappeared from the music scene as quickly as she came onto it. Kolby reminds me of what Janis Joplin would have sounded like had she been a gospel singer. Rumor has it she’s living on a farm in Texas. I just know the woman could sing.
THE BUOYS—“TIMOTHY” (1971)
Signed to Scepter Records on a one-song deal, the Buoys had to do something to get noticed, so they purposely recorded something controversial so it would become “talked about.” And, it worked. The song chronicles three men trapped in a mine. When the men were rescued, there were only two left, with “Timothy” being the missing one. The strong suggestion of cannibalism got the song banned by many radio stations, but it still managed to reach the Top 20. The song was written (and the group managed) by Rupert Holmes, who scored a major hit several years later with “Escape (The Pina Colada Song.)” Who knew the dude was that warped? (Note: Some may find the lyrics offensive.)
DESMOND CHILD AND ROUGE—“OUR LOVE IS INSANE” (1978)
This band recorded two albums for Capitol Records in the late ’70’s. I own them both. The band appeared a couple of times on “Saturday Night Live,” and were friends of the late Gilda Radner. Their mixture of an urban sound with a rock edge was lost on the label, which never could figure out how to promote them. The band consisted of Child and three female singers with the collective name Rouge. This was their biggest commercial hit, a top 50 single that got lots of airplay in big cities. Child went on to become one of the most prolific songwriters in music history, writing (among others), “Dude Looks Like a Lady” and “Angel” (Aerosmith), “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” (Bon Jovi), “I Hate Myself for Lovin’ You” (Joan Jett) and “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “She Bangs” (Ricky Martin.) I saw this band perform in New Orleans and met them after the show. I was immediately smitten with Diana Grasselli, who does the lead vocals on this track.
This album was originally released in Australia by the group “Flowers,” but changed their name to Icehouse when the album was released worldwide because of licensing restrictions with another band of the same name. Icehouse had two big hits with “Electric Blue” and “Crazy” several years later, but I have always loved the haunting sound of this song more than the ones that became a big hit.
CHRIS DE BURGH—DON’T PAY THE FERRYMAN (1982)
Chris De Burgh, of course, had a mega-hit record with the incredibly wimpy “The Lady in Red,” but I always felt he was his best as a rocker. This song, whose subject matter is believed to have some connection to mythology, tells the story of a man on a ferry. Bad weather hits and the ferryman demands payment during the storm. The narrator advises against it. This is really good plain’ ol’ rock and roll that should have gotten higher than the mid-30’s on the charts.
MARTIN BRILEY—“THE SALT IN MY TEARS “(1983)
Briley was a session musician who worked with more than a dozen famous artists and recorded a few solo albums as well. His only quasi-hit was this tune, which featured a great guitar hook and an equally great lyric (“I won’t cry for the wasted years, ‘cuz you ain’t worth the salt in my tears.”) Briley has also been a successful songwriter, penning tunes for Celine Dion, NSYNC, Kenny Loggins, Pat Benatar and several others.
GINO VANNELLI—“BLACK CARS” (1984)
The native Canadian had his first hit with “People Gotta Move” in 1974 and his biggest hit with “I Just Wanna Stop” in 1978, which was a Top Five hit record and earned Vannelli a Grammy Nomination. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why this wasn’t a bigger hit. It went Top Five in his native Canada but barely cracked the top 50 in the U. S. The keyboard hook is infectious.
DAVID AND DAVID—“WELCOME TO THE BOOMTOWN” (1986)
David Baerwald and David Ricketts were studio musicians who got together and recorded exactly one album together, entitled “Boomtown.” Both went their separate ways, although they got together again and collaborated with Sheryl Crow on her debut album. I really thought these guys could have been big if they had stayed together. This track got good radio airplay, but wasn’t the big hit I thought it would be.
BENNY MARDONES—“RUNNING SCARED” (1990)
You all know Benny had a mega-hit record “Into the Night,” back in 1980, which is still being played on radio today, The album “Never Run, Never Hide,” was a huge hit here in Lafayette. In fact, if that album had sold per capita nationwide what it did in the Hub City, it would have been triple platinum. Mardones had his demons and dropped out of the musical world for awhile. He never duplicated the success of “Into the Night” but has remained one of my all time favorites. One of Benny’s most powerful performances ever came in Los Angeles at “A Tribute to Roy Orbison” which was featured on Showtime. He wasn’t the best known performer when he got there, but was the talk of the show after singing this powerful Orbison hit. Listen to it and you’ll know why the man earned the nickname “The Voice.”
HO’ONU’A—SHE LOOKS GOOD (2005)
I was in Hawai’I for a baseball tournament. And, the day before the tournament started, I decided to drive around the edge of Oahu. I’m driving with the ocean to my left, the sunroof is open and I’ve got a reggae station on the radio. And then, this song came on. By the next day I was hooked. Only problem was, I didn’t know who it was. Fortunately, the University’s baseball sports information director knew of the band. This is just a happy song. Good thing I got to the islands when I did. Ho’onu’a broke up a year later after the album was released. I guess Ho’onu’a is Hawaiian for “two fat guys who can sing .”
(Information from Wikipedia contributed to this article.)