We’re Number Two!

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May 102010

Number-one hits get all the glory, but what about the runners-up, the second-best, the popular-but-not-quite-popular-enough?  You might be surprised what classic singles stalled at #2, and what forgotten yesterhits kept them from the top.  Cover Me salutes the silver medalists as a reminder to the kids: winning isn’t everything.  As long as you come in second.

Sebastian Cabot – Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
Sure, it revolutionized the art of rock songwriting and tore down the walls between high and low art.  And yeah, Rolling Stone labeled it the best song of all time.  But come on people, listen to that voice!  Ew!  Dylan’s songs have reached #1 many times when sung by other people, but not once by him.  Ke$ha’s “Gates of Eden” smash can’t be far off.  [Buy]

Nicky Francis – Proud Mary (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
Here’s a fun bit of trivia: What band holds the dubious distinction of releasing the most #2 hits without ever hitting #1?  Why, none other than John Fogerty and the CCR boys. [Buy]

Citizen Red – Material Girl (Madonna)
If a song beats yours to the top slot, you want it to at least by the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, U2, someone respectable.  Madonna lost to REO Speedwagon and Phil Collins.  Ouch.  [Buy]

Sonic’s Rendezvous Band – Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry)
No one will say it.  No one wants to admit it.  Even thinking it insults six decades of rock history, but it’s true: Every Chuck Berry song sounds the same.  The man wrote a truly great song, then just re-wrote it for the rest of his career.  [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Burning Love (Elvis Presley)
I exaggerate.  Berry did write one different song, his only #1 hit: “My Ding-a-Ling.”  Really, America?  After passing over “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Maybelline,” that’s the one you go for?  Unbelievable.  The King’s own comeback didn’t chart as high, but it survives the test of time. [Buy]

Dan Eaton – Everybody Have Fun Tonight (Wang Chung)
1986 was a year for direct instruction.  Apparently people preferred the instruction “walk like an egyptian” than the vaguer “wang chung tonight.”  [Buy]

Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band – Rockin’ Robin (Bobby Day)
“Rockin’ Robin” belongs to the tiny club of songs that hit #2 twice.  Bobby Day first took it almost all the way 1958, then Michael Jackson brought it there again in ’72.  Another song in this club: “Last Kiss,” first by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers in 1964), then again thirty-five years later by Pearl Jam.  [Buy]

Patti Smith – Twist & Shout (The Beatles)
The Beatles put their heart, soul and what little remained of John Lennon’s voice into their version of the Top Notes’ dance classic, but it stalled at number two.  A crushing blow.  What tune could possible hold it back?  “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  Oh.  They also had slots three through five.  [Buy]

27 – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
Anyone with ears in summer ’06 might find it hard to believe this mega-hit never took the top spot, but Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous” held it off for seven straight weeks.  Songs about sex beat songs about insanity every time.  [Buy]

Kim Foley – Born to Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
Summer 1968.  Freak flags flying as high as the Molotov cocktails.  Two songs celebrating rugged independence compete for #1.  “People Got to Be Free,” by the Rascals, wins.  Source: The Billboard Book of No. 2 Singles, which I really wish I’d found before completing this list.  [Buy]

  3 Responses to “We’re Number Two!”

Comments (3)
  1. Superb post. Thanks !

  2. Mr Cover, here's a good one for you : credited as a Chuck Berry song, My Ding a Ling was, in fact, a cover of a Dave Bartholomew record, released around 1952. Same title, same lyrics. More fun too…

  3. A great selection. Most enjoyable

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