Considered by many in the music industry to be the most frustrating place on the charts for a pop single to peak, I have always been fascinated with songs that made their home at #11. These singles ascended almost all the way only to lose their momentum at the U.S. Top 10's doorstep. By just one notch they were denied of ever being celebrated in a weekly Top 10 list. However these singles (listed in chronological order) get the last laugh as they have endured far beyond their unfortunate #11 fate, and today are better known and loved than many singles that went to #1...
I Only Have Eyes For You The Flamingos,1959
Originally written for the 1934 film Dames, and covered by everyone from Billie Holiday to Mercury Rev, it was the Chicago doo wop group The Flamingos who crafted the definitive recording. Made with a prominent reverb effect, they immortalized the standard as a velvety, almost spooky, love song for the ages, and perhaps the best 'slow dance' song ever. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked this version at #157 on their 500 Greatest Songs of all Time.
You Don't Know How Glad I Am Nancy Wilson, 1964 Frankly one of my favorite songs of all time by one of my favorite song stylists of all time, its incredible to me that the legendary Nancy Wilson, never made the Top 10 with this, her highest charting U.S. pop hit. It did however garner Wilson a much deserved Grammy. Mix a martini, dim the lights, put on some fabulous Mad Men-wear and enjoy this lost classic...
Baby I Need Your Loving The Four Tops,1964
Though it inexplicably missed the Top 10 by one notch, this Four Tops hit (their first) packed a huge punch in two minutes and 40 seconds, and finger snapped its way to selling over a million copies in its day. Written and produced by Motown's main production team (Holland-Dozier-Holland), it is ranked at #390 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
Eleanor Rigby The Beatles,1966
The Beatles' hold the record for the most Top 10 singles of any group in history (34), and even though this missed those heights by a hair, few of their other hits have induced the same chill as this percussion-less, two minute and five second, baroque pop classic. Noteworthy for many reasons not the least of which is that none of the Beatles played an instrument on it. Driven by a double string quartet arrangement of hired musicians led by producer George Martin, who was inspired by Bernard Herrmann's music for the film Psycho. Rolling Stone listed Eleanor Rigby at #138 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Incidentally The Beatles' final chart single, the wonderful Real Love (1996) also peaked at #11.
Scarborough Faire Simon & Garfunkel,1968 Based on a traditional English ballad about the Yorkshire town of Scarborough, the musical roots of Scarborough Faire actually date back to the 1670 Scottish ballad The Elfin Knight. Featured on Simon & Garfunkel's 1966 album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, it became a hit single two years later thanks to its inclusion in the soundtrack of The Graduate.
Wild World Cat Stevens, 1971 Inspired by Stevens relationship with actress Patti D'Arbanville, this melancholic ode to a departing lover and the anticipation of what lies beyond was a recurring one in Stevens' work, who now records and tours under the name Yusuf.
Listen To The Music The Doobie Bros 1972 According to the song's writer, Tom Johnson, the motivation for writing The Doobies Brothers' first big hit was a utopian call for world peace.
I Won't Last A Day Without You The Carpenters 1974 The pure glow of Karen's peerless vocal gives life to this gentle, melodic jewel written for The Carpenters in 1973 by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols (the duo who also penned We've Only Just Begun and Rainy Days & Mondays). Between 1973 and 1975, this song was covered by Barbra Streisand, Maureen McGovern, Andy Williams, Diana Ross and Mel Torme.
Take the Money & Run Steve Miller Band 1976 Infectious feel good rocker about two young Bonnie & Clyde-esque bandits and the police officers pursuing them narrowly missed the U.S. Top 10 despite the fact that its released was sandwiched between three # 1 singles for the band (The Joker, Rock'n'Me, and Fly Like An Eagle).
Rhiannon Fleetwood Mac, 1976 Inspired by the legend of a Welsh witch, it took Stevie Nicks ten minutes to write Rhiannon in Malibu in 1974, three months before joining Fleetwood Mac. Rolling Stone lists it at #488 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Fleetwood Mac's next single Say You Love Me also peaked at #11.
Barracuda Heart, 1977 One of Heart's most biting rockers, Barracuda was written by the Wilson sisters as an enraged response to Mushroom Records' made up publicity stunt to portray them as incestuous. Don't mess with Ann and Nancy!
Peg Steely Dan, 1977 Steely Dan hit #11 with two of their best singles: 1973's Reelin In The Years and then in 1977 with Peg, an innovative jewel about an aspiring film actress and a brilliant west coast blend of rock, jazz, and R&B.
Disco Inferno The Trammps 1978 Despite being released at the height of the disco craze and included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, this bootie shaking anthem mysteriously fell one notch shy of the Billboard Top 10. Though it did hit #1 on the dance charts.
I Wanna Be Your Lover, Prince 1980 Sung entirely falsetto, Prince's first notable chart success came three years before he would officially conquer America with 19 Top Ten hits. Prince also returned to #11 at 1986 with his fabulously funky Sheila E. collaboration, A Love Bizarre.
Edge of Seventeen Stevie Nicks 1982 Bella Donna established Stevie Nicks as a solo superstar and this iconic rocker with its chugging 16th note guitar riffs and its white winged dove symbolism is a big reason why - so why didn't this take full flight into the Top 10? Who knows - all we know is we love it.
Promises Promises Naked Eyes 1983 Short-lived UK synth pop duo Naked Eyes followed up their Top 10 smash Always Something There to Remind Me with this sexy, brooding, musically textured tale of a relationship destroyed by broken (yes) promises promises.
Head Over Heels The Go Go's 1984 The Go Gos most high energy single (that piano intro! That bass! Those drums! That insane Jerry Lee Lewis-esque piano climax! That chorus! Those hand claps! The harmonies! Belinda's dancing!) - so how on EARTH this did not dent the Top 10 is way over my heels - I mean head.
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) Dead or Alive 1985 We know and worship it as one of the 1980s definitive dance anthems - but this track goes way beyond the dancefloor - it rocks the house. Super fast, super loud, tons of attitude, a fiesty operatic workout - I dare you to try it at karaoke.
The Perfect Way Scritti Politti, 1985 Pure 80s pop perfection. Funky, fun, and delightful - the Perfect Way indeed - even Miles Davis covered it!
Keep On Movin' Soul 2 Soul, 1989 Ushering in a new era in what would become neo soul, Soul 2 Soul were ahead of the curve and developed a beat that would be widely copied. Though their Back To Life charted higher, this track remains their finest hour.
When The Night Comes, Joe Cocker 1989 Cocker's final Top 40 hit in the U.S. was written by Bryan Adams, Diane Warren, and Jim Vallance and showcased everything we loved about Cocker's voice.
Everyday Is A Winding Road Sheryl Crow 1996 Hard to believe one of Crow's best singles actually missed the Top 10 at a time when she would sneeze and make the Top Ten. Featuring backing vocals by Neil Finn from Crowded House and covered by Prince in 1999, this track earned Crow a Record of the Year Grammy nomination.
And yes, there were many other greats from in the late 20th Century that peaked at #11 including: Buzz Buzz Buzz The Hollywood Flames 1958, Moon River Henry Mancini 1961, Break It To Me Gently Juice Newton 1982, Dare Me The Pointer Sisters 1985, Shine Collective Soul 1994, 100% Pure Love Crystal Waters 1994, Who Will Save Your Soul? Jewel 1996