Monday, August 01, 2022

Song of the Day: 'Rhiannon' by Fleetwood Mac


If you're anything like me, the closest you ever came to Bible study as a child was Billboard magazine, where each week you would religiously look through the charts to see the placement of your favorite artists' singles and albums -- an experience that for reasons that are still not clear to me somehow felt deeply personal. (How could "French Kissin' in the USA" peak at just No. 57? I can recall asking myself at Tower Records as I tried to compose myself in the singles department.) 


A few years ago I took my friend Tim (pictured up top) to see Go-Go's bassist Kathy Valentine's side band, the Bluebonnets, in concert, and I'll never forget how afterward as we were leaving the venue, he told her that "Head Over Heels" -- which she wrote with Charlotte Caffey -- was his favorite Go-Go's song. She thanked him, and then he asked -- clearly expecting (as was I) her to agree with him -- if its stalling at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 had been as devastating for her as it had been to his 12-year-old self back in 1984. Without missing a beat -- and looking rather confused -- Kathy turned to him and said: "Not really," at which point I realized maybe superfans like us take these things to heart more than the artists do. So in honor of this catechism, today I am starting an ongoing series of Songs of the Day that peaked at No. 11 on the singles chart but clearly deserved better. The composers may get compensated either way. But the only reward fans get when a song stalls at No. 11 is a lifetime of pain and regret! 

Before we get going, here is a Top 10 list of No. 11s that have already been featured as Song of the Day.:

  1. "Head Over Heels" by the Go-Go's 
  2. "Jesse" by Carly Simon
  3. "Tired of Being Alone" by Al Green
  4. "Her Town Too" by James Taylor and JD Souther 
  5. "You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive 
  6. "Doctor! Doctor!" by Thompson Twins
  7. "Baby Hold On" by Eddie Money 
  8. "Last Christmas" by Wham!  
  9. "Walking Down Your Street" by the Bangles
10. "A Love Bizarre" by Sheila E 

Obviously the Go-Go’s and Carly cut the deepest, especially remembering the latter’s nonstop airplay the summer of 1980. Dead or Alive was also robbed given that “You Spin Me” created an entirely new production style, perhaps the most distinctive since Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. (At least Stock Aitken Waterman were later rewarded with three U.S. No. 1s courtesy of Bananarama and Rick Astley.) 


My pick for today was a surprise to me. Imagine being Stevie Nicks, who was only accepted into this establish British band because her guitarist boyfriend they were trying to recruit said "If you want me, you also have to take her." You write arguably one of the best songs of all time -- Rolling Stone includes "Rhiannon" on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time -- but they opt to release "Warm Ways" as the first single in the U.K. and "Over My Head" in the U.S. Fine. Christine McVie is the band's remaining established vocalist. But then you finally get your shot and how does the record-buying public reward you? No. 46 in the U.K. and No. 11 in the U.S. (WTF?) Sure, this became the band's highest-ranked single in the U.S. to that point  -- "Over My Head" peaked at No. 20 and their only charting pre-Buckingham/Nicks U.S. single, Peter Green's "Oh Well Part 1 and 2," peaked at No. 55 --  but everyone knows a No. 1 hit when they hear it, and "Rhiannon" is it. 

Note to my inner Tim: A million bucks -- which she's probably made off the song -- says Stevie doesn't even remember how high "Rhiannon" got on the charts!


1 comment:

Jinxy said...

Nothing But Heartaches by The Supremes stalled at #11. Had it reached #1 it would have given the girls their 6th #1 song in a row making them the first American group and first female group to have 6 number ones in a row. The next release, I Hear A Symphony, made it to #1. If Heartaches had reached #1 that would have given them 7 #1's in a row.