Benny Mardones, “Into the Night” (#11, 1980 and #20, 1989)
Speaking of AOR! “Into the Night” hasn’t aged well (and that video is amazingly terrible, isn’t it?), but it’s one of the very few songs in the history of the Hot 100 to chart twice. Unlike the UK pop charts, reissues and recurrents rarely chart on the Hot 100, and usually on in special cases. “Into the Night” reached #11 in 1980 and then prompty fell into obscurity.
Then in 1989, spurred by a “Where Are They Now?” segment on an Arizona radio station, a Los Angeles DJ began playing “Into the Night” again. The song became a radio once more, and the reissued single promptly peaked at #20. The success of the song prompted Mardones to re-record a new version (with a new, now equally dated video), but apparently most stations stuck with the 1980 version. It kind of goes to show how weird of a decade the ’80s were that a song recorded at the beginning of the decade could fit in with the current trends in pop music at the very end of it.
The 1980 recording of “Into the Night” stuck around as a radio recurrent through the early ’90s, but now both versions of the song are largely remembered as an interesting piece of chart trivia than anything else
Paul Hardcastle, “19” (#15, 1985)
For as strange as this song is, I nearly didn’t put this one my list because I thought it was too well known! After all, it was a number one smash in 13 countries and one of the biggest hits worldwide in 1985.
Still, it’s really strange in hindsight that a dance song based around soundbites from a Vietnam documentary made the charts at all (real sample lyric: “According to a Veteran’s Administration study, half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered from what psychiatrists call ‘post traumatic stress disorder’.” I can’t see myself ever dancing to that.)
The narration that serves as the center of the song was by broadcast announcer Peter Thomas and taken from the ABC documentary Vietnam Requiem. Some of the facts therein (including the title’s claim that the average American soldier in Vietnam was 19 years of age) have become contentious in the ensuing decades. Yeah, factchecking a dance song isn’t something that happens every day, right? Hardcastle never had a hit on the magnitude of “19” again, but did have some modest success in his native England.
The real success story to come out of “19” was Hardcastle’s manager, Simon Fuller, who founded his company 19 Entertainment after the song became a hit. As the head of 19 Entertainment, Fuller created the show Pop Idol in 2001 for British broadcaster ITV, which was then imported to America by Fuller as American Idol and you probably the know the rest of this story. Yes, this strange song about Vietnam is inadvertently responsible for the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and the dozens of other stars to have come out of the Idol franchise. Weird, huh?
Sheriff, “When I’m With You” (#1, 1989)
The aforementioned Benny Mardones is far from the only time an artist has had a hit years after the song was originally released. However, the Mardones example is atypical because usually, the song wasn’t a hit the first time around. Such is the case of Canadian arena rockers Sheriff, whose ballad “When I’m With You” reached #61 in 1983 and prompty fell into obscurity.
The band broke up in 1985 after only releasing one album. In 1988, out of nowhere, a DJ in upstate New York began playing “When I’m With You,” prompting the band’s label to reissue the song. It reached #1 in February of 1989 despite the fact that there was no video (or band, for that matter) to promote the song.
Some of the members of Sheriff understandably wanted to capitalize on their one hit, but other members of the band declined to reunite, leaving them a one hit wonder by default. Instead, the members that were interested in reuniting form the group Alias, who had a couple hits in the early 90’s before grunge pretty much made this kind of music semi-irrelevant.
Electronic, “Getting Away With It” (#38, 1990)
Electronic was a veritable alternative supergroup, comprised of New Order singer Bernard Sumner, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and, for this single only, Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant. The band’s first single was hotly anticipated by every fan of left of the dial music in 1989, and “Getting Away with It” managed a respectable #38 on the Hot 100.
So, you’re asking, why am I talking about this song here? Well, that #38 position makes the song the only time Marr, one of the most celebrated guitarists of the alternative era, ever performed on a Top 40 single in the United States. After all, The Smiths never charted on the Hot 100. Nor did “(Nothing But) Flowers,” the Talking Heads classic on which he plays lead guitar. The closest he came to the Top 40 after this was when “Dashboard” by Modest Mouse made #61 in 2007.
“Getting Away with It” is a stone cold classic (full disclosure: it’s one of my favorite songs of all time), but it’s weird that Marr’s only American hit with a single and a band that’s much less remembered than songs that never even charted there.