If you want to be successful, you need a hit. If you want to be really successful, you need lots of hits. To be immortalised, though, you need a megahit… the Really Big single. In the spirit of Spinal Tap, here are the eleven biggest and best (for when you need that push over the cliff!).
#11 Mötley Crüe, "Home Sweet Home". Hard though it may be to believe, "Home Sweet Home" was never a hit in its first release ("Dr. Feelgood" was in fact their biggest US hit). It wasn't until a remix in 1991 for the Decade of Decadance compilation that it scraped the lower end of the US and UK Top 40s. However, this pioneering glam metal ballad was #1 on MTV in America for an astonishing four months. By the end of its reign, Theater of Pain had gone double platinum, and MTV got so sick of the song that they changed the rules for videos' shelf lives so that it could never happened again. The record company initially didn't want "Home Sweet Home" to go on the album; they thought people would think the Crue had wussed out. Balladic as it may be, it kept an anthemic rock edge that defied allegations of wimpiness. US peak position: #89 (remix #37) UK peak position: #51 (remix #37).
#10 Warrant, "Cherry Pie". Although "Heaven" was at the time a much bigger US hit (peaking at #2 and selling gold in the process), it was "Cherry Pie" that immortalised Warrant and became one of the definitive hair metal songs. It could all so easily have been different. Warrant completed their 1991 album without "Cherry Pie", planning instead to make "Uncle Tom's Cabin" the title track. Whatever contract Warrant had signed, it can't have allowed them much creative freedom, because the record company came in and demanded a cock-rock anthem to complete the album. Jani Lane wrote "Cherry Pie" in 45 minutes and the label made it the title track. Let's be realistic though; cool though "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is, grunge would have been no kinder to Warrant if it had been their lead-off single. As it is, Warrant should be grateful for the continued notoriety they continue to enjoy, basically from just this track. US peak position: #10 UK peak position: #35
Note: Readers should appreciate what an achievement it is in the UK for a single to go Silver. In the UK, a gold album is 100,000 copies. However, in terms of the popularity and power that this would give you to attract a concert audience, a UK gold album is more equivalent to a US double platinum certification. Now, a silver single in the UK is (for some reason) 200,000 copies… twice that of a gold album. So if a single goes silver, it's a massive, massive hit.
#9 Alice Cooper, "Poison". By 1989, Alice Cooper was a has-been. Neither of his past albums had even entered the US chart, and he hadn't had a proper hit in the US or the UK since the '70s. The world owes a debt to anything that brings Alice Cooper back, and "Poison" brought him back with style. Going Gold in the US and Silver in the UK, Alice showed shock rock upstarts like WASP how it was really done and, in an ironic twist on his history, had a message of morality for the world (delivered with typical Alice gore). US peak position: #7 UK peak position: #2
#8 Whitesnake, "Here I Go Again". "Here I Go Again" had already been a top 40 hit in the UK in 1982, so when the band gave it an American rock remix for their 1987 album, it was pretty obvious that the result would be a hit. Just to be sure, it was given a further remix for US radio, and Tawny Kitaen appeared in the video. The resulting MTV and radio smash spent 14 weeks in the US top 40… long enough to ensure that by the end of the tour, David Coverdale would be very, very rich indeed. US peak position: #1 UK peak position: #9
#7 Europe, "The Final Countdown". Sweden isn't exactly noted for its rock stars but for a moment in 1986, Europe looked set to change all that. If a silver single in the UK is an achievement, going gold (400,000 copies) is the stuff of legends but "The Final Countdown" did it, helped, no doubt, by its inclusion in Rocky IV. Europe also have the distinction of being the only '80s rock band to have a UK #1. So great is Countdown's legacy that a remix for the millennium also scraped the UK top 40 on Christmas day, 1999. With it's unforgettable keyboard riff (a "Jump" reference, perhaps?) and shredding harmony guitar solo, "The Final Countdown" is an unmistakably '80s rock hit. US peak position: #8 UK peak position: #1
#6 Mr. Big, "To Be With You". Mr. Big and Extreme are frequently compared: US hard rock bands with awesome musicianship who are remembered by most only for an acoustic ballad. In Mr. Big's case, it was "To Be With You", which enjoyed roughly the same level of success as "More Than Words" at roughly the same time, although doesn't get the same continued airplay these days. I never understood why everyone bemoaned it as utterly cheesy until I saw the video. Yeah, five grown men grinning at a camera while one of them bashes a tambourine is a little nauseating. But hey, "To Be With You" earned them a US gold disc, and, at 17 weeks, spent the longest time on the Billboard Top 40 of any song on this list. US peak position: #1 UK peak position: #3
#5 Extreme, "More Than Words". From Extreme's point of view, it must be highly suckful to be remembered as one hit wonders for this acoustic ballad, when in fact they were purveyors of some of the most kickin' funky hard rock of the late '80s and early '90s. Unfortunately, "More Than Words" found its way to #1 in most of the known world, going Gold in America and Silver in the UK. What sets it apart from other one hit wonders, however, is the level of airplay it continues to receive on radio even today, more than ten years since its release. Doubtless this continued popularity is due in part to its performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and Irish boy band Westlife's (disgusting) cover of it. Better than no fame at all, eh Nuno? US peak position: #1 UK peak position: #2
#4 Poison, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". By the time "Every Rose" began its three week residency at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Whitesnake, Van Halen, and Def Leppard had already had top 10 success with ballads. After Poison got their gold disc, though, the floodgates were opened and the power ballads started pouring in. By the end of the '80s, it was impossible to be a commercially successful hard rock band without a hit ballad, and we have "Every Rose" to blame. I doubt Poison mind, though; it still gets plenty of airtime on US classic rock radio, and the resulting sales from their shamelessly syrupy ballad (Bret has always insisted his ballads are highly sincere) sent Poison onto the rock A-list. US peak position: #1 UK peak position: #13
#3 Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar on Me". "Love Bites" reached number 1 in the US in 1988 and "Let's Get Rocked" was denied the UK top spot by only 146 copies, but it is "Pour Some Sugar on Me" which history has remembered as Def Leppard's defining anthem. Such was its success that the world and his dog had to rip it off: Warrant's "Cherry Pie", Kiss' "Read My Body", Slaughter's "Up All Night", Firehouse's "Rock on the Radio", Petra's "I Am on the Rock", Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me", Winger's "Can't Get Enuff", TNT's "10,000 Lovers (In One)", Danger Danger's "Everybody Wants Some", and Shout's "When the Love is Gone". Some were blatant copies, while others just contained nods in Sugar's direction, but it says a lot for the quality of Def Leppard's classic that so many of its imitators were also hits. Even in 2001, Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag" contained a noticeably similar chorus. Still, Joe and co. can't get too furious that so many have copied it, since "Pour Some Sugar on Me" itself has elements of "We Will Rock You" and "I Love Rock & Roll". US peak position: #2 UK peak position: #18
#2 Van Halen, "Jump". The first to do so many things, Van Halen were the first band of the '80s hard rock era to have a #1 hit. "Jump" lodged itself at the top spot for five weeks, earning itself a gold disc in the process. Van Halen pioneered the use of synthesisers in hard rock, and "Jump" got the formula just perfect. With a blazing guitar solo, David Lee Roth's unfeasibly acrobatic showmanship, and a shout-along chorus, "Jump" set the stage for the rest of the '80s. US peak position: #1 UK peak position: #7
#1 Bon Jovi, "Livin' on a Prayer". "Pour Some Sugar on Me" may be the most blatantly copied rock anthem of all time, but let's not forget "Livin' on a Prayer". With it's optimistic, feel-good lyrics and gigantic chorus, no song captured the feel, spirit, or sound of the times as well as "Livin' on a Prayer". America latched on, saying "Def Who??" and lodging Prayer at number 1 for four weeks. The rest of the world responded, and continues to respond, with equal alacrity. US peak position: #1 UK peak position: #4.
Back to Articles