In a just universe, each of these 10 fleeting, mostly forgotten gems would have vaulted into the public’s long-term imagination. The fact that all are so good — yet so forgotten — is a testament both to the quality of radio hits then and the relative meagerness of quality songwriting now.
(10) “LEAVING YOUR WORLD BEHIND” | 20/20 (1979)
How fitting to hear the skips and scratches of vinyl; this song exists in no other form today. But to the pop-sensitive in the emerging alt-music scene (including this reporter), it was a minor gem.
(9) “DON’T EVER WANNA LOSE YA” | NEW ENGLAND (1979)
The gritty guitar riff alone could have carried it, but sometime during the repetition of a quasi-sappy late-’70s synthesizer you start to feel it: the song’s fear of lost love and life.
(8) “BAD TIME” | GRAND FUNK RAILROAD (1975)
Grand Funk was better defined by shredders like “Shinin’ On” and “We’re An American Band,” and but this summer-of-’75 power love song was infectious and affecting.
(7) “COULDN’T I JUST TELL YOU” | TODD RUNDGREN (1972)
A guitar-driven rocker deep in a legendary album otherwise known for the mega-pop-hits “I Saw the Light,” “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” and “Hello It’s Me.”
(6) “SCHOOLBOY CRUSH” | AVERAGE WHITE BAND (1975)
A funk band from Scotland! Far bigger for AWB at the time was “Cut the Cake,” but this minor hit’s double bassline and insistent sleigh-bell percussion still…uh, slay.
(5) “YELLOW PILLS” | 20/20 (1979)
In 1979 new wave was kicking at radio’s door, only to be ignored by corporate radio consultants and program directors in favor of ’80s schlock. In a fair world this song would define the era.
(3) “IN THE STREET” | BIG STAR (1972)
Calling this a radio hit is tenuous given Big Star’s legendary status as the unluckiest band in America, but cosmic justice prevailed when the song became the theme for “That ’70s Show.”
(2) “CANDY’S GOING BAD” | GOLDEN EARRING (1973)
This comet in the radio sky was overshadowed by the album’s bigger hit “Radar Love,” but the Rolling Stones had nothing on its memorable riff and lyrical theme of degradation and decline.
(1) “I LOVE THE NIGHT” | BLUE OYSTER CULT (1977)
The arpeggio guitar riff sounds a bit like the label directed the band to write another “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” but listen to this just once at 4am and see if it doesn’t stick around for awhile.