We tend to think of current hits as "the music of today," but sometimes today's hits are the music of yesterday. Today on Music Weird, we'll look at 10 recordings that became hits years—or even decades—after they were originally recorded. Many of these hits reflect the power of disk jockeys and movies to pluck songs out of obscurity or to revive the hits of yesteryear.
Old songs that appear in commercials frequently become chart items in the UK, so this list of 10 recordings could easily be much longer than it is. Greatest hits collections often chart in the UK too; Vera Lynn recently had a Top 20 album hit in the UK with a collection of World War 2-era recordings.
1. Sheriff – "When I'm With You"
The Canadian rock band Sheriff had a major Canadian hit and a minor U.S. hit with "When I'm With You" in 1983. Six years later, Jay Taylor, a disk jockey in Las Vegas, started playing the song. Then Gabe Baptiste at KRXY in Olympia, Washington, started playing the song too. The song continued to spread nationally and went to #1 in the U.S. in 1989. Sheriff no longer existed at this point, and attempts to reunite the band to capitalize on its posthumous success fizzled.
YouTube has blocked the videos of this song outside of Canada, but you can listen to it here.
2. Benny Bell – "Shaving Cream"
Benny Bell's 1946 novelty song "Shaving Cream" is a song like the schoolyard rhyme "Mary Had a Steamboat" or "Bang Bang Lulu" that sets up the listener to expect swear words that the song humorously fails to deliver. (Music Weird has a post about "Mary Had a Steamboat" here.)
In 1975, Bell's old 1946 version became a hit after the Dr. Demento show started playing it. Bell wrote the song, but Paul Wynn was the vocalist on the record, even though Bell is credited as the artist on some pressings. Jim Nesbit recorded a country cover version in 1975 that also became a minor hit.
Trivia: In 1984, Atlantic Records wanted Jump 'n the Saddle to record "Shaving Cream" for the band's second album, which was supposed to be the follow up to their novelty hit "The Curly Shuffle." Jump 'n the Saddle grudgingly recorded a version with new lyrics that criticized Atlantic, so the label refused to release the album and also refused to release Jump 'n the Saddle from their contract, effectively ending the group's career.
3. Ben E. King – "Stand by Me"
Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" was a Top 5 pop hit in 1961 when it was originally released. It became a Top 10 hit again in the US in 1986 when it was used as the title track of the film Stand by Me. In 1987, it topped the UK chart after being featured in a Levi Jeans commercial.
4. UB40 – "Red Red Wine"
UB40's 1983 recording of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine" inched into the US Top 40 in 1984. Four years later, in 1988, the single was re-released in the US and became a #1 hit. The unexpected hit competed with UB40's self-titled A&M album, which was also released in 1988.
5. Spirit – "Mr. Skin"
"Mr. Skin" was a song from Spirit's 1970 album Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. In 1973, Epic Records released a greatest hits collection, The Best of Spirit, and reissued "Mr. Skin" as a single. Surprisingly, it charted in the lower rungs of the Billboard Hot 100.
6. The Beatles – "Got to Get You into My Life"
The Beatles recorded Paul McCartney's song "Got to Get You into My Life" for their 1966 album Revolver. In 1976, Capitol reissued it as a single to coincide with the greatest-hits collection Rock 'n' Roll Music, and the song became a Top 10 hit. It would be the Beatles' last Top 10 hit until 20 years later, when the posthumous creation "Free as a Bird" hit the Top 10 on the US and UK charts.
7. Danzig – "Mother"
"Mother" was included on Danzig's self-titled debut album in 1988. Almost six years later, the studio version—slightly remixed—peaked just shy of the Top 40. The latter-day success of the recording resulted from Danzig including a live version of the song on the Thrall-Demonsweatlive EP.
8. The Doors – "Break on Through (To the Other Side)"
The Doors' "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" is one of those well-known oldies that never charted very high. When it was originally released as a single in 1967, it didn't even crack the Hot 100. When re-released 24 years later, the song became a somewhat bigger hit in the UK but stalled at #64.
9. The Belle Stars – "Iko Iko (The Clapping Song)"
The Belle Stars' 1982 recording of the Dixie Cups' 1965 hit "Iko Iko (The Clapping Song)" was a moderate UK hit when it was originally released. In 1989, after the song appeared in the film Rain Man, it gained new life and went to #14 in the US.
10. Ted Weems – "Heartaches"
Ted Weems' "Heartaches" is possibly the most dramatic revival on this list. Weems recorded the song for RCA Victor in 1931 and again for Decca in 1938. In 1947, a disk jockey in Charlotte, North Carolina, started spinning the 1931 recording, and interest in the record started to spread. Both RCA Victor and Decca reissued their respective versions in order to meet the demand, and the 1931 recording sailed to #1 during its 16-week run on the pop chart.