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Top 10 Unlikely Top 10 Hits

by Brian A. Davis
fact checked by Alex Hanton

Top 10 hits have always included instant classics and crossover hits from soul, country and, more recently, rap and hip-hop. But every now and then a song is released and, totally unexpectedly, becomes a huge hit. In no particular order, here are ten such examples.


Respect Yourself
by Bruce Willis (#5-1987)
Bruce Willis – Respect Yourself

Star of TV’s “Moonlighting” and now a bankable movie star, Bruce released his debut album in 1987, titled “The Return Of Bruno”, which was an album of cover versions of past hits, and had guests on the album like the Temptations and the Pointer Sisters. “Respect Yourself” was the first single released and it climbed all the way to #5 in 1987, seven positions higher than the original by the Staple Singers.


To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before
by Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson (#5-1984)
1100 Bel Air Place – Julio Iglesias Willie Nelson – to all the girls i’ve loved before

Arguably one of the oddest pairings of singers to record a duet, “To All The Girls…” was featured on Julio’s breakthrough English album, “1100 Bel Air Place.” Not only did the song peak at #5 in 1984, on the Hot 100, it hit #1 on the Country Chart and was certified platinum.


Earache My Eye
(featuring Alice Bowie)” by Cheech & Chong (#9-1974)
Cheech & Chong – Earache My Eye {full version-1974}

Comedy legends Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong have had numerous hit albums, and have charted a few times on the Hot 100, but their “Wedding Album” contained a skit/song called “Earache My Eye”, featuring Cheech as “Alice Bowie” (a combo of Alice Cooper and David Bowie) and Chong as his father who pleads with Alice to turn down the loud music. The song climbed all the way to #9 in 1974. Not bad for a comedy act!


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
by Neil Sedaka (#8-1976)

In 1962, Neil had a #1 hit with his original bouncy recording of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”, but what is surprising is his re-recorded ballad version of the same song, released fourteen years later in 1976, climbed all the way to #8, making it the only time two different versions of the same song, recorded by the same artist, made the Top 10.


Star Wars Main Title
by London Symphony Orchestra (#10-1977)
John Williams – Main Title from Star Wars | London Symphony Orchestra

When “Star Wars” was released to theaters in 1977, it quickly became a blockbuster and eventually the biggest movie of all-time (at that time). Movie songs regularly do well on the charts, and while Meco’s disco version of the title theme hit #1 the same year, the London Symphony Orchestra’s original title theme is the only time a full symphony orchestra has ever had a top 10 hit.


Pac-Man Fever
by Buckner & Garcia (#9-1982)

Novelty hits are few and far between, but during the video game craze of the 80’s the duo of Jerry Buckner & Gary Garcia recorded a video game-themed album called “Pac-Man Fever”, which included songs like “Do The Donkey Kong”, “Ode To A Centipede,” and the title track, which got as high as #9 and was certified gold.


Touch Of Grey
by the Grateful Dead (#9-1987)
Grateful Dead – Touch Of Grey (Official Music Video) [HD]

One of the biggest concert draws yearly, selling out arenas everywhere, the Grateful Dead were never known as hit-makers. After 18 albums and only five charted singles, “In The Dark” was released in 1987, and the first single released, “Touch Of Grey,” rose quickly up the charts, eventually peaking at #9. This success was so unlikely that, upon its entry into the Top 40, Casey Kasem announced “I never thought I’d say this–the Grateful Dead on American Top 40”!


The Americans
by Byron MacGregor (#4-1973)
The Americans by Byron MacGregor number 4 on The American Top 40 Radio Show Casey Kasem March 1974

In 1973, Canadian Byron MacGregor read an editorial written by fellow Canadian Gordon Sinclair: a commentary about the United States and its successes and generosity to other nations in need, but that they find themselves alone when they, too, suffer from crises. Both versions of this editorial, titled “The Americans,” were released as singles, due to popular demand. Each version featured “America the Beautiful” as its background music. Although Gordon Sinclair’s original version peaked at #24, Byron’s went all the way to #4 and was certified gold.


Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen (#9-1976, #2-1992)

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (Official Video Remastered)

Queen released “A Night At The Opera” in 1975, and its unusual song, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” was released as a single. The song, which has no chorus, consists of three separate parts–a ballad, an opera and hard rock. It spent nine weeks at #1 in England and climbed to #9 in the U.S. in 1976, and was certified gold. But the song was featured prominently in the movie “Wayne’s World” and, in 1992, was re-released as a single. Sixteen years later, and with many new fans of the song, it not only reached the top 10 again, it climbed all the way to #2.


When I’m With You
by Sheriff (#1-1989)
When I’m WIth You

Canadian band Sheriff first released “When I’m With You” in 1983, but it only climbed to #61. The poor showing on the chart hurt the band and they split in 1985. But, in 1988, a DJ in Las Vegas started playing the song again, and many other stations followed suit. Capitol Records was urged to re-release the song and, in Feb. of 1989, the song hit #1 on the Hot 100–four years after the band broke-up. A #1 hit by a defunct band! Two of the original members had already formed a new band, and the other two were prompted to form a new band. This new band was called Alias, and they followed up that hit the following year–with the #2 hit “More Than Words Can Say.”

fact checked by Alex Hanton