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10 Iconic Songs That Were Album Tracks, Not Singles

by Lorna Wallace
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

When an artist and their record company select which songs from an album to release as singles, they usually choose the tunes that stand the best chance of becoming a hit. Often, an artist’s signature songs—the ones they are known for by the general public—are ones that were released as singles, while album tracks are typically only known by loyal fans.

But every so often, an album track unexpectedly experiences a breakout and becomes a hit. Here are 10 such tracks that weren’t given the push that singles receive and yet still managed to make a massive impact—sometimes to the point of finally being released as a single years down the line!

Related: 10 Obscure Farewell Albums Recorded by Dying Musicians

10 “More Than a Woman” by the Bee Gees

The Bee Gees – More Than A Woman (RSO Records 1977)

Many of the Bee Gees’ signature songs come from the Grammy-award-winning soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever (1977), part of which was written by the band over just one weekend. Three of their biggest singles come from this album—”Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” and “How Deep Is Your Love”—all of which spent time at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Coming up right behind that trio in popularity is “More Than a Woman,” which was also included on that high-pitched disco album but was never released as a single in the U.S. or the UK. Despite this, the song was still hugely popular and was a staple on their set list at gigs.

Although “More Than a Woman” wasn’t a chart hit for the Bee Gees, the cover by Tavares (which was also on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) was released as a single and reached No. 32 on the American charts. And the cover by English boy band 911, released in 1998, managed to hit the No. 2 spot in the UK charts.[1]

9 “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road (Official 4K Video)

Bruce Springsteen has had many career-defining songs, from “Born in the U.S.A.” to “Born to Run,” among others. But one non-single song that managed to work its way into that category is “Thunder Road,” the first song on his 1975 Born to Run album.

Although he might have been expected to start the album with “Born to Run,” Springsteen said that “Thunder Road” was the obvious opener because “there is something about the melody that just suggests ‘new day,’ it suggests morning.” Despite not being promoted as a single, the song skyrocketed in popularity. It appears on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time—coming in at No. 111—and regularly makes its way to a top 3 spot on lists of Springsteen’s best songs.

And as for the debate over whether the lyric at the start is “Mary’s dress sways” or “Mary’s dress waves,” Springsteen has confirmed that it’s “sways.”[2]

8 “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift – Cruel Summer (Music Video)

When Taylor Swift released her Lover album in 2019, none of its singles managed to reach the coveted No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. “Me!” (featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco) and “You Need to Calm Down” came the closest, both peaking at No. 2. But the second track on the album, the synth-pop tune “Cruel Summer,” has had an impressive afterlife, managing to surpass the album’s singles in 2023 by spending four weeks at No. 1.

The song’s success years down the line is thanks to Swift’s Eras tour, which kicked off in March 2023. “Cruel Summer” is the second song performed on the set list, which generated an uptick in interest and landed the song back on the Hot 100. In June 2023, “Cruel Summer” began to be officially promoted as a single, leading to its chart domination over Lover’s original singles.[3]

7 “‘Till I Collapse” by Eminem featuring Nate Dogg

Eminem – Till I Collapse Feat. Nate Dogg [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]

By the time Eminem’s fourth album, The Eminem Show, dropped in 2002, he had already had massive hits with “My Name Is” and “The Real Slim Shady.” Lead single “Without Me” quickly took its place among the ranks of his most popular songs, but track 18 on the album, the fiercely motivational “‘Till I Collapse,” has gradually worked its way to that status too.

In 2009, the song was used in an ad for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, propelling it to No. 35 on Billboard’s U.S. Digital Song Sales chart. It’s also been used as the entrance theme for numerous professional sports players, including boxer Shane Mosley and baseball pitcher Justin Verlander.

Since 2022, “‘Till I Collapse” has held the Guinness World Record for the most streamed non-single on Spotify. At that time, the only Eminem song with more streams was “Lose Yourself” from the 8 Mile (2002) soundtrack.[4]

6 “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Jimi Hendrix

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (Live In Maui, 1970)

Electric Ladyland (1968), the last studio album recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, features one of Hendrix’s best-known songs: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” The album’s two singles were “All Along the Watchtower”—a cover of the Bob Dylan song—and “Crosstown Traffic,” but “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” has surpassed them both in popularity.

The song is essentially a shortened version of “Voodoo Chile” (hence the confusion with its name!), a 15-minute long track that was largely improvised. Around 10 minutes were cut from the bluesy song, and it was given a more upbeat revamp before taking its place at the end of the album.

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was never released as a single in the U.S., but after Hendrix’s death in 1970, a single version was released in the UK (under the name “Voodoo Chile”—further fueling the name confusion). It became Hendrix’s only UK No. 1. The song also claims the No. 102 spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.[5]

5 “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies

Pixies – Where Is My Mind? (Music Video)

When Pixies released their first full-length album in 1988, Surfer Rosa, only one song was promoted as a single: “Gigantic,” a song which the vast majority of the general public doesn’t remember. But 11 years later, “Where Is My Mind?” the seventh track on the album, was used at the end of David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999). Being featured at such an iconic moment in the film led to a huge boost for the alt-rock song, and it has since become a musical touchstone in other films and TV shows.

Pixies broke up in 1993—years before the unexpected success of “Where Is My Mind?”—but they reunited in 2004. “We’re lucky to have such a song that takes us around the world,” lead guitarist Joey Santiago said in a 2019 interview with Dazed. “It’s one of the wheels on the bus.” As well as becoming the band’s signature song, it also regularly appears on lists of the best rock songs of all time.[6]

4 “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (Official Music Video) [HD]

Fleetwood Mac has had huge success with many of their singles, including “Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams.” But a couple of their best-known songs come straight from albums. The most obvious example is “The Chain” from 1977’s Rumours, a song which is regularly voted as their best.

“The Chain” is actually the only song on that album that all the band members had a hand in writing. Since that fateful jam session, it has received tons of radio play, become a fan favorite, been chosen as the name of their 1992 compilation album 25 Years–The Chain, and provided the name of their 1994-95 tour Another Link in the Chain.

Another Fleetwood Mac album track that became incredibly popular is “Landslide,” from their 1975 self-titled album. In 1998, “Landslide” made it to No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Rolling Stone put it in the No. 163 spot on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[7]

3 “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely

If you’ve never paid attention to the lyrics of Stevie Wonder’s 1976 hit “Isn’t She Lovely,” you might think it’s just another love song. But lines like “Less than one minute old” and “Life is Aisha” make it clear that it’s about the birth of his daughter, Aisha Morris.

The song was included on the album Songs in the Key of Life, but Wonder didn’t want to release it as a single because he wasn’t willing to cut it down (it’s over six minutes long) to a radio-friendly length. The album’s singles—”I Wish” and “Sir Duke”—both hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, but “Isn’t She Lovely” has undeniably had a larger impact.

Despite its length, the song was still popular enough to receive radio play and made it to No. 23 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. A radio edit was eventually released, and in 2012, that version hit No. 94 on the UK charts after Wonder performed it for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.[8]

2 “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin

Stairway to Heaven Live

Led Zeppelin famously didn’t release many of their songs as singles, but there were a few exceptions, such as “Whole Lotta Love” in 1969 and “Immigrant Song” in 1970. In 2020, guitarist Jimmy Page told Total Guitar that they were against singles because “we didn’t want to be a band that was known for singles. It was albums that we were going to be known for.”

Even so, when Led Zeppelin released their untitled fourth studio album in 1971, one track was the clear favorite: the epic “Stairway to Heaven.” Despite not being promoted as a single, the eight-minute-long song was quickly picked up for radio play. As well as regularly topping lists of the best Led Zeppelin songs, it’s also often considered one of the best songs ever released. For instance, it comes in at the impressive No. 31 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[9]

1 “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles

The Beatles – A Day In The Life

The Beatles have many iconic songs to their name, so it’s no surprise that a few of their album tracks have managed to step into the limelight. Two of the biggest songs in this category are “Here Comes the Sun” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” but the song that is regularly ranked as their best was also never released as a single: “A Day in the Life.”

The song is the last track on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and although it’s regarded as a masterpiece, it was initially banned on British radio and TV because the line “I’d love to turn you on” was associated with drugs. Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon denied this connection.

Frank Gillard, director of the BBC’s sound broadcasting, explained that “the recording may have been made in innocence and good faith, but we must take account of the interpretation that many young people would inevitably put upon it.” Gillard acknowledged that he expected to “meet with some embarrassment over this decision” but maintained it was the right one because the phrase “is currently much in vogue in the jargon of the drug addicts.”[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen