10 Songs That Weren’t Huge Hits First Time 'Round

2 January 2017, 14:00 | Updated: 28 March 2018, 13:33

Clash and the charts

If at first you don’t succeed… reissue, repackage, re-evaluate… Sometimes genius isn’t appreciated during the artist’s lifetime. Sometimes they get a second bite of the cherry. Radio X looks at the songs that did better second time out.

1. Radiohead - Creep

Radio 1 though that this stone-cold classic was “too depressing” to play on its release in September 1992 and it only made No 78. After some enthusiasm in countries as far apart as New Zealand and Israel, the song was reissued a year later and strode all the way to No 7.  

2. Electric Six - Danger! High Voltage

Originally released in 2001, when the Detroit band was known as The Wildbunch, the dancefloor favourite was re-mixed into a new version when the band signed to the UK based label XL. Because there was already a band called the name The Wild Bunch, the group settled on the Electric Six moniker and the rest was history: the track made No 2 in the British charts.

3. David Bowie - Space Oddity

Our man originally wrote his space-themed mini-drama in early 1969 and a more acoustic version appeared in his promo film Love You Til Tuesday. When Bowie signed with the Phillips label that summer, he realised that the song would benefit from the publicity generated by the Apollo 11 space mission that was due to touch down on the moon in July. While it wasn’t a complete flop on its initial release - the song made No 5 - it hit the top spot when it was reissued in 1975.

4. The Cure - Boys Don’t Cry

When Robert Smith first issued his lovelorn ditty in the summer of 1979, it failed to chart. By 1986, he’d morphed into the tousled-haired pop star we know and love and re-voiced the classic hit to go alongside a compilation of the band’s singles. It made No 22.

5. The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Originally included on the band’s Combat Rock album, this classic made a respectable No 17 when issued as a double A-side with Straight To Hell in 1982. However, off the back of its inclusion in a Levis jeans ad in 1991, the song made the top spot in the UK.

6. Iggy Pop - The Passenger

When The Ig first issued his Bowie-powered single as a double A-side with Success, it failed to chart in any country. Disappointed with the response, the song kind of went underground for many years, receiving a cover version from Siouxsie And The Banshees in 1987. Once Iggy’s Lust For Life was included on the soundtrack to the film Trainspotting, his stock had risen and The Passenger was used in a car ad in 1998. The single was re-released and was finally a hit! Well, No 22 anyway.


7. James - Sit Down

When the Manchester band originally issued their communal classic in 1989 it was on the Rough Trade label and lasted a hefty seven minutes. It fared well in the indie charts, but only hit No 77 in the nationals. Come 1991, the band had signed to the major label Fontana and the track had become a live favourite, with audiences literally sitting down during the song. Now that “Madchester” was a thing, Sit Down was re-recorded and made No 2. It was included as an extra track on the reissued Gold Mother album and remains the band’s best-known song. Here's the video to the 1989 version.

8. The La’s - There She Goes

One could never accuse La’s frontman Lee Mavers of rushing into anything. This modern Merseybeat classic made No 59 in the national chart when first released in October 1988, but the accompanying album took another two years to arrive. When the song was re-issued to promote the LP, it made a more respectable No 13. 

9. Joy Division - Atmosphere

Recorded in the autumn of 1979, this glacial classic was first issued two months before singer Ian Curtis’s death in March 1980. However, JD manager Rob Gretton offered this beautiful song (along with the ferocious Dead Souls) to French label Sordide Sentimentale, who issued it as a VERY limited edition of 1,578 copies. Such was the band’s growing popularity at the time, it sold out immediately. However, the song was added to a 12” edition of She’s Lost Control in the US and a UK version was issued soon after. But Atmosphere didn’t make the UK charts until 1988, when it was used to promote the Substance compilation - the morbid/ironic Anton Corbijn video pushed the song to No 34 that summer.

10. Kraftwerk - The Model

“Das Model” was originally included on the Dusseldorf droids’ 1978 album The Man Machine, but when the record company were looking for a b-side to their new single Computer Love in 1981, this oldie was pressed into service. Its emotionless techno groove got noticed by New Romantic club DJs, who started to play the flip rather than the A-side. The track made No 1 in the UK in February 1982. Fancy the German version for a change?