Top 40 Smash Near Misses — “Good Times Roll,” “It’s All I Can Do,” and “Since You’re Gone”

These posts are about the songs that just barely failed to cross the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.


The Cars registered thirteen Top 40 singles on the Billboard chart during their tenure. The Boston-originating band also had a peculiar propensity for falling just short of crossing that threshold. Best as I can tell, they are the only act to see three different tracks peak at #41.

The Cars released three singles from their 1978 self-titled debut album, none of which exactly became a smash in the U.S. at the time. “Just What I Needed” stalled out at #27, and “My Best Friend’s Girl” climbed no further than #35. The third single, “Good Times Roll,” was, in a way, a fitting encapsulation of the band’s meager success. Frontman and chief songwriter Ric Ocasek intended the song to be a sarcastic parroting of the empty party posturing that typified much of rock music. It was withering pessimism dressed up in flashy, cheerful garb.

The singles off of The Cars may have underperformed, but the album itself was a healthy hit, a reflection of the swelling influence on album rock radio stations on the FM dial. Although the band turned in their sophomore album with impressive speed, their label, Elektra Records, originally wanted to leave it on the shelf for a while to let the debut record continue to sell without immediate competition in the band’s catalog. Uniting in opposition, the band insisted the new material come out, and Candy-O hit record stores almost exactly one year after The Cars.

Candy-O charted even higher, and it’s lead single, “Let’s Go,” hit a new high for the band on the singles chart, reaching #14. The follow-up, “It’s All I Can Do,” was the glimmering new wave version of a ballad. Once again, the Cars moved right to the front door of the Top 40 and couldn’t quite cross through.

The Cars logged one tepidly performing Top 40 single from their third album, Panorama, and then finally had a more significant breakthrough with the first offering from their fourth album, Shake It Up. The title song hit #4, and it seemed like the band might finally start experiencing chart success more aligned with their sterling songcraft. The Cars banged out great singles: short, catchy, punchy, perfect. And most have had incredible staying power, too. They simply didn’t turn into pop hits, in the most accurate measure of the term.

And the promise of “Shake It Up” wasn’t realized, either. The other singles from the album were indifferently received. Only the third single, the splendidly mopey “Since You’re Gone,” even made an appearance on the Hot 100. Of course, it peaked at #41.

By this point, the terrain of pop success was changing, mostly because of the seismic influence of a certain cable television network. The Cars couldn’t quite get Top 40 radio programmers to embrace them fully and consistently, but they were starting to suspect they could slip in the side door if they brought some unique visual acumen to their presentation. By the band’s next album, they figured out how to create a sensation so strong that they couldn’t be denied any longer.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Top 40 Smash Near Misses” tag.


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