These posts are about the songs that fell just short of crossing the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.
Elvis Presley starred in three movie released in 1966, each of them with the thinnest of plots to ensure not much time passed between musical numbers. He played a riverboat gambler in Frankie and Johnny and a former airline pilot who starts a helicopter charter business in the Aloha State in Paradise, Hawaiian Style. In the third film, Spinout, cast Presley as Mike McCoy, a racecar driver, one of three times his bigscreen character was a member of that profession. Mike’s main dilemma in the film is that his freewheeling bachelor ways might be coming to an end, in part because he’s pursued by three different women. One of them inspires him to croon the ballad “All That I Am.” The track was placed on the film’s soundtrack album, natch, and it also took up the flip of the single released with the title song, the easiest tune to market. That A-side, “Spinout,” was Presley’s fourth Top 40 single of that year, though just barely. It stalled out at a peak of #40. One week later, “All That I Am” climbed as high as it would go: #41.
A mere seven years later, Presley’s career was on very different footing. He was solidly into the Vegas Elvis phase of his career, so decisively so that both studio albums he released in 1973, Elvis and the awkwardly titled Raised on Rock / For Ol’ Times Sake sported covers in his full bejeweled white jumpsuit. The latter album spawned the single “Raised on Rock,” which was written by Mark James, the songsmith behind “Suspicious Minds,” the 1969 release that was Presley’s most recent (and, as it happened, final) chart-topper. Presumably the thought was that lightning might make a second strike, but “Raised on Rock” was an odd fit for Presley, because it the lyrics are from the perspective of a someone who was an eager, fannish during the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. That leads to the oddity of Presley belting out his nostalgia for a childhood leaning into the radio to hear “the music that my idols made.” The incongruity reaches it apex when Presley rattles of a list of bygone favorites, including his own hits: “I knew every single record the DJs played/ A honky tonk, a ‘Hound Dog,’ a ‘Johnny B. Goode’/ ‘Chain Gang,’ ‘Love Is Strange,’ ‘Knock On Wood.'” It could be playful and cheeky. Instead, it’s simply weird, implying delusion more than anything. Perhaps in response, radio programmers and record buyer only warmed to the song so much. It peaked at #41.
Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Top 40 Smash Near Misses” tag.