Songs that SHOULD have been singles

I’m a child of the 70’s early 80’s pretty much, and and I’m really into albums. . . the concept of albums, and the release of albums and singles. And there are a couple of albums where a poor-choice was made in picking the singles, or the first single. I’ve always thought that a poorly received single can really hurt a band and the album sales. I guess it doesn’t quite work that way anymore, but still I was wondering if others knew of songs that they think could have been hit singles that were never released.

I was recently listening to The Royal Scam, by Steely Dan, for the first time, and I can’t believe that Don’t Take Me Alive or Sign In Stranger were not singles. The first single was Kid Charlemagne, which was not a big hit.

There must be many more examples.

Most of Emitt Rhodes’s first album would have worked as singles, notably “With my Face on the Floor,” "She’s Such a Beauty " and “Live Till You Die.” They’re all very catchy pop tunes.

Didn’t the “Day of the Single” come to an end when 45 RPM singles lost their popularity?

Maybe, but I think of the “singles” from an album as the songs that get played on the radio or (in the MTV era) get music videos made for them. I assume this is what the OP was thinking of, too.

Two obvious Stones examples: “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Gimme Shelter”. Two of their best and best known songs, but only album tracks.

ETA: just thought of the Clash’s “London Calling” album, IMHO a double album with 18 potential singles. Yeah, “London Calling” and “Train In Vain” were successful singles, but they could as well have released “Rudy Can’t Fail”, “Death Or Glory”, “Clampdown”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, “Four Horsemen” as singles, you name it.

According to the Wikipedia article for The Stones discography, “Sympathy For The Devil” was released in Feb 1969 with “Prodigal Son” on the B-side.

Exactly. Singles, even if they don’t sell, usually get radio plays and can become hits. Which propels album sales and venue attendance.

Well, I consulted one of my old dead tree sources, M. C. Strong’s “The Great Rock Discography” (1994 edition), and according to this the song wasn’t released as a single neither in the UK nor the USA in 1968 or 1969. Maybe it got released on minor markets like Germany or France, not at the time, but a few years later. I have a recollection that it was re-released as a single in 1975 in the US and/or the UK, but that was seven years after the album release and just an afterthought.

Six minutes and change. I imagine that was the dealbreaker - I can’t speak for everywhere, but in those days in the UK, four minutes was a bit of a stretch.

Were the later releases (I don’t remember the UK one) an edit?


ETA I remember Angie well - I’m thinking that SFTD may have been a French-only release.

It’s funny, I’ve known the song for a billion years, but it never occurred to me that it’s over six minutes long, that’s how captivating it is.

I had to look it up; and then I didn’t believe the result; so I checked the length on YouTube (!)


Sympathy for the Devil: There are a LOT of damn “do-dos” in that song. Like 6 minutes worth or so. That’s why no band I’ve ever played in wanted to play it. I bet that took a couple of takes.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” from the Beatles’ Revolver. It’s probably their most important song in their transition from a touring band to studio wizards. It not only got beat out of a single by Elenor Rigby/Yellow Submarine, but wasn’t even included with those two songs at the end of the Red Album

How about Lou Reed, back in 1972. A single off Transformer? I guess somebody’s decision was that Perfect Day just wasn’t going to work.

(He eventually appeared briefly on a UK charity version of the song in 1997. Sold millions.)


How about “Vicious”? It was only the B-side of “Satellite Of Love”.

I always think it’s weird that the single that did best off that album, at least in the UK, was Walk On The Wild Side. There must have been (by the standards of the time) a solid half dozen reasons for the BBC to ban it, if only they had been able to figure out what it was about.


Nobody in the BBC knew what “giving head” was about…

“8:05” by Moby Grape. Harmonies are sweet, guitar work is awesome. Very different song for a “hard” rock band. Although they did put out a great blues-jazz album, Grape Jam.

Yeah! I love “8:05”, it’s a beautiful song. Moby Grape’s career was destroyed instantly by their company that foolishly released their whole debut album simultaneously on five singles, a move that was regarded as customer exploitation by the public who consequently ignored both the album and the singles, though the music was awesome.

There’s always Stairway to Heaven, one of the most played songs of all time. I remember hearing it even on Top-40 stations back in the 70s. It was never released as a single. Probably would have charted quite well if it had.

Similarly, The Kinks’ Living on a Thin Line was a big rock radio hit, but never released as a single due to a clause in their contract with Arista that said the first three singles from each album had to be Ray Davies compositions. Writer Dave Davies bitched about that in his autobiography.

Speaking of the Kinks, Ring the Bells should have been a single in the early days, instead of an album cut. Supposedly Ray wanted it to be a single, but producer Shel Talmy squashed the idea.