Pretty self-explanatory - what are some of the weirdest singles that have made the top 10? Songs that, when you first heard, you thought, “This is pretty out there for a mass audience”? A lot of these probably don’t seem so weird now that they’re entrenched cultural signposts, but here’s my short list:
The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
A great song, to be sure, but it would be weird even if it was released today. Not even so much “psychedelic” as sounding like it’s completely from another realm.
Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
I’m not a fan of their too-laid-back SoCal easy listening “rock”, but I have to cheer this one for its kitchen-sink bizarreness. A million miles from “Don’t Stop”.
R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
As I said, this doesn’t seem weird now that it’s a standard, but I remember, as a fan from the 80s, when I first heard this single on the local “modern rock” station and thinking, “Well, that was a stupid choice as a bid for mainstream airplay”. Mandolin, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, and a decidedly downbeat feel? Never happen.
I was going to include Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?”, but I see it only made #11 on the charts. But what the hell? I’ll include it anyway.
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Weird subject matter, weird song.
The Tornados - Telstar
It still sounds peculiar after all these years, the jewel in Joe Meek’s weird crown.
Also, Maggie Thatcher’s favourite song apparently.
Keith West - Grocer Jack, Excerpt From A Teenage Opera
Just listen to it!
“Timothy” by The Buoys. Cannibalism. And repressed memories. At the end of the “innocent” sixties and the beginning of the disco seventies. Hard to get much weirder than that.
The Ying Yang Twins’ “wait (the whisper song)” springs to mind. Nothing but a kick drum, finger snaps, and a guy whispering obscenities. It got to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
What’s so weird about it? Honest, I don’t get why you think that. It’s about a shipwreck. That’s not a typical subject for a song, but I don’t see it as particularly weird. And the song itself, musically, has nothing weird in it that I can hear, I actually quite like it.
“Desiderata” by Les Crane. Not even a song, really, just a overly dramatic recitation of a poem. Reached #8.
“They’re Coming to Take me Away, Ha Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV – A weird chant by a man going insane. Doesn’t even show up on oldies stations any more. Reached #3.
Dominique by the Singing Nun.
Because when you think of pop stars with Number One Billboard Chart hits, you automatically think of cloistered (and apparently closeted) nuns.
Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” hit #2 in the UK and is far weirder than anything else on this list.
It’s catchy as hell and really happy sounding, but The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” is one weird piece of music – constant stops and starts, numerous parts, and an instrumental lineup of drums, bass, manaical organs, electro-theremin, tack piano, and cellos sawing one note.
That’s probably because it’s now considered politically incorrect.
I think that song’s weirdness has more to do with the fact it was the charts in 1969. Imagine listening to a typical Top 40 station that year and hearing this Kurt Weilesque testament to mid-life ennui by a nearly 50-something former big band singer among the Rolling Stones and the Archies.
“My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry, 1972. “Those of you who will not sing, you must be playing with your own ding-a-ling.”
Good, Chuck. Encourage audience participation . . . and get them arrested for lewd behavior!
Yep, that’s a weird one, all right. Didn’t chart here in the U.S. at all, far as I can tell, but it would’ve definitely been on my list if it had.
There’s a song I heard on regular pop radio the other day called “No Handlebars” by the Flobots. I don’t know how high it reached on the charts but I loved it and it’s definitely weird.
This is exactly what I was going to say. Except for the loving it part.
In the Year 2525 was pretty weird and the lyrics didn’t make a lot of sense either. It hit #1 for a few weeks in…I think 1969?
“Shut uppa your face” a bit of a fad song, but very popular at one time. Does anybody else even remember it?
whatsa matta wcho…ya gotta no respect…
Oh and I always thought “Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy was pretty darn weird.
"Hey, there Li’l Red Riding Hood’, by Sam the Sham. #2.