(January 29, 2022). Just when you thought it would hit No. 1…it suddenly didn’t.
Exactly 40 years ago this week, one of the most historic and, to Foreigner fans, disappointing milestones in Billboard chart history occurred on the publication’s flagship singles chart, the Hot 100.
It happened when, after nine frustrating weeks of sitting at No. 2 on that chart behind Olivia Newton-John’s long-running No. 1 single “Physical,” Foreigner’s classic rock ballad “Waiting For A Girl Like You” finally overcame Olivia’s hit…only to be held at bay once again by the new No. 1 song: Daryl Hall & John Oates’ pop and soul crossover classic “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).”
And just like that, “no can do” became prophetic for Foreigner as nine weeks in the runner-up spot turned into ten, and “Waiting For A Girl” became the little engine that couldn’t. Its tenth and final week at No. 2 gave Foreigner the distinction of having the longest-running single in the runner-up position without ever hitting the top spot (a mark that has since been tied). “Waiting” also still holds the distinction of being the first No. 2-peaking tune to spend as many as nine weeks at that position behind one song, only to be overtaken by a different record in its tenth week in the runner-up spot.
Yet, while Foreigner’s story is still the one chart geeks (and Foreigner fans) think of most when the topic of heartbreaking No. 2 chart peaks is raised, it’s far from being the only time a song with heavy momentum moved up to the second chart position behind one No. 1 song, only to be leapfrogged by another song that prevented it from ultimately reaching the pinnacle.
In fact, during the 1980s alone, there were more than two dozen such examples of No. 2 songs that were prevented from reaching the top spot by two different No. 1 hits before beginning their inevitable descents of defeat down and off the chart.
It’s worth noting that there have been many songs that have peaked at No. 2 (i.e., those that reach No. 2 but never get to that No. 1 spot) throughout Billboard chart history, including 94 during the 1980s. But the number narrows significantly when considering only those that had the misfortune of taking a backseat to more than one chart topper; that is, those songs that were scandalously beaten to the top by one song after already being held from the top by another.
Djrobblog, of course, has compiled all 27 instances of these always-a-bridesmaid scenarios, with the compelling stories surrounding each case. These vignettes are fascinating not only because of the classic songs involved, but also due to the very unique circumstances of a song looking like a sure-fire No. 1 hit while sitting in the runner-up spot, only to be subsequently leapfrogged by a tune coming from the rear.
So here they are, in chronological order. Of the 94 songs that peaked at No. 2 during the 1980s, these were the 27 that had the unfortunate distinction of playing second fiddle to two different No. 1 tunes during their chart runs. How many of these do you remember?
“Longer” – Dan Fogelberg (2 weeks, March 1980). This lilting ballad by the late Dan Fogelberg had the rare distinction of being blocked from No. 1 by two very popular British groups during its two weeks at No. 2: first by Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and then by Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In the Wall.” It was clearly a case of bad timing for the balladeer out of Peoria, Illinois.
“All Out Of Love” – Air Supply (4 weeks, September-October 1980). When Air Supply’s second hit climbed to No. 2 behind Diana Ross’ megasmash “Upside Down” in September 1980, few expected the group from down under to overtake the Motown legend. But “Upside Down” ran its course and fell to No. 3 in early October, only to be replaced by Queen (again) and their platinum smash “Another One Bites The Dust,” while Air Supply remained firmly entrenched at No. 2 for its fourth and final week before descending and exiting the chart.
“More Than I Can Say” – Leo Sayer (5 weeks, Dec. 1980-Jan. 1981). It’s arguable that John Lennon’s murder on December 8, 1980 prevented Leo Sayer from nabbing his third No. 1 Hot 100 hit. “More Than I Can Say” moved swiftly to No. 2 behind Kenny Rogers’ ballad “Lady” on the chart dated December 6. Three weeks later, as the sentiment from Lennon’s murder was reflected on the charts, his comeback hit “(Just Like) Starting Over” leapt to No. 1 while Sayer held at No. 2 for two more somber weeks, thus denying him the chance at a No. 1 hat trick.
“Woman” – John Lennon (3 weeks, March-April 1981). Ironically, the followup to “Starting Over” is the next song on this list that was denied the chance of hitting No. 1 by two different tunes. In this case, Lennon’s ballad (and tribute to widow Yoko Ono) was held from the top by the unique one-two punch of a power rock ballad by REO Speedwagon (“Keep On Loving You”) and a rap-disco smash by Blondie (“Rapture”). For Lennon, it was a case of turnabout being fair play given his eclipse of Leo Sayer just three months earlier.
“Just The Two Of Us” – Grover Washington, Jr. (3 weeks, May 1981). As a follower of the charts in Spring 1981, I was rooting for this Grover Washington, Jr. tune (featuring Bill Withers on vocals) to reach the top. It moved from No. 4 to No. 2 behind Sheena Easton’s “Morning Train” with all the momentum of a No. 1 hit, only to be leapfrogged the following week by Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” a juggernaut that would also prevent legends Smokey Robinson (“Being With You”) and George Harrison (“All Those Years Ago”) from hitting No. 1.
“Start Me Up” – Rolling Stones (3 weeks, Oct. – Nov. 1981). Like Queen a year earlier, Daryl Hall & John Oates factored into two consecutive cases of these No. 1 eclipses. First was this Stones classic which rose to No. 2 behind yacht rocker Christopher Cross and his “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” only to be denied out of left field by Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes.” “Start Me Up” is considered among the last great Stones tunes, one that many thought to be a No. 1 hit. But, alas, it wasn’t…thanks to the blue-eyed soul duo out of Philadelphia.
“Waiting For A Girl Like You” – Foreigner (10 weeks, Nov. 1981-Jan. 1982). Here’s the second-consecutive example involving Hall & Oates, and the most famous. When “Private Eyes” gave way to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” in November 1981, no one could have guessed that it would be Hall & Oates again who would ultimately replace ONJ, especially with Foreigner’s tune breathing down her neck for two months. But “Private Eyes” and “I Can’t Go For That” bookended “Physical,” and like the Stones before them, Foreigner’s “Waiting” was the ultimate victim.
“Open Arms” – Journey (6 weeks, Feb. – Apr. 1982). Not many people today would believe that “Don’t Stop Believin’” wasn’t Journey’s biggest chart hit. It was actually their followup single, “Open Arms,” which climbed fast to No. 2 in early 1982 behind J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold,” where it spent three weeks waiting for that ode to a girly magazine cutie to run its course. When it finally did, Journey was eclipsed by an even faster climbing Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, whose “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” kept “Open Arms” in the No. 2 spot for three more weeks.
“Rosanna” – Toto (5 weeks, July 1982). Before “Rosanna” climbed to No. 2 in 1982, Toto’s biggest hit was their debut single “Hold The Line,” a No. 5 hit from 1978. “Rosanna” looked like a sure-fire No. 1 smash when it sped to the runner-up spot behind Human League’s synth-dance classic, “Don’t You Want Me.” But they were denied chart glory by Survivor’s Rocky III theme, “Eye Of The Tiger,” which roared to the No. 1 spot while “Rosanna” remained at No. 2. No worries though: Toto would get that first No. 1 seven months later with the song “Africa.”
“Gloria” – Laura Branigan (3 weeks, Nov. – Dec. 1982). The late Ms. Branigan’s début smash “Gloria” was a sleeper hit that didn’t reach No. 2 until it had been on the chart for nearly five months. Still it had a shot at No. 1 after Lionel Richie’s debut solo hit “Truly” burned out fast at the top. It was another artist’s debut hit, however, that would deny “Gloria” the chance. Toni Basil’s “Mickey” hopscotched over “Gloria” during its final week at No. 2, making this 3-way battle of one-word début titles by solo acts an intriguing one indeed.
“The Girl Is Mine” – Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney (3 weeks, January 1983). Michael Jackson’s historic year of 1983 began humbly with the first single from the iconic Thriller album peaking at No. 2. Its first No. 1 blocker was none other than Hall & Oates, whose “Maneater” was in its last of four weeks at the top when Jackson & McCartney climbed to the second spot. But No. 1 eluded the superstar duet when Australia’s Men At Work surprisingly jumped from No. 4 to the top with their second No. 1 hit, “Down Under,” keeping Michael and Paul at bay. But Michael was waiting in the wings with the followup, which debuted on that same chart at No. 47 and would factor into the next story below.
“Shame On The Moon” – Bob Seger (4 weeks, Feb. – Mar. 1983). Bob Seger’s biggest hit (before 1987’s “Shakedown”) was this ballad, which wasted little time climbing to No. 2 behind Patti Austin & James Ingram’s “Baby, Come To Me,” a song experiencing a second life thanks to its feature in the TV soap opera General Hospital. But the fast-rising second single from Jackson’s Thriller, “Billie Jean,” was not to be denied. It leapt from No. 4 to No. 1 in March ‘83, keeping Seger’s song at No. 2 for the final three of its four weeks there and making the Detroit rocker wait four more years for his first No. 1. Coincidentally, producer Quincy Jones was behind the boards for both “Baby” and “Billie,” making this the only single-producer blockout of the decade.
“Electric Avenue” – Eddy Grant (5 weeks, July 1983). This social commentary by Guyanese singer Eddy Grant is often mistaken as a party anthem, and it had all the makings of a No. 1 hit when it moved to No. 2 behind Irene Cara’s fading “Flashdance…What A Feeling.” But moving up even faster behind “Electric Avenue” was “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, which became that band’s first No. 1 the following week and kept Eddy’s hit at No. 2 for four more weeks before it lost steam and made its inevitable chart exit.
“Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell (3 weeks, Mar. – Apr. 1984). The début single by Berry Gordy’s son Kennedy Gordy was “Somebody’s Watching Me,” a song about paranoia that featured the uncredited vocals of Michael Jackson (who knew a thing or two about always being watched). Recorded on the Motown label, “Watching” climbed to No. 2 behind Van Halen’s “Jump” in March 1984, only to be jumped by Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” theme the following week, thus denying Rockwell a No. 1 song.
“Dancing In The Dark” – Bruce Springsteen (4 weeks, June – July 1984). This may the second-most famous No. 1 blockout on the Hot 100 after ONJ-Foreigner-H&O. On the chart dated June 30, The Boss climbed from No. 4 to No. 2 behind Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.” But that same week, Prince’s “When Doves Cry” leapt from No. 8 to No. 3. That momentum took Prince to No. 1 the following week, while Bruce’s “Dancing In The Dark” languished at No. 2 for three more frustrating chart frames. Although Springsteen had six more top-10 hits from his blockbuster LP Born In The USA, he would never get this close to No. 1 again.
“The Wild Boys” – Duran Duran (4 weeks, Dec. 1984- Jan. 1985). It’s intriguing how many of these examples involve artists who were both on the giving and receiving ends of these No. 1 block-outs, and often consecutively. First John Lennon was on the giving/receiving end with “Starting Over”/“Woman.” Then Michael Jackson flipped the script with “The Girl Is Mine”/“Billie Jean.” Two years later, Duran Duran joined the list after having helped block Bruce Springsteen with their earlier hit, “The Reflex.” Their followup, “The Wild Boys,” played second-fiddle to Hall & Oates’ final No. 1, “Out of Touch,” and to Madonna’s first chart topper, “Like A Virgin.”
“Material Girl” – Madonna (2 weeks, March 1985). And the turnabout scenarios continued with Madonna’s followup to “Like A Virgin,” the playful tune “Material Girl.” It moved fast to No. 2 behind REO Speedwagon’s second No. 1 power rock ballad, “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” only to be surprised at the top the following week by Phil Collins’ “One More Night,” a ballad that became his second No. 1. But Madonna wouldn’t have to wait long for her own second chart topper. It happened a month later with her first hit ballad “Crazy For You,” a song from the Vision Quest movie.
“Dancing On The Ceiling” – Lionel Richie (2 weeks, September 1986). Superstar Lionel Richie had been part of a double No. 2 eclipse with his first No. 1 solo hit “Truly” (see “Gloria” above). But his last real chance at adding to his No. 1 total was “Dancing on the Ceiling,” a gravity-defying party tune that flew to No. 2 behind Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” (from the movie Top Gun) and remained there the following week behind Huey Lewis & the News’ “Stuck With You.” Gravity then took its course and “Dancing On The Ceiling” began the inevitable fall down and off the charts, and Lionel became yet another example of the give-and-take scenario shared by Lennon, Madonna, Duran Duran and others.
“Typical Male” – Tina Turner (3 weeks, Oct. – Nov. 1986). This is the only case of a No. 1 double-lockout involving all women acts. When Tina Turner climbed from No. 5 to No. 2 with her very specific lawyer-lust tune “Typical Male,” the only person standing between her and a second No. 1 was Janet Jackson, whose “When I Think Of You” was in its final week at the top. But an even bigger leap from No. 9 to No. 3 that same week was all the momentum Cyndi Lauper needed to carry her to No. 1 the following week, giving her the second No. 1 hit (after 1984’s “Time After Time”) that Tina would never achieve.
“C’est La Vie” – Robbie Nevil (2 weeks, Jan. 1987). Los Angeles singer/songwriter Robbie Nevil reached the soul and pop top ten with this debut single. But it would be two different pop and soul acts who would deny Robbie the chance of having a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. First, soul crooner Gregory Abbott’s “Shake You Down” was at No. 1 the week that “C’est La Vie” climbed to No. 2. Then, blues pop group Billy Vera & the Beaters “At This Moment” (thanks to a prominent feature in the popular TV sitcom, Family Ties) hopped over Nevil’s tune to keep him in the runner-up spot and out of the top. I guess the song’s title said it all: that’s life!
“Looking For A New Love” – Jody Watley (4 weeks, May 1987). In the latter half of the 1980s (after 1984), only one song was able to spend as many as four weeks in the No. 2 position on the Hot 100: Jody Watley’s début solo smash, “Looking For A New Love.” The first two of those four weeks were behind British rock act Cutting Crew’s only No. 1 “(I Just) Died In Your Arms.” The last two weeks were behind U2’s “With or Without You.” Thus the former Shalamar singer suffered at the hands of two European rock acts, the first from England, the second from Ireland.
“Causing A Commotion” – Madonna (3 weeks, Oct. – Nov. 1987). Madonna scored four No. 2 hits during the 1980s, and three of them are on this list, giving her the most by any artist. “Causing A Commotion” first dwelled in the runner-up spot behind Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” before losing the battle to Tiffany’s first of two No. 1’s, the remake of Tommy James’ “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Not to worry, though. Madonna also had seven No. 1 songs during the decade, and five more afterwards, putting her in first place among women at the time.
“What Have I Done To Deserve This?” – Pet Shop Boys (2 weeks, Feb. 1988). The Pet Shop Boys had been to No. 1 before with their first chart hit, “West End Girls,” two years earlier. Dusty Springfield had not. So when the Boys teamed up with their fellow Londoner in late 1987, all eyes were on the charts to see if Dusty could nab that first chart topper. It was not to be. First the group Exposé (“Seasons Change”) and then fellow Brit George Michael (“Father Figure”) combined to keep PSB and Dusty from the No. 1 spot, denying the late chanteuse her biggest chance ever.
“Devil Inside” – INXS (2 weeks, April 1988). Like the Pet Shop Boys, the Australian rock band INXS had previously hit No. 1 (“Need You Tonight”). Their followup single, “Devil Inside,” wasn’t so fortunate. It went up to No. 2 behind two chart titans: first Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” and then Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” the latter becoming Houston’s seventh-consecutive No. 1 chart single, a record that stands to this day.
“Shattered Dreams” – Johnny Hates Jazz (3 weeks, May-Jun 1988). Back in the 1980s, if a song made a move from No. 8 to No. 2 in a single week, it was almost guaranteed a No. 1 rank the following week. Not only did JHJ’s “Shattered Dreams” not meet that expectation after jumping six spots behind Gloria Estéfan and Miami Sound Machine’s “Anything For You,” but the classic pop tune fell back a spot the next week to No. 3, only to move back to No. 2 again the following week behind a different No. 1: George Michael’s “One More Try.”
“Express Yourself” – Madonna (2 weeks, July 1989). The third and final Madonna song on this list during the ‘80s was probably the one everyone expected to hit No. 1 for several key reasons: 1) it was the followup to the hugely successful “Like A Prayer”; 2) the rapid turnover at the top: the last seven No. 1 songs had all spent just one week apiece at the pinnacle; and 3) its move from No. 4 to No. 2 made it the primary candidate to become the eighth new No. 1 in eight weeks. But newcomer Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” would be the song to (surprisingly) replace Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” at the top, relegating Madonna’s “Express Yourself” to runner-up status behind both hits.
“On Our Own” – Bobby Brown (3 weeks, August 1989). The last double-eclipsed No. 2 single on this list belongs to New Edition singer Bobby Brown. His Ghostbusters 2 theme, “On Our Own,” rode its proton pak to the runner-up slot in August 1989 behind Prince’s “Batdance” (from the Batman soundtrack). But it was modern-day Internet troller Richard Marx who would have a joker-sized laugh when his ballad “Right Here Waiting” supplanted “Batdance” while holding “On Our Own” to its No. 2 peak. Luckily, Bobby Brown would return to No. 1 the following year with a Glenn Medeiros duet.
And that’s it. Those are the 27 No. 2-peaking songs that waited patiently behind one No. 1 song only to be blocked from the top subsequently by another.
Of course, this list only covered the 1980s. There have been many other cases of songs throughout time that found themselves taking silver medals behind multiple No. 1 hits. But those stories are best saved for future articles.
Did any of these bring back memories? Which decade of No. 2 disappointments like these would you want to read about next? Please feel free to comment in the section below or in any of the social media feeds where this article is posted.
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
You can also register for free (below) to receive notifications of future articles.