Gr8at: Best Songs to Fall One Place Short of UK Number 1

This post was partly inspired by the release of romcom Last Christmas (which features the many musical talents of George Michael), and the fact that I’ve been listening to a lot of music recently. Enjoy!

They may have had 7 top 10 albums, but Ultravox’s biggest hit by far was synth masterpiece Vienna (complete with atmospheric video)which would have been a deserved chart topper. But it was outrageously kept off the top by the comical Shaddap Your Face by one-hit wonder Joe Dolce.


You won’t find Save a Prayer on most lists, but that doesn’t take away from how brilliant this 1981 track is. And the beautifully shot video works as a tourist campaign for Sri Lanka. I’ve been lucky to see it performed live too. Lyrically profound with a gorgeous melody, it needed Survivor’s motivational anthem Eye of the Tiger to keep Duran Duran from maximum glory.


Perhaps the most famous song to just fall short, the much-loved Last Christmas is arguably the best Christmas song ever written and has led to a seemingly infinite number of covers. The heartbreaking ballad was only kept off the top of the charts by Band Aid’s charity smash Do They Know it’s Christmas, which George Michael himself sang on.


I’ve always been a big fan of the 80s, and this a-ha classic was one of the decade’s finest pop tunes. And what a video! While it topped the US’ Billboard Hot 100, in the UK it ran into the phenomenon that was The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush, which was the year’s biggest seller.


A gorgeous rock n’roll ballad that continues to feature in lists of best songs, Wonderwall
comfortably sold over a million in the UK, kept off the top by Robson and Jerome’s largely forgotten cover of I Believe. 


I’m a big fan of The Kinks (and even saw the musical Sunny Afternoon), but Waterloo Sunset will always be my favourite. The happily reflective tune about two lovers continues to enthral, but was denied by the Tremeloes’ Silence Is Golden. 


Even casual blogger followers will know how big a fan I am of the iconic Liverpool quartet. The Beatles were on a juggernaut when the double A-side of Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane was released. But they ran into Engelbert Humperdink’s mournful ballad Please Release Me, which was that year’s biggest selling track by some distance.


Widely considered to be Britpop’s finest hour (or 4 plus minutes), this biting commentary on rich kids lazily slumming it sounds as good now as it did back in 1994 when it stormed the charts, before running into Robson and Jerome’s (yep them again) cover of Unchained Melody.


28 thoughts on “Gr8at: Best Songs to Fall One Place Short of UK Number 1

  1. I think that Band Aid song just drowned out everything else that year.
    I am VERY guilty of blubbering tears every time I hear it!

    It’s funny what happens over here at Christmas. Do you remember Mr Blobby? That reached #1 and I am pretty sure so did the Telletubbies and so did Bob the Builder!
    Brits lose their mind at Xmas!

  2. What a fantastic way to start the day – thanks, Alex!. Some of these videos are brilliant, and I’d never heard the Ultravox song before. “Atmospheric” was what was running through my head as well. The sound of the Kinks is what I grew up on way back then, so fun. Lots of love from across the pond!

    • Thanks. Isn’t the Duran Duran one the most amazing tourism video ever? Purple skies, ancient shrines, welcoming locals and elephants.What more could you ask for? The songwriter had never been to Vienna when he wrote the song but was inspired by my favourite movie The Third Man. And Waterloo Sunset is so calming and reassuring. Like a pleasant dream.

    • Don’t get me started! Sometimes the charts make no sense. Only half of those songs have a strong case for being above them. To show how daft they can be, a silly cover of Wonderwall actually topped the charts a few months after the original.

    • That Ethiopia video that inspired it is shocking. I watched it again just now and it’s still harrowing. I’m glad it was able to help them. Was that the last original song for a charity campaign? Was pretty suprised there were 3 other Band Aid releases.

  3. Adore Waterloo Sunset & Strawberry Fields!
    The rest are okay, except Duran.. something I really don’t like about their sound.
    Well done post, Alex, Thank You!!!!

    • Oh but Duran Duran are awesome. I’ll probably put a more dedicated post to them soon. I guess great minds don’t always think alike haha. You certainly now your 60s music though. Would have been wonderful to see them both live.

      • Yeah.. it would have been great. I knew a drummer who was Ray Davies nephew. He has neat stories about being in the studio on his uncle’s knee, playing with drums. We were hanging out when Ray & Chrissie had a baby. He loved Duran Duran!!

  4. Pingback: Gr8at: Famous Songs that Charted Badly in the UK | Alex Raphael

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