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Classic hits that only got to No. 2 …and the very surprising rivals that kept them off the top spotThe Rolling Stones, Oasis and Wham among those finishing second best
00:52 GMT, 29 December 2012
Some of the most iconic songs in pop only made it to No. 2 in the charts — and you won't believe it when you find out who beat them to the top. As Radio 2 prepares to reveal listeners' favourites, David Thomas presents his own…
BROWN SUGAR BY THE ROLLING STONES (APRIL 1971)
Has any other song persuaded more middle-aged men to be fools on the dance floor Inspired by Mick Jagger's affair with black American singer-actress Marsha Hunt, with whom he fathered a child, and propelled by one of Keith Richards' finest guitar-riffs, it's a spicy stew of slavery, sadism and inter-racial sex. No surprise that Jagger declares it ‘one of my favourites'.
Beaten to No.1 by: Dawn's Knock Three Times, a pallid piece of production-line pop.
Chart success: The Rolling Stones have had plenty of hits since missing the top spot in 1971
MY GENERATION BY THE WHO (NOVEMBER 1965)
Pete Townshend may have written 'Hope I die before I get old', but he’s now 67 and My Generation is a classic. Yet it sounds as angry and frenzied as ever. Roger Daltrey's famous stuttering vocal was an accident. Not having rehearsed, he was trying to fit the words to the music, stumbled over them and the band liked the sound so much they kept it.
Beaten to No.1 by: The Seekers' The Carnival Is Over — pretty enough, but of no significance.
LAST CHRISTMAS BY WHAM (DECEMBER 1984)
The best-selling No. 2 in UK chart history, with 1.6 million copies, it would have made No. 1 had Bob Geldof and Midge Ure not formed Band Aid and released Do They Know It's Christmas After a complaint from Barry Manilow, Last Christmas was judged too similar to his hit Can't Smile Without You and a legal settlement saw George Michael giving his first year’s royalties to Band Aid.
Beaten to No.1 by: Do They Know It's Christmas — with an appearance by George Michael.
WATERLOO SUNSET BY THE KINGS (MAY 1967)
performed at the London Olympics closing ceremony, this was going to be called Liverpool Sunset because Kinks songwriter Ray Davies considered himself 'an adopted Scouser'. The lovers Terry and Julie are not, as often claimed, Sixties icons Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, but were inspired by Davies’s sister and her boyfriend, and the name of his nephew, Terry Davies.
Beaten to No.1 by: The Tremeloes' Silence is Golden — not quite rubbish, but almost.
Rivals: Rock legend David Bowie was beaten to No. 1 by Jimmy Osmond's Long Haired Lover From Liverpool
THE JEAN GENIE BY DAVID BOWIE (DECEMBER 1972)
one of David Bowie's greatest singles, released at the peak of his Ziggy Stardust glory. But it was outsold by the high-pitched squeaks of chubby, nine-year-old Little Jimmy Osmond. To make matters worse, the song that replaced Jimmy at No.1, The Sweet's Blockbuster, had the exact same guitar riff as Jean Genie.
Beaten to No.1 by: Little Jimmy Osmond’s Long-Haired Lover From Liverpool.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER/PENNY LANE BY THE BEATLES (FEBRUARY 1967)
The tracks of this double A-side describe the Liverpool of the group's childhood. John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields — named after a Salvation Army home in the gardens of which he played as a child — is an impressionistic, druggy song about his feelings of alienation.
Paul McCartney’s Penny Lane is much sunnier, but still filled with complex musical effects and surreal verbal imagery. Beatles producer George Martin calls this the greatest single they ever released.
Beaten to No.1 by: Engelbert Humperdinck's Release Me, a slice of cruise-singer cheese that was, shockingly, the best-selling single of 1967.
VIENNA BY ULTRAVOX (JANUARY 1981)
Pure early Eighties, its crooning vocal by Midge Ure was modelled on David Bowie. The video combined a pastiche of The Third Man, with a party scene filled with gaudily painted New Romantics and Brideshead Revisited wannabes. Yet it was denied by a novelty song, to the horror of real music fans.
Beaten to No.1 by: Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face.
Rocket man: Pop giant Elton John was missed out on chart success in 1972 thanks to T Rex's Metal Guru
WILD THING BY THE TROGGS (MAY 1966)
Dumb, but irresistible, Wild Thing was written by Chip Taylor, brother of the actor Jon Voight and uncle of Angelina Jolie. The Troggs, from Andover in Hampshire, recorded the song in a matter of minutes.
Beaten to No.1 by: The Stones' Paint It Black — fair enough.
ROCKET MAN BY ELTON JOHN (APRIL 1972)
The words came to lyricist Bernie Taupin as he drove to his parents' Grimsby home, and he had to repeat the first lines, starting 'I packed my bag last night, pre-flight . . .' in his head until he got there. It was cited as an inspiration by England's Ashes-winning cricket team in 2005.
Beaten to No.1 by: T. Rex's Metal Guru — no disgrace to lose to Marc Bolan at his peak.
WONDERWALL BY OASIS (October 1995)
Their biggest hit, selling 1.26 million copies in the UK and the band's only top-ten U.S. single. With a title taken from a 1968 film, Wonderwall was written for Noel Gallagher's wife Meg Mathews, but he changed his mind after their divorce, preferring to describe it as a song about friendship.
Beaten to No.1 by: Robson and Jerome's I Believe/Up On The Roof, an abolute travesty of musical justice.
Second best: Oasis (left) and Petula Clark (right) got to No. 2 with their arguably most famous hits
HEARTBREAK HOTEL BY ELVIS PRESLEY (JANUARY 1956)
Possibly the most influential record in pop history. Co-written in under an hour by Mae Axton, the Florida high school teacher who first introduced Elvis Presley to his manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, it was recorded in January 1956, two days after Presley's 21st birthday.
It inspired a generation of teenage boys to become the rock superstars of the Sixties and Seventies. John Lennon recalled: 'We didn’t know what Elvis was singing about. It just sounded like a noise that was great.'
Beaten to No.1 by: Pat Boone's I’ll Be Home, a piece of insipid crooning, that has long been forgotten.
FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK BY THE POGUES, WITH KIRST MACCOLL (DECEMBER 1987)
Fairytale Of New York has been voted the UK's favourite Christmas song in at least five polls. Yet it was only written because Elvis Costello bet Pogues singer Shane MacGowan (born Christmas Day 1957) he couldn't come up with a Christmas song. Kirsty MacColl recorded her brilliant vocal by chance: her husband Steve Lillywhite produced The Pogues.
Beaten to No.1 by: The Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind – 'We were beaten by two queens and a drum machine,' moaned MacGowan.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN BY THE SEX PISTOLS (MAY 1977)
Johnny Rotten is now John Lydon and makes TV ads for butter, but in 1977 the Sex Pistols were the leaders of a punk revolution. Released in time for the Silver Jubilee, God Save The Queen's cover showed Her Majesty with her eyes and mouth crudely obscured by the song title and the band's name. Rock legend has it that the charts were deliberately rigged to keep God Save the Queen off the No.1 spot.
Beaten to No.1 by: (or was it) Rod Stewart’s classy I Don't Want to Talk About It/First Cut is the Deepest
No fairytale: The Pogues could not make the top spot with their Christmas classic
DOWNTOWN BY PETULA CLARK (NOVEMBER 1964)
Clark had already been in showbiz for 20 years when she sang Downtown. It remains a great, feelgood pop song that was a hit all over the world – the first million-selling single by a British woman in the U.S. It spent three weeks at No.2, stuck behind The Beatles.
Beaten to No.1 by: The Beatles' I Feel Fine.
IN THE AIR TONIGHT BY PHIL COLLINS (JANUARY 1981)
Written after the break-up of his first marriage, In The Air Tonight sets bitterly caustic words against a massive drum-beat. Collins performed the song on Top Of The Pops with a paint-pot on his drum-machine — pure coincidence, he insists, though many thought it was a reference to the decorator for whom his wife had left him.
Beaten to No.1 by: John Lennon's Woman, which surely wouldn’t have topped the charts had it not been for Lennon’s murder weeks earlier.