Forgotten songs remind listeners what musical trends passed through the American soundscape. Some of them were meant to be novelties, or regional releases, but some had musical merit and are worth recalling.
It is impossible to know every song in every era. Extreme trivia buffs will come close, but even they will have forgotten a song or two. I have compiled a short list of songs that might have escaped some notice. Maybe the songs lacked industry support or for some other reason didn’t rank very high on the proverbial charts. At any rate, the almost-forgotten gems on this list have redeeming qualities.
“A Fine, Fine Day” by Tony Carey
From the album, “Some Tough City,” (1984) this song details a nephew’s lament for a beloved uncle’s incarceration. Carey sings in a gritty voice that fits the big city- criminal element theme of the song.
Carey is probably best known for having been a short-stint keyboardist for Rainbow. Call me naïve, but I expected this song to make a roaring comeback during the era of “The Sopranos.” It didn’t, at least not where I live. And, when I mentioned the song to a handful of people, no one knew what I was talking about. Because of the uncommon, but realistic storyline, the understated brooding timbre of the instrumentation, punctuated by moody keyboards, “A Fine, Fine Day” is a classic that too few people know about.
“Wish I Had a Girl” by Henry Lee Summer
Without the benefit of the internet, I had no idea how well Henry Lee Summer’s ode to a girl with a sexy walk was doing in the rest of the world. The song was released in 1988. In Indiana, his two hits were played relentlessly. It was as if deejays had to remind all of us in Hoosierland that Summer was one of us.
As it turns out, “Wish I Had a Girl” made #20 on Billboard Hot 100, and #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart. With placing like this, how have so many people forgotten this song and its artist? Human memory is fallible. This song isn’t deep; it is strictly in the vein of “Summertime Girls” by Y&T—has everyone forgotten that song, too? Summer’s heartland tenor singing excitedly over instrumentation that includes a bright, jangly rock guitar, sounds like sun over the Indiana flat. Definitely worth hearing once.
“Hot Night in a Cold Town” by John Cougar
From the album, “Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did?” (1980). This was back when John Mellencamp was John Cougar. I had suspected incorrectly, that this was a cover song. As it turns out, Mellencamp (Cougar) is the original artist. The song did, however, enjoy coverage by Uriah Heep and Steppenwolf. The song details the nightlife of low-level hustlers and corner boys. It describes the tribulations of Sonny, who is trying to leave town to leave the life that is no good for him. He wants to spend his last few hours with Angelina.
The song features heavier, grittier guitar work than I am used to hearing in Mellencamp’s music. The intensity is increased by the punctuation of a moody, plinking piano. The piano motif sounds like the wind swirling around the nighttime players. The minor key underscores the danger and sadness inherent in choices made by men like Sonny. This rock masterpiece of Mellencamp’s didn’t receive sufficient airplay or consideration.
I could write volumes about songs that seem to have been forgotten by the public. Beyond novelty, these songs contain the right sound for rock and roll greatness. Yet, beyond brief moments in the spotlight in some cases, they have been forgotten. This list will have to be expanded greatly to even approach completion. Given the role music plays in our lives, it’s worth remembering forgotten gems.