Top 10 Hit Songs That Were Almost Never Released

Misfire
We like to think we all know a hit song when we hear one. Unfortunately, this isn't always true, as a lot of hit songs almost never made it out of the studio. Let's take a look at these hit songs that were almost never released.

The Top Ten

1 Billie Jean - Michael Jackson Billie Jean - Michael Jackson

I prefer "man in the mirror".

And it turned out to be the most legendary song ever. - RadioHead03

Can't believe it almost wasn't released
Such a legendary song, helping Michael Jackson be remembered as the king of pop he was and still is

This is the Michael Jackson classic hit song. - Userguy44

2 Comments
2 Nothing Else Matters - Metallica Nothing Else Matters - Metallica

Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” was initially not intended to be released. Lead singer and guitarist James Hetfield wrote it in the early '90s for his then-girlfriend, and, while he was away on tour, he would play the song for her over the phone. It wasn’t meant for anyone else but her, but after drummer Lars Ulrich overheard the song, he wanted to release it for their next album, thinking it was strong enough to be in it. Thus, the band took a crack at it. - Misfire

3 (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

I thought of Trump when I saw that album cover.

This song defines classic. - LightningStrike

The pic looks pretty wiered

In the middle of the night during the Rolling Stones 1965 US tour, Keith Richards woke up and had a riff in his head. He got up and then went on to record the riff on his tape recorder and mumbled the phrase “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and then fell back asleep soundly. The next day, he and Mick Jagger fleshed out the song and Richards was completely unhappy with the result. He thought it sounded too "folksy", and he also concerned that the riff sounded too similar to "Dancing In The Street” by Martha & the Vandellas. He even considered the recording an unfinished demo and didn’t want to release it. Keith just wasn't satisfied.
Fortunately, all the other members of the Rolling Stones, as well as their manager and the sound engineer, felt the song was a hit and wanted to release it as a single. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" went on and spent two weeks at #1, and became one of the Rolling Stone's most recognizable anthems. - Misfire

4 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

It's not their best song. - NickelodeonYesAddminNo

To be honest the song wasn't really that good - Luckys

I agree. Nirvana made better songs like in bloom and heart shaped box. This is a decent song in my opinion. - LightningStrike

This song isn’t really that good. Probably the most overrated song. - RadioHead03

When bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl first heard the now-iconic opening riff for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Novoselic thought it was “so ridiculous” and Grohl didn’t like it at all. The band tooled around the riff to make it something everyone liked, but Grohl remained unconvinced. After weeks of working on the song, Nirvana recorded it and released it as the lead-off track of Nevermind in late 1991, which became an instant hit. - Misfire

5 Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen

...and Hallelujah that they made the right decision. - Billyv

CBS chief Walter Yetnikoff was unimpressed with the whole album. The label wouldn’t put it out, and they didn’t think it was good enough. “What is this? ” Yetnikoff said. “This isn’t pop music. We’re not releasing it. This is a disaster.” Eventually, the record was released on an indie label, but Hallelujah, which Cohen took five years to write, was not put out as a single. It wasn’t until John Cale recorded his version of the song in 1991 that the song became the success it is today. The song has been covered by many artists, including Bon Jovi and Bob Dylan, and it is said to have around 300 covers made. - Misfire

6 What’s Going On - Marvin Gaye

After being presented by Marvin Gaye the final product of “What’s Going On,” Gordy dismissed it as "the worst thing I ever heard in my life” and cited that the jazzy-feel did not fit the Motown sound. He didn’t want to release it, and so Gaye threatened to never record another song for Motown unless they did. Eventually, the song was released under the subsidiary Tamla Records, and went on to become a hit on the U.S. - Misfire

Gordy must've been having an idiot moment at the time. What the hell? - truckturner

7 Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics

Definitely the best song of the 80's. - SanicWantsHisSandwich

This is one of the best songs ever!

Long before they became an international hit machine, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were two struggling musicians in a pretty desperate spot. They had been dropped by their label after their first album was hitless and a lackluster, and their management prospects weren’t looking any better, either. In addition, they were reduced to recording in an improvised "home studio". Their arguments became more severe, and after a particularly bitter one, Stewart began absently messing around with his synthesizer, accidentally reversing a synthesized bass line as a result. And right there, Lennox began to improvise chords and some lyrics in one take, and thus, the new wave classic, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” was made. - Misfire

8 Where the Streets Have No Name - U2

The band had a difficult time getting this tune down on record; they labored for weeks to get just a single take. Those hours started to weigh heavily on producer Brian Eno, and he was so frustrated by the tedious mixing process that he decided to stage an “accident” that would erase the tapes, and just start the whole thing over. He wasn’t successful, as a fellow engineer stopped him, running over to physically stop Eno before he taped over the classic. - Misfire

9 Sweet Child O'Mine - Guns N' Roses

Appetite for destruction must have been screwed without this song. - LightningStrike

10 Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

Rolling stone's number 1! - LightningStrike

His record company considered it too long for release and shelved it. But a coordinator at Columbia, Shaun Considine showed the song to a club in New York and the DJ's brodcasted it to the world.

The Contenders

11 Kiss - Prince

This song turned out good. - RadioHead03

Initially, the song “Kiss” by Prince was meant to be for the funk band Mazarati, but Prince was so impressed by the band’s version that the song ended up back to him. He wiped their vocals off the track and recorded his own, added a guitar solo, and a new Prince single was made. Prince’s record label felt the song was so minimal for release, however, but Prince insisted that the song was going to be a hit, and obviously he got away with it and got his way. - Misfire

12 Somebody That I Used to Know - Gotye

Well he can be glad that this was released his musical career would be rather unsuccessful otherwise. It's a great song by by the way I think.

A song we grew up with? Now that got me. - LightningStrike

What? it almost hasn't it realesed?

I don’t really like this song though. - Userguy44

1 Comment
13 Under Pressure - David Bowie & Queen

It was actually Michael Jackson that encouraged the band and Bowie to release the track. - xXEnglishGothXx

Hot Space isn't great for disco but without this song, the album would suck completely. - LightningStrike

Amazing song - Luckys

Wait really? This is such a great song. - Userguy44

14 Rainbow in the Dark - Dio

This is their best song! - I80

Dio almost destroyed the tapes cause he thought it was too poppy - DenyYourMaker

15 Piss - Pantera

Recorded in 1992, not released as a single until 2012. - yaygiants16

BAdd New Item

Related Lists

Best Maroon 5 Songs That Were Never Released As a Single Best Deadmau5 Songs That Were Never Released As a Single Top Ten SNES RPGs that Never Were Released Outside of Japan Top Ten Spyro the Dragon Games That Were Never Released In Japan High School Stereotypes In Movies/TV That Are Almost Never Realistic

List Stats

15 listings
196 days old

Top Remixes (8)

1. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
2. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
3. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics
EzP2
1. Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
3. Under Pressure - David Bowie & Queen
ParasN2000
1. Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
2. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
3. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
Misfire

WRemix
View All 8

Error Reporting

See a factual error in these listings? Report it here.