Top 10 Hit Songs That Were Almost Never Released

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

When he started composing "Billie Jean", Jackson knew he had a hit on his hands. However, Quincy Jones thought otherwise, as he felt that the song was "too weak" for the album. He wanted to change the title as he feared it would make people think it was an ode to Billie Jean King, a tennis player, and he also hated the demo, especially the bass-line. Eventually, Jones relented, and the King of Pop got his way.
While the track did make it in the album, its problems didn't end there. MTV refused to air the video, as MTV's policy at the time was that black performers were not "rock" enough. As a way to make MTV agree to air the video, Walter Yetnikoff, president of the record label Jackson was on (CBS), threatened to pull his artists from MTV if "Billie Jean" wasn't put in rotation. The threats from Jackson's studio executive paid off, not only for Jackson and his black contemporaries, but even for MTV. The change from the channel's original 'rock 'n' roll-only' format had helped save the network from being shut down.

2 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

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.

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

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.

4 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.

5 Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics

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.

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.

7 Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen

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.

8 Rainbow in the Dark - Dio

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

9 Somebody That I Used to Know - Gotye

While penning the lyrics, Gotye felt that the song wasn't interesting enough. "I wrote the first verse, the second verse and I'd got to the end of the first chorus and for the first time ever I thought, 'There's no interesting way to add to this guy's story,'" he told the Herald Sun."It felt weak." Later on, he decided to add a female counterpoint, however, he couldn't find the right girl to do the duet with. At first he booked a "'high profile' female vocalist", but she cancelled at the last minute. He even tried to make the song a duet with his girlfriend Tash Parker, but it didn't work out, because their happiness kind of ruined the break-up vibe of the track. Finally, Gotye picked up the phone and ultimately the part went to Kimbra. Even then, however, he almost didn't include the final product on his CD, as he feared that it sounded too much like his previous material.

10 Sweet Child O'Mine - Guns N' Roses

Appetite for destruction must have been screwed without this song.

The Contenders
11 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.

12 Kiss - Prince

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.

13 Under Pressure - David Bowie & Queen

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

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

Wait really? This is such a great song.

14 Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

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.

15 Piss - Pantera

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

16 Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

EMI almost never released it because Ray Foster thought it was too long, it will never be the song teenagers will bop their heads to in their car, and there were unusual operatic words like Bismillah, Scaramouch, and Galileo. Ray Foster was wrong, though. Bohemian Rhapsody became a hit no matter how long it was or how different it was. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey bopped their heads to it in Wayne's World, even though they weren't teenagers. I bet a lot of teenagers bopped their heads to Bohemian Rhapsody in their car.

17 Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi

Richie Sambora had to push for Bon Jovi's trademark song to get put on Slippery When Wet. (Likewise can be said about Never Say Goodbye.)

18 Black - Pearl Jam
19 In the End - Linkin Park
20 I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
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