These posts are about the songs that just barely failed to cross the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.
Toad the Wet Sprocket had the right sound and, it would seem, the wrong name to achieve crossover success. I can confirm that the arrival of the California band’s debut album, Bread & Circus, led to college radio DJs consistently explaining the derivation of the odd, cumbersome band name. It was from a Monty Python sketch, in which Eric Idle kicked off a rock newscast by informing fans that Rex Stardust, the flamboyant, ambidextrous lead electric triangle player of Toad the Wet Sprocket, had recently undergone a procedure that led to the removal of one of his elbows. If the group had made it a little longer into the routine, they might have been known as Dead Monkeys.
Although Toad the Wet Sprocket’s gentle, melodic music couldn’t have been more different than the grunge rock that erupted into dominance with Nirvana’s 1991 release, Nevermind, there was a willingness for commercial radio to embrace all the artists who previously were largely relegated to the left end of the dial. Toad the Wet Sprocket landed in the Billboard Top 40 with two different singles off their 1991 album, fear, their third release on major label Columbia Records. And then the follow-up studio album, Dulcinea, brought another trip to the Top 40, with lead single “Fall Down.” None of these were massive hits, but they still crossed that magic threshold to give the band bragging rights.
The second single off of Dulcinea, “Something’s Always Wrong” was the band’s last to make the Billboard Hot 100, though it fell just short of become their fourth Top 40 hit. It’s hard to fathom why this one didn’t have quite the oomph of the others. It’s very much in the same mode, another pining ballad with melancholy lyrics and slick but unobtrusive production. This could accompany locker-side heartbreak as well as any of the others.
Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Top 40 Smash Near Misses” tag.