There are thousands of hidden gems lurking in the charts, but how do you define what a “hidden gem” even is? Well, to be defined as a “gem,” you could argue that the track requires some level of objective success – it needs to have risen to the surface in some way.
As you’ll see from this list, hidden gems are often re-released at an opportune moment, re-adapted from less successful tunes or slow-burning sleeper hits that found their position in the charts over time.
This is a list of 10 hidden gems that are all interesting in their own way.
Bob Dylan – All Along The Watchtower
As of 2022, there’s no way the words “All Along the Watchtower” are associated primarily with Bob Dylan, even despite him being an artist of at-least equivalent stature to Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix recorded many Bob Dylan covers and considered himself a massive fan, but this distortion-charged rendition became one of his famous tracks.
The original is a classic Dylan-style folk tune with harmonica and minimal acoustic instrumentation. Bob Dylan loved Hendrix’s rendition too and usually played it in his high-energy rock n’ roll style when performing live.
The original track is far from unknown, but it’s still a hidden gem.
Dolly Parton – I Will Always Love You
Whitney Houston’s remake of this original 1974 song was so powerful that it almost eclipsed this softer original. As one YouTube commenter describes it, “Whitney’s version is like a powerful storm, and Dolly’s version is the rainbow that comes out after that storm.”
Parton took this tune to number one twice on its original 1974 release and again in 1982, but Houston made it into the best-selling single by a female artist of all time. Is the original a hidden gem? Maybe only to those born in the late-80s, 90s, and beyond!
Neil Sedaka – (Is This the Way to) Amarillo
Tony Christie released this now-famous track in the UK in November 1971. Neil Sedaka had written it but didn’t record it until 1977, when it missed the top-40, winding up at number 44.
Neither Christie’s nor Sedaka’s version did particularly well, but as the years advanced, the song was resurrected and thrust into the public eye. On March 14, 2005, a charity version of Christie’s song was re-released to raise money for Comic Relief in the UK.
After that, Christie’s version was used at the World Cup Final in Berlin in 2006 and before the Men’s Single Final at Wimbledon in the same year. The song peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart, where it remained there for seven weeks.
Contrastingly, the Sedaka original version has fewer than 100,000 plays on YouTube – a hidden rendition of this world-famous track!
Bros – I Owe You Nothing
The 80s duo with a largely teenage fanbase released this song in 1987, but it completely failed to chart.
In 1988, the duo had success with When Will I Be Famous? and re-released a remixed version of the track. I Owe You Nothing then went to number 1 in the UK Singles Chart, having failed to chart just the previous year!
Black Sabbath – Changes/Charles Bradley – Changes
Here’s an excellent example of a talented artist putting an entirely different skew on a famous track while retaining its original vibe.
The Black Sabbath original was first released in 1972, and this soul-funk remake was later released in 2016, three years after being released as a single on Record Store Day. Either is a hidden gem, depending on which one you recognize first!
Willie Dixon – Multiple
What do these four Will Dixon songs have in common?
- I Can’t Quit You, Baby
- Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed
- You Need Love
- It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine
They were all covered, partly covered, or adapted by Led Zeppelin. Willie Dixon wrote the originals, and at least Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love was the center of a court case settled outside of court for an undisclosed amount.
In fact, Zeppelin built up quite the reputation for “adapting” other artists’ music and not crediting them appropriately. If you want to find a list of the hidden gems behind great Zeppelin tunes, you can see one here.
The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
When his The Cure classic was first released in 1979, it only managed number 99 in Australia.
In 1986, the track was re-released under the title “New Voice · New Mix,” with new vocals by frontman Robert Smith.
It then began to climb the charts, reaching a very respectable number 22 in the UK. Today, the track has almost 100 million views on YouTube.
The Killers – Mr. Brightside
One of the most famous tracks of the noughties, Mr. Brightside entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 40 on February 12, 2005, peaking at 10 on June 11.
That was certainly an admirable performance, as the single didn’t receive much attention at all when first released in 2003. But, when the band’s single Somebody Told Me became successful in the interim, Mr. Brightside received a new music video and was propelled to immortal musical status.
The re-released version gained enormous traction through the mid-2000s, and as of April 2021, it’s spent 260 weeks – five years – on the UK Singles Chart – the most of any song to date.
Seal – Kiss From a Rose
Seal’s 1994 single Kiss From a Rose was almost never released, with Seal stating he was “embarrassed by it” and “threw the tape in the corner.”
When first released, it reached 20 in the UK Singles Chart – an excellent effort. But, after appearing on the Batman Forever soundtrack, the track was re-released to reach number 1 in the US Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for a week.
Tori Amos – Professional Widow
This song obtained number 20 in 1996, but it was one of the remixes by Armand van Helden which was grabbing the headlines.
Tori Amos sensed that she could get more out of her track, so she re-released a dance music edit of the remix entitled Professional Widow (It’s Got to Be Big), which then topped the UK Singles Chart in January 1997.
Another good example of an artist (and their label) seizing the moment to rehash a song to position it for better chart success.
Summary: Hidden Gems
Some excellent tunes here, some of which didn’t all reach maximum chart success based on merit alone. Many were tactically re-adapted or re-released for optimal success.
That’s all part of the game, though! Some of these tunes would have remained truly “hidden” had it not have been for the shrewd decision-making from artists and labels!