“Ships That Don’t Come In”
Written by Dave Gibson and Paul Nelson
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
July 3, 1992
Joe Diffie tops the charts with one of his best singles.
The Road to No. 1
After four No. 1 singles from his debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads, Joe Diffie previewed his sophomore set with “Is it Cold in Here,” which went top five. The next release became the only number one single from Regular Joe.
The No. 1
For those of you waiting for Joe Ditty to arrive, you’re going to have to be patient.
“Ships That Don’t Come In” is an extraordinary ballad about a heart-to-heart conversation between two guys who are down on their luck, but take the time to appreciate the opportunities afforded them that others never had.
It’s moving, empathetic, and more than a little heartbreaking. The early nineties recession produced a few great songs in this vein – Pirates of the Mississippi had “Feed Jake” and “A Streetman Named Desire,” while Sawyer Brown had “Café on the Corner” – but this was the only one that made it to the top.
It’s as powerful and resonant today as it’s ever been, and deserves to be as highly regarded and frequently streamed as “Pickup Man” and “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die).”
The Road From No. 1
Diffie missed the top ten with his next three singles: “Next Thing Smokin'” and “Startin’ Over Blues” from Regular Joe, and “Not Too Much to Ask,” a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter. However, Regular Joe still became Diffie’s first gold album. His next set, Honky Tonk Attitude, did even better, selling platinum on the strength of its three top five hits: the title track, “Prop Me Up,” and “John Deere Green.”
Diffie would finally return to the top with the lead single from his fourth studio set. We’ll cover it when we get to 1994.
“Ships That Don’t Come In” gets an A.
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