Van Morrison, Johnny Cash and Kendrick Lamar all had cult songs that missed the UK’s top 100
What are the most famous singles who have never made it in the UK?
The death of Australian singer Helen Reddy this week sparked much discussion about her feminist anthem I Am Woman from 1972.
Dame Jenni Murray even chose it as her starting music for her final Thursday Woman’s Hour.
The opening couple reads: “I am a woman, hear me roar / In numbers that are too big to ignore.”
The irony is that British record buyers ignored the song, which sold so badly that it never made it to the charts.
- Dame Jenni Murray signs off with a feminist anthem
As the US number one, it flopped in the UK both on its original release and in 1975 when it was re-released to capitalize on Reddy’s top 5 success with Angie Baby.
It’s not the only known anthem that didn’t make it into the UK’s top 100. Many famous songs weren’t released as singles, especially in the 1970s when Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin wanted fans to focus on their albums.
But here are 11 songs that got a single release but missed the charts.
1) Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash (1963)
Gai Terrell / Redferns)
Rolling Stone called it one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It was used in a Levi’s ad at a time when it guaranteed another hit release. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff even picked it on Desert Island Discs. However, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire has never hit the UK charts.
It would take a more psychedelic version of The Animals before the song finally made it into the top 40 in 1969.
The Johnny Cash single may have had another chance of charting fame in 2004, but an attempt to license the track for use in an advertisement for a hemorrhoid relief cream was blocked by the Cash family.
2) Fun, Fun, Fun – The Beach Boys (1964)
CA / Redferns
Fun, Fun, Fun was a flop, flop, flop when it was released in March 1964. This tribute to “Cruising through the Hamburger Stand” was the song the Beach Boys played the most during their 2018 world tour, including all of their shows in the UK – though a Beatles and Rolling Stones obsessed UK played the track Zero Love when it came out.
They eventually made it into the top 30 with the track in 1996, but only with a re-recorded version with Status Quo.
Mike Love, who sang the original voice, returned at the age of 55. Minds got confused in the present age of the father who “took away the T-bird”.
3) I’ve never loved a man (the way I love you) – Aretha Franklin (1967)
After making a name for herself as a gospel singer, Aretha signed with Columbia Records in 1960. Unsure of how to present it, however, the label let her record a mix of jazz, blues, gospel, pop and soul, and she was unable to find commercial success for five frustrating years.
When her contract expired in 1966, she signed with Atlantic Records, traveled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and recorded I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). After nine flops on Columbia, much rested on the release as the first single of the album of the same name.
One million copies were sold in the US, earning her the first top 10 hit of her career and becoming one of her trademarks. In the UK it was released in April 1967 and did nothing. A month later, her cover was released by Otis Reddings Respect and peaked at number 10 in the UK, sparking decades of British success for the Queen of Soul.
4) Say It Out Loud I’m Black And I’m Proud – James Brown (1968)
Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images
From queen of soul to godfather … James Brown’s civil rights anthem was released at the end of the tumultuous summer of 1968 and provided a soundtrack for black Americans trying to break interracial barriers.
It reached number 10 in the US. The UK has completely failed to make its mark on the charts – as have so many of Brown’s singles.
Between 1966 and 76, arguably its peak years, Brown reached the top 40 in the UK only once, and Get Up I Feel Like A Sex Machine reached first place at age 32.
It would take backing a heavyweight appearance in Rocky IV before he ever made the top 10 with Living In America.
5) Moondance – Van Morrison (1970)
PoPsie Randolph / Michael Ochs Archive
For decades, Brown Eyed Girl was the most famous Van Morrison song that never hit the charts.
As a top 10 hit from 1967 in the US, where it was played more than 10 million times on the radio, it never “bounced and bounced” in the UK top 75 – until it crept in at number 60 in 2013 on the back of the download -Sales.
Moondance is now the most famous Van Morrison single that was not a hit.
Admittedly, the decision to postpone the release until seven years after the album of the same name did not help his cause.
6) Do The Strand – Roxy Music (1973)
Jorgen Angel / Redferns
One of Roxy Music’s greatest anthems – but not one that ever made the charts.
Do The Stand was the title that Bryan Ferry’s band played on television to release their second album, For Your Pleasure. But as was customary at the time, album titles were not released as singles.
Around the same time, Roxy Music released the non-album cut Pajamarama, which hit the top 10.
Do The Strand was eventually released as a single to promote their greatest hits of 1977, though it missed the charts and made it far from one of their greatest hits.
7) Cat is in the Cradle – Harry Chapin (1974)
GAB archive / Redferns
This nostalgic ballad about a father’s regrets was number one in the US in 1974 and once brought Homer to tears on The Simpsons when it was used as music for the Neglectful Father Helpline.
It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011, but an honor the original never had was a hit in the UK.
Instead, a pretty straight forward cover version of rock band Ugly Kid Joe made the top 10 in the UK in 1993. Chapin wasn’t there to enjoy the success, however. He died in a car accident in 1981.
8) Burning the House Down – Talking Heads (1983)
Steve Ringman / San Francisco Chronicle
Talking Heads’ biggest US hit (where it was their only top 10 single) was a total miss in the UK.
In the UK, it finally made it to the charts in 1999, but only in a radically different form – with Tom Jones, who teamed up with The Cardigans to land his first top 10 single in a decade.
Two years earlier, Sir Tom had released a single that could also be a contender for that list: his version of You Can Leave Your Hat On for the Full Monty soundtrack. It’s now a mainstay of its live show, but back then it completely missed the top 75.
9) Thin Love – Bon Iver (2008)
Jason Merritt / TERM
As one of the defining indie songs of the past 20 years, the fragile folk brilliance of Skinny Love was the single that brought Justin Vernon to mainstream audiences.
It would put him on a path where he would work with Kanye West (he was the only guest on the rapper’s stage when he ran Glastonbury), James Blake and Taylor Swift, whose current album Folklore would not exist without this song .
The version of the song that got UK audiences in the top 20 in 2011 wasn’t Bon Iver’s, but a cover by a 14-year-old from Hampshire named Birdy.
10) All Right – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images
Pitchfork called it the best song of the 2010s, it has 247 million games on Spotify, and Kendrick Lamar had 28 UK hits. Okay, but it’s not one of them.
In 2016, the track won two Grammys (best rap song and best rap performance) and has been described as the unifying song of the Black Lives Matter movement. The BET channel even suggested making the song a modern day black national anthem.
The UK public rewarded it with a chart position of 109.
11) Lottery (Renegade) – K Camp (2019)
Timothy Norris / WireImage
Atlanta-based rapper K Camp released Lottery (Renegade) in 2019, but invaded living rooms and bedrooms across the UK earlier this year after sparking a huge dance craze on TikTok.
Everyone from Lizzo to Millie Bobbie Brown filmed themselves trying the Renegade Challenge, created by 14-year-old choreographer Jalaiah Harmon and popularized on the social media platform by Charli D’Amelio.
It was the first song used in 20 million different TikTok clips. In contrast to Savage Love by Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685 or Doja Cat’s Say So, however, it did not manage to get into the charts.
Michelle Obama is a fan of the track – but not even the former first lady was able to bring K Camp its first British hit.
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