What are the most famous singles never to have made the UK chart?
The death this week of the Australian singer Helen Reddy prompted much discussion of her 1972 feminist anthem I Am Woman.
Dame Jenni Murray even chose it as her exit music on her final edition of Woman’s Hour on Thursday.
The opening couplet goes: “I am woman, hear me roar / In numbers too big to ignore.”
The irony is that UK record-buyers did ignore the song, which sold so poorly it never made it into the chart.
A US number one, it totally flopped in the UK, both on its original release and again in 1975, when it was re-released in an attempt to capitalise on Reddy’s top five success with Angie Baby.
It’s not the only well-known anthem not to have made the UK top 100. Many famous songs weren’t released as singles, especially in the 1970s, when the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin wanted fans to concentrate on their albums.
But here are 11 songs which did receive a single release, but missed the charts.
1) Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash (1963)
Rolling Stone named it one of the 500 Greatest Songs ever. It was used in a Levi’s advert at a time when that all but guaranteed a re-release hit. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff even picked it on Desert Island Discs. However, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire has never made the UK charts.
It would take a more psychedelic version by The Animals for the song to eventually make the top 40 in 1969.
The Johnny Cash single might have had another chance at chart glory in 2004, but an attempt to license the track for use in an advert for a haemorrhoid relief cream was blocked by the Cash family.
2) Fun, Fun, Fun – The Beach Boys (1964)
Fun, Fun, Fun was a flop, flop, flop when released in March 1964. This homage to “cruising through the hamburger stand” was the song The Beach Boys played most during their 2018 world tour, including at all of their UK shows – even though a Beatles and Rolling Stones-obsessed Britain showed the track zero love when it came out.
They did eventually go into the top 30 with the track in 1996, but only with a re-recorded version featuring Status Quo.
Mike Love, who sang the original vocal, returned at the age of 55. The mind boggled at the current age of the Daddy who “took the T-bird away”.
3) I’ve Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) – Aretha Franklin (1967)
After making her name as a gospel singer, Aretha signed to Columbia Records in 1960. But, unsure of how to present her, the label had her record a mixture of jazz, blues, gospel, pop and soul, and for five frustrating years she failed to find commercial success.
When her contract expired in 1966, she signed to Atlantic Records, travelled to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and recorded I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You). Following nine flops on Columbia, a lot rested on the release as the first single from the album of the same name.
In the US it sold a million copies, giving her the first top 10 hit of her career and becoming one of her signature tunes. In the UK it was released in April 1967 and did nothing. A month later her cover of Otis Redding’s Respect was rush-released, reaching number 10 in the UK, triggering decades of British success for the Queen of Soul.
4) Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud – James Brown (1968)
From the Queen of Soul to the Godfather of it… Released at the end of the tumultuous summer of 1968, James Brown’s civil rights anthem provided a soundtrack to black Americans trying to break through interracial barriers.
It peaked at number 10 in the US. Over in the UK, it completely failed to make a mark on the charts – as did so many of Brown’s singles.
Between 1966 and 76, arguably his peak years, Brown only made the UK top 40 once, with Get Up I Feel Like A Sex Machine scraping in at 32.
It would take the heavyweight support of an appearance in Rocky IV before he ever went top 10, with Living In America.
5) Moondance – Van Morrison (1970)
For decades, the most famous Van Morrison song never to have made the charts was Brown Eyed Girl.
A 1967 top 10 hit in the US, where it has been played more than 10 million times on the radio, it never went “skipping and a-jumping” into the UK top 75 – until 2013, when it snuck in at number 60 on the back of download sales.
This now leaves Moondance as the most fantabulously well-known Van Morrison single not to have been a hit.
Admittedly, the decision to delay its release until seven years after the album of the same name did not help its cause.
6) Do The Strand – Roxy Music (1973)
One of Roxy Music’s biggest anthems – but not one that ever made the charts.
Do The Stand was the track Bryan Ferry’s band played on TV to publicise their second album, For Your Pleasure. But, as was common practice at the time, album tracks weren’t released as singles.
Around the same time, Roxy Music issued out the non-album cut Pyjamarama, which did reach the top 10.
Do The Strand was eventually released as a single to promote their 1977 Greatest Hits, although it missed the charts, making it everything but one of their greatest hits.
7) Cat’s In The Cradle – Harry Chapin (1974)
This nostalgic ballad, about a father’s regret, was a US number one in 1974 and once reduced Homer to tears on The Simpsons – when it was used as holding music on the “Neglectful Father Helpline”.
It was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011, but one honour the original never had was being a hit in the UK.
Instead, a pretty straight cover version by the rock band Ugly Kid Joe made the UK top 10 in 1993. Chapin was not around to enjoy the success, though. He had died in a car crash in 1981.
8) Burning Down The House – Talking Heads (1983)
Talking Heads’ biggest US hit (where it was their only top 10 single) was a total miss in the UK.
In Britain, it eventually made the charts in 1999, but only in a radically different form – with Tom Jones teaming up with The Cardigans to land his first top 10 single in a decade.
Two years earlier, Sir Tom had released a single which could also be a contender for this list: his version of You Can Leave Your Hat On, for the Full Monty soundtrack. It’s now a mainstay of his live show, but back then completely missed the top 75.
9) Skinny Love – Bon Iver (2008)
One of the defining indie songs of the last 20 years, the brittle folk brilliance of Skinny Love was the single which took Justin Vernon to a mainstream audience.
It would start him on a path which would see him collaborating with Kanye West (he was the rapper’s only on-stage guest when he headlined Glastonbury), James Blake and Taylor Swift, whose current album Folklore would not exist without this song.
The version of the song the British public put into the top 20 in 2011 was not the one by Bon Iver, but rather a cover by a 14-year-old from Hampshire called Birdy.
10) Alright – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Pitchfork named it the best song of the 2010s, it has 247 million plays on Spotify, and Kendrick Lamar has had 28 UK hits. Alright, however, is 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 the song should become a modern black national anthem.
The British public rewarded it with a chart position of 109.
11) Lottery (Renegade) – K Camp (2019)
Atlanta-based rapper K Camp released Lottery (Renegade) in 2019, but it invaded living rooms and bedrooms around the UK earlier this year after sparking a huge dance craze on TikTok.
Everyone from Lizzo to Millie Bobbie Brown has filmed themselves attempting the Renegade challenge, created by 14-year-old choreographer Jalaiah Harmon and made popular on the social media platform by Charli D’Amelio.
It became the first song to be used in 20 million different TikTok clips. However, unlike Savage Love by Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685 or Doja Cat’s Say So, it has failed to cross over into the charts.
Michelle Obama is a fan of the track – but not even the former First Lady could land K Camp his first UK hit.
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