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Taking a look at 12 No. 1 songs in Australia that weren't major hits in U.S.

A look at No. 1 songs in Australia that didn't fare as well in the U.S.
A look at No. 1 songs in Australia that didn't fare as well in the U.S.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A recent series of three articles dealt with No. 1 songs in the UK that didn't fare nearly as well in the U.S., and this article's subject is Australian chart-toppers that failed to reach the Billboard Magazine's Top 40 in America.]

It's to be expected that the record-buying and listening public in the United States has different musical tastes than their Australian counterparts, but during the late '50s and the decade of the '60s, there were many similarities between recordings that achieved major pop music chart impact in both countries.

However, that's not always the case, and this article takes a look at a dozen songs over a 12-year span, from 1958 to 1969, that reached No. 1 pop chart status in Australia, and even though they were released in America and earned a position on the Billboard Magazine's pop music listings, none of them reached the Top 40 and most fell far short of that.

All but one of the songs topped the Australian charts for at least two weeks, and one of them ("Joey's Song") was No. 1 Down Under for eight consecutive weeks.

Five of the listed songs were recorded by American artists, three of them were by artists from the UK, and two each from Canada and Australia. Each capsule summary indicates the number of weeks that the song was No. 1 on the Kent Music Report in Australia, along with top Billboard chart position in the U.S. And to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title:

  • "JOEY'S SONG" (Bill Haley & His Comets, 1959, Australia No. 1 eight weeks; U.S. No. 46): The leader of this famous early rock group hailed from Highland Park, Mich., and he was originally with C&W bands in the late '40s. Some have credited the band with initially popularizing the rock 'n' roll era with such classics as "Rock Around the Clock", "See You Later, Alligator" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll." The band sold more than 25 million records worldwide and it had 16 Billboard Top 40 hits, but this wasn't one of them.
  • "THE CARNIVAL IS OVER" (The Seekers, 1965, Australia No. 1 six weeks; U.S. No. 105): This Australian quartet consisted of lead singer Judith Durham, guitarists Keith Polger and Bruce Woodley, and Athol Guy on standing bass. The single was their take on a 19th-Century Russian folk song, and the group often ended their concerts with the song, which also was No. 1 in England for three weeks. After the quartet broke up, Polger formed The New Seekers in 1970.
  • "CLAP YOUR HANDS" (Beau-Marks, 1960, Australia No. 1 four weeks; U.S. No. 45): This Canadian rock quartet was formed in Montreal as The Del-Tones, but the group renamed itself because they liked the name of the Bomarc missile. This was the group's breakthrough hit, reaching the top of the charts in both Canada and Australia.
  • "TAMOURE" (Bill Justis, 1963, Australia No. 1 four weeks; U.S. No. 101): The credited recording artist was a native of Birmingham, Ala., and he was a saxophonist and producer who spent his formative years in the music business with Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis. This song has little resemblance to his biggest U.S. hit ("Raunchy"), which made it to No. 2 in 1957.
  • "WHERE DO YOU GO TO MY LOVELY" (Peter Sarstedt, 1969, Australia No. 1 four weeks; U.S. No. 70): This big-hit single was written and sung by an entertainer who was born in Delhi, India, where his parents were civil servants under British jurisdiction, before the family relocated to England in 1954. The single also spent four weeks at the top of the British charts, and it was also No. 1 in 13 other countries.
  • "ELOISE" (Barry Ryan, 1968, Australia No. 1 three weeks; U.S. No. 86): In addition to its huge success Down Under, this record reached No. 2 in England. The singer was from England, and he began performing at age 15. The song was written by the recording artist's brother, Paul Ryan, and it was a million-selling disc.
  • "WHISKEY ON A SUNDAY" (Irish Rovers, 1968, Australia No. 1 three weeks; U.S. No. 75): This single was performed by an Irish-born folk quintet formed in Alberta, Canada, in 1964. Although it only reached No. 75 on Billboard, it did get to No. 9 on the adult contemporary chart. The group's biggest hit was "The Unicorn" (No. 7 pop in 1968).
  • "THE SWISS MAID" (Del Shannon, 1962, Australia No. 1 three weeks; U.S. No. 64): This song, written by Roger Miller, was performed by a singer born Charles Westover in Coopersville, Mich. He was drafted into the Army in 1954, and he played guitar in a band while serving in Germany, but upon returning to Michigan, he worked as a truck driver for a furniture company before obtaining part-time work as a guitarist with a local Battle Creek band. His attention soon turned to music, and his biggest U.S. hit song was "Runaway" (No. 1 in 1961).
  • "I'LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN" Johnnie Ray, 1959, Australia No. 1 two weeks; U.S. No. 75): This singer-actor from Dallas, Ore., is best known for such huge hits as "Cry", "The Little White Cloud That Cried" and "Just Walkin' In The Rain." Hearing difficulties forced him to wear hearing aids by the age of 14, and his intense and emotional delivery of his songs appealed to both pop and R&B audiences.
  • "YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE" (Gerry & The Pacemakers, 1963, Australia No. 1 two weeks; U.S. No. 48 in 1965): Prior to the British Invasion in the U.S., this topped the Australian charts in mid-December 1963 for the Liverpool quartet fronted by Gerry Marsden. And it's the only song on the list that didn't chart in Australia and the U.S. in the same year, because it didn't hit the Billboard charts until the summer of 1965.
  • "JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE" (Jimmy Rodgers 1960, Australia No. 1 two weeks; U.S. No. 44): This traditional gospel song has been covered by many artists, and this rendition fared better on pop music charts than any other. The vocalist was born in Camas, Wash., and he had a decade-long string of hits, beginning in 1957 with such songs as "Honeycomb" (No. 1), "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" (No. 3) and "Oh-Oh, I'm Falling In Love Again" (No. 7). In all, he had 25 Billboard Hot 100 songs and 14 Top 40s.
  • "A SCOTTISH SOLDIER" (Andy Stewart, 1961, Australia No. 1 one week; U.S. No. 69): This vocalist was born in Scotland but moved to Australia at age 5. After training to become an actor, he turned his attention to singing, and this record hit No. 1 in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and it spent 36 weeks on the UK charts.

[You may subscribe to Bill Herald's oldies music articles -- free of charge -- by clicking on "subscribe" near the top of the column, after which you will receive e-mail notification each time a new item is published.]

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