[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last of a three-part series about songs that topped the English pop music charts but, even though released in the U.S., they were only minor hits. To read the first in a series, covering pre-British Invasion songs, click here. And to read the second article, spanning the years 1964 to 1966, click here.]
There's no doubt that the record-buying public in America had different musical tastes than their English counterparts before, during and after the so-called British Invasion in the mid-1960s.
For that reason, not unexpectedly, there were quite a few records that soared to the top of the pop music charts in the UK in the '50s and '60s, only to have far-lesser impact on the Billboard Magazine charts, despite being also released in the U.S.
Even during and after the Invasion, which began in full force in early 1964, there were a number of those songs, but of course, singles recorded by such artists as The Beatles, Petula Clark and The Rolling Stones almost always met with huge success in the America.
This column takes a look at 10 singles that went all the way to No. 1 in the UK in the late 1960s, but even in the aftermath of the Invasion, they never caught on significantly with the American public.
Each of the 10 listed tunes reached No. 1 on at least one of the following British charts: NME (New Music Express), The Record Mirror or The Record Retailer. Following are capsule summaries of those songs -- along with the highest Billboard Magazine U.S. pop chart listing -- and to hear any of them, simply click on the title.
- "SOMEBODY HELP ME" (Spencer Davis Group, 1966; U.S. No. 47): The group, formed in Birmingham, England, and featuring Spencer Davis on guitar and Steve Winwood on lead vocals, had this song reach the pinnacle of the UK charts in mid-April of 1966. However, it wasn't until after a pair of big U.S. hits in 1967 -- "Gimme Some Lovin'" (No. 7) and "I'm A Man" (No. 10) -- that this song was released and experienced modest success on this side of the Atlantic.
- "LET THE HEARTACHES BEGIN" (Long John Baldry, 1967; U.S. No. 88): The English blues vocalist, nicknamed Long John because of his 6-7 height, sang with many bands and with such superstars as Elton John and Rod Stewart. He enjoyed pop success in the UK, and this song was a chart-topper in the first week of December 1967. Also a voice actor, he moved to Canada in the late 1970s, and he lived there until his death in 2005 at age 64.
- "BABY COME BACK" (Equals, 1968; U.S. No. 32): Featuring Eddy Grant (of "Electric Avenue" fame) on guitar and Derv Gordon on lead vocals, this interracial British-Jamaican group was atop the English pop music charts for three consecutive weeks with this song, beginning on July 6, 1968. Even so, its U.S. release on the RCA label attained only minor success, peaking at No. 32 on Billboard.
- "CONGRATULATIONS" (Cliff Richard, 1968; U.S. No. 99): Even though this recording artist -- born Harry Rodger Webb in Lucknow, India, before moving to England in 1948 at age 7 -- became one of the top-selling singers in UK history, with more than 100 chart singles and 14 No. 1s, this was just one of many of his records that had little impact in America. This song was written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter.
- "ALBATROSS" (Fleetwood Mac, 1968; U.S. No. 104): By the time Fleetwood Mac became familiar and popular with U.S. audiences in the mid-1970s, the original lineup had a string of successes in the UK after being formed as a British blues band in 1967. Group members until 1970 were guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass John McVie. This instrumental, written by Green, topped the UK charts in December 1968, but it only Bubbled Under the Hot 100 at No. 104 in the U.S., and in 1973, it returned to the UK charts at No. 2.
- "CINDERELLA ROCKAFELLA" (Esther & Abi Ofarim, 1968; U.S. No. 68): This novelty single, written by Mason Williams and Nancy Ames, was recorded by a then-married Israeli couple in 1967, although it didn't become a hit until it spent four consecutive weeks atop the UK charts in early 1968. Esther began performing as a child, singing Hebrew and international folk songs, and Abi made his stage debut at age 15, and by age 18, he had his own dance studio and arranged his own choreography. Their recording career took off in Germany in 1966, and they played many live worldwide concerts, including venues in New York and London.
- "DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO" (Nina Simone, 1968; U.S. No. 83): Her only big-selling U.S. single was "I Loves You,Porgy" (No. 18 in 1959) from George Gershwin's 1935 Porgy and Bess. But the songstress, born Eunice Wayman in Tryon, S.C., fared much better in the UK. She attended the Julliard School of Music in New York City before launching her singing career, and she became a political activist in the 1970s.
- "WHERE DO YOU GO TO MY LOVELY" (Peter Sarstedt, 1969; U.S. No. 70): The song was written and performed by a recording artist born in Delhi, India, where his parents were civil servants under British jurisdiction before the family returned to England in 1954. The record was was produced by Ray Singer and engineered by John Mackswith, and it spent four consecutive weeks atop the UK pop singles charts, and it was also No. 1 in 13 other countries. Even though the vocalist had much success in Europe and elsewhere, this was his his only Billboard Hot 100 item in the U.S.
- "OH WELL" (Fleetwood Mac, 1969; U.S. No. 55): By 1975, after relocating to California and undergoing lineup changes -- including the addition of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks -- the band finally caught on big-time in America. But still with the original lineup (see "Albatross" above), the band went to the top of the UK charts with this one, which was their first U.S. Billboard Hot 100 entry, though it only reached No. 55.
- "JE T'AIME ... MOI NON PLUS" (Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, 1969; U.S. No. 58): The song -- with a title that means "I Love You … Me Neither" in French -- was written by Gainsbourg, who first composed it for and sung it with Brigitte Bardot in 1967, but that version wasn't released until 1986. This rendition, recorded with his lover, Jane Birkin, was released in 1969 and reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in Ireland, but it was banned in several nations because of its sexual content. For that reason, the single had a plain cover, with the words "Interdit aux moins de 21 ans" (translated: Forbidden to those under 21), and the recording was arranged and conducted by Arthur Greenslade.
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