We’ve celebrated the UK’s million-selling singles this week and now it’s the 60th birthday of the UK singles chart itself – for a stats geek, it’s like Eurovision, the ATP rankings and the NBA index rolled into one. Who’s had the most No.1 singles? Who’s spent the most weeks on the chart? Who replaced themselves at No.1 with singles released a year apart more than 45 years earlier?
Thing is though, it’s usually the same answer. But what about the chart stalwarts who’ve never snagged the big prize? The ever-present footsoldiers who put in years of effort, promotion and limited edition poster bags but never climbed higher than No.4? Million-sellers and No.1 smashes aren’t the be-all and end-all – we know this. But it’s still interesting to see what calibre of artist has failed to bag a chart-topper, which mammoth fanbase hasn’t managed to mobilise itself to ensure it.
This ones for you, guys – the perennial hitmakers who were never top of the pops.
Depeche Mode (Top 75 singles: 47; No.1s: 0)
Basildon’s synth-perv leather warriors have been in this game for more than 30 years now and still you haven’t rewarded them with a No.1 hit. With 43 of the things, they’ve had more Top 40 hits than anyone without hitting the top, gasping for breath at No.4 three times over with ‘People Are People’, ‘Barrel Of A Gun’ and ‘Precious’. Wouldn’t put it past them breaking the duck though. An awful lot of people seemed awfully excited when they announced their 2013 album and tour a few weeks ago.
No such luck for…
The Brit rock’n’roller died in 1983, but he still holds the record for most weeks on the chart without a No.1 single, and probably always will. Two hundred and eighty-one weeks he totted up. He was always around, our Bill, but never at the top table.
You might not have been expecting this one, but German europap DJ Sash! is the lad who’s come closest to that top table before falling flat on his permatanned face – repeatedly. Five (FIVE) whole No.2 singles without the big one. Still, a mere 11 Top 75 singles is nowhere near enough graft to rectify it.
But you can’t fault Bon Jovi’s work ethic. The best part of 30 years and 43 Top 75 singles (including Jon’s own wafty efforts) and only ‘Always’ came close. You philistines never sent ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ to No.1.
Janet Jackson (Top 75 singles: 38; No.1s: 0)
Including 17 Top 10 hits. There are a few ‘featuring’s in there – and a duet with bro that was a surefire No.1 on paper – but whatever the circs, Janet’s had a bad rap. ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately?’. Exactly, British record-buying public. You owe her.
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In its classic heyday – let’s call it late 60s, early 70s – you could count the number of soul No.1s in the UK on the fingers of one hand, with obvious suspects Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, The Miracles and Barry White figuring. In that context it’s not so surprising The Godfather never made it, but it’s a blot on the UK copybook.
No Top 10s either. Absolutely thunderstruck here.
Super Furry Animals (Top 75 singles: 21; No.1s: 0)
SFA have missed out on the Top 10 too, with ‘Northern Lites’ running out of gas at a tantalising No.11. Still, possibly punching above the commercial weight for bearded Welsh 70s soft goon-rock psychedelicists.
Not a sausage of a No.1 either for
Making do with a No.5 for ‘Lullaby’ and a No.6 for ‘Friday I’m In Love’, which felt as if it was No.1 for as long as ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ anyway. Nor for…
Who came closest with ‘The Great Beyond’ (No.3) for pity’s sake. And empty hands too for…
Radiohead (Top 75 singles: 20; No.1s: 0)
But let’s call them an albums band, eh? Biggest hit? ‘Paranoid Android’, just seeing off ‘No Surprises’ and ‘There There’.
Speaking of albums bands, here’s a host of them, kicking off with sunflower-headed proggers turned baggy-suited dadbores Genesis. You’ll never guess their biggest hit. ‘Mama’, No.4, 1983. Ha ha ha. Ha. Peter Gabriel adds a further 21 Top 75 singles without the big one, and Phil Collins – well, Phil’s had 35 hits and three No.1s, if you ever needed proof of an unjust cosmos.
Two No.2 singles: ‘Private Investigations’ and ‘Walk Of Life’, oddly.
‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ narrowly missed out to, yes, ‘Doop’ by Doop. He’s got those hyperkinetic Charleston blues.
Bob Dylan (Top 75 singles: 21; No.1s: 0)
It’s the relative lack of hits that surprises most about Bob – his best being a No.4 peak for ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ – but then again, you know, he’s an albums man. What are you gonna do?
And then there’s the exception that proves the rule. Good old Eric. He of the long, distinguished and often dull career, working through The Yardbirds, Blind Faith, Cream, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, pseudonym Derek & The Dominos and decades of his own water-treading solo faves before finally FINALLY getting a No.1 single. It’s 1995 and Comic Relief has chosen The Judds’ ‘ Love Can Build A Bridge’ as its official theme song, a song that can only be enhanced by a re-recording from the most mismatched trio of all time: Cher, Chrissie Hynde and Neneh Cherry. And sure enough it shoots straight to the top. But that’s not all: look closely at the credits, and nestled beneath the day-glo names of our favourite divas is a small apologetic note. It reads, “with Eric Clapton”.
So, Bob, Thom, Stipey, Brooce, Janet – don’t lose hope! Your charity single sleeve credit afterthought salvation could be just around the corner.