9:01 a.m. - February 09, 2007
(No, this isn’t “Know Your European Islands” – not yet anyway).
Actually, it is quite similar to the USA in many aspects. Ok, they drive on the wrong side of the street, call things weird names (‘loo’ anyone?) and they all talk funny. (OK, it’s not like we don’t have Kentucky.)
But they have a mix mash of different cultures and identities (reminder: don’t say someone is Welsh when they’re Scottish) and also seem to have a love of celebrities and music.
And of course, since this IS Smed’s Corner, I need to talk about music.
The lovely Stepfie suggested a book to me entitled British Hit Singles & Albums which is a compendium of one of the British charts from early 50’s. (It’s the “official” chart – but I know a lot of the music papers have their own charts. But so did Cashbox, I guess…anyway…)
It’s quite revealing to see the similarities of our musical tastes, and of course, the differences. So let’s take a look at this. It ought to be fun, right? Or at least it’ll pass the time, and Lord knows we all need that, eh?
Obviously, Elvis is the #1 artist, chart-wise, on both shores, but #2 in England is Cliff Richard. From September of 1958 (when he hit #2 with “Move It”) to May of 2005 (at least – when he hit with “What Car” at #12) he had 130 singles and 58 albums hit the British chart.
How did he do in the USA? Twenty singles did chart, but only two top tens (“Devil Woman” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore”). The irony is that “Devil Woman” charted higher here than it did over there. He also had only five charting albums, with I’m Nearly Famous the highest charter at #76.
Yeah, there’s some difference there!
His one-time backing band, The Shadows, is the #7 artist of all time in the UK. As for their success in the US - nothing – not even a sniff of the charts.
The UK loved the Beach Boys long after the US decided they were, like, square. Albums like Friends and Sunflower did quite well over there while they were being ignored (unjustly) in the States.
Remember Status Quo? No? “Pictures of Matchstick Men” anyone? No? They opened Live Aid back in the day.
They were / are huge over across the pond. 62 singles charted, along with 36 albums. And no, they didn’t all sound the same. Just most of them! Heh. Most of that success started in 1973 with the release of Piledriver, after their psychedelic career flamed out in 1970.
In the US, two singles and ONE album charted. And the one album looks to be a mid-70’s compilation of tracks for British albums of the same era.
A lot of bubblegum, rock and glitter acts in the 70’s were much more popular in the UK than the US. Roxy Music was always just a cult band here, but racked up a lot of hits there. Sweet and Slade also were big time in the UK, but not as big in the US. Gary Glitter had a lot of hits over there, as did T. Rex.
Then there are bands like Showaddywaddy and Wizzard. Who? Exactly.
Chris Rea had one of the best mellow singles of the 70’s in “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)”. That was his only top 40 hit in the States (it hit #12), though five other singles charted, with the highest being “Diamonds” at #44 in 1979.
In the UK – 33 singles and 23 albums, though “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” was just #30 over there.
The one group I’m surprised about is the differences in the charts for the Bay City Rollers.
In the UK, their chart hits were:
1971 – Keep On Dancing - #9
Notice a few songs missing?
Here in the states, their chart hits were:
1975 – Saturday Night - #1
Of course, that’s an excuse for this, because it’s a hit we both agree on! Pick your favorite, ladies!
The UK, being smaller, has more chart flexibility than the US. It’s also easier to have the entire country hop on someone’s bandwagon, and then have everyone fall off of it. Here in the US, you not only have to have support in LA and NYC, but to be a true national success, you need to play in Peoria, for real.
Remember Blur vs. Oasis? Well, I guess it was real in the UK, but here, only in the pages of Spin did anyone really get worked up over this ‘rivalry’.
It works the other way as well. The Fixx were much more popular here than in the UK. I think they basically have relocated over here now to play shows. Bush is another example. And for a while in the 60’s, almost every Brit rock group could get a hit, even if the song was two years old.
This is how Gerry and the Pacemakers became stars, folks. Don’t let it happen to you.
As I leaf through this book, and see that cult-ish artists like Simple Minds (#68 all time), Simply Red (#27 all time), OMD (#106 all time) and Belinda Carlisle (#191 – yes, #191 – heaven may be a place on Earth all right – on the UK charts. Suckers) had massive success there, I wonder about the UK scene. Are they that much hipper than us folks over here in the US?
Well, maybe not. J. Lo. has 13 Top 10 singles in the UK.