13 U.K. Number One Hits That Never Made It To America

There are some songs that are just waaaay too British to translate outside of the United Kingdom. Some of these are pretty good, and some are…”Mr. Blobby.”

1. Cliff Richard, “We Don’t Talk Anymore” [1979]

Cliff Richard is the third-biggest selling singles artist of all time in the U.K., but is pretty much unknown in the United States. He’s been around long enough to have been an influence on the Beatles, and has had a Number One single on the U.K. charts in six consecutive decades. This song is basically standing in for a massive body of work that has been totally neglected in the States.

2. Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” [1979]

Dury has a small cult following in the States, but he was a chart-topper in his prime. This song was his commercial peak, and broke through as punk and new wave were busting into the mainstream of U.K. culture.

3. St. Winifred’s School Choir, “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma” [1980]

The only thing weirder than the fact that this song about grandmas sung by a primary school choir was a Number One hit is that it managed to bump John Lennon’s final single, “(Just Like) Starting Over,” off the top of the chart shortly after he was murdered.

4. Aneka, “Japanese Boy” [1981]

Scottish singer Mary Sandeman changed her name and her look to match the “Japanese” vibe of this song, but the Japanese market eventually rejected it for sounding “too Chinese.”

5. Bucks Fizz, “My Camera Never Lies” [1982]

Bucks Fizz were sorta like England’s answer to ABBA, but never found a way to crack the U.S. market, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you watch them in action.

6. Goombay Dance Band, “Seven Tears” [1982]

This band was only the second German act to score a U.K. Number One, following Kraftwerk just a few weeks earlier. It’s safe to say that Kraftwerk’s music has aged much, much better than this.

7. The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis” [1988]

Doctor Who has just started to catch on in America, but it’s been huge in the U.K. for decades, to the point that this silly Who-themed parody of Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” could get to the top of the charts.

8. Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, “That’s What I Like” [1989]

This group, fronted by a cartoon rabbit, scored three Number One hits in England. They essentially presaged mash-up culture, tossing together bits of old hits over a big beat.

9. Mr. Blobby, “Mr. Blobby” [1993]

This intentionally annoying tune, taken from the television show Noel’s House Party was at the top of the charts for several nonconsecutive weeks. Just let that soak in as you watch this.

10. Doop, “Doop” [1994]

This song, which merged Charleston-based big band music with a techno backing track, was huge. It made a dent in the dance charts in the U.S., but was otherwise ignored in favor of Ace of Base, R. Kelly and Soundgarden.

11. Manchester United F.C. with Status Quo, “Come On You Reds” [1994]

This is basically the English equivalent of “Super Bowl Shuffle” or “Get Metsmerized!”, but it was much, much bigger. It’s not the only football-themed song to be a U.K. chart smash, but it’s the only one focused on – or performed by – a particular club.

12. Bob the Builder, “Mambo No. 5” [2001]

Lou Bega’s version of “Mambo No. 5” was a Number One hit in the U.K. in 1999, but that wasn’t enough for the British people. Two years later, another version by children’s show character Bob the Builder with new lyrics about being a construction worker was Number One for three consecutive weeks.

13. Sandi Thom, “I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)” [2006]

America dodged a bullet here. This song, in which the young Thom laments not having been around in the Sixties and Seventies when things were apparently soooooo much better, is grating on at least three or four levels. The most cringe-inducing line is a toss-up between “When computers were still scary and we didn’t know everything” and “When the super-info highway was still drifting out in space.”

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