For every UK band that has found success in America - The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Oasis - there are thousands of bands like Snow Patrol, Slade, Manic Street Preacher, and Stereophonics. Conquering America is no easy feat. Even classic English bands like The Kinks, who eventually found an audience, struggled for many years in the U.S.
Here are the top 5 UK bands that have failed to find superstardom across The Pond (for one reason or another). The following bands might have been admired in America, but their popularity in no way compared to the popularity they had back in the motherland.
In the summer of 1977, the British punk scene exploded. Record companies were scrambling to discover the next Sex Pistols.
The Buzzcocks signed a record deal with United Artists on August 16, 1977, the day that Elvis Presley died. Perhaps The King's death was a foreshadow of things to come for Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle and company.
The Buzzcocks didn't reach The States until the fall of 1979. They were promoting their American release, a collection of singles along with B-sides, Singles Going Steady, which was the first official Buzzcocks' album to be released in America, though they had already released two studio albums in the UK.
By the time they released their third studio album A Different Kind of Tension, also in the fall of ’79, the band was ready to implode. Pete Shelley said: "By the time we came over to America, I was already dead, emotionally scarred by the way the band had been eaten up and absorbed by drugs."
The Americans embraced the Buzzcocks. Shelley remembered the band's U.S. tour: "We had a great reception in America. We hit the East and the West Coast and a few cities across the top. I’m sure there were great places in the middle, but we didn’t get to go there." The band broke up just two years later in 1981.
Throughout the 1980s, Pulp struggled to find success in Great Britain. It wasn't until the mid-1990s with the release of His 'n' Hers (1994) and Different Class (1995), which reached #1 on the UK Albums Charts, that the band established a following. Different Class generated four top ten singles, including "Common People," but be honest now...how many of you know the song? I thought so...
When a band has been given the label "has potential," that usually means they're underachievers, perhaps insufferable addicts prone to chaos, who will eventually fail to reach such projected heights. The Libertines are that band.
Formed in 1997 and led by dual frontmen Pete Doherty (guitar/vocals) and Carl Barat (guitar/vocals), The Libertines' style is a mix between indie rock, garage rock and the first wave of British punk circa 1977.
Inspired by such stalwart UK bands as The Jam, Sex Pistols, The Smiths, The Kinks and The Clash, The Libertines fully embraced their English heritage. Like David Bowie and Ray Davies before them, as the band's primary songwriters, Doherty and Barat incorporated English/cockney slang and often sang in a distinctly British accent, which occasionally sounds like a drunken slur.
They released two studio albums, both produced by Mick Jones of The Clash, but in 2003 Pete Doherty's heroin and crack cocaine addictions and tension between Doherty and Barat were too much for the band to overcome. Disappearing from a European tour, breaking into Barat's house and stealing valuable items does not a good band member make. Doherty was simply out of control.
When Blur emerged in the late 80s, they were a psychedelic group in the vein of the Stone Roses. The group had moderate success, so in the mid-90s, they reinvented themselves, and along with their rivals Oasis had become the most popular band in the U.K.
With Blur's fifth album, Blur (1997), singer Damon Albarn publicly rejected British music and embraced American indie rock. The UK audience wasn't too keen on the band's new sound, but the Americans dug it. Blur received good reviews and had a reasonable hit with the single "Song 2."
From 1977 to 1982, The Jam had eighteen consecutive Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, including four #1 hits. Not one of their songs entered the top 40 in the United States.
There is a recurring theme that appears to run throughout all five bands. Perhaps the reason they didn't find comparable success in the United States is because they were all "too British." Do you agree with that particular assessment?
Leave a comment below, telling us what other UK bands couldn't match the same success in America.