The bands and solo artists on this list have several things in common: they all started their careers in the 60s, then became household names at some point, and still never made it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 or the UK Singles Chart. Nonetheless, they have all sold millions of records, and several of them have had number one songs in other countries.
Bob Dylan came very close to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart on two occasions, when ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Rainy Day Women ♯12 & 35’ both peaked at number two, in 1965 and 1966, respectively. However, he did have number one albums, with nearly half of his releases certified Platinum. But, interestingly, 2009’s ‘Together Through Life’ is his only record that’s reached number one in both the US and the UK.
During their short career, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released three studio albums, the last of which, ‘Electric Ladyland’ from 1968, became number one. Out of more than their dozen singles, only four made it into the top 10 in the UK and none in the US.
Although most of their records were number one in both countries and many of their songs would qualify as hits, none of Led Zeppelin’s singles reached the top of the charts – apart from ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in Australia and Germany. However, this doesn’t stop them from being the second highest selling band in history, after the Beatles.
Not only have they never had a number one on the Billboard Hot 100 or the UK Singles Chart, only one of the Who’s songs, ‘You Better You Bet’, topped the Billboard Rock Chart. They had a number of singles in the top 10 in their home country, where ‘My Generation’ and ‘I’m a Boy’ climbed to the second place.
No other band proves it better that a massive, faithful following doesn’t necessarily translate to mainstream success than the Grateful Dead. Over their 30-year career, they released 13 studio albums, only one of which, 1987’s ‘In the Dark’ made it into the top 10. Only six of their 27 singles even appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, but ‘Touch of Grey’ (from ‘In the Dark’) did reach number one on the Billboard Rock Chart.
Out of Deep Purple’s 43 singles, shockingly none has managed to top the charts anywhere in the world. Interestingly, ‘Black Night’ and ‘Speed King’ came second in the UK but only 66th in the US in 1970, and 1973’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ peaked at number four in the US but only 21st in the UK.
Although very prolific during the 60s, Bob Marley didn’t have any singles or albums on any mainstream charts until the mid-70s. He then had three number one songs and one number one record in New Zealand. While his own version of ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ was hardly even recognized by the charts (it was 67th in the UK), Eric Clapton’s cover was number one in several countries, including the US.
They are perhaps the least surprising on this list because of their dark sound, but one might still think that a band that pioneered a whole new genre of music would deserve number one place on the singles charts. Their 1970 record ‘Paranoid’ did top the UK Albums Chart, but their final release, ’13’ in 2013, was the first to reach number one in the US. The only number one single they ever had was ‘Paranoid’ in Germany.