10 Rock Legends With Just One Top 10 U.S. Single

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These guys, with plenty of pop hits, are NOT in this story

In an era when Top 40 radio played singles by pop, R&B and country favorites, it was not at all uncommon for rock superstars to be played alongside songs from these other genres. In the 70’s, for instance, acts like Rod Stewart, Eagles, ELO and Foreigner, regularly rode the top of the pop charts next to such stars as Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, and Stevie Wonder.

Some rockers, though, were slighted by Top 40 program directors. In a previous two-part series, we’ve identified such established acts as Jethro Tull and Jimi Hendrix in Part 1 and Joe Walsh and Lou Reed in Part 2, who never scored a Top 10 single in the U.S.

In this feature, we take a look at 10 rock legends whose career features a significant outlier: all of them share a chart oddity… they earned just one Top 10 U.S. single in their career. In fact, in two of those cases, the single was a #1 chart hit. Yet, in each case, they never again reached the Top 10.

Here’s our look at these superstars, in reverse order of chart peak.

The Who – I Can See For Miles (#9)

This one generally wins a lot of bar bets. When asked which Who song scored highest on the charts, fans generally guess “My Generation,” “The Kids Are Alright” or “Pinball Wizard.” But this 1967 one is tops, besting 1970’s “See Me, Feel Me,” which peaked at #12.

Talking Heads – Burning Down the House (#9)

For all their acclaim, the Heads only had eight singles that even reached the Hot 100. And it was this 1983 barn burner from their fifth studio album, Speaking in Tongues, that got them to the promised land. The runner up? 1986’s “Wild Wild Life” at #25.

Joni Mitchell – Help Me (#7)

The singer-songwriter’s great 1974 album, Court and Spark, yielded three chart hits, none bigger than “Help Me,” with its lovely vocal. Her next best was its follow-up, “Free Man in Paris,” which reached #22.

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love (#4)

An ad for the single in the Nov. 22, 1969 issue of Record World

Remember, we’re talking the pop charts and “Stairway to Heaven” was never released as a single. Our friend, Jerry Greenberg, who was head of radio promotion for Atlantic Records at the time (and later its president), convinced the band and their manager, Peter Grant, that he could bust the band wide open if he could get them played on Top 40. In this story, he explains how he did it. Two years later, “Black Dog” became their second-biggest single, reaching #15.

Loggins and Messina – Your Mama Don’t Dance (#4)

The duo scored 10 singles on the chart in a four-year period, led by this uptempo 1972 number. One year later, they earned a #16 hit with “My Music.” By 1976, the pair had broken up.

Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man (#2)

This Dickey Betts favorite is from 1973’s great Brothers and Sisters album. If you knew that the brothers’ second-highest pop success was 1979’s “Crazy Love” at #29, raise your hand. Yeah, we didn’t think so…

Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue (#2)

While he came close several times, most notably with “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire,” both of which reached #17, this Shel Silverstein composition from his 1969 live At San Quentin album was the Man in Black’s biggest pop hit.

Randy Newman – Short People (#2)

The legendary songwriter never even charted with “I Love L.A.” and the Toy Story theme, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” This 1977 hit was indeed an outlier: his next-highest charting solo single was 1988’s “It’s Money That Matters” at #60.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) (#1)

Though they’ve long been a rock radio favorite, pop programmers rarely gave them a chance. Though 1973’s “Money” did reach #13, don’t bother looking for The Wall‘s “Comfortably Numb”… it never charted!

Yes – Owner of a Lonely Heart (#1)

Eleven years after “Roundabout” reached #13, this Trevor Rabin-led song gave the prog rock titans an unlikely #1.

Best Classic Bands Staff

3 Comments so far

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  1. ashap02
    #1 ashap02 14 July, 2020, 08:32

    I find it a bit comical to call Randy Newman a rock legend.

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  2. Dr. Mikey
    #2 Dr. Mikey 16 July, 2020, 17:01

    How many top tens did Johnny Cash have on the country charts?

    Reply this comment
  3. O. A. Twillie
    #3 O. A. Twillie 28 February, 2022, 09:09

    Touch of Gray was the Grateful Dead’s only top-ten single.

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