The Billboard Hot 100 chart is weird. For years, unless something was technically released as a single, it wasn’t eligible for the charts. This rule means countless songs were played countless times, but never charted anywhere. Or, because of divisions between genres, some popular songs were counted on a rock or country chart without being considered on the Hot 100.
In order to be considered a hit, a song has to eventually end up in the top 40 of this list; something that was popularized decades ago with the “American Top 40” countdown radio program. This has led to some very odd circumstances where some of the most popular bands or artists of all time have only had one actual hit within that section of the chart. With that explanation in play, let’s take a look at these artists and their one hit.
1 Number 10: Fiona Apple – “Criminal”
There’s an easy argument to be made that Fiona Apple is one of the most underrated artists of the last thirty years, let alone underrated women in music. Her ability to transcend genre and combine hard-hitting lyrical poetry with powerful instrumentation is second-to-none. Despite each of her five albums receiving extremely positive acclaim, her only song to chart in the top 40 was off her debut album, “Tidal,” when “Criminal” went to number 21.
2 Number 9: Rush – “New World Man”
Okay, so this is kind of an understandable one. Rush is an acquired taste, largely thanks to lead singer Geddy Lee‘s voice. Combine that with several prog rock elements- Neil Peart‘s sometimes excessively libertarian lyrics, and Alex Lifeson‘s incendiary guitar- and it can be a lot to digest. That being said you’d think with how often you hear “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” “Closer to the Heart,” or so many other tracks from then that at least two of them would make the top 40. Nope. Their only hit was “New World Man,” which incidentally, also hit number 21. There’s your connection between Fiona Apple and Rush if you were looking for one.
3 Number 8: Roxy Music – “Love is the Drug”
Art-rock and progressive pop may not be most people’s cup of tea, which is understandable. Roxy Music were massively ahead of their time but even then they were able to land a hit in the top 40 when “Love is the Drug” climbed to number 30. That being said, they still churned out a number of radio friendly, catchy and accessible songs for years after this. “More Than This” and “Avalon” are two tracks that easily could’ve been huge hits in the early ’80s. They were in the UK, just not in the states.
4 Number 7: Queensrÿche – “Silent Lucidity”
Hard and often times, progressive rock band, Queensrÿche had a massively successful string of hits on the mainstream rock charts throughout the early to mid ’90s. Helping this along were the highly revered concept album, “Operation: Mindcrime” and the more mainstream follow-up, “Empire.” The latter of these would produce their lone crossover Hot 100 hit, “Silent Lucidity” which cracked the top 10 and landed at number 9.
5 Number 6: Public Enemy & NWA – “Give it Up” & “Straight Outta Compton”
Though it’s kind of cheating putting these entries together, NWA only officially had two studio albums and an EP, so they didn’t have a lot of chances to follow up on “Straight Outta Compton” going to number 38. Public Enemy on the other hand has 15 studio albums and only produced one hit with “Give It Up” climbing to number 33 back in 1995. Much of this could be chalked up to the reluctance of popular radio to embrace rap music that was challenging the establishment at the time. Even though these songs were seven years apart, they faced the same issues. It wouldn’t be another decade or so before rap would exert more dominance on the hot 100.
6 Number 5: Patti Smith – “Because the Night”
Patti Smith is considered to be one of the greatest poets in rock and roll; apparently that doesn’t translate to popular hits. Despite strong sales of her early albums and even stronger critical reviews, the only hit she generated would be “Because the Night,” which barely missed out on the top 10 when it charted at number 13. The song, co-written by Bruce Springsteen would be a concert staple for The Boss and later be covered successfully by 10,000 Maniacs.
7 Number 4: Iggy Pop – “Candy”
How is it that the man who brought us The Stooges, worked profusely with David Bowie, and is one of the biggest and earliest names in punk, only had one hit? Iggy Pop has instantly recognizable songs ranging from “I Wanna Be Your Dog” to “Search and Destroy,” as well as “Lust For Life” and “The Passenger.” Despite this, nothing he recorded hit the top 40 until 1990’s “Candy.” It is a complete diversion from his punk sound setting firmly in the pop/rock genre. To its credit though, its propelled by an amazing vocal performance from The B-52’s Kate Pierson. “Candy” would peak at number 28.
8 Number 3: – Grateful Dead – “Touch of Grey”
One of the biggest bands of all time and the only hit they had was “Touch of Grey” when it hit number 9 in 1987; long after their heyday. On one hand, this isn’t extremely surprising given that they were always more of a live band and their songs are very much known for being extended jam sessions. That being said, they were easily capable of writing shorter pieces like “Alabama Getaway” or “Shakedown Street.” There is a strong pop sensibility to “Touch of Grey” though that explains how it could find success on the Hot 100, even if it’s arguably one of their weaker songs in comparison to the dozens that didn’t chart.
9 Number 2: – The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “All Along the Watchtower”
Despite being considered one of, if not the greatest guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix only scored one hit song with his cover of Bob Dylan‘s “All Along the Watchtower.” His 1968 take on the apocalyptic song drastically rearranges it into a 4-minute, hard rock epic that went to number 20 on the charts. As for all those other memorable songs and riffs he crafted? Maybe it’s just a case of being ahead of his time as that kind of album oriented rock would gain far more popularity in the early to mid ’70s.
10 Number 1: Ozzy Osbourne – “Mama, I’m Coming Home”
We had to check this one several times to make sure because it didn’t seem to make sense. Surely Ozzy Osbourne had to have more than one hit, even on the Hot 100, right? In terms of a solo artist, nope, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” is the only one. What about with Black Sabbath? Not even there. In the US, Ozzy’s former band never cracked the top 40 at any point in time even after he left the group and they reformed. Ozzy’s only appearance in the hit section of the chart was on appearances with Lita Ford and Post Malone. Guess that “Crazy Train” got derailed on the pop charts.