You’ll Never Believe These Popular Songs Never Topped The Charts

Originally a trade publication for advertisers and public event postings, Billboard debuted in 1894, but didn’t begin publishing charts based on songs’ popularity until the 1930s, thanks to the advent of the jukebox. By the ’50s, it had become the industry standard for measuring a song’s popularity, which was divided at the time into three distinct categories – best sellers in stores, most played by jockeys, and most played in jukeboxes. In 1955, Billboard created a fourth category that combined the data from the first three categories, which compiled the magazine’s first Top 100 list for songs. Between June 1957 and July 1958, the multiple category system was discontinued altogether.

The very next week, Aug. 4, 1958, Billboard debuted the Hot 100, which measured a song’s popularity based on a combination airplay and sales, with Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” being the first No. 1 hit under the new system. While there have been some undeniably great No. 1 songs over the years, in honor of the anniversary of the Hot 100, we look at some massively popular songs that never made it to that coveted spot.

Ozzy Osbourne – “Crazy Train”

Despite being the most identifiable hit of his solo career, co-written by Randy Rhodes, Bob Daisley, and Osbourne himself, it topped out at No. 49 on the UK charts, but never even managed to crack the Top 100 in the U.S. after its release in 1980. It did, however, manage to reach all the way up to No. 9 on the Billboard rock charts, and the album Blizzard of Oz reached No. 20 on the album charts that same year.

Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”

One of Stevie Nicks’ first contributions after joining Fleetwood Mac, her iconic ballad, first released in 1975, has been recorded more than two dozen times by artists as diverse as Smashing Pumpkins, The Dixie Chicks, and Miley Cyrus. Despite having sold more than 1.3 million copies as of February 2013, “Landslide” never managed to break into the charts. There was a live version released as a single for their 1997 reunion album The Dance which managed to make it to No. 51 that year.

Wham! – “Last Christmas”

Another ubiquitous pop song, and holiday classic, “Last Christmas” never managed to crack the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, largely because it was only released as a promotional 7-inch, and wasn’t commercially available stateside, making it ineligible. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK in 1984, the year of its release, and has re-entered their Top 40 almost annually. It finally managed to find its way into the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 2009, thanks to the cast of Glee.

Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn”

In 1997, you couldn’t turn on a pop station anywhere on the FM dial and not hear Imbruglia’s cover of the Ednaswap song. “Torn” was No. 1 on the Billboard Airplay chart for 14 weeks, but it never managed to make it past No. 42 in the Billboard Hot 100, as the policy at the time required songs to be commercially available as a single. This was changed in 1998, though the song’s popularity had faded by then. It made it to No. 2 on the UK Billboard charts, but was shut out of the top spot by Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”

Bob Marley – “Roots, Rock, Reggae”

While “Roots, Rock, Reggae” isn’t one of Marley’s songs whose lyrics adorn dorm room posters, it ended up being his most popular song in terms of chart position, climbing to No. 52 in the Hot 100 back in 1976. Two years earlier, Eric Clapton’s cover of Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff” hit No. 1.

Madonna – “Material Girl”

Released in November 1984, it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 43 in February 1985. Within a month, it made it to No. 2, where it stayed for two weeks, held there by REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” the first week and Phil Collins’ “One More Night” the next. The song would almost immediately become synonymous with Madonna’s image, who would often be referred to simply as “The Material Girl” by the press for years to come, something she’d later come to resent.

The Who – “You Won’t Get Fooled Again”

A staple of The Who’s live setlist, film and TV soundtracks, and classic rock radio, the eight-plus-minute closing number to their 1971 album Who’s Next was released as a single that same year. While making it into the Top 10 of the UK singles chart, it stalled at No. 15 in the U.S.

Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”

The collaborative duo of Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse seemingly came out of nowhere, and their funky mashup of R&B and spaghetti western film scores was completely inescapable throughout all of 2006. “Crazy” made it to No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, the first song to do so on downloads alone, but held at No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, repeatedly edged out by Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.”

Louis Armstrong – “What A Wonderful World”

One of the most universally beloved songs ever, it was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1967. Not only did the song never reach the No. 1 position, it never even cracked the Top 100, as it never climbed past No. 116(!) that year. It did manage to top the charts in both the UK and Austria that year, and was re-released as part of the Good Morning, Vietnam soundtrack in 1988, when it did considerably better, making it to the No. 32 on the Hot 100.

Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone”

Recorded in 1965 by jazz producer Tom Wilson, who helmed Dylan’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album two years earlier, the song defied radio convention with its six-plus-minute runtime and dense lyrical composition, but went on to become a massive hit anyway. It was also the song that finalized Dylan’s transition from the folk world into a rock star, and, in 2004, was named the No. 1 song of all-time by Rolling Stone. Despite all this, it never managed to make it past No. 2 on the Billboard charts, as The Beatles’ “Help” occupied the top spot ahead of it.