British record buyers’ appetite for Motown has been a hallmark of the past 60 years, and it continues to this day. Here is a selection of the singles which peaked higher on the U.K. pop charts than on the Billboard Hot 100.

In some cases, the tracks were not released as U.S. singles at all, such as Marvin Gaye’s “Abraham, Martin And John.” In other cases, tracks were issued as singles first in the U.K., such as Diana Ross’ “I’m Still Waiting.” One of Motown’s biggest British hits, “Behind A Painted Smile” by the Isley Brothers, was merely a B side in the U.S.

Among the most celebrated transatlantic stories is that of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “The Tears Of A Clown.” In 1970, this was chosen for U.K. single release from the group’s 1967 album, Make It Happen. When the 45 raced up the British charts, Motown U.S. followed suit. The only reason the track is not listed below is because it reached Number One on both sides of the Atlantic.


Things you need to know. This time: hits that were bigger in Britain

(sourced from the UK Official Charts*)

  • “Walk Away Renee,” THE FOUR TOPS (3)
  • “Behind A Painted Smile,” THE ISLEY BROTHERS (5)
  • “I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose,” MARV JOHNSON (10)
  • “It’s Wonderful (To Be Loved By You),” JIMMY RUFFIN (6)
  • “I’m Still Waiting,” DIANA ROSS (1)
  • “Abraham, Martin And John,” MARVIN GAYE (9)
  • “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” THE ELGINS (3)
  • “Forget Me Not,” MARTHA REEVES & THE VANDELLAS (11)
  • “There’s A Ghost In My House,” R. DEAN TAYLOR (3)

*Some tracks were not US singles or A sides; this is chronological, and only a selection