The story of "making it" in America is one as old as rock 'n' roll itself for many British artists. This said there are many classic and successful Brit bands that have never had any commercial success in America (and have never heard the end of it in the UK). Whether too controversial, too self-destructive or just too British, these bands are well worth your time!
Manic Street Preachers (1986-present)
The most controversial band of their day who sung of self-mutilation, anorexia and greedy banks and many more topics. Based on the lyrical partnership of Nicky Wire and Richey (James) Edwards and the musical partnership of James Dean Bradfield and his cousin Sean Moore and formed in Blackwood, a mining town in Wales.
Their love (and hate) of America was so strong they were destined to make it, though self-destruction was what they were about. On stage in New York bassist Nicky Wire claimed: "The only good thing about America is that you killed John Lennon." This was the kind of comment that set the band aside in the Britain, though it never worked for America.
Debut album "Generation Terrorists" was influenced by the riffing of Slash, while later albums "Holy Bible" and "Journal for Plague Lovers" were influenced by Kurt Cobain's lyrics (though exceeded them frequently). Also The Clash and Pistols were there main idols but The Manics always retained a unique identity.
In 1995, when offered as second chance to do a promotional tour of America, a tragedy occurred: genius lyricist Richey Edwards disappeared and was never found. The band carried on after one year releasing their, then, most successful album "Everything Must Go."
The Libertines (1997-2004)
Another controversial UK band, mainly due to its frontmen Pete Doherty and Carl Barat's drug addictions. This eclipsed the bands two (perfect) albums "Up the Bracket" and "The Libertines" produced by Mick Jones of The Clash. Pete and Carl achieved legendary status for the gigs they put on in their flat even when they were infamous country-wide. They were one of the first to use the Internet to promote themselves announcing many secret gigs. Pete was a musical trainspotter with influences from unknown bands like The Only Ones, Wire and Sorcerer's Apprentice. As well as the generic Beatles, Stones, Clash.
Pete and Carl self-destructed in 2004 and "spin-off bands" were formed: Babyshambles (Doherty) and Dirty Pretty Things (Barat). They triggered a whole generation of bands singing about Britain and British things. They have reformed on two occasions 2010 for the Reading and Leeds Festivals and 2014 for Hyde Park in front of 65,000 people, their biggest headline gig to date.
The Stranglers (1974-present)
Punk pioneers celebrating their 40th anniversary this year were originally made up of Franco-English bassist and black belt Jean-Jacques Burnel, Chemistry graduate and general nasty man Hugh Cornwell (1974-1990), prog loving hippy Dave Greenfield and ice-cream man - friend of Charlie Watts, Jet Black. Too punk for punk, The Stranglers fell out with The Clash and Sex Pistols in a fight that nobody can remember very well. The Stranglers were arrested in three different countries and incited many riots. Their early string of albums saw them move form a Doorsy view of 1970s London on "Rattus Norvegicus" to close encounters on "The MenInBlack." Even the most dedicated fans will admit they lost it after 1982 though in the past decade they have returned with albums worthy of their originals "Suite 16" and "Giants."
They were more successful than The Clash and Sex Pistols in the UK. So why did the never make it in America? Like most bands who don't, it was a mix of being too British and record companies and management who mislead the band.
To listen to if interested:
Manic Street Preachers - "Generation Terrorists" Manic Street Preachers - "Holy Bible" Manic Street Preachers - "Journal for Plague Lovers" Manic Street Preachers - "Everything Must Go"
The Libertines - "The Libertines" The Libertines - "Up the Bracket"
The Stranglers - "Rattus Norvegicus" The Stranglers - "No More Heroes" The Stranglers - "The Raven" The Stranglers - "The MenInBlack"