It’s not unusual for bands and songs to be more popular abroad than in their own countries, and it’s not unusual for American performers to be famous in Europe and completely unheard of in their own countries. Years ago, some of my friends had a big hit in Switzerland, but outside of a few local markets, such as Denver, they were unheard of here. They were never even on the radio in our home town!
When I was in high school, Detroit had a reputation for wild rock & roll bands. For example, Iggy Pop, Bob Seeger, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent were all local performers for us who played at our high school dances. (We called Iggy “Iggy Stooge”, because his band was The Stooges; I think his real surname is Ostberg.) Many of the bands, including all of these guys, signed with major American record labels. Now, when their records are released on CD, the CDs are almost always from Germany or Italy. It’s a very strange phenomenon, but I guess the bands have cult followings in Europe.
One thing that’s been interesting to me is how different American songs get popular in the Europe than in the US. I eventually figured out that the songs that got popular in Europe have to have (1) a dance beat, and (2) one repeated expression that beginners in English can understand quickly and say.
In the 1950s there seem to have been a lot of famous American performers in Germany who were and are still completely unknown in the US. Bill Ramsey was one of them. Nobody knows him here. Later, of course, you folks in the East had Dean Reed; nobody here knew him either. In the 1980s, David Hasselhoff was a famous singer in Europe, but Americans didn’t know he sang, and we even laughed about it.
The US is a big place, and it’s hard to make it in the music business. About 30 or 40 years ago, you could become nationally famous from Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia or almost any big city, but now everything is so concentrated in LA that it’s almost impossible unless you go there. Some Americans decide to go to foreign countries, where the markets are smaller and where they are automatically somewhat of a novelty.
Another interesting thing is that more groups from Sweden get popular in Europe than in the US.