The Wonder of You….

One in a row!

Ahh, the one hit wonder.  The person or act known mainly for only a single success, one hit record.

There are so so many.

Some one-hit wonders are the result of novelty songs during fads. Examples include Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck,  (the disco craze of the 1970’s) C.W. McCalls’s ”Convoy”,(the CB radio craze of the 1970s) And probably the biggest selling one hit wonder of all time, “The Macarena” by Los Del Rio based on a dance.  Right?  It was a dance?

Some artists, such as the Big Bopper, had their careers cut short by death (in the Big Bopper’s case, the fatal plane crash), while others, such as New Radicals and The La’s broke up immediately after their one hit. In the 1960s and early 1970s, session bands such as Edison Lighthouse producing just a single 45 record were common. More commonly, however, one-hit wonders are serious-minded musicians who struggled to continue their success after their popularity waned.

It’s often used in a slightly derogatory manner, but that’s not fair.  Some obviously suck and are one hit wonders for a reason, but some are great.  And I relish in their one-hit hipness…

Some of my favorites (and yes, some of these border on “guilty pleasures”):

-“You Get What You Give” by the aforementioned New Radicals (1998).  Great pop at it’s best.  A cross between Todd Rundgren and….well nobody.  It’s like Todd had another huge pop hit in the 90’s.  They didn’t seem to handle success very well, and frontman/ writer Gregg Alexander thought he could do it all on his own.  Nope.

-“In a Big Country” by Big Country (1983).  It kicks.  You can’t hear it and not yell “Sha” or whatever the hell he’s yelling there.  Great song.  Distinctive sound.

-“Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve (1998).  Yeah, the strings and music were completely stolen from a symphonic version of “Last Time” by the Stones.  But they paid for it eventually, and the groove they put behind it is perfect.

-“Spirit in The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum (1970).  He didn’t make it simply because of his name.  I mean, you can’t be a rock star with a name like that.  But what a cool guitar riff.  And it was religious too, so it had that going for it.  I was always confused by his line “never been a sinner, I’ve never sinned”.  Really.  Then your name should be Jesus.  Not Norman.

-“96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians (1966).  Garage rock at it’s best.  “?” was actually born in Texas and is Not, in fact from Mexico or Mars.  He has claimed both.  This one song actually kept this band  playing for years since it’s release. It’s that good.  Okay, It’s not THAT good, but somehow they have probably played in a club near you at one time or another.

-“Come and get Your Love” by Redbone (1974).  A classic one hit wonder from a Native American Band.  You sing along.  Then it’s gone.

-“Funkytown”  by Lips Inc (1980)  A play on words.  ‘Lips sync”…get it?  This Minneapolis studio band spent four weeks at number one with their hit tune “Funkytown.” Yes, it’s disco, but come on….it’s great.   The group had disbanded by 1983, but a few of the group’s members lent their experience to Minneapolis’ biggest thing — Prince’s band, The Revolution.  Rumour has it anyway.

-“Welcome to the Boomtown” by David and David ((1986).  Los Angeles based studio musicians came out with only one album and one gripping song about despair and broken dreams.  Gritty, sad, and I love it.

-“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry (1970).  Apparently they had other hits in Europe, but in the good old U.S. of A.  they only had the one possibly best summer hit of all time.  You just can’t not feel good when you hear it on a hot summer evening.

-“Into the Night” by Benny Mardones (1980).  Yeah, it’s over the top, too dramatic and all that.  But raspy voiced Mardones pulled it off somehow.  Once.

-“Reflections of my Life” by The Marmalade (1970).  1970 was a huge year for one hitters.  The Scottish band Marmalade came out with this pop gem complete with a backwards guitar solo. Sing it with me:  “All my sorrows…Sad tomorrows…”

-“Groove is in the Heart” by Dee-Lite (1990).  Come on.  Lady Miss Kier. How could not love this little dance masterpiece?  Hello?

-“Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners (1983).  It just sounded great, and I don’t care what you say.  Too-Rye-Ay indeed.

-“Nothing compares 2 U”  by Sinead O’Conner ((1990).  As much crap as she stirred up, she only had one real hit, the Prince penned song that tore your heart out.

-“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by The Crash Test Dummies (1994).  It just didn’t sound like anything else.  Still doesn’t.  Was it kind of a joke?  No?  Maybe?  Hmm hmm hmm hmm?

-“D.O.A.” by Bloodrock (1971).  Scariest freaking song ever recorded.  I don’t want to think about it anymore…

– “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors (1980)  While widely regarded as one of the dumbest songs in pop history, it’s impossibly to deny that the song is insanely catchy. They broke up the year after it came out, but it’s been in so many commercials and soundtracks that songwriter David Fenton should be able to live off the royalties forever.

-“Vehicle” by The Ides of March (1970).  Everybody thought it was Blood Sweat and Tears”.  I still think it is.

– “No Rain” Blind Melon (1993)  In 1993 it seemed like MTV played nothing but Aerosmith’s Alicia Silverstone videos,” and Blind Melon’s little bee girl in “No Rain.” The latter group was a hippie grunge band from California that seemed like the next big thing.  They played at Woodstock 1994 and had a massive radio hit with “No Rain,” but lead signer Shannon Hoon was hopelessly addicted to drugs and he died on tour in October of 1995.  Sad. 

 -”All right Now” by Free (1970).  Paul Rogers sang it and went on to have numerous hits with Bad company.  But this may be one of the best vocals from one of the best vocalist in the history of rock music.  Oh, and the guitar riff is kind of catchy too.

 – “My Sharona” by The Knack (1979)  For a very brief period, the Knack looked like the future of rock & roll. It was during the summer of the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park and many old-school rock fans were ready to embrace a new band.  Into this void stepped the Knack, whose debut Get the Knack blew up on the strength of their power-pop classic “My Sharona.” The song was inspired by Knack frontman Doug Fieger’s girlfriend Sharona Alperin, who now works as a real estate agent.  Hope she made some wise investments.  

 -“I’ve never been to me” by Charlene (1982).  Just seeing if you were paying attention.  This one sucked.

-“Wouldn’t It be good” by Nik Kershaw (1984).  It’s soooo 80’s.  But really good 80’s.  If that’s possible.  I love it.  Still don’t know why.

-“In the Meantime” by Spacehog (1995).  I loved this song and would have bet my house they would have had another hit.  Guess that’s why I was never an A&R man.

-“There she Goes” by The La’s (1990).  Brilliant Beatlesque pop from a Liverpool band.  Too bad the record business got the best of them and these scruffy scouse lads didn’t want to play the game.  Gone after one…

Okay, I’ll end with a one and a half hit wonder.  “Seether” and “Volcano Girls” by Veruca Salt (1995).  Loved this band led by two girls who seemed to just want to have fun and rock, but apparently couldn’t get along.  Shame.  Both are still on my iPod and will be for life.


Got any you like?

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8 responses

  1. Still love the Danny Hutton Hitters version of “Wouldn’t It Be Good” better. Sorry.

    April 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

  2. I’ve always kinda liked “Cars” by Gary Numan and “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang.

    April 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm

  3. Bill

    The David & David LP is as solid a record made. Played countless time very late at night (early in the morning). Was usually last record played before falling asleep on couch with stereo blaring. Oh, those were the days.

    April 4, 2013 at 11:16 pm


    As I mentioned on the BJS Facebook page, the ultimate ‘One-Hit Wonder’ in my mind is Zager & Evans ‘In The Year 2525’. The song hit #1 (which most of the Wonders don’t) in the US AND the UK with never another flirtation with even the Top 100!
    And I quibble with The Verve. They actually had a #1 hit AFTER Bitter Sweet (OKAY, in the UK not the US).
    And Lucky In The Morning, Children’s Heritage and Jessica were all great songs by Bloodrock!
    One last GREAT song and artist for the category: ‘Fire’ by Arthur Brown! (Some claim Ron Wood played the bass track!) Brown’s vocal style had significant influence on Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Marilyn Manson, George Clinton and Kiss.

    April 4, 2013 at 11:34 pm

  5. Larry Gray

    ’73 “Wildflower” by Skylark, ’68 “Shame, Shame” by Magic Lanterns, ’69 “Venus” by Shocking Blue, ’66 “Oh How Happy” by Shades Of Blue, ’66 “Barefootin'” Robert Parker, ’66 “Elusive Butterfly” by Bob Lind,

    April 5, 2013 at 12:48 am

  6. Coltrane

    Props to the Big Country choice at # 2. While they were a 1 hit wonder in the US, they had about a half dozen songs over 5 solid albums make the UK charts.

    April 5, 2013 at 12:51 am

  7. Coltrane

    Good 80s stuff here. Can we also include most songs from the soundtracks of any John Hughes movie? OMD, Echo and the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs… arguably Simple Minds.

    April 5, 2013 at 12:59 am

  8. As you’ve noted, the definition of “one hit wonder” can vary from country to country. Take Eiffel 65’s “Blue,” the band’s only hit in the United States. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like infectious electronic music, this is it (although I prefer the album track “Europop”).

    Speaking of infectious, what about “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba? Yes, it’s a mish-mash, but it’s catchy.

    The interesting one hit wonders are the ones sung in foreign languages. I can’t remember who sang “Eres Tu,” and of course there’s an artist called Psy who some of you may have heard about. Three of those hits were re-recorded or modified for the English market – “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco, “99 Luftballoons” by Nena, and “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling.

    May 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm

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