To borrow from Nik Kershaw’s 1984 gem of a song, wouldn’t it be good to be on your side (or my side) of the subject of one-hit wonders? What do you think of when you think of a one-hit wonder? You think of a band or a singer who had one big hit, and that’s it, right? What 80s one-hit wonders come to mind right away for you? a-ha? Falco? Men Without Hats? Eddy Grant? Information Society? The Outfield? ’til Tuesday? Madness? For the record (no pun intended), NONE of these acts were one-hit wonders here in America. In fact, every one of the acts listed above had multiple Top 40 hits, and in some cases, multiple Top 20 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.
Well, if you’re surprised that the artists listed above had more than one hit, don’t blame yourself; most people feel that way. It’s not at the fault of the people, it’s radio stations and media outlets like VH1 who, over the years, “determine” what songs are the ones worth remembering, and what songs get left behind, despite what imprint they may have left on the singles chart. And I love radio.
In 2009, VH1 did a show on the “Greatest One-Hit Wonders Of The 80s,” and I responded with a show on STUCK IN THE 80s, titled “Why I Wasn’t A One-Hit Wonder,” featuring hits by artists listed above and other artists who appeared on VH1’s list like Thomas Dolby, John Waite, Devo, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, A Flock Of Seagulls and Dead Or Alive. I don’t know who put this bullshit list together for VH1, but if I recall, nearly 75% of the list was inaccurate.
Later that year, in advance of their first Portland, Maine show, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Dave Wakeling, the voice and force behind The English Beat and General Public. Knowing General Public had more than one hit (“Tenderness” in 1984 and their brilliant cover of The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” in 1993), I had played “I’ll Take You There” on my “Why I Wasn’t A One-Hit Wonder” show, and asked Dave if it bothered him that General Public, according to VH1, was referred to as a one-hit wonder (“Tenderness” was No. 77 on the list):
“[VH1] asked me to be involved in that, and I sent them a list of [our] hits, and I was like, ‘Sadly, we can’t be involved in a one-hit wonder [show], can we?’ So, I told him that I thought they were barking up the wrong tree, and beating a dead horse, and it seems to be something, I think it stems more from VH1 than anything else, to try and marginalize or even ridicule the 80s somehow, and most of the people working on those damn programs weren’t even there; with their young sarcastic tones. I put the guy in his place, frankly. And, I said, ‘Even if I was a one-hit wonder, it’d be one more than you, mate, wouldn’t it?!’ Or, as my dad used to say, ‘Better to have been a has been than a never-bleeding wozzer!’”
Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s. Once a week, prolly on Mondays, I’ll feature a (real) one-hit wonder of the week. For me, being the chart nerd I am (I have warned you of this), a (real) one-hit wonder was a artist that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, whether it was a No. 1 hit, like M’s “Pop Muzik,” a Top 10 hit like Soft Cell’s cover of “Tainted Love,” a Top 40 hit like Laid Back’s “White Horse,” or a song that just squeaked into the Hot 100 at No. 96, like “The Only Way Is Up,” by Yazz & The Plastic Population, a song that actually spent 5 weeks at No. 1 in the United Kingdom. And with nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s (including the aforementioned Nik Kershaw), I could do this as a weekly feature for many years to come. Stay tuned…