(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” | BOYS DON’T CRY | 1986.

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

When you think of the words “boys don’t cry,” you prolly think of two things: the 1979 song by The Cure, and the band with the 1986 novelty hit, “I Wanna Be A Cowboy.”  Contrary to belief, the U.K. Pop / Rock band formed by Singer / Keyboardist Nick Richards in 1983 did not get the band’s name from The Cure classic, but actually from a line in the 1975 10cc Dream Pop gem, “I’m Not In Love” (“be quiet…big boys don’t cry, big boys don’t cry…”). 

The band Boys Don’t Cry had already released an EP before Paul Oakenfold discovered them.  In the mid-80s, well before he became a famed producer and DJ, Paul Oakenfold was a talent scout for Profile Records in London (the same label as Run-D.M.C.), and signed the band to Profile for their U.S. releases.

i wanna be a cowboy

The self-titled album (and first full album) for Boys Don’t Cry was released in 1986, and from that album came a fun novelty single called “I Wanna Ba A Cowboy,” which has been described as the perfect musical realization of a spaghetti western movie.

“I Wanna Be A Cowboy” spurred its way onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart in early April 1986, debuting at No. 90.  In mid-May, it had shot into the Top 40, and in late June, it spent a week at No. 12, and a total of 19 weeks on the Hot 100.  “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” would go on to reach the Top 10 in Australia and South Africa, most likely due in part to its kitschy video, which featured a cameo by the late, great Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead.


Lemmy in the video for “I Wanna Be A Cowboy…”


The follow-up single to “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” was called “Cities On Fire.”  This was a straight-up, Synth-driven Rock song, and I really enjoyed it (still do), but the novelty of Boys Don’t Cry was gone for most folks.  Though the band released another album, WHO THE AM DAM DO YOU THINK WE AM, and most recently, HEAR IT IS! (released in 2014), Boys Don’t Cry never graced the Hot 100 again.

It’s not an exaggeration that “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” is one of the most-requested songs on my little 20-year-old radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s.  It exudes the qualities of 80s music people most identify and love with the decade.  Who thought a song about a guy named Ted could be so much fun?  Can you believe that?

One more fun side note: knowing many people associated their name with the 1979 song of the same name by The Cure (and getting a kick out of it), Boys Don’t Cry included an instrumental song on their second album, titled…”The Cure.”


boys don't cry


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