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.
I’m writing this whilst on vacation from my favorite spot on the whole planet, Seawall. Seawall is a small but gloriously beautiful part of the incredible Acadia National Park, and situated between Southwest Harbor, Maine (where I spent the first part of my childhood) and one of Maine’s most-photographed lighthouses, the Bass Harbor Head Light.
Seawall is on what local folks call the “Quietside” of Mount Desert Island, which holds the distinction of being the third-largest island off the coast of the continental United States. Bar Harbor (where I was born) may be the most-popular spot on the island, but Southwest Harbor and Seawall have long been special to me, and my family. My mom and dad took us kids here decades ago, and when we left the area in 1976, we always made a point to come back and visit. And it definitely is quiet here, save for the ocean brushing against the natural sea wall.
A song that came to mind while here was “Somebody Somewhere,” by this week’s (real) one-hit wonder of the week, Platinum Blonde. If the name Platinum Blonde doesn’t ring a bell, well, you’re prolly not the only one who doesn’t remember them. Back in the early to mid-80s, they were Canada’s answer to Duran Duran. They were also the biggest Canadian band NOT to hit it big here in America, a distinction that still surprises me today.
By 1985, the Power Pop / Rock trio from Toronto, Ontario, led by vocalist and bassist Mark Holmes, had already released a self-titled EP and a full-length album, STANDING IN THE DARK, both of which reached the Top 40 on the Canadian album chart.
That year, for their second full-length album, ALIEN SHORES, the band recruited a bass player and keyboardist from Scotland, Kenny MacLean, so frontman Mark Holmes could concentrate as lead vocalist. The plan worked. ALIEN SHORES became the band’s biggest album, and reached No. 3 on the Canadian album chart and went quintuple-platinum (selling 500,000 copies). It also gave the band their biggest hit single, “Crying Over You,” which spent three weeks at No. 2 in their homeland, and featured a guitar solo by Alex Lifeson from Rush.
But, as popular as “Crying Over You” was in Canada and other parts of the globe, it could not find an audience here in the U.S., and did not chart. Another single from ALIEN SHORES, however, did manage to cross the pop chart border, at least for a short while – “Somebody Somewhere.”
“Somebody Somewhere” was one of four singles released from ALIEN SHORES, and reached the Top 30 in Canada. Here in the U.S., the song’s video got some minor airplay on MTV, and over on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Somebody Somewhere” debuted at No. 89 in mid-April 1986. It spent a total of five weeks on the chart, two of those weeks at its peak position of No. 86.
On Platinum Blonde’s next full-length release, 1987’s CONTACT, the band got some help from the Uptown Horns and Ohio Players’ Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, reprising supporting vocals on an excellent cover of that band’s No. 1 hit from 1974. Chic’s Tony Thompson and Bernard Edwards were involved with the album as well, and one song, “System,” almost could have been mistaken for The Power Station).
CONTACT sold 100,000 copies (double-platinum) in Canada, but the album was labeled as a disappointment and CBS Records dropped them after three albums and an EP.
The band released one album as The Blondes in 1990, a live album in 1993, a couple of hits compilations, and then in November 2008, at the request of Kenny MacLean, he and Mark Holmes performed together for an impromptu reunion show in Toronto. Three hours after the show ended, Kenny MacLean sadly died of a heart attack. He was 51.
A reunion show with the three original members of Platinum Blonde happened at the same Toronto venue in 2010, and that year, the band was inducted into the Canadian Radio and Television Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. In 2012, the band released NOW & NEVER, their first album of new material in 25 years.
Today, Platinum Blonde is still performing, and in late July 2016, they performed at the George Street Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
My longtime friend Darlene from Moncton, New Brunswick got me interested in the band back in 1985 during our time at the (then) New England School Of Broadcasting (now Communications), and I know a lot of folks (especially Stateside) reading this blog post prolly don’t remember Platinum Blonde or this song, but my hope is that, maybe, somebody somewhere will…