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.
One quirky thing about the 80s (and maybe for other decades, too) is that certain (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s actually had more than one hit. How do you do the math on that, you ask? Well, it’s when you’re NOT a (real) one-hit wonder somewhere else. In the 80s, the amazing Boomtown Rats just had one hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, as did frontman (and Band Aid co-founder and Live Aid co-organizer), Bob Geldof (with 1979/1980’s “I Don’t Like Mondays” and 1986/1987’s “This Is The World Calling,” respectively).
Soft Cell was one of the biggest (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s here in America with “Tainted Love,” and singer Marc Almond was also a (real) one-hit wonder with his 1989 college hit, “Tears Run Rings.” But over in the U.K., Soft Cell had 13 Top 40 hits between 1981 and 2018, and Marc Almond had 9 solo Top 40 hits.
The name Johnny McElhone might not ring an immediate bell for most music fans here in the U.S., but along with Bob Geldof and Marc Almond, he’s a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s twice here as well. The Scotsman was a bassist for the three albums by Altered Images in the early 80s (that’s his bass you hear on “Happy Birthday”). In the U.K., Altered Images scored three Top 10 hits, though no American hits (but a noteworthy appearance in the 1984 John Hughes classic, SIXTEEN CANDLES).
From the ashes of the 1983 breakup of Altered Images was another Scottish band featuring Johnny McElhone: Hipsway. In 1987, they scored a Top 20 U.S. hit with “The Honeythief,” Hipsway’s only American hit single. But, a year before the success of “The Honeythief,” a busy Johnny, along with Scottish vocalist and guitarist Sharleen Spiteri, formed another Scottish band — Texas, a four-member Alt-Rock / Pop-Rock band who got their name from the 1984 Wim Wenders film, PARIS, TEXAS, which starred the late, great Harry Dean Stanton. Texas even modeled their original band logo from the poster.
30 years ago this month (March 1989), the debut album by Glasgow’s Texas, SOUTHSIDE, was released to much acclaim across the globe. Within three weeks of its release, SOUTHSIDE had reached No. 3 on the U.K. singles chart and was already certified Gold in the U.K. for selling more than 100,000 copies.
The album’s first single, “I Don’t Want A Lover,” was released in late January 1989, in advance of the album. The five-minute gem starts off with this gorgeous bluesy slide guitar, and after a half minute, a sweet drum beat kicks in, followed by the strong and infectious vocals of Sharleen Spiteri.
It didn’t take long for “I Don’t Want A Lover” to catch on in the U.K. and other parts of the globe, reaching No. 3 in Switzerland, No. 4 in Australia (a Gold single there), No. 8 in the U.K. and Ireland, and the Top 20 in France, Germany, New Zealand and Spain.
It, did, however, take awhile for Americans to embrace the song from a band with the namesake of one of its own 50 United States. But, perseverance won out, and “I Don’t Want A Lover” finally debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early September 1989 at No. 96. It was unlike anything on the chart that week, whose Top 5 included Richard Marx, Warrant, Gloria Estefan, Paula Abdul and New Kids On The Block. Yikes.
Naturally, with a song so good and so original and unlike the sound of the songs in the upper realm of the chart, “I Don’t Want A Lover,” debuting at the bottom realm of the chart, didn’t match the chart feats here like the other countries around the globe. Three weeks later, it spent a week at No. 77 and six weeks total on the Hot 100. Texas wouldn’t grace the BILLBOARD Hot 100 again. They did, however, have a following on college stations here in America, and “I Don’t Want A Lover” reached No. 11 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart.
The band’s disappointing chart performance in America didn’t deter the band; very much quite the opposite. The band released two more albums in the early 90s, MOTHERS HEAVEN in 1991 and RICKS ROAD in 1993, but it wasn’t until 1997’s WHITE ON BLONDE that propelled the band into superstardom. The album was the first of three consecutive No. 1 U.K. albums for Texas, and went six-times Platinum there. It also gave them their biggest hit to date, the big Pop hit, “Say What You Want,” which reached No. 3 in 1997, while a Hip-Hop reworking in 1998 featuring Method Man and RZA of Wu-Tang Clan, “Say What You Want (All Day, Every Day),” reached No. 4.
NERDY FUN FACT: Texas co-founder, vocalist and frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri was a hairdresser who was still cutting hair when Texas released SOUTHSIDE in 1989.
I have long-adored “I Want A Lover” and SOUTHSIDE. I think it’s one of the best, solid debut albums ever for any genre. Oddly enough, somehow after MOTHERS HEAVEN, I kinda lost touch with Texas and their music. But writing this blog post makes me want to rediscover them again. They truly are worth a listen. You should definitely start with SOUTHSIDE though; it’s absolutely brilliant.
Since 1989, Texas has released nine studio albums, 38 singles, an EP, a live album and three compilations. Their most recent studio album is 2017’s JUMP ON BOARD, a Top 10 album in the U.K. and France.
As of 2017, the band has sold over 40 million albums. Not bad for a band that was a (real) one-hit wonder here in America.