If there is a musical term out there that really gets my nuts in a uproar, it is the grossly overused label “one hit wonder”. I don’t know when it first came into widespread use, but I began hearing it in the mid 90’s while I was in college and VH-1 was in the midst of 80’s nostaligia. It was intended to describe musical artists who came out of nowhere with a big hit song, and then dropped off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. However, the phrase has become so bastardized over the years, that it has really lost any sense of validity, and is generally thrown about by people who think that music history consists of what you hear on so-called “oldies” stations nowadays.
A few years ago VH-1, which you may remember at one time used to play music videos like its big brother MTV also once did, compiled a list of the biggest one hit wonders of the 80’s. You can find the list here to see it for yourself. I consider the 80’s to be my decade, and I am much more familiar with the music from that time that at any other period in the rock era. I have a lot of quibbles with this list…. not in the rankings, because that’s just silly anyway. But in the fact that about a fourth of the artists on this list aren’t really one hit wonders in my mind, and I’d think in many others’ minds as well.
Today I’m going to share what I think are some of the grossest misuses of the OHW label that are on the VH1 list. I’ve ignored the more obscure acts like The Boomtown Rats and XTC, who never even had a Top 40 single on the US charts.. thus making their inclusion on this list just a little dubious. I’m also not going to waste time on some of the acts who I outside of this list I have never heard tagged as a OHW, such as Philip Bailey (really?), John Waite, and John Parr. To keep this post from being way too long, I’m also going to leave off a few of my other favorite faux-OHW’s, such as Madness, Men Without Hats, and Twisted Sister.
So now, here are a few artists we at The Nest do not believe are One Hit Wonders… or as I’d like to call them, One Hit Blunders:
This trio came in at #59 on VH1’s list. You know them for one of the most overplayed songs of the 80’s:
Seriously, if I was to make a countdown of the most overplayed 80’s songs I wish I would never hear again, this one would be in the Top 3 along with “Summer of 69” and “Love Shack”. For whatever reason, it has withstood the test of time, and it did chime in at #6 on the Hot 100 back in 1986. It was indeed the highest charting of The Outfield’s five Top 40 hits…
Wait…. they had FIVE Top 40 hits!?!?!? Then how come… but why….??? Yep, your typical One Hit Blunder. Most of their other songs are as blah as “Your Love” is, but here is a song they took to #19 that I’m sure you’ve heard before…
They also had “For You” (#21), “Voices of Babylon” (#25), and “Since You’ve Been Gone” (#31) reach the Top 40. The Outfield isn’t quite the Hank Aaron of music, but they do rate a solid Joe Carter (Any sabermaticians out there will love that reference considering what I think of The Outfield)
Coming in at #54 on VH1’s OHW list is this handsome singer, who everyone remembers for this slow, sappy piece of schlock…
“The Lady in Red” hit #3 on the charts in 1987, and it’s unfathomable to me that this cure for insomnia came from the same man who just four years earlier did not only one of the greatest songs of the 80’s, but one of the greatest fucking songs of all time!
“Don’t Pay The Ferryman” is one of the first songs I fell in love with on the radio. I was 8 years old when it came out, and it was played quite often back in 1983. I am extremely disappointed to see it only made it to #34 on the Hot 100, but dammit, THIS is the song he should be known for, and at the very least it takes him out of OHW consideration…
Robbie is not one of the Neville brothers, but he does check in at #45 on the VH1 list thanks to this great song he took to #2 in 1986…
Yes, for once I actually like the song that puts the artist in the OHW camp. But even with this song, Robbie Nevil hinself still seems to be lost to the dustbin of music history, which is even more head scratching when you consider that he had two other singles in the Top 15!!! “Wot’s It To You” made it to #10, and then there is this one, which I like even better than “C’est La Vie”….
“Dominoes” hit #14 on the Hot 100. We still remember Vanilla Ice and Rockwell to this day, yet Robbie gets on the charts thrice and vanishes from our collective memory. Hang tough Robbie, we still love you at The Nest!
The Cutting Crew
I have to admit, you could have shown me the picture on the Dutch Masters cigar box and told me it was The Cutting Crew, and I’d have had no reason to doubt you. They had a huge hit in 1987, which got them to #26 on the VH1 OHW list, yet I wouldn’t have been able to pick the band out of a lineup. Surely you’ve heard this song before, which wade it all the way to #1:
“(I Just) Died in Your Arms” is a good song. Certainly worthy of being remembered for. But perhaps The Cutting Crew would be happier if they were also remembered for their other Top 10 hit…
“I’ve Been In Love Before hit number NINE on the charts!!! That’s a pretty big hit, if you ask me. And I will warn you now, it won’t be the last #9 you’ll see from a “OHW” in this post. It’s time this song got a little more love and airplay…
Dead Or Alive
Dead or Alive is remembered today for only two things. One is frontman Pete Burns’ channeling Boy George (though Burns has supposedly claimed that Boy George ripped off the androgynous look from him, Culture Club entered our pop culture world before you, Petey girl, Sorry). The other is this song, which let’s face it, is a straight up classic 80’s anthem:
“You Spin Me Round” hit #11 on the charts in 1985, and got Dead or Alive the #19 spot on VH1’s OHW countdown. Funny that I have no recollection of this song whatsoever from the 80’s itself, but I do tend to forget things. Well, Dead or Alive released this song with the kickass video, and then packed it up and went back to playing gay bars in England, right?
Wrong. DEAD wrong…
“Brand New Lover” was only slightly less successful than “You Spin Me Round”, peaking at #14 on the Hot 100 just a couple years later in 1987. It also completely blows “Spin” away, in my opinion anyway (Hell, I actually prefer Jessica fricking Simpson’s version of “You Spin Me Round” to DoA’s). Sorry Dead or Alive, you are a bonafide THW, but you’ll have to give up that OHW status along with your man cards…
There is no denying the fact that Devo will always be best remembered for this song:
Thanks to the overwhelming success of “Whip It”, which only made it to #14 on the Hot 100, but became legendary thanks to the bizarre music video, Devo was ranked at #15 on the VH1 One Hit Wonder list. They had no other songs in the Top 40 on the Billboard pop charts at any time in their history, so if any artist here fits the bill, it’s Devo right?
Well, only if you want to completely ignore the fact that Devo is one of the most influential bands of the 80’s, and certainly were pioneers of the early days of music videos. They have a lot of songs you have probably heard at some point in your life. Weird Al Yankovic even wrote a parody based on Devo’s unique style!
Several of Devo’s other popular music videos are also parodied in “Dare To Be Stupid”. Devo did a kickass cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” that helped launch their career, they also covered “Working in a Coal Mine” which you’ve had to have heard at some point, “Freedom of Choice”, “Jocko Homo” (Are we not men, we are Devo!), and then there is my personal favorite, “Squirrel U Want”
For our final faux-OHW of the day, we have the band Animotion. Once again, there’s no denying what song you know them best for, and that’s the reason they were ranked #12 by VH1 in their countdown….
“Obsession” is another song that just seems to represent the decade. It hit #6 on the charts way back in 1985, and even though it gets played to death all these years later, it still doesn’t get too tiring to listen to. Animotion seemed pretty talented, it’s too bad they never had another hit….
Or maybe there’s just a curse of songs that reach #9 on the charts. Yep, they followed up “Obsession” a few years later with a song that peaked at #9, and was even on the soundtrack of a movie that itself seems to have been pitched into the proverbial historical dumpster….
“Room To Move”, from the soundtrack of “My Stepmother Is An Alien”, is synth pop at its absolute finest. How Animotion put out two songs like this one and Obsession and didn’t make it bigger than they did is almost as much of a mystery as why “Room” got shafted by the 80’s Preservation Society. Regardless, they aren’t a one hit wonder by any stretch of the imagination…..
Thus concludes today’s lesson on fine 80’s music, terrible countdowns by reality show hos, and how labels that stick can still sometimes be sooooo wrong. The next time someone tells you a certain act was a one hit wonder, be skeptical and check out their history. You just may find that sometimes the greatest music out there is the stuff that doesn’t stand the the test of time, or appear on the dreaded radio station playlist…..