No matter what style of music gets your toes tapping, it seems many of us have a soft spot for that special breed of artist known as the one-hit wonder. I asked my co-workers to name some of their favorites – their responses span a multitude of styles and decades.
What I found from the 1960’s surprised me; did you realize “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” made the scene 45 years ago, in 1968? Talk about staying power! Iron Butterfly may not have had any more Billboard hits, but the longevity of this one more than makes up for that, in my book.
Another surprise was seeing Jimi Hendrix listed on a one-hit wonder blog. I had no idea “All Along the Watchtower” was the only song of his to make the Billboard Top 40, in the same year. To some people, that fact makes him a one-hit wonder, but to put him in the same category as Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, who had their only hit in 1967 with the novelty song “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” seems wrong.
Speaking of novelty songs, there are a few in the ‘70s worth mentioning – “Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett hit the Billboard charts in 1973, and “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, the following year. This decade offered a variety of one-hit wonders, though, like 1972’s “Bang a Gong” by T. Rex (admit it, you still rock out to this when you hear it!) and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” from 1976. “Black Betty” by Ram Jam, which charted in 1977, has gotten a second lease on life, adopted by the Boston Bruins ice hockey team as their “goal song.”
And did I mention variety? Oh, the ‘80s are just a treasure trove! Devo’s “Whip It” from 1980, “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats in 1983, and that fantastic dance floor anthem that hit the charts in 1982, “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. Perhaps the one-hit wonder that most encapsulates the sound of the ‘80s is “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, also from 1982. I could go on all day about this decade’s iconic one-hit wonders: Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309,” “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow, and yes, “Buffalo Stance,” by Neneh Cherry.
The ‘90s were also a pretty diverse decade, music-wise. Among the acts that topped the charts only once were Deee-Lite with “Groove is in the Heart” (this 1990 song epitomizes high school for me), and Tag Team‘s unavoidable “Whoomp! (There It Is)” that came long in 1993. This one conjures up summer vacation memories for some of my colleagues. And there’s probably not a wedding reception in America that doesn’t feature “The Macarena” remix by the Bayside Boys, which showed up in 1996 and just never left. And who can forget “Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm” by the Crash Test Dummies? Even if you didn’t quite understand it, this song was hard to avoid hearing on the radio in 1993.
As for the first decade of the new millennium, I am embarrassed to admit that I recognized only a couple of the top ten one-hit wonders Billboard listed.: “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley, and “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt, both of which hit the chart in 2006. Oh, and Macy Gray’s “I Try”– she’s another one I didn’t realize only hit the charts once, in 2000. The others somehow passed me by. Do you remember “Laffy Taffy,” by D4L? No? Well, that makes me feel a little better.
The question is: Who will be the next one-hit wonders? What bands who are hot today will sputter into oblivion, never to be heard from again? Then again, who will keep churning out the tunes, touring and pleasing fans, without hitting the charts more than once? And what one-hit wonders did I leave out? Share your thoughts in the comments below!