Every decade has its one-hit wonders. I just happened to be the right age to be aware of those acts who hit the top forty during the eighties, never to climb those lofty, payola-ridden heights again.
Keep in mind that just because an act was a “one hit wonder” doesn’t mean that they were otherwise unsuccessful. Frank Zappa only had one U.S. top forty hit (“Valley Girl”), for example, as did the Grateful Dead (“Touch Of Grey”) and The Psychedelic Furs (“Heartbreak Beat”).
Anyway, be glad I wasn’t born a decade earlier. You’d be listening to the Starland Vocal Band right now.
1980: “Rapper’s Delight,” Sugarhill Gang. You’re right — it came out in 1979, but it was still in the U.S. top forty in January 1980. What a way to start a decade. Like it or love it, this is arguably the most important single of the last thirty years.
1981: “Givin’ It Up For Your Love,” Delbert McClinton. Stax circa 1981, you have to love that guitar riff.
1982: “Genius Of Love,” Tom Tom Club. Widely sampled in the early days of hip hop, and a real surprise to Talking Heads fans when it came out.
1983: An absolutely stunning year for one-hit wonders, including future classics “Tainted Love,” “Come On Eileen,” “She Blinded Me With Science,” and “In A Big Country.” But I’m giving the nod to Martin Briley’s “Salt In My Tears,” because depending on your age you’re either going to say “huh?” or “no shit? I haven’t heard this in years.”
1984: Another tough year. Do I pick “It’s My Life”? “The Curly Shuffle”? I’m going with Romeo Void’s “A Girl In Trouble Is A Temporary Thing,” mostly because I thought the much more cooler “Never Say Never” also was a hit. Who knew?
1985: “Running Up That Hill,” Kate Bush’s only American top forty.
1986: I’m sorry, I can’t do it. There’s not a single one-hit wonder from 1986 that I can tolerate. This is the peak of shitty eighties super slick and synthesized production. Really, just a horrible year.
What? Fine. Chew on this on this #22 cut from March 1986:
1987: Okay, maybe we’ll survive the latter half of the eighties, after all. I was delighted to see World Party’s “Ship Of Fools” catch fire. Nothing else on top forty radio had its mojo.
1988: “Under The Milky Way,” The Church. Still on my desert island playlist.
1989: “What I Am,” Edie Brickell and New Bohemians. I’m ready to take some heat for this one. The rest of the album wasn’t that great, the band didn’t really go anywhere, and they ushered in a next wave of patchouli hippie music. On the other hand, Edie was hot, the song was catchy as hell, and I still smell hurricanes and peach orchards when I hear it.
Okay, let me hear it: What are your picks for long-lost eighties one hit wonders? I’m listening.
Ahh, the 80’s…And who could forget…
‘Turning Japanese’ by The Vapors
‘She Blinded me With Science’ by Thomas Dolby
‘White Horse’ by Laid Back
‘Cars’ by Gary Numan
‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself’ by The Georgia Satellites
‘Whip It’ by DEVO
‘Smoking Gun’ by Robert Cray
‘Tomorrow People’ by Ziggy Marley
and one of my absolute favorites…
‘That’s Love’ by Jim Capaldi
Great list! I have a “Tomorrow People” promo cassette that came in what looks like a little dime bag. Either one of the coolest or cheapest packages ever, I’m not sure which.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners had a young girl singing backgrounds. She later became one of my favs, where I found out she sang on this 80’s hit. It became one of those “If I hear this overtly cheerful thing again I will….” She never had the distinction of being a one wonder as A&M didn’t have a clue what to do with her. I knew this because I managed to get my hands on a DAT (yea, look it up kids) of her demos for her first album and thus was able to haggle with an a&r rep from A&M who gave me her back story. Her name is Sam Brown and I’ve loved all her albums especially her first “Stop” and her album “Box”. A star in England but not here. Still, a multiple hit wonder for me.
Ahh, a time where an artist didn’t have to have a mega hit to continue to be able produce great music without working at starbucks.
“Why It Matters to Sam Brown.” I like the sound of that.