Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: One-Hit Wonders Who Weren’t

Chart succcess in the U.S. has historically meant position on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart. The magazine publishes other charts, but the Hot 100 is what people are referring to when they generically call a song a number one single rather than a number one country single, for example.

But even within the Hot 100 there are nesting dolls of success. Number one is the big one, obviously, followed by a top five hit, then a top ten, top 20, and finally top 40. Don’t get me wrong: If I managed a #97 hit I’d brag about that sumbitch until they put me in the grave, but when most people think of a “hit” they rarely consider songs that didn’t at least crack the top 40, and over time even most of those fall away, leaving once popular artists sidled with the dreaded “one hit wonder” label. I imagine that’s pretty frustrating for folks who enjoyed a good bit of chart success over their careers.

Here are some hits from artists who you might think were one hit wonders, but they weren’t. Let’s get to the music:

“Pony Time,” Chubby Checker. Chubby might be the ultimate one hit wonder who isn’t. Checker hit the top 40 23 times during his career, 22 if you factor in that “The Twist” topped the charts twice. He’s the only artist to ever do that, by the way, so even if you think Chubby’s only hit was “The Twist,” he’d still be a two-hit wonder.  Of those 23 top forties, 1961’s “Pony Time” was his only other hit to make it all the way to number one.


“Day After Day,” Badfinger. The Paul McCartney-penned “Come and Get It” is pretty much all anybody remembers by name from Badfinger, but “Day After Day” was their biggest chart hit, peaking at #4. You’ll know it when you hear it. All total, these one hit wonders made the top 40 four times.

“Obscene Phone Caller,” Rockwell. This follow up to Rockwell’s only other top 40 hit,  the #2 “Somebody’s Watching Me,” made it to #35.

“The Sun Always Shines on T.V.,” A-Ha. “Take On Me” made it to number one; A-Ha’s only other top 40 hit stalled at #20.

“Pop Goes The World,” Men Without Hats. Five years after “The Safety Dance” went to #3, Men Without Hats returned to the top 20 with 1987’s “Pop Goes the World.”  They had no other U.S. top 40 hits.

“Together Forever,” Rick Astley. I’m not going to Rick roll you–you know what song I’m talking about. But one hit wonder Rick Astley hit the top 40 seven times, including two number ones. “Together Forever” was one of those two chart toppers. You know what the other one was.


“Do You Wanna Get Funky,” C+C Music Factory. “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” has been tattooed on every newborn infant’s brain since the song’s release in 1990. Many of you probably remember “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….”, too, so maybe C+C Music Factory doesn’t belong on an “I thought they were one hit wonders” list. In fact, they were four hit wonders, with “Do You Wanna Get Funky” barely cracking the top 40 in 1994.

“Gentleman,” Psy. He broke the internet with “Gangnam Style,” but can you name one other song by Korea’s Psy? Apparently somebody can, because he scored three U.S. top 40 hits. “Gentleman” peaked at number five back in 2013.


There you have it: Eight hits that aren’t the hits that you think of when someone mentions these one hit wonders who aren’t. Who did I miss? I’m listening.

4 replies »

  1. Thank you for the excellent article! I’ve always heard Animotion classified as a one-hit wonder also. “Obsession” went to
    #6, but they had another top 10 hit, “Room to Move” (#9). In addition, “Let Him Go” went to #39.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here are some that hit #1 and also made the Top 40…

    ? and The Mysterians: “96 Tears” #1, “I Need Somebody” #22

    Berlin: “Take My Breath Away” #1, “No More Words” #23

    Kim Carnes: “Bette Davis Eyes” #1, “More Love” #10, “Crazy in the Night” #15, “Draw of the Cards” #28, “Voyeur” #29,
    “Does It Make You Remember” #36, “Invisible Hands” #40

    Danny & the Juniors: “At the Hop” #1, “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay” #19, “Twistin’ U.S.A.” #27, “Dottie” #39

    Yvonne Elliman: “If I Can’t Have You” #1, “Love Me” #14, “Hello Stranger” #15, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” #28,
    “Love Pains” #34

    Extreme: “More Than Words” #1, “Hole Hearted” #4

    Hanson: “MMMBop” #1, “I Will Come to You” #9, “This Time Around” #20

    Thelma Houston: “Don’t Leave Me This Way” #1, “Saturday Night, Sunday Morning” #34

    The Knack: “My Sharona” #1, “Good Girls Don’t” #11, “Baby Talks Dirty” #38

    Bobby Lewis: “Tossin’ and Turnin”, #1, “One Track Mind” #9

    Little Eva: “The Loco-Motion” #1, “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby” #12, “Let’s Turkey Trot” #20, “Swingin’ on a Star” #38

    Looking Glass: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” #1, “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” #33

    C.W. McCall: “Convoy” #1, “Wolf Creek Pass” #40

    George McCrae: “Rock Your Baby” #1, “I Get Lifted” #37

    Don McLean: “American Pie” #1, “Crying” #5, “Vincent” #12, “Dreidel” #21, “Since I Don’t Have You” #23, “Castles in the Air” #36

    Alannah Myles: “Black Velvet” #1, “Love Is” #36

    Johnny Nash: “I Can See Clearly Now” #1, “Hold Me Tight” #5, “Stir It Up” #12, “A Very Special Love” #23, “Cupid” #39

    Gilbert O’Sullivan: “Alone Again (Naturally)” #1, “Clair” #2, “Get Down” #7, “Out of the Question” #17, “Ooh, Baby” #25

    Billy Paul: “Me and Mrs. Jones” #1, “Thanks for Saving My Life” #37

    The Rooftop Singers: “Walk Right In” #1, “Tom Cat” #20

    Rose Royce: “Car Wash” #1, “I Wanna Get Next to You” #10, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” #32,
    “Do Your Dance (Part 1)” #39

    Barry Sadler: “Ballad of the Green Berets” #1, “The ‘A’ Team” #6

    Michael Sembello: “Maniac” #1, “Automatic Man” #34

    Percy Sledge: “When a Man Loves a Woman” #1, “Take Time to Know Her” #11, “Warm and Tender Love” #17,
    “It Tears Me Up” #20, “Love Me Tender” #40

    Strawberry Alarm Clock: “Incense and Peppermints” #1, “Tomorrow” #23

    A Taste of Honey: “Boogie Oogie Oogie” #1, “Sukiyaki” #3

    The Tokens: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” #1, “Tonight I Fell In Love” #15, “I Hear Trumpets Blow” #30, “Portrait Of My Love” #36

    Bonnie Tyler: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” #1, “It’s a Heartache” #3, “Holding Out for a Hero” #34

    UB40: “Red Red Wine” #1, “I Got You Babe” (w/Chrissie Hynde) #28

    John Waite: “Missing You” #1, “Every Step of the Way” #25, “Tears” #37


  3. Shannon is often labeled a one hit wonder with “Let the music play” but she had a relatively big follow up hit with “Give me tonight”. Also Naked Eyes had “Always something there to remind me” but few remember the follow up hit “Promises Promises” which made it to #16.


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