with contributions from Shane Alexander, Matthew Smith, and Vanessa Azzoli
Everything has a day, it seems. Parents. Grandparents. Siblings. Pirates. It only stands to reason that one-hit wonders, those phenomenal songs from bands that burn brightly and intensely only to fade almost immediately from view, would have their own day.
Here’s a sampling of the best from the crew here at Geeks and Beats:
A-Ha, “Take On Me”
Technically only a one-hit wonder in North America, the catchy song and inventive video launched many a child’s fascination with music in the mid-1980s. While the band still continues to perform and has a large following across Europe, most music fans in the US and Canada would be challenged to name a second song from the Norwegian band.
Katrina and the Waves, “Walkin’ on Sunshine”
Oh, infectious pop music of 1985. The band saw some success in Canada before this little ditty hit the airwaves and became a sensation, and the band was technically together until 1999, but this is the song they’re known and loved for.
Nena, “99 Red Balloons/ 99 Luftballons”
One of the most popular German pop songs of all time, Nena released this song in West Germany in 1983 and it became a smash in the western world a year later. Other songs charted in Europe and the UK, but it remains a staple of ’80s nights around the world. Has any other protest song sounded so cheerful in German? Whether the lyrics tell of a child’s toy or mistaken UFOs, it’s a catchy tune with no equal for Nena in North America.
Deep Blue Something, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”
The 90s were a great place for music, yes, I stand by that. Released in 1995, this song topped the charts in the UK, Australia and Canada. It’s actually a really cute song about a man who is debating ending a relationship with his girlfriend as the two don’t have much in common. Wanting to work on the relationship, he brings up the Audrey Hepburn movie of the same name and they go off and learn that they both “kinda liked it.” And the rest is history.
Spacehog, “In The Meantime”
Another gem from the 90s, “In The Meantime” is home to one of the greatest basslines. This song came out in 1996, and was written based on a sample of the song “Telephone and Rubber Band” by Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The song peaked at number one in the US, and hovered around number six in Canada.
New Radicals, “You Get What You Give”
I still sing along to this song every time I hear it. This song came out a little later in the 90s, we saw it rear its pretty little head in 1998. This song was way too smart for its time. Gregg Alexander wrote two specific sections – one mentioning a slew of celebrities, and the other mentioning the political state of the US. He used it as a test to see what part the media would focus on.
Eagle Eye Cherry, “Save Tonight”
Here’s another one hit wonder from the 90s that sticks in your head. Eagle Eye Cherry with “Save Tonight.” The video is filmed in a perspective as though it was shot in one continuous take. Even though Eagle Eye Cherry quit the music business for almost a whole decade, he came out with another album release in 2012 that didn’t even chart. “Save Tonight” reached #1 in three categories on the US Billboard Charts in 1997.
Toni Basil, “Mickey”
There’s no place for a mouse here, folks. Cheerleaders, gymnastic flips, tons of eye makeup, sure. And pom poms everywhere. Toni Basil, professionally a choreographer, dancer, actress and dancer, decided to go in front of the camera for this gem from 1983, even though the song was written and the video conceptualized in 1980. This is a beloved one-hit wonder, coming in at number 6 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ’80s when the list was published in 2009.
Beady Eye, “The Roller”
If it sounds like Oasis, then it probably is Oasis. Then again, can you have Oasis without one of the Gallagher brothers in the band? That’s what Liam Gallagher and the latest Oasis line-up (minus Noel Gallagher) tried to achieve when they formed the band Beady Eye and recorded “The Roller” off of their debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding. “The Roller” was actually written in the early 2000’s by band-mates Liam Gallagher, Gem Archer, and Andy Bell but was put aside until they released it in early 2011. “The Roller” was considered their only hit since Liam disbanded Beady Eye in 2014. “The Roller” reached #31 and #17 in England and Scotland.
Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”
For what it’s worth listen to “For What It’s Worth.” It was one of the first classic war protest rock songs that started revolutionize the sound of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960’s. Written by guitarist Stephen Stills, “For What It’s Worth” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was Buffalo Springfield’s only chart topper before disbanding after only three albums in 1968.
Vicki Lawrence, “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia”
Yes, THAT Vicki Lawrence. The Carol Burnett Show star had a hit song in 1973. The song was penned by her husband, Bobby Russell. The song is a young woman telling a tale about her brother who just returned home after a two-week trip from a place called Candletop. The song goes on where they hung the brother. Reba got the track back to #1 in 1991. That rendition was featured on McEntire’s album, For My Broken Heart.
Minnie Riperton, “Loving You”
Minnie made the top spot in 1975 with Loving You. It’s worth the mention that the song was one of the first of several tracks on the U.S. pop charts that was produced without a percussion instrument. Other tracks minus the percussion section include The Beatles’, Yesterday and the Jim Croce hit, Time in a Bottle. It’s said that the melody in Loving You, was made as a distraction for Riperton’s daughter when she was a baby, so the parents could hang out. The daughter of course – SNL star, Maya Rudolph.
Wild Cherry, “Play That Funky Music”
There’s a story that the song was inspired by an incident in a Pittsburgh nightclub, when a black clubgoer asked the band “Are you white boys gonna play some funky music”. The funky joint jumped to number #1 on September, 18, 1976 and was also a hit on the Hot Soul Singles chart. It was certified platinum by the RIAA for shipments of over 2 million records, It ended up selling 2.5 million the U.S. alone. And oh yeah, there was that Vanilla Ice version, too. But we don’t really need to remember that.