From The Published Archives: The One-Hit Wonders Of All Time

VH1 has this show called The Greatest.  On the program, they have all these interesting countdowns devoted to pop culture (mainly music) like the 100 Sexiest Artists, the 25 Greatest Power Ballads, and many others.  According to an article I read in The Toronto Sun, they’re doing a countdown of the 100 Best-Selling Albums of all-time in the United Kingdom.  (You can see the entire list by clicking here.)
4 years ago, there was a countdown of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders broken down into 5 episodes.  I don’t know if this particular countdown ever aired in Canada since VH1 is still not allowed to be broadcast here.  (Same with HBO.  Goddamn nationalists.)  The Canadian equivalent, Much More Music, does air a lot of VH1 programming including a few episodes of The Greatest (they’ve re-aired the 100 Most Shocking Moments In Rock And Roll to death), but I don’t remember ever seeing the One-Hit Wonder shows.  Nonetheless, I was disappointed with the list.  A number of acts that made the cut weren’t one-hit wonders and so, I decided to criticize these choices.  Furthermore, I wrote about some performers who should’ve been more seriously considered for the countdown.
I called my article “The One-Hit Wonders VH1 Forgot” and it was my first submission to the YourPlace page which was a part of the entertainment section of The Hamilton Spectator.  I got a call from the paper saying they loved the article and before they published it, they wanted to know my age.  (I was 26 at the time.)  Before they got off the line, they encouraged me to send in more stuff.  It made my day.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get that article accepted.  As the spring turned to summer, it would become much harder to get my followup submissions in the paper which brought me back down to reality.
“The one-hit wonders of all time”, as it was renamed by The Spec, appeared on page D10 in the entertainment section on May 14, 2002.  It was published with a picture of The Knack, one of the more deserving one-hit wonders who were excluded from VH1’s list.  I was really happy with the finished product.  They edited very little of the prose which pleased me greatly.
2 days later, on May 16, the paper printed a letter of rebuttal by Chris Bedic, a 24-year-old fellow Hamiltonian, who took exception to the article.  I was amused by the letter more than anything.  He tried in vain to argue against 3 of my one-hit wonder selections:  Nada Surf, Hum and Lou Reed.  As I read it I realized he completely misunderstood the real definition of a one-hit wonder.  You can have a million great songs but if only one is a genuine success, you’re a one-hit wonder.  All of the artists I selected for my piece fit that criteria.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking about this subject and now that I’m posting this previously published article, I’m going to revisit it and write more on this.  I don’t know when any of it will be ready to showcase here but once I do have it finished I can tell you one thing.  You will be surprised.  Check out and search for “The Greatest” to find the one-hit wonder list and all the other shows they’ve done so far.
The one-hit wonders of all time

I love lists. And American music channel VH1 has come up with a fascinating one. A list of the top 100 one-hit wonders of all time. Unfortunately, they excluded some great choices in favour of artists who actually weren’t one-hit wonders. Falco, Thomas Dolby, Twisted Sister, and Vanilla Ice, for instance, had 2 hit singles. Just because one of their hits is remembered more than the other doesn’t justify their places on this list.

In any event, here are seven selections that should have made the cut.

  1. Popular by Nada Surf (1996)

Produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars, this warped little number came out of left field in the summer of 1996. Inspired by a bizarre book of tips for teenagers, the song is mostly spoken word with singer/guitarist Matthew Caws gradually pouring on the camp until he dips into the memorably catchy chorus. Based in New York, Nada Surf never could follow up such an inspired single. Their second album for Elektra, The Proximity Effect, was rejected for allegedly not being commercial. The band bought back the album and issued it on its own label in 2000. According to their website, a third album is due late this summer.

    2.   Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand by Primitive Radio Gods (1996)

You won’t recognize the title, nor the band. But the minute you hear a sampled B.B. King sing, “I’ve been downhearted, baby,” you’ll smile in remembrance. Singer Chris O’Connor had been in an indie band for 10 years and was about to give it all up for a career as an air traffic controller until Sony Music decided to release Rocket, the album he self-produced that spawned the big single. Also featured in the Jim Carrey film, The Cable Guy, O’Connor’s soft vocals never get in the way of the song’s impossibly funky arrangement. Problems with 2 record labels and a line-up change long delayed the band’s second album by 5 years.

    3.   Stars by Hum (1995)

Starting out so deceptively soft you think you’re hearing a ballad, Stars blisters you with an abrasive guitar attack that doesn’t let up for the remainder of the song. One of the highlights from the band’s entertaining major label debut, You’d Prefer An Astronaut, the song was issued to radio some 3 months before the album’s commercial release. It gave the band instant exposure, but when the follow-up arrived 3 years later, no one cared. The band lost its major label deal with RCA Records as a result.

    4.   Not An Addict by K’s Choice (1997)

A clever anti-heroin anthem written from the point of view of the delusional user, Not An Addict was a major North American hit for this Belgium group. A follow-up album in 1998 failed to spawn a worthy successor.

    5.   My Sharona by The Knack (1979)

A huge smash at the end of the initial punk explosion, this older-man-lusting-for-a-younger-woman ditty enjoyed a second run up the charts when it was featured in the 1994 comedy, Reality Bites. Despite outside interests, The Knack are still together and continue to tour.

    6.   Eve Of Destruction by Barry McGuire (1965)

Often laughed at for his over-the-top delivery, a very drunk Barry McGuire recorded this classic anti-war track at 4 a.m. He must not have been pleased to have to sing the song with the same drunken intensity in concert as he did that fateful night in the studio. Produced by the legendary Lou Adler (Carole King’s Tapestry, Rocky Horror Picture Show).

    7.   Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed (1972)

Thanks to one appreciative DJ, Lou Reed’s one and only ride up the Billboard hit parade became a surprise (and highly censored) radio hit. Produced by David Bowie, this is the song that made legends out of the colourful characters who constantly hung around Andy Warhol’s Factory in NYC. With its duelling bass lines (an upright and an electric 4-string) and one memorable line after another, this is Reed’s masterstroke. Despite having many critically acclaimed albums and famous fans, this moving delight from the Transformer album is his lone success.

         – Dennis Earl, 26
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, November 17, 2006
4:37 p.m.
Published in: on November 17, 2006 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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