The Best One Hit Wonder Songs That Will Never be Forgotten
"My Sharona" by The Knacks
The Knack grew out of the 1970s Los Angeles club scene, and before their debut album, 1979’s Get the Knack was even released they had built up a substantial fan base due in large part to their energetic live shows.
And then “My Sharona” dropped. The song was immediately zeroed in on by radio stations across America, and the tune’s drum and bass intro punched open the doors to the ’80s, claiming the honor of being 1979’s biggest hit.
"What's Up?" by 4 Non Blondes
In the midst of the early ’90s grunge explosion and a musical shift that saw Seattle and flannel becoming the lifeblood of a new generation of music lovers, 4 Non Blondes arrived with their song “What’s Up?”
With it’s ‘hey hey hey hey’ sing-along tag ending with the question ‘what’s going on?’ the tune topped the charts across Europe and made it to number 14 in America. All this without the song’s title ever making an appearance.
"Maniac" by Michael Sembello
It’s a bit of a leap going from being an in-demand session player for the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder to having a huge single in the 1983 film Flashdance, but Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” made the jump, and then promptly disappeared.
The Academy Award-nominated “Maniac” made it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and landed on the charts around the world. It also helped make the accompanying Flashdance album one of the best selling soundtracks in history.
"Rockin' Robin" by Bobby Day
Bobby Day had himself a Billboard hit with “Rockin’ Robin” in 1958, where the song reached number two, eventually peaking at number one for a week on the R&B charts.
It’s not often a tune that features the piccolo makes a huge impact, but it’s the song and its ‘tweet tweets’ that will always be attached to Day, despite having been covered by the likes of Michael Jackson. And if you want to have a go at it, feel free — the song is now in the public domain.
Source: Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day
"Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia
Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia and her 1997 cover of the Ednaswap song “Torn” managed to sell four million copies in her native country and across Europe. Oddly enough, the mid-tempo tune was never released as a single in the United States.
To get hold of the song, Americans had to buy Imbruglia’s entire album, Left Of The Middle, which led to it going double platinum. This, in turn, landed Imbruglia three Grammy nominations, all of which she lost (to Madonna, Celine Dion and Lauren Hill).
"Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
Classic rock radio loves Norman Greenbaum, even though his is a name the majority of the people who know his song would never come up with on their own.
Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” was released in 1969 and would reach number three on the Billboard charts. Not bad for a song that Greenbaum claims only needed fifteen minutes for the lyrics to be written. Greenbaum was also part of another mini-hit in 1966 as well — the novelty tune “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago.”
"Mickey" by Toni Basil
So, was Toni Basil a singer who could dance or a dancer who could sing? Basil’s “Mickey” topped the charts in 1982, and the song and its cheerleader-themed video were omnipresent throughout the year.
But before “Mickey” Basil had roles in 1969’s Easy Rider and 1970’s Five Easy Pieces. She then went on to spend the ’70s handling the choreography duties for David Bowie and Bette Midler, plus stints working on The Rose and George Lucas’ American Graffiti.
"Hey! Baby" by Bruce Channel
Bruce Channel spent three weeks at the number one spot on the charts with his “Hey! Baby” in 1962, a song the Texan co-wrote with Margaret Cobb.
The tune sprung an urban legend that Channel toured Europe backed on some shows by the young fellows that would go on to become the Beatles. Channel had one other Top 40 hit after “Hey! Baby” before setting up camp in Nashville as a songwriter.
"Wipe Out" by The Surfaris
“Wipe Out” is a song that is barely a song. Yes, it has an unforgettable guitar riff, but even the band will tell you it was an on-the-fly drum solo recorded in 15 minutes only because theteenage members of The Safaris needed a B-side for the only other song they had at the time, “Surfer Joe.”
Those 15 minutes paid off, and “Wipe Out” hit number two on the Billboard charts.
"O-o-h Child" by The Five Stairsteps
Family band The Five Stairsteps (who took their name from their mother’s insistence that when standing next to one another they looked like stairs) scored themselves a spot on the charts in 1970 with their “O-o-h! Baby.”
It would be the group’s only entry onto the Billboard charts, where it topped out at number eight. When it was first released, the tune was the B-side to their version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.
"Mr Big Stuff" by Jean Knight
When Jean Jean Knight released “Mr. Big Stuff” for Stax Records in 1971 the single found itself in a chart battle with the Bee Gees and their “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” with the Brothers Gibb eventually taking the number one spot and Knight number two on Billboard’s Hot 100.
“Mr. Big Stuff” did take the top spot on the Soul Singles chart for five weeks, but it would be the last hit for Knight.
"Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass
“Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” was released by Looking Glass in 1972, and thanks to an industrious PR man in Washington, D.C. the record made it to the city’s airwaves. Not long after, every radio station in town had their phone lines flooded with requests for the song.
The song hit number one across the country behind that early momentum, forcing Barry Manilow, who at the time was having success overseas with his own tune called “Brandy,” to re-name his track “Mandy.”
"Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest
Inspired by a trip to the Caribbean island of Saint Croix, keyboardist/songwriter Sherman Kelly wrote “Dancing in the Moonlight” in 1970 for his band, Boffalongo, It would become King Harvest’s best-selling single, hitting number 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
The visit to Saint Croix was not a pleasant one for Kelly, who wrote the song while recovering from serious injuries he sustained after being attacked by island natives and left for dead.
“Magic” by Pilot
Younger audiences might recognize “Magic” thanks to the Selena Gomez version that appeared in the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place television series. The older crowd have a slightly different visual for this Pilot song, one that includes questionable hairstyles and bellbottom pants.
The Scottish group managed to have success with their version overseas and in the U.S., and “Magic” peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1975.
Source: Magic by Pilot
“Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn
How could a song that has the guy who wrote the theme to Ghostbusters playing guitar on not be a big hit? Such is the case with Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real,” released in 1978.
Lynn was one of the first people to make the jump from reality television to mainstream fame, having been discovered thanks to an appearance on The Gong Show (she sang “You Are So Beautiful”). “Got to Be Real” went to number one on the R&B chart in 1979.
Source: Got To Be Real by Cheryl Lynn
“Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang
Music history was made on January 5, 1980. That’s the day “Rapper’s Delight” became hip hop’s first entry on Billboard’s top 40 chart. It has also been placed into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
“Rapper’s Delight” made the top 40 in over a dozen countries around the world including France, Canada and Ireland. In America, it made it to number 37.
"Whip It" by Devo
When it was released off their 1980 Freedom of Choice album, Devo’s “Whip It’ became an unlikely earworm across America. What were these guys who had flower pots on their heads and moved like robots singing about? Was it something, how should we say this, touchingly naughty?
If America knew they were pulling for a song inspired by “Gravity’s Rainbow,” and the novels of Thomas Pynchon, “Whip It” might not have made it to number 14 on the Billboard chart. But they didn’t, and it did. Whip it good!
Source: Whip It by Devo
“867-5309/Jenny" by Tommy Tutone
Tommy Tutone (which is a band, not a person), got their start in Northern California. Their 1981 track “867-5309/Jenny” made it to number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and in the process made anyone with an 867-5309 phone number forever hate them.
It’s the type of song that’s nearly impossible to follow up, and because of that Tommy Tutone are now known as the band that made one single phone number a commodity. Today, some businesses and advertisers want 867-5309 all for themselves.
“I Loved ‘Em Every One” by T.G. Sheppard
T.G. Sheppard had a decent career in the realm of country music, and “I Loved ‘Em Every One” was part of a string of ten number one hits he had on the country charts. Unlike his other singles, when it was released in 1981 this one made it to number 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Early in his career, T.G. had some musical heavyweights in his corner, including Elvis Presley. The King let the young singer live at Graceland for a spell and gave him his first tour bus.
Source: T.G. Sheppard
“Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash
When “Harden My Heart” first arrived in 1980, the song did absolutely nothing on the charts. Some of that might have had to do with the name of the band that originally released it: Seafood Mama.
Jump ahead one year and into the world of Quarterflash, members of which were part of the fishier ‘Mama.’ The song was re-recorded, a sax solo was added and a bizarre videol filmed featuring little people, jugglers and a makeup table stuck in the middle of the desert. The song would hit number one.
Source: Harden My Heart by Quarterflash
“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell
England’s Soft Cell was, according to singer Marc Almond, “…an experimental electro band…” He and his musical partner in crime, Dave Ball, covered Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love” back in 1981.
Their all-synth and drum machine version of the song gained traction in the clubs and would go on to sit on the Billboard Top 100 charts for 43 weeks. And it all started when Soft Cell decided to add covers to its live set: “Tainted Love” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”
"I Melt With You" by Modern English
Thanks in part to its use in the 1983 movie “Valley Girl” featuring a very new wave-y Nicolas Cage, “I Melt With You” managed to find its way into the number seven spot on the Billboard charts. It would be Modern English’s only major hit, despite MTV and playing the song’s video constantly.
Since its initial success, ‘I Melt With You” has been a staple in commercials, including ads for M&Ms, Burger King and Taco Bell.
Source: I Melt With You
“I’ve Never Been To Me” by Charlene
It was easy listening, laid back to the point of being sleep-inducing and for some listeners slightly stomach churning in its cheesiness. When Charlene originally released the uber-ballad “I’ve Never Been To Me” in 1977 it went nowhere. Upon its re-release in 1982 thanks to a Florida deejay spinning it on a lark and people loving it the song hit number three on the American charts.
This despite many radio stations at the time boycotting the tune. Why? References to abortion and prostitution, for starters.
“She Blinded Me with Science” by Thomas Dolby
Thomas Dolby gained fame with his 1982 song “She Blinded Me with Science,” with its video featuring a slightly deranged and manic-looking Dolby visiting an insane asylum and eventually becoming one of the patients.
The single barely made a dent in Dolby’s native England, but it did make it to number 5 on the North American Billboard charts. On VH-1’s list of 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders, “She Blinded Me With Science” came in at number 20.
"(Always) Something There To Remind Me" by Naked Eyes
“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” first started to make waves back in 1963, when the Burt Bacharach and Hal David-penned entered the charts thanks to the Lou Johnson version.
English duo Naked Eyes was an early-’80s proponent of the now-fabled Fairlight synthesizer, and they put it to good use in their version of the song, released as “Always Something There to Remind Me” in 1983. It grabbed the number eight spot, and then Naked Eyes spiraled into oblivion.
Source: Whatever happened to Naked Eyes?