My 300 Favorite One-Hit Wonders of All-Time – The Top 20

4.14 one-hit-wonder.7

Finally, we have reached the best of the best, the big enchilada, the Top 20 of this countdown. Herein lies my list of the one-hit immortals. Some are well-known and well-loved, while others may have been forgotten but will definitely bring back memories.

4.14 Kimbra-Gotye
Kimbra & Gotye

I love doing countdowns mainly because I was addicted to Casey Kasem’s fantastic weekly radio program American Top 40 (AT40). AT40 was the one thing I loved on the radio, especially from 1974, when I discovered it, to around the time in the late-Eighties when someone got the bright ideas of (1) editing out all rap songs from the broadcasts, and (2) replacing Casey Kasem with Shadoe Stevens. Nothing against Shadoe, as he was an excellent on-air personality, but he was never as a comforting voice as Casey. At least, that’s my opinion. Plus, you never want to be the person to replace a legend. You see that all the time in sports with player and coaching changes. And, I still believe that Casey deserves induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his contributions to popular music.

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Soft Cell

I don’t know who coined the term “one-hit wonder,” but I learned of it from Casey Kasem. Plus, I remember him doing periodic One-Hit Wonder Countdowns himself, so it has been etched in my mind for 40+ years. So, let’s get this thing rolling!

4.14 20.for what its worth

20. Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth” (1967). This group only lasted for two albums, but their impact was so immense that they were inducted into the RRHOF. Members of this band included Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furray (of Poco). Yet, this was the band’s only Top 10 hit. They sure did it right.

19. ? & the Mysterians – “96 Tears” (1966). This has got to be THE pre-punk rock classic of them all since it was covered by nearly every punk band in the Seventies and early-Eighties. The blueprint for punk rock is found here, from its Farfisa organ to the eerie vocals. This one grabbed me at a very young age and never let go.

18. M – “Pop Muzik” (1979). This quirky synthpop song heralded in the new wave era here in the States when it peaked at Number 1 late in the year of 1979. I still remember how cool I thought this song was and how it inspired me to seek out more synthpop artists.

17. The Surfaris – “Wipe Out” (1963). THE drummer’s song of all drummer songs, “Wipe Out” was often the song that separate the wannabe drummers from the budding drumming heroes. Plus, it does have the greatest vocalization introduction of all-time. This is rock & roll summed up in a three-minute song.

16. Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come on Eileen” (1982). This slice of Celtic folk-influenced new wave caused a big sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. And, you know what? This isn’t the band’s best song. I highly recommend their first two albums, as you get a a feel for what a talented songwriter leader Kevin Rowland is. I often wonder if the fictional band The Commitments, from the famous book and film, were based upon this band? Anyone know definitively, let me know!

15. Modern English – “I Melt with You” (1982). This song and band deserved a much better fate than it got. First, the song stalled way outside of the Top 40 upon its release. How in the hell does this song NOT land in the Top 10 here? Second, Modern English was a very talented band with a fantastic debut album. Yet, few know it. At least, it has made them more money over the decades than it did initially.

14. Redbone – “Come and Get Your Love” (1974). What a perfect pop/rock song! Redbone was a total Native American band who brought their culture to the forefront here in the States. It’s such a great song that it got life pumped back into it 40 years later when used in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

13. Crazy Town – “Butterfly” (2000). Big things were expected by this band back when they dropped this song on an unsuspecting public. Allegedly, the song is based upon a Red Hot Chili Peppers bass riff. If so, kudos for great taste! And “Butterfly” sounds fantastic to this very day.

12. Bobby Fuller Four – “I Fought the Law” (1965). This is the other pre-punk rock classic, another Sixties tune covered by punks like The Clash and Green Day. What was it about Texan garage bands in the Sixties?

11. Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Baby Got Back” (1992). I know! This is not a hip hop purist’s choice, but as a pop song, Mix-A-Lot got in down in spades. There was no way he could ever top this one. C’mon! Give the man his due! He was a great gateway into hip hop culture.

4.14 10.Money

10. Barrett Strong – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959). Barrett Strong was the first hit song for Motown. Additionally, it was the first song you here being played when Pinto and Flounder enter the Delta House with Bluto in my generation’s defining film, Animal House. How can you top a legacy like that? Well, in 1979, it became a one-hit wonder all over again for the cult band The Flying Lizards. Now, that’s a terrific history!

9. Harvey Danger – “Flagpole Sitta” (1997). My older son will kill me for this pick, but I don’t care. This is a great pop-punk song. And I don’t care that it was used to great effect in Clueless. This song is a dream.

8. King Harvest – “Dancing in the Moonlight” (1972). This Halloween classic is simply a timeless tune. I have heard many of my friends say this is their all-time favorite song. High praise, I think. Plus, the band’s name references a song title by The Band, which makes it all the better.

7. Love & Rockets – “So Alive” (1989). While living in Oxford, Ohio, I was very in tune with alternative rock, especially the work of Love & Rockets. But, I was not prepared for this very dark take on obsession with another person. It was sexy, sinister and soulful, which makes for a very exciting listen.

6. Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990). O’Connor was definitely on my radar when this song was dropped in 1990. Plus, I know this Prince song by is originally-released version by The Family. But, O’Connor stripped the song completely of the Prince touch and got down to its bare emotional essence. You can feel the hurt in her soul by the way she pours herself into the lyrics. She did NOT deserve the fate she got since we found out a decade later that she was absolutely correct about the child abuse happening in the Catholic Church. She deserves an apology by society.

5. Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody I Used to Know” (2013). What an awesome song! It is nearly perfect. No wonder Gotye has been silent for the past seven years. Leave it alone and move on. None other than Prince had high praise for this one.

4. Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” (1979). This one brought rap to the masses. You can argue about the creative purity of the song, but it started a revolution that’s being felt to this day.

3. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love” (1981). Take a little known soul song from the early-Seventies, strip it down to its unnerving essence and turn it into a creepy song about the perils of love, and somehow, you have a hit song. But, man, it was so easy to learn the lyrics and it had that electronic hook. This is synthpop heaven.

2. Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980). Technically, never a hit over here, but I don’t care! This song influenced my generation like few others. Just like to alternative music throughout the Eighties and you can pick out the Joy Division influence. Once again, this song has stronger legs as it ages.

4.14 1.you get what you give

1. New Radicals – “You Get What You Give” (1998). Like I have said before about this one, I thought it was a new Todd Rundgren song when I first heard it. From me, that’s high praise. Then, as I listened to it more and more, I heard Daryl Hall & John Oates in it. Then, I realized the singer had a slight punk snarl to his voice. By the end of the song, I was convinced that I had just heard the greatest song of all-time. After this song became a hit, the creative force behind the band, Matt Johnson, broke the band up so he would become a one-hit wonder. Now, that’s commitment!

And, there you have it folks! My first COVID-19 pandemic countdown. I’m sure as this thing plays out, I will have more of these big countdowns since I enjoy them. But, they do take much work. Have a great weekend!

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

6 thoughts on “My 300 Favorite One-Hit Wonders of All-Time – The Top 20”

  1. Re: New Radicals: I remember a rare (is there any other kind?) interview with Joni Mitchell where she predictably dissed all current music but gave a rare positive shoutout for this song. Yes, I might have walked away too at that point.

    Random Aside: I am not normally a Conspriacy Theory kind of guy, but I am fascinated by the death of the original AT40. Did Casey or his syndicators deliberately Kevorkian the show because Casey really didn’t want to even read the titles of so much of the Hip-Hop they believed (correctly) was taking over the Hot 100? Is there any connection to their anti-rap sensiblities to their introduction of seemingly a different no-name chart every other month to represent their flagship program?

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    1. I have read that Joni Mitchell quote too.

      As far as Casey is concerned, I read a book about the history of AT40 about 20years ago. In it the author claims that Westwood Radio, who owned the show’s rights at the time, were seeing a decrease in the ratings & blamed Casey for that dip. At the time Rick Dees had a stupid countdown show that was cutting into AT40’s dominance. So, the management wanted a younger, hipper personality & sent Casey walking. All of the editing of shows was done by Westwood for the markets who thought their listeners didn’t want rap. Crazy thing, in Cincinnati, we would get the edited show while Indianapolis would have the full show so go figure. Cincy has always had much racism there.

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      1. Thank you for recognising “You Get What You Give”. – this is is the ultimate time and place summer anthem for me, takes me back to my days living in Belgium, cruising the highways and enjoying the summer sun. I remember when this song hit the airwaves – it hit me hard & spoke to me (as corny as that sounds) – and it appears to have done the same for you. An absolute timeless song that never loses its energy & effervescence!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting list – especially “Come And Get Your Love.” It proves that music is a very personal thing. As I’ve stated, “Whereas the love between two people is personal, a great song has many lovers.” I’m currently studying Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me.” Thank you for sharing.

    Jim Hoffmann
    Co-Author/Editor
    “Come And Get Your Love”
    “King Kong Pete”
    Author
    “International Pop Overthrow: The Golden Triangle of Power Pop – Material Issue”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An interesting and fun stroll down memory lane with these (not so) one-hit wonders.

    Here’s a few more (20 more) that could have been considered (apologies if they made your list and I didn’t catch it)

    Benjamin Orr “Stay The Night” (of course, he’s the voice of The Cars “Drive” but this was his only solo hit
    Benny Mardones “Into The Night” – a slow jam classic if there ever was one
    David Bowie & Pat Metheny Group “This Is Not America” – using the Bailey & Collins rule, this was the PMGs only chart hit…helped by this other bloke who’s a tad bit famous 😉
    The Escape Club “Wild Wild West” – maybe on this but I didn’t see it (not really a fave either)
    Real Life “Send Me An Angel” – Aussie new wave classic
    Pseudo Echo “Funkytown” – Aussie new wavers hit the big time
    Paul Hardcastle “19” – anti war mashup memorialising the Vietnam War Veteran…but on 2nd thought, maybe not eligible as “Rain Forest” is a quiet storm classic
    Opus “Live Is Life” – absolutely legendary…don’t agree, get yourself to any beer festival in Germany and watch the hall go mad when this hits
    GTR “When The Heart Rules The Mind” – supergroup! Guitars!
    The Firm “Radioactive” – supergroup! Guitars!
    Far Corporation “Stairway To Heaven” – classic rock cover
    Device “Hanging On A Heartattack” – what a stormer, fronted by Holly Knight
    Icicle Works “Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)” – indie rock legends biggest US chart hit
    Magazine 60 “Don Quichote” – no club in the 80s could escape this catchy ditty
    Eurogliders “Heaven (Must Be There)” – another Aussie new wave act’s only global hit
    Quarterflash “Harden My Heart” – did I overlook this on your list? Maybe but this song is classic – were they new wave or soft rock or yacht rock? Not sure but damn could they play a mean sax!
    Electronic “Getting Away With It” – alt supergroup! New Order! The Smiths! Pet Shop Boys! Johnny F’n Marr!
    Trans-X “Living On Video” – dance floor filler from the new wave age
    Company B “Fascinated” – another stormer from the 80s clubs
    M/A/R/R/S “Pump Up The Volume” – another club crossover classic

    And thank you for not listing Level 42, who despite being known for “Something About You” these days, actually had multiple chart hits in the US and were are tour de force in their native UK and Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. UPDATE:

      Saw Paul Hardcastle’s “19” so my replacement (and a few more to bring it to 25) below:

      Visage “Fade To Grey” – New Romantic classic with an unforgettable video
      The Replacements “I’ll Be You” – college rock legends only mainstream crossover hit
      KTP “Certain Things Are Likely” – indie new wave/electronic band also known as Kissing The Pink
      The Silencers “Painted Moon” – lost classic from the college rock days
      Double “The Captain Of Her Heart” – how could I have forgotten this quiet storm classic??? And the sax solo is to die for.
      Eye To Eye “Nice Girls” – the Steely Dan influence is all over this Gary Katz production (and featured The Dan’s Donald Fagen on synths)
      King “Love & Pride” – big hit at the back end of the 80s New Wave British revolution

      HON MENTION: And from the circle of Prince:

      Vanity 6 “Nasty Girl”
      Apollonia 6 “Sex Shooter” – shockingly wasn’t bigger than it was outside the clubs but she did hit it big with Prince’s “Take Me With U” providing the backing vocals
      The Family “The Screams Of Passion” – not everything Prince touched turned to gold

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