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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!