My Top 15 list: 1980s One Hit Wonders

So, for this blog, I decided to do something different, as I am a music person in general. Most people know me as the hard rock fan, old school heavy metal, you get the drill. However, a lot of people don’t realize my guilty pleasure: the 80s. The music especially, there were plenty of good times, good music, just overall fun. Some artists had that it factor that kept them around for years, chart giants and even tracks that became signature for the decade. But then, there were the ones who only saw the view once. Got their taste, and then faded out as quickly as they arrived. The one hit wonder.

Now, in order to understand this (as well as the list), there are two different levels of a one hit wonder. Billboard does list the meaning of the title as an artist or a group that makes the Top 40 charts only once. Some artists, however, as you will see on this blog that I list, are also known for having a song that makes the Hot 100, sometimes barely missing the Top 40 or not even coming close. A good example, despite not being on my list, are artists like The Weather Girls, or even The Waitresses, who had well-known songs for their genres, but didn’t even see the Top 40. There are even some artists that have had a few Top 40 songs (The Outfield, Nu Shooz, Taylor Dayne, Pretty Poison, Quiet Riot, Corey Hart, Falco), but get recognition over time for one song that stood out even if the ones before charted or after.

Some artists that were considered for this list, but get an honorable mention instead are Spider “New Romance”, Nice & Wild “Diamond Girl”, Sabrina “Boys”, Prism “Don’t Let Her Know”, Company B “Fascinated”, Shannon “Let The Music Play”, & Idle Eyes “Tokyo Rose”. But nevertheless, these are the Top 15, descending downward until my #1 pick.

#15. QFeel “Dancing in Heaven” (#75 in 1989)

This British Synthpop group epitomize the novelty route in my opinion. Only one album was released by them in 1982. When the single was 1st issued, it went into the “Bubbling Under” portion oh the Hot 100 (a spot given to the 101-125 most played singles in the U.S.), seeing the #110 spot. By 1984, the band had dissolved and went away. But a reissue of the single 7 years later saw a small climb, making it to #75, giving it a tad of a resurgence. Frontman Martin Page went on to get a solo hit of his own in 1984, 10 years after the band split with “In The House of Stone and Light”

#14. Timex Social Club “Rumors” (#8 in 1986)

Admit it, you have sung this song at least ONCE in your lifetime. Hell, even listened to the chorus over and over again “Look at all these rumors, surrounding me everyday. I just need some time, some time to get away”. Timex Social Club was a R&B/ Soul/Hip Hop crew that like the artist above, only released one album. Rumors was their only visit to the Top 40, with 2 subsequent singles only going to the R&B Charts.

#13. Dan Reed Network “Ritual” (#38 in 1988)

The drum beats. The funky bass line. The proclamation of love. The Dan Reed Network came onto the scene and just made the charts only once, with their debut single in 1988. They had the power of legendary rock record producer Bruce Fairbarn on their side and seemed poised to do no wrong. But as we have all witnessed in terms of rock bands and their visits on the charts, they do tend to drop out of sight, as further singles didn’t chart and the band went on hiatus by 1993, with Reed going onto do a solo career.

#12. Charlie “It’s Inevitable” (#38 in 1983)

The title for this next song definitely fits the mold, and describes it to a tee. The band was relatively unknown in the United States, and not much success in their native UK. A few minor splashes on the Hot 100 came and went, but it was thanks to a video on MTV featuring a pie fight that caught the attention, and even a small dent, just entering the Top 40. The album that accompanied it proved to be a flop, and the band split afterwards.

#11. Opus “Live is Life” (#32 in 1986)

The Austrian pop-rock act was a worldwide one hit wonder with the song. Italy, France, & the UK, even a #1 in Canada. The song itself is played to this day at soccer games all around the world. Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands saw more from them on the charts, but to this day remains the signature song.

#10. Kim Mitchell “Go For A Soda” (#86 in 1985)

The unique Mr. Mitchell has been around for years. Before this song became a minor hit in the States and Classic Rock stations, he was the guitarist/frontman for Canadian rock band Max Webster. By 1982, he went solo & released a slew of hit albums in the Great White North. This song was the only one to make any impact in the States, however. “Go For A Soda” has been used in Mr. Pibb commercials, featured on Miami Vice, FOX cartoon American Dad, and even brought to a new fanbase being in an episode of Trailer Park Boys.

#9. Breakfast Club “Right on Track” (#7 in 1987)

A band who had a unique sound and groove to them. What many may find hard to believe, are two of the names who came through this lineup: American Idol judge Randy Jackson (who joined at the height of their newfound fame), and a female who played drums that became one of the more famous names of the last 3 decades…you may know that woman as Madonna (yep, she did more than sing people, random fact!). They only released one album, with another recorded but never issued, and had this catchy song break the Top 10. The music video was unique, with a feel kind of eerie to Pee Wee’s Playhouse, even featuring legendary game show host Wink Martindale. But a few more singles and one minor chart appearance later that just missed the Top 40, the Club decided to end their session.

#8. Oran “Juice” Jones “The Rain” (#9 in 1986)

“Now close your mouth, ’cause you’re cold busted!” Don’t worry, I’m not telling YOU to shut up, those are just a few words from this R&B gem. Mr. Jones, a former Naval Academy Brigade Commander as well as USMC sniper officer (yep, you heard right), applied his trade to the music industry and scored big with this tale of catching his woman cheating on him. Has that old school feel to it, but halfway through, we go from singing to a spoken rap, featuring the line above. Definitely a catchy one. Other singles and albums failed to catch on, and Jones left the industry to take care of his ill mother and raise his children.

#7. Device “Hanging On A Heart Attack” (#35 in 1986)

Device were one of those experimental bands that had a sound and a style, & were even made for MTV back in the day. Unfortunately, the collaboration lasted all of one year, and dissolved by 1987. The song was a 2nd Top 40 hit for singer/bass player/keyboardist Holly Knight, who went to #39 in 1981 with her previous act, Spider (New Romance was the hit song for them). Singer Paul Engemann went on to join Animotion and score a Top 10 single with “Room to Move” (Sorry people, “Obsession”, despite what you hear, WASN’T their only hit song, and they even had another Top 40 hit between those two songs. And side note, Engemann recorded the original version of “Obsession” with Knight on vocals back in 1983!).

#6. Baltimora “Tarzan Boy” (#13 in 1985)

An Italo Disco act with mystery surrounding who their true vocalist was. While many feel that Maurizio Bassi was the true voice of the band, the man in the music videos (and oh how cheesy this one was indeed!) singing and dancing was Jimmy McShane. Nobody knows who truly was the voice, and not even the members of the band would say either! The song became a worldwide hit, even returning to the charts in 1993 just missing the Top 50. Although they would score several more hits internationally, the US, the UK, Austria, Canada, & France would never see anything more from them. Sadly, McShane passed away in 1995, but the song  will forever be a dance classic and a part of 80s history.

#5. Martin Briley “The Salt in My Tears” (#36 in 1983)

Martin Briley was known as a session musician, having worked with such names as Meat Loaf, Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, and Donna Summer to name a few. He released his debut solo album, Fear of the Unknown, in 1981. But it wasn’t until 1983’s One Night With A Stranger that saw his biggest success, the album going to #55, and “The Salt in My Tears” cracking the Top 40. The song about a bitter breakup and the feelings felt, the video featuring him with his signature beret playing his guitar while the ex is moving out and the room is emptied. Briley had a minor follow up called “Put Your Hands on the Screen”, but went back to songwriting for other artists and has been mostly out of the limelight since his last album in 1985.

#4. Sam Harris “Sugar Don’t Bite” (#36 in 1984)

The year was 1983. Star Search was about to finish its 1st season on TV. The Grand Champion of that season was this 22-year old from Oklahoma. Although known for his signature rendition of “Over The Rainbow” from that show, it led to a recording contract and in 1984 he scored on the charts with this song. Coincidentally, not even a year or so later, Madonna released “Papa Don’t Preach”…a song that sounded eerily similar to this one. Needless to say, the writers of this song sued and won due to copyright infringement. He is mostly known for performing in musicals, his Star Search fame, and even co-created a sitcom that ran on TBS for 4 seasons, Down to Earth. Surprisingly enough, Sam isn’t too fond of the song & hasn’t performed it pretty much since the mid-80s.

#3. Nik Kershaw “Wouldn’t It Be Good” (#46 in 1984)

Considered by music legend Elton John to be one of the greatest songwriters of his time, Nik Kershaw was a British artist who came onto the scene with Human Racing. Although the song just barely missed the Top 40, it climbed to #46 based on heavy rotation for the MTV video, which had used chroma key effects. Although huge in his native UK, this proved to be his signature song in the States.

#2. Nolan Thomas “Yo Little Brother” (#57 in 1984)

Not even out of his teenage years, and this kid scored a minor, yet memorable hit on the pop charts…but the controversy was that he didn’t even sing on this particular track! Marko Kalfa, aka Nolan Thomas, released this track off his debut (and what appears to be only) album in ’84, but a guy named Elan Lanier sung on the track. The music video is considered somewhat of a cult classic. Nolan in his really tacky outfit looking for a brother dressed up as Billy Idol. The video featured a few young kids dressed like famous singers of that year: Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Idol, Cyndi Lauper, & Rik Ocasek of the Cars, calling themselves the Vid Kids. The Kids toured along with Thomas (footage is out there of Nolan actually singing the song at a roller skating rink with the Billy Idol impersonating kid from the video, no lip synching involved at all and pretty damn good too). By 1989, Thomas recorded a single under his real name, but wasn’t heard from again. However, he is now known as the Co-Owner of fashion company Guido New York.

And now, this brings me to the #1 spot. There were plenty of songs that could go here. However, one song just caught me off guard since the first time I heard it in 2009. I just went “Hmm….this song is unique, catchy, and danceable”

#1. Paul Lekakis “Boom Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back To My Room)” (#43 in 1987)

One of those NRG dance hits that is just beyond controversial for it’s lyrics. A Greek-American singer, Lekakis was discovered in Italy while on an assignment doing some modeling. When 1987 rolled around, the single was released and immediately climbed to the Top 10 in the Dance charts, #2 in Canada, #1 in Australia/Japan/South Africa. It took almost 3 years until his debut album came out, but when it did, the album wasn’t a commercial success. Some lyrics to the song include “How about coming back to my room for a little boom boom?” & “Let’s go back to my room so we can do it all night and you can make me feel right”. Although he has had several songs appear on the dance charts, he hasn’t made the Hot 100 since his little dance hit about having a little boom boom.

So that is my Top 15 list for the 80s. And you can totally expect more tubular one hit wonder lists down the road for some other great decades. But of course, let the controversy begin as to this list for my choices and who else should be included or should have been. I prefer the not-too-famous songs or the songs that weren’t too popular and kind of obscure myself.

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