Today’s O topic addresses One Hit Wonders, particularly from the 80s. You know, those musical acts that achieved fame with one great hit, but failed to follow-up with anything else significant enough to give them staying power. Still, these are the songs (and artists) that most of us probably remember fondly and, unless I’m the only one with a storehouse of random lyrics preserved in her brain, we can sing along to at the drop of a hat. (Seriously, I can’t remember my kids’ names half the time, but play the first two chords of “99 Luftballons” and I’m a karaoke queen!) One man’s One Hit Wonder is another man’s musical genius, so I understand this list may be subjective. But here are a few of my favorite One Hit Wonders (so-called in my opinion) and their most famous songs from the 1980s. Some may have actually had a follow-up hit or two, but nothing that launched that them into lasting glory, so I’ve categorized them as OHW. I thought we could all we use something a little light-hearted this week.
Our House by Madness. I actually had no idea who sang this song until the Olympics. I knew that I loved the song itself, but for some reason, the group who originated it escaped me. They are a British ska band that formed in 1976. Who knew! I love the folksy lyrics, which remind you of the quintessential middle-class home. As a kid, I just loved to bop around to the beat, especially the horns (which I think raise the song to another level). But as I’m older, I feel the wistfulness and the yearning in the words. It’s about your home, where you pass the days away dreaming and life was simple, even though you might have wanted to escape it at the time. For some reason, it can sometimes trigger tears. Probably because I’m such a sap and I read more into things than other people.
99 Luftballons by Nena. What a great anti-nuke song! It has a powerful message about the ludicrousness of war, uses fabulous imagery (“The war machine springs to life, opens up one eager eye…”), is German in origin, and has a great dance beat. What more could you want? Once upon a lifetime ago, I was fluent in German, and I wish I still were so I could sing it in its original glory.
One Night in Bangkok by Murray Head. Did you know this song comes from the soundtrack of the musical Chess, which was created by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA? Me neither. I stumbled across that nifty fact last year. Imagine, for almost 30 years I just thought this was a song about sex tourism in Thailand, and it turns out to be about the actual game of chess set amidst a background of Cold War intrigue and a romantic triangle. Go figure.
I Melt With You by Modern English. “Hmmm hmmm hmm. Hmmm HMMM hmm hmm.” The humming during the bridge is one of the best parts. Oh heck, this whole song is filled with best parts. Such a sweet, romantic song. And now I think it’s used in a Hershey’s commercial. Blasphemy!
Take on Me by A-Ha. This Norwegian OHW created what has to be one of the most brilliant videos ever. Not sure exactly how it relates to the song, but the concept of being sucked into a comic strip, falling in love with the hot cartoon lead, then being chased back into reality by some anonymous Gestapo-like force is just totally rad. And when the hot cartoon guy literally breaks himself out of the comic strip by bashing himself against her door until he emerges all sweaty and sexy… wait, where was I going with this?
In a Big Country by Big Country. You might recognize this song from a relatively recent commercial I can’t remember which one. But if you remember this from its original 1983 release, BRAVO! I must confess, I didn’t really know this song until I met my husband (it’s one of his favorites), but I’ve fallen in love with it. Aside from the catchy tune and the Scottish lilt that just barely comes through (Man, I love Scots!), the lyrics are so hopeful, something we can all use a little more of lately:
So take that look out of here, it doesn’t fit you.
Because it’s happened doesn’t mean you’ve been discarded.
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming.
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted.
I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered.
I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.
There are TONS of great One Hit Wonders I know I’ve missed. VH1 has a list of their Top 100. (I disagree with some of their inclusions and exclusions, but since when did they ever listen to me? If they did, we’d still have Pop-Up Video.) What ones would you add to the list?