The one hit wonder is so often the preserve of novelty hits like ‘The Birdie Dance’, the flash-in-the-pan gimmick like Eamon’s ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)’, or some earnest atrocity in the vein of Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ or Gary Jules’s hey-it’s-a-sensible-grown-up-song-really cover of ‘Mad World – but occasionally the one-off splash is, you know, a good record.
But not good enough to sustain a career of diminishing returns. Here are 15 that burned brightly before the rest of the artist’s output arrived like a damp squib.
Picking up the goon-in-a-sunhat torch from The Stone Roses’ Reni, Gregg Alexander delivered an awesome chunk of power pop and – in the space of one couplet – offered out Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson. Manson threatened to “crack his skull open” but Alexander was barely seen in public again, preferring to lurk in the songwriting shadows doing the public disservice of prolonging Ronan Keating’s career.
John Farnham – ‘You’re The Voice’
No.1 in Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and, naturally, Germany, John Farnham’s grotesquely anthemic chest-beater only reached No.6 over here but seemed to stay in the charts for the entire second half of the 80s. He had plenty of hits in his adopted homeland Australia but we soon wised up.
OMC – ‘How Bizarre’
Kiwis OMC topped charts all over the globe with this Latino dance earworm but it was all they had up their vast gangster sleeve. Singer Pauly Fuemana rattles through a series of pretty unbizarre incidents, including a cop pulling him over to ask about his make of car, and it’s all light as air and perilously close to naff. Fuemana died in 2010, but his tale of cruising around in a Chevy 69 lives on. A bit.
M/A/R/R/S – ‘Pump Up The Volume’
A true one hit wonder, this – a UK No.1 hit by an act that never released another record. They’re cheating a bit, of course, because this was a collaboration between 4AD acts Colourbox and AR Kane (with essential dance input from DJs Dave Dorrell and CJ Mackintosh); not that the two bands enjoyed any other hits themselves. Credited with bringing sampling into the mainstream, ‘Pump Up The Volume’ was sued into submission by those old squares Stock Aitken Waterman.
The Knack – ‘My Sharona’
For ‘My Sharona’, The Knack came up with a deathless choppy riff so definitive there was little point bothering their arses with anything else. So they didn’t. OK, they hung around on and off for another three decades, but after follow-up single ‘Good Girls Don’t’ peaked at 66, the jig was up.
White Town – ‘Your Woman’
One-man-band Jyoti Mishra based this dinky little pop classic on Lew Stone’s 1932 jazz cut ‘My Woman’ and grabbed an unlikely gender-bending No.1 in an era of Spice Girls dominance. He’s dived back beneath the radar since but still makes records without causing the Official Charts Company too much hassle.
Australian new-wavers The Divinyls had released three albums prior to their onan hit wonder (see what we failed to do there?) and still kick about now, but this MOR ode to the joys of wanking was the only time they dipped into the UK charts.
4 Non Blondes – ‘What’s Up?’
Belting soft rock anthem or festival of unholy caterwauling – it’s your choice. Whatever 4 Non Blondes achieved they launched the career of singer Linda Perry, who went on to pen megahits for Pink, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Osbourne and Celine Dion. ‘What’s Up’ suddenly sounds like a career high.
M – ‘Pop Muzik’
An old college mate of Malcolm McLaren, M’s driving force Robin Scott spent decades in the music business before becoming an overnight success with this bouncy history of pop. Working with keyboard player Wally Badarou – who would go on to commit myriad musical crimes with, among others, Level 42 and Foreigner – Scott secured his place in the pop firmament and promptly immersed himself in zero-selling world music.
Bran Van 3000 – ‘Drinking In LA’
Canadian “collective” Bran Van 3000’s breathtakingly cynical sole hit owed its place in the chart to a Rolling Rock advert. You can see the thinking of those clear-framed-spectacles-wearing advertising whizzes – “It mentions drinking!” – but in the end it’s a catchy slice of slacker hiptronica (new genre), so fair enough.
The Flying Lizards – ‘Money’
The original by Barrett Strong was Motown genius Berry Gordy’s first hit, but it’s better known for the raucous Beatles version and this curious, austere cover by UK new wave group The Flying Lizards. It was a No.5 hit and a femme fatale kiss of death for everything else the band attempted.
Oran “Juice” Jones – ‘The Rain’
Our pal Juice didn’t stick around for long after this, choosing to leave the industry to be a family man, but he’d left us with a forward-thinking slice of R&B. A rare non-hip-hop cut for Def Jam that still sounds lithe today, this was produced by Russell Simmons and made the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ini Kamoze – ‘Here Comes The Hotstepper’
Produced by Salaam Remi, who would go on to work extensively with Amy Winehouse, ‘Here Comes The Hotstepper’ is one of those alchemic moments when pop and reggae mix to create a monster hit that isn’t by UB40. Jamaican reggae veteran Kamoze suddenly found himself at No.1 in the US and No.4 over here and didn’t really know what to do next.
Deee-Lite – ‘Groove Is In The Heart’
Yeah, we know there were other singles (including a smash No.25 hit for follow-up ‘The Power Of Love’), but face it – this is the only Deee-Lite song anyone knows. And that’s OK because it’s perfect, from the jazz samples to Lady Miss Kier’s bananas lyrics, right down to Q-Tip’s skipping rap. Was only kept off No.1 because The Steve Miller Band’s equal-selling ‘The Joker’ jumped more chart places. It’s like ‘God Save The Queen’ all over again.
Stardust – ‘Music Sounds Better With You’
A filter-house supergroup – and God knows the world was crying out for one of those – Stardust were the product of larking about between Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, producer Alan Braxe and singer Benjamin Diamond. With a combo of a sample from Chaka Khan’s ‘Fate’ and Diamond’s attempt at a Michael Jackson impression, they had a UK No.2 on their hands. Then went back to the day jobs.