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December 31, 2009

The true one-hit wonders of the 80s (Part 1)

Back in August, I watched VH-1's "Top 100 One-Hit Wonders of the 80s" and decided that I would do a series of posts giving my opinions of these songs.  It got me a bit nostalgic because this is the decade that I grew up in.  The series is still my most popular group of blog posts, getting hits all the time by people either researching one of the singers or just doing a search on one-hit wonders.  You can just go to #100-91 and then follow along from there.

One of the common themes in those posts, however, is the question of how VH-1 derived this list, as quite a few of the artists actually had more than one hit if you count songs that made the Billboard Singles Top 40 chart.  It became a running joke in the posts.  The blogger who posts to agrees, but he took it one step further.  He looked through the definitive Billboard book of Top 40 singles and discovered that there actually isn't much overlap between reality and VH-1 reality.  He posted his list here.

Since I'm in a mood (yeah, one of those moods), I figured "what the hell?"  Why not post my thoughts on the true list? Also, what better way to ring in the new year than a look back? So what if it's not *this* year that I'm looking back to?

These are taken in the order they are on the Scrubbles blog, and I'm only going to do 9 at a time.  I'm not going to mention the ones that are also on the VH-1 list, as I've already addressed them in my VH-1 posts. Also, I'm removing any "group" projects, such as Artists Against Apartheid and USA For Africa, as they are by definition "one-hit wonders."  Keep your eyes peeled for more of these posts in the future.

Oh, and seriously...if you want some laughs (maybe not as much as I hoped, but I tried), go see my VH-1 posts.  I hope you have as much fun reading them as I did writing them.

1) Autograph: "Turn Up the Radio" (#29, 1985)

What a cool song to start with! I honestly don't remember if I liked this song growing up, but I definitely like it now. This song is guaranteed to get your foot moving and your head bobbing (unless you're not a head-bobbing type of guy/gal). This is the ultimate 80s party song, and I probably began really liking it in college. Sure, the video's cheesy as hell, and the lip synching is way off at times (which just adds to the hilarity of the video, actually). And who would have guessed that my first entry would have a perfect example of the 80s hair? Wow, those guys probably went through curlers like a kid at Halloween goes through candy. But the song is still freakin' cool.

They had one other song hit the "Mainstream Rock" chart (what is with all of these different Billboard charts?), "Blondes in Black Cars," but this was their only regular Top 40 hit.

2) Boys Club: "I Remember Holding You" (#8, 1988)

Ooooo, sex!! What a way to start a video! Pretty hot for a late-80s mainstream video. Y'know, I really hate it when every time I turn around, my girlfriend is going at it hot and heavy with some other guy right in front of me. Can't she do it behind my back, like the rest of my girlfriends? What's the deal with the guy in the white t-shirt? "I'll watch her with you, bro. I'm here for you. Oh, and can I have her number?" Whatever. And oh my god, now she's making out with a cop! I think he's just trying to make the singer feel bad, and that's police emotional brutality in my book. Somebody call the cops! No, the other cops!

Do you get the sense that this video is really, really bad? Oh, how's the song? I actually remember liking it when it came out. Now, it's still not too bad, though it's horribly overwrought. Why am I not surprised that the inspiration for the duo was George Michael? This sounds like a Wham! song. I love the sax, though.

I said sax! Get your mind out of the gutter.

3)Boys Don't Cry: "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" (#12, 1986)

What a hilarious song! I loved this song at the time and it's still great, if a bit silly. "Ted! Oh, Ted!!!" Interesting name for a cowboy. Did they have flashy "Pow!" graphics in the Old West so that the cowboys didn't have to actually learn how to shoot? That would have been cool. This song brings back some great memories. Sure, the video's cheesy. The song is! Intentionally (and brilliantly) so.

I think I'm beginning to see why VH-1 didn't use a lot of these. It's hard to make fun of quality like this.

But I'm trying.

4) Martin Briley: "The Salt in My Tears" (#36, 1983)

Another 80s video beginning with a scantily-clad woman. Do you sense a trend? A great break-up song, though (I hate it when I'm served divorce papers while I'm just sitting in the living room strumming my guitar, minding my own business). Looks like he's enjoying post-divorce life! It's a great song that I have absolutely no memory of. Maybe I wasn't paying attention to break-up songs when I was 13? It's a great sentiment, though. "You ain't worth the salt of my tears." Ok, it's great if somebody's just broken up with you. Normally, it's not a great sentiment.

Stay with me here, all right?

5) Rocky Burnette: "Tired of Toein' the Line" (#8, 1980)

It's really too bad you can't be here in my living room watching my jaw drop as this video starts. (Ok, it would be seriously creepy, so maybe watch it on a cam?) How the hell did this get to #8? I have to believe that those people who bought the single, driving it up the charts, never saw the video. Or maybe they did afterward. Did they suffer from buyer's remorse? I know I am, and I'm getting it for free! The clothes! The hair! The horrible lyrics! This song is an example of what gave the 80s a bad name. Ugh, ugh, and just for emphasis, UGH! Something I never did throughout any of my other one-hit wonders post: turning it off before it's done. I didn't even do that for Eddie Murphy, and believe me I was tempted! This is just ghastly.

6) Rosanne Cash: "Seven Year Ache" (#22, 1981)

I hate including Cash on this list, because she was such a Country chart-topper, but this is her only song that crossed to the Billboard chart, so here she is. No video to make fun of, either (was there one?). I wouldn't, anyway. This is a classic song, and I haven't heard it in years. Just click on the "video" above and luxuriate in Cash's goodness.

That is all.

7) Felix Cavaliere: "Only a Lonely Heart Sees" (#36, 1980)

This isn't a bad song, necessarily. It's just rather bland. I'm falling asleep as I'm typing thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

What? Oh, yeah. Um, Cavaliere has a nice voice? What is there to say? This is the worst kind of song, though. There's nothing there to really love, but there's nothing to seriously mock, either. There's not even a video to make fun of! It looks like he's a very accomplished musician, though, and a songwriter too. But this song...excuse me, I hear my bed calling....

8) Gavin Christopher: "One Step Closer to You" (#22, 1986)

Wow, that video's bright! Hey Gavin! It's kind of hard to get "one step closer" to the woman when you're on different staircases. Just, you know, for your information. Gotta love neon, eh? It's funny how he seems to be looking for her in a rather seedy part of town. Five cent dances? Hmmmmm. Ok, so the video is extremely easy to mock, but the song is kind of catchy in that 80s fashion (semi-cheesy but not cheesy enough to have gone stale). I'm not completely surprised it was a hit, but I'm also not very surprised that it was his only one, if this is what he put out. Forgettable, but enjoyable.

9) Stanley Clarke: "Sweet Baby" (#19, 1981)

This actually is quite a good song, very soulful, much like many of the other soul hits of the 80s. Clarke is quite accomplished in all different aspects of the music industry (soundtracks, record producing, songwriting), but this was his only Billboard hit, so it's included here. It's a joy to listen to though, worthy of much more praise than a lot of 80s songs. Most of them I praise by saying I wouldn't want to poke my eardrums out so I don't have to listen to them, but that's a threat you can only carry out once, so should be only be used in extreme cases such as Don Johnson's "Heartbeat". Go watch that video at your own risk, and don't say I didn't warn you. I will deny everything. "Don Johnson? Never heard of the fellow. What? What's Miami Vice?" *begins whistling*

So there's the first 9 songs in the "True One-Hit Wonders of the 80s" series. Come back for more! And I'd love to hear what kinds of memories these brought back. You know, as long they're pleasant ones, anyway. I absolve myself of all culpability if any nightmares return after 25 years of hibernation.

"True" One-Hit Wonders of the 80s posts
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Top 100 One-Hit Wonders of the 80s posts


  1. Interesting Dave, I love music & I always think it's intriguing how people come up with these lists. I watched the VH1 show you talk about & found I agreed with some & not others. Thanks for sharing your favorites. Have a great new Year!



  2. Once again (WHERE WAS I IN THE 80's? The only song or artist I knew was Rosanne Cash. I can't say much for videos. They don't turn me on at all. In fact to be quite honest (like you are) they stink. I get nothing out of them at all. Does that make me sound old? Maybe that's the problem. I'll listen to the rest & maybe know one.

  3. Videos can be quite cool, actually, but they should either be kind of fun (the "I Wanna be a Cowboy" one was hilarious), have something to say about the song, or just be imaginative.

    But it does make you sound old. :P

  4. Thanks. I am old.LOL

  5. I went to an Autograph concert and got the drum sticks from the drummer ... they're buried somewhere in my parents basement... I loved and still do love that song ... Evette

  6. How did you get the drumsticks? Backstage pass, or did they toss them out into the audience?

    That's seriously cool.

  7. Ahhh...back in the groove and jamming to some seriously 80s tunes.

    1. Turn Up The Radio -- LOVE IT!! My younger brother Richard forced me to watch this video on MTV soooo many times. I just love the chorus -- pure hair band cheez whiz!! Now that I listen to it again, I hear faint traces of Ratt's ROUND AND ROUND (maybe it's the key change are chords).

    2. I Remember Holding You -- I haven't heard this in years!! The lead singer used to be in The Jets and the other singer was born in the QC's!! That is why this was a huge hit on Power 98.9!!! & I like me my pretty boys :)Remember, Wham! started out as pretty boys, too.

    3.I Wanna Be A Cowboy -- again, another LOVE IT!!! Can't say anything bad about this song, cause one day I'll be dead, yo,yo,yo.

    4. The Salt in My Tears -- I haven't heard this for ages, but it is on my partner's iPod. I remember liking this song a lot, since I watched an obscene amount of MTV as a kid (until Adam Curry hijacked it!!). Love the harmony in the chorus...pure 80s magic!!

    5. Tired of Toein' the Line -- another of my partner's faves (& an all-star on his iPod). I hear a lot of ELO in this song, so I have to give it a thumbs up. This was early New Wave, with the crazy hair. A lot of the late 70s/early 80s pre-MTV artists were sure fugly.

    6. 7 Year Ache -- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this song. Enough said.

    7. Only a Lonely Heart See -- Christopher Cross-ish, but if you notice, Felix is in the background of the album cover. Felix = FUGLY.

    8. One Step Closer -- I have never heard this song. It sounds like an 80s soundtrack song (Director -- we need a dancey song here, but it needs to be non-descript). Bingo!! Kind of reminds me of Billy Ocean's Get Out of My Dreams (Get Into My Car).

    9. Sweet Baby -- once the chorus came it, I remembered it. Great song.

    Thanks for letting me ramble...8^)

  8. David!

    2: Wow, that must be why that song was embedded in my memory as soon as I heard it for the first time. Didn't realize it was because it was played so prominently by 98.9.

    5: Ugh. I guess we'll have to disagree on this one. Though I'll have to thank it for hardening my resistance well enough to sit through "Get Wet"

    8: There's an 80s song that I remember that you don't? (Checks the temperature in Hell and then invests in a ski shop there)

    This is fun!


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