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wonders never cease Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd, 2009 play list of the week: national one hit wonder day

[caption id="attachment_814" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="click to listen"]Best of Toni Basil[/caption]We’re sure you know September 25th is National One Hit Wonder Day, so this week’s play list topic should come as no surprise. However: while the songs we've chosen all appear regularly on OHW lists and VH1 Specials, not all truly belong there. Some artists had other hits that just didn’t stick in the collective consciousness. It could be said that the sheer popularity of their big hits doomed their other works and fated them to the ignominy of history’s list makers. We honor those poor bands today with an alternating playlist: each true OHW on the list is followed by a song that deserves a better fate, or at least a newly-titled list, like 2-Hit Wonders, or Bands-With-One-Big-Song-and-Some-Lesser-Songs-Too (BWOBSSLS). (Also, you should check out the secondary list of Possible Follow-Up Songs For One-Hit Wonders, courtesy of the brilliant folks at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.) 1. “Mickey” – Toni Basil Really better known for choreography and quirky acting roles, Basil may be the queen of one-hit wonders. That hasn’t stopped record companies from releasing no less than five Greatest Hits Collections of her work, however. 2. “Come On Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners A band named for recreational amphetamines may very well deserve the OHW crown, and this song appears on almost every OHW list. That said, “Come On Eileen” was actually the band's second No. 1 hit: they reached the top of the charts in the UK with “Geno” years before “Come On Eileen.” 3. "MacArthur Park" - Richard Harris Perhaps the most mysterious song on this list. How did a song longer than 7 minutes with sweeping orchestrals and butchered lyrics ever reach the top of the charts and inspire countless remakes? Although Jimmy Webb is responsible for creating this song, Richard Harris inflicted this particularly horrid performance on the musical world. He did go a long way toward winning us back with some pretty great movie roles: English Bob from Unforgiven, Marcus Aurelius from Gladiator, Bull McCabe from The Field, and Albus Dumbledore from the first two Harry Potter movies. Hard to imagine any of them bemoaning a cake left in the rain. 4. “Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas We’re not just defending this song just because we knew all the words and ran around singing it at the top of lungs when we were younger - like yesterday, for example. Nor is our defense based on the fact that this song was used to advertise Clamato, a product that must've benefited from some great advertising to have survived since the 70’s. Facts are facts, and the charts don’t lie. Douglas followed up his No. 1 hit with “Dance the Kung Fu”, which reached No. 35 in 1974, and he also reached No. 25 with “Run Back” in 1977. Did we run around singing those songs and kicking the air? No, at least not that we’re willing to admit to. 5. “Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugarhill Gang The first hip-hop song to break into the top 40, it really was the only hit for Master Gee, Wonder Mike, and Big Bank Hank. These guys are back together and touring, so maybe they’ll crank out another big hit and be off the list by next year. Master Gee, it’s on you, so what ya gonna do? 6. “Video Killed the Radio Star” – The Buggles The problem with this OHW is that it really wasn’t that big of a hit in the first place. Its claim to fame really was the fact that it was the first (and the millionth) video ever played on fledgling TV station MTV. It did top the charts in the UK and Australia briefly (the first of many No. 1 hits for Island Records), but it only spent one week in the Billboard Top Forty in the US, reaching the lofty position of No. 40. Two other Buggles songs actually enjoyed a better run with Billboard, “Living in the Plastic Age” reached No. 16, and “Clean Clean” made it to No. 38 in 1980. Give the Buggles a break, VH1. 7. “Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba We’re torn which side of the list to put these English anarchists and their lasting contribution to the OHW discussion. While they’ve had some success with other songs, none have approached the commercial success of “Tubthumping,” so we’re lumping them in with the proper One Hit Wonders. However, they keep cranking out albums, like 2008’s "The Boy Bands Have Won," with such radio friendly tunes as “I Wish That They’d Sack Me”, “Unpindownable”, and "The Ogre", based on a W.H. Auden poem. If you can’t break through with a pop song about an Auden poem, is there any hope for the world? Maybe the boy bands have won… On a side note, the album’s full title contains 865 characters, and holds the record for the longest album title, as of August 2009. 8. “Who Let the Dogs Out?” – The Baha Men We hate to let this song off the hook, but the Baja Men actually did have two more hits: “You All Dat” reached No. 14 in 2001, and “Move It Like This” reached No. 16 in 2002. Seriously. You can look it up. 9. “Funkytown” – Lipps, Inc. It seems unfair to pick on a disco song, since the whole genre was a bit ripe for OHWs, but this song went platinum and spent four weeks atop the charts in 1980. Unfortunately, the band really couldn’t make the move to a time that was right for them after disco died. 10. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” - Bobby McFerrin Once again, a song that appears on many OHW lists, perhaps because it is the jazz vocalist’s only marketed cross-over into popular music. That said, this song provided McFerrin with only one of his eight grammy awards for vocals. Sing that note for note, haters! 11. “Louie, Louie” - The Kingsmen Often topping OHW charts, this 1963 classic was actually investigated but not prosecuted by the FBI for supposed obscenity of the lyrics. Little wonder. We can’t understand the lyrics either. 12. A 9-Way Tie: 1992’s "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred, 1996’s "Macarena" by Los del Río, 1970’s “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, 1990’s “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, 1982’s "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, 1982's "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls (co-written by Paul Schaffer of Letterman and SNL fame), 1982's "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats, 1982's “Jenny/867-5309” by Tommy Tutone, and 1982's “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth. We’re not trying to be cruel, but is anyone really surprised that these acts were one hit wonders? And what was in the water in 1982? We left plenty of possible options from 1982 off the list, like “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow, “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins, “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene, “Pac-Man Fever” by Buckner and Garcia, “I Know What Boys Like” by The Waitresses, “Mexican Radio” by Wall of Voodoo, and “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club, not to mention the previously listed “Come on Eileen” and “Mickey”. 1982, the year bands released songs that killed careers.
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