The Lifeminute All-Time 1 Hit Wonders by Decade
See if your favorite made the list
From the LifeMinute.TV Team
September 25th, 2021
In honor of National One-Hit Wonder Day held annually on September 25th, we at LifeMinute have compiled our picks of the most memorable songs by artists who set the charts ablaze for a brief shining moment but were never really able to duplicate their success. We start in the 1950s when Rock and Roll was still in its infancy. "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)," originally recorded by the Los Angeles doo-wop group The Penguins, reached #8 on the Pop chart and #1 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1954 and 1955. In 2005, the song was chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, deeming it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important." The song has sold more than 10 million copies. And, it has cemented itself in popular culture by way of Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in the 1985 film Back to the Future.
The Champs' "Tequila" is another song that got a second life from an '80s movie. It went to #1 on both the Pop and R&B charts in 1958. Comedian Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, will forever be linked to "Tequila" from his first movie, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, where he accidentally knocks over a row of motorcycles. And then famously dances to the song to win the favor of the angry bikers.
Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs have the honor of recording the shortest song ever to reach the #1 spot, clocking in at a brisk 1:36. Even with its short running time, the single "Stay" has proven to stand the test of time. It has been recorded by a bevy of artists, with varying degrees of success throughout the years. Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, The Hollies, and Cyndi Lauper have done versions of the classic. Most notably, Jackson Browne combined the song with one of his own on his Running on Empty LP in 1977. It became known as "The Load-Out/Stay." Recorded live as a tribute to his roadies and fans, Browne pleads with them to "stay just a little bit longer" for his encore. This version became a top-20 hit for Browne on the US charts.
In March of 1962, "Hey! Baby" by Bruce Channel topped the charts for three weeks. It was recorded with harmonica wizard Delbert McClinton performing the famous harp solo in the song. It's rumored that McClinton met John Lennon while touring in Europe and taught him to play in that style, and, in turn, inspired the harp lead on The Beatles "Love Me Do." When Dirty Dancing hit the silver screen in 1987, the song was given a second life. Audiences fell in love with it all over again as Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey danced to the song while balancing on a log in the forest.
The Buggles were a British band that consisted of two players, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. Their only hit came in 1979 on their first LP, The Age of Plastic. The lead single that proved to be the only hit was "Video Killed the Radio Star." It was a song ahead of its time, predicting where the immediate future of rock/pop music was headed in the next decade. That's significant because it was the very first video ever played on the fledgling network of MTV in August 1981.
The Sugarhill Gang from Englewood, New Jersey, was the first group rap group to bring the art form to a wider audience with their single "Rapper's Delight." It is ranked at #251 in Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in 2014, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 1981, it seemed almost every young person in the nation attempted to dial up the mysterious Jenny from the Tommy Tutone hit "867-5309/Jenny." The band was formed in California in 1978 and had had a minor hit from their first album, which reached the top 40. But it was their next one that peaked at #4 and went gold that forever attached them to this massive hit. There have been some conflicting stories about who the real Jenny may have been. "Jenny is a regular girl, not a hooker," lead guitarist Jim Keller reportedly said. "Friends of mine wrote her name and number on a men's room wall at a bar. I called her on a dare, and we dated for a while," he said. The other author of the song, Alex Call, reportedly said, "I actually just came up with the 'Jenny,' and the telephone number and the music and all that just sitting in my backyard. There was no Jenny. I don't know where the number came from. I was just trying to write a 4-chord rock song, and it just kind of came out," he said.
Kevin Rowland, and his band Dexys Midnight Runners from Birmingham, England, combined Celtic folk music with the punch of New Wave in 1982, and came up with one of the most memorable songs of the decade, "Come On Eileen." It reached #1 on the US charts, and with the repetitive chant of Too-Rye-Ay, it has been ingrained in the minds of all who have listened to it. VH1 ranked it #18 on their list of 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s.
In 1992, Sir Mix-A-Lot recorded the hip-hop classic ode to his love of large posteriors "Baby Got Back." Upon its initial release, the song was controversial due to its explicit sexual nature. And the video was even banned by MTV for a short time. The song started at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, eventually hitting the #1 spot. It remained there for five weeks. It was the second best-selling song in the United States for 1992.
"Closing Time" by Semisonic rose to the top of the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song in 1999. Yet another track gained a second life in 2011 when it was featured in the film Friends With Benefits and on the popular TV show The Office.
New Jersey is represented again on this list by the band Fountains of Wayne and their single "Stacy's Mom." Written by vocalist Chris Collingwood and bassist Adam Schlesinger, it would reach as high as #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was reportedly inspired by a friend of Schlesinger's who was attracted to Schlesinger's grandmother when they were younger. The video featured supermodel Rachel Hunter in the role of Stacy's Mom, which raised temperatures and made the song truly memorable.
Another song greatly aided by its accompanying video was from the Australian band Jet. "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" was the lead track on the 2003 album Get Born and helped lead the way for the garage rock revival of the early 2000s. The music video showed the band on a blank white screen. As they perform the song, ink pours out of their instruments, eventually forming the cover art to their album. The song was also used to great effect by Apple in an advertisement promoting their Mp3 iPod music player. The song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart.
In 2011, Seattle, Washington pop-rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, along with singer Wanz, put forth a single called "Thrift Shop." It was about finding clothes to wear in their local thrift shop instead of spending vast amounts of money on designer wear. The single became an international hit, reaching #1 in the US, UK, Iceland, Canada, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. It won Grammys for both Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. And astoundingly, it has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube.
From Wasilla, Alaska, pop group Portugal. The Man snuck up on the world with the track "Feel It Still" in 2017. The song reached the summit on several of Billboard's Alternative charts, four of them to be exact. The band seemingly came out of nowhere. But it took eight months for the song to reach #4 on the Hot 100, with its insanely catchy chorus.