We end the One Hit Wonders mix tape with another international hit – it reached the top ten in no fewer than fifteen countries, including #1 on the AT40 in April of 1983. I will be the first (of what should be many) to admit that I really had no idea what the lyrics to this song were when I was a fourteen. I could understand the first line “Poor old Johnny Ray” (it was written on the video) and the chorus was rather intelligible, but the rest of the song remained a mystery as I sang nonsensical lyrics that sounded close to what I was hearing. Since the invention of the internet and all of this useless information at our fingertips, I have frequently searched for and found the elusive lyrics to this hit (in fact, I am looking at them right now). As the chorus suggests, the song is a plea – a plea for Eileen to “come on” and go along with the song’s speaker. He fully admits to being smitten with Eileen, emotionally, as well as physically, “You in that dress, my thoughts I confess / Verge on dirty.” He later implores her sense of youth and not settling for the mundane as most people do:
These people ‘round here
Wear beat down eyes sunk in smoke dried faces
They’re resigned to what their fate is
But not us (no never), no not us (no never)
We are far too young and clever
He begs and pleads – and we all hope, for him, that he is successful. The video suggests that they are. Despite lyrics that are nearly impossible to discern, this song endures. “Come on Eileen” can be frequently heard on any station that plays ‘80s music. VH1 recognizes the brilliance of this song by ranking it as the #1 greatest One Hit Wonder from the ‘80s – I can’t disagree.
There you have twenty shooting stars – songs that hit and then disappeared – bright lights that quickly faded. Some are still heard on stations that feature ‘80s music and some have been forgotten. Regardless of future successes, the songs by these artists touched us briefly and left an indelible mark on our hearts and ears. These songs may be in the discount bin now, but at one time they ruled the airwaves and I, for one, will never let them go.
This mega international hit is a cover of a 1965 song by Gloria Jones that failed to dent the charts. In January of 1982 it entered the Billboard Hot 100 and bounced around for a while, taking nineteen weeks to reach the Top 40 and peaked at #4. This song remained on the American charts for a combined forty-three weeks! In addition it reached the top ten in fifteen European countries as well – a true definition of a hit. The song is simple and catchy (you know you vocally hit that keyboard every time you hear this song). The speaker in the song is in dire straits – his love has left him and he is struggling:
Sometime I feel I’ve got to run away
I’ve got to get away
From the pain you drive into the heart of me
The love we seem to share seems to go nowhere
And I’ve lost my life
I toss and turn, I can’t sleep at night
Then comes the heart wrenching line, “Once I ran to you, now I run from you.” He is clearly upset and cannot imagine a way out of this situation. Eventually, he accepts his pain and decides the only way out is to leave:
Don’t touch me, please, I cannot stand the way you tease
I love you though you hurt me so
Now I’m gonna pack my things and go
Lyrically, the song is devastating, but musically the song has that new wave synthesized upbeat feel to it. This creates an interesting clash – I like it. When I think of One Hit Wonders, this is typically the first song that jumps in my head. This song has proven to have some longevity, as is has been used in films and sampled in several songs in the 2000’s.
Hi Everybody! Welcome back to another week of one-hit wonders, courtesy of Robert. Again, a quick disclaimer: these artists have only charted in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. only once. Some artists, such as today’s may have had hits in other countries. But, we are only including one hit wonders in the U.S. Now, here is Robert!
Yes, I am back with more One Hit Wonders of the ‘80s. I hope you have enjoyed the first ten songs and maybe even (re)discovered a few you have not heard in a while. This week I have five more comin’ at you – hope you enjoy this week’s selections.
Our House by Madness
1983 marks this English ska band’s only hit here in the U.S. Granted, they have achieved enormous success in their native England and other European countries, but #7 on the AT 40 charts is their highest (and only) single to break through here. This song was an enormous hit in Holland where I spent many of my summers living with my grandparents. I was lucky enough to have several Dutch friends who spoke perfect English and helped me learn Dutch so I could effectively communicate with my grandparents (who only knew the English curse words). We loved this song and listened to it hundreds of times. In 1983, at the tender age of fourteen, I probably did not fully understood why I liked this song – but now I do! “Our House” offers a idyllic look at middle class life. A large, close knit family is living together in a large house and working just to get by. It just a normal household:
Father wears his Sunday best
Mother’s tired she needs a rest
The kids are playing up downstairs
Sister’s sighing in her sleep
Brother’s got a date to keep
He can’t hang around
Nothing fancy or unusual here, just a glimpse into an everyday home. What I did not realize when I was a kid is that I would miss this easy growing up style of life. I, like most of us, took this time for granted – just like Madness:
I remember way back then when everything was true and when
We would have such a very good time such a fine time
Such a happy time
And I remember how we’d play simply waste the day away
Then we’d say nothing would come between us two dreamers
Man, do I miss those times! For the past twenty-five years I have tried to give my own four children a similar basis for their memories. I know very little about ska music, so it is the lyrics that touch me in this song.
In 1981, I had just moved to Frankfurt, Germany and, at first, my radio was my best friend. There was one American radio station who played Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every Sunday from 2-6 in the afternoon. I listened to that show religiously, but also experimented with some German radio stations. During one of these forays, I heard a song with one of the coolest guitar riffs I had heard. The song was completely in German so I could not understand a word, but I did pick up on the artist: Falco. Fast forward to 1983 and I hear that guitar riff again, only this time I could understand the lyrics. After the Fire covered (and translated) Falco’s song and hit #5 on the AT 40 with “Der Kommissar.” My wife, who is a high school German and Spanish teacher, tells me that the translations is not bad, understanding that they had to change things to have it make sense in English. A ‘kommissar’ is a police chief or government officer and in this song he is on the trail of a couple who is constantly trying to escape his notice. The lyric that remains in German, “Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?” is translated into “Everything OK, officer?” They know he is chasing them and they are feigning innocence. When you watch the video look for the waiter – that’s Falco! This song has legs. Not only is it recorded in German by Falco and in an English translation by After the Fire, but the music is also used by Laura Branigan in her song “Deep in the Dark” (yes, I am a closet Branigan fan). Of course, we all know that Falco will have his own hit “<a href="http://” target=”_blank”>Rock Me Amadeus” in just a few years – can I count him as a One Hit Wonder for that song? I am including links to Falco’s German version, After the Fire’s English version, and Branigan’s song that uses the music.
Haircut One Hundred was a new wave band formed in 1980 by singer/songwriter Nick Heyward. In 1982, they recorded their debut album, Pelican West. Off of that album came the hit single “Love Plus One”. The band headed out on tour with sold out shows everywhere they went in the UK , Europe, North America and Japan. However, during the sessions for their second album Heyward became unwell and Mark Fox took over vocal duties with the band as songwriters. Heyward left the band at the end of 1982. They released that follow-up album, Paint & Paint in 1984. It did not sell very well, and the band called it quits.
Nick Heyward would go on to do solo work. Then in 2009, the band rekindled their friendship via Facebook and Nick invited them down to perform as Haircut at one of his solo gigs. They enjoyed themselves so much that they plan on doig more gigs over the next year. If they don’t make it big again, at least they had “Love Plus One”:
The Dazz Band is a funk band out of Cleveland, Ohio. The band had a breakthrough with their 1982 album Keep It Live, which contained the hit song “Let It Whip”, which peaked at #5 on July 17, 1982. It also reached #1 on the R&B charts and won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. They had songs that charted well on the R&B charts. But their only mainstream hit was “Let It Whip”:
“Forget Me Nots” was a huge hit for Patrice Rushen, topping out at #23 on the Billboard pop chart on July 3, 1982, and reached #4 on the R&B chart and #2 on the dance chart. Rushen was nominated for a Grammy Award on the Grammy Awards 25th anniversary for Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. She had several songs on the R & B and Jazz charts, but this was her only U.S. Top 40 hit and ranked #86 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 1980s. The younger crowd may recognize the beat of the song from Will Smith’s 1997 hit “Men in Black” from the movie of the same name.
Patrice Rushen also has many ground-breaking achievements. She became the first woman to serve as head composer/musical director for the Grammy Awards and the Emmy Awards, and the first woman to serve as musical director for the NAACP Image Awards’ broadcast, an honor she held for twelve consecutive years. Additionally, Rushen has been the only woman to be a musical director/composer for the People’s Choice Awards, HBO’s Comic Relief and the only woman musical director/conductor/arranger for a late-night television talk show, The Midnight Hour.
But, as a solo artist, Rushen will be most remembered for her sole hit, “Forget Me Nots”:
This is one of the biggest one-hit wonders of the ’80s, and maybe of all time. “Tainted Love” was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965. But the English duo, Soft Cell, (consisting of vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball) made it a worldwide hit in the early ’80s. It was released as their second single. Their first was “Memorabilia”, which did not chart. “Tainted Love” was a No. 1 hit in 17 countries. In the U.S., the song took 19 weeks to enter the Top 40. It eventually peaked at #8 on July 17, 1982. It went on to set a Guinness World Record at the time for the longest consecutive stay (43 weeks) on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Soft Cell went on to score some more hits in the U.K., but they never charted again in the U.S. Almond and Ball amicably decided to end Soft Cell in 1984. Almond and Ball reunited as Soft Cell in 2001, with a series of live dates. They went on to release a new album in 2001, and issued a remix album in 2008.
Aldo Nova, a Canadian rock musician, get off to a great start. In 1981, he released his self-titled debut album Aldo Nova. “Fantasy” was the first single from that album, and climbed up to #3 on the Mainstream rock chart, and peaked at #23 on the Billboard chart on May 29, 1982.
Unfortunately, his solo career faded away. Nova did work with Jon Bon Jovi in the early and late ’80s, and produced some early Céline Dion albums.
In 1991, Nova sought the help of Bon Jovi to revive his solo career on his release Blood on the Bricks, but it still only managed to chart at number 124.
As a songwriter, Nova’s recent hits include Clay Aiken’s “This is the Night” (co-written with Chris Braide and Gary Burr), which in the US was a number one hit and the best selling single of 2003.
But, let’s go back to his rock roots, and listen to #78 of VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s: Aldo Nova’s “Fantasy”:
In 1973, Charlene signed with Motown under the name “Charlene Duncan”, and released her first (and unsuccessful) single “All That Love Went to Waste” in January 1974. Three years later, she released a second album, It Ain’t Easy Comin’ Down, on Motown’s Prodigal label. It had the single, “I’ve Never Been to Me”, and the song reached #97 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
In 1982, Tampa, Florida disc jockey Scott Shannon, then at WRBQ, started playing the song at the behest of a girlfriend. At the time, Charlene had lost her recording contract, and moved to England. The song caught on with audiences, and made the charts once again, this time it reached all the way to #3 on May 22, 1982.
In a attempt to capitalize on the song’s success, the following year, Charlene released another song, “Used to Be“, a duet with Stevie Wonder that was written by the writers of “I’ve Never Been to Me”, which did not reach the pop top 40 chart and only reaching #46 on the pop charts. She never again reached the charts.
This year, Charlene launched her official web site.