Category Archives: 1983

One Hit Wonders: Men Without Hats

The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats

by Robert Mishou

This somewhat cryptic hit reached #4 on the AT 40 in September of 1983. There has been much discussion about the meaning to the lyrics ranging from an anti nuclear protest song to a plea for safe sex. The band’s singer and lyricist, Ivan Doroschuk, says it is neither. He wrote the lyrics to this song as a protest, not to nuclear weapons, rather to club bouncers. When New Wave music was becoming popular, it began to replace disco music in many clubs. As the style of music changed, so did the style of dancing. Dancers started to perform pogoing; a form of dancing that consisted remaining upright and thrashing about (this would eventually evolve into slam dancing and yes, I had to look this up). The bouncers at the clubs that Doroschuk attended did not allow this type of dancing and kicked out anyone who insisted on dancing in this style. This now becomes a great song that is not nearly as deep as many thought it to be. Keeping the dancing style in mind, the lyrics to this song do express the natural tendencies for young people to resent and resist authority:

I say we can go where we want to
A place they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind

And later:

We can go where we want to
The night is young and so am I
We can dress real neat
From our hands to our feet
And surprise them with a victory cry

And later still:

We can act like we want to
If we don’t, nobody will
We can act real rude
And totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile

Clearly now, this song becomes a typical teenage rebellion song, a staple of rock since the ‘50s. Couple these sentiments with an infectious keyboard and we have a perfect one hit wonder. And don’t forget the intro to the album (long) version of this song:
Sss – Aaa – Fff – Eee – Ttt – Yyy

One Hit Wonders: Nena

99 Luftballons by Nena

by Robert Mishou

Yes, I am going back to Europe! So far on the One Hit Wonder series I have had several songs that were absolute monster hits overseas: “I Don’t Like Mondays”, “Wouldn’t It Be Good”, and “Der Kommisar” were all hits here, but have been tossed into the One Hit Wonder category. This song by Nena is an anti war protest song whose German title is “Nuenundnuenzig Luftballons”, is a narrative that depicts the story of an misunderstanding. A large bunch of balloons is floating through the sky and are mistaken for a UFO or nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this results in a war which ends with no clear winner and both sides completely devastated. The final verse captures the irony of the entire situation:

99 dreams I have had
In every one a red balloon
It’s all over and I’m standing pretty
In this dust that was a city
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you, and let it go

Once the truth of the misunderstanding is understood, it is too late. The speaker releases ninety-nine more red balloons in honor of what was lost. Note: I once again deferred to my wife’s expertise with German- she says the translation is not as good as After the Fire’s translation of “Der Kommisar” – but it tells a similar story as the German lyrics that is a bit softer, but captures the same sentiment.

English translation:

Have you some time for me,
then I’ll sing a song for you
about 99 balloons
on their way to the horizon.
If you’re perhaps thinking about me right now
then I’ll sing a song for you
about 99 balloons
and that such a thing comes from such a thing.

99 balloons
on their way to the horizon
People think they’re UFO’s from space
so a general sent up
a fighter squadron after them
Sound the alarm if it’s so
but there on the horizon were
only 99 balloons.

99 fighter jets
Each one’s a great warrior
Thought they were Captain Kirk
then came a lot of fireworks
the neighbors didn’t understand anything
and felt like they were being provoked
so they shot at the horizon
at 99 balloons.

99 war ministers
matches and gasoline canisters
They thought they were clever people
already smelled a nice bounty
Called for war and wanted power.
Man, who would’ve thought
that things would someday go so far
because of 99 balloons.

99 years of war
left no room for victors.
There are no more war ministers
nor any jet fighters.
Today I’m making my rounds
see the world lying in ruins.
I found a balloon,
think of you and let it fly (away).

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Big Country

“In a Big Country” by Big Country

Big Country were very successful in Europe, but they only had one big hit in the U.S. – “In a Big Country”, which peaked at #17 on December 3, 1983.

Big Country are a Scottish rock band that formed in 1981. In 1983, the band released the single, “Fields of Fire”, which reached the UK’s Top Ten. They quickly followed this up by releasing the album The Crossing. The album contained the hit “In a Big Country”, which helped it become a big seller in the U.S.

Their second album Steeltown (1984) was a hit as soon as it was released in the U.K. However, it was a commercial disappointment in the U.S. The band continued to release albums and tour throughout the ’80s.
Throughout the ’90s, Big Country became a popular ‘opening act’, supporting such bands as Rolling Stones and The Who. Meanwhile, lead singer, Stuart Adamson struggled with alcoholism. In 1999, Big Country released their eighth album, Driving to Damascus, and it did not do well at all. Adamson said publicly that he was disappointed that the album did not fare better on the charts, which led to depression. Later that year, he disappeared for a while before resurfacing, stating that he had needed some time off. Adamson returned for the band’s ‘Final Fling’ farewell tour, with their last concert being in October 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In November 2001, Adamson disappeared again. He was eventually found dead in a room at the Best Western Plaza Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 16, 2001. The official autopsy revealed that he had hanged himself. At the time of death he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.279%.

In 2007, to celebrate 25 years of Big Country, founding members Bruce Watson, Tony Butler (now lead vocalist for the first time), and Mark Brzezicki reunited to embark on a tour of the UK with dates in Scotland and England and a gig in Cologne (Germany). They also released a new album, twenty five live, on the trackrecords label.

This past year, the band permanently reunited by touring and recording. In August, they released a single called “Another Country” with Mike Peters on lead vocals. As good as this song sounds, “In a Big Country” remains Big Country’s lone top 40 hit. So here it is:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Frank Stallone

“Far From Over” by Frank Stallone

Arguably, “Far From Over” was the best part of Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Frank Stallone (younger brother of Sylvester Stallone) wrote the song along with Vince DiCola. “Far From Over” peaked at #10 on October 1, 1983. It was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture and a Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special.

Stallone has released several albums over the years. Being a huge Frank Sinatra fan, his albums have been Big Band/crooning style music. So, he has not had another major hit since “Far From Over”.
In 2008, he went on tour with his own Frank Stallone Band, which featured himself on lead vocals and rhythm guitar.

It seems like his chart-topping success is over. So let’s enjoy this awesome song – “Far From Over”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Taco

“Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Taco

“Puttin’ on the Ritz” was actually written by Irving Berlin in 1929. There have been many versions of the song. Fred Astaire performed the song in the 1946 movie, Blue Skies. Then the song was performed by Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in the 1974 Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein.

Taco released his version in 1983, and the song peaked at #4 on September 3, 1983. His version includes a tap dance solo in the middle to honor Astaire. Taco did not have another hit after that. His follow-up song, “Singing in the Rain” was only a moderate success peaking at No. 49 in Germany and No.46 in Canada.

After recording a few more albums, Taco focused more on acting, and appeared on some German television shows. He currently resides in Germany, performing with his band and as a gala artist.

Here is his moment of glory, with “Puttin’ On the Ritz”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Kajagoogoo

“Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo

“Too Shy” was the first single released off of Kajagoogoo’s debut album, White Feathers in 1983. The song was a worldwide hit. It peaked at #5 in the U.S. on July 9, 1983. The song was produced by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran and Colin Thurston, who had produced Duran Duran’s first two albums. Follow-up singles “Ooh to Be Aah” and “Hang on Now” also both reached the UK Top 20, but they did not chart in the U.S.

Tensions rose in the band, which led to them losing lead singer Limahl. The band’s bass player, Nick Beggs took over lead singing duties. Their next two albums weren’t as successful as their debut album. Then drummer Jez Strode left the band. In 1985 the remaining three members relaunched as Kaja in the UK in 1985. But they were not very successful, and the band broke up in 1986.

However, that was not the end of Kajagoogoo. In 2003, VH1 persuaded the band to reform the original 5-piece band for the show, Bands Reunited. As a result of the show, the band received offers to work as their original five piece band. But, their were too many disagreements regarding the terms on which they could work together. But, in 2007, Nick Beggs, guitarist Steve Askew and keyboardist Stuart Neale decided to continue the Kajagoogoo reunion, releasing the single “Rocket Boy” in June 2007. The single received airplay on Steve Wright’s BBC Radio 2 show in the UK, and a new album, Gone to the Moon, was scheduled for release on the Spectra Records label later on that year. However, the album was postponed and in February 2008, the three Kajagoogoo members announced plans to reunite with original members singer Limahl and drummer Jez Strode.

The band has been recording and touring ever since. So, who knows if the band can strike it big in the U.S.? In the meantime, here is their only U.S. hit so far – “Too Shy”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Frida

“I Know There’s Something Going On” by Frida

Although this was Frida Lyngstad’s only solo hit, she had scored some other hits when she was with a little group called ABBA.

In 1982 ABBA was on an unofficial break, only for it to become a permanent break. During this “break”, Frida recorded her first solo album called Something’s Going On, which was produced by Phil Collins. “I Know There’s Something Going On” was the lead single from the album, and Phil Collins played drums and sang backup on the track. The song became a worldwide smash hit. In the U.S., it peaked at #13 on March 26, 1983.

Frida’s next album was the experimental Shine, which was released in 1984. Very rarely does “experimental” and “smashing success” appear together. And this is no exception.

Frida gradually recorded less and less, and has not had another hit. But, she had a great career with ABBA, and had great success with her one hit, “I Know There’s Something Going On”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Thomas Dolby

“She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby

“She Blinded Me With Science” was a smash hit off of British musician, Thomas Dolby’s debut album The Golden Age of Wireless. It peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard charts on May 14, 1983. In 2006, VH1 placed it at #76 on their list of “Greatest Songs of the ’80s.” Then, in 2009, it ranked #13 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s.

Although the song was a hit in the U.S. and Canada, it did not chart as high in the U.K. However, his song “Hyperactive”, from Dolby’s second album, The Flat Earth, peaked at #17 in the U.K., but did not chart in the U.S. Dolby did not have another hit song in the U.S.

However, Dolby continued recording music for several years. In October 2011, Dolby released his first album since 1992 – A Map of the Floating City. It is a unique project. The album’s concept, set in an alternate history, is accompanied by a web-based social networking game.

In a 2010 press release he was quoted as saying:

“I marvel at the new landscape of the music business – distribution via the Internet and recording technologies I barely dreamed of when I started out,” he continues. “But this album does not sound electronic at all. I have zero desire to add to the myriad of machine-based, synth-driven grooves out there. The Net has made a music career approachable for thousands of bands – but I hear too few single-minded voices among them. What I do best is write songs, tell stories.” “The new songs are organic and very personal,” says Dolby. “This album is a travelogue across three imaginary continents. In Amerikana I’m reflecting with affection on the years I spent living in the USA, and my fascination with its roots music. Urbanoia is a dark place, a little unsettling…I’m not a city person. And in Oceanea I return to my natural home on the windswept coastline.

Thomas Dolby has always been slightly ahead of his time, as is evident with his hit song, “She Blinded Me With Science”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – After the Fire

“Der Kommissar” by After the Fire

After the Fire was a British band that was formed in the early 70s. After some lineup changes, they had a minor hit record in 1979 called Laser Love which spawned the song “One Rule for You”, which peaked at #40 in the U.K., but did not chart in the U.S. In 1982, they released the album Batteries Not Included, which received little attention in the U.K. Then they got in the spotlight when they released “Der Kommissar” in the U.S.

“Der Kommissar” was first recorded (and co-written) by Falco (“Rock Me Amadeus”). After the Fire performed an English version of the song that was reworked by Laura Branigan. After the Fire’s version of “Der Kommissar” rocketed up the U.S. charts, peaking at #5 on April 30, 1983. Meanwhile, the song barely cracked the top 50 of the U.K. charts. While the hit song was at it’s peak, the band announced that they were splitting up. So, the band never had another hit.

In 2004, the band reunited, with some lineup changes. They are still recording and touring. They have an official web site. I don’t know if they will have another top 40 hit, but in the meantime, let’s listen to their one big hit:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1983 – Saga

“On the Loose” by Saga

Saga is a prog-rock band from Canada. They formed in 1977, and released their self-titled debut album in 1978. They were modestly successful. They released albums in 1979 and 1980, and had some songs that were hits in Canada.
In 1981, the band’s 4th album Worlds Apart was released. The lead single “Wind Him Up”, finally broke them into the Canadian Top 40, peaking at #22. The second single, “On the Loose”, proved to be a breakthrough in the U.S. It peaked at #26 on February 26, 1983. Saga tried to capitalize on that success by releasing their Canadian hit, “Wind Him Up” in the U.S. It weas not as succesful, only peaking at #64.

Although they did not score another hit in the U.S., they have maintained a loyal fan-base, and continue to record and tour. Here is their only U.S. top 40 hit, “On the Loose”: