Category Archives: 1984

One Hit Wonders: Jack Wagner

Hi Everybody! Paul here, The One-Hit Wonders series continues. I should have mentioned at the beginning of this series that these artists are one-hit wonders in the U.S. The artists may also have other songs that we have heard of, but just didn’t chart high enough on the Hot 100 Billboard charts to be considered a hit. If you missed the previous articles Robert has written this week, you can check out:

Sly Fox
Midnight Oil
Nik Kershaw

Now Robert continues the one-hit wonders…

All I Need by Jack Wagner

This song falls in the category of one of my guilty pleasures. When I was in high school, in the summer I earned some money by watching neighborhood kids while their parents were at work. I spent most of that time with four siblings who loved General Hospital, so I started to watch the soap opera with them – so begins my mini obsession with Jack Wagner. I know the music is not great, but I did but his first three albums and I really like this song. “All I Need” reached #2 on the AT 40 in 1984. It is a simple ballad and it still strikes a chord in my soul. Listening to this song now, I realize (remember?) how it secretly appeals to any fifteen year old boy who was hoping beyond all hope that a girl would notice him and maybe even talk to him. I knew that if any girl would take just that little chance, I would not disappoint her. I would be thinking that:

Kissing you was not what I had planned
Now I’m not sure just where I stand
I wasn’t looking for true love
But now you’re looking at me
You’re the only one I can think of
You’re the only one I see

Yep, it’s cheesy as hell, but what do you expect from a hopelessly romantic, shy fifteen year old? The video is from an episode of Solid Gold, which I watched religiously every Saturday on AFN after The Soul Train.

One Hit Wonders: Nik Kershaw

Wouldn’t it be Good by Nik Kershaw

I struggled with including this song because it only reached #46 on the AT 40, but it was #88 on VH1’S top 100 One Hit Wonders list – and I am being a little selfish because I love this song. Oh, and one more reason – there is a cover of this song on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack by the Danny Hutton Hitters and I have been listening to this album a lot lately, so I though the original One Hit Wonder would be a good choice. Growing up in Germany, I heard this song many, many times as it was a major hit in nearly every European country. I bought this album, Human Racing, and his next, The Riddle, but I have not kept up on any of his music after this. The music has that typical new wave ‘80s sound full of synthesizers and an occasional guitar riff. The speaker in the song is falling into that place we all tend to go sometimes – my life is hard, I wish I could have yours. The chorus get this idea across very clearly:
Wouldn’t it be good to be in your shoes
Even if it was for just one day
Wouldn’t it be good wish ourselves away
Wouldn’t it be good to be on your side
The grass is always greener over there
Wouldn’t it be good if we could live with a care

Nice idea, but I am not sure it is possible. If you do not know much about Kershaw, I would recommend his first two albums; they are a bit different than most American music, but clearly and firmly grounded in the ’80s.

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Styx Gone Solo: Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw

“Desert Moon” by Dennis DeYoung and “Girls with Guns” by Tommy Shaw

In 1961, when he was 14, Dennis DeYoung teamed up with his 13-year-old neighbors, Chuck and John Panozzo, in a three-piece combo. The trio later added guitarist James Young and John Curulewski to form the band Tradewinds in the late 1960s. The band renamed itself TW4 in 1968 before becoming Styx in 1970.
The band had some success in the early-mid 70s.

Their popularity started soaring when guitarist/singer/songwriter Tommy Shaw joined the group in 1975. But by the early ’80s, tension began mounting in the group. Tommy Shaw wanted the band to go more towards a rock direction, and Dennis DeYoung wanted to go more pop and theatrical. In 1984, Tommy Shaw left the band, and went solo. He released three solo albums in the 1980s: Girls with Guns (1984), What If (1985), and Ambition (1987). His biggest hit was the title track from his debut album Girls With Guns. It peaked at #33 on November 17, 1984.

While the band was in transition, Dennis DeYoung also did a solo project. He was a little more succesful than Shaw as his first solo album, Desert Moon, generated the hit, “Desert Moon”, which peaked at #10 on November 10, 1984.

Five years later, Styx decided to get back together. But, they did so without Shaw, who had formed Damn Yankees along with Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (of Night Ranger), and drummer Michael Cartellone (Shaw’s drummer during his 1988 Ambition tour). In 1990, Styx released the album Edge of the Century. A&M Records (which had just merged with PolyGram Records) dropped the group from its roster in 1992, and the group broke up again shortly afterwards.

In 1995, Styx reunited again, this time Tommy Shaw joined the group again. However, drummer John Panozzo became terminally ill and did not rejoin the band. He died of gastrointestinal bleeding on July 16, 1996. In 1999, DeYoung was replaced by Canadian star Lawrence Gowan. He has been non-mainstream work, and has not had another solo hit since “Desert Moon”. Styx is still together touring and recording, so Tommy Shaw also has not had another solo hit since “Girls With Guns”

Here is both songs:

“Desert Moon” by Dennis DeYoung

“Girls With Guns” by Tommy Shaw

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Ollie & Jerry

“Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” by Ollie & Jerry

People may forget, but there was a movie called Breakin’ before Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo came around. The theme song from the first Breakin’ movie was “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” by the dance-pop duo Ollie & Jerry. Ollie was drummer Ollie E. Brown and Jerry was R&B singer Jerry Knight.

They never had a studio album under their own name. Ollie Brown and Jerry Knight had previously worked together as session musicians, with Knight also being a member of R&B group Raydio. The two formed Ollie & Jerry in Los Angeles, California in 1984, signing to Polydor Records.

They recorded “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” as the title theme to the 1984 film Breakin’, and released as the first single from the film’s soundtrack album. The song became a hit, peaking at #9 on August 4, 1984.

The following year, the duo released the single “Electric Boogaloo”, the title theme to the Breakin’ sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. The single did fairly well on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #57 on the chart. However, the song failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. After the song’s release, the duo split in mid-1985.

Ollie Brown is no longer in the music industry. He now works in real estate. Although his solo career faded, Knight continued to write and produce for acts such as The Whispers, Patrice Rushen, DeBarge, Howard Hewett and Elkie Brooks.

Here is Ollie & Jerry’s only hit song – “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Scandal

“The Warrior” by Scandal

I was surprised to find out that Scandal was a one hit wonder. I do Like “Goodbye to You” a lot. But it only reached #65 on the charts. Oh well, so twist my arm! I have to include “The Warrior” as a one-hit wonder for Scandal.

Scandal was formed in New York City in 1981 by guitarist Zack Smith, who also wrote most of the band’s hits. The other initial members included: bassist Ivan Elias (1950–1995), guitarist Keith Mack, guitarist Jon Bon Jovi (briefly), keyboardist Benjy King, drummer Frankie LaRocka, and, of course, vocalist Patty Smyth. Thommy Price later replaced LaRocka on drums.

But, the band was slowly losing member after member. By the time The Warrior tour started in 1984, the only original members were Patty Smyth and Keith Mack. That did not stop the song from being a huge hit. It peaked at #7 on the charts on September 22, 1984. Shortly after the tour, Scandal officially broke up.

The group (minus Ivan Elias, who died of cancer in June 1995) reunited in 2004 for VH1’s Bands Reunited show and did a string of concerts on the United States East Coast. Patty Smyth and Scandal have toured in the time since then, and have recorded some new songs. It would be great to see them on the charts again. But in the meantime, let’s enjoy “The Warrior”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Talk Talk

“It’s My Life” by Talk Talk

Here is the second New Wave/Synthpop one-hit wonder of the day. Talk Talk was another band that was a one-hit wonder in the U.S., but had more success in other countries. In the band’s early days, they were compared with Duran Duran, as both bands had a name which was a single word repeated, a Roxy Music-inspired musical direction, and shared the same record label (EMI) and producer (Colin Thurston).

Talk Talk released their first album, The Party’s Over, in 1982. It was successful in the U.K. They achieved huge international success in 1984/85 when they released their second album, It’s My Life. The title track of the album was a hit in several countries, including the U.S., where it peaked at #31 on May 19, 1984.

The band abandoned the New Wave style completely with The Colour of Spring in 1986. That album was a smash hit in the U.K., but the success never translated over to the U.S. Their follow-up, 1988’s Spirit of Eden, while critically acclaimed, did not sell as well as it’s preceding albums. The band then wanted to be released from their contract with EMI.

In 1990, Talk Talk signed a two-album contract with Polydor Records. They released the album, Laughing Stock in 1991. After Laughing Stock, Talk Talk disbanded in 1992, as lead singer/founder Mark Hollis wished to focus on his children. In 1998, Mark Hollis released his self-titled solo debut Mark Hollis, and then retired from the music business shortly afterwards.

However, Talk Talk made an impact beyond the ’80s. The band No Doubt remade “It’s My Life” to be included on their greatest hits album The Singles 1992–2003. The song became a hit for them also, and was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 47th Grammy Awards.

So, here is both versions of the song:

Talk Talk

No Doubt

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Re-Flex

“The Politics of Dancing” by Re-Flex

Here is one for New Wave/synthpop music fans. Re-Flex was formed in the early 80s. In late 1982, the band recorded their debut album, The Politics of Dancing, which was released in 1983. The album was moderately successful. But their lead single, the title track “The Politics of Dancing” acheived greater success. It became a big international hit in 1984, reaching the Top 40 in several countries, and peaking at #24 on March 17, 1984. The band toured Europe and the United States, where, on their first visit, they supported The Police.

Re-Flex planned a follow-up album for 1985, called Humanication. But the record company, EMI, felt the album was too political, so they would not release it. The band left EMI after that.

Re-Flex continued to record together, working on a new project entitled Jamming The Broadcast. During this period the band also recorded two tracks, “Life’s Too Dangerous” and “Revolution Now”, for the soundtrack to the 1987 film Superman IV. After recording was completed, the group ceased actively working together, but never officially disbanded. They have an official web site.

Here is the band’s only hit, “The Politics of Dancing”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Nena

“99 Luftballons” by Nena

OK, how many of us used to try to sing this song in German, when we didn’t even speak German? We would sing incoherently, until we got to the part where we would sing loudly: 99 LUFTBALLONS!! Thankfully, Nena would release the song in English, so we would have an idea of what the sog was saying. But, it was still the German version that was the big hit in the U.S., peaking all the way at #2 on March 3, 1984.

Nena was the name of the band, as well as the lead singer. The band was formed in 1981, and had some success in Europe. When “99 Luftballons” was released, the band became weel known all over the world.

The song came into existence when Nena’s guitarist Carlo Karges went to a June 1982 concert by the Rolling Stones in West Berlin and noticed that balloons were being released. As he watched them move toward the horizon, he noticed them shifting and changing shapes, where they looked like strange spacecraft (referred to in the German lyrics as a “UFO”). He thought about what might happen if they floated over the Berlin Wall to the Soviet sector.

Both the English and German versions tell how faulty East German radar equipment registers 99 balloons as incoming weapons. They immediately put their troops on red alert and scramble fighter jets to intercept which ultimately triggers a nuclear war between East and West. In the apocalyptic aftermath, the song’s narrator stands in the rubble of the city and finds a single remaining balloon. Thinking of someone, he or she then lets the balloon go.

Although “99 Luftballons” was Nena’s only hit in the English-speaking world, the band continued to enjoy success in several European countries in the following years. The band split in 1987, and Nena went solo.

Nena has been very active recording albums. The songs have not made it back across to the U.S. at all. But, the one time Nena made it big over here, they made a huge impact. Here are both versions of the song:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Shannon

“Let the Music Play” by Shannon

In the early ’80s the major backlash against disco was in full swing. “Disco Sucks” became a catchphrase. disco fans were ridiculed, and it was being played less and less on the radio. Dance music was all but dead on mainstream radio.

And then “Let the Music Play” burst on to the scene, and blew the doors wide open again for dance music.

Shannon’s hit defined dance-pop music of the ’80s. The song reached #1 on the US Dance chart in November 1983, and peaked at #8 on the US singles chart on February 25, 1984. “Let the Music Play” was Shannon’s only US Top 40 hit. It was ranked 43rd on the 2009 VH1 Special 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s.

Shannon released a couple of more albums in the ’80s. While popular on dance charts, she did not reach mainstream success again.

In the late 1990s interest in Shannon rekindled, when VH1 spotlighted her on their One Hit Wonders series.

This prompted her to release her fourth studio album, 1999’s The Best Is Yet to Come. A fifth studio album, A Beauty Returns, was released in 2007.

She is currently a voting member of the Grammys.

Now, let’s Return to the ’80s, and listen to the ’80s dance-pop trailblazing song, “Let the Music Play”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1984 – Jump ‘N the Saddle Band

“The Curly Shuffle” by the Jump ‘N the Saddle Band

The ’80s had several novelty hits, and “The Curly Shuffle” ranks right up there as one of the most memorable. The song, a tribute to The Three Stooges, became a regional hit for the Jump ‘N the Saddle Band in the Chicago area. As the song became more and more popular, the group signed to Atlantic Records and released a self-titled album, composed mostly of covers, in 1984. In the meantime, “The Curly Shuffle” peaked at #15 on the Billboard charts on January 21, 1984.

The band then entered negotiations with Atlantic for a follow-up album in 1984. The label wanted them to record the song “Shaving Cream” for their next single, which the band was not too crazy about. They recorded the song anyway – but with a catch. They added lyrics that criticized Atlantic. So the company dropped them. The Jump ‘N the Saddle Band never received national exposure again. However, they continue to play in the Chicago area.

Hey Wiseguy, let’s listen to the Jump ‘N the Saddle Band’s hit song, “The Curly Shuffle”: