It’s International One-Hit Wonder Day – no really – so Liz Buckley’s applied her huge music brain to making us a playlist. Hurray.
I’m not sure I understand why we have ‘International Celebration Days’ as that very banner seems to wrongly give importance to – or take importance away from – whatever’s named. Hence we have, say, International Women’s Day and all I can think is, *clasps hands in gratitude* “A WHOLE DAY!”
Today we have International One-Hit Wonder Day: somehow then, Desireless’ Voyage Voyage is as important as a whole gender. But maybe that’s RIGHT: one-hit wonders are also discriminated against in society and the workplace. We fight on.
I’ve quite enjoyed actually trying to define a one hit wonder while writing this. It’s more complicated than you might think, and that’s before you get to the added knot of ‘international’. Your mocking laughter towards say, Spagna’s Call Me is not shared in Italy, where she’s a multi-million selling megastar, you cultural ignoramus.
Then if you decide to be very literal about what constitutes a UK one-hit wonder, forums and articles across the net will tell you variously that Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers and REM number among people’s favourites, based on those bands’ lack of mainstream chart success. Yeah! Whatever happened to those losers?
Try as I might over the years to explain how much I dislike the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, I’ve never come out with anything as amusingly damning and grossly unfair as “one hit wonders” yet I found that’s what their own devoted fans call them. So that’s a keeper!
We learn, then, that a Top 40 placing can be scarcer for any of our seemingly big-league heroes than you might think. So I say we should all stop to think about being more supportive of our team. Pay for music, vote with your wallet, or your favourite could end up ‘on a list’ (brrr). A warning to us all: not voting in elections is how Coldplay ended up in power.
A perennial problem with having to choose just seven tracks for this column is that people will immediately ask about the ones you didn’t choose. So I mostly try to make my choices as personal as possible, largely in order to avoid talking to people. Aren’t replies awful? I hate feedback and I don’t mean the Jesus & Mary Chain kind.
I’m therefore choosing the Lo-Fi Allstars as one of my seven tracks, for no reason other than you weren’t wanting me to. They are in no one’s list of the most important one-hit wonders of all time. Even fewer people would have wanted the Lo-Fi Allstars to team up with Pigeonhed; I doubt even Pigeonhed, who are on this record only because the band used their original track as the bed for what can only be described as some tuneless geezering. So this really was a niche choice even for the Lo-Fi Allstars and Pigeonhed.
This track somehow reached number 36 and I was strangely proud of it for managing that. I still own it and would never get rid of it. It somehow had a life and no one knows how that happened. It’s truly one of the seven wonders of the one-hit wonder world.
4 Non-Blondes – What’s Up?
I absolutely hate this song. I hate her voice, I hate the hook, I hate its success and I hate its question mark.
What’s interesting about it is, it’s written by one of the most successful songwriters and producers of the modern age, Linda Perry. Some of the biggest singles of our time are masterminded by Perry: Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful, Gwen Stefani’s What You Waiting For?, the transatlantic success of James Blunt (thanks for removing him, Linda). She’s helped Robbie Williams, Alicia Keys, Sugababes, P!nk, Britney, Courtney, Celine Dion… and so on, and so on.
The secret of her success is not just knowing and appreciating how to make a populist sound and write an accessible tune, it’s also knowing when to shut up as no one wants to see your face at the mic. I salute her for that entirely. A music industry superstar and yet, by definition, also a one-hit wonder, having given up her own band at the first hurdle. She now has all the benefits of money and respect and none of the drawbacks of fame – smartest lady there is.
The only people who don’t love this song are the people who haven’t heard it.
The only people who bought this song are the ones that bought it on single.
Folk Implosion – Natural One
Oh, thank God, something I want to listen to. This song was written and performed by indie idler Lou Barlow with Wally Gagel from Orbit, but they don’t necessarily want you to know that, hence the new band name.
It was also written and performed for the film Kids but doesn’t feature in the film as they don’t necessarily want you to hear it. It’s not on Spotify either, the difficult bastards. Amazing then, that it charted. Something Lou Barlow never normally managed. That’ll learn him.
It’s a really great compulsive song you’ll want to listen to on repeat. Never just once.
Babylon Zoo – Spaceman
Realistically, any list of one-hit wonders should include a doffed cap to the Levi adverts. Babylon Zoo, Nick Kamen, Stiltskin, Freak Power, Mr Oizo and all the rest of the tracks people bought in their millions for no good reason other than it was also being hammered into your eyes with cloth.
I was working in Our Price when Spaceman was released and I can honestly say it was a one-of-a-kind phenomenon. We had so many boxes of the CD single we were standing on them behind the counter; there were stacks of them by the till to pass to each person as they queued up, staff passing them over once a minute like a well-oiled machine.
It was rather wonderful, then, on day two when everyone started to bring them back because the version of the song on the CD was much slower than the clip used in the advert. Never has a refund pad been as popular as a single.
Divinyls – I Touch Myself
A fantastic song that has it all – a pun band name, lyrics on the radio about wanking and a hook so mighty you could knock out Henry Cooper with it. Then a few years ago I read that Kate Moss and Pete Doherty used to sing it to each other when snogging backstage and now it makes me nauseous. That image is now yours and hopefully I can finally move on.
I’m including this again for entirely personal reasons. Even the mention of it is enough to make me laugh, and I’m not entirely sure why. There’s something about Would I Lie to You? that is intrinsically funny.
When my friends Laney and Miles lived around the corner from me in Stoke Newington, we’d all go to the pub and then drift back to their house for more wine and to laugh while starting the tunes for the night with Charles & Eddie. Many a fantastic evening truly began with these guys.
My only regret is the BBC panel show of the same name doesn’t use this as the theme song – it would be the first guaranteed laugh before the credits even finished. “OH YEAH!”3092 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.