June 7th, 2011


Oh, really?

Over the past couple of weeks I've been reading the book 99 Red Balloons... and 100 Other All-time Great One Hit Wonders by Brent Mann. It's an interesting book, and has a lot of useful things to say about some of the artists mentioned. But the book has one big problem.

It works on the theory that, if a song isn't a big, memorable hit in America, it isn't a hit at all.

So, for example, Madness (see user picture) get into the book on the back of Our House, despite having had a string of huge (and quite memorable) hits elsewhere in the world (for some time, in New Zealand, it was impossible not to hear One Step Beyond regularly due to it being on an ad for some variation on Lotto).

Big Country make it into the book for In a Big Country (I'm not sure, but Fields of Fire might actually have been a bigger hit over here). Midnight Oil make it in for Beds are Burning (barely the tip of the iceberg of their musical legacy). Devo show up with Whip It (didn't Working in a Coal Mine get any attention in America?); A-Ha have Take On Me (I would have thought at least one of the singles off Scoundrel Days would have gone somewhere) and the Proclaimers have I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) (the book must have come out before I'm On My Way ended up featuring prominently in a cartoon film). I'm fairly sure Dexys Midnight Runners' Geno was a big hit somewhere, but they make it into the book on account of Come On Eileen.

Unsurprisingly, the only locals to make it into the book are the Otara Millionaires Club for How Bizarre (Crowded House and Split Enz wouldn't qualify, despite both bands being one-hit wonders in Britain, because in America they had two hits and no hits, respectively).

But perhaps most the most interesting parts of the book are the lists of also-rans. Many articles on the one-hit-wonders named also contain digressions into other similarly themed one-hit-wonders who haven't made the main list. One list of new-wave bands lists Romeo Void, on account of a song called A Girl in Trouble (Is a Terrible Thing) (they're a one-hit-wonder over here, too, but in this case for Never Say Never), and Status Quo are mentioned for Pictures of Matchstick Men (the only song of theirs that seems to ever get remembered these days is Rockin' All Over The World); however, most amusingly of all, right at the start, while digressing from discussion of Katrina and the Waves' Walking on Sunshine, the following is mentioned:
During the early to mid-80s, there must have been some potent, magical one-hit wonder dust floating in the air above the U.K.'s capital, because from 1983 through 1986, the city straddling the River Thames produced a seemingly endless parade of memorable, and sometimes quirky, one-hit acts: After the Fire ("Der Kommissar"), Boys Don't Cry ("I Wanna Be a Cowboy"), Kate Bush ("Running Up That Hill"), Haircut One Hundred ("Love Plus One"), Paul Hardcastle ("19"), Kajagoogoo ("Too Shy"), and Re-Flex ("The Politics of Dancing")
Emphasis mine.

So, hands up anyone over in America who's familiar with Wuthering Heights (the song, that is...)