God bless the one-hit wonder.
Without the easily digestible music created by flash-in-the-pan musical acts — the kind that fall into success with a solitary chart-topping tune only to disappear from public consciousness a scant month later — adult contemporary radio disc jockeys wouldn’t have nearly as many earworms to choose from when picking out the list of thirty songs they are going to play over and over again ad nauseum during the four hours it takes to navigate Houston traffic during rush hour.
One-hit wonders make up a surprisingly large percentage of the songs played on the radio, it seems. Between those infernally catchy State Farm Insurance jingles, there is a good chance you’re going to find yourself listening to a band whose success peaked long before they could ever start planning the cover art for their greatest hits album.
We here at the Alamo love one-hit wonders. Their brief, shining success is like a time capsule — perfectly encapsulating a generation’s musical tastes while also solidifying the fickleness of fame’s kind eye. Also, they’re really, really catchy.
That’s why, during the month of September, we’re celebrating four decades of one-hit wonders with our ULTIMATE ONE HIT WONDERS Sing-Along. Programmed by the fine folks of The Action Pack, this sing-along takes you through the greatest one-hit bands from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s.
To prepare for this incredibly awesome event, let’s take a trip through the one-hit wonder yearbook and see what some of our favorite sole singers from the past are up to today.
I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. You can bet your behind I listened to “Macarena,” that hellishly catchy dance tune from Spain’s premiere ‘90s Latin dance group. The band never found success in the US outside of “Macarena.” They did, however, milk the song for all it was worth by remixing it over and over again for years following its release. Almost every single one of their six albums featured the song in some style or remix. In 1998, Los del Rio teamed up with fellow one-hit wonders the Baha Men for a collaboration titled “Car Loca Rosa.” The song also featured MC Hammer. Shortly following the release of the tune, the band broke up and were (thankfully) never heard from again.
“Tainted Love,” Soft Cell’s only American hit, wasn’t even an original tune; Gloria Jones first recorded the song. It was Soft Cell that made it a modern hit, though, and the band never quite found the follow-up success in the USA that they sorta, kinda maybe did in the UK. After celebrating a few Top 40 hits in the jolly old England, the band decided to call it quits in 1984. They reunited in 2001 for a small tour and new songs. The fact that we’re not all jamming to the latest Soft Cell tune should give you an idea of how successful that reunion was.
While the British band found a modicum of success in their native country, everybody knows the only real measure of a band’s worth is how their music performs in the land of Bald Eagles and Big Macs. By that standard, then, “Come On Eileen” was the sole blip in the band’s career pulse. When Dexys Midnight Runners broke up in 1986, lead singer Kevin Rowland tried to embark on a solo career but was not successful. After the 1999 release of the commercially disastrous (but mildly listenable) record “My Beauty,” Rowland cobbled together a new version of the band and released a greatest hits album. No, the CD did not have only one track, smartass. As of last year, the band is in the studio working on some new tunes. Nothing’s been heard since, though, so somebody should probably go and check on them. They might have forgot to pack a lunch and starved to death.
Brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass found an unbelievable amount of success with their 1991 song “I’m Too Sexy.” After they did their little turn on the catwalk, yeah, the catwalk for a few months, the brothers disappeared back into the thick, enveloping mists of obscurity from whence they emerged. It was in this fog of out-of-sightedness that the band has been able to actually continue recording music up to this day. Their song “You’re My Mate” was used as the official anthem of the South Africa national rugby union team in 2002. During the mid ‘00s, the brothers toured with fellow one-hit wonder Nena — another musician whose lack of US success hides the fact she’s filthy rich from her deity-like status in Europe. The brothers have released eight records — which is, needless to say, more than I have so I should probably stop making fun of one-hit wonders now.
Instead of mocking these wonders, let’s celebrate their work at our two Alamo Drafthouse Sing-Alongs. It’ll be more fun than a barrel full of Chumbawambas.