There’s a reason why we’re beginning to see an influx in ’80s music drilled back into today’s music. From Harry Styles plucking a-ha‘s Take On Me, to Kate Bush’s Running up That Hill becoming relevant once again within mainstream media for Netflix purchasing, the real (and perhaps only) reason why it’s coming round again is because the ’80s was just too damn good to pass up and confine it to the history books… Aaand some bands become explosive off just one song or record.
So here is my top 10 ONE HIT WONDERS of the 1980s. Now, there are a number of songs on this list that were possibly one hit wonders in the US, mind, but in other countries there were follow-up hits. A-ha, for example, had several hits in many, many countries. So let me know what you think I missed and what songs deserve to be higher! I hope you see a great list with fantastic memories tied to all.
#10: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive
British dance-pop group, Dead Or Alive found commercial stardom when they released You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) in 1985 – resulting in their first number one hit off the succeeding record, Youthquake during the same year. Although follow-up Brand New Lover kept the band visible in the limelight during ’87, Mad, Bad and Dangerous proved disastrous at home and in the US, which went on to tarnish an otherwise sleek starting position for Pete Burns and crew.
#9: Tainted Love – Soft Cell
Eclipsed in early ’80s, the British new wave synth duo Soft Cell debut album was released in 1981 and they soon became known for their smash cover of Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love, which turned the pop-soul tune into a haunting electronic torch song, resulting in a thriving moment for the already-attentive new wave scene growing in the ’80s. Their debut, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret reached the Top Five in the Album charts for both the UK and Canada – while Tainted Love, reached number 1 in multiple countries, peaked at number eight on the Hot 100 and spent a successive 40 weeks in the charts. While Soft Cell never found the sweet spot of U.S singles chart again, they found familial success with stand-alone single Torch in 1982, that also featured on the debut as a 7″ single version.
#8: 867-5309 / Jenny – Tommy Tutone
Tommy Tutone was an early-80s power pop ballad led by vocalist Tommy Heath and guitarist Jim Keller. While first single Angle Say No in the ’80s, barely scraped into the American Top 40, it was 867-5309 / Jenny that send the band spiralling to the top, hitting number four and finding gold. As is customary for this list, the band was never able to duplicate this success again and shortly broke up after the release of third album, National Emotion in ’83.
#7: Missing You – John Waite
As a solo artist and lead singer for the Babys and Bad English, Waite was a classic radio staple during the late-’70s and through the ’70s. Ultimately discovering his true talent through driving arena rock and power ballads, his solo work resulted in an international smash hit, Missing You, which is conically remembered as one of the first for the early MTV era. It was his second album, ’84s No Brakes which found the rightful spot of a Top Ten hit with Missing You, again resulting in a Number One single to his name, alongside Bad English’s When I See You Smile in ’89 and the Babys’ Isn’t It Time in ’77. A stagnant solo career resulted when ’87’s Rover’s Return conjured up no resounding hit success.
#6: Whip It – DEVO
One of new wave’s most innovative (and darn right coolest) bands to surface – alongside alternative Kraftwerk), DEVO grew from the Midwestern underground of the 1970s with a startling self-image to boot and stylised visuals, 1980’s Freedom of Choice cut through the crowd and turned heads, most notably with Whip It, accompanying the fledging MTV network that was constantly growing. Developing a philosophy of “de-evolution” – where humankind had actually regressed, evidenced by the herd-like state of American society – their legacy would span for decades with their ideals and imagery still proving poignant to this day. While their careers weaned off from the late-80s, (understandably so, considering their imagery at the time), they would re-emerge as late as the 2010s with a mighty collaboration with Disney, of all things.
#5: I Melt With You
Inspired by the stylish gloom of Joy Division and Bauhaus at the time, Modern English were formally, a punk band – despite I Melt With You giving off an upbeat pop act-vibe. Comprised of warmer and softer undertones, a streamlined After The Snow released in ’82 featuring I Melt With You and honourable mention, Life In The Gladhouse. An enduring hit of the new eave era, I Melt With You featured promimently across many-a media including teen rom-com Valley Girl and video-rotation via MTV. Eventually, Modern English’s commercial momentum somewhat stalled at the release of 84’s Ricochet Days, forever cementing I Melt With You as a one-hit wonder in the 1980s.
#4: I Ran (So Far Away)
A Flock of Seagulls
Now, this one is a fairly controversial within this list. Despited often being referred to as a one-hit wonder, they charted twice as many times in their native UK as they did in the U.S between ’81 and ’85, including Top Ten hit, Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You). Lauded as one of those definitive bands to coast into the new eave era, A Flock of Seagulls and their self-titled debut in ’82 rose to fame. With their distinctive winged hairstyle, the song’s video became a heavy staple rotation during that summer, most notably on MTV, resulting in I Ran charting as an American Top Ten and put the band on the new wave map. The follow-up lush-synth single Space Age Love Song did just as well, peaking at number 30. Textured and sleek dance-pop, A Flock of Seagulls would go on to storm with the second LP, ’83s, Listen, up-keeping with their tremendous track record from the eponymous debut.
#3: Our House
Along with The Specials, Madness were one of the leading bands of hte late-70s ska revival that swept throughout the UK. Folding into British pop circles, the band’s jaunty, Kinks-influenced Our House broke through mainstream listeners around the globe, rising to the upper echelons of numerous singles charts. Receiving heavy MTV airplay again, Our House brought their late ’82 record, The Rise & Fall, and would go on to become a British classic with the likes of House of Fun and Tomorrow’s (Just Another Day). Shifting to full-fledged “nutty pop” prowess, the conciding with MTV and Our House resulted in an explosive form overseas in America, sending the single to Top Ten in ’83. While Madness were seemingly a one-hit wonder across the pond, back in Britain, they would become one of the most popular bands, unrivalled for more than three years, with 13 Top Ten singles uninterrupted. Thus became, the widespread rivalry with The Jam and Madness.
#2: Take On Me
We’re noticing a pattern emerging here on this list. Their debut single that we all know and love, Take On Me, went through three different versions before becoming a hit in the U.K, eventually reaching number two in the charts in late ’85. It went one better in the U.S., mainly down to – you guessed it – the wide exposure of the stunning video on MTV, which fused animation to real-life action. Which, after the initial Video Killed The Radio Star, it will all be a music video we would come to remember for many years to come, forever cementing its legacy in music. Following from their synth-pop debut of Hunting High and Low in 1985, the press were quick to dismiss them as nothing more than a teeny bop sensation that will pass, certainly with the likes of The Sun Always Shines on T.V. and the self-titled Hunting High and Low. But they returned with a more mature effort in October of ’86 with Scoundrel Days. From here, it would span out to be a highly fruitful career spanning over 40 years… and they’re still touring to this day. Take On Me has since surpassed one billion listens on Spotify.
#1: Come on Eileen
Dexys Midnight Runners
So, here it is. The number 1 slot, was there any doubt? Dexys Midnight Runners are best known in America as of one of new wave’s ultimate one-hit wonders, thanks to their 1982 smash Cmon on Eileen, a distinctive Dexy spin of ’80s pop, Celtic folk and blue-eyed soul. In the U.K however, they earned a fairly credible reputation in terms of music, style and impression for ’80s music and music to come. Referred as a more organic and soulful sound in the post-punk/new wave era, their debut album – successfully reworked after master tapes were nicked from the band – Searching For The Young Rebels caused a sensation in 1980 with Geno (fitting tribute to American-born soul singer Geno Washington), Seven Days Too Long and There There My Dear standing out as singles in their own right.
The second album Too-Rye-Ay hit shelves in 1982 steeped in striking Irish folk influence, with Celtic Soul Brothers fairly well received, but it was the might of Cmon on Eileen that altered the course for the band, drawing up their second Number 1 in the UK in two years. A few months later, helped by the group’s highly visual MTV-ready appeal, Cmon on Eileen broke in America and went all the way to the top over there aswell. Unfortunately, after the band’s peak of success, several of the core members disbanded, resulting in the stagnant fall for the Dexys Midnight Runners. Showcasing the might of the single, the band released a re-released attempt of Too-Rye-Ay (As It Should Have Sounded 2022) trying within their best efforts to remain synonymous with success.