Sunday, July 17, 2005

One-Hit Blunder

One-hit wonders. We all know 'em. We may not all love 'em, but there are plenty of 'em out there. The one-hitters are a great example of how, occasionally, the music-listening public gets it right.

Maybe it's just because I don't listen to mainstream radio now as much as I used to, but it seems that there aren't as many one-hit wonders today as there were in the '70s, '80s and '90s. Nowadays, it seems like any crappy quasi-punk band or bootylicious girl can get a record deal and have single after single embraced by an audience who seemingly enjoy being spoon-fed the same old same old. The great thing about one-hit wonders was that they gave us the only really good song that they were capable of churning out, and then got the hell out of the way. Sure, they would try to hang on as long as they could, and to keep living the glamorous life, who wouldn't? But eventually they knew when the party was over and they took their ball of money and went home. There comes a point when they stop boo-hooing over being has beens and become thankful for their time in the sun and bask in the glow of the 3-minute lottery ticket they wrote for themselves.

Now, not all flashes in the pan fit the above description. In fact, there are 3 categories that all OHWs fit into. They are as follows:

1. Don't Worry, Be Happy - The folks in this group are the ones I was just talking about. They probably know that their hit was a fluke, but enjoyed making music and living the high life while it lasted. They genuinely like their song and are happy that the public embraced it. When their time in the music biz was up, they accepted it and moved on. Instead of becoming raging alcoholics or begging to play high school assemblies and dog shows, they used their money to finance business ventures or they just *gasp* saved it, started a family, moved on to another career and lived the rest of their lives out of the spotlight. Occasionally members of this group try a 2nd shot at fame with a new band, look or sound, but that will generally flop and they decide not to be a glutton for punishment. Some of them will end up working in the music business in some capacity and that helps them stay in the industry without embarassing themselves. The most successful example of this type of OHW that I can think of is Danny Elfman, former lead vocalist of Oingo Boingo. Now, I know all of the closet Oingo Boingo fans will suddenly appear, claiming that they weren't a one-hit wonder. Honestly, I think I'm being generous because I don't believe they ever really had a bona-fide "hit". Most people remember them for Weird Science. The great Oingo Boingo debate aside, Elfman has become a well-respected composer and the go-to guy for weird movie scores. Another member of this group is Toni Basil, who went back to being a choreographer after giving us Mickey, aka The Beast That Won't Die.

2. The Neverending Story - Ok, these are the ones I feel sorry for. These are the people who just won't go away no matter how much we all want them to. The groups consisting of one original member and a bunch of guys who just don't give a damn. The bands who announce reunion tours when there wasn't a shred of demand for them to get back together. The guys who show up at every rib festival and car cruise they can, playing for little or no money just for that chance to be onstage again. The girls who take it off for Playboy in lame attempts to jumpstart their careers. These are the Tiffanys, the Flocks of Seagulls, the Tommy Tutones and a good majority of hair bands. Members of this group will take any commercial endorsements that come their way and they would sell their souls to the devil for just one more hit. They are fully prepared to spend the rest of their lives squeezing every last drop of fame out of their one-hit wonder status.

3. We're Not Gonna Take It - This group is in complete contrast with group #2. It consists of "serious" singer/songwriters who managed to write a song that achieved mainstream success...much to their horror. Because, hey, it's about the music, man. Apparently it's better to toil in relative obscurity than have a hit on the Billboard charts. Or so these guys tell themselves, so they don't have to admit that maybe they're not quite the bards that they think they are. I don't think Dylan or Springsteen ever balked at having a radio hit. Then again, those guys never had a problem writing consistently good songs.

My example for group #3 will be a fellow by the name of Charlie Sexton. Now, if you've been paying attention, you'll remember I mentioned having a story about him in an earlier entry. This is it...and I'll try to give you all the P.S. version. If you don't know who Charlie is, I'll summarize. He had a top 20 hit back in '85 with Beat's So Lonely when he was just 19 years old. If pressed to name my favorite song from the '80s, that would most likely be it. He was considered a guitar prodigy back then and someone that everyone was expecting great things from. Well, those great things never really materialized. He resurfaced again around '92 with The Arc Angels and then in '95 or '96, fronting the Charlie Sexton Sextet. My best friend and I decided to go see him when he came to Pittsburgh on tour. We both loved Beat's So Lonely and were really hoping to hear it, even though we realized it was 10 years later and he was supporting an album of new material. Still, we thought that was the song that put him on the map and what a lot of people remembered him for. We were right up front and before the show started, we were talking about the song when, behind us, this drunk redheaded chick and her friend overheard and started yelling that they loved that song too, along with some other minor hits from his first record. So, once the show started, they were egging us on to scream for BSL after every song. Being giddy at the time, we went along with them and started yelling for it at every break. Finally after about the 4th or 5th song, Charlie looks down directly at us and says into the microphone, "It's not gonna happen". We were all flabbergasted. Not only because we weren't going to hear our song, but because he had kind of a shitty attitude about it. So, my friend and I were a little peeved, but his new stuff was good, so we decided to just get over it and enjoy the show. Red wasn't having it though. She started screaming and wouldn't let up. It was a barrage of obscenities sprinkled with lines like "we're your fans, you bastard, you'd be nowhere without us" and my personal favorite of the evening, "give me the microphone, I'll sing it myself". She was absolutely flipping out, and although it started out funny, it became pretty irritating because I couldn't pay attention to the music. Then out of nowhere, during a song break Charlie "shush-ed" her. He was visibly annoyed and giving her the stink-eye during the whole show, but I guess he just had enough and gave her a very stern, almost parental "shushing". (The first and only time I've ever experienced such an occurence at a concert.) As you can imagine, drunk redhead didn't cotton to that. I really thought that we were going to be escorted out of there because he must have assumed that we were with her. I caught Chuck throwing a few dirty looks my way as well.

Now that I think back on it, I understand why he wouldn't want to perform that song. I totally get that he had moved on and wanted to focus on the present rather than the past. And it's quite possible that his band didn't even know how to play that song. So, not playing it wasn't really the big deal. The real issue is that I think he handled it a bit like a punk. He never seemed to appreciate the fact that, as Red said, we were his fans, and he wouldn't have been anywhere without us. He didn't have to do the song, but he could've been a little more diplomatic about it. The easy to please 22-year old that I was then let it slide. The grumpy 32-year old that I am now would've told Charlie to take his song and shove it. I still love that song, but he doesn't have to know that.

You know....I'm starting to wonder now if I was a bit too hard on group #2. Truth be told, I'd much rather sit through a Trixter set at the Regatta than hear one more Nickleback song.


drizzlenightsky said...

The stupidest song ever to have hit the airwaves and actually became a hit was the Ketchup Song...i don't believe that the band responsible for that sham of a composition came up with another that was embraced with the same enthusiasm by the people and i sincerely hope it stays that way...

pia said...

The greatest one hit wonder of all time is from probably before your time!

Question Mark & the Mysterians (think that's how it's spelled)
96 teardrops

It's a song I can hear over and over again which was good when I went to hear the group a few years ago, as it was all they played.

josh said...

chumbawumba, tubthumping.

Lee Ann said...

You said it just right. haha, made me reminisce. Come on Eileen, by Dexy's Midnight Runners. Gosh there are so many good ones out there.

Walter said...

I have a couple of one hit blunders:

1. "I'm too sexy" Right said Fred
2. "The Macarena" Los Del Rios


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