Sunday, March 28, 2010

Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s 20 - 1

The preamble:

As I go through the One Hit Wonder countdown, I'll offer some thoughts on the song, video or anything else that pops into my head. Also, I'll examine my iTunes library and indicate if I already have the song there (H), will be downloading it (Y) or will make like Nancy Reagan, and just say no (N). Feel free to chime in with any of your personal remembrances or anecdotes as jump into the Wayback Machine with Sherman and Mr. Peabody:

100 - 81
80 - 61
60 - 41
40 - 21

Heading for the finish line!

20 Rockwell: “Somebody’s Watching Me”
Originally, I thought this was another case of nepotism, as Rockwell is really Kennedy Gordy, son of Motown Guru Berry Gordy. Daddy probably said “here’s a song, and take some Jacksons with you to sing backup.” However, the younger Gordy steadfastly maintains that he kept his identity secret, and got signed and recorded his album without his dad being aware. So good for you, Rockwell. Though now, when you hear MJ sing about someone watching him, all I can think about is child services. N

19 Dead or Alive: “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”
The Crying Game dude, before there was an actual movie with a Crying Game dude. And would kids today even understand what “like a record” means? Maybe he should do an updated version about being “plugged like a USB.” N

18 Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock: “It Takes Two”
Not being a big fan of hip hop, I don’t recall that much about this song. But Wikipedia tells me that “In David Simon's 1991 book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, which covers the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide department in 1988, Simon calls the song "the summer's hands-down winner for Sound of the Ghetto" and uses its lyrics to frame a chapter summarizing murders and other violent acts that occur over the course of the summer.” And if it’s good enough for the creator of The Wire, it’s good enough for me. N

17 Men Without Hats: “The Safety Dance”
Okay, just like everybody ran in place with “Maniac,” I’m sure everybody made a big “S” with their arms here, right? The band’s name always makes me giggle. And they had a mandolin playing dwarf in the video. That’s all I got. N

16 Nena: “99 Luft Balloons”
Who else thought Nena was kinda hot? Like a Teutonic Chrissy Hynde or something? And nobody in high school knew what the fuck a “luft balloon” was. On the TV show, they showed her now, and she’s even hotter at 50+ than she was back in the day. Maybe I should write a song about balloons. N

15 Devo: “Whip It”
Devo a one hit wonder? No love for “Working in a Coal Mine?” H

14 Big Country: “In A Big Country”
Everybody has one of those bands, or songs, that just rubs them the wrong way. This song was one of those for me. I don’t necessarily dislike it now, but at the time, every time I heard some fucking synthy bagpipe, I would reach for the volume and scream “Do Not Want!” N

13 Thomas Dolby: “She Blinded Me With Science”
Good heavens Miss Sakamoto, who doesn’t love this? This was, and remains, just a funky wacky good time song. My personal memory of this was that during my senior year in high school, I went to Atlanta for a weekend FBLA competition. One of my pals had been "challenged" by a couple of grades, and was older than I was. That’s relevant, because he could walk into a liquor store near the hotel and by a couple of bottles of vodka. Now, my parents were very open about booze and such, and I had knocked back a beer, glass of wine or cocktail every once in a while, and didn’t really wind up being one of those crazy high school kids that winds up in rehab. (I would save all my significant liver damage for college and beyond. Ya know, when I was mature). But for some reason, after the competition and before that evening’s “dance party,” Steve pulled out the vodka and we started mixing up kamikazes (which I think was actually just vodka and Sprite). We went down the dance, started cutting a rug and having a good old time. He brought another pint in his jacket, and we wound up getting completely shit-faced. I think it must have been my first real bender. I was really shy by nature, but this certainly loosened me up, and I wound up dancing with and talking to a pretty girl from Valdosta named Sandra. (“Blinded Me With Science” was one of the songs I distinctly recall from the evening). We spent the whole party together, and I ended up making out with her a little and getting her phone number. It’s a good thing I was being suave early in the evening, because later, I woke up fully clothed in the bathtub with no shoes, and no recollection of the past few hours. We eventually found one of my shoes in the ice machine (???), and I found Sandra’s number in my pants pocket. Over the summer after graduation, we called and wrote letters (Holy Shit. Kids today won’t even understand what it was like before cheap long distance, before cell phones, before texting, before email and facebook and twitter, when you ran to the mailbox each morning to see if you got a handwritten letter that was SWAK. Fuck. I’m old. Get off my lawn!), and eventually, I went down there to see her for a few days. She was really cool, and we kept in touch for a while, before we both wound up going off to college. I guess it was a bit like Danny and Sandy from Grease. Except I think she was German, not Australian. And we went off to college, not back to senior year in high school. And I don't remember her getting a black spandex makeover. And we never got in touch again. Actually, it was nothing like Grease, I don’t know what I was saying. Anyhoo, that’s what I think of when I hear this song. H

12 Animotion: “Obsession”
Not a big fan of this song. But I do like obsession. N

11 Gary Numan: “Cars”
Not a big fan of this song, either. But I do like cars. N

10 Frankie Goes to Hollywood: “Relax”
Who still has a “Frankie Says ‘Relax’” t-shirt? Not that it wouldn’t be like applying a tourniquet, if it was one from back in the day. Still a good song. And still good advice, all these years later. Like thinking about baseball. H

9 Kajagoogoo: “Too Shy”
That’s one of those band names you throw out when you want to essentially sum up 80s one hit wonders. Kajagoogoo. Just say it slowly. Kajagoogoo. No, we weren’t too proud (or too shy!) in the 80s. The lead singer’s hair look like he skinned a Persian cat, put it on his head, and then rubbed it vigorously with a balloon (but probably not a luft balloon) N

8 Bow Wow Wow: “I Want Candy”
A nubile 15 year old with a great rack and a Mohawk, singing about candy. What’s not to love? (Wait, you don’t have to register with the police and talk to the neighbors if you type that, do you?) H

7 Modern English: “I Melt With You”
This song has been featured in so many movies and compilations, it’s almost the anthem of the 80s. Who didn’t sing this to their girlfriend back then? Great then, great now. H

6 Toni Basil: “Mickey”
This is the flip side of “I Melt With You.” Just as ubiquitous in 80s retrospectives, but annoying as hell then, annoying as hell now. I think the only time I appreciated it was when it was used in Bring It On. N

5 Soft Cell: “Tainted Love”
English new wave synth combined with Gloria Jones and the Supremes? Oh yeah, this is still good. H

4 Tommy Tutone: “867-5309 / Jenny”
I don’t know what it is about this song, but it is still one of the most played in my iTunes library. Tommy Tutone certainly wasn’t part of the Tiger Beat, telegenic parade of pop idols in the 80s (like, say Duran Duran), nor did they ever reach the charts with anything else, but this really and truly is just a perfect slice of pop rock that endures after all these years. A great, fun song, even today. Personal memory: in the area where I went to high school, 867 was a local exchange. So naturally after the song became popular (and before the era of caller ID, or ten digit dialing), every teen called 867-5309 and asked for “Jenny.” And OF COURSE it was an old, retired lady who didn’t have the first clue about what the fuck was going on. And OF COURSE the local news did a feature about local hooligans harassing this poor senior citizen because of some “rock song.” Hee. Now, since everyone has BlackBerries and iPhones and the like, you don’t have to remember anyone’s phone number. I bet anyone over 40 couldn’t tell you their best friend’s phone number, or their girlfriend’s number, but they could sure as hell tell you Jenny’s. H

3 A-Ha: “Take On Me”
The song and video were so popular, A-Ha got tapped to do a Bond theme. Anyone remember “The Living Daylights” as a song? Uh, no. Poor Timothy Dalton, who was an underrated Bond, stuck with bad scripts and movies. This was a good song for the era, but an ALL TIME video. N

2 Flock of Seagulls: “I Ran (So Far Away)”
Hair? H

1 Dexys Midnight Runners: “Come on Eileen”
While I might have missed the nuance of what was really going on with “Turning Japanese,” I think I may have read way too much into this one, just based on the title. N

1 comment:

  1. Mongoloid, he was a Mongoloid, one chromosome too many. Devo a one hit wonder? I also say nay. Great cover of Satisfaction, maybe I'm just such a fan their impact seems bigger to me than it really was. Their lack of success is actually proof of their core concept-de-evolution.

    Try to find anybody who doesn't like Tainted Love.

    I am not that big of a hip-hop fan but even I remember It Takes Two-to get a thing done right.