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National One-Hit Wonder Day Comes Sept. 25 (VIDEO)

First Posted: 09/23/11 02:07 PM ET   Updated: 11/23/11 05:12 AM ET

Andy Warhol said everyone gets 15 minutes of fame, but if you ask one-hit wonders, they'll say you're lucky to get 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

Before reality TV started turning ordinary folks into stars, there was no faster path to the peak of celebrity -- and no more direct route back to the depths of obscurity -- than being a one-hit wonder.

Granted, there are probably good reasons why folks like Los Del Rio, the two middle-aged Spanish guys who took "Macarena" to No. 1 in 1996, never followed up their big hit, and the world was surely okay with making C.W. McCall's 1976 hit "Convoy" the only No. 1 song dedicated to CB radio.

But we come here to praise one-hit wonders, not to bury them. For every one-and-done novelty like "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees or annoyingly catchy and cloying tune like Charlene's 1983 smash "I've Never Been To Me," there is a stone-cold classic like "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. or "Sex And Candy" by Marcy Playground.

Music writer Steve Rosen thinks all of them have a place and deserve a special day: Sept. 25 to be exact, which he declared as National One-Hit Wonder Day in 1990.

Rosen has a special love for those acts who came in, made their statement and didn't hang around -- even the embarrassing songs like the aforementioned "Macarena" or even "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band.

"You have to take the kitsch with the classics," he told HuffPost Weird News. "It's interesting to hear a song like 'Disco Duck' and wonder what people were thinking."

While many people associate the phrase "one-hit wonder" with what they were doing when songs like "Seasons In The Sun" by Terry Jacks (1974) or "Unbelievable" by EMF (1991) were big on the charts, Rosen believes their heyday was the early years of rock.

"Back in the 1950s and 60s, independent record labels ruled rock and there were all sorts of avenues where a catchy song could get played on the radio," Rosen said. "It left a lot of good music, more than we probably can catalog."

Rosen stopped openly promoting National One-Hit Wonder Day in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, but the day has lived on without him.

"I was driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas one time on Sept. 25 -- which is also my birthday -- and I heard a disc jockey announce it was 'National One-Hit Wonder Day,'" Rosen said proudly. "So it's taken a life of its own."

Early on, Rosen had rules about what constitutes a true one-hit wonder.

"I used to be a purist," he confessed. "To me, only a band that had one chart hit and disappeared could count as a one-hit wonder. However, I've modified that opinion. Take Looking Glass. They hit No. 1 in 1972 with 'Brandy (You're A Fine Girl),' and while they had another hit, 'Jimmy Loves Mary Anne,' a year later, it only went to No. 33.

"So, no, the letter of the law says they weren't one-hit wonders, but the spirit of the law says they were because no one is calling a radio station asking to hear 'Jimmy Loves Mary Anne.' People don't remember the follow-up hit, they remember the impact of the first song," said Rosen.

SING ALONG TO GREAT (AND NOT-SO-GREAT) ONE-HIT WONDERS -- AND UPLOAD YOUR FAVES! (Story continues below)

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  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Lipps Inc., a Minneapolis-based studio group, hit No. 1 with "Funkytown," a song so robotic that it always sounds contemporary, even 30 years later. Songwriter/producer Steven Greenberg says no official video was ever made so this version comes from a German TV show called "Beat Club."

  • One Hit Wonderful

    Alan O'Day hit No. 1 in 1977 with "Undercover Angel," and never hit the top 40 under his own name again. However, he wrote "Angie Baby," a huge hit for Helen Reddy and "Rock And Roll Heaven," a top 10 hit for the Righteous Brothers. Despite the video, the song had no connection with "Charlie's Angels," until Drew Barrymore did the movie version.

  • One Hit Wonderful

    The Waitresses only hit No. 62 with "I Know What Boys Like," but the song has lasted, thanks to uses in commercials and movies whenever they need a quick way to signify the 1980s.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    When one-hit wonders are discussed, Dexys Midnight Runners, a ska soul band with Celtic influences, is usually high on the list with 1983's "Come On Eileen." This song's rise to No. 1 was helped by MTV, which jumped on the video and forced radio to play the song.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Bobby Pickett had a one-hit wonder -- twice. "Monster Mash" reached No. 1 in 1962 and No. 10 in 1973.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Billy Vera actually had four chart hits before he hit No. 1 with "At This Moment" in 1986, after the song was featured on "Family Ties." However, it's often included in one-hit wonder stories. Vera doesn't mind because every time the song is played -- even as part of a one-hit wonder special -- he makes money.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    While Edison Lighthouse hit No. 5 in 1970 with "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)," lead singer Tony Burrows owns a unique distinction: most one-hit wonders by any artist. Burrows' voice appeared on five big hit singles: "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)," White Plains' "My Baby Loves Lovin'," The Pipkins' novelty song "Gimme Dat Ding," The First Class' "Beach Baby" and The Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand."

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    "Take On Me" by the Norwegian group A-ha is a controversial one-hit wonder for two reasons: The band actually had a very long and successful career outside the United States, and they actually followed up the song with "The Sun Always Shines On TV," which hit No. 20 on the charts. However, the fact that no one in the U.S. ever asks a radio station to play the latter song pretty much puts the band in the one-hit category.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Charlene's hit, "I've Never Been To Me," is a love-hate one-hit wonder: Many people love to hate it, and many hate to love it. The song has been spoofed by Paul Shaffer, in the movie "Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert," and by many a karaoke singer.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Looking Glass hit No. 1 in 1972 with "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)," which is still a popular tune on oldies stations. The band did get to No. 33 with a follow-up single, "Jimmy Loves Mary Anne," but one-hit wonder historian Brent Mann considers that a technicality and the group is still a one-hit wonder in the minds and ears of American music lovers.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Big Mountain, a San Diego-based reggae band, hit No. 6 in 1994 when "Baby, I Love Your Way" was featured on the soundtrack to the Ben Stiller/Winona Ryder comedy "Reality Bites." The band is still together and is especially popular in Brazil and Japan, where they recently toured.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    After Rick Dees hit No. 1 with "Disco Duck" in 1976, he tried to follow it up with "Discorilla," but the public had moved on. So he went back to his real job as a disc jockey and became very successful.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Thomas Dolby's one top 40 single "She Blinded Me With Science" reached No. 5 in 1983, propelled by a video he directed himself. These days, much of his income comes from Beatnik Inc., a company that provides "audio sonification tools" to Internet users. He has also composed hundreds of ringtones.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals only reached No. 36 on the charts, but was a popular radio hit and is still heard on commercials. The band was mostly the work of Gregg Alexander, but Danielle Brisebois, who as a child actor appeared on "Archie Bunker's Place," also sings and plays keyboards.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    OMC, or Otara Millionaires Club, was a New Zealand-based group led by Phil Fuemana, who died in January 2010. The song "How Bizarre" hit No. 4 on <em>Billboard</em> magazine's airplay chart in 1997, despite not being released as a single commercially. But it was the most-played song on radio that year.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    The Baha Men had been together in their native Bahamas for nearly 20 years before they hit it big stateside with "Who Let The Dogs Out" in 2000. The band tried to hit it again with another animal ditty, "Crocodile Rock," but haven't struck gold since.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Los Del Rio, a Spanish Latin dance group formed in 1992, hit No. 1 in 1996 with "Macarena," a dance step that was briefly a worldwide craze -- even after Al Gore did his version at the 1996 Democratic Convention.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Marcy Playground hit No. 8 in 1997 with "Sex And Candy," a song that some people thought was an old Nirvana track. The band is still together despite not reaching the pop charts since (although they have had some modern rock hits).

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Debby Boone, Pat Boone's daughter, hit No. 1 with "You Light Up My Life," which spent 10 weeks at the top -- a record at the time. The song's composer, Joe Brooks, turned the ditty into a movie. In his later years, he was accused of a series of casting-couch rapes. He was indicted in 2009, but committed suicide before he could be brought to trial.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    The Grateful Dead had been around for two decades when the group finally hit the singles chart in 1987 with "Touch Of Grey." Considering the group had recorded many hit albums and was a successful touring act, it is a subject of debate among one-hit wonder buffs whether the Grateful Dead truly qualifies as a one-hit wonder.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Starland Vocal Band hit No. 1 in 1976 with this ode to midday quickies. The group won the Best New Artist Grammy. Although they never hit the charts again, Bill and Taffy Danoff helped co-write the John Denver classic "Country Roads (Take Me Home)."

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    "Rapper's Delight" was the first rap song to cross over to the mainstream, hitting No. 36 on the charts despite being available only as a 12-inch single. Although this was the Sugarhill Gang's sole pop hit, the rhythm track has been a hit two other times: "Good Times" by Chic (the original source material) and "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Chumbawamba hit No. 6 in 1997 with "Tubthumping," perhaps the only song ever to reach the top 10 that had the word "pissing" in it. It might have risen higher, but female singer Alice Nutter appeared on the American talk show "Politically Incorrect" and advised fans who could not afford the group's CDs to steal them from large chain stores.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    In 1968, Tiny Tim briefly became the biggest star in show business thanks to appearances on TV and this novelty hit, "Tip Toe Through The Tulips." Although Tim was often called a has-been in later years, he took it as a compliment because it meant he had once "been" something.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Canadian singer Alannah Myles hit No. 1 in 1990 and won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance with "Black Velvet." Although it was her only U.S. chart hit, she has many hits in her native land.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Biz Markie has been called "the Clown Prince of Hip Hop," and while his 1989 hit "Just A Friend" marks his only trip to the charts under his own name, he did appear on the Rolling Stones' 1997 hit "Anybody Seen My Baby."

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Pilot, a band from Edinburgh, Scotland, that featured ex-members of the Bay City Rollers, flew to No. 5 in 1974 with "Magic," which was produced by Alan Parsons. The group had some other hits in England, but never landed on the U.S. charts again.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Daniel Powter hit No. 1 in 2006 with "Bad Day," the most popular song of that year. It may be too early to call him a one-hit wonder, but he has yet to return to the charts.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    The Standells rose to No. 11 in 1966 with "Dirty Water," considered a prototypical punk song. A protest ditty against curfew laws at Boston universities, the song has become a standard at sporting events in Beantown whenever the local team wins a game.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Eiffel 65 hit No. 6 in 1999 with "Blue (Da Ba Dee)." The Italian three-piece group, which is best known for pioneering in pitch correction and autotune, hasn't hit the U.S. charts since, but is supposedly working on a comeback with a new lineup.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Billy Ray Cyrus only hit the U.S. top 40 once with his 1992 smash "Achy Breaky Heart," but he parlayed that fame into several country hits, a few hit albums and, eventually, a hit-making daughter in Mylie Cyrus.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    When Right Said Fred hit No. 1 in 1991 with "I'm Too Sexy," the group became the first U.K. artists since the Beatles to reach the No. 1 slot in the United States with a debut single. Although the band never hit the pop charts again, the song is constantly heard on TV shows and commercials.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 blockbuster, usually inspires one of two reactions: Some think it's perhaps the filthiest song ever to spend three weeks at No. 1, while others consider it a sensitively written sonnet to the pleasures of a large female derriere. Word on the street is he's planning a comeback in late 2011.

  • One-Hit Wonderful

    Starbuck, no relation to the coffee chain, rose to No. 3 in 1976 with "Moonlight Feels Right," a jazzy little tune that may be the only top 10 hit with a xylophone solo performed by a guy in a chest-baring jumpsuit. The group did have a No. 38 hit in 1977 with "Everybody Be Dancing," but one-hit wonder historian Brett Mann compares that to a rookie baseball player hitting 30 home runs in his rookie year and five the next.

Former Looking Glass leader Elliot Lurie, who wrote and sang "Brandy," understands why he gets lumped into the one-hit wonder box, but has this philosophy: "One is better than none."

"If you know the technical definition of a one-hit wonder, we don't qualify, but 'Brandy' just keeps coming back. I don't take offense to the term. 'Brandy' still has an impact and it worked. All the parts came together. If I knew how to do it again, I would," Lurie said.

By the same token, Rosen doesn't consider the Grateful Dead or Jimi Hendrix to be one-hit wonders, even though they had only one song each that hit the top 40 charts.

And then there are those musicians who have recorded more than one one-hit wonder. For instance, British singer Tony Burrows sang lead on five early 1970s pop classics: Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)," White Plains' "My Baby Loves Lovin'," The Pipkins' novelty song "Gimme Dat Ding," The First Class' "Beach Baby" and The Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand."

Billy Vera is one artist who gets lumped into the one-hit wonder category because his 1986 No. 1 hit "At This Moment" looms so large in his career.

In truth, Vera had four top 40 hits in the 1960s and 1970s before "At This Moment" was played on the popular sitcom "Family Ties" and hit it big. But he doesn't mind being miscategorized as a one-hit wonder.

"It doesn't bother me. Every time it gets used -- even on a one-hit wonder special on VH-1 -- I make money," said Vera, who is able to look bemusedly at the one-hit wonder tag because he's had a long, varied career that has included writing hits for Dolly Parton, leading the house band on George Lopez's recently canceled talk show and producing reissue albums of his favorite bands.

Vera also doesn't think having just one hit is a bad thing.

"A lot of people only have one great hit in them," Vera said. "I suspect many of those one-hits were huge, and there is nothing harder to follow than a big hit because expectations are so high. Sometimes, the follow-up is just a rewrite of that big hit."

Steven Greenberg is another musician who knows the elusive joy of having that one big moment. In 1980, he was the mastermind behind Lipps Inc., which gave the world one of the all-time great one-shots with "Funkytown," a dance hit that is still played regularly all over the world.

"I don't mind having that one hit," he said. "I call it 'one-hit wonderful.'"

Greenberg won't discuss how much money he's earned from the song, except to say it's allowed him "some creative freedom." For instance, he was able to produce and direct a 1998 documentary called "Funkytown," which followed the careers of five bands from his home town of Minneapolis.

"[The song] is a nice calling card with a certain segment of the population," Greenberg acknowledged. "Everyone has a positive response to it. It opens doors."

Pop culture historian Brent Mann worked in radio during the 1980s, a fertile period for one-hit wonders like Thomas Dolby, Dexys Midnight Runners and even Jump N' The Saddle's Three Stooges-themed novelty "The Curly Shuffle."

"Every time I played a one-hit wonder, the phones would ring," said Mann, author of the 2003 book "99 Red Balloons And 100 Other All-Time Great One-Hit Wonders."

Although Mann is a lifelong lover of one-hit wonders and considers Marc Cohn's 1991 hit "Walking In Memphis" to be the pinnacle, he is pessimistic about the future of this unique part of pop culture history.

"If a radio station can break a song, it gives hope to indie labels, but the formula for ranking has changed," he said. "Now a song can be a hit, but never be played on radio -- like Selena Gomez. She gets tons of downloads, but you won't hear her on the radio."

So if one-hit wonders are a dying breed, Mann believes they should be enjoyed and celebrated -- especially on Sept. 25.

"I say go to YouTube -- it's now the world's largest jukebox -- and plug in Thomas Dolby's 'She Blinded Me With Science,' Katrina and the Waves' 'Walking On Sunshine' and even Rick Dees' 'Disco Duck,' and just enjoy."

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