One-hit wonders aka those musical acts that scored one big hit and became an earworm into the cultural zeitgeist then faded quickly into oblivion. Some one-hit wonders may have had other hits, but their major song was so big people forget they ever did anything else.
Who doesn’t love a one-hit wonder? Well, besides fans who refused to purchase any of the singer’s other songs or albums — so not them. Today we are looking at a few one-hit wonders that held careers outside of their one moment of music fame and some may come as a surprise.
Toni Basil: Back in the early 1980s, Toni Basil scored a pop music sensation with the song, “Mickey.” View it here and spend the rest of the day with the cheerleader inspired chorus stuck in your head. Basil was definitely a one-hit wonder and somewhat of a novelty act because in reality she was a choreographer and actress. Basil was an extremely well respected choreographer having worked on everything from the legendary American Graffiti in 1973 to Legally Blonde in 2001. Basil also did the choreography for two mid-1970s David Bowie tours. As far as acting goes, she scored small, but key roles in classic movies such as Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider.
Tony Burrows: What Faustian bargain did Tony Burrows pull? You may not recognize the name, but we guarantee if you ever spent time listening to a station that focuses on 1970s music, you would recognize his voice. Burrows had the fortune (infortune?) of singing on not one. Not two! But three. Count ‘em three one-hit wonders back in the 1970s (maybe six, if you count U.K. hits). Let’s explain: Burrows scored his first hit with the band Edison Lighthouse in 1970 with “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).” However, that appears to have been a one off considering his real band was called White Plains that was a spin off his previous band Flower Pot Men, which included future members of Deep Purple. Anyway, White Plains almost immediately scored a hit after Edison Lighthouse with “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” which prior to my contrary belief actually contains lyrics. Not just the chorus. He sang on several more quasi one-hit wonders in the next few years before scoring his final hit with the Beach Boys inspired tune, “Beach Baby” by First Class.
The Buggles: The Buggles broke into the charts in 1979 with “Video Killed the Radio Star” that didn’t become a real major hit until 1981 when their song was chosen as the debut video for MTV — back when MTV was the biggest thing in the world. However, the Buggles had long broken up by then, but the two main members would still shape music for years to come. How? Well, for starters, Trevor Horn and Geoffrey Downes originally ended the Buggles to join the progressive rock legends, Yes. Not sure how that musically made sense, but Downes and Horn were huge fans of Yes and jumped at the chance. Their 1980 album didn’t do well with Horn on lead vocals, and soon Jon Anderson, Yes’ stalwart lead singer was back in the fold. However, Downes took his time in Yes to help form early 1980s supergroup, Asia, who became MTV staples. Horne decided he liked working behind the scenes and produced songs for the likes of ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Seal, for which he won a Grammy Award in 1994 for “Kiss from a Rose.”
Gerardo: For those who don’t remember or recognize the “Latin Elvis,” let us write two words for you. “Rico Suave.” Now, you know what we are talking about. This was a monster hit in 1991, but Gerardo couldn’t escape the shadow of his own hype. He eventually became somewhat of a mid-1990s punchline. However, maybe he learned a lesson because he went on to become an A&R executive for Interscope Records helping guide the rise of the likes of Enrique Iglesias and Bubba Sparxxx. That is a heck of second act.
Bobby McFerrin: Way back in 1988, McFerrin had his biggest hit with his reggae-tinged, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” It won him three Grammys that year. However, that doesn’t even come close to his total career Grammy haul. Before becoming a one-hit wonder, McFerrin already had five Grammys on his mantel piece, mostly for his amazing jazz records, but also for a children’s album he did with Jack Nicholson. The same Jack Nicholson who starred in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Ride with Toni Basil (who as far as we know has not worked with Bobby McFerrin). Of course, McFerrin wasn’t done winning Grammys despite remarking that “Don’t Worry Be Happy” basically ended his career. He picked his last award in 1992.
So, why are we writing about one-hit wonders as a PR firm? Well, one is because we just like music trivia around here. The second, though, is to remember to not always judge a public relations project by one part or outcome because if you do, you may be missing a much bigger picture.