The second biggest hits by 10 one-hit wonders

Arthur Brown, 4 Non Blondes, Crazy Town and The Buggles
(Image credit: Ron Howard/Popperfoto/Paul Natkin /Tim Roney/Getty Images) Fin Costello/Redferns)

There can be many reasons why a song embeds itself in the wider public consciousness. It could be a flash of genius, an earworm par excellence, capture the zeitgeist of the times or have some sort of novelty appeal. But while a huge mainstream hit is not to be sniffed at, it can be a double-edged sword. Few artists would choose to be known largely for a single moment in what might be a lengthy career, but many have found themselves unable to break free from that one-hit wonder tag. It’s usually not for want of trying. Many artists deemed one-hot wonders continue to make music and cultivate a dedicated core audience, without the lightning of the true smash hit ever striking again. Here are the next nearest attempts by 10 one-hit wonders…

Lightning bolt page divider

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Nightmare (1968)

Fire was a huge smash in 1968, hitting No. 1 in the UK and Canada, No. 2 in the US and various Top worldwide. Frontman Arthur Brown’s theatrical performances would influence the likes of David Bowie and Alice Cooper and he would continue to make great music, without ever matching the scorching success of Fire. His next biggest hit, Nightmare barely grazed the UK Top 60 and landed a lowly No. 111 in the US, despite its crazy organ solo, unhinged screaming and a film clip featuring a masked Arthur freaking out in a stately home.

Ram Jam - Keep Your Hands On The Wheel (1977)

Ram Jam are the definition of a one-hit wonder, having failed to bother the charts with anything apart from 1977’s Black Betty, which became an all-time hard rock standard. It’s perhaps not surprising as the band were put together by producers specifically to re-record the song, which had been a regional hit by singer/guitarist Bill Bartlett’s former outfit Starstruck (and started life as an African-American work song, first recorded by Lead Belly). They did have some decent originals though, like the Stonesy swagger of follow-up single Keep Your Hands On The Wheel.

Wheatus - A Little Respect

Loser anthem Teenage Dirtbag exploded in Europe (hitting number 2 in the UK) and would eventually go on to become a cult cut in the US thanks to numerous film and TV appearances. They never repeated that global success but their cover of synth-pop duo Erasure’s A Little Respect, also from their eponymous 2000 debut, did score a short-lived secondary hit in the UK and Ireland. It’s UK number 3 placing, in fact, beat Erasure’s peak spot of number 4 with the original. Not that you’d remember.

Crazy Town – Revolving Door (2001)

“We have a lot to prove because of ButterflyCrazy Town rapper Shifty Shellshock told Rolling Stone after notching up a surprise No.1 with their 2000 single. “We have to prove we’re aggressive punk kids — a real band and not a pop act.” The rap-metal act did so by following their one smash hit with the equally poppy machismo of Revolving Door a year later. It struck a similar vibe but failed to light up charts and dance-floors in the same way, perhaps because it hadn’t nicked its best bits from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The Buggles – Living In The Plastic Age

New wave oddballs The Buggles helped usher in a whole new musical era, with their 1979 UK No.1/US Top 40 hit Video Killed The Radio Star famously the first music video shown on MTV in 1981. It was hard to beat that sort of exposure (or that unshakeable hook) and they never matched its success, with follow-up Living in the Plastic Age hitting No.16 in the UK. Not disastrous, but no one is talking about that latter song now.

Stealers Wheel – Star (1973)

Stuck In The Middle With You lodged itself into the public consciousness twice – once when it became a transatlantic hit on its release as a single in 1973 and again when Quentin Tarantino used it to soundtrack a grisly torture scene in Reservoir Dogs a couple of decades later. Stealers Wheel never again approached that level of success, with the folksy Star being their only other moderate hit (No.25). Co-vocalist/guitarist Gerry Rafferty did strike gold with his sax-fueled solo hit Baker Street though.

Iron Butterfly – Easy Rider (Let the Wind Pay the Way) (1970)

Even hacked down from the original 17-minute album version to a three-minute single, Iron Butterfly’s riff-driven sole hit single In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – No.30 in the US in 1968 – had a huge impact on the development of hard rock and heavy metal. Follow-up album Ball actually charted higher than its predecessor, albeit without the monster single. The band experimented with their sound and the single Soul Experience reached No.75. 1970’s Easy Rider (Let the Wind Pay the Way) went nine better, hitting No.66 two years later, but that’s as close as they came.

Thunderclap Newman – Accidents (1970)

Although named after keyboard player Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman and featuring teenage wunderkind guitarist Jimmy McCuloch, Thunderclap Newman was conceived by The Who’s Pete Townsend as a vehicle for singer John ‘Speedy’ Keen, who had been Townsend’s chauffeur and wrote Armenia City in the Sky for The Who. They scored an immediate hit with 1969 debut single Something in the Air, which topped the UK charts and also did well across Europe and North America. They failed to repeat that success despite some excellent cuts like the arguably even better Accidents, released the following year. Keen would go on to try his hand at producing (including Motorhead’s self-titled debut album) before becoming disillusioned and leaving the music business.

4 Non Blondes – Spaceman (1993)

What’s Up? helped propelling 4 Non Blondes’ sole album Bigger, Better, Faster, More! To Platinum status almost single-handedly. The first single was actually Dear Mr. President, which failed to chart, while the follow-up Spaceman only managed to breach the top 20 in Austria, Iceland, Italy and Switzerland, and didn’t even make the Top 50 in the US and Uk. While 4 Non Blondes never struck gold again, singer-songwriter Linda Perry certainly did, with songwriting credits including Beautiful by Christina Aguilera, What You Waiting For? by Gwen Stefani and Get the Party Started by Pink.

? And The Mysterians – I Need Somebody (1966)

Michigan garage rockers ? And The Mysterians genius contribution to the world of rock‘n’roll was organ-driven proto-punk freakout 96 Tears, which hit the No.1 spot in the US and Canada in 1966. They did land in the lower regions of the US charts with subsequent singles I Need Somebody (No.22) and Can't Get Enough of You Baby (No.56) but would never match the success of 96 Tears.

Paul Travers has spent the best part of three decades writing about punk rock, heavy metal, and every associated sub-genre for the UK's biggest rock magazines, including Kerrang! and Metal Hammer