There’s nothing more annoying than an artist with more than one successful single being described as a one-hit wonder. No doubt it’s especially irritating for the acts in question.
To put the record straight, here’s a list of performers that reached number 1 in the 1980s on the ARIA chart and had at least one more significant hit, but are still routinely referred to as one-hit wonders.
Number 1 hit: “Tired Of Toein’ The Line” (Two weeks in 1980)
Next biggest hit: “Fallin’ In Love (Bein’ Friends)” (number 6 in 1980)
Along with Stray Cats, Shakin’ Stevens and even Queen (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), this second generation musician brought rockabilly back to the charts in the early 1980s. The chart-topper by Rocky Burnette (real name: Jonathan) gets wheeled out every so often still, but his other top 10 hit has pretty much faded into obscurity now.
Number 1 hit: “Bette Davis Eyes” (Five weeks in 1981)
Next biggest hit: “Crazy In The Night (Barking At The Airplanes)” (number 21 in 1985)
The husky-voiced singer’s ode to film legend Bette Davis – actually a cover of a Jackie DeShannon album track from 1974 – was the biggest single of 1981 in the US and the year’s sixth biggest in Australia. But she almost cracked the top 20 again four years later – the same year she was a featured vocalist on “We Are The World”.
The J. Geils Band
Number 1 hit: “Centrefold” (One week in 1982)
Next biggest hit: ‘Freeze-Frame” (number 7 in 1982)
They’d been releasing music since 1970, but it wasn’t until a decade later that the band named after John Geils found chart success in Australia. The title track of 10th album Freeze-Frame followed chart-topper “Centrefold” into the top 10, both tracks written and produced by keyboard player Seth Justman, with singer Peter Wolf co-writing “Freeze-Frame”.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Number 1 hit: “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Five weeks in 1982)
Next biggest hit: “Crimson And Clover” (number 6 in 1982)
Joan Jett had recorded her version of The Arrows’ “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” twice – once as a B-side in 1979 and then again with The Blackhearts in 1981. The latter became a huge worldwide hit and was followed by another remake – of Tommy James And The Shondells’ 1968 single “Crimson And Clover”. Joan’s third hit in Australia? Yet another cover. Her take on Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” made it to number 18.
Number 1 hit: “Take On Me” (Two weeks in 1985)
Next biggest hit: “The Sun Always Shines On TV” (number 19 in 1986)
So iconic has “Take On Me” become that it has overshadowed everything else the Norwegian trio have released, including immediate follow-up “The Sun Always Shine On TV”, which continued the story of “Take On Me” in the music video. A-ha also scored locally with their Bond theme, “The Living Daylights” (number 29), and a handful of other top 50 hits.
Number 1 hit: “A Good Heart” (Two weeks in 1986)
Next biggest hit: “You Little Thief (number 4 in 1986)
The former frontman of punk band The Undertones has the distinction of being a two-hit wonder - reaching the top 10 with back-to-back singles and never visiting the top 50 again. While “A Good Heart” was written by Maria McKee about her relationship with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers member Benmont Tench, the legend that “You Little Thief”, which was penned by Benmont, was his side of the story has been debunked. Both tracks were produced by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart.
Number 1 hit: “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)” (Three weeks in 1986)
Next biggest hit: “Do Ya Do Ya (Wanna Please Me)” (number 18 in 1986)
Brackets-loving Samantha Fox – other parenthesised titles include “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)” and “I Surrender (To The Spirit Of The Night)” – is unfairly categorised as a one-hit wonder. The topless model-turned-pop star visited the top 20 twice in 1986 and scored two more hits with the Stock Aitken Waterman-produced “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now” (number 22) and “I Only Wanna Be With You” (number 19).
Mel & Kim
Number 1 hit: “Respectable” (One week in 1987)
Next biggest hit: “Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)” (number 12 in 1987)
Another act that had Stock Aitken Waterman to thank for their chart appearances was the duo comprised of Kim Appleby and her late sister, Mel. The East London girls’ second-biggest hit was actually spurred up the chart by the runaway success of number 1 “Respectable”, which came out after “Showing Out”. Mel & Kim also reached the top 30 with “F.L.M.” (number 19) and “That’s The Way It Is” (number 28).
The Party Boys
Number 1 hit: “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” (One week in 1987)
Next biggest hit: “Hold Your Head Up” (number 21 in 1987)
For the previous five years, The Party Boys had had a revolving door line-up of musicians looking for an outlet when their other bands weren’t up to much, but things got serious in 1987. Fronted by John Swan, they hit number 1 with one cover version and peaked just outside the top 20 with another – a remake of English band Argent’s single “Hold Your Head Up”, which had only reached number 32 in Australia in 1972.
Number 1 hit: “Never Gonna Give You Up” (Seven weeks in 1987-88)
Next biggest hit: “Whenever You Need Somebody” (number 3 in 1988)
Possibly the artist least deserving of the one-hit wonder tag on this list, Rick Astley reached the top 20 another five times after his era-defining breakthrough. As well as next best performer “Whenever You Need Somebody”, Rick returned to the upper reaches with “When I Fall In Love/My Arms Keep Missing You” (number 5), “Together Forever” (number 19), “She Wants To Dance With Me” (number 15) and “Cry For Help” (number 13).
Number 1 hit: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” (Five weeks in 1989)
Next biggest hit: “I’m On My Way” (number 3 in 1989)
Australia couldn’t get enough of Scottish twins Charlie and Craig Reid in 1989, with the follow-up to the inescapable “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, “I’m On My Way”, almost reaching the top of the chart as well. Despite being a second substantial hit for the pair, whose music has spawned a stage show and movie, “I’m On My Way” is nowhere near as well remembered now.
Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers
Number 1 hit: “Swing The Mood” (Three weeks in 1989)
Next biggest hit: “That’s What I Like” (number 4 in 1989)
We started this list with the throwback sounds of rockabilly and end it with a medley of rock’n’roll classics courtesy of a cartoon rabbit. For the mastermixing magicians’ second trick, they took the theme song to cop show Hawaii Five-O and combined it with tunes like “Let’s Twist Again”, “Wipeout” and “Johnny B Goode”.
If you are keen to re-live the 80s, check out the tour dates for a-ha with Rick Astley, happening in Australia in early 2020, here.
Listen to the Hits of the 80s on Spotify
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