Over the years, some of the most iconic songs that have been recorded have not only
helped define what are considered top songs for decades to come, they have also often been the ONLY hit songs for the artists who recorded them.
Here are a few of the songs that have struck musical gold, but their performers were never able to replicate that level of success afterward...
Looking Glass - Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)
In February 1972, Robert Mandel was the Epic Records Promotion Manager. He received a test pressing of an album by a new group called Looking Glass. He took the test pressing around to every radio station in the Washington/Baltimore region. Harv Moore, Program Director for a major radio station, put the song into a one-hour rotation for two days and
as Moore related at the time, "the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree". He said that he had never received a response like that on a record in his 15 years in radio. Based on the airplay at WPGC and all the other Top 40 stations that followed, Epic rush-released the single of "Brandy". Based on requests alone, when the single hit store shelves two weeks later, "Brandy" was the number one record in the Washington, DC area, without a single copy yet sold. Other stations around the country started playing it and it ended up being a number one million seller.
While Looking Glass never achieved this success again, by 1974, when Barry Manilow was
set to release his cover of the 1972 song "Brandy" originally released by Scott English, Manilow changed the song from "Brandy" to "Mandy" so that it would not be confused with the Looking Glass song of the same name, so it had a fairly immediate impact on pop culture, and Looking Glass' song continues to be a staple of classic soft rock stations' playlists.
Blind Melon - No Rain
Released in 1993, "No Rain" received heavy airplay on MTV, which catapulted the song up the charts. While the song is well crafted and has a catchy melodic line, it was largely the video that captured attention and helped propel the song's rise.
The music video features the "Bee Girl", a young tap dancer wearing a homemade bee costume and large glasses, modeled after the Blind Melon album cover: a family picture of Georgia Graham, younger sister of drummer Glen Graham. The Bee Girl's story is intercut with footage of Blind Melon performing in a field against a clear blue sky.
It opens on the girl's tap routine; the audience responds with mocking laughter, and the girl runs off-stage in tears. As the song plays, she wanders through Los Angeles, stopping to perform her dance for whoever will watch, but she still feels alone. Ultimately, at the point in the song where the word "escape" is repeated, she peeks through a gate, which elicits a look of astonishment on her face, then runs through it to join a group of "bee people" just like her, dancing joyfully in a green field.
While Blind Melon released 3 studio albums and toured extensively, opening for many of the biggest acts of the time, they never achieved the success they did with "No Rain."
The Vapors - Turning Japanese
Turning Japanese was released by The Vapors as their second single in a conscious attempt to try to avoid becoming "one hit wonders." Their strategy, however, did not work, and they never achieved anything near the level of success they did with this 1980 hit.
Although it has often been claimed by fans that the lyrics are a reference to masturbation, songwriter David Fenton denied that meaning, saying that "Turning Japanese is all the clichés about angst and youth and turning into something you didn't expect to."
Several other performers, including Kirsten Dunst, have recorded covers of "Turning Japanese". The song was a huge hit in many countries and even had minor success in Japan.
Toni Basil - Mickey
Toni Basil was always a prominent dancer and choreographer, and would go on to earn
success directing music videos and art and short films. She released 2 albums, and while it's not likely many people could name any of the other songs on either album, anyone familiar with 80's music and whoever watched MTV in the 80's knows this cheerleader themed video/song.
"Hey Mickey You're So Fine, You're so fine you blow my mind, Hey Mickey"... not exactly lyrical greatness, but nonetheless catchy and unforgettable.
Music history is full of such one hit wonders, and the fact that they ARE "HITS" indicates they did (and many still do) resonate with fans - but likewise the fact those songs were the ONLY songs of those artists to be so successful shows that creating a hit song isn't a science, nor is there a formula that will always work. Sometimes it has to do with timing, promotion, and capturing the mood of the moment..
Here are some other one-hit wonders
List some of your favorite one-hit wonders in the comments.