The One-Hit Why?

Who are they? Why did they come to be? More important… how did they come to
be and how did they get in? Who let these guys in anyway? Was it some account
executive who has a brother-in-law who has a…? Did they get the opportunity to
become a two-hit wonder or was it ‘one shot and out’?

WILD CHERRY-“Play That Funky Music”

I could never figure out this phenomenon. One-hit wonders (in their own way) are
as important to the history of music as, say, The Stones… well, maybe The Little
River Band. Much has been written about these folk (or has it?) And not having
read anything on the subject, I will have a go at it… alone.


Two obvious reasons seem to be person and company. Let’s start with company.
Way back in the old days, you know, sixties and seventies, labels came out with an
incredible amount of product. There was no ‘album’ mode of thought, only “show
me the hit record.” Because it was the age of volume, record labels (in general)
wanted to make as much as they could off the artist. They were paying the artists
in those days about 3% to 4% on 90% of retail for their first hit. For a second hit
the percentage could skyrocket up to 6%. In a perverse way it made sense for
labels to go “one time and gone” because of the equation — volume of artists x
moneys = bigger percentage. From their point of view hit records was the ticket,
not hit artists.


Let’s be fair for a moment and realize that the record labels alone should not
shoulder all the blame. If you are a talented writer, singer, or musician, the pressure
to make it big and have a hit must be enormous. If you can fathom that, can you
imagine the burden you would feel to have another? You try to compete with your
first hit but you create incredible stress and pressure to come out quickly with
something… anything right away. That could lead to unacceptable copy, maybe
bad mixing and bad production values which translates to little or no airplay.

ANDY KIM-“Rock Me Gently”

Lest we not forget the fruit of the gods… EGOS. It’s difficult enough for one
person to cope with sudden fame. If you multiply that number by five, it’s almost
impossible. Five minds come in to play. Five members who think they know best
and which direction is best for the band. Five separate chances at destruction. They
lose creativity pretty darn fast. Between band members, their managers, their
manager’s managers and the countless people at the labels, it’s pretty incredible
things get done at all.

KATRINA & THE WAVES-“Walking On Sunshine”

They have the magic in them. The majority of us never get a chance at the fifteen
minutes. Fame, and the problems that come with it, is something most only read
about. We don’t know what we’re missing. The true tragedy about the ‘one-hitter’
is that they become nobodies again. Shot down as quickly as they rose. One
journeys from a most magical time and are made to feel as everything they’ve ever
done was a fluke… a footnote… a misprint… a typo. One can only imagine how
disheartening it feels to have fame and fortune quickly snapped away faster than it

FRED KNOBLOCK-“Why Not Me” (my favorite)

Surprisingly, most live to fight another day.



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