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Take Five More: Second Hits of VH1’s Top 100 One-Hit Wonders of the 80s

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 6, 2009

dead-or-alive

As is all too rarely the case on this blog, I actually had more to say about the two-hit wonders shoehorned into VH1’s Top 100 One-Hit Wonders of the 80s list than I could fit into last night’s post. So here are five more classics (and, uh, near-classics) that VH1 is conspiring to have written out of the history of pop music:

  • Will to Power – “I’m Not in Love” (#7, 1991). Everything about Will to Power screams one-hit wonder. “Baby I Love Your Way / Free Bird (medley)” (#97 on VH1’s list) was one of the more ridiculous #1 hits of the late 80s, a relatively purposeless cramming of two AOR radio staples into a pillowy soft-rock medley groove, and the band itself set off all sorts of OHW red flags–named after a Nietzschean philosophical concept, masterminded by a biker-looking guy with a ridiculous moustache, etc. But remarkably enough, there was a second top ten hit to come out of the whole mess–“I’m Not in Love,” a cover of 10cc’s gorgeous, singular 70s anti-love song. You could argue that it kind of nullifies what was so amazing and unique about the original version, but in a way, that just makes me respect 10cc’s version more, because “I’m Not in Love” still works beautifully given the Will to Power treatment as a wispy, MOR-ish torch song. It even hit in 1991, meaning Will to Power can claim to being an integral part of two decades of adult contemporary music!
  • Patrice Rushen – “Haven’t You Heard?” (#42, 1980). Patrice is known to most sane people as the chick who did the song that Will Smith sampled for the “Men in Black” theme (which, looking back on it now, might have been the very last truly ridiculous smash hit to be inextricably tied to the movie it comes from–can you imagine Transformers or Pirates of the Carribean having a mega-hit theme song like that?), and some might also know that “Forget Me Nots” (#86 on the VH1 list) is a pretty good song in its own right. Props to ex-Stylus co-writer Tal Rosenberg, however, for hipping me to “Haven’t You Heard?,” Patrice’s older hit from the tail end of the disco era. It’s one of the most burstingly exuberant songs I’ve ever heard, and the piano hook–that simple, little two-note tease that runs throughout the song–is one of the most inexplicably infectious hooks of an era absolutely packed with ’em.
  • The Outfield – “Since You’ve Been Gone” (#31, 1987). One-hit wonder? Uh, try five top 40 hits between 1986 and 1990. Of course, none of them were as unforgettably soaring as “Your Love” (#59 on the VH1 list), and consequently that was the only one remembered. But I definitely dig “Since You’ve Been Gone” (which I first heard, strangely enough, as the representative choice for The Outfield on the otherwise front-running Like, Omigod!: The 80s Pop Culture Box (Totally)) almost as much–it’s another immaculately produced, anthemic love song that sounds like a power-pop / arena-rock hybrid (or, in other words, a combination of the best things about the mainstream rock from the first half of the decade). Coming during the time of Girls, Girls, Girls and Looked What the Cat Dragged In, however, it’s not too hard to see why it slipped through the sands of time.
  • John Waite – “Change” (#16 Mainstream Rock, 1982). Actually, John Waite did have two other top 40 hits–“Tears” (#37, 1984) and “Every Step of the Way” (#25, 1985)–but his second best-remembered song is probably this adrenaline-pumper from two years before his #1 “Missing You” (#33 on VH1’s list)–which, for the record, is still one of the greatest love songs to ever top the charts. Written by Holly Knight (who wrote or co-wrote similarly invigorating 80s classics like Animotion’s “Obsession,” Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” and Scandal’s “The Warrior”), “Change” never hit the pop charts, but was a deserved rotation staple in MTV’s early days, and even became part of that rarified canon of cheesy 80s soundtrack montaging due to its use in Vision Quest a few years later. Oh yeah, and Waite also had about a half-dozen other hits during his years with The Babys and Bad English. “Missing You” wouldn’t be a bad legacy to leave on pop music, but truly, it is but a mere chapter in the epic John Waite story.
  • Dead or Alive – “Brand New Lover” (#15, 1987). Not that “You Spind Me ‘Round (Like a Record)” (#19 on VH1’s list) isn’t about as much Dead or Alive as one could possibly need for a lifetime (and given its recent regurgitation in Flo Rida’s largely unbearable “Right Round,” that in itself might already be too much). But growing up, I remember hearing “Brand New Lover” on 80s radio and archival VH1 stuff about as often as I heard “You Spin Me ‘Round,” and assumed that the two were about on equal footing cutlurally. And really, the two songs are about equal in their virtues and faults, so if you wanted to swap one’s place in history out for the other;s, I doubt anyone would mind terribly. But nevertheless, an interchangable two-hit wonder is still not the same thing as a one-hit wonder. Take note before the 90s list, VH1—you can’t just pretend that songs like “Real, Real, Real” and “Wifey” don’t exist.

3 Responses to “Take Five More: Second Hits of VH1’s Top 100 One-Hit Wonders of the 80s”

  1. John said

    Strangely enough (or maybe not, since I didn’t really listen to the radio before 1990), I didn’t realize that Will to Power had a hit *before* “I’m Not in Love.”

  2. Tal said

    Any time, Andrew. If you haven’t heard the rest of it, I would suggest trying to seek out the comp that “Haven’t You Heard” is on: Journey to Paradise: The Larry Levan Story. Equally worth seeking out is the live Levan set “Live At the Paradise Garage” on Strut.

  3. Level42 said

    Martika and Cutting Crew also had more than one US pop hit. What was VH1’s definition of a hit anyway?

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