During the past week, on several different evenings, I channel-surfed into one of those countdown shows on VH1 – this one covering the greatest one-hit wonders of the ‘80s.
It sucked me into its vortex like a black hole scarfing down a small galaxy.
(I am not a physicist so I do not stand behind the accuracy of that simile)
It was a lot of familiar ground – Thomas Dolby, Toni Basil, The Buggles – but there were also songs by acts that actually had other, lesser hits or at least other songs that I heard on the radio.
There were also songs by groups that might not have been well-known to most of the public, but who were favorites of me and my friends – the aforementioned Dolby, Devo and ‘Til Tuesday (to name a few).
So, here are some lesser-known songs by acts identified far more by a singular hit…
Devo – Girl U Want
In high school, a friend who was passionate about Devo made me familiar with the band beyond Whip It and Working In A Coal Mine. There might still be graffiti in our hometown relating to Devo.
Girl U Want is simply groovy – groovy being the first word that comes to mind when I think of the song. Then, I think of the movie Tank Girl as it appeared in that flick’s animated, opening credits.
Big Country – The Storm
Is there anyone who still believes that there were actual bagpipes in Big Country’s song In A Big Country?
I owned the first four or five Big Country albums, buying them as they were released. Steeltown, their second record, would be the one to own, but their debut, with the hit, is a strong album, too.
The Storm was a favorite from the first time I heard it on that debut.
‘Til Tuesday – Coming Up Close
Like most guys watching MTV in 1985, my friends and I were left slack-jawed and smitten by Aimee Mann in ‘Til Tuesday’s video for Voices Carry.
Image aside, ‘Til Tuesday made three very good records, shedding members over the course of those albums. By the time the band reached its end after Everything’s Different Now, Aimee Mann had guided their sound from chilly New Wave to a more organic, guitar-jangling alternative rock.
That sound had been hinted at on the group’s second album, especially on the stellar Coming Up Close.
Aldo Nova – Monkey On Your Back
I’ve read music writers who have noted Aldo Nova’s song Fantasy as one of the first pop metal hits, paving the way for radio stations to play acts like Def Leppard.
His second album, Subject, was a more interesting record (at least it was to me in 1983) – the songs were stronger and there were some strange, brief instrumentals between some of them.
Lyrics were not one of Nova’s strength, but Monkey On Your Back seemed edgy to me at fifteen; not so much now, but it’s a cool trip back in time.