Back In Time: Forgotten One Hit Wonders From The 1980s










Several people remember music from the 1980s as one with many One Hit Wonders. I’m sure the decade had no more or less than some of the other decades, but it seems the 80s had their share of several good ones that are forgotten. Many people think acts like The Escape Club or Men Without Hats were One Hitters, but they weren’t (at least not in the U.S.) I want to bring attention to a few acts that may be forgotten now but are still good songs, even if they did not make it past the one charted single. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. The Dream Academy. This act released the hit “Life in a Northern Town,” which hit #7 on the U.S. Charts. This was a neat song with the pop ballad feel combined with a African type chant in the chorus. The single was also produced by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. There have been a few other covers of the song since its released, from Rick Springfield to a few country acts.
  1. The System. This duo had a hit in 1987 that went to #4 on the Pop Charts and #1 on the R&B Charts in the U.S with “Don’t Disturb This Groove.” The duo had a few hits on the R&B charts before and after, but this was their only Pop Hit. The duo of David Frank and Mic Murphy went on to work with Phil Collins and Chaka Khan.  Frank worked on song “Genie in a Bottle” years later. This song was always a favorite of mine ever it came out and I love the lyrics in the song, which was different than the other R&B hits of the time with a poetic feel to the words.
  1. Moving Pictures. “What About Me” hit #29 in 1982, and #46 in 1989. I remember having the 45 single and loving the song when it was played on Kasey Casem’s “American Top 40” every week. The song was rumored to be about an autistic child being ignored at a counter waiting on lunch. The song was huge in Australia, and although the band had a single on the 1984 “Footloose” soundtrack, the band didn’t get another U.S. hit, even though the song appeared twice on the charts. The lyrics of the song talks about the total underdog who is getting ignored by the world and is looking for his break in life.
  1. The Breakfast Club. This act from New York had many band member changes, including Madonna and former American Idol’s Randy Jackson. The band started in the 1970s, and did hit the dance charts with a remake of the 1967 Soul Survivor’s “Expressway to Your Heart” hit in 1988, but didn’t really have the success after “Right On Track.”  The music video, like many from the decade, seemed to lessen how great the song really is. This has always been one of my favorite songs from the era. This is a great dance song, and one of my all time favorite songs from the decade.
  1. Oran “Juice” Jones. The Juice’s song “The Rain” was a staple in the 1980s and 1990s at my local roller skating rink. It was played all the time. The song hit #9 on the Pop and #1 R&B Charts in the U.S. The song got a remake in 2016’s movie “Suicide Squad.”  The song was just great, especially the humorous ending.
  1. Waterfront. This Welsh band broke big in 1989 with their hit “Cry” (#10 Pop, #1 AC Charts).  I have the CD and there are some other good songs on the album, but this was their only U.S. Hit and frustrates me that my local radio station does not play it much when they have their 80s weekend shows.  The band made a country version of the song in 2011. This was a great Pop/R&B song that gets overlooked.
  1. The Jump N Saddle Band. Most people forget about this band’s hit “The Curly Shuffle,” a novelty hit about the Three Stooges in 1984 (#15 Pop). The song was a regional hit in the band’s native Chicago and was later added to their album when the band signed a national deal. This song is not only for the Stooges fans, but it also was a throw-back to the 1950s and 1960s when novelty hits were always on the charts. The big band style was different from the synth-pop singles of the decade. Years later former Stray Cats member Brian Setzer hit the charts with the big band style throwback songs. One could argue that  The Jump N Saddle Band set the start to the style being brought back to a commercial success in on the U.S. Charts.
  1. Climie Fisher. This London duo hit with “Love Changes Everything” in 1988 (#23 Pop). The duo had a hit outside the U.S. with “Rise to the Occasion.” Rob Fisher worked with Rick Astley after this single before Fisher’s death in 1999, and Simon Climie went on to work with Eric Clapton, JJ Cale, Taylor Hicks, and  Michael McDonald. Climie also had a hit with “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” in 1986, which was a hit for George Michael and Aretha Franklin.  “Love Changes” has a nice catchy hook to it, although the video discredits the song.
  1. Jimmy Harnen. In 1989, Jimmy Harnen, along with the band Synch, hit the charts with “Where Are You Now,” a song that was successful, hitting #10 on the Pop and #3 on the AC Charts, even though the band was disbanded by the time the single broke the charts.  The song was first released in 1986 and only hit #77 before the band broke up. It wasn’t until DJ Kid Kelly and his staff kept playing it due to fan requests that it broke again in 1989. Harnen is now a record executive with Big Machine, which is the label for stars Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line.  “Where Are You Now” was such a favorite of mine, that it took me years to find a copy of it in any form, from CD to just the 45. I found the 45 years ago when I was in college. This was a great ballad.

There were several other acts I could’ve listed that have been forgotten who had hits in the 1980s, including Johnny Lee, Joey Scarbury (who I mentioned in my blog page “Favorite Themes of the 1980s), Sylvia, Sly Fox, Timex Social Club, and Pseudo Echo.  Maybe you’ll check out more of some of the forgotten acts from the 1980s, and maybe this post brought back some memories.


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