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Sunday 16 Jun 2024

One Hit Wonders
Matt Seinberg

Women are 45-rpm records. Men are 33-rpm albums. A One Hit Wonder (OHW), of any speed, goes round 'n' round and knows no gender.

I have ten CDs of homemade OHWs. I was so excited when I made the first CD of OHWs. Then I discovered wife, Marcy, hated every one of my OHWs. She said these were her most hated songs of all time; well, almost.

Who doesn't like a good OHW? Is using the word "good" an oxymoron when put together with OHW? I'll think about that and get back.

My OHWs charted only in the US. Some acts, such as "Nena," had huge hits in other countries. Many acts, OHWs in the USA, were solid gold elsewhere.

I know William Shatner likes OHWs, since he hosted a series of shows on VH1. If Captain Kirk is a fan, I can admit I like OHWs, too. Maybe I should get Shatner to talk to my wife.

Here's my conundrum: although I like OHWs, my wife does not. Marcy dislikes OHWs as much as I hate broccoli; nor is she shy about telling me her feelings.

Here's a way, I devised, to torture Marcy, if she's on my case about something. I pick my top ten favourite songs. Marcy despises each one. I burn the stack onto a CD and just push play, whenever Marcy is on my back.

This is water boarding, of the mind: nauseas, not deadly. It's legal and doesn't waste water. Most important, this tactic works.

Here is my Top 10 List of One Hit Wonders and some reasons I like each one.

(1) "Exile," "Kiss You All Over" is an interesting song from 1978. Did I mention I like 70s music?

(2) "The Buggles," "Video Killed the Radio Star" from late summer 1979. This was the first video played on MTV, naturally. Video did not kill radio. Accountants and technocrats did the deed.

(3) Tommy Tutone, "867-5309 (Jenny)," from 1982. How many people called the phone number and annoyed the people that answered it? Does anyone know the area code Tutone intended?

4) "Deep Blue Something," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" from 1993. No reason, in particular, I like the song and the original name of the group, "Leper Messiah."

(5) "T'Pau," "Heart and Soul" from 1987, flopped in the UK, but hit big time, in the USA. The group took its name from a Vulcan priestess in "Star Trek." I like "Star Trek" and must like bands named after characters in the show.

(6) John Parr, "St. Elmo's Fire," the title song of the 1985 movie. St. Elmo's fire is a type of thunder, but I liked the movie and its sound track, especially this song.

(7) "Katrina and the Waves," "Walking on Sunshine," from 1985, is a happy song that generated a goofy video. When Katrina Leskanich joined pop-cover band, "Mama's Cookin'," it was renamed "The Waves." The song supplies the background for many commercials.

(8) Alannah Myles, "Black Velvet" from 1990 and the eponymous album. Black Velvet is a Canadian whiskey. Christopher Ward, the partner of Myles at the time, and David Tyson wrote the song. I'm avoiding the truth: Myles is a sexy forty-something woman.

(9) Walter Egan, "Magnet and Steel," from 1978, is a great title for a song. Lindsey Buckingham co-produced the song and the album, "Not Shy," for Egan. Today, Egan teaches high school in Franklin, Tennessee. Make the money, I guess, then do what you love.

(10) "Reunion," "Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)," from 1974, is about radio and nothing else needs saying.

The eleventh entry in my top ten favourite song list is by "First Class" and called "Beach Baby," from 1974. "First Class" was a studio band, from the UK. Who knows more about California beach "girls," than do songwriters from East Sheen, a suburb of London? Moreover, what beach song isn't good?

My wife, Marcy, has a top ten most hated One Hit Wonders list that she wants to share.

(1) John Paul Young, "Love is in the Air" from 1978, was the one and only hit, worldwide, for this Disco Music singer. A catchy melody, which makes me wonder what Mary Tyler Moore is doing. Does she still live in Minneapolis?

(2) Nick Gilder, "Hot Child in the City" from 1978, doesn't sit well with Marcy. Gilder, a UK-born Canadian, fronted "Sweeney Todd," in the 1970s. Bryan Adams, another faded star from Vancouver, was also a member of "Todd." Today, Gilder plays the bar circuit, in Canada, and appears on top television shows, such as "Barb Wire" and "Nip/Tuck."

(3) Kim Carnes, "Betty Davis Eyes" from 1981; written by Jackie deShannon and Donna Weiss, in 1974, it spent nine weeks at number one on the "Billboard Hot 100." A member of the "New Christy Minstrels," in 1967, Kim Carnes and fellow "Minstrel," Kenny Rogers, had a hit duet, in 1981, "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer." "Eyes" is an eerie song.

(4) "Manfred Mann Earth Band," "Blinded by the Light" from 1977, was written by Bruce Springsteen and first recorded by him. Garbled lyrics made some think they heard the line, "revved up like a deuce," as "wrapped up like a douche." Springsteen says the garbled recording made the record a hit. Perhaps, but the original line is "cut loose like a deuce," a gambling term for taking out the trash.

(5) Al Stewart, "Year of the Cat" from 1976, came from the eponymous album. Glasgow-born Alastair seems a good punter and successful.

(6) Matthew Wilder, "Break My Stride" from 1983, was from his album, "I Don't Speak the Language." Born Matthew Weiner, in New York City, today he sings mostly on commercials and as back up for Bette Midler, among others. His is good work, if you can get it.

(7) "Nena," "99 Red Balloons" from 1983, caused a stir. Nena is the childhood nickname of singer, Gabriele Susanne Kerner. The word, nena, is informal Spanish for little girl. "99 Luftbalons," belatedly renamed, "99 Red Balloons," for the US market, is the only international hit for her and the band.

When the video arrived, at MTV, in 1983, management and staff were beside themselves. They rushed the video to air, with no preview. Watching "99 Luftballoons," Bob Pittman, who ran MTV, at the time, was said to have had the vespers and fainted.

"Children were watching," a former MTV executive told me. "We can't air pornography to children," he said. "I don't want my children to see this video."

"Nena" taped and edited videos in German and English for "99 Luftbalons." In the original English-language video, after the first verse, "Nena" performs on a stage. As Kerner is slinking about, she raises her arms revealing hairy armpits and MTV freaked.

At the time, MTV executives claimed they previewed the German-language version, in which Kerner wears a jacket. The English-language version is definitely a different cut. Whatever the excuses, American values came undone that late August evening, in 1983, leading to the re-election of Ronald Reagan.

(8) "Deep Blue Something," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" from 1985. See above.

(9) Alana Miles, "Black Velvet" from 1990. See above.

(10) Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" from 1983, is a typical Jim Steinman pseudo-operatic composition. When the song peaked, sales topped 60,000 a day. Steinman intended "Eclipse" for "Midnight at the Lost and Found," a 1983 album by Meat Loaf. The suits got in the way and Tyler recorded "Eclipse."

Here's the eleventh entry on her top ten most hated OHW list, Dan Hill, "Sometimes When We Touch" from 1977. It's a nice, boring song, much like the composer qua singer.

I asked Marcy to tell me her reasons for disliking these songs, and all she said was, "There are no reasons. I just don't like them!"

Of the twenty-two records, Marcy and I share two. I dislike Bonnie Tyler, too, but not enough to list her. Opera-trained, with at least five albums, her record company promoted her as a female Rod Stewart; the husky voice, I guess. Tyler didn't work for me.

Kim Carnes "Bette Davis Eyes" brings back some bad memories, too. It released in 1981, the year I foolishly went to work at WWHB-FM, in Hampton Bays, on Long Island, not far from New York City. Work is not exactly the right word. I was there only two weeks. I told this story elsewhere.

I wanted a full-time job in radio. WWHB-AM offered that opportunity. When you work for a crazy person, such as Larry Miller, you learn poor treatment is not worth the price. I know I'm not alone, many others agree.

The only bright spot to being at WWHB-AM was meeting and working with the late Robin Taylor. Robin did the 2 pm to 7 pm shift and saved my butt many times. Robin always stayed, for a few minutes, playing the music, if I was running late.

Robin moved to WLTW-FM Lite 106.7 FM, in New York City. At Lite FM, she did overnights for many years. Sadly, Robin passed away from an undiagnosed heart ailment; she was no one hit wonder.

Another lesson I learned over the years is if you ask a hundred people about one thing, you will get a hundred and two different answers. Is it any surprise that Marcy and I shared only two songs on our lists? Remember, I liked those songs and she hated them.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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