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Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top 10 One-Hit Wonders of All Time

They just had one hit, but they made it count

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Last week we asked our readers to vote for their favorite One Hit Wonders of all-time. Some famous one hit wonder bands (The Vapors, The Buggles) existed barely long enough to record their lone hit, while others (Los del Rio, The Knack) continued to plug away for years after their brief moment at the top. Some (Sir Mix-A-Lot) revel in the notoriety their hit continues to brings them, while others (Devo) see that hit as the very thing that killed their career. Any way you look at it, the industry is littered with one hit wonders. Here are your top 10.

By Andy Greene


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6. The Knack – ‘My Sharona’

For a very brief period in 1979, the Knack looked like the future of rock & roll. It was the summer of the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park and many old-school rock fans were ready to embrace a new band. Into this void stepped the Knack, whose flawless debut Get the Knack blew up on the strength of their power-pop classic "My Sharona." The song was inspired by Knack frontman Doug Fieger's girlfriend Sharona Alperin, who now works as a real estate agent. Their second album didn't fare very well, and they split in 1981. Five years later they got back together, but any momentum they had was long gone. They played to a cult audience until shortly before Fieger's death in 2010.

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5. Soft Cell – ‘Tainted Love’

"Tainted Love" seems like the quintessential Eighties song, but it actually dates back to 1965, when it was recorded by Marc Bolan's future girlfriend Gloria James. It wasn't a hit at the time, but in 1981 British synthpop duo Soft Cell New-Waved it up and created a masterpiece. They never had another American hit, but singer Marc Almond went on to a rather respectable solo career – and in 1989 scored a solo smash with "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," a duet with Gene Pitney. Soft Cell reformed in 2001 and still tour occasionally. In 2001 Marilyn Manson covered "Tainted Love" for the soundtrack to Not Another Teen Movie.

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4. Big Country – ‘In A Big Country’

Big Country were sort of a Scottish poor man's U2. Their 1983 debut album The Crossing blew up with the release of the anthemic "In A Big Country," where they somehow made their guitars sound like bagpipes. Like many bands on this list, they quickly lost favor in America but retained a decent following in England. In December of 2001 the band's frontman Stuart Adamson hung himself in a Hawaii hotel room. Last year they group recruited Mike Peters of the Alarm to lead them on a reunion tour of Europe.

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3. Norman Greenbaum – ‘Spirit In The Sky’

In the late Sixties Norman Greenbaum came across Porter Wagoner playing a gospel song on tv. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that,’ knowing nothing about gospel music,”  Greenbaum told the New York Times in 2006. “So I sat down and wrote my own gospel song. It came easy. I wrote the words in 15 minutes.” The result was "Spirit In The Sky," a gigantic hit that's kept Greenbaum wealthy for the past 40 years because it's been used in countless movies and TV commercials. The irony is that Greenbaum – who penned the words "I got a friend in Jesus" — is Jewish.

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2. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – ‘Come On Eileen’

Dexy's Midnight Runner's frontman Kevin Rowland says that his massive hit "Come On Eileen" was inspired by a real girl. "It's about somebody I grew up with," he told Melody Maker in 1982. "It's absolutely true all the way. I was about 14 or 15 and sex came into it and our relationship had always been so clean. It seemed at the time to get dirty and that's what it's about. I was really trying to capture that atmosphere." The video benefited from the fact that MTV was brand new and desperate for anything they could broadcast. The constant play helped Dexy's Midnight Runners score a huge smash, but they broke up just three years later after failing to match it in America. Rowland has toured Europe with different incarnations of the group over the past few years.

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1. A-ha – ‘Take On Me’

Tell anybody in Europe that A-ha are one-hit wonders and they'll look at you like you're crazy. Over there — and especially in their native Norway — A-ha scored hit after hit and were massively popular. They even played at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. In America, however, they are the band with the cool animated video and the singer with the insanely high range. Last year the group went on a farewell tour, and they talked to Rolling Stone about the legacy of "Take On Me." "I have no doubt that the video made the song a hit," said keyboardist Magne Furuholmen. "The song has a super catchy riff, but it is a song that you have to hear a few times. And I don't think it would've been given the time of day without the enormous impact of the video."

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