We look at five acts who only had one hit but boast back catalogues worth exploring
It’s all a matter of perspective. Or maybe expectations. As a one-hit wonder, do you bemoan the fact that you’re only remembered for one song or rejoice that you’re remembered at all? For every band that refuses to play the hit live, there are five who’ll happily turn up to a corporate picnic and play it five times in a row.
There’s another sub-category that stands apart from the Cheeky Girls and Whigfields of the world. We’re talking about the bands that have devoted followings and gave their fans many brilliant records, but briefly raised their heads above the parapets for one moment of mass recognition. This list is a testament to five one-hit wonders who deserved many more.
The hit: ‘’74-‘75’
Top UK chart position: No.14
To those of a certain age, The Connells summon up one irresistible earworm, the oh-so-90s folk rock hit ‘’74-’75’. That swaying, nostalgic ballad went Top 10 across Europe in 1995, but the band’s story back home in the US is vastly different. There, ‘’74-‘75’ wasn’t a thing at all, but The Connells amassed three Billboard Alternative chart hits (their 1993 single ‘Slackjawed’ is a cracker with a video helmed by future Ant-Man director Peyton Reed). They’re also way better known in the US for their college radio stunner ‘Scotty’s Lament’, which never charted but has become a minor cult hit over the years. Just the one hit, but a back catalogue that offers plenty of gems, right up to and including last year’s Steadman’s Wake.
Fountains Of Wayne
The hit: ‘Stacey’s Mom’
Top UK chart position: No.11
This one hurts. There’s just no way Fountains Of Wayne should ever be considered one-hit wonders. But the facts don’t lie: ‘Stacy’s Mom’ was their one and only hit. That cheeky ode to teenage horniness aside, Fountains Of Wayne were actually a stunningly accomplished power pop act. Led by singer/songwriters Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, they’d made a slight chart dent before with ‘Radiation Vibe’ (a vastly superior song to their hit) and released one of the greatest power pop albums of the 90s in Utopia Parkway. Schlesinger was Oscar-nominated for his theme song to the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do and won an Emmy for his musical contributions to the US comedy series Crazy Ex Girlfriend. Sadly, he died of complications from Covid in 2020.
Goo Goo Dolls
The hit: ‘Iris’
Top UK chart position: No.3
Few people have lasting memories of Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage’s existential weepie City Of Angels, but nobody’s going to forget the bombastic ballad that the Goo Goo Dolls contributed to the soundtrack. The song that launched a billion mixtapes and wedding dances is cheese to the chalk the trio previously traded in. By the time ‘Iris’ arrived, they’d already notched up one massive US hit with ‘Name’ and five albums that hewed closer to the distortion-fuelled alterna-rock of late Replacements and early Soul Asylum. Their fourth, Superstar Carwash, is the perfect meeting point between their early punk vigour and later pop hooks.
The hit: ‘A Girl Like You’
Top UK chart position: No.4
There was a time (1995, to be exact) when you couldn’t turn on a radio or MTV (they used to play music… ask your parents) without hearing Edwyn Collins’ slick, sultry single. It strutted its way up the charts, only pausing for an appearance in that most 90s of 90s movies: Empire Records. For many, it was the first and last they heard of Edwyn Collins, but there’s a much broader story to be unearthed. Edwyn started his career as the lead singer of Glaswegian jangle merchants Orange Juice, whose biggest hit was the No.8 single ‘Rip It Up’ in 1983. The band released four hugely influential records between 1982 and 1984 and then split in 1985. Collins went solo and has maintained his high standards regardless of chart position. His most recent record was the acclaimed Badbea in 2019.
The hit: ‘Secret Smile’
Top UK chart position: No.12
Semisonic are in the unique position of being one-hit wonders in two countries for two different songs. ‘Closing Time’ was the unavoidable kicking out song in the US in 1998, while 1999 single ‘Secret Smile’ was sang in a terrible falsetto in showers all over the UK. If those two songs proved anything, it was that frontman Dan Wilson knew his way around a pop melody. Once the band split after 2001’s underrated All About Chemistry, Wilson began a hugely successful career writing hits with Adele (‘Someone Like You’), Taylor Swift (‘Treacherous’), P!nk (‘The Great Escape’), The Chicks (‘March March’), Halsey (‘Alone’) and loads more. Semisonic returned in 2020 for an excellent reunion EP, You’re Not Alone.
Listen to more from the bands above with our playlist: