Three Hit Wonders: Third Time’s The Charm or Three’s Company?

Rob O'Connor
List Of The Day (NEW)

As anyone who knows this blog can tell you, what can be done once can be done again and again until this blogger gets tired. Having just moved my things into the Yahoo! Corporate Auxiliary Veranda #6 where I'm supposed to "keep it up, dude!" according to the I-think-he's-being-sarcastic blogger across from me who keeps holding sealed CDs up to his ear in hopes of divine inspiration when it appears to me that turning down the Complete Works of Spirit might be the first step in the right direction, I stare at my brand new wall and think about how I've done one and two-hit wonders and that three must be next. I check the number line near the accounting department and confirm that I am correct. Hooray for me. It will be a good day.

Here are the folks who have had three Top 40 hits on the Billboard Pop Charts!

25) Player -- "Baby Come Back," "This Time I'm In It For Love," 'Prisoner of Your Love": They're back with a new album that's apparently aimed at the soap opera crowd who for 25 years watched one of them play the part of Ridge Forrester, "the dynamic fashion magnate," says Wikipedia, on The Bold and the Beautiful.

24) Sir Douglas Quintet -- "She's About A Mover" "The Rains Came," "Mendocino": No soap opera stars here (that I know of), but Doug Sahm was considered to be a serious heavy-hitter, as is keyboardist Augie Meyers who's been known to play with Li'l Bob Dylan. Sahm and Meyers were also members of the supergroup the Texas Tornados. Sadly, they never released an album called Damn the Tornados.

23) Bananarama -- "Cruel Summer," "Venus," "I Heard A Rumour": Another fine trio that fared far better in the U.K., Bananarama are one of the most successful all-female groups of all-time. That no one played an instrument makes their records ever more fascinating since there appear to be drums and keyboards and even bass guitars on the songs. I guess the ugly people hide in the back. Take that, Ian Stewart!

22) Rupert Holmes -- "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," "Him," "Answering Machine": Born David Goldstein, Rupert Holmes is far from a one-hit wonder. Aside from the two other hits listed above (all from his fifth solo album!), he also had a top-40 hit with the songs "Jennifer Tompkins" as a member of the Street People in 1970 and "Timothy," a hit for The Buoys in 1971 and about cannibalism. Hey, if you like Pina Colada, you'll love the taste of human flesh in the morning!

21) Katrina and the Waves -- "Walking On Sunshine," "Do You Want Crying," "That's The Way": While the "Sunshine" song suggests a cheesiness that if this was all you knew, you'd be within your rights, Katrina and her Waves, which featured one Kimberley Rew of the Soft Boys, actually had a decent rep as a 1960s-influenced guitar pop group. That their American label insisted on them re-recording many of their best songs just to add superfluous keyboards was really just par-for-the-course meddling for the time. So, if you're a band that want the true 1980s experience, you should re-record your album with someone who hates what you do.

20) The Troggs -- "Wild Thing," "With A Girl Like You," "Love Is All Around": In all likelihood, when all the boomers and their progeny who love this stuff return to dust, one of the few songs that will survive will be "Wild Thing." It's so simple it can made into anything and learned by everyone. The others may be better songs, but "Wild Thing" is a headline. Not everyone reads the fine print. Or even the captions, Kordo!

19) Sam & Dave -- "Hold On! I'm Comin'," "Soul Man," "I Thank You": Isaac Hayes and David Porter wrote all three of these songs, which just shows what can be accomplished when the division of labor is executed correctly (the "Dave" in Sam & is Dave Prater). People who write their own stuff is an overrated concept, unless you can actually do it. But knowing your limitations is where it's at. It wasn't like anyone was going to take the mic out of the hands of Sam Moore and Dave -- c'mon, I just told you -- Prater!

18) The Zombies -- "She's Not There," "Tell Her No," "Time of the Season": All three hits are solid. But, man, if there was a band that had more going on behind the hits it was the Zombies. There's a reason why agents of English allow them the sloppy misspelling of their best album Odessey and Oracle.

17) Lisa Loeb -- "Stay (I Missed You)," "Do You Sleep?," "I Do": I know some people like to say she's a one-hit wonder, but she really should have a lot more hits under her belt considering how much she was able to stay in the public eye, either with cooking shows or that other one where she tried to find love with a dating show that sounded and looked scripted to these amateur TV critic eyes. Maybe the industry likes her more than the public does. It's happened before.

16) Procol Harum -- "A Whiter Shade of Pale," "Homburg," "Conquistador": "Pale" is universal. The only reason you may not like it at this point is because of how many times you've heard it. I can still see the song in my mind. The other two are a testament to people's ears being more open to the unusual. "Homburg" is beautiful but really heavy in a church funeral kind of way (I think the "hook" shows up at 1:30?) and "Conquistador" features the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Yeah, that's commercial!

15) Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods -- "Billy, Don't Be A Hero," "Who Do You Think You Are," "The Heartbreak Kid": Maybe it's the isolated nature of my work, but "Billy, Don't Be A Hero" seems to have more cultural resonance than the other two songs, which are similarly catchy but clearly weighted down by the simple fact that there were too many Heywoods collecting a paycheck.

14) Deep Purple -- "Hush," "Kentucky Woman," "Smoke On the Water": Deep Purple's first three singles were all covers ("River Deep -- Mountain High" was third after "Hush" and "Kentucky Woman") suggesting to the world that these guys probably weren't going to last very long. By the time of "Smoke On the Water," they were decadent enough to be recording with the Rolling Stones' Mobile Unit in Montreux near Lake Geneva where a Frank Zappa fan tried to kill all the other Frank Zappa fans by shooting a flare gun at the highly flammable ceiling in the Montreux Casino theatre. That and other fascinating facts are discussed at length during this fine rock 'n' roll classic.

13) Cutting Crew -- "(I Just) Died In Your Arms," "One For the Mockingbird," "I've Been In Love Before": With three hit singles on their debut album Broadcast, these Hairstylists of America convention winners were clearly headed for great things. Except fans stopped being fans and the band were forced to disband once it became obvious that the fans were not due back until 1980s nostalgia kicked in.

12) Keith -- "Ain't Gonna Lie," "98.6," "Tell Me To My Face": The local radio station I listened to as a kid wasn't the kind of station to go out and look for new records to play. I imagine they had four copies of "98.6" just in case while never bothering with the other two songs. By 1985, how much Keith did you really need?

11) The Knack -- "My Sharona," "Good Girls Don't," "My Baby Talks Dirty": It's unnerving how quickly fortunes turn. The Knack were the hottest band in 1979-1980. Their mugs were plastered everywhere. Those first two singles were played constantly by radios and by real people. Then the second album hit and when "Baby Talks Dirty" proved to sound like a copy of "My Sharona," people just gave up. I sure thought the rest of that second album had a chance. But folks were no longer in a forgiving mood.

10) A Flock of Seagulls -- "I Ran (So Far Away)," "Space Age Love Song," "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph of You)": The next time someone tells you A Flock of Seagulls were nothing more than A Flock of Haircuts and a one-hit wonder, you tell they were a three hit wonder, dude!

9) The Cure -- "Just Like Heaven," "Love Song," "Friday I'm In Love": Yet another great band reduced to three songs from somewhere in what is becoming the middle of their career. If Robert Smith keeps them going, this will eventually be seen as the "late-early" period. Alternative stations had grown attached to them big time by The Head On the Door but communications to the mainland were slow.

8) Cream -- "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room," "Crossroads": Hit songs are also at the whims of their environment. No way any of these three songs could ever have been hits except when they were. You can say this for most songs, really. But no way does that guitar tone get picked up by radio DJs at any other time. Clapton knew that. Why else did he ditch the best sound of his career?

7) The Killers -- "Mr. Brightside," "When You Were Young," "Human": These poor guys had the misfortune of being born after the music business lost their grip on both the music and the business, so whatever career they have is a function of something that's already in place. The record company hopes people remember their name and if not…Well, boss, we lost another one...

6) Beastie Boys -- "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)," "Hey Ladies," "Intergalactic": If you think about it long enough, you'll realize that the Beasties were pretty lucky to get those second two hit singles. They weren't exactly radio-friendly and most of their tunes made for better videos, which is how most of their newer audience found them. See, in order to become successful you have to appeal to people beyond one demographic. You need to crossover. Or you need to dominate that one demographic so completely that others become interested by osmosis. What are they building in there?

5) The Hooters -- "And We Danced," "Day By Day," "Where Do The Children Go": For guys with such a pop touch, they sure didn't get much of a run as themselves. All three singles come from the band's second album and their first to be released by a label that could make them matter. You'd think naming yourselves after a bar would get you a little free publicity, but then you need to have an image to back it up. Or Hooters.

4) Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds -- "Don't Pull Your Love," "Fallin' In Love," "Winners and Losers": Part of the joy of writing this column -- besides, of course, the ridiculously high sums of money exchanged for these words and all the other words I get paid for by the word -- is finding musical acts who everyone thinks were "One-Hit Wonders" and exposing the truth. Bands don't care if you know their others hits, especially if it meant getting kicked off those "One Hit Wonder" programs. Who else but Y! Music has the nerve and the tenacity to go after three hit wonders, eh? Funny, I think I hear four!

3) Run DMC -- "Walk This Way," "You Be Illin," "Down With the King": They added those guys from Aerosmith to help with the crossover appeal, so white teenagers would know how hard Run DMC actually rocked despite being hip-hop. Apparently, some stuck around to check out the rest of the catalog. In marketing, that's called a "home run."

2) Spandau Ballet -- "True," "Gold," "Only When You Leave": Versions of "True" have been heard in the movies Sixteen Candles, The Wedding Singer, Charlie's Angels, Not Another Teen Movie, 50 First Dates, Wedding Crashers, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Hot Tub Time Machine, Crazy, Stupid, Love and I Love You Beth Cooper. And on TV shows King of Queens, Shameless, The Office, Popular, The Simpsons, Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Skins, Modern Family, Medium, Psych and The Colbert Report. I really wish I owned the publishing.

1) AC/DC -- "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Back In Black," "Moneytalks": You wonder where might be "Highway To Hell"? It clocked in at #47. Audiences need to be eased into hard rock. They rarely like a hard rock band the first time out. The appreciation comes later, which is why "Moneytalks" at #23 is their highest-ranked single. People were gotten ready!