I think the subject has been done to death since high school, but there seem to be an awful lot of shows right now about one-hit wonders. VH1 did a Top 100 countdown of them a few weeks ago, and the iTunes Store just prompted me to download their One-Hit Wonders Vol. 2 collection.
What gets me is the smugness that audiophiles have about one-hit-wonders; as I like to say, they have one more hit that you ever did. Most people's favorite bands have never yielded a hit – in my case, XTC put out fourteen brilliant albums and never had a Top 40 song. Not "Senses Working Overtime," not "Dear God," not "Making Plans for Nigel" – not even the ones you might know. The fact that Right Said Fred ("I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt") was capable of doing something XTC couldn't is further proof of an arbitrary world with no functioning Deity.
Another curious thing about so-called one-hit-wonders is that most of them had 2-5 other hits that you've forgotten about. At dinner the other night, someone described Men at Work as a one-hit band for "Down Under," when they actually had a Number 1 song before that one ("Who Can it Be Now?"). Men at Work also had "Overkill," "It's a Mistake," "Be Good Johnny," and "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive" just to name a few early MTV heavy rotations. If you look at any of the excellent Top 40 books out there (or have me along with you on a month-long road trip), you'd know fun and useful facts like Romeo Void's other song.
Another one of my favorite band categories are Groups That Had a Shitload of Hits But You Don't Remember They Existed, which includes Quarterflash, Billy Squier, Ambrosia and Richard Marx. These people all have mansions, swimming pools shaped like guitars and manservants.
I've rambled on about micro-eras before (like the "Daisy Age" from 1987-90) but there was another weird one occurring from about mid-1980 to early 1982. It was the last gasp of the earnest hair bands like REO Speedwagon, Blue Oyster Cult, Foreigner, Loverboy and Journey before the requisite beauty-demands of MTV made them superfluous. The music? Frequently terrible (Speedwagon's "Take It On the Run" and Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero" is CRAP). The lyrics? Unbelievably idiotic ("I'm not looking for a love that'll last, I know what I need and I need it fast"). But those early days of Atari, after Disco and before the New Romantics, had its own barefoot charm.
Speaking of Romeo Void, VH1 has done an excellent job of mining the secret longings of your backwards-leaning 33-year-old; their show Bands Reunited is one of the best ideas I've seen in the history of nostalgia. I don't know if it works or not, but they tried to get the Void, Berlin, Kajagoogoo, The Alarm and Squeeze back together for one show. Putting the Squeeze boys in one room is a public service to humanity, and I thought only the Budster and I liked Romeo Void. Count me in! Can you also try and get the Smiths back together? I'd give up baked goods to see Morrissey and Marr together again!!!