What is a “One-Hit Wonder?” The definition depends on who you ask. Some sites I looked at listed Robert Palmer or Gary Wright in their One-Hit Wonder category. I would not define them as one-hits, but they did. I found a major music site that included Europe’s “Final Countdown” in their 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders, but Europe’s follow-up ballad, “Carrie,” went to number three on Billboard. Part of the one-hit wonder is subjective: it’s whether we remember any other songs from that artist. That’s OK by me. Any conversation that makes you think about the music is good conversation. For the purpose of this list though, I chose to be more fact-based than that.
National One-Hit Wonder Day
National One-Hit Wonder Day is celebrated on September 25th of each year. Our one-hitters represent a special part of our classic rock history. Some of the biggest songs of classic rock have come from the one-and-done artists.
I focused on the ’70s and ’80s primarily, but I did make picks for the ’60s and ’90s as well. I also have a bonus New Wave section. As a child in the ’80s, these songs made it on a lot of the mixed tapes that I made for friends and family. It is a pleasure revisiting these songs. I hope you enjoy the list as well.
How This One-Hit List Was Made
Not only did I research existing lists, but I also set up several Facebook surveys in the classic rock groups I am a part of. I value opinions. My favorite and your favorite may be two different songs, but the conversation and the respect of other opinions are things that I value in my passion for classic rock. Over a thousand comments were received and I read them all.
Some of the bands on this list did have light charting success on other songs, but nothing that broke the Top 40. That’s where it gets dicey. I wouldn’t consider Twisted Sister a one-hit wonder since they also have “I Wanna Rock.” I looked up the charts for “I Wanna Rock.” It spent 3 weeks on Billboard and peaked at #68, so yeah.. kinda… Twisted Sister is a one-hit wonder. #bummer
In order for a band to be considered a one-hit wonder on this list, they had only ONE song that cracked the U.S. Billboard Top 40. We had a lot of Donnie Iris’s “Ah! Leah!” (great song) answers, but Donnie had several Billboard hits. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is also not a one-hit wonder. Billboard lists seven songs in the top 40 of the Hot 100 back in the day.
After careful research, these are my picks for the best one-hit wonders of classic rock in no particular order.