Donielle Flynn

The Best One-Hit Wonders of Classic Rock: list contains mostly '70s and '80s with '60s and 90's picks plus a New Wave bonus section.

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.

Best One-Hit Wonders Of Classic Rock

  • "Never Been Any Reason" - Head East

    One of the greatest kiss-off songs ever written. You never give me no answer, you never tell me the truth. There’s never been any reason for me to think about you.” The song was written by lead guitarist, Mike Somerville.  Head East wasn’t signed when they released their first album, Flat As a Pancake.  They used their own money to print 5,000 vinyl copies and 500 8-tracks.  Head East sold the entire inventory.  A&R was impressed enough to give them a deal and released the album.  (courtesy of LastFM)

  • "Rock & Roll Hootchie Coo" - Rick Derringer

    “Lawdy mama light my fuse.” “Rock and Roll Hotchie Coo” qualifies Rick Derringer as a one-hit wonder, but he also had success when playing guitar with The McCoys, Edgar Winter, and Johnny Winter And.  Rick Derringer wrote the song, but it’s technically a cover since it was released first when Derringer was with Johnny Winter And in 1970 and a live version with Edgar Winter in 1972. (  Here’s the song live with Edgar Winter:


  • "We're Not Gonna Take It" - Twisted Sister

    I’m scared that Dee Snider will be mad if he finds out I put him on this list.  He’ll make me drop and give him 20.  Dee was smart with the lyrics, he kept them open enough for this rebel anthem to apply to anyone who’s not gonna take it anymore. It’s hard to believe (but true) that “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is the same melody as “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  Twisted Sister even has a Christmas version of the song.

  • "Black Betty" - Ram Jam

    Leadbelly rescued many traditional blues/folk songs that would have been lost otherwise.  “Black Betty” in one of them: “She’s so rock steady, bam-ba-lam… And she’s always ready.” Ram Jam wasn’t around for long and this was their only hit. can tell you where the band members are now.

  • "All Right Now" - Free

    This song was a BIG point of contention on the Facebook surveys.  People mentioned other “hit” songs from Free.  They were preaching to the choir. I love Paul Rodgers.  This was his first hit song.  The band actually came up with it after a gig with a less-than-impressed crowd. Bass player Andy Fraser started jumping around after the show and singing “All Right Now” to cheer his bandmates up. Andy said in an interview with Song Writing Magazine, “The rest of the band started tapping along and so I thought, we’re onto something here.” The song took him less than 10 minutes to write the chords and chorus.  Paul wrote the verses the next day. Billboard lists two songs from Free that made the Hot 100.  “All Right Now” was the only one to break the Top 40, peaking at #4.

  • Turn Up The Radio" - Autograph

    Autograph was one of the first bands to use product placement in their video.  Paper Mate paid for their video.  The band signs in at the beginning of the video with their Paper Mate erasable pen and then it’s time to rock. Things go better with rock. The only time I turn it down… Is when I’m sleepin’ it off.” The band got a bigger budget for their video and Paper Mate got a free plug on MTV.


  • "Mississippi Queen" - Mountain

    Leslie West was extremely influential on a lot of bands that would follow after Mountain.  Not only was he extremely talented, but he was also hilariously honest. According to Songfacts, Leslie West explained the writing process for “Mississippi Queen” saying,We got real high, took out a napkin, and I came up with the main riff and the chords.” My God, Leslie, you are missed. “Mississippi Queen… She taught me everything” The lyrics tell of a lady who shows this man some ways in the art of love.


  • "Can't Find My Way Home" - Blind Faith

    Supergroup Blind Faith came about after Cream and Traffic went their own ways. Steve WinwoodEric ClaptonGinger Baker, and Ric Grech were the members of Blind Faith for one album, one three-month tour, and one number-one hit. And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.”  The meaning of the lyrics is ambiguous and Steve Winwood has never been willing to speak of the inspiration behind the song.  Apparently, Steve leaves it to the listener to take or leave what they want from the lyrics. I chose the original acoustic version of the song to accompany:



  • "Lunatic Fringe" - Red Rider

    Ten years before Tom Cochrane hit with “Life Is a Highway,” he fronted Red Rider.  Tom wrote the song saying in a Toronto radio interview, It’s about being vigilant, about our freedom.”  He was inspired to write “Lunatic Fringe” after reading about Raoul Wallenberg, a man who helped protect thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II. “We’re on guard this time… Against your final solution.”

    Red Rider did have more than one hit in their native country of Canada, but on the Billboard charts, Red Rider did not have even one hit.  Because of the amount of airplay they received on album-oriented rock stations, I feel they are still a valid pick for a one-hit-wonder of classic rock. 

  • "Driver's Seat" - Sniff 'n' The Tears

    “The news is blue. Has it a way to get to you? What can I do? I’ll not remember my time with you.”  The lyrics of “Driver’s Seat” tell of a person feeling lost after the end of a relationship.  The song was a big hit everywhere but in Sniff ‘n’ The Tears homeland of Britain. 


  • "Ride Captain Ride" - Blues Image

    Blues Image lead singer Mike Pinera and keyboardist Skip Konte wrote this song together.  The band needed another song for the album and “Ride Captain Ride” came about in a very short amount of time.  Blues Image split soon after the release of “Ride Captain Ride.” The song went on to sell more than one million copies in 1970. Mike Pinera joined Iron Butterfly and Skip Konte went to Three Dog Night.


  • "Vehicle" - The Ides of March

    Before Jim Peterik was in Survivor, he was the lead singer and guitarist of The Ides of March.  Jim was inspired to write “Vehicle” about his ex-girlfriend, Karen. The two dated, broke up, and then Karen started calling and asking Jim to drive her places. “I’m your vehicle, baby… I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.” Jim and Karen eventually got back together.  In fact, they’ve been married for more than 40 years.  Jim says she knows it happened, but doesn’t like to admit it. Karen still doesn’t like to hear the song. (

  • One-Hit Wonder '60's Picks

    “96 Tears” – ? & The Mysterians – ? is the stage name of Rudy Martinez.  The band was together for most of the ’60s, but regrouped sometime later and has toured from time to time. ? is an interesting character.  You can check out his website HERE. Tell me I’m wrong.


    “Spirit In The Sky” – Norman Greenbaum – Norman used to run a goat and chicken farm. It’s where “Spirit In The Sky” was first recorded.  He set out to write a religious rock song.  Norman is Jewish, but he decided to use “Jesus” in the song because he thought it would make the song more marketable. This song was released in 1969 but made it to number one in May of 1970.

  • One-Hit Wonder '90's Picks

    “What’s Up” – 4 Non Blondes – Frontwoman, Linda Perry was 24, not 25 when she wrote “What’s Up.” “Twenty-five years and my life is still… Trying to get up that great big hill of hope.” She thought 25 sounded better than 24. #agreed The video has over 1.6 billion views on YouTube. 4 Non Blondes broke up before recording a second album.


    “No Rain” – Blind Melon – Bass player Brad Smith wrote this song before he joined Blind Melon. You know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today… So stay with me and I’ll have it made.” In an interview with Songfacts he said, “The song is about not being able to get out of bed and find excuses to face the day when you have really, in a way, nothing.”


    “Sex and Candy” – Marcy PlaygroundI’m telling you, when I was very young, I experimented with drugs, but when I was writing these songs, I wasn’t high. But it sounds like I was high.” John Wozniak, lead singer and author of “Sex and Candy” in an interview with Songfacts. Yeah, mama, this surely is a dream, dig it.”


    SOOOO MANY mixed tapes… these are some of my favorites from the New Wave days in the early ’80s.  Feel free to click on the songs for their videos. I dropped Simple Minds and Tommy Tutone in with New Wave for this list.  They’re in a double category, in my opinion.  They get played on classic rock radio often but are of a more alternative nature.

    “Video Killed The Radio Star” – The Buggles

    “Turning Japanese” – Vapors

    “The Promise” – When in Rome

    “Melt with You” – Modern English

    “Under The Milkyway” – The Church

    “Jenny (867-5309)” – Tommy Tutone

    “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell

    “Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats


  • GUILTY PLEASURE: "Dancing in the Moonlight" - King Harvest

    This song makes me really happy, but the origin is actually really dark.  Sherman Kelly has played keyboards and written songs for several bands.  In the About section on Sherman’s website, he details a trip to St.Croix in 1969 where he was attacked by “a vicious St. Croix gang who eventually murdered 8 American tourists” and was left for dead.  While recovering he wrote “Dancing In The Moonlight” saying, “I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life.” 

    King Harvest recorded the song, it hit big and they invited Sherman to join them.

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