The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 9.

Over the years, there have been several pop acts that have featured a married couple. In the 80s, these included Nu Shooz, Techno Twins (who I gushed over in a piece a while ago), and also this one. Timbuk 3 were an American group who formed in the mid-80s, and their earliest line-up consisted of Pat and Barbara MacDonald, and a tape machine. I presume that Pat was married to Barbara and not the tape machine.

Their first album was “Welcome To Timbuk 3”, and the only hit single that they had from this or any other album in this country was released in January 1987. “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” reached no. 21 in the UK, and did slightly better in America, reaching no. 19. When the album was released in February 1987, this reached no. 51 in the UK, and went one place better at no. 50 in America. vlcsnap-00142

There are some reasons why despite the fact this wasn’t a big hit it still manages to stand out to me. Firstly, there is the rather unusual video, which features some computer-generated images that have had a real mouth put over them to create a rather creepy visual effect. And the video along with the album cover also features a donkey. This is clearly where everything is not what it first seems. vlcsnap-00141

And although you would think from the title that this might be an optimistic song, it is believed to probably be about nuclear war. During the 80s, it is rather odd to think that whatever a song sounded like, when a group were asked what it was about, they often said it was nuclear war. There seemed to be a time when every other song on the chart was a comment on the situation, there was a real fear about the future. vlcsnap-00143

This was a group that had created an entertainingly quirky song, but Timbuk 3 would go on to have no more hits in the UK after this, and they would go on to release six albums all together, the last of these being in 1995, which was also when the MacDonalds divorced. I wonder who got the tape recorder. It turned out that maybe the future wasn’t so bright for them. Whether they like it or not, this will always be the song that they will be best remembered for, a great one-hit wonder of the 80s.

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 11.

Here’s yet another group who only had a brief moment of pop music fame. The Wiseguys were an English dance duo that consisted of Touché and Regal. They released some singles and an album in the mid-90s, but the first time they made the Top 75 was in 1998 when “Ooh La La” reached no. 55. The follow-up single also in 1998 was “Start The Commotion” which reached no. 66, but I imagine they’d hoped for more. Both of these featured on their second album “The Antidote”.

About a year later “Ooh La La” was featured in an advert for Budweiser that was rather popular at the time and featured some talking frogs. This led to a rerelease in June 1999, and this time this one went on to do much better and was not far off being a chart-topper, reaching no. 2. So it seemed that it would be a sensible idea to give “Start The Commotion” another go, as it was felt this one definitely had the potential to become a big hit too. vlcsnap-00126

I remember that the video had a rather interesting idea. For every instrument that was played in the song, the same clip was always played. So whether it was the flute or the guitar, the clip would be played over and over again. I thought that this was very creative myself, I’ve not seen another video like it. I’m not sure how much of the music was sampled either, but somehow it all worked. In September 1999 “Start The Commotion” was rereleased and this time reached no. 47. An improvement, but still a disappointment to some extent, so shortly after they had made their breakthrough. vlcsnap-00127

Then about a year or two later, this one had another wave of interest when it was featured in a car advert in America, and it was also on the soundtrack of several films including Zoolander. It was odd seeing the video suddenly coming back to TV again, but this time it contained some clips from that film, meaning that the original repetition idea was now all broken up and didn’t work. vlcsnap-00128

However, it did mean that “Start The Commotion” made the Top 40 in America, even if it never did in the UK. I did think for a while that this would be released for a third or even fourth time in an attempt to became the big hit that this deserved to be for me. “The Antidote” album never made the Top 100 though. Not long after this, The Wiseguys came to an end, although they have continued to work on other projects with various dance music acts. G-roovy!

Down The Dumper – The 90s Part 10.

Here’s a look back at another group who suddenly got big for a short time. The Boo Radleys formed in the late-80s, and they took their name from a character in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Their frontman was known simply as “Sice”, although his first name was actually Simon. And well, as you should know by now, I’m sorry but it’s no good, I’ve got to do it, here goes… vlcsnap-00001

Bid again!“. Now I’ve got that out of my system, their first album “Ichabod And I” was released in 1990. This album didn’t chart, but the few fans it did attract had just one question… which one’s Ichabod? They then released some more singles and albums that did enter the chart, but not the Top 40. In March 1995 they suddenly hit the big time when they released “Wake Up Boo!”, and the video was made at Battersea Power Station. vlcsnap-00138

This is often considered to be a cheery, summer song, with most people not realising that the opening lyric is “summer’s gone“. “Wake Up Boo!” reached no. 9 to become their first and only Top Ten hit. Also around this time their fourth album “Wake Up!” was released, and this was a chart-topper. Part of their newfound success could be because they were grouped in with the Britpop genre when that was on the up, even though they always denied that they desired to be a part of all that. vlcsnap-00136

As well as “Wake Up Boo!” being played on the radio rather frequently, they also got on to the cover of Melody Maker, celebrating the fact that they were now popular, and I remember being rather surprised at how tiny Sice’s head seemed to be in comparison to his bandmate Martin. Their new fans had just one question… which one’s Boo? I can’t believe I did that joke for a second time. br1

The next singles off the album were “Find The Answer Within”, “It’s Lulu” (which features a reference to Smash Hits, and in the video they are briefly seen on the cover, although I’m sure that it’s not real, they never came across as a Smash Hits-type group really), and “From The Bench At Belvidere”. These were also good and they all made the lower end of the Top 40. Their live performances were always enhanced by having some spoons and a trumpeter on standby too. vlcsnap-00139

In 1996 their fifth album “C’Mon Kids” was released (the computer-generated video for “Ride The Tiger” was much praised), and this was followed in 1998 by their sixth album “Kingsize”. The first single “Free Huey” was released in October 1998, and reached only no. 54. Their later singles were much more harder-edged and shouty, but they denied that they were trying to shake off their mainstream “Wake Up Boo!” fans. The ones remaining had just one question… which one’s Huey? Oh dear. The next single was cancelled and The Boo Radleys split after a decade to work on other projects.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 4.

One interesting thing about pop music in the late-90s/early-2000s is the amount of French dance acts that were on the scene. Some of the most famous include Air, Cassius, and of course Daft Punk. But this group’s contribution mustn’t be overlooked either. When trying to do pieces about dance acts from this era, it’s rather difficult to find much information about them because they’re mostly various interchangeable producers, but as I really like this one I thought it was worth telling its story.

Bel Amour were a trio, and in May 2001, their first single, also called “Bel Amour”, was released, and this reached no. 23 in the UK, its highest chart position anywhere in the world. I remember that this was also featured on some dance compilations when that was a rather overcrowded market. This was also featured on the final edition of ITV’s entertaining series The Dance Years that looked back at some of the biggest hits of 2001, and there was a reference to “the screaming bassline”. Not literally I hope. vlcsnap-00133

This was also about the only time that I can remember seeing some of the video on TV, which had a rather unusual idea. This featured two people who both had blow-up dolls, although they kept doing the wrong things with them, and they deflated. Don’t play darts with them because they’ll burst, right. Disappointed, they both leave their house to get rid of their doll, and they look at each other and decide a real person is much better. That’s an image that definitely stays with you. vlcsnap-00135

Also notable about “Bel Amour” is that the 1979 disco song “The Mystery With Me” by Jo Bisso was sampled. And the vocalist is Mani Hoffman, who later in 2001 would become better known for his contribution to “Starlight” by Supermen Lovers, which was a Top Ten hit and had a video that famously starred a potato. I can’t believe that both these songs are two decades old now, how did that happen. vlcsnap-00134

This turned out to be Bel Amour’s only hit single. As always with songs like this, there was a lot of hope that this would be the club anthem of the summer that would be blaring out of the radio here, there and everywhere endlessly, but this wasn’t to be. It seems that there wasn’t much more released under this name, apart from a few remixes, but they never reached this level of success again, and there was no album either.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 3.

This is someone who it turns out has had a rather varied career, taking in more than pop music, and her constant name and image changes make it all rather complicated, but I think I’ve got the basics right. Natalia Cuppuccini was born in 1986. She started out as an actress, and appeared in various high-profile TV shows, but her most regular role was in the rubbish BBC1 sitcom All About Me, starring Jasper Carrott. As this point she was credited as Natalia Keery-Fisher.

After this, she became a rapper, and released a single under the name Verbalicious. “Don’t Play Nice” was released on the All Around The World label in March 2005 and narrowly missed the Top Ten, reaching no. 11. This was a good one, and her TV appearances to promote this included CD:UK. A while ago I found an old music compilation from the mid-2000s called “Pop Princesses 2”, featuring one CD of songs by female singers who were big at the time, and also a DVD featuring lots of videos. vlcsnap-00121

I have to admit that out of all of them “Don’t Play Nice” was just about the first one that I selected to watch, and it gave me something of a flashback. Not long after this, she changed her name once again to Natalia Kills. It seems that she actually did have a hit under this name, but although technically this means she wasn’t a one-hit wonder, because it was in the 2010s decade, it was under a different name, I don’t remember it, and I’m tired now, I thought I’d still feature this. vlcsnap-00123

After this, in 2015 she suddenly hit the headlines again when she was involved in a scandal, and by this point she was known as Natalia Sinclair, I do hope you’re keeping up with all of this. For some reason her and her husband were on the panel of the New Zealand version of The X Factor, and they were both sacked after just one show for heavily criticising a hopeful contestant. That’s a rather unusual career swerve. vlcsnap-00125

So although Natalia or whatever she’s called this week has been in the music business for a long time now, her most successful time as far as the singles chart goes was when she was starting out, and it seems that having tried out several musical styles and personas, along with writing songs too, she has left this behind somewhat now, which is a disappointment as it would’ve been good to have heard more from her in her Verablicious persona.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 2.

In this series, I have been defining a one-hit wonder as an act that only had one single make the Top 75 or Top 100, regardless of what position it was. But The Official Charts Company defines a one-hit wonder in its strictest sense as an act that had a chart-topping single and nothing else ever. There haven’t been too many occurrences over the years, especially when you consider most are intentionally one-off charity collaborations, but this one is an example of this.

3 Of A Kind (nothing to do with Lenny Henry or Tracey Ullman) were a trio consisting of Liana, Nicholas, and Marc. They were part of the UK Garage scene that was still just about going, and their debut single was given a lot of support by Rinse FM. I suppose you could say they rinsed it, ha-ha. I remember seeing the video to this at the time, and rather enjoying the song, but I didn’t expect that it would become so successful. Maybe they didn’t either. vlcsnap-00071

“Babycakes”, which took its name from a 1989 film, was released in August 2004, and went on to top the chart for one week. Of course this was an impressive achievement, but this was during the time when this could be considered to be a little hollow. This is because this was the rather weird transitional phase where singles sales were low and downloads had not yet been added to the chart, Top Of The Pops was faltering, and social media, YouTube, and the like hadn’t yet been developed. vlcsnap-00119

And I know that “I just wanted you to know, oh, oh/That I think our love’ll grow yeah, yeah” isn’t exactly the most profound lyric ever, but as far as commercial Garage went it was fine. When I was trying to find out more about what happened to 3 Of A Kind, I saw a piece online that said because of their look and sound, they could be considered to be something of a forerunner to N-Dubz, which is a horrible thing to say about anyone really. I know which group I prefer.vlcsnap-00120

It seems that for a short while there was a follow-up single planned, but this was never released, and there was no album either, presumably they went their separate ways shortly after this. So their pop career was almost over just after it started, maybe sometimes it is better to leave people wanting more, but it’ll be something to tell the grandchildren I suppose. I wonder what supermarket they’re working in now.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 1.

Let’s continue this series into 2000s decade, and discover even more pop acts who only had a single moment of chart success. I’ll start this piece with a memory that I have. When Freeview launched in 2002, there were two music channels among the line-up, The Hits and TMF (The Music Factory). They were no MTV or UK Play, but it was still good to have them.

The Hits was a channel where you could phone in and request what video you wanted to be played from a fairly small list by entering its code on your keypad. The list was usually updated about once a week, so some videos got shown rather frequently. TMF would have various strands with different names such as Hits At Home and Lateshift, where various genres would be shown at various times, such as pop in the afternoon, and maybe rock in the evening. vlcsnap-00066

This seemed to be a good idea, but the story goes that TMF was being beaten in the ratings by The Hits, so barely a week after the launch, they changed their policy, and decided to similarly rotate a small amount of pop hits, but they kept the names of the strands for a while, even though they would now all be featuring the same songs. But I did always try to keep an eye out for if anything new would ever be shown. vlcsnap-00068

This was still in the pre-YouTube days when this was the best way to see videos. Then after some more time, TMF showed fewer videos and more regular shows, before there was a name change to Viva and videos practically stopped being shown all together, and then vanishing off Freeview not long after, while The Hits evolved into 4Music (and seemingly gave up on the actual music too). vlcsnap-00069

When watching TMF one afternoon, one song really jumped out at me. Scent were a group that featured various members, and one of them had contributed to Black Box, who were a big chart success in 1989. They also featured an Irish singer called Miss Motif (whose real name is Mandy Darcy), who in the video looked very stern and stylish, coming across as a sort-of cross between Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Roisin Murphy, which is fine by me. vlcsnap-00070

“Up And Down” was released on the Positiva label (which released a lot of great dance singles around this time) in August 2004 and reached no. 23. I remember being really disappointed that this didn’t get any higher, and this deserves to be better remembered. I do have the maxisingle, that features extended versions and remixes, and I’d go as far as to say that this is one of my favourite hit singles of 2004. Scent would have no further hits, and it seems that Miss Motif has gone on to have some success as a club DJ.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 8.

I’ll start this piece by going on about something I have written a little about before, but I’ll now expand on it. As I have said, in the late-90s, I used to listen to Virgin among other stations. Virgin gained some publicity when Chris Evans left BBC Radio 1 under a cloud and joined as the breakfast slot host (and he eventually bought the radio station too). He also had a posse, a zoo, a bunch of fawning hangers-on, or whatever you want to call them.

One of them was eventually given their own show on Virgin (and they would also appear on TFI Friday). This was Johnny Boy And The Wheels Of Steel, and on weekend evenings, he’d play songs from various genres such as synthpop, funk, disco, and so on, all mostly from the late-70s/early-80s. So this is where I heard lots of famous songs for the first time, about 15 or 20 years after they were hits, and I was very pleased to be introduced to them.

I still associate some of them so closely to the show that they could be a genre in itself, I suppose I could call this one “Johnny Boy Pop”. Examples include “The Sound Of The Crowd” by The Human League, “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” by Indeep, “Knock On Wood” by Amii Stewart, and also this one. Re-Flex (not to be confused with “The Reflex” by Duran Duran), where an English band that formed in 1981, and their frontman was John Baxter. rf1

Their one and only hit “The Politics Of Dancing” (“the politics of ooh feeling good“) was released in January 1984 and reached no. 28 in the UK, and no. 24 in America. They also appeared on Top Of The Pops and were interviewed in Smash Hits, so they achieved what must have been the ambitions of most of the bands around at the time. They also appeared on TV across Europe, and they featured a guy with a mullet playing two keyboards at the same time, which is terrific. vlcsnap-00063

“The Politics Of Dancing” has also featured on the soundtrack of several films, and curiously there were two videos made. I really do like this one, and even now it takes me back to when I heard this for the first time. Re-Flex went on to release some more singles in 1984, including “Praying To The Beat” and “Couldn’t Stand A Day”, but although these did make the Top 100, they weren’t hits. vlcsnap-00060

Their first album, also called “The Politics Of Dancing”, didn’t chart either, and was given 5½/10 when reviewed by Smash Hits. They then went on to work on a second album “Humanication” (and they also collaborated with Sting, but please don’t hold that against them), but this wasn’t released, and Re-Flex split shortly after. The album did eventually come out 25 years later. They really are a great example of an 80s one-hit wonder.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 90s Part 4.

This is a group that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry (when you search for Hillman Minx, you get an article about the make of car with that name, but nothing about this group). I did manage to find out that they were a British/French group, but that’s about it, and even though I doubt that there will be many people who remember this, there are some reasons why I want to tell the story of this one.

Firstly, I’m fairly sure that Mark And Lard on BBC Radio 1 made “I’ve Had Enough” be their Record Of The Week, and most of the songs that they selected for this turned out to be huge flops, so even this one could be classed to be a huge success by comparison. They seemed to be rather fond of the quirky lyrics, where the singer Malcolm lists things in fashion at the time that he’s had enough of. vlcsnap-00053

And you can practically date to the hour when this song released from this. On the list are “laptops, pagers, foreign beers“, and the most amusing for me, which was simply “Jerry Springer’s face“. I also remember the video being shown on one of the final editions of The Chart Show. There were a lot of videos from indie bands shown exclusively over the years, and some bands had (almost literally) five seconds of fame when their video was briefly shown on The Indie Chart. vlcsnap-00045

I’m rather surprised that no-one has created a genre called “The Chart Show indie”, a lot of groups could fit into it, including this one. Also notable about the video is that it starred Angus Deayton, around the peak of his Have I Got News For You fame, he must’ve cost a few quid to hire. Deayton played a TV presenter looking on rather perplexed at this unexpected rant. It goes without saying that nothing like this is shown on ITV on weekend afternoons any more. vlcsnap-00044

I don’t know if there was any other publicity beyond this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were also featured in Melody Maker around this time, and they probably claimed that they were the hottest new group in Britain and it would be a shock if they didn’t go on to bigger than Oasis, as they always did. And also involved on the production team was Dave Stewart. vlcsnap-00059

“I’ve Had Enough” was released in September 1998, and reached only no. 72, becoming a rather small hit. I’m not really sure what happened to Hillman Minx after this, as they were barely heard of ever again, it seems there was an album planned, but it was never released. Thinking about this again though reminded me of just how exhausting it was to live in the 90s sometimes with all these short-lived fads.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 80s Part 7.

This has got to be one of the most unusual hit singles of the 80s, and it also has a rather interesting story. Will Powers was an American singer. But who were they exactly? Well, there was no such person. This was a character who was created by Lynn Goldsmith, better known as a photographer of rock stars. Will Powers (that’s a great pun) was supposed to be a parody of self-help tapes of the “how to get rich instantly!” variety that were popular at the time.

Goldsmith became Powers by having the pitch of her voice altered to make her sound male. In October 1983 “Kissing With Confidence” was released, this reached no. 17, and also featured on the first “Now” album. We were given lots of advice that probably wasn’t supposed to be taken too seriously, such as “practice this chant in the morning as you rise, in the evening as you retire, and just before a date“. This was accompanied by an uncredited vocal from Carly Simon. vlcsnap-00041

I always presumed that this was supposed to be a one-off, but it turns out that there’s much more. There was a whole album of this made called “Dancing For Mental Health”, which featured lots more songs that offered advice on various things accompanied by plinky-plonky music, and also seemed to insist that there was a Will Powers Institute. If we followed the simple instructions, not only would be able to find the path to our own happiness, we would also be able to breathe easier, and probably have smoother trousers too. vlcsnap-00042

I was surprised by how many famous musicians contributed to the album along with Goldsmith, including Nile Rodgers, and Tom Bailey from Thompson Twins. Although there were no further hits, there were some more singles released and videos, including “Smile”, and “Adventures In Success”, which featured some very early computer graphics that would’ve looked fancy in 1983, but now come across as mildly scary. vlcsnap-00039

There was also a variation on the “Adventures In Success” video where various celebrities including Eric Clapton, Holly Johnson, Steve Winwood, and even Arsenal footballer Tony Woodcock were among those praising the institute for the advice that they had offered, claiming to be among the many millions of people around the world now satisfied with who they are. Goldsmith was also interviewed in Record Mirror around this time to explain the idea a little more. vlcsnap-00036

And the video for “Opportunity” featured a woman who had blue hair! Another one! Just when I thought I’d seen them all. I thought that there wouldn’t be any at all, but now there is a surprisingly long list. I’m fairly sure that there were no further albums or singles after this though, and the joke had probably run its course by this point (“Kissing With Confidence” also soundtracked a few adverts), but this was all rather bizarre even by the standards of 80s pop music.