Nine One Hit Wonders (And Their Not-So-Wondrous Follow-Ups)


There’s nothing harder to achieve in the music industry than consistency. A massive number of artists manage to get their big break, only to be relegated to the realm of the one-hit wonder after failing to follow up their hit single with another home run. There’s a lot of attention given to the hits themselves, but what about the ill-fated follow-ups that sealed the fates of countless bands who were just trying to get ahead?

That’s where I come in with several decades of musical mediocrity, bringing together for the first time a list of Billboard catastrophes.

#9. The Lemon Pipers

The Hit: “Green Tambourine”

Does it look like anyone here cares that none of the instruments are plugged in?

If you read the names above and started scratching your head, you probably aren’t alone. Using the power of the internet, we’re traveling all the way back to 1968 for number 9 in the countdown. The Lemon Pipers were an Ohio band who traded their hard rocking ways for the realm of bubblegum pop in exchange for fame. Since you’re reading this article, you can probably imagine how well that went. Green Tambourine is a poppy psychedelic number about one fellow’s adoration for his jingly-jangling tambourine, the color of which plays a significant part in his love of the instrument. It’s dated, but isn’t hard to listen to by any means and utilizes the quintessentially 60’s sound of the sitar to evoke an image of hallucinogenic bliss. I’ll also nominate this song for the entry on this countdown most likely to share its name with a mixed drink.

The Follow Up: “Rice Is Nice”

Nothing says double-entendre like a string quartet

Owing partially to the fact that the tambourine is a shitty instrument, the Lemon Pipers didn’t see much more success after cracking the charts with “Green Tambourine”. “Rice Is Nice” is a perfect example of innuendo executed improperly. I can’t tell if the song is about ejaculating on a girl’s face or a borderline racist explanation of the singer’s love of Asians. By 1968, the boom in psychedelic pop created by the Beatles was waning, and in a couple of years, screaming drug-fueled guitar solos would take the limelight, wailing out the confusion and frustration of life in the 70’s. Lesson learned: Rice is a terrible metaphor for semen, but a great way to land at number 9 on a list of the worst one-hit wonder follow-ups ever.



# 8. Soft Cell

The Hit: “Tainted Love”

I’ll let you guess how much the director had to pay a black guy to play a servant

Soft Cell’s synthesizer-driven 1981 hit has all the makings of a great pop song. It’s a simple song with catchy lyrics and an easy-to-remember melody. The music video is almost just as iconic, with the band wearing a hodgepodge of Roman attire and country club gear. The song is a quintessential example of the prototypical groundwork for Electronic Dance Music that was born out of the 80’s, and I can respect that. The song conjures up the image of neon lights and the smell of hair spray that instills a sense of nostalgia in countless folks who listen to it. Soft Cell anticipated the New Wave with “Tainted Love” and managed to become part of history in doing so.

The Follow Up: “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”

I’d like to think the out-of-place mime is the real hero of the video

Now this is an oddity. As hard as I want to dislike the song’s awkward vocals and clumsy, unfitting synth lines, I don’t. At moments it sounds like a drunk English boy crooning over the demo track of a cheap Casio keyboard, but it has charm. Say what you will about it, but I wouldn’t really call this one a flop. It didn’t do very well in the States, but it fared much better in the UK, where it peaked at number 3. Stick to wearing mascara and playing cricket with Caesar, for everyone’s sake.



# 7. Nena

The Hit: “99 Luftballons”

It’s difficult to tell if West German fashion embraced military clothing out of cosmetic appeal or necessity

In an unexpected turn of events, Nena proved in 1983 that music was a universal language with their upbeat and peppy tale of… wait, nuclear war? Well, that’s a strange turn of events. The song itself is a tale of 99 colorful balloons released into the air by an unnamed fun-loving citizen of West Germany that wander over the Berlin Wall into the Soviet Sector, wrongly setting off Russian missile alert systems and sparking a nuclear war. Wow. No room for happy endings here, I guess. To this day, it’s hard to talk about music in the 80’s without mentioning this song.

The Follow Up: Nur  Getraeumt (Just a Dream)

It’s a shame that they didn’t see much more success. Luckily, the wall’s gone and Germany can go back to worrying about cars and dungeon porn instead of nuclear fallout

Being a German-speaking band meant that Nena fared about as well on the English pop charts as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory. Despite having a slew of other charting hits in their home country, no song ever managed to become the breakout hit that “99 Luftballons” was. They managed to chart in the US at number 102 with “Just A Dream” in 1984, but the band’s fate had already been sealed in the English-speaking world. The singer was kind of cute, though, so I guess that means something. It’s sad that hair-metal bands would be copying her style a few years down the road.



#6. Baha Men

The Hit: “Who Let The Dogs Out?”

It’s almost sad that we’ll never see tiny little televisions again

I don’t even know what to say about this song. The question the Baha Men are asking is fairly simple: Who exactly let all these goddamn dogs out. Unfortunately for me, that’s where my understanding of the song ends. Too many questions are raised and not enough answers are given. Whose dogs are they? Why did they need to stay in? Why is there a morbidly obese Carl Winslow stand-in working the door of a dog pound? It’s all just too much to take in. I guess if you look beneath the surface, then there’s probably some kind of sexual innuendo that I can only pray doesn’t involve actual canines. What’s even more traumatizing about this song for me is the pain I had to endure as a young lad from hearing it over and over again because our school mascot was a bulldog. Because of that, I may be a bit biased, but you won’t find me listening to “Who Let The Dogs Out?” if I’m waxing nostalgic for the 2000’s.

The Follow Up: “You All Dat”

I’m pretty sure those turntables are just superimposed over that guy

For the sake of this article, I’m not going to be critical of the word “Dat” being used in the title of this flop. There are way bigger fish to fry. I mean, how the hell was this song not MORE popular than “Who Let The Dogs Out”? It’s a musical tale about being denied a booty call, so you can’t really expect it to be up there with “Stairway To Heaven”. For some reason the Baha Men thought it was a perfectly acceptable idea to sample the African singing from the beginning of The Lion King, because nothing goes better with begging a done-up sister at a party for sex than a song used to set the stage for a tale about maturing and accepting responsibility. It’s almost philosophical if you think about it.(Don’t think about it.)



#5. Carl Douglas

The Hit: “Kung-Fu Fighting”

The only way the audience could be less lively involves a one-inch punch.

Let me start this by saying that there’s no arguing just how much of a classic this song is. With that said, it’s also one of the dumbest goddamn songs ever recorded. There’s just something comical about a black man singing a song about stereotypical Chinese martial arts. Whether or not it’s juvenile, the song had “JACKPOT!” written all over it. Sure enough, the story of funky Billie Chin and little Sammy Chong made Carl Douglas a superstar, even if it only lasted for a short time. Legend even has it that every time this song is used in a children’s comedy movie, an angel gets its wings. You’re doing God’s work, Carl.

The Follow Up: “Dance the Kung Fu”

Carl’s gotten himself a black belt in Lip-Sync-Fu

Mr. Douglas never really had another hit big enough to elevate his tenure in the music industry anywhere beyond the echelon of a novelty artist. His song “Run Back” had moderate success in the UK, but Carl made the mistake of trying to capitalize on his original tale of near-racist spin kicks and karate chops, recording several other “Kung-Fu” related diddies. Crouching commercial success, hidden record-sales, indeed. One day, though, there’ll be a call for a black man in a karate gi, and when that day comes, Carl Douglas will probably be performing at a retirement home.



#4. Wild Cherry

The Hit: “Play That Funky Music White Boy”

Nothing like a nice clean game of “Jewfro or Perm?”

What kind of list would this be without Wild Cherry? I’ll tell you what kind, one probably just as uninteresting to read as this one. Most will agree that the demographic of funk rock in the 1970’s was not exactly what you’d call “whitewashed”. Wild Cherry were a rare sight indeed for their primarily black target audience. It’s hard to outright hate their hit single, “Play That Funky Music White Boy”, what with its unforgettable guitar riff and funky lyrics about not judging a book by its cover.(Okay, I’m going out on a limb there)

The Follow Up: “Baby, Don’t You Know?”

Play That Funky Music White Boy 2: Electric Boogaloo

Okay, we get it. You’re white guys. And you played funk. And your first song was really successful. When a song’s hook has lyrics like “Baby don’t you know, that the honkies got soul?”, you might need to step back and take a look at what you’re doing in life, because this song is nothing more than a cash-in on their status as a white funk band with a hit single. The tempo, guitar lines, and pacing of the lyrics are all just a little TOO similar to “Funky Music”. As a musician myself I can’t help but find the tone of the guitar in this song to be grating. It’s tinny and the guitarist constantly clacks his strings from playing too hard.



#3. Lou Bega

The Hit: “Mambo No.5”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is probably wearing thin

Lou Bega definitely wins the award for “Most Confusing Nationality”. Bega is a German-born singer of both Ugandan and Italian descent, which explains his silly mascara pencil mustache pretty well. Mambo No.5 was an instrumental originally recorded in 1949, but Bega’s sampling of the song for his 1999 smash hit is the incarnation of the song that most people will know. What most people also know is the annoyance that comes along with hearing one line of the song from some poor soul who has it stuck in his head, only to find yourself singing the song to yourself later. The song’s like a social disease. It’s a well-known fact that it travels from person to person by means of the ear for the sole purpose of creating public shame.

The Follow Up: Tricky Tricky

I can’t say that the 1940’s were as great for African Americans and Italians as Lou thinks they were.

“Tricky Tricky” was the ill-fated partner single to Bega’s ear worm hit “Mambo No.5” that just never lived up to its big brother’s legacy. It’s a similarly mambo-fueled song about a girl who’s too bad to keep but too good to let go. I could probably get behind the song more if it were about breathing heavily while stalking someone’s Facebook photos in the dark, but not everything has to relate to my own life experience. “Tricky Tricky” is exactly what the single proved to be when all was said and done, with the charts all but rejecting it everywhere but the USA and Sweden, and even then, it only peaked at number 74 here in the States. That’s what you get for wearing a fedora, Lou.



#2. Marcy Playground

The Hit: “Sex And Candy”

That a fucking spider?! I fucking hate spiders, man.

Nothing says “Music In The 90’s” more than Marcy Playground’s song about two things my weight prevents me from having. The song’s vocals are sung in a tone that echoes the sedate apathy felt my many teens in 1997. With the birth of grunge and a new emphasis on how “cool” it was just not to care about anything at all, “Sex And Candy” struck gold on the Billboard Charts and helped continue the push that alternative rock was making into the mainstream. They’re a band that shouldn’t be considered untalented at all, but every war has its casualties. Now put away your Tamagotchi and acid-washed denims, because Marcy Playground made number 2 in this countdown for a reason.

The Follow Up: “St. Joe On The School Bus”

I feel like there’s some projecting going on here during the bit with the-OH MY GOD ARE YOU GIVING THAT GUY A COLONOSCOPY?!?

What kid hasn’t been bullied on the ride home from school? Joe has, whoever he is, and that’s a good enough excuse for a song to me. “St. Joe On The School Bus” is a straightforward alternative rocker about being teased and picked on while riding the bus. With all the angst among teens in 1998, you’d think that poor Joe’s story would have been a bigger hit, but the song barely climbed to number 32 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. While it did much more favorably on the Modern Rock charts (peaking at number 8), the hand that Marcy Playground would be dealt sealed the deal on their obscurity. Nowadays, file sharing websites and unintelligent children have caused the band’s original hit, “Sex And Candy” to be commonly mislabeled as a Nirvana song, for some reason. If there’s anything worse than making it big and falling between the cracks, it’s making it big and having your claim to fame attributed to another artist.



#1. Los Del Rio

The Hit: Macarena

You’re already doing the damned hand thing, aren’t you?

Is there really anything to say about this song? Los Del Rio are probably the most definitive one-hit wonders that the material plane will ever know. Two aging Spanish men managed to release a worldwide hit of unimaginable proportions, and nobody even knows the words to the damn song(“EHHHHHH MACARENA! AAAAII!” doesn’t count.). Macarena is the national anthem of elementary school dances and water aerobics classes everywhere, and whether or not you’re willing to admit it, you’ve been forced to do that stupid fucking dance at least 5 times in your life. The song is a testament to our inability to understand what goes on in our heads sometimes. It’s catchy in a malicious way. The song starts and you know exactly what it is from the get-go. Your body wants to leave, but your brain holds you hostage, and before you know it you’re humming along.

The Follow Up: the remixes

Praise be to Shub-Niggurath of the Thousand Young

Much like the pilot of a high-altitude stealth bomber, once Los Del Rio released their payload, their mission had been accomplished and it was time to fly home. The duo had no reason to continue making “music”, because the damage had already been done. There was nothing left to do but thumbs-up a couple of cheesy remixes and the two men could return to the dimension of the most evil dark god that they no doubt served. No matter how many years pass, we still glance back from time to time at the gaping wound that was “Macarena”, and when we look back, we all see a part of ourselves. A weaker, more subservient person who was unable to resist the clarion call of that vile fucking song. Somewhere far off in the Third Realm of Torment, there’s an eldritch abomination sitting on a throne of skulls, laughing maniacally at the havoc that his followers unleashed on a defenseless Earth.


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Jarred is a musician, writer, funny-man, and amateur guitar builder in Virginia. He does a little bit of everything else too.
Jarred Rutherford
Jarred Rutherford
Jarred is a musician, writer, funny-man, and amateur guitar builder in Virginia. He does a little bit of everything else too.