It was actually a light-hearted Tweet from the Huffington Post themselves last week that awoke the previously dormant bitterness I have towards people who use the term 'one-hit-wonder'. In some cases it's correct - but still a bit harsh - however, in many cases and where my goat is well and truly got, completely and utterly incorrect. I'm sure you yourself will have used the term at some point in your life without really thinking what it means. So what with me being not only a pedant but also a bit of a pop junkie, I decided to try and get to the bottom of what this epithet really means.
Firstly I've noticed that even reaching No.1 doesn't mean you've had a hit - even if you've done it twice. Or even thrice! Yes, despite having three successive No.1 singles in the UK, I've often seen Aqua tagged as OHW's (that's a ghastly acronym - not doing that again). But is it the now-sweary Danish japesters fault that people have got short memories and/or are ignorant of pop music? Surely being No.1 in the UK, with all its snobbery towards anything a/electronic b/catchy and c/not from America, is a memorable achievement full-stop - especially if you do it with three separate records. Which I'm not going to name. You are. Go on... Oh and there's no "I'm A..." in the title of the first one either. Peasants...
If even sitting atop the hit parade can be dismissed as a flop, what then does constitute a hit? Any ideas? Anyone? It's not quite as easy to say when you start to give it some real thought. To me I would generally consider it to be something that makes the Top 10. The Guinness Hit Singles tome always used to issue artists with a black circle should their song reach this promised-land, so I have always considered that as significant. But then something can chart in the Top 5 and be gone from the full forty in three weeks. Is weeks on chart an important factor then? Even if you're not a Stetson wearing bellwipe who shuffles about in community centres to 'Achy Breaky Heart', you're still likely to be familiar with Steps' boot scootin' virginal release (it was '5,6,7,8' if you're not), yet that spent 17 weeks in the charts without getting higher than No. 14. If we take my Guinness inspired idea, then this wasn't a hit - except it was. Similarly, the first dance of the dimbo-dumbo, also known as 'Amazed' by Lonestar, (sure that was an 80s cartoon series) spent a (then) whopping 22 weeks in the 40, but peaked at 21. They never worried us in the UK again with anything other than the No. 55 'Smile'. So, they probably deserve to be called One-Hit-Wonders - but with a record than only made No. 21? I'm confusing myself with this now.
It's looking like you don't have to be in the Top 10 to have a hit from what we've just learnt. That said, something hitting the Top 10 still deserves the title 'hit'. If a record (can an mp3 still be called a record?) charted this week at No. 4 we would class that as a result. If said mp3 (nope, doesn't sound right) then spent 11 subsequent weeks in the hit parade, we would - and rightly so - consider it a hit. But why is something that did exactly that 20 years ago not a hit? Why is that airbrushed from history? The only reason that I can see regarding why 'Got To Get It' by Culture Beat is not considered a hit is because they had an even bigger one with 'Mr. Vain' before that. Being overshadowed by a megahit though shouldn't make the act a one-hit-wonder and the following hits shouldn't be ignored. But they are.
And if we're talking about anything other than the mega-hit being ignored, the blame has to lie with DJs. Or if we're talking about DJs on Heart FM, then we can simply call them presenters instead because that is all they so clearly are. I remember the day The Shapeshifters dared to try and have another hit after 'Lola's Theme' had made No.1 and as I trotted back to my car having plucked the CD single from HMV that lunchtime, I had the misfortune to pass a shop happily broadcasting Heart FM who were happily broadcasting the aforementioned megahit 'Lola's Theme'. Not 'Back To Basics' which I had just bought. Oh no, couldn't do that. Heaven forbid Heart FM should actually help something become a hit. Let's just keep rolling out the same songs over and over and well and truly make sure that nobody ever remembers any other Pet Shop Boys record other than 'West End Girls'.
As a DJ myself I am often bemused by other DJs' lack of musical knowledge, passion and interest. I don't understand why when dipping into the 80s and 90s they almost always refuse to play anything other than the most clichéd hit one can imagine. It's like there's been a big meeting somewhere that I wasn't invited to where everyone was instructed that they must only ever play certain selected tracks. Because every DJ playing music older than last week seems to be going through the same identical repertoire as each other - except me. I like to treat my audiences with a bit more knowledge and consideration. I'm probably wrong to give them such credit as anyone who has witnessed a pop round on Pointless will know the majority of the public can't even name - or even hazard a guess at - which boyband released 'Take That & Party'. Can I really be the only DJ out there who actually likes music and was interested enough to buy and support the records at thetime of their release and have continued
to listen to them? I've been a DJ for some 18 years and even now the Guinness book is still my No.1 defecating accompaniment. Thanks to this I make sure I know what everyone has released, how successful it was and if ageing toaster and general pain-in-the-arse Sean Paul is featuring on it. But all this information available, most DJs and radio presenters will only be able to name/play one track by an artist. For all their longevity and success (five of their albums entered the charts at No.1), to the man playing songs off an iPod that you were happy to book for your wedding, Erasure have never done anything other than 'A Little Respect'. Then there's the Human League, who of course have obviously never done anything other than 'Don't You Want Me'. Depeche Mode? 'Just Can't Get Enough' and no more. You get the picture. In fact do feel free to have a go yourself with the following: a-ha, Rick Astley, Ace Of Base. When it comes to the still-beautiful Belinda Carlisle's epitaph, only 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth' will be deemed worthy of chipping into the marble.
Haddaway seems to be one of the most popular artists to be regularly smacked in the pills with the 'One-Hit-Wonder' bat and whilst I begrudgingly understand why, it grips me still. Haddaway of course had a No.2 hit with 'What Is Love' in June 1993. However, Haddaway had a No. 6 hit with 'Life' in September 1993. He also hit No. 9 in the same year crooning 'I Miss You', the sappy-but-sweet ballad which hung about for 14 weeks before what I consider to be his finest hour, the pan-pipe laced Eurodance stomper "Rock My Heart" which also slipped into the ten in April the following year. Two minor hits (still hits if they're minor?) followed but really, is it Nestor's fault that nobody can be bothered to play or remember anything other than 'What Is Love'? I don't see why he should be tarnished - because it is a negative label - with something that isn't true.
Perhaps though I'm getting it all wrong? Perhaps it's the word 'wonder' that I'm misunderstanding? Are people saying that they've only had one hit that was a 'wonder'? Or maybe even hit just means familiarness which I'm pretty sure isn't even a word. Is it familiarity (that's the one) that makes something a hit? Most party-goers will probably know of hip-hop party nothingness Whoomp! (There It Is) and even though they say their name in the piece most folk won't know it was recorded by Tag Team. Thing is, their version wasn't really a hit - No. 34 - in the conventional sense. Yet UK-based Europop bandwagon-jumpers Clock smashed into the Top 5 with their cover. But when did you last hear that? Did you ever hear that? So it seems that you don't even have to have had a hit for a song to be considered a hit! In fact there are an awful lot of records that are extremely familiar and popular in the UK but astonishingly never made the Top 40 on the isle. Some weren't ever even released as singles. See how many times you're surprised by the list. Remember, not one of these was a Top 40 hit in the UK (there are many more but you don't want a huge list now do you):
Bryan Adams - Summer Of '69
Queen - We Will Rock You
Dolly Parton - 9 To 5
The Commitments - Mustang Sally
Eric Carmen - Hungry Eyes
Johnny Cash - Ring Of Fire
Blondie - One Way Or Another
Sir Mix-A-Lot - Baby Got Back
Jean Knight - Mr. Big Stuff
David Bowie - Changes
You'd be forgiven for not knowing that none of those were UK hits but it is strange to think that people can be familiar with songs that weren't hits and ignorant of those that were - and there are some very ignorant people out there when it comes to music. People who know very little about what pop is spoon-fed to them by said radio brands and whatever repeatedly appears on the tiresome 80s compilations that turn up around about this time every year. People say 'Oh I love the 80s', when what they tend to mean is "I love dancing to 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' and 'I Think We're Alone Now' because everyone else I know does". If you genuinely like the sound of the 80s, then have a dig around yourself. I'm still uncovering things from the decade that I've never heard before and it's a really exciting feeling... If you genuinely like what you're listening to of course and not just the association that comes with it.
I seem to have wandered slightly which is only to be expected. I could've done a whole blog on inappropriate first dances, Heart FM and will definitely do one where I let you in on genuine conversations I've had with arsewipes requesting music from me when I've been DJing. I'll also do one about there being no radio stations for people who were teenagers in the 90s. But those are for another day. I'm sure you can hardly wait...
Having posed the question "what is a hit?" I now feel even less sure of what one actually is. I am though sticking to my proposal that a Top 10 entry deserves to be awarded the status of 'hit'. If I haven't convinced you to join me on that point, or that Haddway is not a one-hit-wonder, maybe at least I can I put this to you? Whoever you may be (but not the radio presenter - waste of time) please try to expand your musical minds. Regardless of whether it's cooler than an Inuit's Ice Box or cheesier than a vagrant's bell-end, if you like a big hit record look for the follow-ups. It's highly unlikely (excepting perhaps The Archies) that it is/was the only thing they have ever done. If you find something and it fell short of the 40, still check it out. It doesn't necessarily mean it's crap, it's probably just that the radio presenters were being paid to play something else that week. Get Googling. Or go on www.discogs.com and see what else you can unearth - chances are you can get a taster of anything you like the look of on the YouTube. Don't allow yourself to be spoon-fed by the presenters at Heart FM. Snatch the spoon from Elvis-substitute Toby Anstis and serve yourself some music for a change. Then maybe, just maybe, a few more people might tweet him a request for a different Robin S record to be played every 43 minutes. And if Heart FM ever played 'Luv 4 Luv', that would truly be a wonder...