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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.

National One-Hit Wonder Day takes place on September 25 every year.  Our one-hitters represent a special part of our rock history.  Some of the biggest songs of rock have come from the one-and-done artists. To make this list, I focused on the ’70s and ’80s primarily.  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 views are things that I value in my passion for 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 three 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

  • Head East - "Never Been Any Reason"

    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)

  • Rick Derringer - "Rock & Roll Hootchie Coo"

    “Lawdy mama, light my fuse!” “Rock and Roll Hootchie 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.  Rick Derringer wrote the song, but it’s technically a cover since it was released first when Derringer was with Johnny Winter in 1970 and a live version with Edgar Winter in 1972. (secondhandsongs.com)  Here’s the song live with Edgar Winter:

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

    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.

  • Ram Jam - "Black Betty"

    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. Americansongwriter.com can tell you where the band members are now.

  • Free - "All Right Now"

    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.

  • Autograph - "Turn Up The Radio"

    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.

  • Mountain - "Mississippi Queen"

    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.

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

    Supergroup Blind Faith came about after Cream and Traffic went their own ways. Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger 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.  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:

  • Red Rider - "Lunatic Fringe"

    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.

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

    “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.

  • Blues Images - "Ride Captain Ride"

    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.

  • The Ides of March - "Vehicle"

    Before Jim Peterik was in Survivor, he was the lead singer and guitarist of The Ides of March.  Jim wrote “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. (Medium.com)

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