If you were around in the ’80s, you’ll probably remember dancing to The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men or singing along to A-Ha’s Take On Me. Both songs were massive, and both bands seemed to be on the brink of massive global superstardom. And then nothing. Fame is fickle, and top 40 hits are hard to come by… as the acts behind these one-hit-wonder songs of the 80s all found out.
10. Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
In 1983, new wave band Kajagoogoo released Too Shy. it was a smash hit everywhere, topping the charts in the UK for two weeks, reaching number one in Germany, Belgium, and Ireland, and the top ten in France, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands. A short while later, MTV picked it up, leading to the same success in the US. But while the song charted at number 5 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box chart, the band were doomed to never reach the top 40 of either chart again. Despite some limited success in Europe, they disbanded in 1985.
9. The Weather Girls – It’s Raining Men
In 1982, American duo the Weather Girls were riding high in the charts with It’s Raining Men, a fluffy, poppy, and very unabashed celebration of men in all their various forms. Despite reaching the top of the dance charts in the US and various other countries (not to mention earning a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals), the song became The Weather Girls’ first and only major hit. It’s since become something of a gay anthem, with Time Out ranking it number nineteen in their list of The 50 Best Gay Songs to Celebrate Pride All Year Long in 2022.
8. Lipps Inc. – Funkytown
The name Lipps Inc. might not ring any bells, but if you’ve got a secret passion for disco, you’ll remember their hit Funkytown, which topped the charts in the US and 28 other countries in 1980. The song went stratospheric, certifying double platinum shortly after release. The band, meanwhile, went nowhere, never trouble the top 40 again.
7. The Vapors – Turning Japanese
In 1980, British band The Vapors turned a song that compared the anguish of a teen breakup to the feeling of being from a foreign culture into an international hit when Turning Japanese topped the charts in Australia and reached the top 40 in the US, UK, Canada, and various other countries. Nothing they released next came close to matching its success and within two years, the band was over.
6. Flash And The Pan – Waiting For A Train
Flash And The Pan weren’t a complete flash in the pan, but they only ever troubled the charts outside their native Australia on one occasion. Released in 1983, the evocative, synth-heavy Waiting For A Train took them to number 7 in the UK charts – their first and last time inside the top 40. Who knew a song about old brown shoes and stew and beans could be so successful?
5. Patrick Swayze – She’s Like the Wind
Obviously, Patrick Swayze was the very opposite of a one-hit-wonder from an acting point of view, but when it came to the music biz, his one and only hit came with She’s Like the Wind. Although everyone associates the song with Dirty Dancing, Swayze actually wrote it for an earlier movie called Grandview, U.S.A.The makers of Grandview, U.S.A. weren’t impressed and rejected it, but two years later, it got a second chance at the big time when Swayze played it for the producers of Dirty Dancing. The rest is movie (and soundtrack) history.
4. The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture Of You
Released as the debut single of The Lotus Eaters’ debut album, The First Picture Of You seemed to announce the presence of a major new act. It hit number 15 on the UK Singles chart and picked up more airplay during 1983 than any other song. But then everything went quiet. The band was never able to repeat the same success again, with none of their future singles making it into the top 40. Just two years later, they went their separate ways. Despite the short lifespan of the band, The First Picture Of You has proved to be remarkably long-lived, and still turns up regularly on ’80s compilation albums.
3. Boy Meets Girl – Waiting for a Star to Fall
Although George Merrill and singer Shannon Rubicam have enjoyed huge success as a songwriting team (they wrote the Whitney Houston’s hits, How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)), they’ve only reached the top 40 on one occasion as a recording duo. Released in June 1988, Waiting for a Star to Fall reached the top 10 in the US, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. They’ve released a few singles since, but nothing that comes close to matching its success.
2. Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Your Love Stands)
British band Big Sound Authority toured extensively and released several albums in the early 1980s, but the only song they released that made any kind of impact was the irresistibly catchy This House (Is Where Your Love Stands), which sent a substantial part of 1985 inside the top 30.
1. Nena – 99 Luftballons
German band Nena earned a massive hit in 1983 with 99 Luftballons, which topped the charts in Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, and Ireland. The band also recorded an English version, but most countries preffered the German original. Despite being one of the catchiest and most memorable songs of the 80s, Nena were never able to replicate its success again.