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10 One Hit Wonders That Hold Up (in no particular order)

by Mari Stauffer

1. “In A Big Country” – Big Country
Who could forget this one, from Scotland’s Big Country? With unique guitar sounds that successfully echo Scottish folk instruments (bagpipes, specifically), Big Country wove this epic melody into a memorable rock-Scottish-folk classic.

2. “I Melt With You” – Modern English
A hit on the charts, as well as scores of junior high and high school dances, this romantic track, with its strummed guitar chords, is still one of the dreamiest.

3. “The Promise” – When In Rome
The hook of the solo piano that starts off this tune is its telltale signature. Another romantic love song, it combined the keyboard with simple yet catchy beat, and some heartfelt lyrics about mistakes made in love.

4. “Oh Yeah” – Yello
Made famous by the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” this more abstract track combined a tech-y, driving beat with a filtered growling vocal that still holds up on a big soundsystem. Hailing from Switzerland, Yello stayed true to their ‘simple life’ roots and kept it basic with this song.

5. “Major Tom (Coming Home)” – Peter Schilling
A unique retelling of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” this track has a more synthpop edge to it than the former. With its driving synth line and notable “4-3-2-1” countdown to the chorus, it quickly took hold on the U.S. charts.

6. “Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly)” – Icicle Works
Opening this tune is a Johnny Marr-esque guitar jangle followed by a percussion breakdown. The full and strong vocals by singer Ian McNabb are supported by explosive drums and a pleasant guitar melody.

7. “I Beg Your Pardon” – Kon Kan
With the exception of the quirky, silly breakdown part of the song, you may think you were listening to New Order. A deep male vocal is backed by a melodic synth line and a simple dance-y beat. This is one of the least recognized of its era.

8. “99 Luftballons” – Nena
Just like Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” song, this one was originally recorded in German (both artists are German). Unlike Peter Schilling’s track, the German version of “99 Luftballoons” is equally, if not more, well-known in the U.S.

9. “Come On Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Starting this song off is a Celtic-style fiddle that continues throughout, accompanied by bass guitar, drums, piano, and the pleading vocals of Kevin Rowland. It soon gained the kind of notoriety that popular drinking songs have, resulting in everyone singing along in the fun.

10. “One Night In Bangkok” – Murray Head
More on the conceptual side than some pop music in the 1980s, this tune starts out with a full orchestra mini-number. Then, into the synth we go with verses that are more “rap” and a chorus that is sung. It has a slightly foreboding sound, with a tiny element of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” combined with some dramatic lyrics more often found in stage production.”

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