(On the Case of One-Hit Listeners and Musical Ignorance)
”There is no such thing as one-hit wonders, only one-hit listeners.”
The Internet age is really a golden era for music enthusiasts, because with the availability and easy accessibility of information, discovering what is new and current and rediscovering the old and the obscure are just a click-on-the-mouse away. I am among those who, in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, were already big fans of music—when obtaining information on and updates about one’s favorite music or artists was certainly a challenge, especially if the genre one liked was not the typical commercial pop. For instance, my number-one favorite genre of music was and remains to be New Wave—a type of music that originated in the late ’70s and flourished in the ’80s—popularized by bands like A Flock of Seagulls, a-ha, China Crisis, Culture Club, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Modern English, O.M.D., Pet Shop Boys, The Psychedelic Furs, Spandau Ballet, and Tears for Fears—which are in my book the Big 10 of New Wave music.
In the days, all an ordinary listener usually became familiar with were the hits and regular radio staples of those bands, reducing them into “one-hit wonders,” despite the fact that they did release not only one song but, in fact, several albums to their credit. More importantly, most of such New Wave bands are to this day still touring and releasing new albums. Blame it on the radio!
Most radio stations had been (and to this day remain to be) tied to playing only the singles especially of high-profile artists. Sad but true—music has become more of a business than an art. Add to that, many journalists would pick up on this and declare that such artists were good only as their first singles without considering the rest of their discographies. And then ordinary listeners would allow themselves to be brainwashed, believing that the derogatory term ‘one-hit wonder’ is valid. However, little do these music listeners know that the joke was on them; they are actually betraying their musical ignorance.
The ignorance of music fans whom I refer to as ‘one-hit listeners’ has prevented them to realize that artists they have convicted of being one-hit wonders have actually released several albums. In fact, many of these bands still make music to this day. Just because commercial radio is not playing these bands regularly anymore, many listeners think that these bands are long gone. They are wrong! Many classic New Wave bands that many people dismiss as one-hit wonders or has-beens and think have long disbanded have actually recently released new albums. Sadly, only true music enthusiasts and loyal fans of these bands—because of their passion and resourcefulness—know that there is much more music to discover and rediscover.
Here are two classic New Wave bands that have become favorite victims of these one-hit listeners and journalists.
Duran Duran was formed in Birmingham, England, in 1978 by Nick Rhodes (synthesizers), John Taylor (bass), and Stephen Duffy (vocals), with the later addition of Roger Taylor (drums) and, after numerous personnel changes, Andy Taylor (guitarist) and Simon Le Bon (vocals). The group has never disbanded, but the lineup has changed to include guitarist Warren Cuccurullo (of The Missing Persons) from 1986 to 2001 and drummer Sterling Campbell from 1989 to 1991. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s created a stir in the music media and among the band’s fans. Andy Taylor left the band in mid-2006, and London guitarist Dominic Brown has since been working with the band as a session player and touring member. The band has 13 full-length studio albums to their credit, the latest of which was released only last year. Here they are (plus my recommended song off each): Duran Duran, 1981 (“Girls on Film”); Rio, 1982 (“Save a Prayer”); Seven and the Ragged Tiger, 1983 (“The Reflex”); Notorious, 1986 (“Skin Trade”); Big Thing, 1988 (“All She Wants Is”); Liberty, 1990 (“Serious”); Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), 1993 (“Ordinary World”); Thank You, 1995 (“Drive By”), Medazzaland, 1997 (“Big Bang Generation”); Pop Trash, 2000 (“Someone Else, Not Me”); Astronaut, 2004 (“[Reach Up for the] Sunrise”); Red Carpet Massacre, 2007 (“She’s Too Much”); and All You Need Is Now, 2010 (“Runaway, Runaway”). The defining sound of Duran Duran’s revolves around the Postpunk-influenced angularity of the chiming guitars, the danceable and funky rhythm of the bass and the drums, and the catchy melodies of the synthesizers.
Formed in London, England, in 1978, Spandau Ballet was soon stabilized by five members—Tony Hadley (lead vocals, synthesizers), Gary Kemp (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Martin Kemp (bass), Steve Norman (saxophone, guitar, percussion), and John Keeble (drums, backing vocals). After releasing a string of singles that made them internationally popular especially in the mid-’80s, the band split acrimoniously in 1990. However, after almost two decades, in 2009, all five members—reunited and subsequently released their seventh full-length studio album. Their music is best defined by its strong elements of funk, jazz, soul, and synthpop. Here is Spandau Ballet’s full discography and my recommended song off each: Journeys to Glory, 1981 (“Mandolin”); Diamond, 1982 (“Instinction”); True, 1983 (“Lifeline”); Parade, 1984 (“”Round and Round”); Through the Barricades, 1986 (“Through the Barricades”), Heart like the Sky, 1989 (“A Handful of Dust”); and Once More, 2009 (“Once More”).
Declaring an artist a one-hit wonder is derogatory to the artist; it unjustly limits the artist in its commercially popular songs without giving its entire body of works a chance to be heard. Many people mock these bands as one-hit wonders, but what these people don’t realize is that the mock is on them, because their assumption obviously betrays their ignorance about the entire discographies of such bands and their lack of initiative and ability to listen beyond what is commercial and popular. One-hit listeners are people who have a limited taste in music and who usually rely on only the commercial radio to define their music preference. To them, music is only for entertainment; they couldn’t recognize its artistic and cultural significance. Luckily, I’m not one of them. Are you?