Top 5 One Hit Wonders (by Claire)

My music collection wouldn’t be complete without these one hit wonders, and over years of listening they’ve become bands I claim to like, even though I really only like their one song. I’ve almost ended up at Tom Tom Club Shows hundreds of times before remembering that I only know “Genius of Love,” and that going to a band’s show for one song is a choice that rarely works in my favor (although when it does, it really does. Be risky about shows, kids! Just maybe try to listen to two or three songs first.)

Lessons for if you don’t want to be a one hit wonder, based solely on this list: Don’t put punctuation in your band name. And don’t be in the 80’s.

“Genius of Love,” by the Tom Tom Club

I get a weird kick out of music that references other music (recent Ke$ha and Maroon 5 odes to Mick Jagger excluded). When done by an artist I like, it’s like getting a quick peek at their record collection, and sharing a fan moment with someone usually relegated to the other side of that equation. “Genius of Love” references quite a few musicians, even repeating James Brown’s name enough times that the “James BROOOWN, JAMES Brooown” line always gets stuck in my head. If one hit wonders are the one-offs that I can’t imagine my music collection missing, than “Genius of Love” is the music industry’s ultimate one hit wonder. It’s sampled in a hilarious number of (mostly rap) songs, including two of my 90s favorites: “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison, and (obviously) “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. Fun trivia fact: This song was only included in “Stop Making Sense” so that David Byrne could slip away to change into his giant suit.

“Groove is in the Heart,” by Deee-Lite

“Groove is in the Heart” is a magical collage of music. First, there’s Dee-Lite, a dance band that put out what would become the original house music, featuring the notoriously slinky vocals of Lady Miss Kier. Bootsy Collins plays bass guitar, a very young Q-Tip raps, Tina Turner plays the tambourine, funk legends Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley join in, and the whole song revolves around a Herbie Hancock riff. The song features more than 9 samples, one of which is the theme song to Green Acres. Throw in some funny fake French dialogue, an acid trip of a music video, and a ludicrously catchy chorus, and you have one of the world’s most perfect dance songs, prominently featured on many top dance song lists. If you’re looking for something to do, I highly recommend wasting an hour on Wikipedia tracing the various bizarre musical roots of this song, while watching the video on repeat.

“Take on Me,” by A-ha

The three of us were the kind of silly drunk that only budget booze and being eighteen years old can conjure. We were made sillier by our Halloween costumes. Rahnia and I had paced the local discount store for hot glue guns and clothing we could tear and glue into something festive. She was a librarian maybe, or something that required a perfect slash of red lipstick and glasses perched seductively at the end of her nose. I was a fairy, covered in plastic blooms from a beheaded bouquet and yards of gauzy fabric, with big maribou wings stuck to my back. I don’t remember what the third girl wore. In a move that seemed genius, we ditched the last in a series of parties to blast this song and jump on Rahnia’s bed. The song played again and again as we soared through the air, laughing and tumbling, acquiring bruises we would only find hungover the next morning. I was very sure that the world would be a sorry place without the musical stylings of A-ha. Though I have long since retired vodka housed in plastic jugs and homemade fairy wings, I stand by that statement. Life is more fun with A-ha playing, a bed to jump on, and laughing friends to break your fall.

“Voices Carry,” by ‘Til Tuesday

Aimee Mann rocks a platinum, Flock-of-Seagulls ‘do, and her menacing yuppie boyfriend doesn’t like it one bit. He also doesn’t like her rat tail, her cool cuff earrings, her band full of po’faced, long haired guys who look like they’ve forgone the trendy 80s fashions and gone straight for the trendy 80s downer pharmaceuticals. Menacing yuppie boyfriend wants her to be quiet yuppie arm candy. Don’t speak up! Don’t play in your band! Hey, wear these ugly earrings I bought you.

I’ve listened to a lot of Aimee Mann breakup songs. A lot. Almost daily. Mann has a cannon of musical heartbreak.  “Voices Carry” stands out though because it’s so raw. Even in a sea of new wave musical stylings, there’s no polish, no clever images and wordplay. That’s not to say it’s not a well written song, it is—it’s just not hiding anything. And Mann seems so incredibly vulnerable: the warble in her voice as she sings “When I tell him that I’m falling in love/ why does he say” as she launches into “Hush hush/keep it down now/voices carry.” The resoluteness when she sings “I try so hard not to get upset/ Because I know all the trouble I’ll get.” In the video, menacing yuppie goes from cartoonish villain in an 80s movie to truly violent, shoving Mann on two separate occasions. It’s hard to watch.

80s Aimee Mann, you’re too cool for all this nonsense. Stay away from scary yuppies. Sing your heart out while you’re sitting in the audience at Carnegie Hall. Don’t pay attention to the shocked old lady or mean boyfriend knudging you. Sing on, Aimee Mann. Keep that cool cuff earring. I’m even warming up to the rat tail.

“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes

How weird is it that this song is called “What’s Up?” when Linda Perry screams (from the tops of her lungs, no less) “What’s Going On?” over and over again? According to Wikipedia, the title was to stop people from confusing this with Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On?” I would like to meet the person who would confuse Linda Perry and Marvin Gaye. I have a lot of questions for them, like did they also confuse Taylor Swift and The Cure (Love Song) or when they heard the Counting Crows version of Uncle John’s Band, did they think that guy with the dreadlock filled Bam-Bam ponytail was Jerry Garcia?

When I first heard this, I remember thinking it was really cool that the singer was so angry, and blunt about it, and how I’d never really heard a woman be that aggressive in a song. I thought that was a good thing, and it was something I would go on to seek out in other (better) songs. Now this song sounds pretty dated, and Linda Perry’s vocals are kind of grating. But I dig her combat boots and socks, and the band’s overall early 90s anti establishment look and message. (Fun 90s trivia: Linda Perry is now dating the woman who played Darlene on Roseanne.)

Top 5 Track 6s

Joshua: I was talking to my friend Jeff King a few weeks ago about this awesome blog and I mentioned that this month we were doing album-based lists. (No doubt you’ve read our first such list.) He mentioned that he has always thought that, as a general rule, track six on any given album has to be good. In his words, it has to be a linchpin to hold the album together, the track that makes sure you listen to the second half of the album. We here at Charm City Jukebox agree, and finding the subject so engaging, decided to write our own track six lists. And look for Jeff’s post on Friday!

JOSHUA’s List:

“Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads, on Stop Making Sense

I’m of the belief this version of this song is the best single thing the Talking Heads has ever done, so I may be a little biased when including this into a list of track 6’s. But for serious. I mean, for realsies , when we talk of “game-changing” tracks on an album, this is the definition. It takes a good album and makes it into something truly special. This track nears live performance perfection simply because every member of the band is firing on all twelve cylinders (the Talking Heads obviously have a huge engine.)  and manages to mesh in a way most bands could only dream of.

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, on Talking Book

I busted out all of my vinyl this week to create my list, as I felt just looking through my iTunes wouldn’t cut it this time. To my surprise and utter delight, this song is track six off of Talking Book, one of my personal favorite Wonder albums. It may be one of his most popular songs, but it’s freaking amazing. The horn lines alone make the whole album worth listening to over and over. Plus, how often do you get a pop song with a clavinet in the starring role?

“Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, on Physical Graffiti

Ok, so I may have been a little harsh on this song in a previous post. But let’s be honest with ourselves here: The second side of Physical Graffiti might be the best side of a rock album ever pressed. And it’s wrapped up with one of the best rock opuses (opii? opusss? I got no clue.) ever written. It’s a shot across the bow for Zeppelin fans, signaling the apex of Zeppelin’s musical talent….Mostly because this album is followed by the god-awful In Through the Out Door and then John Bonham’s death.

“Born of a Broken Man” by Rage Against the Machine, on Battle of Los Angeles

A change for the album, as it starts with just one guitar with very few effects and no distortion. Then it crashes into the hook, a violently distorted syncopated line laden with string strums and badassness. It’s easily the most introspective song on the album, the message of the song being aided greatly by the effects laid upon the drum sounds, which sound as though they’re being played underwater two towns over. Many people I’ve talked to about this album seem to think this is the weakest song on the album, but I can’t disagree more vehemently. I think maybe it’s disliked because it’s simply tough to listen to. It’s not easy on the ears or the conscience.

“Fuck Her Gently” by Tenacious D, on Tenacious D

I’m so glad this was a track six. When I pulled out my vinyl copy of this album (yes, jackass, I do have a copy of this album on vinyl. It was a wonderfully thoughtful gift from an ex-girlfriend and I play it all the time. Deal with it.) I was delighted to see it in the six-slot because I get to talk about the song I played on guitar probably more often than any other song combined (besides maybe “Tribute”). It’s hilarious and infectious. If you don’t mind profanity, it’s the song for you. Plus, Jack Black has one of the most precise voices in music, so it’s a vocal treat. And, remember fellas, it’s important to ball your lady discreetly when she wants it.


“Loco de Amor,” by David Byrne, on Rei Momo

Rei Momo is a magical album and like David Byrne himself, it’s aged scary well (Seriously—throw some hair dye and a giant suit at the guy and you’ve got “Stop Making Sense.” And that was 28 years ago.) It’s fun swirling genre-spanning David Bryne madness, and lacks the “attempting esoteric but landing at borderline Lite FM” quality of some of Byrne’s later solo efforts (See “Like Humans Do”). After the first track you’ll know you’re in it for the long haul with this album, and “Loco De Amor” is just more proof, albeit bright happy get-up-and-dance-around-your-office proof.

 “Pavlov’s Bell,” by Aimee Mann, on Lost in Space

I’ve learned a really important thing from writing for this blog: I have no idea what any of Aimee Mann’s songs are about. I’ve been listening to her relentlessly for years, bopping my head and hitting replay, muttering her very quotable refrains to myself, relating. And then I started reading her lyrics, which have a Dream Songs level of “here are some images and maybe a theme and a sharp left turn and BAM” quality to them that’s hidden in her charming voice and solid pop predilictions. So here’s a song, I think it’s about drug addiction, or maybe having an affair, but in the end like much of Mann’s work, it’s stuck-in-your-head for days good, so who cares?

“Fu-Gee-La,” by The Fugees, on The Score

Classic Fugees. Tightly packed raps, and Lauryn Hill’s voice drizzled through the refrain like warm honey. If you hit play on this one, expect to spend the next several hours listening to the Fugees.  In two days when you’ve done a full circle through the Fugees and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and you’re feeling blue, share a moment with Talib and get “Ms. Hill” stuck in your head. He gets it.

“So It Goes,” by Nick Lowe, on Jesus of Cool 

A great song from an underrated classic. When I saw Nick Lowe two years ago, all the hipster girls wore cut off Day Glo shirts that read Pure Pop for Now People, the revised US title for Jesus of Cool. I always preferred the title Jesus of Cool, and not just because it’s the original title of the album, and not in a “I know things, girls in Day Glo shirts, I know Lowe things” way, but just because Pure Pop for Now People reeks of New Wave wordplay. Nothing against New Wave (you all know I’m blasting Flock of Seagulls RIGHT NOW) but I see Nick Lowe as something more. A shining example of what pop music could be and usually isn’t. The Jesus of Cool, perhaps?

“I Just Want to Make Love to You,” by Etta James, on At Last!

I was so excited to find out that this song was a Track 6. At Last! is a fascinating album. It was Etta James’ first album of 33 (Live and studio—throw in compilations and it practically doubles), yet almost all of her most iconic songs are on it: I Just Want to Make Love to You, At Last, Sunday Kind of Love. This is one of my all time favorite songs. From the horns at the beginning, to James’ voice that moves from gruff to sweet and back again, to the straight forward seductiveness of the lyrics—it’s another Etta James gem from the very first Etta James masterpiece.