Tuesday questions, Wild Flower edition

It is sometime in the 1990s, and I am driving away from my medical school. It is a sunny day, I have just driven my car (it was probably still a car I was driving at the time) out of the student parking lot, and I am waiting at the intersection at the corner to turn onto one of the main roads away from the school. And I am singing along to the radio.

(I still sing along to the radio. A lot. And also dance if it’s a song that I like. Commuters entertained on I-495 during various morning drives: you’re welcome.)

I have no idea why I have such a clear memory of driving on a sunny day at that particular intersection and singing along to that particular song, but there you have it. My brain is weird.

The song is “I Know” by Dionne Farris. And I am singing along with elation, because that song rules.

Part of why I loved that song is how nicely it meshed with the circumstances of my life. Blah blah Russell’s twenties yadda yadda love life drama blah snore. Suffice it to say, an uptempo song about a woman seeing through the ersatz romantic gestures of a one-time paramour was something I was happy to sing along to at the time.

Plus, that woman can sing. Like, really sing. When she belts out the “Not gonna work this tiiiiiiime” part with the long “I” in “time” going all over the treble clef, it is a glory to hear. I turn it up every time it comes on the radio and try to keep up.

And then… nothing more on the airwaves from Ms. Farris. She sang for a time with Arrested Development, had her big hit, and nothing more as far as I heard. Her Wikipedia page lists a few later recordings, but as far as her time on the charts is concerned, she was a one-hit wonder.

I always thought that was a shame. Her voice is gorgeous, and I would have loved to have heard more from her. If I could rescue one recording artist from One Hit Wonder status, it would be Dionne Farris.

And that’s this week’s Question — you get one person or group to similarly rescue. What one song do you think merited a follow-up hit or two that never came? You only get one. Further, and with all due respect to classical music fans (among whom I would number myself), I’m looking for pop or rock or similar genres. As much as you might wish more people listened to the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (and who could blame you?), this Question isn’t about that.

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115 thoughts on “Tuesday questions, Wild Flower edition

  1. He was never exactly Top 40 popular but I always felt that British folk rocker Richard Thompson should have been more popular in a just world.

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  2. The thing about one-hit wonders is that the hit is usually at such odds worth the rest of what they’re doing. You’re listening and thinking, “This is great!” and then hear the album and realize, “Oh, that was everything they had, like literally, all of it.” So I’m not sure there is an answer for me, if only because if they’d had more hits, they would have been a different band/singer/whatever.

    That said, if I had to pick, maybe Fired Mob? “Sick of Bein Lonely” is an incredible track, hinting at such a unique worldview, but the album want great and they disappeared forever. Still, describing something attractive as “more gooder than a plate of neckbones neckbones, tendorized and yummy…” might be one of my favorite lyrics ever written.

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    • I’m having trouble coming up with an answer for a slightly different reason. Growing up an Anglophile means I liked many UK bands that may have only had one hit here – but whether that hit was their “best” or not, I don’t have a clear sense of them as “one-hit-wonders”, since A.) I probably tracked down the rest of their output and B.) They were often quite successful hit-wise on the other side of the pond.

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      • Well, then that makes it easy. I wrote a whole post on how sad it is that Americans pretty much only know the Furs for “Pretty in Pink” (and not even the superior original version!), they were a lot more than that.

        And the Bunnymen were never gonna be big here with that ridiculous name, but “Lips like Sugar” off the s/t, while pretty good, can’t touch any of their first three or four records, which improbably meld Joy Division and psychedelia to great effect.

        “Kiss Them for Me”, by the Banshees? Decent tune, terrible album, but they were a fierce band for a long time prior to that.

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      • I love “Kiss Them for Me.” Looooooooooove. It used to be my “getting dressed before going out” song.

        But I came upon it well after Souxsie & the Banshees were in vogue, and I was pretty out of touch with most popular music until high school, so I have no perception of their success. I never thought of them as a one-hit wonder, since I’ve heard so many of their songs on the radio and had their “greatest hits” album back in the day.

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      • I have and it was quite quaint.

        To me “Kiss them for Me” was the stage where Siouxsie Sioux decided that she was in her 30s and was going to “buy in” by performing a song that was very much of the time period. The song came out in 1991 according to Wikipedia and my first thought upon hearing it (which I only did recently) was “this song is from the early 1990s.” It is very different than Christine, the Strawberry Girl.

        The Furs had some other hits in the US like Love My Way.

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      • Yeah, that’s why I was having trouble. I think to most Americans they would be one-hit (AFAIK, the songs I listed were the only ones that hit the mainstream pop charts/radio stations), but to me…

        Did Dream Academy ever do anything aside from “Life in a Northern Town”? I might have liked another one of those….

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      • According to Wiki, they were around from 1983-1991 and released three albums. Their second album reached 181 on the US charts and did not chart in the UK.
        The third album charted nowhere.

        I like that song a lot too. It reminds me of taking the train from New York to Boston. Every time I have done this, it has always been overcast and gray.

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      • It took me an appalling amount of time to figure out what the hell you meant. Because my brain is apparently not functioning properly today.

        And in reality, I have exactly the opposite problem. I am always right on time for social occasions because I’m super paranoid about missing anything fun, despite the fact that never in the history of human parties has the most fun at one occurred right at the very beginning. But still, I have to work to arrive even slightly late, and have shown up at soirees while the host was still doing things like cubing cheese.

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    • I think this sort of goes against the spirit of the question. There are tons of super talented people who just never made it. That happens. I understand this question to be, “Who did you immensely enjoy — who made it!!! — but somehow didn’t stick?” That is something else entirely.

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      • Yeah, that’s more where I’m going with the Question. (But this is a Tuesday Question we’re talking about here, so it’s not like pestilence will descend on the nation if you violate the rules.) I’m mainly interested in people who managed to make a mark, but didn’t last as popular performers.

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  3. I think think of more bands that I wish stayed around for longer than I can for one-hit wonders that fizzled.

    I wish the Ailers Set had a better career than they did but they were probably not fitting well into the zeitgeist of the time. They would be more popular now. I saw them open up for Belle and Sebastian in 2002:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YerOi4W4zsw

    The best answer to your question is probably Velocity Girl.

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  4. Harvey Danger had two albums after their hit (plus the lead singer released a solo album that was also very good), but I’d still love to have more material from them. Fantastic songwriting.

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      • I have a few of their albums, and overall they were just fun 80s rock. I think they just got lost amidst the wash of all the US glam rock & heavy metal hairbands, which is too bad. They deserved a better following.

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      • And yes, I am aware of the Quiet Riot covers, but strangely enough, that was not how I found Slade.

        I saw the video for Run Runaway on MTV/VH1 one day & the tune got stuck in my head long enough I was able to track it down & learn who they were (which was a lot more work in the mid-80’s than it is today). I figured out Quiet Riot covered them many years later.

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      • “Run Runaway” got played in dance clubs a lot. It makes a good two-fer with “In a Big Country” (also 1983 and also not a bad choice for this list).

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  5. My original thought was Nada Surf. They had a hit back in the 90s, “Popular”, which was good in an angsty, grunge-era, high school kinda way:

    I saw them many years later and they were touring off their album “Let Go” which was immensely better, immensely different, and deserved far more attention and success:

    Then I remembered that they covered “If You Leave” for The O.C.:

    So I don’t know if that qualifies as a hit and disqualifies them.

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  6. I’m going to pick a band that I’ve only ever heard the One-Hit-Wonder from: Chumbawumba.

    That song is so awesome it deserves a followup hit — even it it’s terrible — just on the credit earned by Tubthumping. How many songs can you think of that, when you hear it in your kitchen, you can’t NOT dance and sounds like it was sung by Peter Capaldi? Exactly.

    Now that I think about it, they should be allowed two terrible hit records for that song.

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  7. watching my peers become obsessed with nostalgia for their mid teens is, if nothing else, a sobering reminder of incoming death.

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  8. Split Enz. “I Got You” was the definitive New Wave song. It was “Stairway to Heaven” times “Freebird” among New Wavers. Now, the New Wave movement had a lot of different threads, a lot of genres mixed together (sometimes in the same song), so maybe I’m wrong to say that there was one pinnacle song, but that’s how I remember it. The band had more success outside the US, and a couple other hits. The weird thing to me is that not only were they a one-hit wonder in the US, but the magnitude of their hit has faded over time. Somewhere along the way, “I’ll Melt with You” supplanted “I Got You”.

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  9. reminds us that Canada, is indeed, a whole ‘nother place, so here are some more goodies:

    The Inbreds:

    Sunfish:

    Sandbox (featuring Anne Murray’s nephew on vocals and “Bubbles” from “Trailer Park Boys” on guitar):

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  10. Maybe I’m in my own private Idaho on this one, but I always liked T’Pau and never understood why they (she) never caught on here other than that one song. The title track from that album was fantastic:

    Alsotoo, there was another British group that I thought showed tremendous promise. Really, all they needed was a little seasoning on the road to polish up their act:

    Those guys could have been great.

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  11. Scott McKenzie. The “San Francisco” guy. He had a spectacular voice, and several songs that were as good or better, but all anyone remembers him for is that damn hippie anthem.

    Which, to be fair, was actually a pretty good song apart from the lyric.

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  12. Okay…

    First, a tangent… bands with two hits… where the wrong hit is the more popular hit:

    Falco is better known for “Rock Me Amadeus” than for “Der Kommissar”, which is the superior song.
    A Flock of Seagulls is better known for “I Ran” than for “Space Age Love Song”, which is the superior song.

    Second, candidates on topic:

    Thomas Dolby, who really only had “She Blinded Me With Science” as a hit.
    Blues Traveler, who really only had “Run Around” as a hit.
    Luscious Jackson, who really only had “Naked Eye” as a hit.
    Nena, who really only had “99 Luftballoons” as a hit.

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  13. Oh, I just heard Real Life’s “Send Me an Angel.” I’m not sure they need to be resurrected, but that song brought back memories.

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  14. Pingback: Heavenly! | Ordinary Times

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