Artists who became famous with a single hit song in the 80s


The list of famous one-hit wonders in the 80s is huge, however even though you will probably know many of the songs, if you mentioned the artists names today, people might ask, “who?” Here is a list of some who seem to have left an impression, even though they only had one major hit.



Allanah Miles

(Black Velvet)



Unfortunately… at least from my point of view,  this song was way overplayed and still gets played on the radio too much. However the fact that it still does get played is testament to the artist and the song. 

Bobby McFerrin

(Don’t worry, be happy)



A rather unusual song with no musical instruments, just voices. You either loved it or it irritated the hell out of you. It irritated the hell out of me back then. Jokes went around that McFerrin committed suicide when he hadn’t. Even more ironically Robin Williams played a big part in the video for this song. 



Dead Or Alive

(You spin me round)


These guys were too androgynous for my liking, but the song sure was catchy and became popular a second time when it was in the movie “The Wedding Singer”.



Devo (Whip it!)


I’m not really convinced these guys are one-hit wonders, but they do get listed as one-hit wonders in many lists. They were a bizarre band who dressed in bizarre ways. Their songs and their videos were amusing and different.  Devo also had the claim to fame by being Johnny Slash’s favourite band in the short lived 80s TV Series “Square Pegs”. 

Dexy’s Midnight Runners (Come on Eileen) 


This is probably the greatest one-hit-wonder of all times and I’ve seen it at the top of such lists. Everyone (including Homer Simpson) was convinced these guys would go on and have many more hits, but they never did. Maybe it was because of the way they dressed?



Kajagoogoo (Too Shy)



Seems like another one of those bands that should have done well, but never did. 





(99 Luft/Red balloons)



One hit single, released in both German and English. 




Swing out Sister

(Break out)



Their only international hit song. I wonder if it became so big because it was played at movie theaters? That was where I heard it played before it even got on the radio.






I feel like I could list so many more. I have even compiled my own list of 1 and 2 hit-wonders, most of which I love and most of which I have on my IPod. Some of these artists may have had more success overseas, but in NZ, this was it. It's unbelievable how many there are.


I have Googled lists of 1-hit wonders. In some cases I am seeing a lot I've never heard of. In other cases I'm seeing bands listed that had more than one hit in New Zealand. I am also finding that some lists are missing certain ones. Perhaps they never even made it to Hit status in other countries. 


Here's my list of ones that stand out. They were played a lot on New Zealand radio down here:


Other artists with one or two hits that were played regularly on New Zealand radio when they came out. 


After the Fire (Der Kommisar)

Alexi Sayle (Ullo John got a new motor/Didn't ya kill my brother?)

Alf (My name is Alf and I'm stuck on Earth)

Baltimora (Tarzan Boy)

Benjamin Orr (Stay the night)

Black Lace (Agadoo)

Boomtown Rats (I don't like Mondays)

Boys don’t cry (I wanna be a cowboy)

Breakfast Club (Right on track)

Bronski Beat (Smalltown Boy)

Buck's Fizz (Making your mind up)

The Buggles (Video Killed the radio star)

Cameo (Word up)

The Cats away (Melting Pot)

The Choirboys (Run to Paradise)

Clannad (Robin the Hooded man/In a lifetime)

Clarence Carter (Stroke it)

Climie Fisher (Love changes everything)

Club Nouveau (Lean on me)

Coconut Rough – Sierra Leone

Communards (Never can say goodbye/Don’t leave me this way)

Coup D'Etat (Doctor I like your medicine)

Cutting Crew (Died in your arms tonight)

Dave & the Dynamos (Life beings at 40)

David Foster (Theme for St Elmo’s Fire)

Dennis Waterman (I could be so good for you)

Divine (You think you're a man but you're only a boy)

Double (Captain of her Heart)

Dream Academy (Life in a Northern Town)

Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians (What I am)

The Eurogliders (Heaven must be there)

Europe (Final Countdown)

Feargal Sharkey (A good heart)

Fiction Factory (Feels like Heaven)

The Firm (Star Trekkin')

Flock of Seagulls (I ran)

George Smilovici (I'm tuff) - stand up routine

Georgia Satellites (Keep your hands to yourself)

Gino Vannelli (Wild Horses)

Grateful Dead (Touch of grey)

Grayson Hugh (Talk it over)

Grover Washington Jnr (Just the two of us)

Harold Faltermeyer (Axel F)

Jan Hammer (Miami Vice theme)

Jerry Harrison  (Rev it up)

J Geils Band (Centerfold/Freeze Frame)

Joe Dolce (Shaddap you face)

Joey Scarbury (Believe it or not)

John Waite (Missing you)

Julian Lennon (Too late for goodbyes/Valotte)

Kid Creole & the Coconuts (Stool pigeon)

Kim Wilder (Kids in America)

The Knack (My Sharona)

Limahl (Never Ending Story)

Lipps Inc (Funkytown)

Malcolm McClaren (Double Dutch/Buffalo Girls)

Martika (Toy Soldiers/I feel the Earth move)

Masquerade (Guardian Angel)

Matthew Wilder (Break my stride)

Men without Hats (Safety Dance/Pop goes the world)

Micheal Sembello (Maniac)

Mike Post (Theme for Hill Street Blues)

Mi Sex (Computer Games)

Monte Video & the Cassettes (Shoop Shoop Diddy Wop)

Murray Head (One night in Bangkok)

Musical Youth (Pass the Duchie)

Naked Eyes (Always something there to remind me)

The Narcs (Heart & Soul)

Nena Cherry (Buffalo Stance)

Netherworld Dancing Toys (For today)

Patrick Swayze (She’s like the wind)

Pat Wilson (Bop Girl)

Patea Maori Club (Poi E)

Paul Hardcastle (19)

Peter Schilling (Story of Major Tom)

Phil Bailey (Easy lover)

The Proclaimers (I’m on my way/500 miles)

Pseudo Echo (Funkytown/There’s a beat for you)

Quiet Riot (Cum on feel the noise)

Ray Parker Jnr (Ghostbusters)

Real Life (Send me an angel)

Re-Flex (Politics of Dancing)

Ric Ocasek (Emotion in motion)

Robbie Dupree (Steal away)

Robbie Nevill (C'est la vie)

Rockwell (Somebody’s watching me)

Rocky Burnette (Tired of Toen the Line)

The Romantics (Talking in your sleep)

Satellite Spies (Destiny in motion)

Shaken Stevens (This old house/Green door)

Soft Cell (Tainted Love)

Special AKA (Free Nelson Mandella)

Steve Perry (Oh Sherry)

The Stranglers (Skin Deep)

Thomas Dolby (She blinded me with Science)

Sylvia (Nobody)

Taco (Putting on the Ritz)

Timbuck3 (The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades)

The Time Bandits (Only shooting love)

The Timelords (Dr Who & the Tardis)

Toni Basil (Mickey)

T’Pau (Heart & soul/China in your hand)

Tracey Ulman (They don’t know)

Trio (Da da da)

Twisted Sister (We’re not gonna take it/I wanna rock!)

Vangelis (Chariots of Fire)

Vapors (Turning Japanese)

Wall of Voodoo (Mexican Radio)

Wang Chung (Dance Hall Days/Everybody have fun tonight)

Warren Zevon (Werewolves in London)

Waterboys (Whole of the moon) 

Weird Al Yankovich (Eat it, Fat)

Will to Power (Baby I love your way)

Yazz & the Plastic Population (Only way is up)

Yello (Oh Yeah) 



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