Tuesday, April 7, 2009

VH1's One Hit Wonders of the '80s was completely inaccurate

This is news that only quizmasters and quizzo addicts would conceivably care about.

When you say "one-hit wonder" to an American trivia geek, that invariably means an act that had one song and one song only hit at or above the #40 position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart for at least one week. It's a pretty specific designation, and a handy trivia standby as it allows for definitive answers to specific questions.

VH1 just ran a week-long series called 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the '80s which was just flat-out wrong multiple times in designating what acts met the criteria... not once or twice, but I'm guessing maybe half of the time. "Greatest" is of course subjective, but it seemed act after act got burned when the folks at VH1 couldn't recall, or didn't have good video for, more than one hit per act, and therefore that "made" them one-hit wonders. Often the narration made the claim that so-and-so "never charted again," so there's no ambiguity that they meant a casual interpretation of the term to mean "acts with one song we generally remember."

It'd be like claiming that the Phils have still only won one World Series, because you figure that a lot of your audience wouldn't be old enough to notice, because you don't have enough good video of the '80 series, and because you couldn't get a Larry Bowa interview. Lazy!

For those of us who were in high school in the '80s, this was a little upsetting. I'm used to the Orwellian Memory Hole for serious news, but must we sully even the damn pop chart history?!

Playing some hunches on bands I was pretty darn sure had a gaggle of hits in the '80s, and consulting my trusty copy of Whitburn, I went 4-for-4 on checking out potentially false one-hitters depicted as such on the VH1 special. I'm sure someone with even more free time than me could find dozens more.

The worst and weirdest slight of the four was Twisted Sister, who had five Top 40 songs in the '80s. Few bands manage that many Top 40 hits in a career, let alone a decade. The weird part is that VH1 claimed that "We're Not Gonna Take It" (highest chart position #20) was their only Top 40 hit, whereas they actually had a song chart #19 ("The Price").

A Flock of Seagulls were claimed to be a one-hitter with "I Ran (So Far Away)", although they had three Top 40s in the '80s.

Men Without Hats are best remembered for "Safety Dance" (#9), but also hit #20 with "Pop Goes the World." Thus when Twisted Sister hits #20, it's "their only hit," and when Men Without Hats does the same... it didn't happen.

A-Ha is well-remembered for "Take On Me", a #1 song, but also hit #20 in the US with "The Sun Always Shines on TV."

Those are just the four I checked out. Sloppy, VH1, sloppy!

Last year I went to an "'80s Party" on the Moshulu, and noticed about half the songs played that night were from the late '70s or early '90s. Is this all really that hard? If we need help, folks, contact info for me is available on this page and I can be hired at reasonable rates to consult upon what decade your music is from and how popular it was at the time.

Next thing you know, the Discovery Channel will be telling us there are only eight planets.
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