7.06.2010

5 Two Hit Wonders (Often Mistaken for One-Hit Wonders)

There are artists out there that manage to extend their 15 minutes of fame to a ripe half-hour--that is, they somehow double their pleasure and fun by following up one mega hit with one more lil' hit, maybe a few weeks later, maybe a few years later.

A band like Savage Garden may be the best example of the "two-hit wonder" phenomenon. Yes, they may have remained huge a while longer in Australia and Christmas Island
and maybe Slovenia, but let's face it--here in the US, we heard "Truly Madly Deeply" (#1) and "I Want You" (#4) and promptly tuned out (so did the band, btw, they only made two albums). See also: Paula Cole, The Presidents of the United States of America, Eve 6, Spin Doctors, etc.

But some of these bands aren't always recognized by our collective memories as being the two-hit wonders that they truly are, and by jove, they deserve to be recognized for their overachieving efforts, if for no other reason than I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, and of being asked "when are you going to do The Rembrandts?" (Could you *be* anymore tiresome?)

So without further adieu, here's a list of 5 two-hit wonders that are incorrectly regarded as one-hit wonders.

5. Fastball - "The Way"
(#-, #31 on Top 40, #1 on Modern Rock) and "Out of My Head" (#20, #10 on Top 40, #- on MR)
Formed in Austin, Texas in 1994, Fastball's major label debut, 1996's Make Your Mama Proud, went mostly unnoticed, (though the album's single "Are You Ready for the Fall Out?" later featured on some soundtrack--probably Varsity Blues--and is playing incessantly in my head as I write this) sending the band back into the studio with a fistful of new songs that would become All the Pain Money Can Buy.

The first single, "The Way"--a "based on a true story" tale of an elderly couple running away from it all--had a slightly western feel mixed with Fastball's power-pop inspired hooks that made it irresistible, if something of a novelty.

The track did gangbusters on Billboard's Modern Rock charts, hitting #1 for seven weeks and became a Top 40 radio staple for a stint, but for some reason doesn't seem to have charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Hmm.

Their second single, "Fire Escape," didn't make much of an impact and ran the standard second single route, but the third single, "Out of My Mind" was a huge hit in its own right--acheiving a success almost the opposite of the success of "The Way" by charting relatively high on the Billboard Hot 100 (#20) and failing to chart at all on the Modern Rock chart.

Still, most folks seem to remember "The Way" as Fastball's "one song." My belief is that the "Out of My Head" sounds so distinctly different from their first hit single that many people didn't make the connection that it was even the same band. Even listening to it now, with its retro '70s feel and washes of B3 organ, "Out of My Head" could easily pass for a Wallflowers song (assuming someone gave Jakob Dylan a lozenge or a glass of honey and tea to help clear his throat).

While sounding totally different from song to song should be an advantage for a band destined to be a one-hit wonder, it only seemed to take these guys to two hit wonder status. In fact, the band members later said as much, complaining that their lack of success on their follow up album (which sold 85k, compared to the million-plus
ATPMCB sold) was due to their inability to be easily defined. Shame. These guys had more talent in their bohemian chin beards than all of the pop-punk bands that followed in their wake combined.

In case you're wondering, yes, Fastball are still at it, kicking out the jams for the Adult Alternative set as recently as 2009 on their album Little White Lies.

4. Sophie B. Hawkins - "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" (#5) and "As I Lay Me Down" (#6)
Somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Madonna is Sophie B. Hawkins, a vaguely sexy, grungy, granola eating-type (the superfluous "B" stands for "Birkenstock," har har) who gets off on seeing if she can give guys boners while dressed like a lumberjack. With 1992's "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover," an innuendo heavy track (that would make Lady Gaga blush under her orbit helmet) where Hawkins implores the "your" in question to "come inside [her] jungle book," she no doubt managed to cause more than a few guys to pitch tents in their knickers, while also getting her single to #5 on the Hot 100. No doubt this video (which looks more like a Guess Jeans ad than a music video) didn't hurt matters. I only ask you this one question, dear reader: is she seriously dogging the floor near the end of the video? Whatever lights your candle, I suppose.

After the success of "Damn," Hawkins released two other singles from her Tongues and Tails debut, both of which stalled stateside but garnered the singer a following in the UK. Hawkins wouldn't hit again until three years later, in 1995, when the third single from Hawkins' second album, Whaler, was released. "As I Lay Me Down," a song dedicated to the memory of Hawkins' departed father, was far removed both musically and lyrically from the in-your-face-sexiness, dance-influenced sound of her first hit. "Down" is a ballad, buoyed by an organ and acoustic guitar.

As a result, the video is tempered, with Hawkins looking more like a secretly sexy poetry grad student than the erotic post-grunge star she'd played in her previous video.

Sophie B. Hawkins - Lose Your Way (Official Music Video) - Watch more top selected videos about: Sophie_B._Hawkins

The track hit only one slot below its predecessor, making it to #6 on the Hot 100. Other than the follow-up single, "Only Love (The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty)," which hit #49, Hawkins would never again chart on the Hot 100. However, Hawkins continued to do big business in the UK, scoring three Top 40 hits on their pop charts from the Whaler album alone.

After disagreements with Sony on the direction of her third album, Timbre, (the label asked her to remove a banjo from her single, "Lose Your Way"), the album limped into stores with no promotion, causing Hawkins to peace out of Sony and start her own label, where she would re-release Timbre in 2001. Since then, Hawkins has delivered one more album, Wilderness, and four minor hits on the Adult Contemporary charts--the same radio format that has not once removed her two top ten hits from their playlists.

Her fifth effort, Dream Street and Chance, is due out later in 2010.

Oh, and, er, there was also this.


3. Edwin McCain - "I'll Be" (#5) and "I Could Not Ask For More" (#37)
Remember this guy? In the aftermath of Hootie, there was a very brief interest in other college-town based, soft southern rock acts, some of whom made it (McCain, Sister Hazel) and some who didn't (Cravin' Melon).

The Edwin McCain Band was a roots rock act with a slight jazz tinge, in the same way that Dave Matthews Band has a slight jazz tinge--only less radical (just try to picture that). Signed to buddy Hootie's label Atlantic Records in 1994, it wasn't until 1998 with the release of his second album, Misguided Roses, that McCain took a vice grip-like hold of America's eardrums. The song entered the chart at #7 and eventually rose to #5 on the Hot 100, an impressive showing for an artist who had previously had only one other charting single ("Solitude," #72).

Of course, the song didn't die a quick death like so many top ten hits. In fact, some of you will probably hear it sometime this summer. Not on a radio, not on someone's iPod, but at a wedding. Yes, it's true--"I'll Be" has quickly become one of the most (over)played (and now unoriginal) wedding songs in recent history. Of course, McCain probably sees very little of this money, save for the occasional iTunes royalty check, but he should just be happy he made something next to a DJ's playlist with, um, "From This Moment On."


But somewhat improbably, lightning struck twice for McCain...sort of.

In a conscious attempt to recreate not only the success, but the actual sound and sentiment of "I'll Be," McCain recorded "I Could Not Ask For More" for his 1999 album, Messenger. While the song's showing on pop radio wasn't quite as impressive as that of "I'll Be," the follow-up actually did better on the Adult Contemporary charts, reaching #3 (over #6 for "I'll Be'). The track isn't bad, but it's so similar that it could be at best considered a sequel to "I'll Be," and at worst completely redundant.

The song also gained new life when super-duper hot country star Sara Evans covered the song for her 2000 album, Born to Fly. Evans' version became a top 5 country hit and reached #35 on the pop charts. Both versions are currently lighting up on DJ Danny's playlist at the Simmons-Weiner wedding in the Myrtle Beach area as we speak.




2. Jesus Jones - "Right Here, Right Now" (#2) and "Real, Real, Real" (#4)
In an empirical display of just how short the collective memory of Americans is, turns out Brit techno-rockers Jesus Jones weren't a one-hit wonder at all. Now, in my own anecdotal, unscientific survey of me asking various friends to name all the Jesus Jones songs they could, not a one could name anything other than their 1991 #2 Hot 100 hit "Right Here, Right Now."

Most of these conversations were followed up with, "I didn't think they ever did anything else." But people, I am here to tell you that we have all been had by our own pop culture memories. Not only did these guys have another hit song, but it was another top 5 hit, and it was their second single. These guys are the complete opposite of everything this blog stands for. They actually beat the curse (though it eventually took hold on the third single, and Americans never heard from them again).

The track, "Real Real Real" actually hit #4 on the Hot 100, though it admittedly did not fare as well on the dance and rock charts as "Right Here." Take a gander, gander takers.

Now, it's easy to see why the song was a hit. It offered more of the same as "Right Here, Right Now," a song that in itself was something of a breakthrough in the confluence of electronic and rock music, a style that became a huge influence on 75% of rock music in the '90s (remember when every artist from Oasis to Axl Rose talked about their "next album having a huge electronic influence"? Terrible time for music). No doubt folks wanted more of those sweet, sweet dance beats propelling the rocking guitar and "Real Real Real" gave them that. Unfortunately, the song becomes the red headed stepchild of our memory banks because, if I may state the obvious, it's just not quite as memorable as "Right Here," while doing the exact same thing.

So while Jesus Jones briefly beat "the second single curse," in our minds, in the long run, they just didn't. Chart positions and artistic merit aside, for all intents and purposes, time has turned them into one-hit wonders.

1. The Rembrandts - "Just the Way It Is, Baby" (#14) and "I'll Be There For You" (#17)
Oh, The Rembrandts.

If you're a follower of mine on Twitter, you'll know that my little bio says, rather snarkily, that we have not yet covered The Rembrandts. And with good reason: they're not a one-hit wonder. They're the very definition of a two hit wonder, and moreover, their two hits were spaced five years apart.

Rising like a double-headed phoenix from the ashes of the power-pop act Great Buildings, Danny Wilde and Phil Solem banded as The Rembrandts in 1989. After recording an album in Wilde's home studio, the two signed to Atlantic to release their eponymous debut. Their first single "Just the Way It Is, Baby" became a success, reaching #14 on the Hot 100 chart in 1991. The song was also a top ten hit in parts of Europe. The album itself did well, selling enough copies to reach #88 on the Billboard Album Charts.

Between 1990 and 1995, the band kept at it, releasing Untitled in 1992, and seven singles, two of which charted low on the Hot 100. It seemed that The Rembrandts were destined to follow the path of most power-pop acts--some initial exposure (especially in the late '80s/early '90s) and critical acclaim followed by complete disinterest from the fickle (and, as we've learned, forgetful) American listening public.

But then a funny thing happened. A post-Seinfeld sitcom about six young friends living in New York City (then known as Friends Like Us) went into production. The creators, David Crane, Marta Kauffman, along with songwriter Allee Willis wrote a theme song that they shopped around to various artists like R.E.M. and They Might Be Giants. Not sure why they thought Michael Stipe would ever agree to do a song so upbeat and sunny and, oh wait, "Shiny Happy People" had just been released. Now I get it.

Eventually the Kauffman and Crane landed on The Rembrandts, who, truth be told, possess a similar jangle pop sound to R.E.M. Wilde and Solem recorded the minute or so long theme song and went about recording their new LP, creatively titled, LP.

But the Rembrandts never counted on...BILLY SHEARS (not to be confused with Bernie Shears). That's right, the WLAC Nashville DJ looped the theme song into a full-length track. This version began getting requests from listeners and was picked up by various other stations. Soon, The Rembrandts' record label was knocking ont their door again, demanding they finish the track and make it a full-length tune--a sticky proposition, considering it was never really their song in the first place.

Nonetheless, the band did it, adding extra verses and a bridge. The record label tacked it onto LP. The band then recorded a video for the song, featuring the Friends cast in their prime, being characteristically obnoxious (okay, Courtney Cox and JAniston are still in their prime, but you know what I mean). "I'll Be There For You" reached #17 on the Hot 100 but hit #1 on several charts, including Top 40 and Adult Contemporary.

The interesting twist to the story is in the epilogue. Wilde and Solem themselves have never been too pleased about the path the song took. The Rembrandts were critics darlings and had a devoted fanbase, and the success of the song (and the subsequent video) made the band seem like they were cashing in, enjoying the success of a song they didn't have much hand in. Said Solem in a 2005 interview, "We lost a lot of hard-core, original fans because they thought we'd decided to take the easy way, but we felt forced to be press monkeys."

While the upshot was that the track's flipside "This House Is Not A Home" also got some record play, also reaching #17 on the Hot 100, it was too little, too late for the band, and they broke up in 1997. Though the Wilde and Solem reunited in 2005, the damage was mostly done, and The Rembrandts are still known for that one, vaguely annoying track (named one of the worst songs of all time by the pillar of publishing, Blender Magazine).

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