Top 10 One-Hit-Wonders

What are the best bands to flash in the pan then disappear forever? Hear the best one-hit-wonders here.

Ultimate Guitar

Some songs are so damn good that the artist doesn't need to rely on a silly ol' career to make their mint.

After all, artists come and go - but what you need is a song that lasts forever. That's the power of a one-hit-wonder, and when you write a song that plays somewhere on radio every minute of the day around the world, you'll be made for life.

So what are the best examples of one-hit-wonders around? That's the question we posed to UG readers this week, and as usual they had sparkling taste in pop and rock. Here's the results.

10. Marcy Playground "Sex and Candy"

With 15 weeks at number one, Marcy Playground broke a record previously held by Oasis for the most weeks at the top of the chart.

9. Ram Jam "Black Betty"

This was a cover of an 18th century song which took Ram Jam to the top of the charts in the 1970s. Guitariist Bill Barlett took Lead Belly's minute-long version and took little time to rearrange and record this hit.

8. Wild Cherry "Play That Funky Music"

You wouldn't know that Wild Cherry played mostly hard rock, but disco was a growing trend at the time (and let's remember, it wasn't club beats but funk music which was the disco genre of choice back then). Between songs, drummer Ron Beitle would say "play that funky music, white boy" - and they would. It became a hit worth 2.5 million sales.

7. Drowning Pool "Bodies"

"Bodies" was written about the brotherhood in a moshpit, but its lyrics have been misinterpreted as violent. Some tried to link it to a shooting in 2011, and it was used by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay for up to 10 days at a time. Could you handle it?

6. Chumbawamba "Tubthumping"

The ultimate drinking song, thanks to its boozing lyrics and simple chorus: "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never going to keep me down." This political and relatively unknown British band stormed straight to the top of the charts in Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK, and did pretty well in the US charts too.

5. The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be"

Scotland wouldn't be the same without these bespectacled icons in their pop cannon. They're not your usual pop stars, by sound or vision, but what a fantastic song. All together now…

4. The Verve "Bitter Sweet Symphony"

The Verve were sued hard by the Rolling Stones for the use of their string sample from "The Last Time" without permission. We'd be more forgiving of the 'Stones if it weren't such a blinding tune - "Bitter Sweet Symphony" frequently earns its place in polls for the best British song.

3. The Knack "My Sharona"

One of the oldest one-hit wonders to last through to today, partly because they pre-empted the sound of the late-2000s indie rock scene decades early. Little known fact: the Sharona at the centre of the song uses the domain to promote her Real Estate business.

2. Europe "The Final Countdown"

How many songs can boast a number one in 25 countries? Never has something that sounds like the last level of an RPG video game become so popular.

1. Survivor "Eye of the Tiger"

The only way to sum up the stack of awesome that is this song is this: I used to win races at school sports day as a youngster by imagining this song at the starting line. For real. That's the motivational power of this track, and this week it's your best one-hit-wonder of all time.

That's the end of our roundup of the top 10 best one-hit wonders. And a pretty solid set they are, too. Sometimes you don't need a career lasting decades to earn a lasting legacy and a shut tonne of money.

What's your personal favorite one-off hit? Who would you place in your top three? Let us know in the comments.

182 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Smash Mouth and Allstar? ugh that song drives me insane sometimes
    I'm a believer is pretty well-known as well
    You could say the same thing about The Verve and their songs Lucky Man, The Drugs Don't Work, and Sonet. All fairly well-known. The Verve aren't a one-hit wonder, more like a one-hit-album-wonder.
    I just listened to Marcy Playground's song here last week on youtube! Also what about The Verve Pipe? I thought they were one hit wonders, guess not.
    I'll probably get downvotes for this but Hotel California- The Eagles. None of their songs were ever that great in comparison. Just my opinion!
    I think their Greatest Hits albums are amongst the best sellers ever. This poll seems to be from a US perspective. Eagles had a lot of American hits that were country-rock and were probably not popular outside the US.
    So uh... Life In The Fast Lane, Desperado, Tequilla Sunrise, Take It Eas, Take It To The Limit, One of These Nights etc aren't all hits? Well crap. I guess I should add Queen, The Rolling Stones and The Who to your list of one hit wonders as well. It's not like they have any songs of note other than Bohemian Rhapsody, Satisfaction and Pinball Wizard right?
    Hmm...didn't know that Ram Jack was a band name. Crap, back to the drawing board.
    to say that the verve are a one hit wonder band is just stupid... they have some great tunes
    It actually makes me sad to think that Europe are considered a one hit wonder.. Those guys have some really great songs
    Glad to see Sex and Candy on here, the rest of Marcy Playground's music is disappointingly dull. It's also the only song I can sing and play decently with my limited range and poor coordination.
    I don't think Marcy Playground is a one hit wonder.
    Unfortunately, they are. But "Saint Joe on the School Bus" was pretty popular and charted pretty well who knows. Just not as big of a deal as "Sex and Candy" I guess.
    I'm sorry but Europe doesn't deserve to be on this list, they were really popular in the 80's, it wasn't just the final countdown that made them famous, it sure did help though.
    Face R1pper
    The Final Countdown only made them famous because every high school sports team plays that song in the locker room. Anyone who knows anything about 80s metal knows they made better songs both before and after.
    Anyone who knows anything about Europe knows that the Final Countdown is one of their worst songs...
    The Verve's ranks in UK Charts were: Drugs don't work - no#1 - 1 September 1997 Bittersweet Symphony - no#2 - 2 June 1997 Lucky Man - no#7 - 24 November 1997
    Survivor is NOT a one hit wonder.. Heck they've got other hits including "burning heart"!
    The Verve didn't use the tune without consent. Allen Klein's company gave them permission to use the instrumental version of "This Could Be the Last Time" as long as they split the royalties 50/50 and then when it became a hit they swooped in and became asshats slapping them with a lawsuit and taking all of it. Read the "song credits" section of Bittersweet Symphony on Wikipedia. It's a lesson in jackassery.
    So many people in these comments don't know what "hit" means. These bands have had one hit . If they didn't have any other songs, that would just be disappointing. But those songs have not been hits .
    Way Cool JR.
    All these bands do not only have one hit (some of them do & some don't). Survivor and Europe are the top 2 examples, they each had several hits that topped the charts. And yes they were hits, not just great songs. That is a fact.
    I was expecting Golden Earring's Radar Love
    not even close, they have too many hit songs.. like twilight zone and back home
    It made me glad to hear even outside of the Netherlands.. People know, man. People know. Great band.
    I've seen better days - Citizen King that song is rad or what about Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger?
    Agreed Flagpole Sitta should be on the list, even though its on my iPod! LOL
    where have all the merrymakers gone is still a really good album in my books even though it never got them anywhere
    I'm guessing a lot of people that voted on here are like 19? A lot of the bands on here had more than 1 hit song.
    Europe are not a one hit wonder. The Final Countdown is one of their worst songs, but when they are still playing big festivals and touring 30 years after their "one hit", I think it's pretty conclusive that they're not a one hit wonder. Here's a one-hit wonder for you though.
    As Rick Asltley is mentioned we seem tob refering to non guitar acts... so.... Joe Dolce Shudup ya Face - Kept Ultravox (with Vienna) from #1 in the Uk. there are many more along these lines..... Rock based, in the UK, in terms of hits...Hawkwind Silver Machine.
    The Verve are nowhere near one hit wonders. Whoever made this list is obviously shortsighted. They were one of the headliners at both Coachella and Glastonbury in 2008 after a 10 hiatus which shows their pulling power. In 1997 "Lucky Man" was top 20 on Billboard. Check out "The Drugs Dont Work", "Sonnet", "History", "Love is Noise"
    Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know" should make the list. Not 'cause I like that song (I don't) but because it was probably one of the most successful single hits of all time. It even won Grammy's, something most one-hit wonders won't get near. ...unless the jury's still out on him given the relative recentism of the song.
    Survivor?? Burning Heart #2 Search is Over #4 Several others in the top 10. Definitely not a 1 hit wonder.
    Way Cool JR.
    "I Can't Hold Back" & "High On You" are 2 more of their huge chart topping hits. So Yeah, definitely not 1 hit wonders by a long shot.
    Bodies wasn't even Drowning Pool's highest charting song on the Mainstream Rock Chart. In fact, it's 3rd after Feel Like I Do and 37 Stitches. But yeah, good list.
    not easy to compile a list of this kind thats why this is the pretty decent one