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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

    who is Oasos?
    Who are Ram Jack?
    Sounds like a mexican version of Oasis. I'll pick you up at half past three, we'll have burritoooos yeaaaah
    Oasos is a band from the far far future. They are similar to the 90s band oasis and the beatle barkers.
    The unheard of band who held the record for the most weeks at the top of the chart before Marcy Playground
    I don't really think Europe can be considered a one-hit band.
    yeah...agree, Europe is a pretty popular band...
    Popularity doesn't save you from being a one-hit wonder - And I strongly disagree, the only place I can recall where people knew more than one of their songs song was their homeland, Sweden - Everywhere else they're pretty much solely known for that song, and nothing else.
    Oh comon! Europe have had enough hits to not be considered a one-hit wonder. Including "Superstitious", "Rock the Night", "Seven Doors Hotel" and "Carrie"... The fact that Europe even made it into this list is ridicilous...
    Yep, I've learned about Europe due to "The Final Countdown", but "Carrie" is actually my favourite song - mostly because it's streamed like zillion times less often.
    What about 4 Non Blondes? Even in Linda Perry had a great career in the music business after quitting the band their What's Up is a classic!
    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.
    Well.. I know that The Verve never beat Bitter sweet Symphony, on the other hand "drugs don´t work" is their hit for me too.. or lucky man...
    Yeah, they had quite a lot of songs do very well. It's just that song was known mostly from it's usage in adverts and trailers rather than chart plays I guess...
    I find your lack of Blind Melon's No Rain disturbing.
    I agree they should be on here. They didn't have any other huge hits, but I love all their music. No Blind Melon = Instant Bullshit
    Way Cool JR.
    "Change" was another big hit of theirs, so that equals more than 1 hit.
    It wasn't a big hit but I applaud you for mentioning it man. Change is one of my all-time favorite songs
    Way Cool JR.
    Blind Melon was a great band. Luckily I got to see them live back in '93 when they toured with Lenny Kravitz. It was a great show.
    Spirit In The Sky by Norman Greenbaum or even Take On Me by A-ha were some big one hit wonders.
    A-ha is crazy successful in markets that aren't America though
    How is The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony a one-hit wonder?
    Agreed. But outside of the UK they're very much seen as one-hit wonders.
    When you say "outside of the UK" I think you mean to say "in America."
    Rebel Scum
    I thought the same thing. They had another hit on the same album. The drugs don't work.
    If bands like Ram Jam , Europe and Survivor are considered one-hit wonder bands, then maybe we should argue that Iggy Pop had a one-hit wonder called "The Passenger", thanks to which most of the people know of him.
    The Verve aren't exactly an one-hit-wonder band. "Lucky Man", "Love is Noise" and "The Drugs Don't Work" are also pretty famous. Damn, basically all singles that came out of "Urban Hymns" are famous. Anyway, here's my favorite one hit wonder:
    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.
    How can the Verve be a one hit wonder when they had two very successful albums with multiple hit singles? - Not to mention that Urban Hymns is often polled up in the top ten of British Albums of all time and is a certifiable classic of 90's British life... Shame on this list...
    Wait, what? The Verve? They have done plenty of awesome songs!
    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.
    Way Cool JR.
    Survivor is not a 1 hit wonder band. What about "The Search Is Over" , "I Can't Hold Back" & "High On You", 3 of their other huge hits that topped the charts in the '80s. I couldn't turn the radio on without hearing them songs. And Europe anyone in their right mind knows they are not one hit wonders. What a horrible, horrible pick for the top 2.
    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
    MT in Austin
    Not to be overly picky but the Knack had a second hit with Good Girls Don't. Reached #11 on Billboard Top 100.
    It actually makes me sad to think that Europe are considered a one hit wonder.. Those guys have some really great songs
    to say that the verve are a one hit wonder band is just stupid... they have some great tunes
    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 really hate that drowning pool song. But none the less it's a decently accurate list, I believe.
    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"