Released today in 1986: Only For The Young

Epic A6847

Epic A6847

A ‘hit’ is a single that reaches the Top 75 (compiled, as it was for most of the 1980s, by Gallup). With only 75 singles on the chart each week, and only a handful of those positions each week occupied by new entries, most singles released any given year will therefore not be hits; the opportunity to chart is finite. That is not to say those non-charting releases can be described by the opposite term, ‘flop’: plenty of singles bubble under the Top 75 for weeks or months, generating as many sales as hits that chart briefly at the lower reaches of the Top 75.

Owen Paul, then, can be described as a ‘one hit wonder’, in that he had one hit single (1986’s My Favourite Waste of Time) and then never troubled the chart compilers again. But given the limited opportunity to break the Top 75 it’s hardly a ‘wonder’ that acts chart only once in their careers – as indicated above, many never make it at all. For the record, though, the Smash Hits covers stars in the 1980s who had but one hit each are:

  • Derek Dunbar (as a member of Jimmy the Hoover)
  • Harry Enfield (his only release, a novelty record in his persona of Loadsamoney)
  • Matt Fretton
  • Owen Paul
  • The Professionals
  • The Reynolds Girls
  • Philip Schofield (achieved in the 1990s with his only release)

  • What is a wonder though is when an act fails to follow up a #1 single, and this is the criterion that The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles uses to identify a One Hit Wonder. (“Qualification: one number one hit and nothing else, ever.” 1 Or, as Tom Hibbert wittily put it: “Artiste who creates chart topping single, includes same on filler-stuffed LP, then is never heard of again.” 2)

    The compilers of the Guinness chart books included acts with a lone #1 which included members who had hits in their own right, e.g. charity ensembles formed for a specific release that featured artists who had plenty of hits of their own, or two named soloists uniting for a one-off duet that topped the chart who each had hits of their own. I am disallowing those for the list below of the One Hit Wonders of the British Charts in the 1980s:

    Artist Title Notes
    Fern Kinney Together We Are Beautiful 1980; from her 1979 album Groove Me, originally recorded by Ken Leray in 1977.
    The Mash Suicide Is Painless

    Recorded in 1970 as the theme from the television series M.A.S.H, it made #1 in the UK in 1980 with its third issue.
    St Winifred’s School Choir There’s No One Quite Like Grandma 1980; the choir featured on an earlier hit by Brian and Michael but with different members.
    Joe Dolce’s Music Theatre Shaddap You Face 1981.
    Charlene I’ve Never Been To Me 1982; a re-issue of her 1977 single also recorded by Nancy Wilson in same year.
    Phyllis Nelson Move Closer 1985; Nelson recorded it 1983 and first released it as a single in 1984 – a remix took it into the chart.
    M/A/R/R/S Pump Up The Volume 1987; an amalgamation of two groups: A R Kane and Colourbox. The latter had a chart career of their own, but M/A/R/R/S’s only release qualifies them as a One Hit Wonder as neither contributing act is name-checked.
    Robin Beck First Time 1988; Beck is still recording and has charted with other songs in other territories.

    1 Rice, Jo et al. “Facts and feats: One hit wonders”, The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, Guinness Superlatives Ltd, 1977.
    2 Hibbert, Tom. “One hit wonder”, Rockspeak! The Dictionary of Rock Terms, Omnibus Press, 1983.

    NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 27
    Hazel O’CONNOR Don’t Touch Me (RCA RCA387)
    THOMPSON TWINS Doctor Doctor (Arista TWINS3)
    BANGLES Manic Monday (CBS A6796)
    Owen PAUL Only For The Young (Epic A6847)


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