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VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s

1980s postcardI’m a child of the 1980s. I went to high school in the 1980s. I discovered new wave music and punk rock in the early 1980s thanks to early alternative radio stations and MTV.

I love ’80s music. Always have, always will.

The big hair. The neon outfits and new romantics. The synthpop songs and the hair-band ballads. The disposable pop song mixed with the lasting anthem. Some of it so bad it’s good. Some of it so good, it’s, well, awesome, dude!

VH1 counted down the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s in March 2009. This is their list, not mine. In fact, many of the songs on this list qualify as two- and three-hit wonders (A-Ha and General Public are two-hit wonders; A Flock of Seagulls is a three-hit wonder). Other bands on this list (Nik Kershaw, Tommy Tutone, Modern English and many others) never even charted on the Billboard Top 40 yet have long-lasting radio hits.

Editor’s note: Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309” reached #4 on the Billboard Top 40 in 1982. Thanks for the clarification UBFunkaneer.

The criteria of Top One-Hit Wonders is that an artist reaches the Billboard Top 40 one time in their career.

Read: What’s a one-hit wonder?

But let’s not get too technical here. Whether you love or hate these “one-hit wonders,” every one of these songs is memorable. And at some point in your life, possibly magical.

So enjoy VH1’s list of the 100 greatest one-hit wonders of the ’80s and click any of  the linked songs to hear these 1980s classics and read about these one-hit wonders.

You may also enjoy VH1’s 40 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ’90s

Watch VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s M-Z Videos

Watch VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s M-Z Videos


100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s

100. Clarence Clemons (and Jackson Browne) – “You’re A Friend Of Mine”
99. Michael Damian – “Rock On”
98. Buckner & Garcia – “Pac-Man Fever”
97. Will To Power – “Baby I Love Your Way / Freebird”
96. The Fabulous Thunderbirds – “Tuff Enuff”
95. Midnight Oil – “Beds are Burning”
94. Club Nouveau – “Lean On Me”
93. L.A. Guns – “The Ballad of Jayne”
92. Frank Stallone – “Far From Over”
91. Gloria Loring & Carl Anderson – “Friends And Lovers”
90. Haircut 100 – “Love Plus One”
89. Rodney Dangerfield – “Rappin’ Rodney”
88. Nik Kershaw – “Wouldn’t it Be Good”
87. Vixen – “Edge Of A Broken Heart”
86. Patrice Rushen – “Forget Me Nots”
85. Ziggy Marley And The Melody Makers – “Tomorrow People”
84. The Church – “Under The Milky Way”
83. Paul Lekakis – “Boom Boom Boom Let’s Go Back to My Room”
82. Red Rider – “Lunatic Fringe”
81. Josie Cotton – “Johnny Are You Queer?”
80. Eddie Murphy – “Party All The Time”
79. Alannah Myles – “Black Velvet”
78. Aldo Nova – “Fantasy”
77. General Public – “Tenderness”
76. J.J. Fad – “Supersonic”
75. Bertie Higgins – “Key Largo”
74. Information Society – “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)”
73. Paul Hardcastle – “19″
72. Swing Out Sister – “Breakout”
71. Jack Wagner – “All I Need”
70. Harold Faltermeyer – “Axel F”
69. T’Pau – “Heart And Soul”
68. Peter Schilling – “Major Tom”
67. Martika – “Toy Soldiers”
66. The Jeff Healey Band – “Angel Eyes”
65. Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays”
64. Robbie Dupree – “Steal Away”
63. Oran “Juice” Jones – “The Rain”
62. XTC – “Dear God”
61. E.U. – “Da Butt”
60. Nu Shooz – “I Can’t Wait”
59. The Outfield – “Your Love”
58. Don Johnson – “Heartbeat
57. Jermaine Stewart – “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”
56. Til Tuesday – “Voices Carry”
55. Johnny Kemp – “Just Got Paid”
54. Chris DeBurgh – “Lady in Red”
53. Taco – “Puttin’ On the Ritz”
52. Mary Jane Girls – “In My House”
51. After the Fire – “Der Kommissar”
50. Neneh Cherry – “Buffalo Stance”
49. Philip Bailey (w/ Phil Collins) – “Easy Lover”
48. Yello – “Oh Yeah”
47. Pretty Poison – “Catch Me I’m Falling”
46. Georgia Satellites – “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”
45. Robbie Nevil – “C’est La Vie”
44. Wall of Voodoo – “Mexican Radio”
43. Shannon – “Let the Music Play”
42. Timbuk 3 “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”
41. Billy Vera – “At This Moment”
40. The Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star”
39. Matthew Wilder – “Break My Stride”
38. Bruce Willis – “Respect Yourself”
37. Lipps, Inc. – “Funkytown”
36. Weather Girls – “It’s Raining Men”
35. Tom Tom Club – “Genius of Love”
34. The Waitresses – “I Know What Boys Like”
33. John Waite – “Missing You”
32. Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart”
31. Bobby McFerrin – “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
30. The Vapors – “Turning Japanese”
29. Madness – “Our House”
28. John Parr – “St. Elmos Fire (Man In Motion)”
27. Stacey Q – “Two of Hearts”
26. Cutting Crew – “I Just Died In Your Arms”
25. Musical Youth – “Pass the Dutchie”
24. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – “What I Am”
23. Eddy Grant – “Electric Avenue”
22. Michael Sembello – “Maniac”
21. Twisted Sister – “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
20. Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me”
19. Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”
18. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – “It Takes Two”
17. Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance”
16. Nena – “99 Luft Balloons”
15. Devo – “Whip It”
14. Big Country – “In A Big Country”
13. Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me With Science”
12. Animotion – “Obsesssion”
11. Gary Numan – “Cars”
10. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax”
9. Kajagoogoo – “Too Shy”
8. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy”
7. Modern English – “I Melt With You”
6. Toni Basil – “Mickey”
5. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”
4. Tommy Tutone – “867-5309 / Jenny”
3. A-Ha – “Take On Me”
2. Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran (So Far Away)”
1. Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come on Eileen”

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I'm an obsessive music collector, cataloger, commenter and trivia nut. Sometimes I'm even a listener. One-hit wonders have always been a guilty pleasure.

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10 Responses to "VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s"

  1. UBFunkaneer says:

    Will to Power? Cutting Crew? Seriously? Those are NOT one hit wonders by any standards. And Jeff Healey’s name is mispelled.

  2. UBFunkaneer says:

    I don’t know where this site is hosted, but in the US, Tommy Tutone had a Top 40 hit (“Jenny” hit #4). However, they are not by this site’s standards one hit wonders in the US (“Angel Say No” hit #38)

  3. Michael Waterman says:


    I fixed the Tommy Tutone oversights. Thanks for pointing that out. I completely messed up on that one. I also added the missing “e” to Jeff Healey’s name.

    By the way, focuses on the Billboard Top 40 and focuses exclusively on U.S. chart placements. Thanks again for the clarifications.

  4. […] (the original artist was Billy Vera & the Beaters, no. 41 on VH-1′s list of the top 100 one-hit wonders of the 1980s). This video also provides a little bit of the flavor of how the audience members at Bill’s […]

  5. Frank says:

    I count 18 on here that were not one hit wonders and that is just off the top of my head. I wouldn’t count Rappin Rodney as a hit as it only reached #83. I hate lazy lists like this.

  6. Michael Waterman says:

    Frank, you’re not alone in noting that VH1’s lists are far from academic and quite lazy. Thanks for paying attention to the details.

  7. Justine says:

    Neneh Cherry was the bomb – and still is!
    I watched an interview with her recently and she was still as stunning as she was then, and so refreshingly articulate (remember when singers had command of the English language?).
    Great to see Paul Hardcastle’s “19″ on the list – great song.

  8. Alan Roberts says:

    “Dear God” by XTC as a one hit wonder–what a sacrilegiously ignorant joke. XTC, one of the most prolific and prodigious bands of my youth–whose output spanned from the late seventies to 2005, and whose style ranged from Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson-esque power pop to some of the most complexly sophisticated orchestral rock ever, were “one hit wonders” only in the minds of the most musically-clueless lower level primates ever to walk the planet (in any decade). Every one of their dozen or so albums is a sonic masterpiece, driven by a pair of songwriters who rivaled Lennon/McCartney, performed with a Mozartean precision by three of the most accomplished multi-instrumentalists of the rock era, polished to perfection by some of the giants of music production–Todd Rundgren, Gus Dudgeon, Steve Lillywhite, Hugh Padgham, John Leckie, Paul Fox. “Dear God” was a B-side that became an unwitting “hit” by the unsolicited promotion of American DJs–Andy Partridge has intimated in print that he was unsatisfied with it. His many fans weren’t, but it was just one of any number of gems that dazzled devoted listeners throughout their career. I expected more from VH-1–given that the Internet is forever, the editors of this piece will have to wear a scarlet letter for eternity over this ironic folly.

  9. Michael Waterman says:


    I’m a huge fan of XTC. “Dear God” is far from their best work but became an alternative radio hit. Nonetheless, in terms of Billboard charts, XTC are actually no-hit wonders since they never charted a single song on the Billboard Top 40. Their highest-charting song in the United States is “Mayor of Simpleton,” which hit No. 72 in 1989 but No. 1 on the Billboard’s Modern Rock chart.

  10. Mike Schwager says:

    I have to agree with Alan Roberts. There’s an important element missing to your definition of “One hit wonder”, and which makes the designation more denigrating than if their song simply was their only hit. It is this: that the song overshadows their other work. I think Wikipedia has a better definition; look it up. I don’t think “Dear God” comes close to defining XTC or overshadowing their work. To have them on this list is weird. They were a successful and phenomenal band who peaked in the alternative era of the 80’s. How do you have an “alternative” hit, anyway? We were listening to XTC partly because they were truly alternative- meaning, not getting any airplay- meaning, not all that popular…!).

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