No awards show build-up is complete without some snarking about winners past, and MSN.com’s wide world of marginally useful sites are always a good place to look for these “Worst Oscar Nominees” and “Where Is the Best New Artist Now” type lists. They didn’t disappoint on the eve of this year’s Grammy awards, trotting out a Remember These Grammy-Winning One-Hit Wonders? for the occasion.
Such lists are always subjective, and this one’s no exception. There were a few solid picks — I had to look up the Baha Men, so far have they fallen into obscurity — along with a few head-scratchers. Here are three that puzzled me:
By no definition could Bruce Hornsby be called a one-hit wonder. Hornsby’s been on the Billboard charts eleven times, in all; “The Way It Is” was followed by “Mandolin Rain,” which peaked at #4, “Every Little Kiss,” which peaked at #14. This, of course, is not counting Hornsby’s charting albums — an important distinction to make, considering that Hornsby has always been more an album artist than a singles artist. It’s not unlike calling the Grateful Dead one-hit wonders — yes, “Touch of Grey” was the band’s only charting single.
If a #1 chart position is the criteria for this list, 1992’s Best New Artist, Marc Cohn, isn’t even a one-hit wonder. He never reached #1, either on the albums chart or with “Walking in Memphis,” the song for which the author assumes he was nominated. Like Hornsby, though, Cohn is known as more of an albums artist — he’s had four albums chart on Billboard’s Top 200. He’s also charted several times with greatest hits collections, the ultimate irony, all things considered.
It could be just that I love Jamiroquai, but this inclusion offends me. To be sure, the band (or auteur Jay Kay, more like) is not a one-hit wonder; they’ve had songs and albums chart on no less than 14 Billboard charts, ranging from “Adult Pop” to “Dance/Electronic Albums” to “Hot R&B/Hip Hop.” Chalk this one up to xenophobia — Jamiroquai was never as popular in the U.S. as in Europe and Asia (big in Japan, for real).
Clearly Bruce Hornsby, Marc Cohn and Jamiroquai fail the one-hit wonder test — the question is why these three were included on this list when far more deserving artists were neglected. In that spirit, here’s a list of artists, a few of which won the Grammy for Best New Artist in the past. See if you can spot the winners:
The Swingle Singers
Starland Vocal Band
A Taste of Honey
The Neon Philharmonic
Soul II Soul
A brand new thingie here — the Same Name Game! Here’s how you play: find two unrelated songs with the same name, and marvel at your own vast knowledge and vaster collection of MP3s/CDs/wax cylinders!
Did you know that there are two great, totally different and completely unrelated songs called “Polaris?” I know!
Here’s one by my dearly beloved Megadeth:
How do you like that “Polaris,” darlins? Does it make you bang your sweet little head, or at the very least wonder at the beauty of this lyric “I spread disease like a dog/discharge my payload/my rotten egg of death rots out your nostrils”?
Don’t laugh, honeys. Underneath all that shredding — which is indeed a thing of beauty — my boyfriend Dave Mustaine has a lot to say, and it’s all worth hearing, really. He’s warning you of nuclear winter and the destruction of all mankind. Which means we need to make plans to find a spaceship and get the hell out of here and quick!
Good thing Zero 7’s ready with their “Polaris”:
Because this “Polaris” is instrumental, I can make it about anything I want it to be. As with most Zero 7 instrumentals, I make it about space. I want this “Polaris” to be about a spaceship that’s going to take us away from the horrible death the other “Polaris” promises us. It’s going to take us to a lovely, lovely space station where the Muzak always plays Zero 7, Royksopp and Air, everything is mid-century modern and we’re all sleek and fast.
I love the Same Name Game!
It’s time once again to consider the merits of a minor hit and allow you, the reader, to be the judge of whether this minor hit should have been a major hit.
This week’s episode features Jo Jo Gunne’s 1972 single “Run Run Run.” If you’re unfamiliar with Jo Jo Gunne, don’t feel bad — you’re in the majority. Jo Jo Gunne’s major claim to fame, aside from their almost one-hit wonder status with “Run Run Run,” is the fact that the band featured Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes, late of the great Spirit. Unfortunately for Ferguson and Andes, Jo Jo Gunne would prove less successful than Spirit, who languished unjustly as a mid-level band throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s (and yes, you do sense another “mid-level band” entry in the making).
So in 1972, Jo Jo Gunne released their self-titled first album, which featured the single “Run Run Run.” “Run Run Run”‘s chart run was the stuff that one-hit wonders were made of; the single entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at #29 in April, peaked at #6 in May, and dipped lower and lower on the chart until disappearing later that year. “Run Run Run” would be Jo Jo Gunne’s sole charting single.
The dismal chart action didn’t deter the original Gunners, though. Despite several member changes, the band hung on for three more albums before disbanding in 1975. The lack of another hit single likely didn’t bother the ever-changing membership in the Jo Jo Gunne club much; like Spirit, the band was more an album band than a singles band, anyway.
So, the moment of decision has arrived, dear reader. Watch/listen to the following YouTube clip, and make up your mind: did “Run Run Run” deserve a longer “Run Run Run” at the top of the chart, or was the song’s quick “Run Run Run” back into mid-level popularity a reflection of the songs merits (or lack thereof)?
To my mind, “Run Run Run” barely deserved the chart action it managed to achieve. I’m a huge fan of Spirit, but I could never get behind Jo Jo Gunne, which sounded like Spirit’s stupid younger brother. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that time has borne my opinion out, as “Run Run Run” has almost disappeared from oldies radio — and all but the clearest memories from the 1970s, evidently — altogether.
However, I do have a healthy appreciation for Jay Ferguson’s OTHER minor hit, 1978’s “Thunder Island,” if not for his white man ‘fro or pornstache. To make up for subjecting you to “Run Run Run,” though, I’ll share “Thunder Island,” too:
So sad to hear of Don Cornelius’ passing today. In memory of Mr. Soul Train, here’s a clip of him interviewing one of my favorite bands, Tower of Power:
And because an interview’s just not enough of ToP, here’s another clip: