One-hit wonders in the UK

A One Hit Wonder has been defined by The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles as an artist who has achieved a No.1 hit in the Singles Chart and has never had another hit.

This criterion is controversial in that many believe that it refers to an artist who has had one major hit and nothing else of similar success. However this in itself has caused further controversy in judging what is deemed a hit and what is not. The Guinness Book of Hit Singles defines a hit as a single which has made the Chart for at least one week. For the purposes of this article, due to the lack of a defining criteria, the Guinness Book of Hit Singles' policy will be used.

Please note that artists who have had a No.1 duet (and is their only hit together), are not considered if they each have had separate solo hits. (eg. Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, who together had a one-off hit, reaching No.1 in 1985, but have hit the charts separately on several other occasions). Also, a hit is attributed to the main artist given credit. If a single is released by two artists with the conjunction 'and' or 'versus' then both artists have equal billing (eg. Cliff Richard and The Young Ones) and are both counted as having a No.1 (in this case 1986s "Living Doll"), whereas if the conjunction between two artists is 'featuring' or 'with' (or similar) then the first artist is considered the main artist for that hit, with the other artist listed being given a lesser billing (usually in these cases they would be additional vocalists or contributing instrumentalists). For reasons of clarity (and brevity), the lower billed artists are not considered a One-Hit Wonder here even if it is their only hit.

Artists who are classed as One Hit Wonders within the past 12 months are not yet added to the list, as they may still follow-up their No.1 with another hit. A One Hit Wonder from earlier who now go on to score another hit will be removed from this list.

The One-Hit Wonders

Kitty Kallen stands as the very first One Hit Wonder, scoring a No.1 hit in September 1954 with the song "Little Things Mean a Lot". Despite scoring other hits in her native US, Kallen never achieved another hit on the UK Chart, which at this point was a mere Top 12.

US band who reached No.1 with "It's Almost Tomorrow". It reached the top on two separate occasions in March and April, but they never managed to follow it up successfully. In the US, they scored a minor hit some months later, but then faded into obscurity there also.

The Kalin Twins remain the only One Hit Wonder male siblings (comprising of twin brothers). Their song "When" reached No.1 in August 1958 for five weeks.

Despite writing many hits, Jerry Keller only ever had one hit in his own right. "Here Comes Summer" was a No.1 in October 1959 for a single week.

Ricky Valance is the first Bitish One Hit Wonder (hailing from Wales). His song "Tell Laura I Love Her" became a No.1 hit in September 1960, remaining at the top for three weeks.

Instrumental group, B. Bumble and the Stingers had already scored their biggest hit in the US, but the follow-up "Nut Rocker" was their only UK hit, reaching No.1 in May 1962 for a week. The song reappeared on the UK Chart 10 years later, reaching No.19.

British band, The Overlanders scored their only hit with the Lennon/McCartney composition, "Michelle". It reached No.1 in January 1966 for three weeks. They are the earliest British group to be classed as a One Hit Wonder.

This band, based around Arthur Brown, scored a No.1 in August 1968 with the influential song, "Fire". The group did score a hit (self-titled) album, but neither the band nor Arthur Brown in his own right managed to secure another chart placing in the singles chart.

US male duo reached No.1 for three weeks in August 1969 with "In the Year 2525". The song was released two years earlier, but didn't become a success until it made No.1 in the US and soon after in the UK. It remains either member's only hit.

British actress Jane Birkin recorded "Je t'aime... moi non plus" with Serge Gainsbourg in 1969. The song was banned by the BBC, which is believed to be a major factor in the song's success. It hit the charts three times in all, reaching No.1 on the second attempt in October 1969.

Controversial French singer and director, Serge Gainsbourg scored his only Chart success with the above song. He is the first non-UK/US One Hit Wonder.

The Archies were made up of cartoon characters from the TV series, The Archie Show. In reality, the song was performed by a group of session singers. Their hit "Sugar Sugar" reached No.1 in October 1969 for eight weeks - the most for any One Hit Wonder. Other singles were released under their name, but none found success in the UK.

Actor Lee Marvin recorded "Wand'rin' Star" for his current film, Paint Your Wagon. It was released as a single and reached No.1 for three weeks in March 1970. Due to his self-professed inability to sing, Marvin didn't release any further singles.

American singer Norman Greenbaum scored a success in 1970 when "Spirit in the Sky" reached No.1 in May. The song was his only hit, but went on to reach No.1 twice more in versions by Doctor and the Medics and Gareth Gates.

Recorded earlier by Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the song "Woodstock" became a hit for the first time in the UK for Matthews' Southern Comfort, reaching No.1 in October 1970. The band was led by Iain Matthews, who despite appearing in various other groups, never had another hit.

Actor Clive Dunn was currently starring in the TV sitcom Dad's Army when he released the novelty single, "Grandad". The song reached No.1 for three weeks in January 1971. Dunn released several follow-ups but never hit the chart again. The song was used as the theme tune to a TV series of the same name in 1979, starring Dunn.

The instrumental piece "Eye Level", performed by The Simon Park Orchestra, was the theme tune to the TV series, Van der Valk It became a No.1 hit in September 1973, eventually selling over a million copies in the UK.

Probably the most well-known of all the One Hit Wonders, John Denver, despite scoring over 30 hits in the US (including four No.1s) and several hit albums in the UK, only ever made the singles chart once. "Annie's Song" became a No.1 hit in October 1974.

UK duo Typically Tropical released the song "Barbados" in 1975 and reached No.1 for a week in August. Regarded as a pastime by the two members, follow-up singles failed to chart and the duo split not long after.

Canadian singer J.J. Barrie secured his only hit with a cover of the Melba Montgomery song "No Charge". It made No.1 for a week in June 1976.

US group, The Floaters scored a worldwide hit in 1977 with "Float On". It reached No.1 in the UK for one week, replacing Brotherhood of Man's "Angelo" in August.

Jamaican teenage duo Althea and Donna reached No.1 for a week in February 1978 with the reggae song "Uptown Top Ranking". Ill-advised follow-up, "Puppy Dog Song" proved to be their downfall.

UK duo Brian and Michael enjoyed No.1 success in April 1978 with "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs". The song featured St. Winifred's School Choir on backing vocals, who went on to become One Hit Wonders in their own right two years later.

Anita Ward secured her only chart hit with "Ring My Bell" in 1979. The song reached No.1 in June for two weeks, mirroring its success in America. Future success eluded her also in both territories.

Essentially based around future chart star Gary Numan, Tubeway Army scored their first hit with their final single, "Are 'Friends' Electric?". The song reached No.1 for four weeks in June 1979. Immediately the band dissolved, but not before also scoring a No.1 album at the same time.

Although a hit-maker in the album charts, MOR singer Lena Martell experienced only one hit single. The already well-known song "One Day at a Time" made No.1 in October 1979.

US disco artist Fern Kinney reached No.1 in March 1980 for one week with the song "Together We Are Beautiful". Originally a B-Side, the song became her biggest and only UK success.

  • Mash (1980)

Sung by actor Ken Prymus, but released under the name Mash, the song "Suicide Is Painless" became a belated No.1 in the UK during 1980, after being recorded in 1970, when it was the theme tune to the film MASH. The song was a three week No.1 in May 1980, becoming the most certain chart act of retaining One Hit Wonder status.

Sung by the choir of St Winifred's school in Stockport, "There's No-one Quite Like Grandma" became the Christmas No.1 of 1980. The choir featured lead vocalist Dawn Ralph and future TV actress Sally Lindsay.

American born and Australian resident, Joe Dolce made his mark with the Italian-styled "Shaddap You Face" in 1981. The high novelty value of the song pushed it to No.1 for three weeks in February. Future releases met with silence.

Originally a minor hit in the US in 1977, Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me" reached No.1 in June 1982 for a week. The song's success took Charlene by surprise and no new material was available for release afterwards until it was too late.

Former disco artist Phyllis Nelson released the self-penned ballad "Move Closer" in 1985. The song reached the top in May for one week. Her album was also a hit, but follow-up single "I Like You" fell just short of the Official Top 75 chart, peaking at No.81.

Based on characters from the comedy series of the same name, The Young Ones teamed up with Cliff Richard for a spoof version of his 1959 hit "Living Doll". The song reached No.1 for three weeks in March 1986. It was the comedy team's only hit, but member Nigel Planer did have a solo hit in 1984 as character 'Neil'.

Producer Steve Hurley had scored many hits on the UK Dance Chart, but "Jack Your Body" was his only mainstream success, reaching No.1 for two weeks in January 1987. Hurley refused to promote himself as an artist and went on to remix many more chart hits, but none as a solo act.

M|A|R|R|S was a one-off project between two groups - A R Kane and Colourbox. The resultant song, "Pump Up the Volume" hit No.1 in October 1987 for two weeks. Despite its success, no follow-up was ever released.

Robin Beck shot to stardom after her song "First Time" was used as a jingle by Coca-Cola. The song made No.1 in November 1988 for three weeks, but follow-up "Save Up All Your Tears" narrowly missed out on chart inclusion by peaking at No.84.

Gerry Marsden had many hits in the 1960s group Gerry and the Pacemakers, but as a solo artist he qualifies for his participation in the charity disc, "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey". Unlike other charity line-ups, this single was not released under an umbrella group name, but attributed to several artists individually (and equally). Of these, only Marsden is a previously uncharted act in his own right.

Hip-hop duo Partners in Kryme enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame when their song "Turtle Power" was used in the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The song reached No.1 for four weeks in July 1990, but the pair had disbanded before even releasing an album.

UK comedy double act Hale and Pace released "The Stonk" as a charity single for Comic Relief. Released under the name Hale and Pace and the Stonkers (although it was essentially just the duo), the song reached No.1 for one week in March 1991.

Dutch retro-dance band Doop caught the public imagination with their self-titled track in 1994. The song, which consisted of a single word ("Doop") being repeated over a Charleston back-beat, reached No.1 in March for three weeks.

  • Baddiel / Skinner (1996)

Comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner teamed up wih chart act The Lightning Seeds in 1996 to record the football song "Three Lions". The song became a major success by hitting No.1 on three separate occasions. It has been released to chart action four times in total (1996, 1998, 2002 and 2006) in slightly different versions, but no other collaboration has been attempted.

The successful TV show aimed at the under fives, Teletubbies generated a one-off single, "Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh!". The song made No.1 in December 1997 and remained in the charts until August the following year, eventually selling over one million copies.

Mr Oizo was a pseudonym for French producer Quentin Dupieux. The lyricless song "Flat Beat" was used as the jingle for Levi Jeans and fronted by glove puppet, Flat Eric. The song made No.1 in April 1999 for two weeks.

Australian film producer, Baz Luhrmann came up with a true novelty when he released "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)". The song consisted of Luhrmann reading an essay written by an American newspaper columnist over a gentle backbeat. It reached No.1 in June 1999 for a week, but remained strictly a one-off.

Portuguese Dance producer Rui Da Silva teamed up with British singer Cassandra Fox for the 2001 No.1, "Touch Me". The single was Da Silva's only UK chart hit, although Fox released her own version, which became a minor hit five years later.

UK dance producer DJ Pied Piper made No.1 when he collaborated with two hip-hop MCs and Craig David for the song "Do You Really Like It?". Reaching No.1 in June 2001, the song remains the only hit to his credit.

Dutch dance musician and remixer Tom Holkenborg is a well known artist under the name JXL. In 2002 he remixed the little-known Elvis Presley song "A Little Less Conversation". The song was an immediate hit and reached No.1 for four weeks in June 2002. JXL continues to remix songs for other artists, but this song remains his only credit in the UK charts.

Comprising of three Spanish sisters, Las Ketchup achieved worldwide fame in 2002 with the novelty hit "The Ketchup Song". It spent a single week at No.1 in October 2002.

German Producer and musician Yann Peifer, under the name Yanou, collaborated with future chart star DJ Sammy for the 2002 hit "Heaven". The song featured vocals by Do and reached No.1 for a week in November 2002.

US producer released a version of the Tears for Fears song "Mad World" in 2003, featuring vocals by Gary Jules. Reaching No.1 in December, the song became the Christmas No.1 for 2003.

US female singer Frankee achieved success after recording "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)", which was a response to the previous No.1 "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" by Eamon. Frankee's sole UK hit almost eclipsed Eamon's original by spending three weeks at No.1 in May 2004.

  • 3 of a Kind (2004)

UK dance trio 3 of a Kind reached No.1 in August 2004 with "Baby Cakes". Despite the song's success, a follow-up single was never released.

Steve Brookstein shot to fame in 2004 when he competed in and won the first series of TV's The X Factor. His first single "Against All Odds" became a No.1 hit in January 2005 and despite also scoring a No.1 album, Brookstein never had another hit.

UK male duo Nizlopi scored their only hit in 2005 with "The JCB Song". The single narrowly missed out on being the Christmas No.1, by spending a week at the top and being dethroned by Shayne Ward on Christmas Day.

Also worthy of note:


  • Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums, 19th, London: Guinness World Records Limited, p. 540. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

See also

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