Artists Literally Nobody Remembers That Had Huge Hits

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We're all familiar with the one-hit wonder, but we're not here to talk about that. Rather, we're going to be discussing artists who were destined to remain unknown, who never had any business getting within shouting distance of the Billboard charts, yet somehow managed to get one song stuck in the head of the public forever, before sauntering back off to wherever they came from. Was it happenstance? Sheer dumb luck? Payola? The world may never know.

You almost certainly remember their songs, but we will literally give you a dollar for every one of these artists you knew the name of:

John Parr

John Parr may have spawned spontaneously as the '80s began. He scored a minor hit off his self-titled 1984 debut with "Naughty Naughty" and — we're warning you — if you click on that link, the entire '80s might shoot out of whatever device you're reading this on and bury you in a mountain of parachute pants and spandex. Parr's majestic mullet, rockin' riffs, and American flag guitar (despite his being British) were just what MTV ordered, but his lasting accomplishment would come a year later: "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)," the theme song to the film that helped cement the box office dominance of the Brat Pack.

The song seems to have become a sort of cultural shorthand for the '80s, and it sort of makes sense—it arrived smack in the middle of the decade, will forever be associated with Emilio Estevez and Andrew McCarthy, and is sonically of its decade in the most aggressively mediocre sense. But after scoring a #1 hit single and a damn Grammy nomination for it, Parr and his mullet faded away, not to be heard from again until 2011, when an even more aggressively mediocre star would prompt him to drag himself and his old hit out of mothballs.

That star would be TEEEEEBOOOWWWW. Yep, Parr reworked his song with new, cringey lyrics to sing the praises of then-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, after Tebow's astoundingly lucky playoff run with the Broncos during the 2011 season. The song's shelf life lasted until, oh, week two of the playoffs, when the Patriots embarrassed and exposed Tebow for good. Don't try to figure out whether Parr or Tebow should be more embarrassed by this — you'll only get a headache.

After The Fire

It's safe to say that in 1983, covering a funky tune by a German rapper wasn't exactly a sure ticket to commercial success, since German was not English and nobody knew what rap was yet. But after kicking around the U.K. for more than a decade and trying on more sounds than teenage girls do prom dresses, After The Fire punched their ticket to international stardom using this exact strategy. Despite how vocalist Andy Piercy's impenetrable accent made the reworked English lyrics about as easy to understand as the German originals, "Der Kommissar" was a #5 U.S. hit for the band, mainly due to its razor-sharp production and vague atmosphere of criminal badassness.

Strangely, the German rapper they covered—Falco—would go on to become a noted one-hit wonder himself, albeit one who deserved much more recognition, and was a huge international star. But despite their one memorable hit, After The Fire stays off many a one-hit wonder list, because they are the exact opposite of memorable. They did so much nothing after their brief flirtation with success that their Greatest Hits album is called Der Kommissar. If they were a modern band, we'd suspect the members are all actually just Shutterstock photos.


Quick question: where is the groove? Is it in the heart? Is the groove in the heart? If you answered yes, then you now have a bass riff and a vocal line stuck in your head that is making you want to strangle us. Plus, it means you're familiar with the work of Deee-Lite, a New York electronica trio that became hugely popular in late '80s dance clubs. Their technicolor, tie-dyed, leopard-print techno-hippie schtick would surely have been lost to the mists of time if not for the bouncy, inconsequential "Groove is in the Heart" becoming a #4 hit in 1990. It then proceeded to just stick around, infiltrating Jack radio stations, sporting events, and awful animated films for the next 26 years.

Of course, it would be unfair to say that Deee-Lite was unable to replicate their success, because they ... didn't try. They instead decided the world needed to hear their dance-y hot takes on politics and the environment, so they followed up their lightweight club smash with an album full of socially conscious message jams that somehow failed to gain literally any attention whatsoever. The group disbanded in 1996, as the world just wasn't ready for Rage Against the Groove.

The Del Rios

Of all the unlikely Billboard chart successes over the decades, the Del Rios—also known as Los Del Rio—have to be the unlikeliest. The Spanish duo had been recording flamenco tunes in their native language since the early '60s, with modest success. In the early '90s, they recorded a rumba tune inspired by a dancer they had seen on a trip to Venezuela, releasing it in 1993 on a small Spanish label. It became a hit in their home country, prompting their label to license a U.S. dance remix. And then, as they say, all hell broke loose.

That remix was the Bayside Boys' reworking of the Del Rios' "Macarena" a #1 smash that unleashed a ridiculous dance craze the likes of which the world has never seen, while remaining on the charts for 60 straight weeks. It sold four million copies, was easily the biggest single of 1996, and you're probably dancing it right now. The surprised elderly duo capitalized by releasing no fewer than five albums featuring different remixes of the tune while the phenomenon ran its course. Then, they shrugged and went back to making flamenco records, in all likelihood wondering just what the hell that had been all about.

Peter Schilling

There once was a geeky '60s teenager named Peter (no, this isn't a Spider-Man story) who couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a singer or a soccer player (see?) Being a fan of all things sci-fi, young Peter Schilling chose electronic music, and in 1983 released his debut album in his native Germany, Fehler im System. Its lead single generated such a buzz, U.S.-based Elektra records commissioned an English version of his entire album. The retitled Error in the System was released in the States alongside an English-language version of Schilling's German hit—"Major Tom," whose subtitle "Vollig Losgelost" was changed to "Coming Home," a phrase Americans can actually speak.

The English version was an international smash hit and peaked at #14 in the U.S., helped along by a suitably weird video that hung around in MTV's heavy rotation for months. The song's ominous synthesizers and spooky retelling of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" struck a chord, and it's been lodged in the popular consciousness ever since. It's a chilling, unique and genuinely great song—but as for Schilling, he followed in Major Tom's footsteps by losing contact with the Earth forever.

Positive K

Bronx native Positive K began his rap career in 1986, when small New York labels considered virtually anybody who could recite words to a beat for their rosters. Despite his flow being — to put it kindly — limited, he was able to raise his profile a bit by collaborating with much-better-rapper MC Lyte on a track called "I Ain't Havin' It," which lead to his signing with Polygram Records. K would revisit this song's battle-of-the-sexes aesthetic on his only hit—"I Got a Man," the song with the dubious honor of introducing the phrase "what's your man got to do with me" into the cultural lexicon.

In the years since its release, many have noticed that the song—in which K aggressively harangues a female passerby for her number despite her firm protests—hasn't exactly held up well, since it basically amounts to an "amusing" depiction of street harassment. Many also took note that the great MC Lyte did not reprise her role on the song, with K instead delivering the "female" part himself with a pitch-shifted voice. Most just wish they would wake up to find that this song, and its maddeningly enduring catchphrase, had been a dream the whole time.

Wall of Voodoo

The 1982 song "Mexican Radio" and its video practically defined early MTV. It's a weird, post-punk-y piece with spaghetti western guitars about "border blasters," Mexican AM radio stations that could be picked up in the American Southwest in the '70s. In its infancy, MTV had a similar bootleg feel to it, keeping viewers unsure of what weirdness they were going to see next, and the video for "Mexican Radio" encapsulated that chaos perfectly.

The band responsible, L.A.'s Wall of Voodoo, had a cult following, and little else, when they found themselves instantly (and confusingly) famous due to their strange little video. In an instance of the phenomenon known as "Devo Syndrome," the band's cult-y fans had an instant dislike for their hit song and sudden success, and college kids blasting "Mexican Radio" all day long had zero interest in the band's other work. After a couple of predictably drug-fueled months opening for major bands like Oingo Boingo, the band reached their zenith by headlining a major music festival—and then promptly broke up. All of this happened in the same year, by the by. Lead singer Stan Ridgway went on to record a bunch of country-ish albums, and still performs shows for smaller crowds, who probably just want to see him pop out of a giant pot of beans.

The Tubes

The Tubes made a name for themselves on the early '80s L.A. live scene by sheer force of their goofiness. Billing themselves as the Beans, and Radar Men From Uranus, before settling on their permanent moniker, the Tubes were just as likely to show up for a performance in drag as they were in suits and ties. It's safe to say they were more well-known for their stage theatrics than their music. But, as it did for so many others, early MTV put the Tubes in their weirdo element, which is how the world fell in love with a song about Los Angeles strippers.

Their earlier minor hits included "Talk To Ya Later" and the awesomely titled "White Punks On Dope," but it was "She's a Beauty" that broke the band into the Top 10. Its slick sound was courtesy of producer David Foster — who's won boatloads of Grammys producing pop hits for everyone from Rod Stewart to Christina Aguilera — and the band looked briefly poised for mainstream success. So, of course, they released one final poorly received album before calling it quits. If only they'd stuck with Radar Men From Uranus, the world would at least remember their name.

Glass Tiger

There was a time—stay with us here—when Bryan Adams was, like, a really big star. The Canadian sorta-rock guy scored MTV hits with the sorta-rockin' "Cuts Like a Knife" and "Summer of '69" before taking a hard left into full-on power ballad territory for later hits "Heaven" and that song from the Robin Hood movie with the title that is literally longer than this descriptor. He could move records, and nobody knows this better than countrymen Glass Tiger.

They began as an Ontario-based band called Tokyo, which didn't work out for some reason. Changing their name to the nearly-as-nonsensical Glass Tiger, they signed to Capitol Records and convinced their buddy Adams—all Canadians are buddies, we're pretty sure—to lay down a bland counterpoint vocal on the bland chorus of their bland lead single, "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)." Since Canadians are so laid-back, nobody was expecting much to happen when the tune was released in the U.S. in the summer of '86. But, apparently due to Adams' phoned-in crooning (since we can think of no other reason), the song became a huge hit, peaking at #2 on the charts in October of that year. Suddenly, Glass Tiger were on the cover of magazines, doing interviews on MTV, opening for Paul McCartney and Journey, and getting nominated for a freaking Best New Artist Grammy. The future was bright!

And then ... absolutely stifling, deafening silence. The band released two more albums in 1988 and 1991, but it didn't matter. Nary a soul was listening. Some say they then faded into a nether-dimension of forgotten artists, their very name wiped from our memories like we've all been collectively neuralyzed by the Men in Black. We'd point out the irony in the title of their lone hit song, but that would be like beating a glass tiger.