Dan Flynn’s column today gives me an opportunity to weigh in on an important debate: Was the Knack a one-hit wonder? My answer is no, they did not fit the technical definition of a one-hit wonder: While “My Sharona” was clearly their biggest hit, they cracked the Billboard Hot 100 multiple times and had three hits in the Top 40.
That apparently isn’t good enough for one of John J. Miller’s correspondents, who argued earlier this week, “I’ll give you a dollar for every time you hear ‘Good Girls’ on the radio for the rest of your life and it’ll cost me maybe two bucks.” First of all, “Good Girls Don’t” really isn’t that obscure a song. I would be shocked if it gets markedly less play than the Strokes’ “Last Nite.”
But by this criteria, Don McLean’s “Vincent” is not a hit because of “American Pie.” There are countless artists, from Jimmy Buffet (“Margaritaville”) to Lisa Loeb (“Stay”), who have one song that is universally recognizable and dominates radio play who nevertheless made it to the Top 40 multiple times. Moreover, this definiton is unfair to artists like Warren Zevon who might hit the bigtime once (“Werewolves of London”) but who have significant enough cult followings to sustain lengthy recording careers and produce occasional minor hits.
Such an attempted redefinition of one-hit wonder basically airbrushes minor-to-moderate hits — singles that hit the Top 100 but didn’t reach the Top 40 — out of history and makes the definition of a “hit” itself totally subjective. If an album or single reaches the charts in its respective genre or section of the industry, it is a hit. Recording artists who have more than one hit cannot by definition be one-hit wonders. Period.