MINNEAPOLIS (104.1 JACK FM) — Thursday, Sept. 25 is National One-Hit Wonder Day. And while everyone knows that Minnesota has a long history of pop music hitmakers stretching from the heydays of Prince and Bob Dylan all the way back through the Andrews Sisters in the 1940s, what many may not know is that Minnesota has more than just a few famous artists who only reached the apex of the charts but one single time, only to fade into obscurity or infamy thereafter.
Perhaps some of us are too Minnesota Nice to point it out, but on the other hand, isn’t having hit after hit after hit sort of overly boastful for Minnesota artists? Our one-hit wonders are only taking their fair share and nothing more, so that’s why our sister station 104.1 JACK FM is raising its glass to them.
You can click here to see the full list, but here are the top 5 songs listed by JACK as the greatest Minnesota one-hit wonders ever:
5. The Castaways, “Liar Liar” (#12, 1965)
The Castaways were only in the game for a few short years, but they left a big impression with their garage rock hit song “Liar, Liar,” which blasted from out of nowhere to the #12 spot on the charts. So legend has it, the band — made up of Robert Folschow, Dick Roby, James Donna, Roy Hensley and Dennis Craswell — was thrown together specifically to play at a fraternity function, but they proved successful enough to sign to Soma Records and appear in a surf epic. “Liar, Liar,” a fuzzy little dance track with unexpected bursts of falsetto, had enough underground cred that Blondie later covered it in the ’80s. If Minnesota is the most hipster state in the union, this just might be our theme song.
4. Next, “Too Close” (#1, 1998)
Nothing like being known for a song about rubbing up on strangers until the excitement takes over. And to think, this was before the days when “poking” was just a creepy thing people did on Facebook. Gotta love Next for putting it out there, though. (Get it? Putting it out there? … OK, I’m done.) Not only did we get a song about the early days of grinding but we got one in male-female dialogue. And let’s be honest, posing the question, “is that a banana in your pocket?” just doesn’t have the same ring to it in an R&B format.
3. Sheila E., “The Glamorous Life” (#7, 1984)
Vanity 6 would’ve been on this list if their explicit “Nasty Girls” hadn’t been blocked from the Hot 100. Apollonia 6 would’ve been on this list if their explicit “Sex Shooter” hadn’t stalled out at the bottom of the Hot 100. Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls,” which actually was a top 10 hit, might have been given consideration if she weren’t from the U.K. So the battle among the Prince protégés for inclusion on this list is won by Sheila E., whose performance of the Purple One’s composition “The Glamorous Life” was a #1 dance smash and an “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” pop hit. Intertwining the diametric attractions for love and money that fascinated Prince, the song is really carried by Ms. E’s unstoppable percussive ornamentation. Without that, it ain’t much. (OK, not true, but we couldn’t resist the pun.)
2. The Trashmen, “Surfin’ Bird” (#4, 1963)
You don’t have to be Peter Griffin to react to The Trashmen’s jaunty, rude-tempered surf rock novelty hit with uncontrollable arm chugging and, if you have the junk in the trunk, copious truffle shuffling. Sure, the tune was actually somewhat ripped off from two other tunes (“The Bird’s the Word” and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow,” both by the Rivingtons), and there is something a little strange about something with such a junkyard beach aesthetic coming from our frozen tundra. But you can’t deny its endless energy, one that’s made it a staple needle-drop for directors as diverse as Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket) and John Waters, whose Pink Flamingos depicted one character singing the song from … well, maybe some things are better left to the imagination.
1. Lipps Inc., “Funkytown” (#1, 1980)
Part of us didn’t want to give “Funkytown” the #1 slot on this list. After all, it was written by Lipps Inc.’s Steve Greenberg who, at the time, was basically writing about how much he couldn’t stand living in Minneapolis-St. Paul and just wanted to figure out a way to move to New York City: “Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me/A town to keep me movin’, keep me groovin’ with some energy.” Greenberg’s end-of-disco hit talked about it, talked about it, talked about it, talked about it at length, and it’s impossible as a Minnesotan not to be a little offended by just how desperately he wanted to be taken down to Funkytown. The mitigating factor is that the (admittedly irresistible) song’s enormous success has now come to resemble an albatross slung over his neck. He may have found Funkytown, but he’ll never escape “Funkytown.” And neither will the rest of us.