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10 one-hit wonders from 1981 that you probably have never even heard

There's a one-hit wonder from 1981 that you have undoubtedly heard. Countless times, on your television. On Christmas Day, 1981, "WKRP in Cincinnati" peaked at No. 65 on the Billboard charts. Steve Carlisle sang the theme song to the popular sitcom. It barely bothered the Hot 100, like most of the songs you will find below, but it had the benefit of playing each week during the opening credits, not to mention all the reruns.

The 10 tunes below were likewise on the outer reaches of the Hot 100, but they did chart. Some performed even better on the Rock, Dance or R&B charts.

And we would bet you have not heard many of them. Even if you remember 1981. 

Well, let's listen and see.


The Afternoon Delights - "General Hospi-Tale"

No. 33

Talk about self-aware novelty. You know you are destined for one-hit-wonderdom when you name your act the Afternoon Delights, after "Afternoon Delight," the ultimate Seventies one-hit wonder by Starland Vocal Band. Also, it was a disco song about a soap opera, rapped in the style of Debbie Harry's "Rapture" bars. Disco was on life support by 1981, and it's a wonder this was even a hit, really.



Diesel - "Sausolito Summernight"

No. 25

It was a title and tune that the Doobies might have come up with. Diesel took the breezy radio rock of the Seventies and applied a glossy synthesizer sheen, giving it the polish of a freshly waxed Chevy.



Get Wet - "Just So Lonely"

No. 39

A mish-mash of nostalgia, "Just So Lonely" touched on the teen pop of the early 1960s, the cheeriness of Happy Days, with a dab of disco. Singer Sherri Beachfront sounded like a young Osmond doing doo-wop. Somehow, it felt quite Eighties. Barely cracking the Top 40, that was enough to get them on Solid Gold and American Bandstand.



Hawks - "Right Away"

No. 63

Because it was still the early part of the new decade, many of these tracks sound like the last vestiges of the Seventies. Hawks came from Iowa (as the Iowa Hawkeyes album colors and band name hinted at) but could have passed for British, like many power-pop bands obsessed with the Beatles. These guys, in particular, followed the template of George Harrison's solo stuff, with its slide guitar stylings.



Lakeside - "Fantastic Voyage"

No. 55

Seventies disco and funk never died, it just went niche. Okay, you've undoubtedly heard this hook. But perhaps only as a sample/cover, in 1994, when it became the foundation for a No. 3 hit by Coolio. The original was a No. 1 on R&B chart back in 1981, proving that a good groove always has market.



Shamus M'Cool - "American Memories"

No. 80

Hands down, the most fascinating track on this list, "American Memories," a kind of Billy-Joel-meets-Don-McLean nostalgia trip, might not have ever actually received much if any airplay. Exposing the flaws in the old-school charting system, Shamus M'Cool pressed the record himself (only 10 are said to exist) and dropped them off at L.A. radio stations, where disc jockeys reportedly scribbled the song onto their playlists. Today, the 45 can fetch thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars.



John O'Banion - "Love You Like I Never Loved Before"

No. 24

If you played Toto at 3/4 the speed, it might sound like this, an obscure yacht-rock cut for those who felt Boz Scaggs and Kenny Loggins were not producing enough content.



Rockpile - "Teacher Teacher"

No. 51

Music geeks like us will be familiar with this retro gem. Even if the band name is unfamiliar, the two principal players and singers in the group remain legends of melodic new-wave rock — Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Rockpile was the men's outlet for throwback rock 'n' roll. "Teacher Teacher" was penned by two guys from the great Sixties garage rock band the Creation.



Streek - "One More Night"

No. 47

Another song that sounds like a leftover from the late Seventies, "One More Night" raised lighters as a power ballad. The sax solo was hot, straight out of E Street, even if the band was on cruise control in a rented REO Speedwagon.



Tight Fit - "Back to the '60s"

No. 89

The jungle aerobics get-ups may scream "EIGHTIES!" but this English trio were pure nostalgia, much like Sha Na Na. Their "Back to the '60s" medley was a trip down memory lane for those with short attention spans, as it took a tour through the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, Tommy James, Martha and the Vandellas, and many more.


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