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Frank Hovis

A Career From One Song

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By this I don't mean one-hit wonders such as Chesney "I am the one and only" Hawkes but rockers who manage to keep a career going from having one decent song.

The prime current example IMO is Lady Gaga. Poker Face was an astounding song, excellent, but since then she has maintained super stardom based upon whacky outfits and average, forgettable singles. Without Poker Face I doubt she'd even have a record deal.

There are others but offhand I can't think of them, who do you think falls into this category?

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By this I don't mean one-hit wonders such as Chesney "I am the one and only" Hawkes but rockers who manage to keep a career going from having one decent song.

The prime current example IMO is Lady Gaga. Poker Face was an astounding song, excellent, but since then she has maintained super stardom based upon whacky outfits and average, forgettable singles. Without Poker Face I doubt she'd even have a record deal.

There are others but offhand I can't think of them, who do you think falls into this category?

Two points...

Firstly, not many artists have more than one genuinely great song because it's extremely hard. The art of hit writing is relatively understood by a handful of people but even they can't do it all the time - they rely on the big names to sing their songs for them. You know when people say "that song is growing on me"? The brain can ultimately enjoy anything pretty repetitive especially when backed up with some singer with sex appeal or something. Sex appeal or musician appeal i.e. the band has a top guitarist like Van Halen or something.

Secondly, I actually think your example of Lady Gaga is quite poor. I'd single her out as being one that can produce a few great songs. Poker Face, Bad Romance and Edge of Glory are very well written and performed pop songs.

Which artists have genuinely written more than a couple of good songs? Elton John, The Beatles, Queen or Michael Jackson + a couple of dozen others. Not many!

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By this I don't mean one-hit wonders such as Chesney "I am the one and only" Hawkes but rockers who manage to keep a career going from having one decent song.

The prime current example IMO is Lady Gaga. Poker Face was an astounding song, excellent, but since then she has maintained super stardom based upon whacky outfits and average, forgettable singles. Without Poker Face I doubt she'd even have a record deal.

There are others but offhand I can't think of them, who do you think falls into this category?

Bad Romance was good too, and a big hit. Not really my cup of tea. Lady Gaga for all the hype comes across as quite astute in interviews. A lot of modern music is devoid of soul and forgettable. The Marketers have won.

Watch out for X Factor - The Musical!

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I'm not hugely up on pop music but I concede that Edge of Glory was also good, though an 8 rather than a 10.

Here's another couple:

Motorhead - Ace of Spades

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Motorhead was the first band whose album I bought so I'm not having a go at those particular bands, but wihtout those two "10" songs they would be nowhere. I like Motorhead's other output but there's nothing even approaching AoS. I can name several other Black Sabbath songs but can't think of any that are half-decent.

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I think you are confusing great songs with songs that are popular with the masses. The masses generally buy formulaic simplistic c7ap. Hit singles are not great, they're just popular.

Paranoid is catchy, simple and fun but it's not great compared to much of their early output.

Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler (from Guitar World magazine, March 2004): "A lot of the Paranoid album was written around the time of our first album, Black Sabbath. We recorded the whole thing in about 2 or 3 days, live in the studio. The Song 'Paranoid' was written as an afterthought. We basically needed a 3 minute filler for the album, and Tony came up with the riff. I quickly did the lyrics, and Ozzy was reading them as he was singing."

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I'm not hugely up on pop music but I concede that Edge of Glory was also good, though an 8 rather than a 10.

Here's another couple:

Motorhead - Ace of Spades

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Motorhead was the first band whose album I bought so I'm not having a go at those particular bands, but wihtout those two "10" songs they would be nowhere. I like Motorhead's other output but there's nothing even approaching AoS. I can name several other Black Sabbath songs but can't think of any that are half-decent.

Some terrible examples here. If any song launched Motorhead it was, um, Motorhead, which Lemmy originally wrote for Hawkwind not long before they sacked him. IIRC, it charted higher than Ace of Spades as a single and the band, probably helped by the association with Hawkwind who they supported live in the early years, had several silver albums. Ace of Spades was the only one to go gold as an album but you can hardly say it was the song on which Motorhead built a following – they already had one when it was released.

Ditto Black Sabbath. Iron Man and War Pigs from the same album from Paranoid are songs that a lot of Sabbath fans cite as among their best.

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I'd go for:

The Trashmen* EDIT: Kingsmen - Louie Louie (and not even their song)

The Only Ones - Another Girl, Another Planet (comeback based largely on song being used in a mid-noughties advert)

Spizz - Where's Captain Kirk? (even here, Spizz had some minor hits such as Soldier, Soldier, but his post-80s career has been pretty much built around this song)

* Proper one-hit wonder for those who want news of a more ornithological nature.

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Two points...

Firstly, not many artists have more than one genuinely great song because it's extremely hard. The art of hit writing is relatively understood by a handful of people but even they can't do it all the time - they rely on the big names to sing their songs for them. You know when people say "that song is growing on me"? The brain can ultimately enjoy anything pretty repetitive especially when backed up with some singer with sex appeal or something. Sex appeal or musician appeal i.e. the band has a top guitarist like Van Halen or something.

Secondly, I actually think your example of Lady Gaga is quite poor. I'd single her out as being one that can produce a few great songs. Poker Face, Bad Romance and Edge of Glory are very well written and performed pop songs.

Which artists have genuinely written more than a couple of good songs? Elton John, The Beatles, Queen or Michael Jackson + a couple of dozen others. Not many!

+ 1

There are not many Carole King's in the world with their name on multiple big hits over a couple of decades

Quite a few song writers do well to come up with more than one or two decent numbers in their lifetime

Sometimes a successful song comes out of a single experience. Sherman Kelly was beaten within an inch of his life in the Caribbean in the 1960s. As he recovered he wrote 'Dancing In The Moonlight' which his band Boffalongoreleased in 1969, It sank without trace but was rerecorded and became a hit for King Harvest in 1973. It has been covered by many other artists over the years. I don't think anything else he wrote has been that successful.

I actually think one of the interesting things in the history of music is how often a hit song languishes for years unloved and unnoticed until someone else picks it up and turns it into a hit (sometime changing the lyrics and the tune a bit to avoid paying any royalties)

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As far as Gaga goes, Speechless is her best IMHO.

I agree with the repetition, I've listened to Gaga first, or it might've been 2nd album, once. Apart from the radio singles nothing stood out for me. Later the same week/month/year Speechless was played on dancing on ice/snow/wood/fire or some show of that ilk that the missus was watching (I was in the other room, honest!) and I found it catchy. Whether that was due to the setting I’m not sure but I went ahead and googled the lyrics only to find it was gaga and I’d undoubtedly heard it before. If I was to review it, I’d say it’s quite an ‘angry’ song from her, and that’s about as far as my artistic review is going to get!

Career swindlers – Final Countdown by Europe springs to mind. I guess we’re after bands that seem to do countless gigs and albums yet only ever have one song known through the generations or played on the radio. I guess Kiss come close with’ Crazy Crazy Nights’ but also slide in with ‘God Gave Rock and Roll to You’. Bon Jovi (even though I can name probably all their songs :unsure: ) with ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and You ‘Give Love a Bad Name’ – though ‘It’s My Life’ could arguably be up there as well for the ‘newer’ generation.

I think you could probably find a lot on Rock Driving Anthems albums!

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I'm surprised that people rate Edge of Glory. I'd have said that was an example of formulaic writing, no better than the Madonna by numbers Born This Way. Bad Romance was probably the high-water mark for Lady Gaga.

How about Manic Street Preachers and Motorcycle Emptiness (their only great song although not their biggest hit)?

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I'm surprised that people rate Edge of Glory. I'd have said that was an example of formulaic writing, no better than the Madonna by numbers Born This Way. Bad Romance was probably the high-water mark for Lady Gaga.

How about Manic Street Preachers and Motorcycle Emptiness (their only great song although not their biggest hit)?

Good calls by Bendybogle with Europe and Kiss. Aerosmith are of the same ilk IMO.

I think you have to not be a fan to be able to discrimnate between a top record and average output. I like the Manics and was about to rush to their defence but Motorcycle Emptiness is the stand-out so unless you're a fan that's how you would view them.

Not suggesting for one moment that he was a "career swindler" (lovely phrase by BB) but I saw this with Bowie fans. He did much cracking stuff but they were unable to see that the Let's Dance period stuff was terribly average and would not have sold anything if it didn't have his name on it.

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One I'll also add from later years that could be considered so is Pulp with Common People.

While I know they have loads more hits I am biased in that Britpop is 'my era/generation' or at least part of it.

I'd say they were one of the big three with Oasis and Blur, but ask anyone under 20 and they'll probably know that but not many others. I think career length wise at the time they certainly lasted as long as the other two, maybe longer.

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I'd say they were one of the big three with Oasis and Blur, but ask anyone under 20 and they'll probably know that but not many others. I think career length wise at the time they certainly lasted as long as the other two, maybe longer.

Ask anyone under 20 what Elvis recorded and they'd probably reply "A Little Less Conversation". I have the feeling he had a somewhat longer career based on some other songs.

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The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary

I've seen them live (twice!) and can't name another one of their songs.

Yup, a band I really like and often play their greatest hits, but that's a 10 and others I like, such as Edie (Ciao Baby) are 6s and 7s.

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Ask anyone under 20 what Elvis recorded and they'd probably reply "A Little Less Conversation". I have the feeling he had a somewhat longer career based on some other songs.

This is true - the whole thing is subjectively generational and genrenerial (<<new word!)

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I'm not hugely up on pop music but I concede that Edge of Glory was also good, though an 8 rather than a 10.

Here's another couple:

Motorhead - Ace of Spades

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Motorhead was the first band whose album I bought so I'm not having a go at those particular bands, but wihtout those two "10" songs they would be nowhere. I like Motorhead's other output but there's nothing even approaching AoS. I can name several other Black Sabbath songs but can't think of any that are half-decent.

Funny, I was in a restaurant the other day and what turned up on the piped muzak but Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs'. I was most surprised.

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Eddie Grant - Electric Avenue

James - Sit down

I don't know how I'd class James, they were seen as the new Smiths about the time of Hymn from a Village and did a lot of decent stuff before they unexpectedly went big with Sit Down. Chumbawumba similarly had a hit from nowhere with I get knocked down, having been going for ages before. I tend to think of one hit wonders as being related to a fluke first hit. Maybe Bendybogle can come up with a decent term for these middling size bands who have one huge hit in the middle of their careers.

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